Always Okay


finch_icon.gif yi-min_icon.gif

Scene Title Always Okay
Synopsis Two strangers find unexpected comfort in each other weeks after sharing a prophetic nightmare.
Date January 16, 2020

Ammi Evangelical Baptist Church

Sitting astride Flatbush Avenue, the former main street of Brooklyn that bisected the borough from northwest to southeast, Ammi Evangelical Baptist Church has become even more of an active beacon of the local community in post-war days. Founded in 1982 as a haven for Haitian immigrants fleeing political unrest, it grew in size as a ministry, welcoming into its fold members from the local Caribbean-American community and beyond.

The building facade is modest but distinct: two red doors sitting side-by-side in a white plaster facade, marked by inlays of three decorative crosses. Though much of the neighboring buildings have been defaced by graffiti and age, the church itself has received a recent coat of fresh paint, complete with a flamboyantly handwritten sign bearing its name to replace the one destroyed by the war. To those who do not come for worship or spiritual comfort, it is mostly known for its soup kitchen service, offered daily in the church's basement.

Ammi means "my people" in Hebrew. Today, the connotation of my people has come to encompass not just the locals for whom it was originally founded, but all who would shelter within its doors— Evo and non-Evo alike.

With the chill of winter still sweeping up and down the streets outside, the basement of the small church on Flatbush Avenue has been busier than normal. The space beyond the easily found stairwell isn't heated, per se, but the gas-lit stoves in the back of the room combined with the sheer amount of bodies seated on the benches lining sturdy wooden tables make for a toasty enough atmosphere that Finch has started shrugging off her big, bright yellow puffer jacket the moment she starts bouncing down the steps on her way in for her afternoon shift.

Distracted by the scent of pea soup and pork sausage that hangs thick in the air, she almost doesn't notice the frail, old man sitting on the floor near the bottom of the stairs, and she only just manages to step up and over his legs with a squeak of surprise. "Ohh my gosh!" She calls out, offering both hands out to help the man up. He relents, with familiarity softening his groan of dismay. "Mister Adessi!" Finch scolds him as he rises, in the most cheerful way a scolding might happen. "You know you're not supposed to sit in the paths! Did you eat today?"

She gets no answer back, watching him leave with her eyes still wide. Once she can be sure he's headed in the direction of food, she smiles to herself and lifts an arm all the way up to wave at the other volunteers manning the big pots and warm plates at the other end of the basement.

She's early. Early enough to be looking around, and to find that there's still too many people on the other end of the room to maneuver around for her usual tasks. So, sliding quietly onto one of the empty benches near the stairwell, she bunches her jacket up on the table in front of her, and thwumps her shoulders and head into it like it's a pillow. Maybe a nap, while she waits.

In such a sea of bodies and faces, both of Yi-Min’s go effortlessly unnoticed— a small shape made even smaller by the way she bows into the embrace of her thick cashmere scarf against the cold. Oblivious to the interaction that had just occurred between old Mister Adessi and a certain volunteer several few feet below where she is now standing, she lets the door to the basement clonk shut behind her: both her arms are occupied with a single, heavy-looking paper grocery bag.

This is when she catches sight of the flumped-over figure at the stairwell table.

Only after looking around uncertainly to check that nobody else is paying attention, she approaches the stairwell gingerly, setting her bag down someplace vaguely out of the way and stooping in a somewhat half-hearted bid to check for some sign of life. "Are you alright?" she begins gently, reaching to tap Finch very, very lightly on one shoulder.

It never paid to be too certain with this crowd.

"I'm ffffiiine," Finch responds into the fabric of her jacket. Oblivious, in turn, about the risks that she might be taking. They are in a church, after all, or at least below one, how could anything bad happen here?

One of her hands lifts in a sleepy thumbs up in Yi-Min's direction, before she pulls her back straight with a yawn. A yawn that, halfway through, turns into a gasp as her eyes find her visitor's face.

"The lady!" She yelps, slamming both hands down onto her table - so caught up in the moment she fails to notice the turning of heads from a handful of people in the room. "You're the lady!"

The girl.

Yi-Min's eyes meet Finch's at precisely the same instant, and the surprise of seeing such an unexpected face stalls the immediacy of her reaction in turn. "You—” she breathes, consciously ignoring the pairs of eyes turning towards them. As an exclamation, it's much quieter than Finch's panicked yelping, but the stress she places on that single syllable is comparable.

The intensity of her gaze only grows after that, soft and dark and keen as flint as she verifies Finch's identity again. She probably couldn't tear her gaze away if she tried.

Not that she's trying very hard.

"I wanted to find you!" Finch exclaims, scrambling to turn and swing her legs over the bench so she can stand. "You and… you and…" Once she's up, shoulders pushed down and face still stuck on wide-eyed shock, she motions wildly to the side as though she might find Isis standing next to her again, to demonstrate who the rest of her sentence might be about.

But Isis isn't there to be gestured at, and Finch's expression turns to one of panic as memories flood back all at once. She catches sight of turned heads, and lowers her voice a smidge once she turns to look at Yi-Min again, words leaving her like they're tumbling down a hill.

"I got on the stage and I thought maybe we could talk to people and make sense of it all but then there was just a bird and I didn't get it and people were on the ground and fighting and everyone was just kind of leaving and I thought maybe I was the weird one, right? Like, when everyone just accepts something, and you don't get it, maybe you should move on. And forget." Her voice cracks, hands balled into fists at her sides. "But I didn't."

It isn't that Yi-Min is unwilling to have this conversation. Far from it. But the feeling of all the occasional gazes still drifting onto them from different directions seems to make up Yi-Min's mind to take the location of it elsewhere, even if they are mostly curious rather than accusatory.

"Come, if you would," she voices at Finch in the form of a mild suggestion as she hoists her almost-overfull bag of groceries up from the floor, physical shorthand for 'let us travel and talk.'

Ideally, said travel will involve somewhere where she can drop off these donations. They're kind of heavy.

"Oh." Finch's gaze drops to the groceries, and after a seconds of staring, shifts gears instantly back to excitement, perking back up.

"Ohhh my gosh, yes! Is that for here?" She gasps, then clearly assumes yes and swipes her bright yellow jacket off of the table with one hand and thrusts it high into the air to get the attention of the volunteers on the other side of the room. "IS IT OKAY IF WE JUST — FOOD OKAY HERE?" She yells, pointing at the table she was just seated at.

An older man who is clearly more reasonable than to yell across a crowded room sticks up both thumbs, smirking quietly to himself, and Finch beams at him before turning to Yi-Min to say, "Come on!"

Aaand she darts to the stairs again, ready to take this conversation elsewhere.

Well, so much for any kind of subtlety. Yi-Min's amusement doesn't manifest as an audible laugh, but her expression does brighten several shades as though somebody had tipped a small, full vial of sunlight into it.

"After you," she says softly, long after Finch has already taken off like a rocket. Shadowing this is one final glance towards her bagful of donations to be absolutely sure that it's where it's supposed to be— and then a much drier glance at the old man who had given the double thumbs-up, as though to silently ask whether he in fact has to deal with this often.

Then Yi-Min leaves that all behind, squarely turning her back to follow Finch wherever it is the girl intends on taking this conversation.

"I can't believe you're here!" Finch pipes up cheerfully, clasping her hands behind her back when she gets to the top of the stairs and leading Yi-Min backwards through the lobby with enough energy that she looks like she might skip to where they're going. "In a church! Of course it's a church. Church brings people together!"

But where are they going? She stops, then, peering momentarily into an open but empty meeting room, then to a bench, and finally toward the hallway that leads toward the central part of the church. A nave, while filled with places to sit, might not be the best place to have a conversation.

And so, she zips into the meeting room, asking brightly, "What's your name?"

"Can you really be this excited to see me, or are you simply this happy all of the time?" Yi-Min can't help but wonder, drily, when Finch turns around again after leading her up the stairs. She is trailing along at a close and curious distance, but her expression is still framed by mildness; she rather indifferently regards each prospect the girl cycles through in the apparent search for just the right place to talk.

An empty meeting room does feel appropriate in its own way, at least. Yi-Min treads faintly through the doorway a minute after Finch bounces through it, casting one cursory glance at the furniture populating the room before returning it to the much more compelling focus of her conversational partner. Her head bows a little, once it does.

"My name is Yi-Min. It is rather unbelievable to meet you."

The room isn't big, miscellaneous supplies covering some of the floor in stacks, and a large table and matching chairs taking up most of the space. Finch grabs a chair with the fullest intention to sit down, but ends up just standing with her hands across its back, fingertips pressed into cheap plastic.

"I don't-" She seems to doubt herself, eyebrows crumpling toward each other as she eyes Yi-Min, "I don't know, I'm not really… happy really but I'm happy to see you! Gosh I didn't even tell you, my name is Finch! Like the bird, it's a last name, but I like it," she rattles off without pause, her smile faltering just for a moment. "Did you have any more dreams? Like that other one?"

Unlike Finch, Yi-Min shows no immediate desire to pull out a chair and sit. To her, doing so feels like it has the potential to slant the tone of this interaction into something too formal— a planned meeting in some boardroom, perhaps, versus the looser purity of spontaneity.

Besides, she’s comfortable as she is.

"Finch," Yi-Min repeats with a large dollop of additional curiosity, instead leaning back against the wall directly behind her with arms folding. Her head even tilts a not-inconsiderable degree as she unfolds the soundbite in her mind. "I have not heard this used as a name. It is very cute."

The topic of dreams causes a snippet of doubt to form in the fine crease of her brow, though. "No, I have not had any more of these… dreams. Whatever it really was. This, I feel, is a mercy. Have you?"

Just as uncertainty settles over Finch in the pinch of her shoulders cropping up, she's called cute. It undoes some of the tension in her, and she stands a little taller for it.

"No," She answers, from over by her spot with her chair. "And I was kinda like— confused about that, right? Because it seemed like maybe kind of… a point? Made? Like someone was trying to make a point? And I didn't get it. I thought maybe you…"

Had more answers? Back up come her shoulders, her warm smile unrelenting but her eyes just ever so slightly shinier in the light of a nearby window, breath catching in her throat.

"I'm afraid I don't have answers for you." It's a gentle-sounding thing, laid out as though Yi-Min had read Finch's mind. As regretful as it seems, though, there is a little smile of sadness on her face that conveys an inkling of something extra besides.

"I have certain conjectures, and the weak assurance that I am trying everything in my power to make sure it will never come to pass, but there is nothing more certain I can give you than these—" Yi-Min's eyes flick to Finch's, seeing and recognizing that sheen after a second. The light furrow in her brow deepens as a result, softened by sympathetic pain. "Save, perhaps, the reminder that the dream wasn't a certainty either."

Silence re-enters the room as though they'd never entered it.

Maybe that's all the answer Finch needed, because when her breath returns to her, it's in a shuddering exhalation all at once. Her grip on the chair in front of her finally lets up, and she rounds it in two steps before sinking into it. Elbows bent and hands held close, she looks too small to feel this heavy.

Voice steadied but through willpower alone, she asks, just to be sure, "So I'm not gonna die?"

That silence is made all the deeper, at least for Yi-Min personally, by the cold, inflamed heaviness growing in her chest just past her folded arms — almost in perfect parallel with Finch sinking into her chair. The injustice of this young girl being forced into confrontation with such an utterly hateful concept.

"Not you, nor anyone else." As though in a passive projection of her composure, Yi-Min's tone in reply remains as light but strong as spider silk, unswayed by even an iota of doubt. "Not if I have anything to say about it." Goddess of Mercy help them all.

"That's really good," Finch replies with flat affect, before slowly nodding, taking a deep breath and pulling herself up a little straighter. She searches Yi-Min's face when she seems to come up short on appropriate words for what she's feeling, and finds something else instead.

"Are you okay? Can I help? Is this a… bad guy thing?" For all of the sincerity in her eyes, even she doesn't sound quite sure she knows what that means, but then continues to lean into it regardless, conjuring a smile anew. "Because I know lotsa good people, I can ask around if you need anything!"

"…I am completely okay. Thank you for asking," Yi-Min says graciously, a glow of appreciative warmth beginning to return to her eyes when she hears this, even if it’s a tiny thing.

Then, because she is as genuinely curious as she is quietly amused, she can't help but ask several seconds and one soft exhalation later— "If I had said I needed help, who is it that you were planning on asking?"

Finch's fingers curl around the chair's seat, before she slides her palms onto her knees, glad for the smile she's brought out. "All kinds of people," she insists, though still a little placidly in comparison to the energy she had earlier.

But she knows nothing.

It dawns on her again like it has so many times before, a little more heavily each time. She tries to fight through it where she sits, trusting the words she starts to have a finish line before it's even in sight. "I'm sure I could…" The end of her sentence never arrives, the words dead in her mouth.

"I'm sorry," leaves Finch a little more quietly, her smile waning as she bites the inside of her cheek and admits, "I don't really know what's going on."

The look on Yi-Min's face fluctuates again, but subtly, as she realizes too late that this might have been an inadvertently cruel thing to ask. "Oh, you sweet child," she murmurs as she lets her arms uncross and steps back from the wall towards where Finch is slumped in her chair.

"Listen," she cuts in with all the candor she can bring to bear, leaning down to place a hand on top of one of Finch's— hesitantly, at first. She isn't sure if the touch will be welcomed. "Heaven only knows if I know what is going on. All I am doing is groping along in the dark, trying my best to protect those whom I love, while stumbling along like some sort of great, blind fool who most certainly did not sign up to have any apocalyptic nightmares." It is not like anyone did, after all.

Here she breaks off, the shade of a wry smile just becoming visible. "You are not alone."

Very possibly, she means that in more than just the one sense.

Without an ounce of hesitation returned, Finch looks into Yi-Min's eyes as if the fate of the world depends on it, and as if she trusts it to be so.

A staggered exhale precedes a sniffle, and then a nod. "Okay." Then, again and more determined, "Okay. But…"

Her fingers dig into her knees, knuckles pushing slightly up against Yi-Min's palm before she forces them back down again and asks with her words hastened with poorly subdued panic, "It's really not that I want other people to die, I don't want anyone to die, but there were so many people there and - is it because I'm not from here?" Then, the question she's asked herself over and over. "What did I do wrong?"

"Oh," Yi-Min says softly.

Just that, at first.

Just an 'oh'.

The pressure of her hand on Finch's lightens with a small trace of concern, but she doesn't draw it away during the next gentle question she poses. "Tell me, are you SLC-Expressive?"

"No," Finch answers immediately, shaking her head and looking immediately apologetic about it, brows slanting.

It hadn't been hard to piece together the theme of SLC-E saturation, what with the meeting afterwards and words exchanged with Emily, but she doesn't look any less clueless for it. But just as she felt left out then, alone on a stage, uncertainty wraps around her here, too. "I thought maybe… I made a mistake while dreaming? Like walking into the wrong party and getting…"

Murdered? She abandons that thought.

"No, you made no mistake. Nothing like that." When Finch trails off, Yi-Min gives her head a brisk shake as though to disperse any vestiges of the idea entirely.

"Do you remember the hateful voice that we heard, above it all? The one that took the form of a serpent. Of everything that was there, this was the thing that did not belong. Not to our world, and certainly not to any sane dream." There, Yi-Min pauses to take a small breath, her lips pressed together slightly.

"You did nothing wrong, Finch."

The clarity that washes over Finch lets her breathe a little more easily again, and her brow unfurrows. "So I'm not gonna die," she posits with decision steadying her voice, "And… it wasn't even my fault? But it scared so many people."

It shouldn't be allowed to, her tone of voice implies. But she doesn't end up saying that, instead rising with a start to get fully to her feet and to ask, "Would it be okay if I hugged you?"

The reply from Yi-Min is decisive, delayed only momentarily by the flicker of the more open smile that sprouts on her expression.

Lifting her hand from Finch's as soon she starts to rise, Yi-Min takes the initiative to draw the girl into a hug of surprising strength for someone of her limited stature. "You're always okay," she says with a quiet laugh over the top of Finch's shoulder, her voice vibrant with the doubled warmth of affection wrapped up into reassurance.

Again, there's the slight implication that she is talking about more than just the hug, probably. And Yi-Min is more than okay with this.

"I kinda knew," Finch admits of the assumption that brought her to her feet as quickly as it did, her arms already around Yi-Min by the time she says it.

She lives the idea that she's always okay - or will be, in the end. It's proven true so far, after all.

All the same, her shoulders give a sudden shake and her eyes well up with tears within the embrace. Her smile persists, if wavering, and can be heard even as her throat starts to close up when she says,

"But it's nice to hear sometimes."

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