Mutual Respect


devon2_icon.gif graeme_icon.gif

Scene Title Mutual Respect
Synopsis Talking over coffee doesn't quite get Devon and Graeme to establishing it, but it's close. Or closer.
Date March 15, 2011

Upper West Side


It's not terribly hard to find where people live, ask a neighbor or two and you can usually locate your query. That's how the note Devon had left on the door to Graeme's apartment got there. To summarize it requested the older man to meet the younger at a Starbucks just a couple of blocks over from Dorchester Towers. The requested time was odd, not exactly early morning, curfew has been lifted for a couple of hours at least. Early enough, however, that the two can go off to their jobs after the meeting.

Prompt as ever, Devon had arrived suited for work in a pale blue-gray dress shirt and darker blue tie tightened neatly and even tucked between two buttons of his shirt, black slacks and blue low-top Converse shoes. A new addition to the ensemble, one arm is carried carefully in a sling. Someone finally took a doctor's advice. His jacket, black Letterman style thing, rests on the taupe overstuffed chair he's chosen. There's a small round table and a second chair, twin to the one the teenager has claimed, the small seating area set against a wall in a quieter part of the shop.

Having already gotten a drink for himself, the young inter holds the portable-disposable coffee cup in hand. His head is tipped toward it, the aroma of the day's special wafting pleasingly into the air. Of course, he's tarnished the coffee, there's at least sixteen sugars inside and no less than half that of creamer things. But Devon seems to enjoy the taste as he takes a drink of the hot liquid, waiting to see if his request had been met.

This morning, Graeme is dressed in teacher clothing as he walks in the door, though with an apparent disregard for the weather that means that his sweater is tied to his messenger bag that is slung across his shoulders rather than actually worn or anything of the like. Skateboard is picked up into his hand as he turns to watch the door shut behind him before looking around to see if Devon is there. He's on time, at least, by a minute.

The note had come as a bit of a surprise, but he'd found it before his roommate had even woken up, tucked it into his pocket as he got dressed, and he's shown up. Now Graeme makes his way across the Starbucks, pulling the chair that's left for him out in order to sit down before settling the skateboard, with this morning's bright green wheels that are good for traction on the wet ground, between the table and the wall. "Hey."

"Hey." Devon's reply comes with a twitch of a grin, a change from the last time he'd encountered Graeme. No startling from him, not even a slight change in posture. He had been watching for the teacher, after all, so that could have something to do with it. Still, the young man looks a step toward the better side, there's still a bit of a sleepless cast, still a wariness, but it's far better controlled than that bad night in the lobby.

"Thanks for coming out," the teenager continues. "You… you want a coffee or… their frappes are pretty good too."

"I might get a cup of coffee before I head off to work," Graeme says. "But the stuff doesn't do overly much for me, and I had some at around four or so this morning." Except that he doesn't look like he's been up since four in the morning, or that he possibly has had three hours of sleep in the past full day. There's a bit of a grin, and Graeme's posture in his seat is relaxed, easy. "And yeah, no problem." He pauses. "I'm sorry about what my roommate did the other night. She … doesn't always get it."

"If your roommate touches my mind again," Devon says quietly, his grin being replaced with a coldly serious look, "I will kill her. What's in my head is not for anyone else unless I choose to give it up." He hesitates, seeming on the verge to say something more. Muscles in his throat move as he swallows, and for a fraction of a second he looks unsure. Coffee follows, a long draw off the hot and overly sweetened liquid.

Lowering his cup again, the teenager settles back and clears his throat. "You don't have to apologize for her. It's a matter I'll take care of." His grin returns, faint but unstrained. "I …I thought we should talk. That… I kind of owe you an explanation. But I ask that it goes no further than between us."

"I will respect that." Graeme nods, quiet, serious, and giving Devon all the room to speak. There is interested respect in his voice when he says, "Alright." He leans on the table a bit. "And well, I probably ought to also apologise for pushing it with asking, though. Is your shoulder alright?" After that, though, Graeme gives Devon the space to talk, respectful silence that lets the teenager begin at his own pace.

"It's fine," Devon shrugs the undamaged side and tips his head in a nod. "Thank you, but… I'd had a nightmare that night. Like a lot of nights. And… really, when I say I'm alright, I am alright. I apologize, too, for losing my temper."

Placing his coffee onto the small round table, the teenager lets out a slow breath. The grin has receded, replaced with a more distant looked, one detached from any former emotions. His brow knits together as he formulates how to proceed, his now freed hand lifting to rake fingers through his hair. "More than that… Graeme, I… I was in the Dome."

Graeme's brow furrows in sympathy, though the sheer and abject horror is well and hidden from his face. Instead, he just nods. "I know another person who was in there. She's had it pretty rough as well. And … I've been working a lot of my spare time in the relief efforts. I'm not totally ignorant of how horrible it was in there."

His brow furrows further. Some of the things that they'd found, in the efforts to clear areas, those things bother Graeme. Let alone for those who'd been inside it. "I'm … sorry, Devon." Graeme's hand, the one that had been resting on the table, is white-knuckled. There's a lot that the teacher isn't saying at the moment, as he's weighing what should and shouldn't be shared in this particular circumstance. Much more on the side of shouldn't.

"I live over there, or did." Devon lets out another breath, again his throat tightens as he swallows. "I can't make myself go over there to finish cleaning out my aunt's apartment." Lifting his gaze, the teenager looks toward Graeme. "I don't know what you were told about it, if anything, or if you can guess from what you've seen. But… it was beyond Hell in there. People… people brought out to be executed, trying to escape with their abilities and… Fights over food and water. Humanis First was inside there, too."

The young man clears his throat again. His freed hand picks at a bit of lint on his slacks. "I… I'm not really a stranger to disaster. But that… that was… That was meant to be something more than just a rodent ball."

There's only so much that Graeme can suppress the involuntary flinch at the mention of Humanis First. He does a good enough job of it, overall, and when he speaks again, his voice is gentle, kind. "There were people," Graeme says, "locked themselves in houses and buildings to be as 'safe' as they could get, and then when it came down and all the snow and ice, and we couldn't get to them. There were too many of those." His lips purse, and his throat works in a series of swallows.

"I used to live in New Mexico, Devon," he says, quietly. There is a bitter edge to Graeme's voice, an edge that the teenager hasn't heard out of the man before. "It was a small town and it had its share of bigotry before the bomb. But afterwards, Humanis First sentiments were widely and openly expressed. Evos go home, no Evos here. I stayed there, because I was teaching, because the schools needed people and because I was trying to be sane in and amongst the insanity, until a Humanis sympathiser in the district cost me my job, my team, most everything that really mattered to me. I'd been receiving death threats for a while, to start with. In a far subtler way than how awfully things happened for people who lived there, yes." He swallows again. "But."

Silence follows from the teenager for a moment, allowing the older man time to speak and himself time to listen. The silence lingers a moment longer as Devon fidgets with the shirt sleeve belonging to his good arm, working the button free. The sleeve is pushed back, the flesh shades of pink in scarring and still healing damage. "I tried to stop Humanis First from taking people. Few others thought to fight against them, but… I fought against them." His eyes rove over the lines around his wrist, remembering easily the plastic ties pulled far too tightly.

"I got captured myself," Devon continues, words coming out a little colder. "They took me two days before the Dome came down." The beatings that followed, though a month gone, still come sharply to his memory.

Graeme nods. The expression on his face is still gentle, overall, concerned. "That'd make anyone twitchy," Graeme says, quietly. There's not much else for him to say, though, aside from sitting there, and listening. And he's good at listening. There's no judgment, anything.

Devon looks aside, attention turning toward the counter toiling away at serving the many who've chosen to stop in for a morning beverage. It's an awkward moment, letting someone know of the demons that continue to haunt. Devon draws a hand over his face, then turns back to Graeme. "It's… Everyone deals with it their own way. And I'm dealing with it in mine. I'm alright, still alive and…" Far from assurances, the teenager shakes his head. He believes himself alright, days are good or bad, and you keep moving on.

Graeme nods again. "Yeah." He chuckles, softly. "I'm a bit of a hypocrite when it comes to dealing with things, myself." There's a pause after the admission. "There's a lot, related to New Mexico and all, that I still push aside and just punch the bag instead. I had a student kill himself because he was Evo," Graeme says, quietly. It's not something he'd expected to be sharing with the teenager. "Nearly in front of me, I got there too late to do anything. Because the school'd said there were things he couldn't do, because he was Evo, and there went his chance at college." He pauses again. "There were a lot of lynch mobs and such, right after the bomb. Nothing that could be done, the police never did anything about it. And I won't claim I've dealt with it. Not really more than a fraction."

There's a final pause. "And I move to get away from Humanis First bullshit. And find out I moved right into the hotbed of actual organised activity, to get away from the open on the streets bigotry."

The teenager flinches at mention of the suicide. He won't admit to like thoughts crossing his own mind at some points, for various reasons. His expression grows more closed, that comforting numbness and detachment acting like a safety blanket around the uncomfortable thoughts. "That… Shit. As bad as watching people try to get out of the Dome." Devon sighs and shakes his head.

"It's a fucking cesspool here of anti-evolved movements. This whole city." There's something about the kid's tone, he's not speaking against the government itself, or the government's programs. But the individuals who've chosen to pit themselves against the evolved people. "Makes me want to fight all the more against them. I haven't even manifested and I got targeted once, kids don't need to go through what I went through."

"No one should ever have to go through it," Graeme says, quietly. "I'd moved out to New Mexico for college. It was my home, by the time I had to leave…" He trails off, a bit. "But the day I stop trying to do something to make this world better is a day I never, ever want to live." Finally, there's a bit of a grim smile on Graeme's face, offered to Devon. "Because as long as we're trying to do something, there's hope still."

Another pause, and Graeme draws out a piece of paper from his messenger bag, and a pen. His number is scratched onto it, and his name, and it's pushed across the table to Devon. "Here," he says. "You ever need something. Even if it's just some company, anything. I can't make promises — because I don't make promises like that anymore — but I can sure as hell try. Even if it's just that you want to punch something for a while and you can't get a hold of your other friends or something." The quiet laugh is almost a snort. "It's easier than leaving a note on my door, yeah?"

With a grin, tinged still with a dispassionate light, Devon takes the paper. It's folded in half, then tucked into a hip pocket. "Thanks. That… I figured it'd draw questions if your roommate saw it but… Easier than banging on your door this early." The teenager works his coat on then grabs his coffee. "Thanks again for coming out here. And… y'know." Listening, allowing him to explain.

A glance is given toward a wall clock behind the establishment, and a flinch as well. "Man, going to be late." Like it matters. "I'll see you later, Graeme."

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