Bargaining For Clarity


everleigh_icon.gif zachery2_icon.gif

Scene Title Bargaining for Clarity
Synopsis Zachery needs something, and he achieves his goal so flawlessly. Everleigh is too patient for this world.
Date June 12, 2021

Dirty Pool Pub

"There she is!"

Zachery Miller, dressed in dark jeans and a wrinkled dress shirt sits leaned back at a wobbly, scuffed up table at the Dirty Pool Pub, looks toward the opening door with two eyebrows raised over a mismatched pair of eyes. It's a quiet afternoon, the only other life being the large man in a leather vest scrubbing something down behind the bar in preparation for busier hours, and the rock droning timidly in through aged speakers.

"I hope you don't mind I've started the party without you," he comments lightly, knocking back one of the six shots of what appears to be vodka standing in front of him. He sets the empty glass down with a clack against hardwood, and thumbs a drop away from the corner of his lips while adding, "I figured it might be fitting since the theme of today is supposed to be— "

His fingers finding the rim of a second glass, he closes his entirely white eye and lifts and holds the shot up in front of the other, as if to look through it and to the just arriving Everleigh. "Clarity."

He offers it out to her with a grin, and a distinct non-question. "You're joining me."

"I wouldn't call this a party, Zachery," Everleigh moves to sit down at the table, the slightest hint of a smile on her lips. As she comfortably reaches her seat, she gives him a look. "Given the unorthodox nature of this and alcohol involved, this is just talking and not actual therapy, given that I can't give you medical advice under the influence of anything. That disclaimer being said…"

Everleigh grabs the shot and downs it in one go. To her credit, she doesn't cough, but she does wince at the burn a bit. "Couldn't you have chosen something better than vodka? Rum at least has some flavor to it."

With the end of a decidedly pleased chuckle still on the start of his words, Zachery replies, "But it wouldn't have worked as well for the joke. The clarity joke? Actually—" He interrupts himself and any possible answer to his question, turning to hook an elbow behind his chair and to peer at the barman. "I didn't actually ask for vodka, I just wanted something completely clear. He could have just given me paint thinner."

There is no answer from the man behind the bar, who continues to busy himself with whatever's downward. "Bruce!" Zachery tries again, grin flaring wider as he halfheartedly waves a hand at the complete lack of reaction. "Would you give me paint thinner? You wouldn't, would you?"

There is no response from the man behind the bar. And so, the grin is aimed back at Everleigh. "He wouldn't. Probably. I pay rent."

The joke about paint thinner actually gets Everleigh to crack a smile. “He could have given you water, though I have a feeling I shouldn’t be surprised that you jumped to paint thinner before an innocuous clear liquid. Were I not concerned about being a professional, I would have cracked a joke about water being the boring option.”

She rolls the shot glass between her fingertips, looking at it before speaking again. “What is it about the idea of therapy that makes you so resistant?”

"Before we go into all of that," Zachery replies, some of the mirth disappearing from the top half of his face even though the grin persists, "I'd like to address the fact that you just said we're only talking, before you went ahead and say you're staying professional."

He dips his head, voice lowering and one-eyed gaze sharpening like he's just planted a chess piece down for inarguable victory. "So how about we meet in the middle and when the boss comes asking we call this… an intake?"

Without waiting for a reply, he raises a hand to snap his fingers a few messy times - signalling something to the bartender, who audibly groans in distaste and but starts filling up a glass at the rusted beer taps behind the bar. Zachery looks all the more pleased for it, asking, "What'll it be?"

“I’m partial to Gin and Tonic,” Everleigh replies, loud enough she hopes, for the annoyed bartender to hear before she levels her gaze on Zachery. “I tend to be a professional even when I’m trying to have fun. It’s very boring. But I will say that I will try and hold a normal conversation with you that may or may not be productive and useful for your own mental health.”

She inclines her head in his direction. “So talking.”

"I was very fun at parties when I was still pretending professionalism would get me somewhere," Zachery inclines his head right back, "Wallflowers would wilt with boredom when they saw me coming. A right fucking show. But alright. Talking."

He pushes abruptly away from the table, taking a few meandering steps toward the bar while turning to keep Everleigh in his monocular sight. "As for my mental health, I'm doing wonderfully, actually, aren't I, Bruce? Better than ever."

He lands an elbow on the bar, sticking his hand out across it without looking away Everleigh. The bartender delivers, both a drink and a gruffly delivered piece of his mind as he gets to work on the other drink: "Shut the fuck up."

"I don't tend to get invited to a lot of non-professional parties in the first place, so I think professionalism is my default setting. You're getting the rare unfiltered talking that involves alcohol," Everleigh's eyebrow raises as she observes the reaction between the ever-so-happy bartender and his ever-so-happy patron. She puts an elbow on the bar, but this is to hold up her head as she leans on it, giving Zachery a bit of a stare. It's a gaze cocktail of curiosity and amusement at the audacity of this bitch. The bitch being Zachery. Zachery is the bitch.

"You don't have to cut to mental health as a topic. Just talk about your life. What's bothering you in it, what's exciting you in it, who you've pissed off lately… all of the above. This isn't a 'hey, my mental health sucks, how do I fix it' kind of talking. So… why don't we start with what's something that makes you need enough drinks that Bruce only tolerates you for the tips?"

"And rent," Zachery adds, waiting for Bruce to upend two bottles over a glass and land it in front of Everleigh. Just straight gin and tonic, nothing else, welcome to the Pool.

"Right. Bothered, excited, pissed off. And I should be sincere, yes?" He takes his own drink - a tall glass of Guinness with almost no head - off to the table he was at before, casting a glance at Everleigh like he might halfway be expecting an answer. And keeping on going, despite. "Alright, so let's start with the first one." He sits, smiling pleasantly. "I'm a little bothered - just a wee smidgeon," obligatory pinch of fingers, "that I finally managed to plan a decent life that I may just be able to like, only to have it taken from me, and to realise I'm a synthetic pile of mystery meat who may expire at any moment. Good?"

It's probably a good thing these are the quiet hours.

The messy gin and tonic doesn't seem to bother Everleigh. She accepts it with a nod in Bruce's direction before turning back to her drinking companion. "Alright, we're all technically meatbags waiting to die, so you're going to have to be a little more specific about what we're talking about here," she prompts, lifting the drink to her lips.

Zachery blinks, thinks for a moment, then lifts his own glass to say over the top of it, "Fair. You're right. You're very right. One moment please."

Glass now at his lips, he tips it and promptly pours nearly half of it down his throat. Only then does he say, a little out of breath, "Zachery middle-name-absolutely-redacted Miller was kidnapped from his home one night, along with his pregnant wife, and I was supposed to go in his place except they fucked up the body delivery a little and we found out. I'm neither Evolved nor human, and what I'm probably actually bothered by is that I keep being forced to start my life over every few years."

He gasps the most insincere gasp (in)humanly possible, feigning surprise into his glass. "A breakthrough already," he adds, flat as paper. "We're doing so well."

“Okay, somewhat following,” Everleigh says slowly, “… how synthetic are we talking about here, though? Cloning, stem cells, alien consciousness transfer, cyborg? I’ve seen a lot of sci-fi, some of it definitely less fiction than believed.” She pauses. “You don’t have to go into detail, because that’s not as important as your ‘breakthrough’.”

She swirls the alcohol in her glass. “What is it about starting over that bothers you in particular? I’d say let’s unpack this in a sarcastic and stereotypical way, but I think we’re both aware you’re the one delivering the quips here.”

Already in the middle of another glug of his drink, Zachery nearly chokes mid-answer to the first question, slamming his glass down onto the table a little harder than he possibly means to. "Do I look like I have a handle on things?" He grates, before clearing his throat with a laugh and an exaggerated shrug. "I don't know. I'm just the DNA of me, but not me. It quacks like a clone, so let's go with that."

Kicking a leg out toward another chair adjacent to his, he drags it closer with the toe of his shoe and a scrape of wood over rough flooring. "Come on, now, Everleigh," he scoffs like her name in itself is a slur, except some of the effect may be lessened away by the fact that he's beginning to try and compensate for slurred speech. "No one likes starting over. And I've got… a decade of lying and petty war crimes and prison and marriage in the rearview mirror."

Both his feet are planted on the other chair, legs stretched out. Much better

“Actually, Zachery, given a second chance, many people would start over. The lack of choice is what’s the real factor here.”

Everleigh doesn’t sound at all annoyed by his butchered pronunciation of her name, more than happy to return the favor and she takes a long sip from her own glass. “So make it on your own terms. If you aren’t Zackery Miller, who do you want to be? Do you even want those years of life if you’re a clone of some sort? I’m not acting as a professional here, but I should make it known that out of all of the things I have helped people through, being a clone is certainly new.”

She pauses. “So we’re both learning.”

"You're taking it well, too." Zachery shoves a hand through his hairline, leaving fingers claw-gripped in between strands - much in contrast to an otherwise more relaxed posture. Without taking his eye off of Everleigh, he cants his head to indicate the bartender when continuing to speak. "Bruce there won't even believe me, will you, Brucie?"

Bruce continues to busy himself without acknowledging the presence of sentience.

Zachery, to his credit, does not appear to expect an answer. He pulls his hand from his hair to point it at Everleigh and to beam smugly in her direction. "But you, you're asking the right questions. You've actually got me — it's a lack of choice. And I'm…" he pauses, expression frozen before he lands on a drunkenly confident answer of: "I'm going to be better."

"I can tell you honestly I've heard about some very interesting and strange experiences. I've helped people through trauma. I've had a couple of run ins with… abnormal things, but it's never been anything remotely like some of the people I've helped," Everleigh glances to Bruce before looking back to Zachery.

"I'm asking good questions because it's my job. If I didn't have anything useful to say, I'd be a shit doctor. Of course, I'm not acting as a doctor in this capacity," she notes, taking a long sip from her G&T, "and you are going to be better. The trick, I've found, is trying to turn the tables back against fate and consequences and society and reclaim the choice for yourself. You may not have a choice about your DNA or your body or things that have happened to you, nor your past, but no one is stopping you from doing what you want in the future. If you're not Zachery Miller and you don't like him, you don't have to be him."

All at once, the grin is wiped off of Zachery's face. Confusion takes over all at once, and he stays quiet when Everleigh comes to her point.

He stares at Everleigh, glass still in his hand, and when he finds his words again, they're sharper. Somewhere between brow-knitting anger and disgust. "… I never said I don't like him."

And then, he laughs— a hollow wheeze, like the emotion behind the action has not quite caught up with him. The short-lived anger slips away like nothing, and his stare at Everleigh lightens, his next words leaving him in a laugh that's much more openly relieved. "But I don't, do I? Shit. Not even a little!" Excitement has him lean eagerly forward, planting both elbows heavily on the table as his feet land back on the ground. "Do you like you?"

If this were therapy, Everleigh would redirect the question aimed at her to something else. She would have turned it around and reminded her patient that it was about him. As the both of them had fervently pointed out, this was just talking. Leaning forward, she lifts up her glass in a cheers motion and actually talks about herself for a moment.

"Not really."

She takes a long sip of alcohol and sets it back down on the table. "I shove my problems aside as if somehow I'm ever going to deal with them and then I don't. I don't get out of the house much because I'm a workaholic. When I actually am out of the house, you guessed it, I'm doing work. I like the creative side of me but no one ever even sees that because I don't leave time for anyone to see me beyond my professional side. I live vicariously through the lives of people much more interesting than I am."

Everleigh gestures towards him. "If I had the chance to start over and there was still another one of me, doing my work? Fuck. I'd actually live for once."

"Right," answers Zachery.

"So say you had a month off. No one calls, no visits, no family and no friends unless you drag them into your orbit willingly." He lassos an invisible person just over Everleigh's shoulder and drags them closer, as you do. "What do you do? Where do you go? What's your creative thing? Tell me it's not… weaving baskets for lost kittens, or something."

Disapproval is thick on his voice already, even at the hypothetical. He squints at her, just in case he nailed the guess in one.

It's a good thing Everleigh isn't looking for Zachery's approval. Or much from him at all, really.

"Sewing, clothing design. I used to do a lot of costuming for live theatre and that kind of stuff, though I've made costumes for, uh, conventions and stuff," she says, although there's a tiny sheepish grin at the end of her explanation. Guilty of being a nerd, but still proud of it. She drums her fingers lightly on her glass. As she pulls together her thoughts. "Maybe I'd travel a bit, I'm not entirely sure. I'd just meet people and maybe actually open up for once. Novel idea, that."

She eyes him. "But I'm not free to just do that. There are people who need me, my help, what I can give. Plus I don't know how to really open up. You're probably getting the most of me talking about myself that's happened with anyone in… at least a year, I'd say." She scans him over, the appraising look less of a clinical one and more of a curious one. "You've got that exact scenario in front of you. So what are you gonna do with it?"

The moment Zachery hears the answer to his question, he leans back and throws his arms up like costume design may as well be rocket science. Though, arguably, that might be easier to understand. But the amusement from before still carries though despite, taking the edge off of the pure judgement emanating from his gesturing.

When he's asked a question in turn, he looks Everleigh in the eye and answers immediately, "First, I'm going to talk to a shut-in of a therapist, apparently. Aaaannd, and this is important, get her to warm up to me so she can put a good word in about how cooperative I was. Like… what's the… what is it. Putty? In your hands?"

He raises his glass for another drink, mumbling, "What the fuck? Who wants putty in their hands? That's a mess."

“Putty’s easy to mold. The point is that you can shape it into whatever you want.”

By now, Everleigh needs another drink too. She downs the rest of her gin and tonic and gives a polite smile and raises her glass to the bartender to signal for another. At least she can be polite instead of Zachery, who seems to be a sloppy drunk. “Well, you were able to talk to me, yes, but I can’t just put a good word in for you. After all, we’re talking. I can give them a personal opinion of you, but a clinical one has to come from a clinical setting. Which means no drinks.”

Dr. Madison looks at Zachery squarely. “I opened up to you because we’re talking. This is the part where you don’t call me a shut-in or offend me, because that’s an awful way to get someone to warm up to you. Especially after they haven’t said half of this personal shit to anyone in a long time. It’s called consideration.” She leans one arm against the bar.

“Right now, you’re just a person masquerading as Zachery Miller. You aren’t going to get anywhere until you accept that in the chance that Zachery Miller comes back to be himself again. So what does that leave you with… other than being drunk because you’re too afraid to open up to a therapist in a clinical setting?”

Sloppy drunk shmoppy drunk. Zachery rolls his eye(s) and clicks his tongue at the words flung his way, opening his mouth and shutting it again like maybe whatever was going to come out was another insult and he's capable of learning. Maybe.

"Alright. Alright. You're right. I've worked with worse shut-ins." He cants his head, levelling a half lidded gaze right back at Everleigh from where he sits, a grin still lingering. "That's where I need Raytech. And that's where you come in. Not only will I have my cake and eat it too, I will order it with… precise specifications. Because that horrible fucking thing masquerading as fate you mentioned? Is in my favour. On my side? One of those."

He continues rattling on, absently running a finger over at a bit of condensation on the side of his glass. "I'm going to figure out what happened, have some fun while I'm at it, and get me and my wife back where we belonged. If I die in the process— gone's the spare!" He shrugs, nearly knocking over what's left of his ale. "Waste not."

“Again with the offensive terminology. Next you’ll be calling me a spinster or an old maid or something.” Everleigh rolls her eyes, but the tone in her voice hints that perhaps it doesn’t bother her that much, it’s merely the principle of the thing.

“As for your plan? I’ll bite. Being able to find what happened in the first place is a healthy choice. Returning people to their lives? Also a healthy choice. So is the problem that you can’t approach Raytech without someone vouching for you in some way?”

"The problem is," Zachery is eager to enlighten as Bruce wordlessly pushes a fresh drink in hopefully a clean glass in Everleigh's direction, "that I've already leveraged my way back into work, also a healthy choice, ta very much, except now I've got mandated professional help in the shape of…"

The near empty beer glass gets waved Everleigh's direction, "You. And I've got things to do."

He gets to his feet again, a bit too fast, knocking his chair into another on his way to the bar.

Everleigh’s on her own feet quickly, moving towards him with all the speed of a normal person hurrying. “That’s not how this works,” she gives him a serious look when she speaks. “You don’t get a shiny gold star of approval just for making one healthy choice. This isn’t just a task you check off for approval. If you’re asking for a mandated professional, you’re getting something very different than what we’re doing here. You might get a thumbs up for making a few healthy choices, but you only get a personal reference, not a professional one.”

Zachery laughs after finishing his drink off properly, leaning all the way over the bar and dropping his glass with a cloink! noise into the water of a sink just out of sight. Bruce crosses his arms, looking like he may consider murder if Nicole didn't occasionally slip him some extra money to not.

"But you can do it, right?" Zachery asks, looking at Everleigh again. "Maybe not… this, fine, but. You've met me, now, and I'll talk anywhere. I'll talk your ears off. If I have to do it sober, I'll do it sober! You know, I was almost a lawyer. Imagine that." Apparently he doesn't, because despite amusement pulling at the corners of his mouth, he continues prattling on— But you count? Will count? When we're in… y'know, some stodgy office? What's the usual thing— once a… month? Yeah?"

Everleigh gives him a nod. "I have met you. And yes, I do in fact count. Unfortunately, I have done many, many hours of med school in order to count." She chuckles lightly at the last bit, but puts a hand on his shoulder. Mostly to make sure he's steady and not going to fall over. "I'll make a note about the lawyer thing, we can talk about that later." When she's sure he's not going to make any sudden drunk movements, she rests her hand on the bar. "My office isn't stodgy, but yes, when we aren't drinking and are being professional instead of just friendly, it will count if you want a shiny gold star for it." She leans her head to rest on her arm as she studies him. "As for how often, that entirely depends on what you and I decide you need. In sessions, I don't talk about me, we talk about you. I just direct you."

There's a stiffening of Zachery's posture when he notices the hand on his shoulder— even if it is two seconds after it actually happens.

Slow reactions come before slow acceptance. He rights himself, a little, before taking a step back and deciding the bar is solid enough to keep him upright more properly, sliding an arm onto it in a distracted enough way that implies he may or may not have stopped listening after the bit about being a lawyer. Will he admit it, though?

He thinks for a moment, before his grin widens and he looks Everleigh in the eyes again. Left, then right, then left again. "Perfect." That's a no. "And what if I need nothing?"

"Everyone is flawed and I'm not here to fix that. There isn't any 'needing nothing' in anyone's case. If you were hoping I'd just sign off on something saying you've got a clean bill of mental health, that's not what you're going to get. The best you can get is me saying you're attending and cooperating, which goes a long way to show you're working on yourself."

Everleigh's lips curve into a bit of an amused look. "You don't just get out of this, you go and you keep going, that's the whole point."

"As I intend to do!" Zachery notes with drunken pride, a little louder than he needs to, before suddenly frowning. "Wait, shit, you mean… to therapy. I meant jus'… forward, never back."

He makes a drawn out noise of disappointment, scrubbing his face with both hands while muttering through into his palms. "Okay, alright, maybeperhaps this wasn't… the brightest idea've had."

"You're recognizing that you need something. You aren't ignoring the feeling that's something wrong. You think something needs to be said proving you're fine. Why would you want that so badly if you were? Wouldn't you just feel and be fine if you were?" Everleigh offers a more compassionate look than before. "Consider this just a nice visit from a…" She's not going to say friend. "… helpful stranger. I can offer you suggestions and my opinion, but that's not really gonna get you to where you feel fine."

This time, there isn't an immediate response to Everleigh's questions and insinuations. Zachery, having graduated from rubbing his face to having slid both hands down to his neck, stares at Everleigh like he may have lost the ability to communicate all together, his grin gone.

He blinks, then… slowly shakes his head and simply says, "'N here I was thinking I talked a lot." He turns to look at the bar, before seeming to realise the drink he's reaching for isn't there and muttering, "Bruce? One more."

"One more," echoes Bruce, in a threat of baritone.

"I talk when I need to. It's mostly all about you in the therapy. So ramble on however much you like in there. I also have a bunch of mugs prepared and a spot to throw them against the wall if you feel frustrated and need to smash something.It's worked so far." Dr. Madison grins. "I don't talk this much in session. I am asking you to just try and expect that maybe it helps.

"I don't need mugs," Zachery says with much more certainty this time, shaking his head before the light seems to come back on inside his head, and he straightens with a sharp intake of air and an overly attentive look at Everleigh. "Ah! Y'know who does need mugs? But who'd never take 'em? Doctor Zachery Miller."

He beams, head held high like he's said something less inane and more actual genius. "You know why? I want you to go ahead and guess."

Everleigh can't hold back a small snort. "Well, I'm good at guessing and you're certainly more equipped to know the mind of one Doctor Zachery Miller than I am," she replies, then she looks back at him with an appraising look. "I imagine he's probably too afraid of facing the person he is than the one who he thinks he is. Just a guess, but one based off of observation and certainly not enough gin to properly do more than guess."

"Well, shit," Zachery replies in an almost-stunned breath, before swallowing back a laugh and continuing to ask, "Anyone ever tell you you should explore going into psychology or something?"

He waves a hand in front of himself in a dismissive gesture, cutting off any possible answer with his own— "Yes. Yes. Absolutely. Zachery Miller," the name is pronounced, drunkenly, like some foreign ingredient in an unfamiliar recipe, "would find his way out in a house of mirrors thrice over before he'd find himself. And for double points, why is that, then?"

He spreads his arms, quite joyfully awaiting an answer now.

“If I had to wager a guess, again knowing only my small amount of experience with him…” Everleigh muses. “Could be any number of things. I lean towards him hyperfocusing on other tasks with a side of him just not wanting to find that person at all.” She raises an eyebrow, studying him and his drunken questions.

“You, however, are not Zachery Miller, which means you don’t need to find him. What you’ve got is a history you can base thoughts, emotions, feelings off of, but you’re making yourself as you go. Right now, this not-Zachery-Miller is someone who finds it easier to talk about deep things when drunk. Look, you’ve found yourself. Super easy!”

"Not s'bad when the pool of possibilities is shallow as a puddle of fucking piss, is it?" Zachery agrees— in his own way. Gladly, too, raising his new (and possibly last) drink to Everleigh. "But! Zachery Miller talks about himself when he's drunk just fine. The reason he doesn't wanna find himself, is because much like me, actually, he's a victim. Who wants to be that?" Said with sudden and lip-curling disgust.

He opens his mouth to say more, but finds himself lifting his glass to his mouth instead, cutting the ramble off for a deep drink.

“No one likes going through tough shit,” Everleigh agrees. “You don’t choose to be a victim, and if you did that’d be a giant red flag for someone to get some therapy.” She shifts her weight in her seat, trying to make herself more comfortable. “People are more than just victims, though. That’s also why people seek therapy. They want to move past the shit that made them a victim. It sucks to face the trauma, but you heal and move forward.”

Zachery scoffs, gaze drifting up toward the ceiling with derision clear on his face. "Forward, not back," he mutters, as if recited from something. "Therein—" He pauses, mouth still open as if he's trying to figure out if the word he just said is actually a word. Therein? What the fuck. With a quick shake of his alcohol-addled head, he looks back at Everleigh again. "Lies the problem. Therein lies the problem?"

He tries the word again, slow and deliberate, then decides while looking off to nowhere in particular, "Therein. Sure. What a word." Up goes his drink again.

“Surprisingly, there are actual people with medical degrees who specialize in helping people with trauma move forward. If you don’t want to be a victim, then don’t let yourself be. You don’t have to figure out all the bullshit on your own.” Everleigh grin is slightly amused, but the suggestion seems like a serious one as she all but makes the offer to listen.

Zachery makes a face, one of thinning patience and amusement both. He stares at Everleigh like he's simply waiting for her to finish speaking, rather than the face of someone who is actually listening. Or maybe all of his energy is going into trying to sound like he's not fighting slurring with all of his might when he says, "You realise that takes self awareness? This— idiot, he's fully convinced he's had everything under control this whole time. Childhood to the wonderful brightness of now. It's all according to plan. It will aaall turn out, and if he's got unaddressed trauma, it'll make him better for it."

"See! I know a thing or— two or three. I've done the headshrink thing." Technically not him, but he remembers it all the same. Into his drink, he mumbles proudly, "Just not very well."

“Somehow I think there’s a perfect level of alcohol that gives you enough clarity for self-reflection,” Everleigh eyes his drink. “The important part would be to make sure you didn’t have too much and risk forgetting what you’ve learned.” She tips her head in his direction. “Easy to say coming from someone who knows him. I’m sure he’d have a hard time coming to grips with that.”

She folds her hands neatly in front of her, as if unsure of where to put her hands right now. She did drink some as well. “You’re very aware of his problems, but what about your own? Where does he stop and you begin? Do you have to deal with his trauma or can you let it go because it’s not yours?” Complicated questions, even with the clarity of alcohol.

That pride slips from Zachery's face all at once, his nearly drained glass landing back on the bar with a thunk. But. He's not gonna get her this easily. He recomposes himself - or makes an attempt that immediately fails - and forces a grin back on his face.

Silence falls between him and Everleigh for a moment, before he finds the right words again. "It's still there," he admits with less energy now. "Whoever or whatever I am, I was born from trauma when I fell out of the sky in a fuckin' aeroplane." His gaze wanders off to the side, his own hands falling into his lap with a one-shouldered shrug. "Everything since then feels condensed. I don't know how much time I have to process even that, let alone everything from getting the belt onward."

He glances back up at Everleigh, grin ebbing halfway into nothing. "Makes sense, yeah?"

“You realize all this is why therapy exists, right? You have a situation, a traumatic situation and at some point you’re going to have to deal with it. Right now it sounds as if you’re not dealing with it well. You want some kind of solution, but you’re caught up in spinning your own hamster wheels to really have any sort of traction on this,” Everleigh glances at him. “Your situation is unique and we really don’t know everything about it, but do you wanna collapse in a panic attack of self-doubt when you’re in the middle of trying to actually taking action to figure out what’s going on with your Not-Family? Hell no.”

She scrunches up her face in displeasure, then hangs her head in a slightly defeated look. “Off the books, not in my office. Just talking. I can’t give you clinical advice and you can’t take it as any vouching for your sanity because it isn’t therapy. You need to sort through this shit or you’re going to implode.”

Again, Zachery scoffs, breaking eye contact and turning his face away as if it's all he can do to keep from physically leaving, weight shifting.

What's left of the forced grin disappears entirely when the words Not-Family reach his ears. He shakes his head, and downs the last of his last drink. With it barely down, he reaches to plop the glass behind the bar and out of sight, and answers stiffly, "No. Everything considered, 'm okay to do what I need to do with the time that I have. You're— looking at a demo," he gestures at himself, "A what if, a temporary flavour of Coca fucking Cola. This isn't going to last. Invest this time and energy into the real thing when I find it, and his wife, and—"

He pauses, real and fake eye pressing shut, one hand coming up to be roughly scrubbed across his brow. "And… ah-" he tries one more time, energy leeched. "Drank that one… a li'l too quickly."

“I’m sure they’ll need help recovering and I’m sure they’ll get it,” Everleigh frowns, looking Zachery over for a moment. “Doesn’t matter what flavor of cola you are, you deserve to keep going to the best of your ability until the soda goes flat. Do you even have anyone else to talk to about this shit?”

"There's… there's a few people." Zachery hangs his head, as if that will help him recover from the drink any faster. "They all treat me like I'm the idiot I look like. And I can't be. Not now, not after I fix things."

He folds forward onto himself a little, one dry wheeze of a laugh escaping him before he pinches the bridge of still closed eyes and adds, "There's that according to plan instinct."

“You need someone who treats you as you. I don’t care if it’s me, you’re a damn person. You fix his life? Then what? You have to talk to someone. How the fuck do you think you’ll manage to go on pretending to be someone else and hating it?”

Everleigh jabs a finger in his direction. “Zachery Miller might need therapy, but you need a friend. You called me for a reason.”

Zachery's eyes open just in time for the finger to be jabbed in his direction, and he angles his head, both out of curiosity and to center it in his monocular vision. "I called yooouuu because you were on file, and because therapy was mandatory for the job I need to keep warm until I'm off my shift." He corrects, curt annoyance pulling at his words even though the drink.

But without pause, he straightens, takes a deep breath and haggles, "Can we do both?"

“It’s a fine fucking line to be friends with someone you’re treating therapeutically. If you want therapy, we can do that. We can figure out what emotional stability is necessary for you to keep your job and keep that in check. I’m okay with that, because it’s what you need on paper.” Everleigh eyes him, the haggling getting trickier with the intoxication levels.

“You do that, I’ll be your friend and help you deal with the bizarre bullshit that is your life right now and be someone you can talk to. You don’t get to drink during the therapy, though.”

Again, a silence falls between the two. Zachery stares at Everleigh like he might have crashed sitting up, until suddenly— "What about if I come in drunk?"

“If you come in drunk I’ll have to put it in my records. Just deal with the mandatory therapy requirement and you can get drunk and tell me all about how you hate pretending to be someone you’re not. Don’t worry, I believe in you. You can handle not being drunk for a scheduled amount of time,” Everleigh raises an eyebrow. “You’re gonna have to find yourself a new name, eventually. Especially once you’re trying even harder to not be him.”

For all of the state he's currently in, Zachery doesn't look too surprised by being told no. He runs his tongue along his molars in thought, then sighs the most sigh anyone's ever sighed. "Alright, fine. Fine. Wonderful. I'll get you that name," he mutters this last part, pushing away from the bar and taking an unsteady few steps. He catches himself on a chair, and doesn't even entirely knock it over before he steadies himself enough to keep walking toward a black door set into a black wall at the other end of the room

"I swear, people on Raytech's payroll," he continues to complain. "Don't take buttons out of the coffee maker! Don't accuse people of torture in public spaces! Don't watch movies while operating on live organisms! No drunk therapy! All demands, no give."

“Don’t knock it. You might be getting boring sober therapy, but you’re also getting a friend who isn’t weirded out by some of the stranger things out there,” Everleigh points out. “That’s a win because we can drink and swear at each other in the process. Out of the office.”

"Fine!" For-Now-Zachery yells over his shoulder, though a short laugh escapes him against his will. "Sober therapy! Plus a friend! Also I'm paying for your drinks!"

He pulls open the black door - which is a lot thicker and heavier than it looks like from the outside - but pauses once he's on the threshold of what looks to be a small doctor's office beyond. "This time."

The yelling agreement actually gets Everleigh to crack a smile. “Alright,” she yells in response. “I look forward to seeing you in sober therapy with drinks after where you bitch about how much you hate therapy.”

It seems like a good agreement, overall.

"He shoots - and ladies and gentlemen…!" Zachery yells into the office, moving further into it as the door automatically closes behind him. "How the man scoooores! A charismatic masterpiece!"

This door is taking a while. "Did it happen how we expected?!" Muffled shouts continue to make their way out, still. "No! But all the different parts are there!" More muffled still. "SO THIS, LADS, IS WHAT A GOAL LOOKS L—

Click. Complete silence.

Bruce continues to stand statuesque behind the bar with a dryly expectant look leveled at Everleigh, one eyebrow ticked up just so as he gestures a lazy hand to the myriad partially empty bottles in rows on the wall beside him.

Everleigh stares for a moment in the direction Zachery had disappeared in, almost a little bewildered. She turns towards Bruce to ask him something, but whatever she was going to say is lost for all time as she instead stares at the bottles. “I… need something incredibly sweet that is going to make me forget about most of this later,” she requests of the bartender.

She’s fairly certain regardless that no amount of alcohol would make her forget the strangest way she’d ever made a friend.

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