ArchivedLogs:Mephistopheles and Faust
|Mephistopheles and Faust|
Parley makes a deal with Norman.
Norman Osborn's office building is immaculate. His secretary is nice, young, and pretty -- she's also nervous, and constantly on edge. Apparently, Norman's something of a weird one. He's always /working/. The woman isn't even sure if he goes home at night after office hours; for all she knows, he sleeps in there! And then there's the fact that, on occasion, she's even heard him talking to himself...
She smiles at Parley -- politely, distant -- there's a sense of apprehension there. Apparently, she knows why he is here, and /what/ he is; his very presence puts her on edge. But not enough edge to be rude. After a few minutes of waiting, there is a buzz -- and then, the doors are clicking, unlocked. And then...
Norman Osborn's office. Simple -- sterile -- yet organic. A corner office; a set of floor-to-ceiling windows dominate two sides. A bookshelf with volumes on technology -- military history. An organic-looking desk with laptop. And an odd mantlepiece full of... grotesque masks.
And, of course, Norman Osborn himself -- dressed in a sharp black suit, tie, and a warm smile. On his feet the moment Parley steps in.
"Hello. Norman Osborn. Pleasure to meet you -- Parley, yes? Is that what you prefer to be called?"
His thoughts. So structured, so clean, so /methodical/. Like Claire's, but less like crystal, more like a /machine/. Pistons churning. Gears grinding. Well-oiled and well-used. And yet there are hints of rust everywhere -- so subtle you wouldn't notice them unless you were warned they might be there.
"If you would." Slipping in on muted footsteps, when Osborn stands, Parley's nods his head downward so slightly in thanks. "It's become somewhat a working name for me. I'm of course willing to provide my birthname if you should need it."
That slight edge of /rust/ tainting the undercurrents of the other man's mind roll over his tongue, and he swallows slowly to internalize them for inward study. "I appreciate your taking the time to meet with me, Mr. Osborn. I can only imagine how busy you must be." The arrangement of the office is almost -- ignored, in a sense. Neat, efficient, what serves a purpose seems to serve its purpose to him, and even the view fails to illicit more than a casual scan. Except for the wall. The pure anomaly of the masks earns a second scan.
There is a mask that is meant to be a Japanese Oni, baring its teeth in a frightful, hungry grin -- yet with its eyes somehow carrying an infinite, baffling sadness. There is a Baron Samedi skull-mask; a lion-like Himalayan mask; a mask that looks African, with dozens of pointed, wooden teeth. Several more. When Parley looks to them a second time, he feels... something in Norman's mind move. Something strange. Something that is-Norman, but *not*-Norman. And the faintest hint of... pleasure.
"I'm very fond of masks," Norman tells Parley. "They have such widespread cultural significance. Some wore them to ward off demons -- thinking that if they appeared to be more frightful than their enemies, their enemies would not dare attack. But my favorite," he adds, and now that which is not-Norman stirs, /swells/ briefly -- "are those which were worn not to frighten their enemies -- but to walk among them. To /hide/ their fangs, rather than to bare false ones."
What is not-Norman shrinks back, swallowed and pushed into a place Parley can not see once more: "I apologize. You are not here to listen to me babble about my fascination with myth. Please, sit. Ms. Frost has informed me that some of your friends are being harassed by the law. /Please/," he adds, moving to take a seat himself. "Tell me more."
With his face remaining directed at the masks, eyes hung at a steady-thoughtful halfmast, these discord swells and flushes warm corresponding inner nerve bundles in Parley, sentiment experienced free of circumstance - though in this case, they seem almost free of /origin/. He cautiously opens up his channels wider, a dilated throat down which it might pour - or anything else.
"...Offensive and defensive technology," he murmurs quietly, spine upright, but shoulders and head set a degree low, hands folded behind his back. His attire is not nearly so crisp as his present company, but it's polite; a charcoal jacket over a black turtleneck, belt, slacks neatly pressed. "-mh." He turns his head towards Osborn, though body remains facing the wall and for a brief moment some tendon at the far edge of his hairline /constricts/, and then relaxes, "I'm not sure how Ms. Frost must have phrased it to you, but I'm not sure 'friend' is entirely the correct term. But she probably has the rest correct. I don't want to waste your time, Mr. Osborn. I'm here to speak with you about Jackson Holland."
Norman frowns: "My apologies. Ms. Frost did not say you were friends, or even associates; I merely presumed. Your interest in him -- well, that is immaterial. What matters is that he is on my guest list. And that he is in trouble. Are there others? Or is this matter confined primarily to Mr. Holland? And please," he insists, smiling warmly -- a gesture that touches his eyes as he gestures to the chair. "Sit."
When Parley opens his channels wider, information slithers in. A translation of what is before him. Of what the rust means; of what Norman is offering. Of what is being /communicated/.
It is hard to express precisely what this conversation is with words. But the closest parallel is this: A gazelle, grazing in the savannah. Being stalked -- not by one lion, but by two.
One, in his ravenous hunger, desires to devour the gazelle whole. This is the creature that stirs deep in Norman's mind -- that which is not-Norman. It is held at bay. Constrained under lock and key.
But the second... the second is Norman itself. This lion /has/ no desire to devour the gazelle. The gazelle is lean, and sickly, and largely of no interest.
Rather, this lion stalks the gazelle to find its /friends/.
Very neatly at the order, practiced to something so smoothly obedient that it could pass for negligent, Parley finds himself sitting, looking more /thoughtfully/ at the two sides of the office - the neat, organic desk, the modern windows. ...the masks. He's not blinking. And while he does so, his mouth is moving, "...There are always others, Mr. Osborn. It seems at any given time there is a mutant somewhere being oppressed." It's not said accusatively. Just thoughtfully - he must have inhaled a bit of lint. His voice is so slightly hoarse until he clears it.
"You're aware then that Mr. Holland, lowerclass hero, civil rights activist and feeder of the homeless and down-trodden has now had his three loving children taken from his custody by the state?"
"Only now, Parley. Ms. Frost made me aware of it earlier today." Osborn's fingers fold into a complex configration. Somewhere, a lion gnashes within its cage, beckoning its sibling to strike; its more patient brother soothes it with the promise of more succulent meat.
"I do not know Mr. Holland personally, but I have been investigating him. As a precaution for this little party. We might disagree on many matters -- but speaking as a father? If your claim is true, I am appalled." Translation: Your enemies have handed me a delightful opportunity. Let us pounce upon it.
"Do you have evidence of this...? The timing is /extraordinarily/ suspicious alone, but... if you know of others who have suffered harassment..." Translation: Tell me all about your friends, Parley. Tell me so I may /help/ them.
Both lions /drool/ at the prospect.
“Extraordinarily suspicious...” Parley is looking long out the far window, not seeming absorbed with the view so much as speculating on the nature of... /that/ one cloud.
Abruptly, thoughtfully, running a hand down the fur at the nape of his neck in smoothing: “Yes, actually. Now that you mention it, there are others who seem to have fallen under absurd litigious circumstances lately. These are interesting times. And very unfortunate. Many of them have had to scatter off the radar to regroup.”
You can feel the ‘but’, his eyes slipping towards Osborn’s face.
“But. I do keep in close contact with most of them.”
...Except there’s /another/ ‘but’ at the end of this. One shipped with a small, apologetic smile attached.
“But I wouldn’t feel comfortable burdening you with their full list of woes all at once. You understand, discretion in my community is essential to peaceful living. For now, if we may, I would only focus on Mr. Holland’s situation. See what we’re able to do on this one matter, first, and possibly decide where we go from there. I feel you may misunderstand the motivation of my visit, though, sir. I haven’t come here to lay the woes of the current minority fad at your door. I’m here about Oscorp.”
Outwardly, Norman Osborn is nothing but smiles and charm; understanding, warm, accepting. But beneath, the impatient predator gnashes its teeth and /snarls/ with frustration. So close. So /easy/. Lock the doors. Dim the glass. Give us an hour. An hour, and you will know all you need to know. Then send in someone to clean up the mess.
But no. The wiser of the two refuses. Patience, he whispers. Patience will get us what we want. Our quarry is clever -- and so we must be moreso. “Of course,” Norman responds. “I apologize for my (eagerness) presumptuousness... if your associates are at risk, anonymity may be in your best interest.” (Translation: I want names. You will not give them to me. This situation will be rectified. But not yet.)
“I will not lie, Parley. Oscorp is indeed my primary interest. Not mutant rights -- not /civil/ rights. I am a businessman, and Oscorp is my business. Mr. Holland’s situation concerns me as a single father -- but it also concerns me as a CEO. Having one of my more ‘heroic’ guests harassed by the law...? Bad PR. And, I will admit, having a mutant present who is not entirely aligned against mutant countermeasures...? /Excellent/ PR.” (Translation: Holland is useful to me. I will protect that for which I have a use. Make yourself useful to me, and perhaps, you too, will be protected.) But even in the translation, there is a hint of gleaming, jagged teeth -- of open jaws. Of hunger. A second meaning, buried beneath the first -- a sentiment expressed on a level of pure instinct:
(Until you cease to be of use.)
Parley listens with an attending gaze, head canted slightly to the side to accommodate the hand he has left folded idly around the back of his neck, over the thickest of his hackles. “I feel we’ve come to a very natural understanding then. I’m sympathetic to the fact that Oscorp has very little to do with the actual problems causing its obstacles - supplying city law enforcement with means to counter mutant terrorism is reasonable. Terrorism harms everyone it touches equally.”
“It only becomes difficult to defend, when city law enforcement is /openly/ intent on abusing its power on mutants that clearly aren’t terrorists.” He lowers his hand from his neck, curling either set of fingers lightly around either arm of his chair, “--and that, even /without/ added, mutant-specific methods to do so. I don’t like to see mutants like Holland targeted, Mr. Osborn. Not as a fellow mutant, but as a creature capable of compassion and human morality. I want those like him to be able to return to their lives.”
“But I also want to neuter him. /And/ his arguments. Before this becomes another media frenzy.”
Norman Osborn is staring at Parley, now. Silent. Listening. There is something present in his eyes that wasn’t there before. The hunger was always there, to be certain; just under the surface, so carefully hidden. But now... now, he’s /curious/. And somehow -- in some way -- that may seem infinitely worse.
“I see.” (Translation: You are playing a very dangerous game. How interesting.) “PR-wise, this entire situation is... yes. A nightmare waiting to happen. I don’t know if Mr. Holland realizes it -- but were he a more politically ambitious creature, it would be /extraordinarily/ easy for him to use this as an opportunity to make many people’s jobs /much/ harder. His enemies have given him a soap box. I imagine they suspect he is too cautious to use it.”
“It does seem to be in my -- yours -- /our/ interests -- to defuse this situation.” (Translation: Let us work together to serve my ends.) “Yes, I’m sure something can be done. Nothing /too/ forceful, of course. Politics are a delicate game. But -- mmn. Actually, I think I know just the thing,” Norman says, and now he is /smiling/, but it is not warm. No, it is /delighted/.
“I’ll be announcing my gala soon,” Norman adds. “Giving a press conference. I think I’ll take the opportunity to publically state Mr. Holland’s attendance. And voice my concerns about legal actions being taken against him as reciprocity for his insistence on fighting the ticket.” (Translation: I am about to make a number of people very angry. And very desperate. And /very/ interested in speaking with me.)
“Then I won’t take up any more of your time.” Parley extends a hand, the action finding some misaligned tendon in the side of his neck twitch, so slightly. “I’m sure it must go without say, that my involvement in anything pertaining to Holland should be kept confidential. The neutrality of my platform would do poorly if it were presented with a bias the instant it debuts.”
“Of course.” Norman is at his feet again; Parley’s hand is taken -- the grip is warm. Firm. Strong. A little /too/ strong, perhaps; indeed, he seems almost reluctant to /release/. “I will take this into absolute confidence, rest assured. No one will know.” (Translation: Unless it serves me to /let/ them know.) Such a pleasant smile. “It’s been a pleasure speaking with you, Parley. And -- if you wouldn’t mind? -- give my secretary your legal name on the way out? It will help,” he adds, “with the vetting process. A lot of brass -- they’re already getting after me for having /one/ attendant without a proper name.” Sad smile. (Translation: If you won’t give me your friends’ names, I’ll take yours.)
A slow compression forms between either of Parley’s lips. A compression... into a sliver of /smile/, a brief flicker of something in his default gaze that looks more present, alert, attentive. And when his hand is gripped, he doesn’t compress his own cool fingers so hard, but he allows the pressure to remain with a willingness that seems to almost hand itself over into Osborn’s palm. “Of course.”
And then, on an impulse, “Let me ask you something.”
Oh? An eyebrow lifts, arching toward that impeccable widow’s peek. “Of course,” Norman responds, still maintaining that veneer and warmth. But watching, oh-so-close. For a hint of weakness -- or of blood.
Parley’s smile doesn’t grow wider, but it shifts, his lower lip loosening just enough to show the slightest suggestion of white, perfectly-normal human teeth within. The corners of his eyes crinkle.
“I was wondering if you couldn’t recommend to me a place that serves pastries.” His eyes leave Osborn’s to consider the city beyond the window, “I’m very new to New York. And it’s been a very long time since I’ve had a good cheesecake.”
Norman Osborn’s left eyebrow /twitches/. For a good while, in fact. Twitch. Twitch. Twitch.
“Reinhardt’s,” Norman responds, giving the name ever so... /sharply/. With perhaps a bit more force than he should. “Three blocks away. I have my valet pick me up some, when I’m working late.”
Then, more softly -- *forcibly* softening his voice: “Good evening, Parley.”
“And you, Mr. Osborn.” Parley nods, something almost deep enough to be a half-bow at the waist, his face not visible behind the hair that falls forward.
He turns and, on muted feet, makes a quiet exit.