Spilled Beans


emily_icon.gif zachery_icon.gif

Scene Title Spilled Beans
Synopsis Emily and Zachery both have a lot weighing on their minds. For Emily, it's grief. For Zachery, it's… well…
Date February 13, 2020

Sheepshead Beans and Bagels, Sheepshead Bay

2/02/2020 11:58 pm
How are the wolves treating you?

The message is written late, and not glanced at again for the next ten days. And even then, only to allow for another one to follow it despite the lack of reply in the interim.

2/12/2020 8:42 pm
7.30 a.m. tomorrow, Sheepshead Beans.

2/12/2020 9:53 pm

Another sleepy morning is in full swing, coffee shop dotted with patrons sitting in pairs or reading quietly with their phone in one hand, life juice in the other. A group of students pulls away from the counter, drinks in tow, a few of them shooting a sidelong glance toward a corner as they make their way out.

There, the back of his head resting where two walls meet and arms draped along the back of the bench that's been fitted into the nook, sits Zachery in a crisp white shirt and slacks. A black coat lies crumpled at his side, and two cups of coffee stand neatly on a table in front of him, one with the lid popped off beside it. He watches the students go, offering a twitch of a frown when they look in his direction, and waiting until they leave through the door to straighten up a little from a position which was quickly becoming a little too horizontal for comfort.

No one is sitting at the tables directly adjacent to the man with the one eye that's taking up too much space. Go figure.

Yet another student enters the shop on their own, save for the fact no bag is slung over her shoulder or purse worn. The young blonde's hair has seen a brush, but not much of one. Her gaze is distant as she maneuvers to the sitting area, like one would do to claim a seat before placing their order.

Except it's Emily, which becomes apparent the moment she sits down across from Zachery. She's foregone the obtaining of life juice this morning entirely, it would seem. She looks unlike herself in terms of dress, pooled somewhere inside a black pullover hoodie, hands hidden in the tube pocket before it. She doesn't sit back against the back of the chair, not quite, but she's slumped still all the same. A pair of slip-ons shuffle on the floor underneath the table. She's at least wearing leggings, a step up from the pajama chic she otherwise has going for her.

"What?" she asks of Zachery, a hollow substitute for any hello. She looks in his direction, but it's clear she's not really seeing him, if she's seeing anything at all. Something is weighing her down. By all indications, Emily's system reads that it's not drugs, at least. No— this is sleeplessness, sadness, heaviness like she wore the first time they met, except this time, she's far less put together about it.

Visibly, anyway.

Zachery makes no qualms about looking Emily over the moment she takes her seat, breathing out a shallow sigh while his expression remains largely unchanged. Largely, saved for the muscles screwing his jaw on tighter for a moment.

Rather than answer immediately, he finishes his cursory look over and then lowers his gaze to the extra order. A few seconds of consideration pass before he leans forward, letting one hand fall into his lap and reaching forward with the other to press middle- and ring finger against the surface of the table, and then against the cup, pushing it slowly over to her side of the table.

Past the haze obscuring Emily's perception sits someone considerably more weary than he looked last time she saw him. Heavy in his own way, even if he regards the face ahead of him with a sharp lack of blinking. Somewhat hoarsely and very unhelpfully, he offers just one word in return. "Hi."

Once the coffee is pushed past some invisible line on the table, Emily recognizes it's being relinquished to her, gaze flickering down to it. A blink registers it, her expression flattening. She gets as far as pulling a hand from her pocket, but it never quite reaches the table, resting in her lap instead. Her eyes flit up to his, sharpness found in spades as she studies him, silently trying to divine meaning from all this.

Her thoughts are a void in that no one can read them, maybe not even herself. She moves, obviously, as a result of them. Some amount of thought occurs, visible in the wariness of her regard of Zachery.

But then her shoulders slack and she temporarily lets go of any reservations or whatever it is that is snarling her.

"The wolves haven't been fucking kind to me lately." comes from her coarsely.

Today's a weekday. Emily is the type of person who keeps a schedule, who does things on weekdays. Work things. School things. She looks ready to engage in precisely none of those things this morning.

"What's it to you?" she adds, a tense edge of suspicion entering her voice finally.

Another silence follows, in which Zachery's brow knits further and a look of discomfort comes over him, like the next inhale is made suddenly of something thicker than air.

The breath is released slowly, before he pulls his own drink closer and rolls his jaw. "Okay." The word leaves him as if something else is relinquished, even if not to her. Something there maybe isn't the space for right now.

When he looks back to Emily, he does so leaning back with the vaguest hint of a tired grin over the rim of his cup. He sounds unimpressed when he says, "You're a wreck."

That's not an answer, at least not to her question specifically.

Emily recoils from it all the same, sitting up straighter, eyes narrowing. She bristles. Excuse the fuck out of you. "Go fuck yourself, Zachery. I'm not the one sitting here like—" But on review, what was he sitting here like? He looked a sight more put together than she did. He looked tired, but everyone looked fucking tired at 7:30 in the morning unless they were some kind of morning demon person.

Her brow twitches its way together as her posture stiffens, hand rolling into a ball under the table as she realizes she's not got any well-deserved snipe to finish the turnabout with. She turns her head away, shaking it as she does so. "Just…"

On the verge of telling him to get on with whatever it is he had to say initially, she brings both hands above the table to rest her elbow on the ledge of it, cupping her hands around the sides of her nose and pushing her index fingers up against her eyelids in a bid to both relieve stress and reclaim calm.

"I had a sister. Did you know that?" she asks abruptly, the words coming from her impatiently. This context is important, clearly. She opens her eyes, letting her arms land flat and folded on the tabletop while she looks directly at him. "Because I didn't. For eighteen years, Zachery, I didn't. And then I met her, and she was the most wonderful, compassionate person. We were both…" She lets out a humorless breath of a laugh. "Both raised by different packs of wolves, both hurt by this world and the fucked up shit within it, but we finally found family we both didn't know was out there. We found something in each other I didn't even know I'd been looking for. Found— something not fucked up in each other. Something supportive. Something good."

She swallows hard, but no moisture stings at the corner of her eyes. She stays steady at least in that regard.

"My sister was kidnapped a month ago, Zachery." Emily goes on to explain. "By terrorists. They took her, probably for her ability, and they took her— and…" The words catch as her jaw rotates, gaze dropping for a moment before she looks back up. An end to the story wants to come, but all Emily does is sink back into her seat.

The reality of it is so raw she still relives it every time she brings up the subject. Her voice is barely heard over the coffee shop murmur, just a strained whisper. "They took her, and she's gone, and we don't even have a body to bury."

The initial response to his comment does little to shock Zachery, his grin twitching wider in what may or may not be a wince, because it never quite does quite reach his eyes before it fades out of existence a moment later.

When she continues to talk, he looks down to his coffee, swirling it gently around in the cup with the absolute minimum motion required. Partial sentences come and go, and he lets that question go unanswered. He just waits, eventually scrubbing a hand over his jaw like excess energy has to go somewhere if it's not going to go into saying what would inevitably be something else infuriating. Patience does not come easy to him in these situations, and understanding probably far less so still.

But when it's finally his turn to talk, he does so in the level voice of someone - at the very least - trying. "It sounds like she deserved better."

Even if he tells this down at his cup more than at Emily herself.

"She did deserve better than this." comes from her with all the aggression of someone who wants to emphasise how bitter they are, but all Emily sounds is sad.

Maybe Zachery's trying is good enough, because at least she doesn't snap at him over it. No further than the growl she'd produced, anyway.

While she'd like to sit and sulk, something is uncomfortable about the way she's seated and forces Emily to sit upright with a passing expression of discomfort, a muted thunk of something heavy resting against her back clattering against the seatback as she rights herself. Emily doesn't acknowledge it, merely looks away and works on closing herself off from any further emotional outbursts.

Once that's sufficiently completed, she looks back at him again with a quiet, "So yeah, I'm a wreck." She holds that look on him for a moment, studying his expression like she's hoping it will either have an 'answer' or some kind of solace. It's brief, but heavy, and then she looks away, crushing out her own hope before it gets misplaced. Her gaze falls to the cup pushed toward her a little blankly, hand lifting to pop the top off of it to smell just what she's been handed, see how sickly sweet it's been tainted from the heaps of sugar normally added to it.

She blinks down at the foam of milk hiding under the plastic lid, at the bubbles that cling to its underside. Emily's brow knits together in confusion as she snaps a look to the untopped black coffee on the table, then back up to Zachery. "… This isn't your order."

Just as he was before Emily ever got here, Zachery sits quietly. Movements slow, coffee drawn close behind the bend of an arm. The hand scrubbing at his jaw drops against the side of his neck, and he turns his face to look around, as if anyone else might have the answers to what he should say next if he just looks at them blankly enough.

But finally, Emily says something he might have an actual response for. "It's yours now." Is the truth, and he even elaborates. "It was for Nicole, something before work."

His mouth stays open as if something were to follow, but it closes just as his head dips again so he can run his fingers through his hair, shoving it back where once it may have stayed in place when it was shorter, but now does nothing except communicate underlying frustration. Maybe that's the driving force behind him finally adding, "You reacted to that very poorly the first time I told you, as well," he says quietly, a wry chuckle of a breath escaping him before he lifts his face to look Emily in the eyes. "I'm not sure why I thought this time would be any different."

It has the tone of an apology, but none of the words.

Emily's befuddlement only grows at the mention of some person she's never heard, another expletive of a question very visible in her eyes while she stares him down. The suspicion in her gaze is quick to return in her study of him, through all his awkwardness that might not be his awkwardness. Were these really his mannerisms, or someone else's entirely? In a world full of face-stealers…

That tension building in her vanishes with something he says, though— the callback of it— her shoulders settling as she looks back down at the drink, and decides maybe Nicole is a real person. Maybe Zachery is who he appears to be.

Maybe the drink isn't drugged after all.

"It's because your windup is piss-fucking-poor," Emily tells him quietly. "Someone missed out on telling you you're supposed to work up to telling someone that. You start with asking if they're okay, and then after they lie to you and ask why, you tell them it's because they look like s—" But those aren't the words he used, are they? "Like a wreck." she amends.

She reluctantly pulls the cup closer to herself and sips the top of the foam, narrowing her eyes at the taste of it before following it up with a proper drink. There's a vanilla hint to it. She murmurs over the lip of the cup, "Whoever Nicole is, she's got good taste."

Setting the coffee back down gently, she sets aside the lid, resigning herself to sitting there for a while longer. Her jaw works again as she swallows, still looking down at the drink before she asks softly, "So if I look like a wreck, what does that look like? Is something killing me again already?" It's a fearless question. Maybe a yes is good, at this point.

Zachery leans into the table again, finishing the rest of his coffee off with a smirk only just pulling at one side of his face, and a curious cant of his head at Emily's assessment of his conversational strategies. As if to say — maybe she's right. But probably not.

He taps the bottom of his now empty cup against the table's surface with a hollow click. "Remind me to remind you that you said that about her," he says of Nicole's taste, dryly. The combination of the last two topics seems to ease him back into his seat a little, and some regained confidence finds him angling his head upward as if to look Emily over one more time, extra closely now.

"As for you, you…" He pauses. There's a lot he could say. Grief and mourning leave physical marks just as easily as any wound does, even if a little less outwardly dramatic. "You don't look like yourself." This is what he finally settles on, something remarkably like sadness in his tone and in the crease of his brow. "You look weak."

A pained laugh comes from her as her brow creases and she looks off again. If there was a type of answer she expected, it wasn't… that. Emily takes another drink from the coffee that's not hers, any proud retorts or humble acknowledgements laid aside by that diversion.

"Yeah, despair does that to someone, doesn't it," is a much quieter, evenly spoken thing once she sets the cup aside.

She sits in that for a moment longer before deciding it ill-suits her. It'll be a long process, climbing out of this, but she resolves to. Whatever strange thing lies in Zachery's being as he sees her, she decides she doesn't like that look for him either. Her shoulders draw up and she looks back to him, the haze to her still present at the corners of her being, but she tries to fight through it to at least be present in this moment— to get him, and by proxy everyone else she's avoiding at the moment, to stop looking at her like that.

Nathalie deserved better than just a legacy of people who cried for her loss. She also deserved a legacy of people who were strengthened by the fact she'd been in their lives at all, who carried bits of her strength forward with them.

"So how awful are you doing?" Emily asks with a touch of her usual air, her usual crispness surfacing even if it's by force. "Did you listen to anything I had to say last time, or is this another attempt to say goodbye?"

Despite having said so little for all that's been explained to him, Zachery slips steadily back into the stillness of uncertainty again, like he might struggle to come up with a response to anything at all at this point.

But then there's that question. His expression falls, and the cup is left standing ahead of him as his hands slide off of the table and find each other just out of sight. His fingers wrap around his own wrist so tightly his knuckles go white, but he maintains eye contact.

"No, I…" He finds the ability to speak again but with an almost accusatory note of surprise, as if the answer should somehow be obvious to her from his presence alone. The spotlight focus of the conversation turning on him leaves him looking immediately ill at ease, the weight of the last few months suddenly heavier in his head. He sits for a moment, unblinking, hand squeezing ever tighter around muscle and bone, maybe hoping the pain will serve as a reminder that he came here for a reason.

The next sentence leaves him like he may already regret the words upon hearing them in his own voice. "I'm trying really hard to be good, Emily."

Here, maybe, too.

Whatever fragments of emotions could be read in Emily's expression as she watched the shifts in his become even harder to scrutinize. She's thrown by the admission, one eyebrow lifting and the other belatedly following after, but not as high.

"Oh," escapes her softly.

Oh, is also clearly read on her face a moment later as she blinks and straightens slightly as it really sinks in. Even without the context of knowing what's happened to him since Christmas, the heart of it's revealed with that little phrase. And perhaps that's enough.

"That's good," she says with more relief than she has any right to. Her shoulders lose some of the peak they'd tented up into, something else visible in the shade of relief that's come over her— a flicker of happiness, maybe. "No, that's really good, Zachery," Emily emphasises. She can't bring herself to smile because everything still hurts inwardly and outwardly, but

This small seed of hope for a better tomorrow nourishes her more than the "life juice" ever could.

"Mh." It's a noise that leaves Zachery somewhere in between agreement and not. He stares at the person ahead of him. Half his age, here without obligation. Painfully unaware of his ties, or previous ties, or whatever they are.

Maybe if he doesn't know either, it's not a topic for right now. Or ever.

Clearing his throat, Zachery attempts to recompose himself, letting go of his own wrist and reaching to put the lid back onto his empty coffee cup. "I'm not doing a great job of it just yet." A tired chuckle sneaks its way in between words, and despite it being swallowed back down almost immediately, his voice sounds suddenly a little less strained. "But if it doesn't get me killed, then — I suppose I'll have to let you know how it goes. Maybe you can give me some tips."

It's Emily's turn to let out a middling tone, looking down at the drink she's inherited to take a long gulp from it. She doesn't hold any judgment in her for how things are or aren't going, but she does shoot him a skeptical glance from the top of her periphery when he supposes the traction of those events might possibly kill him.

"Don't be dramatic," she chides him, her voice still low and quiet for all she tries to present a conversational tone. "It can't all be bad. Gamify it if you have to. Find who it is you want to be and shoot for that ideal. Pretend you are better until one day it's suddenly true."

Her words fade off abruptly as she realizes those words could as easily be her talking to herself rather than shooting advice from the hip in Zachery's direction. Her expression sinks and she lets out a toneless hm, taking another sip from the coffee. "So where … are you back in town, at least?" She adjusts her posture where she sits, still mindful to keep her back from touching the back of the chair while she cups the coffee between both hands, smelling the pleasant scent that comes from it again.

"For a bit," Zachery answers, looking to his cup and twisting the lid around on the rim until it reaches an arbitrary point at which it's apparently deemed the right way around again.

"Maybe longer than a bit. I've had so many plates spinning, sometimes it's difficult to know which ones to—" He twists the lid again, then slides the cup promptly away from him, folds his arms as if to keep himself from fidgeting further, and fixes his gaze on Emily properly. "I, ah- actually, I've… more or less…. moved in with someone? Nicole," he nods toward the coffee cup Emily is holding, with a smirk that vanishes soon after. "She, uh. We're…" Again, he swallows dryly.

Again, a discomfort settles over him, creasing his brow.

"I may genuinely die, Emily."

Again, he is dramatic.

Now she does sound like her usual caustic self, voice dropping flat. "Sorry, there's a moratorium on death. You're shit out of luck, Zachery." Emily leans her elbow on the table as she looks across at him, flint in her eyes.

"Yeah, see, the thing is, though," Zachery interjects, voice climbing ever so slightly higher. "She's—" A hand frees itself from its arm-nook confinement and gets shoved over his mouth as he sinks his fingers into his jawline and says into his own damn palm, "—prfngnh."

When confronted with a reaction like that, all one can do is come up with assumptions. Emily's brow lifts, a light switching on. Her posture shifts, the glint in her eyes changing. "I'm sorry—"

She's not.

"Did you fucking…?" Those words cut off precisely where they're meant to. She's not going to say it, but the way she leans into the question implies its ending. She looks more bewildered than she sounds, with how deftly those words are employed.

The hand does not come down, not just yet. First it lifts, over the rest of his face, over fake eye, the real eye glued to Emily's face.

"I'm forty-fucking-four years old, Emily." He announces deliberately slowly, though through ever shallower breaths, nervous and humourless grin pulling at his mouth. "I've been — she doesn't even know, I've had to - there's - There's TwO OF TheM, EMILY." His hand comes back down with a smack of palm hitting the table. "Emily there's two of them."

Emily's hand hits the table next with all the force of a gunshot, accompanied by an abrupt raising of her voice. "Fucking tell her, you fucking idiot," is possibly advice, possibly a demand, possibly all of the above, but it's definitely: exasperated.

The cafe around them quiets just as abruptly, a void of noise where there was a murmur before. There's definitely stares. Emily ignores all of them, her gaze unbreaking on Zachery's. She's bewildered, but primarily determined in her staredown.

What a turn this took, and so quickly, too.

Up go Zachery's hands, out to Emily, laughter escaping him even though the wide-eyed look of panic is only increasing, shoulders squared. "I will, I will!" He answers with his own voice raised, though more through sheer anxiety. "Just, tomorrow! Valentine's. I thought I'd-…"

Being good requires not lying, right? He takes a deep breath, then, somewhat defeated: "… Procrastinate. I thought I'd procrastinate. And I did. A lot. I thought it was a problem that might solve itself but it didn't and I'd already tricked her into stopping drinking and then I thought maybe if, you know, maybe if I could just not mention it I wouldn't panic every few days and every time there was more and it just sort of…?" Sort of what? Unsure. Also out of breath.

Aaand now both hands are on his face, clasped on as if removing it entirely might distract from what he's said. And done.

Emily doesn't have to restate how taken back by all of this she is, she wears it plainly on her face. Addressing how appropriate or inappropriate his choice of date in conveying what he knew through his ability is beyond her, overshadowed by the rest of what he says. Even still, for a moment all she can do is stare openly at him while everyone else gets back to what they were doing before.

"It just kept getting worse," comes from her almost of its own accord. Her voice is faint in comparison to the shout a moment ago. "Harder to ignore. Couldn't not see it."

The tension in her is a hard-held thing, and she sees no reason to cling to it, so her shoulders slowly slope down again. "Listen, she'll know eventually," slides from her in a sigh. "Hiding from it will only delay the inevitable." But then Emily's shaking her head, thinking about it all again. "… Jesus Christ, Zachery. Twins?" She refocuses her gaze on him again, brow arching to accentuate her question. "Are you going to die because she's going to kill you when she finds out, or because you're going to have a heart attack?"

Her own pain sits with her all the while, a dull weight she can't get rid of, but she's at least focused keenly enough on the conversation.

At the word 'worse', Zachery's hands come slowly back down off of his face, a breath leaving him all at once while his arms drop loosely onto the table. Only then does he dart a look around, eye darting from face to face around them, his expression frozen on a look of distress.

"The latter, Emily." With her name comes his returned eye contact. "I wasn't really planning to talk to you about this after you…" His brow knits as he considers his words, ultimately comes up short on how to say this sensibly. "But then I, ah- I thought… you know, on the subject of good and… death and life and… all…" He falters, nervous laugh noticeably trying to fight its way through exhales, but mostly held back. He searches Emily's expression. "It might be a… positive?"

If his face is anything to go by, he is doubting this last part very, very much.

The expression Emily shoots him in return is also very much doubting. He was trying to spin this as if it was for her benefit. But on the other hand, he was trying. She shakes her head anyway to indicate as much without expending the effort to lay into him about it. Looking off, she thinks on the subject for a moment.

"You know," she asides, still not looking back. "We've already established he's not winning any Father of the Year awards for his behavior, but my dad was about the same age when he had me." Glancing briefly to Zachery, her brows lift. "So it's possible. And even if he fucked off when I needed him most, he was there for a not insignificant amount of time. Enough that I remembered him, missed him, was angry at him. Enough that I still don't know if I forgive him."

She sips the coffee and supposes, "So there's your goal, Zachery: Do better than he did. It's possible, you're capable, and you're better equipped than most parents are." Turning back to him, the idea's almost offhanded. "Most parents have to wonder what's wrong with their crying kid. You? You'll know. You'll be able to do something about it."

"… Thank you for trying." Emily belatedly adds, setting the coffee down on her lap. Her mouth firms into a line, attempting and failing at a smile.

"Their kid," Zachery repeats in a flat echo of her words, eyebrows lowering and nose wrinkling. Alright. Sure. He lets his head loll back for a moment. "That had better be a low bar you've set, Emily, or I'm…" He looks back across the table again just to catch that not-quite-smile.

Nevermind the end of that last sentence. Not important.

Grabbing idly at the coat at his side, he shakes a scarf just below it loose and wraps it in a mess around his neck before moving to get up. Stiffly, leaning more on one leg than the other as he lifts his coat over an arm. "Sorry for… Christ, just-" He looks across to the door rather than at Emily herself, muttering distractedly, "Sorry for right now. All of it. And this. I should go."

Emily makes no move to stop him, still while he gathers his things and puts them on. She even slowly pushes to her feet herself, one hand going behind her back to adjust something that's cinched into her waistband, shrouded by the baggy hoodie she wears. She doesn't look, tries to make it seem as casual as possible, then reaches to pick up what's left of her coffee. "Call me the next time you feel like you might fuck up being good," she offers evenly. "Open invitation. Even if it's just to vent."

Top snapped back onto the coffee, she shrugs as she pushes the chair in, stands out of Zachery's way to not impede him from taking off. "You tell her tomorrow, though. All right?" A hard glance his way accompanies that directive. "For now, I— I've got to go get my own shit together, too. Go face things head on instead of… instead of hiding."

The door is regarded warily, but she catches herself just before slipping back into a look that could be regarded as weak. She quickly shifts a look back to Zachery. "See you around."

It's not immediately made clear whether Zachery even hears Emily anymore — he wastes no time in making his way toward freedom, a few awkward, uneven steps carrying him forward before he seems to find a more comfortable stride again.

"Yeah, alright," he only just manages to answer within earshot of her, already on near-autopilot. Places to be, things to do. Panic attacks to have. "If there's anything I can do, et cetera, et cetera." It might be an offer spoken with lukewarm willingness at best, but it's still an offer.

He'll remember later that he forgot to get Nicole a coffee on his way out.

What he does not forget, however, is to call over his shoulder, just before the door closes on him, "And get a holster for that thing!"

Emily winces, smearing her free hand over the side of her face in an exasperated motion. "Yeah, yeah," she mumbles to herself, and a moment later she's out the door after him.

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