"All I'm offering is a family, a home, and the opportunity to make a difference." (Takes place after Paige's visit with Mai.)
<NYC> BoM Safehouse - Lower East Side
Tucked away off a little-used side street in the Lower East Side, sandwiched between a youth drop-in center and a taqueria, this narrow three-story townhouse has very little to catch the eye. Boarded-up windows, a door peeling its paint, shabby grubby brickface; from the outside it does not look like much.
Inside someone has gone to great lengths to renovate the building into something more habitable. It isn't glamorous but it is comfortable, old furniture dragged in, the place generally swept clean. The first floor holds a large living room, a smaller dining room, a spacious kitchen, a half-bathroom. There are three bedrooms and a full bathroom on the second floor; the attic is just a large empty space crammed full of boxes with a window out to the large flat roof.
The basement, much like the attic, consists of a lot of empty space. A bare concrete floor, no windows, occasional poles running up to the ceiling. A tiny half-bathroom down here, too. Not a whole lot else.
It's early in the evening and the sun is just setting as Paige sits in a corner of the first floor living room. While other tenets converse and some play card games, the goat girl seems very much lost in her own thoughts. Wearing a black cardigan over a black long-sleeved shirt, the twenty year-old appears to be picking at her fingers, ears twitching occasionally at ambient noises. Her legs are pulled up as best they can be onto the beaten-up armchair in which she is seated.
Anette comes from upstairs, casually looking about though keeping more to herself. She wears a black sweater, designed to fit around her wings, grey jeans, and boots. She appears disinterested as she glances about the living room, though she does a double take on the girl on the armchair. She narrows her eyes, focusing for a moment before calling to her questioning. "Paige?"
Paige's ears flick up as her body reacts to the sound of her name, the muscles in her back and shoulders tensing quickly. She looks up from her hands, eyes widening and brow furrowing before she glances about the room. Her darting gaze eventually lands on a familiar face and her ears flick up again in recognition. "Anette?" she replies, a questioning tone in her voice as well. "Anette? What--what are you doing here? Are you out of a place, too?"
"Me? No I just like to check up on here once in a while. A change of scenery, see new faces." Anette gives a light shrug, making her way closer to Paige, the girl's changes becoming clearer. "Fur suits you," is all she says regarding them, though she frowns slightly. "Sorry, did you say you were out of a place?"
Ears flick down and Paige's gaze drops at the mention of her change. "Thanks. It's...soft." A hand reaches to rub at the opposite arm as she looks back up. "Yeah, I...I've just been having a lot--a lot of trouble recently. I was staying at the Commons, but I was only a guest and, you know, you can't stay there forever. So I--well, my friend let me sleep in her apartment and things were going really well for like two weeks, right? And then she--" The blonde mutant's eyes dart back down as her jaw works. "--then she got arrested. You know, for murder. And I just don't have anywhere else to go. I got the address for this place from Steve." Now both her hands are rubbing, pressing into, her arms. She's silent for a moment before she asks, "Check up? You've--Did you use to stay here?"
Anette's eyes open wide at the mention of murder. "No kidding? Well damn." She looks over Paige again, offering a soft frown. "Well that sucks. I wish I could help but I really don't have anything to offer." She shakes her head gently. "No. Not really. At least, no longer than a night. I just...know the people who run this place. And like I said, it's something different when I'm bored."
"Oh." With this simple response, Paige looks back up. "Are they nice people? I mean, Steve said that, um, some of the people from the Commons ran the place, so I'm guessing they are. They were really nice to me there." The goat girl's anxious rubbing stops and she just grips her arms instead. "The MID came to take her away. They were--they were really nice, though. Except one of the officers. He--he was kind of mean, you know? Called us freaks and such. But Sergeant Sutton and Officer Kelly seemed like they really cared. Officer Kelly was very nice." This last part is confirmed with a slight nod before she looks Anette in the eyes. "It's okay. I'm not looking for hand-outs. Er, nothing more than is offered here, really. Just the bed, the roof, and the food. That's all I need."
"Nice enough. Very active in fighting for mutant rights." Anette grins a bit as Paige describes the arrest. "Eric, huh? He's interesting. Never had a problem with him myself but I've heard some sketchy rumors. I try to stay away from police though, mutant or otherwise. Never know who you can trust." She nods gently as Paige describes her situation. "Well, I don't think anyone will kick you out of here. Though I'd keep an eye out for other places. Don't know if you'd want to stay here forever."
"Other places?" The expression on Paige's face is one of tired disbelief tinged with exasperation and pain. "I only know this one. I just--I just got here yesterday." Still she nods at Anette's mention of Sergeant Sutton. "Yeah. Eric was his first name - that's right. You know him? Can you tell him I said thank you? I'm really happy he didn't shoot Mai, you know? She's just--she's just a sweetheart and I know they think she killed someone, but I'm sure she had a good reason if she did, you know? She's just not a killer. Not Mai." Ears flick up, then back, before returning to a neutral position as the younger girl bites her lip. "I don't know much about Eric. I'm glad that he's--that he's on our side, you know?" Then she pauses, eyebrows furrowing. "But, um, how are you? I don't think we've really talked since what happened at the Clinic."
"Sorry. That's probably the last thing you want to hear. Shit's hard for mutants, especially obvious ones." Anette takes a deep breath, combing her talons back through her hair. "I just mean I hope everything works out for you. You're a sweet kid yourself, I just...wish I could help." Anette shakes her head. "Maybe. If MID is handling it, they might actually do their jobs and not just arrest her for being a mutant." When Paige asks how she's been, she tenses slightly but offers a thin smile. "I've been alright."
Paige lets out a sound somewhere between a derisive laugh and a sob. "Work out. For me. Yeah." There's a bitterness to her voice as she drops her head and starts picking again at the skin of her hands where her fur begins. "Right." These few words are probably the most she's ever said about her actual feelings in regards to her situation. "I'm glad to hear that you're alright, though. Good to hear that you've been safe, you know?" The horned girl's ears flick up and she lets out a small hiss as she apparently digs too deep into the side of her thumb. With a sigh, she lets her fidgeting hands drop before looking up again. "It's fine. I'll be alright. Enough people have helped me out already. I just have to wait another week. Then I'll get my updated registration card and I'll get a job." Ears flick down. "Or something."
Anette waits for Paige to finish venting, even as her voice spills bitterness. Once she finishes, Anette asks, quietly, "Have you ever thought about taking an active part in mutant rights? Learning how to stand up for yourself? Really make a difference?" She's testing the waters, yellow eyes focused on the goat girl, studying her reaction.
Paige glances to the side, ears flicking back at the question, as her face flushes a little bit. "Yes," she admits hesitantly, teeth biting her lower lip. "I've thought about it. I mean, I've thought a lot about it, you know?" Her brows pinch and a look of concern comes over her face. "But there's not really much I can do about it. I'm only twenty and I'm---I'm not even sure how to--I mean, I've just been trying so hard much to just make things better for my friends, you know?" Now her eyes return to meet Anette's. "But I haven't. I keep failing. One's going on trial for murder, the other is barely even sixteen and doesn't have a place to sleep, and my friend Heather's a fucking mystery. I can't even understand how she operates. All of my plans and promises have fallen through and I'm never going to be able to deliver on any of them."
"I mean, I'm doing my best to help my other friend with their art show, you know? They're in high school -- at Xavier's -- and they really like to sew. They made my cardigan and a special hat for me. It was going to be a fashion show and I was going to model for them, but now it's like a whole event where mutant artists will be showcasing their work, you know? And, so I've been trying to help reach out to mutant-friendly places and groups for sponsorship and to generate interest in it." A hand now rubs at her shoulder and her ears flick down. "So, um, there is that, I guess?"
Anette listens intently as Paige talks, the corner of her mouth quirking up in a faint smile, despite the seriousness of the topic. "I've been there. Believe me, I've been there. That helpless feeling, watching everything fall apart around you, feeling like you could do more. What if...what if I could help you make a bigger difference? Everything you said is fine but...would you want to do more?" She glances about the room and, deciding their privacy is sufficient, kneels down beside Paige so they can talk quietly, her wings spreading gently behind her for balance. "There was a...senator or something. He had a mutant son, and he was anti-mutant except his son could produce diamonds. So he kept his son, practically comatose, making diamonds so he could fuel his campaigns and lifestyle. The newspapers said he son was kidnapped but you and I both know better." Anette grins slightly as she looks up towards Paige. "Does something like that interest you?"
The goat girl's eyes narrow and her head tilts in confusion at Anette's story. "Know better?" The hand rubbing her shoulder slows to a stop before reaching up to scratch behind an ear, the extremity itself twitching and flicking in response to the touch. "I, uh, I'm not sure what you mean?" Indeed, Paige seems to not understand the older girl's question. "I mean, that would be horrible for anyone to use someone else that way, you know? And especially if his son was in such a disabled state, you know? But I don't--I don't know what I could do about that? Are you asking me if I had something to do with kidnapping him? I don't..." She ends up trailing off, still looking rather perplexed. "I mean, yeah. I wish--I wish I could do more." Her eyes fall and her ears flick down. "Like...like that cop at the apartment. He was just staring at me and then he called us names. I mean, I didn't even -do- anything. I just stood there. And it was in my friend's apartment, too. I'm used to it happening outside, but inside? That...that just hurt more than even being attacked. It makes me worry about what sort of things my friends are facing everyday, you know? And then there's my family. They're...they're really anti-mutant. They probably wouldn't've approved of that senator, though. They probably would have killed the son." A pause as she grinds her teeth quietly. "I wish I could do more, yeah." Glancing back up at Anette, she says, "I'm not really sure how you could help me with that. You said there wasn't much you could offer. But, yeah, I would want to do more. Make a bigger difference."
Anette can't help but chuckle at Paige's naivety. "I mean, the news acted like the senator's kid was kidnapped. But he wasn't. He was freed." Anette rises again, ticking her head towards the door and taking a few steps that way herself, indicating Paige to follow her. Once the other girl does, Anette waits until they're a bit further from any potential prying ears before speaking again as they make their way to the front door, leading outside. "Have you heard of the Brotherhood of Mutants?"
Her expression of confusion now mixing with curiosity, Paige rises from her seat and follows Anette when the older girl indicates for her to do so. She leans closer to the winged mutant as it seems some privacy is desired. However, as soon as the question is asked, her ears flick up and she pulls away. Eyes widen as Paige takes a step away. "You mean the terrorist organization?" It seems she -has- heard of them. "Didn't they--didn't they just blow up a building or something? I heard some other people talking about it. It was like some sort of anti-mutant robot-place-facility-thing, right?" The younger girl's brows are furrowed and regards Anette with suspicion. "They've done a lot of awful things." Then a pause. "I mean, that's what all the news outlets say, you know? And what my parents have said. They're a very violent group -- I mean just look at what they've done. And--and then they just claim responsibility. Like it's a thing to be -proud- of, you know? How can you be -proud- of destroying things, of hurting people?"
Anette grins when Paige describes what she thinks of the Brotherhood, though her tone darkens a bit when Paige mentions the 'robots'. "Sentinels. Currently used to bring down Mutants. They're tough. I've ran into them before." She opens the front door and decides the front steps are good enough, sitting down and patting the spot next to her. "It wasn't about the Sentinels. They were developing a...a mutant detector. Imagine walking down the street and the police just knowing immediately you're a mutant. That might not mean much to you or I but most mutants aren't physical. They can pass as humans and rely on that for their safety. Or imagine mutant detectors everywhere, like metal detectors. Everywhere you go, everyone knows." She shakes her head, gritting her teeth as she brings the topic back. "They fight for what they believe in. They destroy what needs to be destroyed, things that could be used to hurt or kill us. And yes, they hurt and kill. It's a war. It's what happens."
Paige continues to walk with Anette and follows her outside, ears twitching at her explanation. She sits down next to the other mutant in the indicated spot. "Oh." Her arms rest on her legs, fingertips meeting each other. "I, um, I don't really know much about the Sentinels. My parents used to say that they were there to protect us. And I thought they helped mutants? But, right, yeah, you said it wasn't about them. Right." She falls silent for a moment, jaw working and brows furrowing. "Why would they need a mutant detector?" The genuine question is directed to the older woman as the goat girl turns her head to look at her. "I mean, they already have the registration act. Why would they need a -detector-? How would that help anyone? I understand how the act keeps people safe, but--what use would they have for a detector? The police aren't really good with mutants already." It seems she knows that much, at least. Eyes grow a little wider as she asks, "What do they believe in, then? And -who- do they hurt and kill? Why is it a war? Why can't..." Paige's eyes widen further as her ears flick up and an expression akin to understanding passes over her face. "Because of people like my parents," she whispers, answering her own question. "Because of people like my parents...like my family." Another pause, another question. "You've run into one before? What happened?"
"They can be useful. For now. But they are so, so close to being used. How hard would it be to reprogram them from subduing to killing?" Anette takes a deep breath, glancing out into the street. "There were some of us who had dreams. They turned out to be...prophetic I guess. Bits of a future that we're still trying to fight. One where Sentinels literally hunted mutants, capturing them and sending them to camps. I thought we stopped it but it's looking more and more possible every day." She stares out, her eyes glassy as she's lost in her own thoughts before glancing to Paige once she figures it out. "Because they made it a war. We just want to live our lives. Meanwhile, we have to register ourselves, making it impossible to find decent housing or jobs. We're attacked on the streets just for looking different. And when we fight back...we're terrorists."
Paige offers a shrug and a complete lack of understanding to her companion in regards to the programming question. "These dreams," she begins. "How could they have been prophetic? The Sentinels, they're not doing that now, right? I mean, are you saying that's what this mutant-detector thing was all about? What it was for? That that's--" here she gestures with her hands, making a vertical chopping motion. "--is what caused that to happen? The future, I mean. Why would they do that, though? Why would they kill us? Send us to camps? I don't--I don't understand. And what do you mean you thought 'we stopped it'? What are you talking..." Something seems to gently click in the younger mutants mind and she regards Anette with quite the inquisitive expression on her face; it seems the goat girl is struggling to understand. "Anette, are you saying that--I mean, are you saying that you--that you're part of the Brotherhood of Mutants? Are you saying that -you- blew up the lab?" Her brows are furrowing, concerned and confused. "This mutant-detector thing they were working on...You mean that? Is that--is that the sort of 'active part' you were talking about? The sort of 'bigger difference'? I'm not--I'm not sure I ... it sounds dangerous and ... wrong?" This part sounds like a genuine question as Paige's hands clench and unclench repeatedly. "This fighting back?" There's something in her voice and in her face that might indicate fear.
Anette shakes her head as Paige questions her involvement in things. "A lot of people were working to stop the future. Not just the Brotherhood or X-Men or any one group." The rest goes unmentioned. She does frown softly and looks genuinely concerned when Paige appears to almost panic. "Look. All I'm offering is a family, a home, and the opportunity to make a difference. How about I give you my number and you sleep on it? If you change your mind, call me. Questions, call me. If you're ever in any trouble, /call me/. And if you're not interested, I'll never bring it up again." She rises and turns slightly as if to make her way back inside but pauses and slowly kneels back down to Paige. "I know it sounds like we're all foot soldiers but fighting for mutant rights doesn't always mean literally fighting. Sometimes helping your fellow mutant means buying a building that can be used as a safehouse to offer protection to those who need it." With that, she rises again and makes her way back inside, presumably for the paper and pen to write her number.
"I'll sleep on it. But I can't make any promises," Paige whispers quietly to the older girl as she otherwise stares silently at the ground while Anette rises. Her arms wrap around her chest as she remains sitting there for but a moment before the winged mutant kneels down in front of her. Meeting her gaze, the goat girl's ears flick up, down, back, and then up again. It seems she at least finds the thought of directly helping others compelling as she does give a subconscious nod to Anette. She stands up and turns, arms still around chest as her companion makes her way back inside. "Thank you."