Kites V


sf_nicole2_icon.gif sf_zachery_icon.gif

Scene Title Kites V
Synopsis Nicole returns home to discover something very wrong with her husband.
Date March 16, 2021

Dorchester Towers: Miller Suite

It is quiet in the Miller household when Nicole finally arrives home.

With the day beginning to draw to a close outside, soft shadows creep ever further over every silent space. In the living room, a muted television casts its news out over a coffee table littered with paper towels and toys, and precisely one half eaten banana. The mess partially covers up a smattering of paperwork and textbooks, odds and ends of a workaholic.

The newscasters on the screen voicelessly speak to a passive audience of three— across the sofa opposite, Zachery lies flat on his back, eyes closed, with 8-month-old Harvey sprawled out in the crook of an arm and twin Avery climbed partway over her father's chest, wedged comfortably against the sofa cushions.

The jingle of her keys as she steps in from the hallway outside the penthouse serves as announcement enough, but Nicole takes a breath to lift her voice out of habit anyway, but stops short when she sees the scene on the couch. She stops and blinks rapidly, the only sound being that ring of keys thunking to the bottom of her purse.

Slipping off her shoes before she goes any further, to avoid her heels sounding smartly on the hard floors, there’s a wrinkle of bemusement in her brow and the bridge of her nose. Her purse is set aside on the kitchen island before she approaches the couch in her stockings.

“Zachery?” she murmurs softly, hoping not to disturb the twins. Though… she’s not quite sure what her brilliant plan is from there, since it isn’t as though her husband can move without dislodging the pair of them.

One of Zachery's legs twitches. One eye opens first, then the other. "Mh?" He peers up at Nicole as he wakes, before cracking a tired smile. "Oh, hello kitten, you're home."

He does not bother to keep his voice down, but neither of the twins even so much as stirs, comfortable right where they are. "Save me," Zachery continues, with feigned urgency that doesn't show on his face. "I just wanted them both to calm down so I tired them out with everything I could possibly think of. But now look at them. Is it a curse, do you think, being so bloody good at everything?"

Her heart should be warmed, and she knows it. Instead it goes cold and pushes ice water through her veins as it sinks low in her stomach. This isn’t the man she left at home this morning. This is someone who’s experienced with children that age. That doesn’t even describe her.

But she didn’t make it this far in her career without being able to fake it with the best of them.

Nicole puts on a smile and touches the tip of her finger to her husband’s nose with a gentle tap. “You’re right, duckling. Your life is very hard for all your expertise.” She shakes her head. “I don’t know how you do it.”

And she isn’t sure how she’s going to do it, but she very carefully lifts Harvey from the cradle of Zachery’s bent arm, shushing him softly when he makes little noises that might indicate a nearing to wakefulness. Zachery’s wife flashes him a worried look and mouths to him, Am I doing this right?

But she doesn't get an answer, at least not beyond a huff in amusement. Zachery is too tired. Just so tired from having a perfect day.

He focuses instead of slooowly rising, with Avery still against him, landing his feet back on the ground and standing up so he can lead the way toward the nursery. "With some luck," he continues, a little softer. "They might be out for a few hours. Which gives me either a little bit of time to catch up on work at home - or, with Pippa away until after her little sleep over at Whitney’s, quality time with you."

He pauses next to Avery's crib, turning to look at Nicole with an expectant smirk.

Nicole pauses halfway to bedding Harvey down and turns to look at Zachery swiftly. Color creeps into her cheeks, but she says nothing. The days of daily “meetings” to try and reach the goal of attaining these children they wanted so badly wouldn’t be so far removed from her mind even if she didn’t have a perfect memory. It’s been half a year since that action was anything but utilitarian. What he’s getting at is not that.

The task at hand is turned back to with a slow exhale. That was before they suddenly had children appear in their lives. Her The baby boy is settled down in the crib with care, a blanket pulled up to keep him feeling snug. These aren’t your children, she repeats as a mantra in her head at war with the maternal instinct that wants to override her thoughts.

“Aren’t you afraid Avery will get sick again?” she asks softly, straightening up and slowly circling around toward the nursery door with a hint of a smirk on her face that suggests she’s going to get a headstart on him to the bedroom. In reality, if he’s been replaced, she wants that headstart to escape.

Zachery's own expression fades in starts, his eyes lose focus as they stop tracking Nicole, and his attention settles blearily on the lavender wall beside her. For a few seconds, he just stands, silent, Avery still pressed against a shoulder and slowly waking to reach a small hand up at his face.

"Of course not," he replies finally, but with a quiet distance between words and sincerity.

He frowns, as though hearing how the words leave him puzzles him, as well, but no trace of confusion remains when he turns fully and steps suddenly toward Nicole, a bright and eager smile returned to his face. "Actually, you know what sounds really nice right now?" He asks, leaning slightly forward, hand at Avery's back tightening against her onesie. "Is for you to take a load off and relax after a hard day's work. And for me to finish that paperwork."

“Oh.” Nicole feigns disappointment. “Yes, I suppose I could do that. And you could do that.” She smiles then. “Okay, I’ll go get changed. Get out of my superhero costume and back into regular clothes and don my disguise as mild mannered Mrs. Miller.” It’s very little that’s mild about her manner since she’s taken control of the company she’s helped steer for so long.

From the bedroom, she calls out to the hall while she re-dresses herself, frustrated with the lack of grunge era inspiration in her wardrobe. “Want me to go pick up a pizza or something? Have a quiet night in?” Any excuse to leave the home quietly and without disruption seems like it’s probably the right choice.

Zachery's eyes stay on Nicole until she leaves the room, and even then he stays where he is, looking this way and that without moving.

Only when he's asked a question directly does he move, taking slow steps back toward the living room. With Avery still in his arms. "That would be great," he answers over his free shoulder, a smile blossoming mid-sentence. "We're running a little bit low on nosh, anyway."

He sits back on the couch, setting Avery down against the arm rest beside him, and while she babbles out some lazily mimicked syllables, he scrubs a hand over his face in the midst of a post-evening-nap yawn. "Aren't we?"

Shouldn't they be? He stares intently at what's visible of his paperwork on the coffee table.

They shouldn’t be. He was supposed to order groceries for delivery, but a quick look in the cupboards after she emerges from the bedroom confirms that they are indeed low on nosh. With her long coat already on and fastened, whatever she’s picked out for her mild mannered persona is obscured, save for the fact that it must include a skirt or shorts, given that only stockings are seen below the hem of her outerwear.

“I’ll call it in on the way to the car and it should be ready for pick-up by the time I get there.” Nicole pauses, bee line for the door halted. Blue eyes close heavily and open again before she turns to divert to the living room instead. “I’ll be home to give you a reprieve before you know it, duckling.” Leaning forward, she presses a kiss to her husband’s cheek and smooths a hand over Avery’s crown. “Make sure your father behaves, little one,” she teases Zachery with a wink. Her chest feels hollow. “I love you.”

"Don't be long," Zachery replies when he turns his attention to Nicole, "I'm feeling in real danger of becoming a househusband, here." Despite his complaint, he gives her the sort of look reserved for good days only, tired albeit untroubled by such silly things as any true concern.

He gives her a look up and down, breathing a sigh out through his nose as if already regretting his decision. Still, his voice is a soft sort of confident when he offers, in return, "Drive safe. It's a nightmare out there."

“Would that be so terrible?” She asks him in return, rhetorically. With his track record of bucking authority, being a househusband, having authority in their home and with their children may have been an ideal for him. Nicole doesn’t really know anymore. She simply does her best to keep her heartbreak out of her eyes by giving her husband an encouraging smile.

This time, she lets nothing impede her progress toward the door, grabbing the handle and pulling it open. She turns back to assure, “I’ll be home before you know it,” then steps out into the evening.

She has a lot to prepare for.

So maybe you were right all along
I say I’m sorry less than I am wrong
So here we are, both half starved
You make it look so
You make it look so hard

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