Say Something


nicole3_icon.gif zachery2_icon.gif

Scene Title Say Something
Synopsis After months of estrangement, the question of where to go from here is finally asked.
Date October 10, 2020

Bay Ridge: Miller Residence

The cab ride home from Little Darlings had been a silent one. Part of it owing to the fact that Nicole didn’t want to give away just how much her multiple double-shots of tequila had affected her — though she notably had not swung a sledgehammer herself after having clearly been looking forward to it, which may have given some hint. Sometimes she can be responsible.

Also, he was there the entire time she was drinking. So, he probably noticed even without her sedentary silence.

The key misses the lock on the first try but nails it on the second. Once the deadbolt thuds into place, Nicole turns the handle and pushes the door open, heading inside. Keys are hung up on the board where they belong, but her hoodie is left in a careless heap on the floor before she makes her plodding way to the living room. Coming to the end of the couch, not in front of the cushions, but at the arm, she tiiiiiips back until she falls backward over the arm and onto the length of the sofa, arms stretched above her head and touching the opposite arm with the tips of her fingers. Her legs hang over the arm for now.

Ask how many fucks she gives.

Her vacant stare at the ceiling will supply that answer readily.

Say something, I'm giving up on you
I'll be the one, if you want me to
Anywhere, I would've followed you
Say something, I'm giving up on you

The shadow that follows Nicole in does so quietly, with a matching stare to boot. Zachery moves through the home without comment, and by the time she's at the couch, he's gone from her sight.

Several quiet minutes pass, interspersed with the barest of noises in the background of the heavy nothing. The pull at a cupboard door here, a splash of water there. It's a strange contrast to the noise back at Little Darlings, where he notably did not have a lot to drink. Too busy disappearing fully into absolutely destroying a good amount of wall.

After another small stretch of nothing, Zachery steps back into view - a little disheveled still, black peacoat still on, hair shoved back wrong. And holding a tall glass of water. He stands in the very spot Nicole tipped back from, staring across at her like she's in a coffin at a wake.

Words should probably be happening, and yet.

And I… am feeling so small
It was over my head
I know nothing at all

Not just on his part, either.

It’s like a standoff between the two of them. For the length of time he was gone, she just laid there and listened to the sounds of him going about his life, which seems to carry on just fine without her. She wondered if he stopped for a moment, if she’d hear the sound of her own heart breaking in the silence.

Now, he stands there, and she stays silent, like it’s some kind of staring match. A game of chicken where one of them is going to balk first, and it sure as fuck isn’t going to be her.

Nicole is gutted emotionally and has been for months now, but it’s only gotten worse in the last few weeks. She should be sleep deprived right now. She should be changing diapers, warming bottles, and singing lullabies right now.

Instead, she’s here. Staring at the ceiling. Unmoving. Pretending her husband doesn’t exist, the way she feels he’s being doing. Or maybe she’s pretending she doesn’t exist. That would be better.

Wouldn’t it?

And I will stumble and fall
I'm still learning to love
Just starting to crawl

For all the wordlessness, Zachery's stare is not defiant. The way in which he eventually lets his gaze drift upward is slow, and when he turns his head to look at the other pieces of furniture in the room, his expression stays an exhausted sort of blank.

Nothing looks quite right, apparently, because he finds himself slowly wandering to his wife's side, before - with a suppressed noise of effort - lowering himself to sit right down onto the floor with his back against the couch's front.

The glass is offered up at his side, without really looking this time, within Nicole's arm's reach. Now that it's closer, and he's not holding onto it quite so tightly, it's easier to see both the scrapes and cuts where he went slightly too ham earlier, and the ever-so-slight tremble that sends tiny ripples into the liquid.

Say something, I'm giving up on you
I'm sorry that I couldn't get to you
Anywhere, I would've followed you
Say something, I'm giving up on you

It's the evidence of his own hurt that causes her to be the one to crack first. Compassion shouldn't be a cause for self-loathing, but here they both are. Nicole wisely sits up — pulling her knees up and breaking her own rules about shoes on the furniture when she plants her boots against the armrest to push herself further down the couch so she can get enough purchase to lever herself up.

She sits sideways and cross-legged now, taking the glass, thus acknowledging his presence. Instead of appeasing him and bringing it to her mouth to drink, she sits with it settled against one knee, a hand soldered over the top of it in the loosest grip.

And I will swallow my pride
You're the one that I love
And I'm saying goodbye

Relieved from the glass, Zachery's arm settles against his leg. For a moment, it looks like he has nothing more to offer. Like he might just sit there listening to his own damn steady breathing, staring at the coffee cable.

But then. His hand comes up again. It's a false start, first, before his elbow bends and he reaches up and just over his shoulder, palm upward. Expectant even if without explanation.

Say something, I'm giving up on you
And I'm sorry that I couldn't get you
And anywhere, I would've followed you, oh
Say something, I'm giving up on you

The movement is caught in Nicole's periphery, having taken to staring across the open space and the direction of the foyer and the coat rack her Nirvana hoodie should be hanging from, regretting hanging left it on the floor. Not just because she's a freak about organization to an extent, but because she misses the extra warmth of it.

But it's Zachery's hand that's earned her focus now. At first, she considers ignoring it. To quash the compassion that had her relieving him of the full glass of water, rather than let his hand keep shaking like that from the strain.

Instead, she shifts the glass to her other knee, swaps which hand has hold of it, then rests not her own fingers or palm against his, but fits her wrist neatly into the curl of his fingers.

Say something, I'm giving up on you
Say something…

They close around the wrist as if in reflex, just barely pressing into skin. Thumb searching, for a moment, before it settles against a vein just right.

His breathing slows, eyelids falling part way as his attention is shifted out of sight. Just counting, for a while, until a ragged inhale has him lift his head again, and he sighs the breath back out. His fingers slide up from her wrist, then slowly up and into her palm, attempting to guide it closer to him in the process.

"We learned a lot, today." He is the first to speak, voice low in energy and volume both. "In large part thanks to you."

The pulse is steady beneath pale skin. The heart is only metaphorically broken, and seems to continue to perform its function just fine, in spite of everything.

She’s guided easily, even if she entertains thoughts of slipping her hand free of his once his need to confirm her pulse is satisfied. Mentally, she talks a big game to herself about being aloof and detaching herself from him. From everything.

“For all the good it does us,” she replies, discovering just how much her mouth has gone dry. Begrudgingly, she takes a drink of water. “We’re no closer to answers now than we were before.” Even if they have more avenues to explore than they did before the start of the meeting. More people willing to explore those possibilities.

He doesn't take her hand far. Just over and onto his shoulder, resting loosely intertwined fingers where neither of them have to expend any effort.

It's a small thing. And his hand, for now, though roughed up, is steady.

"We know it wasn't a fluke," he argues into the nothingness ahead of him, straining to not to lock his jaw completely shut between sentences. "We know they were working for someone. We know we were both taken by design."

It does nothing for her guilt.

Nicole’s thumb brushes lightly over Zachery’s skin, just once. An assurance that she’s here, but careful not to irritate the scrapes and bruises. “None of that comes down to me,” she gently counters. “That’s… That was all Isabelle.” Giving credit where it’s due, as though she isn’t trying to diminish her instrumentality in orchestrating the meeting in the first place. If it hadn’t been her, she reasons it would have been someone else. Tetsuyama, maybe.

Her head has turned now, lifted just enough that she can see their muted reflections in the large screen television on the wall across from them. She tries to find his eyes against the way the sun further washes out their images through the slant of blinds at her back.

But though he's no longer counting the beating of a heart, his attention is elsewhere. His head dips back down, his thoughts distracting.

"It's all of us." He relents, pushing no further on the subject of her part in it in specific. "Figuring out the bits and pieces. The guts of it, the bones. Until we find the flesh, and skin. The face." His fingers hook a little tighter against hers, just for a moment, as his voice steadies with determination. "No one else is going to finish this but us."

Then, leaving almost no time between what sounds like a thinly veiled threat and idle curiosity, he asks, "You know you can be unwell and still do well, right?"

“That’s my default state of being, sweetheart.” Where sweetheart sounds like a sobriquet to be spat out distastefully, but the sneer is absent from her face at least, even if the inflection isn’t entirely void from her voice.

Surely he knows better than anyone how unwell his wife is, even before their personal tragedy. “It doesn’t matter anyway, does it?” Nicole lets that hang in the air for the length of time it takes her to take in a sharp breath of air through her nose. No, she isn’t sniffling. “How well I can do. It won’t undo what’s been done.”

What might have been wry amusement on another day shows only in the knit of his brow, pensive more than anything else.

He waits, only finding a reply when she's expanded on her question. "Nothing erases, not truly. Not the good, nor bad, until the world's fucking end."

He shifts his weight where he sits and looks up, craning his neck until he can get a better look at her face. Confusion creeps into his voice without his awareness of it, her expression watched. "What would you rather do? Let them win? Be the victim?" For all of his questions, he doesn't speak them as a challenge as much as a plea for information. "I just don't understand."

It’s what finally brings her to break. Nicole bows her head and starts to cry, face contorted in anguish before it dips out of easy view. “I wish it hadn’t happened at all.” Which is a painfully obvious thing to say, but something she hasn’t really spoken out loud regardless.

For a moment, it’s all she can do to force herself to breathe, a squeaky sound that breaks up the slew of tears.

The tension in Zachery's brow increases with some delay, as if her words take longer to arrive than they should. His hand leaves hers as he twists himself around further and then pushes himself up, to sit on the edge of the couch.

He looks from Nicole's face, to the glass, to his own hands, which he doesn't quite seem to know what to do with until he tightens the fingers of one around the knuckles of another. Then, he meets her gaze again. More quietly than before, he answers with some reluctance, simply, "I know."

Nicole presses the glass of water against Zachery’s hands in the hopes he’ll take it from her before her quaking can disrupt it and splash its contents over her pants and the couch. Her free hand lifts and hovers near her face before ultimately coming around to the back of her head to grab a fistful of her hair. Maybe just to give her something to hold on to, or maybe because the mild pain of it gives her some kind of focus. Or feels deserved.

“And they dragged you into this too, and it’s got to be my fault.” There it is. The reason for all the distance and the silence. Because of course she’s decided to blame herself for the whole affair.

The water is taken without thought, left on the floor in what Zachery hopes is just out of kicking range.

Only once he straightens again does he seem to fully register what's been said, but when he casts a sharp look over and opens his mouth to reply this time, only one word manages to leave his mouth - and even then only because he forces it out. "What."

With the water out of the way, Nicole finally gives herself permission to tip forward until her head connects with Zachery’s shoulder, crying there while he works through his confusion over what she’s just said.

For a time, it’s all she can do while she sorts out her own thoughts on the matter. Finally, the sobbing subsides to ragged gasps for air and control over herself. She lifts her head again and rubs the heel of one palm over one eye, then the other, to try and clear her tear-blurred vision.

“Who would come after you?” she asks him. It’s a sincere question, rather than a dismissive statement. “Who would come after you that would also come after a group like this? If somebody wanted to hurt you, they’d either have just killed you, or they’d have just hurt me and been done with it.”

Nicole shakes her head, further reasoning, “Your collateral damage. It had to be me. Maybe they… Maybe they took you because we were together?” But something flickers behind her eyes even as she lets her gaze drift away from his face, and he can see it. She’s thought of something else, but she isn’t saying yet.

There is no disagreement, and whatever's got Zachery stuck in processing mode also seems to have him sitting still without so much as a supportive shoulder-pat.

"I don't know. I… if they took us for what we could do, I think… I think we both know I squandered—" He stops, as though he's veered too far off-course for comfort, and scrubs a hand roughly over his face.

Sounding suddenly slightly more alert, he rattles off in what is much closer to his normal speaking voice, "Either way, I'm fine. I've been fine! You're the one I'm concerned about, so even if you had been their primary target, we would have still lost—" Again, he stops, freezing in place after his shoulders fall, energy drained from him anew. Still stopped for a lack of comfort, but for a different reason. This time, though, he swallows dryly and finishes his sentence anyway, a little absently, saying for the first time in over four months, "Harvey and Avery."

His refusal to engage, the way he’s been doing for months — regardless of the fact that she’s been doing the same — is finally wearing her thin in this moment. “Squandered?” From where she’s sitting, Zachery had used his miraculous gift to great effect since late January. While it may have been a bit infuriating, the way he knew her better than she knew herself, she could never say it wasn’t a comfort to her.

When he says their children’s names, the breath leaves her lungs as if he’d punched her square in the center of her chest. She’s avoided saying them, too, outside of her sessions where her therapist had demanded it of her. She could make it sound like she’s normalizing it, but only in therapy. That barrier has never been crossed in her daily life outside of that office.

Why are you fine?!” Nicole shouts in Zachery’s face. “Why do I have to be the one falling apart and fucking dying inside, but you’re fine!” She shakes her head, expression too pained to form a sneer. “You got lucky. You just can’t sense anything anymore. You can let it all make you numb.” Her lips tremble as she both tries to form the next words and keep from simply wailing all over again. “But I’m the one who gets to feel empty.”

Zachery remains as he is, eyebrows twitching lower at Nicole's raised voice, the scuffed knuckles of the hand squeezing his fist growing pale.

He rolls his jaw at the word 'lucky', before movement returns to him with a deep inhale and a squaring of his shoulders, face lifting as if in a struggle to keep from looking away.

But he does not. His gaze is laser-focused on Nicole's face, thoughts no longer wandering elsewhere. She has his attention now, even if no longer, from the look of it, his affection. Too calmly, too level, he asks when she stills, "Are you done?"

The shift in him brings about a shift in her. Her own fingers curl into fists in her lap, nails biting into her palms while she struggles to get control of her breathing again. If this is going to go this way, she’d like to save herself further hysterics until later.

One sharp inhale, then another. Nicole gives up trying to find her voice and just nods.

Whatever fuels the disconnect in Zachery, between thoughts and actions, the wall that's gone up remains standing.

"I promise I'm not trying to be difficult," he states, matter-of-factly, and slowly. "And I'm not trying to trick you. But," he pauses, looking off to the side just for a second as a breath catches in his throat. The amount of effort that goes into maintaining his forced demeanor begins to show in bits - in the setting of his jaw and the unwillingness to blink - but most of all, in the exhaustion that begins to creep into his voice. "I don't think you are done. Get it out."

And she isn’t. Nicole lets out a keening cry and slaps uselessly, without any great deal of force, at her husband’s shoulders as a way to vent some of her frustration. Her pain. Both because of him, and the forces external to them both.

She cries, and she screams, and she keeps letting her hands fly until she finally slumps forward against his shoulder again, this time wrapping her arms around him as she sobs. “I hate you for being okay!” Even if she knows — and she knows — there’s no possible way that he could be okay with this. That he could be okay in the face of this. But he fakes it much better than she does.

The hitting, Zachery can handle. It breaks through his facade of uncaring even further when he winces, for the action more than anything else.

But still, he stays as he is, hands relaxing so he can ready himself to catch either of her wrists should she go too far. But she never does, and he's still got his hands in the same position when she's suddenly on him. His eyes close, a hurt pressing them shut just as something pained wrenches at his features now that she's not looking at them.

"Hate me all you want," he breathes, lifting his arms to wrap them around her in turn. "If it helps. I can pretend to be numb to it. I can pretend not to miss the rest of you." He grows a little quieter. "And of us."

“It’s like we died there, but I’m still here and you’re just—” Nicole chokes on her own words and her tears, needing to take time again just to shudder in her husband’s arms. “And you’re just not.” She doesn’t know any other way to put it. “It’s like living with a ghost. Or… Or like I’m the ghost, and you refuse to acknowledge I exist.

All the same, she clings to him all the more fiercely. This is the closest they’ve managed to be with each other in months. She’s afraid if she leans back, that’s it. He’ll be lost to her again.

For a little while, there is just silence. Zachery doesn't even breathe, even if he does eventually turn just enough to more comfortably lean his face against the side of hers, a hand lifting to try and smooth out her hair where she'd grabbed it before.

"I've never had…" Only now he seems to remember breathing is necessary for speech, and he inhales sharply as his eyes open back up. He forgets himself just long enough to let the strain of heartbreak be carried on his words when he continues. "I've never had a future I wanted. Actually wanted." He furrows his brow, pausing just long enough to sigh out some frustration before admitting through gritted teeth, "I wanted this one."

“Me too.” Nicole’s voice is soft. One hand comes up from where it had been resting at Zachery’s shoulder to fit itself against the side of his face while she sort of half-nuzzles against his neck in an attempt to convey affection after her lashing out.

It’s short-lived. Nicole sits up again, still with her hand on his cheek, though. “D- D—” She stutters on the word, the start to the question she’s been afraid to ask, but knows she has to, in order to give him the chance to approach the topic she’s sure they’ve both been circling since July. “Do you want a divorce?”

Looking decidedly less sure of himself than before, Zachery lays a hand on hers. Several emotions seem to try and fight their way to be shown in the struggle that is his expression. As much as he might try and get it under tight-jawed control, Nicole knows disappointment when she sees it.

Any signs of surprise, however, are absent.

"No." He replies regardless, leaving no room for uncertainty in his voice. When he adds to his answer, every word seems to help him right himself more, and breathe a little easier, tone of voice dipping as it steadies. "I want to figure out what the next one is — the next future I want. I want us to recover, and to find who did this, and, preferably…"

He takes a chance, looking from Nicole's right eye to her left, and back again before finishing, sharply, "Absolutely fucking destroy them."

There’s cautious relief with that first monosyllable. Cautious, because she’s so very, very afraid that answer is actually no, but. That it proves not to be the case sees Nicole’s expression softening slowly, but surely.

She manages to keep from crying anew, but it’s a near thing. Her lips part and her tongue wets them briefly, nodding slowly as he lays out what he does want. It’s when their eyes finally meet again that it all locks in, that this isn’t just what he thinks she wants or needs to hear.

Nicole closes the distance between them by crushing her mouth against his in a desperate kiss. The knowledge that he wants just as badly as she does to make someone hurt for what was done to them is what she needs in order to feel there’s still hope for them.

Whatever response he was expecting, it was not this. Not after months of barely looking each other's way.

A strangled noise escapes him, but what sounds at first like shock turns all too quickly to stunned chuckling, even as he moves both of his hands behind her head to return the kiss with suddenly recovered intensity.

The glass on the floor proves itself not quite outside of kicking distance - it goes toppling over as he shifts greedily closer to her, but if the sound of glass cracking and water spilling is heard by Zachery, it is pointedly ignored.

By Nicole, too, who’s called a time-out for less. When he presses in, she gives that ground, leaning back on the couch with a small sound born somewhere in the realm between sorrow and desperation. Her crossed legs unfold and stretch out as she lets him or guides him to lay her back. Then, they wrap around his waist.

Months of absence and need for connection are crashed into in this moment. Just this mutual meeting of mouths and clutching of faces and proximity start to soothe an ache that’s existed so long, she’d forgotten what it felt like to be without its constant pain.

It's an indulgence that Zachery is too content to play into, likely without much further thought being part of the equation.

This much is clear in how he presses himself against her, and his hands leave the back of her head to explore downward, over her shoulders and down her front with a mind of their own, as if reclaiming territory half forgotten under the darkening drape of his coat. Funny thing about numbness, in that it's often more repression than anything else - and just as most subdued things tend to come back with a vengeance, so too does his demand for more.

Like magic, he's breathing just fine now, pulling his face away from hers only just long enough to wheeze out a relieved breath of a laugh, and to whisper, simply and quite possibly to himself, "Fuck."

He relearns how to breathe and she feels like he’s stolen that breath from her. When he draws back, she matches his laughter with her own, eyes searching his face for some greater insight to his thoughts and feelings, maybe. It feels like it’s been forever since she’s been able to register any emotion on his face other than annoyance with her. “I’ve missed you,” she whispers back with a shaky smile. One hand slides into his hair while the other strokes his cheek.

“But I’m still not okay,” Nicole feels the need to say. “Can we go to bed?” There’s uncertainty in the tremor of her voice, on her face. “I just need you to hold me for a while.” She can’t remember the last time they did that. Maybe not since the night they closed off the nursery.

An answer does not come immediately, Zachery apparently too busy shoving his face down into her neck despite her words— and then just holding still for a bit.

Redirecting some mental energy, as he hisses out a breath between his teeth. Still, at least it precedes another dry chuckle, before his hands start sliding slowly down her sides and then behind her back. "Yeah." He concedes, finally. "Okay. Yeah. Yeah - yeah. Give me a fucking… moment."

A moment before he just starts hoisting her up wholesale, apparently, a knee jammed into the couch cushions while he plants his other foot down onto the floor, beginning to pull Nicole up along with him. "Let's find out how well my ankle's healed."

Despite what she’s just implied she doesn’t want, Nicole still tips her head back and lets out a deep sigh, letting both hands run through his hair now while she waits for him to make a choice. When he disengages, she sucks in a breath between her teeth and lets it out shakily.

“Take your time,” she murmurs patiently. The lock of her legs around his waist is renewed when he shifts them so he can lift her up off the couch. Now her arms circle around his shoulders to help with their counter balance. “Nnhh…” Nicole winces, concerned. “Please be careful with yourself.”

"I'll be fine," he replies more quickly now, silently cursing the fact that he's got the wrong side of his face shoved against her, making a glance off to the side a little harder to pull off than it needs to be.

Still, he manages to avoid stepping in broken glass or into any other pieces of furniture when he gets to his feet with an inelegant stumble, takes a brief moment to assess just how capable he's going to be in this endeavour, adjusts his grip one more time, and then starts carrying his whole wife away with newfound confidence guiding his steps.

Deciding, meanwhile, on a small correction. "We'll be fine."

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