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Botany and Candor

Posted on Sun Jan 1st, 2023 @ 11:51 by David Solarin M.D. & Reagan D'Angelo

Chapter: Prologue: Dawn of Avalon
Location: David's Office
Timeline: Evening of Friday, September 18th, 1992
4223 words - 8.4 OF Standard Post Measure

Reagan wasn't quite sure why she was so excited by everyone returning to the school. Faculty in particular, even the likes of Cameron, just seemed to energize her this time of year. Much as she was an independent soul, and very much enjoyed her time on her own, the halls and stairwells in the Institute could get downright creepy with no one moving through them on at least a semi-regular basis. So when she'd heard from Claire earlier that day that David was back, she decided to pay him a visit.

Her black turtleneck and tan khaki pants were prim and proper as usual, a silver chain necklace ending in a broken half-heart settled over her chest. One hand clutched a small pot, freshly filled with soil holding up a small selection of tall, vibrant bluebells, while the other hand knocked gently on the door. "David? It's Reagan. Can I come in?"

Contrary to his living quarters, which could barely be called above military-grade bunk-mate (not due to any downfall on Claire's part - the Institute was more than savvy when it came to accommodations; rather, David seemed to hold a terminal disinterest in home deco other than a few Dan masks that had survived the voyage over) -> David's office was alive and thriving. Multiple rows of potted plants and viny vegetables (tomatoes, lettuce, carrots, and green onions in kitschy mugs with slogans like 'therapist emotions' and 'the lightbulb has to WANT to change!' as far as Reagan could detect).

There were some framed hand-written poems hung up alongside child-like paintings depicting scenes ranging from deserts, jeeps, forests, and family units (a couple featured crayon versions of David himself wearing a white lab coat). He even had some wind chimes - though his window remained closed, so they were clearly just for show. He was puttering over his tomato plants, pruning away some dead bristles when Reagan made her presence known and he turned, shears in hand, offering her a beaming grin. "Always, please. Mind the mess, I haven't quite gotten settled in," he huffed, taking off his rubber gardening gloves and wiping his hands on his dark jeans.

The cane he usually relied on was propped up next to him, but as his chair was only a few steps away, he hopped in a single step and slid into it, turning to face her with both hands framed under his chin. "What can I do you for, Ms. D'Angelo?"

Once given permission to enter, Reagan allowed herself in, cupping the small pot in both hands while her eyes took everything in. It was... fascinating, really. Much as she was a natural enthusiast and enjoyed the outdoors, one would never know it from looking at her own office. That was the very model of orderly and raised in urban wealth. "Did you bring all of this back with you? That's... impressive. And here I thought I was being nice by bringing you something nice to color up another, normal office."

Stepping further inside, she approached his chair, pausing only briefly to consider his newfound seat and position with a bemused smile. "For starters, Doctor Solarin, you could say hello and accept a hug." One hand settled the potted bluebells down on the corner of his desk before she leaned down with open arms to embrace the man. "How was your summer?" The question came before she even had time to sit back.

It earned her a huff of amusement from the man, and he gently patted her shoulder, giving it a squeeze before she separated to slide into the opposing chair. "Quite well, actually!" he enthused warmly. "Most of it was spent neck-deep in research, but the results are extremely promising." She'd never known David to just take a normal-person-vacation literally ever. He turned over the little poted bluebell and nudged it into a spot on his desk right under his UV-laden bulb, humming with satisfaction. In his opinion there wasn't such a thing as too much green. "How have things been with you?" he asked, studying her features as she considered how to answer, the drop in octave an indication that he genuinely wanted to know.

Falling back into the chair opposite him, Reagan took care not to let herself slouch or try to recline, lest she be mistaken for a patient and the good doctor switched to therapy mode. Not that she didn't need a healthy dose of it herself, but good luck getting her to admit to it. She smiled warmly at his response, choosing a straight posture with legs crossed and her hands neatly folded over the raised knee. "Good to hear, David." A succinct reply as she caught him studying her, and she, in turn, studied back. Was this how actual therapy sessions went? Should her response really be measured? She decided against it, choosing friendly, joking even. "Saw my mother over the summer, still haven't talked to my sister, pining over my ex, generally swallowing my emotions for the sake of the children. So... nothing out of the ordinary on my end!" She made it nice and cheery on the end there for emphasis, her smile never really fading while she watched him.

It was only after tucking a loose strand behind her ear that her tone returned to a more normal, conversational level. "I've actually been on campus for over a month now. I took some of our less privileged students on a few field trips around the loch, documented flora and fauna, let them exercise and get out of the building for awhile... It was nice."

Fortunately - or perhaps unfortunately, for those who managed to become friends with David, he didn't seem to have much in the way of a Therapeutic Off-Switch - mostly, he treated everyone similarly, patients and colleagues alike, always with an abiding interest in their psychological well-being, but without necessarily pushing his opinions on them without sufficient provocation. And besides, he was more accustomed to working with children than adults, and violent offenders at that, which necessitated some degree of affective sealant.

David didn't appear to be relying on such skills now, simply leaned back in his chair, at-ease and relaxed. "I'm sure they must have appreciated that. Hopefully minus any monsters," he joked, waggling his eyebrows. (Yes, he meant the Loch Ness Monster because he was actually a Certifiable Idiot. It was endearing, probably.) "I've been considering the efficacy of a program geared toward occupational skills; community orientation, that sort of thing. If you have any recommendations on that front I'd love to hear them."

Well, at least he didn't ask about her mother or her ex. That was a relief, even if she'd been joking. Then again, given his specialty, those topics likely came up less often dealing with children. Poor parental care? Sure. A healthy family relationship that one intentionally sabotaged to hide their mutation? Definitely just a her-thing. David's joke, or attempt at one, brought her back to the present moment, and she could only smile goofily across at him. "No monsters found. Yet. We've only been cataloguing the local ecosystem for a few years though, so who knows what might turn up?" Her smile expanded then, feeding into his endearing, if cheesy, humor rather than pointing it out. She liked David just as he was, no need to encourage change.

"That sounds an awful lot like what I'm already doing, if I'm hearing those big words right. Community service, clean up, walking little old ladies, that sort of thing? I have a small group of dedicated fanatics on my little trips that seem to have bright futures as ecologists and naturalists, if that's promising to you."

They did come up somewhat less often, though really, David's decision not to draw attention to the statements came less from inexperience - problems were problems, and most problems were similar problems, even if the details were distinct - and more from knowing instinctively that it would be unwelcome. There was somewhat of a line to toe.

Being a therapist, versus a colleague, versus a friend - even though he was not technically hired to assist the adults here with their mental health, there was always the expectation from most people that as a therapist, he would eventually psychoanalyze them. (Not that he was even trained in psychoanalysis, but the finer points of that distinction were lost on non-clinicians.)

"Very promising," he agreed softly. "The fact that you've already begun something similar might make it easier to integrate; we may not even need to change much about it, including your remaining as the primary point of contact on excursions. I've been collecting some data on our more vulnerable students and we may simply see that group grow a little, or expand into multiple groups - some with a focus on occupational skills, others on volunteering, or college and university. We want to make sure we are providing the students with as much opportunity as possible to explore avenues of social integration before they move on from here."

Reagan smiled brightly across at the doctor, as if receiving some grand accolade for her extra work with the children. She didn't need to be rewarded for it, loved doing it in fact, but the recognition was nice all the same. "I'd be happy to formalize the program with you, David. Perhaps we can get other faculty involved to do other things? Many talents and skills across our roster, I just happen to have a specific set that I enjoy sharing with them. Teaching them about respecting life, responsible environmental practices, really letting them dig into nature, you know? And then there's always the spectre of their mutations. The scientific angle isn't always the most comforting, but for some it really does help."

She relaxed somewhat in her seat then, leaning back and resting her head on the back, eyes ever watchful of her friend and colleague across from her. All the jitters about talking to a clinician seeming to melt away as they just... talked. "And what about the man behind the work? How is David doing? Do anything personally enriching outside the work arena while we were all away?"

David's lips pursed and he snorted a little. "Caught out, I am afraid. Most of my summer was effectively a working vacation," he said, but that in and of itself was not shocking to anyone who had occasion to know David in any capacity - the man didn't stop, with a veritable laundry list of projects to tend to. Some of them were relevant to Avalon, but during the summer, he preferred to continue his research, and that meant hands-on. "I did, however, meet our new groundskeeper in Monteserrado. Good chap, bit -" he tapped his temple. "But if ecology is your abiding stay, you might talk with him about joining you as well." Virgil, technically, was an adult. Technically. While he wasn't entitled to the same kinds of supports as Avalon's student population, David did feel a certain degree of loyalty to him. Addled or not, Virgil Vaya had saved his life, and the kid deserved a chance.

Reagan mocked a little pout, head canted to one side, but she didn't tease him about working all summer. Was she any different? Especially before coming to Avalon, she was much a workaholic as one could functionally be back then. Still was to a large degree. Last thing she needed was to tease a friend who happened to be a therapist and get called out for it. "Oh? I had not met him yet. He have as much of a green thumb as you, David? Must if Claire trusts him to our lovely grounds. I'd be delighted to invite him along. He can help us catalogue the local flora, get some ideas for ecologically friendly planting to help local pollinators and the like, instead of just pretty bushes and grasses with no purposeful niche outside aesthetics."

"Not so certain about the green thumb, but at the very least, he hasn't mangled the poinsettias," David replied lightly. Much of the grounds required a firm hand and physical labor, which was something the young man applied himself to well. The former technical driver held more in the way of expertise on defensive transportation - perhaps something that would inevitably be of interest to the school's senior faculty - but the opportunity to enmesh more with the other faculty members and students - those individuals who may be closer to his age, would undoubtedly be assistive.

And Reagan, if anyone could be trusted to keep their student population on the straight and narrow, it was their botany teacher. He left the words hang for a moment and then lightly added, indicating that he'd certainly been mulling over his response since she'd said it - "I am sorry to hear about your sister. You know I'm here if you'd like to talk. As a friend," he clarified, hands raised placatingly.

"I'll seek him out then, likely after our little faculty party and before the students arrive back in force. If that's amenable? And we'll work out a time to really hash out this program of yours so you can record it all and get valuable data out of it." The side of Reagan that was a fellow scientist came out there, had a tendency to when work discussions came up. Especially that part of her that was also closely tied to her general workaholic tendencies and had come most to the fore when she had started her firm and run it as the head executive for nearly three years.

Prim and proper, orderly, business and science and pushing toward working goals; All of that melted when his latest statement made it through for processing. Her features softened, dropped as subtly as she could manage (though if it was enough to fool someone like David, she doubted). "Oh... Well, I'd like that. But there's really... quite a bit tied up in all of that. I wouldn't want to burden you, David. I am sure our students give you plenty to handle without adding faculty messes to your list of problems to solve, hm?" She was polite, warm even, but there was reservation in her tone and posture, a tension she tried to keep at bay that had two sides of her split on the issue. One wanted to spill, open the floodgates and vent, the other wanted to beat the other over the head with a shovel and bury it back in its shallow grave. And in all that, she simply pushed a thoughtful smile to the front directed across at the good doctor.

"Don't even consider it," he pointed at her mock-threateningly. "It's no burden at all. I mean it. I may not have the answers, but I can listen, and certainly commiserate." After all, his relationship with his own family was... well, he could understand a bit of frost. Though their skeletons had little to do with mutation, which was most common at the Institute, and it wasn't that David and his family did not love one another. But like most folks, there was a lot of baggage, there. And he had to reckon that at a certain point, those fractures were relatable across vast chasms, even when their reasons were distinct.

She laughed abit and sat up, time for her own placating gesture of holding up her hands. "If you insist, David. Because I consider you a friend, and not because I'm intimidated by your professional demeanor." Reagan sighed then and readjusted. Her thoughts required gathering, consideration as to where to start or what details to give. With a nod, she attempted to relax again before starting. "She and I had a fight last we spoke, and it's been a few years now. I was just more aware of her absence when visiting my mother and Rhiannon wasn't there with her as she usually was when I was younger, is all."

"I'm truly sorry," was what David said, absent any plucked-up hollowed-out saccharinity. Instead he offered - vitality. Plucking her gift from its position next to the sticky-note reminding him to enlighteningly-this , that , the -other-thing. He traced his fingertip over the edge of a bluebell. "What did you fight about?" was his next question, tempered and composed because David was that way: but the manner in which he had propped his feet up on his desk and leaned in his chair, fingers linked-together behind his neck and hazel eyes lollygagging until settling their journey onto her crisp azure... was sorely, entirely unprofessional.

Apparently trying to make it seem less important than it was hadn't really worked out for her. Hadn't worked to make it more bearable for her to say, and definitely hadn't dissuaded David. His apology said it all, getting a small frown out of her. "She came to London to... ambush me over something she'd found out. And under false pretenses of having business in the city. So when she told me, I may have just got up and left, brushed her off a little more harshly than I should have."

"It sounds like maybe you regret that a little bit?" David murmured, head tilted to the side. "Although, being totally honest, she may have had it a little bit coming."

'Regret' made her features scrunch up momentarily. Less hating an accusation than being caught in a truth. She had been pretty rough at the time. Even when the information turned out to be less dire than she had feared, it hadn't changed her reaction. "A little bit, perhaps, but... yes, I may have been too harsh. See, I had been worried she'd discovered my mutation, or was about to confess her own to me after nearly 15 years of both of us keeping it a closely guarded secret. I still don't know if she is a mutant or not, but either way that was not what she had discovered any how. I was just so... anxious initially, that I acted harshly even after discovering that false alarm." That got a frown out of her, eyes drifting into a lack of focus, replaying that little meeting in her head.

"You two haven't just sat down and hashed it all out? Seems to me the whole situation could use a good douse of truth. Maybe you can give her a phone call? Let her know you didn't intend to be so harsh. It's a back and forth, yeah?" David pitted his two index fingers together and moved his hand from side to side. "Hedge a bit, send up the-beige flag." David's way of saying tact, not react. "Maybe it'll inspire the same. And you can work on waving the white flags at the end."

"Ah... Not quite, no. I would be willing, though I'm most afraid that she'd still sense me hiding something and try to pry. The information she got was embarrassing, but not world ending, you know? Though maybe I'm optimistic there too." Reagan watched his little gestures and movements, almost amused in catching herself studying the one who was studying her, if more casually than he might normally. "Can I ask you something personal, David? How did you handle your coming out with your family? My mutant status was always such an invisible elephant in the room for me, it sort of... overshadowed that for me, you know? Even felt I could use it like a red herring. All my evasion, distance, secrecy... 'Yeah, that's just me being gay, nothing else to see here, you got me.' That sort of thing, you know?"

"I do know," David replied softly, dropping his chin onto his fingers. "My family... is complicated," he settled on. "They know I was engaged to a man, which they thought was foolish because we can't get married anyhow - it was bad publicity, so they kept it all hush-hush. As for coming out, I told them when I was sixteen and they were trying to set me up with one of the Carlinwright girls. Looked dad straight in the eye and said she is not my type. He said she's a beautiful woman! and I said yeah, woman. And that was really the end of it. We haven't discussed it since. I think he tries to pretend it isn't real. Families are complicated, Rae," he sighed, leaning forward to give her arm a little squeeze under the elbow. Because he isn't being her therapist, here.

Reagan smiled when he squeezed her arm, or at least smiled wider than she was already doing when he was so straightforward and honest with her. There was a look in her eyes in those moments, watching him. Sure she put her life on the line in dangerous missions, flew in a hypersonic jet and protected the world, but had she ever once come close to just telling her father why those boys just wouldn't do and that was that? Nope. "Just like that, huh? You're a braver person than I. Heh, you know how my sister found out? She ran into my ex who was aware I had a sister, but not that she was identical. Talk about awkward, right? I should have at least apologized to her for that mishap. Kristen was intimidating at the best of times."

"Oh, bravery doesn't play into it," David jousted back, but his tone is gentle. "I was just sick of the mind-games. You know how it goes, hm?" and Rae did, given that their families operated on a similar social currency. "How did your sister take it?"

"You're too humble, David. I don't know that I could say such a thing to my father without keeling over in fear of disapproval. But I understand all too well, you're right." She tilted her head then in consideration of her answer. "How did she take getting yelled at by my ex, or my giving her the cold shoulder?"

"Oh, dealer's choice," David smiles amicably. "But more - the coming out portion. Quote-unquote. That might give you a good handle on how she'll respond to the mutation bit, too," he suggested, curious.

"Oh. Well, I believe she said 'you don't have to hide that part of yourself', so I'm fairly certain she's at least okay with it. And if memory recalls, the literature suggests a strong chance that she may be at least bi-curious herself. Given her taste in men so far, I think that provides evidence too." She found herself joking, smiling broadly at David. A nice joke between scholars. Such a nerd sometimes, Reagan.

"But the mutation portion... I don't know, it feels different."

He nodded, sympathetic. "There's only one way you'll ever really be sure," he says. "But you know that. Some people are comfortable existing in those grey areas, you know? Maybe that is where your relationship needs to be for now. There's no right or wrong way to go about this, I promise you that. It sounds like you both have a lot to tend aside."

"We do keep pretty busy. If there were ever traits we shared as identical twins besides our alluring physiques, it's our stubbornness and work-oriented drive. Stick us both on a vacation and we'll find some way to get in trouble just to keep it interesting, hm?" She mused, relaxing in her chair again to regard him. "Thanks for the advice though, David. I'll mull it over, maybe even reach out... eventually."

"I'll just bet she's mulling it all the same," David reassures her gently. "After all, you two have a pretty solid bond, it sounds like. If nothing else has gotten in its way, this surely won't. You're both grown-ups, reasonable, compassionate. I genuinely think it will be OK, but you know me. I'm a sucker and an optimist," he snorts.

That little suggestion really seemed to give Reagan pause, as if she hadn't even considered it as a possibility. She had just assumed the worst when her mother had shown up alone, but as she'd said herself, they were both stubborn to a fault. Reasonable or not... She smiled warmly, moving from her seat to lean and offer David a generous hug. "It's great to see you again, David. We wouldn't have you any other way. I really should get back to my work though. Coffee date some time?"

"Always and forever, my dear. You know this ole heart only runs on hemoglobin and caffeine." He shot her a dorky salute and squeezed her firmly back, just once, before letting go. "Now, knock 'em dead."


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