Not What It Should Be


yi-min_icon.gif zachery_icon.gif

Scene Title Not What It Should Be
Synopsis Step two in the story of two strangers trying to figure each other out, this time with alcohol and even more awkward insinuations.
Date April 6, 2019

Red Hook Tavern

The walls of the Safe Zone's best-known open-air bazaar fully invite the coolness of a dark, pleasant night, the twisting pathways around the stalls punctuated by the many comforting points of variously placed golden lights and the crowds of a Sunday evening. Further in still, inside the single bar, a vibrant but lax night for the patrons sees an atmosphere that could best be described as chill. None of it could be described as excessively fancy, but the smart lighting still oversees a certain ambiance that other establishments could not hope to achieve.

Establishments such as the Dirty Pool Pub, which Yi-Min had adamantly refused as a potential location for the drink which Zachery and she are sharing now.

Maybe a couple of drinks.

She is all too aware that the pair did not get off on the right foot, to put it lightly. And so, in time-honored fashion, she hopes to give this situation another chance via that great inducer of unfiltered conversation: alcohol. Despite her lack of inhibitions whenever bringing it forth, animosity is not something she generally wishes or seeks, especially with the beginnings of a business partner.

The second bourbon cocktail of the night is set aside, with Yi-Min beginning on a third, ice clinking as she indulges in a long-lasting drink. Calm is heavy on her features, more prominent than when Zachery had first met her— a reflection of both her default ‘mode’ sans excess bullshit, and the genial level of buzzed she is at.

Nothing terrible has happened between them yet. This is undoubtedly already an improvement.

"So there I am, elbow deep into her chest cavity, and the guy says, 'I didn't know I was supposed to plug it in.'" Zachery has been… increasingly chatty.

In truth, this may be due to the fact that he hasn't had one of these nights in a very long time. It's not that he hasn't had a drink every now and then - oh no, his alcohol tolerance is still very much up there - but the way he's running his mouth off between swigs of Guinness is probably a rarer occurrence. The more of it he's downed, the more his British roots have wrapped themselves around his words, strengthening T's and burying R's with the best of Surrey's finest… but simultaneously, the sledgehammer of New York influence is taking otherwise crisply pronounced words and treating them to the equivalent of a meat tenderizing. 20+ years abroad have ruined this man in many ways, of which this is one.

He is at least aware of his chattiness, it seems, occasionally throwing questions back at Yi-Min in an attempt to break up the pace. Like so— "You ever have that? Just… clueless? Assistants?" His features are decidedly not calm, but they certainly have been more relaxed since he's started downing his bitter brew by the mouthful. He's searching for something. He's only got the one eye, with his left covered in a white stick-on patch still, but that one eye is doing work in trying to figure this woman out.

This draws out a legitimate, breezy laugh from Yi-Min over the top of the glass she is just in the process of putting down. "Yes, as a matter of fact," she says, dry in her musing. “I can recall a time our team was assigned a lab assistant who was so nervous around me she managed to drop an important blood sample. Onto my foot. Needless to say, she was gone within the next several days."

If Yi-Min takes note of the scrutiny she is being subjected to in the meantime, she does not show it. It is not a new sensation, nor is it unexpected— showing up on the doorstep of people's lives and being met with suspicion has become a repetitious (and not really unjustified, to be fair) chapter of her recent life. Figure away, Mad Eye.

But also expect her to return some of the favor in turn. "So, how is it that a surgeon ends up doing what you do now?" she asks, expression tranquilly curious much more than it is judgmental. There had to be a compelling reason for such an impressively massive downgrade.

The laugh does Zachery well, it seems. From his position opposite Yi-Min, he looks almost… surprised to hear it, before something tugs his mouth into a half smirk as he leans back in his seat, tall glass still in hand. The blood sample story seems to garner some sort of recognition, his head angling upward for a moment with a disapproving 'tsk'.

Despite being several drinks in, there's still something about him that's visibly guarded — stiff, almost professional, were it not for the mannerisms that slip through the filter courtesy of liquid bread. This is, in some ways, a business meeting after all. Her question draws nothing but silence for a handful of seconds, before that scrutinizing eye narrows. "What's that, sitting with someone like you?"

If it was an attempt to hurt, his smirk ruins it by creeping wider of its own accord.

The reaction this elicits from Yi-Min is neither hurt nor surprise, but rather, a mild level of amusement that she does not bother to hide. After all, some of the kinds of people she had associated with over the decades would never even be mistaken for reputable— not that Zachery would have the pleasure of knowing this.

"And what do I seem to be to you?" she replies, taking an airy sip from her cocktail as she passively leans her weight into the back of her seat. Opposite Zachery's stiffness, her own posture seems desensitized to the point of being uncaring, though she is clearly still being attentive.

"Something, ah…" Zachery starts to answer immediately, but stops himself, taking a moment to look upward while a hand idly reaches to scratch at a corner the white that covers his eye. The visible one closes, then settles back on Yi-Min again when it opens. "Experienced. Interesting. Different—" The tone of his voice comes up at the end of this word, almost - but not quite - like a question. An unfinished answer.

He leans forward, into another generous glug of Guinness, and sets his glass down to fold his arms around it, shoulders forward. His smirk wanes, his gaze darting between Yi-Min's eyes. "Physically."

Well okay then. Whatever answer Yi-Min was expecting, it wasn't this. She sets the glass back down with slightly more bemusement than intended: an actual insult she would have welcomed and known how to have dealt with, as opposed to this bizarre intimation of— something? Her dark eyes move to gaze at his one, but now it is more the flat searching look that a person would give to someone they suspected of substance abuse.

"’Experienced. Interesting. …Physically’," Yi-Min repeats, each word more pronounced and also more strongly sardonic than the last. For the first time in this encounter, an unreserved touch of cold is creeping into her tone. "I think I'm beginning to understand why you're alone the way you appear to be."

There's a confusion on Zachery's face, shown through a furrowed brow and the way he sinks further down over that drink. Like his own words coming back to him have a different meaning entirely, despite being… exactly the same. And to go with that confusion comes… fear? Something widens that eye.

"Wait." He deflates. Then rolls his shoulders back, nearly knocks his drink over as he pulls his arms in around it, and straightens himself right back up again. "Wait wait, ah—" But he freezes again, seemingly unable to find a satisfactory way to finish that sentence as it's happening. It's a moot point anyway, it seems, because the next noise to escape him is an unplanned, unflattering laugh of a breath that escapes him through his teeth. What shock still lingers is now accompanied by a cocky grin, as he gestures in Yi-Min's direction and then uses that hand to raise his glass to his face again. "I'm not alone!"

"Oh, really."

Yi-Min faintly raises her eyebrows with something that could probably pass as humor, watching the rolling progression of increasingly strange expressions on Zachery's face. "Tell me, then, about this lucky girl or guy." Please do, because Yi-Min is actually dying to hear this. Either he had meant he has a romantic partner, or more broadly, that he actually has friends. Truth be told, both possibilities are seeming fabulously improbable in light of how this conversation is going.

Answers to specific questions usually come as some form of sound, to those capable of speaking. Sound is not a thing that Zachery appears to be capable of producing at this very moment, despite his mouth opening. Please hold.

"… Oh." This finally leaves him flatly, his gaze leaving her face to drift upward as his stout comes up. Definitely not just as an excuse to not talk for a few seconds. When it's put back down again, behind the safety of the crook of his arm, he says more to it than to Yi-Min, "That's a very, ah— forward question. But fair." He tap-taps a finger against the table, then repeats, "Fair." When he looks back up at her again, between hunched shoulders and with a weak grin, he offers, "Do another trade? Answer for an answer?" Because he's holding his hostage.

"You know well the answer to that," is Yi-Min's curt response, who at least is sounding a little more regularly matter of fact again. Her fingers curl about the base of her cocktail glass, but she does not pick it up again quite yet, instead opting to curl the fingertips of her other hand neatly on the tabletop and stare across at Zachery. "If you are forthcoming with me, I will return the favor. But for the sake of being clear, yes."

It is one of the first concepts about herself that she had tried to impress upon him, after their initial disastrous encounter. Really, the basic structure for interacting with her tends to be very simple when people actually play along. The problems come when people do not.

"Then we are kindred spirits!" Zachery says, shrinking back as if at his own enthusiasm at this claim, though it does not diminish the— admittedly drink-influenced satisfaction showing in his grin. "But calling it 'alone' is a little dramatic, isn't it?" It's not the word he would have chosen, his tone implies, before leaning back to lift and upend his drink in order to down nearly the last half of it in one go. It may be the subject.

"I don't know, because you have not yet told me." The beginnings of something else in Yi-Min's words now: a more patient version of boredom, as she continues to watch Zachery with a now half-lidded gaze. Rapraprap go her slender fingertips on the table. If this turns out to be more or less a repeat of how their first meeting went, she does not want any.

Zachery's glass comes down onto the table a little harder than it should, splayed fingers still holding around the rim as he meets Yi-Min's eyes with one of his own.

"You're really going to make me spell it out? The man living in what is essentially a glorified washroom," he bares his teeth now, in what looks like a combination of amusement and pain both encapsulated in one grimace, "between accidentally commenting on women's bodies being weird?" For better or worse, he doesn't look torn up about what he assumes is a fairly obvious answer.

It certainly is obvious when Zachery puts it like this. Yi-Min had not really expected different, but his erratic facetiousness had admittedly made it really difficult to tell for a few seconds, on top of her not knowing him well. There are people out there with highly unorthodox tastes! Even she can believe that one may have found their way to the disgraced doctor.

But apparently not.

"…I see. No. I had thought just as much. Spare me the sad details." This tersely worded request is followed by a pause, as she works through the direction she wishes to steer this depressing trash fire of a conversation in next. "I am still interested in trading an answer for an answer, since you know that was not much of one," she says marginally more mildly, moving her hand upwards and lifting her glass between splayed fingers to take a long drink from it at last. "You may ask me something, if you wish."

Lingering does not seem to be on Zachery's mind when it comes to this particular avenue of conversation. It's not that he's showing any shame, though frustration, perhaps, bubbles to the surface in the way he lifts his glass to a member of staff across the room a little too energetically. Wiggle wiggle. More please.

Once he's gotten a knowing nod, he slides his empty glass out to where it may more easily be scooped up, and turns his attention back on the person across the table from him. Dragging an elbow toward him so as to prop his chin right up onto a palm. To stare with visible intrigue, and to say flatly, "I'd like to know why your blood's all wrong."

There are several reasonable guesses Yi-Min can immediately formulate as to where this question is coming from. She is pretty fairly certain that she hasn't accidentally dropped a syringe full of her blood on Zachery's front step anytime in the past ever, so clearly, there is some other reason for him to be phrasing this the way that he is. The other one is far more unkind, and to be perfectly frank, she is not sure which option she prefers.

As she sets down her nearly empty drink, she withdraws her forearms sedately into her lap, fixing the man with a straight, scrutinizing look. "'My blood is all wrong.' Care to elaborate?"

Up comes another hand, Zachery now sitting slouched forward with his chin on both palms. So patient. So attentive. That grin widening. "Oh, no. You offered me another answer, not another question. That's not how this works, is it."

But Yi-Min's expression remains just about as collected as it was before, if not moreso. Both her brows do rise by a minute fraction, but nothing else. "Good try. I can hardly answer your question if I do not know what you’re trying to ask," she says with a deadpan innocence, shooting a deliberate peek at the crook of one of her arms without moving her head. Then, back to Zachery. "By my estimation? My blood works perfectly fine."

It's as though the two are playing a different game. Like a dog trying to engage a cat in play. A cat who seems to be above this sort of thing. Maybe this is why Zachery's voice comes down to something that doesn't travel far past the table when he pauses his attempts and says, plainly, "It works. It functions. But 's not what it should be. Almost, but not."

A new, fresh Guinness delivery swinging by the table pulls his attention away from Yi-Min all too easily. "Ah! Yes, there you are. Thank you," he tells the waitress, voice a chipper 180 from its subdued quality. And then… immediately starts to down the pint. Maybe the whole thing, should nothing stop him. La dee da.

As long as that waitress is there, Yi-Min takes the opportunity to indicate that she would like another of hers as well, thank you very much. Once they have been left alone again, the little Taiwanese woman regards Zachery with a measured glance. In truth, it was never a game she had intended on playing for very long, even with the return of some unwelcome sass in Zachery's words.

"You're partially correct," she discloses steadily, though lower in volume so that they will be less easily overheard. Not much of a chance given the general overlay of murmuring from so many surrounding patrons, but still. "My blood is normal in most respects. But, there are small amounts of substances within it that would almost certainly not be found in others. I assume," she continues, still in that same level tone, "that you have some ability of your own that allows you to detect this."

Zachery resurfaces from his glass momentarily to peer at Yi-Min, swiping the back of a hand across his mouth. "I think I'm just… a really, really, REALLY good guesser." Back up that glass goes— no, wait, he hesitates, looking along the side of that half-raised drink to the other doctor in the room, with a grin that makes him look like he's finally actually starting to enjoy himself. Having figured out a secret, perhaps, has been the key to this.

"You're paying, by th'way." BOTTOMS UP.

Or maybe he's just trying to get her to leave.

No, and also haha no. It is a healthy thing for them both that Yi-Min is slowly starting to become more accustomed to Zachery's mannerisms, or she might have considered stabbing him just out of principle. It helps that he is apparently overjoyed to find out… what is honestly a very minor 'secret' in the scheme of things. This somewhat perplexing overreaction is something that she notes through her glass as she drains the last of it and then sets it off to her side to await collection.

"You really haven't had anything to be excited about in a while, have you," she says very softly with an emotion that might be mistaken for tenderness were she not the one saying it. As it is, it just sounds patronizing, and she doesn't make any attempt whatsoever to modulate her voice so that it doesn't.

"I've had lots!" This answer comes IMMEDIATELY, Zachery lifting his freshly polished off glass for the summoning of another. He doesn't even bother checking if it's been noticed this time, keeping his attention on Yi-Min with a sliiightly sluggish blink of his visible eye. "You're so bitter. Enjoy the little things, will ya." Up comes that hand again, to scratch at his covered up eye. He's had to slap things on there for a month and it's annoying. Then, idly, as if without thinking about it first, he adds cheerily, "Like how you don't have herpes."

What attracts Yi-Min most about this crassness is not so much the words themselves— beyond the initial shock value of hearing them, something which wears off swiftly enough— but the fact that they have dropped out of Zachery's mouth at all. As the waitress returns bearing the welcome tribute of a new cocktail, Yi-Min plucks it out of the other woman's grasp when it is handed off the tray without really looking at it, attention fixated instead on the ex-surgeon's face.

"What a useful gift," she murmurs with the same quietness, though it has taken a twist; now she actually sounds impressed. "To be able to tell what is out of place in such a way." And what a waste, trapped in the body occupying the seat across from her. The tiny smile she gives Zachery is composed. Analytical.

As it turns out, she does in fact enjoy the little things.

"It IS a gift, isn't it?" And what a treat, having it be claimed by exactly the right person! Who… suddenly seems to realise something, pulling back from the table to sink back, arms sort of just… flopping down by his sides. His eyebrows give a few sluggish, thoughtful twitches down and then back up again as his attention drifts elsewhere, but a staggered breath later and he seems fine again. Blink, blink. Yep. All good.

"An'… and this," He looks back to Yi-Min again, "this is going a lot better'n I thought it was going to. None'a your drinks've made it over to my side of the table or anything." A beat's pause. "Yet." And gone is his attention again, peering instead to the rest of the room to figure out if there's a drink for HIM on the way, too. In a murmur, then, "Also I may need a piss."

Better is a relative perspective. This hadn't gotten as catastrophically as it might have done, so that probably counts as progress punctuated by a question mark. Still, it is something that Zachery at least seems to think so. "Go piss then," Yi-Min says, carelessly waving him off as she swigs down a large mouthful from her newly arrived cocktail. It is not as though he needs permission from her.

He's on his way, JEEZ. Sort of, shifting his weight to get to his feet, and plopping a hand down onto the table to steady himself for a moment.

"Remind me t'tell you about the time I walked into the women's restroom some time, and some… madwoman shoved my whole face into her— ooh!" A distraction! A waitress passes by at that very moment, with his so patiently requested fresh pint. Rather than let her get to the table, he swipes it from her tray - spilling foam and stout all over his fingers. "Shit." He pauses, staring at his fingers as the liquid starts dripping down his arm, which is then held up, like that's going to somehow stop it from creeping into the fabric of his dress shirt. "Okay, ah—" Slightly panicky. Then, through a chuckle and at seemingly no one in particular, "Okay! Taking this with me!"

Aaand he's off, pushing away from the table and past a waitress that had better get a great tip. Even if it is not, in fact, from him. Because while a piss generally involves coming back to the table, apparently tonight it does not.

Yi-Min can be counted on to be a keeper of promises, even ones silently only made to herself. Zachery will have discovered this himself in a few days hence, once he finds the price of both their tabs— yes, full gratuity included— prominently subtracted from whatever money he would have earned from his next transaction.

For now, Yi-Min enjoys what remains of her drink in peace once the living spectacle that is Dr. Zachery Miller has mysteriously vanished. Out of sight, if not quite out of mind. Unfortunately.

Be that as it may, it is a relief nearly worth drinking to in and of itself.

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