Confusion Abounds

December 27, 2016:

Laura searches for Nerina after the Eviction log. Confusion abounds for poor Laura.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Nerina's scent trail cuts a straight and purposeful path out of the X-Red Headquarters, moving slow enough that the natural musk seeping out of her hood isn't difficult to follow. Its distinctive accents lead away from JFK airport and down the sidewalks of Long Island where it's buried in the passing throngs of humanity that are eight million inhabitants. Foregoing public transport, the young blonde is traveling the entire distance on foot and eventually, on the island's southern lip, her scent pokes out again along a rarely-traveled trail, now mingling with a cool salty breeze.

Sitting on top of her backpack by the water's edge, Nerina is the sole inhabitant of a stretch of beach as her blue eyes look out at the same-colored waters. The unseasonable warm front passing through has made it surprisingly pleasant outside though the ocean waters are no warmer than before - by now hovering between a frigid 40F-50F. Owing to the unexpected heat the fishwife's outfit is different than what she walked out in; her scarf and sweatpants have disappeared, leaving the blonde with khaki pants below her hoodie and a fatter backpack than she was carrying earlier. Nestled between her fingertips, just below where her half-finger arm-warmers stop, a plastic flute is playing a slow, melodious tune into the lapping waves, meandering aimlessly through a sad key. The busker is her only audience for now.


With Storm and Nate off talking shop - or more specifically going over plans on how to open the school to the public safely - Laura is now on her own. Once she's alone, the slim assassin will resolutely turn towards the door, the door that Nerina disappeared through. Then she's following in the other woman's footsteps.

She's out the door and turning towards the scent trail that her sensitive nose easily finds. She'll follow it to the more crowded streets and while she may occasionally lose that scent, eventually she'll find it again and once found, she follows it.

The trail unerringly leads her to that forlorn beach and when she arrives upon the beach, the dark-haired woman will pause, as her green eyes scan the area before her. It's an ingrained habit and one she'll likely never lose. Upon seeing the other woman settled near the water's edge, Laura will silently make her way towards the other woman. Her head will cant ever so slightly at that tune the flute emits and it's only when she's about three feet away from Nerina (and behind), that Laura pauses. When there's an appropriate pause in the song, Laura will speak, "You did not have to leave." And while others might say that with some sort of emotion to their voice, Laura doesn't. It's always those muted tones from her.


Nerina's improvised music - jazz flute as Scarlet Witch once called it - trails away in a low, vibrating scale as the green-eyed mutant makes her statement and the flautist pauses with the instrument at her lips, letting silence lapse. Then she draws in another breath of the ocean's cool salt air and begins another passage. An ocean breeze rouses the long strands of her golden hair that kiss the sand underfoot, casting shiny little tendrils back towards Laura and rustling her sweater. At some point in the music, Nerina's eyes have shut, though her flute continues to play.


When no answer is received Laura will offer that faint tilt to her head yet again. This time, when there's a natural pause in the music, Laura will simply hold her silence.

Instead, the dark-haired woman will approach closer to Nerina, before she settles down upon the sand, assuming a cross-legged position. Then she'll simply watch the fair-haired woman, as she plays.

Laura is good at this waiting game. She'll sit silent for as long as she needs to and even when Nerina stops playing her flute, the slim assassin will still continue to stay silent. It'll be up to Nerina to speak now.


The flautist doesn't rise from her woodwind torpor as her only audience takes a seat but within the calm of the empty beach it's not hard to hear. The music continues, rising here and there into a brighter, warmer key but without any gains in tempo or vitality - they're bittersweet interludes that inevitably fall back into an empty, grayish expanse. Even the depressed dirge across the flute's lower notes fades away after a time, leaving just a cool, dry core much like the fine grains of sand surrounding them. The music stretches onwards and outwards, floating away on little wings granted by Nerina's fingertips, and eventually, a distant stretch of measures from when Laura arrived and who knows how long from when the flautist started, the soft-faced blonde's instrument stops and stays silent.

Nerina lets the flute drop from her lips and rests it in her lap as she reopens her eyes and takes a quiet breath, gazing out at the sea. With her unkempt bangs blown back from her face, the late morning sun casts unflattering shadows into the dark wells beneath her eyes and the shade beneath her cheekbones. Wanda might have been making inroads in coaxing the fishwife to better health but the signs of street life still mar what nature intended for a soft and vibrant face.

"I did," she replies blankly. All of her own emotions were spent in her music, leaving behind a dry shell.


Only when Nerina speaks, does Laura move again, this time with another one of those half-cocks of her head. Her gaze continues to rest upon the other woman, as the slim assassin considers her next words.

Two answers form at Nerina's own rather succinct response. Now, it's up to Laura to try and figure out which of the two responses she has is the best.

Finally, she selects one and as such, the dark-haired woman will state. "Why." And while there's not the noticeable questioning tone to her words, there is the faintest of upticks to Laura's voice, denoting that single word as a true question.


With that question Nerina finally turns to look back, her blue eyes judging the man-made mutant beneath a crooked brow that betrays faint surprise - and perhaps something else. The lack of a smile on her pinkish lips is its own answer and the fishwife turns her face back to the sea.

"What's in my mind is mine alone. He's dangerous." There's a pause and the blonde adds in Italian, "(What languages do you speak?)"


Again, Laura considers what Nerina has said and what she will say in return. This time, it doesn't take long for her to form her response and as such, Laura will say. "He is. As am I - will you hold that against me." States the slim assassin, her voice holding some note of feeling beneath it; but that emotion is buried deep behind her flat tones and isn't easily teased out.

It's only when Nerina speaks in Italian that Laura's dark eyebrows will fidget inwardly slightly; while she didn't quite parse Nerina's full statement, she understood just enough to get the gist of it. "I speak Russian, French, Japanese and Arabic." Her words rattle off, like someone listing the more salient points upon their resume. "I know various words and phrases in others."

And then she falls silent, gaze still focused upon Nerina.


Nerina giggles under her breath at Laura's list, it's a light and melodic sound much like her flute. She turns back to the assassin with the ghost of a grin, presaging a question of her own in return. "We've met more than once haven't we?"


Others might badger for an answer to their previous question, but, Laura does not. She's not adept just yet at handling all social cues and because of this, she'll simply go along with Nerina's topic change.

"Yes." States the young woman solemnly, her words still holding that monotone sound. "A motel complex within Gotham City. The manager of the motel was speaking with the police when we met." And again, her words are stated in that matter-of-a-fact way, in much the way she would have reported upon a mission to The Facility. Facts only, no assumptions here.

"The manager stated you were squatting within one of his rooms and he was seeking the police to force you out."


"Besides that," Nerina corrects. "You're memorable."


Nerina's words the faintest pinch to Laura's mouth, as she considers whether they have met more than twice now. It's enough to cause the dark-haired assassin to scent the air with a flare of nostrils.

"I do not believe so." She states, in those even tones of hers. Canting her head to the side, Laura will consider the other woman a moment, before she speaks again.

"Why do you hate telepaths." A loaded question most likely, but one that Laura will still ask, as she tries to puzzle out why Nerina dislikes Nate so intensely.


Nerina nods slowly, weighing something in her mind as well. The smell that fills Laura's nostrils is familiar by now; beyond the salty mist, the crisp winter air, and Nerina's hygiene scents of choice is the young woman's smell herself - nubile, spiced with perhaps a little too much garlic in her diet… and tainted faintly by the coppery scent of blood. A blood-scent the assassin might recognize within the massacre of an apartment in Gotham.

"I already told you," the blonde ninja answers matter-of-factly, raises her eyebrow a little. She wasn't expecting a repeat.


The coppery smell is enough to cause Laura's nostrils to flare again, taking in the scent one more time, as she considers where she's smelled that before.

For now, however, the topic at hand keeps the majority of her attention fixated on Nerina. Her mouth now begins to dip downward, at the other young woman's words. She struggles with how to frame her question, so that Nerina understands what she's asking -

- Laura does understand that Nerina hates telepaths for the lack of privacy, but even Laura, can tell there's more to it than that. The words elude her, however, and so, Laura falls back to silence. She just looks at Nerina now; apparently she is going to have to repeat herself. Perhaps that'll allow the slim assassin to find the words she wants to ask.


A small sigh escapes the blonde's lips as Laura turns downwards and inwards - disappointment. "You should understand…" she puzzles. "In the beginning, were you forced to be near him?"


Perhaps Laura would understand, if she knew exactly what Nerina means, as it is, the faintest look of confusion flickers across those dead-features of hers. "No." She states simply and while it may not seem as if she's going to say more, Laura does. "I first met Nate upon a mission. He was able to send word to another that they were in danger."

"From your question -" Continues the slim assassin, voice still eerily flat, "- you have been forced to stay near a telepath when it was unwanted." And again, her words sound much like a statement, for that slightest rise to the pitch of her voice at the very end.


"Wrong," Nerina deadpans back before she lapses back to sea-gazing and a crooked grin forms on the far side of her face. It's a bittersweet expression - more disappointment. This time it's Laura's turn to deal with silence.


Silence doesn't make X-23 uncomfortable. She lived with it for most of her life and truly, it's only now, that she's started to open up more.

When Nerina offers that silence in return to her assumption, Laura will follow suit.

A standoff, if you will, to see who can last longer. And in reality, Laura just isn't sure where to go from here. Her inadequacies concerning conversational cues and prompts is such, that she's on thin ice. Uncertain where to step and where to go from here.

Ironically a telepath would know where to go from here, but, that irony is even lost upon Laura as she waits.


In her waiting, Nerina lifts a hand to her face and pulls her arm warmer forward to expose her palm. The flautist opens her mouth and bites into the fat of her palm beneath her thumb, her eyes not so much as twitching as they stare dully over the water. A small trickle of red escapes her bottom lip and the smell of macabre copper grows stronger; it's her own blood the assassin has been smelling.


The blood is scented and while others might freak out at what Nerina just did, Laura doesn't.

Instead, after some consideration the slim assassin will finally break the silence. Her voice, somehow, manages to sound even more flat then previously. "Do not." She states, her gaze hyper-focused upon the blonde woman before her.

And while her next words are truly dragged out of her, thanks to her own internal conflict over seeing the other girl self-harm and what that means to herself, those emotions barely touch X-23's features. "The pain will only help briefly."

Again, the irony in this situation isn't quite apparent to Laura, but it's there, just unseen.


The young ninja's eyes flit back to the assassin, her words coaxing a moment's pause before the blonde returns to herself. Her tongue laps inside her mouth at the wound and her throat contracts in small swallows while the edges of her lips… almost curve into a smile. Eventually Nerina releases her hand - and stretches her arm to offer it to Laura. "Have some," she instructs as fresh gems of glistening vitality form in her pinprick bite marks above a smeared trail of pinkish-red.

Peeking through a small crack in her composure, the ninja's blue eyes hover on Laura's vibrant green, watching more intently and alertly than they had before - asking silently where her voice does not.


"No." She says, as her gaze stays focused upon Nerina's features.

Again, there's silence from Laura, but it's a marshaling of how to handle the oddity that is Nerina. This really does go beyond anything Laura's ever dealt with.

Slowly, the slim assassin will speak again. "I do not know how to help you." She states, firmly, "But you are broken. Like me. There are those that can help. Return with me."

And while those words of hers aren't necessarily the best thing to say in this type of situation, it's all Laura has and for Laura, this is saying a lot. A veritable impassioned speech, if you will.


Nerina's brow tries to crease and her eyes waver as she fails where Laura so readily succeeds - checking her emotion. The stiff flatness of her lips is the only remnant of the flinch that almost escaped. Slowly, the blonde ninja shakes her head as the feeling devolves into wistfulness and a dry smile takes its place. "I don't want their help."

The rest is left unsaid and the hand that wavered at full extension is pushed out anew towards the assassin. "Come, drink with me."


"I understand. It is hard to accept help. Especially from unknowns." Laura says, her voice barely fluctuating in tone, "But it is still there for you."

When that hand is offered again to her, Laura will finally drop her gaze to the wounded appendage of Nerina's. A second time, the dark-haired girl will say, "No.", but this time, her word has a softer edge to it and with that one word, Laura will reach out with her own hand to try and lightly push Nerina's hand back towards her.


The ninja turns downcast as she takes her hand back and returns it to her mouth dejectedly to clean it. It gets quick, rough attention now born of disinterest and comes back out shining with saliva. "You're cruel," she laments, her eyes slightly narrowed as a feeling of betrayal draws venom into her words. "You know how lonely it is to drink alone… don't you?"


It's only with that last question of Nerina's that Laura realizes she misread something within this situation. This causes her to cock her head slightly to the side, as considers what to say.

"I do not understand." She states after that silent pause of a moment, perhaps two. "Explain."

And Laura will wait now, silently, for that explanation from Nerina.


The ninja sighs tightly and closes her eyes as she waits for the emotion that builds in her to pass. Her hand clenches into a fist and then relaxes as energy falls out of it and it drops into her lap. When she does look at Laura again, it's with a firm gaze, stiff with impatience. "Do you remember when you were in a lab? Do you still remember your emotions?"


Lab.

That one word causes a visceral reaction from Laura, even if it's only seen by the faint flare of her nostrils.

And while she once again wars with her own internal reaction, nothing shows through, thanks to the stoic mask that now covers her features.

"I remember my time in the lab. I do not remember emotions." She states, robotically, her body preternaturally still now. Once more, she falls silent after that answer of hers, as she waits for Nerina to explain more.


It's a small reaction but Nerina is learning to notice. "Then that's the problem. You know but you don't understand," she finally explains. Looking back at her hand, she lifts it up and turns it over, studying the wound and elevating it again to stem the bleeding. "Why refuse to drink? Do you think that will help me somehow?"


Laura's eyebrows edge downward again, at Nerina's rather cryptic (to Laura) response. She's trying to puzzle out just exactly what the other woman means, but enlightenment is slow coming. Thankfully, those last two questions of Nerina's is something she can focus on, versus her own confused state over that previous answer.

Again, her gaze will dip towards that injured, sluggishly bleeding hand, before her gaze flickers back up to Nerina's face. "There is no need to drink blood." She answers, her voice still flat, "Not unless one is close to starvation and that is all they have to subsist upon. And if that is the case, it is preferable to drink another's blood, versus their own." A clinical answer to be certain, one she learned while being trained to survive, but it's all she has to fall back upon in this particular situation.


"Wrong again," the blonde concludes, more attention growing in her eyes as she presses the subject. "Do you not like the taste? Does it remind you of something? You refused to drink, twice. Why?"


Silence reigns from Laura now.

Her gaze is unwavering as she watches Nerina.

While she doesn't necessarily understand why the other woman is pressing the subject, she understands that there's something more going on then what she's perceiving. "I do not understand what you wish of me." She begins, her voice monotone, "It is blood. It taste like blood." As for a reminder - that's enough for her to admit, "It is a reminder of death. Of the people I have killed."

"I will not drink blood." She finishes with, her gaze still focused on Nerina's face.


"So you won't drink because it reminds you of the people you've killed," the fishwife concludes.  She gives a small nod of acknowledgment and pulls her arm-warmer back up her sleeve, covering the wound with a sense of finality as she offers Laura a small smile.  "At least you're honest now.  You should have said that first."

The smiles proves fleeting as the ninja returns to her neutral default, this time not turning her gaze back to the sea.  Her eyes stay on the raven-haired assassin and study her for a moment, clothes, posture, and face.  It's an invitation for the taciturn clone to speak back up.


"I am always honest." States X-23, as her green-eyed gaze focuses back upon the other woman's face and while she could defend herself about why she answered the way she did; she doesn't. Instead, she'll allow Nerina to give her that in-depth once over and when she seems finished, Laura will finally speak again.

"Where will you go now." Her tones are still quite flat but like before there's the faintest uptick to her voice, signifying her question in there. "If you will not stay here."


A salty breeze spreads the gossamer strands of the flautist's bangs across her face as she looks back, delaying before giving her answer. "Avoiding my question was not honest. Why ask? You can find me even if I don't tell you."


The slightest of frowns causes Laura's eyebrows to crimp inward. "I did not avoid your questions." She states, her tone flattening even more, as she considers where she went wrong in the conversation. She stated she didn't understand what Nerina wanted -

- And while she doesn't voice that internal thought of hers, Laura will consider the rest of what Nerina says. She'll sit there for several minutes as she considers her next words. The words that she finally utters are slow, as Laura explains, "I have been told it is polite to ask questions like that, but yes, I would find you."

Those last six words are uttered with supreme confidence.


Nerina turns back to the ocean again and bends forward to stretch her back, stretching out while silence lapses again. She works her way around in a small circuit, still sitting on her bag, and returns to staring into the waves, losing herself in thought again, her eyes unfocusing with the dull crease of her lips level with the horizon. It's a posture that accentuates the slight sunkenness of her cheeks.

"No. No you would not. I can hide better than you can hunt," she replies, turning back to the assassin. "Remember that. If you tell anyone about me, you will never find me again. Capire?"


Her head tilts to the side, as she considers Nerina again, and while the other woman sounds quite confident Laura just shakes her head once.

She could re-iterate what she just said, but she doesn't. It is easy to hunt people, even experienced hiders.

"Why do you hide." She states-asks, ignoring the threat within Nerina's former words.


Nerina frowns lightly at the rebuff and rolls her eyes. "Khvatit ob etom, gretskiy orekh. <Let's at least use a language we're both fluent in,>" she dismisses, dropping both English and Italian for fluid Russian. "<My back is still sore from when you landed on me and you think your tracking is good…>"


Those dark eyebrows of Laura's lower even more as Nerina drops into Russian, but it's not the language, it's the words that are causing her eyebrows to pinch a millimeter lower. Her answer is quicker this time, even with the revelation that Nerina was that masked Ninja within Gotham City. « It is because we were not coordinated in our attacks. You were also masking your scent somehow. » States the slim assassin, as X-23 eyes Nerina now.

« I was basing my attack on the assailants that I could identify with my sense of smell and hearing - visual identification was unreliable due to the window shade that was drawn. »

Her plethora of words are flat again and they come in a particular cadence that soldiers might use when reporting back to a superior.


« Wrong a third time, » Nerina concludes, pausing to blow a bang out of her eyes. « I even spilled blood for you and you didn't recognize me. Remember what I said and we can keep talking. If not… » do svidaniya."


Nerina's words cause Laura to once more shut down. Her expression, for what can be seen within, shutters closed. « I do not understand. »

And while she could have said more, she doesn't, because those four words sum up her entire emotional response right now.

Her hands at this point have likewise curled into fists, perhaps expression some of that frustration that's starting to build within her.


« And *that* is honesty, » Nerina affirms, perhaps betraying a little of her own frustration. « You're wrong three times at understanding me. I was bleeding, you heard me speak, you might have had my scent all over you when we climbed to the roof, and you still did not recognize me. » The flautist lets the statement hang, having by now revealed her true fluency with the language. If Laura can tell accents - hers is a northern one.

« I was talking about your ability to track, not the fight. Now, do I leave or do you take my promise seriously? »


Nostrils flare for a moment and the knuckles of Laura's hand whiten from the force of her curled fingers. « Your scent was different. » States the young woman, a very faint growl causing a soft undercurrent to attach to her words. « I had never scented your blood until that day and today. There is enough differences between all of it that I did not state my suspicions. » Which means she had an inkling of that familiarity. « If you wish to leave I will not stop you. » Comes her final words and with that, Laura will even fluidly rise to her feet her gaze now shifting downward to stare at the other woman.


The fishwife grins a little and keeps her seat as she looks up at the assassin. "You came to me. Whether I leave is for you to decide… what's your decision?"


Now she grins? If Laura's expression could change much, it'd probably show one part frustration and one part uncertainty.

But, her expression is such, that it just shifts again to that slight brow-pinched expression. Switching back to English, the slim assassin offers a singular shake of her head, "You are confusing." Comes her monotone words, "But I will not stop you from leaving." Her hands, while still fisted, finally uncurl as she reaches within the pocket of her coat. From the coat she'll extract a small cellphone. "It is a burner phone. Within it is a number that you can reach me at. Memorize it. Call if you need to."

And of course, that means Laura can call Nerina, until she dumps the phone and number associated with it, that is.


Nerina reaches up to accept the phone and chuckles quietly. « I have the phone numbers of three other people. You're only the second to give me a phone. And you still didn't answer if your decision is for me to stay or leave, » she adds slyly.

« I'm only confusing because you're still a child. You confused me too at first; I thought you were older. »


Nothing is said to what Nerina said first, but that second part? It's enough to cause Laura to pause, her body preternaturally still. She's considering her response and in some ways, her feelings at what Nerina just revealed.

While she doesn't necessarily understand everything she's feeling, it's enough, that the look within Laura's gaze is confused-you-just-kicked-the-puppy look. "Leave." She states simply, her tone leaning towards the robotic spectrum of her particular vocal range.


Nerina's grin dips for a moment as she finds emotion in the assassin's eyes. It returns bittersweet as she closes her own and nods solemnly. The fishwife stands as well and brushes the sand off herself and her backpack, turned enough not to face Laura directly. Once her kit is clean, she shoulders her bag with a clang as her dangling thermos bangs against it and pulls the meter-long river of her hair out from beneath it.

Finally, her eyes return to the assassin, framed by the ocean's matching backdrop. It's a gaze that rests fully in the assassin's face but doesn't peer deeply into what it's uncovered. « Just remember what I said. If you want to talk to me again, tell no one about me. »

Turning inland, the fishwife begins her slow trek to nowhere, offering a gentle parting remark, « And maybe think a little more about why I cut myself. »


"I will remember." Laura states, her tone of voice still flatter than just a few minutes before. Her sharp gaze will watch the other woman pack up and trudge off, even as Laura considers the last statement of Nerina's.

It's only when the other woman is no longer in her field of vision, that Laura will pivot upon her heel and start to retrace her own steps back to X-Red HQ.

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