Finding North


dumortier2_icon.gif zachery2_icon.gif

Scene Title Finding North
Synopsis Zachery's depression cabin is already occupied.
Date August 29, 2020

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.//

A magpie lands and folds its wings, perching on a high branch in an even taller tree that stands guard over the creek on Providence's outskirts. Market day means that this sunny afternoon, Dumortier's cabin nearby stands unoccupied.

Or it should be. And yet, the front door is ajar, the curtains not quite as they were.

The light that spills in through the windows cascades over the low-slung sofa, where one Zachery Miller lies fully horizontal, legs up on an arm rest and both hands on an old compass that doesn't belong to him. He's holding it up over his head while he stares up at it, turning the instrument to watch the magnetic needle dance its way across the indicator lines — an action that is paused only for a second or two as he hears the cabin's owner return, before it's continued anew.

He does not look toward the door when he calls, hoarsely, "I remembered the path." Through the traps. "After a time."

Load much lighter than when he left, Dumortier's mood returning home is a good one; he's made his wallet bigger and his pantry fatter, given the clink of glass in a box as the front door is shouldered open- - slowly- - the rest of the way. The crate in his hands tinkles as he stops in the door, brows knit only for a moment more.

"…So you did. Gold star." A laugh comes forth, punctuated by the sound of his crate thumping onto the floor near the pantry door. "I gotta say, I thought you were someone else, and now I'm just a teeeeensy bit disappointed." Dumortier angles over the side of his couch to look down past the inspection of the compass into Zachery's face. "Not that I'm unhappy to see you."

"'Not unhappy' is what I aim for," Zachery replies easily, unmoving from his spot and meeting Dumortier's gaze. His eyes almost match, the left pupil moving as the right one tracks the face above, but not quite right.

Despite sounding like this is the first speaking he's done for days, he looks rested. Okay. For his doing, anyway. He lifts his eyebrows at the same time as he lowers the compass, a corner of his mouth ticking outward as he asks, "Go on. Who were you expecting, then."

Color is easier to match than muscle movement. Rene's idle thought is nudged aside as Zach gets to questioning. He huffs a chuckle out through his nose, smile cracking crooked.

"A special friend. You know the kind~." A second laugh is more audible as the blonde steps away, moving to the door to pull in a wheeled basket after him. The door clicks shut, staying unlocked in the safety of its surroundings. "What's up with the toy, there?"

Zachery does know the kind, but does not particularly care for it if the noise in the back of his throat is any indication. His attention returns to the compass, the rusted bronze turned over between his fingers.

"It was at my home - the one here, in Providence." Something cuts his words a little shorter than they otherwise might be. "It was there when I moved in, originally. I didn't take it when I came to pack up my books a few months ago." He angles a lazy look sideways, to follow Dumortier's movements away. "I figured I would check if the place hadn't been looted. And there it was, still on a shelf, waiting for me to pick it up."

As if that explains anything, he pauses for a response.

"What did you come back to the house for?" It wouldn't be the first time that there is no reason, but it seems like a thing to ask. His heart's not in it. Teasing, however, "I didn't bother ransacking it.. you didn't have much left." Arrival home has a ritual, and one that Dumortier doesn't stray from; goods do not sit out for long when they have a place, and it’s short work to put them away.

Soon, he's shedding his light nylon jacket and hopping right up onto the back of the couch. "Looks old. Can I have a look?"

Zachery offers the compass upward without question, the glass scratched, metal discoloured - held between loosely gripping fingers as if it's any old piece of trash. Except that he did come back for it.

"I don't know why," is his answer to the other question, and hearing it for himself, he cracks a wry grin. "I wander. This felt right, today." He nods toward the compass. "Do you think it's worth anything?"

Rene reaches out to take the compass, a touch more gentle than treating it like trash. Trash, treasure, et cetera.

"Yes, you do wander." Said idly, an affirmation of the tendency to walkabout. Smaller hands on the compass allow Dumortier a better look up close as he looks for a make mark. "Maybe to the right person. Needs some polishing up. And …calibrated, probably." He turns it on his palm.

"Have you taken any time off lately?"

As if that last question causes a hitch in Zachery's own internal calibrations, he takes a breath but finds nothing to use it on.

His gaze is drawn to the ceiling, before he clears his throat and then drags himself upright, more careful to pull one leg off of the couch than the other. "Not since I fell out of the sky in Manitoba," he finally answers, the words drawn from a place a little deeper than when he adds more quickly and with casual disregard, "Do you want it? The compass."

A maker's mark is missing, the instrument likely mass produced over a century ago. Missing, too, is some context asto his answer, possibly.

"Do you want to? I don't mind a guest." It's a passive suggestion; he knows that things are rocky, and Nicole has her own work- - but surely her sisters or other friends have tried the same thing he is? Surely.

"No… you can keep it." Zach sits up, Dumortier slides down the back of the couch to settle beside him. He offers out the compass. "It wanted you to, apparently? It's probably, mh… World War One era? Approximating here. Nothing rare, but… " It did appear twice.

The compass is returned to its finder with a pull of nimble fingers, and palmed away. "Mine it is." Zachery decides. Maybe it will see use yet.

The other matter has him thinking for a few seconds longer, shoulders pulling up with idle amusement still on his face. Looking to the side to study Dumortier's expression, he sounds unconvinced when he says, "You minding probably wouldn't stop me." Doubts or no, it will suffice as an answer either way. "Maybe until tomorrow morning. Be out of your hair by the time special company might swing by."

Dumortier laughs openly; he doesn’t think it would stop him, no. He can believe that. The rest, it gets a small nod. "Morning then."

"Don't worry about her, I can hear her coming a mile away if she does." Not that he's worried to be caught - that's never been a potential issue. There's an accord, you know. There always is. Rene kicks his feet up onto the edge of his coffee table. It's his, he can do that. "Hey, you know, if you want to talk, I'll listen. I've got ears and I give a shit."

Zach was the one who showed up, so.

Showing up is the easy part.

"I know I can talk," Zachery fires back with no small amount of exasperation aimed at the ceiling, sinking back into the sofa and shoving a hand up over his face and into his hairline. The compass is still held at his side, thumb pressed into the damaged glass. "I'm talking right now. We've been talking a while. It's getting to the point I have issues with, isn't it?"

They both know the answer to that one. "Why don't you go ahead. Like an appetiser. Talk about how the trees have been, or - something. Anything. Yourself." If you must.

Fft. This is the noise Rene makes in response to the heavy-handed deflections, a small roll of his eyes as a bookend. Getting to the point is absolutely the issue. The story over the summer wasn't a good one, and out of what is purely respect, Dumortier hasn't pried. He might start trying soon, it's wearing on the patience.

"Shit, I dunno. Trees're fine. Considering." Considering some of them aren't really. Trees. Generally speaking, however, fine. "Rifled through some bank deposit boxes last week. People stop trying when they realize they can't just break them open easily, so it was a mess. Found a few good things. Bonds. Jewelry. The vault was cleared, probably before they bailed. A couple passports. Photos. Last Wills. Deeds. Other garbage people want to keep safe."

Blue eyes tilt up towards Zach, watching the attempts at melting into the couch with interest. "There are a lot of places that scavengers just… pass over, too. It's ridiculous. Have some ruins marked to check through…"

Zachery holds still. The answer serves as something to focus on while he stares ahead of him. The hand that leaves his face comes down with a restless tap-a-tap of fingers on his leg.

His gaze drifts off to the side and finds a stereo system just as the conversation finds a lull for him to speak in. "That actually sounds quite nice." He says sincerely, surprise lifting his voice a little. "Digging through people's lives. Things forgotten."

The compass is slipped into a pocket, and he unmelts out of his seat promptly - too promptly, given the wince that comes with a second step towards the audio reciever's shiny dials. The crouch down to get a closer look, too, comes with a noise of simultaneous effort and discomfort. Ow. It's fine. This is fine. "You ever find anything you've wanted and managed to return to its owner?"

"Not… really." Either one. "I usually put the photos back. If someone wants them they can find them." Rene watches the other man dawdle around the cabin, idle in the investigation of Dumortier's Stuff. "The rest, I mean- - if they hadn't taken it already, how important was it, really?" His eyes narrow some.

"The war prioritized for people. Now what's left is what's left. Better off sold, kept, given. Better than gathering dust or rotting."

"Sometimes you leave things behind thinking you might be able to get them later." Zachery says flatly, at Dumortier's Stuff rather than Dumortier himself, turning a dial just a little - enough to feel the give of it before turning it back the way it was. "Things are lost for many reasons, not always…"

A button pushed into the faceplate of the stereo system clicks into its on-position, and as it does, he seems to lose his train of thought. His jaw sets, and his hand hovers where it is for a few seconds before he presses the button again. "Anyway." Click. The button pops back out the way it was, and Zachery rises to his feet once more, attention still downward. Reluctance still threaded through his words when he says, "There's a segue in here, somewhere."

The hum-whine of speakers turning on is what Zach gets for his button pushing. Nothing on the deck.

"Yeah. Shit gets left behind." Rene shoves his hands into the pockets of his sweatshirt, mouth twisting up a little. "Like me, for instance." He's familiar with the concept of lost things.

"I know there should be one," he adds, a small snort for Zach's attempt at moving from one thing to another. "But I don't see it. You'll have to think of it yourself, Handsome. Can turn the stereo on if you want, not stopping you." A mixed up mess of a shelf has boxes of tapes and discs. A box of vinyls on the floor. You find some good music left behind, too.

Letting Zachery wander around the cabin reminds him of introducing an animal to a new environment. Poking, peering, puttering.


Mulling over the options within the room and the words spoken, Zachery takes a deep breath. There are several subjects to dive into here, backpedaling still an option to him. There is something to be said for the subject of Dumortier's getting left behind getting left behind. And yet.

Zachery takes two steps in seemingly no particular direction but away from where he was standing, and then decides that instead of turning on some music, he'll face it instead. He turns on a heel to look directly at his friend again, and cracks a grin.

"So!" He starts, a little too loudly and cheerfully. It's a voice reserved for getting things over with, the sort one might use to announce the presence of a new photocopier in the office. "Do you remember, when I was at your stall last February, me bringing up my fucking terrible idea?" The wording only seems to brighten his expression, rather than sour his mood. "Your words, not mine."

"I might've been this much overzealous," Dumortier holds up two fingers, signaling tiny. Turns out that he came around to it. He was at the wedding, even. One brow raises up under the sweep of his hair, "But, er, yeah. I remember. At the time that's what it seemed like. Can't blame me. Both shoulders rise and fall in a shrug.

"No, that's— that's the thing," Zachery continues, arms going wide at his sides, cheer persisting and eyebrows popping up. "I think you were right. And I think I sort of knew you were, somewhere in the back of my mind, because…" It's his turn to laugh now, as though in lieu of finding the right words, his breath has to go somewhere.

"I mean, you've met me," leaves him on the end of an unconcerned chuckle, shoulders squaring as he pulls his hands back in front of himself so he can mime the motion of wrangling something into shape as if the air is made of hardened clay. "Never has so much effort been spent to try and mold awkward misgivings into a 'congratulations'. Every time."

The resolution to this ramble is accompanied, now, by a shrug of his own. "Anyway, that's, ah-" His grin twitches slightly wider. "You were going to find out eventually, so I figured - I would just… that's - not happening anymore."

Hands still in his pockets, the stretch of Rene's arms seems to envelop a portion of him as he watches and listens like he said he would. The rambling he expected. The laughing, a bit less? Some. Not this much. Wariness writes itself into the blonde's features, and his smile grows nervous by millimeters.

And he keeps going, of course, because it's Miller. Gestures and twitches aside, the not-an-explanation rewards Zachery with confusion. At first, until pieces slot. "You two're spliii- - oh, fils de pute…" Dumortier's initial instinct is to assume they're already on the outs. But, between the jerky gesticulations and the mention of his own words and follies… he pauses for far too long where he sits, unsure how to navigate this.

"What… did happen, then…?" Mouth pursed, he decides to seek instead of flounder, voice staying small and helpfully neutral. Rene's thoughts shift back and forth like a dipping bird.

There is no immediate answer, Zachery standing with his face frozen, eye darting to the side with some trepidation, as though he's just figured out that the mountain he's climbed wasn't the right one.

No. Maybe he just needs to keep going. Keep talking. "What happened is," he starts to explain with lungs filled anew, beginning to pace even if there's no real space for it in the cabin, and even though every other step comes down too rigid because of two entirely separate injuries in the last year.

"What happened… is," he starts again, this time with the extra thoughts to spare as he turns, "Nicole and I - we woke up in the crashed remains of an airplane we did not remember boarding, and neither did any of the other passengers." He laughs again, this time sharper and swallowed back a little sooner. With less specificity, he adds as his pacing guides him a few steps away again, "And they were just gone."

"…Shit." is an appropriate choice of word. As far as Rene knew, the plane was a rough landing, he guessed a small passenger flight. But this makes it sound… bigger. Blue eyes, bright as they are,remain on Zachery in all their sharpness. Discerning the train of thought is less easy, though in the end he seems to settle between somber and sympathetic, hands sliding out of pockets; he leans forward, brow knit.

"How's Nicole? Was she hurt in the crash too? Or was it only…" Gone.

This time, Zachery's answer sounds out the moment there is space for it: "Wailing."

But that's not right. His steps slow until he's standing beside the sofa. He does his best to recall some bit of information that isn't there, but finds the memories of the day described lacking, and shakes his head as his fingers curl inwards. "Or-… she was. But not because she was hurt." His tone is considerably less cheerful now, expression slipping - bit by bit - slowly back to neutral.

Finally, he looks at Dumortier again, with a slightly ill-fitting smirk that the top half of his face refuses to participate in. "She's doing poorly. I had to—" He pauses, thought process halted before it boots back up a moment later, "The doctors told her she was never pregnant in the first place."

"What the fuck?" Sympathy warps like a funhouse mirror straight back into a grimacing confusion. This is a new territory to navigate, somehow, and it shows. Dumortier never seemed a family type- - more like found-family. Blood of the covenant, and whatever.

"I am pretty fucking sure she was." And so is Zach And so is she! "Who the hell was treating her, fucking Doctor Seuss?" Rene fights the urge to stand up, cheeks inflating and mouth closed to suppress an impression of a barking dog. Not even just at the doctors. His frustration with his disbelief.

Sure, the context is sad. He knows that. He also knows that it happened to people he considers friends.

Still more of the emotion is drained from Zachery's face, movements ceased beyond the roll of his jaw and steady breath. He's done his share of yelling, and cursing. For days, days that felt like weeks.

But right now, there's catharsis to be found in watching Dumortier struggle with the facts, too. "I don't think they had a reason to lie, Sunshine," he offers, with a measure of defeat lifting his eyebrows over a dry stare. "I had them check, and double check, and… either someone with the capability to repair the physical trauma got to her before we ever crashed, or… she's just…"

His attention drifts somewhere off to the side again. "Or none of us are us. And she's not her. And I'm not me."

Further explanation does not make the confusion better. Nor the blue-screened expression on Rene's face. It is the typically affectionate nickname which resets him; slack-jawed as he is, Rene still manages to hold onto the clogging mix of anger and pity. It's never fair. And he should know that. He does. In fact, he closes his jaw to inwardly remind himself.

The sharp edges of his eyes seem to ease back into place, the rest of his features tightening.

"What is that even supposed to mean? Of course you're you. You're standing there, aren't you? Are you going to unzip into Halle Berry or a Pepsi can or something?"

A few beats pass, Zachery's attention returns to Dumortier with exhaustion suddenly a little clearer on his face. Then, a chuckle leaves him - still riddled with the anxiety that sits just below the surface of whatever facade he's attempting and failing to keep up, but though it comes to him already at the end of a breath, it's a chuckle that leaves him by choice rather than nervous habit.

"… No." He doesn't know much, but he knows that. The Ramble Engine starts back up anew, and-

"None of this… none of this is probably right. And I'm supposed to not tell anyone, and I haven't, but I haven't been able to keep my head on straight about…" About anything, a shrug implies. "I haven't even told you about the fact that I'm apparently just…" Both hands come up and get smacked over his face and dragged down far too roughly, sentence finished against palms, "A normal now."

"You know I can keep a secret if I need to- - wait, normal? What do you mean…?" Squinting follows, then a reluctant kind of realization and the mouthing of one more what the fuck for good measure. "You lost it? I'm guessing in the same bullshit- -" Of course, but- -

"Hold up," Hands lift in a gesture to stop himself from getting too far from the tracks. For him, not Zachery. "How many people were in the accident? And how many were evos?!" Jumping right to the point, "Did someone seriously- - is Nicole's gone too?"

Whether the gesture is meant for him or not, Zachery's words 0llslow further. "Not including the one cadaver we lost to the fire, sixteen in all. Every single one formerly SLC-E." That's a yes, then.

He sighs, but it's a shallow thing. Like whatever fumes he was running on have gone and as the engine sputters to a stop, something darker takes hold. It twists his expression into one of brow-furrowing scrutiny. "I shouldn't stay here. I should be home."

"Seigneur au-dessus…" Dumortier breathes out, finally leaning forward, elbows to knees, peering up at Zachery. This secret is not a small one. The context and content allow him to suspect the truth is hidden behind federal lines. And of course, the ones between friends.

"Did you leave a note, or anything…? I- - you are more than welcome here. You know that. I know your brain must be going like a jackrabbit." Reiterated from before, in a way- - more personal this time. This is a hideout good as any. For a moment or two. "I can go fuck with the antenna and you can probably get a signal… the summer storms've been knocking it around."

There is a moment of consideration in Zachery inhaling but not quite speaking. It comes to fruition in another empty exhale instead, and in the slow movement of a hand searching around behind him until it finds something solid. That is, apparently where he'll sit. On the floor, back sunk into the wall behind him, limbs slack for lack of energy. Head thunked back as he stares somewhat absently toward the sofa.

"It's fine. I won't stay until morning either, just… until the world goes a little quieter. I don't think Nicole will-… she might not even notice." Up comes a hand again, to scrub over his a setting jaw before he continues with the against-instinct tension of trying to be honest with himself still in his voice, "I think I just needed someone to stop treating this as normal for a little while. Any of it."

She might not. Rene reads, he knows that she's gotten a promotion in recent memory. A busy, working woman.

"You're welcome I guess, because what the fuck." The blonde's voice is weary and careful. Quiet for when he pads to that stereo Zach had been fiddling with. It turns on under his own, though what it plays isn't quite the expectation. Something equally quiet; the subdued sounds of string instruments, the focal points of a mellow song.

"If you need anything to bring you down, I can find something…" but for now, his relaxing solution seems to be musical.

Zachery angles a look upward. "Not to pitch another surprise at you," he cracks a lopsided and short-lasting grin. "But I'm actually thinking that - between the stark reminder recent medical test results have proven to be and the fact that I feel dulled as a decade long neglected butcher's knife already, I…"

He quietens, a flicker of annoyance breaking through in a wrinkling of his nose at the words failing to come as smoothly as he'd like. "I guess I'm learning just to sit in it for a while."

Whatever 'it' is.

There's not even a saucy 'suit yourself' in response this time; Dumortier just angles a look to where Zachery has hunkered down, levelling the volume at a comfortable murmur. Rather than ask into anything more- - if Zachery needs something he'll say so- - Rene adds, "You sit in it," It. He thinks he knows. "…But I'm still practicing."

Practicing what becomes apparent when the blonde ducks down to drag a case out from under the music shelf; when he plops himself back onto the couch it is with a small violin perching against his shoulder.

"If this annoys you," Dumortier spares a tiny smile with his small words, tone idly playful. "Too bad, my house."

There's no complaint, no real response from Zachery beyond a sigh before his eyelids fall. Well rested or not, today's still been exhausting.

"You've done worse things," he breathes in deadpan - a calmer thought picked out from the jackrabbit mess. Other thoughts will surface and be given voice with time, but for now, he falls silent and waits.

"I certainly have." is Rene's answer to that.

In lieu of those worse things, Dumortier now provides skilled melancholic notes for melancholy folks. As front row seats go, not so bad.

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