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Scene Title Inconvenient
Synopsis Luther and Tae reach the closest thing to an accord that's possible.
Date November 22, 2019

It’s not the typical kidnapping scenario, that’s for sure. Or at least, that’s what it has felt like. Tae’s been given free rein of the domicile, and Luther tries to do his best to be a provider. Room and board in the form of a guest bedroom and occasional takeout or homemade leftovers, entertainment in the form of spotty television and local radio. No phones. The occasional gossip rag-slash-news source found in the Safe Zone Siren and the New York Times when he’s gotten his hands on a spare copy. That’s how Tae knows it’s been months since his arrival to this foreign, war-torn country that was once the most powerful nation in the world. And in a way, his “host” has been an analogous entity mimicking the fate of it, plodding through time in its aftermath, a wayward stray.

Tae has gained a great deal of insight into the mind and manner of Luther Bellamy.

Quiet, observing, and underneath it all a deep sense of guilt causes Luther to often look away from his hostage when he’s around. Moodiness accompanies not sleeping very much, or getting drunk just enough to find respite from some inner demons plaguing him. He tries to be good about it.

Some days, Tae has caught him hastily wiping a tear away and downing a shot of whiskey. More than one time, he’s come back after getting into a fight at a bar or dive somewhere. Some days, he hasn’t come back at all.

And other days, he’s there flinging darts at a sketch of Adam Monroe, likely stolen from Eve’s bountiful collection, taped to his apartment wall, a cluster of holes in one eye socket. The sketch is oft replaced once it’s peppered with so many small slits and tiny holes that it falls apart. Or, if he rips it from the wall and burns it within his bare hand. The Brit’s nose is always the bullseye.

There’s good days too, or what Luther would have deemed good. Tae had been invited to watch River Styx reruns in a binge-worthy marathon, in lieu of venturing out into the Safe Zone at Halloween time. Luther has a favorite flashback filled episode where Veronica Sawyer and Lynette Rowan dramatically save the Ferry from certain doom, and the tension between them is sure to titillate. As the kids would say, he ships it.

Any worries about possibly being poisoned should be quashed. Luther definitely finds his way with food as motivation, and every bit of expense that comes with exorbitant pricing for it in the Safe Zone, he makes it count. He’s even brought back authentic New York bagels for Tae to try. Donuts from Rings of Jupiter. Kaylee’s southern fried chicken. Ice cream.

Yet, all Tae really knows is that by now, it’s starting to look like his unwilling emigration to the United States is one of permanent residence. The passage of time is slow and tedious when there’s no sense of purpose. It’s enough to drive one…


Luther's Apartment

Phoenix Heights

November 22nd

10:13 am

Breakfast today consists of a special treat: kimchijeon, and green onion pancakes. Luther has been chopping, mixing, beating, flouring, and hum-singing a peppy Korean pop song under his breath like it’s also a part of the cooking process as well.

The music is all in his mind, though it comes to a record-scratch halt as he realizes Tae’s there.

“Is everything alright?”

The question sounds innocent even if the man asking it is decidedly not. Beside him, the mixture of flour batter, chopped onion, and spicy pickled cabbage sizzles away in an oiled pan.

“Alright?” Tae parrots back, looming in the doorway like a disheveled homeless person come in off the street. He’s only half awake, evident in his slow movements and stiff posture. “No, I’m afraid I woke up in America,” Tae says with feigned shock in his voice, “instead of at home, or in the suite I was staying at in Shinjuku. No, nothing is alright.” He says, opening the refrigerator in spite of Luther cooking, followed by a frustrated slam of the door a moment later.

Tae draws in a breath through his nose, then exhales is in a slow, steady sigh. “Sorry,” he concedes after a moment. “You’re trying,” though the word slowly is fed between the cracks of that addendum. “I’m homesick,” Tae explains, both his hands waved up and down in the air as if to indicate sick of this apartment as well.

The crisping process of the kimchi pancake provides the only added sounds in the background, aside from the usual constant white noise of daytime construction in the Safe Zone heard through thin walls. The way Tae grabs the fridge door, Luther watches warily - worriedly - that the other man will be the difficult one today.

“I know,” Luther admits, gaze shifted to the other man’s tired look. A look he knows well. It’s a look he tries to avoid next by turning back to the pan and wagging it over the stovetop to loosen the bottom and, without the same hesitation as he has when addressing Tae, flip the pancake over expertly. Setting the pan back down, he sifts through a few potential answers, mulls over what he could say. He settles on an invitation that doesn’t sound too much like one at first. “Sit down at the table, I’ll get this served up.”

Though by now, Tae knows Luther’s matter-of-fact mannerisms enough that the brusque phrasing is such a thing.

The chef’s knife in his hand slices the reddish-golden brown surface into equal slices. Luther’s using the cooking as a distraction for himself. As he transfers breakfast to plate, he speaks, “Speakin’ of home, though. Think that we’ve finally gotten things in order, for you to get back to it.” There’s hesitation to the statement, but not doubt in the substance of his words. Rather, he’s tentative in his anticipation of Tae’s reaction to the news.

Tae had been reluctant to head back to the table, but on Luther’s delivery of news that he might yet have a path home, there’s an eagerness in Tae that Luther hasn’t seen in a long while. Eager anticipation is restrained by something more tempered as he settles into the chair, looking up at Luther with a mixture of expectance and uncertainty. “Going to shoot me out of a cannon?” Tae asks, managing an awkward smile as he tries to break the tension, making a leg-kicking gesture with his hand as he moves it in an arc in front of himself, pantomiming his body sailing through the air after being fired across the ocean.

There is care taken in the presentation of the pancake. Luther has it down to a precise measurement in mind, a specific plate chosen to fit. This morning, as with other mornings in the couple months prior, a second plate joins at the table placed in front of Tae like full room service. He's even got a second set of metal chopsticks, which get set down for his 'guest' in an impromptu wrapped 'napkin' that is in reality a folded paper towel.

It's not exactly the suite in Shinjuku, but it'll have to do.

"We thought about it, but no," Luther replies, tone quiet but amused, relieved in the other man's reaction when it contains attempted humor. The joke lands well. "A friend of mine, she's got a plane," he continues, levering himself down to sit at the man's right-hand side. "And I think, a way to get you back without getting into more trouble. A plan that'll work."

Because it has to, Luther's furrowed brow and downcast gaze say silently. Grey eyes swing from the food up to Tae's face. A regretful sigh blows softly out of Luther. "Sorry for the inconvenience of… all this." Perhaps the mildest understatement of the century. "Wasn't exactly what you were asking for when you mentioned going for drinks, was it?" That moment of time, months ago, has long passed. Though, Luther remembers it.

Tae nervously eyes the food, brows furrowed and posture stiff for a moment. But when he looks back up to Luther everything relaxes, just a little. “No,” he says. “I was thinking something with louder music,” he glances at the cabinets, “better drinks,” then back to Luther, “smaller booths.” He tries to smile, but it’s more of a struggle than he can afford the energy for right now.

“Inconvenience is a weird way to put this,” Tae admits as he picks up the chopsticks and begins moving his pancake around the plate, tentatively examining the condition it was prepared in. For a moment it looks like he might ask Luther a question about where he learned to make this, but something altogether different comes out. “When I was fifteen I was institutionalized for schizophrenia,” Tae says quietly, as if this were a casual conversation between friends rather than reluctant kidnapper and equally reticent hostage. “It wasn’t, obviously. The things I was hearing were real — parental infidelity, lies; the dirty things your family hides from one-another to keep the peace.” Tae looks down at his pancake and begins folding it in half with the chopsticks. “That was inconvenient. For a young man to hear, experience, have no choice but to know and then be called a liar for years.”

Once the pancake is folded, Tae scissors it in half with his chopsticks, then picks up one end and takes a bite. A soft, thoughtful sound escapes him and he looks up to Luther, that question in his eyes once again. This time even more evident. He didn’t peg the American kidnapper as a chef. But again, it goes unasked. “This isn’t an inconvenience… it’s a complete disaster.”

Luther's gaze strays up to their meager surroundings, at once coloring in the face with embarrassment for the unpresentable factor. It was fine enough for him. Not so much when he has a hostage whose opinion he finds himself valuing. "I could get better speakers," he murmurs almost absently. The note about booth size draws his eyes back to the other man. He blinks, an angled brow twitching up further. The cook, concerned for both dish and diner, unintentionally hovers in focus between them. As Tae speaks, Luther hangs on the man's words, brow then furrowing when he tells of his past. He grimaces at the institutionalization, at the misdiagnoses, at the secrets, at the terrible treatment of a young man. Fingers curl in form of a loose fist wishing impotently for justice.

Until, Tae crashes the nostalgia train barriers thrown onto the rails. A disaster in the making. Luther sucks in a breath as he meets the other man's eyes, holds. He swallows once, tightly. "It's something I'm trying to make right." A huff escapes, a sound of quiet frustration. "But you're right. Fuck-Up of the Year award winner, here."

He pushes up to his feet again, attention sliding to the cabinets where he considers the search for a liquid bandage for his guilt. The hunt pauses, however, as Luther turns back. "I am sorry," he tells Tae in all seriousness. "That you got put in a psychward for a power you didn't ask for. That you got roped into this mess, and your life got put on the line for some. For some weird dragon legend that's got nothing to do with you."

A hand lifts up to scrub at the back of his neck, then drops back to Luther's side. "That, maybe in a different time, we could have gone to get those drinks in some place with loud music and small booths."

“I like to think that world exists out there somewhere,” Tae says as he looks back down to his meal, “but it isn’t the one we live in.” He doesn’t realize the weight of his sentiment, not in the way Luther might think of other worlds existing out there somewhere. Tae means it in the most innocent of what could have been moments, ephemeral things that exist in the liminal space between personal choices. In spite of his earlier hesitance, he continues eating between the silence of their conversation, a liminal space all its own with just as much potential as other worlds.

Tae eats like that until half his plate is clear, until he sets aside his chopsticks and looks up to Luther with purposeful intent in his eyes. “I’ve given some thought to this,” he says with a gesture downward, only then correcting himself. “Here, not— the meal. It’s lovely.” He fumbles past his own awkward compliment. “My predicament. I think… I think the only sensible solution is owning up to the mistake. Someone said that Yamagato Industries could make this right and— ” Tae raises a hand to ward off Luther’s immediate feelings about the company, “I know you have your grievances. But, for all our sakes… doesn’t it sound like the right choice?”

Silence slides down along with Luther's physical person back to his seat. Notably he battles some inward urge to fall into dejected, dispirited thoughts upon hearing Tae's conjecture of what could have been. Little does the archaeologist realize how many possibilities his words spark in the other man's mind. So with a blink, Luther dips his attention down to the table top. He doesn't watch the man eat, but some part of him remains aware of the steady clinking of metal chopsticks against ceramic plate.

The pause in those sounds and Tae's gaze upon him catches Luther's focus again. An angled brow twitches up, first at the compliment. The other joins its mirror shortly for the mention of Yamagato Industries. Tae can see - rightly assuming - Luther's immediate balk to begin with, an invisible wall building at the mention of the Japanese megacorp.

But the longer the notion hangs in the air between them, the more the initial freeze thaws. Luther considers, grey eyes fixed on brown. They shift away, accompanied by a reach of his hand towards the one raised to ward off his misgivings. Luther's grasping fingers are warmer than the usual, testament to Eve's consistent nickname for him. "I was gonna say, you can't trust 'em. Yamagato. But… it's 'cause I don't want to… cause you any more trouble." The stormy stare flicks back to Tae's face, and Luther exhales heavily, resigned.

"But if it's what you want. The friend I was talking about. Maybe she'll be able to work it out with them and make that plan solid. She's got an in for you to get back." And an out for Luther and the others in their mistake. He hopes.

“I have a vanishingly small list of people I can trust these days,” Tae notes with a motion of his chopsticks to Luther, briefly feeling as though he may pull his other hand away, but then… not. “My own government is one bad day away from putting me in a cage. The Japanese government thinks I’m one of the good ones because I can’t hurt people, while they incarcerate and relocate their own citizens because they think it’s in their best interest. More than half the world wants our kind dead or gone.” Tae’s brows furrow, and he stares vacantly at his plate.

“You know what hurt me the most?” Tae looks up to Luther. “That… space ship. The one that blew up?” He looks to a distant point in the room, focusing on nothing as he recalls listening to the radio broadcast of the launch. “There were people happy it was leaving Earth. They wanted to pack more of us on it. People who said we didn’t belong on this planet, that we should go out there.” He motions above himself with the chopsticks. “Go find a planet for ourselves.”

Frustratedly, Tae lowers his chopsticks and turns his attention to a vacant stare down at his plate. “I lived here, in the US, for seventeen years. From the age of two to nineteen.” Tae’s brows furrow. “Nationalized immigrant. But I remember America as home more than Korea.” He idly picks at his plate, not really eating anymore. “When I was growing up, you know what I heard?” He looks up to Luther. “Go back to your own country.” His lips press flatly together and he looks down to his plate. “I didn’t know what to say to that, because I considered myself an American.” He sets his chopsticks down beside his plate. “They didn’t.” He massages fingertips over his eyes, then the bridge of his nose. “I’m tired of hearing things like that, everywhere I turn, everywhere in the whole world. Even if Korea felt foreign to me, because it wasn’t home, people assumed I belonged there and treated me like I did. Now I don’t even have that comfort.” He scrubs his hands down his face.

“So,” Tae breathily exhales that word. “Yes. Feeling safe and trusting people is hard for me.”

"So I hear. Evidently there's not much reason to," Luther sympathizes quietly. If he's aware of the prolonged contact between their appendages, it's swept aside by the other man's laments. The notes about far off feeling coldness of government policy to the reaches of space travel, he presses his mouth into a thin line. The launch - and its tragically explosive results - lingers and wars with slightly better memories of the day.

But Tae's return to the much more personal of experiences gets Luther to come back down to the more real, more immediate. Human problems. "Yeah? Well fuck 'em. Trust and respect are hard-earned and it ain't easy. Takes effort. S'why people like taking the easy way - fear, anger, hate, kicking at us 'cause they don't think we're human too. Dark side shit. Bad enough they can't even agree that different fuckin' skin color ain't hurt anybody." A discontent snort escapes. "But people have been arguing over who gets to live, how they can live, and how they can die, for fuckin' ages," grumbles the man as he looks down to the half eaten breakfast. "So what else is new…"

Luther's brow pinches together making him look sterner than he is actually feeling, but when he looks back up at the other man, dismay tints the coloring in his cheeks. Realization dawns. His fingers release, and he balks, blinks. "Wait. Are you sayin' you… you don't want to go back? You… you want to stay?"

Tae reluctantly withdraws his hand from the loosened grip, much as his confidence withdraws. “나도 몰라.” He whispers. Then, repeating himself: “I don’t know.

There’s a silence that hangs between the two for a moment as Tae considers what any of this means. “I have a career to return to. If… if nothing else, I need to finish what I started. But if we turn to Yamagato Industries,” he looks back up to Luther from the table, “I don’t know how soon that will be. Nothing in this world is free. Not even a helping hand.” His gaze slips from Luther, turning to focus on a distant point in space to his right for a moment. “I just know I can’t stay here,” he says as distant as his stare, blinking a look back to Luther after a heavy moment of silence.

“I appreciate this,” Tae says quietly, “but it’s inconvenient.”

In the silence, Luther continues to stare at Tae's features, unable to help the natural stern look he carries even if he doesn't mean. Where Tae's focus slips, Luther's stays on the man. For a fleeting beat, he seems piqued. But then he pulls the drilling stare back, down to the half-eaten kimchijeon. "괜찮아," mumbles Luther in call-and-response, the foreignness of his pronunciation not quite as jarring as it could be, but still sounding like he's heard the phrase before in context and derived its connotation.

"My friend's name," he says after in thoughtful consideration, "is Kaylee Ray." Yes, that Kaylee Ray. Luther starts to reach for one of the cooled pieces, but doesn't pick up right away. Instead his hand hovers over the food and a focused gaze brings the sensation and visibly waving lines of heat bearing down on the pancake. The outer crust starts to sizzle softly. Once he’s deemed it warmed up enough, is when he picks up the half eaten portion. "She wants to ask you a few things, too. In exchange, she'll get you home. Even if it might need to be worked out with Yamagato." Grey eyes glance back up from the breakfast food to Tae's face once more, resolve evident. "And I'm sure you can even stay at one of RayTech's apartments 'til you're ready to go."

Luther exhales slowly, gaze casting down afterward. "Sorry that… that I ever gave you a reason not to trust me." Several reasons, he knows.

Tae looks guarded, jaw set and brows furrowed. He slouches back against his chair, seeming to have lost his appetite. Kaylee’s name either doesn’t register or goes unremarked upon by his soured mood. When Tae’s eyes avert to the floor, he just nods and acknowledges what Luther is saying nonverbally.

The last thing he says to Luther that day is

“Me too.”

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