The Veterans


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Also Featuring:

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Scene Title The Veterans
Synopsis Huruma and Megan come together over stories and a bond years old.
Date October 6, 2018


West Downtown

Megan doesn't get out of New York lately. She's forgotten how nice and clean the landscape is once you leave that region and start heading for Rochester. There are still farms! The back of Huruma's motorcycle is her favorite place to be, and as they dismount up in Rochester, the redhead shakes her helmet hair out and runs her hand through it. The autumn colors are beginning to peek out, though nowhere near their full glory as yet.

"God, it's a gorgeous day for this." The ride north was relaxing. Meg grins at her friend. "Thanks for dragging me out of the hospital. I needed a break. And besides… I need to pick up a little something for the Pipsqueak. I told Nicole I'd bring back some of those fleecy pajamas when you and I made this run. Now I can drop them off this week and grab Nic for some girl time."

It’s best to get in the bike rides while they still can; daytime in autumn is still warm, thankfully, and there isn’t yet a reason to avoid the roads. Huruma has a car backed up in the Bunker garages for winter, but that’s not nearly as fun. No rain and sparse clouds make for a chilly wind against skin, and especially Megan’s cheeks just under visor. Rochester’s color is understated until autumn really comes in, and even the creekbed beside the bunker is clear and brisk, rather than the muddy shade when it rains upriver.

“You’re welcome.” Huruma watches as Megan shakes her hair out, tugging off her own helmet once she parks the bike under shelter. Amidst the grounds are some other vehicles belonging to the operatives, and of course the big toys in the near distance. The Tlanuwa is looking particularly spiffy today, and the sunbaked brick of the buildings seems to trap the warmth outside. “Pippa will love that, I’m sure. Doubt that they come in my size, but given winters here I am tempted to look…” She gives a sharp little smile as she throws a cover over the bike in its space. Yes, everyone knows she hates that season. With a passion. Even if it means she gets to break out the big coats.

As she runs her hand through the coppery hair, the vivid white swathe over her eye is brilliant in the autumn afternoon sun. Silver strands are gilding more and more of the deeper hue these days, but the nurse still has a head full of auburn that is complemented by the dark green jacket she threw on for the ride up into the hinterlands of New York. The pink in her cheeks just gives her a cheerful look as she smiles, carrying the helmet with her as she steps out into the yard to give Huruma room to throw the bike's cover. Her overnight bag is a mere small-sized backpack she has over her shoulders. "Considering the rolling blackouts, I have to admit that I wish they came in my size too," Megan replies. "The fireplace is nice to have, but I hate leaving it burning overnight." She always did — it made her paranoid to have a fire burning if all of them were sleeping, even if it were properly banked. She would wake up once an hour to check on it. Crazy lady.

She stretches out the kinks in her back and then grins. "Okay — you promised no middle of the night call-outs or boots kickin' in the door," she reminds her friend. She hears things about the pranks that get played up here! "Dinner out or in? You promised me beef, lady." It's hard to come by a good steak down in the city.

Lucille isn't the only one that has sleepovers, clearly. This is what distraction from life looks like. Huruma pockets her keys and steps ahead to open the door for Megan. "You and fires… early man made it out okay, hm? You'd never hack it in the Bush." There's a small laugh as they head inside.

"I promised it, and hopefully I stay on my word—" The first thing that Huruma does when they enter is angle what she says partly at the entrance cameras, giving the nearest a waggle of fingers in greeting. Company is over. "As long as we avoid jokes at Epstein's expense, we'll be fine."

Whatever that's supposed to mean, right?

"Out. There's a spot or two in walking distance from here… I suspect we keep the bars in a certain radius on their toes."

Snickering at the idea that they keep the bars on their toes, Megan too waggles her fingers at the camera. She hasn't got anything to hide! "I did just fine in the bush, thankyouveryfuckingmuch," she retorts good-naturedly."Kept ya all from burning to death when that damn possum ran right through the fire pit too!" The memory of that is enough to bring on ridiculous amounts of laughter — that damn possum screamed like a girl and sent them all bolt upright scrambling for weapons and jumping back from the critter with burning fur like they were doing a goddamned fire dance! The redhead is still giggling, this many years later.

“Hah— I meant the Bush where I’m from, but I’ll give you that one.” Huruma, acting as Megan’s Wolfhound escort, leads her into the bunker with a laugh to accompany the redhead’s giggling. “Smelled terrible, the poor little thing. Scavengers never have it easy.” At least it was promptly put out of its misery. “But if you have to choose between letting a fire burn and shining a torch into the dark and seeing a dozen pairs of eyes— choose the fire.”

The inner rooms of the bunker are slick concrete and granite, and though not bustling, they might see someone in passing as Huruma shows her guest through the common areas and to the quarters. Names on tags beside doors here and there are familiar en masse. Huruma’s room is a touch further from most of the others, just as much for her own good as anyone else’s.

Much like her room at the Benchmark, things are kept tidy, and any color is on the richer, darker end. The desk is still covered in folders from the last she was here, and the Christmas cactus on the top of a shelf nearer the window has its buds open. A calm place, even if sparse.

“You can set your things anywhere… I’m getting these leathers off, I’ve been wearing them half the day…” Safety first, comfort second.

Megan nods, slinging her backpack off and setting it in a chair with the helmet, then removing the heavy jacket. Though she hasn't got leathers, heavy jeans, a pair of heeled boots and her jacket are reasonable protection for the ride. "You know, it wouldn't hurt you to actually acquire a few things to brighten up your rooms, Huruma," she teases lightly. Her fingertips brush the blossoming cactus, a small smile smile quirking her lips at the sight of it. "You got it to bloom! I killed two of them last year," she admits with a sigh. "Ridiculous that I can grow herbs in a garden and even manage vegetables but a friggin' cactus still manages to die on me." She rolls her eyes. "They're supposed to be the simplest things to grow. And I keep somehow over watering or something, I don't even know."

Brighten them up? Huruma scoffs faintly as she pops the closet open, trading clothes for something less leather and dirty from the ride up. Not shy, Megan’s seen anything that’s there to see by now. “There are only a few things that I do in my rooms and decorating is not typically one of them.” She smiles over a shoulder before hooking a shirt over her head, et cetera.

“Cacti take minimum investment. You do not need to worry about them like others. People usually overwater, water too often, not enough light for too long…” Seems like someone has picked some stuff up. Not such a black thumb after all? Huruma leans out from behind the open closet door to give Megan a once over. Hm.

“If you need anything else to wear tonight, it is only my pants that are out of the question.” Huruma adds playfully.

Looking down at herself, Megan quirks a brow and looks up again. "What, steaks and alcohol require more than my jeans? This isn't enough?" She rolls her eyes and goes rummaging in her backpack, coming out with a nicer top than she's currently wearing and shows it to Huruma. "We aren't trawling for guys." Then she pauses. "We aren't, are we?" Peering at Hooms… cuz that'd be ridiculous, right?

Geez, now I gotta go be a girl too. At least she packed for that. Stripping off her T-shirt, the modesty factor just isn't even a thing. The redhead slips a tank top over her head and then adds a deep blue long-sleeved top with a cowled V-neck that falls open to midway down her front. It's at least feminine and flattering, even if not fancy. "Okay?" she asks as she fluffs her hair a bit.

“What? No. At least, I’m not. I’ve got a handle on that, for once..” Huruma can’t resist a tiny wink in Megan’s direction, knocking the closet door shut behind her. Black skirt, black sweater, cutouts along the sides like deliberate clawmarks.

“Lovely.” The fluffing of her hair earns a more personable smile from Huruma, the expression moving in her eyes too. “Indulge me here, it is an excuse to feel dressed up. That’s why I go to all of those fancy parties.” The taller woman moves to the shelf and a box there, briefly rifling through it before pulling out a pair of earrings and a ring; they’re shaped like pointed spearheads, and the ring the open mouth of a cat. Would definitely hurt if she punched someone with it— practical jewelry! There is a silent gesture of the box at Megan in offer, passive and not pressing.

The wink makes both copper brows shoot up and Megan grins delightedly. "You know he'll have a conniption if he thinks we're talking about him. Much less the mortification if he thinks we're comparing notes or something stupid," she laughs. The explanation about getting dressed up makes Megan's smile softer. Oh all right, then… at least this isn't a fancy shindig!

Given that she only brought the blouse she's wearing on a whim, Megan didn't bring jewelry or anything. Not that she owns much. Glancing in the mirror critically with pursed lips, she runs an eye across the proffered box and debates. Then she holds up a necklace of jet black beads that would sit high and close at the base of her throat. "Hhn?" The wordless request for approval comes with a single quirked brow. And when the smile tells her it's nice, she fastens the piece around her neck and studies the reflection. It does do nice things to offset the deep V of dark blue and the white camisole's rounded neckline. "Okay… I'm gussied up," she finally says.

Slanting a glance at Huruma, she sticks out her tongue. "That's enough gussying for girls' night. Any more and they might actually think we're lookin' at them." Who knows with men. Although… she has to admit that she feels pretty, just going this far. And the moment that sort of glow sets in, she rolls her eyes at herself.

“I do know, which is why I’m stopping there.” Huruma laughs, smiling wide as Megan decides to partake of the box of goodies. Huruma has stashes of this stuff everywhere, naturally. She does get a more approving smile when she picks the black beads; it’s simple, but that’s Megan anyhow. Huruma is the one that wears the spears and jungle cats in this relationship.

Megan’s study of herself and satisfaction just after is nothing doing for the empath. Huruma moves behind to draw red hair back from her shoulders, one hand touching against shoulder. “Just bask in it for once, it will do you some good, hm?”

Her lips twist in a rueful smile. "I suppose it's okay to bask in girly once in a while. If I don't do it with you, who the hell else will I get to be girly with?" Megan meets Huruma's eyes in the mirror and shrugs self-deprecatingly. The hands in her hair are appreciated, though — it's a luxury when someone else plays with it. Which reminds her. "Oooh, hey… that reminds me. Wine with Nicole next week. I'm draggin' that woman out of the house for … I don't even know. Not what we had last time." Oh God, that was funny. Bad! But really funny, how Colette lost it.

Playing with other people’s hair is an equal luxury for Huruma, because, well, she keeps hers short. And for some reason Megan’s has always been soft to her, so that equals casual affection. She can’t resist it.

“I’ll pencil that in.” Huruma chuckles, lips curving up and brows lifting. “She works so much, we may have to treat it like an ambush…” Though ambushing literally might be dangerous. Hrmm. Her thoughtfulness segues into a low laugh, also recalling the last time. “Last time I stopped over was to watch Pippa for a couple of hours, and as much as I love her, she is a child. I can only watch the same films so many times.”

A tiny part of her is glad that she never really had to stand that with her own, but that’s a whole other thing.

"Exactly," Megan concurs immediately. "And although I know Pipsqueak spends a ton of time with Ben too, Nicole doesn't go out or anything else when Pippa's gone. It's time that girl got a life." Hello, pot? I'm kettle, nice to meet you. She remains standing there for a long few moments, literally reveling in the feel of her friend's hands in her hair. And then she grins and opens her eyes. "Okay, enough of that — you can have all night to play with it if you want, but I'm starving." Because they're both very bad about that; Megan will let her do it for hours.

Turning to look at her friend, she gives the same once-over that she just got and clicks her tongue against her teeth. "You'll do. Gorgeous is as gorgeous does." The redhead winks and then asks, "Where is it we're going, anyway?"

Huruma smiles more sheepishly when Megan calls out her preening, and lets go of the hair fondling after coiling it stylishly over a shoulder. The once over she gets in return is answered with a slight angling, hands at the pinch of waist before wider hips. Not a model show, but she gets the picture. Approved? Good.

“Well, you see, we keep some good company across the river.” Huruma gathers up her phone and wallet, stashing them in the pockets of a light jacket she pulls on. “Before the war it was quite the brewery, lounge and all. Granted now the brew works produces less— but the food is good and I think they’ve named a couple of beers after us, in some capacity…” There’s a bridge directly to the front door, so it was bound to happen. The Hounds aren’t shy about visiting.

Megan laughs quietly, grabbing her jacket and pulling it on as they head out the door, her own wallet safely tucked in an inner pocket. "I should have a heart attack of not-surprise that this lot spends enough time in a brewery to get drinks named after them." She is genuinely amused. "Sounds like the best place in town." Because he who feeds and waters the soldiers invariably gets the perks of being The Establishment.

They've walked and hiked together so long, the stride matching is automatic. And as they make their way right out of the building and toward the bridge, Megan's looking over all of the equipment, the layout, the toys. "Hana runs a good outfit," she observes. Not that it's any surprise to her that they're squared away. The heavy machinery gets a quick grin. "I hear the toys are a lot of fun to play with."

The bridge has chips and paint missing, but it’s sturdy and serviceable; might need more repairs in coming years, but right now it remains a less shiny version of itself, with iron streetlamps and benches at intervals. Huruma smirks at Megan’s observing, tilting her chin up towards where the Tlanuwa is perched from afar.

“Scott and Francis treat that thing like part of the family, and I suppose it is…?” A flash of a smile comes next. “Personally, I like to make strange requests and see what Raytech does. The retractable claws are a work in progress. I field tested them a few months back.” It sounds like Huruma didn’t even expect that request to go through. “I did, however, get a veto for a different armored vehicle. I still shot some ideas, though. Can’t stop me~” She sing-songs faintly, looking up at the buildings in the sun before heading on.

Megan's laughter holds both amusement and affection. "Well, I don't know Francis but Scott? He's always been happiest with his hands inside an engine block. So if he didn't baby those things like they were sentient, I'd totally worry." She remembers the classic Dodge he'd been rebuilding in the years before the Ferry became quite so active a thing all the time. "You'll never have to worry about your gear while he's here — especially if Francis is taking after him."

Her softer emotions are all in play with that laughter, but her interest is piqued by the other part. "Retractable claws? What are you, like Catwoman or something?" Did Catwoman even have retractable claws? Megan can't remember, it's been decades since she had any inkling about such things. "Do I even dare ask if they're bold enough to give you things like retractable claws what the heck they're vetoing?" Thoroughly amused at the notion, her imagination is now running wild with images of Huruma on top of a HumVee with claws as long as her forearm, screaming like a banshee.

And she starts giggling like a lunatic.

“They’re not big claws.” Huruma huffs in response to Megan’s cackling, as if sensing exactly what she’s getting at in her head. “Useful for an assist in scaling, combat, that sort of thing. I am a stealth operative.” She practically fluffs at the faux-affront.

“To my credit some of the vetoes were because I enjoyed putting ridiculous things into the requisition forms. I haven’t in a while.” She taps at her chin, considering it. Maybe it’s time to request a tank quad or a Hunter-bot with a saddle. “Richard did show me some of the things they are working on. I saw something about a dinosaur secretary referenced, I don’t know what that was about. He didn’t answer me.”

Megan's laughter is full-throated howling by the time Huruma cat-puffs in faux indignation. She has to stop at the end of the bridge to lean on the railing so as to finish the bout and then wipe tears from the corners of her eyes. "Oh God… Oh God, I needed that. A dinosaur secretary?" She knows Richard Cardin— well, Ray — only well enough to know what he used to do, what he supposedly does now, and be amused by the fact that he's supplying Wolfhound. "Jesus fucking Christ," she starts giggling again. "You know… if we hadn't already lived through all that we've seen… I would think you were making it all up."

Huruma stops when Megan does, crossing her arms and waiting there at the end of the bridge for her friend to stop laughing herself to tears. Come on!

“I still could be, couldn’t I? What if I told you we have robots for receptionists at every office in Madagascar? Is that believable? They have flying cars too. Private mini-jets, like cute little Tlanuwas—” Huruma mimes a tiny plane with her hand. Nyoom. “Nanotech suits that absorb kinetic energy? Nanobiologists that work as doctors? Using tiny mechanical things that stitch you back together. You’d be out of a job, darling.”

Tall tales from tall women aren't the only stories being spun tonight, either. It's right about now that Megan and Huruma spot a trifecta of storytellers coming out of the brewery, still talking with too-loud-for-indoor voices. “No, no,” one loud voice cries. “I swear to you on my mother’s grave, it was a Jurassic Park sized robot. Walked on four legs. I landed up in a fourth story window!”

Laughter erupts from the group, and Huruma immediately recognizes the voice of James Dearing retelling the same story about Operation Lariat that he's been telling for months. At his right, Scott Harkness is surprisingly jovial looking, shaking his head and lighting up a cigarette. “Well the fall sure as fuck didn't knock any sense into you. What, exactly, was your plan once you got that thing on the end of a rope?”

“It was a high tension cable,” a third man chimes in, and Francis Harkness doesn't too often join in these sort of excursions across the river, but tonight seems to be an excuse otherwise. “Obviously, he was going to tow it.” To emphasize the point, Francis pantomimes a tugging gesture with both hands.

All three burst into laughter, none yet noticing Huruma and Megan.

Megan's laughter is slower and she grins at Huruma. "Bullshit," she retorts. "Doctors don't do their own stitching anyway, they're too stuck up." Well, surgeons are anyways. As she straightens herself out, ready to go into the brewery, she points out, “Madagascar is taking on mythic boundaries here. So full of shit." She shoves the red hair back with one hand and then cants her head slightly. She doesn't know Dearing or young Harkness, but the elder Harkness's voice is distinctive. And she shakes her head at Huruma, snickering. "Sounds like some of your boys are dick-measuring."

She blows out a breath, no more cackling on the bridge! But she's still amused as hell. "C'mon. Beer. Dinner. Something stronger than beer?"

“Maybe if you went to visit someday you’d see how much of a liar I am.” Huruma tips her head with a crooked smile, lips closed and amused. The note of curiosity is enough to have Huruma’s gaze moving after Megan’s, the closed smile pursing with a stifled grin. She gives an aside as they hike it towards the brewhouse.

“Mmm, the tallest one had an incident with a giraffe.” Somehow Huruma says this with a mostly straight face after catching much of what Dearing is talking about. Again.

“We think it was a little much for him.” She mimes the tiniest violin, leaving her inference at that. “I am sure they have something stronger than the watery stuff in the Safe Zone. Don’t you worry. I will buy you the biggest thing on the menu, just like I promised.”

The gang of Wolfhound’s men comes ambling over and notices Huruma and Megan about halfway. Dearing throws a hand up in the air, smiling broadly at Huruma. “Look at what the cat dragged in,” he says cheerfully, “and I mean probably literally.” He looks over at Megan. “She didn't drag you did she? I think Scott’s got a spray bottle on him if she did for discipline.”

“Do not drag me into that.” Scott says taking a drag on his cigarette. “Unless you wanna end up in another third story window.”

Francis cracks a smile and laughs, shaking his head and scratching at the back of his neck and lagging behind the other a bit. He always fades into the background in settings like this, feeling much like the odd duck out. He watches, he listens, but he rarely engages.

“Fine, fine,” Dearing says with feigned frustration. “You two ladies heading to the brewery? I think Ivanov and Demsky might've already left. Epstein’s still in there, though, because I'm pretty sure that just his bunk.”

A whoop of laughter erupts from Scott at that, followed by a guilty smile.

The brow beneath that white streak lifts up in amusement. "Damn Hooms, I think that man just said I looked like I'd been yanked backward through a bush," the redheaded nurse comments with cheeky grin. "And here I thought you brushed all my fur straight so no one could tell." Megan winks at Francis because he looks a little uncomfortable and she doesn't want the kid to think she's upset or anything. It's all in good fun. And well… If they wanna pull the cat's tail… Megan kinda wants to see that! Tilting her head, she snickers. "Scott… I double-dog dare you to squirt Huruma."

It is easy enough to read all of them, and Dearing’s rather enthusiastic greeting gets an unperturbed feline blink and a return wave, a half-lift of hand. Scott is smart enough about the bottle commentary to know it’d be a terrible idea, and the raise of Huruma’s brow at Dearing says the rest for her. Someone would definitely, probably, end up in a window.

“Please do not.” Huruma’s pale eyes move to Megan and back to the men, mouth pursed. Triple dog dare you. “Megan, you look perfectly fine for someone I’ve dragged through the brush for hours.” She lifts her hand to brush said fur with her fingers. Still looks fine, promise!

“James Dearing, if you’ve not had the pleasure,” The hand moves away from Megan’s shoulder to flourish in a gesture to the aforementioned man in an introduction. “The giraffe wrangler.” He’s the ‘tall’ one. On Avi’s favorite place to bunk she doesn’t comment— she lets the man have his Places.

“More like Wrangled by a Giraffe,” Dearing admits as he approaches, politely offering a hand out to Megan. “Former LAPD, presently robotic cattle wrangler if the last few months is any indication.”

Scott stands a bit behind Dearing, arms crossed and a lopsided smile on Huruma. “Well, if you're going for a drink I could do another round. The Tlanuwa isn't set to be fired up this weekend so I'm on a bit of leave. Ground-pounders are hitting the streets from the sound of it.” Which elicits a look at Dearing. “Isn't that supposed to be you?”

“Rue’s working with the Dumont girl,” Dearing says with a dismissive wave of one hand. “I'm still technically on medical leave.”

“A robot threw him into a third story window,” Francis is sure to remind everyone, incredulously.

Megan chuckles at the lot of them and shakes Dearing's hand. "Megan Young, former Ferry ass-kicker and stitcher together of stubborn people." Her eye runs over Dearing more critically — he's on med leave, and she's sure Hana has good people. It's just what she does automatically, professional hazard. Then she tilts her head at the younger Harkness, not having a name for him yet, and offers her hand to him as well. "And when that experienced you get, look as good you will not," she informs him with a sage nod. "Unless, of course, you have catlike reflexes or something. It's nice to meet you both." Her tone says kind of oh, it must be Tuesday — not dismissive, but amused and as if this is not any kind of shocking thing. After all, the men are part of the Hounds and she's seen a lot of shit the past few years.

As she steps back toward Huruma from the handshake, Megan nods to Scott. "You're welcome to join. Hooms promised steaks and at least beer if not anything stronger." There's a faint grin and a wicked twinkle. "You sure you're up to handling us both on a bender, Harkness?"

Huruma simply smiles thinly at the reminder of the window, herself having heard of what happened not only from Dearing at least three times, but a couple people who were there to see him get flung like a physics puppet.

Megan’s mention of cat-like reflexes earns a huff of laughter, the taller woman’s lips pursing with a tick of tongue against her teeth. Flattery gets you everywhere.

“I am not one for dark beer, but they have some.” Huruma notes on something stronger, gaze moving overhead of the trio to the building. Her low voice carries a note of play with it. Not quite as hard as her friend’s wickedness. Redheads. “As for bender,” Megan, “We will see. You are welcome to join us after your smoke if you are feeling brave.”

“I might just do that,” Scott says with a fond smile. “Somebody’s gotta make sure Epstein isn't planning another teamwork-exercise-kidnapping I suppose.” Says the man as if he weren't a part of it, then takes a drag off of his cigarette.

“I'm headed back to the Bunker,” Francis says with a genial smile. “I've gotta get up in the morning. Fella I'm seeing likes morning jogs and…” he waves his hands in the air. “I'm sure that's gonna be the death of me.” Scott cracks a smile and nods to Francis.

“Go get your beauty sleep,” Scott says with a good-natured tease. “Us old dogs will stay up howling at the moon. Unless you're joining us, Dearing?”

Dearing looks over his shoulder, one brow raised. “Oh no. Nope. I've had enough of Grandpa Avi’s stories about the mujahideen for one day. If I hear that story about Jensen and the goat one more time I’m going to throw myself out a window.”

“A third story one?” Francis asks on his way by.

To which Dearing replies in a sing-song voice, “Fuck you~

Grandpa Avi. Jensen and a goat? Jesus fuckin' Christ. Megan snorts a laugh, stepping out of the way so that Francis and James can head back to the bunker. "Wait… teamwork exercise kidnapping? Aw hell… this one I gotta hear." Because you know… that's gonna be some funny shit right there. "You can't tell me you weren't in on that plan," she informs the rough-voiced elder Harkness. She reaches out and 'borrows' his cigarette from him in a graceful movement, only to take a long drag off it and then drop it, crushing it under her boot. A slow stream of smoke sideways, away from Huruma, is accompanied by a grin. "C'mon, you — the scoop is now required." She nudges Scott back toward the brewery, hooking an arm in Huruma's. "You got two gorgeous women to entertain with your wicked sense of humor."

Ahwooo.” Huruma purrs in a grand display of not being an old dog at all, looking down to where Megan hooks her arm into hers and practically steers. She gives Francis and Dearing a last look before grinning sharply down at Megan and leading them along towards the restaurant. “Remember when I told you we’re avoiding jokes at Epstein’s expense? That’s why.”

“But I am sure that Scott can tell the story better.” Huruma shakes her head once, casting him a glance with slitted eyes. “I wish I could have been there, but I am too distinctive.” They would have made them out instantly, of course. But just in case, she still got the scoop.

Nobody wants some accidental interdepartmental murder.

As Francis and Dearing part ways, Scott begins what will likely be a long retelling of this particular story. “So, I guess it all started when Lucille and Devon had the bright idea drop shaving cream filled balloons in Epstein’s quarters as a prank.”

Scott exhales a raspy laugh and shakes his head. “‘Cept Epstein kept it quiet, right? He didn't say anything about it to anybody, even the pranksters. Meanwhile, he's going around getting permission for a kidnapping simulation live fire training exercise. And who does he nominate?”

A smile spreads across Scott’s face. “One day he shows up in the garage with a pair of balaclava and stun guns and says,” Scott puts on his most grumpy Epstein voice, “wanna scare some kids?

And then he bursts out laughing.

"Oh God," Megan groans, chuckling. "Lucy? Jesus." She can't help but find that hysterical. As they make their way inside and find a table, the redhead slips into a chair and drops her jacket over the back of it inside out, where she can pull it up if she gets chilly. By the time he hits the end of the story, she's laughing along with it. "Jesus fucking Christ," she comments. "Okay, that I wish I could have seen happen."

She leans back in her seat, her amusement remaining. "Lu's a great operative." Ben might not like it much, but his daughter's held her own running with Huruma and Megan in the past too. "She used to help me out in the field hospitals, too. Cast iron stomach, that girl." She tips her chin at Huruma, and grins cheekily. "She's always been willing to have a little fun. Lightness where you can find it. But it takes some serious brass ones to fuck with Epstein. Looks like our little girl playing in the big leagues, Hooms."

Huruma was right, it is definitely more entertaining when Scott tells it. She looks pleased with his jovial reaction to it all, the laughter coaxing a small one from her. The gang heads inside and commandeers a table, and as they have a seat Megan gets a nod and a shrug, Huruma’s eyes glinting back. “Good in the field, cast iron stomach… I like to think she takes after me,”

“Between Lucille and Delia, I was already biding my time. Seems I was too slow to show Lucille the ‘big leagues’.” Huruma laughs softly this time, leaning back in her seat and already looking as comfortable as ever. “But at least someone did.”

She totally deserved it, mind.

Laughing at both Huruma and Megan’s commentary, Scott steps in to walk beside Megan as he finishes the last of his cigarette. The noise of the brewery carries into the evening air, the sound of music and loud voices, of the young and the old come together to find common ground in the ruins of the world. It may not be as easy to see from Rochester just how much things have changed, and for tonight — with good company and good stories — the past is more alive than it ever had been.

And for the veterans of this world, that's as good a cause as any to celebrate.

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