Tuko Pamoja


emily4_icon.gif huruma4_icon.gif

Scene Title Tuko Pamoja
Synopsis When Emily goes looking just for an outlet, Huruma instead offers fellowship.
Date December 13, 2019

The Bastion

It took Emily a month to get over to the Bastion to see Huruma, but she does it. She does not do it out of a particular desire to engage her and ask her for self-defense training or guidance or anything remotely straightforward…

No— she's just apparently looking for something to punch.

Not Huruma, clearly. She asks the Hound if they have anything she can use, instead.

She's brought nothing in particular with her aside from whatever invisible baggage is weighing her down, some cloying worry hidden under a fringe layer of nervous energy and anger. Her hands are shoved into the pockets of her peacoat, her request delivered with a deadpan expression that peeks over a scarf bundled tightly about her neck.

"If no, that's fine," Emily clarifies dismissively. "I've got somewhere I can go. My subscription lapsed, was all."

Surely that's all it was that took her to come so far out of her way. Surely.

The Hound tries her best to act surprised to see the girl; though Emily, of course, knows Huruma can see people coming. Or going. Or just anyone around. Somehow. Emily is more than welcome inside out of the cold, met with more or less the same aura from Huruma.

"I didn't know the Safe Zone had a gym." is her way of calling it out, a brow rising, lips crooking in a half smile. "Yes, we have some facilities here. Not as much as the Bunker, of course."

"I could always call your father and you could use him for practice." She's kidding! Probably! It's definitely not malicious, just mischievous. Already, however, she is waving Emily to come along with her when she starts walking. "I suppose you'll need some gear." It's not a question, but an observation, pale eyes in dark face regarding the young woman's lack of tangible baggage.

"All sorts of semi-normal shit nearby Brooklyn College," Emily replies off-handedly. She quiets as she hears there's maybe someplace here she can use to channel out her aggression, a moment of hope sullied by the ribbing about her father. It's a joke in poor taste on the best of days, one that adds to the frazzled state under the hood. Externally, she simply shakes her head.

The forward movement is a relief, honestly. The question of gear wasn't one that she's considered, nor is it something she believes to be a problem. "Probably not," she replies, falling in step behind Huruma easily. If she worked up a sweat, she'd change when she got home. After all, all she plans to do is hit a few things. Then go.

Unlike the other times she's been in Wolfhound's space, there's no wary glance given ahead of behind, no mild nerves about who might be found around the corner. Bring it— she'll hit them, too. Probably metaphorically.

Even if a terrible way to joke, it at least shows that Huruma is not exactly being dire about this. Should she be?

Huruma pops open the door to the rec room they've collected here at the Bastion; room enough for the basics, at least for the type of people they are. Of course that includes materials to punch to Emily's heart's content. She can feel the scrappiness on the edges of the girl's mood, and seems to be evaluating her once they arrive.

"We have sparring gloves in the closet, if you would like a pair." Despite Em's declination, Huruma offers regardless, stepping into the room and flicking on the lights; it's a well-used place, all things considered. Her voice shades with a note of humor. "I hope that someone has taught you how to throw your punches… if your roommate hasn't already, it would be quite remiss of him." Read: don't hurt yourself getting pissed off.

The warning brings to mind a memory of the first time Teo had picked up pads and had her put to practice what before she had only done while swinging at air. Emily remembers how she’d lined up her stance, how she’d measured her distance, and thrown several good punches with excellent form — before being told to react as though she were being attacked. To put her all behind it, like her life depended on it.

She remembers how her knuckles had felt after the sixth or seventh punch, how the ridge of her ring and pinky fingers had swelled to three times the size they should have been.

So Emily takes a step into the room, pauses on that memory, and turns on her heel to invite herself over to the closet. It’s opened and regarded with a light gaze before she dips her hand in, aiming to touch only what she means to take. She grasps them in her fist, holding onto them even as she pulls her coat off and tosses it down on the floor unceremoniously so she can pull on the gloves one by one.

“I’m not going to argue with you if you tell me I’m doing it wrong.” she remarks while velcroing the straps on her wrist down. “Not unless you’re bullshitting me.” The young woman flexes her hand inside the glove, a thin layer now between her and the whatever unfortunate object stands in her path now that she’s ‘armed’. “I haven’t done this in a while, so maybe I’ll fucking suck at it again.”

Who knows, and who cares seems to be Emily’s opinion about it.

Sometimes it is just… interesting, watching the process of someone thinking, stirring on a remembrance, diverting thanks to the emotions of a past decision, one assumes. Huruma watches Emily head to the closet, head canted only until the blonde has shed her coat and tugged the gloves on. She was going to stick around, moreso out of necessity, yet when Emily more or less suggests watching- - she feels a duty to stay.

"Got it." The dark woman manages to hide a smile, instead lifting a hand to offer Emily the path to the punching bag; meanwhile, her feet carry her over to the bench beside the free weights, not far, far enough to supervise, far enough to give Em her space. Whatever it is that has the girl riled up, Huruma does not press her for details.

The escort takes some of the wind from Emily’s sails, leaving her to feel silly standing in front of the punching bag. She bides her time, walking close to it to push it on its stand, seeing how laden it is with water. It’s not like she’ll topple it with her meager strength compared to some of the people who might take a swing at it, but if it’s got any give, maybe that’s good for her to know.

She slides a step back, one foot in front of the other, and lifts her hands. She waits for a moment, holding out for something to fire within her. Whatever it is, it doesn’t. Emily glances over to Huruma for just a moment, then back to the punching bag. The nerves at her core buzz even harder. She swings, following through a series of motions she’s not practiced in some time. One side, then the other.

What are you even doing here? she asks herself, feeling foolish. Then she remembers, and the emotion associated with it comes back— the burning, helpless, fruitless anger of it that she needs to get out. Emily swings again, harder. Her form holds, even if the force of the impact jolts her. The hit doesn’t do for her emotions exactly what she hoped.

Well, hit it again, Epstein. Maybe it’ll be different a second time.

It feels better when she punches it with her offhand. The anger subsides a little, revealing the worry it covers over, but she wants to get rid of that, too. So she punches again. One, two, three. By the third, her discipline in how she’s holding herself is failing.

Huruma doesn't call attention to that silly feeling Emily has while testing the bag's weight. It's quite held fast; Hounds know how to knock stuff around. Even when she looks over her shoulder, Huruma is just there, one leg over the other, arms half crossed, one set of knuckles under her chin. Just watching. Nothing doing.

She watches the nerves, then the embarrassment, replaced in turn by a fiery rage. More a desperate anger, than a focused one. They taste different. Hard hits do not seem to help it at first, just physically jostling her instead.

Hit it again, Huruma thinks to herself, as Emily does just that. Furrowed anxiety peeks out from behind the punches like kicking at a tangled blanket. More watching, until it breaks.

"Bring your hips back in… your weight is off." Huruma stays to the earlier request. No bullshitting, just the velvet voice of a teacher's patient correction. "Careful not to overextend."

As you were.

Huruma’s course correction is gentle enough Emily doesn’t flinch on hearing it. She straightens her posture, glances down at her feet to edge back in just a little further, and throws another punch.

Took a wrong turn at Albuquerque.

Another punch. Another five. Her posture holds.

Can’t believe I fucking trusted him. Hit. Trusted that something incredibly fucked up wouldn’t happen. Hit. Let him go.

“Shouldn’t’ve—” is the sole sound that escapes her in a mutter as she swings particularly hard at the bag, shaking her hand as she pulls back from it. Her breath comes unevenly. She’s far from void of the emotions she’d hoped to shed, but she’s put a crack in the shell around them.

Lessons seem to be coming back as Emily makes her efforts- - and irritations- - more known. Whatever it is, Huruma can tell even without her ability that she can do well with punching it into oblivion. Works for her.

The crackle of mental walls are less satisfactory when it's a hit gone awry that did it. Still… it's something. Huruma listens quietly to the girl's huffing, lips pressing before she errs on the side of practical, and for once with Em, unprying. There is more than use for what she has in mind, lining up intangible ducks for herself.

"Some good strikes…you have your basics in," But. "Has anyone helped you to balance your breathing?"

Her what?

Emily’s brow is knit together as she looks back at Huruma, her shoulders unhelpfully fluid with each breath she takes. She should pay attention to her breathing? She looks back to the punching bag, for all the little it can tell her. It’s better than looking at the empath. Anyway.

She should probably pay attention to her breathing.

“No,” she shares flatly, splaying the fingers of one hand on the palm of the other to help stretch them out. Her weight shifts uncertainly, and then she steps to the side— like to allow Huruma space in the conversation, if not physical space closer to her. She remains wired, lit up with nerves and anxieties that would cause her to lash out at even the calmest of touches. Her gaze hardens as her eyes flit down to her hands, flexing the both of them to make sure she hasn’t done anything to foul them up. Continuing to beat on them if she’s already injured herself wouldn’t do her any favors.

But no. Unlike some mistakes she makes repeatedly, this time she’s avoided that one.

Confusion is an answer before the reply is. Anger doesn't help the lack of practice. And from what she understands of Emily… picture of health she was not, for a long time. Teo did as well as he could to start her on the right foot, that's clear.

Once Huruma says something about the breathing, she knows Emily will listen to it consciously, if only for a moment or two. Call attention to a quality and people pause to consider it. Blinking, breathing, walking. Huruma considers her own before standing, keeping a fair distance, wrists behind her back. No assist with that frazzled state is offered; not yet, anyway. Emily can keep her nerves. It will be practice.

"I can." Help. If you want. The dark woman adopts Emily's terse response in kind, less flat, more questioning. If that's her language, may as well speak it.

She doesn’t know what to make of that, actually. It’s rare that it doesn’t run someone off, so to have someone respond in kind, albeit more kindly, it’s…

Emily’s eyelids flicker as she fights down impatience. It’s unmerited, anyway. Huruma is offering to help, rather than just throwing out advice unsolicited. Maybe she should be more appreciative. She breathes out, wrangling the waves in her down to something more manageable. “What do you recommend?” she asks quietly, glancing back up to Huruma out of the corner of her eye. She could throw out guesses, maybe, but if she’s going to learn, she’s going to learn rather than risk coming off like she’s assuming.

The patience Huruma typically has, hasn't gone anywhere thusfar; pinning down young people tends to be harder- - and varied- - but it looks like she's getting it now. Everything is more raw and turbulent. Unpredictable.

"Starting from the bottom. Relearning where it starts." She angles a longer look up and down, head canted while she studies Emily. "I know that sounds obtuse." But it is true. "Think about your breathing right now. Where does it start, when you inhale?" Huruma holds a fist against her torso, balled at the diaphragm.

"Try to begin here, in the muscle." Incidentally, the same place that Huruma once described to Emily as the place to pull fuel for fire. The advice that definitely wasn't for her, right?
When Huruma gestures where Emily needs to start drawing from, the young woman doesn’t throw a skeptical look out for it. Her posture lifts, back straightening. She takes in a breath, trying to aim where she should be drawing up from. She breathes out. A second time, it feels more satisfactory, reaching deeper. It sets a fan over her internal state, the emotions hidden away underneath the cracks reached by the gust of it.

The past advice given isn’t even a thought on her mind. It’s a distant thought that lives back in the warmth of summer, where different, more self-centered anxieties lived. Her current situation blocks her entire focus, and it’s it she endeavors to work around. “Breathe out when?” she asks. “On strike?” It makes sense, but it also doesn’t feel right. What’re you supposed to do when you’re, you know, pummeling something repeatedly? Rapidly?

She doesn’t seem to be in a rush to jump back in on it. Emily is taking her time, mentally tracing the draw in and exhale in her mind’s eye. It doesn’t help her get rid of her anger and her worry, but it makes her calmer.

Bigger lungs, longer breaths, yet Huruma tries to time her own along with Emily's efforts. Breathing with the torso, rather than chest, appears to have the desired effect.

"Take your time." The rush is noted. "There are a few other ways to practice your breathing, and there are a few constants. There is no right way, but balance always helps." Huruma lifts her hand in front of her chest, palm idly following along to inward movement. It also soon becomes clear that she has done lessons aplenty; this one in particular is foundational. "In the nose, out the mouth. Never hold it."

"Unless you are threatening to drown, in which case…" Huruma can't help but feather some levity in, unforced while she keeps an even tone and moves on. Her eyes are focused, lids shading her stare, pupils deep as she, in suit, follows Emily's descent into emotional repose. "Learning to listen to your body is the most important part of anything." The least of all, combat. "And your breath is your life. The start. The bottom."

It becomes apparent this isn't just about breathing through her strikes. Emily's suspicion is small, laid aside presently because whatever, this is helpful in its own way. She's immune to the attempt at humor, because it's a little too real for her. Sometimes, she really does feel like she's drowning.

Emily breathes in deep, and exhales it out. Fluid, as suggested, since she doesn't currently feel like she's drowning. Her eyes had closed during one of the cycles, and they flutter open again to recenter on the target before her. Her posture shifts, hands lifting again. The snap out of her arm feels right in a way it rarely does when she's in the moment, a clarity to it. She takes her time, pausing after pulling her dominant arm back to reset her position before following through with her other.

"I don't suppose you have any advice for constantly being confronted with situations your body—" or rather, gut, "is telling you to not let something happen, do you? And handling what it does to you when your bad feeling is proved valid after all?"

Huruma's testing of boundaries can be subtle, including dashes of humor, and now, wandering feet that carry her in a half-circle, watchful, hands relinking behind her.

Taking notes.

For all that she came to simply beat on something, at least Emily is getting the punching down. Her next line of questioning takes a quiet minute to debate, eventually ending with Huruma pursing her lips and considering the middle distance past the bag.

"Mn… that has no easy answer." Yet, she knows Emily would not have asked if she didn't think there could be something to it. Something worth asking. "If the world is screaming to you that everything is wrong, it is worth listening to more closely. Maybe it is right. If evidence contradicts what you think you know, it is worth a closer look. Intuition and inference are not as separate as some think."

"As for what comes after… that sour taste of validation of feelings you didn't act on? I know it well." She can easily claim that much. Arms shift to fold around her front now, a lazy cross while she picks away at words. Advice is a flexible format; Huruma doesn't need to be certain, she just needs to be able to reason. "I suppose that regrets are reminders to do it right next time. Whatever… right is."

Emily sighs at that, hands coming up to tear free the scarf still woven around her neck. The tugging reveals a bandage plastered to the right side of her neck, curling around the front of it. As soon as she can loop the scarf off her head, she balls it in one hand and throws it so it sits in a pile with her coat. She considers the concept that regrets are reminders to handle things differently the next time.

Well, she's got those in spades, so maybe whatever is right will make itself known soon, too.

"The first time, I let him go without telling him anything. I regretted that. This time, I told him everything, but I still let him go, and now I'm regretting that." Emily explains offhandedly, her frustration evident. The cracks start to peel back and reveal the heart of the matter underneath it all. She turns to Huruma, arms still hanging by her side.

"Did you know Devon isn't actually in California?" she asks dubiously. Maybe Huruma knew he was on a trip, maybe she didn't. She's getting the Emily version of events now regardless. "He's— I don't even know where the fuck he is. Because Richard fucking Ray is a duplicitous piece of shit and I don't know why I expected any different to happen." She looks back to the punching bag, like maybe she's envisioning a face where she might punch now.

But she doesn't swing.

"I don't even know where the fuck they are. He just said it wasn't California, and then he dropped off the face of the fucking earth." Everything is falling off her bit by bit, the anger and frustration chipped off. Now, her worry and fear at her core is bare, visible in her expression as she regards Huruma out of the corner of her eye. Emily lets out an unsteady breath, warning her, "If you knew he was never actually going there, for the love of god, don't tell me."

She's not ready to don her anger again yet.

Not so imperceptible is Huruma's sharpened looks between discarded scarf and neck. Quelled is a quiet taste of anger and a desire to know. Not now, though. She infers some on her own which is only confirmed when Emily's layers peel back; notable is her willingness to hear.

An easy step carries her closer, one hand coming to lean on the top of the bag stand, a concerted show of being present, not just monitoring. For the love of God, Huruma says nothing of what she may have known, knew, or knows.

"That boy should have known better than to give you half-truths." Huruma allows lingering irritation out in her words; no glint comes to her eyes, yet they do hold a sympathy for Emily's own rage. It's valid. More than. "As for Richard… having known him long before he was a Ray," Some clue-in for a curious mind like Emily's. "Yes, he can be, at times. Sometimes I feel Devon picked up on it."

It's a nice way of saying that he can be a little shit too.

Half-truths, Huruma says. Devon being difficult too.

Emily usually avoids putting any blame directly on Devon, but now she wonders. How long had he really known they weren’t going that way? Was she lied to from the get-go? And if she was— why?

As her eyelids flutter shut, she bites back the urge to string additional profanic insults together in the direction of both men being discussed. Instead, she sighs the urge away, taking in a breath from deep down and exhaling out. “Proving you don’t need to be blood to develop a family resemblance,” she mutters darkly, anyway. They can’t both get away entirely unscathed in the moment after all.

She glances back to Huruma after that, her weight shifting. Before she speaks, she turns away from the punching bag entirely. “I’m — I’m scared to fucking death it’s going to happen again, Huruma. During that Staten operation I saw him, from no less than three different angles, almost go underfoot a guy who was cracking asphalt with every step he took. And that’s only the shit I’ve seen — who knows what else has happened to him, happens to him when he’s on assignment with you all. I don’t…”

Emily struggles with that, ends up shaking her head instead. “I can’t lose him again,” she says, her anxiety at that possibility plain. Having expressed that, she can get back to her initial thought with slightly more ease. “After everything he went through to come back to us, I don’t want him to throw that all away and—”

Die isn’t a word she’s willing to say right now. What if she jinxes it?

Seeds of doubt are not unfamiliar sensations. Huruma has a slight frown, lingering through Emily's muttering and even still as she lifts her voice again. Sympathy remains, for the younger woman's torn up heartstrings and for the turmoil she is seeing now that she is out in the thick of it.

The dark woman does not finish verbalizing the thought either. She understands it. Her start is tentative, running her tongue over the edge of her teeth, eyes a catlike narrow. Voice low, ponderous, it fits the tone of her teaching.

"He's been a soldier since he was a boy. People like him, like me, like the Lighthouse children, into war young… the fight forms everything after. In Devon's case… he's kept his sense of justice and righteousness. It is his virtue, and his vice. To him, this, putting himself on the line for what he thinks is just… it is his normal." Huruma takes her time, brow knitting. She seems to debate, here, hoping that honesty returned with honesty is what the girl wants. "I cannot speak for his openness. I can feel your love. Devon knows what he is getting into. Do you?"

When Huruma first begins her explanation, Emily starts to wonder if maybe this isn't really why she came here after all— for perspective, rather than punches. But the abrupt nudge toward introspection takes her by surprise, bringing about an internal recoil that never reaches the surface. She accepts quickly the fact she's being read like an open book because she has no choice, and wills herself closer to being at peace with it.

Because she's got that question to consider, after all. Even if Emily doesn't like either answer she has to give.

"No," is what she settles with, unhappy about it. "In a single moment, reviewing the reality of everything— sure, I can say that I get it. And it might even be true. I don't agree with it, but on some small level, I get it." She starts to shake her head, finding that to be too easy to say. It's a cop-out.

"But it'd be a lie to say I really understand it." Emily goes on. "It's something I'll have to come to grips with, if we stay together. I'll have to figure it out as we go, and it'll be ugly, because every time I lie to myself that I've really got it this time, I won't actually. Time will pass, and I'll be hurt about it all over again."

She gestures in the direction of the punching bag. "Like this." The young woman lets out a deflating breath after that, sobered by it and a thought that's painful to vocalize. It's not something she wants to internalize, though, so it needs said. "This shit makes me understand why work like this ends in divorce. Because either it's never safe to love someone, or you do let yourself care and just get hurt constantly with the fear of what could happen." Emily takes a step back from the punching bag with a shake of her head, one forearm lifting to rub at the side of her face like it'll help her clear her mental palette.

It doesn't.

A nagging thought, an ugly one that's rearing its head with more and more frequency, slithers its way forward against her will. It doesn't have to be like this. it whispers. A different, more icy anxiety needles her lungs in an immediate, complicated reaction to that.

Even if she weren't an empath, Huruma likes to think that reading Emily now, at this point, would come easily regardless. It goes to show just how much she can do on her own. Without the pressure of her ability to influence it.

Huruma remains leant on the bag, the prop of her wrist on it a subtle stay. She doesn't have the feeling Emily will be doing too much more punching, just yet. And in this case, getting Emily talking out her own problems is distracting her from the rage she's feeling. Frustration is a powerful tool, both inside and out.

"It took me a long time to realize that I would rather have people I care about- - and who care about me- - than to never have care at all. Without, it was easier. I don't argue that." Huruma's own thoughts are ones that sound as if she has recited them in her head many times before. "It's never safe to love someone. Even outside of this sort of life." She rolls a shoulder in a shrug, chin tipping up.

"No version of life or love is devoid of risk. That's the catch, if it is what you want." Pale eyes rest more softly on Emily as Huruma finishes, pupils deepened and senses pricked to study the mix of anxiety. "Sometimes we will find people who are worth it." Risk. Struggle. Pain.

There are echoes here of conversations Emily had before. Even ones she’s had recently. She glares anyway at the advice she’s given. It’s true, after all— but it’s not comforting. “It’d be too much to ask for even one thing to be easy, wouldn’t it?” Though Emily snipes in Huruma’s direction, she’s not the target. The shot goes plenty wide, given how she turns— how she’s off on a short pace away from the conversation.

It isolates her thoughts instead of drowning them out. It could be easy.

An agitated note leaves her as she turns back to Huruma, shoving down fear and certainty in equal measure. She’d rub at her face if not for the gloves — she’s not interested in smearing someone else’s sweat and dead skin all over hers. Instead, she swings her arms, head bowing, letting out a long, pentip-thin stream of air. Breathe in, breathe out. Remember?

The pause between the two stages becomes tense, and long. When her eyes start to burn, stinging at the corners, she casts a longing glance toward the door and makes a split-second decision. I can’t do this. Emily starts to pull off the gloves decisively, velcro torn back so she can start to pry them off, finger by finger, nimbly. “You know, thanks and all, but—” She shakes her head, unable to look back to Huruma. “I should just go.

There's never a need to subscribe to 'nothing worth doing is ever easy', and Huruma could argue the merits for and against- - but none of that is worth adding to an already mixed up, pent up mood. Errant, intrusive thoughts are not something that Huruma can see, yet she can feel those tickling sensations of stray considerations, met with Emily's agitation. Sometimes she wishes she could read people. It would make a lot of things so much easier.

And more dangerous, knowing her.

"You do not need to." Should is just a self-directed suggestion, after all. Huruma raises a brow in question, watching the tug and pull of gloves and offering a subdued alternative. "I could at least make you some coffee, instead." The implication she tries to include is 'minus talking'. There's been enough of that.

Emily crosses back to the cabinet, gloves replaced and door shut quickly enough it rumbles afterward. She lays a hand over the thin metal to smooth out the waves that ripple up and down it, silencing it that much sooner. Her eyes follow the motion, being still tense as she takes a step back. Her head turns first without her torso following, eyes narrowing in a twinge of discomfort before she quickly course-corrects. Her right hand gives a small lift by her side but never makes it to her neck. Instead, she crosses back to her discarded outerwear in silence, snagging both items with a single swipe.

She shuffles them between her hands, finally daring a glance back to Huruma. Her brow is knit, expression cautious.

Emily doesn’t say yes immediately, but neither does she move for the door. She exists in a churn of considerations.

In light of Emily's various tics and thoughts, the glance to Huruma only gets a quick study of a woman patiently waiting for an answer and not immediately getting one. It's rather straightforward, just as the offer was.

"There should still be some pastries lying around," the dark woman squints, but it passes. Unless someone ate them, in which case they'll get a pinch. Regardless, Huruma steps away from the punching bag and crosses over to pause by the door, hands slipping into pockets, shoulders back, at ease. "You can wash your hands in the kitchen."

Whereas most would take now to wait for an answer either way, Huruma does not; she motions with a tip of her head before slipping out into the hall, a 'come along', if wanted. She cannot make the girl stay. More and more she is realizing that she sees way too much of her younger self in Emily's mannerisms; this is how she would have considered the open offer, rather than being pressured to it.

The door swings back in, and Emily Epstein still hasn't moved toward it. Her indecision doesn't last much longer— the click of it leaves the room in a silence she doesn't want to linger in. It's pushed back open, her scarf and coat draped over one arm. Emily steps into the hall, glancing back the way she knows leads to out— and the other where she can see Huruma heading back in the building's innards.

For the record, it's not the pastries that lure her. It's the coffee.

A place like this? The money they have? Almost surely it's the real stuff. And she'd be a fool to say no to that. Even if it leads to potentially running into her father and having the chance to ask him to his face if he knew where Devon really was right now.

She wanted desperately to both have that argument while at the same time never find out, lest she find out too much.

In the kitchen, Emily flicks the sink faucet on idly, waiting for the water to warm. The standing bottle of "soft-on-your-hands" dish soap is tipped over into her palm, droplet spread until it becomes foam. She lets out another deep breath from her nose.

The walk here has helped her calm, numbing the rawness— but it's not really been cathartic. She flicks her hands mostly dry with disinterest, taking no particular curiosity in peering about the kitchen area. She remembers it from the party, after all.

"If Francis or anyone else is here, we should put some on for them, too," the young woman finally says to break her silence.

There is no immediate hint of anyone else lurking around the kitchen area, so Emily's idle worry about running into Avi upon venturing further in won't come true. Some of the decor is still left over, likely to hang out until Christmas passes. Huruma only looks up from her busy hands when she hears the sink, pupils deeper in the less stark light.

A pause, and her eyes flick away to the air nearby her shoulder- - a mental search; it is only a breath before they are back on the blonde.

"He is here, yes… Scott should be back soon too. He was visiting someone." An agreement, which she answers more appropriately by divvying up an extra touch of ground coffee from the bag. Em was right; it's the better stuff, and the machine looks to be the kind that keeps things hot for some time. Something of a necessity for the Gang.

"Everything's in the cabinet there… Make yourself comfortable."

Emily only shakes her head, folding her arms and stuffing her dried hands into the crook of her elbows. "I'm good," she insists quietly. And just in case that's not enough, she appends an "I'm not hungry." to hopefully bring the matter to a close.

Leaning against the kitchen island, she lets out another slow sigh from her nose, resigning herself to patience. The coffee would take a minute. Her gaze finally roams idly, ending up on the countertop before her. It'd be polite to interject something into the silence, she supposes, in silence. Emily's mouth presses into a line as she fumbles for topics. A beat passes.

"How's Benjamin?" she finally asks softly, no strain to her voice now that she's found her words. "It's been a while since I've seen him now."

Huruma makes no noise to break that silence, she waits for Emily's indecision to do it for her. What she chooses comes as a small surprise. Thumb clicking away at buttons, Huruma gives her an arched brow past shoulder. The trickle of water at her side means she can turn fully a moment after, leaning a hand against the counter's edge.

"He's… keeping busy." Whatever she might know remains vague, especially to an outside eye. Huruma still wears her fondness on her sleeve, of course. "Which. In his case, typical. God knows he's retired no less than three times. The devil finds work for idle hands, et cetera…" Her hand follows the last in a lazily gestured circle. Speaking of, "I take it your internship is going well…? Albeit. Intense. Field work takes a type." It's not for everyone.

Emily lets out a chuff of a laugh that's humorless at its core. "Glad he's doing okay," she murmurs, and at least that is sincere. "Been wondering what he's been up to on that special case of his and all." She glances off to her side without looking at anything in particular until Huruma bats the question about the internship. Then she looks back in the empath's direction, her opinion taking a moment to form. Even having referenced something arguably related to work, it's still far from her mind.

"It was extended into 2020," she shares mildly, looking off again. No positives there, but no negatives either. "I liked it well enough until they started pulling us on active cases. You're right— they take a type." The emotions that begin to stir are distant, hollow; almost drowned out by the void left in the wake of the outburst in the training room. "Maybe it just hit too close to home on the first investigation I was on. Blonde girl, my age, went to Brooklyn College." A beat. "Missing persons case." The fold of her arms tighten. "… I don't think it's for me. I'm grateful for the opportunity and all, but…"

Her brow ticks, never quite making it to a furrow. "I guess if they insisted on keeping me on, I'd insist on being on the backline. Hoping they might see the use in that after I finish what I'm currently working on for them." One slender shoulder shifts in a shrug. "We'll see."

Huruma listens attentively; she was genuinely interested, and it shows. Her head tilts at the brief description of the first case, mouth pursing against the attempted escape of a stray thought.

"It is certainly one hell of an addition to a resume… a unit like that always needs a well-oiled machine, and you are a clever girl." If it's not field work for her, maybe she'll find something worthwhile in being behind the scenes. Huruma's passive complimenting sounds earnest because it is. "My grandson is not much for the hands-on approach, either… but he knows his way around tech far more than I could ever dream to be. He is a few years younger than you." You kids are nerds, flex on it.


Emily echoes it back before she can help herself, a small bloom of bewildered blossoming to one side of her being. She arches an eyebrow at Huruma. No way. The Hound didn't seem old enough. Hopefully that's a compliment?

By now it is second nature for Huruma to forget that not everyone pays attention to her unusual family dynamics. Not like she does theirs. Ssh.

"Ah," Huruma's breath comes out in a soft laugh, both for the blurting and bewilderment. It's flattering. No, really. "Yes. With the 'G'. I have two. The other is adopted." As if that clarifies anything. She's getting to that. Her volume echoes the same soft sound as her chuckle. "My twins are about, enh," Her eyes cast away for some mental math, skirting darker memories to think of a comparison for Emily's sake. "Agent Quinn's age, I think. Richard is close. He is a little older…"

The squint that takes over Emily's expression is slow, suspicion high as she briefly contemplates doing that math. For both Huruma and the people she tries to offer up as a point of reference.

Nope. Not touching it.

Emily stands upright and looks over to the coffeemaker, perhaps a bit pointedly. She lifts one hand to rub at the side of her neck, brushing over the bandage in the process. "Anyway, yeah, it'll be useful for me either way. Ultimately it might let… certain people down if I move on, but they'll just have to fucking deal with it, won't they?"

Suspicion is not uncommon when it comes to her personal math. Most people let it slide, as Emily does. Those that don't get different degrees of responses. Huruma looks fine with just the squinting, blinking back a calm look for the girl's sake.

"Yes. They will." Huruma smiles, close-lipped but no less of an expression. As she turns she pops open the cabinet for Emily to grab a cup, checking the machine with a look. "It's your life. Ought not waste it for the sake of someone else." Both brows arch upwards with her words, just as the coffee finishes brewing. She knows Emily will find something. Sooner or later.

And that's that, or at least as far as Emily's concerned it is. She smooths down the adhesive hugging her neck before letting her hand fall. When the cup is finally offered her way, she accepts it with a quiet murmur of thanks, curling both hands around it.

She does not treat it with sugar or milk or anything else there might be to offer. Instead, she sips it black. It's bitter— strong— but it's what she has decided she needs at the moment, and takes a resigned pleasure out of it fulfilling that need for her. Her eyes drift shut as she lets the cup rest against the curve of her chin, taking a moment to let the aftertaste settle on her tongue.

It's at this point she realizes maybe she should bring up that Avi had suggested she take lessons from Huruma in self-defense, provide a bridge for this and further interactions, but she fails to muster the words for it. Emily lowers the mug with only a hm, setting it on the countertop and settling her gaze on the rippling reflection in the dark liquid. She wrestles with the want, the need to say something, pinning it into submission.

The silence she lapses back into is a smooth, comfortable one once that initial hiccup is dealt with.

Huruma, on the other hand, is free with diluting her cup with something sweeter; her senses listen in idly on Emily, invisible, spidery hands delicate in prodding outer layers. A curious thing, made even moreso by the way the girl struggles against herself. The coffee comes up to Huruma's lips when she looks back to her company, deliberating.

A moment passes where she gets the visual tableau of Emily's attention on the waver of liquid in her cup, looking away just before her notice is too obvious. Rather than further break a reasonable silence, Huruma keeps one hand on her coffee and opens a drawer to scour around inside with the other.

A preamble, "Whatever it is, no need to force it." Lean fingers slide a notepad to the counter, and a pen nestles in her grip, point to paper. "Sometimes I hate words too." Maybe that is why she's starting with numbers instead. "Lest I forget—" She'd never. "Here." A cell number, an e-mail, scribbled out and offered to Emily with the snip of torn paper. "For if you do someday feel the need."

It's regarded like a cat might regard the presence of an unfamiliar animal brought into its presence. Emily is indeed endeavoring to not force this. Instead of picking up the scrap from the counter, she leaves it to lie, hands around the mug. They soak up its warmth.

"My father seems to be laboring under the impression you're a teacher. Are you?" she asks with nonchalance. The answer has to do with whether or not she takes the proffered information, perhaps.

"Sometimes." is the smaller, shorter answer. Brows arch, lips press, eyes shade. A common sequence. Huruma, having offered her information, returns to her coffee; she doesn't seem keen to press Emily to take it. If she wants it, she'll want it. If she doesn't, it's not like she cannot change her own mind.

"Whether or not I am, that depends on what someone wishes to be taught…" Though by no means sharp, the consideration over the rim of her mug is at least a dulled, pointed thing. Emily received a taste of it already. But that is all it was. A taste. "I've taught many people many things." It's seemingly as far as she'll explain without the quest for more.

Being a good student requires being willing. Emily knows this, and doesn't want to waste either of their time. The pad of a fingertip bounces silently against the mug. "Like what?" she asks in lieu of explaining what she might be looking for. That'd also require her to have a clear concept of what she wants.

Which she doesn't.

"Combat," Huruma tosses a look towards the door, signaling earlier. "Hand-to-hand, firearms, melee weapons, all of the above… Survival skills. Driving like a trained maniac. How to use abilities. The government even gave me that shiny little certification of theirs." She gives a soft snort.

For something she's done for years and years. Something she'd be doing regardless of the letters printed on her registry card.

"A little piano… Language basics. I've taught some how to dance." Avi wasn't wrong, it sounds like. At least she sounds modest enough about it, voice easy as she verbally ticks off this and that. It's a situational pride; she has nothing to wave in Emily's face.

What a resume it is.

“What about how not to use your ability?” Emily fires back, as skeptical as she is joking. She shakes her head at that, lifting her cup to take another drink and hide her gaze in it. The joke was a little to pointed to come across as just that, and the stillness in her emotional state betrays how she's actually keyed in, waiting for a response. When she lowers the mug she lets out a thin sigh, looking away. A beat passes before she moves on lest that emotion tip her hand any more than it already has.

"Or how about those driving skills, anyway? What’s the difference between trained maniac and … say … rogue maniac driver?” she asks with a thin smile.

Joke or not, skeptical or not, Huruma just smiles that smile, close-lipped and secret.

"Learning how to use it always comes first. You cannot dam a river without knowing how to build one." She lifts her coffee to sip, laughing softly once it comes away. "A rogue maniac crashes." Simple. "Or at least does so without intending to." Is there a purposeful crashing? Maybe so.

"Knowing how to drive in a firefight. Driving with obstacles. Against someone else. Making good exit-stage-lefts…" Huruma waves a hand vaguely in an effort to give a visual et cetera. "I prefer bikes, but god knows I love driving the Katsh… I'm still learning the Tlanuwa. So I can only do joyrides."

Was that offering? Sounds fun, though probably not a fantastic idea. Emily already knows Huruma can get away with a great deal— though there is probably a line.

Emily only lets out a disaffected tone at Huruma’s insistence about the order of things, the previous unsettled feeling creeping up on her again, starting in the pit of her stomach. She doesn’t want to get overly familiar with her ability. If it’s easy to reach for, then it’s that much easier to get access to when maybe she shouldn’t.

But there’s imagery of bad drivers, good drivers, and excellent drivers to distract herself with, so she doesn’t drown in that feeling. Emily glances back to Huruma as she goes on, a layer of curiosity covering over the more negative feelings. “What—” comes from her in a kneejerk rhetorical. “Would that be a joyride in?”

What Wolfhound names their various vehicles is not a convention she’s privy to, though now she wonders. What the hell is a Tlanuwa?

Sowing seeds is all that she needs to do right now, and Huruma leaves her explanations on teaching control where they lie. A moment of clarity in Emily's question reminds her that the girl is not, in fact, wise in the ways of Wolfhound. Yet, anyway. It provides an excellent side-step.

"That would be the jet." A slight jog of brows comes with her smirk this time. "It's a hybrid aircraft, but 'jet' serves. It is more difficult than a helicopter, though it takes off like one."

Emily’s brow furrows as she tries to imagine the shape of it. A jetticopter. A joyride in a jetticopter? That doesn’t sound safe. some logical part of her is sure to point out, while the devil on her shoulder waves it off. But anyway, it’s probably not even here. Where were they going to store something like that in the city? She didn’t think she saw one on the roof. But then again, she’d had her head down like a barrelling bull when she’d pulled up to the Bastion.

An errant thought causes her to wonder where she put her things, and she turns to find where she’d draped them over the back of the chair flush with the kitchen island. Small relief— everything belonging to her is in its place. Everything physical anyway.

“You really think it’s that important?” Emily asks skeptically, vaguely circling back to the topic she’d only moments ago tried to escape from. “Having a firm grip on everything instead of just shutting it down?” She stands upright, mug half-lifted as she muses, “Some abilities aren’t meant for using. Why not just learn to get a better grip on them? Has to be better than risking negation drugs.” She drinks, letting the heat drown any discomfort the conversation might bring about otherwise.

From cars to jets and back to powers, Huruma doesn't seem phased by the runaround. She can see that Emily's mind is a jumble of questions and curiosity, quashed by a willpower she probably isn't cognizant of having.

"It is connected, from my experience. So, yes, I do." Huruma's tone stays even, confiding. "Even for those gifts which people rightfully fear. Such as mine." She breathes out through her nose, eyes casting a look away, and back again, studying. "Whether I like it or not, it is a part of me. Even if I refuse to use it, it will be there, barring acts of god or science…" The way she adds the last sounds as if she knows this from personal experience as well.

"The brain intrinsically knows how to utilize what it controls and powers— it is a machine. It is consciousness," A finger taps at her temple. "Which dictates the rest. When I came into mine, it was indiscriminate and so was I. I had to teach myself, for a long time, how to keep it on a chain. Eventually, I even learned how to push it down. But turning it off completely isn't a possibility. Not for me."

"Others may have different ways of handling such things, but even I had a teacher, at one point in my life."

She did ask.

“I’ve used mine before,” Emily shares after a moment of pensive silence. “Sometimes on purpose. But mostly, on accident. The most I’ve done is been to get better at being aware of when I’ve…”

The words trail off into nothing. There’s no pride at the admission, or even fear. It simply it is what it is. For a beat, she says nothing more, weighing if anything should be said at all. If it’s safe to. In the end, she decides to reward confidence with confidence.

She breathes in, her visual focus on nothing in particular. “The last time I used it, it was a mix of both. But once I got a taste of it, I kept wanting to try. I almost couldn’t stop myself. And I just…” Her head shakes once, and then she looks back to Huruma directly. Emily resettles her hands around the mug as she adjusts its seat back on the counter, fingers half-lacing together. “I don’t know if there’s a natural off switch once it gets started. It— it’s kind of like what you do, maybe, except…”

One hand slips from the fold to lift, fingertips coming to rest in the hollow of her neck— over her voice. She looks unconvinced, like she’s not certain herself what the limits are and aren’t. To that end, she confides a little dryly, “A drug addict from the future told me I have the ability to make people believe what I believe,” And it’s there the flatness ends, her voice softening, lowering, “so long as I believe, with compassion, that it’s the right thing.”

Her fingers curl to her palm as she lowers her hand. “For them, he said— but maybe it just needs to be the right thing in general.” Her gaze goes unfocused, slides past Huruma as she shrugs again, trying to make light of it. So what, it seems to imply. Big deal. “It’s the kind of ability you’d never notice you have unless someone told you,” Emily supposes calmly. “But the moment you know, it becomes something you never, ever stop thinking about.”

She might’ve had a point she meant to make, about what kind of teacher she was looking for, but the words don’t come. Not in the way she expects them to, anyway. “I don’t think there’s any teaching that can really be done there, unless it involves helping me feel or not feel on command.” Emily’s gaze flits back to Huruma uncertainly, then.

After all, if anyone might have a handle on directing emotion, it’s likely an empath.

“But really, I think learning to be a better getaway driver, or better self-defense, would be more reasonable.”

Not a hint of surprise, once Emily begins. Huruma has been waiting. Opening the door and standing aside. Vaguely hoping. Hence, the slip of paper still sitting idle on the countertop.

That open door stays open.

"'Both' sounds like a fine idea, if you ask me." Huruma answers, apparently charmed by the girl's feelings on what is practical. It passes, of course, replaced by an intent pause, heavy for all that it is merely several seconds. Emily need not 'make a point'. Not with this.

"When I started hearing everything… touching it…" Huruma sets her coffee aside, leaning onto the island with both forearms folded neatly under her shadow. "I thought I was finally moving the rest of the way into madness…"

"I couldn't stop listening, and so I could never stop thinking about it either." She, on the other hand, had no magical addicts to convey the truth of it all. Madness was all it was. Stuck in her own head. "But then people started making sense to me. I'd never been… good with them. It was difficult to… ah, read them, I suppose you could say. When I listened close, I could know what they wanted. Say what they wanted to hear. Listen for the next cue."

"It didn't take long before I realized I could make them change how they felt. It was more similar than you might think… While I could not move them to action as I suspect you can… I learned how to plant the seeds instead." Throughout it all, the dark woman retains a neutral aura; she does want to know more. She has the curiosity of a thousand prying eyes hiding behind the silvery lines of her own. Getting where she wants, however, requires practicing what she preaches this very moment.

"The difference between us at that moment," Huruma presses the tip of her tongue against her teeth. "I didn't really recognize what compassion was. I'd show it, time and again, but I never knew that word. I'd only ever been given it so few times. If I helped someone, I justified it as fortune for myself."

"I know it now. I see it everywhere, for what it is. I see a great will, too, both bound together like flesh and bone." One last pause, allowing a moment of solid quiet to rest between them. "So as to not mince words even more… I would be willing to help you. Ultimately, it is your choice."

The door remains open.

There may not even be a comparable generational shift to appropriately compare the time before public awareness of the Evolved to the SLC-E/SLC-N world in its aftermath, and the reality of the before is something Emily has never been face to face with herself. She couldn't imagine manifesting and thinking it might be a descent into madness. Then again, if she'd already been on the cusp, maybe she would.

At any rate, the thoughts do nothing to mute the ripple of concern that comes from the young woman.

To avoid staring openly, Emily drinks again from her mug while she listens to Huruma, her gaze fixed on the countertop while the coffee drains lower still. When she says she's willing to help, her eyes flash upward to the taller woman, caution worn around her like a shawl for all the earnest quiet of her expression. She nods, both acknowledgement… and maybe a reply. Her thumbnail scrapes over the ceramic of the mug in her hand.

"The morals of it all bother me." she admits openly. "Practicing feels— wrong. Abusive, even with permission. It's one thing to say it'll be fine, but another entirely when someone else's will becomes yours. It— it doesn't even have to be something major. It could be something stupid, like, pick this over that, I think that one will work better for you, when in fact that's just my opinion, and it shouldn't become someone else's truth."

Emily lets out an unsteady breath after, surprised she's said as much as she had. Breaking off her outer shell to chip away at her anger and helplessness regarding Devon has lead to some unexpected places.

Emily's shawl she hides under feels much more like a child tucking themselves under the hood of a blanket; peering out at the world with a trepidation reserved for someone inexperienced and a little scared. Huruma is tempted to reassure her, but stops herself. Because the girl is right— there's a moral quandry, when it comes to letting people feel their own truths. Fine. It's fine.

"You're not wrong. It can feel abusive." Huruma knows this, and owns it to a degree. "There are some things even I will not do."

"There are always ways around feelings like this. Learning how to speak means a great deal in itself… and for someone like you… even moreso." She looks to the blonde with a knit in her brow, mouth tight as she picks her own words. "It does not have to be about telling people what to do. I know you are not that person. You can make it about helping people to think for themselves. Less demanding, telling, forcing— more searching, questing, supporting. Philosophy over force. Showing them the paths ahead and encouraging them to listen to their hearts, or heads."

"You need not touch anyone's agency. The ones with this gift before you often did. Enough to taint the legacy, and put danger and fear into the lives of people like you, who come after." Just as her father worried, so does Huruma; this kind of power is one that will be perilous and fulfilling in equal measure.

Emily can't sense that worry at the moment, sees and hears only the guidance, and the shade of caution starts to slide away from her as she does. A long-held tension in her posture, something down to her core, shifts. Blue eyes search Huruma's for any sign that what she says are just platitudes, and she finds no outward sign of falseness. It seems, the young woman finds, the empath really believes in that possibility of the path she describes.

Hope flutters in her chest and reaches her eyes. For a moment, Emily can't bring herself to say anything. Do you mean it? sounds like such a childish thing to ask. Of course she means it. It's what she's offering. The small bloom washes over into a warm relief instead.

"Okay," she says softly.

Emily gives a slow, acquiescing nod. "I want to learn, then."

Hopefully her confidence in that course won't fade once the conversation ends. She'll need it, after all.

The young woman will come to realize that Huruma, as a matter of principle, is hardly the type for falsehoods, despite the act, and the airs, and the reputation. There will be time to see it, same as she sees nothing vapid about it. What the dark woman says, she believes right now.

Huruma's gaze stays connected to Emily's, a mirror in study. Hope and hesitation, a yearning, a warm flow of confidence, the resolve of a decision.

"Okay." Huruma murmurs, a smile missing from her lips. It rests instead in her eyes. "Tuko pamoja, we are together now."

Emily settles the nearly-empty mug down on the counter once more, letting it go. Her gaze breaks off as she starts to take stock again of herself and the important things relative to her now that she's decided on her course, reaching for her scarf. This has been major progress for today, but she needs to take all of this home, ensure she really means this by coming back another day.

She loops the scarf about her neck, smoothing it up flush against her skin. Her fingertips prod to make sure the bandage on her neck is covered properly to avoid the odd stare from passersby, shoulders ticking down in that small relief.

When Emily looks back up, she does so with a small tug of a smile. "What's that mean?" she asks, far more at ease than she has been until now. "Tuko…?"

"Pamoja." Huruma helps her finish, a smile forming first in her eyes. "A phrase from where I was born. 'We are together'." See?

"United, if you like. More personal… a bond of fellowship." Emily's hands are followed by Huruma's gaze, a quiet note to make an inquest about the injury another time. "It means that I will do my best for you and I will have your back, and I should hope you will do the same for me." Respect for respect isn't going to be difficult.

“Fellowship,” Emily echoes back, a pause following. She shrugs on her coat again. It's a good thing Huruma's an empath rather than a telepath, with how the word immediately, involuntarily invoked to mind a set of memes. The invasive thoughts are put to rest in that same silence, definitively stowed as she takes the bit of paper and shoves it into her pocket.

"I like it," is the only other thought she shares while fastening her coat. She pauses on the last set of buttons, forehead creasing before she lifts her head.

"… Thanks, Huruma. Whatever this was, I needed it." Her head starts to lower again, but she glances up once more before finishing the last button and smoothing down the coat and scarf. "I'll… see myself out. And— I guess," Emily pauses in the shift to turn away. "I'll see you soon?"

Invoking memes with Huruma would likely have gotten a perplexed reaction anyway. It's better that way. When Emily approves of the term, however, she of course gets a satisfied little smile, a wordless 'I thought you might'.

"You're welcome." Huruma's response is affectionate without being overbearing. "If you don't see me soon, you know I'll find you anyway." Just the tiniest laugh, a crease at her eyes. It's true, though. At least it's a realistic way of saying that she is looking forward to it. "Have a safe trip home, lovely."

With that blessing, Emily takes no time at all in sliding off, finding her way to the door with ease given she's been here before. She tries not to think of the farewell as something potentially ominous as her usual cynicism might demand.

Instead, she tries to let that feeling of hope and relief take hold.

Sometimes, facing the unknown felt insurmountable. But Emily now had a handful of people who she trusted, who all understood some facet of the her she better wanted to be, and could help her grow into that person each in their own way. At least when she faced the unknowns of her ability, there was now the reassurance it didn't have to be done alone.

And in Huruma's case, there was the vow it wouldn't be.

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