One Problem As It Comes


eileen2_icon.gif yi-min_icon.gif

Scene Title One Problem As It Comes
Synopsis Enabled by a bottle of whiskey, Eileen and Yi-Min have a frank conversation.
Date March 17, 2019

Sunken Factory, Eileen's Room

Eileen chose one of the highest vantage points for her room. It overlooks the Oswego River and the dark sea of pine trees beyond it, but on nights like tonight — when the moon is high and the sky is relatively clear — you can see the real ocean glittering in the distance.

There’s undoubtedly some sort of strategy behind the decision. Right now, it’s unimportant. Eileen has placed all her trust in Emile Danko standing guard on the watchtower outside, allowing her to focus her attention on other things. Things like Yi-Min and the bottle of whiskey shared between them.

It’s a gift from one of the homesteads with a distillery in its basement, and although it’s nothing as refined or as expensive as what the Kazimir used to keep on hand — it does the trick (quite nicely, in fact).

She lounges at the head of her bed, wools and leathers traded in for the silk of a sheer slip and a black robe so billowy and large she looks like she’s swimming in it. In one small, fine-boned hand: a porcelain cup. In the other: a lit cigarette.

One of the advantages to living outside society is that no one can tell her where she can and cannot smoke.

In many ways, Yi-Min is a contradiction of her culture.

Not least of these is the sheer, somewhat eyepopping amount of alcohol the little Taiwanese woman has routinely, a habit which had once involved a hard-won battle against her genetically-shit tolerance. The social cues of business conducted on the Chinese mainland had certainly influenced this, but she has always simply loved the act of drinking for what it is: an expedient method of cutting to the emotional quick of any conversation.

The interesting part.

In rough symmetry to Eileen, Yi-Min reclines over at the foot of the bed, a matching porcelain cup gripped loosely in both hands— though at certain intervals she has been taking a hand off to gesticulate while talking. The sharpness of her frame is obscured beneath a long and gauzy peignoir that drapes past her ankles, tied round the middle with a sash that is purely decorative.

She is not drunk yet. But she is getting there.

"So, what is this you meant the other day about Charity and trouble? I wouldn't have thought you'd want more to deal with in the camp, meimei."

Some say Eileen is difficult to read. That she’s frustratingly opaque. Those who know her as well as Yi-Min are fluent in the diminutive Englishwoman’s body language and can easily recognize the discomfort that settles in between her shoulder blades like a weight. Something changes behind her eyes at the mention of the name Charity.

Her tolerance for alcohol is lower than Yi-Min’s, even though they’re roughly of the same size and build. It warms her from the inside out and flushes her cheeks pink. The next shot will round out her vowels and abbreviate her consonants as she lapses back into her rougher natural accent. It’s taken her years to polish her speech into something clean and respectable, but only half an hour to undo all of Kazimir’s hard work.

She hides the flatter shape her mouth makes behind the rim of her cup, using it as an excuse to drink.

“Petty gossip mongering doesn’t command respect,” she says. “She feels threatened by you, but that will pass. We only have to let it.”

Yi-Min does not suppress the sympathetic quirk of her lips at the palpable displeasure of Eileen's reaction to Charity: it is a name easy to have a visceral reaction to, even in the relatively short span of time she had known the other woman, and not a good one. "Why does she feel threatened by me? It's not as though I came here to change the order of things. If she is a clairvoyant, she should know this," she answers in a scornful, but also scrutinizing tone. The corners of her eyes have narrowed in a bout of distaste.

"Is it her ability, or is she just being a busybody?" Kae po. A phrase Eileen had heard Yi-Min use on occasion to describe nosy shitbags like she has observed Charity to be. It seems apt here.

“She called you a snake,” Eileen says, tracing the edge of her thumb along her cup’s rim, “because that’s what she sees when she looks at you. Black eyes and skin like cool, soft leather. She told me your mouth was full of poison.”

Her nail tinks against the porcelain. “And you work for Praxis. I’m sure that doesn’t help.”

She decides it’s time to refill her cup, and balances the whiskey bottle across the back of her opposite hand as she measures what she imagines is the right amount of alcohol into the bottom. It creates a chugging sound that’s strangely pleasing to the ear.

“It isn’t just you,” she adds, righting the bottle before she offers it back to Yi-Min. “She’s come to me about Byron as well.”

"How boring. So literal. Did she come up with that all by herself, or is it because she overheard Kara being drunk?" Creeping intoxication adds extra oomph to the force behind Yi-Min's emphasis even as she happily reaches to grasp the bottle of whiskey that Eileen offers: her own cup is sitting nearly empty, and she uses the opportunity to replenish it as she continues.

The Praxis part of the assessment is more fair, but still.

"What did she have to say about Byron, hmm? That he's a wolf in sheep's clothing?" As long as they are on the topic of (possibly) being unoriginal. Once Yi-Min's cup is also gratifyingly full, she passes the bottle to Eileen so the other woman can set it down where it had once been.

Of Byron, Eileen says: “He casts the shadow of a much larger man.” And while this is Charity’s assessment, it’s also her own — if for very different reasons.

“I sometimes miss Kazimir’s way of doing things,” she confesses, in that same vein. “He had Amato shake your hand. That’s it. A brush of skin on skin and the old man knew your mind. No misrepresenting yourself, no opaque intentions.”

She swings one long, bare leg over the edge of the bed and then the other. Her bare feet sink into the worn Persian throw spread open on the floor. Its wool is frayed and faded, but it lends the room some much needed warmth.

The candles help, too.

Eileen places the whiskey bottle on her night stand with a muted air of finality. Clunk.

“I don’t think I’m ever going to get fucked again,” she announces.

"That would definitely make it easier to deal with the likes of Charity," Yi-Min observes drily, but there is nothing but agreement written large and plain on her face. If there is anything Eileen knows she dislikes, it's dithering about in the shadows with secrets and opaque intentions.

But occasionally, if infrequently, someone will say something that is so unreserved and out of the blue that it gives even her pause. This… is such a moment. Yi-Min decides that she needs another thorough drink before she even attempts to tackle a pronouncement like this: she drains fully half of her only just-poured cup with a gulp, grimacing as she replaces it on her lap.

"There is for certain no way to diminish the effects?" she asks with heavily furrowed brow, though judging by the sinking feeling in her gut, she already knows most of this answer well. But just maybe— “Adynomine?”

Eileen’s response is an understated shake of her head. “I’ve thought about finding a way to force it out,” she clarifies. “Some combination of drugs, other abilities— but this body wouldn’t survive, and without someone like Childs to amplify mine at the same time…”

Like we did on Pollepel, is how she means to finish that particular thought. She lacks the conviction to, however, and dismisses it with an airy wave of her hand instead. Her feet carry her around the perimeter of the bed, past Yi-Min toward the adjacent windows. Both women can still make out the slow-moving river water carving its snakelike path through the landscape below, if not very much else.

“It’s the smaller moments I miss the most,” she says. “We used to touch a lot. Vanguard, even then.” She outlines Yi-Min’s reflection in the glass with the tip of her index finger. In spite of its healing properties, the conduit seems not to mitigate the alcohol’s effect on her her system. “Handshakes and kisses on both cheeks. Ethan used to let me sleep on his shoulder, sometimes. And I did more than just look at Iago when I was brave. I let my hand slip, passing him things, hoping he’d catch my wrist. So young, so stupid.”

"You know, I did suspect, even if I never saw you firsthand. And Eileen, you talk as if you're not still young now." The laugh that Yi-Min does carries an unmistakable undercurrent of amusement at the mention of Iago, but it is softened, reflective in quality in the context of old and fond memories. And over all this is a much more universal gloss of concerned sorrow, made more blunt yet by the quantity of liquor she has consumed.

The concern is what she focuses on now, and she lids her eyes as she looks towards Eileen's new position by the windowside and the darkness of the waters beyond. "There must be a way to remove this curse from you— some way, some ability. I refuse to believe that my meimei must have this forever. You deserve a life that’s your own. You deserve to have sex."

Yi-Min almost never swears in English, and when she does, it sounds all the odder because of her accent. But with only slight unsteadiness, she lifts a pointer finger in the air to underscore the point: "We'll fucking find a way."

When someone else’s attention is on her, especially when she’s been drinking, there’s a part of Eileen not unlike a live butterfly trembling under an entomologist’s pin. She dislikes the scrutiny, even if Yi-Min’s is — at least in this instance — decidedly less deadly. Her jiejie means well, she knows.

She crooks a smile at the older woman in the window’s reflection. “What about you?” she wants to know, or maybe she sees this as an opportunity to redirect the flow of the conversation back in Yi-Min’s direction.

The Taiwanese operative is, after all, a fascinating sort of specimen herself: all glossy black and clean, hard edges.

“When was the last time you had a go at it?”

This just in: Eileen is officially sloshed.

It's a look that Yi-Min returns in the reflection in kind, and even in the glass-dulled details, Eileen can clearly see the knowingness behind it. I can tell what you're doing, you know. But she peaceably allows the conversation to be deflected in this new direction, gathering up the remaining words inside her head (they are many, and they are all currently a jumble) and storing them away to come back out at a later time.

And then Yi-Min adjusts the position of one of her legs so it is straighter beneath her, diverting her gaze down to the resulting amber ripples in her cup with a lean smile.

"It's been awhile," she admits, regret plain. "I met someone when I was still new at Praxis. It didn't work out." Perhaps clearly, given that she is here alone, but she says it nonetheless. Also: it seems a little crass to continue on into the more sordid details given the current woeful state of Eileen's sex life, so this is where she abruptly leaves off and takes another long drink. She is capable of being considerate sometimes.

Eileen turns, tilting a look over her shoulder at Yi-Min that involves roguishly arched brows and a pearly flash of her canines. “Please,” she implores, “the least you can do is let me live vicariously through you.”

The glass is strong enough to support her weight as she leans back against it. There are to reasons for this. One: It takes pressure off her bare feet, which are up on their heels, all ten little toes delicately curled. Two: She enjoys its coolness on the back of her neck and tapered shoulders.

While she might not be able to experience a lover’s touch, there are other physical sensations she can still enjoy. So she arches her back and heaves a deeply gratified sigh.

“I’ll even trade you your story for one of mine.”

"If you really wish, but this isn't much of a story." Subdued assent makes Yi-Min sound wry, and she regards Eileen with a superficial kind of contemplation, informally following the small intricacies of the other woman’s movements. "Her name was Mei-Rong. She wasn't Praxis or even close: she worked in a library, and she was different from everything I was used to. I think I loved that about her. That— and many other things.”

The words come about as easily to Yi-Min as truth ever does, though her aspect also becomes several subtle shades more melancholy. It is not obvious, but it also not something she hides. "Yet there were things I could not tell her; I do not think I need to tell you which. She would not have deserved a life of hearing lies, and I could not have borne being the liar. So, to spare us both, I left. In this respect, I realize now I must count myself lucky."

It is rather hard to forget that in recent climes, Eileen has not exactly had the option of walking away when she does not wish to lie.

"At any rate, meimei, it has been awhile, as I said." Her already slim smile has smoothed into something that more accurately reflects her mood, but diminished or no, it is genuine. "I do promise you better stories later."

A good story requires few words to be compelling. Yi-Min holds Eileen’s attention without much effort, and her audience offers no complaint when the tale is cut short.

“Used to think the things we’d done for the old man could be forgiven,” she says on the subject of the truths Yi-Min was unwilling to inflict on her lover, “but those things— they change you. Irreversibly, on a molecular level. You and I and Iago and the others? The ones who are still alive? It’s written into our DNA. Forever.”

This is the part where she wishes she hadn’t left the bottle on the nightstand. She could use it to punctuate her point with another long drink. Instead, she sinks back down onto the floor, legs folding in until her knees are level with her arms, which she drapes over them. Her hands clasp there, fingers knit together at the knuckles.

Correction: Eileen isn’t sloshed. She’s plastered.

“But here’s one little bit of good news,” she adds like this is an afterthought, even though the weight of her words is heavy enough to suggest she’s been considering it for a long time, “out here, almost everybody’s as fucked up as we are.”

Though Yi-Min does not dispute the truth of this claim, that of the indelibility of the deeds the remaining Vanguard have executed, neither does she speak up to confirm it straight away. "Oh, Eileen, I almost wish wanting forgiveness is what it was," she slurs slightly, because she is at a point in her drinking where it is simply easier to let it into her words rather than trying to stop it. "But really it's much more selfish than that. I was only afraid of what she'd think. I couldn’t deal with the answer."

Does this make Yi-Min a terrible person, that she was and is far more conscientious about one than the other? Probably. In a whatever motion, she swiftly empties what remains of the whiskey in her cup, makes a terrible face, and deposits the empty cup heavily off to her side on the bedsheets.

Unceremoniously also, she gathers up the trailing diaphanous folds of her nightgown against her legs, abandons her comfortable post on top of the bed, and plops herself beneath the face of the window directly next to Eileen's new position on the hard floor. Hi.

On that second point: there follows a lighter sigh from Yi-Min. Of contentment? “…Yes, good. That's why I came out here."

“Me too.”

Eileen rests her dark head on Yi-Min’s shoulder. “Sharrow will come calling, soon. Sentinel. That’s what he’s named them: the other survivors of what Kazimir left behind.” And because she’s plastered, she makes no effort to disguise how this makes her feel. She states it plainly: “I’m worried.”

The knot she’s made of her hands tightens. “You know how the air gets dense right before a storm?” she asks. “And you can feel the electricity gathering, readying that first strike of lightning? It’s been like that since January. Something terrible’s about to happen.”

To be honest, it probably wouldn't have mattered if Eileen hadn't been pissed enough to say it outright. The name Sharrow is itself a highly valid cause for concern. "We will all face these trials, when they come. 'Stronger together than apart.' Remember? Your words, not mine." Yi-Min herself remembers them well, one of the tinier relics from their reunion that she had kept.

With a gesture of gentleness and straightforwardness wrapped into one, she reaches out to soothe the clenched mess that Eileen's hands have become in one of her own. The touch of bare skin is allowed to linger for probably more seconds than is wise, but at this moment she doesn't damn well care.

"One problem as it comes."

Eileen’s blue eyes sliver closed. Her breathing slows.

Yi-Min can tell that she isn’t asleep, but rather content just to sit with her in the dark, saying nothing — for nothing else needs to be said.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License