Muted Friendship

December 05, 2016:

X-23 comes upon a Penance in the forested around Westchester County; Storm and Nate come in to try and help, as well. It doesn't quite go well.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Early Morning.

The air is starting to hold that early morning chill of winter. Not quite cold enough for heavy, wooly coats, but no longer spring, summer, or autumn, that's for certain.

Almost everyone at Xavier's Institute is asleep; all but a young woman by the name of Laura Kinney. She never acclimated to the world of sleeping in and as such, she wakes like clockwork every morning just as the sun rises. While she could fill her time with exercising (which she often does) or keeping her skills up to par, today, she's decided to take a walk.

Her walk is more like a run and it's through the wooded areas that surround Xavier's Institute. These areas go on for miles and miles, before they eventually hit the real wilderness that can still be found within the state.

Even as X-23 runs, almost at full-speed, she's rather silent. Her practiced footfalls easily avoid the crunchiest parts of the dry and brittle leaves that now litter across the frost-tinged loam. Trees and their low-hanging branches are neatly avoided by well-timed ducks, as the slim-assassin navigates the woodland. About the only thing that might give her away is the sight of her running form, or the faint woosh of the wind when it occasionally snags her unzipped battered red leather jacket.


Morning is good. The sun is warm, even if the air is cold, this late in the year. Of course, the cold never bothers her. Or if it does, it's nothing that she gives any signs of. She's been drawn here for reasons she isn't sure she could even articulate to herself. Her form is currently more or less covered by fallen autumn leaves…whether that's because it helps the red of her skin blend, because the leaves insulate her a little from the cold, because leaves are fun to play in…or some combination of any or all of these, who can say?

The red girl would be almost unnoticeable to most. Of course, X-23 isn't most. She'll likely smell Penance long before she sees her, with her leaf camo…the girl is a scent that doesn't belong there, and the synthetic blend of the fibers of her bodysuit will stand out in sharp contrast to the natural environment. Of course, it might not be anything…but hiding figure and strange scents will likely set off a couple red flags.


The slim assassin skirts around a rather large tree, the trunk wider than X-23 herself, and as she continues to run, she'll come upon two saplings growing just far enough apart for the young woman to leap through.

Leap she does and as she sails through the air the wind shifts just enough to bring that unfamiliar and really, unnatural scent to her nose. When X-23 lands, she'll land crouched upon the ground, and she'll stay tucked down close to the ground, as she scents the air with a flare of nostrils.

Rarely does X-23 come upon human scents this deep within the woods and it immediately has the dark-haired woman wary.

Canting her head to the side, she'll listen with sharp ears, even as her green eyes track around the area. First, her gaze will go towards the treetops, checking to make sure no trap lays that way, and when nothing is seen the dark-haired woman will drop her eyes to the ground again. Slowly, her head will turn as she scans the area, even as she continues to listen for any telltale sounds of a living person. Eventually, the breathing and the soft thud of a heartbeat is heard, by X-23. With those telltale cues (along with the scent), the assassin rises to a slightly higher crouch and begins to move. Her path will take her towards that leaf pile that Penance is using for cover, warmth and play.

For the moment, X-23's claws are sheathed, but, her hands are fisted and held before her in a definite defensive-offensive manner.


Especially given Penance's scent isn't /quite/ human. Her superdense skin doesn't really produce the skin oils most humans have. Her hair is quills; again, a different sent. Unblinking eyes of solid blue look back at the brunette that's approaching. She'll scuttle just a bit back in her leafpile, moving away from X-23 by a few inches. The crackle of autumn leaves will betray her more than anything else she's done so far; it's not loud…it's just the loud/est/ noise she's made so far, as her eyes take in the slender woman.


While others might call out: Who's there? Or something along those lines, X-23 doesn't.

Instead she continues to creep ever so slowly forward and silently. It's only when that crackle of leaves betrays Penance location, that the slim assassin's head will whip around.

Bright green eyes will fall upon that pile of leaves that hide Penance and again her nostrils flare as she scents the air before her.

It's the oddity of Penance's scent that really puts X-23 on edge and that edge, along with the fact that she's hiding, causes the clone to deploy her claws. There's the sound of *SNIKT* and with that sound comes two metal claws each popping from the backs of X-23's hands.

But, she doesn't quite go for the kill, not yet. Her time at Xavier's has tempered a bit of her kill or be killed attitude and so, the dark-haired woman says, "Come out. Now." Her voice is quite monotone, with very little inflection to it; her features hold that same almost blank look, even as her stance echoes something far more aggressive.


Penance is in motion the instant X-23 pops her claws; she doesn't wait for the challenge. The red girl bursts from her leaf pile…but /away/ from Laura, not towards her. She stays low to the ground, and her motion is more quadrupedal than bipedal; she scurries. But she backs off, fast, retreating to the next nearest tree. Of course, her hands (or collections-of-sabres, take your pick) come up, razorsharp talons rasping against one another. But they are held up entirely in defensive fashion. She comes off like nothing so much as a scared animal; one willing to fight if it's backed into a corner, but one that would much rather back off. It seems as if the only reason she didn't outright run is she's not sure she could outrun the other woman.


When Penance bursts from her pile of leaves, X-23 automatically brings her claws upward, one to cover her face while the other pulls backward - But the attack never comes and it's easy enough for X-23 to follow the other woman's path.

She's running.

While her coldly logical mind tells her to take that final step and sink her claws in the retreating form of Penance, thankfully, she doesn't. Instead, she'll bring her clawed hands downward, as she continues to watch the oddly looking girl (?) flee. The vaguest of frowns starts to tip X-23's lips downward, even as she scents the air again, looking for any emotional cues that might be learned from Penance's scent.

And while X-23 doesn't necessarily think Penance is a threat; not an active one at least, she doesn't quite retract her claws. But, she will lower herself towards the ground and while not quite bipedal like Penance, Laura is moving to settle into a crouch.

Her arms lay across her knees, with her claws now pointing towards the ground. Again, while some might talk more, Laura doesn't. She just sits there, silently watching the other woman.


Honestly, these two are cut from the same cloth, despite their different looks. Penance watches. Never blinking. Just staring, as she looks back at X-23. If anything, she seems to relax when Laura moves into her crouch, and relax a little more when she points her claws down. Penance moves her own hands, putting them palms towards the ground, the long curved blades she has instead of fingers now also pointing down. But if X-23 is waiting for the other woman to speak first, she might be in for a disappointment. The red girl watches her, with only the slightest tilt of her head as body movement, once she alters the positions of her hands.


A mirror image, if you will.

Even as Penance tilts her head ever so slightly, Laura does much the same. Though her head tilt is more of a cant, as she considers the other girl as well as her scent.

She definitely picks up the fabric of Penance's outfit, that's for certain, but everything else is almost alien to her. It's enough to cause Laura to scent the air again, as she tries to figure out what's going on.

And while these two probably have the best poker face available, it'll be Laura who finally breaks the silence. "Who are you?" She asks, in that flat voice of hers, even as she continues to keep her own bright eyes upon the red-skinned girl. And while it may not seem like it, X-23 is taking note of the oddity that the girl is. Pointed hair, sharp hands, fingers and feet and the overall oddity of her.


The girl looks back. Either she can't answer…or she just didn't understand. She's all pointy bits and sharp angles; even her lips are sharp lines on her face, not soft and padded. The outfit is definitely a synthetic. Scents like there's bits of metal in it and on it; the rest being a strong synthetic fiber. And TIGHT. She can tell that. It's like the whole thing is a full-body compression suit. Both hands and feet are oversized, and instead of fingers or toes, in each case it's more like a collection of knives. She clearly has the red girl's full and undivided attention, though. Her head tilts again when Laura speaks, hair-spines rattling against each other. Laura's getting scents off her…the problem is they don't seem to map to any normal human scents. The rosetta stone of understanding her isn't there yet.


While some might be bothered by the lack of silence from Penance, Laura doesn't seem to be. In fact, after that last question of hers, Laura will fall silent as well.
Her eyebrows will furrow ever so slightly as she considers her next step. She continues to stay in that crouch of hers, her claws pointed downward, as she keeps all her senses attuned towards the teenager.

All that can be heard, for this moment, is the wind whistling through the trees, as the birds and other small animals have gone silent, thanks to the disturbances made by the two mutants upon the ground. It's only after a few more minutes of their silence passes, that Laura will make another move. Her extended claws will slowly retract back inward, the small puncture wounds left behind healing in a manner of seconds. "I will not harm you." Speaks the dark-haired assassin, in those same monotones of hers.


Penance watches as the claws retract in. When they're all the way in, it's the first time she has a visible emotional response. She looks at the blood on the puncture wounds, and her expression shifts to more of a frown. She starts to reach out a hand towards Laura's hand, like one might to soothe an upset child or animal. But her hand gets no more than half the distance before she quickly yanks it back, crossing her arms and tucking her hands up against her sides as if she's worried about cutting something.


When that visible cue is seen, Laura will immediately scent the air - And while Laura isn't necessarily the best at emotional cues, she knows what a frown means. Unhappiness in the broadest sense of definition.

Whether it's unhappiness at the situation at hand, unhappiness at not understanding, or in this case unhappiness because someone is hurt.

And when Penance reaches for her, Laura will watch with an almost clinical detachedness, her expression only shifting ever so slightly when the other girl yanks her hand backwards. Again, the slightest of slight frowns begins to mar Laura's features, as she considers the young woman before her. "I am unhurt. I heal." She says, wrongly assuming why Penance yanked her hand backwards. In fact, Laura will extend one hand outward towards the girl. "Healed." She says again, her tone still flat and devoid of most emotion.


Penance leans in, though she keeps her hands still tucked up against her sides. She's examining Laura's hand, closely. Finally, she leans back, and very slowly brings her hands out from her sides, and extends a single "finger", very slowly reaching it out towards Laura's outstretched hand. For her part, she's having trouble following X-23 as well; she relies mostly on emotional cues…which are mostly not there. She moves very slowly; if Laura pulls her hand back or makes any quick motions, she'll yank her own finger away quickly.


The other woman's hands and especially her fingers are given a long look by Laura. If she is feeling any sort of nervousness at the blade-like quality of those digits, it doesn't show. And in fact, she doesn't feel nervousness at the perceived sharpness of those fingers. The Facility did far worse to her, to fear that extended finger of Penance's.

As for Laura's reaction, there's no pulling, or jerking away. Neither does she reach out to try and grab Penance's hand, instead, she just waits patiently for the other woman to do whatever it is she's going to do. Laura's outstretched hand barely even wavers, as most people's would, from muscle fatigue of holding their hand so still, with arm outstretched for so long.


Finger makes contact with hand. Just a moment; an instant. Diamond isn't as sharp as adamantium, but it's still miles better than almost everything else on this planet. The touch of the finger brings an instant slicing into the soft fleshy skin. But she pulls back, smooth-but-quick, once the blood is there, watching the hand with extreme scrutiny. Whatever scent it is she's giving off now, she's giving off a lot of it.


Likely when this occurs the injured person reacts badly, but Laura, she doesn't.
Instead when that finger causes that slice, the dark-haired girl will turn her attention away from Penance and towards her hand. The blood wells upward for a few milliseconds and then, like before, the skin begins to heal over. It's just slow enough that Penance should be able to see the blood clot and then the skin begin to mend back together.

When the wound is healed, X-23 will tilt her head to the side, a look of consideration upon her features. Her bright green eyes will then turn back towards Penance again, as the assassin says simply, "You are sharp." An understatement to be certain, but Laura can be quite literal at times.

Like before, Laura continues to scent the air around the two of them and while she definitely smells the scent the other woman is giving off, it doesn't yet make sense to her, so she simply shelves it away for later review. "You are a mutant?" She asks, still in that flat voice of hers, "Do you live out here?" And while what she said wasn't that much, for Laura, she's actually talking her head off to the redden girl.


Penance tilts her head again. Different scent, stronger, when Laura speaks. She points with one long knife-finger off towards her leaf pile, and then will start over towards it. She stays low to the ground, but it's not quite the panicked scurry of earlier; she seems to be more relaxed around X-23 now for some reason.


Another scent. Again it's smelled, but when Laura can't quite decipher it, she'll tuck it away for later consideration.

When Penance points towards her leaf pile, Laura will turn her head just enough to look towards the little hovel of a home. Then, Laura watches as Penance moves towards the pile. She'll pivot upon her heel, staying in that crouch of hers, as she turns just enough to continue to watch the sharp young woman. She does not yet follow, after Penance, instead keeping her distance for now.

"You live here." She states, assuming that's what Penance is trying to tell her.

"Do you speak English?" Comes her next question and while there's not much of a change to her voice, there's still enough of an uptick to her tone to denote her questions as a question.


Penance moves over to the leaf pile, sorts through a little, and oh-so-carefully comes up with one of her treasures; an apple. She slides her hand under it, then lifts; even from that, the scent of fresh cut apple is easy to pick up for X-23. She comes back a little bit, palm still up, offering the apple. Peace offering. Her eyes are still wide fields of blue. But there's no sign of her actually comprehending what Laura's saying.


The sight of the apple causes X-23 to flare her nostrils (again) as she scents the air about the two.

While she doesn't necessarily think there's anything wrong with that apple, trust is hard for X-23. Trust typically always leads to something going terribly wrong.
Still, nothing untoward can be smelled from that apple and it's enough to cause Laura to shift again, as she cants her head to the side. She'll consider that apple before her gaze shifts back to Penance. "I am not hungry." States the assassin and while it may seem like she's going to leave it just at that, Laura will remember to add, "… Thank you."

Again, the two will likely sit there for a few minutes of silence, until finally, Laura will bring both her hands up. She'll lightly tap her hands to her chest, "I am .. Laura." Her name is hesitantly said, as she still thinks of herself as X-23, versus Laura.


The red girl's scent changes. It's the same one she had when Laura asked if she was a mutant; if she lived out here. She hesitates a moment, then lifts the palm again, a little more, towards Laura, with a slight headtilt. She watches, as X-23 taps her chest, but makes no reply nor mimicing motion.


Silence again.

Others might feel frustrated, but if Laura is (which she isn't), it doesn't show upon her features.

Her hands will, however, drop from her chest, as the slim-assassin considers that outstretched apple and hand again. Finally, Laura will take that apple from Penance's hand. Her green eyed gaze will drop to the red fruit a second, before they turn back to Penance. "Thank you." She says again, her words still short and to the point. Some might even call them brusque, but they're really not, it's just how Laura speaks.

Again, silence now reigns from Laura as she watches Penance. It's only after a handful of seconds have passed that the dark-haired assassin turns back to that apple. An idea has occurred, probably slow to form, but social situations are still quite hard on Laura's sensibilities.

Slowly, carefully, Laura will raise her empty hand and once more, the sound of *SNIKT* can be heard. Instead of all four claws popping out, only one does this time. That claw will be used to slice the apple in half. Then half of it will be offered back to Penance with the hand that doesn't have any claws out.


Scent change. STRONG scent. And instead of the hint of a frown, now it's the hint of a smile. Penance very carefully spears the halved-apple with one of her fingerknives and will bring it up to her face, noshing on the apple carefully. She seems pleased.


That scent change of Penance's is strong enough to cause X-23's gaze to sharpen and while it might have caused an adverse reaction from Laura, thankfully, the slight smile upon Penance's features is seen just in time.

Happiness it seems.

Laura understands what that logically means, even though she doesn't, or can't, necessarily understand the feeling itself. When the other girl starts to eat her apple, Laura will bring her own apple half to her mouth. She'll take two perfunctory bites, before she's tucking it away in her pocket.

Then, it's back to the conundrum that is Penance. "I will call help." She finally states and with carefully telegraphed movements, Laura will reach into her pocket. From the pocket she'll pull out a cellphone. The reception out in this wooded area isn't great, but it's enough that Laura can send a test to Nate Grey.

~ Help Needed. Come quickly. ~

Once that text is sent, the girl will re-pocket the phone as she turns her attention back to Penance. "A friend is coming. Do not be alarmed." And while her tone is still quite flat, Laura tries to interject a modicum of gentleness to it.
And when Nate reaches out to locate Laura, he'll find her deep within the wooded areas of Westchester County.


Nate is awake. Or rather, he never went to sleep. In fact he is in the X-Bunker, reading boring stuff about the Blackbird procedures. Like they will let him pilot it anytime this century. Amazingly his cell is not out of power. Hey, some day was bound to happen.

So when he reads Laura's message, he does a double take and reaches for the girl's mind, to see what is happening. Because it is rare Laura asks for help. Super-rare. Even before he touches her mind, he is already checking also who is awake in the mansion and sending telepathic messages.

Then he flies off. «On the way» a few seconds of mind-reading. «Er… you found a person. That is not much of a 'come quickly' situation, Laura.»


For a bit, winds had shifted around the woman, dispelling her scent from direct flow downwind and towards X as well as the red other. Indigo eyes watches the occurrence with a serene neutrality, although darker lips were tugged at the edges into a small smile. It was almost an endearing sentiment to watch the exchange.

A subtle mental nudge is felt, known in familiarity, but that was all it is until Nate arrives just after, confirming the /who/ and now the why. So in that instance the small whirlwind that had dispelled a flow drops she can be known by scent first and presence directly after when she steps out from behind the small copse of trees, booted feet carrying her lightly to bridge the distance between them, nothing yet said.


« Yes. I found someone. » Is Laura's rather simple explanation to Nate's telepathic message. « I believe she cannot talk. Your assistance is needed. »

And that's all Nate will get, as a familiar scent now drifts upon the breeze. Turning slightly, within her crouch, Laura will cast her green eyes towards the direction that Storm is coming from.

Eyes narrowing slightly, the slim assassin will give the Weather Witch a silent look, before her head cants towards Penance. "Friend." She states in her typical mannerism of speaking; flat, devoid of emotion. "She won't hurt you." And while she's uncertain if Penance truly understands, she'll still say those words to the other young woman.


Penance isn't exactly a normal person. The red-skinned girl finishes eating her half-apple. Of course, Laura's warning about people coming falls on uncomprehending, if not deaf, ears. When Storm drops down from above, that gets her back into "crouch and skitter" mode, as she starts to retreat towards the same tree she did earlier when X-23 first arrived. She's not on full-on retreat, but she's definitely gone to a wary, fight-or-flight mode.


«Yeah. But I called Storm thinking it could be a dangerous… nevermind ». Nate lands a few feet from Laura and gives Storm an apologetic smile. "Sorry, I thought it was some kind of emergency. Laura never sends texts." Although that might have something to do with Nate rarely having a working cell on him.

"So. Hmm." He peers at Penance. Mute? Well, telepathy should make it easieeeeak! Nate falls down on his butt knees, the backslash of Penance mental static surprising him painfully. "Crap," he mutters. "Some kind of psychic screen, it is really nasty," he explains.


At the touch of Nate's telepathy on her psychic static, that's enough to spook Penance even more than the flying woman. The red girl turns, and bolts, at best speed, heading for the deeper, thicker parts of the woods.


Nate's apology gets a slow rise of brow and a small smile that grows. "I was already here. It's alright." Storm is not one to reach mentally anyway. After several instances she is Forth Knox mentally and the only permission has been granted to Xavier thus far. His nudge was felt though.

Laura's look is returned, both easily complacent and nearly placid, though Laura's may be more of a caged chaos to the caged turbulence. Similar, yet not. A nod is offered to her and then drifted towards Penance. "You have nothing to fear or fight here." Heard or not the tone and the body language is added for the purpose.

When Nate falls on his ass, Storm simply lowers to a crouch, pushing the wing-like extensions of her cloak back.


A faint look of surprise flickers across Laura's features when Nate falls backwards. She wasn't expecting that and when he offers his explanation, Laura will begin to say, "Screen -" That was going to be a question, but then, when Penance is suddenly spooked and she flees, Laura will rise from her crouch.

If she were the type of person she'd yell after the girl, but she isn't, and as such, Laura can only offer the slightest of frowns towards the retreating form of Penance.

It's only after the red-skinned young woman is out of sight, and out of hearing, will Laura turn back to Storm and Nate. "I do not think she understood." Which is again quite the understatement from the slim assassin. "I was attempting to communicate with her but she never answered."


Nate gives Laura an odd 'ohreally' look. Because communication is not exactly her strongest point. On the other hand…

"You were doing the right thing. And I am sure you can find her again, uh?" That psychic static means Nate couldn't get a good glance of Penance's mental signature. Did she flee towards the school? That might cause some troubles later.

He stands up. Rubbing his eyes. Headachy. "On the other hand, well, Storm wanted to talk with you."


"I did?" A glance towards Nate after the long watch as the Red girl bolted off, then looking towards Laura as she slowly stands once more.

"Nate had informed me of your return, and as I am sure you have come to notice, things have changed and are changing. It's on the wind, so therefor likely not beyond you." A light nod towards X with the play on words and then a glance into the depth of the woods where Penny ran.

"All are being called back in. Are you home for the holidays as well?"


Indeed, Storm did want to chat with her, or so Nate said.

When Nate reminds her of that, Laura will turn her attention towards the white haired woman. While others might smile or grin at the play on Storm's words, Laura does not. It's not even clear if she even realized the pun that Ororo made there - which, likely she didn't.

Either way, Laura will listen to the elder woman's words and with a flick of a look towards Nate, at the mention of being home for the holidays, Laura will consider her answer for a minute. "I am back. Yes." She slightly hesitate answer muted and toneless as ever. "Do you have need of my skills." She'll ask, the last of her sentence carrying a slight uptick to denote her question.


"Right," Nate glances at Storm. "You said something along the lines when we talked with Wanda?" Or at least he understood that. "And we might need her skills when the school goes public. We are going to have unwanted visitors and little gets past her senses."


"We'll have need of everyone's skills. The school is going public. Not the X-Men. We will be an open sanctum to our kind and under public scrutiny for it." Storm takes a slow and deep breath, once more glancing towards where Penny had gone as she speaks to Nate and Laura.

"She seemed scared, and alone. She doesn't have to be. You two seemed to get on well." But when the play on words seemed to go unnoticed and unremarkable she rethought what she had just said and tilted her head, letting the cascade of white mohawk fall over a single bare shoulder.

"Can you bring her back and to Xavier's?"


Another looks is sent towards Nate and then Storm - clearly a decision has been made concerning the school going public, or staying priave.

Whether it bothers her, or makes her happy, is hard to say, as her expression changes very little in that regards.

It's only when Storm asks that last question of hers, that Laura's expression will finally shift. A look of relif - possibly relief - is turned to Storm, when the white-haired woman asks if Penance can be found. "I can." States X-23 simply, "It will not be hard." And while she takes a half a step backwards, intending do just that, the slim-assassin does pause. She understands more needs to be said, before she just goes running off. "I will find her now." And again, there's the slightest raise at the end of that statement of hers, denoting the permission being sought.


"I wonder if the red girl is a mutant," comments Nate. The mental defense was very strange, but didn't feel alien. As for chasing after her right now, he will let Storm decide that. "Maybe we should try to get Doug involved. I doubt that mental screen would affect his abilities."


"Please." Storm states, in the same manner X stated finding her now. X may be emotionless seeming, or deadpan, but the words in regards to Penny can also be translated to X, herself.

Storm is moving then, in the direction of the school as X moved towards deeper into the woods. "Once the girl finds comfort maybe she will speak on her own, if help is needed Doug is a good thought, though. But, she still has to trust us first." A pause. "Breakfast?" And then she is moving freely through the foliage towards home.

Plenty will be made.

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