At Mimir's Well


greg_icon.gif zachery_icon.gif

Also Featuring:


Scene Title At Mimir's Well
Synopsis Zachery sees a therapist.
Date June 3, 2019

The offices of Farkas Psychiatric are in the heart of Red Hook’s harbor neighborhood. What was once a run down industrial parkland before the war has become the thriving urban center of the Safe Zone. The lights of the sprawling walled compound of the Red Hook Market are visible in the dusk hours just a few blocks away, while the noise of ships coming and going from the harbor sound even closer between the tall rows of brownstones.

Farkas Psychiatric’s building is a centuries-old stone building set between two large brownstone complexes. It's turn-of-the-century architecture emphasizes tall windows and stoic decor. The rod iron fence around the property is overgrown with crawling ivy and the granite steps leading up to the front door are patchy with moss. A bronze wolf’s head knocker with a ring in its mouth rests in the middle of the front door, but the plaque beside it showing office hours welcomes guests to simply come inside.

Standing on the threshold of the door, Zachery Miller feels the building looming over him. The dim light from the interior filtering through the sheer curtains. Everything about the building feels larger than it should be, like the tall silhouette of a censorious parent casting judgment on a misbehaved child.

Perhaps it looks cheerier during the daytime.

Farkas Psychiatric

Red Hook

June 3rd


Beyond the lobby, the office of Doctor Gregory Farkas is a stately affair. It is a two story parlor, with a loft balcony and two floors of bookshelves filled with the kind of hardback literature that looks like it comes with the shelves. Doctor Farkas’ desk sits on the far left side of the parlor, below the balcony, with an unlit heart at its back. The sitting area is in the open, with a pair of low-backed leather armchairs standing in plain view of the fifteen foot tall windows overlooking the street.

“Doctor Farkas is just journaling after his last meeting,” is the simple answer Gregory’s assistant Elisa offers as she walks along with Zachery. “Can I get you anything? Coffee, tea?” She's a small woman, likely not out of her teens yet with a mane of goldenrod colored hair and dark, expressive eyes. The way she looks at Zachery is assessing, intently so, but in a way that an attentive assistant should be. Given that Zachery has no boundaries when it comes to the use of his ability, he's already noticed some unusual things about Elise:

Firstly, she's recovering from a broken rib. It was subtly obvious in her posture and her shallow breathing, but clearer with his own biological sense.

Secondly, she has a foreign body wedged into the bone of her right hip. Given size and placement it's likely an old bullet, but given her age he can't imagine she was any older than fifteen when she was shot.

Thirdly, her knuckles on both hand show signs of repeated microfracture and healing, common among bare-fisted boxers or street brawlers. These are only chief among a laundry list of other years older fractures she's healed from in her legs and feet. She has a healed skull fracture as well, at her right orbital socket just below her eyebrow where a tiny scar would be the only other clue.

None of that answers her question to Zachery, however.

If only it could.

"Let's go with water. Cold, if you've got it, no ice." The answer leaves Zachery crisply, like he's on his way to a meeting he's late for. He's still dressed for it too, in white dress shirt and slacks. Except it's not that kind of meeting, and he has to wait, and he doesn't know how long, and the way his fingers twitch idly at his sides suggests that even without coffee or tea he's already got enough extra energy in him to power a good portion of the lights in here.

The anomalies in the assistant's physical condition have not gone unnoticed, and it's not exactly helping him maintain the image of someone who is at ease. The questions it brings to mind knit his brow, where conscious effort smooths it out almost immediately after. This… repeats itself, about half a dozen times over, as he makes his way where directed. His gait, at least, is steady, head held high.

This is not the time. "Thank you." That is all.

'No it isn't, actually', impulses decide for him as the lower eyelid over his acrylic eye twitches upward when he hears himself ask chipperly, "Have you been working here long? Hell of a place."

Elisa was four steps away by the time Zachery’s inquiry made it past his lips. He turns, one brow raised, regarding him with an uncertain up-and-down scrutiny. But that is all smiled away when she turns back toward the sideboard between two walls of shelves, where crystal decanters of amber liquid promise more than cold water. “Four years,” she says politely, which is an unreasonably long period of time for someone her age.

She stops at the sideboard and retrieves one upended glass and looks back over her shoulder to Zachery. “I know what you’re thinking,” is a somewhat loaded thing to say in this day and age, but it isn’t how she means it. “I was quite young. Fifteen, to be exact.” From there Elisa walks back past Zachery and through the double doors into the foyer, managing to remain just in sight at the water cooler near her desk. “Mr. Farkas adopted me,” Elisa explains, filling the glass as she maintains a conversational tone at a distance. “I’d fled from Russia after my parents died, wound up sold into slavery instead of trafficked out of the country. But the buyer who would have purchased me bought out the whole lot, and liberated each and every one of us.” Zachery gets the impression it’s a longer story than that, but as Elisa comes back over, it’s clear she’s giving him the abridged version and nothing more. Even then, it’s quite a yarn.

“I was granted asylum here in the States, and Mr. Farkas took me in.” Elisa smiles, mildly, offering up the glass to him. “So, I’ve worked. It is not a hard occupation.”

The reason for Zachery's choice in drink becomes clear almost as soon as the glass makes it to his hands; with a craning of his neck, he downs the whole thing all at once, offering the empty glass back immediately after, dangling from fingertips around the rim.

"I didn't mean to impose." Though the way his eye has been following Elisa around the room implies that maybe the bit of distraction was welcomed either way, his weight shifting as the fingers of his right find those of his left, gingerly pressing down on them in idle thought.

His tongue runs idly over his molars, mouth slightly ajar, polite smile still vaguely present. What do you even say, after that. Probably best to leave it be.

And yet. "… What happened to the others?"

“Is not so much a pleasant story,” Elisa admits as she threads one errant lock of hair behind one ear. “They— ”

“They didn't all make it.”

The interjection comes from the doorway at the far end of the parlor, where a tall and slender man in a charcoal gray suit stands holding a pair of slim leather folios. His hair is just a short shock of silver, dark frames of glasses perched on his nose compliment the color of his suit, a subtle and dignified slate gray.

“From the way I heard it, most of the young people that were abducted did not survive their journey. Dark times. But I was fortunate that I was able to have any hand in making a better future for at least one of the survivors.” Gregory Farkas has a practiced manner of speech, the kind of precise and rough American accent that British actors affect on screen. He sets his folios down on his desk and makes a brisk approach, even as Elisa is slipping away discreetly.

“Dr. Miller,” Greg extends a hand in greeting, “I'm sorry if Elisa carried on about something so inappropriate.” Much like Elisa, Gregory’s body is a story that tells a different tale than that of a classically educated psychiatrist that the certificates on his wall would have a patient believe. He has several healed fractures, not nearly as many as Elisa, but enough to suggest he's received more than one sound beating. He also has significant cartilage damage in both knees, likely from physical activities like running or jumping over long periods of time. He's mildly near-sighted, and the glasses seem to be a necessity. Beyond that, he seems in surprising good health with an unexpected amount of muscle tone for someone his age. He must work out.

Elisa receives no further looks from Zachery, who straightens his back as soon as Gregory's voice rings out. His mouth closes in a tight-lipped smile, while his one eye finds the other man's two, in turn. When he is addressed by name, and title, enough of the tension in his shoulders seems to leave him for the handshake that follows to be a routine, practiced thing of its own. Like a thousand handshakes before it.

If a little warm, this time, for the same reason his water disappeared so quickly.

"Dr. Farkas." Superfluous information stored away, Zachery focuses on current matters. "No apology necessary. My previous career has had me take a special interest in people's life stories, after all. It's just one more tragic tale for the books, although - I'd rather they'd be blank, of course."

His own words, now, are a little crisper, almost rehearsed, but in a way that is almost the opposite of Greg's — a once genuine Surrey English accent corroded and beaten down into something more New York Pliable against its will over the last 20 years, but hand-maintained with sharpened T's and swallowed R's that stand out even more when its user becomes aware of it.

This is very much one of those times. "I must admit, I was surprised to see you so soon. Not that I've done this sort of thing before, but. You hear stories."

“New York is built on stories,” Greg is quick to reply, smiling as he leads Zachery away and to the sitting area out from under the loft balcony. “I’ve been rather selective with my clientele, though,” is both a segue and an answer to Zachery’s earlier surprise, “the majority of my clients are SLC-Expressive, though I’ve taken a handful of other cases. I may not be expressive myself but I have experience in counseling people who are coming into understanding their abilities or dealing with trauma surrounding the use of their powers.”

As Greg settles down into one of the leather armchairs he crosses one leg over the other and folds his hands in his lap, no notebook, no pen. Nothing so formal. “But these days, given what the world is, it’s hard to disentangle Evolved issues from anything otherwise. How have things been for you at Elmhurst? I noticed you’re listed as unmanifested, has that changed at all?”

Zachery follows easily, though a little leisurely, while his right hand comes up to rub at his jaw - which is clean-shaven, yet still his fingertips seem to search for something. More habit than not.

He does not sit when he reaches his destination. Not just yet. He seems more content with looking around, and then slowly up, all the way to the ceiling. That is, until Elmhurst comes up. It freezes him where he stands, only for the next question to bring his gaze back down to Greg's face. His mouth opens, though for a moment nothing but a breath leaves him - in what would have been a chuckle if he'd have let it, a curl of his lips suggests.

"I — ah. Quit my job at Elmhurst, actually. The place was a bit of a dead end after the civil war and time served in prison, it all turned out to be a bit…" His hand finally comes down from his face, gesturing vaguely before it's stuffed back into a pocket while his attention goes elsewhere again. Anywhere. "Vestigial."

This is decidedly not an answer to that second question.

“That’s a big change,” Greg is quick to note, but in the most beige tone as possible. He is neither supportive nor judgmental of the transition. “It’s good that you’re looking out for yourself, too many times people get caught up in staying somewhere that ultimately might be unhealthy for them because of routine.” Greg shifts slightly in his seat, adjusting the collar of his suit jacket. Somewhere between then and there, Elisa disappeared from the room entirely leaving Greg and Zachery alone.

The session had already started, it seems.

“So, did another employment opportunity come up for you, or are you taking some time off to consider your options?” Greg asks, folding his hands at the back of one knee, his chin tilted just so in an assessing expression that implies both personal interest and gentle scrutiny.

If Zachery harbors any pride over having made said big change, he keeps it to himself. He stands, still, meeting Greg's gaze with the sort of pointedness that comes without blinking. And a visible attempt at pulling his own expression into something a little more neutral.

"I…" He starts, but the rest of the sentence doesn't seem to want to follow. The session has started, hasn't it. Let's try that again. "I've been working on trying to…"

Again, he falls silent. This time he leans forward, and starts in a slow meander within the room's open space, eye turned to anything that he finds himself in front of. Maybe the third time's the charm: "I've been sorting my life out, bit by bit, after some twenty years of letting it just sort of — slide by me. I happened by an opportunity, and grabbed it." Within the same breath, he adds, just as clearly, "Also, I hate this."

Greg doesn’t smile, but the muscle movements are nearly there. “You were having an easier time earlier, before you’d realized. I don’t like these conversations to be formal, I don’t want you to tell me what you think I want to hear. I’m here to listen, and I’m here to offer my advice. The last thing I’m going to do is judge you for taking a long time to figure out your life,” he says, that smile finally making its appearance. “I didn’t start pursuing therapy until I was in my early 40’s.”

Bringing a hand up so as to rest his jaw against the heel of his palm, Greg motions with his other hand over to Zachery. “You left Elmhurst, because you felt it was a dead end. So, where did you take yourself after that? You’re sorting things out, so what bin did career fall into?”

The reassurance doesn't seem to do much in the way of reassuring, even if it does cause a ripple of much welcome distraction on Zachery's face. It is likely he would much rather pursue the subject of Greg's life.

He does not stop his slow pacing, and silence hangs in the air too long for the next answer to be considered easily won, but at least it sounds less rehearsed.

"… 'Solution'." Zachery's hands curl into fists by his sides, before he forcibly relaxes them again and gestures vaguely at chest height with a look on his face that speaks equally of exasperation and weary amusement. "I'd made an actual list. Physically taped it to the wall in a fit of drunken productivity. 'Good', 'bad', and 'solutions' - which, ah - the goal was to end up with a nice big list in that last one so that I could start tearing down what was in the second one. Working at Raytech," he throws a cursory glance Greg's way, mid-ramble, "was supposed to cover a handful of items from the 'bad' list. Which is why I eventually tried for it."

“Raytech?” Greg’s brows rise slowly. “That’s about as much of a one-hundred and eighty degree turn from the medical field as you can get. But from what I hear in the news, that’s surrounding yourself with a lot of positive influences. Richard Ray’s a known philanthropist and supporter of the Ferrymen during the war. He’s surrounded himself with some of the brightest Expressives in their field, helping rejuvenate Michigan…” Greg nods once, “That’s got to feel good, being in that association.”

Uncrossing and recrossing his legs, Greg takes this opportunity to discreetly retrieve his notepad and pen from the small table next to his chair, setting it in his lap, occluded by the bend of his knee and the angle of his thigh. “What do you do for Raytech?”

Again, the fact that Zachery seems critical of Greg's assessment is obvious, this time in the way he breathes in about as deeply as he can before letting it escape in an audible sigh. Yeah. Sure. Has to feel good.

"Nothing yet," This answer comes almost immediately. "I'm still only… there's too much." The frustration in his voice is clear, but a chuckle follows in its wake. "The place is madness. Option shock is… — I'm only an intern. Still. I know I won't be, but. How is this relevant?" He comes to a stop, neeaaar where he probably supposed to sit, yet still not doing so, to dart another look Greg's direction. Then down to the notepad. Where his eye stays.

“Jobs should be fulfilling,” Greg says without missing a beat. “It sounds like, at least right now, the adjustment period is causing a lot of stress for you.” When he sees Zachery’s eyes on the notepad, he closes it and sets it aside on the arm of the chair, a distraction removed. “Now, hopefully that all changes in the coming weeks as you adjust to your position there and find a direction…”

Greg hasn’t put his pen aside, which he gently taps against his leg idly while he talks. “What are you doing for personal entertainment while you’re acclimating to Raytech? Do you keep up any good hobbies? I’m a bit of an amateur painter, myself. It helps me unwind after a long day.”

"Hobbies?" Zachery swallows back what is possible another chuckle, though he lowers his head soon after. It is not a question that should stump him, but it does elicit a pause all the same. "I… read, sometimes. Fiction, non. It's not satisfying." The longer he speaks, the higher up his shoulders seem to go.

… Until he forces them back down again for a suddenly much cheerier, "What do you paint, then?"

“Portraits, primarily.” Sounds like a boring answer until Greg drills down into it. “I’d considered an art major when I was younger, it’s why I didn’t get into psychology until my forties,” he notes with a smile. “I’d been living abroad for quite a few years, spent some time in the Netherlands, where I became aware of the work of Jan Jansz. de Stomme,” he says with a gesture to a framed painting up on his wall depicting a child swathed in white laying on a bed with a wreath worn as a crown. “It’s a reproduction,” Greg clarifies, “but one of de Stomme’s more famous deathbed paintings.”

Greg looks up to Zachery, brows furrowed. “I suppose you could say that my passion is emulating a niche artform. I do portraits of the deceased for their family members, or just for my own practice. I have a patient who is a mortician, we share a passion for our interests. If reading isn’t giving you that release, it may be worthwhile to make a different list… like the one you made with your career, but things that make you happy.”

Further moving the notepad back onto the table it was original on, Greg manages to steer the conversation back to Zachery. “Maybe that’s all you need to do right now, is make that list. Something small, something that can be accomplished in a day or two. That way you can help figure out what brings you the most happiness in your life.”

The gesture leads Zachery's gaze to the painting with ease, but he looks away almost immediately. Like he's seen it all before - or something like it - and too many times. But then, after he finds himself clasping his wrist behind his back, straightening his posture, he… looks again. Eyes narrowing as his head angles to let his one functional eye settle on the face of the painted child while Greg talks.

"I'm not sure I follow. Most of my goals are… longer term." His head starts to turn before his attention ever leaves the painting, and Greg receives a fixed look. "Besides, I've already made a list, and I started work on it before I ever thought to come here. I've even crossed a few things off already. So maybe I never needed to pay you this visit in the first place. And once I have that hobby down, I'll be all set." He cracks a grin that's a little light on sincerity. Probably a joke. Maybe.

Greg snorts out a laugh and smiles over at Zachery. “You said you’d made a list of good, bad, and solutions. Those sound like life situations, if I’m understanding correctly. I’m talking about just lists of things that make you happy. Something to consider long term. Finding out exactly what it is that gets you up in the morning, what gives you the motivation to make it through the day.”

But then, Greg leaves that homework aside, focusing instead on something else Zachery had said, clicking the back of his unused pen as an audible point of punctuation. “Long-term goals are good, though. They’re also less stressful when they’re broken down into more manageable parts. If that’s something you need, I can help you with that. But I’d love to know, what is it you’re looking to accomplish… long term?”

The laugh is not reciprocated, instead somewhat flatly observed. But Greg did understand correctly, and Zachery concedes in a half hearted, lazy shrug.

The matter of long term goals, despite him having brought it up himself, sends him pacing again. A little more briskly than before, his attention further down. "Long term. That's. That's a lot of things, though, isn't it, Dr. Farkas." Probably a rhetorical question to buy time, considering that after a quick (but DEEP) intake of breath, he continues immediately by saying, "You know, normal things. Financial stability. Purpose, which goes hand in hand with being understimulated at the moment. I have some… trust issues I'd like to resolve, both in myself and others, the latter more severe. Control, too. Some possible - light - substance abuse, temper flare ups, paranoia. Sleep, of course, is an issue, always has been far as I can remember. Learning to process emotions more efficiently so that they don't boil over into me dreaming about murdering people very slowly, or into me literally grabbing someone by the throat before they break my fingers, or accidentally kidnapping someone only to have them take my actual fucking eye out with my own fucking scalpel—"

The longer he goes on, the faster he speaks, until finally, with a click of his tongue, he ends the list by saying casually downward, "Partner would be nice."

The look on Greg’s face is one of visible appreciation, bobbing his head in a series of nods that go on for a moment after Zachery is even done talking. “You know,” he dives past directly addressing the raised points themselves, “all too often I'm presented with clients who respond to that question with uncertainty. They don't know what their goals are. Attainable or not. They're paralyzed by the possibility of goals, and need a lot of help identifying them. It's a great thing to hear that you've got them arrayed out, and I may’ve heard a thing or two we might want to address in more detail in the future.”

Breathing in deeply, but slowly, Greg looks over at Zachery and the bundle of energy his posture belies. “But I'd like to take us off track for a moment. Everything we’ve talked about is good, it's foundational. But there's another facet of yourself that I think needs to be addressed, because I haven't heard you talk about it at all so far and I'd like to learn more about why that is.”

Ever so briefly, Greg’s eyes move to where Elisa disappeared to in the direction of the lobby, then blink back to Zachery. “How would you describe your feelings regarding your SLC-Expressive status?” Greg’s brows lift just a little. “It's a formative question for most of my clients, and while I know you're registered as unmanifested, I also know that 97% of all Expressive manifestations happen between the age of 14 and 20. And that whatever you say in here is privileged information.”

He must be listening, but Zachery does not respond to the observations posed. He knows he's thought things through, he knows people probably generally come in here unprepared, but he's always prepared, or tries to be, and he knows he's rambling, and he knows the floodgates are open now. And if he cares, he shows this in the quickening of his pace alone.

"That's been a lie, always." His pacing sends him away, and then back again, toward the seat he was probably expected to sit in this whole time. "Well. Not a lie, not strictly. Just the absence of the truth. It wouldn't have been relevant, and it wasn't."

He sits, at last, and all at once. Too far forward on the seat so that of his back, only his shoulders manage to hit the cushioning when he lets gravity drag him down, limbs just sort of landing where they land. "You know what's funny, though," he continues, most of the tension slipped out of his voice as he fixes his one-eyed gaze on Greg again, "no one's even angry when I tell them. Only maybe last month did I break the habit of — silence, of denial, and I started being open about it. Only one person showed active interest - a friend. I think. Yes."

“You’re in the right decade for people to not be fearful of omissions like that,” Greg opines, one brow raised. “It sounds good that you have a friend who is invested in your personal growth, though. Coming into an ability — whether it’s one you’ve had for a long time or one you’ve only just manifested — can be a traumatic experience. I’ve had clients who refused to accept the nature of their reality, trying to deny themselves, and it can cause damage. But it sounds like you’re on the road to acceptance, if not overt trust.” Though Greg smiles at that. “Trust is a commodity, and not something that should be given away freely.”

Considering Zachery for a moment, Greg is momentarily silent, but it’s that kind of heavy expectant silence that comes between changes in conversational tone. “How do you feel about the nature of your reality? That you’re Expressive, that you have a gift?”

Again, that smile is observed, but not immediately returned. Zachery sits slouched, like all of the energy that was going into maintaining good posture before is now directed elsewhere. If Greg was sitting any closer, he might hear the cogs turning. Maybe catching.

The silence changes little, though it does have Zachery tappatap fingertips down onto the outside of his leg in an idle pattern. "Do you think it's a gift, Dr. Farkas?" He asks, rather than answers, with an angling of his head. "What has your experience been? First-hand, or…?"

“Well, what I think isn't as important as you. We’re here to work on you and the things that matter to you,” is Greg’s easy reply. “But if what you're looking for is an anecdote, I do have one.” Because of course he does.

“Back in 2011 there was a middle school student who evacuated all of the air from his classroom when he manifested. Injured his classmates, injured himself, and he was swiftly picked up by the Department of Homeland Security…” Gregory leans back in his chair, settling in for a bit of a yarn. “He was classified with vacuum generation, some sort of more weaponized term for what we’d now classify as aerokinesis. Anyway,” Gregory waves one hand to dismiss the aside, “this boy — eleven years old — is kept in a DHS holding facility. He’s there from November of 2011 all the way up to mid 2012 when Resistance fighters liberate the holding facility.”

Reaching to his side, Greg picks up a glass of water from the table beside his chair and takes a thoughtful sip. “He’s terrified of himself, what he can do, the damage he could cause. People don’t trust him because they’ve been told that he’s dangerous. He isolates, suffers from depression, barely makes it through the war. In 2015 he leaves the States, moves to Canada, gets an internship at an aerospace company. They see his potential differently and start educating him on his ability use, they pay for him to attend Winslow-Crawford in Toronto. He comes back realizing he can breathe in a vacuum and produce oxygen as well as absorb it…”

Shrugging, Greg sets his glass of water down and blinks a look over to Zachery. “It’s an outlier, that story. But whether an ability is a gift or not isn’t contingent on someone’s opinion. They’re all gifts, but the onus is on the owner of it to recognize it for what it’s worth. Yes, being Expressive means being a part of a marginalized group with all of the difficulties that entails, but that’s because of public opinion… not the actual inherent value of what you’re born with.”

“So, whether my experiences are first hand or not doesn’t really matter. I’m not the recipient, I’m just a conversation facilitator.” Chin alighted just so, Greg looks across the divide to Zachery. “What is your relationship with your Expressive status like?”

Should Greg expect a look of sympathy from Zachery, he will be disappointed. In fact, there's more of a taptap of fingers, before they curl inward into a fist, then relax again. An action that's repeated several times over the course of the yarn being spun. There is something decidedly and increasingly impatient about the way he runs his tongue across his molars, and his attention moves elsewhere. The floor, for a moment, then a wall. The painting.

Only once Zachery is asked a question does his eye return to Greg, gaze darting back to his face in the same way one might start paying attention to a television screen after an ad break in their favourite show. "But it does matter, though, doesn't it?" His words come brisker now, with a slight deepening of crow's feet. "In the same way I wouldn't trust a surgeon who had no capacity for pain."

“I’d be worried about any surgeon who doesn’t employ a proper anesthesiologist,” Greg quips back, “but I understand your sentiment.” He breathes in deeply, the kind of patient way in which a parent settles their nerves before tending to a child that’s being extra. “My personal beliefs are that people like you,” he motions to Zachery on exhale, “possess a gift most of us would be lucky to have. Like Chandra Suresh said in his seminal work, Activating Evolutions, you are the next step in human advancement.”

But at the same time, Greg spreads his hands. “But that’s a lot of perceived responsibility, so it makes sense that some people shirk the notion.” Considering his water, Greg is instead looking at Zachery’s reflection in the glass. “You’ve seemed a little tense since you arrived,” he says, changing the topic with a look back to his patient, “what’s on your mind?”

As if to prove the very fact that he's not extra at all - that he is in fact an adult who can sit up straight - Zachery… sits up straight, takes a deep breath, and tries to recompose himself where he sits.

But a chuckle escapes him halfway through his efforts, and where he was leaned back before, he now leans forward, elbows on knees, head angled ever so slightly with his good eye toward Greg, giving him a fixed stare and a newfound grin. Now, with amusement playing on his face, he continues speaking much more enthusiastically. More confidently. "Let's go back. To the other thing. It's great," he gestures, palms toward himself in a vague gesture, "my relationship with my 'status'? It's fantastic. I haven't exploded, I haven't scared anyone, I haven't killed a classroom full of children, even." His expression does not appear to communicate pride, though it's close. There's a smugness. "Hell, I've saved a number. It's wonderful."

One old question answered, a new one left by the wayside.

Greg purses his lips and stares at Zachery for a moment, then closes his eyes and smiles, shaking his head. “Those are all admirable accomplishments. Finding an honest equilibrium with yourself is challenging. But it sounds like you've been able to leverage your ability to do good for others, which must be fulfilling.”

Pointedly, Greg tilts his head to the side and makes a gesture from himself toward Zachery. “Why don't you tell me more about that, the times you've saved lives with your ability. That must have been an intense experience. What was that like?”

'Fulfilling'. The word seems to reach Zachery as if he's never heard it before, and his confidence almost visibly shrinks as he mulls the word over. The newfound energy stays with him, though some of it seems to flood over from enthusiastic engagement into confusion, brow kitting.

"You… you sign up for it." He answers flatly, his grin fading. "It's in… the job description. If you work at a burger place, you make burgers. If you're a therapist," he leans back again, a little taller, and gestures right back, "you provide therapy. If you're a surgeon, you minimise the chance of untimely deaths, if you can help it." He gives a halfhearted shrug, seemingly genuinely perplexed. "What do you mean?"

“That's more the definition of a role,” Greg says, making a small circle gesture in the air with one finger, “but what I'm asking is how did that make you feel. You said you’d been able to save lives, specifically, thanks to your ability. So, perhaps more specifically, how did it make you feel when you did that. When you saved someone from dying, and the ability that you have — one you've felt the need to keep to yourself — played a pivotal role in that.”

Greg smiles, trying to be reassuring. “That's a very challenging moment. When your confronted with the contradiction of public perception — or even internalized perception — versus the actual facts of the moment. I'd love to hear more.”

Still, Zachery doesn't quite seem to follow - thrown off balance by something, hands clasping tightly together as a result of the same excess energy that threads itself into his voice. It's the same shade of anxious he tries (and likely fails) to hide by sinking back in his seat again. "I've never… put much trust in public perception, if I'm honest. Which, I suppose, is the whole point of this thing, isn't it."

Further thought pulls his attention away from Greg, drifting downward. "Being able to… troubleshoot people. Instantly knowing what's wrong with them, what's right. It's always just been me. When I needed it, it was there. How could I not be grateful for that? So, I was. And I am." Even if the gratitude in his tone is a tired one.

It's an answer that has Greg quickly filling in the silence with a more probing inquiry. “And how long has it been with you? Your gift? How old were you when you manifested?” It's the most personal thing he's asked so far.

And for reasons he himself is probably not aware of, Zachery rewards it almost instantly with an answer. "One day after my 14th birthday." As his voice calms, so do his shoulders drop, one-sided gaze settling on his own hands as he searches his memory for something long not thought about. Maybe never talked about. "I remember thinking of it as a literal gift, later, after the dust of confusion settled. A present. Something just for me, for once."

Fourteen. That number elicits a momentary look of surprise from Greg as he does mental math to try and pin down Zachery’s age. “That’s young,” is the disarmed response he gives, “so it really has been with you your whole life. Before the Bomb, even.” Gears are turning behind his eyes, but as he considers something, Zachery notices him catch sight of something out of the corner of his eye.


Zachery hadn’t heard the door to the suite open, but there she is by the sideboard, pouring a glass of water. Greg gently pats his hands on his knees and sits forward, and Zachery can already feel the momentum of the meeting coming to a stop. “Well, I think we have a lot of interesting things to talk about next time. But I believe we’ve reached our time for today…”

Smiling and slowly standing, Greg rests one hand on his hip. “If you wouldn’t mind, I’d like you to maybe come up with some other instances where you’ve wanted to attain something in your life, be it personal or professional, and found yourself unable to reach it. We can talk about that to start things off and… I think it will be good.”

All at once, Zachery snaps out of his brief moment of unfiltered cooperation. His attention flits to Elisa with a quiet intake of breath, and his face screws up into something much tenser, like he's instantly frustrated he forgot himself for a moment.

The glance he throws Greg, next, suggests he is overly aware of the fact that he's doing a poor job of hiding his discomfort, and he looses another breathy chuckle in belated response, rising to his feet with a start. He attempts to pull his expression back into more neutral territory, cracks a controlled smile, and squares his shoulders back with much the same jittery tension he was showing when he was still pacing around the room. Words register with a slow nod. Hesitantly relinquishing. "I , ah - still… still hate this," his voice dips a little lower, "and I'm relentlessly stubborn, which means I'm going to keep hating it."

Finally, he offers a hand, a little hastily, smile pulling reluctantly to one side, concern still visible in a twitch of his brow. "But I've got to come back to keep doing that, right."

“That would be the productive course of action, Zachery.” Greg smiles approvingly, “and while I hope it gets easier for you with time, hate can be a powerful force for good…” Greg says as he steps over to Zachery and places a hand on his back and offers him a reassuring nod, then begins guiding him toward the door.

“…with the proper motivation.”

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License