"I think we have mad different notions of what 'respect' is, anyway." (Follow-up to coming out emails)
Tall panes of glass keep this large indoor garden warm year round. Tended to by the school's groundskeeper, the conservatory is lush with plant life, a carefully cultivated paradise within Xavier's walls. The room serves as a classroom as well; in the center of the garden a ring of seats forms a small circle, a favorite locale for some teachers to hold court.
The school is largely quiet, this lazy Sunday afternoon. There have been a couple van-fulls of trips into the city, a few bike rides down into Salem, a number of students out on the grounds enjoying the gorgeous weather by the lake or on the playing fields. Jax does not always frequent the school on weekends but today he is here, dressed in black denim capris pinstriped in silver, a strappy blue tank top worn underneath a silver mesh muscle shirt, no shoes. He's sitting on a bench, one leg tucked up under him, teeth wiggling at a lip ring as he frowns deeply at the screen of his phone, his other hand scuffing through his increasingly messy brightly-dyed mop of hair.
"Hel-lo," Billy greets in a pleasant, sing-song tone. As he enters from the garden side, a rush of warm air from the outside wafts, intermingled with his familiar, bleachy scent. Cradling his briefcase against his chest, he adjusts his glasses on the bridge of his nose, "I was working trying to work outside but there's only so much you can take. Right?" The blonde smiles, if not just a little bit less so than he normally would. "Do you mind another?" He asks, already setting out his laptop on an accompanying bench.
Blip-blip-blip. Flicker is much less colourful. Grey Xavier's tee (kind of damp with sweat), black athletic shorts. His mechanical arm is bright, at least, vividly /blue/ today, patterned in a bright bird-feather design. He's sort of a blur until he comes to rest on the bench right beside Jax. Shamelessly looking over the other man's shoulder at whatever he's reading as he sets his chin on Jax's shoulder. Not nearly so polite as Billy in actually /asking/ if Jax minds company. (Or over-the-shoulder snooping.) He lifts his far more prosaic organic hand to Billy, waggling the water bottle it holds in a wave hello.
Matt emerges from the great hall door, his footfalls unhurried. He wears a seafoam green t-shirt with a gigantic white sperm whale curled beneath an eight-pointed star, dark gray cargo pants, and brown athletic sandals. "Hello, gentlemen!" He cradles a thick maroon-and-gold hardbound book in his arms like an infant, though he peels one hand away from it (ever so briefly!) to wave before dropping down onto the bench beside Flicker. "Enjoying your respective days, I hope?"
"Wo-o-oah." There's a shiver of light around Jax when Flicker suddenly blips into place beside him, a brief flutter in which his bright makeup fades before shifting back into place. His smile (directed towards both Flicker and Billy) is bright if startled, eye widening a little owlish as he looks up from his phone. He's been reading email -- the faculty list -- his thumb hovering over the compose button though not quite actually pressing it.
"I -- hi! Hey. Hi. Only so much -- work? Or like, gorgeous day? Cuz I could take that /forever/. Or maybe not forever, I guess, technically after bit I'd expl..." He trails off here without properly finishing, a small frown cutting across his face. His teeth click against his lip ring again, the smile he gives Matt a little bit more delayed than the one he'd had for the other two. "Oh -- hey. How's the tour going?" His shoulder nudges at Flicker. Buuuump. "Dude you're gross gettoff."
Billy flirts with opening his laptop, but delves into an accordion folder instead. He leafs through it with gloved hands and only half-glancing up at the three men on their other bench, laughing quietly as Flicker is pushed away. White-clad as ever, he's unintentionally chosen a spot framed in an amassing of white flowers, "Tour?" He asks, just being conversational.
"/Way/ too gorgeous for work today." Flicker just grins at this. Bright. Mooshes his (gross) (sweaty) (damp) face against Jax's shoulder. He doe straighten after this, at least. And leans against Matt, instead. Slump. "Been any more answers to that? I left my phone. In my gym bag." He shrugs his good shoulder. "I dunno. Working out some anger in the DR with Shane. There was a lot to work out. I guess that's kind of enjoying?" His mechanical arm turns upward, slowly flexes his fingers open. "How about you guys?"
Matt's smile is quick and bright. "It *is* a splendid day, but I thought maybe it just seemed that way because I've been caffeinated from the get-go." To Billy he nods. "I'm showing a potential new student around..." Though here his smile turns sheepish. "Or, I was. The tour *kind of* got derailed at the library. She looked so enthralled, I told her she could browse a while on her own and text me when she's done. Then I found *this* beauty..." He caresses the book in his arms tenderly. The spine reads /The Tale of the Thousand and One Nights./ "It's so hard to find this particular translation of the Leiden manuscript." He shifts the book protectively to the arm on the far side of himself, but, evidently not minding the sweat otherwise, drapes an arm around Flicker. "More answers to what now?" He is craning his neck to peer at Jax's screen, too.
"N-no," Jax ducks his head a little guiltily, flicking a glance to Flicker and then Billy and then his phone. "Not -- yet, I keep almost answerin' but then --" His nose wrinkles. He turns his phone over to Matt, pulls his knee up to his chest, drops his chin down onto it. Shrugs. "Jus' end up with a head full of clutter an' no words on my screen instead." Around him, there's another faint shiver of light. "-- I don't know what's gonna happen with all this. Fall term is comin' up way too fast, though. We got a /lotta/ preparin' to do if we're gonna be makin' any changes so incredibly drastic."
"Aww, how fun!" Billy smiles, soaking in Matt's mood, fighting the urge to outwardly express anything he might regret. This immediately involves forgoing any comment at all to Flicker, or what he's been doing with his day.
As the group broaches the topic at hand, the corpse-pale young man slowly swan-dips back into his papers. He busies himself by producing another, smaller folder that he wanted to look over again.
Bringing up his index finger to brush away a little something from under his eye, Billy meets Jax's fleeting gaze with a wet one of his own, "That's true."
"A lot of preparing," Flicker agrees. "Just not sure for what, yet. We need to make a decision. All this /talking/ is making me antsy." His leg bounces up and down, quick and restless. "Shane was gracious enough to let me blow off steam, though. -- But, I mean, we don't have the /capacity/ here for --" He shakes his head, slumping further into the arm Matt drapes around him. "Well. The dorms are three-quarters full already and we're clearly not even doing enough to serve the students we /have/." There isn't any heat to his words, calm and level. "Think the administration is going to move on this soon?"
"Oh..." Matt nods, small and jerky, at the email thread on Jax's screen. "That. I don't really know what I can bring to that table. I'm so new here in some ways, and in other ways so...not." He rubs Flicker's back absently. "In the abstract, I think that visibility is ultimately better for us, as individuals and as a community." He runs his fingers along the gold-leafed words on the spine of the book. "Some of the logistical ramifications may self-correct, and realistically there's only so much we *can* do to prepare." He studies Billy for a moment, bright green eyes following the other man's busy hands. To Flicker he offers a light shrug more easily felt than seen. "If the administration is going to make any decision for the coming semester, it pretty much has to happen this week."
There's a very small upward hitch of Jax's pierced eyebrows when Billy's gaze meets his, but it soon levels out. "I hope so. I'd like to /hear/ somethin' from one of them, at the very least. Or have a meeting, or -- /somethin'/." His cheeks puff out, a sharp breath expelled. "I been wantin' to answer that thread all day but then --" His nose wrinkles up. His brow pulls inward, deep. "-- s'Shane still around?" There is, faintly, a small slump of his shoulders. "If they /was/ gonna add anyone new to administration, who'd it even be? Hank's the most senior on staff but -- where'd he even find the time, I don't know." His eye flicks back to Billy, here. Brief. Then back to Flicker. "You're right on it being a good idea, though. It's kind of a /shameful/ oversight this long. Administration's had a /human/ for years an' never an obvious mutant."
"If you think about it, it makes sense," Billy says quietly, very quietly, "Obvious mutants rarely have the same opportunities, as far as education and economic standing goes. Hank would be the obvious choice, but he has a vital role, already. Finding someone qualified, /with the right temperament/, and interest in the job, would have always been challenging." He doesn't look up, and hasn't, since the last time, "Do you think you'll continue to stay in the city, if they do it? I was thinking it might like, be all-hands-on-deck, here."
"... when does fall term even start?" Neither student nor teacher, /someone/ here is a little out of the loop. Flicker's leg continues to bounce, jittery, restless, hand resting on his knee. His head gives one small shake. "Not a plethora of /existing/ options. Which doesn't say anything great either." His teeth bare in a neat smile in Billy's direction, small and /narrow/ at the comment about temperament. "About how hard the school has already tried to /meet/ that challenge. His hand tips outward towards Matt. "Given," he says, his tone quite neatly polite, "their hiring qualifications for their /passing/ professors? I mean, Jax, what degree exactly did you /have/ when they hired you? Or you, Matt? Or you, Billy? And Hank has -- /how/ many Ph.Ds? And Mallory had her Master's? And Isra had hers -- and working on her Ph.D too?"
His head gives a small shake, the bounce in his leg settling. Shoulder straightening under Matt's hand. His voice is soft. Kind of gentle. "I feel pretty confident if they actually /made/ an effort, they could find people. Qualified /enough/. It's not like we've ever been scared of a challenge, around here."
"*I* dropped out of college to go do cancer," Matt replies, as cavalier discussing that disease as most people are delicate, "and I've never taught at all, unless you count tutoring rich kids in French." He shakes his head. "If anything, I feel like my *temperament* was the biggest factor in getting me hired, aside from being a known quantity. Whether I was qualified or not didn't really come up." There's no shame in his voice, but he's leaning on Flicker more than vice versa now. "I don't think the administration finds the challenge too great; more like that they never saw the challenge at all."
"/I/ didn't have qualifications," Jax answers with a light laugh. "I started TAing while I was still a /student/ here, goodness. I started /teaching/ without no degree at all. Scott's /on/ the administration an' /he's/ only jus' got his diploma -- from us. I mean, you ain't /wrong/ that it's much harder for obvious mutants to get good educations, Billy. But we don't /require/ good educations -- 'least not of our staff with passin' privilege, so I don't see as that's no obstacle." His laugh fades -- as does his smile -- though his tone remains polite. "An' yeah, I'm stayin' in the city. I'm sure it's gonna be hectic here, no doubt, but I got --" There's a very -- very! -- brief hesitation in his words before he continues, "-- a family to take care of an' other jobs to do an' I can't afford to move out here. Spence'll still have to be in school downtown an' I can't move /him/ out here an' --" He shrugs. "I'll do what I can, but I'm sure the school'll manage."
Billy sees the neat smile directed towards him, and specifically looks back away. He brings his gloved hand up, repositioning a loose strand of platinum hair. "I went to Hunter," Billy shrugs, not bragging in the least, "for Education. I took a course in Education Administration, once. It stands on it's own. I'm sure with our student body, the task is made even more complicated." His prim eyebrows lift, and he looks up rather innocently. "This seems like something one of you should bring to Xavier's attention, instead of risking allowing it to get lost like, piggy-backing on an email thread about something else." Wetting his lips, he shuffles his things back into his accordion folder, giving up on even trying to concentrate.
Billy shifts his attention to Jax, eyes sympathizing with the man's complicated and numerous responsibilities. The tension in the room makes him too hesitant to speak any further.
"I said /when/ they hired you," Flicker corrects lightly. "Hank had several Ph.Ds /when/ he was hired. Isra and Mallory had their Master's /already/. You and Jax were both still /in/ college, using your teaching here to earn your degrees. Not yet graduated. Scott doesn't have a degree at all. Matt doesn't have a degree at all. Ororo doesn't have a degree at all. They aren't the only ones. Are you really going to sit there and pretend you don't see the double-standard? Going to sit there and act like you don't get where Shane's anger is coming from? There's a huge discrepancy in treatment here. There always has been."
"Did you go to commencement?" Matt's question sounds earnest. "Did you hear B's speech? The Professor knows. That doesn't mean we shouldn't talk about this, with each other or with the administration. Organizations are prone to inertia, intentional and otherwise. Just telling the powers that be, 'visible mutants need more representation' isn't enough." He seems to have recollected himself, sitting up straighter again, hugging the book to his side. "We have to change the culture here, not just the policy on secrecy."
There's a very faint tightening at the corner of Jax's eye at the mention of B's speech -- though it comes with a very faint smile, as well. His hand lifts, knuckles scrubbing across his eye and his posture sagging back against the bench. "Feel like this place has always had -- a lotta good /intentions/. But there's parts of the philosophy that jus' don't -- jus' /can't/ -- apply to everyone. An' it's a conversation been long overdue. It /ain't/ a piggy-back on a thread about somethin' else. It's all part'a the same issue -- how we best serve the needs of mutant kids. /All/ mutant kids. Balancing that's just gonna be --" His lips press together, briefly. "Well. Somethin' I don't think we ever really tried so much to do before. Kinda just been real -- assimilationist, for a long time. Harder to do under a spotlight."
"I apologize if I've offended you," Billy says with some shake to his voice as he tries to smooth it, "I thought I made myself clear that I didn't disagree with you. But if not, like: I don't disagree with you. And I thought I was sitting here acting like Shane's anger comes from many places," He shrugs, opening both arms as he does so, "/This/ place was what we needed it to be for a long time, now we need it to be more. Gathering alumni, teacher, and student signatures, formally demanding obvious mutant representation, that would be constructive. Coming out, as a mutant school, and saying that mutation is not something to hide or be ashamed of. Constructive? I personally think so. But I don't think this is a situation in which we need to scattershot and run," he gestures pointedly towards his laptop, "This isn't guerrilla warfare. This is a perfectly safe place, where new ideas are welcome. I mean, I'm in the middle of creating a junior school for from-birth mutants. Xavier's is ripe for change." He gestures again, towards Jax, for what he touched on earlier about not being kept in the loop, "Another concern should be holding the administration more accountable for their decision making processes."
"You have," Flicker says simply, though his laid-back tone doesn't /sound/ particularly offended. "And you were acting pretty dismissive of -- well, Shane in general, really. And this place was what /who/ needed it to be? /Us/? Sure, maybe. But it clearly /hasn't/ been what a lot of people needed it to be -- and /hasn't/ been a safe place -- and keeping on repeating that it /is/ is -- why I'm saying you're being dismissive." He shrugs again, his one good shoulder lifting. "This place is grounded on a platform of assimilation." His brows lift as he looks to that. "Even if it /does/ go public, do you really think that's going to change?" There's a highly dubious note to his tone.
"Change doesn't come without struggle, even when all involved agree it's necessary, and that is certainly not the case here." Matt lays the book down in his lap and opens the hand that had just held it, sweeping to indicating Billy's computer. "That /isn't/ scattershot and run. It's a voice tired of not being heard, and however you may feel about the tone it takes, it does not make the message less valid."
"I don't know." Jax's head dips, shaking slightly. "I hope it does. I'll fight for it /to/ change. Even if I'm startin' the fight kinda too late." There's a -- not inconsiderable amount of guilt in his tone at this. Now /both/ his hands lift, palms covering his face, briefly. "M'startin' a lotta things too late. I shoulda --" He stops, exhales sharply. There's a faint quiver of light around him; he gets up quickly, puts on a brief flash of smile. "-- Actually, 'scuse me. Pardon. Think I gotta go talk at Scott about some'a this 'fore it slips my mind. Forgive me, y'all." He bobs his head, quick and apologetic, before starting to duck out of the room.
Billy watches Jax rise, holding his tongue until he's out of earshot, "Shane has never been even a little bit kind to me, well before we ever were associated with this school in one another's eyes," the blonde frowns, "I think he's a bully, through and through. So, if I'm coming off as being dismissive of Shane in general, I'm doing my best, here. It's still more respect than he's ever shown me," He puffs out his birdlike chest, sighing for the backlash he's expecting for that truth but figuring himself too far gone for this clique's esteem, anyway, "Yes, I do think that if it goes public, those things will change. The assimilating --it's a byproduct of this presumed need to remain hidden. They did their best, but they were wrong."
Flicker shifts to the side, bumping his shoulder lightly against Jax's on the other man's way out. He leans back against Matt once Jax has gone. "Shane is quite a lot of things," he says very mildly, "but I dunno if I see 'bully' as one of them. And I'm not entirely sure what, exactly, would /happen/ if you said that around Jax?" His brows lift, curious. "I think we have mad different notions of what 'respect' is, anyway."
Matt lifts one hand to wave vaguely at Jax as he goes. That same hand comes up again to scrub one side of his face as Billy speaks, and though he makes no immediate reply. "A bully," he says at last, "is someone who uses their power to intimidate and hurt people." There's a slow, measured cadence to his words that does not quite sound right in English. "I can't speak to your history with Shane, and I certainly won't speak for him, but even if he *were* a bully, he isn't the one with the power in the context of bias against physical mutants." The fingers of his other hand dig into Flicker's back, then relax again. "Openness won't make assimilationism go away; it only makes it more insidious, more prone to taking the 'we're just like you' route."
"I'd have needlessly hurt the feelings of an old friend," Billy answers under his breath. Drawing his laptop over onto his lap and opening it, he evidently intends to stay. He slides back open his previously discarded folder, hands a little shaky. Sighing, he looks up towards Matt, eyes wet, "I'm sorry. We've only met once but I just can't imagine talking about this anymore, right now."
Flicker's mechanical hand lifts halfway to his face, but drops back to the bench beside him. His lips compress, and he sags back against Matt's side. "Alright," he says, simply. He gets to his feet -- or rather, is /on/ his feet, very abruptly, a shift of motion too quick to really catch. "I should probably -- have taken a shower kind of a while ago." Sort of apologetic, since he's been leaning (sweatily!) against Matt all this while.
Matt nods once, then rises himself, a movement that seems by comparison painfully slow. "I should find the person I'm supposed to be escorting, anyhow." To Flicker he flashes a crooked smile, touch rueful. "Well, you were kindly sharing your thermoregulation with me." He lays a hand on the other man's (sweaty!) shoulder as he departs.