CN: Non-explicit mentions of violence.
"Tell me you aren't encouraging him."
<NYC> NYU Kimmel Center - Greenwich Village
Bordering the popular Washington Square Park, this building is an eyecatching edifice of modern architecture. Inside, it's a state-of-the-art hub of student life and governance that also houses several event spaces, including the capacious Eisner & Lubin Auditorium. The auditorium's (also capacious!) lobby is at the moment crowded with students and community members trickling in, although the panel isn't scheduled to begin for almost another half hour. The slowness of the trickling is perhaps related to the intense (and still intensifying) protest outside. Thankfully, however, the demonstration has not followed the attendees inside. At least not yet.
One of those prospective attendees is looking just a touch shell-shocked as he makes it into the auditorium. Steve is wearing a khaki canvas jacket of vaguely military design over a blue, gray, and tan plaid flannel shirt, charcoal corduroy trousers, and black boots, looking a bit shell-shocked after running the gauntlet of protesters outside. "Gosh, that was...a bit more than I'd really expected."
Jax is dressed more brightly -- a black sweatshirt with red stripes and red lacey side panels, bright red tee shirt with a screenprinted monkey wrench surrounded by the text 'ALL MY HEROES HAVE FBI FILES', black capri pants embroidered with red and purple dragonflies, mismatched vividly colored knee-high socks, very stompy black shoes dotted with metallic red stars. He skims his fingers (his nails, like his makeup, is done up in a rainbow-flashed oilslick black) through his ombre red-orange-yellow hair, his own expression broken into a crooked smile. "I know, right? Like all those posters and not a lick of artistic talent in the mix. I could've drawn them a much better sketch of --" His cheeks flush and he glances back over his shoulder -- one of the signs has a somewhat crude drawing of Ryan and Steve in a bit of a compromising position. "Well, I coulda done better with lots of those, anyway."
Steve shakes his head slowly. "Luci warned me, but --" His eyes start to follow Jax's gaze, but he seems to conquer the urge to look back. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't be complaining. They're not demanding my head on a plate -- most of them, anyway -- and Ryan..." His shoulders tighten. His head shakes again, sharp and quick this time. "God forbid he come to harm over this, but he certainly didn't make me queer. We're not even..." He blushes, too, here. "Not that it matters to the people out there, I guess. They have a whole buschel of bones to pick with him."
"Alma's here. We're here. And that --" Jax's hand is fluttering toward the window, toward the lewd sign beyond, "That's practically a rite of passage for Ryan's friends. You would not believe some of the twisted things people think he an' I been up to. They'd be real disappointed to learn just how few of the men tabloids think he's screwing are ones he's actually, y'know." He gives the sign one last brief look before turning back to Steve. "If it helps," this is earnest, his eye wider as his face tips up toward Steve, "I bet they're askin' for your head, too. Jus' asking where you don't gotta see it."
Steve scuffs his hand over the back of his neck. "I guess I've largely escaped being paired up with him so far by being...above heterosexual reproach." His eyes widen slightly, also earnest. "Or have I? There could have been stuff like that all over the ah -- Tumblr, and I'd have never known. Along with all the threats that I never see." He frowns thoughtfully. "Every time I think I've finally gotten a handle on the 21st century, I shortly find out it's -- got a lot more handles." He sleeps a hand towards the auditorium entrances as he starts making his leisurely way toward them. "So, are the other members of this panel also mutant activists?"
Jax hides his smile behind a hand. "There's definitely stuff all over the Tumblr. You don't want to go there it's a terrible place." His head shakes as he falls into a rather bouncy step beside Steve. "Other mutant activists? Oh gosh no!" The amusement is bright in his voice. "Honestly we're lucky when they invite one of us to come talk about mutant things. It's usually a bunch of humans talkin' 'bout how they need to kill us, with one "moderate" "ally" there to say they shouldn't kill us just put us in camps." The air quotes in his speech actually manifest themselves; not in the traditional finger gesture but in bright yellow cartoonish quotation marks that float around his head briefly. "I got a whole bingo card. Think we need to update it to make it specific to Ryan, though, my friends made it originally for me. The moderator cutting off the only mutant on the panel to let the humans speak more is always the free space. Honestly I'll be surprised if we get through the panel without one of his co-panelists saying right there in front of him how someone ought to kill him."
"People keep telling me how awful Tumblr is, but I also get the impression that those same people are in Tumblr." Steve hesitates, considering. "On Tumblr? Anyway, it must have some redeeming features." He glances aside at Jax, trying and failing not to look aghast. "Well, I'm...glad they invited him, at least." His jaw sets tight. "Less enthused about the rest." He takes a deep breath. Lets it out slowly. "So, is this the kind of panel with audience participation?" A thin, rueful smile. "Or would that be cheating -- for bingo purposes?"
"Oh I have three different Tumblr accounts," Jax replies brightly. "Doesn't make it not awful. I do get a decent number of art commissions off one of them, though." He hooks his arm casually through Steve's, tugging the larger man ahead as he beelines for the front row. "There's usually some kinda question and answer at the end. Why, you gonna think of something good to ask him? Bonus points if your question is really gay."
"Oh, well that's something. So far my conception of Tumblr consists entirely of vileness and art, either of which may be pornographic." Steve's solid bulk is practically immovable for a fraction of a second before he matches Jax's speed, easily drawn along to find their seats. "I'll keep that in mind, but I was more thinking of the human panelists. Might have a hard time keeping it to questions if they're going to openly advocate murder and genocide." He settles carefully into a seat and peers up at the as-yet empty table on stage. "You have the patience of Job."
"A good portion of the art I used to do on there is pornographic," Jax freely admits, "a lot of my most dedicated customers want me to draw furry smut." He drops down into a seat beside Steve, stretching his legs out in front of him and pulling out his phone to open up his text messages. "Here I was just thinkin' how funny it'd be if you got on the mic and asked him on a date but honestly punching one of his co-panelists would be much better entertainment. Luci might have a heart attack but I endorse it wholeheartedly."
"'Furry'?" Steve echoes uncertainly. "That seems, ah...highly specific. Do you have a knack for drawing extremely hairy men?" He blushes fiercely. "Sorry, I don't know why I assumed it would be men." He relaxes incrementally, chuckling at Jax's suggestion. "I could theoretically do both. Punching a bigot would probably up my chances of actually landing a date. But that would certainly put Luci in a state, and..." His brows furrow. "Well. I think this whole coming-out business has been harder on him than me. That is," he admits, "probably not going to stop me if someone really needs punching."
"Heart attacks aside, Ryan would probably think it's hilarious. Like as long as he's getting the death threats anyway may as well --" Jax waves his hand, phone held in it, up and down -- sort of over All Of Steve. "Punching bigots would just be the icing on that particular cake." There's a faint flush of red that creeps into his cheeks, and he shakes his head. "No, no, it's not like a gay thing -- well okay it's usually also like a gay thing, it's --" He rubs at the back of his neck, nose wrinkling up as he pages through his phone. Eventually comes up with a(n admittedly pretty gay!) painting to show to Steve -- an anthropomorphic hyena lounging in the lap of an anthropomorphic lemur on a canopy-shaded porch swing. "Like this whole subculture of people who identify strongly with animals? A lot of them have their own sort of animal personas and. Uh. They buy a lot of art. But I can do hairy men just fine if, y'know, you're into that."
Steve blushes again. Looks down at his hands. "I don't think I'd be a very fun date, honestly. But I am pretty decent at punching bigots." His hands twitch, but he doesn't close them as they seem to want to do. Just settles them gently on his thighs. Studies the image on Jax's phone. "Oh! I've seen art like this, here and there -- not yours, I don't think, and not...pornographic." He glances up at Jax's face, considering. "Oh -- um." The blush comes back, strong. "I don't have a particular ah...preference?" His eyes flick up further, thoughtful if a bit self-conscious. "Not that I'm aware of. I do like your art, though."
"What? Why wouldn't you be? You're fun to hang out with. A date is just like a -- kinda formalized hanging out." Jax bounces, sitting a little more upright in his seat. "Plus I know some people who would be really into the kind of date where you go punch bigots together." His cheeks darken a little more, teeth scraping at his lower lip. He hitches a leg up beneath himself, turning just a little sideways in the seat to face Steve. "No preference in your art or in your men?"
Steve opens his mouth. Closes it again. "I guess I was under the impression a date was more -- serious than that? I haven't...actually been on very many." His smile is kind of lopsided. "Punching bigots with a sweetheart does sound like my idea of a good time, though." There's a hint of wistfulness in his tone, but he's jarred out of it by the question. "Oh -- I meant men. But that's probably not totally true, either." His eyes flick over Jax, and the color in his cheeks deepens. "I'm kinda particular about my art, though."
"Yeah I heard about Dusk kinda, uh, striking out there." Jax rests his hand on his knee, which is starting now to bounce quickly up and down. "I don't think a date's gotta be serious. I been on serious dates but I been on silly ones and casual ones too. I think it can be some kinda serious romance thing but it can also just be -- playful, you know? I been on plenty of dates with people I wasn't serious about an' it's a good way to see if it could be somethin' serious but -- like, no pressure." His nose wrinkles again. "'least so long as nobody makes it pressurey." His eye lowers as Steve's face reddens further. "Yeah?" His tongue wiggles at his lip ring again. "What d'you look for there?"
Steve cringes. "That...was a misunderstanding. Which I can explain to him now, if he's interested. At the time -- well, I was a mess." He chews on his bottom lip. Gives his head a sharp, quick shake. "Still am, I guess. But a playful date...sounds pretty nice, actually." His smile returns easier now. "Even if there's no punching involved." He looks down, too, clasping his hands together. "I have an easier time doing it than describing it, and an easier time recognizing it than doing it, but... Movement. Whimsy. Life, I suppose?"
Jax's head tips to one side, his eye lifting back to settle on Steve's face thoughtfully. "I always do kinda feel like life could use a bit more whimsy in it." As a young man comes out to set a pitcher of water on stage, double-check the microphones, Jax is turning a little further, casting a brief glance over the auditorium as more seats fill up behind them -- it's almost casual, the sweep of his gaze, before he looks back to the waiting seats on stage. Then to Steve. "Probably says somethin' strange about my life how many people I know who'd think punching's a great date. Bigots or each other."
"Art school tried real hard to drill the whimsy out of me and replace it with realism." Steve spreads his hands, moving them up and down as though comparing two invisible objects. "I knew you could have both, of course, but your work really captured that balance in a way I'd never seen before." He doesn't turn as far as Jax does, but his eyes do flick past the other man the scan the auditorium and its exits behind him. "Probably. I had never considered it until just now. I guess..." His gaze flicks briefly to Jax's phone. "...there are a lot of things I've never considered."
"Art school's changed some, I guess." Jax's blush deepens at Steve's description of his work. "'least I try not to -- drill." He straightens, facing back forward as the moderator crosses the stage to take her seat. "Oh! Luci's bringing booze. We were gonna have a whole drinking game," he explains cheerfully, "but double bonus, he'll be fortified if you do punch bigots an' ask Ryan out."
"Well, more prestigious fine arts schools may have had a different approach, even back then." Steve leans back in his seat, his broad shoulders hitching in a minute shrug. "Mine focused mainly on cranking out newspaper illustrators and the like. Your classes -- Chimaera overall, really -- have been a completely different experience, for the better." He looks around more casually at Jax's addition, as though expecting Lucien to materialize right then. "Lucky thing he can hold his liquor."