Looking For Treasure


bf_kara_icon.gif yi-min_icon.gif

Scene Title Looking for Treasure
Synopsis Kara and Yi-Min spend a day on the beach.


The voice that calls her sounds like it could be coming from any distance, everywhere and nowhere. It’s quiet, without urgency, yet the sound of it demands attention. In the cool dark, she waits for an indication of where it came from.



This time, it’s even softer, yet she knows exactly where it is now.

July 26, 2019

Bianchini Beach, Deverson Lake

New Jersey Pine Barrens

When Yi-Min opens her eyes, Kara only looks a little guilty. It manifests in the chuckle that hides in her breath. She stays sitting beside the Taiwanese woman and looks down at her— the two of them shaded from the summer glare overhead by a bleached-but-still-worthy beach parasol. The large blanket they share is laid over sand with green growth throughout it, the grass providing a coolness the sun-absorbing beach would not on its own.

“You fell asleep,” Kara murmurs down at her, brushing wisps of hair that have escaped her bun back behind her ear.

Yi-Min is not usually in the habit of falling asleep unintentionally, but the exact right combination of factors had aligned in this time and space to send her dozing off as contentedly as a cat in a sunbeam. She is also, as it happens, not a heavy sleeper: Kara's initial call carries to her mind comfortably on the very surface of her slumber, like a ripple riding water.

One by one, other little things diffuse into her dream-awareness, drifting into a slow focus like falling leaves. The feel of the New Jersey sun on her bare skin. The touch of the lake-breeze, just cool enough. Kara's familiar and comforting presence over her.

"Oh, hello Kara," she gives by way of a still-hazy greeting as this last one comes into focus and she awakens fully as a result, allowing a light, dreamy smile to spread onto her face as Kara's own swims into view. She does not move at first, as though savoring the last traces of what she can from the experience— though there is something of a laugh in her demeanor in recognition that she had fallen asleep. Whoops.

"I was just having a good dream."

Kara is without her usual armor today, physical and otherwise. She’s abandoned layers and dark colors in favor of a swimsuit and sarong in the same way she’s abandoned needing to guard her thoughts, her reactions to things. She wears her adoration for the small things in Yi-Min’s expression openly, a vague tilt of her head allowing her to better frame them in her vision.

She smiles too, small and sincere.

“What were you dreaming about?” she asks, shifting the book that had been open on her lap to the side, laying it face down into the blanket with its pages still splayed. She has a more interesting story to tend to now.

Unlike Kara, Yi-Min had never been one to avoid wearing her heart on her sleeve if she can help it, if in her own smaller, more knowingly suggestive fashion. Still: there is a strangely sweet freedom that the solitude of this environment affords, away from prying eyes, and she feels it no less than Kara does. She allows herself the luxury of performing a brazen little stretch as she returns to a curled half-sitting position, drawing one leg up and then another so that the simple white sundress she wears flows about her lower legs.

"About Taiwan." Her eyes shut briefly, still with that faraway look in them just before doing so, still with that glowing shade of a smile. "There was a place where I have not been to in many years. A bridge beneath a grove of… how do you call it in English? Liu tang luo yu song. Cypress trees, I think."

A pause for yearned further remembrance. "Water so clear that it is as though a second world lies within. And you were there with me." The last detail, but not the least important.

Liu tang…” Kara murmurs her thoughts aloud as she tries and fails to capture the entire phrase in the single pass. She tilts her head back idly, staring up at the bottom of the parasol with a pensive hm, minding the tiny holes where the sun has needled its way through. She shifts her sitting position, leaning back on one hand while the forearm of the other rests against a bent knee.

Hearing that she was present in the dream takes her away from the half-reverie of wondering what this place must look like, and causes her to turn her head. Her surprise is genuine, no matter how much she attempts to guard it. Yi-Min dreamt of her? When Kara dreamt of others, it was usually a terrible dream.

That included the good ones — the ones where she roamed a world not at war, lived in a place that was not Providence. Or even the middling ones, where she dreamed she was still working for Stillwater.

All thoughts she keeps to herself, in favor of asking with a touch of interest, “And what were we doing together?”

She turns her body more toward Yi-Min, brow arching. “Were we among the trees, or living in that second world?” There’s a touch of amusement in her voice as she wonders, “Like mermaids?”

This last line elicits an unexpectedly animated laugh from Yi-Min, who lands a lightly playful swipe on Kara's shoulder as she watches the spectrum of introspective emotions hat her partner's expression travels through. "Please. I would pay real money to see you in a coconut bra and a fish tail. No, nothing so exciting as that, I'm afraid. We were together on the bridge, leaning on the rail. Simply looking out into the water beneath us."

It is Yi-Min's turn for her tone to take on a note of contented musing, as her gaze idly follows Kara's to the comfortingly shaded underbelly of the parasol they are both lounging under. "It was very nice, nonetheless. Simply to be, with you nearby, and nothing to worry about for once. A little like this now, I suppose."

It is almost as though she had read some portion of Kara’s thoughts, because what she says next is: "It was a favorite spot of mine when I was younger. Someday, perhaps, we shall have a vacation from Providence and I shall take you. Autumn there is beautiful beyond words."

Providence has its charms, but life in a rustic American village perpetually threatened by disaster also has its limits.

Kara’s nose wrinkles as she considers the thought of her in a coconut bra, though she gives a good-natured look down at her current top in a silent gesture that she’s pretty close to the given image. Plus or minus a fish tail.

The back of her throat works for a moment, the disparity in the types of dreams they share ultimately left uncommented upon. Instead Kara simply smiles, the act easy. It’s more simple to live in the moment anyway, to look forward to that bright future described rather than linger on the shadows living in her wake. “I’ve never given much thought to additional travel,” she admits, turning her gaze to look out over the water. With a view like this, with a company like this, there were days she might actually feel as though she had everything she needed and for it to not be a well-covered lie.

"There is a much bigger world out there than this one," Yi-Min reminds Kara gently, still somewhat sunny with amusement at the vision of the normally stern woman as a whimsically free, only slightly tropically-themed nymph. And she is entirely serious about it, too, just as much as she is about the potential of future travel.

Kara Prince, Yi-Min will show you the world. Someday. If they don’t all die first.

But there is also a deep wisdom in cherishing what one has available, especially in a country that is currently a war-darkened token of its former self. "Truth be told, we have years to daydream of things like this. There is treasure to be found anywhere that one looks, if only one knows where to look for it. Even here." In the bar of sunlight that stripes her upper face but for a fraction of a moment, courtesy of those pinholes in the umbrella, a glint suggesting mischief appears in Yi-Min's eye.

The comment at just how big the world is draws a faint, rueful smile from Kara, one she doesn't guard. Her eyes focus on a distant point somewhere beyond the other shore, thumb idling in a circle against the palm of her hand. It may even look like a daydream, thinking ahead to those moments where they could explore this reality together, to find all the kernels of beauty in a world otherwise drowning in mud and fire.

"Even here?" she asks, not yet returned from that distant thought. Her voice is limned with interest regardless. "Better than what we've currently found, you think?" Speech reels her back in, a little more with each word until she's here again, turning back to the thing that anchors her. Kara smiles a little more earnestly at Yi-Min. "I might be up for a treasure hunt," she confides, seeing that mischief and meeting it with a humoring acceptance.

"Even here," Yi-Min affirms as Kara comes out of her reverie, both very mysteriously and very seriously. Curtly gathering up the hem of her sundress, she rises gracefully to her feet to emerge out from under the shelter of the parasol, and into the fullness of the sun. The sudden strength of it feels sweet on her bare shoulders, on her face; even the glare is something she welcomes. Her dark eyes glitter with a renewed appreciation, though that might also have to do with her reception of Kara's suggestion.

She also wastes no time. Half-turning back, she sticks out both her slender hands towards Kara for her to wrap her own into, heaving the much taller woman to her feet. "One thing I have learned from my travels— learned over, and over again—- is that there are lovely things in places that you would not even think to look. Come."

It seems they are off on a small adventure now. How delightful.

That would be the message given by Kara's lack of a fuss toward the idea, the allowance of Yi-Min's encouragement to chase after diamonds in the rough. "All right," she gruffs out. "All right." And once on her feet, her hand remains on Yi-Min's arm as an unnecessary but welcome support while she steps into the pair of slip-ons left by the blanket. She turns to look up and down the soundly abandoned waterfront. A parked, rusted vehicle is the only other one around aside from the truck they drove here.

She turns back to the woman by her side, a bit expectantly. They've seen this area of the beach, the sun of it still warm on her shoulders. She assumes Yi-Min will order a march somewhere else nearby. "Where to?" Kara asks merely as a formality, gently squeezing onto the arm she'd used as her support before letting go.

Even in pre-war days when enjoyment of such spaces had been far more prevalent, Bianchini Beach had been a modest, relatively quiet location, usually uncrowded at the best of times. Visible landmarks along this stretch of sandy land are sparse, and aside from the two vehicles, the most prominent feature in their sights⁠— if 'feature' it can indeed be called⁠— is a dilapidated children's playground some distance away. Monkey bars and curling slide with peeling, hydrant-yellow paint and all.

It is this sight that Yi-Min angles herself towards once she has finished shading her eyes, slipping her hand cozily (and a little cheekily) into Kara's own once the other woman lets go of her arm. "This way," she indicates cryptically, also merely as a formality, because she is already taking steps that way, her low-heeled sandals leaving light, half-filled imprints in the little hillocks and drifts of sand behind her.

The first time Yi-Min had ever slipped her hand unexpectedly into Kara's, she had reacted poorly. Like brushing against a live wire, she had rapidly withdrawn, breathless with the cold anxiety of what if someone sees unconsciously driving her behavior. Were it not for her gentle persistence and firm determination, the act would never have gotten to be as natural as it is now.

Kara laces her fingers through Yi-Min's while they walk, on one step swinging both their arms forward and up to plant a chaste kiss on the back of her hand.

She lets out a note of dissent toward the thing they're angled at, but little more. "I'd not trust the swings," Kara advises, practical as ever. She lifts her head at the sight of a smallish bird alighting on the jungle gym, eyes narrowed in a moment of thought at its presence before her gaze moves on.

The response that Kara had received to that infamous first handholding is, in a way, similar to the one she garners right now as soon as Yi-Min catches the direction of the other woman's train of thought. "….Eh? Sha gua," she chides in her faint but bright way, the sound as merry as the jingle of a silvery little bell. Her eyes glow with a certain amusement at the thought of willowy, long-limbed Kara clambering across the bars of a child-sized jungle gym or that creaking rusty heap of a swingset, even as a warm smile flits across her face at the feel of that kiss on the back of her hand—

And she watches the small bird, too, though she lingers on the ultimate outcome of its flight longer and more meaningfully than Kara does. "No," she says in a more muted (but no less entertained) tone once she dismisses her gaze from that bird, pausing to stoop slightly once they draw nearer to the slide coiling at the center of it all. "Shhh. Listen."

When she rises back to her height again, it's with something clasped thoughtfully in her hand: a long, imperceptibly curved feather fluffy with milky-white down and mottled with bands of brown. This has to be from a different creature than the one that had just been in their sights, Kara can tell. But Yi-Min’s attention is not on the object that she is holding almost tenderly, but on the noise that they are both able to glean faintly from close by.

Said noise can be traced to somewhere directly beneath the belly of the slide, deep in the shade of a crossed framework of support beams, though it is all but buried by the atmosphere of wind that drones hollowly around the both of them. There it is again; a smattering of very tiny and wobbly-sounding cheeps on the breeze

and, there: inside a divot at the base of the gravel, easy to miss in the mottling camouflage of surrounding debris, a glimpse of something fleeting.

Four fuzzy, brown lumps— heartbreakingly small— nestled all together in an almost-invisible haven of twigs.


Little treasures, lying hidden in the shadows. In places one would not even think to look.

Kara lingers back behind Yi-Min, listening as she's bade. The down in the smaller woman's hand leads to note the weak and erratic song coming from the hungry chicks. Her feet turn, leading her close enough to catch sight of the chicklets in their web of twigs. Her head tilts and she looks back in the direction the other bird had been, finding nothing where it had been perched before. She narrows her eyes and crouches down slowly to get a better look.

But not touch. Not get too close.

"Look," she bids Yi-Min, her voice soft like the baby birds might take flight. They cheep and huddle, though one gapes at the sky for food its blind eyes can't see neither woman bears for it.

"Sandpipers," Yi-Min supplies very quietly, also not wanting to startle the baby birds, her eyes clear and gentle in a way that few people other than Kara ever see. There is something of a whimsical quality in her expression. In her appreciation, raw and low-key and deeply happy. Going no nearer herself, she waits until Kara draws level with her; once this happens, she loops her other arm about Kara's forearm, cleaving to it comfortably as she watches the little things from the healthy distance they are standing at.

She is looking.

The velvety feather clutched between her fingers up until this moment drifts, light as a wisp, back down to earth. She had gathered it up as a mere forethought, as the confirmation of a suspicion, and as a token it is necessary no longer.

"To know the song of a bird, go to the mountains," she murmurs beneath her breath; it sounds as though it may be a part of a proverb, either the front half or the back half. "We are nowhere near mountains. And yet here, such a gift may be found in these strange days."

“Is that what they are?” Kara murmurs. Sandpipers. She shifts a glance back at Yi-Min as she looks on in wonder, shifting her arm to allow for an easier hook around her elbow. It’s amusing to see someone so unafraid to rock the boat take such care to not disturb the tiny birds. The corner of her mouth twitches back before she politely turns back to observe the nest, watching the babes shift around in the sticks.

The proverb draws a short huff of amusement from the munitions chaplain. It sounds so straightforward to her, but it does seem profound in its own way. It’s tempting to point as much out, but taking the quiet moment for what it’s worth has better value.

To her, that’s the gift here.

“They’ll get even stranger, I’m sure,” she says, less of an effort made to quiet her voice. It’s more of her usual, gruff timbre. “Seems like there’s nothing but excitement on this coast.” How unenthused she sounds about that.

To that, Yi-Min only curls a short strand of dark hair behind her ear and flashes a wistful, smaller sparkle of a smile, hushed in her agreement as she leans into Kara's arm to savor these last few moments of observation. "We'll weather such excitement as we have everything else," she says much more lightly than the solemnity of her expression would indicate, placing a gentle hand on her partner's forearm to impart that their visit to that spot should draw to a close.

Best to leave the creatures in peace, in anticipation of their mother's eventual return.

"There is always some good to be found in whatever bad there is. Life would be much duller without such discoveries, no? Come. The best treasures are ahead of us still." Without leaving room for argument, once again, she audaciously slips her hand into Kara's with the intention of drawing her onwards— directly away from the hulking form of the playground, but also as it would seem, away from the area where their blanket and parasol sit awaiting them. Their little adventure isn't over yet!

Ah, of course. This excursion to the playground was only the beginning.

Kara doesn't go so far as to complain they've strayed from their gear, but it takes until the last moment for her to move her feet to go along with the tug. She won't make Yi-Min drag her, of course.

That would be rude.

She finds herself giving one last lingering glance at the small birds before lacing her fingers around the hand that pulls her, a sign of sure commitment to the course they've taken. Yi-Min might have been the pioneering navigator, but Kara is just as dedicated in her following. Even if she might cast a hard side-eye at what's been said. "Good in every bad?" The munitions chaplain can't hide her skepticism there.

It would be quite the odd sight to anyone who happened to be watching, this spectacle of two fully grown women promenading down a long and desolate stretch of New Jersey shore, hands interlaced like children— the one in front leading the other onwards as self-assuredly as though the pair were on a tour of some magical theme park, rather than a little strand of lakeside long-bereft of any significant human presence.

But perhaps there is a certain magic after all inside the essence of that simple fact.

"Always," Yi-Min quips simply without letting go of Kara's hand, not ignoring so much as sunnily basking in the full light of Kara's skepticism. Enjoying it, in her tacit way. Words are unnecessary when the look on her face communicates more than everything that she wants to. She does not turn around even once to address the playground that dwindles into pleasant irrelevance behind them as they march forwards, the light-grained sand below their feet gradually braiding and giving way into patterns of darker, more densely packed gravel.

Further along this impromptu pathway that Yi-Min is very busily carving out (like a true pioneer!), notes of life are subtly but steadily spiking into prominence all around them at ankle-height . In the location they had left behind, including the spot where they had discovered the birds’ nest, the groundwork had primarily been one of dead silt. Here and there, however, stubbly carcanets of grass poke through the soil wherever they can: only modestly at the onset, but increasingly wild in their endeavor to engulf the terrain in a fine, tangled latticework.

Then, there. Even further up ahead, in a culmination of this microcosm of a truer wilderness—

In a low but lush, overgrown level of foliage, a delicate myriad of violet and gold dots stretching forth half-in-shadow, masked from certain angles by a thousand rude skeins of green.

Wildflowers. A rolling blanket of them, softly hidden.

They’ve arrived at their next stop.

Kara follows along in quiet contemplation, patient as Yi-Min plots their course. The sounds of summer provide a pleasant backdrop to their little adventure, nothing drawing her attention away from what matters. When they come to stop by the wildflowers, she takes her pause but her eyes never leave the woman by her side.

"I think you're right," she opines belatedly. In the face of such confident optimism, Kara can't help but find her own bundle of silver linings to appreciate. The way her eyes never leave Yi-Min speak for themselves, in a way, joined by a slight turn of her body so she can better face her. Her offhand lifts delicately, brushing hair from the smaller woman's face with only her fingertips.

"…Do we have to go back?" Kara dares to wonder aloud, even if it's said softly. "Are you sure this day can't stretch on forever?" Away from the husks left behind by the war, it feels they could be anyplace right now, and anywhen besides. This stolen moment is free of responsibility, of any context besides the two people that inhabit it.

And possibly the flowers, if only to pick one to thread through Yi-Min's hair. Her lips firm into a small smile at that thought.

Though Yi-Min is focused on looking out at the colorful palette of flowers, she feels Kara's piercingly warm gaze resting on her profile from above— feels that very gentle rearrangement of her hair. When she closes her eyelids for just a moment, an unspoken bliss radiates from her resultant smile.

Even so, she does not remain still for long. Re: flower in hair: Yi-Min had been tantalized by the same thought, and she is quick on the uptake. What had only been a concept to Kara's mind becomes a full plan in Yi-Min's in the swiftest flash, and as briskly as a little bee, she goes wading out into the nearest periphery of flowers. She does not go too far, being wary of getting her sandaled feet too caught up in prickly undergrowth; she goes in just far enough to stretch out a hand towards a particularly large, many-petaled violet bloom at the end of a tall stalk, one with an inner heart as white and luminous as a star.

After separating this from its bearings with a calculated pluck, she turns to reach it back up towards Kara, tucking the flower into a meticulous position behind Kara's ear.

"We will go back in time, but this day is one that is just for us," she contends firmly after that delay, stepping back to beam widely at the picture of her handiwork. And she can't help but let out an unsuppressed little laugh of delight.

Who knew that the fierce Kara Prince could wear the visage of such a beautiful storybook princess?

That's subjective for sure, but there is a regality to the way Kara beholds Yi-Min, letting the flower crown the side of her head. She's careful to stand with a certain poise so the heavy bloom doesn't fall out of position any sooner than it has to. Its part of her being is something she'll endeavor to stretch on for as long as possible, too— to let Yi-Min have this moment.

This little treasure.

That bright, wonderful laugh she has brings Kara to chuckle, too, to reach for her fiercely and with abandon. She wraps her arms firmly around Yi-Min's smaller frame, still warm from the sun that shrouds them both. Kara leans down, pressing her lips to her forehead, trailing softly to her brow. A peck to her nose.

Yi-Min breathes in.

The breath is not like this moment at all.

It's cold.

Sunken Factory

She shifts ever so slightly in her sleep, just enough to set her head at a slightly different angle, and she's pulled from sleep entirely. Her hand shifts under the warmth of the blanket, seeking something that's not there.

Every place except where she lays is cold, the golden warmth of the setting sun a distant memory in this predawn darkness. The tired, thin light cast through the space is grey, barely enough to see by.

But it’s enough to know that she’s alone.

For the second time that day— no, morning? Yi-Min experiences the rough sensation of awakening, her eyes opening this time into the almost-lightless gloom.


Is the sole impression that stays soundlessly within her mind, and she lets the grip of her empty hand curl back on itself uselessly, leaving tiny finger-imprints trailing into the soft fabric of the blanket.

Her resolve would return to her properly with the rising of the sun. At such a time would she arise from bed and resume the hunt for her lost treasure, as scrupulously as she had each passing day since Kara had first vanished, fruitless though every avenue had been thus far. But for now—

Now was the time to hold such dear recollections to herself before they faded back into the foggy realm of dreams, for there was nothing else she could be sure of.

Not anymore.

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