emily_icon.gif zachery_icon.gif

Scene Title Unorderly
Synopsis Two strangers on the verge of falling apart acknowledge each other in passing.
Date March 16, 2019

Elmhurst Hospital

It used to be more frequently that Emily Epstein would wait out the nightly Elmhurst blackouts in the light and the warmth of Elmhurst Hospital, but she'd spent much of her fall making other plans, and her winter … well, she didn't need the hospital as much following her December.

But she's nestled tonight in the corner by the row of vending machines on the second-story cafeteria, laptop plugged into an outlet behind her. She looks up for just a moment to the long bay of windows on her right, looking across the city for where the lights start again. Mostly, she sees the rising stars, dim as they are, especially with the last vestiges of twilight brightening the horizon.

Her attention's drifted away from the laptop before her, the game she has opened abandoned improperly. It's not the first time she's done that lately.

Though he's only been here a couple of months, one particular orderly hasn't exactly been making himself popular amongst staff tonight. There were hushed rumblings of upset from down a hall earlier, and now one of the nurses can be heard saying curtly, "Then take a BREAK."

Not 30 seconds later, orderly-formerly-on-duty Zachery comes walking into the cafeteria, making a beeline for one of the vending machines and then promptly stopping. As if just to GLARE at it. Hands in the pockets of his scrubs. He doesn't even look up when he says, "What's wrong with tonight?"

"Take your fucking pick," Emily replies in lieu of a response from the universe itself, sharp blue gaze sliding horizontally to observe the man who's drawn close. She picked the corner for a reason — to avoid conversation. She even has headphones drawn over her ears, though clearly she's heard him. "Plenty of shit going wrong in the world."

As if surprised to actually get an answer, Zachery's attention snaps to Emily with a start. His eyes linger briefly on her face, then the headphones, then zip back to the vending machine. His weight shifts as one of his heels leaves the ground ever so slightly. Would it be a good idea to kick the vending machine? Probably not. It comes back down, and his glare intensifies under lowered brows. "You know what?" Clearly he doesn't care that she's in her corner. "It's fine by me, at this point, for it to be going wrong. I would just like it to maybe for once not go wrong where it's affecting my day, personally." A British accent seems to creep in and out of his words, much of it corroded by his extended stay in the United States.

Brow curling up oddly, like she's amused despite herself, Emily lets out a clipped laugh in response to Zachery's comment. "Wouldn't we all," is the only thing she has to say to that, her eyes finally leaving him after judgmentally staring him down for nearly kicking the vending machine for whatever crime has been committed against him. She looks back at her screen, elbow resting on the side of the table while she rubs the corner of her mouth. Her other hand lowers, to adjust the lock on her wheel—

But she's not in her wheelchair. She's sitting in one of the stiff-backed hospital chairs, and almost loses her balance for how wide she reaches, how far she leans down. Emily's forehead knits together, and she continues the lean to adjust the backpack that hangs off the back of her chair, as if there had been something wrong with it.

She lifts her attention back to her screen after, speaking to it even though her words are clearly meant for Zachery. "The coffee-vending one's temperamental enough without someone sticking their foot through it. Might as well get it out with your words." she advises flatly. "What's eating you? Some guy shit on you during a sponge bath?"

For having started this conversation, Zachery appears to have quite rapidly checked out of it for a moment. The unexpected rustle of motion from Emily's direction garners a brief narrowing of his eyes, but it quickly fades when he finally opts to actually DO something with this vending machine situation. Not kick it, no, instead tapping in a nearly assigned number, ridding himself of some change, and bending down to reach for a small plastic bag that drops from the machine's metal innards a moment later. A bag of dried apple slices. Whatever happened to junk food in hospitals.

But when Emily speaks up again, he straightens and… wanders absently toward the seating area, leaving give or take 5 courtesy seats in between the one she's at and he's aiming for. "Bold of you to assume shits don't usually happen before the sponge baths." He underhandedly flings the excuse for a snack into a chair before he even gets there, gritting his teeth with a mix of annoyance and… something else on his face. Something akin to distress. "And often."

Nothing about Emily screams she's particularly sympathetic to Zachery's plight, but she does shift her attention back his way when he tosses the snack he's picked up. She's beginning to suspect obtaining it was merely an excuse to buy him time from something he truly, actually despises. Her fingers tap along the edge of her keyboard roughly, not actually working any of them. She shakes her head for just a moment, finally reaching over to hit the escape and pause her screen, offhand coming to pull the thick, noise-cancelling headphones from her ears.

"You know, I could go ahead and guess that that's what's bothering you right now, but I'm going to take a shot in the dark and say it's not." Her arms fold before her as she leans back in her chair, eyeing him severely. For all the time Julie has worked here at Elmhurst, and for all the time she herself has spent here, it's not always easy to determine just by looking at someone who does what. Emily cants her head ever so slightly to the side before she ventures, "You can either sit over there and sulk about it or get it off your chest to a stranger who doesn't give a shit." Her brow pops, shoulders lifting in a shrug passing for amicable. It's clear from her tone and everything else about her that she's not trying to adopt his problems, but she's more than willing to sit here and mutually rail against the world for a moment if he needed to vent. Who knows, the young adult might have something in return they'll get off their chest.

Granted, for a moment the young adult looks like the mature one in this cafeteria. Zachery sits down, slumps halfway down a chair to prop a foot against a table leg, and opens his dumb snack. Not unlike a petulant child. Except for the fact that he's old enough to have children Emily's age.

But then… she speaks again, just as he's popped one of the apple slices into his mouth. Her words do much to erase the lingering annoyance from his face, and whatever thoughts roll around in Zachery's head seem to do the trick in getting him to, instead, crack a grin. It's weak, but it's there, eyes a little brighter and his head a little higher as he scans his unlikely companion. Without even swallowing the last slice, he slips another one into his mouth, and asks mid-chew, "'S wrong with you?" He is, evidently, not in the mood to get things off his chest when specifically asked.

Make no mistake, she is the mature adult in the cafeteria, and knows it. Emily only shakes her head in response to the question, looking off into the dark for just a moment. Tongue in cheek, she remarks as she looks back, "I'm not the one who came storming in and nearly took out an innocent vending machine." Her mouth hardens into a thin, brief smile, brow furrowing. She can't bring herself to lie and say there's nothing wrong with her. Physically, it might be true. Nothing worth landing her in the hospital, anyway. "Besides, you're the one who doesn't have all day to sulk on what's wrong. Might as well get it out of your system."

"… You're right." Zachery finally seems to give in, amusement still playing on his face while his eyes narrow at Emily. He looks her over, but only briefly, before bracing himself and sitting a little straighter. For better posture, or so he can upend the bag of apple slices over his head and just let all of them fall into his open mouth? The latter, his halfslump afterwards proves. "Y'know— wh…" He starts, then briefly pauses to chew, chew, chew, swallow. "You know, if I stay here, someone might go without their extra blanket for another fifteen minutes." A hand comes up to roughly rub at his face, before finally some more sincere words leave him— "I've made a mistake. Working here. It's agony. This was a mistake."

"That's what it's sounding like." Emily agrees, the slant of her brow finally sympathetic as she adjusts her posture. She draws in a long breath, like she means to possibly offer some advice, but it's all expelled away in a suitable sigh as she watches him. After a moment, her head shakes. "What are you going to do about it?" she asks openly. There's little in the way of judgement that can be rendered from the question.

"Sure, it's not fucking glamorous. But it makes a difference to the people who get their extra blanket," Something a little flatter about that, pointed as it is. "Elmhurst is understaffed and overloaded, but that doesn't make any of the patients less valid. Any one person less really can make the difference between a halfway comfortable evening and making someone think they'd have been better off suffering away at home." Emily slowly lifts her shoulders in the beginning of a shrug. "So if you're worried about it not making a difference one way or another — it does. Does it fucking suck in the meantime, though?"

The look she wears is pointed. Hell yes, his work is not glamorous, or fun, and is definitely underappreciated.

If anything should be clear by now, it's that Zachery has never been ill for a long time, or has had someone he cared about stay in a hospital for any prolonged amount of time. The empathy in that particular direction seems lacking, and that's a severe understatement. Even the very genuine words he's offered only serve to widen his grin in an unplanned looking twitch of his lips.

"There's better people than…" He starts, but cuts himself off. Words are hard, evidently, and all of his muscles seem to tense up at once as he strains to get his thoughts in order. "It's a good job. It's a good position." This sounds like he means it, before both his grin and voice drop a little for a much more deadpan, "But not for me."

Emily gives Zachery a thin smile to make up for his as it disappears. It's not for everyone, after all. She looks off into the middle distance, exhaling another sigh that fully deflates her, threatening to leave her only with the thoughts she'd left home to avoid this evening.

"So, sounds like you can either find a way to deal with it while you're on the clock and bitch while you're off it, or you find whatever is good for you." When she takes in another breath, it almost sounds pained, but her expression and voice remain deadpan. "Who the fuck knows, maybe it's not in New York that you'll find it."

"I did have what was good for me." This response leaves Zachery through his teeth, jaw tightening. "And it was at a hospital, and that's where I am now, and it's fine." Again, he rubs at his face, this time pressing hard against his tired eyes.

"It's fine." Again. Then without pause, once more, "It's fine. I'm fine." His tone of voice lifts just a little with each pair of words, until he's sat up a little more straight, squares his shoulders back into slightly more acceptable posture, and lowers his hands to let his hands curl around the chair's armrests. "And you're fine. Right? It's late." Something in his mind has turned a switch. He puts on a fixed smile, though it's absent in his eyes as they settle once more on Emily, gaze flitting from one eye to the other. His tone is practiced, non-threatening and clear. "Are you here for family?"

He's not fine. And she's not fine.

They both know it.

"No," she replies automatically. After actually giving the question some thought, she amends it to say, "Not like that. I might wait for my cousin to get off her shift, or I'll just go home when the power comes back on for the rest of Elmhurst." Her mouth quirks to one side and she mutters tiredly, "I don't fucking know." Her eyes go back to the screen before her, the paused game. "Was just trying to get away from it all for a moment."

There's a brief pause before she lets out a short laugh, one that sounds bitter. "Fucking Fridays." She lifts both hands suddenly, rubbing at her face and especially around her eyes to try and work away some of the tiredness that's concentrated there.

Zachery listens, this time. Actually listens. Like a puppet having remembered its strings, he sits and waits. Except he does angle his head slightly and… does something more. To the outside eye, it might look as though he's just trying to gather himself. To continue the charade of being okay, and to pay attention to another human being for a minute. But there's more to it, a prodding at answers. The use of an ability he's come to get a little more used to of late.

"You're a wreck." The words seem to leave his mouth before he's aware of it, and though he looks far from apologetic, he does breathe out a half-formed chuckle at his own expense. Another follows, ever so slightly less stable sounding even if he continues to try and maintain his composure. "Don't wait too long, now. Fridays don't last forever, and you may as well sleep some of this one away."

"Excuse you?" Emily asks through her hands, bristling at the accusation about her state. She glares at him over the tops of her fingertips, brow furrowing down sharply as she works to bite back a harsher response. Sharp eyes look Zachery over, and her posture slowly starts to right, hands returning to her lap.

It'd be easier to write him off if he didn't look like he was looking right through her. And honestly, with people's abilities these days, who knew what he saw. She's pretty sure she doesn't want to fucking ask.

Coming to her feet, Emily taps the screen of the laptop so it's shut and can be shuffled away into her bag. She might not head home to try and claim a nap, but she no longer feels comfortable staying here. "Yeah, well, enjoy what's left of yours." she mutters at him almost vindictively. It's certainly not a well-wish kind of farewell.

There's… something. Zachery's face briefly scrunches up, eyebrows furrowing as he desperately seems to try and pick an expression to settle on. His hands leave the arm rests and find each other, before one reaches up to clasp the side of his neck.

But then, just as quickly as his show of what was probably concern crops up, it's pushed away again. And so is his good posture, and his patience. "Hey, there's no need to get upset." Smarminess takes over, now, as he reaches for a phone within his pocket and turns the display on to stare at the home screen. His thumb hovers over the dim light, but never comes down on anything his eyes land on. "I'm just an orderly, after all. What do I know."

The old, cerulean backpack zipped and roughed over her shoulder, Emily tries to make her away around the tables to get onto a proper walkway. In her frustration, she clips one as she goes, hand flying up to grab it before it can tilt so far after the bump that it falls. Her eyes close, and with effort, she nudges it the proper righted direction instead of slamming it back down. A steadying breath is exhaled away, none of the visible tension leaving her.

It was a small thing, the bump — something that should easily be shrugged off, but her eyes are less sharp and rimmed with moisture when she opens them again. When Emily walks past Zachery, she shakes her head. "Yeah, well, you get your pass, and I get mine." is said at the same quiet volume, voice more tight than before.

She pauses at his self-deprecating comment, considering turning back to say something else, but she lets out a scoff and presses onward. "Not just an orderly." she mutters just loud enough to be heard.

Whatever that means.

Zachery's brain has settled on a thing. And that thing is huddling down with a phone he doesn't get along with on the best of days, and nothing else. Emily's audible lack of grace in exiting has him actually wincing in the tiniest of facial twitches, though he clears his throat as if in an immediate attempt to divert his energy into something trivial.

Her last comment barely seems to reach him. That damn phone. Just too interesting. At least, until the cafeteria goes quiet again.

Then, barely above a mutter, he adds, "Good night."

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