A Questionably Good Morning


nicole_icon.gif yi-min_icon.gif

Scene Title A Questionably Good Morning
Synopsis When the fate of the world is at stake, a certain amount of pragmatism is required.
Date January 16, 2020

Providence, Nicole's Homestead

On the surface, it's a day that begins the exact same way any other would in this remote and cheerfully rustic community that calls itself Providence. The first breaths of a cold, clear winter dawn impart a glow onto the darkened remnants of the previous day as though stirring a dead painting to life with a touch: already, little pockets of early-morning activity are sprouting up across the farmsteads.

Not everything is as it seems here, however. Beneath the otherwise untroubled patterns of day-to-day life, there is, and has been, an undercurrent of something else— something both more subtle and more uneasy in tone. Nicole has felt the hints, even if she can't yet pinpoint a source.

Dr. Yeh's visit, too, carries almost every outward appearance of normalcy. The Taiwanese woman has become quite a familiar face around this homestead in the months following the other woman's arrival, and the two had spent many hours together both there and inside Yi-Min's lair at the factory. In talk. In drink.

But there is something different about Yi-Min's appearance this time around, not the least of which is the hour: unusually, she had requested that Nicole meet her before Pippa would normally be awake.

When Nicole opens the front door to her home onto her porch, she finds Yi-Min already there, mittened hands comfortably tucked away into the pockets of her long, slender overcoat. "Morning," she greets easily enough with a tiny tilt of her head, but she leaves little time between that single word and, "I need to talk to you."

Yi-Min's voice is silvered with an edge of gravity that Nicole had not heard from her before. It is softened and hidden by calm, but it is there.

“So I gathered.” It’s been some time since Nicole settled in at her farmhouse, but given the disturbing news she’d received from Richard Ray, it seemed prudent to make a reappearance. See and be seen. Try to make some sense out of the madness she’s been faced with.

Nicole steps back from the door, opening the passage wide for Yi-Min to step inside and out of the cold. There’s a fire in the fireplace. What better way to signal she’s back in town than to have a little smoke rising from the chimney?

If the hour bothers her, it doesn’t show. In truth, Nicole’s internal battery is running on Full, giving her an energy that can’t be achieved by coffee alone. Which is not to say that there isn’t a pot of it set out on the coffee table in front of the fire, with two cups ready to be filled.

“What’s on your mind?” She has a guess or two.

The invitation to step through the open doorway is accepted gratefully, if wordlessly. A wisp of a breeze accompanies Yi-Min’s entrance, sifting through the gauzy chiffon scarf around her neck in parts, as though in an indication of the tone of news she might have brought with her.

As for Yi-Min herself, there is a crystal-like smoothness of focus behind her eyes, which becomes more apparent as she emerges into the warmth of the interior. Aside from this, her composure seems little different from normal— just a touch more serious. "Many things," she acknowledges simply, to start. Her gaze makes a short but discerning circuit of the familiar surroundings, from the level of energy in Nicole’s behavior to the two cups on the table that have been set out. "No less than what has been on yours, I'm guessing. There have been many things going on. I am unsure how much of it you already know, but I think it is time we touch base on these things."

“Why don’t we approach this as if I know nothing? That way, we avoid misinformation by way of assumption.” Nicole closes the door behind her guest, turning the deadbolt behind her more out of habit than conscious precaution. She makes her way to the table and pours each of them a cup of coffee before settling into one of the armchairs in front of the fire.

Blue eyes glow just as surely as the fire in the hearth. Picking at a frayed thread on the cuff of her sweater, she watches Yi-Min’s movements without suspicion. “Please, sit. Tell me what you think I should know.” Nicole knows better than to ask for everything. That’s not how the exchange of information works.

Noting the position of the cup of coffee offered to her with a little nod in thanks, Yi-Min silently slips into the armchair facing Nicole's on the other side of the fire, shadow-like. Once she is appropriately seated, she removes her mittens one by one. Very slowly, in growing thoughtfulness. "A smart way to start," she observes, succinctly but genuinely.

"Yet, if you did not know anything at all, I would not be here. So."

Reflectively, Yi-Min pauses in the small after-motion of settling her mittens on top of each other in her lap. "How much do you know about what Zachery is involved in?" is what she chooses to ask first instead, maybe rather suddenly.

Nicole sucks in a breath, holding it in her chest for a beat before exhaling again. “I know he’s gotten himself mixed up in something… not good. I believe he’s gotten his hands on a biological weapon and is working to manipulate it at the behest of a group known as Shedda Dinu.”

How much of that is saying too much? Possibly all of it, but being cagey here is only going to impede the flow of information. Laying her cards on the table - even if one by one - is a gesture of good faith.

Well. That certainly makes it easier.

Cognizant of the slight dip in mood she may have just brought on by her words, Yi-Min leans in slightly. Nicole has definitely succeeded in renewing her attention. Your sources are excellent," she confirms, with some approval, and also without surprise.

"Good, yes. You have the whole of it in a nutshell. It is… good that I do not need to spend time introducing this aspect of it to you. Where did you get this information, if you do not mind me asking?" Yi-Min has her guesses, but she holds her tongue for the moment.

“Richard Ray,” Nicole responds succinctly. Even if Yi-Min didn’t know it already, anyone who’s aware of Richard by reputation knows how often it is that he knows things he shouldn’t know. “Who,” she reasons with a gesture of her hand toward her visitor, “I expect learned it from you.”

There’s no judgement in that supposition. It seems perfectly reasonable to Nicole that she would have told him. And if she’s wrong, well, that will tell her something new as well. “Some of that is also my own inference, I admit.”

That name, too, is accepted without surprise.

"Mm, yes. I was the one who first reached out to him."

Yi-Min's fingertips curl on the woollen surface of her stacked mittens, comfortably. Not that she had been standoffish before, but she now seems a touch warmer than she had earlier in the conversation. As though the physical warmth of the fire is translating into emotional warmth, and letting her ease into things accordingly.

"His sources are excellent as well," she notes dryly. "I don't think I mentioned anything about a bioweapon to him." That isn’t the type of conclusion that can be inferred out of nothing, no matter how good Nicole's gut intuition. "But nonetheless, I think our talk today might be… just a little easier than I was expecting it might be."

This is a good thing. A great thing, even.

“They usually are,” Nicole says of Richard’s sources. No matter how bemused she may be by that. It’s something she’s simply come to accept. “He’s an inexplicably well-connected man.” But they aren’t here to talk about him.

“I was aware that the bioweapon sample had been stolen. It was reasonable to put two and two together in this case.” So her intuition had a little help from circumstantial evidence. “So… What else do you need me to know? And what do you propose be done about this situation? I imagine you have thoughts.”

Yi-Min certainly has many thoughts about the situation, the breadth of which is implied by the sudden glint in her eye.

But next things next, in the proper order.

"So: you are aware of the part that Zachery has been playing in all of this. I wonder then, how informed you are as to my own? Given that you have been in contact with Mr. Ray, nothing would surprise me anymore. However, exactly as you said, we should avoid assumptions."

Everything on the table, right?

Nicole gives a wry smile at the question of Yi-Min’s involvement. “As far as I was aware, you had no part in any of this. So, why don’t you illuminate me?” There’s no animosity to the suggestion or veiled annoyance about this turn of events.

This simply is what it is.

“Are you a concerned citizen, like me, or… does it run deeper than that?”

That's something Yi-Min has to snort at, softly. "Were you ever just a concerned citizen?" she asks cheerfully. Like Nicole, there is no accusation in this— just a snippet of playfulness, slipped right under the table where they're both busy laying out all their cards.

"You can call me a concerned citizen, I suppose. That wouldn't be wrong. I am doing what I am doing out of very deep concern." Back to being dry for a moment before she returns to a slightly more serious tier of conversation.

Here it is, are you ready?

"I am working on this bioweapon alongside your boyfriend at the behest of a Mr. Adam Monroe, and I have been for some time. I'm, ah. Planning on being a fly in the ointment." A turn of phrase she had picked up from Kara only recently. It seems a fitting moment for it. English practice!

“Ah.” Nicole says flatly. So her secret isn’t quite as secret as she’d like it to be. But, given her interest in the situation, and Dr. Yeh’s sharpness, it isn’t the most terribly difficult conclusion to leap to.

She was absolutely not ready.

Nicole’s shoulders sag slowly, even as she tries to keep a straight face in the wake of this little revelation. “A fly in the ointment,” she repeats steadily. “So, what does that mean?” What a terrible agent she is, hm? Behind her eyes, she’s cursing herself, furious that she hadn’t seen it. Hadn’t seen the possibility of — of this — in her friend.

"It means," Yi-Min continues on blithely, showing no sign of a reaction to that look she sees in Nicole's eyes. Instead she turns her head to look squarely into the lit fireplace, adopting an even more casual expression and gazing through the flames as though they aren't present. In the meantime, she strokes the fabric of her mitten with a slow, deliberative forefinger, a little as though it were a cat in her lap.

"That I have been working on the inside, and if all goes even somewhat according to plan," knock on wood, "I have some surprises that may or may not be in the works. Monroe wants a biological weapon made for him? Well. He will not be getting a biological weapon."

The tone of this plunges right near the end, in tranquilly conspiratorial fashion. Were it not for the quieter dash of caution rounding off her tone, she might be expressing pity for a dog who wouldn't be allowed to chew on its favorite couch.

“I’m personally pinning my hopes on may over may not.” That’s sparked a little more of Nicole’s sardonic sense of humor. It’s better than the eternal fires of self-loathing. “I knew I liked you for a reason.”

As much as she wants to lean in and entreat Yi-Min to tell her more, Nicole leans back in her seat instead. “I won’t ask for details,” reluctantly. “As with most delicate operations, compartmentalization is key. But I’m prepared to support you however you need.”

Because letting Adam Monroe have a biological weapon is absolutely out of the question.

The shrug Yi-Min performs is almost profanely cheerful, perhaps out of her fullness of knowledge of all the ways that her plans could go horribly wrong. But, "I am, too," is her simple laugh of a response.

Gaze still trained on the fireplace, she nevertheless watches Nicole leaning away from her out of the corner of her eye, and appears to come to a separate decision.

Compartmentalization for its own sake was one thing, and wise in its own right. Given Nicole's relationship to the person involved, this was perhaps wiser, in the long run. "…There is more I should tell you. And this regards Zachery. He has not really been the most compliant person to work with in all of this."

“I am hardly surprised,” Nicole murmurs and pinches the bridge of her nose between her thumb and forefinger. “He’s, ah… Reticent at the best of times.” Even with me is the tacit implication. “Do you think it would help if I…”

Her lips purse. Intervening at this juncture is not even close to the wisest move. Zachery’s already too aware of her involvement in the situation. And direct intervention means a loss of her plausible deniability when she drafts her reports to her superiors.

“So what are you planning to do about it?”

"Done. What I have already done about it," Yi-Min corrects this mildly, but also matter-of-factly.

She takes a moment to consider the best way to phrase her next words. There may not be a best way, so, her tone is rather nondescript when she continues: "At first, I tried every single peaceable method I could possibly think of, to get him to talk to me. Perhaps I should have asked you at some point."

There are too many unspoken negatives to have made this into a legitimate possibility, and Yi-Min knows Nicole knows that. It's more said for the sake of simplistic resignation as Yi-Min breathes out a soundless, humorless laugh.

"So. Ultimately being left with no choice, I did what I had to do to get from him the information I needed. I have some… tools suitable for coercion, and I used them on him. Please be assured that he has not been left with permanent marks." This is entirely truthful. A characteristic of platypus venom was that it brought about extreme pain, but no real lasting damage— which is why she had chosen it. Perhaps Nicole already had her suspicions about Zachery's 'snake bite.'

Yi-Min's eyes are as hard and bright as her voice is soft, and not just in volume.

As soon as the words peaceable method leave Yi-Min’s lips, Nicole knows where this is headed. The placid expression fades by degrees, giving way to something more grim. Her lips press together, thin and bloodless. The fingers of one hand curl slowly in toward her palm until her nails press little half moons into the flesh.

Her chest rises and falls, but the moment passes between them in silence. “And it worked?” she asks finally. Her throat is tight as she swallows, but while Nicole might allow some angry tears later, they won’t be making an appearance as long as Yi-Min is present.

Maybe because Nicole is concealing her feelings, a small cloud of pain creeps into Yi-Min's eyes, softening her brow as it does. Censure would have been an easier reaction to deal with. Somehow the calm acceptance cuts deeper, not least because she is so intimately familiar with such a stance.

Nevertheless, Yi-Min's tone changes little. It is responsibility that she shoulders, and not regret. "Yes. He gave me all that I think he had. It's information that will save lives." Possibly many, many lives. Not that this was meant to exonerate her in any fashion, but it bore bringing up nonetheless. "I do not expect your forgiveness. I doubt I would grant it, were I in your shoes. But… you deserved to know that I have done this. And, you deserved to hear it from me."

As opposed to finding out by herself in another way.

“Good,” Nicole says in a clip. Good that what was done will save lives. “This is war,” she continues stoically. “War isn’t pretty. It isn’t kind. We’ve all done— We all do what we have to do in order to ensure the survival of as many lives as we can.”

Nicole’s hands are not clean.

“I appreciate your candor.” Again, she swallows down a lump in her throat. Finally, she lets the mask slip, this time on purpose. “I can’t hate you for what you’ve done. I won’t even try.” Nicole shakes her head. “But it hurts.” Yi-Min deserves to know that much, too. “As long as it was worth it…”

This says a lot about the kind of person Nicole Varlane is. Maybe it doesn’t align with the image Yeh had built.

"It was," Yi-Min promises again. No pleasure had been derived from her act, and the brevity reaffirms that. This was, as Nicole had said, what had to be done.

Perhaps unexpectedly, Yi-Min lets a rather small, rueful smile onto her face, one that conveys her self-awareness of the whole situation as much as it does her sadness. "I would ask you how you are still together with a man whom you know is unironically working on a virus that could kill most of the world. But… I don't feel like I'd have a leg to stand on in that argument." Considering the company that the ex-Vanguard operative has kept in her life, after all.

"Still. As little as it may mean to you now, I am sorry. I wish I hadn't had to cause you this hurt." If Yi-Min has regrets about any single aspect of this whole thing, this appears to be it. She pauses, casting her gaze downwards for a few seconds before finally turning and bringing it to rest on Nicole's face again. "He will have fully recovered in a few weeks time. By which time… there are still more plans to be put in place. The deadline for the bioweapon's completion shall come at the end of this month."

“I—” Nicole smiles unkindly at herself, clearly lost in a memory momentarily. “I’ve never been very good at choosing men to give my heart to.” Maybe she’d gotten it right once. With Ben. But that had turned out… Well, it hadn’t turned out at all, had it? “I always choose the ones that will hurt others without much thought.”

The mention of his recovery time brings Nicole back to the moment. But it’s the deadline that brings her back to business. “I’ll be ready for it,” she promises. “I’ll check in with Zachery. See what I can get him to tell me. I won’t let on that we’ve spoken. The less he knows about our exchanges, the better.”

Yi-Min lets another long, drifting moment go by before she responds, her expression still a little hazy with some thought that seems to be paining her as well.

But then she finally reaches for her cup of coffee that had been sitting forgotten on the end table until now, and takes a sip from it. "I'm glad I've gotten the chance to talk to you about this," she notes, with hidden stress on ‘you,’ knowing full well that the feeling very likely isn't mutual. Her respect for Nicole's ability to separate emotion from business deserves to be placed out there nonetheless. "Out of curiosity. In what way do you mean you will be ready for it?"

The tone is actually curious. Nicole could just be talking about state of mind as easily as she could be referring to something more concrete.

The only tell that Nicole realizes she’s just fucked up is in her entire lack of reaction to the actual fuckup. “I don’t know,” is spoken perhaps a little too easily. Delivered a little too smoothly. “I don’t know,” she repeats, perhaps a bit more convincingly in the way she seems to express chagrin in a half smile. “I guess it seemed like something I should be ready for.”

Nicole lifts her coffee and sits back in her seat. “I was a general during the war.” Maybe not in official rank and title, but all the same. “I’m used to preparing for the worst. But… I guess I’m just a concerned citizen these days. I’m sure Richard has this all under control. That’s sort of his whole thing.

The smoothness of Nicole's initial reply makes Yi-Min's brow rise in a fine, quizzical arch. "Mmm. Tell me. Are you quite sure you do not know?" She takes another sip from her coffee as she awaits an answer, intent on wasting little time before the drink grows too cool to be pleasant.

"You are too intelligent to not already be devising some sort of plan. Also, you will forgive me. But I have my doubts about Richard's ability to fully control this situation, resourceful as he is." His people certainly hadn't controlled the Entity's accidental release into this plane very well.

Under Yi-Min’s scrutiny, Nicole drops the pretense with an appreciative nod of her head and a bit broader smile. “I suppose you did torture the man.” There’s no venom in that statement. (And no pun intended by it either.) She presumes that Zachery must have spilled the beans about her current employment status.

“I have an operative,” she states carefully. “Someone who’s going to hopefully help us infiltrate Monroe’s little cult. If you can sabotage the Gorgon formula,” and there’s no doubt that she believes she will, “then we’re in business. I’m going to see if I can get Zachery to give me the details of the handoff.” She’d like to be able to say that he was cooperative with her investigation. If she has to say anything about his involvement at all.

When she finally has to admit his involvement.

“If you’d confirm it with me somehow…” Nicole’s brows lift. She doesn’t wait for an answer to that question. Their goals are aligned. “And if he acts like something is amiss during that handoff… Make him out to be the crazy one.” With that, she’s delivered what information she can spare to Yi-Min. She moves on before she can invite question. Provides distraction.

“Did he tell you, incidentally, that he crashed his car? With me in it?” Nicole’s smile is mild, as though this were a perfectly pleasant conversation to be having over coffee. “On purpose?”

This might explain why Nicole seems so willing to forgive what Yi-Min has done to her lover.

"That sounds excellent." Yi-Min slides that parting thought in before the subject can be too conveniently dropped. "Any misdirection from the inside will be more than welcome. Especially if it prevents Adam from finding out about the sabotaged formula for as long as possible. Consider yourself confirmed."

Even the possibility was an improvement over her assumed worst-case scenario of Adam uncovering her deception immediately.

The topic shift is what catches Yi-Min much more off guard. A subdued tink announces the bottom of her coffee cup hitting the end table: she isn't even looking at it when she sets it down again.

"…Hold on. I knew about the crash, of course." Yi-Min had been around. Ish. In lieu of being able to make the trip to the hospital herself, she had made an arrangement for flowers to be delivered to Nicole during her recovery. "But what do you mean, he did it on purpose?"

“I mean he told me I needed to live my life how I wanted to, because it could end at any time.” There’s cracks in the perfectly placed mask she’s been wearing since Yi-Min arrived. “And then he took the steering wheel and yanked it to the right while he floored it.” It’s like she’s slowly realizing just how fucked up that was.

Nicole’s face turns up toward the ceiling and she blinks rapidly. Yi-Min can see her throat work as she swallows the lump forming there. “He said the world would end in three months. I… didn’t understand it at the time.” Blue eyes shine with more than her power when she manages to look across to her friend again. “I guess he was trying to spare me from that.”

It is fortunate Yi-Min had just set down her coffee cup, or right now it would probably be falling straight down through her cold and deadened grasp.


A silence blankets the entire living area like a lean, oppressive shroud the instant Nicole finishes her admission. Beyond the contrast of their hushed breathing, one much more faltering than the other, all that can be heard are the long fingers of flame that continue to crackle in the hearth between them. Even as Nicole is struggling to hold back tears, the look in Yi-Min's eyes is also evolving, though it's hard to say to what.

Dr. Yeh had initiated this meeting today for business. For the discussion of a sensitive matter that required them both to take on the roles of the professionals that they were.

When Yi-Min sets her mittens to the side in the company of her cup and rises from her armchair— and when she takes the paces required to get to where Nicole sits in her seat, these clinical trappings are gone. Sloughed off into decisive irrelevance.

It's the hands of her friend that she reaches for once she gets there, attempting to draw them gently into her own warm, smaller ones. At the same time, she endeavors to hold the other woman's eyes in hers.

"This man," Yi-Min breathes from this new and closer distance. A low edge, darkened by disquiet, is in the fabric of her voice that had not been there before. "…Does not deserve you. How could he— what in the world was he thinking?"

Nicole’s hands are even warmer in Yi-Min’s, despite her lack of gloves. It takes her a long moment to find that searching gaze, and her fingers curl around her friend’s. “I know,” she agrees, because it’s the only logical response to that assertion. “But then he tells me I’m beautiful in the next breath and…”

And if her sister were saying any of this, she’d have slapped her in the face by now.

Shifting uncomfortably in her chair — her shoulder is still sore — Nicole shakes her head faintly. “I don’t know the fuck’s wrong with me. I don’t know why I forgive him, but I… do.” Nicole makes a soft sound of frustration. “It doesn’t matter, though, does it? I’m going to arrest him after all this and he’s going to sit in prison for a very long time.”

That’s the plan, anyway.

"Love makes people stupid," is Yi-Min's curt but deeply sympathetic summary as she squeezes the palms of Nicole's hands lightly, mindful of accidentally aggravating that sore shoulder further. By now, her expression has finished its transformation into one of unmistakable concern, and she shows no sign of releasing her grip.

Nor does Yi-Min look away when Nicole shakes her head. Her gaze remains cold and bleak with disbelief. "Yet, I am struggling to understand what, if anything, in Zachery's actions would constitute love for you. I cannot even fathom it. 'Trying to spare you,' what is this joke? It is something a sick person would say." Something an even sicker person would enact.

The idea of it is repulsively, comprehensively monstrous, from a woman who considers few things in life monstrous.

Nicole laughs bitterly at that. “Sure does.” She especially seems to be susceptible to a dip in IQ when in pursuit of love. At a loss, she takes a moment to swallow down a lump of emotion that had built up thick in her throat. “I don’t know how to explain it, Minnie.” Her eyes close and a tear slides down her cheek. “I don’t know how to justify it.”

He poured antiseptic on my open wound and loved the way I refused to flinch and from there it was love? “He encourages me… Tells me I’m better than the hand I’m dealt and just— I don’t know. When he talks to me like that, I feel cared about.” It’s a flaw, to be sure. “I haven’t really felt important since—” Nicole stares off at some indeterminate point past Yi-Min’s shoulder, pressing her lips together and trying to decide when that was. Maybe it’s unsurprising that she doesn’t consider her status as a bona fide war hero to be something she should take a lot of pride in. She doesn’t seem the type for glory.

Nicole sighs heavily. “I did hit my head in the crash.” Her eyes refocus on her friend’s and her lips twitch briefly in a moment of amusement at her own expense.

"Oh, Nicole." The implication of a concussion and the use of that nickname draws a small sigh and an even smaller, long-suffering smile from Yi-Min despite herself. She unclasps one of her hands from Nicole's and uses it to very gently brush at the curve of the other woman's cheek, as an older sister might do to a younger one.

"I have known him for a while. He is not charismatic, so…. I don't know. I suppose there must be something there, if you say so." The admission from Yi-Min is reluctant, coming forth with a sentiment that is both vaguely musing and amused. Either there was something there, or Nicole's standards really were just that low.

"You are cared about, and you are important. And, you are deserving of so much in your life. Not the least of which is somebody who isn't going to try to murder you in a fit of— …" Here Yi-Min can only shake her head minutely, letting this purposely trail off. How was she supposed to finish that?

“I know,” Nicole is swift to agree. “I know.” She leans into the reassuring touch, grateful for the affection of a friend right now. Given the purpose of their meeting today, it’s not a stretch to imagine the crushing levels of stress she’s been under the past several months. Especially following the defection of her child’s father, if Zachery’s list of names is to be believed.

“It doesn’t matter what I feel or think anymore anyway, does it?” Nicole offers a shaky smile. “He’s going to prison. Maybe a little out-of-sight and out-of-mind will do me some good.”

Yi-Min can imagine it, alright. Which might be why she is compelled to ruefully laugh, "You have terrible taste in men," as she tucks a strand of hair back behind Nicole's ear.

"You're a capable person. Of course it matters what you think. And, in the end, you will do what is right for you." Curiously, this extremely candid wording doesn't seem to carry a specific judgment one way or another: if admonishment lies in there somewhere, it is left up completely to Nicole's imagination. Perhaps Yi-Min knows better by now.

Perhaps it’s just that she knows Nicole better.

"I should leave you to get some rest. You still have a full day ahead of you, yet. One which will hopefully be somewhat better than this morning."

While Nicole has the energy to carry on, the question of her fortitude holding is still up in the air. So she smiles gratefully, and accepts the exit she’s being offered. “Yes, you’re probably right.” She drove through the night to get here anyway. There weren’t many hours between her arrival to her old homestead and Yi-Min’s on her doorstep.

“You can let the others know I’ve abandoned this place,” she tells her friend after a brief glance around the room and a moment for the smattering of memories made here. “Anything I’ve left behind that can be put to use should be.” Because after all the deception and the subterfuge, Nicole really did come to grow fond of this place called Providence.

Yi-Min’s hands are taken again in a tight grip. “If anything comes up. If you need anything, you call me. I don’t care when. Just… You’re not alone out here.”

"I will," Yi-Min promises, some amount of wistfulness reflecting in her eyes when she does; she immediately understands what that glance around means. When Nicole grips her hands again, she gives them one last, long affectionate squeeze of her own before letting go.

"The same goes to you. You have my number. Please, take care of yourself." Only once this has been properly said does she rise to her feet at last after some pause, only turning to retrieve her mittens from the table she had left.

It all feels so final, somehow. And maybe in some way, it would be, with the uncertainties inherent in their futures. So it is that Yi-Min's final smile remains only a little wistful. "Thank you for the coffee," is probably the least she can say.

Nicole is reluctant to relinquish her hold on Yi-Min’s hands, but only in thought. Physically speaking, she does not linger or try to grasp tighter or impede this separation in any way. It’s easier, she thinks, once the other woman is standing. As she’s retrieving her mittens, Nicole climbs to her feet again and nods just once. “Yeah, of course. Maybe we’ll be able to do it again sometime.”

Maybe. Hopefully.

“Good luck.”

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