North Glenn 

Asha had a momdate! Or a date with her Bearmom. Something like that. She arrived at the restaurant a little early, wanting to go in to grab them a table. But no tables were actually available?? So instead they'd have a spot at the bar, which was mildly fun anyway since they'd get to watch them make the sushi.

Anyway — she was here! She'd already ordered them a bottle of plum wine, and Asha was willing to cut her own drinking back so she could safely drive the belated birthday girl home. But what was a birthday without some celebration!

 Where Asha was early, Esperanza was precisely three minutes late. To her own birthday lunch! Shameful! But not really - she didn't expect Asha to burn her at the stake about it, anyway. She was instead very cheerful, following her nose and the immense power signature that her dear friend emanated until she met her at the bar.

 "Hello! Starting the party without me, I see!" Espy said this of the wine, moving to wrap Asha in a big hug before she sat down. She leaned in afterwards, playfully conspiratorial. "I am so excited for this. And very hungry."

"Ahhh! No never!" she greeted with a smile, immediately moving to mostly stand to hug her tightly to her. The jaguar attempted to bat the bear but it didn't work like that :( sad sad sad.

They sat down, Asha nodding fervently. "But oh god me too. I haven't done sushi in a million years. So how are you, how was your twenty fifth!"

Everyone knew you stopped aging after twenty five.

 Hee, hee. Asha was always good for a laugh. Esperanza liked a friendship that lent itself to laughter.

 "Mm, oh, it was a wild one! I tore up the town!" She grinned, and would pour herself a modest glass of the fruity-smelling wine. "Actually, I sat on my couch and ate aallll day, and watched my telenovelas. It was a very good day." And that much was true! She had received a FaceTime call from her parents and shiny little daughter, as well as almost every cousin and sibling, and even some of their children. And even gifts! All from the comfort of her living room! "How have you been? Danced with any strange men lately?"

She kinda could tell Espy was pulling her leg from the start. But she smiled and listened with excitement anyway, pouring her own little glass of wine and quietly cheering her.

And then she got teased! Asha laughed, and shook her head. "No strange men, but I've graduated to snuggles with one guy."

Espy knew who from the way Asha smiled. A sip, and then... she shied from indulging in talking about herself further. "What about you? Take anyone home?"

 Espy did know who, and flashed Asha a grin that was both warm and also a little sly. Good girl! Sweet Abraham!

 "Aye, no," she said, sharp but playful, giving Asha a look of false warning. "I need to just focus on myself. That is what they all say, I know, but it is true." She grinned. Just focus on herself, and her friends, and... sushi! "What are you getting?" Asked quickly, partially because Esperanza had no love life and little interest in discussing it!

God, Asha wished she could focus on herself. Being with Abraham was fucking amazing in like a very physically calming sense, but she did miss the days when she was truly uncommitted.

Oh well. He was a slow burn challenge, which was doing a good job keeping her engaged with figuring out his boundaries with every passing day. Sort of a conquest, but a permanent one.

Asha just wanted to be loved again, really. Adored. Needed. Wanted. "Watch out, one day I'm going to find you a really hot bear sushi chef." A warning as she moved to open the menu. "I want the sweetheart roll, the Mountainside roll, and the volcano roll to start. What about you?"

:3 Asha was hella decisive.

 Well, that did, at least, earn a hearty laugh. Maybe that would not be so bad! Being able to cook was a plus in a man!

 "Oooh, hmmm. I think... volcano roll also, a dragon roll..." she paused, tilting her head. So many options! "An eel roll, and the rainbow." Mostly, she wanted one of everything! "Oh - they have... octopus." Presumably uncooked??? She made a face that was one of... wonder! "Have you ever tried that?"

Nice, safer options. Asha wouldn't judge. They could order out this entire menu if they wanted.

"Never once. Let's do it."

She would order that too, intrigued. And HUNGRY!

"So tell me about these telenovelas you're always watching. I know they're like soap operas but like, better. Because everyone's way hotter."

A devil's grin.

 Yes! It was worth a shot! "It shall be done!" she said dramatically, smiling broadly.

 As for telenovelas! Espy laughed again, took a sip of her wine, and took a breath as if she were preparing to dive into an hour long speech. It could very easily turn into one, if Asha didn't keep her in line!

 "Yes, they are pretty much soap operas, and everyone is just ridiculously beautiful," she began with a chuckle. "They are extremely popular in a lot of Latin countries, and apparently they are popular enough here that I can find them on cable. There is a lot of romance, and drama, and humor, and sadness, and murder, and a lot of... ridiculousness." Another laugh, finding there was no better word that suited them. "You remember that show, Ugly Betty? It is pretty much an Americanized version of Yo Soy Betty La Fea. Which, literally means, I am Ugly Betty. Anyway, it was one of the most popular telenovelas for a very long time, and it is very good."

 There were so many, Asha. "Another favorite of mine is La Patrona. Aracely Arambula stars as this woman who is the only female miner in a small town, a single mother, and has to fight for justice and revenge against all kinds of wrongful accusations. And then, Dos Mujeres, Un Camino, is a bit old, but is about a man who drives a truck back and forth between Mexico and America, where he has a woman on either side of the border. You can imagine what kind of trouble he gets into." Catching herself on her spiel, Esperanza laughed a little. "There are many similarities between telenovelas and soap operas, but... telenovelas are better." She sipped her wine, punctuating her statement. It was true.

Asha had never once seen Ugly Betty, but she did know of its existence. That was such an interesting little factoid.

All of it was interesting, actually! They spanned from cheap trash television to actually pretty deep stories. "Alright. One day when my life settles down I'm going on a staycation to your place and we're gonna binge through some."

What a plan. The waitress arrived and Asha tossed out all the rolls they wanted and also ordered fried gyoza and edamame because you just had to get those!!

 Asha, it seemed, was sold on the idea of them. Esperanza grinned toothily. "You just tell me when to take vacation time."

 She would pipe down as Asha ordered, and once they were left to conversation again, Espy would turn the spotlight back to her friend. "So, how is Abraham? Have you been spending much time together?" Enough to warrant cuddles, apparently!

Aww heck yeah. Espy was back on the track of her relationship though, and who was Asha not to indulge.

"Mmm, I think it's pretty good so far. We meet up like once a week. He surprised me at the Terrace on Thanksgiving actually and we got to eat together. Wasn't expecting that at all."

She smiled, happy. "We're gonna go to the zoo and check out the jaguars this weekend too."

 Esperanza listened, her hand on her wine glass, bracing her elbow against the bar. It sounded like they were taking it pretty slow. She emitted a quick "aw!" for the idea of Abraham surprising her for thanksgiving and sitting down for a meal with her. That was very sweet. And they were going to the zoo! To see jaguars!

 Esperanza was pretty certain, though, that that meant they were going to go shift together. She grinned, bright eyed. "Well, I bet that will be nice," she said brightly. "Good quality time!"

Asha laughed, thinking Espy was joking with her. "Sure," she grinned. "So what is there to do around here anyway?"

Espy was something of a homebody, but maybe Asha could yank her out of it some times. Dancing had gone so well!

 Right over Espy's head! Anyway! What was there to do in the Glenn? She hummed thoughtfully. "Well, there are some decent places to eat," she began, gesturing loosely to the restaurant around them with the same toothy grin. "There are also plenty of things to do outdoors - hiking, but not so much when the snow gets thick, but then there is skiing. We get a lot of winter tourists at the lodge for that this time of year. I believe there is also a... small movie theater, and a bowling alley," she offered, sipping her wine again. "Can you tell I do not get out much!"

Oh yeah, she could tell. Eating, hiking, skiing — which was activity, and something Asha had never done! Bowling. Movies.

Hmmmmm. Espyyyyy.

"Totally. I also heard there was a hot spring around somewhere? Or is it in Avondale?"

She could see where Asha was trying to lead her.

 Totally! Espy grinned briefly, but her expression quickly shifted to one of realization. "Oh! I forgot! There are hot springs here," she said, her grin returning. "That is something you want to do, then?" She could see them now, out there while it was twenty something degrees, up to their eyes in hot sulfuric water. It did sound pretty lovely.

Caught, but she'd wanted that. Asha grinned as they received their appetizers.

"I miiiight have a gift certificate for two there in my purse..." she nodded to it, wiggling.

 Esperanza gasped dramatically at Asha, startling the waitress. Whoops! "You sly fox!" she accused lightly, and would grab Asha lovingly by the shoulder. She did love surprises, and what a thoughtful one this was! "Thaaaank youuuuu! When will we go!"

Some very dumb immediate part of Asha wanted to insist that she wasn't a fox at all! But that was not the point!

"Anytime! Pick a morning you're free and we'll go!"

She was glad she'd guessed right. Bears loved hot springs.

Thanks, Maxine.

 Esperanza would do that like, right now. She whipped her phone out of her purse and opened her calendar. The beauty of it was that if she really wanted to, she could take any of these days off - perks of being a co-owner! But Espy was also stringent about keeping her word, especially when it came to saying she was going to be somewhere at a certain time.

 "How about Monday?" asking this as her free hand plucked out a piece of edamame, lifting it to work it between her teeth.

"Monday issss perfect."

All this was perfect.

Asha thought about inviting Nika actually but it was pre-full moon and she'd probably be, like, feverish. Asha had been. After. They could go together and she would need the soothing anyway.

She also considered mentioning Nika to Espy, and decided it was better to despite maybe not having approval. Espy was one of the two people she felt she could tell anything to.

"I have a new one on the way. Cat."

She spoke lower.

 Monday it would be! Esperanza abandoned the spent edamame shell in the proper bowl, and typed it into her calendar for Monday: Hot Springs with Asha! :heart:

 She tucked her phone away and picked up a gyoza with her fingers as Asha spoke again. Her eyebrows rose, interested. "Oh? Tell me more," she encouraged, with the same low volume as Asha.

Well it wasn't immediate disapproval, which was good!

"Really nice girl. Her name is Nika? And she asked me to turn her. I told her to take her time, think it through, that it was hard for at least a few months before it got any easier. But... yeah. She just... wanted to do it anyway."

 A nice young lady named Nika! Had asked Asha to turn her! This, of course, begged the question how Nika had come to find out to begin with, but maybe it was not so important. That she had requested it, even with Asha explaining the challenges of it to her - Esperanza had zero doubts that she did, either, as strong and experienced as she was and for all the hell she'd been through in a few short years. To accept it, even after all that. Esperanza had a feeling that the girl had no idea what she was getting herself into, still. It was hard to know until you were actually living it.

 Espy's face held no scorn or displeasure, but only a mothering sort of concern. "Well... she will certainly be in good hands," she said, and smiled gently. She had never once heard of someone asking to be turned. Perhaps it would boost the girl into embracing it fully. "Will she be with you the day after? May I bring the two of you a hot lunch?"

To have that be Espy's response instead of suspicion or questioning of any kind was refreshing. It was understandable for others to react how they did, yes, but it was still refreshing for someone to have like, faith in her.

"Thank youuu. She will, she's gonna be moving in. I think we'd both like that a lot."

She moved to rest her head on her shoulder briefly before the sushi came out soon after.

 It was a questionable decision, probably, from either the sire or the progeny - but Esperanza was not here to pass judgement on others. Especially loved ones, but she tried to hold herself to it among all people - let he among us without sin be the first to cast a stone. Even in Were business, Espy did her best to walk in the footsteps of Christ. What you do to the least of your brothers, you do to me. Asha would find no bitterness from her bearmom friend here.

 "Okay. I will be there bright and early." Which, probably not, because she still slept for so long afterwards! But Asha got the point. She plopped a warm hand over her friend's and smiled genuinely, releasing her as the boatload of sushi was set before them.

 "Ohhhhhhhh," she said, low and dramatic, rife with anticipation. The bear in her head rumbled earnestly, big wet nose wriggling enough to lift her lips away from her teeth. Fish!!!!

 It would quickly become evident that Esperanza was not proficient with chopsticks. She pulled them out of their wrapping, and held them in such a way that she could not really... move them at all. She ended up spearing a piece of sushi on the tines of her mishandled tools, and laughed at herself, but got it into her mouth all the same.

Awesome. Bright and early.

Asha smiled to her excitement, happy to treat her to all this. And she was excited too for the rolls she'd gotten, and she wiggled some.

Only! Once they started eating! It looked like poor Espy wasn't very practiced. Asha giggled warmly.

"You know, they eat these with their hands actually," she offered, and set her chopsticks down and grabbed a piece of the volcano roll to dip into soy sauce and wasabi, and then into her mouth.

 Asha laughed at her! But Espy was so amused with herself that she couldn't even feign a pout. Hands were, apparently, a good and appropriate alternative. Espy would nod her head approvingly, grin when her mouth was clear, and do as Asha had done with another piece. Hands were so much easier.

 "I just had to make sure you knew I am not perfect," she teased afterwards, and then would venture to pick up a piece of... octopus. Daunting, but probably not so bad, and it was good enough that the bear in her head encouraged her. Yes yes eat it eat eat eat it! So she did!

 It was a bit... rubbery? But overall, Espy found that it was no disgusting thing. It wasn't her favorite, though, either. A neutral feeling, but also a sense of accomplishment. She did love to try new foods. "Not so bad!" she declared, encouragingly, but returned to sushi rolls all the same.

Nonsense! Momsense! Bearmom was the most perfect and Asha shook her head in smiling disapproval.

She declared Octopus to be approximately okay, and so Asha went for it. And surprise, also found it to be okay!

"Interesting texture," she remarked. "They could do more with it though."

Make some lemony kinda deal with it! Yeah! Here sat two self made chefs. They should totally make their own sushi place together.

 Espy agreed. It was interesting, and it was certainly a bit of a... blank canvas! In between two bites of sushi, she would say, "I wonder if it is any good fried. Like calamari. We should try that."

"Grilled! It's so good grilled. But yeah, fried too," she agreed, and just to be nice Asha would focus her efforts on the octopus first before returning to the rest of the sushi on her plate.

"How's Ale been? What's she want Santa to get her?" Would she come for Christmas??? Or maybe Espy would go visit her.

 Grilled! It sounded wonderful, especially if Asha said it was. Esperanza grinned broadly and nodded her head, making a mental note of it.

 "Oh! She is just wonderful," Esperanza gushed, and would reach into her purse for her phone again. "She asked Santa for a puppy," she added, with a laugh, navigating through her camera roll before she turned the device towards Asha. The photo featured "Santa," and Alejandra in a velvety red dress and giant matching bow in her hair on his knee, smiling her tiny bashful smile. "I don't think she will be getting one this year, unfortunately, but she will be here for a visit the week after Christmas."


Oh noooo. Asha wished she could have a puppy. But she was already thinking of ideas, so the next bit was very exciting for her as well.

"Oh my god. I'm gonna have to visit when she's here then!"


 "Yes," she agreed insistently, briefly and gently grabbing Asha's arm as a means to truly convey her agreement with the idea. "I think she is very fond of you. She appreciated you decking out the Terrace for her more than I think I realized at first." Her smile warmed for the bittersweet memory. "Abraham is welcome, too, you know. If you are both comfortable with it." Restarting the relationship had come with new boundaries, from the sounds of it, but she wanted to extend the invitation all the same.

Hey. Heyyyy. This gave her a lot of unexpected feelings.

And she loved Ale. For a great many reasons. Not the least of which was that she remembered her even when she had screwed up and made herself forget so many others.

"I'll ask him, for sure," she smiled.

Wehhh, she wanted to hug more but cat demanded food, so she could let her feelings show on her face while they continued on.

 Esperanza liked the idea of Asha and Abraham coming over to visit Alejandra for a little while. They would have to play some board games or something! Apparently her daughter had a sudden affinity for Monopoly. Smart little girl.

 For now, Esperanza would savor this time spent with her dear friend, not to mention the sushi and wine - a ten out of ten experience.

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