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"I can't just... go in late," he said, a little bit of soreness coming into his voice.

Abraham had "gone in late" enough times due to disasters outside of his control. Sephi had already been very, very generous in letting him take time off around the full moon. Wasting more flexibility on Asha wanting to go on some kind of cat date wasn't going to fly.

It was a hell of a lot more work for him than her, anyway. She got to wake up cozy somewhere while he put in the stressful effort to reach that point.

He cut off a hunk of steak, which was a little more cooked than he'd hoped for.

"Is there something else you want to do in particular?"

Why not?????? She never understood how he was a manager that also always had to open. It was lame. But besides that, surely his dumb NICE boss could understand Valentine's day. Even if Asha wasn't his girlfriend.

"We started with the Rainforest Cafe, so more adventure just kind of feels right?"

She wished there was an adventurous place in Crestview, but honestly. She really didn't know of anything.

"Do you just wanna go home?"


"I just don't have any ideas," he said, clawing meat off one of the ribs with a fork because this wasn't a conversation he wanted to have while gnawing from a bone.

Obviously Abraham was not especially good at this kind of thing. He wasn't sure what else to say to her, and insecurity about this entire disaster bubbled up within him.

"If there's something you want to do, I'm open to suggestions. I'm just. Not very good at this."

With Asha, adventure seemed to mostly end in arguing followed by his talking her down from a shift and then topping it all off with a drive home in silence.

Perhaps her earlier question hadn't been asked clearly enough, so she tried again.

"Well, I'm asking you, would you rather spend the rest of tonight at home or drive around and find something?"

She didn't particularly lean either way. She just wanted him to choose willfully.

She grabbed a shrimp with her fingers and ate it while she waited.

People just drove around and found things?


To be fair, Abraham had spent many hours just... driving around, but it wasn't with the intent of finding anything. It was purely to drive around because he could. But now he avoided doing it at night, mindful of what could be out there after dark.

Did vampires celebrate Valentine's Day? He did not enjoy thinking about what a romantic dinner meant for undead jerks.

"I don't mind going for a drive," he decided on, pushing enthusiasm into it despite the fact that he much preferred the idea of going home and wallowing.

Okay, there, see. That was all she wanted. Interest.

"Okay, okay. Let's-"

But the waitress returned, and it was actually good timing, and Asha perked suddenly and said that yes, she could help with something, could they get the volcano, no it's no one's birthday just the dessert is fine.

She looked back to Abraham with a grin after the girl left, gathering the last few bites of her food to prepare.

"You're gonna love this. Or maybe do a surprise shift. Both are acceptable."


"Volcano?" he said quietly after the waitress who was already gone.

"Volcano?" But to Asha this time, eyebrows rising and furrowing at the same time.


His entire reaction was hilarious and she erupted (intentional word choice) into giggles.

"Yes! A volcano! Finish your food and they'll bring it out faster!" Asha pushed in the fading laughter, and it was totally everything she wanted to just see some of his usual eyebrow expressiveness.

Just wait until the actual dessert came out, Abraham. In. Several minutes.

Were they going to come out and sing him happy birthday? Was it going to be a bunch of employees with sparklers or something?

The jaguar rumbled with his apprehension and he hushed it. Literally no restaurant surprise was worth going spots for.

He chomped on a shrimp, eyeing her a little warily, but ultimately eating notably faster at the promise of...


She would say nothing, only clean out her pasta and end up sipping the last of her drink with a wink to him.

Whether Abraham finished his food in time or not (but let's face it he probably did), eventually he would see their waitress arrive with a mountain of chocolate brownie cake that did actual justice to the word "tower," topped with ice cream and caramel sauce with one proud sparkler hissing and spitting away dead center at the top. It was the legacy of this chain, and usually? They did a pretty great job presenting it.

The fun was trying to get the candle to blow out, but Abraham wasn't five. Still, she watched him for any and all reactions.

Abraham heard it before he saw it. He knew that sound.

A sparkler. Oh god. Probably ten employees with sparklers. He felt skittish already, and the cat perked up, digging its claws into his brain. Plz. Let's both run.

But it turned out to be a different kind of intense, a glittering so intensely bright in the dimly lit restaurant. His eyes widened and, though it didn't happen as often anymore, maybe they were green.

"Thank you?" he said in confusion to the waiter who dropped it off and skedaddled quickly enough. Wide-eyed and eyebrows somewhere in his hair, he looked to Asha, then the slowly wilting sparkler, then back to Asha.

She giggled at his helpless expression, and held one of the provided spoons out to him.

"First time I got one of these, I kept trying to blow it out. It would go out just enough for me to think I was the greatest and then... Poof! Right back up again. I'd never seen a sparkler before and my parents just kept laughing and I got so mad at it."

Recounting it made her grin, and she gave a little blow at the candle even though she knew better now. The sparkling swayed but only continued down its path.

Don't tell anyone, but Abraham thought blowing out candles was gross. Spit! Everywhere!

But he and Asha had swapped a whole lot of body fluids by now, so. Don't be weird about it, Abraham

It was good that she seemed excited about this because he couldn't forget about the part where she'd been here a million times and it was just... normal to her. Abraham had thought it was, like. The Disneyland of restaurants.

He took the spoon she offered, and his jaguar suggested with vivid imagery he try to... slap the fire out? Just one good slap. Send it flying.

Eventually it was fizzling out, and he reached a careful hand out to take a spoon full of the chocolate cake and deliver it to his face.

"I definitely never went anywhere like this as a kid," he said. The cake was good in the way that restaurant desserts always did seem to be pretty good. "I don't think they even had these where we were."

See, like, that outrageously fucking sucked to her. His whole whatever family situation sucked. His dad sucked.

Asha pondered the moodkiller that would undoubtedly be her asking, but hopefully if Abraham didn't wanna talk about it he could just...say so?

"So like. I'm sorry. I know your dad was a dick. But what about your mom?"

Did she just, like. Not give a fuck. How the fuck do you let your husband force feed your lactose intolerant son cheese until he's dying in the bathroom. He literally could have fucking died.

That took a very unexpected turn. The question seemed to come out of nowhere, and the cake seemed to briefly turn tacky in his mouth. He washed it down with some water that also worked to buy him some time to even kind of respond.

"She's nice," he said, clearing his throat. "We don't really talk much anymore, but that's mostly on me. I talk to her on the phone a few times a year and she asks me to visit, but. Family's not really part of my life anymore and I'm fine with that."

He grabbed another spoonful of cake and found himself mostly avoiding the ice cream despite the fact that he was fairly accustomed to eating it.

She's nice?

The rest was all very well and good, but? "I mean. Why would she just. Let your father like. Be terrible to you?"

Asha would eat the ice cream and not even focus on how he was avoiding it.

This was a weird and delicate thing and Abraham found himself struggling with how exactly he wanted to answer. He shoved more cake into his mouth and pulled the spoon from his lips clean. Focusing on cake was a lot nicer than focusing on this.

"I don't think she really realized anything was wrong. He didn't beat me or anything; dad was always more subtle. I dunno. She apologized about some shit after he died, so maybe she was just in denial. I didn't even realize it wasn't the norm until i got older, so I probably can't blame her."

Spoiler alert: He totally did. But he felt guilty about it. So maybe lying a little was easier for everyone involved.

The fact that his dad took pains to be subtle somehow seemed even worse??

"I just still can't believe someone like that existed. I mean I can, the world is full of awful people, but like. What kind of fucked up do you have to be to be like your dad."

Why had she jumped on this topic again? Oh, right, because he said he'd never been to a place like this as a kid.

Asha pondered an apology for leaping into prodding but dismissed it because it would be insincere.

Was Asha... really naive? Or maybe she just felt protective of him. Either way, Abraham's childhood hadn't been the worst. No one had ever beaten him. Neither parent was some kind of neglectful drug addict.

There were much greater horror stories out there than poor lactose intolerant little Abe Barlet.

"It... could have been a lot worse. A lot of people go through a lot more growing up. But."

He swallowed down a very basic reluctance to make this kind of statement. It did require that he absolutely not look at her.

"I appreciate that you care. Really."

Yes, it could have, but that didn't change how terrible this was. She was gonna go ahead and say some measure of a threat to Abraham's dead dad, but the last thing he said kind of undercut her undrainable fury. Not in a bad way, just. She managed to get less angry and more huffy.

"Of course I care. I'm kind of mad he's dead, because I'd love to fucking yell his stupid asshole face off myself."

Her righteousness roused her so far rather dormant jaguar, sending her eyes Iightening to orange as the cat fed on her emotion.

But also? That he didn't die saying he was sorry or that he loved his son??? That just made it even worse. Ugh. She stabbed her spoon into the cake, pretending it was Abraham's...rather faceless dad. Imagine Abraham but like. Older. And awful.

That was intense and Abraham didn't know how he felt about it. So. He decided to take it as a compliment of some sort.

"I think your cat wants in on the action, too," he said quietly, gesturing toward his own eyes to explain, but he smiled some.

Abraham really did appreciate it. It wasn't knowledge he shared with... basically anyone except for a very small handful of people. And she reacted to it with such fire that he couldn't help but feel.


Cared for.

The bill arrived then and he was quick to pull it away and kind of not even look at it before sliding one of his credit cards onto it. He didn't want to think about how much they'd spent here. The drinks were probably a million dollars a piece. But he'd moved some money off this card for this purpose, so.

He had this.

"What? Oh-" she blinked, assuming her eyes went back to normal like Abraham's would in days gone by, but uh.

It didn't go away. And that was probably because, "I bet she does. Nice that we can agree on something, finally," Asha huffed again with an orange-eyed eyeroll.

Would she let her cat slaughter Abraham's dad if given the chance? Considering that Abraham could have died for his dad's cruelty...? Well. She was already a murderer, after all.

Wait. What?? Asha blinked again, at those thoughts. Were those her thoughts? Or...?

It was in this moment of orange existentialism that Abraham was able to sneak control of the whole damn check, and she opened her mouth to protest a little.

"You're spoiling me," she complained, but it wasn't unhappy. If he looked vaguely in her direction, he might even see a smile.

He shook his head slightly, unable to determine exactly how serious she was about all this. Asha could be intense sometimes, and he'd yet to fully make out when she was playfully intense and when he was about to get screamed at.

That she'd think for even a moment that he would let her pay was almost offensive, but hey, he'd brought her to a fucking Rainforest Cafe so he probably didn't seem like the brightest goddamn Valentine's Day date.

"Only the finest rainforest food," he said. Self deprecation was an improvement over pure wallowing. He'd pass the check back to the waitress next time she came by and then leaned slightly back in his chair.

Abraham was fucking stuffed, so. At least he'd succeeded in quantity.

"Any idea what direction we want to start driving in?"

See that just made her want to take a trip with him down to a rainforest. Like. A tropical one. Not these... Deciduous kinds.

"Mmmmm," she pondered aloud, tapping her finger to her chin in thought more than anything.

"What about over the river? Not for a shift, but like. I dunno. Maybe something fun is off that way?"

The check was back... fast.

Really fast. It was enough to send a pit of dread into his stomach. What if his card had been declined? Please. Please. Please, every single god ever devised. Please.

Instead, they were wished a happy Valentine's Day, and neither of them were scolded for a rejected credit card. Abraham counted his fucking blessings and did his best to keep this all out of his expression.

"Works for me. I'll do the driving, you tell me where to turn. Sound like a plan?"

She smiled to the server in appreciation of her thanks, and Asha watched Abraham sign the receipt. Taking one last greedy bite of the dessert - there wasn't much left, thankfully - Asha was content to agree.

"Aye aye, Captain," she said, and then wondered if she was actually the Captain because she was setting the course?


Asha would gather her things, making sure he knew to take the "centerpiece" with the rest of the decorations, and would happily follow him out to the car.

The uplifted mood perversely brought on by such a dour subject tickled her, and she retaliated by...poking him lightly in the side when they were back out in the parking lot.

Poor Abraham.

Bag of presents in one hand, he was left with only one to retaliate with as she jabbed him cruelly in the parking lot.

That was alright, though.

If she'd let him, he would take the rare step to actually initiate something... small.

Abraham reached his hand nearest her to try to lightly tangle his fingers with hers, appreciating immediately how warm they both were all the time.

Hi. That was new.

She let him, expecting some kind of tit-for-tat with her hand on the prior offensive, but instead found his fingers interlacing with hers, and the sheer sensitivity of their skin touching in a way that it...hadn't before? Her breathing slowed, and for a second she kind of wasn't in the parking lot.

It felt nice, Asha decided.

She let her fingers settle comfortably, firmly, and she brought their joined hands up to her face, looking at the interlocked pair like a child holding a seashell.

"My hand seems to have grown another hand," she teased with a voice full of innocence and wonder, as if she didn't realize what he was doing. Abraham was a sap, really, but she still liked him, and romance didn't have to be for the monogamously committed anyway.

She took his hand in return and he was thankful for something else to go right tonight. Though, as she brought their hands up for her inspection, he couldn't help but feel a little self conscious.

"Gross," he said, wiggling his fingers like they were part of some weird... parasitic hand thing, but keeping hold of her hand still,

It was terrible and not very fun but mostly he wanted to go home and cuddle now. Curl up in bed in boxers and maybe even without a t-shirt so she could pet his chest hair while curled up against him.

They'd be at the car in a few seconds and he just spit out some words.

"I wonder if the cats would just... cuddle up and behave if we put out some blankets for them to crash on. At home. Sometime."

She giggled at the hand monster, her own fingers wiggling similarly in response.

Eventually, they'd have to part to get into their respective seats, and she found she missed the sensation. Hand holding and monstering too.

Clicking in her seat belt, she ran a hand through her hair, but that wouldn't stop her from letting it creep towards his again right after. Greedy. "I mean, whenever you wanna try," Asha offered. "I think she'll be nice. You said she had been, so."

He pondered it as her hand crept toward his, and his jaguar rubbed its face into her fur. Abraham’s fingers intertwined happily with Asha’s.

"Maybe if we could get them some kind of food it could be like..."

What a weird world they lived in now.

"A cat date."

Abraham looked to her with an expression mostly sheepish, wondering how she’d take it. She had suggested shifting after all, but. It just seemed silly, maybe.

It was no secret there was a reason Asha's cat liked Abraham's, and so as he got cute, she gave a little half-smirk. Her mind came up with ideas basically in that second.

"We can hit up the nearest supermarket. Buy out all their rotisserie chickens. Open them up and set them around the house for the cats to go after?"

And the house would be a fucking mess for it, but Asha was pretty capable of cleaning it up.

She ran the side of her index finger gently against his.

That was a lot cuter than the pile of cold ground beef probably left in the bathtub that he’d been planning for the cats.

How the hell could he ever say no to it?

"We can put them places that are easier to clean. Bathtub. Shower. Kitchen. Any chicken left this late will probably be marked down, so. That’s a plus."

His tone was thoughtful, but as soon as he finished, he broke into a smile. A big stupid one.

This was super dumb. Extremely dumb. But maybe the... nicest thing that ever also involved the jaguars. And setting it up would be fun in itself.

Abraham started the car and, her hand still with his, reached to shift the car into reverse to head to the nearest big grocery store.

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