yi-min_icon.gif zachery_icon.gif

Scene Title Afterburn
Synopsis Who would have thought that all it would take is getting microwaved alive and then some opium to get these two to get along.
Date January 12, 2020

Miller residence, Providence

The bathroom in Zachery's home is a simple affair. Not much of it had been still standing, let alone functional when he'd initially moved in, and it's by far the least polished part of the house. Dark, saturated wood dominates as a colour scheme even here, the unfinished grain of it lending texture to the walls and ceiling beyond thick beams. Where they emerge, age-accented copper pipes cut sharply across a wall to provide (the sometimes) running water to a sink and old, standalone bathtub that looks like it may have only just stood the test of time.

Which is a good thing, too, since it's currently occupied and very much needed.

An exposed bulb swings gently overhead, casting light down upon discarded clothes and what life finds itself in this room. Zachery lies in the bath, burnt knees up, face just barely above the water. If not for the displaced water when he draws a slow breath, one might assume someone was trying to keep a particularly red cadaver nice and cold - this, because of the two dozen ice packs and two bags of frozen peas that float around in the bath with him.

It's hard to find ice cubes in Providence, okay.

The hollow where his fake eye usually sits twitches as his remaining eye drifts slowly over to the suspended lightsource overhead. As though maybe if he stares at it long enough, the world will go dark, and he won't have to deal with it anymore.

Despite what Zachery might wish, the outside world isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. It's a reminder he receives in the form of the lean, stark rectangle of light that lengthens silently across the face of the tiles, marking Yi-Min's entrance into the room.

Or rather, re-entrance. Some of the ice packs floating in the tub are ones that she had supplied herself, in addition to the plump tube of burn cream and arrangement of neatly-readied dressings sitting together near the rear of the decrepit sink.

These are but small things. Small favors. Their presence there is as unsurprising as the fact of Dr. Yeh's care: ensuring that Dr. Miller remains physically viable enough to perform the tasks she still needs him to perform is, after all, her first concern. As it had been, and as it would continue to be.

Nonetheless, the misadventure with Eve had brought in its wake a slight but appreciable shift in Yi-Min's demeanor towards Zachery. It's less an overt change than it is a simple curtailing of her sharpest edges; she still has had few words to say to him, and she's still been relatively cool to him during the rare periods that she does.

But to an onlooker who didn't know better, there was a quality of something that strangely resembled tenderness in the way that Yi-Min has been undertaking the physical aspects of said care. It recollects, if only in dim and musing fashion, the almost-amiability that the two of them had approached long before any of this nonsense surrounding the virus had ever occurred.

It isn't warmth. At best it's the distant awareness that the possibility of such an emotion between them had once existed at all.


The intrusion of outside light fades as Yi-Min lets the bathroom door click behind her with a subtle nudge of her heel, leaving the two of them alone inside the forlorn, gloomier shaft of light cast by the bulb.

"Morphine," she notes quietly and matter-of-factly, referring to one of the small objects she had returned carrying with her. It still wouldn't do anything for the foot, of course. But the burns were another matter.

The ice packs in the water gently shift, limbs stirring underneath, body bending at the waist. Zachery's face sinks into the freezing cold before he lifts it again, to turn his eye on the other person present.

"I know what it is, now." Not the morphine, presumably, though he does glance down at it from where he lies. His words sound like the first ones he's uttered in a month, straining to make their way past pain and the exhaustion and possible shock this kind of bodily harm brings with it. But at least he's calm.

Treading across the floor with a soft, near-noiseless pad-padding of slippered feet, Yi-Min moves to set the clear little bottle down on the rim of the sink, consciously leaving it separate from the collection of other paraphernalia— it's meant to be within Zachery's reach, or at least as much as the position of the sink will allow. She senses the single eye that he turns on her as she draws close, but doesn't feel the need to meet it directly. Not yet, at any rate.

However, she does take note of the change in his voice towards calmness, and it's something she keeps her attention on with a middling level of interest. "You know what what is?"

More water moves with a rustle of wet plastic - Zachery rights himself ever so slightly more. Slowly, and with his eyelids pressing shut - a little crookedly in the case of his left socket - he manages to roll onto his side and lays a forearm along the tub's rim. Water drips over the edge and onto the floor.

He does not look comfortable, to say the least, and a shuddering wince runs through him almost the moment he resettles into the most upright position he can manage. And with the decidedly less than symmetrical features… well. Drowned rats have looked better. "I know what it is that bothers me about you." The longer sentence allows for more of the makeshift ice bath's effects to tinge his words. The effort it takes to keep from shivering while he speaks is clear. "You act like an employer."

Now Yi-Min lets her gaze slip fluidly upwards to settle onto Zachery's, if just for a few moments. When she does, it's still remote, but with an imprint of curiosity rather than harshness. There is little in her current manner that suggests anything particularly employer-like: in fact, somewhere beneath her usual reserve, there's an intimation of amusement.

It's a much softer version of her usual, as though directed, with the faintest trace of tired perception, towards the situation they've both found themselves in. Less amusement than something simpler, and more naturally shared.

"Do I?" she inquires, absorbing the whole of his drowned-rat appearance without needing to flicker more than a glance at most of it. "If that's meant to be so, then I don't think I've been a very good one."

Maybe it's that difference, the forced shift in capabilities and needs and all that it's entailed that brought this realisation on in the first place.

Zachery lets his head come back down to rest gingerly against his propped up shoulder, leaving him to stare over his arm at Yi-Min as she speaks. His expression is one mostly of exhausted focus, failing with a twitch of an eyebrow every now and then. He swallows hard before responding quietly, "That's because you're - not an employer. I've just been…"

He goes quiet, looking past her for a moment as he breathes somewhat more sharply out through his nose. When he's able to unclench his jaw again, he says, "Cherry-picking. I think."

"I think we both have." It's an admission that comes from Yi-Min with her usual swiftness, only the lowness of volume with which she says it saving it from sounding far too perfunctory. She pauses in the midst of dealing with the slightly lessened pile of items still occupying both her arms — a bundled-up sweatshirt, stacked on the tidy folds of what appears to be a fleece blanket. These she places down gently, together, on the far side of the sink.

Items meant for Zachery once he had finished his bath.

"I've been very focused on certain things. It's the way I have ever dealt with situations like these." Though there is a cool glint in her eye that suggests she is hardly about to apologize for whatever these things are (if Zachery hadn’t figured it out already), she also looks off to one side momentarily, as though in distraction. Or, more to the point, as though in a kind of unwilling acknowledgement of something still unspoken. "This allows me to keep clear sight of my goals, but it also does not leave much room for… other considerations."

"In another world," Zachery starts slowly, a little hazily, "… a less… complicated world, we'd have made good colleagues."

His arm slides back down from the rim of the bath tub and into the water, followed shortly by his shoulders and then - once he's pulled one leg inward and dragged his swollen foot out onto the rim instead - he submerges his whole damn head, eye remaining open while bubbles lift from his nose and the hollow eye socket filling up with icy cold liquid.

He can't stay like this forever. But it's nice right now.

Whatever reply Yi-Min had been expecting from Zachery, it hadn't been that. She arches one of her brows slightly, a movement that transitions into something that is much more vaguely serene in tone when she sees him dip his whole fucking skull into the water, all at once.

It's hard for her to repress the smallest of smiles at this. One that he'll never see.

She waits for him to un-submerge, very thoughtfully shifting certain objects on the countertop into slightly more meticulous order in the meantime. It doesn't appear as though she's invested in this task; time spent there is time spent unhurriedly distilling out the essence of what he had said, as though teasing out the answer to a riddle. There is no rush for her in the act of any of it.

Just for right now that silence, punctuated by bubbles, is enough.

It's a silence that Zachery breaks with a racket, eventually, returning to the world of breathing with absolutely the least amount of grace possible; Before his face even breaches the surface of the water, he splutters out a cough, then half a dozen more, sitting up in the bath with a start and with stilted and pained movements against the surface of the tub.

Ice packs clunk against one another, and cold streams come to gather in puddles on the floor as he clamps a hand down on the bath and pushes himself halfway up. Then, casually and between coughs aimed at the inside of an arm raised out of habit, he reaches for the morphine on the sink, swipes it, and sits back down again.

"Thank you for these." He shakes some pills out onto his palm, and knocks them back into a still raw-sounding throat.

Maybe they can just not talk about it.

Some increasingly fuzzy amount of time later…

It's dark, and it's quiet.

Except it's not, really.

Not dark because the fireplace is lit, flinging erratically dancing shadows across old wingbacks, wooden coffee table and a long leather couch with a plethora of barely visible books as their backdrop.

Not quiet for similar reasons, but the crackle of the fire sounds so much less intrusive than the ever-humming standby equipment down in the basement. This is much better. And not just because of the morphine.

Zachery lies on his side, on the couch, bundled up in sweatshirt, sweatpants and fleece blanket, head shoved into a pillow and hair sticking every which way, his eye barely open. Near motionless, but not asleep just yet. Awake enough for him to stare right into that fire and to grate, flatly, "There has to be a better way than this."

There usually is.

When Yi-Min draws soundlessly up to that couch from behind, all that betrays her arrival is the dullest clink of a glass against the bowed face of the chipped saucer she carries. Whatever slight shadow she casts is lost to the long, strange angles of darkly rippling firelight ahead of both of them.

"Here. Drink this," she exhorts Zachery once she is close enough, though without any force behind the instruction. She sets the tea— for newly brewed tea it is— down on the low wooden table next to the top of his head, where it sits steaming with the hot, delicate wisps of some mixed herbal fragrance.

Honeysuckle, with just a tinge of the brisker coolness of mint.

Only once she has finished with this, straightening back up to her full height, does she seem interested in circling back to what she'd heard him utter a minute or so before. "A better way than what?"

Drinking tea requires grabbing it. Grabbing it requires moving. Zachery seems ill-inclined to do either one, making some throaty noise acknowledging the presence of the drink in lieu of actually doing as he's told just yet.

"A better way than the bird, and the chains," he answers slowly, "They weren't my idea to start with, with Adrienne, but it was… unbecoming," he breathes out the bare minimum of a laugh through his nose, the word leaving him as if it were someone else's echoing around in his head. "To keep them."

Less cheerfully, he adds, looking blearily into that fire still, "I have no interest in running, even if I could. Where would I even go where I wouldn't be found."

Instead of answering straight away, Yi-Min levels a long look at Zachery as he stares into the fireplace, her expression difficult to read. But at the very least, the cast of her features seems subdued, more than harsh.

"I wasn't sure of your motivations," she murmurs curtly, her eyes at once soft and scrutinizing. In truth, she still isn't. Not completely, even now that she is sure that they are probably less damning than what she had once believed.

"Could there be a better way? Perhaps." That isn't a large thing to concede; Yi-Min isn’t a stranger to the adage about catching more flies with honey. "But it is not so simple. A 'better way' would necessitate placing trust in you. That.” A breath. “… is a difficult thing to ask, with the stakes being as high as they are."

With the stakes being as high as they are, any amount of trust is tantamount to taking a risk of the highest order.

"My motivations are the same as ever," Zachery answers, after the noise of the fire devouring wood is the only one to fill the room again. He starts tugging an arm free, which - despite medication - still brings amounts of discomfort and pain great enough to where he has to stop talking as his jaw muscles seize up.

Once he's dragged both him and the blanket slightly more upright, a bundle of warm fabric and angry red skin with just enough person inside to lean on an arm rest, he reaches slowly for the tea.

"They are to survive," he continues, dryly. A touch hesitant. "They were when I was little. They were when I worked too much, or drank too much. They were when I made the wrong decisions because I thought others left me no choice in the matter, and in prison, and back out, and here, again. A lack of cooperation here would compromise my chances of making it through this."

Finally, his gaze drifts back up to Yi-Min, meeting hers with exhaustion. "I think you've mistaken difficult for complicated. I'm only one of the two."

Without interfering, Yi-Min stands by and watches Zachery through his arduous process of adjusting himself into a more manageable position. Though she is still brooding in the midst of her previous thoughts, her stillness in relation to him also portrays a seeming lack of aversion to stepping in to help, if it turns out this should become necessary.

It does not.

There is a mild blink of acknowledgement from her when she sees him pick up the teacup at last — a flickering of her eyes downwards into shadow, just for a moment. A relaxation of the smallest shade, even as she absorbs his most recent words.

But her own gaze is still assiduous in feel. Still careful, in the hooded manner of an animal sizing up another. "Well, you certainly are difficult, it is true." Nothing but wryness in that pronouncement, at least. "But I am not sure I quite believe the other thing. What of your clinic in the Safe Zone? How did this help you survive? Was that place… merely a convenient cover for you? Or was there something else?"

"Will you sit." Zachery 'asks', the chill of the ice bath still in his voice. Or maybe it's just his dislike for her hovering.

The tea is rested down on a blanket as he looks toward it and blinks somewhat sluggishly, one eyelid falling strangely over the lack of something behind it. The buzz of medication and pain combined are mentally shaken off a moment longer. "It wasn't supposed to be a cover, it was supposed to be a job." If there's any motivation other than survival behind its setting up, he sounds unaware of it.

Any defensiveness slips away under the weight of hesitation - the next words leave him reluctantly, slowly, still aimed downward. "Going back to work at the hospital after I was released wasn't working out. Not as an orderly. Not as if nothing had changed."

"No, I don't think I will."

There is no malice in the refusal. There never is, where Yi-Min is concerned. It's a mere declaration of fact— of state of being, and almost beneath the effort of doing so aloud.

Yi-Min isn't hovering now, anyway, so much as she is lounging into the simple comfort of her own form. She stands straight and relaxed before his slightly hunched, seated figure, her arms crossed.

"What exactly was it, that did not work out? The attitude of those you returned to? Or of yourself?"


Zachery's attention strays from the tea and moves slowly to his hand near it. To a pain-induced tremble that exists just long enough for him to notice it before he shoves it down against the blanket to still the motion. "It wasn't about the attitudes. It was about a thing I'd fostered. A life that died in…"

He stops, glancing up at Yi-Min with frustration clear in the twitch that sets his brow lower. He sinks a little further down, elbow drawn inward along with the rest of him. "It just hurt." He admits, with a wry grin that surfaces as his eyelids fall again, and his head lolls against the cushions with a chuckle that bubbles up from somewhere he'll blame the drugs for later. "Everything hurts."

"Tea," Yi-Min insists again inside the tapering aftermath of that last complaint, far from loudly. It’s not unkindly.

It is difficult to know what is right to say here— how to even begin filling this wide-open realm of possibilities. There is a conspicuous heaviness in the lull she allows as she considers these words. In the way that she considers him, in turn.

"There are certain things that one cannot go back to," she observes at last, not shifting at all in her stance. That’s an agreement, subtly weighted in such a way that suggests her own version of a story untold. "All the same, you had many choices in what you would pursue afterwards. In the path that you would take. Your priorities. And… what you chose was your clinic."

"I chose familiarity," Zachery counters as if it's a matter of pride, the humour slipping from him entirely, voice tired and drained. "But I'm aware you've been angling for a different answer. Perhaps you just want to hear me say that I was trying to achieve something selfless. Something good."

He hums an idle note and shifts in discomfort. "When we first met, I'd just spent a few years behind bars, and also recently inadvertently kidnapped a woman who probably quite rightfully decided to take a souvenir when I cut her loose the morning after." He lifts a finger to drag down the lower eyelid on his hollow eye socket, peering dryly at Yi-Min with the only choice of eye he's got left. As if that's made some sort of point, he drops his hand back down to the tea and continues, "Suffice to say — doing good does not come naturally to me. But. The alternatives weren't doing me any favours, were they."

He gives the barest minimum of a shrug, and then says, "I'll drink your tea." He pauses, maintaining eye contact. "If you sit down."

It is ultimately of rather little concern to Yi-Min if Zachery drinks the medicinal tea or not. She is not, after all, his keeper— even if recent circumstances had seen her adopting a somewhat twisted variation of the role. Thus, the slight furrow that creases her brow a moment later is one that carries a notion of amusement.

Nevertheless, she indulges the request and takes the seat across from him without further ado, settling herself into place like a quietly unconcerned, well-bred cat. Her legs cross.

Her next question is equally to the point, and the tone of it is noticeably more cutting than the one she had been using. "How," she says with a dry sort of incredulousness, "does one inadvertently kidnap a woman?"

Zachery watches Yi-Min all the way until she's properly seated, and only then lifts his tea for probably too big of a gulp from it. His attention is pointed elsewhere - somewhere between wall and ceiling toward the other end of the couch, as he slides further down into the mess of blanket and sweatshirt with a quiet hiss of pain.

Still, it ends in— a chuckle? Something like it, even if his face does not seem to participate in any possible mirth. "There's something wrong — …" He starts, then stops, a nervous tic of a grin quickly swallowed down.

"She was… in the street, passed out. Drugs, alcohol. Liable to choke on her own vomit. I thought I'd…" He partially hides an uneasy frown behind another too-big drink of tea, then finishes with, "Anyway, next thing I know I'd taken her phone and gun and taped her to a chair in case she woke up and felt like starting a fight." As you do. He lifts a hand in a vague gesture at the ceiling, and drably declares, "Et fucking voila. A kidnapping."

For the first time in this series of interactions between them, Yi-Min's lower back stiffens into a bastion of calm, reserved tension, though her overall posture does not stir. The vestiges of her previous wry energy subside inwards, replaced by a long look at him that is both unmoving and unmoved.

"You thought you would what?"

"Help," Zachery finishes, casually, but with a downward note of annoyance. As if the answer should have been obvious but also makes him sound like a fool saying it aloud, staring at a fixed point somewhere upward. "The hospital was — a few blocks away. Instead, I took her home. I thought she'd be… safer?"

Frustration lays so heavily on his explanation that it seems to drag him further down into the couch still. It might also be the morphine. Or the pain. Or, simply, life. "Like I was saying," he hurriedly adds, dismissively and unwilling to linger on his own discomfort. His expression goes blank, control given up for a small moment of unfiltered sincerity. "There's something wrong with me."

With that, he downs the rest of his tea with no grace whatsoever.

Help. To Yi-Min's ears, the way the word is said causes it to linger on at the forefront of her thoughts long after Zachery tosses it away with such evident displeasure.

Paradoxical though it may be, the sheer frustration enveloping Zachery's struggle to phrase his ordeal translates into a much more positive final connotation for Yi-Min than would otherwise have been the case, and this conclusion can be seen even through the unreadability of her expression.

Another day, another casual microcosm of their whole-ass topsy-turvy relationship.

"Just the one thing?" she asks entirely nonchalantly, through a light but audible exhale.

“And… why did you think she would be safer at your house, than at the hospital?”

Leaning an arm back to set the empty teacup away, Zachery fails to respond to the first question past a twitch of his brow. It's a fair enough point that he won't argue, apparently.

"Hospitals are no place for someone to wake after a wild night out, especially when you're on who knows what," he sighs out, eyelids falling again as his head hits the armrest. "They ask questions — I know I have, in the past. I've had to. I didn't know if… if she had a permit for the gun, she… she was fine. For the most part. I could tell."

The way that he can. In the midst of gradually slower addled ramblings, he reaches blindly for a handful of blanket and pulls it up over a shoulder only for it to be kicked right back down again when he kicks a leg straight. "Well enough to where she didn't need the hassle. I thought."

"Mm. I see. How considerate of you, to account for all these possible difficulties on a stranger’s behalf." That sounds genuine enough from Yi-Min, and perhaps it is, though the syllables leave her mouth with a slowness that speaks of a shadow of incredulity. But it’s soon followed up by,

"So then the logical conclusion you came to was to… tape this woman to a chair, as though you were indeed planning on doing something truly awful to her?" The evolution of Yi-Min's expression is elusive, but it is visible, finely shaded between intervals of firelight. The thinnest curl of her lips. A flat, flickering light behind her eyes signifying that she is likely trying her damndest right now to come to an understanding.


Both of Zachery's arms lift as if he would very much like to drape them over his face — before remembering the burns situation and moving them right back down again across his stomach with a nosewrinkle in annoyance. "If I could explain it to you, I promise, I would. Fact is that I made… just about… seventeen bad decisions in a row, and now I don't have depth perception. An eye for…"

Maybe he's dozed off.

Except just when it looks like his breathing calms enough for it, he adds, "Something I'd rather forget."

That’s something that Yi-Min seems to be willing to accept, as indicated by the way she lapses into a slightly more withdrawn silence. In reality this is brief, but all the same, the seconds seem to stretch out while it lasts. "So: just an impressively poor decision, with deceptively poor intent, made without thinking the consequences all the way through?"

If this— non-explanation is credible, as it would actually appear to be based solely on what Yi-Min knows of Zachery's past patterns of behavior, then it also comes with a narrow and peculiar form of trust for him that Yi-Min may be willing to afford.

Perhaps. Things were still strange, and uncertain.

"An eye for an… effort." Is about the kindest possible way that she can rephrase it for him.

"An eye for a fuckup," Zachery amends with minimal energy, giving no fucks about kindness.

Or about clarifying whether he meant the person to the action.

He breathes out something equal parts exasperation, pain, and bitter amusement, then stiffly rolls onto his side, hunched back toward Yi-Min. "When Adrienne is back in, wake me?"

Such a gesture of shutting everything out is one that Yi-Min had been suspecting would arrive, sooner or later.

So, it's a concession that she grants.

"You'll know," Yi-Min promises, already noiselessly rising from the seat to begin making her way out. Her fingers curl around Zachery's empty teacup and lift it away with her, as though neither she nor it had ever been there.

"… Get some rest."

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