Hello Neighbor


carver_icon.gif zachery_icon.gif

Scene Title Hello Neighbor
Synopsis Zachery brings a neighbor a housewarming gift.
Date November 6, 2019


It's a cold, cloudy November day in Providence, and Carver is spending it doing the same thing he's been doing just about every other day lately: still trying to get his damn fixer-upper of a house in order. The roof's not threatening to tear loose anymore, and he's got the dirt scrubbed off the counters, which is a great start… unfortunately, having leaks in the ceiling for probably years hasn't left the floor in the best shape. In most places, it's just been problems with the aged linoleum — easy enough to tear out and burn — but in one of the rooms at the back of the house, the water damage is bad enough that the subfloor itself is starting to get spongy, which necessitates literally ripping out chunks of the floor and replacing them.

Which brings Carver to where he stands today — sweating and wrestling a chunk of rotten floor material larger than he is out through his front door, presumably to throw it atop the pile of similar material sitting in his front yard.

"You know," a voice rings out from the yard, "I'm beginning to think you might've had an easier time just building a new place from scratch."

Zachery stands with one hand in the pocket of his black peacoat, collar high to guard against the November chills. He'd wave, but that hand's just so comfortable in the not-cold of his pocket, and the other's holding quite tightly onto a 6-pack souvenir from the last time he visited the big city. Hope the old man likes Guinness.

There is a cut just over the bridge of his nose and a dark rainbow of few-days-old bruising around his eyes, darker around the fake one of the two. By way of somewhat late greeting, he offers faux-politely, "Dr. Carver."

Carver pauses at the sudden voice, squinting out into the yard; it only takes him a moment to spot who's standing there. Company, but… not unwelcome. "Dr. Miller," he rasps in return. And is that beer Miller has in hand? He squints a bit harder. It is. There may yet be hope for this world. He wraps his hands a bit more tightly around the chunk of flooring he's lugging around and makes one last push, finally clearing the doorway, and then summarily tosses the thing off the porch; it doesn't quite make the debris pile, but it's far enough that he doesn't have to worry about tripping over it, at least. "Mighta been," he admits grudgingly. "Maybe I'll end up doing that, once it warms up; I want to have some walls and a roof when winter gets here for real, though."

Carver's dressed for the cold weather; an old brown coat, open in the front to reveal a grey sweatshirt, black pants and a pair of worn black boots. He considers a moment longer, then gestures towards the doorway. "Come on in," he says, turning towards the doorway.

Zachery obliges, moving forward in deliberate steps while his eye scans the floor for any obstacles that might be in the way. "Hey, if all else fails, it'll make a nice, big bonfire."

There's a moment just before he enters the house that he stops, considers something with knitted brow, then enters as his expression clears. "It's the strangest thing, right, I was walking past, and was suddenly overcome with the feeling of an absolute minimum of neighbourliness. It's a little baffling." Within the same breath, he adds, "How are you getting on with things, then. On schedule, as it were?"

"Hnnh," Carver exhales — something a little longer than a grunt, but not quite a laugh. "'Absolute minimum of neighborliness'… sounds like you're in the right place, then." The question of schedule draws a sharper grunt. "Yeah. Roof and walls are sound, stove works, floors are clean, and the rats and spiders are gone. Not the prettiest place I've lived, but a long ways from the worst."

The front door opens directly onto a small foyer; the space is… tidy. The floor is hardwood, while the interior walls were probably a sunny yellow at some point back in the 1970s; the passage of time has rendered them more of a faded dun, now. The room is clean, though, and well-lit — the curtains have been drawn back on the front windows — and it's also marginally warmer than outside. There are only a few pieces of furniture to be seen — a wood-burning stove sits on one wall of the room, still outputting a faint warmth, and an old recliner sits in the corner next to it, with another recliner and a sofa spaced throughout the room and a coffee table set in the center.

It's a hell of a lot nicer than it had looked when Carver had first started working on the place. "Have a seat," Carver rasps, settling himself back into the corner recliner, bright eyes peering at Zachery… and at his beer. "Guinness? Good pick," he says.

"Trust an Irish stout to weather a few wars, right," Zachery muses as he proceeds to walk into the room, lingers for a moment, and then pulls one of the cans free before unceremoniously offering the rest, wholesale, to Carver.

"It's not going to be the right temperature, but what is, here. Winter's chill and all." His other hand is pulled out of his pocket to scrub at stubbled jaw, the palm covered in small, healing cuts and what looks like very minor burns near the fingertips alone. As he regards Carver, mild amusement flickers in a deepening of crow's feet. "Then again, you might be made of sturdier stock than I am."

Carver's lips twitch up into that almost smile of his again at the crack about an Irish stout, because damn if Miller's not got it spot on there… then, as he's offered the beer, that almost smile graduates into an actual smile.

"Much appreciated," he says, taking the beer. There's a moment's hesitation after he takes it, his eyes narrowing slightly as he catches sight of Zachery's hand… then decides not to worry about it, instead carefully setting the beer down at his feet, taking a single can from the five pack. He pops it open, takes a single slow sip… and that smile returns for a moment. His eyes flicker to Miller for a moment at the comment about sturdier stock; he shrugs. "I've had it too cold, had it too hot. Good beer's good at any temperature, y'ask me," he rasps.

He falls silent for a moment, taking another slow sip of the beer. Remembering, for a moment, a few old drinking buddies. Then his gaze shifts back to Zachery.

"How's the practice?" he rasps.

"Nh," Zachery breathes out a noncommittal noise, settling down on the edge of the sofa and opening his own can, staring down at it for a moment. "It's been good, actually. Slow start, but out here, it's… it's different."

He looks back up at Carver, posture perfect and something eager about the way his fingers drum a silent pattern against coat fabric. "Everything about this place is so different from what I'm used to. From big things, like whatever happened with that explosion, to… I don't know. How people talk. And do business. You know. Can't help but feel out of place."

He freezes, expression and all, before forcing a well worn smile back onto his face and tacking on somewhat hurriedly, "But the practice - yes," the words leave him a little quicker than those previous, and he inhales sharply through his nose. "It's been good. Were you hoping for a different answer?"

"Mmh," Carver nods, taking a sip of his beer, and for a moment his gaze drifts somewhere far away. The explosion. He knew about it, of course. Seems everyone knew about it, or knew someone who was there, or has some inside dirt about it, and in the days after he'd arrived at Providence it seemed like every one of them had been keen to blab about it in those low-voiced conversations that gossipmongers have in quiet corners… and say what you will about Carver, he's a good listener when he puts his mind to it. Half of it was bunk, of course… but there still seems to be a quiet sense of tension lingering about town..

His attention returns to Zachery as the other man talks, watching him intently, nodding now and again… though once Zachery starts scrambling to cover up his moment of openness, Carver's eyes narrow a bit, his expression flattening. He lets Zachery's question sit for just a half-moment longer than is comfortable, watching him with that flat expression, before he opts to answer. "No," he rasps.

He watches for a moment longer before he speaks again. "If I was really hellbent on making a living as a doctor, there are plenty of places I could do it. But I was living way out on the ass end of Whitesbog for a reason, Dr. Miller: I don't like people," he says, leaning forward slightly and staring Zachery dead in the eye. "Just about any group of ten you'd care to find, at least seven of them will have their heads wedged firmly up their own asses, and will fiercely resist any efforts at extraction."

He stares at Zachery for a moment longer, then settles back in his chair. "And I am too damn old for it," he rasps. "I'll keep looking in on the Whitesbog Chaingang Survivors if they ask, but I don't plan to advertise as a general practitioner when there's already one in town."

For all his discomfort, Zachery remains just as he is while Carver talks. No more or less at ease, at least until the blanket of silence is draped back over them again.

Then, he lifts his drink, and keeps it there while a much more sincere grin readily replaces his placeholder smile. "You are, to a T, exactly who I was hoping you would be. Now I get to go home in a bit, and not worry about whether I've wasted some perfectly good drinks on an idiot."
He finally leans in to have a healthy drink of Guinness, but pauses just long enough to add, one shoulder coming up in a half shrug. "Location of my own head notwithstanding, of course."

Carver nods, seemingly satisfied at that. "Heh," he chuckles. "You're alright, Dr. Miller," he allows. "You made it through med school, which is a damn sight more than most can claim," he rasps… then he raises his can of Guinness. "And you know good beer."

It's unclear which of the two he places the greater emphasis on, but either way all this talk's left his throat dry; another drink of beer is required.

"It's all that headstrong English stubbornness, I'm afraid." Zachery's tone implies this might be more smalltalk than anything else. Pride's a funny thing.

He leans back in his seat, curiosity showing in the way his head angles ever so slightly. "I promise I won't keep you from your work much longer. But. You mentioned looking in on the survivors. What does that entail, exactly?"

"Hrn…" Carver exhales slowly, regarding Miller with that steady grey gaze… then, after a moment, he nods. "Fair's fair," he rasps. "The story of me and Whitesbog for five cans of Guinness is more than fair."

"I lived down in Whitesbog for awhile, you know. Got to know the people there. Some of them had their heads up their asses, but…" he shrugs. "I've been doctoring them for awhile. Then we got invaded by some lot of assholes. Called themselves a militia, ha." The laugh is a bitter thing; if he wasn't inside, he'd be tempted to turn his head and spit. "Was doing a housecall when they showed up. Blindsided me. Couldn't do shit without risking getting someone else killed. A lot of people got killed anyway; anyone they thought might give them trouble." There's some bitterness there, too.

"Spent time in… captivity. Working their gardens — theirs because they stole them. Waited for a chance, tried to keep everyone alive. Tending injuries — sprains, blisters, cuts — as best I could, without my tools; lost em when the asshole squad came kicking in doors. Didn't want to advertise; they might've decided I was useful for more than drudge work and separated me."

He looks back to Zachery, scowling with remembered frustration. "I never got a chance. They were sloppy," he says, spitting the word as if it's a sin, "but not sloppy enough that I could have gotten everyone out."

Here Carver takes a deep breath, exhales a heavy sigh. "Your friend Rene can tell you more about what happened next; they never briefed me on the logic behind that operation, and I'm not going to speculate. What I can tell you is that Rene, Sophie, Ryans, and a few others busted us out. Helped us get away… led us here."

Carver takes another drink of his beer; by now the can is getting low. "The short version is, those six are the exception. I've been treating them for awhile now; if they continue to ask for my services as their doctor, I'll provide them. If they go to you instead, I'll share what I know to help you treat them. Beyond that, I don't plan on practicing. Not as a general practitioner, anyway." What he does plan to do, he doesn't say; perhaps he's not gotten that far yet.

Apart from drinking down near half of his stout in one go, Zachery sits patiently while Carver talks. Brow knitting in thought but never taking his eye off of the other man's face. The familiar names prompt a quiet "Mh," but there is little else related to it that he seems to want to follow it up with.

When the silence falls, it does so a little heavily. Zachery is all too content to break it, however, taking a deep breath before saying, "You've lived a fucking life, that's for sure." Then, as if realising that might come across as dismissive, he idly drags the knuckles of his bandaged hand across his face and adds, somewhat hurriedly, "I mean that in a good way, obviously, even if the journey there was — less…"

His words trail off, a chuckle fought back down by hiding his face behind the can again and beginning to work the rest of the damn drink down.

One corner of Carver's mouth curves up at Zachery's assessment of the life he's lived, seemingly of its own volition; something about that little twist of a smile makes him look younger. Also more than a little wolfish, though that's tempered by a hint of amusement.

When Zachery is done talking, Carver lets out a single low chuckle. "Yeah," he says softly. "Yeah…" he repeats, taking another swig of his own. "It's been a ride… but I'm sure you've got better things to do than listen to an old man tell war stories."

"I do," Zachery grins, wiggling the near empty can and staring down the top as if looking into it will make it magicall be fuller. "But better isn't always more fun, is it."

Although. In this case, it might be close. But there's only so much time he can spend down in his basement without feeling like he might start to sympathise with what could ostensibly be the enemy. Besides, the purpose of this visit was not, strictly, enemy-related.

He places a hand down beside him, and pushes himself back to his feet. Back straight, chin up. "Tomorrow, noon — ish, will you be here? I know someone who might be able to help you trade a favour or two for some floorboards. I might even be able to lend a hand if you need it."

Allies are, in their own way, much more valuable right now.

Carver nods, finishing off the last dregs of his own beer and coming to his feet to follow Zachery to the door. "I'll be here," he rasps. He doesn't ask questions; either the favors will be ones he's willing to do, or they won't, but that's something he's willing to wait to find out tomorrow. Today is for ripping out the rest of the bad floor and cleaning up the area.

It's always been Carver's approach to take things one step at a time.

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