2007-08-02: Play Nice


Ramon_icon.gif Nima_icon.gif Lee_icon.gif


Nima demands a truce. Ramon spills his guts. Lee…understands?

Date It Happened: August 2, 2007

Play Nice

The Secret Lair

The little bell over the shop rings, and Ramon steps through cautiously, as if afraid something will bite.

Gingerness looks strange on a man with a big scar and an eyepatch, and who now carries himself with an air of someone willing to do even more serious damage on behalf of his loved ones than he used to. It's as strange as the way he wears his suit, which he wears like an unfamiliar skin. But he does wear it. He stands in the door awkwardly, as if not sure where to go from here. He inspects the window he shot, as if, ironically, he needs to make sure whoever Nima hired did a good job.

That window is a top-notch install, made of bulletproof glass. Thermal treated, no less, to cut down on energy costs. The Secret Lair is the jewel of the Jones family (sans Lee) and Nima spared no expense in making the necessary repairs and improvements. And countless are those who rejoice.

"I'm telling you: Lando is more badass than Solo. There's no contest."

"No one is more badass than Solo. NO. ONE. The man survived carbon freezing. Plus, he shot Vader! He totally shot Vader and saved Luke's ass!" Beat. "VAY. DUR."

"I'm not saying that Solo isn't badass 'cos Solo /is/ badass. But Lando is most badass of all."

Lee is not one of the Believers. Chances are neither is Ramon. That's okay because waxing philosophical really isn't why Ramon is here, now is it? For her part, Nima appears to be oblivious to the conversation. Largely because she's not actually here. This would become apparent when she politely says, "Excuse us," to the one-eyed man who's kinda blocking the doorway. Seeing him only from behind, she has no idea who she's addressing. Chewie isn't quite so well-mannered, recognizing a certain baleful smell, and seeking to confirm his suspicions by moving to stick his nose somewhere most unwelcome.

"AUGH!" Ramon says in startlement, pushing at the dog. He moves out of the way, though he stares at Nima. "I thought you wanted me here at this t…your dog's getting really personal." He narrows his eye. Did she invite him over to be punished by having her dog stick his nose…there?

"Oh! Ramon! Hi!" For a moment, she stares at the man. Eyepatch: check. Suit: check. And it's actually the latter that throws her off a bit, even though she did read the news. "Sorry about that. He's friendly." It's not like Chewbacca is gnawing off limbs. All the same, Nima makes some tching noise and gently shoos off the dog, leisurely following. "Thanks for coming by. I hope you're well, all things considered."

Good. Ramon probably smells of cat hair for one thing. This kitten sticks his head out of Ramon's pocket and asks, "Mew?" He scowls at it and gently pushes it back into his suit pocket. THERE IS NO KITTEN HERE. YOU DID NOT SEE THE KITTEN. "Yes," he says gruffly. "Are —" He grimaces. What a stupid question. Of course she's not, not given her father's condition.

For someone whose universe has been deeply rattled, Nima is quite chipper. Lee got the bulk (if not all) of the angsty genes. She's definitely the optimistic twin. Yes, her parents are both seriously messed-up, her mother remains missing, and her father might still end up dead or permanently comatose, but they are still both alive, which means hope has yet to be extinguished. Ever one to count her blessings and be grateful for them, this temperament will serve her well when her beloved NYC is razed to the ground, countless are rounded-up for the slaughter, and she's planning military campaigns in the Dark Future. And although she doesn't seem to notice any kitten because she is heading behind the counter, the dog sure does and is back to sniff at the pock in question.

Ramon drops a broad, protective hand over his kitten. Nothing to see here. The kitten pokes his head back out to O_O at the dog between Ramon's fingers with BIG green eyes. Awkwardly, he breaks the silence. "It…was supposed to go a little differently," he rasps. "I was supposed to bring them back, and you were supposed to be reunited, and you'd all be a family again. I'm sorry."

Dogs have bad eyesight, so it is rather moot as to whether or not the kitten is seen. It's smelled. And Chewbacca keeps sniffing. Then starts licking at the fluffball and any bits of Ramon that get in the way.

"Oh. Come. On. Solo did the Kessel run in 12 parsecs."

"And Lando blew-up the second Death Star."

And Nima blinks a little. It's practically Pavlovian. Solo. Lando. Ring, bell, ring. Oh, but she's having a conversation with Ramon. And when she realizes just what he's talking about, she gestures for him to follow towards the back of the store, where it is more private. Once there, she turns those blue eyes of hers upon him and says very genuinely and compassionately, "Ramon, I'm sorry that a lot of things turned out as they did, but you have no reason to apologize. If it was supposed to go differently, it would have. The fact remains that my parents are alive, even if not well, but that can always improve. Dead is dead, and they're not dead, and it's my understanding that I have you to thank for that. So, thank you."

"You're welcome," Ramon says, gracious enough to take a thank you when he takes it. He says, "I never meant to hurt you or your brother. I was just blind." He half-smirks, as if he recognizes the potential justice in his new condition. "I wasn't seeing anything except—hurt."

"You didn't hurt me, Ramon," she gently smiles before her expression grows more rueful, "But these past few years have been really hard, especially for my brother. A lot of what he sees is through that same lens," that of hurt, "and of bitter disappointment. And, sadly, collateral damage is a part of life. All we can do is make the best of it, as best as we're able. Emotions aren't rational things. Which actually brings me to why I asked you to come over."

Ramon tilts his head to the side. The good side of his mouth had twisted into a grim, bitter smile at her discussion on Lee. "Great, he's a lot like me," he rasps. "Now that I've realized it I can't even stay comfortably irritated at him." He expels a breath and inclines his head, ready to listen.

At Ramon's explanation, Nima quirks an amused smile. "Not so much so that /he's/ unable to stay comfortably irritated." But, hey. That's Lee. "Which is pretty much the point. I don't believe that you're looking to cause my family any problems. And, frankly, we both know that the incriminations my brother fears will cause you just as much trouble as they will anyone else." Ramon actually murdered a man. Billy Jones is a screwed-up man swathed in speculation. "But, as I said, emotions aren't rational, and Lee is being extremely irrational, right now. Believe me when I say that there is a part of him that is very grateful for all you've done, even though you'll probably never see it. I'll speak with him, though. Tell him to play nice. Well, nicer, anyhow. And, please, if ever you find you have a problem with him, speak with me."

Ramon nods his head and says, "It never crossed my mind. I just wanted to bring your father back to you, and your mother. And I /lost/ her." The guilt in his voice is palpable. He feels responsible for them both now. "You went out on a limb and covered for me, I could never repay that with trouble. I haven't tried to dissuade him of it, because…Lots of reasons if I stop and look at it. None of them noble."

"You don't have to dissuade him," Nima smiles, amused. "That's my job." Besides, Lee will actually listen to his sister, as opposed to some baleful, mentally unstable, eye-patch wearing, 1980s revenge fantasy action flick cliché, which is pretty much how he views Ramon. More seriously, but far from grave, she continues, "Look, Ramon. They are /alive/ and you found them when no one else could. And my mother will be found or she won't. And I will do all that I can to ensure that it's the former, and not the latter, or not the former as a corpse. I made peace with their deaths, years ago. And, the truth is, as long as I have this shop, they remain with me." Which is why she had an easier time coming to terms with it all, unlike her brother, who loathes the place. Gently, her brow furrows, feeling far sadder for Ramon than for herself. "Nobility is great and all but also isn't the be all and end all. Road to Hell and all that rot." A small smirk.

All of which transpires in the back of the store, where it is far more private… even though, "The cape, man. Lando has the cape," can still be heard.

"My son Luis would love your shop," Ramon mumbles, as bits of the cape conversation float in. "He'd be telling both those guys that it's Obi Wan Kenobi all the way. He's a fan of the Jedi types but thinks Luke is a pussy whiner."

Lee comes in with a duffel bag with the handle of an aluminum baseball bat sticking out of it. Clearly he is getting stuff together for the new school year and doesn't want to face the twerps unarmed. He breezes past whoever-is-working-the-counter, tells the two arguers what he tells all nerdy arguers in the shop: "I bet you guys can only learn 1d4 simple tricks." Zing! He can speak the language when he wants to abuse someone. He keeps on walking, ignoring their glowering, muttering retorts. "Neems, you down here?" he says, poking his head in the private room. "Oh." he says. "Picking up more material?" he says to Ramon. "Try the Punisher. /He/ likes guns. Wait, it is the Punisher, right? Not the Exterminator? Anyway, Nima would know. Don't mind me."

"Well, Luke /is/ kinda whiny. And an ingrate. He didn't shed a single tear for his aunt and uncle but he was all 'Boo hoo Obi-Wan is dead'. He hardly knew the guy! He even named his only child after him. 'course, most of the EU is kinda lame. If he likes Jedi, though," meaning Luis, "bring him by. I'll hook him up with a lightsaber." And she means the high-end handcrafted kind built on consignment that are illuminated and can actually be used for sparring. Not the plastic pieces of crap they keep in the shop as gag gifts. (Although, really, those are fine for smacking someone over the head.) Ah, but then Nima hears her brother. Then sees him. And without missing a beat replies, "Actually, Ramon came over so I can shave his head. We're going the Ultimate Nick Fury route." If a white guy with a 'stache can turn into Samuel L. Jackson, why the hell not? Apart from Ramon not being Sammy boy.

Ramon just stares blankly at the both of them, apparently managing to not get a single one of the more recent references. Punisher? Nick Fury? At the notion of shaving his head he puts a hand to what little he has left. He had high hopes for that Rogaine, thank you very much. One could almost imagine some Final Fantasyesque "…" appearing over his head.

Lee perks. "That would be humiliating." he says, clearly buoyed by the idea of Ramon shorn. "So, ah, anything I should know?"

"Yes," Nima says, answering her brother's question, "From here on out, you're both going to play nice. End of discussion." Lee playing nice just happens to be chock-full of snark. It does not include paranoia or more than the standard level of hostility. And when she says end of discussion, IT IS LAW. Because the woman is nice, until she's prompted to be not nice. And anymore stress and aggression triggered by the state of her parents will NOT be tolerated.

In the meanwhile, while Ramon frets about his male pattern baldness, Chewbacca keeps licking the kitten that is now purring in the man's pocket.

Ramon suddenly realizes that he's got this hand full of dog slobber, and he sort of shakes it off, not wanting to wipe it on his very nice suit. Which simply means that this cute, fluffy, green eyed white kitten pokes his head out for more licks. Damn it. "The kitten's name is /Bulldog/," he growls, because that makes it better. He also offers a hand to Lee and says quietly, "It was never my intent to harm you. It was never my intent to harm your family. All I was seeing was the hurt I was feeling. I am serious about my promise to do everything in my power to find your mother. I am serious that I want to see your father well. I am even serious when I tell you that when Cass told me you thought I was out to blackmail you, I was horrified. The thought did not, ever, cross my mind. I want to restore the families that were destroyed, as much as can be. Not cause further destruction."

Lee looks at Nima for a long moment. "Fine, why not?" he says, and turns a big fakey smirk at Ramon, but then a more normal expression as he listens to his statement. "I hope you're telling the truth. For your sake, or the sake of whatever no doubt implausibly perfect child you've got. We've still got the security tape and your gun, those two things together are twenty years. I looked it up. We're protected. So if you are lying to us…" He shakes his head. "Well, let's not go down that road."

Kitten? Bulldog? What? Kitten! Squee! And then Chewie finds himself ousted when his favorite human is all cooing over the fluffball, getting her hands soaked with the slobbery residue that he left behind. When she hears what her brother says, though, Nima gives him /The Look/. It is not often that she does this, being an easy-going, free-spirited type. It's the final boarding call for the Clue Ship. Miss it and a world of hurt is coming… and after 27 years, she knows all the worst ways to make her brother suffer. She even gets a +4 bonus for being a woman. "Thank you for playing. I do hope that you'll enjoy your parting gift." Pun. Even now. But still /The Look/. Even as she's rubbing the kitten.

And then, "NIIIIIIIIIIIIIMAAAA!" Which is her cue.

"Right," she says, rising, to head back to the front of the shop. "Remember," leveling her blue-eyed gaze at Lee, shifting it to Ramon, "Nice." Which means no more threats of any kind, other than those against common enemies. And she means it! Turning, she adds, "Thanks, again, Ramon. And bring Luis by." With that, and a "C'mon, Chewie," she is gone.

Ramon simply sighs as Lee lays it on the line much like… he would. The man drops his outstretched hand. He looks tired and simply nods to the kid. As Nima abandons his kitten he scoops the cat up and gives it an absent scritch, then plops it back in his suit pocket, leaving fluffs of cat hair to stick to all the dog slobber on the left breast pocket. "I think we've about said what needs to be said." He turns to go himself.

Lee says, "No, no, if we're being friendly now, tell me. Do you really read minds? Because that's pretty original for a thug, normally they stick some genius with that ability." And he's grinning, so he's mocking him, but he's also serious.

"Yes, I really read minds," Ramon says calmly. "If you want a demonstration, if you want proof, I'll give it to you on any test you devise." He has apparently decided to stop rising to the bait, though his mouth still twists in some annoyance.

Lee says, "No, no. No demonstrations, thanks. I believe you. See, you're not completely a cliché." in an encouraging tone. "And if I do bother you too much, just think about how cliché I am. The 'bad twin'? That was so hackneyed the Zoroastrians thought it was a bit much." he adds, light-heartedly. "I won't keep you, I'm sure you've got a lot to do, stock prices to send into tail dives, accountants to drive to suicidal leaps from corporate windows…"

"You teach at Sousa, don't you?" Ramon murmurs. "Is Ameera okay? Have any of her children gone missing? She's the secretary in — well I'm sure you know who she is, you're the one that works with her every single day. Though I suppose it being summer you've not seen her yet. Or do teachers go in sometimes during the summer?"

Lee says, "We're in meetings this month, so yeah. She's doing okay, she's doing good. No missing kids. In fact they're around a lot more, they don't want each other to go missing either. She said to say thank you to you, and I lied and said I would." But…he just did, so… figure that out. "Any word on the kidnapper? Been a while since I saw anything in the papers that could have been him." So he went and looked!

John Carter's very dead, but telling Lee that would be a fool's idea. Besides, the people /behind/ it aren't found, and the kids have to be elsewhere because they didn't find them when they went after Carter. "Not yet." He's hesitant to say anything more, but the yet is full of conviction.

Lee says, "Seriously, consider what I mentioned the last time we yelled at each other. You've got money now, influence. You can /make/ people pay attention to the case, through the media, through influencing oversight committees and city officials. There's even less reason now for you to kill him than there was before. That's not the way to do it." Back to sardonic: "Besides, you'll probably just /think/ you killed him, and he'll jump out of a closet or out from under a car or something a few minutes later."

Ramon might find it funny that Lee is trying to convince him not to kill a man who is already dead, if he weren't so racked with guilt that it's already done. And he knows damn well Carter isn't jumping out of anything at all. "Sure. I'll just spin my insane story all over town," he agrees. "It went over so well with you."

Lee says, "Don't play the fool, that's my job and I'm much, much, better at it." dismissively, then switches gears back to what he said: "You've collected a mountain of evidence against this guy - regular old normal evidence - as you've been digging around on him, right? That's how you know you've got the right guy. Not by reading minds or anything, but because you've been able to connect him with the missing and the dead. Regular connections. That's what cases are made of anyway. It would be enough to get the case moving again, more than enough."

"I didn't get anything I have on him by reading minds," Ramon says, and that much is truth. "Finding out I could just opened my mind to the possibility that he could do what he could do." His mouth twists. "And then what, Lee? Pretend for one moment I'm right. Then tell me what jail can hold a man who can simply compel his jailers, with the power of his voice, to jail him? What court would then convict him? He wouldn't even need a lawyer now would he? He could just stand up and tell the jury to declare him innocent, and they would. Wouldn't they?" Ramon's voice is choked up tight now, and he looks away, remorse and anger painting a strange picture on his face. "And then what if you tried something else? What if you tried to use the power of your mind to slam some remorse into the guy after he'd nearly blown up your son and kidnapped your daughter and had her in a gas chamber? What if you tried to make him feel what he'd inflicted instead, so he'd never do it again, and thought for one brief moment you'd succeeded and everyone would be safe, only for him to use his own powers on himself and order himself to break your control? And what if after all of that he blew up a building you thought your daughter was in, and you went crazy, and you felt you were out of options anymore, and now he's just dead?" Ramon grits his teeth and scrubs a hand across his single eye. Fuck. He doesn't want to cry around this little punk. Who will probably continue making his life miserable for this. The tear slips past his cheek anyway, unmanly, unwanted. "And what if," he says roughly, "you felt responsible to a couple of kids who you'd hurt trying to make it right, and you kept thinking all you had to do was find their parents and it would be this perfect reunion, and instead you lost their mother and their father is sick, and one of them thinks you're too busy playing mutual blackmail games to be trying to make sure he's back to health, and maybe none of it matters because you have no idea where the mother is, and no idea what will happen to the father if he leaves, and it all grows more fucking muddled every day? What if the Preacher's kids are still out there, missing, and your own kids are still in danger, and the kids of a good friend are also in danger, because fuck if all the evidence didn't show he was not working alone, and its not really over, and nothing at all has been god damn fixed, except that maybe, just maybe, your wife who didn't believe in vengeance in the first place has been avenged, and you wake up and look in the mirror and realize it was never about avenging her, it was about you, and the pain you felt, and the humiliation you felt at being laughed at, and how you hated being unable to bury her in the faith she'd loved and followed because they too thought she was a suicide, but it was never at all about her because she's gone?" His teeth are gritted now. "And what if someone was standing here trying to tell you that it's all very easy because now you have money, and somehow that's going to make an indifferent, disbelieving system sit up and take notice, when the DA, who you went to first, and who has some damned abilities so damn sure should have believed you, blew you off the first time, when the cop that the DA personally hired to take on your case back when you still believed you could find justice the right way blew off your case cause she had a potential career maker on her hand instead…telling you that now, now it's all suddenly going to be god damn easy and now you're going to be able to sort out all the right from wrong and fix what is utterly clusterfucked?" He usually doesn't say much, but now…

Lee is stunned into silence for a long moment. "For god's sake, that's why I'm saying all this." he says, and he actually sounds like he's being comforting, or at least he is taking Ramon seriously. "There's a reason sane people do not do this kind of thing on their own. It just breaks them down, breaks them into pieces, it always has, it has never worked out well for anyone who has ever done it since the beginning of time. I'm telling you this because Nima just walked out of here telling me to play nice with you. I am trying to help you when I say these kinds of things." He adds, more firmly: "The system sucks. It really does. You don't have to convince me. I'm sure it sucks even worse in this weird underbelly of people-with-abilities that you've gotten yourself into." Him, not Lee. Lee stands apart, he comments on things, he doesn't get /involved/. "But you're just telling me the very reasons I keep suggesting different ways to hit it with a crowbar from an unexpected angle. It's not because I have some illusion that it's going to be emotionally fulfilling or even that it is guaranteed to have a good outcome. I just know all the other options will destroy you, assuming you're worth anything as a human being." A deep breath, he adds cautiously: "Now if my suggestion is painful to you because you already passed that point and can't go back, that's not what I intended."

"I know," Ramon says, grimacing. "I shouldn't have said all that stuff. It amounts to whining." He gives his head one final, quick shake, trying to pull himself together. "The point is passed," he agrees. "But I don't want to pass it again. So I do appreciate your suggestions. Right now I'm a bit lost. I haven't quite tackled it all as quickly as I should. Because I don't know where it's going. Because if I send people out to do it and they have to kill, or get killed, it's the same as pulling the trigger myself. Money is a weapon that's new to me. Last month my electric bill was three days from getting shut off. Influence. Same. Power. Same. Charisma? Lacking. What it all means is now my choices, good and bad, make bigger ripples, larger waves. I have to be careful how I start aiming that shiny new green weapon. I have done some good, and some bad, just with the little power I had before. The potential is only greater now. Yet I have to repair the damage. I can't just sit back and do nothing, because that, too, would give me no worth as a human being. I have to protect these people. I just don't know, anymore, how to do it, or where to start."

Lee listens, he adds with a shrug: "It's not whining. It's what you feel. What, I'm going to criticize someone for saying what they think? Not likely. Especially when it's clear you agree with me." He does? "Anyway, start with this. You didn't lose my mother. She walked out of that hospital on her own power. You might think it was this killer that made her do that, or this company covering for the dude, but you can't prove either one happened, and anyhow you're not responsible for what you can't stop them from doing. She was conscious for several hours before she left, and she didn't pick up the phone to call us. She was lost to us even when she was at that hospital." Which, if you think about it, is a horrifying thing to believe about your own mother, even if it's right. "So your immediate concern has got to be whether this guy - who is now dead…" No, he didn't miss that. "…has other victims out there we don't know about, or don't know where they are. Well, my first thought is this. I'm a psycho serial killer. But I have to pay my bills like everyone else. Fortunately, I can force people to do my bidding. I would suggest going back to the people who we know have been under his control and find out if they charged anything on their credit cards, opened accounts with any utilities, or paid anyone rent or for a motel room or anything during the time period they were 'under'. I assume you've linked this guy to several different locations? I would see if there is any physical evidence in those locations that point to any other. Rent receipts, motel keys, hell, even a grocery store receipt could give us a neighborhood. The worst case scenario is some victim is waiting by a phone somewhere for the next contact starving to death waiting for a voice that doesn't exist anymore." Lee is creative enough, a bit research-y, but creative.

Damn. Ramon stares at Lee as he provides direction. "Those…are exceptionally good ideas." A pause. "The only ones I know for sure who were under long term control were your parents. The only person who can pull that stuff would be you, or Nima. For the rest…" An exceptionally good set of ideas. They can't do anything until they know more, and they've come to the trail end of what they know.

Lee is modest enough, he waves away the compliment, "That's off the top of my head, I'm sure you can work out a million better ideas, if you actually found this guy you probably have some investigation chops of your own. Assuming this wasn't a cliché serial killer who was supposedly super-smart but eventually you just caught up to him by chance and his own dumb mistakes." Well…maybe best not to feed Lee /too/ much material at one go. "I'll see what we can do financially. I know there was never any activity on our accounts due to Mom and Dad after they disappeared."

Ramon nods his head, and takes out the same little day planner he always had, jotting down several ideas. Under 'check storm site' he now jots down all of Lee's. As a man of action having action feels better. And…well. Maybe he and Lee got somewhere. He jots down something on his card and hands it over. "Private number," he explains. Then he turns to go. He gets a few steps before he looks over his shoulder. "Thanks." And then he keeps going.

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