The Room Of Invisible People


sf_asami2_icon.gif sf_zachery2_icon.gif

Scene Title The Room Of Invisible People
Synopsis Asami approaches Zachery to ask him for help, which he agrees to… so long as she proves she's capable of helping him, first.
Date March 3, 2021

New York Presbyterian Hospital, Lower Manhattan

S. Kozlow
4:17 pm Horseface Torrence wouldn't shut up to me about something you left in the nap room, Miller. Get it before I shove you both down a garbage chute.

It still takes 40 minutes before Zachery finds the space to breathe and head to the room he definitely didn't leave anything in because he's not been here today. But Christ if Maureen didn't find him herself not once but twice in that time frame, even after the 'friendly' text from his co-worker.

When he swings in the door on the bunk-bedded room and the door handle heavily knocks into the rubber pad on the wall. The thick, semi-soundproofing door bounces and then begins to slowly swing back on well-oiled hinges.

There was no one here his brusque entry could rouse, though, it seems. It's half a shame. Before he can get to looking for whatever it is he's 'left', though, someone steps out from behind one of the bedframes in view of the door.

"Took you long enough," Asami Tetsuzan sighs. Her hands tuck away into hoodie pockets as she looks Zachery over. Her eyes flit up and down him, the light shifting over her like a shroud that he inexplicably sees through.

She's here using his power to have gotten access this far.

"I needed to talk to you," she explains quietly, posture guarding itself as she poses the need for help from him without precisely saying as much.

The first sound to leave Zachery upon finding Asami is a sharp exhale through his nose, as his expression twists into something halfway between anger and surprise. Consideration enters his gaze in the sharpest way it possibly could, his head lifting where he stands, still, near the door.

Still, his voice is level when he says, calmly, "You realise I could have you thrown out. You shouldn't be here."

Considerably less calm is the next sentence, which seems to leave him from slightly deeper down, nearer to the currently freezing core of him. "You shouldn't have been in my home, either."

Asami is halfway to an unintentional smart of a reply when the second comment leaves Zachery, and the light in her eyes shifts. For a moment, for all the world she seems almost— someone else entirely, and then she lets out a sigh that makes her shoulders droop. "Yeah," she admits, and when she looks up again she's neither herself nor the person she was a second earlier.

She lifts a hand and twists her wrist while closing her palm. The door Zachery had opened begins to swing in on itself. For all purposes, it looks like it might close just as roughly as it had opened, but at the last moment she unfurls her hand again and it eases to a more gentle shut.

The end result's the same. They're alone now, and the door is closed.

"You can't have me thrown out. But if you want to try and throw me, be my guest," Asami offers up stiffly— and apparently, genuinely.

"I don't know what you take me for," Zachery answers after stealing a cursory glance in the door's direction, before his eyes snap back onto Asami's face. "But I'm not really in the business of attacking women unless they come at me first."

Unprepared and unwilling to explore this avenue of conversation, he quickly shakes his head and adds, "Just tell me why you're here." Though anger seems to be the only thing that makes it into the set expression he wears, exasperation and curiosity find themselves in his voice all too easily despite.

There is a similar shimmer that passes over him, as his control over it and his emotions waver. "Can you turn it back?"

Asami can't look at Zachery after that. Her voice is a thing that takes a moment to summon again, hands turning to fists in her pockets once they both find them once more. She considers lying that there might be a possibility— but there's no sense in giving him hope like that.

She shakes her head once.

"Isaac thought whatever happened to us, to me— that it might appear on medical tests. That maybe we could figure out how…"

She doesn't have an end to that sentence, at least not one she likes. It feels like agony to suggest, but she does it anyway. This kind of hope she can bear to give him. "— how to control it. Regulate it, perhaps."

He can fill in the blanks there. Maybe she can't take it back, but maybe they can turn it off.

"I don't trust anyone who's not in our position with the specifics of what we can do, but you—" And here, briefly, hope reflects in her eyes now, too. "You're a doctor. You could…"

"I could what?" Zachery scoffs, the smile that makes its way onto his face cold and incredulous. "I could pop into the room we've reserved for when Dr. Bruce Banner swings for his bimonthly check-up?"

He steps forward with a start, but not toward Asami. He breaks eye contact with her to check the beds again, sweeping a look this way and that before landing a hand against one of the frames next to her to lean down, checking a particularly dark corner he knows to be a good hiding spot. Only once he's made personally sure the room is well and truly empty does he turn his attention upward again. "This is fantasy! Where would I even start?! If anything you might talk to a brain surgeon, or— a…. how am I supposed to help you with something this out of the ordinary when I can't even…"

He laughs, but looks away to say, "I can't even help my daughter."

The sarcasm regarding the comic book character takes a moment to get over, hope arresting in Asami's eyes. In the time it takes Zachery to pace the room, her gaze drifts to the floor, gradually hardening. It'd been a crazy hope, after all. Too much to hope for, maybe.

Her head lifts at the mention of sick baby Avery, anxious hesitation entering her look. She takes in a cautious breath to offer help, and nearly doesn't. But it comes from her anyway. "I could try."

No, not like that, Asami. Jesus Christ. That's not…

"I didn't before— but if you help me with this shot in the dark, I can try healing her. That's— one of the things I can do." She meets Zachery's look head-on now. "If you run diagnostics against me, I'll help her."

Zachery listens, a hand traveling slowly to the collar of his scrubs, as if it could possibly be the cause of the air suddenly feeling thicker in here. "Help her how? Because from what I've seen and heard and experienced firsthand, all you offer is chaos."

He pushes away from the beds, stepping up in front of Asami as he uses whatever stability he has left for the look he burns into her face. "You brought her here." The hand previously at his own neck is now jabbed in accusation at Asami's shoulder, but he sounds a measure less confident when he finishes with, "What if you touch her and she vanishes?"

Chaos, he says. That's a well-deserved jab. Asami's look hardens anyway, tracing the path of his movements as he comes back her way and looks down at her.

She doesn't break until he claims she's responsible for Avery's existence, the inflappability of her expression flapping. "I didn't—" she starts to argue, but did they know that for sure? The mimic gives it a serious moment of thought, her eyes leaving Zachery to dance from moment to moments, reviewing all the data points. "I didn't," she restates more firmly when she looks back. "I know what powers, what abilities I've picked up. Reality alteration or wish fulfillment isn't one of them."

Asami wonders at his reaction a moment longer before asking, "What harm is there in trying? If I try and it works, you have a healthy daughter. If she disappears… she wasn't there in the first place and she no longer is sick, besides." So clearly, it was all varying shades of humane in her mind. But her brow furrows.

"… Did you grow attached to her?" It almost sounds like there should be an already at the end of that question.

Keeping a close watch of Asami's expression and the search that comes before her answer, Zachery rolls his jaw in thought.

This would be much easier if any of the answers within reach were useful ones.

"She's not a goldfish!" He turns abruptly so he can put a few steps of distance back between them, hands smacking onto his face to be dragged roughly down. "I might not hold her, or— stay in the room when she cries, but the whole world seems convinced that she's exactly where she should be, that no one else would know better, or take better care of her but her parents. Which, I've been told, I'm one of!"

He turns again, sweeping an arm out at Asami with the desperation and anger he's trying and failing to keep from his strained voice when throwing a question right back at her, in turn. "So what would you do? Go on."

Asami should have a more sympathetic attitude regarding this than she possesses— feels herself capable of possessing. Avery and Harvey's very existences impinge her understanding of reality, and in finding them abstract concepts, she finds them, ultimately, to be less real. They're not her burden, the world isn't telling her what it's telling Zachery.

She doesn't even like children.

Her answer is so quick and brusque it nearly feels flippant. "I'd heal her. I can heal injuries or— or conditions. If it's physical, or even if it's mental, the power can affect it." Tilting her head up at Zachery, she starts to peer at him.

It's not quite with the same intensity she did before she touched him and pulled forth his invisibility from where it was hidden, but it carries the same looking right through him sensation.

"You've not been sleeping, have you?" Asami comments. At least, not well. She begins to lift one curled hand very slowly. "I'll prove what I can do. I'll help you to feel rested."

That hand hesitates, waiting for permission, apparently.

Zachery doesn't look surprised at her assessment. He doesn't just look tired, he feels it in every part of him. The shift of his reality, the constant threat of his emotions getting the better of him where people might see him disappear from their view entirely. This cannot and will not happen.

What could be a more self-affirming and parental move than self-sacrifice?

And yet. "No."

He eyes the hand, then fixes a look back up at Asami with confidence knitting his brow. But determination plays second fiddle to something else, something that takes the edges off of his words and lowers his voice to something more fitting of the room. "There's a patient I did some advisory work on and I'm doing the rounds to check on, my next shift. Complete organ failure, somewhat unexpected. Family's out of town, they've been notified but it will be hours before they arrive. It will be too late."

A flicker of doubt crosses his face, before he takes a deep breath and banishes it, leaning closer. "Her. If you so much as facilitate her family getting to be in the room while she's still warm, I'll think of letting you near Avery and I'll… do whatever I can think of to help."

Asami's hand starts to open just barely, a shimmer of white energy haloing her fingertips… but she closes and retracts it, and the light vanishes. She peers up at him curiously, eyes focusing on him rather than what ails him. She seems perplexed at first.

Then accepting. The angles in her posture soften, and she looks past him to the closed door. She'd never considered doing something like this with the power she'd learned, and yet…

"I won't heal her entirely," Asami agrees quietly. "A miraculous recovery could draw more questions. But I'll give her some time. A fighting chance." She lets out a sigh, swiveling a look back to Zachery. "I don't have much hope medical science will be able to figure out anything about this… but it feels irresponsible to not at least look."

With a pinch at the bridge of his nose, Zachery relents, and nods. His gaze drifts up to the ceiling as it's done so often lately, when he's trying to keep straight all the things these past days have brought him.

"I don't expect you to play the hero," he explains, "I just expect you to assist, and in the process— prove yourself trustworthy. In return, I'll see what favours I can call upon to… I don't know."

He snaps back to attention suddenly, glancing at a slightly askew clock on the wall at his side. "I'll figure something out. Somewhere to start, things to… rule out." It's the least certain he's sounded this entire time, but not for lack of commitment. "Meet me in the lobby on the 8th in… shit, hour twenty?"

Asami takes in a slow, drawn breath in only to sigh it out harshly a moment later. "You know," she comments almost chidingly, "It's a good thing your ability isn't very straining."

Well, when used. Trying to keep oneself from using it, how he is…

She shakes her head, trying to move past the possibly-uncouth comment. "I'll meet you there," she promises, looking away like she's thinking ahead to how she'll bide her time before glancing back his way one last time. "You sure you don't want a bit of energy to get you between now and then?"

Talk of his ability has Zachery's gaze once more unfocusing, jaw setting. He swallows down what looks like may have almost been a reply— he has places to be, and visibly attempts to recompose himself before turning to walk back out the door.

"There are many things I don't understand, and many things I never will," he can't help but say, still, pausing in the doorway with his hand still on the door handle, "but one thing I do know is that you are not touching me again. Nor Nicole, if I can help it."

And with that, he steps aside and out, letting the door swing slowly closed again of its own accord.

An hour and fifteen minutes later, when Zachery steps off the elevator onto the 8th floor, a look to the left to assess the waiting room space reveals it to be filled with multiple persons.

One of whom is Asami Tetsuzan, seated plainly with the other. Just… invisibly, that slight rainbow sheen around the edges of her as Zachery peers right through the bend of light she's hiding behind.

She comes to her feet and lifts her head up in a gesture of acknowledgment to him. She doesn't speak, at least not aloud, but a skin-close whisper of Lead the way. is understood by him all the same as she approaches to follow.

It's an unpleasant thing, causing a corner of Zachery's mouth to twitch outward.

But he wastes only a beat before proceeding forward. For all the pressure on him and the stress of late, he might as well own the place for how he walks the halls.

Pushing past two sets of doors lands him and Asami in a much quieter part of the hospital - in a long, dimly lit, L-shaped hallway with automatic doors and a handful of nurses carrying on a low conversation at the far end around the corner.

Only now do his steps slow. While he might not own the place, he does know it— and its surveillance. Before he rounds the corner into the hallway proper, he takes a breath and - with a momentary look cast downward as if enduring something unpleasant - joins Asami in slipping out of sight.

Unseen by anyone except her, he fights back most of a sneer and moves onward until they're three automatic doors down, landing an elbow against the wall-mounted button to slide it open with a near-silent mechanical hiss.

Once inside, he turns. Not to look at the unconscious patient hooked up to life support at his side, but the door, fingers twitching impatiently inward for it to close.

Asami's not nearly as impatient, and neither does she usher the door onward to closed with an invisible hand like she did before. Instead, she takes the step closer to the woman being sustained— failingly so— by the help of machines.

Her brow draws together in a jagged tic, her eyes flickering as she looks down at the woman and her tiny wisp of life in her broken body. Drawn by its own accord, her left hand lifts, a subtle corusca of light ringing her hand again as she passes it over the woman's abdomen, trails it up her torso. Asami lifts her eyes to find the woman's but they're closed.

Her right hand lifts, backs of knuckles pressing to the woman's forehead like one does to check for fever. But she continues to stare, and her hand turns. It looks very clearly like she's about to open the sedated woman's eyes.

With Asami inside and the door closed, Zachery breathes out a deep sigh. He may not be strictly comfortable with this, but he intends to do it right. Which means not taking any risks being seen.

The moment he turns to look over toward the bed, however, his attention to such details drops off a fucking cliff. "What are you doing?" He hisses, stepping toward both patient and tag-along - and thoughtlessly back into view as all the tension from before returns to him in triple. He raises a hand as if to swat Asami's away, but changes his mind at the last second and gestures for her to hold the fuck on, instead.

With his eyebrows raised slightly, he demands in a lowered voice and with a look of intent, severe doubt, "Tell me touching her face is really necessary."

She whispers back, "I wanted to see if…"

What, Asami? If she's like us sounds selfish. If she couldn't entirely be saved, what would be the point in verifying that, anyway? And besides, shouldn't she have value even if she wasn't like them?

Bewildered suddenly at a clash of thoughts and moral codes in her head, she blinks wide and hard, shaking her head partly as her posture rights. "No," she confirms distractedly. She almost slides a step back from the bed, but catches herself and looks back down at the patient.

"I will need to touch her to heal her, though," Asami glances back at Zachery, waiting. Does it still meet his approval, or has he changed his mind?

Zachery remains still, watching until he's finally met with that last comment. Only then does he permit himself to look down at the woman in the bed, reaching to gently untuck her from the blanket that's been drawn up and across her chest.

"Of course you do," he comments in equal amounts deadpan and what sounds suspiciously like defeat, glancing up toward the patient's face as she completely fails to respond to him carefully bending her arm to bring it up and over her torso. "I can give you an arm. That'd better be enough."

Asami lets out a scoff of a laugh at that point, halfway to a comment before she just sighs. His anxiety isn't going to hold her back from what needs to be done, she decides. The light around her warps as she, too, opts for visibility to better focus on the task at hand.

She reaches forward to take the woman's hand, letting warmth and vitality from herself draw into her palm and seek what's gone wrong here. The movement of her arm brings the unconscious woman involuntary discomfort, and the light in Asami's eyes shift. "I'm sorry," she whispers to her. "I'll hurry."

Her eyes empty as she seeks to see the injuries for herself with a sense other than vision. "There's…" Her expression contorts with concern. There was so much wrong, it's not hard to see why they bypassed corrective surgery. The longer she looks and takes stock of injuries, she becomes less certain where she should stop. Asami's hand gives off that soft flicker when salvation passes from her to the woman whose name she doesn't even know.

Invisible bleeding stalls. Tears and abrasions mend. It would be such an easy thing to take care of the superficial signs of hurt— the bruising— but she calls the energy back to herself before going too far. She moves past the lungs, hesitates over the heart. With the beginnings of a frown, she finds she can't just let it be.

The silent pulse monitor shows a stabilization in heartbeat away from the irregular pattern it had been fluctuating at.

Asami has to physically draw her hand back to stop from doing more, tears welling in her eyes for reasons she can't fully explain. She has to leave her still unwell when she knows— she knows she could have mended it all. Somewhere between pride and compassion, that hurts.

But her look hardens and she blinks the tears away. She takes a step down the bed, away from the half-finished job she struggles to remind herself needs to remain half-finished. "There's— the internal damage was bad. New bleeding should be stopped, but there's already…"

"I didn't speed that up. I didn't solve that." The blood already pooling.

There isn't a second in which Zachery looks away during Asami's actions, as if even pausing to blink might invite disaster. He folds his arms over his chest, and stands like a displeased gargoyle in scrubs, watching every movement from over by the opposite side of the bed.

But somewhere along the way, that guarded state of alert becomes something else. Something more empathetic to the changes in Asami's mood, and the tone of her voice. He remains standing where is, but regret smooths some of the hard edges of his expression. "Good," he says, eventually, voice level and matter-of-fact.

He turns his head, finally, looking toward the readings the displays nearby provide. Not hiding the surprise that shows on his face regardless of expectations, he steps forward to slowly reposition the patient's arm the way it was, then fixing the blanket in practised movements performed countless times before. "We may not be able to save her, but we gave her family some time. Some closure."

"I could give her more," Asami offers up, the reaction kneejerk. Her head goes back to Zachery, then returns to the woman. The words slip from her in almost a whisper. "I could—"

She shouldn't.

But she could.

"Are we sure that…?" Did they have to stop? The question is to Zachery, but she can't look at him at the moment. She's listening intently, to him, to the movements of the woman's sleeping mind for anything to help guide her decision.

With no such trouble holding him back, Zachery searches Asami's expression curiously. "I could leave," he offers, his head angled ever so slightly to one side in thought.

"Get my coffee, return to my shift. Leave you alone. Then, when you're done," he puts an arm up, motioning toward the door, "have you remember that every room behind every door in this hallway might hold someone who needs your help, who would die without you. Suffering, in the meantime, knowing that their plans for life meant nothing. Could you stop at just one? Would that not make it cruelty?"

With the patient returned to the state they found her in, if only externally, he steps up to Asami directly. Into her line of sight, choosing confrontation as his next approach, certainty once more found threaded through his words. "I know I couldn't. There would be no going back. There would be no secrets, and no hiding. And you are hiding."

The directness is what pulls Asami away from the woman finally, even if one hand balls slowly into a fist by her side. Empathy and compassion are vyses tied about her throat and heart, ones that cut and leave her bleeding too. To shake them off is difficult.

But Zachery isn't wrong about her and her situation. She breaks the look first, turning her head away. Light bends around her and brings her back into the realm of invisible. She doesn't shrink from her reality, but neither does she have to like it.

"You're right," she admits with a quiet grim. "There's battles to be fought still. And I have to choose… where I spend my energy. Make sure it isn't wasted."

She sounds so confident in her decision, expression solemn. Then abruptly she sighs and paces away, the heels of both hands pressed into her eyes while she lets out a growl of frustration in the same library quiet as before. "Fuck," she mutters, and then her arms swing down by her sides.

Asami looks back to Zachery with something more driven in her expression than before. She admits, "I'm working on blowing this all public. Not naming names, just myself, but… taking control of the narrative." She lifts a hand from her side in a vague gesture. "To stop hiding," as he so eloquently put it.

Of course he's right. Zachery's arm comes down too, and now it's his turn to turn his attention toward the patient at their side, their possible unintentional eavesdropper. Not that she looks the part of acting upon anything overheard.

"… Alright." Zachery replies, after a moment of silence, eyes narrowing in thought and consideration for some unspoken possibilities. "Unexpected, but- alright. This… this is good."

He steps to the side, and takes a deep breath, looking toward the door out. Which, ideally, he'd pass through unseen again. But he's tense again, and so he stalls. Fingers curling in, before his hands go pressed flat against his legs. Back on topic— "Do you have help?"

Asami wobbles her head, and in doing so, realizes better the energy it's taken to do what she has here. She stills rather than call attention to it, rolling her lip while she thinks. "Some," she answers, because it's not untrue. Kaylee was supporting her, she gave her the contact information after all. "As much as I've had in any of this."

"I want to be careful here. If they've not discovered the rest of you yet— and I presume they haven't— then I'll do everything I can to keep it that way. Especially considering…"

The light in her eyes shifts again, guilt if not regret passing over her. "I saw the news this morning. About what's happening over at the Linderman Group. I can't help but feel what happened to me cracked open the door for all that to…" But Asami trails off, reconsidering. With a sigh, she admits, "It was bound to happen eventually, it's just— the timing, and…"

She lifts her hand, rubbing at the back of her head uncomfortably.

Mention of the news very clearly does not help Zachery's nerves, and he stifles a shallow breath of a laugh while throwing his head back in exasperation. This subject, now. "I think they always had a bit of a timer running. Ticking. Slowly down, and down."

He looks ahead of him again, shaking his head. "All you can do is— take responsibility. Within the timeframe you have." He takes one step toward the door, manages to hold onto the invisibility shimmering across him for only a second before it falters, then returns, sticking for the moment. "Speaking of which— we should leave. If you'd like, we can talk more in the car, when my next shift is over."

The topic of taking responsibility is a curious one, and while she wonders at it, Zachery's mind is a frazzled thing to read. The stressors weighing on him, including his work day, are enough that she eases away from digging into his thoughts.

Instead, she watches with passive curiosity as he struggles with bringing his ability to stick. She hesitates for only a moment before offering, "I can make us…" The specific word fails her in this moment, involving language she's never really needed before. She supplies, "Able to walk through the door, the walls."

Her brow lifts, wondering if he'll accept. "At least until we get back?"

She doesn't have to wonder long — Zachery lowers his head with a distinct look of distaste aimed in her direction. "You've done enough."

Frazzled mind suddenly cleared, doubt slips from him like an anchor, and after one more cursory look at the woman in the bed, he heads for the door with no more signs of his previous failings.

At least he's consistent in his opinion, though Asami in her own mind doesn't blame herself for offering to make things easier each time in different ways regardless. While it's not that she doesn't mind his disdain, she's at least getting used to it. Gradually, it's being accepted that she's not going to be seen than anything more than trouble for what she's done, or what she could potentially do.

It reminds her of someone she once knew. That idle thought highlights entire incongruency with the life she knows here, but one she finds herself shocked she could have forgotten at all.

Her footsteps falter behind Zachery's, and should he turn, she's simply gone.

She'll be back. Surely. When the next half of his double shift is over.

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