Some Kind of Cinderella


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Scene Title Some Kind of Cinderella
Synopsis While her life may be more of a horror movie than a fairy tale of late, Yi-Min still finds herself in the role of an un unlikely princess with a very caring entourage and admirer.
Date January 24, 2021

Raytech Industries Campus, Phytoremediation Lab

Learning how to walk again is never an easy endeavor.

Luckily for Dr. Yeh, she is surrounded by one of the most thorough support systems anyone could possibly ask for, both in terms of people and technology. The company's order for a Talaria, the powered single-limb exoskeletal system intended to restore mobility to her paralyzed leg, is slated to arrive for her by the end of the week. Until then, it is still important for her to re-learn the new limitations of her natural body, and she has had a stage picked out for the purpose for some time now.

This is the first time Yi-Min has revisited her workspace since her near-catastrophic surgery at Yamagato, though she isn't intending to work. The lab is technically closed for the weekend, anyhow. But the interior of the biotechnology department is relatively small and quiet, and this section of the department is one of the quietest of them all— which is precisely why she had asked Kara to take her here as opposed to a place outside (too cold) or the greenhouse facility proper (too centrally located).

To the unsuspecting eye, the glass-walled chamber looks almost like it could be somebody's whimsical idea of an interior secret garden. The plots between the wide, roomy footpaths are neatly delineated and labeled, as befits a laboratory, but the specimens inside them run a rainbow-like spectrum of brilliantly flowering forms and colors. There is everything from thick yellow clusters of mustard plants and nova-like whirls of white alpine pennycress, to the stranger rows of things that look more exotic than either. All of it is lushly tended, to the point where much of it seems practically wild.

To Yi-Min herself, who has found herself without the ability to perceive any hues at all, the kaleidoscopic array is much the same to her as any old scene these days: a flat diorama of whites and ashen shadows. A landscape bleached of life and color down to the last drop, as though under the auspices of some sickly alien sun.

Perhaps even so, she might find healing here— just perhaps, in this place that she loves, home to a purpose she still hopes to reclaim.

For that glare of a second, Yi-Min closes her eyes against it all. In doing so, she lets herself slump more fully up against the tall form of Kara, who has been supporting the smaller woman ever since she tottered out of her wheelchair now sitting several feet away.

There are a hundred things she half-feels like saying, and in the end, the one that eventually makes it out is a sound that encapsulates none of them. Only a slurred whisper of frustration, pressed into her partner's shoulder where she has momentarily buried her face.

Kara turns to press her mouth against the crown of Yi-Min's head, shh-ing her gently. "We got it," she assures, patient and calm as ever. Helping support her partner physically may as well be second nature. Being a physical shoulder to lean on feels more useful than any of the other half dozen things she's done to help Yi-Min the last few days.

"You've got this," Kara encourages her more directly, fondness a faint base behind it. She adjusts her grip on Yi-Min's hand and shoulder to try and begin guiding her again. "Let's get you moving again."

The door opens and Finn Shepherd sticks his head in, possibly (probably) making sure there are no robots in the space. Or Warren Ray, for that matter. He hasn’t seen the man since they kept him chained up in a basement when he showed up at Providence, after all.

Seeing the little garden-lab free of both robots and the younger Ray brother, Finn’s brows shoot up, and his smile widens across his face. “This place is a-maz-ing. Like Willy Wonka’s or something. Are the flowers edible?” he asks, striding with long legs toward the two women.

In one hand, he holds a bouquet of mylar balloons of various shapes and sentiments: a purple ‘Get Well’ heart, an orange star, a pink daisy, and a yellow Minion for some reason, goggle-eyed and smiling. A silver shoebox he carries tucked under the other arm like a football.

Though a few moments belated, Yi-Min's gaze softens when she turns her head from the proximity of Kara's embrace to properly view Finn's entrance. Despite herself— and despite the forlornness quietly saturating the whole of her being— her expression eases into a smile.

Finn just has that effect.

"All the flowers are technically edible, I suppose. Not that I would recommend doing so, unless you are some kind of cow. What… is all of that?" The vivid colorations of the possessions he carries are beyond Yi-Min's current ability to discern, of course, but the items themselves are enough to warrant the question. She shoots an obvious, sidelong glance up at Kara, brow raised, as though sharing the levity of the question with her partner.

"It might be…" Kara lets out a melodramatic gasp for effect. "Signs of affection. Foreign entirely to you, I know. But— and bear with me, here, because I know it's a doozy— other people might just care about you, Yi-Min." Her overbearing seriousness fades with the crack of a grin, her ribbing merciless even though she has more or less a captive audience, given Yi-Min's struggle to support her own weight presently.

She looks up, making the support she provides look as effortless as possible. "It's good to see you too, Shepherd. Got anything special in there?" Afterward, Kara casts a glance back down to Yi-Min, brows lifting with a dart of her eyes back to the wheelchair in a silent question of if she'd prefer its ease now that they've got company.

“Ew. Gross. You take that back!” says Finn, his nose wrinkling as Kara alleges he cares about Yi-Min. “But yes. I think you’ve been hanging around Robo-Tech so long that you have forgotten the ways of us homo sapiens,” he says to Yi-Min, then gestures to himself and Kara. “We like to give people presents when they have certain things happen to them.”

He begins to tick off his fingers with events. “Like birth, birthdays, marriage, productive procreation, anniversaries, graduations, and sometimes things like surgeries or medical mishaps, and I think that means you qualify.” His smile pulls downward, and he adds, “Unfortunately, I mean. But hey… Pressies!”

Whether Yi-Min returns to the wheelchair or not, Finn walks that way and ties the balloons to the back, making sure that everyone will see the colorful display but also that it’s low enough that the balloons will clear doorways. The box, set down on the seat for just a moment, is picked up again, and his fingers drum on the lid.

"Ai. I mean, this is possible," Yi-Min sighs with rather too much heaviness for it to be just for effect. Kara receives a light backwards prod with a bony elbow for the ribbing, and it's easy enough to visualize the dry expression crossing her partner's face even without looking down at her. All the while, the smaller woman's gaze is trailing Finn over to the wheelchair with curious interest. "I would be lying if I said I feel fully human right now. And, Finn. You know you did not have to get me anything," she says with as much chiding in her voice as the curiosity already there.

For the moment, Yi-Min shows no inclination of wanting to return to her wheelchair, at least before Finn finishes whatever he is doing there. Standing stock-still with the full weight of Kara's support behind her, the way she is now, is quite easy compared to attempting any movement again.

Kara lets out an amused scoff at Finn's arbitrary list of events, muttering "Productive procreation…" for them both easily to hear. She lets out a tsk before agreeing with just as just faux joy as he does, "Yay, prezzies."

Because hey, no reason to not be excited about being doted on when it's not her directly receiving said doting. "What else did you bring?" she asks, chin lifting at the box he picks up again. Even for the returned physical ribbing, her arm remains around Yi-Min, slipped about her waist for as much support as companionship.

Finn’s brows lift at Kara’s mutter. “Did you want a present for every unproductive attempt? That’s just being greedy, now,” he teases, but he shrugs at Yi-Min’s words that his presents are unnecessary.

“I'm never sure what you’re supposed to do in times like these,” he confesses. “But presents I can handle. Besides, you deserve to have nice things.”

Whether his presents qualify as nice things or not, the thought is there — even if the minion is a little creepy in balloon form and the silvery shoebox promises to hold something un-subtle.

At Kara’s prodding, though, he steps forward, holding the box out. It’s not wrapped, so he holds it so she can pull the lid off. When she does, a pair of white high-top sneakers sits inside. The shoe is nice enough, something a little retro like an old-school Reebok, but he taps the bottom of the box with his hand. As his hand connects with a thud, the shoes light up at the base, one flashing aqua blue and the other a lime green.

“To encourage you to practice walking!” Finn says brightly, clearly excited by the shoes. “I bet it’d be even more incentivizing if Kara sang ‘You Light Up My Life’ with each step you take.”

Yi-Min is too busy being aglow with real joy (albeit marked by definite confusion, especially at first) to react to that cheeky line about the 'productive procreation'. Her gaze lingers with some bemusement on the form of the balloon for a moment as though this is her first time examining a Minion from so close, traveling down to the shoebox only once Finn begins to open it.

And what an unveiling it is. There is the smallest of gasps from her, more of a deeply amused inhalation, which promptly transforms into the bright peal of her laughter. "…Ai. These are not what I think they are, Finn Shepherd."

But, they are. Light-up sneakers. Suddenly, Yi-Min rather feels as though she is eight years old again. The sight of it doesn't actually settle her confusion whatsoever, but she does throw a swift look back onto Kara at the encouragement to break out in song.

Kara looks over the shoes at first with approval gleaming in her eye. They're sensible? How beautifully pragmatic of him. Unexpected, but appreciated. She's halfway to airing praise when Finn taps the side of the shoe and sets it aglow.

Behind Yi-Min, her partner's face runs into a conflict of emotion. On one hand, they're still good shoes. On the other hand… Why are they glowing, Finn, Yi-Min is not four*!

But her partner seems elated to see them, and it resolves away any nose-wrinkling she might otherwise have to bear. But even that's a short thing, a thin press of a long-suffering frown borne at the thought she should go singing anything. "Not even God above wants me singing. At any point. Ever." Her insistence is more balking, though, and by the end of it her mouth is already beginning to put a smile tugging at the corner of her mouth.

"Those are going to get obnoxious fast," Kara teases them both for their enthusiasm. "Either your eyes are never going to leave the ground, or you'll never want to look that way again. I'm of two minds on this, clearly. Either way, there'll be no sneaking out in the middle of the night with those on…" She chuckles, glancing up to Finn. "Maybe I should thank you."

The laughter is the best gift Finn could ask for in return, and he looks immensely proud of himself, somehow even taller and broader of shoulder and chest, it seems, than he walked in.

“Aw, I bet you have a charming singing voice,” he says, feigning true disappointment when Kara informs them she will not be entertaining them with a musical number. Her concession at least that Yi-Min will find it difficult to get away stealthily earns her a wink and a snapped finger followed by a point in her direction, as if to say she’s go the right answer.

Really, he had no such ulterior motives. He just knows he’d want a pair.

He may have bought a pair.

“They’re very good shoes. Good arch support. They just happen to also be very dazzling,” Finn tells Yi-Min. “But I think that suits you. Practical but also attractive. Not that I’m hitting on you — Kara would punch me.”

'Elated' may still not be quite the right word to describe all of Yi-Min's reaction. She draws the pads of her fingertips down the inside of one eyelid in a motion spurred by helpless, disbelieving laughter. When she lets her fingers drop again a moment later, her mirth steadied somewhat by her next inhalation, she also slants a mock-skeptical look at Finn over the slope of her smile.

"Why Kara? I am still capable of cutting you myself, you know. Besides, Lucille might just kill all of us first." As Yi-Min says this, now she indicates her desire to return to her wheelchair by giving her partner a gentle preparatory nudge in that direction. After all, what better place to try on her new prize than right here and now?

"But yes, Kara is only being modest, as usual. She has a gorgeous singing voice. You should hear her in the shower."

Suddenly more self-conscious than she can stand, Kara pauses in the return trip back to the wheelchair long enough to cast Yi-Min a bewildered look and stammer out, "When have I ever?"

There goes her oddly-apportioned sense of propriety, firing on the strangest of topics. If she weren't supporting Yi-Min currently, more huffing would almost certainly be on the table.

"Kara would punch you," she does announce though, in the third person even, for effect.

Green eyes slide from one woman to the next, and Finn does look wary of both of them. “Right, then, now that you have both reduced me emotionally to my chubby little middle schooler self that thought I could impress the female half of the student body at the school dance with my rendition of the Humpty Hump.”

He nods, like they might possibly doubt that he’d do such a thing. “Yeah, that’s right,” he says, and his hips begin to move to the imaginary beat. “‘Cause my body’s in motion.”

But, his inner soundtrack ends, and Finn sighs, shoulders sagging. “It didn’t go over well. And now I’m terrified of you both while also very fond of you. I hope that’s what you were going for.”

In good nature, Kara looks back at Finn just long enough to wink— but maybe it's a blink. Either way, she goes immediately back to helping Yi-Min into her balloon-adorned seat.

"Come. You know when," Yi-Min responds to Kara with a merriment that manages to also be very absently sly.

They both know perfectly well when Kara has serenaded herself in the shower.

'Serenaded' is no doubt the wrong word to use here, but it's clearly a dearly beloved memory to Yi-Min nonetheless. But now, maybe luckily for Kara, her attention alights on Finn again as she finishes easing herself into the seat of her wheelchair— this time with a renewed sparkling of interest that causes her to also completely ignore the other accusation. "The… Humpty what? Finn. I. cannot imagine why this did not work. Surely, this isn't the mating dance that attracted Lucille."

Please tell her so. Please.

"No, I'm almost certain a lot of that had to do with not hating her after she fought dirty with that ability of hers in the cagefight," Kara answers with what's surely not sourness in her straightman's response to the situation. "I'm half-convinced she went so aggressively after you simply because you were set up as some kind of prize— you're welcome, by the way." That hadn't been her intention at all, after all. She's usually over her teeth-gnashing about Lucille, but things have been stressful lately.

Maybe cut her a little slack, too.

"But I'll take your terror gratefully as a sign of respect, and be glad for it, all the same. I don't have much in this world, but if I've at least got that, that's something." She turns away from the wheelchair to have her attention split between the two.

She may be purposefully ignoring the goading about that single caught instance of shower karaoke in the hopes what should be private stays private, too.

Finn loops an arm around Kara’s neck and laughs at her explanation of that day. “I love that you hold a grudge on my behalf. It’s very cute,” he tells her, despite his proclamation of being terrified of her a moment before.

“All’s fair in love and cage fighting, I guess. Why would I hate her for using her powers in a fight between people who use their powers? I was using mine. I couldn’t not use mine, so I’m not going to begrudge her for using hers.” Finn shrugs with a good natured grin. “I only wish she’d used one that wasn’t quite so publicly apparent. I haven’t fought there since because the heckling would be distracting.”

To Yi-Min, he elaborates, cheeks flushing just a bit, “We fought at the Crucible. She made me vomit. How’s that for a meet cute? Anyway. Enough about my love life — which is great and no one makes me vomit against my will, I promise — is there anything else I can get you to make your life easier? Not that I can compete with Raytech or Kara here, but, I don’t know. If there’s anything in my power, let me know, Doc.”

It is very cute, Yi-Min agrees implicitly, her expression instantly growing just a little bit sunnier as memories from that time flit back into her mind.

This is truly the Kara they know and love. Kara, the gallant, teeth-gnashing straightman.

In addition, though Yi-Min lifts her eyebrows slightly at Finn's explanation about the vomiting, it doesn't seem she's particularly fazed at all. "I never told either of you about how I first met Lucille, did I? I do not remember. Well, I fought with her, too— and now I am beyond grateful that my night with her ended rather more… healthily than yours did.”

That is. Ah. With less vomit. Perhaps.

Without any sort of interruption to her demeanor, Yi-Min waggles a foot thoughtfully on the footrest of her wheelchair, rather as though she is Cinderella waiting to be fitted her glass slipper by the royal footman. "Well, there is one thing you can do right now, in fact. Help me to get these sneakers on?"

Kara rolls her head if not her eyes in Finn's direction over the declaration of anything she does to be cute. "That's demeaning," she tells him in an equally teasing boldness. She even snorts over all's fair in love and cage-fighting.

Apparently it was, after all.

She pats a hand consolingly on his shoulder before working her way out from under his arm. She crosses to a table to pick up Yi-Min's phone. "I'm going to take advantage of this city living we've found ourselves in and…" Swiping the password open, her expression falls. "… order something in for us, I think." Her voice dips as well, for all her attempts to carry on as though nothing were wrong.

The news notification regarding the progress of the fire to the Southwest, though— curling its way through Pennsylvania and creeping south to Jersey…

She lifts her hand to rub under her nose to clear her mood as she swipes the banner away, eyes dancing across the screen repeatedly as she backtracks to what she was up to before. She's tried hard to focus on what was happening here rather than concerning herself with what was happening out of town, putting on a brave face for Yi-Min's sake, but it's getting harder.

“Well now, who’s the lucky one?” teases Finn, usually the lucky one, but he certainly wasn’t in the cage that night against the White Rose.

His smile broadens as Yi-Min asks for him to help put her shoes on. “Cute,” he mouths to Kara when he steps away, pointing at his eyes, then her, as if to say he’s on to her. Turning back to the wheelchair occupant, he takes a knee, acting like the poshest of shoe salesmen, and unlaces her current pair in order to slide her into the new, blinking pair.

Fires are often on his mind, and he’s all too well aware of the status of the fire to the east, but Kara’s glance at the phone eludes his notice. Finn’s attention is on Yi-Min and her laces at the moment. It doesn’t take very long before she’s sporting the new pair, and he places the old pair in the silver shoebox for safe keeping. “There you go, Cinderella. Ready for the ball.”

Yi-Min is no telepath, and she cannot discern any details behind the thought, but she knows Kara well enough that those particular facial cues don't go unmissed— even at that distance.

"Ordering something in sounds good," she asserts with sunny gentleness, too far to lay a hand on Kara's to soothe away the flicker of uncertainty she sees forming there, or else she would be doing so.

So instead Yi-Min sends a glance straight down, waggling her newly sneaker-clad feet together with highly evident pleasure. They fit perfectly, causing her to regard Finn with just a sparkle of renewed gratitude. "These are splendid," she proclaims in the tone of a final, lighthearted judgment, holding her hand out in a way that speaks of her expectation for it to be taken.

Perhaps just for tonight, she actually could pretend to be some kind of Cinderella at this beautifully ridiculous ball— rather than a woman freshly crippled in body and spirit, surrounded by a world that is going up in flames.

Just for tonight.

Kara finishes penning her way through quick selections on the PRYR app for takeout, finding her way back to the moment once that's done— and once the worries about the encroaching fires are laid aside. Or at least mostly.

Like a certain disaffected Prince she looks up from the phone after switching off its screen, her whole look changing when she sees Yi-Min's— her princess'— contentedness. She's not good at eliciting moments like these. Not the best at doing more than bearing through tough times with strength, feigning even that when she has to.

But her eyes soften upon seeing the smile in Yi-Min's eyes. And just for tonight, maybe she, too, can put aside their worries both personal and public. She even cracks a smile of her own when her partner clearly expects to take them for a spin posthaste.

Kara owes Finn more than just dinner for making a moment like this possible. Hopefully she'll be able to return the favor soon.

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