everleigh_icon.gif huruma_icon.gif

Scene Title Ethos
Synopsis Ethos (noun): the distinguishing character, sentiment, moral nature, or guiding beliefs of a person, group, or institution
Date November 25, 2019

Everleigh Madison’s Office - Elmhurst

On one of the better rehabilitated corners in Elmhurst stands a brownstone building. The exterior looks nearly identical to the buildings nearby with only the address number and a small plaque that reads “Dr. Everleigh Madison”. Past the door and into the waiting room, the interior of the office gives off a warm vibe. The color palette seems to also follow the warm scheme, the walls a nice shade of golden yellow, with soft pastel blue overstuffed couches and a bean bag nearby. There’s a small desk in the corner that serves as reception and a bookshelf with plenty of well-worn books in case of the need to wait. A stack of clipboards each with a small questionnaire attached sit nearby. Upon the reception desk are two signs. One simply reads, “Please fill out a questionnaire and come inside!”. The other reads, “Job Available”.

The wooden door that leads further into the interior of the building sits slightly ajar.

This place is much less clinical than the Benchmark, but perhaps that is a necessary evil. Huruma felt she has exhausted her options there, save for groups. Leaving the comfort of familiarity is hard enough, once you see it isn't going anywhere.

She arrives quietly and it is the same for the time she spends filling out the questionnaire. Dr. Madison's booking tells her the basics, of course, but it seems the most infamous quality is that her new arrival is employed by the paramilitary Wolfhound. It's not a small weight.

Huruma spends just a touch more time than needed, filling out her questions. Uncertainty, in part. It's a new angle and non-clinical hasn't been a common treatment. The sign says come inside; she does just that after she rereads her writing, slipping through the door with silent steps, empathic arms picking along lazily around her.

The non-clinical aspect of the place carries right through into the office. There are several different kinds of seats spread throughout the room: a couch sits in front of a coffee table, flanked by an armchair with a high back, a pair of beanbags are tucked into a corner, and several floor cushions are littered around the room. Another armchair sits tucked under a window where the sun hits and warms the cushions on a fair weather day. Today, it’s a bit too overcast for that.

The desk nearby isn’t overly large and looks more like an antique one might pick up at a rummage sale, a slightly scuffed classic style open-top desk. The chair behind it matches, though it’s been converted into a rolling chair. Standing near the desk and ruffling through a pile of papers is Dr. Everleigh Madison. She looks over as soon as she hears the sound of another person, and the stack of papers is neatly returned to her desk.

“Welcome,” she says, sounding genuinely warm. “What would you like me to call you?” She holds out a hand to take the questionnaire.
Huruma carries an aura of certainty about her, even if inwardly hesitant. It's someone new, and someone she will have to learn to communicate with; on her best days that's hard in itself. She's never been a master at words when it comes to herself. The heels of her shoes are slight, for once, a passive effort to be more welcoming. The rest is still well-tailored, notes of gold at her ears, hair short but not shorn. Clean-cut, if she has to be. This isn't a place she wanted to show off. People like Madison see through overconfidence- - Huruma knows that much. No use masking.

White eyes skim the room in front of her, soon falling on Everleigh and remaining there, still and bright. Sounding warm and being warm are distinctly different, yet this one has no such divide in her. It's reassuring, Huruma figures.

"Your Highness." Tall, dark, and lovely moves to pass over the questionnaire, one brow high, pausing just long enough to seem totally serious for a few heartbeats. Then she adds, heightened expression sliding catlike, mouth curled. "Not really."

"Huruma will be perfectly fine."

The answer causes a small smile from Everleigh. She doesn’t comment on the title but it’s clear she’s amused. Taking the questionnaire, she glances at it only briefly, instead putting her attention on Huruma. “Well, Huruma, it’s a pleasure to have you. Take a seat wherever you like.” She gestures over to a nearby table with an electric kettle and some mismatched teacups. “I have some tea if you’d like it over there.”

She moves towards her desk, glancing over the questionnaire one more time before setting it on the desk and turning back around. She waits for Huruma to sit—she won’t sit until after a seat has been chosen.

Huruma questions many things, and the array of seating is one more. It strikes her as a subtle gauge- - a taste of a person based on where they are comfortable. A thoughtful look and nod for Everleigh, and she makes her way to the wing backed seat by the table. Coiling down into it, Huruma exhales.

"No tea, for now. I should like to properly meet you first." Which of them is interviewing? Huruma's legs cross at the knee, twined hands resting atop.

“If at any point you feel the need to break and get some tea, it’s there for you,” Everleigh offers. She notes Huruma’s choice of seating before she settles herself upon the couch. No notebook, nothing but her pure attention on her patient. “I think it’s good to properly meet each other, but we’re both here to talk about you. I’ve had people interested in some of my thoughts and views so it didn’t feel as if they were talking to a stranger, so I understand that.”

She, too, crosses her legs at the knee and rests her hands atop them.

“Would you like me to start with a question or did you have something you wanted to ask me first? The floor is yours.”

"Precisely." Huruma murmurs in response to getting to know a stranger. While she has insight nobody else does, what someone does with all of that is another thing entirely. As she settles in so does the lay of her mind; it eases some, an invisible set of coils circling in.

As for questions, Huruma certainly takes a few moments more to consider the situation; after a short deliberation, she chooses an answer, low-voiced but not lofty. "If I think of something to ask, I suppose you will find out. You may start."

“Let’s start on the surface. You’re here for a reason… it may be that you yourself made the choice to be here. You may have been nudged by a friend or someone interested in your well-being. It could be someone in a professional capacity that guided you here,” Everleigh says. “I don’t mean ‘here for a reason’ in the predestined sort of way, I just mean that something brought you here and that has weight.”

She continues. “It really matters not what brought you here, you’ve come here in hopes I can help you with something. Regardless of if you think you can be helped or if you think I’m capable of helping… what is it you’re wishing to achieve here? What is your ideal outcome?”

Huruma is stoic in the way of an intent listener as Everleigh begins, watching her just as much as she hears her.

"I spent such a long time wrong that I did not know what feeling right was until just before the war. I changed, some, then. And more, of course, as time moved on." Huruma smoothes the soft wrinkle of her pants at a knee, brow furrowed. "After things ended… I was able to explore my options. I did not attend much counseling until a couple of years ago, and even then… sparsely. I was staying at the Benchmark for a time thanks to an old friend, and she was a blessing in helping me at least start attending more regularly. As well as groups." A pause, "It is difficult to share. And people are intimidated by me."

Understandable, to say the least.

"So, with all that said, my ideal outcome would be to maintain what I've found. I think back and feel things about before that I had never felt at the time." Huruma's moment of silence tells of her difficulty with navigating her feelings with words. It so often tends to be the fact-of-the-matter, and sharing those is easier than pulling the thread of her own emotions. "II would have never dreamt of being here, much less seeking help on my own. I was feared and hated, as I'd always been. So I fed from it. It was a cold, sick comfort, from a layman's perspective…"

“I can understand groups being somewhat problematic. I find them sort of an acquired taste… it can be helpful to learn from others who may be in your situation, but sometimes you need something where you can be truly honest,” Everleigh nods slowly. She understands that. It’s not for everyone, and maybe it’s not the right fit for Huruma either.

She studies Huruma as she speaks, then offers a small smile. “Maintaining is good. It’s good to recognize when you’re at a place you want to stay at and you want to keep from returning to old habits and thoughts.” She tilts her head to the side. “So tell me, how is it you feel? Do you feel as if you’re in that better space, or have things dipped into the comfort of the dark familiar?”

"The group had been… new, but I'd gone a few times. I eased out." Huruma sighs through her nose, eyes wandering. An acquired taste that never took. Not really. She certainly owes Lynette a lot for helping her break that barrier, however.

"It comes and goes. Today? I feel balanced. Bad days… I do feel that destructive, intrusive hand on me. I have to remind myself of …everything. I have much more now than I ever have. I cannot lose myself. Some days all that stands between it is a veneer." And given the shade that hits her eyes, it is a flimsy one. "I try to have… outlets, you know?"

"Not all of them are entirely healthy, I must admit."

“We all have our vices, but it’s good to have healthy ways to keep things under control,” Everleigh says. “So let’s start by exploring that a little. What are you doing that keeps the demons at bay?” She’s taking a jump by calling them ‘demons’, but the imagery used before lends itself to the words. “What seems to help you and what seems to detract from your well-being?”

There is no argument for the doctor's description. It's what they are.

"Try to spend time with someone, it's a big one. My ability enables me to… Sort of ground myself, with another nearby." Huruma gestures from her head to the air, indicating at minimum, a mental gift. "But on the other hand, I find some energy is best expended physically. More than once I've gone to violence. That is. Familiar. Comfortable. I know how my restlessness works."

“Having a support system tends to be key for most people’s mental health, it’s good that you’re trying that as a method to help yourself,” Everleigh says. She doesn’t pry into the nature of Huruma’s ability, instead leaving that to her should it become relevant to the conversation. “Physical release is another option, yes. Perhaps instead of fighting, if you feel that urge you find another physical way to deal with it. A lot of people like jogging, but if you find that it’s violence that still urges you, perhaps a form of martial arts, or even boxing might be a healthy way to get that energy out. Simple, but it can be effective.”

Huruma gives Everleigh a slim smile. "Oh, I know. I practice my fighting a lot. Running, too. I sometimes do self-defense classes at the Benchmark. Less since I've left and Wolfhound has been working with the new NYPD. That has been its own adventure." The mention carries her smaller smile to a flash of a bigger one.

"Teaching them is… well, it's one thing they need. Donovan wants a new age of police. Not his fault that they learned the guerilla way first." Notes of pride are there, though also something apprehensive. "A long time ago I saw things that told me I had to change… or chance watching myself decay. Lose my mind. It's one more reason for… everything."

"I would feel self-conscious for rambling, but I suppose that is the point…"

“The idea is that you not be self-conscious at all when you’re here. This place is for you to throw ideas out and think about them, to get some feedback in a constructive manner. You can test how you feel about things. So ramble all you wish, I’m here to listen.”

Everleigh seems relaxed, giving Huruma a smile and a nod. “How do you feel you’re doing, preventing this decay? Is that the biggest thing you’re working towards?”

Elbows lifting to the arms of the chair, Huruma links her fingers across the span of her lap. Listening, hm? She isn't the only one, the empath putting her invisible hands across the texture of Dr. Madison's mood.

"Preventing? I think very well. The biggest thing? I'm not sure. I am fearful- -" Quite an admission, even if Everleigh doesn't realize, "Of losing myself. My agency. My choices. My life, despite my line of work being full of desperation to stay alive. I think I am more apprehensive on being dead more than death. Dying doesn't sound great, of course."

"Built a life on killing, end up defying it like a stubborn ass. Poetic, maybe."

The doctor’s calm radiates out like a wave. She is focused, intent on her task and determined to assist, but calm and content above all else. It feels genuine. Somewhere, maybe way in the back, is the slightest hint of loneliness. Everleigh does, however, capture what Huruma’s saying, even if she doesn’t understand the full impact of it. She’s listening and absorbing what’s said, mentally putting pieces together to make a whole that she can understand.

“I’m going to sound very dark for a moment in saying this but… death is, barring extreme circumstances and I’d imagine some SLC abilities, the end. People worry about the idea of being dead, but that’s just it… you can’t worry. You don’t experience ‘being dead’, the people around you are who experience the aftermath of that.”

She smiles, even though it’s a sad one. Death isn’t an easy topic, after all. “Like I said, this is how it is for most people. The whole experience of dying might not be great, but once you die you won’t be thinking about what it feels like to no longer exist or how sad you’ll be for the people around you. I know that’s not really a chipper thing to say, but I find a lot of people get caught up on how to think about death.” She taps her chin with a fingertip. “But you’re no stranger to death. So what, do you think, is that force taking your potential life away from you? It’s not death, creeping from the corners. Is it you or perhaps just something deeper inside of you?”

"The thing is… nobody really knows what comes after. Science says nothing, certainly." Huruma's hands fold together, her brows pinching and ability settling around Everleigh like a seed. "I know people who have come back from death." The end isn't always that. She gives a small smile, and a sigh. "I was, once. But I do not remember. I just remember waking up, new."

"And I remember never wanting to not be. And this was even before I had people to care that I was gone." Huruma doesn't want that for them, either. It's hard enough alone. She seems to realize she is moving onto another tangent, and visibly refocuses herself on the latter words from Everleigh.

"Me. My choices. Past, present. Something else buried in me. I am still the person I was before- -" Huruma's eyes skim away, finding something else to focus on briefly. "She's just asleep. I do not think I can keep her that way forever."

“This you that you had before… you think that she’ll wake up and cause trouble, yes?” Everleigh tilts her head to the side. “Perhaps maybe the approach you could look at is to really examine who that Huruma was and if there was anything good to her, anything that had merit. Examine what it was that makes you fear her. Then, when you know her, become her. Absorb what was good, discard what was bad. If you always fear your past you will be doomed to face it forever.”

She sighs. “I know that’s not an easy thing to hear and it may not be the right advice for you but I can tell you that I do not feel as if you should fracture yourself. I’ve seen people do that before and it’s more harm than good.”

In a concerted effort to move on from her more rambling talk, Huruma shifts in her seat and listens attentively.

"Good? She… kept me alive." Huruma breathes out through her nose. But that's all of her too. She knows that the question was more for 'what to work on' elsewhere, though she seems keen to give it sound, too. Everleigh's mention of fractures earns a tired, tilted smile. "I feel like I've been fractured dozens of times and put back together after each one. Still usable. Still marked, too."

"It is funny to me…that I once revelled in only causing fear in others, and yet even now the thing that frightens me, is myself. You are right, about doomed. I face it every day. Every time I look at a friend or at where I've come. Imposter syndrome, was it? As if I did not belong." Huruma knows that in word she does, but uncertainty still taints her, and she cradles what she has with ginger palms. "I am not sure that I can always be assured of …anything."

“If you’ll allow me to put my personal experience into the ring… I can say that there are very few absolutes in this world. Things are flexible, pliable, so are people. I’ve heard that time and space, reality, that’s all questionable as to if they are in someway, absolute. So really, can you be assured of anything?”

Everleigh smiles. “So in my personal experience, again, I’ve found it’s better to steer clear of making a judgement on something based on absolutes. I go with what evidence I see and what my personal experience is. I go with probability, and I make a judgement based on what I can see from my perspective. You may not always be right, but you can have the confidence of knowing you made as valid a judgement as possible given what you see.”

The doctor shakes her head. “It will always be a matter of perspective, though. If you are not sure of who you are, the first place I suggest you look at is not at your mirror, but at those close to you. Ask them what they see.”

Huruma may not see absolutes outside of herself, but Everleigh seems to impress on her that they exist inward, instead. Assured of anything? No. One supposes not. Ivory-white eyes rest on the other woman for longer, sitting in that sharply chiseled face like a statue's. These days, she has little issue doing 'the next right thing'. Good as one can be, given circumstances. Huruma leans forward to rest her elbows on her knees, brow pinching. Had it gone that way forty years ago, perhaps she wouldn't be here at all - -

Dr. Madison's words appear to stir her out of whatever rabbit hole she was headed down. Chin lifting, Huruma sits back again, more loosely this time. Her hands rest twined between her lap. "You make it sound easy."

“It’s my job to make it sound easy. If I made it sound hard, you’d never want to try and achieve whatever I told you,” Everleigh chuckles lightly. “I don’t expect anything to come easy, though. Everything worth working through is hard, especially when it comes to our thoughts and emotions. The way I see it, we can achieve almost anything we set our minds to. If you’re clever and crafty enough, you can find a way to make any dream work. It’s just a complicated puzzle you have to snake your way through.”

She takes a long look at Huruma. “I think in your case working to heal those fractures in your personality might be the best place to start, and I think within all of that you should start with taking a long look at each part of you and determining what role it plays in your life and if you need it.”

Fair enough. Huruma's mouth twitches at the response, somewhere between amused and just a little sardonic. Emotions, cleverness, puzzles, snakes, sounds familiar.

"If I need it?" The dark woman's expression shifts to something more unreadable, distant for a moment. As far as she knows, she still needs all of it.

Then again, her oldest turmoil is also her youngest. What she needed then is vastly different than what she needs now. It kept her alive by the skin of her teeth, with caveats. Sacrifices. Suffering the disconnects of need and want. Finding purpose and life in death and darkness. The rest followed, a soldier's march.

"I never had time to grow up. It was all or nothing." This, on its own, colours much of what Everleigh already knows. War hero. Wolfhound. Self-sufficiency is not something she struggles with. She thought introspection wasn't either. But that was before… well, everything she has now. She already knew that, but being led to it by someone else tells her that there is still work.

She's fine with work.

She's fine with pushing through. As always.

Huruma draws a hand over her scalp, palm against short hair, nails dragging lightly. "… Nothing worth doing is ever easy."

“I’ve had a lot of patients who grew up fast. Strong, capable, but most suffer some emotionally. They don’t let themselves have nice things, or perhaps they simply work themselves to the bone because they don’t believe they can relax.” Perhaps it’s an observation Everleigh makes based on her experience or perhaps it’s intended for Huruma, but she doesn’t pursue that line of thought—she leaves it there.

“I believe that overcoming a difficult obstacle is its own reward. You’ve proven yourself more capable than you know.”

Huruma knows that Everleigh doesn't quite mean the physical obstacles. Compared to just years ago, some of her hurdles are already in the dust. She kicked them over and trampled the rest. The first words from the woman across from her are ironic, in a way.

"I am exactly that person you just described." Her voice is softer, though not sad. Long suffering, a sudden imposter, throwing herself into anything else, second guessing second chances. "A lot of people in my line of work are." It's nothing hidden, at least not to her. Nothing is, not really. The details, perhaps. Huruma narrows her eyes a moment, debating something inwardly and letting it pass. Maybe another time.

"I confess I wasn't certain what to expect, coming in here." The taller woman leans back in her seat, sitting up as she had the first time. "I think that may be a given. I do not have a lot of experiences with… this. People of your profession." Any interaction she had in decades prior was- - well, nothing to her.

"Your smile is not fake. I can see your honesty. You are not lacking in your own trepidation. You are invested in your words. That helps." Huruma's assessment is on one hand, nice to have observed- - though some of it isn't quite as plainly visible as she makes it out to be.

“Far fewer seek out ones of my profession simply because they assume to see one is to admit some kind of fault. Some people are ashamed of it, worried what people might think. Yet, they’re willing to open up to friends about their personal lives, seek their advice. Few find that shameful.” Everleigh smiles at the thought. “So I try to let people understand it’s no different, that I’m here to understand and learn from them, and to offer advice. I prefer it not to be clinical because I’ve learned people are afraid of doctors.”

She grins at that part, but continues. “I believe that there are some scars that will never heal, but they should not stop us, or slow us down. I think you’ve had many scars, but I think you are strong enough and wise enough to learn how to navigate them.”

"I am not ashamed of most of them. But whether or not I am, they did make me." One hand draws absently over the other hand, eyes tilted away. "I know for all my complaints, I would not want to be a different me." Huruma's gaze narrows some again at nothing in particular.

"My friends know that I am a minefield. They've learned the right paths too. So you certainly have that in common. Whoever has you, has a fine friend." It is infinitely easier to talk to a friend than a doctor, as Everleigh said. "I do my best to reciprocate that for mine. Not usually with words. But sometimes you don't even need those." Huruma seems to realize her tangential thinking again, mouth pressing briefly into a line.

"After all of this, Doctor Madison- - in your professional opinion- - where do we go from here?"

“In my professional opinion, I think we should look at what you want and what you’re afraid of. We’ve been using this image of fracturing, so I’ll continue to use that. You’ve been fractured and put back together, but you’re missing pieces that you had before, you’ve gained ones you didn’t like. I think we should try swapping out some of those pieces to make a more whole you that’s more aligned with what you want out of life.

Everleigh seems to be recalling what Huruma said earlier. “Instead of enjoying the fear you instilled in others, perhaps admiration would be a better thing to instill. We should get you somewhere that your strength outshines that darkness. My suggestion for now is to begin to think of what you’re afraid of and what you’ve lost. Dwell on those things, and then we can try and find ways for you to pick up the pieces.”

"Does this count as homework?" Huruma's smile appears like a cat's grin out of a storybook. Moods shifting like color, a seamless conversion that seems to absorb the less negative space of the room. The same energy as her jest at the start of all this. "I will. Dwell." She does that fine enough.

"As for instilling admiration," Huruma appears a touch too amused for the subject, lifting a finger to her lips and laughing. Just between you and me, "I do not have a problem with that. The, ah… making people love me? I have it easier than you know." Whatever that means. "But for the sake of this I will attempt to do it… organically?"

Getting a bit obtuse, but surely Everleigh has seen worse.

“Homework is certainly a good word for it. I find it’s easier when people let themselves have some time with the ideas presented.” Everleigh still seems calm, content as always, her eyes scanning the woman in her office. There’s a knowing smile as she catches the gist of what is meant.

“Organically would be best. I wouldn’t be as liberating an obstacle to overcome if you went through other channels.” There’s even the tiniest hint of a laugh. “I will take that into consideration in the future.”

"Well, definitely not liberating for myself." Huruma gives her a slightly exaggerated shrug, leaning forward to pull a phone from her pocket. Not hard to see the calendar pop open, though Huruma wags the screen at Dr. Madison regardless. A busy lady at a glance, but not without her free time. "You would be surprised- - or not? - - at how easily people accept it…"

"I would enjoy coming back here, if you'll have me. I have a feeling we may make a fine pair."

“It would be a pleasure having you back, Huruma.”

Everleigh might have a busy schedule too, but she’s become a master at organizing when and where to meet up with her patients. She nods slowly, though she’s still smiling. “A fine pair indeed.”

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