The Babe with the Power


jim_icon.gif peyton_icon.gif

Scene Title The Babe with the Power
Synopsis Jim is on hand to help talk down a newly manifested Telekinetic at Peyton's school.
Date December 3, 2018

Brooklyn College: Winslow-Crawford Academy

It's probably been years since Jim has sat in the "principal's office" — or in this case, the dean's — but some things don't change much. There's a secretary who's told Jim "Ms. Whitney will be right with you," and works on a computer while waiting for Peyton's door to open. There's a clipboard with a sign-in for visitors, which Jim was dutifully told to sign in to, though he didn't have to take one of the badges declaring him a visitor, since he's not going beyond this front office. There's a kid sitting with dangling feet, his backpack on his lap, waiting to go home, and the tell-tale sniffle and cough indicate why.

What's less regular — for both Jim and the secretary, is the sudden bang of something against the wall, making the woman jump and look over her shoulder. A moment later there's another crash, this time with the tinkling sound of falling glass following. The secretary half stands, seeming unsure of whether she should do more than wait.

It has been quite a while, but it's sort of like riding a bicycle, right? Or even easier, assuming that Jim can follow directions. Which he totally can. He signs in, nods, sits, and waits, turning to give the kid who's clearly sick a sympathetic smile before he looks away again.

He certainly isn't in any sort of hurry, and he's crossed his arms over his chest and stuck his feet out in front of him in a relaxed posture as he settles in for the long haul — only to hear those rather unpleasant sounding noises. His head jerks toward the sound, and he frowns, only a moment's hesitation before he stands up to start toward the office. Presumably to see what's going on.

The door opens and a woman enters, and immediately the sick child jumps to his feet. She rests a hand on his forehead and frowns. "I'm so sorry. I thought he was just having a bad morning," she says to the secretary, who gets up to do the sign out paperwork. In another moment, she might have stopped Jim, but she's too distracted at the moment to demand he step back.

If Jim had any doubts, there's another loud bang, this time on the door itself, and he can hear, very quietly through the thick wood, a soft gasp of pain, followed by gently spoken words in Peyton's voice: "I'm trying to call them, Alex, but you have to be patient. Cell service is bad. Please, honey, I know this is scary, but you need to keep calm, okay?"

Jim takes the opportunity to go right on ahead inside — he's not about to waste a perfectly timed distraction. And he doesn't exactly burst into the office, since that probably wouldn't be helpful, but he's moving quickly as he slips inside and shuts the door behind him.

"Anything I can do to help?" he asks, his voice characteristically calm even as he looks around to assess the situation as fast as he can — not to mention keeps himself at the ready in case he should have to jump out of the way of something.

The child, a little boy that looks to be about ten years old, is backed into a corner, but it's Peyton who's in danger. She's just inside the door and there are a dozen objects that seem to have been hurled or thrown to the ground. Framed photos on the walls are broken, glass shimmering on the carpet beneath them. A few books lie, flung open to whatever page they've landed on. A chair lies on its side.

Peyton's been hit by one or two things, it seems, the corner of one side of her mouth swollen and cut; the opposite eye is already swelling up along the cheekbone, angling up toward her temple.

"Jim," whispers Peyton, in a way that indicates she's both happy to see him and afraid for him at the same time. "Jim, this is Alex. He's manifesting today it seems. Telekinesis," she murmurs, carefully, a forewarning that is unnecessary all but a few seconds later when a lamp gets pulled as if from an invisible hand from the wall its plugged into, and rises in the air, hovering threateningly.

"Oh," Jim says, understanding dawning quickly, "got it." There's empathy in his tone, of course, but also a little concern, even though he's still calm. He looks Peyton over briefly, perhaps to assess the damage, but as she seems to be standing and not in imminent danger of death, he turns away and toward the kid, just as the lamp starts to rise.

"Hey, Alex," he says, and he crouches down slowly. "Looks like you've got some stuff going on, huh?" He does keep the lamp in his periphery, but his attention is mostly on Alex.

Alex's eyes turn to Jim, though the lamp holds — it wobbles now and then, the boy's control obviously shaky. "I want my mommy," he says, his voice cracking. "And I don't want to be in trouble. I didn't mean to do anything wrong!" his voice rises, and the lightbulb in the lamp shatters, making Peyton jump, though it's not close enough to anyone to do any damage.

"Who are you?" he demands of Jim. The boy is scared, so pale his freckles stand out lividly against the white skin behind. While he's distracted by Jim, Peyton hurriedly types a message in her phone.

Jim winces as the bulb breaks as well, but he stays where he is, taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly. "You're not in trouble," he says, lifting a hand toward him, palm out. Again, slowly. "It's not your fault. We know that. This is just what happens, yeah?" A smile touches his face, his eyes crinkling a little bit at the corners.

"I'm Jim," he continues. "I work in the ER over at Elmhurst. Have you ever been there?" His tone is conversational, as though they're just having a discussion, getting to know each other. Nothing else is happening that might hamper it.

There's a soft buzz of Peyton's phone and she replies back, while Jim speaks to the child. She keeps an eye on them, before murmuring very softly, "I'm going to see if I can find his mother. I'll be blind for a second while I do." The implication is there — she needs him to watch her back. Or her front, really, because her back is to the wall and safe from the objects Alex might hurl her way.

Her pupils grow large, the black swallowing up the dark brown irises, leaving her vulnerable as she steps out of her own perspective and into anothers.

"I am in trouble!" Alex cries out to Jim, ignoring the question of if he's been to the hospital before. "I punched Zoey in the face because she was tickling me and now Zoey hates me and said I have toxic masculority or something and she hates me and then Mrs. Whitney was telling me why I can't punch people but it was Zoey's fault, and suddenly things are flying around and it's not my fault!"

The lamp suddenly soars forward in the air.

Jim's gaze flicks to Peyton for an instant, and there's a subtle nod of acknowledgement, before he looks back to Alex. His eyebrows raise at the explanation, and for a moment he looks like he actually might want to laugh, despite the seriousness of the situation at hand.

"Oh, well, that's different," he says, and he might have said something more, too, but the lamp's movement has him springing into action. He stands up quickly, moving to make sure he's between Peyton and the lamp. If that means he gets hit, well. He's probably been hit with worse. "Look," he says, "you and Zoey and Ms. Whitney can work out the other stuff. The stuff flying around, though, you're going to have to deal with that first. It's not your fault, but you're doing it. I know it's scary, but you can make it stop."

"I'm not doing it on purpose!" Alex cries out, tears springing to his eyes. "I'm just mad because it's not my fault she was tickling me and I think she should be in trouble, too! I didn't give her permission and Mrs. Whitney says people need to give permission before they can touch us unless it's an emergency!" The tears slide down his cheeks and his hands curl into clenched fists.

The lamp wobbles again, before it suddenly flies, hurtling through the air toward Jim.

"How do I make it stop?" Alex cries out again, sounding a little like a bleating lamb.

Jim reaches up quickly to bat the lamp away from him and to the side, where it crashes against a filing cabinet. He takes in a break with the pain from the hit, but it couldn't have been that bad, because he manages to continue talking, and still in the same tone, too. "We know you're not doing it on purpose, buddy," he says. "And you're right. No one should touch you without your permission."

As for how to stop it, well…Jim doesn't exactly know, but there are some universal tricks that he can try. "Close your eyes," he continues, and his voice does shift then. It's not exactly quieter, but it starts to sound more like a drone. "Take a deep breath. Think about the place where you feel the safest, and imagine that you're there."

Peyton's pupils slide back in, the brown stretching back out. She takes a look around to assess what she's missed — the lamp broken on the floor nearby, but nothing else has changed. "I'm sending someone to get your mom," she says softly. "She's not far. She'll be here soon. You're safe." She doesn't move from her spot, as Alex seems to be responding better to Jim's presence than hers. He's not an authority figure in the little boy's mind.

She types into her phone again, a quick message to the other room to have someone physically pick up Alex's mother, as well as grab one of the teachers who's an expert in controlling wayward powers. "Jim's right. Try to do what he says," she adds, giving the man an appreciative look.

Alex nods, sinking downward to rest on the heels. He closes his eyes and presses his palms against them, like that might help all the more. "I have a hammock in my treehouse," he whispers. Nothing new seems to rise in the air, at least.

"Oh yeah? That's cool." Jim keeps talking, though he looks over at Peyton as the child's eyes close, catching the look. He smiles again, this time a little bit more naturally, especially since it seems there's no immediate danger of anyone getting brained.

"Imagine what it feels like to be in your hammock," he continues in that same near monotone. "Think about the breeze on your face, and feeling warm in the sun. Try to hear the sounds that you hear. Listen to the leaves rustling, and the birds. You're very calm, and there's nothing to be afraid of. Everything's good."

There's another soft bzzt and Peyton looks at her phone, nodding with some relief. She leans against the door, looking suddenly very weary now that the adrenaline that comes with danger has passed. She lets Jim do his thing — he's better equipped for it than she is.

"I hear birds and I can hear my brother's music playing. That song about someone named Blurry Face," Alex whispers, one hand scratching at his temple. Peyton steps away from the door quietly to pick up a book and set it on the desk, wincing a little as she bends and straightens again. Her eyes stay on Alex, ready to duck if she needs to again.

There's a little huff of amusement that escapes Jim at the description of the music, but he doesn't pretend that he knows what Alex is talking about. He's old, okay? He doesn't know what the kids like these days. "That's good," he says instead, still not moving toward Alex, though his body is more relaxed than before, no longer on tenterhooks to lunge one way or the other to dodge a projectile.

"Hey, look," he says after another moment of silence, "nothing's flying around anymore." He glances over at Peyton again, catching the slight wince as well, but he doesn't mention it, turning back to Alex. "How are you feeling? Better?"

The little boy doesn't take his hands off his eyes. "Is Mrs. Whitney okay? I didn't mean to hurt her," Alex says in a very small voice. "The things in the air — they hit her in the face. It wasn't me. I didn't mean to."

Peyton's brows draw together in worry and sympathy for Alex, and she says quietly, "I'm here, Alex. I'm fine. I'm not mad at all. And I was planning to call in Zoey after we talked, so don't worry about that. You're very right about consent." It works both ways, kids, and "Mrs. Whitney" is not a hypocrite. "Your mom is coming. Mr. Sloan is also coming over to talk to you about your cool new ability and how to keep it under control, all right?"

And as if on cue, there's another buzz of her phone. "Mr. Sloan is here, so I'm going to let him come in and talk to you, all right? Mr. Clarke — Jim here — and I are going to be right outside."

She moves to the door to open it slowly, watching Alex to make sure Alex doesn't go into adrenaline mode again, and on the other side is a middle-aged, kind-looking man.

Alex peeks out between his fingers, and offers Jim a small smile and a wave.
"I'm going to look at Mrs. Whitney," Jim promises after Peyton, "just to make sure. But she seems okay to me. I've definitely seen worse." He waits until Alex looks out at him, and then he gives Alex a thumbs up, before he turns to head out the door ahead of Peyton.

Once they're both outside, he turns back to her with a more critical eye. "You okay?" he asks, moving to study her lip where it's swollen. "Where else did you get hit? I want to make sure you don't have any permanent damage." He's still calm, though now it's more normal, rather than the almost dreamlike quality he had been cultivating inside the office.

"I'm okay," says Peyton softly to Jim, before looking at the secretary. "Let me know when Mrs. Guerrero gets here? Thank you so much," she says, leaving the door to her own office open a hair. She nods to Jim to another door, one that leads into a small conference room.

Her hand touches her eye gingerly, but it'll be nothing more than a minor black eye, before she reaches around to pull her shirt up a little in the back, trying to see over her shoulder. There's a blooming bruise there already the approximate shape of the horizontal door handle where she'd been slammed into the door. "He threw me," she whispers. "He's going to be very powerful." Her words aren't frightened so much as impressed.

Jim goes without hesitation, and once they're in the room he moves toward her, examining the bruise that's already forming. There's a low whistle, and he follows it up with, "Wow."

He starts to reach for it, probably to check for internal damage, but he stays his hand before there's actual contact. "Do I have permission to touch you?" he asks, and there's amusement in his tone as he says it. "If he's that powerful, I don't want to get on his bad side if he finds out I didn't ask first."

Peyton laughs, wincing a little. "Ow. It hurts when I laugh. Alex is a good kid, usually. Zoey probably had it coming, to be honest, though punching is obviously not okay." She takes a breath to steel herself, before nodding. "Go ahead, nurse. I probably wouldn't go to the doctor for it, if that's at all helpful in your assessment, but it does hurt like a son of a bitch."

She taps the camera on her phone and puts it on selfie mode to assess the bruises to her face, wincing a little. "Been a while since I had to cover up a shiner with makeup," she says wryly.

"Hm." The consent issued, Jim gets to work, making his assessment of the damage, gauging her reaction, etc etc. Nurse things, you know. "Sounds like she did," he says while he's doing it. "Poor kid. What a way to manifest." He does a little more probing, before he steps away again.

"I think you might have a broken rib," he continues. "But there's nothing to do for that but take painkillers and get some rest. Or at least try. I feel like that's probably not something you do a lot of." His smile widens then, as he adds, "You do a lot of black eye covering in your misspent youth?"

"I have some painkillers already so I'll skip the trip to the hospital then," says Peyton, smoothing her blouse and leaning against the table. She smiles and shakes her head. "I've never been much of a fighter. It was more trying to cover up the ravages of late nights and partying, I guess. Still, the skill applies, right?"

She glances to the door at some activity in the office beyond, but it doesn't need her immediate attention, so she looks back to Jim. "That was some smooth talking in there. You have a way with them. You still interested in working here part time? Whatever hours you want, even if it's one day a week. I think you've got the knack."

"Ah, got it," Jim says with a chuckle, and he nods, sticking one hand into his pocket. "I guess that would be a transfer skill, wouldn't it? Of course, you could always just leave it. Make up a heroic story." He pauses, then admits, "I guess the real story is pretty heroic too, though."

As for her question, he nods. "Yeah," he confirms, "I think I'd like that. I had in my head that it was going to be a break from the craziness of the ER, but I guess if today is anything to go by, it won't be." However, he doesn't seem like he's having second thoughts. "I think I can swing two days a week."

The easy smile fades a little and Peyton shakes her head. "I'm anything but a hero." Her words are soft but firm.

The smile returns, if a little battered, and she tips her head toward the front office. "Oh, there's plenty of days when it's sniffles like little Travis has out there. Lost of sniffles. Lots of vomit. Lots of skinned knees. But we'll be glad to have you on board. I know I was glad to have you here today," she says, before moving to the door to open it for both of them. "I'll get you started on the paperwork."

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