nicole3_icon.gif yi-min_icon.gif

Scene Title
Synopsis In Chinese numerology, the number 7 can be considered unfortunate. However, when applied to relationships, it is a good omen indeed.
Date July 7, 2020

Health Sciences Centre
Winnipeg, Manitoba

Everyone’s being led about for testing. X-Ray, MRI, bloodwork… There’s only two people left in the waiting area now for their turn at the latest battery of examinations. Nicole Miller looks over to Yi-Min Yeh in the seat next to her with concern. Not because she’s nervous about the testing or what any of it means, but because her friend has been through so much.

It’s easier to think of it that way than acknowledge the reality of the fact that she has been through just as much.

Nicole lifts her hand off the armrest of her chair and reaches over to rest it on top of Yi-Min’s lightly. Her thumb curls gently under the other woman’s palm. “I’m not glad this happened to either of us, whatever this is that’s happening.” The disclaimer is delivered first. “But if it has to be, I’m glad to be with you right now.”

It might have been minutes that they had now been waiting here together, reduced down to the lone pair that they now are, or it might have been hours. Yi-Min's deadened gaze reflects the reality of neither.

The touch of Nicole's hand on hers finally exhorts a visible reaction from her in a way that the sound of the metal clock on the wall— the only other notable source of sensory stimulation in the room, ticking away seconds into empty silence— had not.

And even so, the only thing that changes at first is a vaguely disturbed pinpoint in Yi-Min's eyes, as clouded as though it had been introduced there by an eyedropper. But then it slowly coheres, and once it does it pulls in all the pain that had previously been interred inside the blankness of her expression into one, sharp, deeply sorrowful point at the very forefront of the look she fixes on Nicole.

"I'm not," Yi-Min says aloud just as suddenly, and the skirt of calmness icing the edge of her words is enough to take anyone by surprise. But the direction her message truly leans in seems clear enough, at least after a moment: instead of letting go of Nicole's hand, she squeezes it tighter. "You shouldn't be here."

“Neither should you,” Nicole insists without missing a beat. For a moment, her throat goes tight, mouth pulled into a grimace and eyes wincing nearly shut in tandem with a hard exhale that sees her chest contracting inward, shoulders hunching slightly. It’s the beginning of tears that don’t get any further than that.

The clock on the wall ticks away three seconds of pure anguish, and then it’s passed.

Nicole keeps having moments like this, where she threatens to break down. But she’s cried her tears, and all it takes is a deep breath to restore most of her lost composure. “You don’t deserve this.”

Because she has a feeling Yi-Min might believe otherwise.

The grip of Yi-Min's hand in Nicole's remains almost dauntingly firm, as though Yi-Min is afraid that if she lets go now, the brittle bones of reality would cave into another nightmare like that of the plane crash in the next blink of her eyes. In truth, though, such a vision feels like a far-off thing in comparison to the more present pang of guilt in her for allowing the conversation to be steered into the heart of this topic, rather than just letting it go with a few trite words of agreement.

But she is also lamentably adamant.

"No. I have a decent idea of what I deserve. And, I have a better idea of what you deserve. Something along the lines of— whatever in literal hell this is supposed to be may well have been meted out for me, in time. It comes with the territory, you know? But, you? You should be out there. Planning your honeymoon. Your entire life."

A honeymoon, to follow a wedding that her good friend had missed due to being busy sitting in prison for serving an organization guilty of crimes against humanity.

“I don’t know, Minnie,” Nicole responds, easy in her uneasiness, “if this is Purgatory somehow? I’m not going to say I did nothing to deserve it.” That’s a harrowing thought in and of itself. The thought that maybe that’s a real place that exists. That maybe people like her do get what they deserve eventually.

“We… We were going to wait until the late winter. Maybe the spring, depending on the kids.” Those babies she was supposed to have in just two or three short months. “Go somewhere warm. Have a beachfront to ourselves. I was going to bury my toes in the sand and bask in the sun.”

Nicole shivers. “God, it’s so fucking cold in here,” she gripes.

It isn’t, though.

"You still will." It's Yi-Min's turn to be insistent, though it's more quiet coming from her. "There is a beautiful little beach I used to go to sometimes with Kara, about half an hour out of the Barrens— abandoned, so you would likely have the birdsong and sky and lakefront to yourselves. Likely too small for a honeymoon, but. Perhaps one day, with your kids."

There was a playground there, too, though it seems crass at best to delve into too much descriptive detail where that's concerned.

The complaint causes Yi-Min to look at Nicole a little more carefully, even through the internal mist of her much more certain thoughts on purgatory. "Cold? Are you feeling alright?"

“That sounds really lovely,” Nicole admits, clearly attempting to hold tears in once more. And again, the moment passes quickly with only a heavy and strained exhale to betray the moment as having happened at all.

Yi-Min’s concern draws Nicole’s full attention then, no longer imagining lakefront picnics with friends and family. “My ability keeps —” She catches herself. “Kept me warm. I’m used to it. I’m like a Californian after the weather dips below seventy.” The should-be electrokinetic shakes her head. “I’ll be glad to get back to my room so I can wrap myself up like a blanket burrito.” And leech some warmth from her husband’s embrace, probably.

"Hold on," Yi-Min instructs Nicole with extreme abruptness.

When she brushes herself off and just as briskly rises from her seat, it's for all the world like her old, pre-crash, primly energetic self had been completely restored— even if it's a temporary and also somewhat faded facsimile.

Without once giving Nicole the chance to ask what she is doing, Yi-Min has already disappeared like a singly determined cat in the direction of the distant niche where the waiting room receptionist is sitting.

From there, Nicole can vaguely hear but not see Yi-Min as she exchanges some very polite, yet very pointed words with the lady occupying the desk. Much of the conversation that takes place is unclear, but the gist is rather guessable, especially when Yi-Min comes back several long minutes, several long, crisscrossing trails of audible footsteps, and one or two additional voices later—-

…with a veritable heap of fresh cotton blankets bundled high into both her small arms as she stalks triumphantly back into the open sphere of Nicole's view. The comforting heat that rolls off all of them together is palpable, especially as she draws close to their seats again.

Surprise! Well. Sort of. It’s something, anyway.

When Yi-Min stands to walk away, Nicole clings to her until she would have to stand from her seat in order to maintain the contact. She won’t hold her back, so she relinquishes her hold and eases back into her chair from her stretch, staring down at the floor and wondering what she said to be abandoned so abruptly. It doesn’t occur to her — not immediately — that the departure is for her, not because of her.

The minutes stretch by endlessly, it feels. Without Yi-Min and the comfort she represents, it’s just Nicole, her grief, and the ticking clock. She’s been dissociating for longer than she’d care to admit when her friend returns with a stack of blankets.

It takes a moment for her to shake herself out of it, but she does, and Nicole lifts her gaze to Yi-Min’s form and smiles. Something genuine, if tempered still be a sadness that’s bone deep and as yet unshakeable. Reaching out to take the first blanket off the stack, she unfolds it only half way, so it can be doubled-up over her legs. A second one is quickly draped across her lap. And a third is pulled around her shoulders.

Only then does she let out a relieved sigh, sagging beneath the warmth of the blankets now that she isn’t staving off a fit of shivering. “Thank you,” Nicole breathes out, one hand sticking out from under her blanket cape to reach for Yi-Min’s hand again. She’ll pull it back into the sanctity of the warmth, given the chance.

"They are running behind, it seems," Yi-Min informs Nicole matter-of-factly, even as she is busily tucking her friend into the folds of that last blanket with the type of fastidiousness and extremely deep tenderness normally reserved for a small child. Tuck, tuck, patpat. "The nurse told me they are having trouble with one of their machines." And she couldn't very well let Nicole just sit there shivering for heavens knew how long, right?


Even though she doesn't take any of the blankets for herself, Yi-Min now seems a good deal more whole as well when she seats herself again empty-armed, at least in her own serenely muted fashion. There is a strong glimmer of satisfaction in her eye for just a single second as she leans back a little to survey Nicole swaddled in all her blankets, like a burrito.

"We cannot have you freezing to death before you are able to go to the beach. And actually, this reminds me, too. I still have your wedding gift to give to you." You know. Once they’re out and about in normal reality society again.

“Figures they’d run behind when it’s just the two of us,” Nicole laughs mirthlessly. But, if she has to wait, at least she has good company. Her eyes lift as there’s distant shouting from down the hall. Indistinct, but unmistakable as to who is the cause.

Nicole looks down at where her hand is joined with Yi-Min’s again. “Sounds like Zachery’s keeping busy.” And before Yi-Min can argue that it should be him in this waiting room, holding her hand, she shakes her head. “This is what he needs right now.” They’ll have time to comfort each other later. That’s what the night is for, it seems.

“I won’t freeze to death,” is a belated sort of assurance. Still, she’s requested a sweatshirt where others have gotten tees. That should be waiting in her room when they finish here. If they finish here. “You didn’t have to get us a gift, but… I won’t say no to it. I can’t wait to show you the pictures. Kara was— She was breathtaking.

Which transitions neatly into the question she’s been wanting to ask, but wasn’t sure how to approach. “Have you called her?”

In a wordless response to all of that together, Yi-Min squeezes Nicole's hand in hers. This time, it's both a much more comforting and comfortable gesture than before— at least until the conversation rolls along and lands on the mention of Kara.

At that, her gaze faintly but immediately averts downwards as though of its own volition so that Nicole won't see the new sorrow in it. "I'll bet she did," she murmurs, her small smile touched by a fond, briefly bright ache as she pictures her partner at the scene of the wedding. "You better have taken many pictures. Oh, and not just of Kara, of course. Your whole wedding. Any gift of mine hardly begins to make up for not having been able to go."

Before beginning to address the last question, Yi-Min draws in a long breath. Though nearly inaudible, it seems somehow shaky, in feel rather than in volume. "As soon as I was able to, yes, I talked to her. She sounded so frantic, I…"

She what? Yi-Min falls into silence, more of her face now shadowed by pain.

“My sister, too.” Frantic. Nicole brushes her thumb back and forth over Yi-Min’s hand reassuringly. “I felt bad. Like it was my fault for putting her through this.” Maybe she did, maybe she’s just saying so to help her friend feel less alone. “She’ll feel better when she sees you again.”

And they will see each other. That’s the thing about all of this. It’s terrible, but they’re not captives somewhere. Whatever happened, wherever they were headed, it was averted. They have a chance to fix it. But more importantly, they get to go home. Their loved ones will appreciate that, even if they can’t just yet.

"I know she will, yet…" Yi-Min can accept that as a given, because it is, but clearly that isn't the end of it. Her overcast gaze lifts up just enough to fixate on a point across the room, with only the startling coolness of Nicole's hand keeps her from withdrawing further into the scope of whatever it is she's thinking. Thus clinging quietly to that reminder, she only teeters— rather than drifts— on that tentative darkness.

It's still very much there, though.

"I was considering telling Kara I would not be coming home at all," she says in that same murmur, pain surging in her next breath and coloring in some little corner of her haste to continue before Nicole can cut in. "This is not the first, nor the second time I have vanished on her. When last I left Kara," i.e. when she turned herself into law enforcement, "I promised her that it would be the last time I would make her suffer so. But now, look. Whoever did this to us, well— I doubt very much that they are done with us. When shall this end for her, Nicole?"

'Never' isn't even a particularly emotional estimation here. Just a realistic one.

“It’s not your call to make,” Nicole insists quietly. “Whether she wants to risk that heartache or not? That’s up to Kara.” She follows the line of Yi-Min’s gaze, as though waiting to see if she’ll bore a hole through the wall with the force of it.

“My sister… She was wrapped up in a lot. I thought she died in the first bomb, when our apartment was destroyed. Then, when she got tangled up with the Ferrymen, she was dipping in and out of my life without warning. Constantly. She was kidnapped more than once.” Nicole turns back again, studying Yi-Min’s face in profile. Whether she turns to look at her or not, it ultimately doesn’t matter.

“If she had told me she was going to walk away from my life to spare me the pain of worrying after her… I’d have slapped her.” Nicole smiles wryly at that. One time, she did slap her little sister for making her worry. (But then she had hugged her fiercely and cried for all the terror she had felt, and the relief she did feel.) “I think Kara would make up a middle name on the spot just so she’d have something to shout at you, if she heard you talking like this.”

"I know, I know. I know I would have some choice words of my own for Kara if I overheard these things from her." The quality of the image makes Yi-Min bite her bottom lip swiftly to suppress a laugh. In an immediate transition to sympathy when Nicole brings up her sister, she gently kneads her thumb into the top of her friend's hand.

"Ai, no, I could not really walk away. I only want to be able to give her some stability, you know? She has been to war, been kicked through timelines like a ping pong ball, and now she has to suffer through my foolishness." Yi-Min is clearly still troubled, but at least her energy uplifts into a wryness strong enough for her to give her head a freely derisive shake when she says that.

And there was just so much of this foolishness. More than even Nicole knew, currently.

When Yi-Min withdraws her stare and turns to meet Nicole’s look at last, it’s with a slightly more summery expression, a slow warmth finding purchase in her eyes.

"I have had the pleasure of meeting her but once, but you can be very proud of your sister."

“She’s a good kid,” Nicole responds easily, with a note of astonished laughter. She’s always pleased and pleasantly surprised when someone else calls Colette something other than a menace or a pain in the ass.

People who don’t just do the right thing, but fight for it, often find that friendships are in limited supply.

“Being there for Kara when you can is a great start,” Nicole assures her friend. “And working on being less hard on yourself when you can’t be present will help.”

But that is also why, for Yi-Min, these friendships are usually the most valuable ones to be found.

"Aiya, though I will tell you, this mouth that she has at times—" Oh. There it is. Yi-Min pauses right there to laugh, her smile sparkling as it grows a little more blatant. "But yes. She is a very good kid. I hope you get to be there for each other more often than what you just described about her would imply."

The gift of any quality time spent with siblings was precious, above nearly all things.

As Yi-Min knew all too well.

"I do not really think I am being too hard on myself at all. It is also completely useless to keep dwelling on what is out of my hands, however. I thank you for reminding me of this."

“You are not wrong,” Nicole responds with a smile of her own. It’s much weaker than Yi-Min’s in the face of what she’s lost, but it’s there, showing that there’s hope for her yet. “She was even less impressed than you were when I told her I was getting married,” she admits with a sheepish little half-grin that fades almost as quickly as it comes.

Her hand squeezes Yi-Min’s again, acknowledging that this is a war she doesn’t expect to win with only one battle. “You’re welcome. I expect you’ll do the same for me when I inevitably need it.” For now, Nicole is too numb to fall into the cycles of self-hatred regarding what’s happened to them. In time, however, she knows she’ll blame herself for the loss of her children. She’ll need Yi-Min to remind her not to feel responsible for things beyond her control.

The door at the edge of the waiting area finally opens. A nurse with tanned skin and dark hair steps out and offers an apologetic smile to the two left waiting. “Sorry for the wait. Doctor Yeh, we’re ready for you now.”

Nicole’s grip tightens again for just a moment before she lets her go as if to say I’ll be fine.

At least with regards to this entire ordeal, this is just one more aspect in which Yi-Min would eventually count herself to be much luckier than Nicole.

She is getting the bulk of her shock over and done with now. As is her way, really.

For all they knew, the future might be much less kind about giving them any amount of time to sit and lick their wounds, physical or emotional, in the way they are able to do now.

"Talk with you more later," she says firmly to Nicole, sending the nurse a glance of confirmation shortly after. Still, she spends one more moment serenely re-tucking the edges of the blanket just below Nicole's chin even as she is getting up and to her feet.

Whether either of them ”would be fine” was up in the air, of course. There were still too many threads left uselessly dangling before them— i.e, every single one, with the prospect of possibly even more to come—

but at least they could face them together, come what may.

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