"The names we call ourselves have weight."
<NYC> Mendel Clinic - Lower East Side
With its sharp crystalline edges and sleek lines knifing up into the sky, this building is one of the most distinctive new additions to the neighborhood. An angular structure in glass and steel, the tall tower has a deceptively slender look to it that is belied by the heavy security as soon as you enter the doors. The front doors are frosted with the Clinic's logo -- a rising sun over a rod of Asclepius -- a motif echoed in many places throughout the building.
Visitors to the clinic must first pass through a small mantrap, guarded by some of the Clinic's security guards; once they make it through the metal detector and airlock's double doors they emerge into the much more hospitable lobby. With dark wood floors underneath and comfortable black and red couches at its edges, the high windows give the room an airy feel. A bank of elevators to one side carry visitors to the many destination floors, while the wide welcome desk at the other side is manned by a security guard ready to help point visitors in the right direction.
The clinic has been open for a while already this morning and upstairs the waiting rooms are already packed to overflowing with people waiting to be seen at the drop-in clinics in primary care and mental health both. The rush in the lobby has, at least, died down some, most people largely directed to where they need to be.
Outside the regular crowd of protesters is larger than its weekday numbers, Saturday morning and pleasant weather drawing kind of a bustle that at least is sticking to waving signs, praying, the intermittent yell; the guard who is out there now looks kind of bored with the whole show.
The guard inside... likely better hope Jane doesn't check in on him any time soon. Flicker had been vigilant and cheerfully helpful by turns all morning, honest! But as the rush tapered off now he's dozing behind the guard station desk, cheek resting on his knuckles and his matte black prosthetic tentacle-arm draped loosely over the closed laptop on the desk.
A large fuzzy wing drapes itself gently across Flicker's back. Rubs there, slowly. Dusk is setting down a canvas bag atop thy desk, the crinkling of paper coming from within it where a pair of wrapped sandwiches partially protrude from the opening. His other wing still is held out from his body -- the large tears in its skin have nearly healed though the lines of fresh raw scarring are visible, fur not grown back yet, and there is still a mess of tape and sticks holding two broken bones in a makeshift splint.
Nudge, nudge, nudge. Dusk jostles Flicker's shoulder gently. Nudge.
With the proliferation of drop-ins and people who work during the week coming in for appointments on the weekends, it's no surprise that many of the employees starting the opening shift at the Mendel Clinic end up with a lunchtime that doesn't quite start where it is listed on their schedule. From janitors to guards, nurses to doctors, pharmacists to phlebotomists, weekends are an all-hands on-deck exercise. Iolaus is no exception; though his calendar helpfully has 11AM blocked off for a half hour for lunch, today it's after noon when he finally makes his way down from the third floor to head to the cafeteria.
Stepping out of the elevator, Iolaus glances towards the guard desk and smiles gently as he sees Dusk attempting to prod Flicker awake. Pivoting on the balls of his feet, Iolaus redirects his path to step over towards the front desk. "If he's anything like I was, it's going to take something more like a cattle prod to wake him up after a couple of days of his first rotations." Iolaus says, a suppressed laugh warming the tone of his voice.
At first Flicker just nestles into the cover of the huge wing like a blanket. Snuggling up closer to it. Settling in more comfortably. At the jostling he starts awake though, straightening up with his (darkly shadowed) eyes opening wide. "Oh. Oh," he doesn't quite relax again when he looks at Dusk, posture still tense as he rubs at his eyes, but some of the panicked look leaves him. "Thank goodness, I thought -- oh." When he sees Iolaus, a deep blush floods his cheeks. "Sorry, sir. I didn't mean to. It's. Been a long week."
"I didn't bring a cattle prod." Dusk twitches a thumbclaw down toward the bag on the desk. "Only this banh mi. Figured you probably weren't stopping to feed yourself." His wing slides off Flicker's back, tucking it in tight again. "And this is life for, what? The next twenty years until you're a for real doctor?"
“Good morning, Sleeping Beauty.” Iolaus waves a hand dismissively, chuckling. “Falling asleep while taking a patient history is practically a rite of passage between rotations and residency. Don’t sweat it, Flicker. At least, while Jane isn’t in the building.”
To Dusk, Iolaus comments, “Oh, it gets worse when you’re in residency. So, more like another five to nine years, depending on what specialty Flicker chooses.”
"You're making a big assumption thinking I'll last that long." There's something wry in Flicker's tone. He is stiff as he sits up. Leans in to grab the sandwiches out of the bag, check their wrappers, carefully unwrap one of them. He breaks it along the long baguette's halfway cut, offering it out to Iolaus with brows lifted. "Saturdays are always a nightmare, huh? You should have seen it down here this morning. Someone was seriously ready to come to blows because I told them the optometrist wasn't in until Monday. They were this close to flooding the lobby in -- some kind of protest."
For a moment there's a furrow between Dusk's brows, his eyes skating sidelong to Flicker with the ghost of a worry that never forms itself into words. He takes his banh mi instead, leaning up against the edge of the desk as he peels the paper open. "Flood like drown you all? Did they think that would summon their eye doctor?"
"You'll last that long, Flicker. You know the old adage -- what do you call someone who finishes last in medical school? And I bet you're nowhere near the bottom of your class anyway." The doctor winks at the two men, teasing. "Oh, wait -- let me guess," Iolaus drawls, leaning down against the counter and reaching out for half of the sandwich. "They just really wanted a new... contact lens prescription? It's always the people with the least significant problems that are the most upset about it," Iolaus adds to Dusk, shaking his head.
"If they're Mormon, you call them a shame to their entire community," Flicker replies with a wince. "A doctor -- in a city far away because they can't ever show their face at home again." He takes a small bite from the sandwich, wiping his mouth and putting it back down with a fervent shake of head. "Oh no no at least contacts would be necessary! They had a beach trip planned today and they wanted to pick up their new prescription sunglasses because their current prescription sunglasses -- that they were wearing -- don't go well enough with their swimsuit. I don't think opening a portal between the lobby and the ocean to try and flood us all out would have solved this for them but --" Shrug.
"I hear a rumor there's at least one other community that'll still have you, if worst comes to it." Dusk has just started into his own sandwich. He covers his mouth with the side of his hand, stifling a snort. "How does beach fashion emergency not sound dire to you? That would definitely get me to go from zero to threats on people's lives like --" His fingers snap in the air. "Was this also an emergency beach trip? Unplanned? No other possible time they could have gotten their shit together for it?"
Iolaus' mouth opens, then closes. Opens, closes, but no sound comes out. One hand -- the one not laden with sandwich -- comes up to pinch the bridge of his nose, rubbing gently as he gives Flicker a pained look. "This job prepared me for a lot of kinds of mortal peril, but I have to admit, dying a victim of fashion wasn't one of the options I had anticipated." The older man takes a bite of his sandwich and chews, swallows, sighs. "Maybe I am just too old. I'm not hip and... with the kids." Iolaus nods, solemnly, then dabs once, expression serious with just a crack of a smile showing through.
"No, they'd had a text Monday at the glasses were ready for pickup. They just decided this morning to make it an emergency." Flicker shakes his head again. "I'm probably not the best person to ask, my fashion is --" He stops. Abruptly. Blinks once at Iolaus dabbing, a blush rising again to his cheeks. "I can't unsee that."
Dusk's cheeks puff out, and he exhales hard, rubbing at the back of his neck. "None of us can unsee that." He plucks a sliver of daikon from his sandwich, nibbling at it. "I always think about the shit you have to deal with from hostile bigots, or how things might be dangerous if someone's sick or hurt or whatever and losing control -- sometimes I forget about regular-ass customer wankery. The same everywhere."
The edges of Iolaus' smile broaden as he breaks into a bright grin. "Great, isn't it? One of Krieger's patients taught it to me last week. He took a shelf-ee with me doing it." It's not clear whether Iolaus is intentionally mispronouncing the word, or just clueless. He takes a chomping bite of his sandwich, chewing and shrugging his shoulders. "Patients are the worst part of medicine. Anyone in the medical field can tell you that."
The obligingly pained look Flicker gives at this mispronunciation shifts into a deeper wince. He glances up at Dusk, sucking his cheeks inward. Lightly, to Iolaus, "Patients are kind of the whole reason I'm doing all this."
Dusk is glancing aside to Flicker at the same moment, his brows lifting. "So this whole shebang," he waves his banh mi in general indication of the whole clinic around them, a crooked curl of smile on his lips and his tone light as well, "it's kind of more about helping the idea of mutants than, like, helping any individual freak, to you, huh, Doctor?"
"They're the best part of medicine too," Iolaus says, eyes fixing on Flicker. "All the biggest ups and downs come from them. The highs when you help someone turn their life around, when you help heal them, and all the lows when they stumble or fall, when there's nothing you can do. Or when they're just asses for no reason." The smile fades off of Iolaus' face slightly as his eyes flick towards Dusk. "If that was true," he says, mildly. "I would have made my advisors very happy way back when and gone into research instead of clinical medicine, and I certainly wouldn't have started this."
The doctor's eyes flick away from the two men, looking over the building with a look of pride. "It's certainly worth the long nights, and the people trying to shut us down, when we can help someone who no one else will." Iolaus' attention focuses back on Dusk. "And don't call yourself that. The names we call ourselves have weight."
"Medical providers are gatekeepers of people's health in a system that's often frustrating, opaque, and awfully abusive itself. I think even when it seems like people are being asses for no reason, the relationship between a doctor and a patient is --" Flicker hesitates, looking to Iolaus and then down to his sandwich. "I just don't want to lose sight of the position I'll be in. Even if patients get angry sometimes." He's picking at the crusty bread, leaving flaky crumbs on the paper. There's something very careful about his tone when he speaks again. "I'm glad it feels fulfilling to you. To have this place."
"Oh man, but where would be the cachet in that?" Dusk's eyes are wider, his brows lifted. "There's other researchers. Nobody else doing all this." His smile is brighter, sharper. "Please, I'm dying to hear what you think I should call myself. You're the expert, after all. Went to doctor school and everything, work with the underserved daily. What do I know about how to talk about fre -- sorry, would it make you more comfortable if I said people of genetic difference? Humanity challenged?"
"Fulfilling is... mm." Iolaus scratches at his nose for a second, thoughtfully. "Not the right word, but, not completely the wrong one either. The clinic's not enough, but... it's a start, at least." Iolaus says to Flicker, a note of sadness in his voice. "Hopefully, one day, we won't need guards at the doors, and people won't feel that they have no choice but to come here. But, until then." Iolaus takes another bite of his sandwich, two eyebrows lifting. Chew, chew, swallow. "I don't know what I did to offend you, sir, but clearly I have. I'm sorry for that."
"Lots of people don't have a choice but to come here." There's a heaviness to Flicker's voice. A grimace on his face. "I'm glad it's here, but that's -- something we always have to remember, too. Even more than other places. Lots of our frustrated or angry patients have literally no other options, so a bad experience here may actually be the end of the world. For them." He brushes crumbs off his fingers, straightening with an almost relieved look as the doors open and a new pair of young women enter looking rather lost. "I should help them. Enjoy your lunch break, sir." He nods to Iolaus, squeezes gently at Dusk's wing. Blips off across the lobby to greet the newcomers warmly.
Dusk looks down at Flicker's barely touched sandwich, a soft rumble briefly starting in his chest and stopping again just as soon. He wraps his own sandwich back up, an exhausted slump to his shoulders as he looks back up at Iolaus. "What? Nothing, dude. You're just really fucking human. It's exhausting on anyone. On the man in charge of the only place I can go if I'm dying?" One of his wings hitches up in a small shrug. "That's its own new category of tiring."
Iolaus blinks at this several times, eyebrows soaring on his forehead. He covers up the remainder of his sandwich with the wrapping, crinkling it down and studying the younger man's face carefully. Finally, after several seconds of consideration, he nods once to Dusk, the movement slow, a bow of the head. "Unfortunately, that isn't something I can change, no more than it's something you can. But if there are things that we can do to make it better... please, tell me."
"If I was gonna make you a whole list we'd be here all afternoon and I'd charge for my time." Dusk picks his canvas bag up, taking a sealed cup of coconut juice out of it and setting it down beside Flicker's sandwich. He puts his sandwich in the bag, wrapper folded neatly over. "But not scolding me about how I choose to self identify would be a good start."
Iolaus' lips purse and he shakes his head once. "It was never about how you identify yourself, but how you identify others. I've been called a freak once too many times to accept someone branding their whole community with it. Good day, sir." The doctor nods, curtly, and turns around towards the elevators at a quick step.