Logs:Terrorism Fatigue

From X-Men: rEvolution
Terrorism Fatigue
Dramatis Personae

Anastasia Rivers, Jax, Steve

2020-04-18


"I'm not much of a hero."

Location

<PRV> VL 303 {Lighthaus} - East Village


This apartment is cheerful, in its way -- bright and airy, its floor plan open and a plethora of windows (their sills and window-boxes alive with a bounty of herbs) providing it with an abundance of light. The tiny entrance hall opens into a living room, small, though its sparse furniture and lack of clutter give it a more open feel. The decor is subdued and minimalist; black and white is the dominant theme, with occasional splashes of deep crimson to offset the monochrome, though of late myriad bright-coloured dragonflies swarm across the living room wall. The couch and armchair are upholstered in black corduroy, the low wide coffee table central is black wood and glass-topped, and a few large pillowy beanbags provide additional seating by the large windows that dominate the back wall. The living room and kitchen both hold a rather inordinate number of lamps in addition to the ceiling lights; standing lamps, small lamps on each counter, large sunlights in the corner. More often than not, they're largely all turned on, too.

Towards the back, a couple of doors lead off into bedrooms and bathroom, and to the right, the kitchen's tile is separated from the living room's dark hardwood floors by black countertops. Above the bedroom to one side, there is higher space; a ladder climbs up to a lofted area looking down on the living room. Standing in front of the partition between living and cooking area is a large fish tank: one lone Betta, blood-red, swims regally among several species of black and silver fish. A hallway beyond the kitchen leads further into the apartment. Another bathroom stands just into the hall and the farthest door leads to the apartment's final bedroom, the door usually kept shut to hold in the acrid fumes of turpentine and paints from within.

It's a mild spring day in the East Village, and several news vans are still camped out in front of the Village Lofts, the reporters and their crews mingling and chatting with each other, a welcome novelty after weeks of distancing. Nearby Tompkins Square Park is also coming back to life as New Yorkers -- some cautiously and some exuberantly -- try to resume the rhythm of their pre-pandemic lives. The windows in Lighthaus are open and the curtains thrown wide, the sounds of laughter and occasional shouts from the basketball courts a welcome change from the tense hush that has only just begun to relinquish its old on the city.

Steve looks more at ease than he has in quite some time, reclining on the couch and sipping strong black coffee. His right hand is still wrapped in white gauze -- neatly, as he's gotten a lot of practice -- but he looks hale and healthy, his hair freshly trimmed, his face cleanshaven. He's wearing a blue, purple, and white plaid flannel shirt, a white t-shirt visible where the top two buttons are undone, and nicely fitted traight-leg blue jeans. "We definitely did not have a 'victory garden'," he says, ice blue eyes sparkling with amusement, "but after all the gardening posts I've been tagged on lately I think I might just get into gardening."

Jax is a stark contrast to Steve -- almost dangerously gaunt, his skin's pallor a stark contrast to the near-black darkness of his shaggy hair. Where he's tucked himself against Steve's side the boniness is even more apparent; he feels feverishly warm by most human standards, although -- by his own standards, almost cool. His eye is half-closed, face turned towards the open window and a half-smile on his face. He's dressed plainly -- soft black tee shirt, pale denim overalls with darker denim flowers cut out and patchily sewed onto them, and his black eyepatch is plain as well. He's been steadily working his way through a plate of cookies (half coconut-chocolate, half raspberry-lemon) on his lap, but currently his attention is mostly just on his coffee. Sip. Siiiiip. "You interested for real? There's something nice-nice about getting your hands into the earth, every now'n then. Watching somethin' grow that you put there yourself. You actually want to grow something, I can show you? Our roof garden ain't the biggest but I try to make the most'a it."

Anastasia goes to knock on the door of the apartment but she hesitates, pulling her hand back. How on earth would she approach this situation? What would she say? She didn't even know if jax was a terrorist or not? Though I suppose she could simply hear from him, after all, Anastasia places trust in those she viewed as being close, and in her heart of hearts she couldn't accept jax being evil. So she knocked. Anastasia waited behind the door, wearing simple black jeans, a dark red top and a large dark red coat, accenting her features and red curly hair well. She had taken off the glove on her right hand, just in case something would happen. She truly hoped it wouldn't, but she couldn't afford not being careful here. And so, she waited.

"For real," Steven replies, mirroring Jax's half-smile, "and I'd love that. Ma always kept herbs and flowers and such in the windowsill, but I never learned much about proper --" He starts, the tension in his powerful frame abrupt and impressive, but then subsides just a touch sheepishly. "I'd put five on that being another enterprising reporter." He sets his coffee down -- though not before taking another big gulp. "Want me to get it?"

"They're so brazen." Jax wilts against Steve even as Steve tenses, sagging in with a defeated sigh. He takes a gulp from his coffee, too -- and by the time he has set it back down, sat himself back up, he has undergone a drastic transformation. Though still on the slightly thin and pale side, it's filled out, softened by a healthier touch of color in his skin, nowhere near so starkly apparent just how ill he's been. A glitter-bright dusting of makeup spreads itself over his face, bold in iridescent green and purple and blue peacock hues; similar colors shine on his nails. His hair has gotten glossier, streaked with bright blue; a shimmering dragonfly now sits embroidered on his eyepatch. The plain denim patches on his overalls are now a riot of multicolored flowers; his shirt shifts between several patterns before settling on a cheerful green tee spread with images from The Lorax.

He fixes a brighter smile to his face. Carefully. Plucks a cookie from the plate. "I'd just give you a five if you shoo'd 'em off real polite-like."

Steve watches the transformation with -- not quite amazement, perhaps, but he certainly seems impressed. "I'll be a perfect gentleman." He gives Jax's shoulder an encouraging squeeze as he rises, his right hand starting to reach towards the side of the couch for something that isn't there. Crosses to the entryway in a few long strides and glasses through the peephole before unlocking and opening the door. "Good afternoon, ma'am," he says, a neutral smile fixed ever-so-naturally on his face, his eyes looking left and right to check the hallway for others. "How can I help you?"

Anastasia braces herself as the door is opened, but nothing could have prepared her for seeing captain America behind that door, something of a hero of hers back in the day. A flood of conflicting emotions crashes in her. This is no time to fan girl yet it's the damn cap! After a brief stint of confusion Anastasia regains her composure. "Oh umm, well, captain America, I came to see my student, this is where jax lives correct?" She asked, peering inside the apartment, and as she spotted jax she couldn't but help a wave of relief crashing over her, followed by worry as she saw the state of jax.

Jax's eye widens slightly at the voice from the door. He sets his cookie back down untouched, pushing himself up off the couch and leaning against its side. "Oh -- oh, gosh, Steve, honey-honey, it's --" Only a very quick beat of hesitation. "It's fine, it's, ah -- it's one of my co-workers," he puts just! the lightest touch of emphasis on this. "She also teaches at the school with me. Yes'm, I live here. Can't say as I was expecting you." His careful smile curls just a little brighter. "You brave that gauntlet of reporters outside just to come see me?"

Anastasia frowns a bit, her face still filled with worry, and a hint of disappointment. "Coworker? Just a coworker? Excuse you young man but I'd dare say I'm a bit more then that" she says in a soft but scolding tone, before sighing softly. "Even so, I'm glad to see you're okay, or alive at least, and please tell me what they've said about you isn't true" she says, her voice cracking just a tiniest bit as her face is filled with worry.

Steve's smile doesn't falter, but he does hesitate long enough for Jax to speak up. Only then does he relax and step aside, though his expression hardens just a touch at the exchange even as he closes the door behind Anastasia. This done, he returns to to his host's side. "Steve Rogers, ma'am, and I'm afraid you have me at a disadvantage."

"Gosh, ma'am, where are my manners." A slight flush creeps into Jax's cheeks. "Steve, this is my," again the emphasis is just! so very slight, one might almost overlook it, "former teacher, Anastasia Rivers. We've been teaching together several years now. Anastasia, my good friend, Steve Rogers. He's been kind enough to be helpin' -- fend off the hordes outside while I recuperate a bit." Jax draws in a small breath, starting to lean in against Steve's side -- just slightly before he drags himself upright. "Can I get you some tea? Cookies? I baked 'em fresh this mornin'." His smile, now, is slipping just a touch crooked. "I can't quite make you no assurances on that last front. They been saying an awful lot of things about me, so you're gonna have to be a bit more specific."

"Ah hardly, besides, not the first time we've met, I believe the first time we met I flirted with you quite heavily" she says with a soft smile and a chuckle. "I'm anastasia rivers, a pleasure, I must say, it is strange to see you again, you were a bit of an idol of mine when I was a child" she says in passing before smiling and nodding. "I would love a cookie, and the terrorism, I'd like to know for myself If you did indeed do those things" as she said this her smile temporarily dropped, almost an aura of intimidation about her, but more like a "grandma wielding a spatula" type intimidation

"Ah, forgive me." Steve looks at Anastasia a bit more closely, though he does not seem either surprised or distressed by this revelation. "I didn't recognize you, but I'm glad my alter ego was an ah...inspiration. I can attest that the cookies are delicious, though you must know already, if you work together." He straightens almost imperceptibly when Anastasia's demeanor changes. "I'm not sure how much that narrows your question down," he adds, calm but firm, "considering the American government has a pretty flexible idea of 'terrorism.'"

Jax's lip catches between his teeth; briefly, he wiggles at one of the several lip rings there. His pierced eyebrows lift, and though for a moment he seems about to say something, he -- does not. Just picks up the plate of cookies, offering them out to Anastasia before he slips around the counter into the kitchen to start a kettle of water. "Gosh, but I'm sure I've done a barrel of terrorism. They're redefining it by the minute. But I'm sorry, I just want to be proper clear, you said Captain America was an idol of yours?" The design of his eyepatch has shifted while he gets a tea steeper prepped with a tung ting oolong -- the dragonfly vanishes, the black background changing to a metallic silver as the red-white-and-blue star design of Captain America's shield appears on the patch instead. Mildly, "Huh."

"True, I believe I was considered one back in the day too, one way or another" Anastasia mentions extremely casually before she softly sighs. "Well considering your attitude on the subject, and the fact that you seem to get on quite well with the captain, I'll take it that you aren't what the media has painted you to be, I'm glad" she says with a gentle smile. "Oh yes, as a brand new American the captain was very much an idol for me, the representation of the wonderful American spirit" she said with a smile as she nodded encouragingly at Steve

Steve picks his coffee back up and takes a sip, blinking incredulously at Anastasia. "I may be intruding on a much more involved and ongoing debate here, but if you've known Jax since his high school days that you ought to probably take his word over mine." His eyes fix steadily on the woman. "Especially since you only know me through propaganda and flirtation. Hardly a basis on which to judge a man's character" His shoulders hitch in a small shrug. "Comes to it, the Third Reich certainly painted me as a terrorist."

"Gosh," Jax's eye has skipped to Steve very pointedly, "I mean, who of us is quite what the media's painted us to be? It -- does feel more'n a little strange that after all these years you're gonna decide on what to think of me based on -- what? The assumed judgment of a man you know from some decades-old propaganda reels and paparazzi shots at fundraisers?" He shuts the stove burner back off with a click, turning the gas off though the water hasn't nearly begun to boil. His shoulders have slumped, his hand lifting to dig knuckles hard at his eye (conveniently, his immaculate makeup does not smudge one bit.) "Look -- I'm real tired, I think all the terrorism's kind of got me beat. I'm sorry, I'm gonna have to give you a raincheck on the tea. Please, take some cookies -- it was real thoughtful of you to stop by. I'll see you at school soon enough, m'sure."

Anastasia sighs softly but nods. "I'm just glad you're safe is all, you should have called, and yeah, see you at school I suppose" she sighs as she stands up, leaving the apartment without the cookies, not exactly feeling any better as she steps out into the street, pulls out a cigarette, lights it with her finger and walks down the street, figuring she'd go meet some old friends before returning to the school

Steve follows Anastasia to the door and closes it behind her with very, very deliberate care. He drifts back in though the living room and fetches up against the counter across from Jax. Opens his mouth to speak, then closes it again. "Hey," he says finally, his voice gentle and his expression neutral, "you okay?"

Jax sags in against the counter as the door closes; the moment the lock clicks shut the vibrant touches of makeup and health and colour drop from his person all in one rapid sweep. "M'sorry." His arm is trembling, unsteady where it braces him against the counter; his palm presses hard to his eye. "You didn't need to be in the middle of -- gosh, I don't even know what that --" His head shakes, slow. Slow, too, is the wan smile that threads its way across his face. "We ain't even had one day outta this quarantine an' the condescendin' lecture brigade is at my door. Really makes a man miss the cosy accommodations in jail."

Steve's lips press together tightly, his head shaking once, quick. "Not your fault -- she was out of line. Whatever your philosophical differences, this was not the right time to interrogate you about it." He steps around the counter into the kitchen, stretching out a hand to steady Jax. Then opens his other arm to offer an embrace. "If you want," there's just the barest hint of a small on his lips, "I'll bodily remove the next caller who tries something like that."

"It's just wild to me how -- I mean, I don't mean you no offense, I know you're a good man, Steve, but she only knows Captain America an' the idea that -- that it's somehow good an' moral when you're killing on behalf of the state to save lives but if I'm destroying property to save lives I need a scolding? Spare me the hypocrisy." There's an unsteady edge to the breath Jax lets out as he leans into the embrace, head sinking against Steve's chest. Then tips his head back, grinning suddenly brighter and batting his eye exaggeratedly up at the taller man. "For me? You'd do that? My hero."

Steve settles his arms around Jax, firm but careful. "I don't take offense. All of that was --" His breath hitches slightly, then eases out of him. "It was complicated for me even then, and it's sure as heck complicated now that people want to praise me for it. But you, and Leo?" He shakes his head. "You saved the world -- at so much risk to yourselves -- and harmed no one in the process. I don't mean that makes everything simple, but it is easy to see you were in the right." He blushes faintly. "Of course. Though I guess you're perfectly capable of removing them yourself. I'm not much of a hero." He does give a lopsided smile, finally. "But I can at least save you from sullying your impeccable manners."