Of All People


toussaint_icon.gif zachery_icon.gif

Scene Title Of All People
Synopsis Zachery's attempts to be a missing person are foiled by Agent Toussaint.
Date March 8, 2021

Jackson Heights

It's chilly and it's early. The sound of an active construction site surrounding a newly erected building nearby very nearly masks the hiss of a bus door opening, letting a flock of people out into a busy sidestreet in Jackson Heights.

They disperse in several directions, with some headed toward the rows of shops that have only just opened up in the last hour and others hurrying to make their way toward the more finished parts of town, where square-and-rectangle-dominated architecture is given a halo by the sun still sitting low near the horizon.

When the bus has gone, only one of its passengers remains on the sidewalk in its wake. Dressed in a brown jacket over black, hooded sweatshirt and jeans, a man is left staring straight ahead with indecision keeping him bolted to the spot, hands in his pockets. As his gaze drifts toward the shops, his almost identical left eye catches the light just ever so slightly wrong.

Eventually, it is his stomach that sets him on his path, and with his shoulders drawn up high he presses forward and away from the noise of sawblades and drills, pulling one hand out of his pockets to count the bills plucked from within. Enough for some food, surely.

Not far from the bus stop, a well-dressed man stands out of the way on the sidewalk, shoulders parallel with the building behind him so he doesn’t block traffic for those walking farthest from the curb. His dark eyes aren’t searching for anything, but still he squints, thanks to the sun bouncing off windows and glass due to its low position in the sky. One hand holds a phone to his ear, but he doesn’t speak, seeming to only listen before he tucks the slim device into his pocket.

It’s only as he turns that Toussaint’s sharp gaze falls on the man, catches that odd glint of something not-quite-right in the left eye. It would be easy to overlook the man, dressed as he is, but the off kilter catches Toussaint’s attention, and in that instant, he knows he knows this man — Zachery Miller.

Someone everyone’s looking for.

He considers calling someone else — Castle or Reeves, maybe. The former because he has more experience with Miller but Reeves can certainly get to them faster. But instead he takes a step forward, and then another.

“Doctor,” he says, voice loud enough despite some yards between them yet, but it’s not quite a shout.

Immediately, the distance between each of Zachery's steps increases, his pace picking up as his hand closes around the money he was picking through. He looks up, not to find the source of the voice but to fixate on the street beyond, veering slightly off the planned route to walk past the shops instead. Fuck 'em, he'll eat somewhere else later. If he can just keep quiet and keep walking, surely whoever's talking to him will think they're mistaken.

Unfortunately, much like the sound of nails on a chalkboard, Toussaint's voice garners an involuntary response. "Not today!" He calls, voice hoarse with disuse. "Quite busy!"

It’s not in Toussaint’s nature, generally, to chase those who don’t want to speak with him. But people are worried about the good doctor, and it is in Toussaint’s job description to check on the man.

He sighs to the sky above as he follows, his own legs making short work of the sidewalk. For all his tranquility when seated, Toussaint is quick on his feet, darting around a pedestrian or two between himself and Zachery.

“You’re not in trouble with us. But I’d like to talk with you for just a moment,” he calls out. “Your wife and friends are worried about you, sir. We’d like to at least put her mind at ease, that you’re somewhere safe.”

The realisation of who, exactly, is speaking to him, brings Zachery to an abrupt halt. He stops, and turns to face Toussaint with his knuckles whitening around the money still in his fist, and then sticks his hands back in his pockets. Casual posture it is not, still rigid with tension.

"Hello, Agent Toussaint." His voice is colder, now, and the unblinking stare that's fixed on the other man's face even moreso. "Wonderful. Thank you for letting me know. Street seems to be… safe enough, doesn't it? What a relief."

If it's a smile he tries to conjure, the result is too closely related to a sneer to be successful. "Good bye."

Toussaint stops walking when Zachery does, a few yards away, his hands in his own pockets. He offers an amiable smile that’s not overly friendly nor overly cheerful. Something carefully benign and unthreatening.

“I’ll let Mrs. Miller know you were in one piece, then,” he says, voice carefully light, as if the two men are having just a friendly chat and that nothing in the world is wrong — a reflection of the act that Zachery’s playing out.

“However,” marks a shift in his tone as he takes a step forward. “Maybe you would like to talk to someone ‘safe’ who isn’t your wife or someone else going through what you are, so you don’t have to worry about how your feelings make them feel. Nor someone as friendly and helpful as my friend Castle, because they are friendly and helpful.”

His hand comes out of his pocket, palm tipping upward. “Who better than me? You don’t have to worry about hurting my feelings.” Toussaint glances to a nearby bar, then back to Zachery. “Buy you a beer? Or there’s a boxing gym nearby. You can work out your aggression with your fists, if that’s more your pleasure.”

In the brief pause that follows, Zachery's glare does not relent. "Not quite rock bottom enough to be drinking at this hour. At least not with witnesses. Also, in what world are you safe?" He bitterly laughs the last word out in mockery, a tone of voice that carries into the next few sentences as well. "We're both under no illusion that I'm doing a whole…" He gestures vaguely but frantically, both hands back out of his pockets and empty. "A whole runaway thing, which isn't going to be very effective if we have a lovely little chat and while you're passing notes onto the people I'm trying to get away from, is it?"

He takes a step back, conviction honing his words and tightening his jaw when he adds, "I might be confused, but I'm not stupid."

Toussaint shrugs, sliding his hand back into his pocket. He looks around, as if to determine just how safe or unsafe this environment is, before looking back to Zachery.

“Safe in that whatever you tell me isn’t going to get back to your wife, save that you’re alive and not face down in some alley somewhere, I suppose,” the agent says calmly, no mockery in his tone, no sardonic smirk curling his upper lip. “I know it’s hard for you to believe it, but my job has always been to try to help you. The problem is — and I will admit it, and I’m pretty sure you can tell I’m arrogant enough that admitting this hurts me — I have no idea how to fucking do that.”

His smile is small now, its wryness directed at himself. “So I guess I can just ask you. What can I do to help? Do you need a place to hide that’s safe? I can probably arrange that for you. Maybe help you arrange some accounts so that they’re not trackable. Maybe arrange some sort of counseling to work through this shit far better than I can do. What you’re going through?” Toussaint shakes his head. “No one else has ever dealt with this before, aside from you and the others. You may not be alone, but you’re pretty damn close to it, with the exception of those others. I’m not going to pretend I can begin to understand.”

His brows lift. “But I do care. I may be an arrogant prick, but I’m not a heartless arrogant prick, Doctor.”

None of Zachery's apparent hostility lessens, neither in posture nor expression. Maybe it's what looks like hatred that keeps his attention squarely on Toussaint, though, keeping him there and listening.

His reply comes with some delay, and only after the mixture of impatience and frustration finally boils over, the excess vented in a drawn out groan. "Come on, then." Instead of answering any question directly just yet, he promptly starts to walk again, away from Toussaint but at a much more reasonable pace than before. "Let's at least keep fucking moving. Can't stand just… lingering."

There’s a fleeting look of surprise on Toussaint’s face, but he nods, moving forward, his long legs catching him up to Zachery and falling in step with him. He still keeps a few feet away, just in case Zachery decides to punch him after all.

It may seem that Toussaint is content to walk in silence, but it’s a short lived thing that he eventually breaks after a couple of glances sidelong at the doctor.

“So where are you planning on going? You don’t have to give me specifics. If we want to track you, there’s not much that you could do to avoid that.” He holds up a hand, as if to calm Zachery, like he’s gentling an upset stallion. “We haven’t — at least, I haven’t. This was purely coincidental, believe it or not. There’s a place near here that sells beignets and chicory coffee. Tastes like home.”

That hand comes up just in time, Zachery's attention already having snapped onto Toussaint's face with a decidedly unkind edge that says in no uncertain terms, 'fuck your coincidences and fuck your tracking, too.'

After the necessary addition, he tears his gaze away and aims it ahead of him again, speeding up just a little now that they're both on the move. "I'll tell you a phrase I should have gotten comfortable with a long time ago," Zachery answers, with a twitch of bared teeth in his pause between words. "I don't know."

He continues along the shopfronts, over freshly laid, sandy tiles, his tone of voice many measures more casual than his stride. "The only place I keep thinking about is England - speaking of home - but that's not right, is it? It wouldn't be how I remember it being as a teenager. That place doesn't exist anymore. For so many reasons, not just what's been on the news. Hence - I don't know."

“Fair enough.” Toussaint keeps pace with Zachery’s forward momentum, his movements seem more relaxed, but the nonchalance is belied by the intensity of his gaze, landing somewhere a few feet ahead of his own feet.

A few steps pass before he speaks again. “I ran away from home once when I was a kid. Made some mistakes I didn’t want to face, shit I didn’t want to own. Hitched a ride with a trucker who had this sign on his dashboard saying ‘wherever you go, there you are.’”

His smile is small, made more to himself and at the memory than it’s meant for Zachery.

“I stared at that damn sign for five hours before he dropped me off in Memphis. Then got on a bus and went back home to Louisiana. Turns out you can’t really run away from yourself.” The agent pulls his phone from the pocket to look at it; lit up, there’s some notification on it, but it’s too far away to read in the second or two before Toussaint slides it back into his pocket.

“Your situation — you can’t outrun it, really, can you.” Toussaint’s voice drops rather than lifts at the end of the question, turning it into a statement, tinged with something like sympathy.

Zachery, meanwhile, has the distant stare of someone who may or may not have checked out halfway during Toussaint's recollection. As he walks, he searches the street ahead for… something, the way one might note the exits in a room they would rather leave.

"So let it catch up!" He decides in a voice now officially too loud for the semblance of a pleasant conversation, followed by a noise somewhere between a scoff and a humourless chuckle. "That's fine! Maybe by the time it's got its claws around my neck I'll understand what it even is! Because a situation, Agent Toussaint, requires some sense of self."

Fingers curling inward at his sides, he angles a tired look to his side, searching Toussaint's face with a sharp exhale. "And what, of me, is left?"
Zachery is rewarded with the too-loud voice by a slight flinch in Toussaint’s usually calm facade. The agent doesn’t tell the other man to calm down, nor does he look around to see what attention the doctor’s outburst has garnered. He simply walks, contemplating the question that can’t truly be answered.

Not to anyone’s satisfaction, anyway — least of all Zachery’s.

“I wish I had an answer for you,” Toussaint says quietly. “You obviously think and feel, and to me, that’s what a person is, as opposed to something else. You are you, to get a little Dr. Seussical about it, but I guess you aren’t… him.” The other Zachery. “Except you sort of are that, too.”

Thanks for clearing that up, Toussaint.

“I guess my question — not because I’m going to stop you — is what do you want to achieve by leaving?” He glances over at Zachery. “I can get Agent Reeves to open her closet door to Oahu for you, maybe, or, hell, England if you don’t feel like going through customs. She goes to a tea shop there. Risking a lot for a cup of tea, if you ask me.”

Zachery forces out a sigh, and though no direct disagreements leave him, his brow knits with a growing amount of questions suddenly on his mind.

As if all those questions suddenly pile up into too heavy a burden, he suddenly stops and whips around to address Toussaint directly, shoulders squared. "I don't get it. What do /you get out of this?" He lifts his head for a scrutinising stare, then adds, "Say I go to England, and stay there, no fuss, no trouble. You arrange some accounts so that I can go to the shop every now and then for food and drink, and… maybe get myself a fucking library card to keep busy until…"

Who knows how much time he'll have, either way. He moves quickly on. "Then what? Do you get a raise? Some good marks on a report card? Are you escaping some sort of negative reinforcement should you not do this? Surely you can't be as insufferable as… as just wanting to help, can you."

He squints. "Can you?"

Toussaint’s laugh comes low and soft. “I don’t get anything out of it for work. Not sure if I’m supposed to help set that sort of thing up for you or not, because, well, this is just unprecedented. There’s no playbook for this, or most of what we deal with, so we’re just sort of winging it. But other than that…”

He glances out at the street when a cab driver blasts his horn at some poor driver taking too long to make a left turn. After a beat, he looks back to Zachery. “I hate being helpless. I hate not being able to fix something, not knowing the answers, and this job, man, it’s nothing but not knowing the answers these days,” he explains, tone weary. “There isn’t much I can do. Paperwork, I can manage shit like that. It isn’t enough. It’s something, if it helps.”

With teeth flashing, Toussaint throws Zachery a faux-sunny smile, ala Tom Cruise or someone else aggressively cheerful. “See? Not altogether altruistic. I have some selfish reasons in there, after all.”

Again, Zachery listens, with a keen patience that does not match the way he stands, tense, like a racing dog biding its time, waiting for the gates to open.

Helpfulness is rewarded, quite unkindly, with a sneer and with a crisply spoken, "God, I loathe you." Followed very shortly by something with a little more conviction. "Alright, let's do it. Let's test that horrible thing called trust, and get me the fuck out of this absolute disaster of a city for—"

He pauses, discomfort exhaled in a harsh excuse for chuckle. "I don't know. For a time."

Toussaint’s brows lift and he tips his head slightly. “Tell me how you really feel, there, Zacko,” he says wryly, but he doesn’t appear too surprised or overly offended.

“Where to? Beatrix doesn’t have doors in every city, but I know she’s got London, Canada, Cancun, California, Washtingon of course — the new one, that is,” he rattles off as he walks along, pulling out a phone to send a text, presumably to Agent Reeves. “She might need some convincing, but there’s nothing that says you can’t leave the country, and nothing that says she can’t help you do so.”

He glances up at Zachery from his phone. “You might like her. She’s British and does the whole not-using-her-whole-mouth-to-speak thing too.”

"Yes, well," Zachery replies without pause, "When we do properly unhinge our jaws, sincerity tends to make its way out, and no one wants that."

He lifts a hand to scrub it past his jawline and the not-so-close hotel shave. For a moment, his gaze is distant, before he wrangles his goals back into focus and his eye fixes onto Toussaint's face again. "Alright, send me off to London." Some of the tension leaves his shoulders. "Maybe I'll drop by my brother's place, give him a heart attack, bury him under the floorboards and swipe his ID."

Toussaint pulls his phone out once Zach’s said ‘very well,’ and he uses the camera app, zooming in on a gate leading into a church’s front steps right across the street from them. Glancing at the photo, he then swipes a few things, sending it off into the ether, presumably to Reeves.

His gaze snaps up at Zachery’s musings about what he’ll do when he gets to London, and that intense gaze is back, his eyes narrowing slightly. “Don’t fucking tell me that. Jesus. Just for saying it, I shouldn’t follow through but I’m going to assume you’re kidding, but I can’t really tell because you have the deadpan of a cast iron skillet, brah.”

If Zachery’s got his eyes on the wrought-iron gate across the street at all, it swings open with no one’s help — and then suddenly stepping out of what seems to be thin air is the slim frame of Beatrix Reeves. She looks both ways before crossing the street. “Agent Toussaint. And you must be Dr. Miller,” she says, her accent hailing from south of London.


Zachery might be slightly less immediately concerned, but of course he's watching. Having rattled Toussaint to any extent yields a lopsided smirk, but fascination with Reeves' immediate arrival wipes it off of his face all too easily.

Her introduction gives him a few second's pause, until he clears his throat and answers, "That's what they keep telling me." His own accent tightens up just a little - his own one would match hers almost perfectly if only his current location hadn't been doing its best to shave the edges off for the last decade and a half.

Then, with what sounds like anger slipping back into his voice - if restrained - he asks, "Do you have any idea how lucky you are?"

The first comment earns him a sympathetic look from Reeves, but the second draws a blush over her fair complexion. She glances at Toussaint, and then back to Zachery, and smiles, slightly embarrassed for her luck of the lottery when it comes to abilities.

“I do, yes,” she says in reply, but doesn’t elaborate. “So as far as England goes, I’ve got access to a tea shop in London and also a, uh, broom cupboard in a house in Camberley, but the people there know I may pop in at any time. The cupboard’s just so I don’t make anyone spill their tea or choke on a biscuit out of surprise, which would be poor form on my part to my generous door hosts.”

Toussaint smirks, reaching out to touch Reeves’ shoulder lightly. “Thanks for coming, Bea. You’re sure you’re up for aiding and abetting this?”

Reeves narrows her eyes appraisingly at Zachery, then nods. “I’m sure he’ll be quite well behaved and not make me regret it at all.”

In a stark contrast to before, Zachery seems suddenly like the colour's come back into his world, and Reeves is somehow at the center of it.

He stares at her, confounded and more awake than he's looked this entire time, before suddenly taking a big breath and saying, "Wait! Camberley?" He cracks a slowly spreading grin, forgetting himself just for a moment in the face of this epiphany. "First of all, yes, we're going there, but are you from fucking Surrey? Better fucking yet— are you related to the Merton Reeves who used to pull a different girl behind the church every Sunday?"

This last part said, naturally, with all the tone of judgement but all the straight backed inquisitiveness of someone who may have slightly impressed at the time.

Toussaint’s brows lift at the sudden change in Zachery and he turns to Reeves to watch her reply. “It’s a small world after all,” he muses, mostly to himself, for Reeves is also ignoring him entirely.

“Yes! Windlesham, specifically, when I was coming up, and then over to the Smoke, of course,” the British agent says, clapping her hands together. “Merton is one of my cousins, but I haven’t seen him in a long time. Which township was that? We weren’t proper close to that particular branch of the family tree, I’m afraid, but it sounds like that might have been a good thing.”

Her smile is bright and she looks over to Toussaint, almost beaming, as if expecting him to be as thrilled as the two Brits regarding their literal common ground. The other agent’s taken out his cell phone and is scrolling through a news feed, though, and only looks up and nods vaguely to indicate he’s aware of it all.

“My best mate lives in Camberley with his wife so that’s where that door will lead, if you choose safe and private entrance versus stepping literally into the London tea shop,” Reeves explains, turning back to Zach. “The tea shop’s a bit in flagrante, thumbing my nose at their fascist ways, admittedly, but the tea is quite good.”

Fueled by the joint Toussaint Ignoring efforts and serving as a confirmation that Merton was probably a piece of work, Zachery laughs. It's a sound of relief that's reined in before long but continues to pull at the corners of his mouth.

But somewhere in between an intake of breath in preparation for an answer and a roll upward of his gaze to indicate he's recalling the specific memories he needs… something falters.

Maybe considering the past is difficult to do without, inevitably, thinking about the present.

His smile fades, and though he tries to conjure it back onto his face when he lowers his attention back down to Reeves, it smacks of feigned pleasantries as much as his now level and carefully controlled voice does. "Let's meet your best mate, then," he decides, leaning forward into a saunter to cross the street with considerably less regard for looking both ways. "Shall we?"

“Everybody loves Reeves,” Toussaint mutters to himself, but it’s with an actual smile as he slides the cell phone back into his pocket. “I’ll be over at Marcel’s getting coffee and beignets if you want to pop over there next,” he tells Reeves, the words ‘pop over’ in an imitation of her British accent. He dips his head in something of a bow to Zachery, even as the other man heads for the gate that will serve as his gateway to Camberley.

“Best of luck, Dr. Miller,” he says, before turning to walk toward his original destination down the street.

"Who needs luck with friends like you?" Zachery answers with sardonic cheer as he walks, sticking his hands back in his pockets as more tension returns to him with every step, concern creeping its way into his brow as he refuses to slow.

Reeves simply smiles sweetly at the other agent’s jealousy, waiting until Toussaint’s back is turned before remarking in an aside to Zachery, “Poor Marlon. No one wants his power except in a fight.” Her fleeting expression of sympathy fades, replaced by a brighter smile. “I’ll text Nigel so he knows we’re coming and he can put some tea on, shall I?” Her phone comes out of her pocket and she texts while they walk.

“Ready?” she asks, looking up at him before putting her hand on the gate. When it swings open, there’s no sign that there’s anything but the walkway to the church on the other side, but once they step forward, it’s into a closet, smelling of mothballs, sharing space with a vacuum cleaner, some coats, and galoshes.

"Take me home," is the last thing Zachery says before crossing the threshold, pushing forward with the motivation of a man rejecting the notion of even one more extra thought. Because fuck this country, fuck this city, fuck everything it stands for and all the reminders of a life no longer recognisable as his own. All of it, he will all too gladly leave behind.

… Even if forward does prove to be directly into a faceful of musty coats that are immediately shoved at, and with one knee knocking immediately into that vacuum cleaner. "Shit."

Camberley, Surrey, England

Beatrix sneezes, a dainty thing like a cat might do, catching it quickly as both hands come up to cover her face. “Home sweet home,” she says with a laugh, and reaches for the door knob to open the close into a hallway.

“Nigel! We’re here!” she calls out.

An orange tabby cat looks up at them from the other side of the door, and Reeves scoops it up and buries her face in its fur. “Widdershins!” she says happily, face muffled against its neck.

“Trixie! And friend. Welcome,” says a man’s voice from further down the hallway. “Welcome. I’ve the tea on and the game on the telly. Come on out of the cupboard under the stairs. West Ham’s up one against Leeds.” The short man, perhaps Reeves’ height, strides forward to shake Zach’s hand, then turns to disappear into a cozy looking den.

Reeves lets the cat down and reaches up to rub her nose. “How do you take your tea?”

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