ysabetwordsmith: Damask smiling over their shoulder (polychrome)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem came out of the November 2015 [community profile] crowdfunding Creative Jam. It was inspired by a prompt from [personal profile] capriuni. It also fills the "personality clash" square in my 11-3-15 card for the Disaster Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by EdorFaus. It belongs to the Antimatter & Stalwart Stan thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

WARNING: This poem contains some intense topics. Highlight to read the spoilery warnings. Shiv can only stay good for so long, and then he starts acting up again. This is the rebound, where he starts roughhousing and picks a fight with Travis, which leads to Travis pinning him -- a lot more carefully this time -- against the floor. If you watch closely you'll also catch the quick little flashback that Travis gets from that, but fortunately the advance preparation lets him shake it off. Afterwards, Travis starts second-guessing himself and goes to Ambrose for more reassurance. So there's a lot of emotional angst and some physical conflict, but nobody really gets hurt. If these are sensitive issue for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before reading onward.


"The Limits That It Discovers in Itself"


Shiv made it a few more days
before he started bumping into people.

Travis watched him long enough
to make sure it wasn't just crowding
in the cafeteria or the hallways.

Shiv wasn't a big man and
he wasn't clumsy, but there he was,
knocking shoulders and pissing people off.

"Quit it," Travis warned,
keeping his voice low.

"Quit what?" Shiv asked
with an air of innocence that
fit him as badly as a halo on a devil.

"Stop bumping people on purpose,"
Travis said. "You know the rules
about respecting personal space."

Shiv just smirked at him and sauntered off.

The next day, he started nudging
Travis instead of the other inmates,
which would be an utter disaster
if he tried it with Martinez.

Travis held out one last hope
that maybe Shiv was just trying
to get some physical contact that he
wouldn't -- being a stubborn little pest --
simply come right out and ask for.

So the next time Shiv knocked him,
Travis caught him by the shoulder and
looked him in the eye. "Stop bumping into
me like that," he said. "It's rude, and I don't
disrespect you that way. If you keep it up,
there will be consequences."

The glint in Shiv's eye was the only warning
that Travis had before the scuffle started
for real, with Shiv trying to break away
and Travis now committed to restoring
some semblance of order.

The other guards did a fine job
of herding the crowd away, which
was one less thing that Travis
had to worry about.

He did worry that, at any moment,
Shiv would produce -- or make --
a weapon and stab him.

Travis was no match for superpowers.

But for some reason Shiv seemed
content to keep the struggle on
a purely physical level.

It was ridiculous, really, because
Travis had several inches on him and
at least thirty or forty pounds.

It only took a minute for Travis
to wrestle Shiv onto the floor and
pin him -- carefully -- keeping Shiv's face
cradled in the crook of Travis' arm because if
anything happened to that tender new skin then
Dr. Bloch would just about kill them both.

Pressed this close together,
Travis couldn't help imagining
his belt buckle coming to life and
slicing him wide open, but he did not
let go and the powered attack never came.

Shiv still squirmed, though, and
Travis was weirdly reminded of the month
that Joey had spent head-butting him in the nuts
until Travis had finally convinced him it was Not Okay
by sitting on him every time he tried it.

Maybe Shiv never had a big brother
to sit on him when he was being a butt.

The trick to this kind of restraint was
to wait out the person who'd lost control,
and ease up as soon as he quit fighting.
So when Shiv finally stopped wriggling,
Travis said in a bored tone, "Are you done?"

Shiv sighed, no more than a shift
of ribs and whisper of air. "... yeah."

"Hands," Travis said, giving Shiv
just enough room to tuck them
behind his back where Travis
could reach. "Now hold still
while I put the cuffs on."

The muscles were taut,
not fully relaxed, but at least
Shiv wasn't actively resisting anymore.
Travis fastened the handcuffs and then
checked the pulse just below them.

"Do not mess with my cuffs,"
he said firmly, tapping Shiv's wrist.
"We're getting up now."

Handcuffed, Shiv had no leverage
to stand up, so Travis boosted him
onto his knees and helped him up.

That was another important thing,
stepping down the force promptly
upon compliance, because the path
back to good behavior shouldn't hurt.

"Don't make any more trouble
on the way back to your cell,"
Travis said. "I believe that you
can do better than you just did."

And just like that, all the fight
went out of him, leaving Shiv
slumped against the wall where
Travis had propped him.


Well, that was weird.
And maybe worrying.

"Walk ahead of me,"
Travis said, giving him
a nudge just above
the handcuffs.

For once, Shiv obeyed
without any protest, either
verbal or nonverbal.

The walk gave Travis time
to wonder whether he'd done
some kind of psychological damage
or if Shiv's fool head had just taken
a while to catch up with the fact that
he'd picked a fight he couldn't win.

Travis also put some serious thought
into the promised consequences, of which
the prison afforded him a generous selection.

Unfortunately most of them had failed
to make any kind of impression on Shiv.
Not even private confinement did the trick --
Shiv could have bought his way out of that
long since, but hadn't bothered to.

So Travis thought about what Shiv
really seemed to hate -- and oh yes,
that gave him an idea to try.

When they got back to the cell,
Travis swiped his ID card and
tapped a short program into
the keypad on the door.

"Once I remove the handcuffs,
you go inside and sit on your bunk,"
he said as he worked the locks.

Shiv didn't even sneer at him,
just walked into the cell and
dumped himself on the bed.

Travis waved a hand and added,
"By the way, I turned off all
of your electronics except
the lights for one hour."

"An hour?" Shiv said, staring at him.

"One hour," Travis confirmed. "Have fun
explaining your little tantrum to Ambrose."

The shocked look on Shiv's face was
reward enough as Travis shut the door.

Outside, though, Travis leaned
on the wall and slowly bopped
his head back against it.

Then he went to Ambrose's office
and reported the whole encounter.

"Did I do the right things?" Travis said,
pacing back and forth. "I didn't injure him
this time. I checked. He seemed fine until
he stood up, and then -- I don't know,
he just sort of wilted on me."

"What was the last thing you said
to him before that?" Ambrose asked.

"That I knew he could do better," Travis said.

"Ah. That might have done it, then,"
Ambrose said. "Thank God you didn't
phrase it the other way around."

"Like what?" Travis asked.

"Being disappointed in him, or expecting
better and he'd let you down," Ambrose said.

"Also true," Travis said.

"It is, but the direction matters,"
Ambrose insisted. "Shiv needs
lifting up, not putting down."

"Yeah, but he doesn't tolerate
either very well," Travis said.

Ambrose sighed. "I can't argue with that.
Did you at least find the reading materials
and practice sessions helpful?" he said.

"Those helped a lot," Travis said.
"I'm not sure I could've gotten through
without them. Do you think that Shiv
will be okay? Well, obviously not okay
but I didn't break him any worse, did I?
That slump ... kind of worries me."

The only other time Travis had ever
seen Shiv shut down like that had
been during the chayne incident.

"If he actually submitted to you, that
could be a good sign," Ambrose said.
"He does have a subordinate mode,
judging from his gang history. He
just never uses it when it would
be socially appropriate."

"Now that you mention it, I've seen him
defer to the head honchos here," Travis said.
"Maybe this will help knock some sense into him
after all. Anyway, when I locked him down, I
turned off all the electronics for an hour and
implied that you'd talk with him after that.
Not to criticize your bedside manner or
anything, but uh, it was the only thing I
could think of that he genuinely hates."

Ambrose gave him a tolerant smile.
"I'm well aware of Shiv's opinions."

"Only now I'm wondering if I should've
left the screens on and everything," Travis said,
"because maybe he's getting up to something
in there and I could turn them on early --"

"If you said an hour, then leave it an hour."
Ambrose said firmly. "Shiv needs to learn
that you'll do what you say you're doing."

"You don't think I was too hard on him?
Or not hard enough?" Travis said.
He put his hands in his pockets
to avoid fidgeting with them.

"Shiv needs someone to be hard on him,
and right now, that's you," said Ambrose.
"He has me for working on soft skills,
and Dr. Bloch for a rocker. You just
focus on doing your part, Travis."

"I'll do my best," Travis said.
"Shiv is just so rebellious ..."

"A certain amount of rebellion is necessary
for growth," Ambrose said. "That's how
a mind learns to respect the limits that it
discovers within itself -- and that's what
allows different minds to meet at the edges."

"I guess I can live with that, as long as
it doesn't actually hurt anyone," Travis said.

"Don't worry too much about Shiv,"
said Ambrose, leaning back in his chair.
"An hour won't do him any harm, and
the emergency monitors are still on."

"Okay," Travis said. "If you're sure,
then I'll let you take it from here."

"I'm sure," Ambrose said.

Well, that was a load off his back.

* * *

Notes:

Aaaaand look who just leveled up! :D I noticed that Travis has been exercising a lot of courage under fire recently, so I've updated his character sheet to add Good (+2) Brave.

Travis Vanburen -- He has pinkish-fair skin, brown eyes, and dark brown hair buzzed short. He has a large frame and a layer of padding over his muscles. Travis has a little sister born when he was two and a little brother, Joey, born when he was five. Smarter than he looks, Travis does best with emotional intelligence and also excels at convincing people to do what he wants. He is fair and honest. He works as a guard at the Nebraska State Penitentiary in Lincoln. On the downside, Travis often jumps into situations before he has all the information needed to make the right decision. He's serious about making amends for his mistakes, though. After beating up Shiv, he makes a point of apologizing.
Qualities: Good (+2) Brave, Good (+2) Conscience, Good (+2) Convincing People, Good (+2) Model Train Collector, Good (+2) Smarter Than He Looks, Good (+2) Strength, Good (+2) Wrestling
Poor (-2) Jumps to Conclusions

* * *

"In order to exist, man must rebel, but rebellion must respect the limits that it discovers in itself - limits where minds meet, and in meeting, begin to exist."
-- Albert Camus

Shoulder checking is a common form of physical bullying or microaggression. It can be used playfully, but more often makes a challenge to the other person's right to walk around without being bothered. Know how to handle aggression.

Emotional boundaries are important for good health. Supporting teenagers requires understanding the role of rebellion in developing their boundaries and personalities. There are ways to handle toxic people who violate others' boundaries.

The average male American man's height is 177 cm, which is 69.7 inches, which is approximately 5 feet 10 inches tall.
I'm estimating Shiv around 5'8" and about 140 pounds, Travis around 6' and 180 pounds.

Security guards have a slightly different spectrum of force than police on the street, and it overlaps with that of health care facilities. There are many models, and for best results the staff should study a variety of them and think about how they work.

De-escalation involves verbal and physical methods designed to reduce conflict and risk. The less force used, the safer it is for everyone, because interventions pose risks. This is particularly crucial when dealing with supervillains, because they almost always outclass the authorities. In practical terms, you're relying on their willingness to tolerate a certain amount of restriction -- and there's a limit beyond which they simply won't. The reason that fight was as nerfed as it was is because, on some level, Shiv believed that Travis wouldn't really hurt him, and Travis estimated that the chance of Shiv using his superpowers was real but low.

Pinning involves pressing someone against a floor or other surface.

Brothers teach each other through play, sometimes rather rough. Know how to deal with annoying siblings.

Here is a very thoughtful discussion about the advantages and disadvantages of using pain to compel compliance. Even if you're only using methods that are uncomfortable instead of actively painful, it's vital to ease up as soon as the resistance lowers, because that associates improved conditions with nonresistance. If you keep hurting people no matter what, there's no point in them doing what you want.

Social dynamics include expressions of dominance and submission in the performance of respective rank. The interesting thing about Shiv is that he's not universally resistant to authority. It's just damn hard to earn the man's respect. Study the body language of dominance and submission.

Gangs often, though not always, have a definite structure of rank. Some of them also serve as family-of-choice. Shiv has passed through worse and better ones in terms of coherent organization and supportiveness.

Troubled youth often become indifferent to punishment, especially when it's not a worsening condition but rather their everyday life. It is important to discipline people according to their personality, because what one hates another may love. Here are some guidelines for customizing discipline.

Adults can build or break a child's spirit. Shiv isn't broken, but he sure is bent all to hell. This is complicated by the tendency toward shame and self-blame after trauma.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-12-26 02:45 am (UTC)
technoshaman: Tux (Default)
From: [personal profile] technoshaman
Way to go Travis! Now that he's taught Shiv what's *wrong*, it's up to the rest of'em to teach him how to do it *right*, and PDQ... otherwise he's gonna end up more like Brooksie and less like Red.

Re: Well...

Date: 2015-12-26 02:56 am (UTC)
technoshaman: Tux (Default)
From: [personal profile] technoshaman
It's not a quick process.

That's what I'm afraid of. If they do fast-track him out of there before he's ready....

Links

Date: 2015-12-29 01:30 am (UTC)
heartsinger: (Default)
From: [personal profile] heartsinger
The link to this on the Shiv series page does not work.

Re: Links

Date: 2015-12-29 02:59 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Now it works.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-02-11 05:39 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Woohoo! Travis is awesome!

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ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
ysabetwordsmith

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