Faith Under Fire

May 25, 2015:

After a few hours of comforting recovering Smooth addicts, Jean and Ororo run afoul of a significantly more belligerent strain of junkie. (Backscene started in May and finished in June)

Mutant Town, New York City

How many extra limbs can you spot in sixty seconds?

Characters

NPCs: Snowflame

Mentions:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

The X-Men left Lwak with every bit of data Doctors Curich and Pettigrew were willing to share, exchanged for a promise that they'd return as quickly as possible. Samples have been deposited in the lab, since then. Cerebro may or may not have been engaged, depending on what condition Jean was in following their surprise encounter with Sabretooth. Ororo wrote up a fairly detailed report giving her impressions of the situation, for all the good a report about Mother Earth being bled dry by a ravenous but potentially innocent lamprey does a man(or Beast) of science, but beyond that, all she can do is wait until it's time to return. Wait, and pray for the well-being of her countrypeople.

Wait, and pray for the well-being of her countrypeople, and try to talk a deranged Flash from the future out of doing something heinous; that last thing doesn't have a whole lot to do with Lwak, though.

Today, she's leaving a clinic in Mutant Town that's been dealing with the aftermath of the smooth epidemic by treating those who suffering through withdrawals out of a desire to give some of her attention to matters closer to home.

Fisk Foundation money has allowed them to begin expanding their facilities to meet the needs of a community wracked with addiction, but given all of a month to accomodate an unexpected flood of dozens of mutants with wildly out of control powers… it isn't enough. Not yet. They've had to make do with a cluster of modules in a vacant lot behind the clinic, each one outfitted with hospital equipment and retrofitted with armor plating. The flood of addicts has slowed in the weeks since the smooth market was crushed, but there are those whose personal stashes are only just running dry, or who managed to scrounge up some of the last remaining samples of the stuff from District X or beyond.

She would have at least tried to convince Jean to join her in volunteering for a few hours, but Phoenix is her own woman who may or may not have had things to do and suns to eat.

-

Is there a way to tell a persons intentions when you see them walk out of the front door without attempting to pry? Is there a way to say, where are you going, without putting restrictions upon a character and monitoring their every step? Is there any other way to feel the emotions of another that has that great need to 'Do Good' (tm), without using your God given gift without making it feel as an intrusion?

Could that be why that Jean was already there to help prep and speak to one of the most, torrid of mutants with powers most deadly down from the line and wire?

There were things to do alright, there was discussion with Slim time and time again that home needs fixing before the self is spread elsewhere. So it's a wonder as to why she was there herself, dressed down into smocks and a coat, nametag placed, nothing hidden and honest eyes and the way her stomach turns with sorrow as she listens to a woman within the corner of where they both sit, who has her long claws buried into her face.

The mutation of the day? Skin, razor sharp like a diamond, yet.. those were not diamonds, they were the starts of fingernails that would grow from the flesh that would give the woman a barbed like appearance. Every now and then, when the mood was right.. or wrong in her case, they would expand within her skin and strike out to the world, giving her the name of walking pincushion. Her mutation started early, but it was controlled with deep breaths and fear of touch.

With the Smooth? She was able to love. Without? She nearly killed that love and received ill looks. But a single cry upon a shoulder.. a hug there.. and all was right within her world.. assuming that Jean would return to check upon the young one..

But that was before.

Now? Jean could be seen wearing the same outfit, sneakers slightly tapping upon the ground as she waits for her hotdogs to be dressed just the way she likes, her stare almost vacant as she draws her head to a slight tilt to curl red hair along idle fingers. Repeatedly.

All she needed was bubblegum to cement that thousand yard stare.
-

Ororo discarded her smock and pocketed her nametag before they left, leaving her in a simple, but flowing blue and sea green dress with no sleeves. Most of her time was spent with a man who has a second mouth, right beneath his chin. On top of making scarves and high collars a required part of his wardrobe should he ever want to go out in public without drawing attention to himself, the mouth chattered incessantly, spilling every stray thought, every doubt, every fear, every little thing that most men would rather keep hidden. Nothing silenced it, save - sometimes - for sleep: no matter how many layers he wore over it, its murmurs always managed to leak out into the air around him.

It made for a sad, lonely life punctuated by misunderstandings— until someone showed him how to brew a magic blue potion that let him keep his innermost thoughts locked up safely for as long as it coursed through his veins.

Despite its name, it didn't actually do anything to make his neck any better to look at, but— he had plenty of scarves and high collars.

Ororo's ears were ringing by the end of their time together, but hanging out with someone who seemed willing to ignore his verbalized stream of consciousness did him some good, enough that she promised to return. She might have to see Henry about fashioning a set of earplugs that can tune out one specific voice before returning, but she did promise.

"Thank you again for joining me," she murmurs the vendor works, following a sip of bubble tea. Although she didn't place an order of her own - at this cart, anyway - she's close enough to her teammate to see the stare, which is probably why she's frowning despite the tapioca-laced treat and the do-gooding. "Those unfortunate souls… they need every bit of help they can get, and whatever treatment they're receiving now… it's little more than another step down a long and difficult road for them, I think. I only wish that we could do something to ease them along the rest of it."

-

Her finger was such a slow twirl, agonizingly slow, her eyes nearly drawing into half lids until the voice of Ororo draws her out of her stare, a warm smile pressed to sugar coated lips and a deep inhale taken. "You don't need to thank me." Jean finally speaks out, turning once the vendor-man gets her attention, offering over her hotdogs neatly wrapped into foil with all of the fixings. Thankfully, Jean carries a pack of gum within her coat pocket.

"There was a moment of foolishness on my behalf, where I thought that only chemical weaning was needed for those affected. At some point.. or rather, deep down inside.. I should have known that the Smooth is just something topical that covers the underlying problem."

Jean moves out of the way for another customer to take her place, her hand held up as she begins to unwrap her unhealthy treat, but she does not take a bite yet.

"I think.. as far as the road in the future, Scott is making plans to have the Red Team ask for reparations for those affected. Which I believe is a good start. I would like to offer those extended therapy as well, and hopefully a place at our school so they could start their lives anew.."

She glances towards Ororo, almost a little troubled, but she keeps whatever she thinks, quiet. "Hopefully McCoy has something up his sleeve as well."
-

"I don't need to, no."

Ororo's frown turns into a warm, if still concern-laden smile as she listens, and Jean makes room. Listening doesn't preclude her from drinking, but there's enough tea left that Jean's talk of reparations and root isn't accompanied by *slrrp*s— yet.

"It's possible that we'd need to expand," she quietly notes when the redhead mentions bringing some of the ex-addicts into the school, her tone thoughtful rather than chiding. "I'm not so sure that Charles imagined himself teaching quite as many students as opening our doors to the afflicted would bring— but then, knowing him, perhaps he's just been waiting for the proper excuse to grow."

Blue eyes are already on Jean when the redhead looks her way, but they shift to meet hers for as long as they remain pointed towards her. Nodding, she says, "If Henry isn't nearly ready to deploy some solution or another, I'd like to think that it's only because the myriad of other problems we face have wormed their way into precedence. That, or he's trying to figure out how to explain it iambically."

The goddess' smile widens around her little joke— and then it just about vanishes. She may lack Jean's gift for hearing thoughts, but thousand yard stares and sleepy hair-twirling speak volumes on their own. She begins walking, urging Jean to follow with a brief touch to the forearm if need be.

"What troubles you, my friend?" she quietly wonders after a few steps.

ELSEWHERE

Once upon a time, there was a priest who lived in Colombia.

The priest claimed a great stretch of jungle far away from prying eyes in the name of his god and built upon a temple, from which he could proclaim the Good Word far and wide, for while there were many the world over who worshipped his god, there was but one true priest in his eyes, and it was he. Indeed, as immaculate as his temple was, few were permitted to set foot on its holy ground, lest they face the terrible, swift swords of its guards.

One day, a traveler from the North come to help the priest spread his faith brought something else with him: the sacrament of a foreign god, calming and sweet where his Lord knew only the cleansing exultation of fire. At first, the priest was offended; how dare a false god be brought into his presence? But, with much convincing, the priest was convinced to try opening his heart to the foreign power, for despite the outward differences between the two deities, their ultimate purpose was the same: to brighten the otherwise harsh and unforgiving world with a spark that, for some men, could be found nowhere else.

Soon, the priest found himself questioning the faith that had guided him for so long. Troubled, he left his temple in the care of his deacons and went on a pilgrimage to the Great Apple of the North to study the foreign blue god's teachings more intensely, for he'd heard rumors that it was one of the deity's centers of worship. Indeed, he quickly learned that it was rich with the blue god's spirit— until, that is, heathens began assaulting the god's temples not only in the Apple, but all throughout the North.

In a matter of weeks, the priest - by then devoted to the soothing wisdom of the blue god - found himself suddenly cut off from his new Lord, left with little more than a few scraps of sacrament.

Since then, the priest has begun to grow desperate for another hit of divine enlightenment.

"You're holding out on me!" Snowflame roars to a man pinned to the floor of a shooting gallery beneath both his body and the pistol jammed against the base of his skull. "I KNOW IT! I CAN SMELL IT ON YOU! In your pocket— I can SEE THE NEEDLE STICKING OUT! TAUNTING ME!"

"N— no!" the man squeals and sobs. "No, I s-swear, nobody has any— nobody, not since— "

"LIAR!" Snowflame jerks the man's head off of the ground, then slams it back down. Blood quickly spreads across filthy linoleum. "TELL ME!" Another jerk, another slam. "TELL ME WHERE YOU'VE HIDDEN IT!" He wrenches the man's head back again. "TELL— "

"Oh God, oh God, okay, it's— oh God, there's a— there's a tile, that comes up, and— God, I just needed a little, just— just to keep me healthy a little while longer, but it's yours, just— please— don't kill me, and you can have it all! I promise, I'll even show you where it is!"

"Hmm," Snowflame rumbles as his fingers knot in the man's stringy hair. "Very well. Let's see what your life is worth to you…"

-

"..but you're doing it anyways." Jean finishes, finally dipping her head foward after extending her arms to take a bite without messing her coat, chewing rather quickly, another bite taken and then another, missing the ravenous feeling that allowed her to eat as such. She hadn't had bad food in a while, for most of what she cooked herself was healthy; everyone was allowed a cheat day.

"Oh, I'm very sure Charles imagined the expansion of the school. As you said.." She smiles a little, green eyes glittering, her words bringing forth ideas that she hadn't thought of before. "I believe if we put the idea of having a day care center somewhere in the mansion, he'll make sure there will be a few walls taken down and rooms extended.. so yes. I bet, five dollars, that he has the plans to make this all happen already drawn up and a crew on standby."

The little joke that Ororo mentions, happens mid bite, which has her curling her mouth tightly, staving off a laugh in favor of chewing and swallowing first. With a napkin pulled from her pocket, she dabs a little at her lips, the extra hotdog soon stowed away for later. "There are times when I'm glad that I'm a mind reader." And there it is.. the thought.. a blue bound tome that has the words inscribed.. 'Shit Hank Says'.. which includes funnies that may be.. 'All my tights and stars..' or something like that.

But then the age old question was put forth, which has that small drawing away, their walk bringing her near a garbage can in which the foil and napkin were soon deposited. "Everything.." She finally lets out, her bottom lip set to quiver but stops as she curls them into a frown. "We're all so spread thin.. namely Scott." She looks to her now, the absolute worry mangling her face.

And when I speak to people.. there is no longer the sureness that I am used to. No one is sure anymore, there is no faith almost.. people are coming, people are going.." She couldn't speak upon Scott but.. "I.. think this.. this thing? This Smooth? It's going to tear us all apart."
-

Ororo's eyebrows raise just a little as the hotdog is destroyed, but she says nothing. She respects cheat days.

An arm slips around Jean's shoulders once the redhead begins to share her troubles, responding to her fears of uncertainty with a firm, if brief squeeze before being withdrawn. "It was a blight, to be sure," she quietly replies. "Pulling us in yet another direction as HYDRA, the Brotherhood, Lwak, and a dozen other crises all demand every bit of attention we can give them. To say nothing of the allaying the fear and hatred of our fellow man. This world of ours… I worry, sometimes, that a day will come when some new trouble will arise to threaten our people, and we - spent and bruised from pushing back those that came before it - will not be able to hold it back. That our best will no longer be so— that we will be found wanting when we're most needed."

By the end, Ororo is looking straight ahead rather than allowing the concern flickering within her to be seen as well as heard, and her voice has fallen to a contemplative murmur. She takes another small sip of tea, then offers the lychee-flavored beverage over to her friend and teammate.

"If there is any silver lining at all," she continues, "it is that confronting that blight has reminded us of who we're fighting for— what we're doing. Really doing, beneath the names and the costumes. We're contemplating expansion, counseling… these are good things. Necessary things, even." The goddess summons a small, but genuine smile as she glances towards Jean. "Should it ever return in force, we will be ready for it. We will know how to fight it; one less battle to agonize over. Have you… spoken to Scott about this, at all? There are few I'd trust more than him to remain by our side when we need him, but— I do not necessarily trust him to know his limits; I can hardly blame you for being concerned for him, because I'm not entirely certain that he knows how to be concerned for himself."

-

If the world were a perfect one, now would be the time where Jean would just ask for peace. Peace between themselves, peace between the nations.. man vs mutant.. but that couldn't be. But if she had that power? That power that usually would burn bright in the sky to mark it's presense, that fills her very bones and allows her power unimaginable? It could happen.. thy will be done. But even that was such a dangerous game, even Scott was in possession of very, very old magic. She didn't see him turn into what she has.. but she was worried. And afraid. Deathly afraid.

But that was a secret that went untold, a secret that drew a tear fro her eye as she draws out a slight sniff, both hands pressed to her cheeks as she takes the one armed hug for all its worth, and is comforted.

"Yes.. it all has. And I know deep down that we're all left worrying, whether we voice it or not. And we all know that we need to take care.. just.. take care.." She sighs now, shoulders slumping, her pace slowing as she reaches out for the drink; a sip wasn't taken but it was held selfishly within her grasp.

"We are better prepared.. and from what I have been told, we are better allied with scientists, lawyers, doctors, politicians.. this.. Fisk person.." Someone still needed to reach out, to thank him for his efforts. Perhaps it could be her?

"I've spoken to him.. yes. There was a time I've asked him to check in with Dr. Richards for his health, but I am unsure if he actually went. I do not wish to bother him, he's a grown man but.. still. He knows I worry, and recently, I confessed my fear.." Perhaps Charles could be the one to speak to him, to tell him to slow down..

"But.. no more about me and my woes.. let's enjoy the day."
-

Catching sight of that tear makes Ororo's one-armed hug that much tighter. For that matter, once Jean unburdens her of her tea, she takes a big step forward and pivots to intercept the redhead with a full embrace and a murmur:

"It's very noble of you to care so much for so many… but even you must have limits on how much you can bear, Jean. Just as he does."

After that, she retakes her place by her teammate's side and resumes walking. Given the crying and sniffling and the concept of privacy, she doesn't press for further details regarding his reaction to that confession, but she does make a note to find a chance to speak with Scott— just to see for herself what state he's in when they aren't planning or operating. "You've got as big a heart as anyone I've ever known. Perhaps bigger, even; I hope that he appreciates your concern, even if he doesn't abide by it."

ELSEWHERE

*snrrrrk!*
*shnooork!*

"Yesssssss…" Snowflame hisses once the last line of Smooth has disappeared up his nostril. Sapphire flames begin crawling across his skin, casting shimmers through the air but no heat. The man whose drugs he just finished off stumbles away from the white-haired drug lord; nearly having his head blown off a raving lunatic was bad enough, and a flaming lunatic is worse still. "YES!" The Colombian throws his arms out wide, cackling as they bulge with newfound power.

"Uh," the other guy stammers. "Uh. Uh. Well. Uh. This was, uh. Yep. I'm just— "

Snowflame whirls on him, a mad grin etched across his lips. "Don't think I've forgotten you! I owe you for reuniting me with my god! A blessing, a benediction— here!" One arm snaps towards the man; he runs, but he isn't fast enough to escape the blue fireball that Snowflame sends after him. The force of it sends him hurtling through a window, covered from head to toe in flames that cover him utterly without consuming his flesh, burning without destroying. He screams in agony on the way out, but falls largely after hitting the pavement and bouncing a couple of times.

BACK WITH OUR HEROES

"You're right, though: it's rare indeed for us to have time to ourselves, free of the madness infecting so much of our world." With half a smile, Ororo asks, "Did I tell you about the other day? Why I had to drag that old Geo Metro out of the car pool and pray it made it all the way to Manhattan? I had this dream, and— "

Several blocks ahead of the two X-Men, a screaming man covered in blue fire sails through a window, bounces a couple of times, then just lays there, groaning and barely writhing.

-

Jean had to be careful and quick if she were accepting a hug from Ororo; for one, the woman was at least two inches taller than her, so a lean of her neck so that the pieces would fit of that embrace, along with an out stretching of a hand so that the hot liquid that burns within the cup does not scald the skin. "I know, 'Ro.. but I don't think that either of us could help it. No matter what. It's like ingrained in our DNA as people to do all that we can even though there's not much left of us to give." Her shoulders truly, positively slump as she leans against the woman, until that embrace was soon released and their stroll was continued.

"I hope that he is as well. There is so much going on with him right now. All I want for him is just a simple day, no fighting. No teaching. No managing. Just enjoying himself or at least a bit of peace and quiet." Oh, how she would love that..

".. You had to what? Ro.. please, let's go to the dealershi—.."

Did 'Ro hear it? Could she possibly feel it? The one time that she left herself open, she felt that palaple fear within the air, how it gripped and tugged at her heart which causes her to grasp at her chest and positively dig, the panic, the absolute violence on a soul that nearly rips her mind into that space, that space that she vowed to never return again.. her childhood best friend.. and her death.

The tea that she held was released, that feeling of time slowing as the other hand reaches out to grasp Storm's arm. She couldn't speak, but she damn sure could instinctively pass the feeling through the physical connection she had by instinct. She had to close her eyes to blot out the noise, to slowly slam those doors shut.
-

Tea and tapioca pearls spill across the concrete as Jean's(really, Ororo's) tea cracks open and splatters.

"We— " is as far as the wide-eyed weather goddess manages to get in responding to the sudden burst of violence before Jean touches her and an entirely different sort of violence explodes through her consciousness. Fear lingering in the air like the stench of rotting meat rolls off of the bystanders as the burning man falls, screans, then just lays there, but the man himself gives off little, if any real emotion after landing.

Fear is a memory, for him. Love, sadness, jealousy, wanting. Needing— all of the things that made him what he was slide into sapphire flame, utterly consumed and leaving little behind by a dyinh shell. His injuries - the fall, the fire raging across his skin without destroying it utterly - are catastrophic, but there's no sense of the agonizing pain that a man in his condition should be feeling; just a hot, blue void at the center of everything.

"— have to— " Ororo murmurs, unable to tear her eyes away from the dying man or concentrate on much of anything but the emptiness gnawing away at him.

Still ablaze with blue fire, Snowflame leans out of the window for a few seconds to study his handiwork, then draws away from the window to— drop onto a busted sofa, relax, and reflect on the beautiful and remote mysteries of his new patron.

Or, you know, nod out like a junkie who just shoved a bunch of super-smack up his nose.

Somewhat problematically for him, a few bystanders do take the opportunity to phone 911 after putting two and two together, but response times in Mutant Town can be somewhat unreliable.

-

".. do something? .." Jean has to breathe it out. Exhale, the slamming of the walls, exhale. From being pulled into the brink. Breathe. It only takes her but a minute to catch the burning embers of the body upon the ground, her gaze lit into something with fierceness, the crowd slowly gathering around the body to gawk and stare as one man reaches for the phone while another woman screams. A few people were wise enough to run, they didn't want the same trouble to befall them. And if some of them were illegal? They ran as well.

Jean finally receives the presence of mind to release 'Ro's arm, her foot slowly lifting as her TK immediately propels her into reaction. Her first modus operandi sends her sailing straight towards the man as her eyes look up from the perch at which he fell from, catching the blue flame at the tail end of his withdrawl.

"Back away, everyone! Go into your homes.." That was not a suggestion, it was a clear order with an output of urgency. 'Something was left on the fire.' 'There was nothing to see here.' 'It wasn't what I was imagining.' 'The police is here, we're safe again.'

It wasn't like her to push something into the minds of others but this was needed terribly; for as she leans and kneels near the dying man, the violence inflicted upon him, the blue flame still alight as she reaches out with a hand to grasp the burnt hand for signs of life.

And if it was there? She would dive.

To ease the pain of the suffering as she knew how. To block out the brain, whatever was left of it, to allow those feelings of euphoria and wonder to sift through. Jean knew it all too well; death was a beautiful thing if done right. The feeling of letting go, the feeling of peace.. to make that an allure for this man would be his final gift received.. 'Ro, she knew what to do next, and she would be right behind her friend.
-

Blue eyes shift to solid white as Jean takes her hand away. A rush of ozone permeates the air.

Ororo Munroe is gone; the black and white of Storm's Blue Team uniform has taken the place of her casual day wear.

At the same time, dark clouds race to gather overhead and cold wind whips down the street. Disengaging from the void in the man on the street - from the void in Bryce, whose name was one of many things to slide into the fire while Jean and Ororo were connected to him - leaves her so hungry to feel anything that whatever outrage she might normally feel in the presence of a stranger burning to death for unknown reasons is magnified several times over.

Lightning dances through the clouds, followed closely by rumbling.

Storm knows ''exactly'' what to do next.

The wind-rider races towards the building. People are dispersing and Jean is tending to Bryce, but— even if they weren't, and she wasn't, she caught a glimpse of blue fire in the window too. Some things demand justice.

Another peal of thunder splits the sky as Storm levels herself with Snowflame's floor, draws a hand back, and—

— hesitates. She can't get a clear glimpse of him, which leads her to considering where he might be that her lightning could reach him— or, alternatively, how much trouble it would be, really, to peel the building open and expose him.

That thought serves to snap her out of her fury; the clouds don't immediately depart, but the wind dies down, at least, and lightning stops flashing.

Unfortunately, all the sudden, inclement weather serves to draw Snowflame out of his brief reverie, and upon rubbing his eyes and striding towards a window— he is faced with the sight of a hesitating Storm hovering right in front of him.

She manages to avoid the resulting ball of blue fire by twisting and rising sharply away from the building, but it's close.

Bryce is not doing well, meanwhile. Burns are only just beginning to form on his flesh; painful as it may be, the sapphire flame is slow— or, perhaps more accurately, patient. One of his arms is bent the wrong way and the bone is showing. Glass is embedded all over his body.

Bryce is dying, and he doesn't care. He squeezes Jean's hand, barely, out of instinct, but the euphoria she tries to bring him slips into the burning void where his fear of Snowflame and terror over dying have gone. Given treatment, even stabilization - the nature of the fire means that the worst of his injuries are from the glass and the fall - he could perhaps even pull through this— but there's no hope, either, as if the rest of his body is just catching up to an already broken spirit.

This close, though— Jean might be able to find glimmers of something that the fire hasn't quite taken, yet: memories of a young girl, hazy and distant and sad and sweet and regretful, all at once. Laughter as she runs through mud, rice flying everywhere at dinner time, an engine that could; it's all that's left of him, a lifeline gradually slipping out of reach.

-

"It's alright.." Jean quietly says to the man. Even though the embers burned through her hand, she leans forward to carefully scoop the man, dragging his broken, and torn body to rest his head upon her lap. It was a horrific sight, that slow burn. But her hand presses to his cheek and chin to further the human contact, the last act of gentleness that he receives, a cradle from an unknown stranger who selflessly seeks to be his angel, to guide him into the light.

She quietly begins to hum as her body curls around him protectively, a slow rocking back and forth, her own powers blocking the pain receptors should it come, but she remains bound to the man though as she catches the glimpse and glimmer of a happier time. And it reminds her of her own. But she doesn't seek to overshadow her own memories of true happiness before the accident her first, best friend suffered. No. This was all about him.

She quietly begins to hum, right to the tune of the slow rocking, her lips pressing against his forehead in a kiss, her fingers still stroking against his chin as she glances upright, seeing 'Ro no worse for wear as her heart nearly leaps out of her chest. The memory that slipped from Bryce was held upon and forced into repeat, to give him the last moments of happiness, trying her best to fill the dying life with so much joy at having witnessed and heard such a sound..

But there was vengance within her eyes as she keeps her eyes peeled towards the window, a fire slowly burning which starts with the grips of her hair, rolling along her shoulders as her eyes burn brilliantly. Her mind was split, the focus divided, intent on bringing Snowflame towards the edge of the window as her mouth spreads into an open scowl that bears teeth that clench together.
-

"I will not be disturbed on this blessed day— I will not allow some harlot to distract me from basking in the light of my Lord!" Snowflame bellows as a gout of blue fire punches through a corner of the building. "My new Lord," he continues as Storm weaves around the flames, "merciful and wise, feared by infidels who would gladly purge this land of even its faintest traces. I have suffered for my devotion— " Snowflame ducks out of sight, but he can still be heard demanding, "— who are you to intrude?!"

"That depends, I suppose— " Storm tersely spits back, spiraling around blue fire until she's finally clear of it. "— for I am many things to many people: Friend, teammate, comfort. Accomplice. Mutant." Her arms spread as she tosses her head back and does a brisk, mid-air strafe towards the hole in the building. Wind howls and electricity surges along her limbs.

"Goddess— "

Sparks dance in her eyes as she passes the hole— only to catch sight of Snowflame hurling his worship couch through it at speeds that make evasion untenable. She manages to avoid taking it head on, but the furniture still clips her leg and sends her tumbling into a landing that is only vaguely mitigated by controlled pulses of air just before the moment of impact.

"Blasphemer," Snowflame correctively sneers afterwards.

Thanks to Jean's encouragement, Bryce finds himself with a brief spell of happiness that seems to last forever as recycled memories punch through blue emptiness and fill his last moments with joy. He's barely aware of her, but the humming offers a gentle soundtrack for his final memories, and the warmth of a body not wracked with fire makes slipping into oblivion that much easier to bear, now that he remembers he had something to live for.

He's certainly unaware of what else Jean does as she eases him into the good night— which is kind of a shame, because it'd probably offer a modicum of comfort if he could see the smirk falling from Snowflame's features as he is jerked uncontrollably towards the same window he fell from.

"What— " Snowflame sputters, eyes darting around the street for several seconds before landing on the burning X-Man. Who he doesn't immediately associate with his plight, because she's burning and he's being yanked towards a window.

"What manner of devilry— " Blue fire rains down from the hole and window both as the drug-worshipping drug lord panics and tries to fight being moved. "— know that you toy with forces beyond your ken, infidel!" he loudly warns his assailant.

-

Even though he was nearly dead and gone; Bryce, would be alright. She wasn't sure what god he worshiped or even if he believed, but she was sure that transgressions such as his could be forgiven. For her own? It was a kind one, and one she had hoped, would revel in their vengance and justice as well. But she remained transfixed upon the fight going on above ground, the song itself trailing off into nothingness as the last breaths are taken, obvious tears drawing from her eyes as she gives a few last, longing, and comforting strokes to the dying mans chin.

Her face burned red with anger, as she slowly drew the man from her lap, slowly drawing away the connection but the memory would always remain. The laughter of the little girl, the play time at dinner.. and that girl who would never see that man again.

She was slow at drawing herself upright, her shields immediately drawn upright as she places the full weight of her mental prowess upon Snowflame. She doesn't stop, dragging him to that edge with that force and keeping him pinned there as she soon disappears from sight. She was going through the front door.

She was taking her time.

Jean Grey, has officially snapped.
-

Storm does a few rotations across asphault before catching herself and ending up in a three-point stance.

Given another second or two to push her cape off of her head, she's able to look around and see that Bryce is alone, there's no sight of Jean, and Snowflame is just sort of pressed against the windowsill, raking the street and buildings below with fire that erodes the non-living surfaces it touches instead of burning. "Coward— show yourself! Release me! RELEASE ME, and PERHAPS I will bless with with a taste of mercy— the touch of sweet, cobalt nothingness that will cleanse you of the impurities of this broken world!" he rants all the while.

Jean probably didn't retreat.

"J— Ph— damnit, woman— " Storm quickly gathers herself to her feet as she takes one last look around, and then she flies towards the hole in the building to flank the trapped drug lord. A fresh gust of wind blows through the dingy unit as she touches down inside.

"I would suggest surrendering," she sharply informs Snowflame, who regards her with a quick glare over the shoulder and a noise of anger. She doesn't seem terribly put off by it as she briskly moves towards the door out. "Things are only going to get worse for you from here, otherwise; I would tell you to pray, but given the circumstances…"

She leaves on that note as Snowflame spits, "You and your 'accomplice'— I will make sacrifices of both of you!" because if Jean didn't run away, there's a pretty good chance that she's somewhere in the building. Which makes trying to find her before she makes it up to Snowflame's apartment a priority, so that they can coordinate, plan.

Make sure there's anything left of Snowflame for the police to collect.

-

Jean could hear the screaming from where she was, the casual walk that she took through the apartment building afforded her the right to take the stairs. As those who currently inhabited the building peeked from their doors, a hand passes over their vision which allows them to back away and collapse upon their sofas, set to dreaming. Doors were shut and locked from the inside soon after, making sure that they were locked away and asleep. At least she had a presense of mind to do that.

She could hear their voices, close as she was, one more flight of stairs towards Snowflames doom. But, that was alright. If he could cause another suffering? So could she. So would she. So should she.

For all that replays within her mind hence forth is the visage of the little girl, the play at dinner, the laughter that carried through the air about her, and the joy the man felt at his final moments.
-

Phoenix locks doors, clouds minds, rounds the last corner towards Snowflame's door with warm memories and vengeance at play in her mind.

"Jean."

Storm has planted herself in front of the door, tense but trying not to let it bleed into her stance too much. Her expression is somewhere between concern and distress; she is still managing to speak in her teacher's voice, calm and firm.

"He's essentially beaten, my friend…" The scowl took her by surprise; there's a slight hitch in her voice. She was expecting anger, certainly - she'd felt plenty of her own, after all - but one look at Jean and she can't help but want to edge back towards the door.

She doesn't, but the desire is there, in the pit of her stomach. Instead, she raises her hands, palm facing her fellow X-Man.

"Venting impotent anger, ranting… the police were called, weren't they? All we need to do is subdue him— prevent him from causing more harm to the city…"

MEANWHILE, INSIDE

"— ON THE ALTAR OF MY LORD AND LADY OBLIVION, SO THAT YOU SHALL TWIST FOREVERMORE IN THE ANNIHILATING FOLDS OF HIR BOSOM— " Snowflame bellows as a drug store's sign melts away to nothing.

-

She was almost to the place where she needed to be, until her path was halted by one of her many true friends. Possibly the only one who could pull her out of this cloud of anger she wrapped herself in. There was a glare set forth, one wrapped in fire that slowly drips down to her shoulders, encasing her upper body with the threat to burn away the flesh and leave all bone. But that wouldn't happen. Thankfully as well, she shielded 'Ro as soon as she saw her, in case the man managed to turn, to hurl his own personal fire backwards.

"He needs more." She takes a step forward, but does not pass. "He needs more than to be jailed, to be subdued."

The police were indeed called, for their sirens should hit the street proper any minute, but none of that mattered anymore. Not right now. All she could think about was the little girl, the little girl that would be missed. "He needs to pay, Storm. He needs to pay.." She was nearly breaking, she couldn't believe what she was saying, how she felt, how thirsty for blood that she had become. Has she really fallen this far? Back into that.. murderous intent that didn't belong to her? "I'm so tired.. Storm.. I'm so tired.. we're all tired…"
-

Storm inhales deeply as she steps close enough to lay her hands on Jean's shoulders. Shielded though she may be, ''Jean is on fire'' and that makes contact a rather tense proposition.

Assuming that the shield protects her, she gradually relaxes her stance as she gently replies, "It isn't for us to take lives so freely— to make ourselves into executioners in the name of vengeance. Jean… Phoenix… " The wind-rider swallows as the blue returns to her eyes. "… I share your rage, but we can't allow it to rule us. You cannot allow it to rule you— to make you less than who you are. He will pay. He will— the law will see to it that he does. And…"

INSIDE

Snowflame can hear them talking about him. About what to do with him, how to punish him— as if they could. As if the laws of Man had any power over one anointed by the divine.

"— THE OTHER UNBELIEVERS IN A HELL OF YOUR OWN MAKING— " Snowflame's stream of crazy grows tense as he strains against Jean's telekinetic might, struggles to turn himself — just a little — towards the door. Just enough to edge his palm towards it— towards them—

OUTSIDE

"… perhaps, if we are truly fortunate, the experience will"
"
AN ENDLESS OCEAN OF YOUR DARKEST DREAMS!"

Blue fire bursts through the door. Chunks of flaming wood pelt telekinetic shields moments before fire washes over them.

Assuming that Jean's concentration holds, the shields should too; mad as he is, Jean is likely madder.

-

'Ro was indeed immune to the fire that spreads across her skin. Jean's shielding has gotten so good over the years that it's become precise. The shield wraps around fingers, remains so close and so tight to the skin, yet expands and buffers when there's a hit. But at this point? The shield comes from her own being, just as the fire. It would not hurt her even if the shield wasn't there. "But.." Jean stammers, the fire itself slowly dying away, her head shaking as her bottom lip begins to tremble. There was nothing to stop the tears from falling, as well as the hitch in her breath from coming. The lump within her throat was so prominent that she was barely unable to talk. "Why?"

Indeed, her telekenisis faltered enough for him to turn, to fire enough of his blue flame to wash over them, against them. And the assessment was right. Jean was mad. Mad as hell.

Her hand lifts to grip the wrist of Storm, drawing away from her shoulder as she tries to step aside, pushing through that cracked frame as the fire begins to dance all over her skin. The heat that wafts from her was so intense that it begins to burn the medical coat that she wore. That fiery hand lifts, fingers twisting to draw his face to theirs, his body beckoned from his perch that she gave him upon the window sill to drag him agonizingly slow to face her.

"You quiet your ranting, you mewling curr. A new god has risen this day. A god of your own making!"
-

Woman to woman, no powers in play, Storm might have decent odds of outgrappling Jean and keeping her back. As it is, though— the only thing keeping Jean's fire from scorching the wind-rider is Jean herself.

All in all, it makes trying to box her out a losing proposition because ultimately, the fire grows too hot and Storm staggers backwards, leaving plenty of room for Jean to stroll past her into the apartment.

"Phoenix— "

Sapphire fire clashes erratically and uselessly against telekinetic force, growing bright as Snowflame is drawn closer and Storm picks herself up to hurry after her friend and teammate.

"Jean, you are not a murderer!"

"There are no gods but the twin deities of the blue and white! Oblivion and— "

"Shush!"
*ZAKT!*

A bolt of lightning sears by Snowflame's ear after Storm's silencing gesture, blackening the wall behind him.

"This blasphemy will not stand!" Snowflame growls, quiter but still defiant.

Heaving a sigh, Storm positions herself beside the acolyte and the self-named god, then sucks in a breath and makes a grab for Jean's arm, meaning to squeeze tightly despite the fire.

"Give him a taste of the pain he's caused, if you must— seek out that man's family and offer them comfort, if you can, but this… this will not bring him back…"

-

Decent odds? Even though they trained under the same roof, Ororo probably could wipe the floor with Jean in a heartbeat. But with all of that aside, she was focused. Her mind was on a tear with those visions left behind, her teeth gritted in a sneer as she draws the man down to his knees. Her burning hand reaches out, fingers slender, in a slow reach towards Snowflame, destined to touch the mind of the man, to blow a hole right in the middle of his head with her TK.. but yet..

The hand grasps her through the fire, which immediately extinguishes itself for Storm's safety. Yes. Her focus was taken away not by the thunder that was aimed near the mans ear, but by touch. By companionship. By friendship.

Her shoulders slump almost immediately, her head slowly lowering as that hand soon reaches out to lightly smack Snowflame's cheek. That smack alone wasn't devastating, it put him right to sleep, a sleep that sends him to the ground.. unharmed.

There was nothing more that she could do. She almost crossed that line. And she felt so.. so ashamed.

"I can't.." She murmurs as she turns, immediately drawing herself close to Storm to wrap her in the tightest hug that she could imagine. And she just lets go. The tears, it all comes forward, whether she wanted to or not.
-

And just like that, Snowflame nods out harder than he's ever nodded out before.

"Shhhh…" Storm whispers. Her arms wrap around her teammate in turn. Fingers rise to stroke through hair and the goddess gently sways from side to side. "Whoever this— man is, something must have snapped in his mind to make him so— enthusiastic in his disregard for life. Perhaps— perhaps, once he is in the hands of the State - his or ours - he will find someone able to help him— to make a person of him again."

Unfortunately, try as she might, Ororo cannot manage to sound entirely certain, here; she's seen enough of the world to know that not everyone necessarily wants to be rehabilitated. She sounds hopeful, at least, if nothing else.

"This is but one of several brave acts you've managed to wring from the day," she quietly says. "You should be proud."

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