The Emotional Equivalent Of Ellipses


avi_icon.gif huruma_icon.gif

Scene Title The Emotional Equivalent Of Ellipses
Synopsis Two parents discuss life and death before wagering both.
Date January 9, 2019

The Bunker, Hangar

Rochester, NY

3:47 pm

In the warmer months, the Tlanuwa has no trouble staying outside on the grounds of the Bunker; snow and sleet and ice finds it rolled into the small hangar, looking even bigger than it is within the enclosed space. The side of the hangar is exposed into the garage, the other vehicles docked quietly in respective places; activity is at a minimum, that post-op calm paired with pre-op held breath. Somewhere in the middle, lulled.

Maintenance has been finished on the bird, engines cleaned and hull buffed, and for its part the Tlanuwa looks about as put together as it usually does. Everything is quiet. Peaceful, even, without being too cold like the frigid New York winters. The rooftop is more or less only for the ones looking for a quick smoke; the wind does not help its reputation for a wintry escape. Plenty of windows to moon out of. But as far as silence goes, the hangar and garage when work is at a standstill is a lovely alternative. Maybe some distant sounds, maybe a faint tinny ring of something electronic, maybe the hum of a warm engine.

While it is not the first time that Huruma has sat in the Tlanuwa's cockpit, it remains fairly foreign. She has worked with helicopters and smaller roto-craft, and practiced with the Harkness boys (poor Francis); it has taken more of a backseat now that their missions are becoming more and more central. It doesn't stop her from sitting herself in the pilot seat and brushing up in the middle of the night while everyone else is asleep or nearly so.

Feet up on the console, Huruma has the seat laid back and a manual in hand, pages flipping as she searches the contents. She surveys the garage past her flats, eyes skimming the dimmed lights and floor below. Her perch offers her a perfect, vulturing vantage- - Huruma can see the ground floor, yet the floor cannot quite see her.

A wooden box is dropped into the copilot seat beside Huruma. Avi’s approach didn’t surprise her, and not just because of the squeaking of his leg brace he refuses to properly oil. The parcel deposited into the seat is an unfamiliar one, battered and old, brass fittings on the corners, a latch rather than a lock on the front. Too big to be cigars, too small and decorative to be lunch.

“Keeping the Major’s seat warm?” Avi asks as he steps up between the seats. “Because, if I’ve come t’learn anything since I started working with her, she prefers a cold seat.” The corner of his mouth crooks up into a well-meaning smile.

Huruma can see the mask for what it is even without her ability. Avi Epstein has been depressed since they met, likely before, but it’s never been this profound.

Her watchful eye on the hangar lingers for a short term, attention back on the book before long. She waits patiently.

However long it takes Avi to get to the Tlanuwa and the cockpit is however long Huruma has to hypothesize. Either he is coming for his own means, or he knows she is skulking about. One is about as likely as the other.

The brace touches her ears first, and the rhythm of his steps is unmistakable. For that measure of time she doesn't move or speak, brows arching upwards as he sidles up with his box. True to form her gaze follows it first, a magpie and a coin.

"Cold seats are bracing. So of course she does…" Huruma intones, speed at a drawl. "I am keeping my own seat warm. For future purposes… could do with a wider seat." Her eyes move from the box to the book to mark her place while she speaks, lifting a hooded look upwards at Epstein, examining him right through. He is transparent to her, and the stare shows it; Huruma, however, waits for him to continue engaging her or change his mind while there is still time.

“Yeah. Bracing.” Avi ducks back out of sight and comes up on the other side of Huruma’s chair, fidgeting with a loose piece of panel facing in the ceiling. “That's certainly a way to describe something…” he sounds distracted, pushing up on the flat plate that bows just a little bit in the middle.

After a moment, Avi plants his hand on the top of Huruma’s seat for balance and digs his fingernails behind the panel and pops it off. Brows furrowed, he sets the panel aside and starts adjusting the wiring behind it. “Fucking amazing this bird still flies, you know? We rode this thing rough during the war. But man…”

Tucking wires back with calloused fingers, Avi’s also digging for something behind them. “The look on folks’ faces when this girl landed at an allied airstrip. It's like we were fucking rock stars.” Finally, he finds purchase on what he was looking for, and produces a hand-rolled cigarette from its secret hiding place amid the wiring.

“Wanna split an old joint?” Avi asks, holding it up between two fingers.

Huruma first watches Avi in the reflection of the windshield, the book in her hands moving down to her lap. Feet remain up, of course, because she is quite comfortable here. Her head swivels to follow his presence at the other side of her chair, owlishy silent more than anything as she watches the man fuss with the wiring. While he is wrist deep in the panel, she takes a curious, tilted look at the box he left behind. Surely he knows by now not to leave things lying around like that. Or is he counting on it? Mm.

"Avi," For all his name is short, she manages to draw it out. The book closes on her thigh, and her lips curve in a slow smile. One hand lifts from the arm of the seat, hand waving in a vague arc. "There are much better places for those. Say, my closet.." Huruma arches a brow upwards, eyes hooded. "And it is because we are rock stars. Rock stars flying a limited edition McLaren Jet."

"How old are we talking, mtu wa bati? Because I have standards…"

“June?” Avi says with a kick of one brow up. “It's my Last Supper joint,” he says with a crooked smile and a bit of an awkward laugh, turning it around in his fingers as he slips behind the chair again and comes back to the space between pilot and co-pilot.

“I rolled it up before we took off to put a boot in Mayes’ ass.” Only now does Avi move the box from the copilot seat, lifting it up and setting it in the forward dash, precariously balanced at an angle between flight controls and console. “Figured it was probably going to be my swan song, flying this fucking death machine into an active combat zone. I haven't been a fighter pilot since I was the girls’ age.” He always calls the young women of Wolfhound that, collectively. The Girls.

Producing a cheap plastic lighter with a New York Jets logo on it from his pocket, Avi lights up the old joint and takes a drag off of it to get it burning. He holds his breath for a moment, nose rankled, then exhales a mouthful of smoke as he offers it out to Huruma. “Hey kid, wanna break state and federal laws?”

Last Supper? Ah. He earns a slow shutter of eyes, the woman's mouth flattening in mock offense.

"You make having faith sound terrible…" In them, or himself, but she wouldn't be terribly shocked with the latter. "Need only be something once and you'll never forget." Huruma muses, bringing her feet down and tucking the book into the bottom of the console where it belongs. She is still wearing what seems to pass as loungewear; loose shirt, compressive leggings. Relaxed, for what it's worth. Partway to where Avi seems to want her anyway.

"Whuff, that one could be a little less pungent.. ." Nonetheless, Huruma takes it, and it is between lips as he questions again. She holds it in several seconds longer, half-considering. The smoke comes out of mouth and nose like a dragon's plume. "Kid. How dare you." Deadpanning.

"As if I do not already." Sounds like a yes.

When Huruma passes the joint back, Avi kicks his bad leg out, brace creaking as he straightens it. “You remember that one we did a couple years back? Right before we hit the dam?” Avi takes the joint and a drag off of it, holding his breath as he holds the sentence in thoughtful pause. “Was uh, North Dakota?” He says with smoke wafting out of his mouth.

“Thought we had that all buttoned up, then I got complacent, and nearly got my ass shot off…” Avi considers the thin joint between his fingers, then offers it out to Huruma.

The mention of an old op earns some further consideration; Huruma answers his first question with a small nod. His self assessment she doesn't comment on, but she remembers how it went.

"Mmm. I remember. Sneaky bastard, that was… " There weren't many before that which had Avi on the outs. His last real ground op. The dark woman reaches out to take back the smoke, mouth twitching up at the corner. No windows to roll down, they'll have to invest in some Little Trees. She allows her focus to relax, her senses nesting quietly around her present company; the gray haze on him is not unfamiliar, it is the volume of what he carries which strikes her as new.

Avi has always had that vulture over his shoulder, and now it has decided to tear pieces from him. She has noticed it prying the past few weeks.

"You didn't though- - get your 'ass shot off', that is." Huruma hums into a draw and small exhale, smoke lingering. There is a small smile punctuated by an equally smoky laugh. "Last I looked, it was still there, anyhow…"

Avi laughs, bitterly. “Yeah, I guess if anything’s still there it's my ass.” There's a distance in his expression, one he struggles to pull back from. “It's just getting on. You know. Or— fuck maybe you don't. I wish I was in your shape when I was your age. But I got lazy, and fat, and sat behind a desk too long before suddenly it was a fucking war.”

Resting his head against the back of his seat, Avi closes his eyes and exhales a tired sigh. “I thought I was gonna die last time. Out in that ducking desert, Georgia Mayes, all that. Nearly got this bird shot down… but I lived. Like a fucking cockroach.”

Remembering where he is, Avi looks over to the box he'd left earlier and leans forward, picking it up. “Anyway, before I go assuming I’m gonna cockroach my way out of this next Op… I figured…” Avi just hands the box over to Huruma. “I didn't want someone who couldn't handle their shit getting this. I wanted it to go to a good home, and… and honestly it's wasted on me these days.”

The box is heavy. Heavier than it first appeared. It also contains a loose handgun about the size of a cannon.

It's Jensen Raith’s old gun.

It's Wilby.

Huruma watches Avi through his slow descent, from that distance to the resignation of his mood finally letting the rest take more of a hold. When he passes the box over, she judges the weight before anything, and more or less trades it for the smoke. She is looking back first rather than prying it open like it's suddenly her birthday. This is not something insignificant, and the empath sees right through it.

"There are far worse things to be than a cockroach." Huruma lifts her chin, eyes sidelong to Avi while her hand sits on the box lid. He would probably benefit from some real physical therapy, maybe surgery. The leg is keeping him from much, in any case.

"We are not that far apart." Despite this addition, she flashes a half-smile, eyes creasing.

Once she pries the box open, Huruma's recognition is visible in the light of her eyes, quiet and thoughtful in those moments before she picks the gun up.

"Oh~, I remember you…" A murmur, drawn out with a curious lilt. Huruma inspects the metal, briefly opening the chamber and giving it a spin. "I will assume that Jensen did not want it back, because I do not expect he would." It is a reminder of things he wants to forget, likely.

"What a little monster…" Wilby will absolutely fall in with her other little monsters. "I'm honored you think I'm a good home."

“It's not an AA12,” Avi notes with a dissatisfied but resigned tone as he slouches back into the co-pilot’s seat, “but you know, sentimental value. Put it up some Institute fuck’s ass and paint the ceiling with his brains. I'm sure it'd make Jensen proud.”

Hands folded behind his head, Avi states through the cockpit window. “You're… right though. We aren't that far apart. I just zigged a lot more than I should've zagged. I'm a ticking clock, Huruma. An old wristwatch that's slowin’ down. I've got, what, maybe a good ten or fifteen years left if I don't get shot to pieces? How many people in our line of work actually get to retire?” Not many.

“Not everyone can be Benjamin fucking Ryans.” Avi adds at the end with a jealous wrinkle of his nose.

Wilby gets one more fond run of her hand before it gets set back into the box and tucked onto the dash once more.

"I will." Huruma angles her head after Avi as he slings back, attempting to be comfortable. "So do not get shot to pieces. And do not compare yourself to him, you are not the same men. You will only see in him what you lack, and vice-versa." One arm moves down to unlock the seat and swivel it sideways; she remains as watchful as ever, although now it feels more akin to scrutiny when she sits there on her pilot's throne.

"Besides, you know he never really retired either. Do not be so jealous. " Huruma's laugh is liquid, and she leans her head against knuckles, elbow on the armrest. "I asked him once, how we know when it's time to quit… his answer was about what I expected. Something similar to yours."

"You could ask Hana for a severance package." Huruma's laugh comes again, words teasing. It's good natured, at least. "Or, go on a long vacation. Sit on a beach, meet a few women, drink a bar out of business."

Avi makes a noise in the back of his throat, slouching to the side and resting a closed fist against his cheek. “I’m one of those guys who doesn’t do well sitting still,” is a mild way of putting it, but only Eileen Ruskin could say for sure. “I think if I didn’t have this I’d just fall apart, physically and mentally. I’ve had this structure my whole life. I don’t do well without boundaries— to— push against?” He shrugs, just a little, half-heartedly.

“Look it’s like…” Avi looks up to Huruma, “even if I got out of this, I feel like I’m the guy who’d get soft and die because some fuck in a bar got the wrong idea and knifed me. That’s my luck, dying on the fucking curb outside of a dive because of bad luck. No, I…” Avi shakes his head, running a hand over the top of his head, “I need to stay on the horse. I just— we all gotta’ face our mortality. Jensen never did, and when life came up and hit him in the face with it he fucking broke.” Avi doesn’t talk about Raith much, but what happened to him after the Cambridge massacre is a poorly-kept secret.

“I’ve left a trail of bodies behind me my whole life,” is Avi’s way of recentering the conversation. “It doesn’t matter who you are, eventually that catches up to you. Either the trauma, or the enemies you’ve made, or fuck— both.” There’s a pang of something there, a sour taste in the back of Huruma’s mouth and nose; guilt is bitterness like bile. “I tried to eat my gun once. The fucking round misfired.”

Avi laughs, a hoarse and mournful thing. “Can you fucking believe that shit?”

Though she is plenty silent and watchful like Wolfhound's giant housecat throughout his anecdotes of falling apart, dying outside of a dive, and staying on that horse- - Huruma's head doesn't angle until he re-centers the topic of his own accord. She tilts her chin some, eyes holding onto that felid impassivity; she lets him talk, idly rolling that bitter leaf of regrets and guilt and all else around in her head.

"I can, actually." Huruma drums fingers over the end of the armrest, frame still. "And no need to tell me about the destruction in our wakes… I am intimately familiar with the past crawling down one's spine. I am one of the few who understand people like us, anymore." I hear you, in more words. Air passes out through her nose, and the lazy posture straightens out, feet flattening against the floor. For all that she does not often share things about herself, there are a few people know her most personal stories. Some stories she just doesn't tell, though. Until she thinks them pertinent.

"When I was a girl, I tried to drown myself in the Niger. June, wet season… rain in swathes at a time- -" He'd best be listening, with the sort of faraway stare she's gotten she means to make a point. "I woke up with my belly full of muddy water, alive on the banks of the delta."

Before Huruma finishes the last, she is pushing up from her seat at the pilot's console and turning to plant her hands on Avi's armrests, bent at the waist to look through his face- - as if it might grant her a more thorough access. It won't. She wants to be the focal point, pale eyes dilated with the smoke and light.

More often than not this comes with a more threatening expression than the more sympathetic one she wears now.

"So yes, I can absolutely believe that there are times when the world will not let her claws out of you, even when you are pulled inside out and suffering reality's unspeakable pains." Huruma allows a few seconds to pass, her own invisible claws sinking in with unseen care. "As long as I have known you I have felt your suffering. And yet now, of all times, it is deeper than it ever has been before."

“Yeah…” Avi agrees in quiet, grumbling certainty. It’s hard to read him, externally, but internally Huruma can feel the surprise and uncertainty, the tumult of emotions that borders on not just camaraderie but relief that she understands. Madagascar was transformative to them both, but not in the ways she’d expected.

“It was in Madagascar,” Avi reveals with a look up to her, “that I tried. Too. Guess it just likes the rains blessed down there, not dumb fucks trying to take the easy way out.” An uncharacteristic flash of a smile crosses his face, followed by a look out the windshield to the hangar.

Avi is silent for a moment, but Huruma can feel the pensive energy wound up in him. “I think Berlin might be my kid,” comes literally out of nowhere. “Sarisa— ” he cuts himself off, doesn’t bother to explain the chain of custody. “I pushed her away. Fucking terrified to screw her up like Emily. Fucking terrified to do a blood test. She hasn’t asked.” He hopes she never does.

His initial connection of relief seems to satiate something else in her features, at least for a moment. Madagascar makes sense too. He came very low on Apollo, and she sensed it even then. The difference is that now she actually cares.

Avi's reference to rain in Africa earns him a flat look, lips pursed to distinctly not smile at it; the amusement in her eyes lingers, though, the darker humor not lost on her. The next admission is new. Huruma arches a brow higher, perplexed. Those psychic hands on him knead inward with a faint dispelling of some of his tension, leaving the introspection to itself.

"I met Emily. She is not as 'screwed up' as you may think." Says the empath, with a secret tunnel into everyone. Huruma's voice stays low, and in her lean lifts a hand to prod Avi in the chest. "I tried to hurt Dajan again when I saw him on Apollo. I was terrified too. And I still cannot say of what- - just that I feared what might come after. I realized much later that not facing him first was a mistake I wished I could take back."

There’s a noise in the back of Avi’s throat, something between a verbal shrug and a begrudging noise of agreement. One hand on the armrest of his chair, Avi levers himself up into a slow stand, his braced leg stiff. “Well… if we all make it out of California without getting shot to pieces…” He looks down to the gun he’d gifted Huruma, then takes a slow step forward and rests one hand on the top of the door frame from the cockpit, pausing there. “Maybe I’ll zig where you zagged…”

Epsteins have not mastered the ability of properly ending conversations, and that’s where Avi chooses to end his. The footsteps he leaves are plodding and slow, but the emotional residue in their wake is something lighter, and matching the tone of the last thing he said before departing.

The emotional equivalent of ellipses.

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