A Needed Escape

September 30, 2015:

Elizabeth, Emma and Jean take a trip for the weekend to England.

Characters

NPCs: Jaime Braddock, Brian Braddock, servants, pilots, driver.

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

The flight over to England was, initially, going to mostly involve a long and noisy flight in a cargo ship. Emma's personal plane had obviated the need for negotiating a shipping contract. In fact, it'd take a few stern remonstrations from Emma to keep Betsy from sneaking into the cockpit multiple times- the entire point of this trip was, after all, to /relax/.

Landing at a private air strip had made the entire experience extremely pleasant and low key. Naturally, Emma had arranged a limosine to pick the women up and deliver them to the Braddock estates in Essex, a fairly short trip from the small landing pad.

Staring out the window at the perpetual thin drizzle of rainwater from overhead, Betsy compresses her brow against the glass, her expression alternating between a pleased expression at homecoming and pulling a face at the cloudy grey overhead.

"Blimey, dear old mucky, muddy Essex," she sighs, fingertips drumming on her crossed knee. "It never rains but it pours around here. I don't miss the perpetual monsoon seasong." She sips at her diet soda, a neat addition to the little minibar in the back of Emma's luxurious stretch accomodation.

It was a trip that was mostly met with silence from the red head. The initial take off was met with a slight hint of nervousness, enough to cause her stomach to flip flop and excuse herself to relieve her lunch in the bathroom. It has been a very, very long while since she was away from the estates. Not on a mission, not traveling for her PHD, not kidnapped and super-brainwashed and forced to do anothers bidding..

But the jitterness waned down once she picked up a book from her ratted backpack, crossing one denim clad thigh over the other, not objectively ignoring the two women but keeping quiet and focused upon the words to ease her troubled mind, and topsy-turvy tummy.

But thank goodness for private accomidations, by the time they touched down Jean felt a little jet-lagged but grateful to be leveled with the earth, that same book clutched within her fingers as she too stares out of the window, lips pressed into a thin line as her shoulders remain raised and slightly stiff upon the defense of something unknown, or at least waiting for the shoe to drop to ruin a what could be.. perfect get away.

"I don't mind it one bit." Jean finally speaks up, "I rather like the rain."

Of course, Emma first offered the use of her plane because she and Betsy where supposed to be going to Paris to go shopping. But when prevailed upon by the purple-haired asian Brit to use the same trip to ease the crankiness of her bossy sibling, Emma complained and acquiesced. "Very well, Elizabeth. If you genuinely feel this is best, we can change the flight plan to Essex. But if your dear Brian takes that tone with me, he will find himself reeducated, I assure you."

When Betsy then wheedled to include her redheaded best friend, Emma almost pulled out. It's not that she dislikes Jean; she doesn't. But she is keenly aware that the wonders of shopping the runways and boutiques of Paris will be almost completely lost on Jean, and for Emma such was the entire point of the journey. Still, as surprising perhaps to Emma as to anyone else, she agreed. The words 'too easy' come to mind.

The flight left from a private terminal, the plane a top of the line G650, crewed by consumate professionals, including a female pilot, male copilot, navigator and two cabin stewards. And the most sumptuously comfortable private travel accomodations in the world.

Which, as predicted, are completely lost upon Ms. Grey.

Emma splits her time between chatting softly with Elizabeth, and reading through documents and materials on a StarkPad, getting business done despite doing so at 60,000 ft. No in-flight video conferencing, but that's because she doesn't feel like it, not because she can't.

And don't mind Emma, if she's gently but thoroughly mapping every eddy of Jean's outward mind - without actually penetrating her shields - all to look for any lingering elements of her time as MacKenzie.

Once they land, Emma settles in the limo and watches the other two curiously, waiting as it were for the other shoe to drop. "How was your reading material, Jean?" One might almost think they had nothing at all to discuss, rather than Emma having been a rather key ongoing part in trying to help Jean recuperate from her ordeal.

"I spent most of my life trying to get /away/ from the rain, darling," Betsy says, one foot swinging in an absently irritated cresecent at the end of her leg. Still, her eyes brighten a bit when they pass under a road marker that prompts the limo driver to take a turn off the main highway, heading towards what looks like a much less densely developed area on the edge of the county countryside. It's a strange thing in England- there are almost no trees. None growing wild, anyway. It's all rolling hills where there aren't buildings elbow-close due to the dense urban sprawl.

So the few dozen trees off the distance seem to pique Betsy's interest for obvious reasons, and she fishes in her back pocket for her ever-present compact to give her flawless makeup and hair a critical once-over. An odd expression of excitement and apprehension crosses her face, along with a bit of remorseful loathing and resignation.

After all, it's family.

All of the fashion, glitz and glamour was indeed lost on Jean. But she was a woman who had certain interest which she keeps close to the vest. Say for instance, a nice pair of expensive pumps and a little black dress that would possibly cost more than her wardrobe combined. A hairdo that also costs two hundred dollars and a manicure that was probably a grand. Granted, those prices were a little bit inflated but.. the drift was there. Every girl at least wants to look pretty, confident.

Every now and then.

Jean was immediately pulled from her thoughts as she glances over towards Emma, her brows lowering just a touch, not knowing or at least willing to see that she was lightly being scanned, her shoulders lifting albeit briefly and falling in the same pace. "It's Dean Koontz. I've always enjoyed his prose and imagination. He's a fascinating mind." She lifts up the book, decorated a shiny red with a key embroided upon the cover. 77 Shadow Street. The AI almost reminded her of Danger.. that one time.

"You don't find something soothing in all of this dreariness?" The need to cuddle up with a lover, to draw yourself beneath the blankets for R&R.. a damn nap..

"Soothing dreariness?" Emma questions, her voice deceptively soft-toned, without her usually incisive, even vicious barbs. Sounds tantamount to wallowing in depression to her, and she has the psychological experience to know it when she feels it. "No, I do not. Nor do I appreciate what it does to my hair, let alone my wardrobe." She of the eternally pristine white outfits is not going to appreciate mud, muck and mire. Not at all.

"So, beyond Skype, when was the last time you were face to face with Brother Dear, Elizabeth?" Emma inquires. A few moments' key preparation, before they arrive at the target.

Betsy knows full well the angle of Jean's thoughts, and shoots her a look that's mostly agreement with the notion and fully against the contrivances of foul weather. "It's hard to enjoy a pleasant ride in the country fully when you've a driving channel rainstorm pounding your face," she says, though the argument sounds a bit weak even to her ears.

"I haven't seen Brian face to face in… hmm. Well," she sighs. "Since well before this," she says, gesturing at her gestalten form. "We met and talked briefly shortly before SHIELD discharged me, but it was by necessity a brief chat. He… understood. He took some /convincing/," she says dryly, "but he at least didn't run screaming."

The limo pulls up, and Betsy starts savagely twisting her ponytail in both hands, staring out the window with an otherwise unreadable expression despite the risk of tugging her purple hair out by the roots. The estate is quite small by colonial standards- definitely more of a mansion than a castle, three levels high and with long wings in either direction. It's in fact smaller than the Institute /or/ Xavier's private home, by a fair margin- but expansive given the dense use of real estate in England.

Betsy doesn't wait for the limo driver to open the door, stepping out and making sure her jeans drape correctly, when she spots two men standing at the entrance to the estate proper. She's of a height with them, though one is more slender than she, and the other is a bear of a man, built on a scale with the likes of Piotr and towering over Betsy. She moves away from Jean and Emma and stops near the men, and they collectively fall into an embrace, hugging each other and chatting with an obvious but restrained enthusiasm for their reunion.

Well before any exclusion could be percieved, Betsy rounds on Jean and Emma and gestures smoothly from her friends to the two men.

"Jean Grey, Emma Frost- this is Jaime Braddock, my eldest brother," she says, fingers flicking at the slender fellow- who affects something that mostly resembles a smile and bows, a bit cooly. "And this clambering lummox is my twin, Brian." She gestures at the other fellow, who steps forward and offers a large but gentle handshake to Jean and then Emma.

"You'll have to excuse Betsy," he says in a cultured and urbane tone that precisely matches Betsy's, but with a surprising warmth and depth of character to it. "She's a minute older than I am, but I got the height. And the looks, according to Auntie Gertrude," he says, with a sly, sidelong glance at Betsy, who rolls her eyes expressively at the hulking blonde fellow.

A slight 'tsk' is given towards Elizabeth, but she doesn't say what for. Rain in her face, just enjoying the simple touches of nature, was something that.. possibly yes. A depressed mind would enjoy. However..

"You think you have it bad? Natural redhead. We can't fight the frizz no matter how much product we tend to abuse ourselves with." A little chuckle is given, and soon she draws herself into silence, gaze focused through the windows and out ito the road as they begin their approach to the Braddock Manse. There was no hint of excitement or wonder that boiled from the woman; she was but a blank slate if anyone could read her, all movement and no thought, especially once they exit the personal vehicle as she takes care to take what little droplets of rain would fall from the awning, off.

The display was a curious one, as well as the hug that was exchanged, introductions were made and Jean finally draws upon an inner light as her smile widens and her hand stretches out to grip the larger man's hand with a slight bow of her head. "Pleasure to meet you, Mr. Braddock." But of course, he may just say that is his fathers name..

"Owing, no doubt, to his own forays into the strange and less explained. Still, I am glad that he was able to accept you for you." Emma offers, uncharacteristically. She never bothers to mention what such a thing could mean to another, such as herself. Emma certainly was never accepted for who she was by anyone important in her life. And yes, to those who understand that, it becomes a true Rosetta Stone to the understanding of Emma Grace Frost.

Emma is keenly aware of the habits of English construction and size, and so better aware than most non-natives of just how truly grand this home and its estates may be within their context. But she says nothing, merely looking about herself with interest if not avarice.

"I daresay, Jean, you have little difficulty with such matters." Emma opines. Jean never has a hair out of place, or so it seems to her, and certainly does not seem to suffer any style mishaps, for all she is certainly not the shopper Betsy and Emma have both proven to be. "More product is certainly not the answer." Emma's stylist would cringe at such a thought.

When the car stops, Emma waits for the driver to open the back door and hold it, and then she emerges, stepping under the crisp white umbrella held by the same driver. She then accepts accompaniment to the awning in question, and the family reunion ongoing. Something dark slides across her gaze as she watches the two brothers and their sister together. But Emma says nothing, until she reaches out a hand to accept Brian's when it is extended.

There is still a shadow in her gaze as she meets Brian's and Jaime's. "I can assure you, Misters Braddock," Emma offers, addressing both men, "few in all the world can hold a candle to your dear sister." But the two women here with her certainly seem close to the mark.

"We're /twins/, you colossal dolt," Betsy says through gritted teeth. Almost immediately, she realizes he's clearly baiting her- and an instant later, realizes she fell for it. So she scowls at him again for wont of a clever rebuttal.

"Please don't mind either of them," Jaime says, holding a hand up to apologize for Betsy and Brian as they clearly set themselves to a mind of wrangling. Both manage to look a bit abashed as he intercedes, his cultured elocution making up for a lack of the crispness Betsy carries or Brian's easy manner about it. There's something a bit distracted about him, eyes constantly flickering as if checking shadows in the corners of his vision. Still, his smile, though wan, is politely restrained, and he clasps hands european-style with Emma and Jean. "They were fighting in the womb," he observes dryly.

"Come- please," he says, gesturing at Jean and Emma. "Quarters have been appointed for you. You'll be staying in the guest rooms near Elizabeth's. We can have hot towels and tea sent up shortly if you'd like?" He strolls inside, gesturing for the girls to follow, as aporter collects their bags.

"Everyone knows I'm the one with the looks, anyway," he murmurs, as Brian and Betsy glare at one another.

"Two hours every morning there abouts. And a lot of heat." And the occasional visit to the hair dresser that's highly affordable. Though Jean may not be fashionable and on the up and up with her looks; but she sure does know how to penny pinch and get the best deals for her bucks. "Naturally it's not the answer, but more product is what works." For now, she was sure that eventually, someone is going to sit down and give her the what for.

The display of the familial bond despite the obvious differences does warm Jean a little; a touch of sadness that tries to rise soon hidden and tucked down into the surface, her lips pursing into a thin line as she glances off towards the horizon until she was pulled from that gaze with a motion onward and inside..

It took little to no time for Jean to be shown her personal quarters; the entire passage was met with a wonderous eye. She couldn't believe how immaculate the place looked, but given who Elizabeth was, she was not surprised. But once she was left to her own devices and in private, she slowly peels her jacket from her body to toss upon the back of the chair that sits in front of the amoire, sneakers soon peeled off with a press of her toe against a heel and then another.. and soon a rapid faceplant down upon the softness of the lavish bed, and a sprawl that would make a toddler jealous.

The real and warm interplay between the siblings unleashes a storm of darkness behind the pale blue eyes of Emma Frost. She says nothing. Her face, a mask that obeys her every order, shows nothing. But in the presence of two noted telepaths, it is not hard for them to notice the stormclouds raging behind that pristinely sealed metal wall. Emotion, pure and simple. Emotion Emma would never allow another to witness. Emotion Emma cannot deny, for all that she would try.

Emma did not realize they were really here for a protracted visit, but she says nothing; to interrupt would merely be churlish and ill-tempered. Instead, she follows without a word, just a simple nod as her strides ring out on the old stone. Those heels are anything but subtle.

Shown to her own room, Emma inspects every tiniest detail, all without once lifting a hand in something another could witness. She knows the thread count of the sheets, the material, cut and make of the rest of the bedding; the wood, stain and age of the bed and other furniture. She, of course, does not travel light. Poor porter. But Emma waits until all of her things are delivered before thanking the man. She does not tip, as this is no hotel. But once she is assured of being alone, Emma settles into a chair, puts in her earbuds, and activates the music on her phone, letting soothing white noise fill her awareness and help her blot out everything … including those disturbing thoughts and feelings.

"Emma?"

Betsy reinforces the gentle verbal nudge with a mental prod, repeating herself and waiting for Emma to invite her in to the room.

Once accepted inside, she moves to the edge of Emma's bed and settles on it, smoothing her hands on the back of her thighs and sitting on her palms. "I'm sorry you saw that," she says, lips twisting into a wry expression. "Brian drives me mad, and he always knows just how to irritate me. Sometimes I think he does it to compensate for being such an overgrown wanker." She glances around the room, which while not 'lavish' in the explicit sense of the word, is nonetheless very tastefully appointed in a very old-world style. "I know it's not quite the Ritz-Carlton," she apologizes. "We shan't be here long," she assures Emma. "Dinner at least, and then we can drive into town and find you a proper hotel with room service."

She regards Emma, then sets aside the chattering line of conversation and looks directly at her friend. "I'm not of a mind to pry into your affairs, darling," she murmurs, "but you seemed quite cross when we got here. Something seems a bit amiss. Do you care to talk about it? Or should I shove off?" she asks, sounding as if either option wouldn't necessarily hurt her sensitivities. She knows well that Emma has some sore spots in her personal history.

The gentle mental prod causes Emma's awareness to flicker. She considers for a moment, and then responds in the affirmative as she turns off the music stream, removes the earbuds and puts them away before moving to open the door - which was not locked; but of course, Betsy would be proper and genteel enough not to enter until the occupant opened the door herself.

Once Betsy is in, Emma returns to her seat, regarding the other woman calmly. "You've no need to apologize, Elizabeth. You are entitled to time with your family, in whatever manner to which you have all grown accustomed. As your guest, it is expected that I would accept and not criticize such matters, especially if they be beyond my experience."

Emma shakes her head. "The room is quite fine, Elizabeth. There is no need for a hotel. But if you would prefer, I will gladly depart rather than bring my own personal shadow into these hallowed grounds." Yes. Emma will go. If Elizabeth thinks that is best. Because surely Emma's presence disturbs the warm, familial atmosphere that belongs in this place. Like an iceberg disturbs the Titanic.

"You know, better than most, that my family life was not positive, nor uplifting." Emma offers by way of Betsy's caring if awkward inquiry. "Seeing the genuine warmth and caring, mutual support and understanding between the three of you reminds me clearly of all that I will never have. Of all our dear father managed to strangle to death lest it sprout weakness, or humanity." The worst part? She's not even kidding. She's downplaying how bad it was, and the scars it has left upon her psyche, at depths most can barely imagine.

"I know, but it seemed gauche to simply trot that out as an opening line," Betsy responds, with a perfectly polite tone that's just a bit playful- her equivalent of being disarming. It's the sort of cerebral humor only Jean and Emma would really appreciate, albeit perhaps not find particularly funny.

"I'd prefer you find some comfort here, if that's possible for you," Betsy says, rolling one shoulder politely. "I've become rather a bit attached to you. To the point where you hardly need hide behind a verneer of propriety if you've an opinion to express. I know family is an uncomfortable topic; so I appreciate it all the more when you make such an effort to accomodate mine. If you were hoping to see a perfect family, though, this is quite the wrong place. Our parents passed when we were quite young, so it was just the three of us coming up," she reminds Emma, uncrossing and recrossing her legs. "Brian was a spindly little wisp of a fellow until uni, when he sprouted eight inches and found a gymnasium, and Jaime's still an incorrigible nerdling." She rolls her eyes expressively. "I'll wager ten quid he brings a book to dinner. Brian, at least, doesn't bring science experiments to meals. He went through a phase where he was studying biology. Ghastly," she shudders.

"At any rate," she says, thumping the bed. "You're quite welcome to stay, but I shan't feel insulted if you'd be more comfortable being in town. I thought I'd avoid any potential misunderstandings," she explains, flashing a rare smile at Emma. "And I wanted to thank you again for letting us stop in on the way to Paris. I know it's a bother, but it means a great deal to my brothers."

Ever so polite to one another and around one another, it is little wonder that Emma and Elizabeth can manage to accomplish the connection they have; they operate much the same way, even if the outward trappings are rather different. "If you would truly prefer me here, Elizabeth, then I shall remain. I merely do not wish to disturb or ruin this time for you. I cannot help who I am, whom I have become through the travails of my life. And I know that can often be off-putting to others, and awkward to deal with. I would not see your time with them ruined, because I am here." Because Emma can't stop being who she is.

"You are quite welcome to the stop-over, Elizabeth." Emma insists, smiling that ghost of a smile of hers that speaks volumes more, because it is so rare. "I admit, for my own pleasure, I would rather already be in Paris. But we are away. And I think there is gain in that." She does not say 'I think Jean needs this'. But it is there, nonetheless, unspoken. "Now, go. Spend some of that famous Braddock 'quality time' with your brothers. I will see you at dinner, surely. Even if Jaime does attend with a book, at least he is literate enough to care." A digging barb at someone else of their mutual acquaintance? Could be.

Betsy rises, smoothing out her fashionable blue jeans, then pauses before turning to the door, and walks towards Emma's seat. She drops down onto her heels next to the woman and gives her hand a small squeeze, smiling again, and rising, ghosts a polite kiss to her cheek. "Your consideration is duly noted and much appreciated, dear. I wouldn't trade you for anything, dour frown and all." She smiles and squeezes Emma's wrist again and moves away. "I'll come collect you for dinner in a little while. If you hear someone screaming, it's probably just me murdering Brian," she says, offhandedly, before moving to the door.

For a brief ghost of a moment, Emma raises the hand not clasped by Elizabeth, brushing two fingers lightly over a high-boned asian cheek. "And your consideration and care is duly noted and welcomed, Elizabeth." Emma never frowns outwardly; frown lines are anathema, after all! But inside? Oh yes, there is a great and powerful frown there, and she won't even deny it. "Remember always, as infuriating as they may be, the welcome blessing you have in your brothers and your bond with them. It is a thing not to take too much for granted." That said, Emma stands and sees Elizabeth out, before settling back down for more white noise therapy. Then she'll wash and make herself up again, changing for dinner. Because it's dinner at an English Lord's home, and that is how it is done.

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