Straight Into Traffic


dumortier_icon.gif zachery_icon.gif

Scene Title Straight Into Traffic
Synopsis Zachery doesn't quite get validation so much as he gets the runaround.
Date February 13, 2020

Red Hook Market

The Red Hook Market resides within the gutted shell of Textile Factory 17, a turn-of-the-century mill building that once served as the headquarters of New York's FRONTLINE civil defense organization. Miraculously, the building survived the civil war largely unscathed except for the total collateral loss of its electronics to the EMP that ravaged Manhattan. When the building was reclaimed by Gilbert Tucker in late 2015, it was remodeled with the intention of turning it into a central community hub for the entirety of the Safe Zone. Today, the multiple above-ground buildings serve as meeting halls, council chambers, offices, and storage rooms for the Safe Zone Cooperative. The basement levels, a labyrinthine maze of brick corridors, vaulted storage spaces, and small nooks, have become the sprawling home of the Red Hook Market, an open-air bazaar with free admittance to every Safe Zone resident. The market features pop-up vendor stalls, a single bar called the Red Hook Tavern, and food vendor stalls. Be sure to visit Eleanor, who has the best coffee in the safe zone at the corner in the main square.

The advent of gardening in the Safe Zone is a natural progression; especially with the fresh memories of periodic food shortages. Things have improved, and gardens are more popular than ever. A lot of raised beds in yards, the management of more community plots. For some reason or another, even Park Slope has been looking tantalizingly greener. Of course, that is probably just the nearness of spring against the backdrop of brown branches and evergreens.

An agrokinetic can make a mint by providing. (Pun only partly intended.) Providence's little caravan has brought the typical products along; among today's offerings alongside the regular ones- - a good helping of lovely yellow butter and a heap of cured ham. The bacon is a hit too.

Dumortier keeps his sales to a comfortable minimum; if he doled things out left and right, he'd eventually never sell a thing. The plants he has tiered up are a mix of ornamental and agricultural. Seed starts for vegetables and fruit shrubs, some flowers. But the winner is absolutely the roses, a few colors, all of them richly hued. Limited supply, of course. Even if he could make more in no time. People pay a lot for love(™).

Speaking of that whole idiotic pursuit.

A lone figure stands just at the corner of Dumortier's little domain, off to the side so as to not block the way for others to pass by and browse. He's not in his usual pea coat, but the replacement still cuts a dark shape against his surroundings.

"How do you manage." Zachery asks, with none of the intonation of a question, and the same amount of context provided. It makes for a strange greeting after a month of no words exchanged at all, but here we are, staring at ham, being cryptic.

Rene can tell that someone is watching him, even if his back is turned while he works; he lifts his head at the voice, glancing once over his shoulder and sneaking a sharp toothed little smile. Well, look who the cat dragged in. That said, he doesn't seem surprised.

"Hey there, Handsome." Dropping whatever he was fussing with, Dumortier looks to the young woman sitting at the other end and gives her a motion of his head. Bee-ar-bee. He moves over to the table across from Zachery, just laughing quietly and leaning into his hands on the surface. "How's the snakebite?" Yeah, no, didn't buy that one.

"Much better, actually," comes Zachery's reply, with a grin that seems to make its way onto his face against his will. "Now that I can move around a little more freely. Thank you for asking." So civil. He's in a much better mood than last time they spoke, even if there's tension hidden underneath.

As if by way of proving his point, he takes a few steps to get a better look at those roses, though not with an awfully kind look on his face. Part of that might be due to the fact that he's still walking with a bit of a limp. "Don't dodge the question, though, Sunshine. How do you manage." He repeats. "To have your shit together."

At least Rene seems satisfied with the answer, to a certain degree. Whatever it was that was happening- - leaving it alone seemed to have worked out. He'd been oh so tempted by the locked doors, and yet.

Still leaning on the table, Dumortier cocks his head after the smiling Zachery, watching the inspection of the flowers, the bit of weight favoring one leg over the other. Better, but not Fine. Scrutiny doesn't spare anyone right now, much less the Doctor; Sunshine takes note of where his tension sits- - everywhere?- - and the way he talks in that very cynical fashion. That's not as new. That he'd be actually interested in the plants, though- -

"Oh, I see. Thanks for thinking that." Zachery gets a more crooked smile this time, before the blonde follows quietly along; his face edges into view with Zach's rose inspection. "It's flattering. You interested? Or is this just admiring my togetherness? Because this morning I was not, for reasons I can't disclose."

That's even worse!

"No one is ever together in the mornings," comes Zachery's reply, dryly, maybe a little more so for having been accused of being flattering.

That same tension continues when he draws in a breath, and looks to Dumortier only when he's stopped moving. "Actually, for once, I might be suckered into your little scam. I need some…" He stops, jaw rolling as he considers his words. Just for a second, discomfort paints his expression, before it's straightened out again. Mostly. "Let's call it padding. Like when you think a wound might leak a little more than anticipated and you don't want it dripping past the gauze."

To Zach and mornings, he gets a tiny 'so sue me' shrug from Dumortier, who leans back from the table and dusts his hands of errant plant soil.

"Okay, first, ew. Second, what in the flying fuck are you on about?" Why does he even ask? He knows this is pretty standard behavior. Perhaps just for effect. What he doesn't know is what this gross attempt at problem solving is for. The blonde tacks on a jab, as he can't help himself. "And believe me, this is not the 'for once' you think it is." One fine brow raises up, a bemused expression on Rene's features as he rolls his sleeves back.

Alright, Doc, shoot.

Let's not linger on that. Because it's probably true.

"I have some… news, I need to deliver?" Zachery tries to get the conversation back on track. "To Nicole. And I had the hideously bad idea to do it tomorrow, because then if it turns out to be bad news, I can at least… I don't know. Distract her with some of those, maybe."

He gestures dismissively toward the roses without looking at them, face screwing up into what looks like disapproving of something or another. Maybe his own underlying nervousness. "This might surprise you but I'm not much of a romantic."

"No… no way." Dumortier slaps the tabletop lightly, feigning shock, just as expected of him. Amazing! Baffling! It's like he didn't know you at all!

"News, hnh?" Something about the confirmation seems to leak suspicion, though Rene keeps it to himself for the time being. Wait 'til after he buys something. "Flowers are definitely a distraction on Valentine's. So you've got that part down." Blue eyes narrow with mirth, smile small and restrained. Zachery is, from what he can tell, being absolutely serious; it's a fine line between one and the other at points. For his friend's sake, the agrokinetic addresses things as a salesman.

"Do you want the regular variety, or the ones that last longer? One's more, obviously, but they won't die as quickly, depending on what you do with them…" Moving down to stand with said flowers, kept cool and dewy, Rene gestures to the labeling and sticker prices. Several colors, and a few mixed, rosy-centric bouquets already put together. For Zach, he doesn't try the whole 'pitch' thing. No need.

For all that he scams, they are fair, for someone who can grow a rosebush to maturity in no time at all- - and given the scope of pay grades in the Safe Zone. He does want people buying.

Being serious is difficult sometimes. As is making a decision, evidently, because Zachery while wanders along to get a better look at the potential purchases on display, he comes to a somewhat rigid stop still looking absolutely none the wiser.

"What do you mean 'what you do with them'?" He asks suddenly, looking up at Dumortier and holding his gaze there. "Surely there's only so many things that can happen to them. What needs could they possibly have other than sustenance?"

"Not what they do, so much. Some people keep them dried or pressed after. Depends on what they're for. Just putting it out there." The holding of his gaze is accepted and returned. "That said, even sustenance is different. Most people don't try to keep them alive as long as possible. They see flowers as too fleeting."

It's not exactly a question Dumortier is new to. He reaches up to take one of the smallest single roses. His touch brings a tiny bit of vibrancy back to it before he offers it out. Soft pineapple yellow.

It is glanced at, but not taken. Instead, Zachery gives a shrug, and shoves his hands in his pocket with a sharp exhale through his nose.

"They're nice, I suppose," he decides flatly, with no appreciation in his voice nor on his face. "But — can they pass both for a 'congratulations' and an 'I'm terribly sorry this is going to be a hell of a trip that I'm not even remotely ready for and honestly if you'd like to just end things before they start that would maybe be the smartest decision regardless of personal preference'…?"

He holds his stare on Dumortier's face, his own expression inched involuntarily toward an uneasy slant of eyebrows and set jaw.

Untaken, Rene still holds the rose in hand, drifting alongside the table's edge so that it leads them both gently out of the way of the rest of the booth. The ones he is with can manage with him just nearby for a minute or three while he shifts into the open. This is important, it feels like.

Zachery's continued utterances earn him a perplexed look, open-faced and readable as Zach does his tangential journey into making no sense at all.

"A congratulations and an apology." Just so we're clear, he means. "Well, the most convoluted apology you can come up with, I guess." The puzzled expression lingers, only to be joined by a laugh. "Definitely… new. Yeah, sure, they can pass as both. I don't see why not. Maybe not red velvet or saffron like most Valentine's. A little too rich for apologies. Sounds more like you want to be sweet." Rene coos it out with a grin. "That's fucking adorable, I hate it."

Spoiler, he doesn't actually.

"No, I don't do sweet." Zachery's tone of voice dips down unwaveringly into the territory of you must be mistaken, eye trailing off somewhere to the side like there must be something more important to look at. Other shoppers, a cloud, literally anything.

He's fine. This is fine. Look at him, leaning oh so casually back and not at all balling his hands into fists inside those pockets while his expression grows ever more distressed. "Considerate, maybe?" He continues as though it leaves him without permission. "Maybe. Maybe considerate. I'm considerate. Aren't I? I care. Sometimes. You've got to, occasionally. Right. We can't always be alone forever, can we."

Or can we. Dumortier is shot a look that looks equal parts caution and warning.

"Being considerate covers being sweet when your heart's in it. Not a bad thing." Dumortier says this a little more slowly to make his point, but he definitely swaps to using the word Zachery defines himself with. "You're just choosy about who you're considerate for."

"And no, we can't. Not me, anyway- - I like my privacy but being Alone fucking sucks, couz." That rose in his hands, toyed with until now, is quietly offered out again, more a playful temptation than a demure presentation. Come on. Take it.

"If this one's got you being so considerate, I'd say you're golden."

Zachery sighs. It's the patient sort of sigh that comes with having to make compromises, and the sort of sigh that accompanies looking extremely unhappy about that.

But. It's also a sigh that precedes him pulling a hand out of his pocket to accept the rose, finally, even if it may only be so he has something to look down at. Apparently a few seconds of that is deemed enough. "How many of these on a kitchen table is acceptable, but not garish."

It's better that Zachery comes around on his own with this. Dumortier just likes pushing buttons. It is known. They helped. There's a smile for his accepting the flower, petals like small plumes of butter. Proud of those ones.

"Mmm. People go for the dozen, if they want to be emphatic. A little less, more chill.." Rene slips back along the booth, running a hand past his blooms. Rather than go right for that 'having a seedy affair' red, he stops at a paler flower. Mauve and dusty pink and white. "If you're going for considerate, something like this for the main attraction, a little red in there for that Valentine shade. Match the rest."

Zachery has seen him hawking his khajiit wares before; this isn't that. There's a far kinder manner with this, bright blue eyes attentive.

If there's any awareness of button pushing, Zachery isn't showing it. He's far too occupied staring down at the rose still held lightly between fingertips.

But maybe it is that space, the give and take, that lets him volunteer information a little more easily.

Finally, he spares a glance upward. Tension is still heavy in the way he holds himself and in every word that leaves him, colour beginning to drain from his face. "Which ones match the distinct possibility of two unborn children that'll hit the worst of puberty right around the time I'm sixty."

A few distinctive things cross Rene's expression. Curious. Concerned. Confused. The last is incredulous more than baffled, and the blonde's initial reaction is to scoff, half a laugh- - up until he realizes that Zachery is actually serious. His chuckle stops immediately, despite only being a couple seconds.

Congratulations and Apology make exponentially more sense.

"Merde," Dumortier mutters, brown lifting and hand carefully tracing away from red to violet pink. A wordless shift in color. . "I take it that this was very much unintended." Of course it was. Zach never once felt like the type to him Out of respect, Rene keeps their volume as private as he can. Wasn't easy to admit to him in the first place.

"I guess I don't know which it is either- - congratulations or I'm sorry." Honest, anyway.

Respect? Fuck respect. And fuck anyone overhearing too, apparently.

"What tipped you off?" Zachery asks louder than he needs to be, panic settling into his voice and a humourless grin threatening to break. "The prison time? The no job? The tendency to run headlong into anything that might put me on a fast track to breaking my neck, the moving around constantly, the not really being into committed relationships, or really any relationships of any sort for most of the time you've known me, or…?"

He uses the rose in his hand to gesture vaguely at himself. "The, ah - the everything?"

At least he's not insulted.

If Zach wanted a bigger audience, he gets a bit of his wish granted. His rising panic draws eyes and ears, a few disturbed looks.

As for Dumortier, he just waits until it ends. The rise and levelling of turbulence isn't an unfamiliar sensation to him, personally. He gets it. Maybe not in this way.

"…Mostly the everything." Again, honest. Likely in more direct response to the lack of insult taken. Nothing wrong with it being the Everything. Rather than offer further commentary immediately, Rene angles his face slowly away to continue doing up an arrangement. Zachery seemingly trusts him to do this. Finding pretty messages for complicated things is what Rene is good for.

"Though it doesn't look like you've run away or straight into traffic at the moment." That says… something? "Doing better than mine did."

The flowers seem to take on a life of their own, brightening under the touch that carefully slides them together. Subtle. Persistent. Mauve, pink, motes of red. More of a blush, less of a bold lip. He'll save that for the outside. "You said distinct possibility, yeah? So it's not- - a given yet?"

Staying busy. Yes. Good idea. After offering only a fleeting glance to some nearby faces, Zachery starts to pace, rose still clutched in one hand.

Words said get stored away with a thoughtful hum of a note, then a scoff - as if the notion of running into traffic might occur to him yet. "It's…" He starts to answer the question all too quickly, but something catches. Something that turns the panic on his face to something else, something more uncertain and uncomfortable. "It's too early, really. I shouldn't even know. She doesn't even know. She will, soon." Whether he tells her or not.

He reaches a point at which he's obviously walked a little too far, and promptly turns to walk back the way he came again, still with that same slight imbalance of weight distribution, and with a complete disregard for who might maybe think about getting in the way window shopping for some stuff of their own. "It's a problem that might solve itself, still. If it's… a problem in the first place. I feel very much as though it should be."

While attempting to pinch off some errant thorns, Rene also tries his best to track the other man as he begins pacing around. Discomfort taking over the frantic, Zachery's emotional game of Frogger becomes a bit harder to pin down. He's trying to offer something but even Rene is bumping into uncertainty here.

"You know and she doesn't? You did the thing- - dieu," One pair of fingers gestures from eyes to Zach, miming 'the thing'. You know. The thing, Rene consciously and deftly spares commenting on whether or not it will be a problem; anyone else, maybe. Doesn't stop his expression from cringing just enough.

"Is that right? So do you hope it's a Problem?" A brow arches high as blue eyes lift from work, sharp and assessing. "Sounds like a conversation I'd never want to have." The finished bouquet of flowers has cloth rather than crinkly paper, bottom wrapped separately, a small shield of plastic to keep it safe. Lovely, not ostentatious. Elegant, rather than luxurious. "Softening the blow wouldn't hurt, hm?"

Zachery's expression slips further and further into frustration. When he finally comes to a stop, it's to peer over at the bouquet that's being worked on. He slides the rose he's holding back over. "… Shouldn't it be a problem?"

He's lowered his voice too, now, finally, while he studies the face ahead of him. Feigning a calmer state of mine, he continues, "I don't… like children, I've known Nicole for less than a year, I'm selfish," he starts to rattle off again, spreading his arms, "look at this, here, every time we talk, every time, it's about me."

This time it's his turn to laugh, even if it leaves him bitterly and while running a hand over his face.

"That's because you're more vocal about your problems than I am." Dumortier's smile is wan, and a bit skeptical at the embittered laugh. A tad more deadpan, "But yeah, I know you can be a selfish prick." and that he also hates crotch goblins.

"This is the same one that lived out our way for a few months? Right?" Whether or not Rene heard it from Zachery, he knows. The flowers largely finished off, Rene sets them aside and raises a look at Zach. He picks up the buttercup rose again. "I can't decide if it's a problem. In my most humble opinion, it's a fucking terrible idea. Least, this early on? You get into so much shit." A laugh escapes him, voice still subdued. "and that whole. Hating kids. Thing."

"Is aaany of this helping?" Dumortier lays a hand on his chest, expression caught on the tail end of a smile, only halfway there. "I'm flattered that you trust me with it, but this isn't exactly familiar territory…" Tying the yellow rose to the outside of the bundle, scissors snip string and twirl back into his palm again. "…not for lack of opportunity."

Hand still on his face, Zachery listens. Maybe he's said too many words already and he's out of them now, or maybe he's been given so much food for thought he's wondering if there's enough room in the fridge for it.

Because yes, it is a fucking terrible idea. It's the worst idea. So why does he still look unconvinced, brow creased and mouth pulling into something of a sneer. Eh.

Until suddenly, he snaps back to reality, leaning forward to aim a sharp look into Dumortier's face for the welcome change of subject, and jumping on it immediately. "What do you mean, not for lack of opportunity?"

Rene isn't here to convince anyone of anything, and it shows. He sets the finished flowers aside, leaning onto the table when Zachery's train jumps the rails and makes for him instead. Reminds him of the Duck Hunt dog, really. Bork bork, pounce.

The pouncing, while eager, is met with a bored shade of pristine blue eyes and a lift of chin, a little bit tomcat on a fence. Humoring someone comes with a limit, much of the time. Dumortier lifts a hand and runs it through the crown of his hair, fingers leaving trails.

"Right." Of course he wants to know. "Have you looked at me?" Leaning back, both hands gesture up and down his frame, absolutely prideful. A shrug of shoulders, exaggerated with a slight eyeroll. "You certainly haven't fucked me. Gonna just shock you to know I'm a great time. Opportunities for fucking up are particularly high. Close calls are mortifying." Dumortier drops the scissors to a nearby bin. Punctuation.

The more words the answer ends up being, the more Zachery looks like he regrets his question. By the end of it, he's got both his hands up, palms forward, grimace on his face and shoulders squared by way of some familiar mental wall coming back up.

"I get it, all right, thank you, forget I asked." He breathes the words out in a rush, reaching into a pocket again to fish out some cash, and turning his attention down to that instead. "See, this is why we talk about me and my series of mistakes for a life. That makes sense now." Without pause, he adds, "How much do I owe you?"

There's always a way to get attention off of oneself. In Dumortier's case, he knows exactly what to do when it comes to Zachery. It pays off, clearly, as Rene sees the older man's eyes just- - glaze over, and the large part of him recoils in that 'nope' fashion he's excellent at.

"You did ask." Rene raises a brow to the hands up, mouth crooking to one side. "Like I said, you're just more vocal about getting back on your bullshit, ami." It's great temptation to laugh himself to death. He'll wait til later, it's fine. Just when the price he gives for his work sounds too low, there's an addition. "That's half now, half when you get a job- - or you do me an undetermined favor for the rest."

Trading in those is always a hoot.

Zachery levels a deadfaced stare back, jaw rolling before he says, flatly, "You can't do this to me — you know you can't. I've got a job lined up next week." The certainty with which this leaves him, one might be excused to think it's a done deal.

After a few bills are smacked down next to the bouquet, the flowers are yoinked over to his side, held tightly and upside down as he takes a step backwards and says, "I'll see you when I see you, then." A shift of weight in preparation for his departure leaves him looking strained - not least of all because of the physical pain he's in - but he still can't help but smirk when he finally answers, "Make it a good one, at least."

Assurances of 'next week' cause a lazy, wider smile. Okay. Sure. Lined up. Dumortier raises both brows and runs his tongue over back teeth, picking up the bill and idly smoothing them out between his hands. In that smooth voice he chimes, "You know you love me,"

"Be seeing you, Handsome. Good luck with the snag." Because at the moment, that's what it is. Snag is the most polite way to put it. Pocketing the bills, Rene leans on the tabletop with a grin at Zach's departure. "Don't worry. I will. Always do."

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