|Dramatis Personae|| |
From indoor gardens to outdoor, though without the protective greenhouse glass the back gardens do not last all year round. Still, the gardens out here are well-tended and well-worth spending time in, as well. The paths wending through the beds of flowers and herbs and vegetables spread out through the school's back grounds, tended by students as a credit class. Benches offer seating and a small pond is home to koi and turtles, as well as a few frogs. At the far back edges of the garden, a droning buzzing marks a few stacked white boxes as beehives.
The gardens are not, admittedly, the most traditional of places for Official Advisor Meetings, but then, Xavier's is not the most traditional of schools and Jackson is hardly the most traditional of teachers. He's arranged to meet with Ducky, today, in a loose sort of 'arranged' that mostly consisted of brief email. Lunchtime finds him looking pretty much exactly as casual in vacation-time as he is during the actual term; a light blue sarong folded and wrapped to knee-length, chunky silver-and-blue-and-black sneakers, a black t-shirt that reads 'believe in faeries' in blue on its front; the text is surrounded by blue and purple stars and there's a large pair of blue butterfly wings printed on its back. He has sunglasses, today, large and mirrored, and he's brought with him food! A selection from whatever Savita has dished up for Xavier's lunch, but additionally a container from home that has four cupcakes nestled inside it; two coconut-almond frosted with chocolate ganache, two green tea with tiny pink marzipan flowers decorating the pale green glazing on top. He's nestled himself (and lunch!) on the smooth flat rocks that surround the koi pond, his black FreakAngels messenger bag resting on the grass in front of him.
The slightly non-standard location for an advisor's meeting gets no complaints from Ducky, who has been spending her second day of vacation outside for the most part. Wearing a pair of pale yellow tights and a knee length green tunic, Ducky is making her way out of the woods that ring the grounds, looking slightly disheveled and as though she has been spending the day adventuring. Or at the very least, climbing trees. As with most instances where she has spent a good deal of time outside, Ducky has acquired a flock, for lack of a better description; now in addition to the dappled gray and white pigeon that is a near constant fixture on her shoulder, there is at least three crows and two ring neck doves flying along beside her, looping and spinning back around to keep pace with her relatively slow walk. The closer she gets, the easier it is to see the additional entourage she has acquired - a small green hummingbird and a sparrow are nestled in her hair, and a red throated finch is clinging to the pocket of her tunic, bouncing along as she walks. High overhead, a red tailed hawk is flying in lazy circles, occasionally swooping lower toward Ducky before rising on thermals once more.
Ducky's expression is a little bit vacant as she reaches Jackson's location, offering a bit of a sheepish wave as she stops beside the koi pond. "Hi, Mister Jackson. Um, sorry about bringing half the forest back with me, I, um, they kinda followed me home. I don't really want to keep them, though," she scuffs her foot against the ground, looking anxiously up at the birds.
"Hi, Ducky!" Jackson's cheerful greeting is as chirrupy as a bird, himself. His head tilts back to watch the swooping of the hawk overhead with a small curl of smile that brightens quicker and wider when Ducky nears. "-- Ohmygosh a hummingbird." There is a not-insignificant amount of /squee/ in his voice. "Sorry um. Will they just -- not leave you, even if you don't want them to stay?" He glances up from her again, looking to the hawk before looking back to Ducky.
"I brought lunch," he adds, with a gesture towards the tray of food he's commandeered from the kitchen; there's cups of soup (potato and leek), stuffed peppers, peas, some sort of pork loin cooked with cranberry and pistachios, rice pilaf. The pork he has set aside from the rest of the tray on its own separate plate. "If you're hungry. Or -- any'a them are I guess."
Ducky smiles happily at the mention of the hummingbird, and gently picks it up from her hair, having to detangle it slightly from the disheveled locks, "He can sit on your shoulder, if you'd like. They're usually pretty calm and more willing to be in contact with people around me. In, um, in case it wasn't obvious from the flock around me." She blushes slightly and takes a seat on another nearby rock, the birds that had been flying directly near her staying close by, but settling onto hedges, rocks, and the ground nearby, keeping a watchful distance from Jackson.
"And no, they won't go away. 'S been happening more often lately, which is cool and all, but they won't go away when I ask them to. And I can't actually order them away. They just want to talk to me and be around me - I guess it's curiosity, but I swear I'm a magnet for them." She ruffles a hand through her hair, letting the hummingbird settle back into place on her head when she's done, before pulling a bottle of hand sanitizer from her pocket and cleaning her hands off. "Thank you for getting lunch, Mister Jackson. I kinda would have forgotten to eat if I hadn't had this meeting. Um, I get distracted. Easily. Sometimes," she looks sheepish and reaches for one of the cups of soup to start with. "So, um, what's up?"
"Oh -- oh /man/, really?" There's definite excitement in Jax's tone as Ducky picks up the hummingbird. He scoots a little closer, tentatively reaching out a hand towards her head when the bird has been resettled. "Oh, gosh, s'no worry. I kinda get real wrapped up in stuff sometimes too an' just -- forget /everything/. Which," he admits sheepishly, "tends to be pretty /terrible/ I'm half a hummingbird myself."
He takes the other cup of soup in his other hand, though he doesn't yet drink from it, just resting it on a knee. "Wanted to check in, mostly. Now that another term's done -- had plenty'a time to get settled in an' all. Make sure things are going alright with you."
When Jackson reaches for the hummingbird, Ducky looks slightly confused, and then looks up at the bird, closing her eyes for a moment, at which point the bird takes off and hovers in front of Jackson's face for a moment, before settling in on his shoulder, if he allows. "Sorry. Kinda distracted. It's, um, it's kinda like being in a crowded room, with 5 different conversations going on around you, and all of them just keep trying to get your attention and opinion on something, and you're trying to pay attention to a single person," Ducky explains, keeping her eyes closed for a minute and sticking her tongue out in concentration. "I'm kinda crap at blocking them out, but I'm working on it, usually. Or, um, I'm supposed to be trying to not. Because it gives me a hell of a headache after a while," she admits, taking a careful sip from her cup of soup and falling quiet for a moment.
"Things are going well. I like it here. It's safe, as long as I'm on campus. Off campus seems a bit dodgy sometimes, with the creepy sand guy, and the giant angry bird," she says, wrinkling her nose slightly at the memories, taking another sip of soup. "I'm making friends, which is new. People friends. Not bird friends, although I keep finding more of those, too, which is not new." Ducky nods slowly, as though trying to sort through things mentally, but for now she stays quiet for a few, occasionally glancing up at the hawk that still circles overhead.
Jackson's hand drops, his smile widening as the bird sits on his shoulder. He turns his head slightly to one side. just eying the little bird for a moment. His smile is still brightly in place when he takes a small sip of his soup. "S'alright," he answers her apology. "I can only imagine it gets distractin', yeah. Is there anything that helps, more or less, with blocking them out? I got a friend who sometimes has problems with --" His fingers flutter towards his head. "Mental chorus he listens to, mostly just helps him having things to /ground/ himself. Specific people to focus on, tactile contact to bring himself away from all the /other/ noise."
He sips at his soup quietly as he listens to Ducky, head bobbing in a nod. "-- Off campus's been rough this year," he agrees, "but it ain't all like that. Glad to hear you're makin' friends, though, that's -- a good. Classes going well?" He reaches down to his bag to pull out a folder, opening it up to glance inside for a moment. "You do alright, this past term? -- Y' know yet what you want to be taking in the fall?"
"It's why I usually have Kushi on my shoulder. Being able to focus on his his conversation helps a lot, but I'm still getting used to actually need to act, um, human?" Ducky answers, tilting her head in a bit of birdlike confusion, "For so long it was kinda my defense mechanism. No one's gonna assume the crazy girl talking to birds is a threat, so I just let myself be kinda like that? But it only works so often. 'msposed to be taking lessons with one of the other professors to try and learn to handle it better." She does smile at the interaction between the hummingbird and Jackson, nodding and tilting her head the other way, "He likes you. You're colorful. Like a flower."
When asked about classes, Ducky bobs her head, "I, um, I think I did ok? Don't know final grades, but I think I got mostly A's and B's. Course, it's entirely possibly I bombed the finals and I'm gonna have to retake them again anyway." Such confidence in this one. "Um, I think I'm supposed to take Trig and Precalc," she wrinkles her nose at this, "And, um, AP Environmental Sciences, English of some kind." Ducky takes a sip of soup, "Oh, um, I think ASL, maybe? And Power and Social Responsibility," she says, ruffling her hair again, dislodging the sparrow there slightly. "And sex ed," that last class is barely muttered, and comes with a decided blush from the student, as though the thought of taking that class, with other students, made her debate just going and hiding with the birds for a bit.
"Does Kushi have interesting things to say?" This doesn't sound skeptical so much as genuinely curious. Jackson exhales a quiet laugh at the comment on the hummingbird; the mention of being colourful just prompts him to become even /moreso/, his sunglasses shifting into a swirling rainbow of colours and the tattoo on his skull leaking pigment downwards to trace an intricate vinery of purple-blue-green down the side of Jax's face and neck. "Dr. Grey would probably be real good to talk to about blocking stuff out proper. Or -- Professor Munroe, too, she -- ain't psionic or nothin' but I bet she'd have a thing or two to teach about focus."
The class list gets another bob of head, as he takes another gulp of soup. Or, perhaps, hides a /smile/ behind that gulp at the muttered last class. "Yeahsorry. I'll try t'make it not too terrible. -- Ain't a hundred percent sure who's takin' over that ethics class," he admits, musing. "ASL should be fun. -- An' useful, I saw y'got roomed with Lyric, now." His fingers drum against the side of his soup cup, and for a brief moment he quiets before continuing, "-- Gonna have to start thinkin' this year 'bout what you want to do after here. Y'given it much thought, yet?"
"Depends. Kushi's kinda more observant and talkative than most birds. He asks a lot of questions, and has me explain stuff the he doesn't understand. It kinda, um, depends on what is around. He talks about stuff he sees when he's outside and on his own while I'm in class," Ducky says with a lopsided grin, "Also depends on your definition of interesting, too." Her eyes go wide when Jackson's tattoo starts spreading, watching the movement of the colors with amazement, "That is so cool. But you keep that up, the birds are gonna come after you, now, too. And Ivan's bees, probly. Different colors kinda fluoresce differently, and if you're doing that with light, it might actually be enough to confuse them into coming after you," she looks to the little hummingbird, which is curiously watching the progression of color, "Not that a swarm of hummingbirds will do much to you, other than possibly startle you."
She nods, taking a long gulp of soup and letting her blush fade a bit, though it doesn't go away entirely, "Y... you're the sex ed teacher? Oh. I, uh, 'kay." She nods, continuing and letting the topic of /that/ class drop, "Yeah. And I think it'll help me focus with the birds, too. 'Cause it's kinda a crutch that I talk out loud to them. Would be nice to not do that. And it'll be nice to be able to talk to my room mate, too." The mention of needing to leave the school gets a bit of a slouch from Ducky, and she nods, "I know. They don't just kick us out when we turn 18, right? I mean, I'm still kinda behind in school stuff, from that year of being homeless and not in school, and, um, I don't really have any marketable skills yet." She continues her babbling, looking rather nervous as though the thought of being tossed out, "My... my birthday is next week. S'posed to turn 18, and, um, I hadn't thought about what to do or anything." Her eyes are wide, and a little nervous - the birds around her seem to shuffle slightly in reaction to her talking, "I'd like to go to college. I want to study. Don't think I want to be a vet, but I'd like to do conservation stuff, maybe? 'swhy I'm taking Environmental Science this semester. Don't know much beyond that, really, though." She blushes slightly, still looking nervous.
"Asks you to explain what he don't understand?" This catches Jax's attention with a note of curiosity, and he looks from Ducky to the hummingbird on his shoulder, then back. "Huh. S'that usual? I've heard lots 'bout how intelligent corvids are an' -- you met Taylor's girl? Pretty African Grey, they're sharp as tacks, too. Didn't know pigeons was up there." The thought of being swarmed with hummingbirds just earns another quiet laugh from him. "Oh gosh. Hummingbird attack would be kinda the /prettiest/ swarm."
His nose crinkles up at her further question, and he just nods again. "Yep. This has been my first term teaching it." A shrug of his shoulder, and he moves on, too. "No, we don't kick nobody out. We make sure everyone's leaving when they're ready -- with a solid plan for what to do next. You got a bit before you're even through classes, but it's good to start thinkin' now if you want to prep for applying to colleges, or looking for work or what. If y'already know a general idea of what you're interested in, we can help find colleges for you with good conservation programs and look into what sort of things they might be lookin' for in your transcript."
Something in Ducky's words pulls Jax's brows together, furrowing above the rims of his sunglasses. "Right, your birthday. But I didn't think --" He hesitates, puzzled, and opens up the folder in his lap again, leafing through the pages inside. His teeth click down against his lip ring, and for a moment he's silent -- a long moment, really, mental math is not his /forte/. "Um --" His nose crinkles up again, a little awkward. "Are you sure you're -- I think you're only turnin' 17, honey-honey. Unless my math is off. 1996 is right, yeah?"
Ducky nods at the first question, "Yeah, but it's something he only just kinda started doing since I got to school? I'll be talking to someone, and then later he'll ask something related to it. It's um," she blinks a few times, glancing back at Kushi, who is contently asleep in the hood of her tunic, "Kinda odd, for a pigeon. They don't really usually have much to say. Corvids and parrots are usually the smart ones." She perks up a bit at the mention of the parrot, "Oh, really? Oh wow, I didn't know anyone had pet birds on campus, actually. Haven't met Taylor, for that matter, but yeah. I used to have love birds, they're not as bright as parrots, but they were good little birds." Her smile falters a little bit at the memory of losing her birds, but hides it behind a long sip of soup, trying to finish it before it gets too cool.
The comment about her age completely blanks out any talk of academics, and she just stares at Jackson for a very long moment, blinking repeatedly. "What?" Ducky asks flatly, the word escaping with a slight squeak at the end. She glances down, fixing on a point on the ground, her eyes darting back and forth, as though attempting to account for time, "I... I'm... but. I... it's only been a year? I..." Her voice trails off, and she looks confused still, "Thank you? I'm, um, sorry. I think I kinda lost track of time. And a lot of stuff, really, and I didn't think." Shifting to pull her knees up to her chest, Ducky looks rather shocked, wrapping her arms around her knees as she does, "It felt like so much longer, before I got to New York. I... didn't really talk to anyone. Just the birds. And, it's, um, wow. Whelp, I feel like a moron."
"He didn't before? Only since you been here?" The tilt of Jackson's head is almost birdlike himself, for a moment, as he peeks over towards the sleeping pigeon. "That's -- huh." Whatever else he was going to say quiets as Ducky continues. His teeth dig against his lower lip for a moment, and he leans down to set the folder back in his bag. "I don't think you're a moron." He reaches out to squeeze gently at Ducky's shoulder. "I think you had a /long/ year. An' probably not a whole lot of cause to track time real good through it. An' --" He hesitates, teeth scraping against his lip ring again. "-- leastways this means more time than you'd thought to figure out what to do next from here. Um, Ducky, since y'got here have you stopped by at all to talk to either of the counselors here? They ain't /just/ here for when everything's exploding into stress an' crazy. They're good to check in with any time, 'specially when you're adjusting to a whole different kinda life than you'd been living for a bit."
"Could be I actually have stuff that he doesn't know about now. Dunno what brought it on. I mean, before it was just pigeons and the city. He was a city pigeon - nothing much surprising there," Ducky offers with a shrug, acidentally jostling Kushi in the process. There's a slight tensing of her muscles, when Jackson touches her shoulder, but she relaxes, resting her chin on her knees as she stares at one of the nearby birds. "I've been to them. Mossly 'cause I'd started to believe that I really was crazy, that it was all just in my head. Gonna have more to talk 'bout now, I guess. Which is good, I guess." She ruffles her hair as she talks, blinking up at Jackson for a long minute, "Guess I should hold off on sending a note to my parents still. I'm kinda scared they'll ruin everything I've got here. And take me away. I want to make sure they can't do that to me." Sighing slightly, Ducky shakes her head, "Sorry. 'bout kinda freaking out about that. I... I guess I just kinda lost track. But, um, thank you? For, y'know, advising? You're so much awesomer than the advisors at normal high school."
"Huh. Could be," Jackson muses, glancing at Kushi for a moment and then returning his hand to his lap. "Good. They can be helpful." He finishes his soup, setting the cup aside. His lips compress thinly, brow creasing slightly. "You know, if you ever do decide to reach out to them again, we'll be glad t'have people who can kinda -- buffer that for you. Make sure they don't just jump straight to thinkin' you're crazy again. But it's up to you if an' when you're ready for that." His cheeks flush faintly at that last sentence. "I never went to normal high school," he admits with a hint of amusement. "I guess I don't really know any other way to do it." Rather than follow up soup with more of the /actual/ food, he just reaches for the container of cupcakes, plucking out a green tea one and then offering it to Ducky. "Cupcake? I think all serious talks go down better with dessert."
Ducky nods slowly, "Yeah. The councelors have been really nice. And kinda helped me to not be as flighty as I was when I got here, it's good to get to talk to someone who knows what you can do, and is willing to help with stuff you didn't really realize you needed help with." She head tilts and looks guiltily away for a moment, at the mention of contacting her parents, "I... I know I should let them know. That I'm not dead and all. Didn't leave so much as a note. Just the birds kinda well, said there was danger, and there were men in white coats for me. So I ran away. Didn't get to say bye or anything." She sighs, digging her chin into her knees, "I feel bad for doing that." She quirks her head to the side curiously, "Y'didn't go to normal school? Whatcha have instead, if, um, if you don't mind me asking?" Her demeanor brightens visibly, though, at the offer of a cupcake and she nods and grins, "You are officially way awesomer than the advisors at my old school. You actually listen, and seem to care. /And/ you bring cupcakes!" She takes a cupcake, but doesn't immediately start in on it, just looking it over curiously for a long moment, grinning lopsidedly.
"Sometimes you just do what -- you /gotta/ do, when it comes to surviving. I don't think it was /bad/ of you to get outta that situation," Jackson says carefully, "but then once you /are/ in a safe place, you got the space to sit down and look over things and work out what you need to patch back up from when you were just trying to /keep/ safe. I think that's a lot of what we're here to help with. You got a lot more freedom for decisions now, you don't gotta just take the only path that's open to you."
He sets the container down on the tray beside the Real Food, and peels the wrapper of his cupcake to take a large bite. His tongue swipes a bit of green tea glaze off his lip ring as he swallows. "Oh, I -- just not normal high school. I went to a normal elementary school. Even a year of normal middle school. It just --" His smile quirks a little crookedly, "didn't work out all that well for me. So I came up here, for the end'a middle an' all of high school. Was a /world/ of improvement."
Slowly, Ducky peels the wrapper off the cupcake, neatly folding it up and setting the trash aside, nibbling gently at the edges of the treat. "I might see about finding a way to let them know I'm ok. I'm safe now, well, I think I'm safe now. My original plan was to send a carrier pigeon. They aren't really traceable, which is kinda nice I think." She takes another bite of cupcake, grinning, "Sorry - I'm kinda a little paranoid about some things, I guess, still. And these are really awesome cupcakes, sir. Thank you." Listening to the explanation about school, Ducky nods, "Oh, right. That makes sense. Was it disruptive or something, when your powers first started, y'know, powering?" She tilts her head to the side looking curiously at her advisor, "Mine were kinda slow to manifest, I guess. And it's so subtle that, um, wasn't disruptive in class. Just meant I didn't have friends. 'S how I got the nickname Ducky. Cause I was the odd duck, talking to the ducks in the pool." A sheepish look crosses her face, "Sorry if I ask too many questions. I kinda tend to ask questions I shouldn't sometimes."
"-- S'also the added benefit," Jackson says solemnly, "that message via carrier pigeon is /basically/ the cutest way to send message. But, if y'want to be quicker about it, s'probably a /couple/ people around who could make sure that an email you sent couldn't be traced back t'here, that -- ain't hard I don't think." Though he sounds only middling sure of this last.
His nose crinkles at the question about his manifestation. For a moment he's quiet, nibbling at his cupcake slowly. "Questions are alright. I think part of the good of a place like this is -- being able to hear other people's experiences. I think a lot of us was just kinda /alone/ wherever we were -- just that /weird kid/ --" He shrugs a shoulder. "It was pretty crazy-disruptive, yeah. At first not so much outwardly but we didn't /know/ what it was. Just a lot of headaches and eye problems. When it started showing for real then -- school got kinda tough when I'd change the classroom funny colours or project images of whatever was on my mind. I'm /lucky/ the more dangerous stuff took a while to show -- I was /here/ already when I started explodin' things, otherwise someone might coulda gotten hurt real bad before I figured out how to get control'a myself."
Ducky giggles a bit at the pigeon comment, grinning, "They are kinda adorable. Some people don't really like them alot. Ok, most people don't like them at all. In the city they usually got called winged rats and stuff." She reaches back and gently pets Kushi, careful not to wake the sleeping bird, listening quietly to Jax. "Oh, I, um. I'm sorry to pry," she says at his initial expression, hugging her arms around her knees again. "Yeah. The manifestations that don't actually show up to anyone else are kinda awkward. It just started as really cryptic whispers and picking up on the edge of very inappropriate sounding conversations," she blushes slightly, "Took me a few weeks to realize it was birds, and not just invisible pervy people lurking outside." Continuing to nibble on her cupcake, Ducky looks at Jackson, perhaps just a little skeptical that someone so nice could be dangerous, or explodey. "It's good this place is here. It's nice. To have a place to be able to, y'know, feel safe. And be able to learn and stuff. Not just school things, but the mutanty things, too," Ducky nods, and runs a hand through her hair again, pressing at her temple, "I should probably be going inside soonish. I like being outside with the birds, but it gets kinda much when more of them find me." There's a glance around to the small flock, which may have gained at least another crow and a few pigeons during the conversation, "Was there anything else we needed to talk about, 'fore the next semester starts?"
"Inappropriate -- oh. Oh, gosh," Jackson presses his knuckles to his lips, stifling a laugh, "I ain't ever given much thought to everything all the pretty birdsong /means/, I -- guess a lot of it would be --" His nose crinkles up, a hint of blush in his own cheeks, too. "-- Bastian says similar things," he confides with some amusement. "He can hear the fish but he says all they talk about mostly is food an' sex. Not so great for conversations."
He nods, when Ducky says she has to go, glancing up to the birds as well. "Nope! I think that was it, really. I mean, if y'ever have anything you want to talk about, y'got my email. And I'm around plenty if you just want to grab me. Y'want to take him back?" His head tips towards the hummingbird on his shoulder. "Or will he probably just fly off once you ain't around?"
Ducky starts to unfold herself from her compacted position, careful not to knock herself or the leftovers into the koi pond, "Yeah. Um. Birds have filthy, albeit creative, mouths. I kinda hate spring, sometimes, though. It sounds really pretty and lovely, until you can actually hear what they are saying in detail." She blushes a bit, ruffling her hair again, but perks up at the mention of someone else being able to talk to animals, "Really? I... I'd only heard about Ivan being able to talk to bugs. I didn't know there were others. Neat. I can't say I've actually, um, met either of your kids, yet. Still haven't met a lot of people, I think." There's a smile towards the hummingbird, which has nestled into place and started to fall asleep, "He'll fly off when he wakes up. But for now he'll stay put. I can take him back if you'd rather, though" A cheery smile crosses her face, "And thank you, for checking in on me. I appreciate it. I... may run the letter I want to send to my parents by you, when I write it, if that's ok? Eventually."
"Well. Might meet plenty'a new people come fall." Jackson closes the cupcake container, though he stays put on the rocks. "S'alright, kinda like having him here. And that's totally fine. I'd be glad t'look it over for you." He gives Ducky a quick smile, bright and warm. "Be seein' you," he says lightly.