Early Spring


dumortier3_icon.gif bf_kara_icon.gif

Scene Title Early Spring
Synopsis After some surprise growth is transplanted from Providence to a Safe Zone hospital, a heckler friend comes to check in on him.
Date March 8, 2021

Fournier-Bianco Memorial Hospital

Out at the old fire break, SESA had already been near the site cleaning up, weeks later, along with other federal agencies. The fire has moved on, but the aftermath remains as a haunting reminder of nature. Though in the past the pine barrens held naturally occurring fires, they were never like this. Beyond the break, the land gets more and more difficult to survey, thanks to the damage.

So when the night dotted with will-o-wisps from the marsh, and a faint siren song touched the ear of a particularly astute junior agent

things got complicated.

Nobody was supposed to be out there, and investigation yielded nothing short of a miracle. Rumors about the dissolution of Dumortier's grave— for that is what the conglomerate turned into— didn't make it to locals until the next afternoon.

Recuperation has been a minefield, to say the least; hence the time between his waking and Kara Prince being one of several persons to receive a peculiar alert from SESA, telling her that Rene Dumortier is currently being held in the outpatient wing of Fournier-Bianco Memorial Hospital, and that she was one of few contacts he shared(under not undue pressure) with an Agent Ayers. (Yes, relation.)

He wasn't so sure he wanted her to see him like this; not just the vibrant, now fading display of his face and body, but cowed away in a room under observation after purportedly— and stupidly— giving his life.

Patient scrubs fall unflatteringly on his frame, shown skin still lined with a chitinous layer of plant flesh, features akin to a green man carved into the stone of some old building. The familiar, silk-blonde hair has come back in, though it has been damaged to the shoulders, and the normal milk of his human skin is visible as it melts from scalp to neck and presumably down his spine. An uncertain progression of regression.

Dumortier has wheeled his bed up against the window of his room, to the dismay of his nurse; the sun comes in, in patches, inconsistent. Seated cross-legged on the bed, a spread of weeks-old newspapers and official reports lies out in front of him.

He tried to read it all, but…

A hand rubs against the apple of his cheek, a wince as the movement slides a piece of his personal foliage off the surface. Both hands move up to cradle his forehead as he doubles over on the bed. Fingers twitch against the wooden texture that crowns his head, a keening making it far into the hall.

There are few sounds that motivate one to move faster than that of someone close to you in pain. Kara had paused to ask for directions to Dumortier's room, but it's the sound of him that draws her in the end, boots heavy on the ground as she jogs the last steps there.

She sees him curled, getting a glimpse of the green rooted into his person, and doesn't have time to wonder about the latter. The former is distressing. "Can someone come in here and help him, please?" she raises her voice in a particularly demanding way as she looks to the nurse's station. After she sees a head turn, she makes eye contact with the man who's looked her way to lock in this is now his responsibility to follow up on, then crosses over the threshold into the hospital room.

"Hey," Kara says to him as she heads for the bed. "Rene, what's wrong?" She lifts a hand near his side in a way that shows she's there to help brace him if needed. Or just there to be generally held onto, if that's all that's desired.

She's not unfamiliar with filling either role, since January.

The nurse's station stirs as Kara enters; she's met with a choke of air when Rene lifts his head and barely unfurls enough to find her with his gaze. At least his eyes are the same brilliant drops of blue, even if his visage is that of something else. Pale patches have formed where he's just scratched at toughened barkskin, like a tree torn up by an herbivore. The face she knows is there, just— masklike. Masquerade.

"Kara," Dumortier knocks several things onto the floor when he sits up straight, irises flickering like tossed coins. "Kara." Despite his tone of sorrow, his features shift from muted colors to more full ones, easing vibrant in the window's light. She makes it to him and the arms she feels wrapping around her shoulders are significantly sturdier than she is familiar with. Dense.

"Everything," he whispers, sorrow warping to fear, and a tremble. "…everything. I'm so sorryI didn't… I just…"

Rene is simply not sure what to say so to answer her truthfully.

Kara's still taken aback by the fierceness of the cling for all that she was prepared for it. She leans to the side, one hip coming up onto the bed to give her a better angle by which to return the embrace. She hushes Dumortier as she carefully shifts her arm around him in a comforting brace. "It's okay. It's okay— you're okay now. Brave, and stupid, and brave, but okay."

It isn't often someone you thought was gone pulls through after all. It tugs at the carefully stitched patchwork of her heart. "You're right here, and so'm I." It really was him, too, wasn't it? For all that he looked like something else, she hears his voice, sees his eyes. In her heart she doesn't doubt for a moment that through some miracle he's come back to them after all.

"We thought you burned up," she whispers down to him, a secret just for him. It's so terrible a thing it can't be spoken any more aloud. "God, Rene, we thought you were gone."

As she moves to the edge of the bed to better allow him, he becomes increasingly aware of himself. The pressure of his arms slackens off, though hesitant to let go. In the shade of his friend, however, it does seem that the more dramatic plant qualities soften. The lingering scent of him is reminiscent of the crisp young barrens moss, the smell of crunched needles. Under all of it, a faint charcoal.

He keeps one arm around Kara as he leans into her, a palpable relief in small breaths. Counting silently down from ten, finding a path to calm.

"But I did." Rene answers with a whisper in kind, not quite able to look into her face. One hand comes under inspection, fingers sculpted from wood. "That machine torched me, Kara… I felt it until I couldn't anymore. I burned." Dumortier's hand trembles where he holds it out. Knots along joints, echoes of anatomy there.

And yet. Here he is. Still afraid, still alive. Looking over, sullen, to a months old report in piles. Some of the visible portions are the other casualties, the missing.

This close, Kara takes a good look over the strangeness of his skin, his hair, his face. She settles into her seat, one hand bracing on the bed cushioning. "You saved a lot of people, Rene," she tells him when his gaze drifts to the paperwork. "That thing you stopped— it'd have done as much damage as the fire. More. The firebreak wouldn't have stopped it."

Her shoulders sink with a heaviness. "Things… aren't the best out there. But there's a good bit of town that pulled through without any scars."

When Kara's frame settles there beside him, it's a finality in that she isn't about to slip away; slender hands fold in Rene's lap, the lines of his brow coming together in an angle of concern. He doesn't take his eyes from her, even when he feels them briefly sting.

"I thought it might have been that bad… Chris had me by the arm and I still…" Dumortier's hands move up to either side of his temples, eyelids squeezed shut while he tries to push out the intrusive visions of a scorpion trampling the rest of Providence into ashes. Cohorts with the squidbot. It's more than clear that he was— and perhaps still is— scared out of his mind of it all. That he stood his ground despite that… even Rene's not sure what that means.

His eyelids open just a fraction, irises focused on nothing in particular. "I wanted to run so bad. Once, I absolutely would have…" a steadying exhale attempts to help him center. A bit of the more colorful tones manage to leave his skin, some of the grooves smoothing as if under passing brush strokes. A laugh, dry, short, petering off in his words. "I guess that just means I honestly give a shit about people again."

In these sort of situations, there's no right response. Kara smiles even though she furrows her brow. Were she certain it wouldn't cause him pain, she'd ruffle his hair gladly. "I'm rubbing off on you finally," she goads darkly. "You came down with a terminal case of selflessness."

She shakes her head, smile breaking at that. "I'm glad you came back from it, kiddo. Everything I heard about what happened…" For a moment, she seems to not know what to say. In reality, she's working through a knot in her throat. "I'm proud of you. When it came time to step up, you did."

Taking in a deep breath, she looks down at his hands, looking over them and his forearms. "But… God, what do we even do now with you? Do we have to water you when we take you home now?"

Kara's trying to make light of it. If she doesn't, who knows what she'll do. If she doesn't, who knows what it'll do to him.

The last thing she wants him thinking is that he's a freak.

Damn right it was terminal. Rene lifts his eyes without lifting his face, still feeling himself enough to give her a playful leer. He's silent otherwise, tension in the set of his shoulders and spine. Her words see him looking down again, a poor attempt to escape her gaze at the admission of her pride in him.

It feels strange to hear it said. Nobody's ever said it and meant it.

Dumortier's proud of how far her humor's come, if he had to choose something. The smile comes with a puff of breath out of his nose, and one more tilted look is given before his expression eases, still nervous, yet still comforted by her presence.

"First of all… you have to be at least ten years older to be able to call me kiddo." Rene's browline arches for that, lowering after. "Second… " More of a serious muttering, "I hope not. I don't think so?" He lifts a splayed hand, studying it intensely for a few seconds.

The erratic edges of his fingertips blunt under command. Even that seems to stress him, however, and the hand drops. "Maybe I just need more time…" And a sun lamp.

"Maybe you do," Kara concedes. "But time here isn't going to do you much good." She's of the stubborn opinion hospitals are only good for dying in, and everyone else should get out of there as quickly as possible. Her head tilts as she looks at him.

"You should come home," she tells him gently but no less pointedly. "You're ours to look after, not theirs…"

"Kiddo," she adds with an edge of tease she finds to be desperately needed. Boys aged slower, these are just facts. But— he had proved a willingness to look after others. Maybe he was maturing after all.

No matter. She'll goad him out of this hospital bed with that teasing regardless.

Dumortier's cheeks inflate with brief indignance. "Come on, we're only a few years apart, you jerk." Still, Kara doesn't get any real ire, just prodding in return, albeit trepidatious.

"Honestly… they aren't keeping me here." One foot then the other alight on the floor, weight testing the wakefulness of his legs. He'd been sitting there for God knows how long, and one hand remains on the bed for this reason.

"Not anymore, anyway." At first it was an ability related issue, and concern from friends on the method of his survival. Now it's mostly… fear, perhaps. Still a touch of favor to others. But she's right. Rene knows she is, and he doesn't meet her eyes. "I want to sign myself out… but I… I might need a few days?" Before going back.

"Okay," Kara relents. She'd slipped off the bed onto the floor again herself to give him some space to find his own footing again, and she folds her arms before her. She glances over her shoulder now, noting belatedly that no nurse had entered to initiate a formal check on Rene even if someone had stopped and lingered in the door while they were wrapped up in their embraces.

She frowns to herself. The sooner he was out of here the better, in her mind.

"What can we do to help? What do you need?" Her head swivels back to Dumortier. "Just name it, and we'll get on it."

We, she keeps saying like she doesn't mean primarily her.

"I don't know." Dumortier fails to name an 'it', a dry puff of laughter on his lips. "Well, at least the you parts." He hasn't missed that, of course. The cotton pants and shirt he's been given serve alright for the inside, but it's still March; "Maybe a coat. First." The laugh this time isn't quite as harsh.

"And… maybe some updates? I can't get in touch with Clover," Who may kill him, he's aware. He promised not to do anything stupid.

"Or Miller. I thought… might be nice to tell them I'm not… compost." A small shiver moves along Dumortier's spine, and his thoughts wander as he wrestles his feet into a pair of flat shoes that hide under the bed. "Nicole must know, with SESA…" At least there's that. Surely she'll tell him. Surely. It's not like he's missing or anything.

"I owe Chris an apology too." An afterthought in the wake of needing to let people know he's there; it leads into a lengthy pause, Rene leaning his weight onto the bed again. "I don't— I'm not sure where I'm going, Kara, things feel— disjointed. This is all so…" Even his thoughts seem to be that way.

"It's surreal, I know," she tells him with sympathy rather than any jokes now. "You barely know how you got here, don't know how you'll go on, or how you're supposed to fit in after what's happened to you. Trust me— I know that feeling."

Kara places a hand on his shoulder gently but with a firm weight. "But you're already there, able to take those first steps forward. You might not see the end of it all yet, but if you keep moving forward, you'll make it there. And if you need a place to land when you don't know what direction to head next, that's what we're for." A small smile comes over her as she teases him without a change in her tone at all, "To talk you mad and make you feel welcome to the point you take that vagrant head of yours to wander off and do something worthwhile with it. Whatever that is."

Arm slipping away to her side, her look solemns. "Clover left after the fires came through. I'm not sure where she is anymore, rightly." Her expression can't help but fall between that and the soft addition of, "And Miller…"

It's complicated.

She lifts her head slightly. "Chris is still kicking around. I'm sure it'd mean the world to him if he got to swear at you some more."

Many emotions come and go as Rene listens, his features a consistent torn; he hesitates to move when she has his shoulder, possibly as if it's as much a brace as a reassurance. Blue eyes turn down and away at her teasing, her small smile mirrored for what it is. Every time he's reminded with earnest that he does have people, it seems to humble him in the same strange way. Kara's news of what happened with Hull after the fires is taken with a bitter swallow. Of course she didn't stay there.

"I told her I'd be careful, so, you know… she had every right to vanish." Guilt is a difficult thing for him to process, blunted by tired humor instead of sobriety. He fucked that up, even if he didn't mean to. The story of his life.

Rene shifts, shoulders heavy as he collects what little he has with him. This includes the papers, which seem to have been given to him in a clasp folder, though no indication to where he'd gotten it.

"I know it would… he loves to talk all kinds of shit at me." Dumortier lifts his eyes now from the straightening of the folder in his hands, mirth and care in equal measure. Guilt there, too. A memory of Elisa yelling and Chris' hand slipping from his arm.

"So you think I'm a vagrant, huh?" Just clearing that up. Both brows lift at her, the nature of his skin and frame lending it something— comical without meaning to be. Dumortier's voice lowers again, "Then… you'll be happy to hear I'm… looking at 'something worthwhile'. I was before…" A pause, a switch. "Just to spite all of you."

Kara lets out a quiet huff, one just for show at the thought of being spited. "Oh, are you?" She mimics his arched brow expression, one hand on her hips while she watches him collect his things. "How unlike you to put down roots."

She may in fact be a terrible friend. Or a great one, refusing to let him avoid facing his actions and his present without a sense of humor. Maybe a mixture of both.

Either way, she gives Rene a small curve of a grin. "What is it you're looking into? Not some kind of pyramid scheme, is it?"

Dumortier wags his head and mouths back 'put down roots' right back at her when she says it; his expression does one more shift from amused to serious as he shoves things into a plastic drawstring bag. Kara knows just how to navigate him away from sitting on emotions for too long; he likes to think he taught her a thing or two.

"Pyramid scheme?" Rene pivots at the waist, the lines of his face sharpening some with the unwitting bristle of his skin. "What do you think I am? A two-bit white collar criminal?" He is absolutely offended, Kara.

"No, it's not some… scheme. I know I have a lot of them but come on." Give the poor weed a break, would you? For good measure, Dumortier casually shoves an unopened box of facemasks into the bag. From the cupboard. That probably should have been locked at some point and for some reason wasn't now. Mysterious. "…You remember when I'd been helping Agent Ayers with those women come trees?" A little irony there, but bear with.

Kara manages to keep a straight, if judgmental face turned upon Rene when he asks what do you take me for right before committing an act of crime. She eventually lifts a hand to smear it across the side of her face with a sigh, turning her head away.

Managing to hold her tongue is a narrowly done thing. If he reaches for anything else, though, he'll find an obstacle in his path. Of all the people to steal from, hospitals were firmly in the no category.

"Yeah, the Fed who'd probably have a heart attack if he just saw you do that?" Kara answers cavalierly.

"Hah." Have you seen the outside? He's going to need those. It's preemptive care, the masks. "He wasn't always one." Rene lifts a finger her way, smirking. Green flushes along what is visible of his skin, softening some of those harder edges back down again. "The most un-Fed Fed I've ever met, actually… he was Company before the war."

Gray areas are something in common.

"I still chat him up sometimes, but back when he had that case…" Dumortier withdraws any lingering gestures to pause and inspect his reflection, briefly, in the shine of the window. "He said something I'd laughed at, at the time. Still funny."

Two fingers press against his cheekbone where a portion of barkskin seems to have withered. It flakes under the pressure, showing a tiny patch of skin underneath. "He said that I'd be good at it. What they do…"

Ah, so he was Company. Dumortier, that's the opposite of reassuring, here. But Kara doesn't say that. She just narrows her eyes, listening, not finding exactly the same humor in it all. When he finally gets it out, though, her brow slowly lifts. "Did he now?"

That's ever so carefully, naturally spoken. Then she takes a moment to think on it longer and sighs hard. Her eyes narrow idly before she supposes, "They need a brand of people there better than the ones that let the country do this to itself in the first place." The racism. The cover-ups. The war. The cover-ups.

"So maybe he's right," even if she wonders what kind of crooked agent Dumortier might run as, if they didn't find out about his past, but his past found out about the new him once he was back in town. She'll just hope that doesn't happen. "They need good people with them."

Rubbing the flaked bark between his fingers simply leaves debris. Nothing of him, just— leftover matter, as. the cocoon it felt like. The same matter of himself, grown back from the inside out and leaving his mass behind to decay. He doesn't want to ever do it again. Not like this. Dying, or whatever the hell happened.

"I mean, I'm not exactly a patriot," Dumortier begins, turning from his reflection and stepping towards Kara, bag on shoulder. Those shoes don't make a sound as he crosses over, forcefully steadied. He'll be okay. "Looking between then and now, it's—" He hesitates, mouth pursing and eyes casting over Kara, blue almost silver.

"It's more about the reason they're supposed to be there in the first place. That case stuck with me, and after that all I do is get pissed off reading about things like it. Then there's the weird shit going on out in the barrens— the fucking robots, the crazy things that appear and disappear. All the bullshit with genocidal purists is the cherry on top, Kara."

Where was he going with this? He's uncertain.

"Some punk turned people into trees and I saved one. It was horrific, you know, a slight against God and I was there to see it. Made me fucking sick. But when they caught her, and turned the trees back…" A small light does pop into his expression now, an attempt to flick back burning offense and tightness in his chest. "That tree I healed… She's back to her life now. The others I'd been watching periodically for Corbin came back healthy. And the bitch that did it is behind glass."

Not all criminals have codes, and even the ones that do, sometimes they aren't so clearcut.

Kara's not blind to how Dumortier treads closer and closer to leaving maybe even today, but she lets him make his own determinations on his own time on that matter. She listens, too, to the story he poses as his reason for wanting to make these changes.

In the process, she finds she understands very well. "I can promise you not every day would be like that. There are…" She has to choose her words carefully here. "Days where you get orders you're not sure of. But your job is to carry them out. Let someone go because there's not enough evidence, even though you know they did it. Not every day is gonna feel great, like keeping someone alive, or finding them justice."

"A lot of it's work," Kara reminds him with a chuckle.

"But if you want to see what good you could do…. you'd have my support, at least." She looks back to him with a faint smile.

Of course he knows what work is. Rene gives the remark a squint, but ultimately lets it slide. It's the vibe he gives, fine fine.

"If I don't shoot my shot I know I'll just wonder." He knows for sure she'll get that too. "And I feel like I have a set of skills most of them won't…" Dumortier flashes a brief smile. "I was always the one in that story. Getting away. It's all perspective sometimes."

Perspective, he says. As he does, he considers the bag in his hand and sighs. Maybe just…

"I never finished university." A brow raises before he turns to set the bag down and remove the box he'd stashed; instead, he opens it and takes a few before tossing it on the bed. "But maybe my worldliness will make up. Not that I was in school for anything related, but…"

"I do have some nice references."

So there he is, bag in hand, maybe a little less afraid of the world— or of himself— than he'd let himself be before a familiar face arrived. As far as Kara's concerned, even if that's the only aid she provided, it still has its value.

She sees his reconsideration and keeps her silence on it just as she had the first time. But there's definitely a shine of approval there. "Shoot your shot, then. See if you can make a difference, if all that's for you." Her mouth presses together in a thin, conflicted sort of smile. "Seems to be what most are doing, now that we're out here where there's proper civilization to experiment with, after all."

Finn, Chris, now Dumortier. Yi-Min, too, after a fashion, though she'd never been West with them to begin with. It's not a bittersweet thing, but it's in the neighborhood of it.

But her personal identity crisis is for her own self to figure out.

"What do you think— you want to talk to them about leaving now?" Kara asks.

Signs of his stressors remain, but what she sees is absolutely a shift from when she came into his room; it's usually the case for him. Needing reminding that he doesn't have to do it alone means the world, even if he doesn't speak it.

"Experiment… sounds about right." Dumortier's laugh has a crooked smile, more fitting in the shade of Kara's apparent support. A flexing of a hand at his side garners a look, rough skin looking softer along the curves of a palm. "They already have my records," a shoulder rolls in a shrug, and Rene tilts a look up to her, studying. "So at least they already know I'm me." The agency has worse working for them, he is 99.9% sure of it. "Just gotta find out if they can handle that."

That's more like him too. "Yeah, let's blow this banana stand… I stayed as a favor but I'm just getting… too inside myself. If they try to keep me you can throw me over a shoulder and make a break for it."

They won't. But he likes the idea.

"I'll call Yi-Min— tell her to have the car ready out front to be our getaway driver."

She does, too.

Kara draws her arm around Rene's shorter shoulders and lifts her head in a gesture to the door. "C'mon, then. The world awaits, in all its shitty glory."

Somehow the idea of Yi-Min as the driver is more amusing than it should be.

Or, he doesn't realize how much his lizard brain needs them.

"Right." Dumortier looks up to give the room a last once over. He is still for a moment longer, darker thoughts circling like vultures, visible in his expression. Something more grave than just… guilt. The weight of an arm brings him back around, a breath escaping when he looks into Kara's face. A crooked smile, just as she is used to, and the first step towards the door. "Yes, let's. It's waited long enough to see my gorgeous face again."

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