Complimentary Murderer


dumortier_icon.gif zachery_icon.gif

Scene Title Complimentary Murderer
Synopsis They're both trying, one a little more than the other.
Date May 13, 2019

Creekside Cabin

A wood and stone cabin, once a hunting camp, lies on the outskirts of Providence, down an old gravel road through forest, tucked away on its own. A wide creek runs through the property, the small waterfall white noise, the trees old and canopies folded out like hen's wings. Shrubs, grass, brush, wildflowers, vines, moss, fungi- - all of them allowed to roam as they please in the glade and woodland; in one section there is a small planned square of garden, and many of the bushes nearby bear fruit, along with a duo of apple trees. The house is hidden from a rocky meadow that lies just down the hill, which is sometimes used by shepherds passing through.

Behind the cabin there sits a sizable greenhouse, frame made of live plants. A cellar of various contents dug into the ground and covered by a mossy roof faces the house. Up in the taller branches, a treehouse- - with a descent of footholds; it sits high enough to look out over the tops of smaller trees, obscuring any birds in its nest.

The interior of the cabin is bigger than it seems, though every space is utilized. A loft with a bed, a tiny, gas powered kitchen caddy-corner to the fireplace; a patched-up, low-slung sofa that smells faintly of fresh cotton and lavender. An old stereo system and radio sits atop a roughly constructed dresser. The house is stocked with necessities, and most storage is used primarily for salvaged items.

It hadn't been much that one mister Dumortier left at the Pub while Zach was gone- - just a note. Enough, though, scrawled on an old piece of paper map. A red line traces, approximately, the area considered 'Providence', with a dot for the town's seat. A blue line wanders from there out to a spot on the outer rim of red. A blue flower is scribbled where it stops.

'For when you decide to visit.'

Not 'if', mind you. Rene knows the temptation will be too great. It may take a little time, but it will happen sooner or later. He has a satphone in the cabin on a shaky receiver, which serves well enough for the lacking cell service. It was a recent purchase, deemed a necessary tool. Just in case.

The weather is still a bit crisp, the air staying wet even if the sun is out, flanked by bulges of gray in intermittent clumps. The forest smells of petrichor and cedar, pine and a faint smoke; the drive to the cabin is largely unimpeded. A few spots where he'll need to flatten out some potholes, a deer path briefly occupied before they scamper away at any sign of intrusion.

When temptation is the name of the game, there has to be at least one player. Zachery has not ever known it to be any other way.

It still took well over a week after the note was first left for him to show, though. The car trip is a little ways behind him, already — after leaving his hearse roadside, he's come walking for the last stretch. His black peacoat sticks out like a sore thumb in the morning air still trying to settle some fog down onto the forest floor.

Much unlike the scurry of crepuscular animals at the sound of him approaching, his meander down the gravel path that leads to his destination is decidedly unhurried. Hands in his pockets, collar high, eye on the trees on his right. To most anyone out here, he might look like someone who has simply taken the wrong turn, occasionally looking to what can be seen of the humble wooden structure up ahead as a chance to ask someone for help.

He knows he can't be helped. He walking himself right into this one. "You'd better be home," he murmurs under his breath, rather than at the cabin up ahead. "If you're not, I'm breaking in, eating whatever — deer jerky passes as food around here and taking a nap."

Lamplight sits in the window of the cabin up ahead, door open a crack; nobody inside at a glance. Telltale signs of life come from behind the house, mixed up with the idle sounds of the trees and birds. There is no gravel after a point, fading into trodden grass paths branching away; one circles right around to the greenhouse- - the one that sounds occupied. The idle song coming from the back is muffled, though of course the voice is familiar.

Still a skeleton of itself and only partly filled, the greenhouse's frame is half-laced with thick plastic. Inside on a wooden ladder is the tiny ranger himself, hands and eyes concentrating on lacing the plastic to frame. No tape or glue needed, he's using what looks to be a bristly climbing plant, spreading it slowly across the ceiling and puncturing a hole for the vine to escape. Between all of this work and the tune on his lips, Rene has plenty distracting him from visitors.

Yes, he probably has deer jerky that passes as food. Yes, there is room for someone to bust in for a nap. Thankfully, no need.

The distractions allowing Zachery time to wander around unwatched means that he must, as a rule, and so he does. It's only cursory, hands staying in his pockets and his gaze darting frequently and carefully downward to help him tread only where others seem to have done so before him - it's the quieter path, he assumes - until his analyzing and slow journey finds him rounding a corner where the source of the voice comes into view.

There, he stops and stands. His attention settles on the movement of the only thing that seems familiar around here, head tilting upward in observation. When he finally speaks, his voice is hoarse, a little louder than it needs to be, and humourless despite the subtle deepening of crow's feet that border mismatched eyes.

"Good morning. I'm the complementary murderer that comes with your cabin in the woods. Where shall I park myself."

Even if Zach finds the quaintness not of his taste, there's still something about the quiet here. The city is still noisy. The only jackhammer here is a woodpecker somewhere in the trees.

Rene's hands move along with the careful path of vines, and soon it appears the cover is snug between the two layers of laced plants. The song under his breath halts when he notices the lead of shadow in the open door, just a little surprised to see who is there.

"Anywhere you like, mister murderer." Rene laughs, stepping down from his perch. "Just mind the mud." His hair is down for once, pushed back over shoulders and out of the way; though he might seem more disarming this way, Zachery knows better. "Here I thought you would put off coming out here."

Zachery takes in his environment first, from plants to plastic and back again, and finally back to Rene. Apparently seeing plants move quicker than he thinks they ought to has not gotten old just yet, even if a sneer-adjacent pull at his expression does not exactly speak of appreciation.

"I had a day with nothing planned. Figured why not go for a stroll." He takes his hands out of his pockets, the right pushing the note that was crumpled within it back down into the black fabric, and his left a mess of bandages come half undone. This is new, and he frowns down at it the moment he sees the white sloughing off of his knuckles. At least the splint's still in place, keeping pinky, ring and middle finger straight.

Finally, he moves in, but only just to clear the doorway and to step aside, so he can run the fingers of his right hand along the bandaging to locate where the metal bandage clips came loose without potentially being in the way. Without looking up, he throws a distraction out there in the form of a question. "This place remote enough for you, you think?"

Sneering isn't uncommon with this one. Rene shrugs it off, as per usual. He tips a brief look to the shuffle of hands as Zach moves into the greenhouse. It's already warm under this little canopy, blocking out the spring wind.

"This is probably my limits, when it comes to distance from civilization. Of my choosing, I should say." He takes the ladder and leans it up onto a corner wall, out of the way. "I like the space to do my thing. I can't get in the way. Privacy might get me into some weird shit, though…" Question aside, blonde head angles again to his guest. "Do you need help with that?" No pressure. Just asking. "How's it healing…?"

"No." Zachery's answer comes maybe a little more terse than it should be. He's fidgeting for a few seconds, but it's not long before he manages to start to pull things back in place one handed. "It's healing fine." A little quieter: "I think."

When he looks up again, at Rene, there's something a little… forced about the way he straightens his back, expression settling back into something more neutral. His tone of voice, too, sits somewhere more polite than usual. "Do I, ah —" For a moment, his attention darts sideways, before it drops again so he can finish clipping the excess bandage to his palm. All tidied up. But he doesn't look up just yet, asking while inspecting it, "Do I owe you an apology, too?"

A genuine question, from the sound of it.

Rene expected the negatory- - but asking was still in his nature, at least with friends. Blue eyes roll a tiny bit, shoulders shrugging. That it seems to be healing in a good way at all is something. A look of concern flickers between fingers and fidgets. It lingers as Zach straightens up and out, more perplexed in a few moments. Not the furtive eyes, but the question itself.

He remembers a lot more than Zach seems to let on about himself, at least about what is familiar. Either reluctance or refusal, he's not sure. Breath comes out in a puff of amusement.

"Maybe a little one. I take it from your asking that you saw Yi-Min?" Brows tip inward as Rene asks, expression expectant for an answer. "It was definitely not the best way to do things, and I should've seen that before she showed up. But once she did, that's when I needed you to listen…" And you didn't, he means.

"I know you've got to be going through some shit when I look at everything else. I won't ask about it. Just try and listen to me next time." Despite the serious note, Rene's smiling thinly through his words.

There's little change in Zachery's outward demeanor. Still inspecting his hand, still sort of stiffly standing as if attending a business meeting, here of all places.

His voice might give something else away more easily — a reluctance in forcing the words out twists his sentence slightly out of a normal sounding rhythm. "I'm trying to make some… changes. Recognise some things in my life that might have — fallen by the wayside. I'm not… going to promise that I will listen to you." He inhales sharply through his nose, glancing finally back up with a look of feigned disinterest. "But I can try." An upward lilt almost turns this addendum into a question, but not quite.

This isn't why he's here. At least, he'd like to pretend it isn't. Shoulders shrugged upward as if the cold's only just now getting to him, Zachery gestures vaguely with his uninjured hand. "Show me around?"

While the cadence of his words is disjointed, Rene follows well enough. He laughs softly over the lack of promising and the maybe-promise of trying.

"Change can be good." is all that the younger man seems to find fit to say to it. He doesn't say that it will be. There's a chance it will, though. An effort looks made so far? Rene accepts the 'try' at face value, moving to lean one hand against the open door of the greenhouse. Blue eyes move up and down over broken fingers, missing eye, the passive scruff of hair contrasted against the black coat. Yes, an effort.

"That I can do." Rene zips his sweater up a few inches more, jaunty in reply and gesture. Time to lighten up a bit. A smile, a tease, "This is the greenhouse, if you didn't notice." Rather than dragging him around like the last time he was out here, Rene beckons him out with a flick of hand. "It'll look like one in a few weeks. Come on, I'll show you the house first. It was such a fucking mess when I found it." If he wants to afterwards, they can take a little hike. Rene sounds proud of himself for getting this far, it might be a little endearing.

Whatever it is, it provides a welcome change of subject. Zachery does not immediately move when beckoned, lingering to reach upward and prod lightly at some plastic before he finally turns in a lazy half-circle and follows.

His shoulders come back down once the current conversation's focus shifts, and his injured hand disappears back into his pocket while the other comes up to rub at his jaw, then slides to rest on the side of his neck. "Who had it before you, do you know? Places like this - might see more than you and I combined."

It doesn't go unnoticed as Zach's tension eases from his shoulders. Rene is not going to comment on it, but it is just one more thing to write down in his head.

"No idea… it seemed to be an old hunting camp, with what I salvaged from it. Skinning tools, fishing tackle, an empty rifle rack, rotten arrows…" The image he manages to concoct is accurate, for his guessing. Rene hops up the front step to open the door; where Zachery protects his little pub palace, this one is more than glad to welcome a guest. "Some of the base logs seem to have been cut some time ago… if I had to guess… 1960s, earlier? Old but not ancient."

On the subject of logs, Zachery has little to offer. He angles his head toward them as he continues forward, seemingly all too happy to leave the outdoors behind him.

"A hunting camp." Finally, whatever thoughts are floating around in his head bring a smirk to his face. "So… what if they come back? Find Goldilocks in the dead of night, snug and comfortable, asleep." He adds in a tone that's painted less with friendly suggestion and more with the somewhat grim pull of someone who's seen a good number of crime scenes firsthand— "You should get a dog."

Rene laughs openly, shrugging, "Finders keepers." and that's what he thinks about that.

"I am not much of a dog person." The door closes in their wake and a hand 'tadas' at the inside. It's no Taj Mahal, though it's… Cute. For a cabin in the woods. Rene links his hands behind his head, oozing a forceful nonchalance. He can hear that tint of the grim… He makes those crime scenes, sometimes. "Do you not have faith in me?" Very kind to be kind of concerned? "Should I offer you a drink, or are you doing the mediation thing?"

Mediation? The word seems to baffle Zachery, for a moment, in the midst of him peering out at the insides of the cabin. But catching himself freezing up, he moves to the sofa to sink himself down into it. DONE moving for now. Time to try and relax.

As an answer to both questions at once, he says, "I'm just talking. That's what people… do, right, on visits? And here we are." He leans back, some more of the tension ebbing away as with the interior to stare at, idly pressing the knuckles of his right hand into the bandaged palm of his left. "What've you got? Don't say 'water'."

He's driving later, but he's not a fish. Or a plant.

The sofa siiinks under him, in all its cottony lavender comfort. It's a primo relaxing couch.

"You talk to other people, don't you?" Rene snorts, then snickers, eyes and nose crinkling just a bit. "Water. But also moonshine. And what one of the people in town called beer, but I haven't tried it yet. Amateur breweries and all." There is a lot to look at as the blonde putters around wooden cupboards. A lot of salvaged items of higher value get collected in here and the cellar, though he still has a pile of tech and mechanical parts loaded in a crate to go through.

"And if you're feeling that tense," the talking, the visiting, "You know I'm good for green. There's a pipe here somewhere, haven't really stopped to find it…"

A dry chuckle of a breath leaves Zachery before he shakes his head. "Maybe if I were staying longer. For now, I'll test that beer for you. Let's roll a die, see where it lands."

He angles his head, the side with the functional eye toward Rene slightly more than before. "I talk to other people. More and more, actually." Which he doesn't necessarily sound upset about. It's been sort of fascinating. "Which… begs the question." His voice lowers in idle contemplation. "After so many years, so many changes, what… exactly, are you. What is this? What are we?"

Again, a genuine question, the amusement gone from him entirely as he narrows his eyes in thought. Though, maybe strangely, finally letting himself relax a little now that the questions have left him.

"Test number one. Should I get a notebook?" Rene has a cooler hidden somewhere, clearly, because he returns with a half-cold bottle with a masking tape label, offering it out as he is studied. Zach's a bit like a bird now, at least when he can notice the looking. Not pronounced, just subtle. Any commentary on talking to people gets nudged aside.

Rather than immediately go get himself something, Rene lands on the other end of the couch, leaning elbows on knees as he studies Zachery in return.

"I don't know." Not a great answer, blondie. "We had fun, back then, for what it was aside from the, you know, blackmail and shady side deals? Nothing personal, but I've said that." When Rene leans back, the cushion sinks under him. Maybe going to stay there a hot minute.

"When I found you I didn't even know it was you. I just heard noise and then a dog. A hangry dog." The smile after is lopsided. "But… I don't know what from what. What do you want it to be?" Rene angles a more serious look Zach's way, a brow lifting.

The beer is accepted, gladly, and held for him to stare at for a moment, thumb running over the makeshift label. "That was a complicated time. Of… crumbling. Of compromises, of trying to… keep up appearances." He looks up at this, chin up, flashing a practiced, corporate smile that Rene will have seen many times before, though it fades into a much weaker - though sincere - grin just as quickly as it came on.

"Honestly, I don't know if who you met back then, in the morgue, was me, either." This notion seems to amuse him, though it's not long before his eyebrows crumple toward each other and he looks back to his beer again. "But I think I'm starting to be."

That beer's really interesting. And evidently easier to talk to than Rene is. He lifts it for a swig, pausing just long enough to say, "And I think I could use a friend, if I could just… figure out how to be one back."

The appearances is something Rene knows all too well himself. Turning on a dime was always what he was good at, though. Some people aren't so good at it. He waits, though an understanding expression settles from brow to eye.

Even if it wasn't him back then, there were still pieces and parts and facets- - ones that at least told Rene more about him. While it was useful in the ways of his trade- - it was still knowing someone. Never bringing it up validated that piecemeal sense of one another. Never talk about it so that there's nothing to think about.

"This is a good start, if you ask me." Levity on his lips, Rene leans back and flops more bodily on the sofa. It's already low, so it makes for easy lounging. Blue eyes stay trained on Zach, hair a messy halo as Rene looks up from his current state. "And I've been in your apartment, right? You didn't kick me out, and you could've."

"You didn't have to come here all on your own, either. That says more than you seem to think it does…"

If the beer is bad, Zachery does not immediately show it. There's a wrinkle of his nose, but then — also a second swig, so it can't be terrible. Probably.

"You might be right." His head thunks back, and a leg absently kicked forward as the drink is pulled a little closer. "So, what else does friendship consist of. Little bits of effort, check. Casual conversation, check. Slugging one another in the jaw, check. Brutal honesty?"

He lets the back of his head roll against the sofa, further inspecting any upward bits of occupied space he may not have looked at before. There's a pause, eyebrows raising as his lungs fill with air. Wellp. "This place could be worse." Another pause, this time shorter. "Check."

Check, check, check and check.

"Hey." Rene chides, eyes narrowing and voice teasing. "It's doing its best. And yeah, the slugging better count." He glances up to the bits Zach has made his final judgment with. "You can probably branch out on 'little bits of effort'."

"Honesty might be refreshing. I think I like that idea."

"I've joined a—" Zachery starts, but stops, eye darting from ceiling to wall while he swallows the rest of the words back down. Maybe the amount of honesty needs a quick re-evaluation.

"I'm starting at Raytech Industries this week," he starts over, after a second or three of thought. For all Rene has to know, this could just be him rewording his sentence. Certainly, Zachery doesn't seem to be worrying much about it anymore. "I'm an intern again. Hopefully, this time, not forever." For whatever reason, this widens his grin somewhat.

… Or maybe it's the floodgates in his head that have suddenly opened: "Also, I've been lying about not being 'SLC-Expressive'," he lifts his hands for an air quote to go along with these words, but between the beer in one hand and the other being mostly bandaged up, little of the gesture actually manifests. This garners a laugh he can't seem to force back down in time, equal parts uncertainty and flippant disregard. "And about not knowing what that allows me to do. Beyond just making me unnaturally handsome."

With the amendment to Raytech, there's no suspicion at all of something else having been en route; the news is just that, without anything like 'I've joined a cult'. Interning at a place like Raytech calls for an excited little blink, and Rene does sit up just a little.

"Damn, that's great." And it, too, honest. That's the fast track these days, the tech companies. See: World's Fair. More thoughts on the matter go yeet out the window, though- -

"Okay, well, that answers that. I always wondered how you were blessed with such good looks." Rene narrows his eyes and pops up onto his knees, sitting there and giving the older man a criticizing stare. "Serious? You made this into honesty hour so you better not be bullshitting me again." Again. And yet, a smirk tugs at his lips through it all; it's exciting, okay?? He seems excited.

Temptation again. The excitement of it all brings Zachery's attention back to Rene's side of the couch, his own expression frozen as though he a expecting a different response. Maybe not negative, just not quite so… invested?

An audience is fun to have. One that seems to hang on your every word even more so. Despite this, after a chew of the inside of his cheek, his expression is wrenched back into something more level. It's honesty hour, after all. Serious business. Rene gets a calculating look thrown his way.

Zachery waits, has a sip of his beer, and then says simply, and flatly, "I'm a telepath. I've been one all this time."

What other response should there be? Rene's brows lift when Zachery's expression hesitates, expectant. The result, however, is one thing that everyone gets nervous about, regardless of status. For a moment, Rene even believes him- - leaning back onto his folded feet. But then there's skepticism, followed by a scolding punch to the shoulder.

"You're bullshitting me, or else you'd know what I'm thinking right now. Or before now. Weeks ago, even." Rene snorts loudly, scoffing. "So tell me, then, what's on my mind, Oz?" The all powerful, etc etc.

SCORE. The brief moment of success alone is enough to bring unadulterated joy to Zachery's face, which lasts even past the punch he doesn't see coming.

He might've, with telepathy.

9Holding up the beer and bandaged hands at shoulder-level, he pushes into the arm rest on his side, but maintains eye contact. "Listen," he persists, now through laughter that seems to start and stop at its own behest, "you don't know the amount of self-control I have! Maybe I didn't want you to know. Maybe I've heard it all, and I know the specific reasons you're going to hell. Your sins will find you out. You need Jesus."

"You sound like my fucking father- -" Rene huffs, another swat incoming- - though he's careful not to hit hand or bottle, which says something. He saw that joy and he hears the laughing. How dare you, Sir.

"I've seen your self control, you basket-case- -" It's his turn to laugh, incredulous. "As for Jesus, he's never done anything for me. Tit for tat, and I've gotten zip. He can piss off." Rene plops back down onto his heels, arms crossing. "Are you even telling the truth about being Positive, or was that a lie too? Out here it's just… the locals. Might be nice to know someone else is."

Aaa. The swat hits arm, and Zachery rises from his seat. Worry not, he can still continue to be insufferable while standing. Maybe even moreso, since he can look down at Rene, head held high as laughing subsides.

HEY. He's at ease, now, at least. Impossibly smug, but at ease.

"No, that part was true. I swear on, ah —" He looks around, then wiggles the beer bottle sofa-direction before taking another swig. Swear on booze. "It's an intuition thing. People, bodies, physically, I —" Concentration waters down his amusement somewhat, even if it still leaves plenty, and he begins to slowly roam in the small space that is there. In tiny circles if he has to. "I have never really explained it in full detail. I'm not sure if I could."

Once it looks like he'll get an actual lesson, Rene sits up on crossed legs, hands on ankles. Physical intuition?

A moment of apprehension passed when Zach stands, only to ease when he starts bumping around the cabin. That he's comfortable doing it is only good for him. Smugness maybe less so, but that's just because it's at Rene's expense.

"I'm going to assume you were in medical before it- - which is lucky as hell, isn't it?" Rene's brows lift higher, eyes watching the roaming. "That tells me a lot about how you were so good at the coroner's office…not that you wouldn't have been anyhow."

"So when you look at something, what do you see. Or feel, I guess."

"It was incredibly lucky," Zachery corrects brightly, pointing his bottle at Rene with the energy of someone who's only recently come to accept this fact after a long time of being too afraid to admit it.

But when it comes to answering how such a thing feels, he looks a little stumped, coming to a standstill in front of the sofa, blinking at the wall up ahead. "It's not unlike sight. Especially when I know what I'm looking for. Though maybe… it's more akin to touch, but for the brain." His gaze darts down, back to Rene's face, grin pulling a little lopsided. Slow words quickly ramp up in speed. "See. Mostly you touch things and it's purely function. Clothing, coffee mug, pen, car door, your own face. But then you touch a — I don't know." Again his gaze wanders, and he starts to pace again.

"A rabbit — softer than most things, right? It stands out. It's novel. You read up on it, voi-fucking-la, in the future, now you know, by touch, it's a rabbit. Well cared for organs - or babies aren't unlike that, honestly. Dead ones a little less so." All this, said in the same, chipper tone. He turns on a heel, the beer left in his bottle sloshing, and continues, "Or a rough texture and no give on a fruit you thought for sure would be ripe by now. Or a live wire - pain's a lot like that, actually. It's sort of enticing. You sort of want to touch it. Check the pulse of it." This just adds to the mirth in his voice.

Without stopping his pacing, he looks to his host again, a little abruptly. "I'm rambling, aren't I."

Brightness is answered with brightness, a crooked little imp's grin for that energy bubbling into view. Sometimes it is just takes a while to settle in?

"You are." Rene laughs, soft, amending himself soon after. "I like it. So… the memory of how something feels versus what your sixth sense feels, and you can tell them apart, and what's causing it?" He does his best at following, unsure. It's absolutely something hard to describe. "Psionic abilities are wild."

"Does feeling all that get overwhelming…?" The blonde narrows his eyes a bit. Does it help make his life a mess too? "Ever get too curious? Poke something that didn't need it?" There's a chuckle. It happens to everyone regardless of ability.

"If I have gotten too curious, no one's known it," comes an easy answer from Zachery, who rolls his shoulders back as he muses on, hands restless by his sides, as much as bandaging allows, "It's a lot of information all at once, some of which would make absolutely no sense had I not put literal thousands of hours into studying this sort of thing. But it's not overwhelming - not in the least." He seems to hesitate, then sits back down, a little lighter than before.

"In a way, it almost seems to help ground things. Like seeing someone's face might. Almost - but not quite - comforting. Similarly, knowing where their scars lie, what fractures they've healed from, it's —"

He stops mid-sentence, then looks to Rene, giving a vaguely self conscious shrug, "You're only the third person I've told, and the first person to ask questions. You've brought this upon yourself. Also, this beer? Five point two out of ten."

Said right before he's drinking the last of it, naturally.

When Zachery plops back down, the lightness in his frame doesn't go unnoticed. The smile on the blonde's face doesn't go anywhere, either; it just turns a little more intense, brows knit.

"Really? The third?" Disbelief. "And nobody else has asked anything?" It dawns on him that it's a serious comment. Rene looks surprised when he realizes, and the beer rating shakes some of it away. "I'll have to tell him to change it up when I see him next. I don't think of knowing this all as a punishment, mister 'you've brought it upon yourself'."

Rene kicks his feet out, giving a sharp grin. "This is naturally the part where I ask you what you see when you look at me." As happens with stuff like this. "I won't be offended if you don't want to say. Just curious."

Neither of the questions get more words out of Zachery, as he sinks back again. Just sort of sprawled now, save for the broken hand resting on his stomach.

Now that he's still again, his voice calms, too. Reeled back in a little. "You're just… you." He doesn't look at Rene as he says this, eye on nothing in particular. "The same you that you always were. Not unlike this place. Few more scars. Little more run down, if still in shape." A beat's pause. "Still short." Finally, he looks at Rene again, one eyebrow twitching upward, "Were you expecting anything else?"

Run down, ha. It's true. An idle hand rubs heel against his side, passively aware of the bigger scar being 'visible' like that.

"Yes, still short. Nothing is going to fix that. You should have seen me when I was a teenager." Rene holds out his hands as if measuring a vertical fish. His hands fall back down from his example, and the follow up question gets a smirk. "Ah, non. Nothing of note is honestly preferable. Don't make anything up, or I'll get all psychosomatic on you."

Speaking of run down, though…

"Is it too much to ask what happened…?" Rene gestures gently towards his own left eye.

Honesty's a funny thing. Much of the weight that seemed to have been lifted off of Zachery's shoulders in the last five minutes finds itself right back on him again. After he sets the bottle down on the floor - outside of kicking range - his shoulders sink and his hand lifts to roughly scrub down the entirety of his face. Ugh.

Something of his grin stays, but it's a tired remainder of what was, both eyes closing as his head thunks back again. Clearly not a great memory. The answer to this question takes some real effort to manifest, and even then, it comes in a slowly uttered, single word that sounds like it should be aimed at a soon-to-be murder victim rather than at Rene. "Desperation."

That is all he wants to hear about it, when it comes out like that. Rene seems a touch regretful for the shift of invisible weight.

"Sorry. For asking, but also for.. Whatever happened." He adds with a murmur, "puttingmyfootinmymouthhuh…" Soon, Rene is sliding to his feet and stepping over to his varied salvage, digging for something in a wooden crate. "I thought of you when I found this in here… Remember how I mentioned the hunting thing?"

There is a tiny laugh despite himself, but when he brings over a worn leather case and hands it to Zach, it seems a peace offering. "That set of skinning tools I mentioned. Need a little TLC, but I know how you take care of your equipment…"

Zachery's eyes open for him to shoot Rene a look, his expression still settled somewhere between frustration and … something else. Surprise? Confusion? The apology was not something he expected to hear, but apparently also not something he'll object to.

By the time the tools come out, he's already sitting up again, scooting forward onto the edge of the sofa to accept the case - somewhat awkwardly on broken fingers, but oh so readily. OooOOooh.

"This isn't how you do a housewarming, you know that, right?" This leaves him less flatly than he probably would have liked due to a somewhat lopsided smile that he can't seem to hold back, interest clear on his face. An inspection is apparently immediately required, fingertips pressed against old leather until they hit metal. One of the tools is lifted out, flipped sharp-side-inward in a practiced motion, before he presses thumb to blade. Quite hard, too, though it does not break skin. "I could fix these up for you, bring them back. Are you sure?"

Rene can be a bit of a twit to strangers, but when it comes to pals and people that want to be friends, he can show the mindfulness he needs to. Such as knowing when to apologize. The look on his face as he watches the case get opened is expectant, and the feeling of shiny things coming off of Zach manages to be contagious. Seems like it works.

"It's my house, I'll do whatever I want in it." So there. Or something. Rene mirrors the smiling, pleased with himself enough to add a shake of his head. "Probably need a good sharpening too, huh? I don't need them. If I do any hunting, it's usually small game. That's for the big boys."

Sliding the blade back into its case, Zachery seems— still a little confused, honestly, holding the gift in his hands. "… Alright." A little quiet, but resolute.

He clears his throat, and looks up at Rene again, continuing with more energy: "So - and bear with me, here, because I know this may seem a little delayed — but it's a choice thing. Part of this whole…" smile turns to widening grin, "… new and improved me."

One hand still on the tools, he rolls back his shoulders and speaks with enough confidence that one might be excused to think he owns the place. "Let's be friends."

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