ArchivedLogs:Be Your Best

From X-Men: rEvolution
Be Your Best
Dramatis Personae

Neve, Micah, Jax, Edward Leone

20 July 2014

A rather tense meeting.


<NYC> Themis House - Upper West Side

There is a great deal of psychology to be found in Themis House. This is not just due to its staff of psychologists and social workers. The building itself was chosen for the effect it inspires on those who come inside. It boasts an open design constructed with glass, brushed steel and concrete, with floor to ceiling windows meant to let in as much natural light as possible. The two-story space feels immense and cool, but is saved from sterility by the use of an indoor water feature surrounded by ferns and comfortable modern furniture in cheerful shades of sea blue, lime green and chocolate brown.

The lower floor is dedicated to greeting and meeting spaces, the immense atrium arranged so that one is faced with a low, wide reception desk upon entering. To the left behind a glass wall is a meeting room with a long table surrounded by rolly chairs; there's a flat screen TV up on the wall at the head of the table. To the right the area is open with the water feature and a collection of couches, chairs, low tables and even a snack bar stocked with fresh fruit, muffins, juice and coffee. Beyond the reception desk is another glass wall, inset with a number of doors that lead into smaller, more intimate meeting rooms for one on one visits and intake interviews.

The second floor is open to the lower one, and overlooks it behind a circling glass-fronted balcony reached by spiraling staircase or an elevator tucked out of the way. Here is where the executive director and other staff keep their offices, and where records are stored. There are tiny cameras hidden within black glass domes in corners on the ceiling, silently recording what occurs below on both floors.

It rained this morning, but the fading afternoon has proven pleasant, washing New York in unhindered sunlight and pleasant temperatures. Though not typically open on Sundays, and as a result rather /deserted/, the light pouring in through the windows of Themis House give it a bright and cozy atmosphere. Empty and echoey are defied, making the stillness seem peaceful, the empty and motionless air simply cool. It smells like coffee, it smells like citrus.

Visible behind the glass of the meeting room are Neve and her father. Edward is responsible for the coffee smells, having just carried in a tray on which there are two steaming cups and two empty, along with a carafe. The citrus comes of Neve sectioning an orange onto a small plate. Both are dressed as if for church, with the senior in a navy suit and white button-down, without a tie and the junior Leone wearing a soft blue pantsuit of her own. A tiny golden cross sparkles in the hollow of her throat, held on a nigh invisible chain. It twinkles when she looks up to smile at the white-haired man. "Nervous?" he asks her.

Her hesitation is brief enough to hardly count as a pause. "Of course not."

Micah has no idea what to expect of this place or the people in it. What does one /wear/ to such a meeting, even? As such, he has thrown on some 'interview clothes'...just in case. His typically mussed-mess of auburn hair has been tamed down and he is clad in a jade green button-down shirt and charcoal grey trousers with a pair of serviceable black dress shoes. He looks nervous, nonetheless, in the way his head turns this way and that like a bird's surveying new and uncertain territory. "If they ever wanna bring back Dollhouse, they could just use this place 'stead of rebuildin' the set. Gives me the heebie-jeebies," he breathes out to Jax as they make their way through the entrance, continuing, "'I try to be my best.'" There's an honest /shiver/ after this. He takes his husband's hand before moving on toward the meeting room.

"Dollhouse?" The reference is lost on Jax, brows creasing uncertainly, but 'heebie-jeebies' he understands clear enough without any familiarity with nerd culture. "Yeah, kinda got the creepyface -- been-programmed-what-t'-say vibe last time I stopped in." Jax's words are soft, too, muttered barely beneath his breath as he slips his hand into Micah's. If he looks as though he's dressed for church it may be because he /is/, yet to change since Mass this morning. Light blue summerweight suit, tie still neatly tied. He /doesn't/ look nervous, an ease to his posture, expression relaxed beneath its dusting of shimmery makeup but -- well. It's easy enough for the illusionist not to /look/ like anything he doesn't want to. The squeeze of his hand in Micah's betrays him, a little too overheated, a little too shaky. Despite having this meeting /scheduled/ he still knocks quietly on the meeting room door rather than just enter.

"You've been doing wonderfully, Neve. Chin up," Edward advises the young woman. He places the coffee at her elbow and then rests his hand on her shoulder before turning for the door. His smile beneath his beard is warm and welcoming upon seeing the young men just on the other side, and no time is wasted in opening it for them. "Gentlemen! Come in, come in. Have a seat. Coffee?"

At the table, Neve is crumpling a paper napkin between her hands to get orange stuff from her fingers. She rises as the pair are invited in. Her smile falls to the more subdued end of the spectrum but carries the same warmth. "Jax. Micah. Hello."

At that heat, Micah's hand gives a reassuring squeeze back to his husband's. “S'a show I really oughtta get you t'watch,” is the last under-breath murmur that is offered before Jax knocks on the door. And 3, 2, 1, a more polite and friendly face is donned before said door opens. “Good mornin'. Thanks for havin' us, an' not on a business day an' all. Nice t'meet you, sir. An' good t'see you again, Neve.” There is a bit of an /honest/ smile that peeks out when he addresses the young woman. He releases Jax's hand to take one of the proffered seats, perching himself right on its edge rather than relaxing into it with any ease.

"G'day, sir. Miss." Jax's thick drawl is warm as ever, a mirroring smile touching his pierced lips as well as his head bobs in a quick nod. "Is kind'a you to agree t'meet with us, m'sure you're real busy an' -- cuttin' into your weekend -- I appreciate the time." He takes a seat beside Micah, settling a bit more properly into it as his hands fold in his lap. "Oh gosh more caffeine an' I might bounce myself outta my chair. Thank you, though."

"No trouble at all. Neve told me you're /both/ concerned about the work we're doing here, and as a father myself, it's the least I could do." Edward gently closes the door and moves to the opposite side of the table, to take a seat beside the referenced daughter. "I hope you don't mind if we indulge? We were running late this morning and rushed out without breakfast," he goes on as he places the second full cup before himself. Then he settles back in his chair, fingers laced over his belly. A more serious expression is adopted. "What can I do for you gentlemen? I'm given to understand Neve's already fielded a number of questions." He sidelines a glance towards the woman in question.

And upon receiving said glance, Neve draws her smile a little deeper. "I did my best," she says--unaware of certain /references/ made just scant moments before, "but I'm not sure it was enough."

"Please, go ahead," Micah says of the coffee, gesturing with the side of a hand toward the carafe. "She did... I think perhaps I got a little too technical an' perhaps too far beyond things that she might've been told. Apologies for that again," is said with a nod to Neve. Micah can't help a tiny cringe at the echo of that /particular/ phrase. "Got all kindsa questions, but guess maybe should start simple 'fore we go on grillin' you nice folks... Why Themis?" There's an interesting choice of first question, but something that started nagging and chewing at the back of Micah's mind after a combination of speaking to Neve and a certain /Greek/ accent in her presence.

Jax is at least unfazed by Neve's word-choice, just offering Edward another small nod towards the coffee. "Oh, 'course we don't mind, sir." A faint dusting of blush colours his cheeks, his smile tugging a little lopsided. "Yeah, I think -- mostly I'd kinda started pokin' at questions that. Mighta been better suited t'you than t'Miss Neve. I /want/ t'know 'bout the experience of it, but I want t'know 'bout the medicine of it too, before --" He trails off here, though, just glancing over to Micah and then back to Edward and Neve after this first question.

"Of course, of course. It's good to educate yourself before making decisions." Edward looks /pleased/ at the question Micah has chosen to open with. It's the sort of well-fed paternal look an older man gives a younger when they've been pleasantly surprised. "You know, not once has anyone asked me that," he claims. "I don't think anyone's caught the reference. Either of you ever been down to D.C.? There's a museum there. National Museum of Art. I used to go and sneak pictures of the exhibits. No flash photography but my Neve couldn't go, so I went for her and brought back what I could for her to look at." Now his expression shades fond as he glances at the young woman. She looks back, eyebrows up, smiling and curious--perhaps she's never heard this story either.

"They had a special exhibit on. Greek...everything, really. But they had statues and there was one...she was a titaness, you know. A goddess of good counsel. And she was standing there with her arms out, and this little smile on her face, like she knew you wanted to walk up and just take her hands. If she'd /had/ both hands. Guess she lost one, through the years."

Micah listens quietly to all of this, though there is a slight furrow of brow and tense of jaw at the definition of the titaness. "Seems like losin' a few parts here an' there happens to a lot of us," he muses before continuing. "Good counsel, really? S'that the label they have there? I...don't rightly remember. S'been a few years since I last went. Way I remember it was divine law an' order. Natural law, they'd call it. Settles out a fixed set of rules on /behalf/ of humanity of what's inherently the way things ought t'be. Just seemed like an...interestin' choice for this place is all."

Jax's eye drops downward, glancing briefly towards his hands folded in his lap. "Seems fitting." His smile has faded into just thoughtfulness when he looks back up at the other two. "Interesting's one way to put it." His hands unfold in his lap, one of them turning upward. "It's just, choosin' to open a facility to cure mutants right on the heels of Prometheus being splashed all over the news -- just kinda feels like styling yourself after a titan too may not be sending /entirely/ the best message t'the community you're targetin'."

"Order, yes. Themis means divine order. What is done or not done by culture as a whole, dictated by powers beyond our control. But the only 'ought to be' here is what our clients determine for themselves. People who wish to conform to the majority for whatever reason as best they can, we accept them here," Edward says. "Because they are accepted nowhere else. But I assure you," and here he smiles a half-smile, "the name came to me because of that statue. And because it had a certain soft flow to it, I admit, a point my PR people agreed with. /That/ point was also raised though." He tips a finger towards Jax. The gesture then shifts into reaching for the coffee cup. A sip is taken. "It's an unfortunate association. What's come out about their work, their methods, is barbarous. Unworthy of the name. We hope to honor ours."

Neve attends to the conversation but doesn't contribute. Her eyes shift, marking each person as they speak, and her hands move, slipping a fragment of orange into her mouth.

"Hm." Micah still seems a little less than pleased by the definition behind the name, the intention, the focus on order and things out of one's control. "Don't think they're not accepted. Seems t'me that's considered more the /right/ way of feelin' than those as /don't/ feel that way, out on the street." As opposed to here in this bizarre feng shui bubble. "What's your association with Prometheus? And I do mean any, so please don't just come back at me with a quick 'none'. Any collaboration, research shared, starting there. We haven't /missed/ that they come out with certain suppression devices 'bout the same time y'step up an' say you've found one."

"Don't think that's hardly a thing you can say with even a shred of legitimacy, sir." Jax shakes his head, his heavy drawl quiet. "The entirety of the world's been telling me to hide what I am an' lookin' for a way to fix us for so many years now. You might be right that in the /mutant/ community people ain't always accepting of the idea of curing us, but we're /less/ than a percent of the population. An' that other ninety-nine is pretty solid on your side, right down to the laws they pass tryin' to get us to hide an' be normal."

"Gentlemen." Edward has lost his smile. He laces his fingers together but this time, rather than leaning back, he settles forward with his arms braced on the table. "I am speaking not of people who resent being told to cover up. I speak of those who /want/ to, catching fire from non-mutants on one side and those like them who do not accept that they want to be something other than mutant. Just last night, Mister Zedner, you lectured my daughter on her use of the word normal. Here we do not /judge/ the language our clients prefer to use. We do not judge and we do not cure, but we offer support and assistance in their personal journeys, in an environment that accepts who and what they are /as well/ as their desire to change the what. You are attaching meanings and intentions that, while understandable given your circumstances, are mistaken." Bright blue eyes shift to Micah. "I will say none. I wasn't aware that they had come out with any /devices/. I would be curious to see some but--"

"But we have nothing like that here," Neve slides in. A quiet interjection from where she sits. "You disapprove. Both of you disapprove. And that's all right. If it isn't for you, if you've come already decided that you dislike our language, our motives, our /agenda/, there's nothing keeping you here."

"It wasn't so much /her/ use of normal, as...the fact that it's splashed from one end of your website to the other an' on every ad. It's one thing for your /clients/ t'choose that word an' quite another for you t'sling it as readily as y'do. 'Be normal. Be more human.' That's what you've said. An' what ties along with that is, 'You're not normal. You're a freak. You're /not/ human.' An' that's wrong an' hurtful an' subversive an' plain /othering/. That's /predatory/, preyin' on folks who get told that every minute of every day, then sayin' you're the ones bein' acceptin' an' understandin'." Micah sighs heavily, shaking his head. "I disapprove in the general case, yes. I dislike the language you're usin' for the reasons I just said. Your motives an' agenda are what I'm tryin' t'figure with these questions, on account of I don't /know/ those yet. Please bear with me an' the suspiciousness that's been bred of people tryin' t'torture an' kill me'n my family'n friends."

Micah's headshake visits again, more firmly this time. "There's an awful lot keepin' us here, sir. From the general impact you're havin' on the public an' our community in particular, t'the friends an' family who're considerin' usin' your solutions. An' there's some as could use suppression that /don't/ buy into thinkin' that they're /wrong/ just 'cause they're mutants. /Sometimes/ there's just somethin' dangerous 'bout part of an X-gene expression that could use bein' suppressed without feelin' the need t'change a body's /identity/. D'you grasp the dif'rence?"

Jax's fingers lace back together, settling neatly back into his lap. His eye has dropped downward once more, expression quietly blank. "If you think you can boil this issue down to /people who resent bein' told to cover up/, sir --" He shakes his head slowly. "I'm talking about people /literally/ gettin' beat to death for what they are. /Actual/ lynchings. People locked in labs an' tortured an' mutilated. Laws passed in places that say it's a /crime/ jus' to be what we are. Please don't insult me by makin' out like I'm just upset someone thinks my /skirt's/ too short. 'cuz this -- your whole project here, it ain't /happening/ in a vacuum. It's happening in a world that does its best every minute of every day to beat us down an' tell us we're less than you. An' what goes on in your therapy sessions with clients is one thing -- what /you/ put out there into the world is another. An' making out like human is the ideal we should be strivin' for -- that you're just here to help us reach our potential -- because that's all right there on your site."

His voice hasn't raised through this -- neither has his gaze, steadily fixed downward through one slow breath. "An' I'd be right happy, Miss Neve, t'be able to get up an' jus' walk away. But what you do here /affects/ me. Affects my /family/. Affects the people I love. An' whatever you may think I do want the best for them. /Want/ people to get what help they need. Jus' -- want it to be in an environment that /is/ helpful an' not doin' already vulnerable folks more /harm/."

"I am sympathetic to the ordeals your family has suffered at the hands of those people. What happens out there every day to people like you and Neve should be a crime. However, I would like to remind you that my daughter requested this meeting in good faith, taking time from our day, to speak with you. I did not expect that speaking with you would come with inflammatory language and liken our outreach here to predation." Edward has long since replaced a neutral expression with a frown as he looks back and forth between them. Neve has slipped her hand over his and he holds her fingers gently but doesn't take his focus away from the young men.

"I am not here to debate semantics with activists, gentlemen. We exist. We will continue to exist. You may not like it but there is a demand for the services we offer, for all of them from counselling to suppression to plastic surgery. I make no judgments on my clients' reasons for wishing to change, whether it be medical or psychological. I am not a secret member of Prometheus, nor do I share their ideals or goals. I love my girl and had she wished to remain just as she was, I would have loved her still. But she /is/ better as she is now because she's happier and healthier. That is our goal here. That is what we hope to achieve."

"What we are achieving," Neve adds quietly. "Of course you should do what you think is best for your family. If you feel we'd do them harm, even that we /might/ do them harm, you /should/ walk away. It isn't for everyone. There's nothing wrong with that."

Micah's fingers move toward his temples, hands actually lifting from his lap before he catches himself and allows them to drop. "There's a reason for activists. As there's a reason for debatin' semantics an' carin' about words. It seemed kinder an' more productive t'bring up these concerns here than t'start a letter writin' campaign t'your office an' PR company. Beg pardon for requestin' some understandin' in these things. To take it out of your arena for just a moment... It's one thing when one of m'patients wants t'call 'imself a cripple or talk 'bout 'is residual limb as a stump. I'm not gonna correct 'im, but I /am/ gonna watch t'see if those're concernin' enough signs that need a referral to a psychologist. An' I'm /certainly/ not gonna use that language m'self, regardless of me havin' an amputation an' prosthesis m'self. It's our responsibility within the medical community t'treat our patients with respect, t'educate ourselves t'know what's appropriate, an' t'practice the appropriate sensitivity t'ward them an' their culture. An' what you're doin' here is puttin' yourself in the middle of the field of X-gene medicine."

"I'm speakin' t'you as a father an' a colleague, in the hope that we can do /better/ by our patients an' our community an' our /children/." Micah's fingers are fidgeting a bit now with the fabric covering his knees, having been thwarted in their previous mission. "I'd appreciate if y'could see me as such. In that vein, any research an' details on your process that you're able t'forward t'me would be appreciated, as well. Any government grant proposals with details in them. I'm sure you're well aware that those're a matter of public record that I can request, but I'd take it as a sign of good faith if y'wouldn't make me go through those more arduous channels." There's a small victory for those itchy hands when Micah reaches into his pocket and withdraws a handful of business cards to set on the table in front of them. "In the spirit of helpin' those we're wantin' t'help."

There is a very faint ripple in the light in the room, just a small unsteady tremor that soon settles back into calm. "Sir, if I was comin' to Themis House as an activist this woulda been a very different meeting. I don't say the things I say because I'm tryin' to score points in some debate. This is my /life/. This is my life an' my family an' my kids an you of all people should understand how much this --" The lights shiver again. Jax closes his mouth tightly, taking another deep breath and letting it back out. "Ain't no /semantics/ about it, sir. The words we choose, the /way/ we choose to present ourselves, the message you've /chosen/ to put across -- these things are important. An' it ain't because I'm an /activist/, it's because I'm a father /also/ tryin' to make sure my kids is happy an' healthy in a world tryin' real hard to make sure they ain't."

"Language does matter," Edward allows. "And calling me and mine predators is hardly a fit way to engage in respectful discourse. If you're seeking to provoke me as part of your vetting process, in the hopes that it will determine for you that I am part of the greater conspiracy against mutantkind, I must ask you to stop. Neve." He gives the young woman's hand a squeeze and then releases her. "Fetch the packets you put together, please."

Eyes cast down, Neve scoots her chair back and stands to circle the table. At the head of it, nearest the screen on the wall, a small wood-clad shelving unit has been tucked beneath. She bends here, busying herself with sifting through papers and envelopes. While she searches, Edward returns to focusing on the other pair. Bushy eyebrows shift briefly to the lights. "As my daughter has said, it isn't for everyone. You have made very clear that you are uncomfortable with how we present ourselves. I understand. I understand, perhaps better than you realize, the mindset with which you've approached this meeting. I wish there were something I could say or do to put your minds at ease, if only so we could offer the help you so clearly desire, but I also understand the obstacles preventing that. Here."

He gestures. Neve has returned, this time on their side of the table. She has two dusty blue folders, both of them fat with paper. She sets them near Micah's hand before withdrawing, keeping her eyes averted from the pair.

"Our documentation. Business license. Staff certifications. Grant proposals. Assessment forms, intake evaluations, action plan templates, preliminary annual review, and yes, marketing materials," Edward tells them.

"Provocation wasn't the intention, I assure, sir. But you need t'understand how you're comin' across. It is my sincere hope that you'll be able to consider what we're sayin' once there's been time for...not feelin' like we're here at each other's throats. My intention is only t'help. You, the community, my family. This is comin' from that place. Y'might wanna think on who this is comin' from, again. People seekin' your help an' /wantin'/ t'help, that we feel this way from what has been put out there. Consider how much worse it'd be for those /not/ in the same position." Micah frowns at the flinching way that Neve moves, though he tries his best not to let it onto his face he is not precisely /good/ at keeping his thoughts from his expressions. He collects the folders and places them into his messenger bag before standing. "We appreciate the time you've taken t'speak with us. You'll be hearin' from us again." His tone and expression both soften as he looks over to Neve. "Pleasure seein' you again, darlin'. Apologies for drawin' you into any unpleasantness. Have a good day."

Jax's fingers stay folded tightly in his lap. In answer to this he says nothing at all; just remains silent as Micah answers. He unfolds his hands slowly, rises slowly, dips his head in a very small nod. "Thank you both for your time." Only that, very quiet before he heads straight for the door, lingering only just long enough to hold it for his husband on the way out.

"Take care," Neve bids them quietly, having returned to stand behind her seat with her hands on the back of it. Edward also stands, observing the formality. "It was a pleasure to meet both of you," he adds to the round of parting words. On the matter of intentions and unpleasantness, he has nothing to say, but with the Holland-Zedners safely through the door he turns towards Neve. A hand cups her elbow and he might be heard murmuring something to her before the door shuts behind them.