Surprise Visitor


nicole_icon.gif zachery_icon.gif

Scene Title Surprise Visitor
Synopsis There's good news and bad news.
Date August 15, 2019

Providence: Nicole's House

These old houses and their windows. They're far too easy to open from the outside.

One early, clammy morning finds an extra person in Nicole and Pippa's living room. Zachery has claimed the couch at some point during the night, eyes closed, wrist lazily across his brow in order to block the light slowly returning to the world around him. Though he's wearing the Office Standard that the house's owner has seen him in most often, it looks like maybe he's spent several days and nights in them by now. With the hot weather still pressingly about, it's not a great look, and mussed hair probably doesn't help.

He shifts his weight in an attempt to press his shoulders into the seat a little more comfortably, but with such a low amount of energy that it achieves almost nothing, being neither fully awake nor asleep. A phone, now turned off, lies on his chest, like maybe he fell asleep staring at its screen.


The telltale creak of the old wooden staircase gives away Nicole’s descent if the squeaky hinges of the bedroom door hadn’t done it first. Padding through her living room in bare feet, her dark hair pulled up into a ponytail on top of her head, her face is slicked with sweat. A white camisole top clings to her body. Matching linen shorts hang loosely from her hips. “Fuck this heat,” muttered with annoyance as she nears the mouth of the dining room.

Then she stops short, processing what isn’t right in her living space. The soft sounds of breathing from her couch chiefly among them. Pivoting on the ball of one foot, Nicole holds a crackling fist out in front of her, blue eyes blazing brightly as she prepares to dispatch whatever threat is waiting for her.

There’s a heavy exhale when Zachery’s shape comes into view in the soft light coming through the living room windows. Slowly, she lowers her hand back to her side and the electric snapping and popping fades. The light in her eyes dims slightly. “We’ve got to stop meeting like this,” she deadpans, crossing her arms over her chest and leaning one hip against the frame of the entrance to the dining room.

"What, with you at a disadvantage and with me," Zachery starts, hoarsely, "… comfortable and amused?"

He lets the arm drop from his face, drags the hand downward to curl his fingers around his phone in the process, and turns his head. Cracking open an eye to blearily find Nicole's form, one might be excused for forgetting what's behind the other eyelid for a moment.

Something about the sight of her, though, brings a smirk to his tired face that he immediately seems to try and fight back. Maybe that's why the rest of him isn't moving. Too much energy going into trying not to let it be a smile, of all things. It borders on one either way. "Good morning."

“One of these times you’re going to get zapped,” Nicole warns. “And I won’t feel bad for you,” is an outright lie. Long fingers pluck at the front of her cami, tugging it away from her body with a quiet sigh. “You’ve already seen me naked. You don’t have to try so hard to imagine.”

The narrowing of her blue eyes says annoyance, but the crinkles at the corners give away amusement. “What brings you by? You weren’t drunk and wandering again, were you?”

Though a scoff leaves Zachery all too easily, there's a… consideration in the way he looks Nicole over - just for a moment - fake eye opening along with the functional one.

But anyway. "Not drunk. Not this time. I've been — around, actually. For a while." He's getting ahead of himself, though. "They haven't… talked to you yet. This is good. Alternatively, you're a good actress. Maybe both." Which would be fine, apparently. Shoving an elbow into the couch and swinging his feet over the edge, he rights himself. Shoulders still hunched up, he rubs a hand past stubbled jaw.

Slowly, that dark head shakes. “I have no idea what you’re on about,” Nicole assures him. Which is not to say she isn’t a fantastic actress when she needs to be - that’s part and parcel for politics after all - but she sincerely doesn’t know who would be talking to her and why. Let alone why it would pertain to him.

“What?” Nicole asks. “Did you finally set fire to something and now you’re on the run from the law?” Again, she’s amused. But also faintly concerned that she might not be far from the truth of the matter. Everything about this relationship of theirs is ill-advised. At least she manages to keep from making a joke about how he shouldn’t hide out with a government agent. After all, she’s supposed to be fired.

But if he knew, he wouldn't be here.


"I'm really not as much of an arsonist as I've led you to think," is apparently a necessary thing that needs saying, halfway through a yawn. He keeps his voice low, and when he rises to his feet properly, he seems… hesitant on what the next step is. Literal and figurative both.

Finally, the amusement fading from his face somewhat, he asks, "Good news first, or bad?"

“Well, that’s a relief.” No, really. Nicole only half-successfully suppresses her grin. Her own voice stays low so as not to disturb the child presumably asleep upstairs. Scratching absently at her hairline, she yawns in the wake of Zachery’s, not bothering to cover her mouth. After all, he started it.

But then comes the serious question. Nicole’s arm wraps around her midsection again. “Whatever makes the most logical sense, I suppose.”

"I thought you'd be more fun than that," leaves Zachery immediately, as he starts slowly making his way forward. A creak below slows his pace almost immediately, and he casts a look of annoyance downward.

His attention is slow to rise again, and even then, there's something carefully observant about the way he looks up at Nicole next, shoulders dropping and head canting. "Bad it is."

Then, without pause, "Richard Ray is going to be looking for me, and his… wife?" He sounds like he's genuinely not sure anymore, giving a halfhearted shrug. Too many things going on, lately. "Knows there's a high chance I might be here. She knows I trust you."

Why this is bad news… is not yet made clear. But he pauses anyway, standing still in the quiet air of morning.

Zachery, what have you done? does not leave Nicole’s lips. It just plays out on her face in a tightening of her lips and a slow exhales through slightly flared nostrils. “Okay…” She nods her head slowly, processing what little information she’s been given and fighting the instinct to jump to a conclusion or two.

Why is your employer coming to look for you?” And since when is he married? Not that she can’t guess who Ray’s bride would be. His eyes cast down to the traitorous floorboard and hers cast upward for signs of stirring above. Their gazes meet again in the middle. “I somehow doubt it’s just because you’re skipping work.”

Let’s hope he doesn’t have to find out just how fun she can be when someone endangers her family.

He might've had enough fun for a while, going by the sigh that leaves him through his nose, and how tired the remainder of his grin is becoming. More forced than before, the sincerity slipping away with every second that passes.

He stays put. A shift in weight makes it look like he might want to take another step forward, but he stops himself. His hands find each other, knuckles pressed hard into palm, like he's waiting for the crack of bones that never comes.

"I think… he might be under the impression that I've done something wrong." His words come in a measured shade of calm. "Beyond skipping work, which I most definitely am."

Tongue slides over teeth, hand comes up to pinch bridge of nose. Nicole nods again. “Alright. So you may or may not have done something wrong.” That’s not even given at his expense. Sometimes these things are just murky and that’s the way it is. “Do you want to tell me, or are we going to play charades about it?”

See? Tons of fun.

Tipping her head to the side slightly, she pushes off the door frame and makes her way into the dining area and kitchen, where a coffee maker sits. Rather than plug it into the wall, she simply picks up the plug in one hand by its metal prongs and taps her foot impatiently as the machine springs to life and starts boiling water for the grounds she scooped the night before.

It’s too early for drama when she hasn’t had her morning coffee.

Maybe it's something about the mental image of literal charades, maybe it's more about how Nicole is taking all of this, but a half formed chuckle escapes Zachery seemingly against his will, lingering on an exhale.

But he does not answer immediately. Instead, he watches her move and go about her business. Casual. This is good. Once he makes it to the kitchen after her - miraculously avoiding any creaks on the way there, thank you foundation - he continues slowly at first, "I might still tell you. Once I find the… words for it. It was a mistake." And then, while he looks around the room rather than at Nicole, the words come much faster. Rehearsed. "I won't tell you what to say to him, or her, if they show. I'd just prefer if, until this blows over, you didn't tell him I had a place in town, now. In Providence."

And this is, apparently, how he's telling her.

“A mistake,” Nicole echoes without affect. Neither judging nor excusing. Still holding the electrical plug in one hand, she turns and rests her back against the countertop and watches Zachery with lifted brows, inquisitive as to what his explanation might be.

But it isn’t an explanation she gets, but a request. And unexpected information. Her brows hike just a little bit higher, now surprised. “Is that supposed to be the good news?” she asks, slightly incredulous amusement coloring her tone. It’s not unwelcome news, at any rate.

"Can you blame me for hoping it might be?" It's Zachery's turn to linger in the doorway, darting a glance toward the light streaming in from a nearby window. "For what it's worth, it was… more or less planned for a few weeks now. Prior to the —"

A vague, concommittal hand gesture apparently serves as a stand-in for 'the thing with Richard'. Much more confident is his tone when he says, grin widening again, "Even if it is bad news, I'm staying nonetheless. You're looking at the town's new physician."

Or one of, maybe. He's not quite sure.

Nicole seems to consider the fact that she has been coming off just a little bit rude. But he did break/sneak into her house uninvited, so she won’t let herself feel too bad about it. “It is good news,” she assures him, a genuine smile on her face. It fades quickly as she glances back over her shoulder as the coffee maker sputters, signalling that it’s finished brewing. Thank goodness.

Dropping the plug on the counter, Nicole turns and reaches up into a cupboard to procure two mugs, which she pours the steaming coffee into. She picks one up and holds it out toward Zachery.

“Wish you might have told me sooner,” she admits. If this was in the works for a little while as he said, that is. “But I’m glad for you. Glad you’re going to get to practice again. You are glad for it, right?”

There is something uneasy about the way Zachery looks, again, toward that window. Also about the way he drags a hand down his face, before he steps forward to reach for the coffee offered. His grin stays, though. "I am glad. Even if I'm…"

He stops, pulls the coffee close, stands with his mouth open for a bit, and then just… breathes out a slightly awkward chuckle. "I'm taking a few weeks off work, then — half time here, half time at Raytech. This mess will be sorted out. I'm going to talk to him myself."

Something about the way he fixes his gaze on Nicole's face hardens, jaw tensing. "… You're taking this much better than I thought you might. Even if you haven't just simply agreed to do what I'd prefer you to do." And, really, if his halfway-to-cheerful tone of voice is any indication, he wasn't expecting it to be that simple anyway.

“You haven’t told me you drove your car into a drainage ditch with your mistress in the passenger seat and can I find a hospital that will treat her without asking questions, so…” Which is to say that Nicole’s had worse news thrown her way, and this is only a drop in the bucket. She sighs and smiles a little ruefully. “My sister was considered a terrorist by the previous government.” To say nothing of her own wartime involvement. “I’m hard to ruffle these days.”

Her own coffee is lifted to her lips, brows up to preempt the question she means to ask after she’s had her sip. “Would it help if I shouted and threw something?”

That’s rhetorical, Zachery.

Something causes Zachery to straighten up, or maybe it's some figurative weight that's just been taken off of his shoulders. Though visible amusement washes over him first, what follows is a look of feigned indignance, coffee cup gripped tight as he states as if in UTTER disbelief, "It would help, if you didn't imply I wouldn't treat a mistress myself. That's just one of her perks when you're with this."

Naturally, at the word 'this', he motions his free hand generously toward himself, sipping his coffee with as straight a face as he can manage, maintaining eye contact all the while.

It’s Nicole who cracks first, mouth pulling into a toothy grin as she laughs. “You’re right. How thoughtless of me. Naturally, you would tend to my wounds yourself.” Because Nicole is always a mistress and never someone’s first choice. At least in her mind.

“I’m glad you’re going to be around.” In case that needed to be said. “It gives us a chance to give this a proper test drive.” There’s that nebulous this again. But there’s a snag. “Haaaave you met my ex?” she draws out, mouth bunching up on one side as though she might have just bit into something sour.

Meanwhile, Zachery looks like Nicole's laugh replenished the energy he was lacking upon waking up, sucking in a breath until his lungs will fit no more, and then slowly releasing it in a controlled exhale, while she talks. "That's going to be a whole thing, I'm sure, when it happens. How are… you two? Good terms?"

He's definitely not asking just so he can possibly take the piss when he does meet said ex. Even if a twitch of an eyebrow - like he's already planning something - implies otherwise.

“Very good terms,” Nicole confirms with perhaps just a bit too much brightness to her smile. Can she help it if she’s glad she gets on great with the father of her child? It sure beats the alternative. “We try to support each other as best we can. Which is… why we’re both here.” Narrow shoulders rise and fall with a shrug.

“He’s likely to stare you down when he meets you and finds out who you are to me, so be prepared for that. But Ben’s secretly a big teddy bear.” With proverbial teeth and claws that rend just as well as any grizzly when the moment calls for it, but that’s beside the point.

"Does he wear a big… hat and warn people about what could cause forest fires, too?" Zachery asks, downing what is probably too hot coffee a little too quickly, going by the face he pulls as he makes his way a little closer. "I ask just so I can know whether a room's clear for me to brag about you without hurting his teddy bear feelings."

Amusement twinkles in Nicole’s too-bright eyes. “That’s not the most inaccurate description I’ve heard of Ben.” Her gaze casts down to her coffee for a moment of quiet consideration. “You should be fine on that count. He watches out for me, but he knows I’m not fragile.” Even if history has shown otherwise when it comes to interpersonal relationships. Time has changed her.

There’s a part of her that’s gratified at the notion of being something to brag about. It’s too often that she’s either kept her feelings secret or been someone’s secret. This, being open, has been nice. Even if they don’t have much to be open about, really.

When he nears, her mug shifts to one hand and the other reaches out to rest on the curve of his shoulder, thumb brushing over the place where shoulder begins to meet neck. “Just don’t go stirring up trouble on purpose. I want things between him and I to stay amicable. Not that I’m worried about your behavior,” she promises, a little hastily. It’s not like he’s going to attack Ben in the foyer or something. That would be absurd.

There's a watchfulness about Zachery while he listens, but though before it may have strayed elsewhere, it's on Nicole alone for right now. Rather than return the gesture of physical touch, he stays simply within reach. Though maybe the fact that he's literally breathing a little easier now says enough.

Up close, it's easy to see how he hasn't quite looked this tired before. Sleeping hasn't been easy. "My behaviour is impeccable. Always. I challenge you to find one person who would disagree."

A second later, he adds, "… And who is also presently this room."

Nicole chuckles. “That is a challenge.” He hasn’t blindfolded her and drove her about in a literal hearse for a bit, so he’s not doing too bad in the behavior department right now, honestly.

“You need sleep more than you need this caffeine. Did you want to stay?” She leans over slightly to look past Zachery’s shoulder and out the window, as though she might be able to intuit how far his new home is from her own. Her hand retracts to wrap around her mug again.

"I'm fine." Zachery answers, his own mug held suddenly slightly lower when her touch drops away. "I can't… risk staying here. Not yet. I will sort this out, though. I have a plan. But I need to go."

Not that he is. In fact, he leans closer instead, his own free hand finding Nicole's cheek, fingers pressed lightly into her jaw before sliding into her neck. His expression pulled a little closer to a controlled neutral, he watches for her eyes to focus on him again, so she can catch the scrutiny on his face. "If someone asks if I've been around. What will you tell them?"

And recapture her attention he does. Nicole’s own coffee lowers slowly as she brings her gaze back to his face and listens to his words. It feels a bit like she’s underwater and trying to make out what he’s saying at first, the way her mind wanders when he touches her. But it all registers by the time her eyes focus on him.

“Haven’t seen him. I’ve got my child to worry about. I don’t have time to keep tabs on someone else’s whereabouts.” Nicole tries to smile, but the corners of her mouth never quite lift high enough. Maybe she doesn’t like the idea of lying about this, but there’s no protest made. Lies and half-truths are, after all, a necessity.

His smile comes on all too easily, in turn, his gaze still pinpoint and words clipped and content. "Perfect. Got there all on your own."

The hand on her neck travels further back still, and though he leans in for what was probably supposed to be a kiss - he stops just short, with a thoughtful narrowing of eyes and click of his tongue. "… How well does sound travel upward from here?"

“Did you doubt me?” A little slyness creeps into her voice as she rapidly gets over whatever concerns she may have about keeping Zachery’s secrets. She smirks as he adjusts his hold on her, moving to lean in closer herself.

There’s visible disappointment when he stops short. Her lips press together and she looks away as though it might hide the flash of annoyance. Still, he brings up a good point. “She’s sleeping,” Nicole assures. “She won’t know you were here.”

The annoyance only further fans the flames of amusement on Zachery's face. With how much he misses these moments when he's not around to have them, he can't be blamed for dragging them out a little, right?


"Hmmh," he hums, arm stretching outward to leave his mug on whatever surface is nearest and stable enough. "I was more… concerned with doing something that might wake her up. But - that will have to wait."

The other mug is settled down with a solid clunk of porcelain against formica. Nicole’s fingers come up to curl into the fabric of Zachery’s shirt over his chest. “You’re awful,” she purrs, leaning ever so slightly closer, but also reluctant to put a stop to this game that he plays with her. “I want you,” she whispers against his ear before withdrawing enough to see that amused face of his.

It may always be at her expense, but somehow she never tires of it.

“I’ll keep my distance for now,” she murmurs. “Wait until you tell me you’ve got things under control. Just… don’t leave me waiting too long.”

It's so tempting to stay.

So so tempting.

Reluctance to leave is written clear on Zachery's — everything, but also in the way he hisses out a breath between his teeth. More the result of an attempt to refocus than anything else.

"It's nice." The words leave him without thought, which shows in the slant of eyebrows and the careful measure of delight that's suddenly painted on his face. "… Having someone to return to."

With that, he promptly pulls back, reaches for the coffee mug - nearly knocking it to the ground first because thanks, depth perception - downs the rest of what is very likely still too hot coffee, and backs out of the kitchen. "If I don't leave now, I'll end up staying and miss my appointment. I owe you a kiss!"

Nicole bites her lower lip as her partner begins to withdraw. That it bothers him as well is all the consolation she needs in this instance. “Get out of here, you tease.” Grabbing a tea towel from where it’d been draped around a drawer handle, she makes a shooing motion.

First order of business once he’s taken his leave is to wash up that mug and stow it away again. Cleaning up the evidence, after all, is what Nicole’s always done best.

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