The Welcome Wagon


byron_icon.gif bf_kara_icon.gif zachery_icon.gif

Scene Title The Welcome Wagon
Synopsis Spotting the Bone Wagon parked outside Zachery's chosen abode in Providence, Byron and Kara peek in to do something like welcome him to the neighborhood.
Date August 13, 2019

The site of an abandoned home in Providence

There are plenty of old houses in the area surrounding Providence, some of which bear signs of recent activity, and others that have been long-abandoned. Often do yards stand overgrown and unkempt in either case, though the more important things are tended to, certainly. Roofs have been patched. Doors fixed. Windows boarded, where needed.

The house the long, flame-decorated hearse belonging to Zachery Miller is parked in front of bears none of those signs.

And yet its front door hangs wide open.

Beyond the half-standing fence at the edge of the home’s yard, Kara draws on the reins of her champagne bay to pull him back closer to the sight if not just bring him to a halt so she can better stare at it all. It being the whole image — the house and the signs of potential occupancy, just as much as the vehicle in front of it. She looks back and forth between the two before she just lifts one hand to rub the side of her face under the pretense of wicking sweat away from her forehead with her fingers.

Just at a look, she wonders what she’s getting herself into here.

Hearing a loud noise from inside the residence, she wonders if Zachery must be feeling the same.

Byron Wolf still rides a horse a little like he's expecting it to throw him off at any moment.

His mount, an older gelding of lazy disposition, drifts in after Kara's more assertive gait, more interested in following the other horse than paying a lot of attention to the shifts of Byron's feet in his stirrups, the tug of reins. Minor annoyance is a fixed, permanent feature in Byron's expression, but with Kara's focus forward, she won't notice the way it relaxes in favour of a neutral blankness when his attention lands on the distinct shape of the car up ahead, the bright patterns decorating black. He tips forwards in his saddle, alert and listening.

Looks to Kara, then. If anyone were around who knew him a little better, the thoughtful cunning that's entered his manner might feel familiar. It's not in his voice, which just sounds as she'd expect it to with, "I call dibs on the ride."

“Only if he’s killed himself in there,” Kara replies more wearily than she means to. She swings a leg off the side of her horse, the stubborn Semej snorting at the perceived sleight stopping has caused him. They go for a walk in a bizarrely large loop around Providence and then she gives him a carrot when they get back. That’s how this works. At least, most other days.

She pats the horse’s side in sympathy.

“Otherwise, you’re going to have to wait a week,” she intones, then looks over her shoulder back at the house, sizing up the damage on it with a glance out of the top of her eye before shaking her head. Conspiratorially, she looks back Byron’s way with a quirk of one brow. “If he lasts even that long,” Kara asides his direction.

"No - nonononoNO! Come on." This is the second noise to come out of the house since there have been bystanders to hear it. A tent peg comes flying out of the open front door, and lands pointy side angled down in a bit of dirt.

Byron's attention snaps to the peg now stuck in the ground, and then follows the sound coming through the open door. "Okay, but I dibs the ride," he says, again. Just so we're clear, no matter the circumstances or waiting time. He looses a boot from the stirrup so he can make his graceless dismount, the horse restlessly wandering sideways along with the shift in weight, forcing him to hop back before he can steady the beast.

Jingle-jangle, he frees himself, hand still gripping loose reins. To Kara, still watching the door, "Friend of yours?"

Kara is looking in the direction of the sunk stake, her expression blank in a way it’s never quite been before. It’s a special expression for several reasons. Firstly, it’s a reaction she’d normally reserve for a more private setting. (Congratulations, Byron. You’ve leveled up yet again.) Secondly, he’s never seen her approach a situation that’s quite like …

… whatever they’re walking into.

To his question, she emits an even, “Not in the slightest.” before she takes the reins to loop them around the fencepost on one side of the front walk. It’s not like she believes Semej might go on the rest of his ‘walk’ without her, but he might decide to just that, actually. Then it’s an easy step into the yard to windmill down and snag the stake up midstep, tossing it in one hand. “New resident.”

Her easygoing affect, her attempt at going with the flow stutters as she gestures with the tent peg. “He gets one strike,” is a much flatter statement than her previous. For all of the non-threat she believes one Zachery Miller to be, and the inexplicable pride she had in Yi-Min when she regaled her with the infamous finger-breaking tale, there’s minimal disrespect she’ll tolerate. The peg is tossed from one hand to another with a souring of her expression as she slants a glance back at the opened door. “Half of me wonders what he’s doing out here, the other half of me thinks this kind of living might actually fix whatever’s wrong with him.”

And it’s not often she shares introspection, so there’s that.

Assuming,” she qualifies back at Byron in a quieter voice as she begins forward march toward the door again, heading up the porch step. “It doesn’t kill him first.”

There's a third noise, from inside. It starts slowly, quietly. A rustling of… Leaves?


Something synthetic this way comes.

A mess of green and dull browns, shiny and textured and thin like a giant shopping bag, comes hurdling from inside the room directly down the hall from the front door before - with a hollow KRrONG! - and a flutter of stiff fabric, it gets stuck in the doorway, taking up the entire space in between.

It's a tent. Or it would be, if it was set up. But instead, it's being FERVENTLY but very arduously shoved outside, poles and all. "Out." Shove. "I've-" shove, "just-" shove, "fucking-" SHOVE, "had it with you."

The voice, at least, serves to confirm who the new resident was thought to be.

It's an interesting series of contemplations coming out of Kara Prince, each of them noted and filed away by Byron as he ties off his horse and follows her at a comfortable distance. She's a tall and capable woman and so in spite of his formidable 6'3", he does not in fact make an incredibly threatening presence in the way he sometimes implies when he shadows Eileen Gray. He also does not draw the gun he has hidden beneath his jacket, or even hover his hand near it — just tips his head with canine intrigue when half-muffled yelling reaches him.

And, of course, there's the obstruction of tent, filling up the other end of the hallway.

Byron's eyebrows go /
"Okay, well," he then says, in that dully puzzled way he has, quietly enough that Kara can hear him, but it might go lost for Zachery beneath all the noisy rustling of tent. Blue eyes stay fixed forward on the shenanigans several feet that way. "Without Chris around, you're the charm offensive."

He’s right, isn’t he.

Kara takes one step to the side once up on the porch, all the better to not be in the immediate path of the soon-to-be-projectile tent. For a moment, all she can do is observe the struggle.She gets around to providing her observation verbally after Zachery’s efforts have made the tent quiver in stubborn resistance to him for longer than it rightly should have.

“You’re making a step in the right direction,” Kara lifts her voice to offer up this very helpful commentary. “Tents belong outside, after all.”

All at once, the tent - or what would have been one - is pulled down with a FfSSSZHT. Revealing, behind it, a slightly clammy Zachery, in crisp dress shirt and slacks, looking the part of an outsider to a T.

He eyes Kara for a moment, blinking both dull blue and completely white eye before a hand is lifted to shove his fingers through his hair. A vague attempt to look less of a mess. "… Yyyyes." He sluggishly replies, lopsided grin finding its way onto his face. "And roofs shouldn't have any holes in them. But no one seems to have told either of these things about that, have they." Crow's feet deepen, and half of a realisation has him immediately add, a little puzzled, "Have we met?"

Byron steps aside from Kara to nudge open a door immediately to their left, seeming to adopt the pragmatic intention to ensure there's nothing untoward lurking in their blindspots. Of course, he'd be right. A mildewing standing lamp and curtains, water-stained carpets, even determined weeds growing in through the walls between the window frames.

From Zachery's perspective, he'll see a broad-shouldered shape briefly linger and then move out of sight, and hear creaking floorboards.

Kara has no return smile for Zachery. If it’s because he doesn’t remember her, or simply because she’d had none for him to begin with — it’s hard to say. In either case, she tells him: “No. Prince, Kara. I hear you’re Zachery Miller.”

Looking briefly past him at the house itself, she reserves judgement for the residence he’s picked to inhabit. Honestly, there were worse ones out there. There were also better, but maybe they should be saved for people who didn’t need to butter their paws to the area through the experience of home improvement. “I also hear you could use a hand out here,” she adds, because it’s true.

He’s just told her he does. The munitions chaplain reaches out with one hand to grab the tent from the outside, pulling hard on it to get it through the stubborn, immutable doorway and fling it out behind her into the yard. It’s not exactly a feat of strength or anything worthy of intimidation on its own, but her gaze doesn’t leave Zachery until after that’s done, and only then it’s to tick just past him indoors.

“Wolf,” she calls out her question. “How bad is it?”

Creaking floorboards are all well and good, but when Byron disappears from view, Zachery adopts the same look someone might have when a pet dog suddenly can't be found and there's steak left unattended on the kitchen counter.

The newcomer shifts his weight to lean momentarily sideways to try and catch a last glimpse of movement, before his attention snaps back to Kara, grin turning to much friendlier smile. Pleasant, practiced, perfect. Maybe a little too much so. "What?" A beat's pause, then hurriedly: "Yes! I am. Who did you hear that from?"

The vanishing of the tent remains is eyed with a rough scrub of a hand against stubbled jaw, and when Kara moves further indoors, he pulls abruptly back and out of the way. As if immediately regretting this decision, his smile ebs away with as pointed of a look his eye affords him. Maybe if he stares at her hard enough, she'll go away on her own.

"It's nice to meet you, Kara Prince." He does not, in fact, sound like he thinks it is nice so far. Quieter, "And Wolf."


Except Byron's voice does not echo out from the room he'd been inspecting. Despite the fact that the hallway is the clear throughway to get from one end of the house to the other, Byron appears behind Zachery's periphery in his wander, sliding through walls as effortlessly as a warm knife through butter, but with nothing left behind. His clapback is a negligent one, more interested in his impromptu home inspection.

Blonde, whiskery, with shadows under his eyes, Byron looks Zachery up and down as he goes, and maybe there's some stir of amusement, a barely perceptible undercurrent. "It's a shit hole," he says, dragging his attention Kara-wards. Confirming. "For living in." To Zachery; "You scouting for a meth lab, or."

Kara wouldn't go so far as to call Zachery's mannerisms nervous, but he seems to be in a constant state of alert. She watches the peaks and troughs of his movement with none of it mirrored in her own state, simply observing. And when Byron gives his reply after appearing through a very solid wall, she doesn't so much as turn in his direction. This is fine. This is normal. (Not a shred of sarcasm there, either.)

She does issue a nod to acknowledge his observation while assessing Zachery's reaction to it. "Both things from you," Kara admits, something like the truth in it.

As is probably to be expected, Zachery meets Byron's reappearing trick with a quiet but nevertheless sharp inhale and his arms being lifted outward, just a nudge, as if to ensure elbow room. Or, going by the fact that his hands ball into fists as he does it, maybe something else. Maybe both.

The question of a meth lab, rhetorical or not, is ignored. Kara's response earns her a confused wrinkling of his nose, before his eye drifts slowly back to the other person present. Confusion makes way for distracted intrigue. "You know, it's funny." For all the tension in the way he holds himself, his voice is still a cheerful sort of calm and what's left of his plastered on smile is there to stay. For a moment, it seems to threaten to turn into a sneer, but only for just that. "Growing up, I thought there would come a day I'd run out of new things to dislike. That day is not, it seems, today."

Turning his attention once more to Kara, he sidesteps and reaches to brush the surface of what may once have been a wooden desk, most of it now angled wrong for that purpose, reclaimed by nature. "I'm looking for a sign. I don't suppose you've seen it."

Byron gives Zachery what is not a wholly pleasant smile, thin and closed, before turning his shoulder, and vanishing through the wall into the next room. That continued creaking, methodical plodding foot falls, inspecting signs of life, storage of supplies, anything that stands out or gives hint to explain Zachery's presence.

Kara merely arches an eyebrow when Zachery announces his displeasure. She looks past him when he asks his question, and afterward turns back, looking out the front door to the yard and the tent laying so sadly on it's half-composed side.

Instead of entertaining the question he gave her, passive-aggression goes mostly unanswered as she looks back, setting her eyes on his with something like sternness. "I'd recommend you change course, start looking for a tarp first," even sounds earnest, for all her imposing demeanor. "The place needs weather-proofing as soon as possible. Did you bring anything with you to help with that, or are we starting from scratch?"

There is, in theory, a lot to help with. From the outside, the house looks structurally sound, and parts of it seem to have been renovated more recently than others. Where decay has set in, it's done so dramatically, but in patches of negligence rather than throughout the whole space.

The ground floor layout is simple. There is a hallway that provides access to four rooms - one medium-sized, which looks like it might have held up the best out of all of them, stocked with piles of old furniture in varying states of deterioration. Vines have crept in through the doorway to an adjacent, bigger room with large, broken windows but nothing besides a wooden desk and a few wayward chairs. Two rooms scarcely bigger than broom closets sandwich a stairway leading upward, where light flickers through a mostly withered set of curtains, though traversing its rotting steps would be a questionable decision at best.

The steps are, however, good for setting things on. Namely, a closed leather briefcase, and a well-used notebook open on a page with dates (something is happening tomorrow, apparently) and some rough sketches of the house's layout. The drawing of the second biggest room has 'office???' scrawled across its innards.

Zachery lingers by the warped piece of furniture for a moment, index finger tap-tapping down before he breaks contact with it.

He reappears in the doorway, face scrunching up momentarily, as if the very knowledge of Providence having been right outside this entire time is offensive to him. He darts a glance out to his car, before he asks of Kara, tone of voice a little lower than before, "… 'We'?"

In his circling through the house, circumnavigating things like doors and walls not by moving around them but through them, Byron finds himself at the foot of the stairs, eyeing up the rotten boards that lead on up, and isn't stupid enough to risk it. Still, as ever, keeping an ear out for the conversation being had, echoed through the mostly-empty house. "We," is his input, voice barely loud enough to join in. "This is a community, you know."

Byron places one boot on the lower-most step, and it complains beneath the subtle application of weight that occurs when he leans down to pick up the notebook, calloused thumb flicking over the edges of pages. It's in his nature (his nature) to overturn, uncover, but he is aware he is walking something of a delicate balance while Kara is watching.

Except she's not. She's talking to their guest.

"You could probably do better," is his final thought as he considers the sketches he leafs through. This news of tomorrow. Pale eyes switch focus to the briefcase, but just for a second.

And Kara continues talking to the guest, leaving Byron to his machinations, so long as they remain out of her sight. She turns for just a moment at the sound of the strained creaking on the stair, brow furrowed to call out a warning against going up, but she hears no more and she turns back to Zachery, expression placid once more.

Or whatever you call the flat, stern stare she gives him while she considers what to do with his abrasive behavior.

"Or do you think you can fix this all on your own?" she finally asks, turning back to look once more at the tent, perhaps pointing to it with her eyes before glancing appraisingly at Zachery.

Kara doesn't think so, so she waits barely a moment before stepping past Zachery to wander the first floor herself, looking to see if maybe they need to find him a different hovel to hole up in after all.

Zachery's eye follows the glance toward the tent, and he can't help but have his smile pull into something slightly more genuine, even if it's a touch pained.

"I… didn't. I just figured I'd have to pay someone to come take a look, first. Like a fool, apparently." See, he can be self-aware about being a city-slicker. "And I know I could do better, but no. I like this place," he continues, with conviction, leaning a shoulder up against the paint-flaked doorway after Kara passes him by again. "It's the location. Close enough to the heart of things, not too far from the outskirts."

His chin lifts a little, something very pleased about the shift in his tone of voice. "People have to be able to reach a physician, after all."

Meanwhile, inside, the notebook offers Byron a collection of wayward thoughts and findings, though the majority of them disjointed, devoid of context, and probably not of any interest. Dates but without what's important about them, places, some crossed through. But past what is probably a lot of useless stuff like 'call R' or 'sort out parking spot on Tues', there is a page marked 'Jitters' at the top, with dates a few days in between, then every day, all the way up to a few days before now, when it just stops. Whoever this person is, they went from a low fever to delirium and from a rash on their arm to necrosis, in a matter of weeks.

Further in, between globs of contextless words, names, numbers , and letters, there are a few cleaner pages littered in - technical sketches of human body parts, limbs as well as organs, though not… strictly all organic in nature.

People have to be able to reach a physician

And for Byron Wolf, time stops.

Time stops with a thought and the knowledge that he can't be seen. He pivots to sit down on the staircase, and the creaks from protesting wooden fibres never reach the ears of Kara and Zachery as they stand unknowing and frozen, out of sight. The journal is set aside in favour of balancing the briefcase on his lap, opening it.

In the privacy of his own time loop, Byron's form eases into Gabriel's, with even less of a thought as he carefully sifts through the contents of the briefcase, careful not to displace anything that seems like it wouldn't have already been jumbled in use. The medical journal inside is picked up, just to see what's underneath. Hunting knives, sharp but spotted with disuse. A phone with a crack run through its screen. The USB stick he picks up, turning it in his fingers, contemplating. Tape adhered to it reads taxes for Fred - sort out before Sat and after a moment, is put back.

The medical journal is replaced, and a second book of notes is extracted. That Gabriel leafs through them rather than reads cover to cover is more the limits of his own patience than his power, but he does stop. Takes a closer look, under an entry marked, rather simply: Emily.

Wracked with stress, possibly recovering from a virus. Tired. Nerves… peculiar, can't put my finger on it.

… Recovered well. Nothing of note. …

… Muscles, nerves, multiple sclerosis probable, chemotherapy effects - once upon a time. Severe damage all around but she's completely fine now. How?

He turns more pages. Stops at one marked: Eve.

Discovery: Cocaine nor LSD particularly helps me with my particular set of skills. …

…It's a lot of pain and it's- it's bright and I need to go get some water. She spoke of… a car accident, her limbs went back, 'ragdoll', dying three times. …

… Maybe I'll meet her again, yet. …

Many minutes pass.

Maybe longer.

Eventually, Gabriel puts the journal back — he puts everything back — and stands again, limbs and spine lengthening, features narrowing, hair and eyes lightening, until he is Byron again. In the air, dust motes begin to move once more.

after all.

The fuck were they talking about. Floorboards creak, and Byron wanders back into view, his attention on Zachery rather than making a pretense of casing the joint, all sharp curiousity. Maybe too sharp in contrast to his next words, a mumble that is barely audible; "You're like a doctor, or something?"

Stopped leaning against a doorway, Kara looks like she might as well be stopped in time, with the way she's unblinkingly fixed her attention on Zachery. He sounds pleased as punch, now, collected and knowing, but weeks ago she met him and he was high off his fucking rocker and not even to be trusted with looking after himself. The dubious scrutiny he finds himself under is unerring, long, not even interrupted by Byron's reappearance.

It says more than words could, about her level of trust in such a physician.

There's finally a languid, if slow blink of her eyes preceding a shift of the angle of her head, and she looks away from Zachery only to consider the kitchen area with a hmf. Idle thought. She fixes her gaze on the ceiling, inspecting for stains, wondering if the wiring in the place would at all do.

Because if he's going to be setting up a clinic, he'd need electricity, she's sure.

"You're sure about this?" Kara asks off-handedly.

Zachery is used to scrutiny, and almost seems to revel in it, the way his grin brightens and arms fold loosely over his chest - like he's finally found something familiar about this whole situation.

"I'm— 'like a doctor', yes." Zachery breathes the words out in a chuckle, almost as if answering a child's question, moving further inward again - though not without a quick look over his shoulder. Like maybe he's expecting a third visitor. You never know.

"And I'm sure." He sounds it, without a doubt. "It's going to be a lot of work, and I'll only be here half of every week, but I'll be here. On call if need be, give or take a few hours, should there be emergencies. And… reception for a phone call, for that matter." This, he sounds vaguely annoyed about, shoulders shrugged upward as he moves in a steady gait toward the staircase.

Byron has nothing sassy to say at this time, taking up space in the narrow corridor like he's ready to be told what to do. He peels his attention off of Zachery to key in to Kara, and the guy who is very much like a doctor can see the switch of focus from himself to the lady's back.

She asks if Zachery is sure, which strikes him as obscurely funny.

Some long-suffering note comes from Kara, too shallow to be a sigh, but what else could it be classified as? Her posture actually draws up, preparing herself for the mental monstrosity that reclaiming a house with only half a week will end up being. Especially if Zachery is doing this alone, which—

“Ah,” is a hint of relief at the end of her sigh, a realization which pops her brow. “Well there’s always that.”

And just like that, this is fine. She’s not the only person suffering for altruism any longer. Because… “Dumortier can likely assist in expediting the patch work. Good thing you two are already on good terms.” Kara even reaches out to pat Zachery roughly on one shoulder as she moves past him, back toward Byron. Once she’s on the man’s eyeless side and a little past him, she shoots the latter a shrug that’s little more than a tilt of her head and an emotive gesture with her eyebrows. Zachery’s a piece of work, the house is a piece of work — who knows, maybe they’ll be meant for each other.

“In return,” for the help of renovating, presumably, “we’ll need to know exactly when you’re available. If it’s an emergency, we’ll not be calling you first, but the information should be circulated for non-emergencies,” she states, sounding absent-minded. Once she’s near enough to Byron’s side, she turns back to look at Zachery again. “You got anything that proves you’re a doctor?” The munitions chaplain waits just a second longer than would be normal for having something else to say, either on purpose to trip up his response, or just because she can’t decide if it’ll be taken as a joke. “The hearse doesn’t inspire confidence.”

The pat is received so much less than favourably by Zachery, who immediately halts in his steps. It stiffens previously relaxed muscles, and curls fingers inwards, towards palms. God damn it.

But a breath later, and he's fine. Honest. Probably. "What do you want, a stethoscope?" His words have more of a clipped quality to them than before, though he manages to retain an air of genuine, casual curiosity in the way he smirks and narrows his eyes. "Next time, after I visit the city, I can bring you… a diploma, certificate, theses with my name on them - hell, I'm pretty sure I have a newspaper clipping with my actual face in it, from when I worked as a surgeon."

He also has one or two others, somewhere, but the ones where he's sitting in court aren't quite so flattering.

"As for the hearse," he adds, but after an inhalation — just stops, expression falling to neutral, before flatly admitting, "… No, yes, I see what you mean, there."

"I like it," Byron says, mainly to Kara. And then, as if to clarify for Zachery's sake, he raises his voice politely to specify; "The car."

Spoken with the tone of someone who cares less that it is a hearse and more that it has fire on it. Probably, he's not planning to steal it. Some part of him believes he might have already gotten more than he anticipated, signs without signifiers, but there's time enough to find them — especially if the good doctor is putting down some roots.

There's one last look up and down, before Byron's apparent disinterest kicks in and he makes for the door.

“Proof is good,” Kara affirms, neither pleased nor displeased to hear that Zachery’s published. She’ll believe it when she sees it, maybe. Or she’s just a difficult person to please on a first, or even a second impression.

Byron knows a thing about that. So does the armory cot she slept on for almost two months after his first appearance in Providence.

“We’ll be back,” she states after Byron’s already turning away, of one mind with him on that count. There’s little else to be accomplished here right now. “After we’ve got something to start chipping away at this.” Kara at least looks back Zachery’s way with a small nod to reassure him they actually will come back before she follows Byron right out the door, her steps heavy on the porch.

“I think you made your like of the car pretty clear, Wolf,” she asides to him while unfixing Semej’s reins from the fencepost. “You need to say ‘bye to it or are we good to go here?”

As stickered-on pleasantness has less and less reason to be there, and both Byron and Kara have vacated the premises, Zachery's shoulders sink down. By the time he's wandered to the front door again, his expression has relaxed into something a little grimmer - preoccupied, staring at that car.

He doesn't take his eye off of it, too many pressing thoughts pushing at the forefront of his mind - like how that car should probably be hidden in some grass - to say goodbye to the two people he definitely didn't know before today.

At least he manages to call after them, somewhat stiffly as if purely out of habit, with just a smidge of reluctance, "Thank you!"

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