Tyger stood outside of Nathan Carpenter's house silently. He wasn't exactly sure how he would make his presence known, much less how to greet Carpenter's wife. "Hi, I'm Tyger. If you recall from last week, I'm here because I nearly blew a kid's head off and everyone thinks I need Anger Management training" just didn't seem to go over very well in his mind. He took a long drag from the cigarette and exhaled slowly. What did he have to be afraid of? It wasn't like it was going to be any form of a secret from anyone, especially her.
He muttered a curse under his breath as he adjusted his coat. There was nothing for it now except to just ring the doorbell. He had gotten himself into this mess, and it was only right that he take responsibility for his actions. He crushed the cigarette under his boot before ringing the doorbell; it took more than a little effort for him to not light up another one. He seriously doubted that they liked the idea of him smoking anyway, much less in the house. So he just shoved both hands into the pockets of his trenchcoat and waited for someone to answer the door.
After a moment, the door partially opened and a young teenage girl looked out. He recognized her as the eldest of the Carpenter children, although her name escaped him. Upon seeing Tyger, she stared for a second or two, then turned and yelled loudly, "MOMMMM!!! THE GUY FROM DAD'S WORK IS HERE!"
Turning back to Tyger, her volume back to normal, she spoke, "Um, come in, my mom'll be here in a moment." She moved back and opened the door fully to allow Tyger to enter.
As Tyger stepped through the threshold, he saw Nathan's wife walking briskly down the stairs. She was dressed in a flannel shirt under a denim jacket, jeans, and work boots. Her blonde hair was pulled back and confined under a battered felt hat that may have had a recognizable shape at some point in its past.
"Hello, Tyger. Thanks for coming." She gestured toward the living room. "Make yourself comfortable. I'll be with you in a moment."
She turned to address her daughter. "Elizabeth, I'll be at the nursery for the afternoon. You're responsible for Timothy and Angie while I'm gone. That means no locking yourself up in the room and no visitors, understood?"
"Mommm...." Elizabeth's voice whined, with an extra layer of mortification at being lectured in front of an audience.
"No backtalk, young lady. I'm trusting you to behave while I'm gone. The roast's in the fridge; the instructions are on the counter. Your dad wants a dinner tonight, so it better be in the oven when he gets home."
Elizabeth did not quite stomp off. Elaine frowned at her daughter as the sullen teenager went upstairs, then composed her features as she turned to Tyger and spoke in a friendly, businesslike tone, "Sorry for the wait. Are you ready to go?"
Tyger watched the proceedings with silent detachment, at least until Elizabeth started whining. Tyger looked over at the girl and gave her a weak smile "Look kid... your dammed lucky to have a mom... and a dad too. not everyone has a set of parents. so you should take care of the ones ya got... just like they take care of you"
Elizabeth's embarrassment visibly grew at Tyger's intercession.
He released a sigh and unshouldered the heavy coat and draped it over his arm. Tyger's chosen attire was no different than what he wore to the picnic last week, at least in style. T-Shirt with some random slogan, and black pants and heavy boots. He looked to Carpenters wife and nodded "Yeah, lets get this started."
Elaine eyed Tyger's attire and nodded. "We'll take my truck."
Tyger followed Carpenters wife out to the nursery, and almost as soon as he stepped past the threshold he murmured softly. "Hey... mind if I smoke?" the back door hadn't even closed yet.
Elaine spoke without slowing down. "Not in the truck. Not in the nursery. There's a place you can light up behind the building if you must."
A well-loved pickup truck was parked on the driveway. A variety of tools and other bric-a-brac were spread on the truck bed. Elaine climbed in on the driver's side and unlocked the passenger door for Tyger.
At Elaine's reply, she would hear a grumbled curse under his breath. The hand that was already going for his lighter and cigarettes returning to his pockets. He raised a brow at the truck, but said nothing at all as he opened the door.
As he sat beside Elaine in the passenger seat, he folded his arms over his chest. "Alright.... out with it. Why are you doing this? I mean, I should be out there picking up trash or something... not coming over to your house. I don't mind... I just want to know what gives"
Elaine's eyebrow raised an inch. "Well, have you ever taken care of plants, or any other living thing?"
Tyger peered at her out of the corner of his eye. "No. Should I have?"
Elaine smiled. "Nathan feels that it would help for you to face situations that don't immediately involve violence. Give you a chance to create, rather than destroy."
Tyger blinked and looked over to Elaine. "Create? As in build stuff? I build stuff all the time."
"Really" Elaine's interest was genuine. "What sort of things do you build?"
Tyger shifted a bit in the seat so he could face her better. "Models mostly. But sometimes I throw some electronics, mini-servomotors and other stuff into the mix so that they can move around and stuff." As Tyger spoke, his mood seemed to lighten up a bit, his hands become a little animated as he described one of his hobbies.
Keeping an eye on the road, Elaine turned to face him, smiling, "Models of what? Cars?"
Tyger shook his head. "No, mecha. I have several kits that I customized to look like my baby, as well as several others. Some are actual military units, others are just from anime."
"But those things aren't alive, are they?" Elaine's tone was not accusatory, but it was obvious she was leading the conversation along a specific path.
Tyger blinked and then nodded. "Well... no. They aren't. But what does that have to do with anything?"
"So, have you ever cared for anyone or anything alive? A relative? A pet? A loved one?"
Tyger only shrugged his shoulders in reply. "I... have no relatives. I was grown in a jar... remember?" Elaine had inadvertently hit a soft spot with Tyger. "Y'really can't keep pets aboard a cruiser. Not enough room for one anyway. And I learned a long time ago that you can't love or care about anyone, because as soon as you do, you either end up stabbed in the back or they end up dead." He couldn't fault her, she didn't know. how could she? The way his ears folded against his skull and the sudden interest in what was going on outside of the car, would only serve to drive his bitter words home.
"I'm sorry." Elaine's voice was soft. "I didn't mean to hurt you. I can't fully understand what your life up to now has been like, but I'd like for you to see that it doesn't have to stay that way."
She paused, taking a breath before continuing. "You're not alone anymore, Tyger. Here in Angelus, you can be with people who care for you, and that you can care for back. What Nathan asked me to do is show you that there's more to life than power armor and violence. Will you give me the chance to?"
Tyger released a sigh, but his attention was still upon the world passing by as he spoke. "I know you didn't mean to Miss Carpenter. You don't know much about my past, where I came from... what I've seen and had to go through. There ain't many folks out there who do. It wouldn't be fair for me to expect you to know something like that."
Tyger sat back fully in the seat, his attention facing forward now. "People keep tellin' me that 'I'm not alone', but you know how hollow and fake that sounds after the first five hundred times of hearing it? There is a reason why I relate better to my baby than anyone else. my Blue Steel wont lie to me. nor will she stab me in the back. She doesn't care because she's a machine... and machines don't do anything except what they're told to do."
He looked at Elaine now. "The only reason why I'm sitting here, right now, and not dead or rotting in some cell is because someone gave me a chance. It wouldn't be right for me to not at least try."
Elaine sighed with mild exasperation. "Did it ever occur to you that you might be alone because you spend all your time with inanimate things? If you want someone to be close to you, you need to get close to someone. It's a two-lane road, Tyger."
"I understand that the world you lived in gave you the short end of the stick. What Nathan and I and everyone else who actually cares for you is trying to drill through your thick skull is that you're no longer a part of that world. Not everyone here is looking to stab you in the back. You don't have to be alone. But to do that, you are going to have to put down your guard. Can you handle that?"
She eyed the Clade with the hint of a sad smile. "Or are you too afraid to?"
Tyger took a long, deep breath and exhaled slowly. His right hand ticked and Tyger looked at it. damn, he really needed a cigarette. "It's not that the world I lived in gave me the short end of the stick miss Carpenter. I just came from a world where the only reason why you got close to someone was so you could shove the knife into their back that much easier. I don't consider it a short end of anything, just the way things were. Just because I grew up in a hard life, in a world where it was kill or be killed, doesn't mean that I was bad off necessarily...." Tyger's words drifted off and he looked over to Elaine for a moment. "...I didn't know anyone actually did care about me. After all, I'm a Clade... and last time I checked there are only two places in the world where I'm not considered property.
"I understand that you and Nathan are trying to reach out to me. That you two are different. That you two actually care. But you will have to forgive me if I don't believe or take it at face value right away. After all, I have heard all of that before, just before I got my teeth kicked in. I mean It's not your fault that I'm like this, but if you keep hurting an animal enough, eventually it won't trust anyone no matter what you do to try and make it better." Elaine would notice an emphasis on when Tyger said Animal, almost as if he were referring to himself in a way. His eyes then narrowed as he carefully watched her. "Miss Carpenter, if I were afraid, do you really think that I would be in here with you right now? If I really didn't want to give it one more shot, do you think I would have come here? After all, I could have easily decided to spend my community service picking up trash or something... I have never ever been afraid."
"No, I can see that."
"So, Tyger, are you planning to, ah, 'shove a knife into my back'? Or Nathan's?" Elaine's tone was deceptively casual.
Tyger raised a brow at Elaine's words. He wasn't exactly sure what to think about it at first. Several underhanded or even downright rude replies drifted through his mind, and he genuinely thought about voicing some of them. However something told him that it would not be the best thing, so he went for the simple reply that required the least amount of effort: the Truth. "Honestly? Wasn't planning on it. Just because I'm used to someone trying to shove a knife in my back doesn't mean that I did it myself. I never did like playing dirty... except when I'm fighting, and it never was because I liked it, it was because I don't like the idea of dying." He took a deep breath and exhaled slowly, his hand curling into a fist and then releasing itself slowly. "Neither you or Nate have done anything to me that deserve something like that. Both of you have been nothing but kind to me... so there ain't a reason for me to do anything but try to return the favor." He turned to look at Elaine once more. "But that doesn't mean I have to come out from behind my shield to do it either."
"That's fair enough." Elaine's voice seemed to indicate something was, if not resolved, at least clarified.
"Could we at last agree for you to keep an open mind about other folks' intentions? You might be surprised to find that the world is not as much dog-eat-dog," a smile teased her lips, "or -cat, as you think it is."
Tyger gave a bit of a nod in reply. "Yeah, I'll do my best... I promised Marcy I would try... so... yeah. I'll do what I can."