Fancy Meeting You... Again


emily_icon.gif zachery_icon.gif

Scene Title Fancy Meet You… Again?
Synopsis Emily and Zachery meet again, and neither of the two slings insults at each other. They're becoming fast friends.
Date April 21, 2019

Sheepshead Beans

7:15 AM

A lot can be said of Sheepshead, but one would be hard pressed to find praise for its bountiful choice in coffee shops. Still, there are a few, and Sheepshead Beans delivers exactly what its name promises in an otherwise bleakly neglected area. The place has… decent coffee, but what makes it truly stand out is that despite the fact that the owners leaned hard into the industrial look of the area, the seats are surprisingly comfortable. One long, cushioned L-shaped bench lines two of the walls, and old-magazine-strewn tables dot the rest of the space where they don't get in the way of the counter. It being within walking distance from Brooklyn College makes for a clientele that generally skews toward student-age, but the bustle during the busier hours contains all sorts.

Right now, it's almost empty. Monday morning has reared its ugly head and those present seem ill-inclined to socialise, sitting quietly and minding their own business while… some sort of music drones out from what sounds like the cheapest speaker in the world.

A new customer arrives with the metal creak of a door that hasn't been fitted properly, which said customer throw a look over his shoulder immediately as he enters. Zachery Miller, one hand still in the pocket of his black peacoat, gives that door a look. And then - probably figuring out doors don't generally respond to criticism - casually saunters over to the currently empty but not unmanned counter.

"Two of the usual to go, please," he says this with hoarse boredom, leaning one hand on the counter and dragging the other blearily down his face. The girl behind the counter shoots him a glance, gives a polite smile and nod of recognition, and grabs two of the largest cups available.

One of the unsociable number lifts their head to glance at the doorway as it opens, the figure who enters lacking familiarity to her enough that she looks back down without a second thought. Fingers meet keyboard again for a few clattering moments before she pauses thoughtfully, looking up to more surreptitiously execute her doubletake.

Because the more Emily Epstein thinks about it, the more the man does look halfway familiar.

Over the spanse of several seconds her head lifts properly, tilts toward him entirely. Ah, she realizes as she pulls her headphones down to rest around her neck. That's where I remember him from…

Emily leaves her feet kicked up on the chair across her at her own table, crossed at the ankle and dressed in jeans — higher-class than the pajama bottoms she's seen poking out from under some tables, at least. She's draped in a long earthy-green cotton cardigan pulled and pooled around her, all the better to keep her warm in the stiff coldness some mornings bitterly cling to. And the most important part of her getup this early morning is the steaming mug of coffee attached to one hand.

She waits until he's leaning over the counter after ordering to lift her voice. "Hell of a commute you have there," she calls out without fear of disturbing others, because this is a coffee shop, not a library. She'll ignore the side-eye from the person sitting close to her, and damn all the rest.

It's like Zachery doesn't even really hear her. When in fact… he definitely does, but it just washes over him like it must be intended for someone else. Until… a few seconds after, he lifts his head and turns it toward Emily, eyebrows crumpled downward as he gives her a confused look and a muttered, inward, "Mh?"

He doesn't immediately seem to spot her, however, but shifting his weight to turn ever so slightly more toward her, still, does the trick. There are a few things different about him, from last time. He's exchanged his scrubs for a coat this time, that's one. More stubble is another. But maybe the most dramatic thing is that his left eye is an opaque sort of white, where an iris and pupil was last time he and Emily met. His more… functional eye simply rests on her face without any sign of actually remembering her until —

"Excuse me, sir? Your coffee?" This comes from behind the counter. On cue, the off-duty-orderly lifts those eyebrows right back UP again and he swings his attention back around to the counter. After offloading some money from his pocket to exchange for the two travel cups, he starts in a lazy amble toward Emily with one in either hand. His expression blank, save for something of a twitch that pulls at one corner of his lips. "Not today, actually. The, ah — commute." One of the coffee cups is lifted up to his face to angle it just so. Ssip.

When he turns her way and Emily sees that change to his face, her brow lifts. Her feet abandon their elevated perch, flattening on the ground properly while she peers up at him, nudging her laptop aside he collects his drink. She holds onto her own to negate the odd feeling settled in her gut at seeing his off-colored eye. There wasn't anything gruesome about it (though at one point there likely was) but she can't help but be offput at seeing something as unexpected as that.

"Everybody deserves a day off. Glad you're getting one." she quips lightly in reply to him, thumb brushing over the paper cup in her hand. Her brow ticks into a furrow as she wonders how to broach the topic of his face, hiding most of her expression behind a sip of her own drink. "Did you…" she starts, pausing with the cup still near her face. "forget to turn your ability off before you left the house this morning or something?"

Emily lifts a hand and vaguely gestures at the left side of her own face while she settles her cup on the table before her. Her expression is polite. She certainly doesn't suspect anything close to what actually happened.

She also, in general, sits lighter than she did the last time she saw him. The rock that was crushing her feather of an existence is nowhere in sight— and it doesn't take an ability to see that.

However unlikely it is that Zachery doesn't see at least something of a change in the expression on Emily's face, considering he's giving her somewhat of a stare as he walks over, his stays a consistent almost-blank. At least, until she asks him a question and he comes to a slow stop just short of reaching her table.

He stands there, narrows his tired eyes slightly, and then drops his half of a gaze toward that gesture. The all-white eye unhelpfully seems to want to participate, moving in its socket in almost nearly sort of the same way a real one might. "My — … oh. Oh, yes. Time flies, doesn't it."

He moves forward again, hooking a foot around a chair leg to drag it back with a brief scrape of its legs against the floor. When he sits down on it, across from Emily, one of his coffee cups is set down on the table while his fingers squeeze around the other until its plastic lid comes flying off with a dull POP and lands squarely on the floor. "The wreck." Finally, a one-sided smirk makes its way onto his face, even if weakly. Tiredly.

If he seemed angry the last time they met, there's little of that left now. It's gone, perhaps with the rest of his energy.

Emily's gaze flits over his form, lacking an inherent edge, but not without a separate kind of sharpness. Her shot in the dark seems as though it was wildly off. His eye is not his eye. Something has happened. When the cup malfunction occurs, her hands are already lifting her precious laptop off the table in preparation for a spill of coffee. None found, she makes no ordeal of the accident and moves swiftly to replace the electronic on the table and palm the plastic lid off the ground to offer it back out without acknowledging the issue. One little annoyance he doesn't have to worry about correcting or speaking any further to.

How tired he is has not gone unnoticed. Maybe he just isn't a morning person. Maybe he really needed an off day from the hospital. Maybe some other more weighty shit had happened that was weighing him down. Her bet is on a mixture of all three, given he's wearing what she can now guess is a fake eye.

"Sorry," she ventures, presumably talking about her initial comment. "On second thought, that was probably a rude assumption." Her head tilts as she considers him. "I'm Emily, by the way," the young woman offers up. A second meeting seemed like a good time to bring trivial yet key information like that forward.

Every word and shift in tone that could be interpreted as being painted with some sort of sympathy seems to draw something from Zachery's core — something… baffled, first, then amused, turning that smirk to a grin. Unashamed, unbothered, beneath that sluggish tiredness that blankets his own movements. The lid is ignored. Maybe it wasn't an accident after all. Maybe he is just a tired asshole.

"Rudely assume away. I've had worse than words dug into me." He sinks back in his chair, the eyelid below his fake eye twitching upward as if in vague discomfort as he digs around in a coat pocket. Finally, his attention leaves Emily for now, and turns downward. Where is…? Maybe the other pocket. He lifts the drink again between rummage attempts, mumbling, "Zachery," before sipping more of his coffee.

Scratch that. He's apparently set on downing as much of that thing in one go as he can.

Something that brings the twinge of a smirk to Emily's expression as she glances away to her screen, checking the time in the corner before she looks back. "Nice to meet you," she replies offhandedly, tossing the lid on the table so it at least wasn't floor trash.

"You're one of those 'don't talk to me until I've had my—" Emily glances to the other coffee he's brought with him. "two cups of coffee' people, aren't you?" She lets out a faint chuckle. His two were more like four, but she was being generous. She busies herself by idly coming up with possible ridiculous combinations that could make up his drink.

"Don't burn yourself on that," she chides. His expressed amusement finds a partner in the chuckle that comes from her.

Before Zachery does anything else, there is a noise that is part gurgle, part choke, part coming up for fucking air. He finds what he was looking for in his pocket just in time to swipe a sleeve across his mouth, a pill bottle in his hand. The cup, now mostly empty, is set down on the table with some amount of care, at least. Wouldn't wanna waste any of the coffee still in there.

"… Too late." He coughs, once, teeth gritting as both of his eyes close. They open to look at the pill bottle he chooses to fidget with next, only throwing a cursory look back up to Emily. "I haven't slept in two days and I'm going to make a nice last stand situation happen before I inevitably pass out." As if that was more information that he was comfortable with, he tacks on without pause, "You've looked worse, if I recall." 'Looked', here, also being used generously. With the bottle cap unscrewed, he tilts it carefully into his cupped hand, and then lifts his head again to throw the resulting bounty into his mouth.

BACK to the coffee, glug glug.

Emily's gaze flickers inscrutably over him as she hears how long he's been awake, eyes darting to the pill bottle. That's what does it for her. "Zachery," comes from her, low and ushering, brow furrowing with it. There's worry there. That's not healthy. she wants to yell at him, as it's the same argument she'd had with Julie more than once before. The shifts hospital staff frequently worked were ridiculous. She waits until after he's chugged the pills down, because she's unfortunately too late to protest that.

"That's not good for you," she insists softly, eyes on his. Both of them. For all the good the one was doing the either of them at the moment. Her shoulders slope with that deep concern that's suddenly come pouring from her, that frustration in him as much as in Julie for them (read: her) for pushing themselves too hard.

She didn't realize how much she missed seeing her cousin every day. What similarly bad life habits was she slipping back into without Emily around to encourage her to come home, to eat, to do more than live her work? Sure, things had changed since she'd first moved in, and Julie had — as much as Emily hated to admit it — Sasha as a potential non-work distraction, but still …

"You should take better care of yourself," Emily suggests, distress on his behalf plain. Whatever he took to stay awake probably wasn't prescribed for that, anyway. Or at least, she figures it wasn't. There's a shift of her weight to acknowledge she's looked worse, nothing close to a flinch, but it's a neighboring move on the scales of discomfort. "Yeah," she acknowledges, careful to keep her voice from shifting from defensive to argumentative. "But somebody recommended I get some rest and I don't look half bad now, yeah?"

Well, that, and someone she missed came back from the dead, but that was less poetic and not entirely helpful to the flow of the conversation.

Emily refocuses her eyes on him, gaze sharper than it was previously. "Can't start to do better if you don't stop running yourself into the ground first," she points out a little more directly than before.

That's not good for you, she says. You're a naive idiot, Zachery thinks, it seems, sinking further back in his seat as that first cup of coffee is polished off.

But there's also an actual laugh at her repetition of his own past advice, that comment of rest. It's a laugh that leaves him like he wasn't expecting it to happen and is more breath than not before it rolls steadily into something a little more bitter. More… contemplative? The grin leaves his face.

"What…" He pauses, slipping the quietly rattling pill bottle back into his pocket and sliding the empty cup onto the table in front of him. "… What can I say," he manages the full start of his sentence, this time, his voice a little lower, brow furrowed in thought as he looks downward and at his own hands as they clasp together, "I give good advice."

The fingers of one hand tighten briefly around the wrist of the other, before they're used, instead, to fish a phone from his pocket with a habitual, flat sounding — "… Sorry, one moment." An unlocking and two taps later, and he's got that phone against the side of his head, still peering downward.

When his expression changes, Emily follows each shift, uncertain at first in what drives it. But then she sees it— practically relives it in realizing she's acted the same way before. Her posture lifts, suddenly needing that prop up. There's an echo of that heaviness that's creeped over her just at seeing him like this.

What… what had she been most worried about when she was like this? Her brow ticks into a momentary furrow as she realizes it wasn't so much worry as fear. Just a central fear that all other anxieties took root in, something that clung to her even though she tried to claw her way back to hope. A driver as much as a weight. God, she remembered that — remembered how it manifested for her. 'If I could manage not to fuck up, maybe at least someone else could have a happy ending.' How it had never ended up being satisfying, how it never was enough.

'Just a little more. Just if I try this one crazy thing…'

… Maybe Zachery could find his peace, too. She hopes he finds it for himself rather than trying to channel it through making things happen for others.

"Yeah," she agrees with a voice softer than she means to use. "Was advice worth taking." Emily furrows her brow as she sees him scoop out his phone. Without any context for the sudden phone call he's making, she shifts her weight and brings her mug up to drink from it again. It's easy for paranoia to creep in in her periphery, but she bats it away for now.

"Hey," she interjects, not sure if he'll just up and leave depending on the nature of the call. She felt compelled to not let him head off looking so thrown-off. "Everything will turn out," Emily says as reassurance. She knows very little of his realm of bullshit, but she's confident in that assertion — even if it rests on a bed of hope rather than actual knowledge.

In most situations, words like that - with the sentiment of hope behind them? From someone like Emily, someone who he doesn't even know? Something like that would have had Zachery out of the shop in seconds.

But he stays put. He sits, with the half absent look of someone who's waiting for a voice at the other end of the line, while paying infinitely more attention to something else. Someone else. His glance back up to Emily is one of hard confusion, at first, though within seconds it smooths out into something… gentler. Like a long stalled car experiencing a gradual roll of movement. A somewhat muted voice from his phone sounds seconds before he actually replies to it: "Yeah, hello?" A beat's pause, "Zachery Miller. I'm not coming in this week. Fire me if you like."

And with that, he lowers the phone, taps the screen, and shoves it into his pocket. But his hands remain searching for something - for a moment, fingers weaving together and pressing into each other hard before habit pulls them back apart so he can reach for his second cup of coffee on the table. But… he doesn't quite make it there all the way. He ends up nudging the cup with index and middle finger, gently, toward Emily. "You want this? I have to — go."

If everything is going to turn out, he'll need to be getting ready for it, after all.

There's no dramatic dropping of jaw or anything, but Emily blinks when she realizes what's just happened. Her brow slowly arches up over several seconds. There's the slightest tilt of her head in disbelief. Did he just—?

Yes, Emily. Yes he did.


But there's no words, not immediately. Just the motion like there might be some. The promise of some, once surprise passes. In the interim, her eyes go from him to the phone to him to the coffee he's offering. It takes another heavy blink before she snaps to, managing a nod. "Y-yeah, sure," sounds noncommittal owing to her dissipating state of alarm, but it's enough.

Shit, wherever he's going, whatever he's going to be doing, she hopes to hell and back he'll be all right. Place-to-live-wise, not him himself. It sounded like he had inspiration regarding the latter, if not an outright plan.

"Take care, Zachery." she offers up sincerely, vestiges of confusion lingering on the edge of her voice.

For all the concern that's on Emily's mind, Zachery's seems to have none. He gets to his feet and gives Emily a look of surprise, eyebrows arching. "'Take care'?" He still looks tired, but newfound energy has him speaking a little more clearly, staring at Emily as if he's only just gotten a good look at her.

"No no no, that's for people who worry. I'm good, remember?" He's still tired, and it shows in the way he grabs the back of his chair to scoot it right back to where it was huddled against the table earlier, but instead just sort of clumsily lets the two collide with a cLinK of lightweight metal surfaces.

But he's off before anyone can give him a proper look for making noise, wandering toward the exit - in a straight line this time. "Everything will turn out. "

There's a skeptical narrowing of Emily's eyes as he insists he's good, certain it comes from a place of mania and his meds-and-coffee cocktail. Her posture and expression shifts in a conciliatory gesture of 'all right, then' as she looks at the coffee he's leaving behind. She grabs the taller, abandoned cup to settle its rock as the chair hits the table, and glances up after him.

"See you around, maybe." she mutters under her breath, the door already swinging. God, he took off like a man on a mission. she thinks to herself with a shake of her head, then takes a moment to stare down at the mystery drink she's been left with, gaze more bleary than it was. She wasn't awake enough herself, or caffeine-pumped enough for whatever that just was.

"Jesus, Em," Emily chastises herself quietly, popping off the lid to peer down at the liquid. It looked like black coffee. She still doubts it is. Did he get like … a cup full of americanos-hold-the-water? "The fuck you think you are?" she asks herself, taking a sniff. Yup. It smelled like coffee. "Tamara or something? Doling out advice to near-fucking-strangers in coffee shops like that…"

She lets out a soft breath of laughter for the joke literally no one but her would get, finally tilting the warm paper cup so she can take a sip. At first, nothing seems off, but then it hits her and her face folds in on itself like she's had something sour.

"Jesus fuck," she breathes out with a clenched jaw, putting the cup down roughly like it's poison and picking up her own in a desperate attempt to cleanse her palate.

How much fucking sugar did they put in that thing, anyway?


It's nice outside today, Zachery notices while he walks. The sun is out, the sky is blue. The world maybe isn't so bleak after all. It's full of opportunity and chances for doing better and… and… — ?

He stops, not 30 seconds after having left Sheepshead Beans, in the middle of the sidewalk, shoulders sagging and eyebrows crumpling toward one another. His eye loses focus in a single, slow blink, and all at once the sleep deprivation washes over every visible aspect of his person again. What was he thinking about the world, again?

He forgot for a second, there, but he remembers now, mumbling quietly to himself,

"… It's full of bullshit."

Then, up at that very sun, squinting one eye shut more than the other,


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