Venn Diagrams


emily_icon.gif hampton_icon.gif

Scene Title Venn Diagrams
Synopsis There's more of an overlap between Emily and Hampton than the former knows, but the latter isn't telling.
Date February 2, 2021

Fort Jay

After everyone was set to scatter with their various orders following the clap of Kristopher Voss' hands, Emily Epstein didn't move from her seat. Her hands had tightened around the stack of paperwork with greater details about the situation they'd all just been briefed on, her eyes on some distant point as the murmur of aftermeeting conversation presses itself into a blur.

Her eyelids flutter in a blink as she takes in a sharp breath, deciding she needs to step away. "Excuse me," she apologizes to the man sitting next to her, coming to her feet and heading for the door. She doesn't even make it back to her desk, angling for the kitchenette which is visible at an angle from the door both she and Hampton Dartwell had been seated nearby.

Emily slips in through the doorway and sets her packet down on a table in the break room before she focuses her attention on the trio of coffee pots lined up. One is filled with mere dregs, and she busies herself with pouring those off and pulling apart the appropriate parts of the machine to prepare it for making a new batch of coffee for that particular pot. Her movements are quick, determined— very easily the sign of someone who's taking out the distressing news they'd heard on something to keep their hands busy, on something they can control while they work on controlling the rest of their actions.

Veronica Sawyer’s slim form slipped out of the conference room swiftly after the meeting adjourned, the benefit of standing near the door.

This was by design.

Abandoned by his tour guide, Hampton watches the conversations and the conversants ebb and flow around him, narrow blue eyes probably not missing much as far as interoffice dynamics. When Emily Epstein gets up to go, he nods amiably enough. He doesn’t move himself for a few more moments, but finally rises his robust self out of the chair and heads toward the kitchenette himself.

He looks at the two remaining pots as Emily works on the third. One’s decaf; he can deduce that much, but he isn’t sure what the difference is between the pot remaining and the pot being filled.

“Are there mugs for interlopers such as myself, or do I need to borrow one from someone? I promise to wash it after,” he says, his deep voice a cannon in the little room.

Emily isn't so skittish that someone else being present startles her— it's the boom of Hampton's voice. She jolts, a quiet hissing whisper of surprise waved off with a shake of her head. "There's paper and styrofoam for visitors," she answers, slotting the coffee filter back into place after pouring in three air-sealed packages of coffee grounds into the filter for use. That might be the difference between this batch and the other.

"There were a couple of free-range mugs, but…" The blonde leans to the side, opening the door of the dishwasher next to the sink. She quirks her head in a silent indication that it's shamefully empty before adding, "Looks like they all grew green legs at some point while I was out of the office. Or found more permanent homes." She nudges the door shut again, then thumbs the brew button on the machine after making sure the pot is sitting just right beneath it.

"It, um… your first time out here at Fort Jay?" she wonders, forced brightness to her voice as she looks back to him.

Hampton looks around, finding one of the paper cups, then for the non-decaf pot, apparently not willing to wait for the fresh pot Emily’s making.

“In its current iteration, yes,” he says, with a slow nod, watching his pour of the dark brew into the paper cup so he doesn’t end up burning himself. “Used to be Secret Service. Came out here once for some event when it was still in the hands of the Coast Guard, I think. Lots of hoopla, nothing real important getting done here. Not like now.”

He sets the pot back on its burner and takes a sip, nose wrinkling slightly. He should have waited for the fresh pot, but now he’s committed to finishing this one. “You doing all right? That’s some pretty heady stuff. I’m not sure I can wrap my head around all of it. You aren’t shy though, putting your ideas out there with the best of ’em. Good for you, kid.”

Emily's done her best to occupy herself, fishing for a paper cup of her own after Hampton takes his, but she can't help but glance at him again over the mention of Secret Service. Interesting. He's not the first former member she's met this year, she realizes a moment after. How many people can say that?

Her own nose wrinkles when she's complimented, and she looks back to the pot she's started. Tilting it to the side even though it's not even filled a tenth of the way, she deftly pulls it aside and sticks her cup directly under the pour, only a brief sizzle of uncaught liquid hitting the hot plate below. "New York deals with a number of unusual cases. What bothers me most about the briefing is the knowledge that the girl who was attempted on… it's not the first time she's been successfully grabbed. I'm glad the Agency is taking this seriously, though. I'm glad I'm in a position where I can make suggestions that might help crack the case."

She wasn't around, after all, the last time Squeaks was kidnapped. Her, Brynn, Zachery, Nicole

With a shake of her head, Emily swaps the pot back in and pulls back her half-filled cup, blowing down into the steam that rises off of it. "Every kidnapping or missing persons case we come up against gets to me. This one—" She pauses, glancing back to Hampton. Maybe this is a bit much to be open with, but he saw the same thing she did. "How can you even defend against that, short of getting lucky? You had someone who could knock people out apparently by touching them, combined with someone else who could fold two spaces together like lining up two pages of an atlas that weren't meant to go together. It feels like anti-phasing or anti-teleportation measures wouldn't even … touch something like that." She deems, wisely, the fresh coffee may still be slightly too warm to sip without inviting scalding. In a mutter, she pronounces, "It's scary shit."

Oh, shit, real talk. Hampton excels at small talk (or thinks he does) but this is a lot from someone he’s only just met. His smile tones down, at least, from toothpaste commercial quality to something a little smaller, with less teeth, and then finally off his face entirely.

He nods. And then he nods again.

“It is,” he agrees. “Scary shit,” he adds, in case that wasn’t clear. “I don’t know if we can, to be honest, or the only way we can is the way they’ve tried to restrict expressive people in the past, which is to say fascism, more or less. It’s a scary world, when people can kill another person with a blink of an eye or vanish you into thin air.”

This is a depressing outlook, but he’d argue it’s not cynicism but realism.

“It’s not all that different from regular kidnappings, even without powers. Kids gone in the blink of an eye, no one saw a thing. There’s not much anyone can do about those either, except put in the hard work of pounding the pavement and looking for clues. You talk to OG cops, and you’d swear it was someone like those perps with their abilities, for all that police usually have to go on.”

His voice has quieted some, though the deep bass makes it seem to fill the room. He looks down at his coffee, like he’s not sure if he wants to take another sip or not, then back up to Emily. “You just gotta keep trying and keep hoping when that happens, and sometimes something breaks and there’s a miracle.”

Ham waves a large hand in the direction of the conference room. “I don’t know how you all do this. I was on security detail, not investigation. Just a big body to throw in front of a bullet if it came to that, just a pair of eyes and ears looking out at a crowd to see anything suspicious, so you got me there. That outside-the-box thinking is what it’ll take, I’d say. But…”

Lifting a finger to his lips, his smile returns, crinkling the crows feet at the corners of his eyes. “I didn’t tell you that.”

Emily might not be a smalltalk person. She can try all she likes, but she's rarely the sort to talk about random, impersonal things. It surprises her when Hampton goes straight for the heart of the issue and the most extreme options available, for a moment slightly on edge that he might be in favor of a return to that restrictive thinking… before she realizes the tenor he refers to it better.

She prefers a realistic outlook to attempts to wallpaper over reality with pleasant half-truths, too.

"We got lucky this time. A miracle happened and Jac wasn't taken again. Hopefully Oblonsky's arrest— removes the vehicle Archer had for kidnapping people so easily. Maybe we get another stroke of luck and the UK starts working with us on this, too." She presses her lips together in a small smile, one not entirely jaded. Because hey, there's hope, right?

As for how she handles all of this, she can't help but let out a small laugh that indicates she's not sure how she does it either. Or at least, she doesn't know how to qualify it. Emily looks back to Hampton when he passes on his secretive take, her own smile takes on a small twist.

"I've no idea what you're talking about," she wryly swears in that tone of voice that states the opposite. Finally sipping from her own cup, she agrees in a more honest murmur, "It is hard, though. If there's ever a point this was somehow easier to deal with…" She lets her cup settle in her palm. "I don't think desensitization is a good thing in this area of work."

"And I'd not look down on yourself for thinking you're just a big body with sharp eyes. I couldn't do that. It takes all sorts." Her smile trends more awkward, a self-conscious thing abruptly. She's waded away from work-explicit thought-sharing into something else just then. "I'm pretty sure the field isn't for me, at any rate."

"So it's a good thing that it takes all sorts to keep a place like this functional," Emily pronounces a little more brightly, looking down at her cup.

“Takes all kinds,” Ham agrees. “That’s something the masses don’t understand, that not everyone working in the government agencies are what they see on television. I mean, I was pretty much the epitome of the stereotypical Social Service agent, but there’s folks like you, too. Smart, subtle. In the crowd, ears to the ground, keeping an eye out for the not-so-obvious while I stood there looking like a dumb but hopefully intimidating brick.”

His smile broadens.

“Or ham, as it were.”

He nods to her. “You’re different than I would’ve expected. Not in a bad way.” He realizes that comes without context, so he adds, “I know your father, much to his complete and utter disgruntlement.”

Emily breathes out a huff of a laugh despite herself as he makes an unexpected joke out of his own name. Ham, short for Hampton, she imagines. One corner of her mouth pulls back a grin to match the broadening of his smile.

It's one that flickers when he goes on to elaborate he knows her father. Rather than put on any graceful expression, she instead winces in sympathy, glancing down to her drink again. Her fingertips tap the bottom of it gently as she supposes, "Well, knowing him and his behavior, I'm sure to some extent it goes both ways." Her smile is stiffer now, but it persists just a moment longer before slipping away. "To say he's not easy to deal with is to be kind to him."

Not a beat later, she segues placidly to, "Do you mind if I ask how you know him?"

“One would assume,” Hampton says to the sentiment that it probably goes both ways, but he doesn’t elaborate.

The question as to how he knows the man in question isn’t answered quickly — for a man who seems to have a fairly quick answer for everything.

“Oh, you know,” he finally says, reaching into his jacket pocket for a tiny tin of Altoids. “Government jobs. We all butt heads at some point. I’m actually auditing his operation right now — standard procedure, nothing wrong or anything, mind you. But you can guess that’s going over about as well as a Varlane trip to Japan.”

Popping open the tin, Hampton takes an Altoid and what look like Benedryl, tiny pink pills, and pops them both into his mouth. He holds the tin open for Emily. “The big white ones are mints,” he says helpfully. “Don’t take anything else in there.” The tin holds a couple of the pink pills as well as one or two red-and-white capsules.

Emily wonders at Hampton's response. Government jobs, he says. But her father worked for the CIA, and he worked for the Secret Service. She can't put her finger on why it sounds like there's more to it, save for that it does. Besides, there's the present to consider.

And how such an audit both is and isn't normal, and how well Avi must be taking it.

She has a thoughtful look on her face as she shakes her head to the offer she's made. "No thanks, I'm set," she replies, lifting her coffee up as the reason. Mint wouldn't play well on the palate together, she imagines. It'd be a far cry from the taste of a peppermint mocha.

"Hopefully he summons the foresight to be reasonable with you, rather than try to make both your lives miserable." It sounds to her like she doubts her father's ability to do so, though.

"It's been a pleasure, Hampton. I should probably get back to it, though." Emily's small smile flickers back momentarily. "I'm sure I'll see you around at some point, if you'll be in town a while."

The lid to the small tin snaps shut, and Hampton pockets it. One brow lifts in amusement at Emily’s words about her father, and he taps his nose with one finger to indicate she understands the situation well.

“I’m a bureaucrat, and there’s not much worse in his eyes, I don’t think, which is understandable. But I’m just doing my job and that’s to take a look around at operations like Wolfhound and SESA and what have you, to be sure they’re doing theirs as much on the up-and-up as they can.”

He lifts his cup as she takes her leave. “It was a pleasure to meet you, Ms. Epstein. Keep thinking. It’ll get you far, and the people in the field need that sort of support on the inside. Takes all sorts to fight this fight.”

Pausing a moment at the table to scoop up her briefing packet once more, Emily holds her tongue on issuing any correction on the politeness she's been shown, though she looks a little less comfortable than she has been once acknowledged by her surname. Her chin tilts up to provide receipt of his encouragement.

"Hope you manage to have an enjoyable time here in New York," she says in farewell. Similarly, she lifts her cup hand in a small wave and then slips back out the kitchenette to head back to her desk.

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