nicole_icon.gif zachery_icon.gif

Scene Title Roaming
Synopsis Desire should be allowed to roam freely. The range is endless.
Date June 17, 2019

Providence: Nicole's Farmhouse

It's late. Too late, really, for the headlights of a hearse to come sweeping through the greenery that surrounds Providence, cool and dark under nary more than starlight once the car passes.

It is not taken far, reluctantly parked in a field where wilderness only just barely meets sparse population. Zachery goes through the motions to exit the car, driver's side, and nearly slams the door shut before he catches it mid-swing. He deliberates for a few seconds, in the quiet that the city very much does not provide, and closes it more slowly, more gently. Click.

What homes he can see when he looks out over the greenery have gone dark. After a few blinks, a dry swallow, and a sigh, he starts moving.

The place Nicole has come to call home, for the moment, finds him on its doorstep. Unhurried. Unsure. Unshaven. And dressed in what may very well be some black pajama pants and what is definitely a greenish blue shirt that reads '2008 Harlem Soup Kitchen Helper Extraordinaire'. His car key still dangles from the fingers of his left hand. He has no idea what time it is. And he knocks on the door, knuckles first. Shave and a haircut.

One window of the darkened house lights up after about a minute. The illumination moves from the window upstairs, down to the ground floor, then to the entry of the house. The door swings open to reveal Nicole with one hand held out in front of her, sparks dancing between her fingers - providing the light - dressed in a floor length nightgown of cream and green flannel.

“Ben, what’s—” She stops and blinks against the darkness that spans the short distance between the two of them. “Zachery?” Her voice is thick from sleep, but her vision seems to clear in that moment of recognition. In the night like this, the faint glow of her eyes seems all the brighter.

"Zachery." The echo of a confirmation leaves the visitor matter-of-factly, if a little tired. He's standing still, but his center of gravity is a little… off-center, which is only further accentuated when he angles his head ever so slightly sideways to observe that hand, then to fix his gaze on Nicole's face.

The white surface that fills his left eye socket reflects the colour of the sparks a little more easily than a real eye would, but crow's feet deepen on both sides all the same, even if the rest of his face is still largely neutral. Somewhat hoarsely, he finally says, less than informatively, "I'm sorry to wake you."

With her hand still on the handle of the door, Nicole finally steps back and swings it open all the way. Still dumbfounded to find her… Zachery on her doorstep, she ushers him inside with a wave of that lit up hand. She sweeps into the living room on bare feet and moves to a side table where she sparks a lantern to life and replaces its glass cover with care.

The electricity arcing from her fingers is extinguished.

“Have a seat,” she offers, gesturing toward a clean sofa that’s ragged around the edges, but seems serviceable enough.

On his way in, Zachery leaves his keys on the first available surface he comes across. Less out of habit and more for the reason that he has no pockets on him at the moment.

The clothes are different from how he's been dressed previously, certainly, but so is his gait. Though he still has the air of someone trying to carry himself a certain way - a proper way - his movements are a… little on the heavier side. He comes to a stop near the sofa, touches his fingertips down onto its back, but then lets his eye sweep the room to find Nicole again. "… I'd rather not. For now. Y-…" He stops himself, cracking a thin, unconvincing smile that disappears as quickly as it comes on. "Are you well?"

That blue glow tracks the man’s movements. “Fine,” Nicole replies easily, though not without a look of concern on her face. “I didn’t think you’d come all the way out here, if I’m going to be honest.” And she is, for the moment, as she lowers herself to sit on the previously motioned-to couch.

“Are you well?” That’s more polite than asking him if he’s hiding from something, which is what she’d really like to ask. Now she’s not being honest.

"I'm a little bit drunk," is the immediate answer she receives back, while Zachery just… stands, as if he's unsure what to think about the words that just came out of his mouth unplanned. "It seems a pattern, lately. As does -" Again, he stops, but only for a beat. "I've been roaming."

“You drove here.” Is not a question. The woman’s jaw sets and then shifts to one side as she chews on that bit of knowledge. Not that the roads are particularly congested, especially at this hour, but still… There’s disappointment in her expression, as that’s the emotion she decides on after her deliberation.

That jaw loosens again as lower lip is sucked between teeth and worried at. Nicole finally sighs, resigned. She can’t change what’s done, only move forward. “Can I get you some water?”

A dip of Zachery's head suggests that he's well aware that his mode of transportation was an unwise decision, but he does not break eye contact.

At the offer of water, he exhales in what sounds like amusement, eyebrows drawing closer to one another as his mouth pulls to one side in the beginnings of a smirk. "No, thank you." And he does sound grateful. A little drunkenly, but maybe also somewhat more softly spoken than he'd generally like to be. When he continues, his tone is a little firmer, his attention drifting to nothing somewhere halfway up to the ceiling. "I'd rather just… talk. Once I get my words together."

There’s a wariness to Nicole that she doesn’t bother to disguise. He’s seemed to respond… Maybe not well, but at least acknowledge it for what it is. “Okay,” is spoken carefully, not drawn out or with an implication that she’s judging him any further for his arrival.

Nicole’s head tips slightly as if to angle toward the stairwell off the foyer. Her gaze unfocuses a moment, shifting away from Zachery as she listens for something. Whatever it was, she either doesn’t hear it, or is satisfied with what she’s heard. He gets her full attention again. “What would you like to talk about?”

"I've been roaming." Remaining where he's standing, Zachery's hand pulls back from the sofa. He focuses on it for a moment, thumb running over the outside of his index finger in idle thought. Whatever was listened for, he seems not to have caught onto the importance of anything other than… whatever it is he's trying to say, at the moment.

"I've been roaming," He says again, brow furrowing with concern and the effort of trying to slur as little as possible, "and I keep… ending up places. Sometimes new places, sometimes old. Sometimes meeting new people, and sometimes… inexplicably, waking up where I don't belong. With…" He stops, gritting his teeth. Probably best not to mention the specifics of the last time this happened.

As if in an attempt to cut that narrative short, he tacks on immediately: "Tonight was heading that way, some way through a very nice apology bottle of scotch someone left me. But that's when I… I figured something out." Something he needs to regather the words for, apparently, because he falls silent again.

To her, he’s not making terribly much sense. Roaming, ending up places… “Places like this?” Nicole asks in a soft voice, brows lifting with the upturned inflection of the question. She can draw some kind of lines between with and wherever that might have been leading, but she does the courtesy of keeping that to herself. Her presumptions, after all, are just that, and may not be in the same zip code as correct.

“What did you figure out?” is another cautious ask. Fingers thread together in her lap to keep from picking at the flannel draped over her knees.

"It's places not like this." After a slow blink, Zachery leans to one side and starts a slow wander along the couch's length, steps carefully placed. For someone whose head is spinning just a little.

"'Cause they don't matter. The people don't… no, they matter." He frowns, frustration steeped into the butter chuckle that leaves him. "But they're safe. In some way - I… I know what to expect, or what… not to. Think I know - what to do when I lose them." Finally, he sits down, sinking down onto the sofa with a drawn out sigh. His attention resettles on Nicole, harder than before. Guarded, searching. "And here. I don't."

Nicole nods slowly, like she understands. But she doesn’t. Not really. “This place really isn’t much,” she says mildly, a jab at the state of her fixer-upper. While she’s put some furniture in it and dusted it off and swept the floors, the wallpaper is still peeling and the ceiling has water stains from where the roof once leaked.

That much she knows isn’t what he meant. Her expression shifts to one of near solemnity as she mulls over the implications of his words. The weight of his attention feels as though it settles squarely on her sternum. Her gaze drifts away from his eyes - natural and artificial - down the length of his nose and settles on the shape of his mouth for a moment. Then, she’s back up again where she should be. “I don’t either,” Nicole confesses.

Despite the subject (or maybe because of it) there is little give in Zachery's expression. He's already usually overly self-conscious at the best of times, and this… is not one of those, and he knows it.

"I don't understand you at all." This, too, leaves him coldly. Like he's throwing it across to Nicole without warning, simply to see her reaction. His own focus does not waver, even if his hands pull somewhat sluggishly into his lap. A little quieter, like he'd really rather keep it to himself instead, he adds, "… But I want to. Before I fuck it up."

There’s the barest twitch of her brows as they knit together, like a flinch at the pitch come screaming her way. But she holds her ground, and feels rewarded for it. “Let me let you in on a little secret, sweetheart,” Nicole murmurs, leaning in closer. “I don’t understand me most days either.”

She doesn’t understand why she found herself so instantly attracted to him, beyond her loneliness, which is no excuse. Why she showed off her ability to him. Why she slept with him.

Why she’d like to kiss him senseless to shut him up right now.

“You’re doing alright so far,” she says instead, but still reaches over to rest one warm hand against the side of his face, thumb resting against the cheekbone under his missing eye.

Maybe it's the hour, or the drink, or the fact that it's TIRING trying to be open about your emotions, but Zachery's face is leaned lightly into the touch before he can even think about it.

"Are you not…" He starts, quieter still, looking briefly away before his gaze darts back to Nicole's face, this time with a tired but genuine grin slowly making its way onto his face, "… forgetting about the arson, a little."

Nicole’s shoulders come up towards her ears slowly in a shrug. “You… eventually heeded my wisdom,” she muses with an impish little smile curving her lips. There was the near-arson incident, and it was more than a little concerning, but ultimately she talked him off that particular ledge. She’ll accept that victory for what it is and afford him what grace that allows.

“What do you want to know?”

In contrast to the lean from a moment ago, Zachery now pulls away from Nicole's hand - so he can lift his own up there, reaching for hers. His answer comes almost without pause. As though he's given this particular matter a good amount of thought before. "What do you want…"

But it's not finished, his fingers lightly pressing into hers before they slide down along her wrist. "… That you can't have?"

There it is. Something about the way he reaches for her, the way he speaks to her, like that. That is what sparks (pun unintended) Nicole’s interest. The question is straightforward enough while also having just that hint of the risque to it. Her eyes lid halfway, chin tilting upward to facilitate looking at him through a veil of lashes.

She knows the answer to this question in an instant, but it’s the wrong answer. It’s the one that makes her heart ache and would push him away. To admit she loves a man long dead is not the most romantic thing she could say right now.

Not that this question, she suspects, has anything to do with romance. “To run the world from the shadows.” If that’s the answer he suspected, then Nicole will know he lied about his ability. It’s not an entirely dishonest answer, either, and that surprises herself somewhat. Nicole genuinely misses politics and pulling strings. Her brows lift in a sort of challenge. What now?

At first, there is no response from Zachery, as he trails his hand further down her arm, around elbow, up to her shoulder and toward her neck, with the drag of somewhat slowed coordination.

"Well." He attempts a level voice and fails almost immediately, breathing out a chuckle which widens his grin. "I feel like the only way that could be true is because you'd be too bright for anyone to be able to ignore you. Like a… giant…" He leans sideways a little, slumping halfway into the cushion of the sofa, as if after the drink, the drive, and the relief of not having been sent away yet is catching up on him all at once. "Cattleprod… lightning bug… dictator."

Benevolent dictator,” Nicole corrects, as though his assessment could possibly be correct. In direct opposition to her assertion that she’d like to be in control, her head tilts back and to one side slightly, as if baring her throat to him like a submissive wolf.

Her eyes narrow faintly. “Not very polite to call me a cattleprod, you know.” In case he might be attempting to get some action tonight, he should know he’s on the wrong trail.

"Oh, I don't know," Zachery's attention turns to that neck, his words deliberate, even if he's halfway shoved himself into some furniture, "I feel like with the right motivation, you could keep some people in line very well."

His fingers slide over carotid artery hidden just under the surface, before coming up to push gently up against the line of her jaw. "… Maybe not me, but. Some people."

Nicole’s eyes flutter shut as he brushes his fingers over her skin. She exhales a sigh. “I could make you fall in line,” she insists, voice no longer husky from sleep, but something else entirely now.

“But what would be the fun in that?” A grin slides across her face and she opens her eyes again to fix on Zachery’s face. Half-slumped into the couch as it may be.

Zachery looks unconvinced, huffing out a breath in amusement, peering back. Looking a little more at ease than he has in her presence so far. Maybe due to the alcohol, maybe something else.

But… despite that, his answer comes in a conflicted sort of tone, voice barely above a whisper. "In a way, I think, you sort of have." His hand moves, thumb under her chin to angle it just ever so slightly. "Me being here and all. Seeking you out. Leaving in the middle of the night, taking risks. Just to do this. To be here. Now. Sitting next to you on a sofa, in the near dark, like a bloody teenager sneaking out after curfew."

He shifts his weight, slowly pushing himself away from the sofa's back, grin tired, but definitely still present past his look of observation. "I'm not sure I like that very much."

Arched brows lift, amused at this notion that she’s perhaps got him under some sort of spell. It’s the last sentence, however, that chases it away. The grin fades, and for a moment she looks apprehensive before she remembers to keep her guard up. Schooling her features back into something close enough to neutrality for her tastes, Nicole nods her head slowly.

“I guess I can appreciate that.” It’s given like a consideration, some kind of graciousness. Like it doesn’t make her scared that he’s going to turn around and walk right out the door.

And just why is she so scared of that anyway? Nicole thought she’d gotten over this sort of foolishness years ago.

Meanwhile, whatever happens on Nicole's face - and it is watched so very, very closely - brings some life back to Zachery's own, grin flaring back up again with a vengeance. Something about the hurt. The confusion. It's probably not healthy, but she makes so hard not to indulge a little.

"I don't like it because I find myself wanting to be past this." Having freed himself from the cushion, he now lets his hand slide to the back of Nicole's neck, and pushes himself closer to her. Up and over. A little clumsily, for several reasons.

"I want more dinners, I want quiet, together. I want this in the daylight. I want our first fight, for fuck's sake." For a moment, there's something overly self-conscious about the way his eyebrows twitch downward. Not that Nicole is granted a good look, since that face is going to be on her neck soon, unless she prevents it. "I want you."

She can tell he’s taking glee at her expense and it makes her angry, but only at herself. For letting him see her vulnerable. It shouldn’t feel like that, should it? But she’s never been good at being vulnerable with others. It’s always, it seems, been used against her. Never let them see you bleed was something of a motto for years. Letting someone past that placid exterior she puts on is…


There’s a quiet gasp from Nicole as his face buries into her neck. Her hands come up and grasp at his shirt at his shoulders for something to hold on to. Her bare toes curl. “Oh, god,” she whispers. “I want you, too. I—”

Her eyes fly open with a sudden realization. “My daughter’s asleep upstairs.”

There's… a pause, in Zachery's actions. An increase of weight leaning against the body under him, a… consideration, as unseen to her, his attention drifts momentarily away with a dart of his eye to the side.

But not for long. One more risk, before he places lips on skin.

"You'd best be quiet then, lightning bug."

Nicole’s gaze seems to follow Zachery’s off to the side, she’s listening for any signs that her daughter may be disturbed. Or worse, sitting at the top of the stairwell and listening to them carry on. When no evidence of either scenario is immediately forthcoming, the tension that had been building up in her posture starts to relax again.

Tipping to the side and then back, Nicole half-lays down onto the couch, waiting for him to shift his weight before she swings her legs up off the floor, letting her nightgown bunch up around her hips as she rests a foot on either side of him on the cushions. Reaching between them, she tips his head up so she can look at his face, held between both of her hands, and let him see her grin before she presses her mouth to his.

Maneuvering to allow Nicole the movement required, a somewhat impatient chuckle escapes him. He's silenced easily enough, somewhat surprised by the hands on his face, but considerably less so by what follows. That part is very much welcomed, and reciprocated with a grasp of nightgown, and a hunger — except.

Except that she should feel his muscles contract with an abrupt intake of air, and in an instant his face (and the rest of him) is pulled away and off to the side by sheer force of gravity when the heavy placement of a hand ends up being just shy of where it needed to be to land on the actual sofa. He'll blame this on the drinking later.


He tries to catch himself but fails, and ends up on the floor in a loud thumpathump of body parts and head - the latter first, momentarily stunned as he ends up sprawled out on his back.

Nicole tries in vain to help Zachery keep his balance to no avail. She half topples off the sofa in his wake, one hand braced against the floor keeping her from ending up in a tangled heap atop him. Grasping the back of the couch with her other hand, she hauls herself back into place. “Shit. Are you okay?”

Up the stairs, there’s a creaking of a door, followed by the sound of little footsteps. There’s only a few moments before there’s a worried “Mommy?” to accompany, presumably when Pippa finds her mother isn’t in her room.

Said mother drags a hand down her face and stifles a groan. Sitting up and pulling her nightgown back into place before swinging her legs back over the couch and pushing up to stand, she shakes her head. “I’ll be right back,” she whispers and heads for the darkened stairwell, sparks jumping between her fingers to illuminate the way and leave Zachery with the lamp’s glow. “Coming, baby. Stay right there.”

See ya, lightning bug.

Zachery's response is somewhat delayed, but almost immediately laced with amusement. "Y-yeah." It's equal amounts spoken and laughed out, turning his head only to see that Nicole's already gone.

Once he's alone, one of his hands reaches for the back of his head, gingerly running his fingers through his hair. Nothing wet, nothing warm. All good. He puuushes himself up onto the sofa again, wincing as another chuckle leaves him through gritted teeth. Both of his arms are dragged onto an arm rest, folded across one another, and his face goes planted right on top. He'll just… wait. Right there. A moment. Listening.

Eyes staying shut a little longer for every time he blinks.

Footsteps move across the floor overhead, first two sets and then just the one. Soft murmurations drift down the stairwell, soothing in lilt and indistinct with distance.

When Nicole returns, it’s with a blanket and pillow in her arms. She throws the latter down on one end of the couch and drapes the former over the back. She smiles fondly at the dozing form of her Zachery, resting her hands on his shoulders and leaning down to drop a kiss on his head. Whether that too is out of fondness or some motherly instinct to kiss it better is left open to his interpretation.

“I told her Mommy has a friend visiting from the city. She’s been told not to bother you, but…” No guarantees. “Come on. Let’s get you up off the cold floor.” Even if it is warm in the house.

"Sleeping on a sofa. Feels just like home." The smirk that the kiss ends up putting on Zachery's face is too tired for him to hold back, even if it goes along with something… a little conflicted looking.

Maybe it's okay, though. Either too worn out to argue, or unable to think of anything else clever to say (or both), he sinks himself down onto the couch and grabs a fistful of fabric so that he can pull at the blanket so that it's — sort of across his abdomen, at least. "Can be out of your hair by morning." He flashes a tired grin up at Nicole, acrylic eye shut while the other trails… vaguely elsewhere, downward from her face, as his words slow. "Got a real job at Raytech now. In a lab. Shouldn't be late." Spoken with questionable sincerity.

“You can stay as long as you like,” is sort of like a plea, but without the stink of desperation. Nicole takes hold of the blanket and unfolds it so it drapes over his body properly. “You can tell Richard I detained you.” The news that he has a job with Raytech is welcome. She’s proud, actually, and it shows in her smile and the crinkle at the corners of her eyes.

“Get some sleep. I’ll be just upstairs if you need anything. And I’ll make breakfast in the morning.” Dropping to a crouch and balancing herself on the balls of her feet with her hands against the seat of the couch, Nicole plants another kiss on his mouth. “Sleep well.”

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