The Insistence of The Serpent


bf_kara_icon.gif yi-min_icon.gif

Scene Title The Insistence of The Serpent
Synopsis Yi-Min wakes from a terrible dream she knows wasn't a dream at all.
Date December 31, 2019

The voice booming from the sky, crackling from every fire, hissing in sibilant and serpentine whispers at Kaylee's shoulder, neither heeds nor hears the protests of those around it. There is just chaos, death, carnage, and then…

Finch's flesh boils, erupts in molten pustules like hot pizza in an oven. A reflexive scream erupts from her throat, while at the same time the soft tissue in Lashirah's body begins to break down. Collagen turns to water, causing skin to dislodge from muscle and bone, causes joints to fail, causes her to fold into a seething heap of ruptured entropy. Finch paws at her face, reaches out helplessly for Isis and Yi-Min.

Isis has seen this happen before. To herself, but in slower motion.

Finch dissolves into a pile of protoplasmic, bubbling soup in Isis and Yi-Min's arms, helplessly gurgling in her final moments.

This world wasn't meant for them.

The sky demands.

It wasn't meant for human kind.

The fire calls.

It was made for our kind.

The serpent insists.

The Resurrection is upon us.


Sunken Factory, Kara’s Room

2:37 am

Yi-Min awakens with a small cry, the sound of it weirdly sharp in the climate of gray, heavy stillness she suddenly finds herself in. By nature she had never been anything but a light sleeper, for good or for ill, but this was a rough start unlike any she had experienced for years. Certainly never during her time in Providence had she ever awoken like this. She finds herself sitting close to upright in a mental pall, her hands still outstretched before her as though to hold a dissipating Finch to herself. Now though, they are helplessly empty.


Only with a strange sense of unease do her natural instincts begin to override the morass of emotions eating away at her heart, and she takes stock of where she is with a low, shaky inhalation. Behind her: the imposingly oaken silhouette of the backboard of Kara's bed. The feel, the sheer proximity of it is reassuring in its dark and somber bulk.

And there at her side in the gloom: the shape of Kara herself, nearly exactly the way that she had appeared when they both had gone to sleep hours earlier, minus a rather unremarkable position shift or two.

Because, of course. Yi-Min is in Providence, and she had never left it tonight.

She had never…

She exhales through her nose, just as slowly, and it is all she can do this time to keep a sense of cold anguish out of it.

Kara is not unfamiliar with bad dreams, having suffered through many of them, and seeing others undergo them. She knows, as painful as it might be, that sometimes the nightmares pass and the dreamer will return to sleep. Sometimes they won’t even remember what happened in the morning.

She hopes for that for Yi-Min’s sake, it’s the latter.

But then the twitches turn to shifts, and then Yi-Min starts into that upright position, letting out a cry. Kara closes her eyes for only a moment before she leans down into her arm, pushing herself up onto an elbow. “Yi-Min,” she shushes her softly. She sits up far enough she can press a kiss into her shoulder, enough to loosely drape her other arm around Yi-Min’s side. “It’s okay.”

“I’m here.” Kara tells her, mouth still pressed to skin. She tilts her head away only so her hair, tousled from sleep, falls away from her eyes to let her take in how serious the damage of the nightmare is — how deep it’s chased her into the realm of waking. “Minni, it’s all right. It was just a dream.” She draws herself up into a proper sitting position to better guard Yi-Min with her physical presence, still radiating warmth from the sleep she’d been roused from.

Many dreams, at least real ones, had the habit of beginning a dissolution of sorts right upon the advent of true awakening. Details lost: skeins of yarn unraveling fast and far beyond any conscious reach.

Yi-Min knows something of nightmares too, even if the mainstay of her own experiences echo from a past that is now long-distant. No kindly touch of forgetfulness would be forthcoming here, any more than what she had witnessed had been a natural dream, and awareness of everything burns inside her mind as sharply as the lines of the imagery itself. "It wasn't," the Taiwanese woman murmurs with ashen fierceness into Kara's shoulder in turn; an insistence which doesn’t make any sense, and even in the mood she’s in she knows it doesn’t make sense. But a moment later she presses her cheek darkly onto the welcome frame of Kara's collarbone, permitting herself to be drawn and held close, as though she were a child seeking comfort.

And there is comfort within Kara's essence. Her presence, her frankness, the very fact of her warmth and her blessed, touchable realness.

But it is not enough. None of it would be, could be enough.

"It wasn’t… a dream. It was there, Kara. I saw it."

Kara knits her brow in the dark, laying her head atop Yi-Min's and sheltering her with her entire being. She brushes her hand up and down her arm in a gesture of comfort, patiently waiting out the insistence. It's something she thinks will pass, ultimately, but not if she denies the sway it's currently holding over her.

She shhs softly down at Yi-Min regardless, hoping it eases her anxiety. "What was there?" Kara asks, not willing to presume it's any one thing. She does wonder if it had been the robot, but doesn't offer up the guess aloud. She lifts her head up only so she can peer down at the woman in her arms intently.

She's listening.

There beneath the solid, graceful bower of Kara’s uncomplaining patience, Yi-Min's breathing is gradually elongating once again into something recognizably softer. Revitalizing, as though forming within a state of contemplation that is both keen and still. Whatever words and thoughts are formulating behind her tongue, it is not quite anxiety that has her troubled so. Her dark eyes have adjusted to the near-absent levels of light now, and they are hollow in the grayness.

She inhales.

"The power behind Adam. Behind what Eileen once held inside her. I was not there alone in that place, if a place it was. There were others it gathered there. When we were assembled, it showed all of us what it is that it wants. The version of the world, that it wants.”

If Kara didn't know her better, she could swear that Yi-Min had actually already succeeded in winding her way back to her more usual, cursory manner of being. But there is a quality to the underside of her voice that is as soft and as dead as an ancient snowfall.

"What will transpire if I fail at my task."

The certainty in Yi-Min's tone makes it harder to deny it was just a dream, even if her last murmur puts what happened back firmly in plausible nightmare category. Kara almost shakes her head, but somehow doesn't, searching Yi-Min's expression.

Her brow furrows anyway. "What are you talking about?" she asks calmly, gently. "What task?"

She doesn't mean to lower her arms, but she can't help if she's going to get a better look into the other woman's eyes. Her cradle persists, just much more loosely, hands near their laps.

Yi-Min delicately takes one of Kara’s larger hands into her own, enfolding it into the square center of her lap and resting it there, where she skims her fingertips over the top of it in several solemn, feather-light strokes. It is a full few moments before she speaks again, and she still does not look the munitions chaplain in the eyes once she does.

It is not reticence for Kara to hear the words that is holding her back. It is pain, tangible to both of them even there in the dark. A pain black, laced with the hard edges of sadness, and against all probability incorporating an airy spirit of a laugh within its contours.

This world wasn't meant for them, she hears again.

"The project I am working on with Dr. Miller. We have been given orders to modify the structure of something called the Gorgon Virus. I only had my suspicions before of what the altered target vector was meant to be, as it was not made clear— but now that I have seen this, how can I have further doubts? It seems as though what this virus is intended to be turned to is the eradication of the non-Evolved."

Out of a realm of pure theory, and into one of abject nightmare.

Kara's posture slacks as Yi-Min describes it, her brow ticking for a moment. She otherwise doesn't move, leaving her hand pliable under the smaller woman's. Gorgon? She blinks slowly in the dark while she lets that news sit on her.

She turns her head to press one last kiss into Yi-Min's hair.

"I thought you— put all that behind you." Kara murmurs, a stillness to her voice. Then she realizes: no, she didn't say Evolved. The virus is being changed to attack non-Evolved.

That makes it neither better nor worse, in her mind.

She pulls back now to look at Yi-Min directly. Chances are, if she didn't sound horrified by the vision of her work coming to completion, her reaction would be much more severe. For now, Kara doesn't pull away, she just waits for an explanation.


Finally goes the old-fashioned buffet lamp on Kara's bedside table as Yi-Min's slim hand finishes reaching out for it: the darkness around them flees towards the room's fringes as the pair of them is illuminated in a wash of small, sudden, focused golden light. If they're going to be having this conversation at near enough 3 AM, they may as well do it properly.

"This is the culmination of everything I've been doing, here in Providence," Yi-Min explains calmly, eyes closed against both the cheerfully stark luminescence and against Kara's confusion. She does not use the word virus as a qualifying noun for this, because the virus is not what she is talking about.

The pain twined through her words is far from gone, but a sense of serenity seems to radiate from her like the soft brightness now bathing her features. "Why do you think I put myself in harm's way when you tried to shoot at Lanhua Chen? Why do you think that, when push came to shove, I appeared to choose the side of Praxis over the Remnant? Did you really think that, in an ideal world, I would have willingly chosen them over you?" A pause, just enough for the bare breathless implication of a laugh.

"I have placed myself in a position to be able to work on it, all so that I could stop something like this."

What they are doing now satisfies an old tradition of sharing secrets in the middle of the night. It's like the dark will swallow them and hide them again once they're spoken. It somehow feels safer. But what is shared will cling to their shadows and follow them into the dawn.

At least Yi-Min wouldn't have to bear the weight of this secret alone anymore.

"I found the note you left hidden in your shrine," Kara confirms, wondering if that will change the expression Yi-Min wears, the mask made of her calm acceptance of what she had done and what was still yet to be done. "I knew you were doing something foolish and brave and well-meaning, but… this…?"

Should she open her eyes, she'll see the blonde's brow knit together. What they're talking about is deadly, even for all the determination Yi-Min possesses to complete her sabotage. Were she to succeed, she would shift a target meant for the world to her own back.

"I don't understand half the things you choose, the way you see the world," Kara admonishes her with things she already knows. She looks away, out into the dark, and leans her head back against the headboard. "This…" Her brow creases again. "This might be one of those cases." Admitting as much makes it easier to work toward understanding; helping, even, if she can.

She sighs and scowls into the dark for a moment, a brief flicker of irritation before it fades in light of other thoughts. "I knew something was off about that doctor."

When Yi-Min opens her eyes into the light, a very small smile has appeared on her face, a small radiance that lifts the darkest edge off her solemnity. Perhaps it's the effect of hearing that familiar, beloved grumble of rancor in Kara's voice. How she had missed it so.

Yi-Min cannot help but murmur out a sound of reassurance, a laugh at that view of Kara scowling away into the empty dark. "Do not worry much about Dr. Miller. Trust me, he will be dealt with in time. I know you will help me to keep an eye on him. And…"

"I suppose I don't need you to understand everything," she concludes very tenderly, reeling Kara's cheek gently back in towards herself with a lightly suggestive caress of her fingertips. Once Kara's gaze has been satisfactorily reclaimed for herself, Yi-Min spends several seconds searching those cloud-blue eyes with ones that are warmly dark, reverent. Endlessly bittersweet. "I just need you to be safe, for Eileen to be safe. This is what I have chosen. This… is all that needs to be."

If Kara desired an insight into the workings of Yi-Min's psyche, an understanding of the way her lover's soul is shaped and had been shaped since long before Kara had ever known her, there is no better chance than right now. That tantalizingly open window of her sorrowful, joyful smile.

There is a sweetly pervasive kind of heaviness that hangs in the air over the next several breaths, where looks speak infinite volumes more than words. Then, Yi-Min brings closure to the natural arc of all of it by leaning in to place a kiss on Kara's lips with the intimate and deeply incisive elegance that Kara knows so well.

Kara’s hardened expression mellows as she goes with the gentle pull of Yi-Min’s fingers, searching her eyes as her own are searched in return. Her own stubbornness is subdued in light of the determination, the devotion she sees in her partner. The longer the revelation about Yi-Min’s work sits with her, the more time she has to worry about it, and worry for her… as well as her approach to the topic.

The kiss stops her before she can issue any protest to Yi-Min’s course of action, and perhaps that’s her point. There’s a certain sense of peace and finality it imparts.

But Kara blunders on anyway almost as soon as it’s ended. “Your safety matters, too.” she murmurs, resting her forehead against Yi-Min’s. “I understand enough about what you’ve just said to be afraid I can’t protect you from it, if everything goes wrong. Or if everything goes right.” She lifts her hand, thumb brushing against Yi-Min’s cheek while her remaining fingers push locks of hair back behind her ear. Her voice lowers to a whisper, as weary as it is full of fight. “I am so tired of feeling this way, Minni. Powerless to protect the things I care about.”

She shakes her head ever so slightly, forehead still pressed. “A future without you is one less bright,” Kara protests, eyes closing hard. When they snap open again, she admits, “I lost sight of myself without you. When I thought you were—” Her voice fades before she amends wearily, “when you were gone.” Still looking toward Yi-Min, she adjusts her trunk, shifting her legs to turn properly toward her and lean her shoulder against the headboard. Her calf stretches across Yi-Min’s leg, a different kind of embrace. Her protectiveness flares in the quiet of her voice. “Without you, I do not feel like enough in any of this. I don’t want to lose you again, Yi-Min.”

There’s no attempt to dissuade her from her path. Kara can see the immutability of it, just as she can see she’s an inadequate shield against the consequences of it.

“You have no idea what it did to me when I thought I had.” she whispers.

"You were strong before I met you, and you are strong regardless of whether I would be there, or no. Do not talk like this." It is Yi-Min's turn to deliver her version of an admonishment in answer to these protests, sternly and breezily chiding in inflection even as she subtly reaches out for Kara's hand again. It is more than clear she does not agree with the pronouncement that her safety matters as well, but she also knows it would be useless to belabor that particular point.

“Over these past months, I may actually have gained some idea of what you speak.” This is said with a much quieter wryness that only partly disappears into the shared gesture of resting forehead-to-forehead with the other woman, Yi-Min's eyelids lidding half-closed with a troubled aura shining from beneath them in contrast to Kara fully closing her own. It is still an altogether different tone from that contained in her rebuke, and she cannot help but feel a twinge in her chest when she sees that weariness inside Kara's being. Hears that dogged, hopeless protectiveness returned to her in the marrow of that whisper. It stays with her, through Kara’s protective shifting in position.

"This endeavor is one I have no intention of failing in," she starts again huskily, but then stops. Any more than this threatened entrance into a realm of reassurances that she could not, in good faith, really promise to keep. "And yet, should fate be cruel enough to decree this will be so, there is a countermeasure you can take. A way to add to this strength that you believe you lack, though in truth, this is but secondary. I mentioned before that the virus will be targeted at those who are not… SLC-Expressive."

Kara sits unyielding to her position that Yi-Min's loss affected her until that wry comment passes. Her eyes lift, posture righting. She knows? Kara doesn't shrink from Yi-Min, but wounded pride sees her expression become more guarded, searching for clues— or tells— that the extent of what she did, who she spoke with, is known.

Her shoulders lower when her partner goes on to speak of 'countermeasures'. To her, it says if she doesn't know the full of it, then she knows enough.

"It was a moment of weakness," Kara protests, the edges of her words clipped despite the softness of her voice. She doesn't shake her head, but she doesn't really move at all, either. "What I did was…" Her gaze drops to their hands, her fingers finally brushing against Yi-Min's palm. With a shallow sigh, her head finally ticks in the beginning of a shake, but it's cut short. It's more important to speak, even though it's uncomfortable.

"I don't think it's possible." she confides, trying to stymie false hope with pragmatism before it can grow to the point it blinds either of them. "Not here."

"Kara, please. This isn't about anything like that." It's about as earnest as Kara has ever heard Yi-Min before. Earnest isn't even the right word for this: the smaller woman sounds practically imploring deep in her quietness, and she regards the spectre she can see of Kara's bruised ego with a stillness born of pained insistence.

Pride, and weakness. These are the wrong things to be concerned with right now.

"Listen to me, my treasure. It does not matter what the circumstance of your visit was before. You must go speak with Sharrow again; he would know what is possible better than you or I. There would no doubt be a dear asking price, if the possibility is an attainable one, but there is no price too great to pay." To ensure your survival, Yi-Min does not quite finish aloud, but the sudden flood of shadowed intensity behind her eyes says it well enough for her. When Kara's fingers skate over the surface of her palm, Yi-Min closes her own fingers adamantly across their top for a short-lived moment, as though to assure herself that they are in fact still real.

Only then does she reiterate the earlier conclusion she had made, in tones that rise into the shape of something more hushed, frigidly emotive. "I have seen what will transpire if I fail to stop what is coming. I would shield you from this, no matter the cost."

What Yi-Min asks brings a knot to Kara's chest, her frown persistent on her features. The clasp of fingers around her own encourages her to find the spaces their hands link together naturally, Yi-Min's colder fingers wrapping in hers.

Rather than pride or ego, faith inspires her to reply in the negative. You won't fail. Kara almost murmurs in her partner's ear. But she resolved to not shrug off Yi-Min's fears, and to tell her that would be a very near thing.

So what to say instead?

She finds nothing suitable, instead shifting the lay of her body so she's resting on her side, propped up by her elbow. "Lay down with me," she urges, hands coaxing themselves around Yi-Min's form in an embrace. "Just… humor me." she murmurs.

Kara lets go of her hand only so she can stroke the side of Yi-Min's face. "We can talk more about this tomorrow," she suggests only once they're settled, calm in voice. She tries to keep her look from being severe, but she's unable to hide her concern entirely. "All right? But we should rest."

With only one flash of an undersided, reproving glance into the deepening tableau of shadows across the room and a resigned sigh that dissolves out in sound almost before it can cross the elusive periphery of lamplight, Yi-Min lets this go without any protest only in shared cognizance of the lateness of the hour. "Fine. But so help me, Kara Prince, you aren't getting away from having this conversation with me during the day tomorrow," she murmurs in a tiredly fading tone still brooking no argument even after having accepted the unsettled touch on her cheek summoning her— summoning both of them— back to rest.

It's a promise more understated, but no less dignified than the one she had just made to shield Kara from whatever is coming.

Without giving Kara any extra time to process this, Yi-Min is already curling herself wholeheartedly into the welcoming contours of Kara's embrace from behind, drawing both of the larger woman’s arms firmly and comfortably around her midsection as if claiming them for her very own. There is a definite stubbornness to the action, just as there is a faint finality in leaving Kara to be the one to turn off the bedside light again.

But there is a comfort to be found inside this too, for both of them, despite the threat of a universal uneasiness that lingers heavily in the darkened air around them.

Whatever new nightmare the coming days might bring for each of them to endure, for the first time in months, neither of them would be doing it alone.

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