A Not Date At Not Eight


yi-min_icon.gif zachery_icon.gif

Scene Title A Not Date At Not Eight
Synopsis Zachery has not slept in three days, and Yi-Min endures this like a champion while absolutely 0 points are made. Also, they find a brand new faux-pas.
Date April 22, 2019

The Nite Owl - Bay Ridge

The Nite Owl Diner is a small restaurant located on a narrow strip of land adjacent to the Greenwood Heights Cemetery in Bay Ridge. It is a classic metal-walled diner with large windows, checkerboard linoleum floor, and a neon owl over the entrance that blinks at those entering. The outside signage even promises Coney Island Hot Dogs, even if Coney Island only exists in memory now. Inside, there's an L-shaped main counter, complete with vintage soda fountain and worn steel stools. All of the cooking is done on the ranges ranked against the rear wall. The outer wall is lined with booths upholstered in cracked scarlet vinyl, tables trimmed with polished chrome. Despite its age, it's been lovingly maintained. The air is redolent with the scent of fresh coffee, vanilla, and frying food.

Acting his age in perhaps exactly one way, Zachery doesn't really do phones very often, save for moments when he's called into work unexpectedly. Orderlies are not, however, in as high of a demand as certain other positions at the hospital are, so even that is rare. Even rarer still is him actually sending messages.

But Yi-Min's phone receives just such a treasure early this morning, with a simple request, if a little short on notice.

And that was that. If it was responded to, he didn't see it. If she called, his phone was OFF.

And if she doesn't show, well… it just means he went to a diner and had a tasty burger. In fact, he showed up a little early, and has just finished said burger, sitting hunched over at one of the booths with one arm around a half empty mug of coffee and another across some sort of book. Maybe a novel.

His hair is mussed, he's got a little more stubble than usual, and he's neglected to take his black peacoat off, even if he has at least opened it at some point. Occasionally, he slumps against the wall next to him a little, but then bounces back to grab some cooling fries still left on the plate halfway across the table. All without looking up, since apparently this book is far too fascinating to look away from.

It is fortunate for Zachery that he is not Yi-Min's only planned business in the Safe Zone today, because with gasoline and time both being the extremely precious commodities that they are, he might have been kept waiting at that diner for a very, very long time had she been any place even slightly closer to home today.

But the stars have a sense of humor in when they align, and she has deemed the content (or lack thereof?) of the message she had received to be just intriguing enough for a detour in her evening.

It is 7:13 when Yi-Min makes her appearance. She arrives with no fanfare, no notice to herald her arrival, not that one would have gone read by Zachery anyway. Upon her entrance, she slides right into the unoccupied spot opposite his own with her brows arched informally at him as though this is something the two of them do often.

But it is not, and there is a slight air of expectation to her that is kept even as she sloughs off her own much better-tended peacoat and reaches for an abandoned menu lying askew. "You've seen better days," she comments with the most succinct of glances over his rumpled appearance. No jab intended, just a statement of a bare fact.

"Haven't we all," Zachery mumbles in a scrapey mess of a voice down at his book more than anything else, then curls tighter around that mug and brings it to his face for a greedy mouthful of the stuff.

With it, he lifts his face to Yi-Min's — no white covers his left eye this time, though the colour remains in how the eyeball seems to have no pupil or iris to speak of. As his good eye settles on the doctor's face, the bad uselessly twitches to play along, with the help of underlying muscle. Both of them, though, share the fact that they look tired. So tired. The blink that happens as he stuffs another few fries into his mouth is just slightly too slow, and his breathing just slightly too rapid for having just been sitting here.

"What," he starts flatly, through half chewed food in his cheeks, "do you know about Raytech."

Though Yi-Min hadn't meant to read too much into Zachery's physical state beyond the most cursory of initial judgments, that raw fatigue diffusing from him is something she can almost feel over the top of the menu she has just half-spread open on the tabletop. Even during their earlier meetings, which had taken place in environments much more dubious than this one, he had still been noticeably more well put-together than this.

…So either Zachery had backslid even further than she had thought possible from him, an impressive concept to consider, or something is legitimately up.

"Raytech? I know probably as much about it as most do. Where does this come from?" she asks after a pause, her brows rising even higher in her still overall mild way as she looks directly into the one eye of his that is still whole. Whatever topic she had been anticipating, it had not been this.

And by contrast, Zachery looks like he's been anticipating it for hours. He reaches for a napkin, inelegantly smushes one into a fist, and then releases it back onto his plate without looking at it. His book is closed - cover down - and slid aside with a vim that nearly has it slide off the end of the table. He presses forward and into the edge of said table to absentmindedly wrap an arm around his coffee like someone might otherwise take it before its time.

"… Okay." He clears his throat and rubs his face, fingers digging deep into the skin just over his left cheekbone, harder than perhaps would be comfortable with a real eye underneath. "That's what I was thinking. Raytech, they're… a tech company. It's in the name. They make… solar panels, they're helping with… the food, ah —" his hands clasp together as a word disappears from his mind mid-staggered-sentence and his already spotty attention on Yi-Min ends up drifting to the side of her instead.

"— Hydroponics!" He perks back up, blearily refocusing on the person in front of him with his palm toward her, like he's THROWING the word out there. But he's not done yet. "Some domestic things, some… less so, but their focus has never been…"

Once again, his attention trails steadily and visibly to a nearby window as he speaks, and as if suddenly realising the time, he slumps forward again to give Yi-Min a look-over. "Did you eat? You should — oh you have a menu."

"…Yes, Raytech. They do things with ‘the food’, and the tech.’ " Echoing Zachery's words in hopes of drawing out something a little more directionally cohesive from him, Yi-Min is patient in tone, with no hint of being chiding (yet). There is at least genuine interest in what the man is trying to say beneath the shroud of twitchiness eating away both the ends of his sentences and his attention span, and she is trying to find it.

"They have done many things that are of great interest, scientifically and otherwise, but I'm guessing you didn't call me here to discuss how Raytech is getting on with their latest tomato-growing tech." Yi-Min leans in delicately, her eyes flicking away from Zachery's face just long enough for her to order an iced tea from the server who has just swung by their table.

And back again: “Don’t worry about me, I’ve just eaten.” Superficial or not, this is a concern that seems to please Yi-Min for some reason. She looks mildly tickled, anyway, even as she waits to hear more.

After finishing off his coffee in what almost looks like an uncomfortably big gulp, Zachery sets it somewhere away from him, and then fixes his attention on Yi-Min's face. His head angles a little to his left, and he swallows hard. The repetition of his words back to him seems to serve to refocus him a little. "I was… made aware of an opening. Cybernetics. Which I have… fleeting experience in. And a more-than-fleeting interest."

Idly, the fingers of his right hand seem to find the wrist of his left, curling around his arm. His thumb presses down into the skin just below his palm, as if in search for something. But it's visibly trembling. "Also, I may have… possibly quit my job at the hospital. Or gotten fired. Probably not. I'm actually not sure yet itwaskindofaspurofthemomentthing. Also I've been awake for many, many hours."

Then, without warning, he extends his arm out toward the leaning Yi-Min with a THUNK of his elbow hitting the hard surface of the table, palm upward. "Hey, real quick, how's my heart doing."

Yi-Min's first reaction is to seem curious at the mention of that opening, at least more than she is disturbed by the announcement that Zachary has potentially(?) quit his hospital job. This second is a blip which she certainly files in the back of her mind, but it is overshadowed in light of the intrigue raised by the first. "A street surgeon who has dabbled in cybernetics?" she remarks as she closes up her menu once more, pushing it in a slant towards the ends of the table. "You are full of surprises. Of this there is no doubt."

Reaction the second: when Zachary's forearm comes at her, there is a flinch from her as it physically impacts the table mere inches from how she is leaning; she retracts her hands a little distance towards herself as a matter of instinct. But once the strange question has been spoken aloud, she decides to acquiesce to the request with only a lightly questioning look at him, reaching with a pair of long, slender fingers to find a pulse on the ex-surgeon's wrist.

"..I think you know the answer," she says, matter-of-fact as she lets her fingers linger on the skin for few long seconds, her eyes coolly scanning over his jittery features as she does so. "That is not something that you would need me to tell you."

So, her eyes conclude silently as she withdraws her own forearms back into a relaxed, conservatively folded position closer to her, but she still appears only genial.

"What did you see?"

"Very, very fleeting," Zachery is quick to interject, of the cybernetics.

Her flinch does not go unnoticed, but it serves only to deepen the lines of his crow's feet, much like a smile might otherwise achieve. There is no such thing on his face, though. And whatever amusement-adjacent emotion there may have been on his face fades quickly enough when he is questioned. His attention flits to the side, and then back to Yi-Min's face. His mouth opens, then closes again, then opens with a chuckle that drags on just a little too long. Not nervous, per se, but not necessarily controlled, either.

"I'm seeing you." This answer comes as though it's the punchline to a joke. Expectantly. Another chuckle nearly bubbles back up from his throat, but he manages to keep it down, "I'm looking right at you."

"Funny," Yi-Min says, as lightly and tranquilly as a cat basking in sunlight. "Even as a glib answer, it doesn't work well. I asked what you saw, past tense. Specifically, with your gift." She does not bother to keep down her volume when she says the word 'gift,' tilting her head meditatively and allowing the syllable to carry around her. Beyond what Zachery can get out of her in terms of very base reflexes, which frankly anyone would respond to unless they were dead or similar, it seems it will not be quite as easy to get a rise out of her as time wears on.

"It is like you're not even trying. I'd be able to shed light on what you've seen." At this point, the server returns with a single iced tea on her tray (bless her promptness), which Yi-Min gathers towards herself and takes a sip from as she raises one single, fine brow. If that is not something he wants, then no skin off her back. He is free to hold his own dubiously understood glimpses close to his chest.

Tired eyes lock onto Yi-Min's, and Zachery's breath - so far too fast, too shallow - is forced out in what's almost a hiss through gritted teeth. He finally pulls his arm back, then the rest of him, sinking back into his seat with his shoulders drawn upward. A few different emotions seem to want to overtake as his eyebrows lower — annoyance being chief among them, though certainly something suspiciously close to regret is a close second. His exhaustion only makes these things more pronounced, and infinitely harder to maintain that straight face he would like to find again.

Finally, still looking at the person across from him, he clasps a hand onto the side of his neck, and waits for that waitress to leave earshot. An uncomfortable silence will not hurt anyone, at this point.

Only when footfalls stop and all has gone quiet does he answer, voice slightly lowered but only in tone. "You were about six years old when you first got hurt. Really hurt. You had nothing to worry about. It healed fine. In fact, your right tibia is stronger for it, even if only a little. A few inches down, your malleolus would have likely splintered into your ankle."

His hand drops into his lap, and he pauses for a beat to wet dry lips. His eyes narrow. "You got hurt again, but never as badly. A few falls. You favour your right side when you take a tumble, did you know?" He gives no time for an answer, in too much of a rush to move on. "You're in better condition than most of women your age, with minimal damage to cartilage, tendons - showing me another thing. You've been trained in this. Maybe you hit the gym, but you don't seem the type. Maybe it's got something to do with the blade that split your abdomen. Little deeper, and that would have nicked your large intestine. Bad news."

He blinks, too sluggishly, and leans his head back against the cushioning of his seat to add with a twinge of a grin pulling at one side of his mouth, "And you still don't have herpes."

Uncomfortable for Zachery, maybe. For Yi-Min, this is fine.

To say she is enjoying this wouldn't be a stretch. The moment he begins in earnest, she drinks in every word with a raptness that goes beyond being clinical. "Tian a, I forgot," she remembers musingly of that first accident in the little lull following the first fragment, eyes briefly carrying that tender and distant amusement allowed by time. A hell of a lot of it. "My twin pushed me down a steep embankment. We were so young; he had not meant to hurt me. He cried about it for weeks."

Yi-Min coils her hand around her heavy glass during the unfolding of the rest of it, movements fluid and lax compared to his more erratic ones. Most of these suggested memories these are ones her mind has not touched on for decades, nevermind in more recent times. It would seem there is one exception:

"Maybe this is so, yes," she agrees sunnily but ambiguously with his string of maybes, appearing pleased at this detailed summation of her condition both past and present— enough so to grant a sparkling laugh at the herpes comment. "So fascinating, and wonderful, that you can tell all of this with but a touch. Sincerely, thank you for this."

The last part is said with especially genuine appreciation, as though he really had just given her a gift, and she tips her chin to drink deeply of her tea. "Tell me, was your choice of career a result of what you can do, or did it come before?"

Something akin to satisfaction makes its way into Zachery's expression at the mention of her youth, although it likely leans too far into the direction of ruminative to be be considered smug.

But… for reasons unspoken, the words 'sincerely, thank you' seem to hit him more like an insult thank anything else. He shrinks down a little, his mouth pulling back into a straight line as his head comes down from where it was resting, and he bunches forward over that table again. A waitress carrying a coffee pot circles back around just in time for her to notice him sliiiding his mug out to the edge of the table, and she obliges in a refill with a patient smile before moving on.

His pleasantness is nowhere to be found, on the other hand. He brings the mug to his face and then chooses to look out of a nearby window, despite the fact that they're not adjacent to it. The coffee's too hot to sip, still, but he holds it in place either way. "Before." Spoken with a certainty, teeth gritting immediately after as if to stop more words from passing through them.

Yi-Min has never been the type to care if she has said something wrong, though the sudden downturn in Zachery's mood does make her idly wonder, just for a few seconds. Nevertheless, she carries on talking to him in the same casual vein even as he is staring pointedly out of a window. They are two adults having a perfectly normal conversation, with perfectly normal conversational flows.

"Admirable, I can only imagine how handy that must have become. It is more fitting to you than I had thought." Some blessings come in disguise; apparently not this one.

Then, speaking of throwbacks. A subtle, elegant smile brightens the corners of her lips as she continues to observe him, and she pronounces with very exaggerated cheer: "Why, 'you're so bitter. Enjoy the little things, will ya.' " Complete with a mimicry of the lilt of his accent and all. It is not even close to accurate, mostly because of her own accent getting in the way, but the manner in which she says it is pretty spot-on.

Zachery's attention snaps back to Yi-Min with a start. His coffee - still steaming hot - is sipped with blatant disregard, and set down as his jaw clenches hard, then… relaxes.

Sitting with his arm wrapped around that warm mug, his stare as well as lowered voice goes cold.

"Tell me." He is calm, now, even with exhaustion still dragging at his features. "Did your classmates tease you about never taking risks? Never having fun? Nevermind drugs, never smoking, drinking, your liver, your kidney, even your emphatic system, too clean. It's like they haven't been told the definition of the word 'toxin'. You must have gone through medical school with blinders on." This is said with some judgment, as though good health is somehow a detriment. "Have you learned to—"

There is a pause, his mouth still open. It closes. He swallows. Then, matter-of-factly, eyes narrowing, "Did you know you were barren?"

"That," Yi-Min points out with her smile growing outwards, unable to hide her bald amusement now. She has been accused of many things throughout her life. Not drinking enough is a novel one. For that matter, never taking risks is also not one she has heard.

"…Is a side effect of my ability." There is a moment where she has to stop, clear the note from her throat that is not quite laughter in form, but somewhere well on the way there. That tacked on irony about toxins had just been the last tipping point. "Nonetheless, I would not have been made fun of by my classmates. Taiwan does not have much of a drinking culture, and the school I went to was a competitive one; other priorities were on most people's minds. …Also. I am not a medical doctor."

The news about being barren gains more of a visible shift from her, though not, perhaps, in the way that he would have hoped— unless pure entertainment is the response he was intending for. "Now this last thing, I did not know," she says gaily as she leans her shoulders back against her seat. "It is a good thing, then, that this will never come up in my life."

That is, beyond this fun story she will have to tell Eileen when she returns to Providence.

Zachery's narrowed eyes stay on Yi-Min's face while she talks. But the only thing he manages, upon her finishing her response to his rambles, is a flat and belatedly answered, "… All right."

After reaching to scrub a hand past stubbled jaw hard enough that it looks like he might be trying to dislocate it, he shifts his weight to start to slide out of the booth. A hand comes down hard on the table's edge in order for him to rise to his feet, not unlike a drunk forgetting that they don't have full use of their faculties. Even if his current fatigue stretches beyond just motor functions. He's quieter now, though no less monotone in his voice. "I need to go. Make some decisions. Apparently without your help."

And he's off, walking toward the exit, shoving fingers through mussed hair to shove it back up and away from his forehead before it falls right back into the mess that it was.

Apparently nothing. "You have not mentioned wanting help from me." Yi-Min somehow feels compelled to bring up this maybe minorly important point, even as she carelessly watches him begin to leave over another sip. No, he has been too busy going on about other things.

In fact, the terrible sidetracking the conversation had taken is probably her fault. Not the childishness it had subsequently devolved into, but at least initially.

"If you are fine with coming all the way here without having even asked, then I wish you luck with your decision-making." And she means this as well, no less candidly than before. Luck needs to favor him, because his circumstances otherwise do not appear to be doing much of a job of it.

“Do text if you’re keeping your job at the hospital.”

Maybe it's her tone of voice. Maybe it's that he doesn't know, not really, where he'd even go when he leaves the diner. But something slows his pace until he just sort of… stands, a hand lifting to let him rest his weight through rigid muscles onto a chrome counter.

"Nothing's changing for a few weeks, at least." He does not turn to Yi-Min to say this, head slowly sinking down behind hunched shoulders until he gives it a quick shakeshake. He's awake, promise. Though he doesn't sound it when his free hand curls into a white-knuckled fist and he adds, "Don't tell anyone about what I…" He pauses, tongue running over molars in idle thought before he pushes himself away from the counter, and starts walking once more toward the door. His last words are spat out, a little louder to make up for the distance, on his way out "What I do. No one else knows."

But there are no assurances she can even be bothered to find thoughts for. Only a wordless and dry form of judgment from Yi-Min, who is unconcernedly polishing off what is left of her iced tea, the remnants of ice cubes rattling down the glass as she angles it upwards. One last aloof glance is all that he receives on his way out.

Trust, Zachery will find, is not something that works in this way. Yi-Min does not find value in empty transactions.

Nothing given equates to nothing owed.

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