Patching Up


dumortier_icon.gif zachery_icon.gif

Scene Title Patching Up
Synopsis There are a lot of fixer-uppers in Providence.
Date November 18, 2019


Despite the fact that he lives here now, Providence is not one of Zachery's favourite places. One of the reasons for this is the quiet of it all. Save for the occasional noise of trouble in the area, the surroundings of his home often feel too serene.

Not, however, today.

THWACK. A hammer hits nail and wood.

Standing at the side of his mostly fixed up house, Zachery squints his one eye at the nail he's just used to secure a plank, diagonally, over a very small window about 7 feet off the ground - maybe a bathroom. His shoulders are hiked up high below his black pea coat, and as he reaches for another nail - kept between lips, of course - he visibly stiffens as a gust of wind sweeps past.

"Fuck off," he mutters at it, under his breath and past the nails still hanging loosely from his mouth. It's cold out today, and it is becoming increasingly evident that someone here is not used to spending prolonged amounts of time away from properly functioning radiators.

"You wouldn't have to worry about that if you would have let me help." Serenity is further interrupted by chiming voice, its source obvious even before Zachery turns to look. Wrapped up against the wind, hair loose above scarf, he is greeted by a purposefully owlish look behind him. What?

"Looking really uncomfortable up there, ami." Dumortier's owlishness flickers away when he smiles crookedly, lifting both hands in a wave. "So what about now? I came over to give you something, but, ah," He looks up and down, ground to window. "You're in prime goose reach."

As funny as seeing him get trapped might be.

"You know what my mother used to say?"

Zachery says after removing the nails in his mouth to hold them between his fingers. Decidedly not looking at the person addressing him. "Help," the word leaves him loudly, but like it's something he wouldn't pick up without protective gloves on, "is for people who need it."

Only then does he move to join Dumortier where he stands, turning his head - and as such, making visible a small red stripe sitting neatly on the bridge of his nose and angry purple C's under his eyes. Or eye, since the fake one's been taken out, for the time being, the emptier-than-normal socket surrounded by the colour of a few days' old bruise. " — And before you tell me that this explains a lot about me, do remember I'm holding a hammer."

"Looks like you need it." Rene mutters, watching the descent and angling a long look to Zach, sidelong. "It explains a lot about you." Hammer? Psh.

"Did you get into a fight with a goose? Must have been gigantic." Grinning ensues. "Seriously, though, if you don't batten down soon you'll fucking freeze to death. In case you forgot how winter gets here. Is your chimney cleared yet?"

"Is my what now." Zachery blinks, fingers tight around the hammer but confusion making for a distracting enough thing that threats fall by the wayside. "Oh, is that why — the smoke. That makes sense now."

He pulls away from the house and peers up while slipping the extra nails in his pocket. "I've got blankets." He adds with extra determination in his voice, even though he reaches to tug his collar up as if to hide his very much not-determined look of confusion. It's that damn wind. "They're warm."

Mention of smoke earns a concerned stare, mixed with disbelief. Does he not know this stuff?

"You've been using it and haven't swept it? Merde, how are you even a grown man…" Dumortier steps aside to get a quick look at the brick stack atop the roof. "Blankets do not give you heat, they only hold it in." A doctor should know this, right? Lord.

"So unless you want to waste generator power on a space heater, or insulate your basement all over, we should probably get that cleared out."

Nonchalantly inserting himself into said equation.

Though there is initially not much of a response - verbal or otherwise - to anything said, Zachery's brow knits at the mention of the basement. "There's- the basement is an… ongoing process. There's a lot of stuff down there, ah - heavy things. I haven't finished the lighting down there, it's…" his tone implies there's more to it, but an uneasy and vague gesture is all that finishes the list. It's not worth the bother, evidently.

Maybe to physically walk away from the subject, he starts toward the front door, taking his hammer with him. "I've never used a chimney. We had one growing up, but we never lit it. Because we lived in a civilized world. With heating."

Somewhere in the bushes toward the back of the building, something moves. Then clicks.

Sounds like he's hoarding something down there, which, honestly, Rene wouldn't be terribly shocked about. Probably people parts in jars or something. He seems interested in the vaguery of explaining the state of the basement, but is duly pulled back by the problem at hand. Zach turns to the house, and his shadow tails right behind.

"Fireplaces are a mess, but absolutely worth it. You don't seem to mind mine, either." But that could be something else talking. Rene opens his mouth to add something else, and hesitates in front of the porch to cock his head. He could swear he heard something, and takes a half pace to the side, piqued.

"Do you have traps laid out?"

"Yours nearly burned my face off that time I fell asleep in front of it," Zachery half turns while walking, while the second question registers. When it finally does, he stops, then stares back in the direction from whence he came, head lolling to one side.

"Wait, what? Traps? Have you met the people around here? Byron walked right in through my door one time, I'd find him in a trap within 20 minutes of setting it, I'm fairly sure." His eye darts from Rene to some foliage nearby, then to the car hidden mostly under a tarp, then back up to Rene, shoulders dropping and back straightening.

"… Hold on." His bruised face lifts, slack jawed for a few seconds before a hesitant sort of hopefulness plays across his face. "You heard it too?"

"Byron is a phaser. Of course he did. And he's too good for traps…" A response, half-hearted, distracted. Rene looks up with a brow arched, and he follows the line of sight to the tarp, brush, back to one another. "Well, yes, that's why I fucking asked about the traps." He ends up between exasperated and sarcastic, erring to the former. They all know how 'mysterious noises' tend to go.

Rather than wait for any further questions or answers, Dumortier picks up his boots and starts towards the back.

"See, I don't know if it's traps. Or maybe it is, but I haven't…" Words trailing off, Zachery moves toward the tarp with a confidence that says he probably isn't expecting a surprise bear trap beneath the dirt on his way there. Probably because he's done this exact thing many times now.

The tarp is ripped away from the front end of his vehicle with a loud rustle of synthetic material, flopped over the windshield. The hearse sits, filthy, but otherwise undisturbed. "It's NEAR here. Always near here."


But though it's still technically near the car, Dumortier is closer. Something moves through the brush in starts, like a bird that's slightly too big for the path it's trying to carve through the twigs and autumn leaves.

Zachery, upon hearing the movement and fixing his eye on it as best he can, says simply, firmly, "Get it for me."

"Near? The fuck are you on about…" Rene freezes in his tracks when he hears it again, eyes sharp when he focuses on the underbrush. They narrow. While he prides himself on not listening to just anyone, Dumortier wants to get it too.

So he does just that! Small frame bursts forward, a fox pouncing on something potentially killable- - though his aim is to force brush aside, not sink his teeth in.

Zachery stays still, hands balling into fists as he stands in the cold of mid-November, his eye following the movements. "I've — I meant more…" There's something defeated about his flat tone, now. "I've eaten shit before, just trying to dive after it like that, but sure, go ahead."

Either way, it's entertaining.

Meanwhile, the thing in the bushes burst forward and away from its attacker, more quickly this time, hurdling itself through some branches with a crispety crunch of dried twigs and leaves. As some of them fall away under the movement, something round gleams. Shimmery, kicking tiny flurry of appendages out against the ground and anything they might catch on, to try and propel itself forward.

And then, still flailing its four needle-sharp appendages… it turns. Enough to swivel the eyeball that makes up most of its body to what it can see of the human nearby.

Tiny friend vanishes into bushes, until they bow outward like a part in water and let Rene pounce more properly. The fact it is mechanical and invasive earns some particularly strong ire.

"What?" Teeth clench as Dumortier reaches out to try and snatch up the contraption. Robot? He is not a fan. Thorny bush prickles beyond his reach to herd it closer to his hand. "You little shit, whatever you are - - I'll turn you into tinfoil - -"

—Zachery looks no less pleased about the whole ordeal, stepping forward to get a better look at the scuffle. But when he sees the tiny culprit, it sparks a memory that sends an eager grin onto his face. "It's that thing! The thing - the fucking EYE. I caught it at Raytech, under a bucket, once - the…"

But the grin fades all at once as yet more memories come to him, and his enthusiasm fizzles to a murderously displeased half-lidded stare. He steps forward, over and onto bowed over greenery, crushing twigs and small branches on his slow, resolute walk to get a better look. "I fucking knew it," He adds, through gritted teeth, "and I now, I have proof."

The mechanical noise of limbs slows, then stops the moment the little robot leaves the ground and the needle appendages fail to make contact with anything. They retract up to its dirty covered, partially mossridden orb-like body. All save for one, which tries to tuck itself neatly up with the rest, but…


… comes to dangle back down before a tiny mechanical whirr announces its trying again. Only to - click - get the exact same result a second later. The eye, modeled after a human's, rotates in its base and fixes itself on Rene's face, an aperture in blue metal iris tightening to focus a dirty lens, like a pupil shrinking into a dot, before growing in size until the inky black almost overtakes the mimicry of an iris.

Bucket? Rene only partly registers what Zach starts babbling. He lifts his spidery prize as the other man stomps over, crouched down and looking pleased as pie.

"What was that about 'proof'?" blue eyes flicker to Zach and back down to inspect the eye, complete with triumphant laugh. "Ha, it's kind of cute. I hate it." He grabs the hem of his shirt and proceeds to rub grime from the lens. His own eyes seem to gleam back, a magpie look. "I think it's taking pictures. Do you have an admirer? I've got a shank or two."

Kidding. Probably. Rene takes the broken little leg between his fingers to examine it better, finally standing up.

"Not unless a little red bird has taken a shine. This thing?" Zachery's crouch down next to the captured prey and its captor is an abrupt one, maybe the result of the leftover energy from the other 20 times he was trying to catch this thing. (That must have been before it broke that leg, surely.) He breathes out a hiss as he reaches to thunk a knuckle onto its clear front. "It's been here for months. Like some sort of sick joke waiting for me to find it. What happened to turning it to tinfoil?"

Nothing seems to be wrong with the robot's little leg, at least not outwardly - but when it tries to fold itself up against the body one more time, but never quite makes it up there all the way, resetting to its previous position as if by ways of a misaligned gear.

Zachery seems ill-inclined to pity it, grimacing before asking monotonously, "… Do you have any gunpowder? Let's blow this thing to smithereens."

"So it belongs to Raytech. Why would they send this out here?" Holding the tiny bot in one hand, Dumortier pries a bobby pin from his chest pocket and proceeds to try and take a peek inside the groove. Maybe he can fiddle it into working. "Much less for /months//."

There is probably not much luck on his side trying to muscle gears back, but he tries it nonetheless. Just to see if he can.

"Why the hell would I have gunpowder on me? This isn't Roanoke. And I need my bullets. Have anything inside? We can fuck with it and I can hand-deliver its corpse."

"I didn't think you'd have it with you." Zachery snaps back, though more down at the bot than at the person he's actually talking to. "I have a few theories on why an eyeball is following me around, most of it having to do with someone I may have slightly underestimated. Maybe more than once."

The bobby pin is met with resistance through tightly fitted seams and less leeway than might be hoped for. But the misaligned leg leaves just enough room for something to slip past.

"Part of me hopes she's watching, honestly." Zachery starts again, sneering and leaning closer, peering at the bot to see its pupil shrink again just as the bobby pin hits inner workings. "Because—"

Across the mechanical eye's surface, suddenly, appear two numbers, centered and bright red.

10 … 9 …

Zachery freezes. "Oh."

"Waiiit a damn minute." Dumortier lifts his head from the eye to Zach. "Was this someone who has something to do with your- -" Pin slips, the eye lights up and bathes both of their faces in crimson.

"If she's watching she's laughing- -" Rene squeaks as he's startled, juggling the eye and throwing it like a hot-potato at Zach.

Hot potato bot botato lands right in Zachery's arms, caught by way of reflex, even if his currently slightly wide-eyed vision does not not make for a clean catch and more of a fumble.

8 … 7 …

The numbers that greet him when he flips the bot around right side up again are met with a quiet, "Aaaaaaaaa?" Before he stands up straight with a START, darts a look to Dumortier, then glances back down to the bot.

And. Holds it, with both hands, straight up to his own face, fixing the eyeball unblinkingly with his own. "Hey, Sunshine, hypothetically, if she's watching,"

6 …

He grins, suddenly, fighting back a chuckle that ends up leaving him anyway.

5 …

"What's your bet she wouldn't actually fucking murder me?"

As he chucks it at his friend, Rene looks increasingly alarmed, about ready to smack it away if it tries to come back his direction. No, no hot botato.

"The f- -" Smaller hands wrap around Zach's wrists when he lifts the contraption to his face. Even the use of that loving nickname doesn't seem to deter him. Or calm him. "Put it down! Throw it! Mon dieu, you idiot- - I don't want to bet anything!"

Something about the prospect of an explosive in reach sets the blonde on edge, even more than it ought to, all things considered. Even without concentrating, Zachery can see how adrenaline is now working overtime; heart rate up, erratic nerves, brain firing like pop-rocks. It is all very much fearful.

"Throw it away!" While Dumortier isn't trying to take it back, his fingers do tighten on Zach's sleeves, brow bent. "Please- -"

Today, for some obscured reason, he is not a gambling man.

Zachery's eye stays fixed on the eye behind the numbers, as they continue to tick down, light of its face reflected on his.

4 …

But when his wrists are grabbed, new information floods in. This particular kind of intuition might not be quite as powerful as empathy, but noticing the particulars of Dumortier's current state is still more than enough to distract, at the very least, his gaze landing on the blond's face for a second or two.

3 … 2 …

Before flitting right back to the numbers. This time, the enthusiasm fades quickly from Zachery's face, replaced by the fear that should have probably been there a little earlier as he pulls his arm free from his friend's grip, yanking the bot up over a shoulder —

1 …

— and throws it.

For a split second, having only just been let go, the display shows an angry red 0 before the bot's clear lens bursts open with a flash and a loud, tinny BANG. Tiny fractured bits of metal go flying. It lands in a bed of sand and autumn leaves, fizzing dramatically and rolling over just the once, blackened.

For all intents and purposes, its bark was worse than its bite. And still, Zachery ends up realising he's holding his throwing hand to his chest afterwards.

"Oh," he says again, dully, looking down at tiny, shiny splinters lodged in the skin of his palm and fingers. "That could have been my face."

True to his panic, Rene reels his hands back as the ticker goes further, stepping blindly backwards and stumbling onto his backside. The last thing he sees is the wind-up, because he's hidden his head under both forearms, face ducked.

He doesn't look up even after the sound of the bang. Not until Zachery speaks again, and that is when Rene lowers his arms; his body is still straining, nerves all wrong. It's an unfamiliar sensation to get from him, so normally composed and full of spunk.

"…Are you okay?"

"I'm great," comes Zachery's reply almost instantly, voice louder when he repeats, more cheerfully, "I'm great!"

Only after another chuckle leaves him in surprise - fueled half by relief, half by disbelief - does he look down past his hand, which is held still in exactly the same position. "… Are you? It's fine, we're fine. We're fine!" Nevermind the tremble of injured hand, look at the wide grin returning to his face. It's fine!

He's great. Of course he is. Dumortier stays on the ground a minute longer, pressing the heels of his hands against his eyes in an effort to calm himself down. Some more study of how the close-quarters explosive cowed him is just like the sensations given off by a soldier who has seen too much.

"I'm- - I'm fine." Pushing himself to his feet, Rene looks down to where he landed, hands and back muddied and the space around him even further decayed. Crunchy leaves have gone black, dead grass and bramble creating a tacky piece of ground. The pale of his face turns up to Zachery, eyes just like his friend may have expected. Something haunted, anyhow. It's discomforting, distant, red-rimmed. "I'm fine…"

Outwardly, little about Zachery changes as he meets that gaze. Grin holding even as his eye lingers on dead plants and finally, when he curls the fingers of his uninjured hand inward and looks toward a bit of smoke rising from the ground. That is easier to look at, by a long shot.

Even if he does not technically have to look to notice.

"We're heading inside," he announces suddenly, taking a big step decidedly not in the direction of the door leading to inside. Instead, he's heading for what remains of the bot, kicking away trailing undergrowth in order to reach down for the bot's remains where it landed. "We'll have some tea or something. The oolong's pretty good." He rises again, lifting the bot by a dangly leg and turning to look back and to say, brightly, "Goes great with lies."

In his head, buried there, is the knowing that Zachery can- - somewhat literally- - see right through him. But he doesn't address it internally, much less out loud. Dumortier quiets and smears mud from his fingers into his coat, brow pinched. A tentative look moves after Zach when he goes to fetch the destroyed little spy rather than head to the house.

Rene gives the spider a brief look before he takes his attention to the words spoken. A flicker of shame crosses that naturally intent expression of his, brows lowering and mouth pressed tight. Even now, his heartbeat slows down, breaths trying hard to go from shallow to full.

"Yeah. Kind of does, doesn't it." Agreement is unneeded, yet there it is. "I can still… um. Help with your fireplace." Rene clears his throat. "If you'd like."

"You say that as though not letting you was ever an option." Zachery offers a direct enough reply, but keeps his attention on the burst metal creation dangling from his fist, squinting at its insides and what little he can make out of its workings. His other hand is still held awkwardly still.

"Only now, I get to pick metal out of my literal surgeon's hands while you do it, because this is apparently the life I'm living now." With that, he turns and moves again, destroyed prize swinging in his grasp as he moves past Dumortier. "Both things will take time. Plenty of time for you to talk, in fact." Flatly, echoed: "If you'd like."

The first response out of Zach equals a sigh through the nose, a smile teasing at Rene's mouth. That's about right. No quip back about his hands, though. He is trying not to think back to the moment those little numbers starting counting down. His own hands brush faintly against one another, eyes turned to them. Dumortier looks up as Zach starts his wandering back towards the house, brow pinching once more when he turns to follow, feet soft on the ground.

"You can watch me, then. So next time you can do it." Rene pipes up near the other man's elbow, eyes lifted. "Or I could just be your personal chimney sweep." Levity is only part of the process, and the blonde adds more seriously, "I think I would. Like. Maybe a little."

"A little it is."

Once inside, Zachery does not, in fact, make tea. He takes the first door to the right, into the small clinic that was for a good amount of time, the only finished part of the house. But the living room and open kitchen area he joins after grabbing a handful of supplies has been fixed up, if lacking a little in homeliness.

The fireplace stands between almost ceiling-height bookshelves, a leather couch and chair pointed at it despite its unusable state. The wooden kitchen table is still well within view of the area, and Zachery sits down in one of the mismatched chairs that surrounds it, sliding disinfectant, cotton balls and three different kind of tweezers onto the tabletop. Regardless of where Dumortier is, without even looking up, he says, "At least we've still got daylight."

Something, somewhere down the hallway that separates living room from clinic, hums an electric hum.

Shoving it all back down isn't easy. As Dumortier steps into the house behind his friend, first things first means poking his head around. The clinic was passably familiar, so he skips it and heads in to investigate other rooms. Mostly unlived in, but one always needs a kitchen and a place to sleep. He's seen worse. He's been worse.

Arms crossed, the blonde is standing in front of the unlit fireplace when Zachery roams back into view. Rene turns a look through to the kitchen.

"Maybe firelight, later." Despite soft steps the floor still creaks, and he silently notes the hum in the back of his mind presumably being a generator of some stripe. Unused fireplace implements still sit tucked away, dusty from disuse and ignorance. Wrought iron is still wrought iron, though. Rene pulls his hair back and then frees one of the pokers, all the while more or less keeping Zach in his peripheral sight. Perhaps it's Zach who should be watching him, because amidst the shuffle the little guy disappears between glances.

But trust is trust. And apparently there's enough of it here to where Zachery is preoccupied with squinting down at his hand, and with the pain that only just seems to register in his expression when he shoves tweezers into skin, swiping cotton soaked in disinfectant over any area from which a splinter is removed immediately afterward. Having to work with his non-dominant hand makes the process a little more tedious.

After a couple are fished out and set aside, he looks up and starts to say, "This is a bit of a pain, actually. Easier on others. Have you seen any glasses ar-" … only to find he's looked up just as his helper has gone missing. And also, somewhat belatedly, to realise where he left his glasses. Behind, notably, some locks.

Hand still blotted with disinfectant, he drops the tweezers onto the table and pushes his chair back with a loud scrape of chair legs on wood floor and starts making his way into the hallway with knitted brow.

In the time that Zachery goes to investigate for himself and leave his clutter behind, any scritch-scratching happening in the fireplace has subsided; the quest for his glasses into the hallway does find him a tiny troublemaker- - who is currently rooting around in the closet at the far end.

"How do you not have a proper dustpan?" The muffled question hits as Rene stands straight and turns a look over his shoulder to where he can hear steps approaching. Brows arch, quizzical. See? Everything is fine. It's fine. "The chimney isn't too bad looking, all things considered. Just neglect."

Nevermind Zachery almost tripping over himself stepping into the hallway, yes, good. "Ah —" He does not look away from Rene when he is found, with a look of racing thoughts that don't particularly seem to find a satisfying end.

What to do with this. Sit it out, wait for the potential problem to blow over? Surely that. Okay.

"I'll get a new one. Dustpan." He answers, both rushed and with a bit of a delay, continuing to stand in the hallway. Not looking at the bolt locks in the door just beyond where he's looking. Straightfaced save for a twitch of his brow, he continues, "Not sleeping in my coat will be nice. Upstairs bedroom might be worse than down here."

To get there, he had to have seen it. The door. Locks. Zachery knows him well enough to know that insatiable burn the little thief gets.

He hasn't said a thing.

Which is possibly worse.

"Right." Clear blue eyes avoid the curious draw away from Zachery. "Once the heat gets going, maybe there's a need to Christen the upstairs." The return of friendly teasing is a good sign for his mood, even if it's a small shift. "But yes you won't need the coat. Blankets maybe. I don't know why you haven't fixed the house up to that generator, though. Are you that cheap?"

Dumortier plants the tip of his poker and poses there with a found broom. "Your hand is still a mess."

Though the teasing manages to draw a dip of his head that Dumortier should know well enough to be a sign of annoyance, the lingering continues from Zachery. Who eyes the broom, then the poker, then slooowly starts to turn as if to head back into the living room. But does not, actually, do so.

"Can't a man between jobs be allowed a little bit of cheapskating? It's been a little bit like college, actually, complete with scrambled eggs and coffee every meal." He lifts his hand to squint it, then… finally and slowly wanders back out of sight. "I thought we were supposed to be talking about you. Spit it out."

"If you have a generator to start with, you're not completely slumming it." The humming, he means. Rene just tilts his head in regard to college life, mulling inwardly that lots of people with college life just sound like his…life-life.

Zachery doesn't get his usual shadow when he heads back to his operating table; Dumortier hangs back, leaning on broomhandle and considering the walls. His mouth flattens on reinspecting the locked door, now that he is out of sight.

"Spit what out?… My losing my shit over the very real chance of you getting your face blown off?"

"Pssh!" Zachery replies from the living room, sitting slowly back down at the kitchen table and continuing his picking, wincing now that most of the adrenaline has left his system.

"I don't think even the possibility of this handsome face leaving your life would rattle you quite so badly. Or rather," he pauses to inhale through gritted teeth as he slowly pulls a shiny sliver out of his thumb and places it on the table. "So specifically."

Unbeknownst to his host, Dumortier is memorizing the models and details of the basement locks. Perhaps it is habit. Or perhaps intent. Either way, he forcibly pulls himself from it and back to the living area.

"I would be very sad if it did." Reintroducing themselves has gotten to be- - nice. Camaraderie of this kind is a rarity, and it's nice to have it. Even if they butt heads aplenty. Rene puts the broom to task, steadily sweeping old debris from the fireplace. Focused there, instead.

"…I didn't want to fight in the war. I tried not to." It's dread that sits as a prelude to the rest; familiar stories, and even after a few words Zachery can probably figure out the direction it's headed. "I got left behind. More important people to save, je suppose. Wasn't the first time I was on my own," Rene's sweeping pauses, and amidst the lazy roll of ash at his boots he looks up, briefly, tone subdued. "Not the first time I'd seen death. Have a hand in it. You know."

They're all bad here.

"But even I have a limit. More like- -" His shoulders hunch as he goes back to sweeping. "…More like I had one, and it snapped," Another pause, a heavy ellipses. "And I've never…" … "It's really fucking hard to glue anything back together after it's been blown to shit."

Zachery is quiet as he listens, picking things out of his hand a little more easily once he knows Dumortier is within sight. Pressing a thumb to where a foreign body was big enough to draw a tiny bit of blood upon its exit, he sighs.

"Can't relate," leaves him coldly and without looking up, "I think I was always deemed simultaneously too useful and helpless to resist taking with. Not to say that's a good thing - I've bounced from well-guarded claw machine to claw machine, but. Well-guarded nonetheless."

He steals a glance upward, at the ground being swept, then briefly over the other's face before turning his attention downward again. "You just burst your flower pot, is all. None of it will fit the way it did without cutting away at how you've grown."

'Can't relate' is met with a soft noise, bordering a scoff. Sure, Jan. What Zach describes after is a series of (mis)fortunes, which Rene is passably familiar with.

"Well-guarded doesn't always mean 'well'." A glance up when he murmurs this, brow arching back as he is given that stolen look. Turning his face away means more to Dumortier than the words do. He sweeps mounds of ash and debris together into a hillock on the floor. A metaphor shaped like a plant pot is apt enough, and for a time Rene is silent as he fusses with broom. For now, at least, the bed of the fireplace is cleaned out.

"Cutting is definitely not on the table." Dumortier's chuckle is dry. "Fuck if I know how to find a bigger pot."

Zachery, too, seems fine being quiet. Uncharacteristically so, maybe, even account for what he's occupying himself with.

Even when he does reply, it comes a little quietly - not the quiet that accompanies focus so much as thoughtfulness. "I'm starting to think the only way is to make one." He puts the tweezers down, turns his injured hand over, and carefully balls it into a fist. All good, if a little painful. "Anything life gives you for nothing is only an accident. Do you want to live off of those?"

Broom is exchanged for iron, and until they find a substitute dustpan the pile of soot will remain in the corner. Rene gives the mantle a testing, idle tap of prong, brick and metal meeting with a thud.

"You could put some plants up here." Because of course he can.

"I was born an accident, ami." An amused, wry tone with it, Dumortier looks up to where Zachery tests his newly shard-free digits. He stifles the fresh memory of freaking the hell out. "I learned how not to live off of accidents…" Stooping to step into the fireplace, soon comes the sounds of him scratching around in there like a raccoon. "This is different. All of that was - - outside." This is inside. It's not a real pot.

"So grow those roots out," Zachery's answer comes easily, looking up to Dumortier while still running fingers along his palm as if waiting for something he's missed to catch on skin. "In whatever way you can. However…"

Between breaths, some unspoken amusement pulls at the corner of his mouth. "Born by accident or not, I'm assuming you wouldn't like to die by accident to match it. Without purpose. Some sort of… place. In the world."

This time, leaning to rest his back against the chair and chin lifting, he does not look away.

"Do you have room to talk about purpose?" The familiar face peeks out from the edge of the fireplace's mouth; delicate features already carry a small smudge or two. "No offense, but haven't you given me the impression that you're not sure where you stand either?" It lacks accusation, and Rene seems earnest in asking.

"No, I don't want to die on accident. Or not having… something." Dumortier adds the second more quietly, alluding to a bigger fear. "I was getting there, before. No clue what I wanted after I got money and power, heh. Once upon a time I tried to do the university thing… that… didn't work out."
"So what's your place? Beyond watching me make a mess of myself."

"Look at you, giving me guff. Feeling more and more like yourself again, then." He'd love to take credit, clearly. Still peering over from his spot at the table, Zachery shifts in his seat and leans an elbow onto the chair's back. "I'll admit, I do tend to stray a little. But I keep busy," said as though this is a positive, head canting, "with a few projects here, new connections there. Realising what matters, and what doesn't. I'm getting more done than ever."

The fact that he's a little racoon-faced at the moment, what with the bruises, does not impede the amount of confidence in his grin when he adds, "Big things on the horizon."

Taking credit sits fine, it seems. Rene's expression flickers with a tight smile.

"Keeping busy is what you call it?" It's still an answer that he accepts, though. Zachery's grinning gets him a dubious one in return, before the blonde takes the iron to something stubborn in the chimney base. "Big things?" Something mangled and sooty hits Dumortier's boots. "So what matters to Doctor Handsome? Oh- - welp- - "

Space for an answer is interrupted briefly by a petrified animal getting held up by a twisted leg.

"See, this is why I let you do these things. Don't breathe too much of that in, now." Zachery will be on this end of the room, thank you very much.

Though he does get up, making his way to a kitchen counter, only just disappearing out of sight behind a cupboard, rummaging around inside with a clink of glass. "Let me answer your question with another. With everything that's gone on around here the past month - or hell, include the rest of the world in that - do you not feel like things are coming to a head?"

Whatever it is- - was- - it's unidentifiable. Rene just steps out and sets it caaarefully off to the side. That seemed to be the biggest problem the chimney had, so maybe this will be easier than anticipated. Discarding the animal gives him time to consider the question for a question.

"Yes. I do." Dumortier grouses, "And I hate it. Out here we just want left the fuck alone. I haven't had issues in the city yet. I hear things. See them. Like always. I try not to get involved, which doesn't always go as planned."

"You can't not get involved and also get left alone. Trouble's already here." Lifting two mugs out of the cupboard, he sets them on a counter where he can lean onto his elbows and throw a smirk back toward the fireplace.

"Listen, you asked me what I care about. And the answer is, quite honestly, I don't." Somehow, this admission puts what looks like it might be an actual smile onto his face, and his tone lifts into the kind people might reserve for talking about their wedding or child's achievements or something equally joyful. "I don't think I care anymore. The world is unfathomably big, and unfathomably filled with processes we will never be aware of. And even then, there's countless worlds like this besides. If this one's fucked, so be it, it's a single kernel in a whole field of corn. If it falls - it's for the dogs."

Somehow still more chipper he asks with no beat's pause allowed, "Sugar in your tea?"

There are another couple of things that Rene yanks free, maybe old bird nests. Now and again Zachery can feel the whisk of of outside air.

"It sounds like you care about not caring." Dumortier is abrupt in his presence in the ktichen, dusting his hands and poking around for a rag. "… You have a point though." He doesn't discount the validity of how Zach sees things, even if it's unclear if he agrees with any of it. Maybe a touch.

"Jealous of the vanishing astronauts?" It's a prod, as Rene appears at his side to lean against the countertop. "Even if this world's fucked… there's still some good shit in it. Yeah. Sugar. You know it. Good shit like getting high." With the earlier despair, the small laugh is a welcome sound. "And a fun night. Don't you get those anymore?

Gaze following the movement around the home, Zachery scoffs. "They've lost their meaning a little. Slightly more since Nicole, ah - …" For a moment, there's a flicker of something else. Something a little reluctant not quite making it past a blink or two.

But then, oh, tea. Yes. He moves, right hand still held close, reaching down to fidget with a canister of a stovetop. "The reason I brought this whole thing up, though, wasn't that. Of course there's still fun, and of course there's still good things, but that's sort of my point. In a world where not everyone can win — in a world that's going to hell in whatever shape or form that hell might take…"

There's a few clicks of the stovetop, then a FSSH as fire ignites in a ring, the light squashed quickly by a beat up, steel kettle Zachery plants on top. Only then does he look to Dumortier again, expectant. "… Wouldn't you want to be at the Devil's side?"

For all his banter, Zachery and his Nicole has been something Dumortier hasn't been keen on jerking at. It was enough of a positive that he let it lie. Though now, it gets quizzical looks. Didn't end well, he takes it.

Crystal blue eyes watch the one-handed efforts, ears absorbing the words. Is Hell a state of mind? Possible. Zachery's manner alludes in such a way. Expectancy receives curiosity, and a lean closer, elbow pressed to counter. Conversational distance becomes secreting.

There's still an ember of troubles behind the look, remaining from before; masking it is a calm humor. "Are you the Devil in this metaphor?"

"Wouldn't that be a thing." A laugh only barely escapes Zachery, a little bitter for how he's not letting the cheer on his face slip. He pulls open a drawer and throws some teaspoons onto the counter with a tiny clatter of metal, then digs into yet another cupboard for tea bags and sugar. Where was it.

"I feel like I'd look alright with some horns, actually, but no, still fairly helpless in the grand scheme of things. Still just. Human." Pulling a half empty box of tea bags out and sliding it in front of his guest, he breathes out a dry chuckle. "Maybe slightly better than just that. Whether or not 'evolved' is the right term for us, aren't you happy you're on this side, and not theirs?"

A genuine question from the looks of it, asked with a cant of his head as he waits for a reply, eye fixed on the other's expression.

"So what would we even be? If not Evolved?" Dumortier resists the urge to sit himself up on the counter and instead takes one of the plain teabags, slides himself a mug. "Yes, in any case. I am. If I wasn't on this side… maybe I'd be a florist or something. Boring. Small." In every sense of the word.

"And If you ask me I'd at least label you a lowercase devil." Zachery's fixed look only gets profile, backlit by window light. "Your side might be fun. We could have us a blast, non?"

"We could," comes almost without pause, as Zachery lingers just a moment, then turns his attention to the kettle. Because clearly watching it will make the water inside boil faster.

"See, you've got some life left in you yet. To push back. To live a life that casts a big enough shadow over the old one that you'll forget it even existed. Forget pots, uproot the fucking streets." Something content slips into his expression, still peering casually down toward the stove. "Because you're not a florist. Question is, what are you, then?"

This is, apparently, not a question that needs an answer, because before there's enough time to answer it, with the low rumble of water beginning to heat, he adds resolutely, "I'm going to put you in touch with someone to find out."

Dumortier falls silent while Zachery continues, the bend of his brow deepening as he does; his eyes stay relatively ahead, and he has no trouble echoing the question to himself. What are you?

A scavenger. A jack. A bloodied shadow. A person glued back together with paste and tape. There are pieces that never cracked, but others…

He never does get to answer, of course. Not on the outside.

"Wh- -?" Rene makes a sound of confusion, short and small. "The fuck are you talking about?" He has no other reaction except a bemused chuckle. "Are you going to introduce me to your therapist or something? Or a fortune teller, I suppose that would work too."

Another noise rises gradually above the gentle burbling of water - steam starts to escape from the dented kettle is accompanied by the slow climb of a whistle ringing out into the cold space of the kitchen area.

Zachery, leaning onto a hand he slides onto the edge of the counter while he looks back over to study Dumortier's face, waits for a moment. And then says, simply, smile turning back into grin, "Don't worry about it."

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