A Difference of Opinion

February 18, 2017:

Most cats bring home dead birds or fish. Jhiao Ting is a little bigger so she brings home a fishwife. They receive a warm welcome but sometimes there's no cure for a rude guest.

1407 Graymalkin Lane

Xavier's Institute grounds are located on 1407 Graymalkin Lane in
Westchester County between Graymalkin Lane itself and Breakstone Lake (30
miles outside of NYC itself). A large portion of this is acres upon acres of
woodland forest. To the farthest eastern portion of the Institute's grounds
there is a stretch of low foothills.
Upon entering the Institute grounds immediately past the heavy
gated entrance one finds themselves on a carefully paved road that splices
in two directions, west and east.
The west leads to the School for Higher Learning where gifted
youngsters are educated and taught to use their unique talents. Here almost
year around children and teachers are housed.
To the east miles away lies Xavier's Mansion where Professor Xavier
himself and some faculty members of the school live. These "special"
individuals are those aware of Xavier's more clandestine operations, the
administration and training of the X-Men.
Beyond the neatly walled mansion's yard in those foothills is an
obscure landing strip that leads to a hangar complex and a subtly hidden
facility. A facility that houses underground sub-levels, a danger room,
Cerebro and the training halls of one of the most advanced mutant fighting
teams in the world.
An underground monorail connects the School for Higher Learning
with the Charles Xavier's Mansion and the X-Men's Hidden Complex. Security
is tight in this region, by means of limited magical warding, advanced
future tech security systems and telepathic sweeps. Tread carefully.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

(Continues from Chinese Take-Out: http://cmbeta.wikidot.com/log:5375)

Nerina cracks an eye open again as the bus lurches forward away from another stop and peeks at the raven-haired girl resting against her side. "Hey," she rouses softly while gently tapping Jhiao's side with her finger.

"Before we get there, I have something for you," the fishwife explains in a hushed whisper. Reaching into her pocket she produces a folding knife and pulls a long lock of hair out of her hoodie. Letting it fall into her lap, she pinches it about half a foot up and runs the silvery edge of her blade through it in one smooth motion.

The hair goes slack as Nerina pockets her knife again and pulls the strands together into a pile, using a few on the edge to tie a knot around the rest. The flautist smiles with her one bang hanging out as she offers the silky little bundle. "Here, a little piece of me you can hold onto."

The lock of gossamer hair is soft and smooth but marred by split ends. It smells like sea water, city streets, woods, and most of all the flautist herself. Living as it has inside her clothes all winter, it's saturated in her scent.


As an old city bus creaks to a stop and opens its doors for a quiet suburban stop in Westchester county, two girls step off onto the sidewalk. The one in back is a blob of gray cocooned a thick hoodie and sweatpants that bulge slightly with the winter layers tucked underneath, weighed down by a bulging backpack on her shoulders - ready for school perhaps? She fishes around with an arm-warmer-covered hand to stuff a loose bang of her blonde hair back into her hood and pulls it tight against a gust of winter air. The scuffs and frayed edges of her clothes, and the dirt caked onto her thick-soled boots hint that she's been out in the weather a lot - but that doesn't mean she has to like it.

She comes to a stop with a metallic jingle as the thermos dangling from her shoulder strap slaps against her stomach and Nerina covers a yawn. Unlike her traveling partner she didn't get any rest on the long ride in. "Your new den is in il sobborgo?" She asks in Italian-touched English.


The young woman moving in front is shorter, dark-haired and clean, but her clothing is not in much better shape. However, her clothing also seems to owe less to being exceptionally weather-resistant. The tiny Chinese girl's long hair is braided, which seems her only real concession against wind and cold. Her attire is largely undyed rough fibers, and not at all fashionable. But its' clean!

"I do not know what that means? But yes. My new den is in this place. Look at all the trees, the open land. No canyons of metal and stone here." the Chinese girl offers in English, as she leads the way walking down the sidewalk towards a particular metallic gate leading to a particular property.

When the two arrive, the smaller Chinese girl reaches out to push a button on the stone column securing the gate to the fence of which it is a part. Then she steps in and looks up at the electronic eye mounted at the top. "Hello, looking device. I am Jhiao. You have seen me staying here, with Elizabeth and Meggan and others. Please let them know I am back from the city."

Yes. She talks to the camera like it is a person.


There's a brief pause, and then a metallic buzz. "Hi Jhiao," comes a young man's voice. "It's Tim. Welcome back," he says. The intercom dies in a crackle and the gates slide open with an iron rattle, permitting the two women to ascend the somewhat prolonged driveway up to the manor proper.

It's a long enough walk that noses might start to get a little red and sniffly from the chill. One person stands out on the porch to greet them— Betsy Braddock, wearing jeans, calf-high riding boots, and a clinging, long sleeved purple hoodie. Either it's some miracle insulation material, or she's got remarkable tolerance, because like Jhiao— Betsy doesn't seem to notice the frigid temperatures.

"Jhiao, welcome back," Betsy remarks, in tones as cool as the late winter breeze. She transfers the weight of her amythyst eyes to Nerina, and one immaculate brow hikes a quarter-inch. Even in relatively causal togs, with her hair spraying up behind her in a tight, high ponytail, she looks immaculately attired. Even the out of place hairs seem to be there deliberately.

"Welcome to The Xavier Institute," Betsy tells Nerina, her tone grave and utterly unreadable. "Are you here as Jhiao's guest, or are you inquiring about attendance?" She seems to size Nerina up at a glance, and despite her lofty, polished British tonals, any sense of superiority she might have certainly doesn't seem to come from her blue blood.


Nerina raises an eyebrow at the sign on the gate but follows Jhiao inside without comment. A blue scarf buried in her hoodie is pulled up to cover the bottom half of her face and her eyes swing warily around the woods that border the long path. Then she spots the tall purple figure on the mansion's porch.


"Thank you, 'Tim'." Jhiao answers the electronic voice, as a scent picture forms in her mind, which is labelled 'Tim'. She did not know Tim could speak through the air. How interesting.

Jhiao leads the way up the driveway effortlessly and not at all sniffly or minding the wind, towards the porch of the rather substantial house that lies ahead. She steps forward when Elizabeth emerges, and she answers the other woman first. "Thank you, Elizabeth." is offered first. Politeness counts!

"This is my friend, Nerina." Jhiao's mind does not label Nerina as Nerina, though. Instead, Nerina is a complex scent-picture rolled up with experience, indicating faint whisps of woodsmoke, seawater, the slightly unwashed, and peanut butter. "She and I stayed together in the trees of the stone canyons. When we parted, I left her to the den we shared. I found her, today. Her new den … is not safe." Images of men who apparently needed to be taught lessons in properly treating young woman follow. "I told her I had found a better, safer, healthier den. And warmer." So there. That explains who this is and why she's here. Which doesn't mean Nerina will be accepted, but Jhiao doesn't know the rules. She only knows what her little leopard heart says is the right thing.

"Nerina, this is Elizabeth. We met in the grasslands at the heart of the stone canyons. She followed my teacher's forms. She is the one who first invited me to explore here." Jhiao explains to the bundled-up blonde.


Nerina looks guardedly back at the impeccably polished woman, her face half-shadowed under her hoodie and her hands shoved deep into her pockets. "Ciao," she greets leanly, meeting Elizabeth about as warmly back. "What is this place?"


There's a half a beat. "Ciao, bon giorno," Betsy replys, urbanely. "This is the Xavier Institute for Higher Learning," Betsy says again, in precisely same tone of voice. She looks directly at Nerina when she speaks— a bit unsettling, because the leggy Brit's eyes are a startling shade of amythyst and seem to bore holes right through most people.

"It is a school for gifted children interested in pursuing academic careers. However, we are a welcome sanctuary for anyone in need of protection who might have… unique qualities," she says, carefully hedging her words in diplomacy.

"A conversation best had inside, I might suggest?" she says, in a mild tone that's not at all a suggestion. She steps towards the door and hauls it open easily, and gestures for the two women to come inside a warm and well lit foyer. "It's past the lunch hour, but some tea and a light supper can be whipped up," Betsy suggests.


The leopard in human skin looks to and fro between the other women curiously, not sure why things are more tense like this. It's not what she expected.

"It is warm and safe, here. Please, Nerina, come inside? At least walk this place?" the little Chinese girl queries the bundled blonde. She stays, however, outside with Nerina until the other woman heads inside, then follows. If Nerina does not go inside, Jhiao stays with her. She is here, at this moment, as Nerina's escort.


Nerina's coral eyes stare right back. They narrow at the scrutiny and harden like two little icicles, hanging above bluish wells. Sleep, and food as her cheekbones attest, haven't come easily to her during this winter, but the girl doesn't flinch.

"Gifted like being un leopardo?" she asks rhetorically. Her gaze flits to Jhiao as she takes a small step forward first, making sure the shapeshifter stays close at hand, then continues her stride to head inside.


Betsy stops near the entryway for the girls to scuff their shoes on the heavy weather carpet and gestures at a coat hook. "No one will bother your things while you're here," she assures them. "Please feel free to leave your coats and bags here while we eat." She moves with an effortless grace down the hallway, leading the two women around a short corner towards the wafting scent of a kitchen that's constantly in action. Even in the 'down' time there are people snacking, grazing, or just passing by, and Betsy invites Jhiao and Nerina to attack a craft service table that would put most catering companies to shame.

"Take all you want— there's plenty to go around," she assures them.


As visibly if not audibly promised, Jhiao remains close to Nerina's side; she has already protected Nerina once today, and seems ill inclined to fail in doing so now that the day has progressed further. Once inside the building, Jhiao has little to remove, but she is very fastidious about slipping off her sandals and leaving them behind, along with the light, formless jacket she wears and the light satchel she carries; nothing compared to Nerina's whole world in a backpack. The little leopard's nose wiggles as all of those scents reach her, together with those of all the people who travel the halls of this place. Yet still she remains a quietly supportive presence at Nerina's side, padding along on clean, bare feet into the kitchen. She does not pounce on the food … but she does watch Nerina carefully. See, those wide amber eyes are saying. See why I thought this was a good den?

Nerina swings her backpack off her shoulders while scraping her shoes along the doormat and crouches down to unlace them. Instead of using the coatrack she stuffs her thick hoodie, scarf, and boots into the bag's main pocket and replaces it with a blue windbreaker - sporting the New York Giants, funny enough. There's a flash of blonde as her hair comes into view, fine and straight as it disappears into her collar. Slinging the well-stuffed bag across her back again, she stands back up and continues on foot.

Nerina's nostrils flare at the smell of cooked food and despite her coldness to Betsy, there's only a brief glance towards the food cart before the young flautist offers a "Grazie" and sits down to make a meal for herself. Jhiao gets a look as she grabs a piece of meat. Yes, she sees.


Betsy spreads a low calorie meal over a plate, mostly leafy greens and light vegetables, and sits across from the two women. She crosses her legs under the table, sets a napkin over her thigh, and gestures for the two ladies to dig in when they are ready.

"Nerina, I do not mean to intrude into your personal life," Betsy says, in those same cool tones. "And I hope you do not think I wish to use this meal to impose my question onto you," she adds— trying to set Nerina at some kind of ease. Her glacial features, much like Jhiao's, are virtually impossible to read as she looks at the blonde vagabond.

"I have a certain sense about people, and my sense tells me that you might be … experiencing some inconveniences, personally," she says, carefully phrasing her words. "The sort of inconveniences that can be addressed by a few nights in a warm bed, and several hearty meals. Would that be accurate?" she inquires, lofting one brow interrogatively at the woman.


Remy Etienne LeBeau has found himself taking on the role of perpetual squater at the Institute. His academic applications are very limited and most of the students don't see him do much beyond loitering or being the laziest groundskeeper any educational facility has ever seen. Only partially true, his contributions to the school lie in the publically unseen but this doesn't stop him from being present at odd times, like this one.

Hovering just around the corner the Cajun is leaning against a wall, as if holding it up. Shaded glasses sit hanging on the bridge of his nose, dark hair wild and hanging unkempt while he appears to be wearing clothes from the night before, a long olive drab jacket, tattered jeans, black cylist boots. The smell of nicotine along with booze radiates off of him and right now a toothpick slowly between his lips, chewed and set to motion by his teeth. They will pass him if they pursue the food.


Nerina is starving, which is why the blonde will likely devour much of what she can get her mitts on. Jhiao has been well fed of late, but her metabolism is … demanding. Which is why despite her small stature and minimal build, she too is rather unstinting in her eager consumption. She also shows a decided preference for meat over vegetables. Veggies are just flavorful garnish for the real purpose of eating: the flesh of other creatures, clearly. But she waits for Nerina to settle in comfortably before she starts doing so herself. She sits quietly beside Nerina, not interrupting her conversation with Betsy. Betsy would be well aware that she has already catalogued everyone present near to the cafeteria, including the fragrant Cajun around the corner. But her concentration is on Nerina … and food. For now.


Nerina wrinkles her nose at the smell and gives the Cajun a disapproving look out the corner of her eye but otherwise passes on as she sits down. Who the school keeps around isn't her business.

"<Speak plain, please,>" she lightly critiques in Italian as she takes her first bite. While she's only taken a reasonable meal's worth of food it's anything but low calories - meat and potatoes feature prominently. "<Yes, I'm homeless. And no, I can't afford your fancy higher learning.>"


<Scusi, my Italian is… not so good,> Betsy admits, her British dialect shining through. She considers her words, then looks at Nerina again.

"You look exhausted. I can see stress coming off of you. You desperately need a few hot meals, a shower, and a wash of clothing. There is no rent to stay— this is not a prison. Do chores during the day to help out, take classes if you like. Our interest is in providing a safe haven, not exploiting you for your pocket change."

She glances to Jhiao, then back at Nerina. "Jhiao seems willing to vouch for your character. This is… very high praise."

She transfers her eyes to Gambit, then with a tilt of her head, invites him to join the table. "Remy— Gambit," she amends, "is a perennial vagabond who washes up here periodically. He is perhaps better equipped to praise the school meaningfully than I am," she remarks.


Jhiao cannot actually follow the Italian, so she just eats. She is calm and fastidious, but clearly hungry and willing to indulge her appetite. She appreciates Elizabeth's praise of her instincts about people, but even she would say they are not - cannot be - infallible. She only knows what she has experienced with those she has spent time with. But her nose does wrinkle a bit as Remy comes closer. The scent of the alcohol through his pores together with the tabacco smoke is pungent, and not nearly as pleasantly floral as the perfumery scents some of the students seem to prefer. She eyes him, and nods. He likely has seen her around at times.


"Bonjour Mesdames… " Remy offers as they round the corner and pass him. The borderline disgusted looks given him have a reflexive sniff at his own clothing, he could use a shower. He is hungover and only came in to speak to Ororo who isn't present anyways.

The conversation catches him though, "Who these two?" He inquires of Betsy, a tad on the defensive side. It's been a role here for him to protect this school since Hydra once a upon a time staged an assault on it. Since then all the X-Men have been several degrees more protective, clearly for good reason, there is children here and this is meant to be a safe haven for the gifted.

The only time he has seen Jhiao is as a leopard and he asked about it once, in regards to what was spooking his cats.

"Praise though, it a good place, bout all I can offer." Hungover Remy isn't being as optimistic and go-getter friendly as he was yesterday. Rough night. Too much booze and a brand new tab.

Remy doesn't pursue them beyond the hall, a two fingered wave with those uniquely designed gloves is all that is offered up. He is lingering just long enough to make a polite exit to seek out Charles if he cannot find Miss Munroe.


"We went in campeggio one or two times," Nerina admits, reverting at least mostly back to English. She takes a sip from her thermos to wash down a piece of beef. "Free food and housing if I do small chores? What's the catch?"

A glance is given back towards the Cajun as the flautist regards him oddly. Not that she's a potpourri of flowers herself. "Isn't he a little old?"


Betsy shrugs mildly at Nerina. "Don't deal drugs or steal. Keep your living space tidy. Be discreet about what you hear or see here. Many of the residents of the Xavier institute are metahumans," she explains. "We value our privacy. We also recognize that there are precious few places for metahumans and mutants to congregate as a community, particularly in an academic sense."

She purses her lips, trying to frame her words more deliberately. "There is no catch. Obey our common sense rules, don't be a nuisance, and you're welcome here as a guest. If you want to educate yourself— gain a GED, or even college education, then you'll need to talk to our leader, Professor Xavier. He is a very wise and experienced man and I think you'd find him more than fair. Even sympathetic."


The tiny Chinese girl watches Remy curiously; she still hasn't realized how hard it is for two-foots to recognize her two-foot form when all they have met is her four-foot form. But she doesn't correct him or clarify; just watches intently, as is her want, those wise amber eyes focused keenly.

Once Remy is gone, at least for now, Jhiao goes back to eating what is on her plate, while listening to Elizabeth and Nerina talk about the rules of the den … er. No. Elizabeth has insisted that this is a den of many, a special name. Not temple, like her Master's place. What did she call it? Ah! Yes, school. The same word as a gathering of fish. Such interesting things in this two-foot tongue. But what yummy food!

Warm, safe, happy den. That is all that matters in her view of things.


Muffled words come from outside, windows that look out onto the backyard.

A second later and a giant king-sized mattress lands in the grass with an also muffled *thudff!*

A couple seconds after that and two black garbage bags land ontop of the mattress, bounce a little aand then roll onto their sides.

A handful of seconds after that and Rogue, lands on her feet next to the mattress, wearing leather boots, jean-shorts that have frayed edges and are cinched around her waist by a leather belt. She's got a red t-shirt tucked into the shorts and a pair of black gloves on her hands… of which she is swiping them together in the cleany-handsy-gesture, a smile on her red painted lips.


At the mention of "metahumans", Nerina stops with a piece of food halfway to her mouth. She closes it and sets the fork down. "You teach mut—" Her head turns to the window as mattress, then trashbags, then teacher land in quick succession. Then she turns back to her amethyst-eyed host with a bewildered cock of her eyebrow and accusing tilt of her head as she waits to see her response. Train of thought derailed.


Betsy's eyes follow the mattress. Then the bags. Then the Rogue. She doesn't seem particularly alarmed— or concerned— but there's a moment after Rogue lands where she closes suddenly, very tired eyes, and exhales through her nose. Steadily.

She cracks the window with a tug on the latch, admitting a blast of cool air over the table. "Rogue," Betsy says, in those same cool tones. "One wonders why you're flinging furniture off of the balcony," she states, in a diffident sort of British way that is somehow excruciatingly terse.


Jhiao's hearing is exceptional. She heard all of that. And she turned to see what it was as things started falling. But she says nothing. She has seen this Rogue person around, but has had no contact with her. Indeed, she was - gently but firmly - advised not to make physical contact with her, despite that physical contact is her leopardy default. So she watches intently. How interesting.


Rogue had a foot up on one of the trash bags in a Captain-Morgan-Pose when she heard the voice from the now opened window. Her green eyes went up to look at the face of Betsy and a big smile spread across her dark red lips. "Well heya there, hot stuff." She said to Betsy before glancing down at the bags and mattress she'd tossed out from the floors above.

"What, this ol' thing?" She asked, smile now a grin. "Last time I switched mattresses out an' carried'em through the hallways, I got yelled at for knocking stuff ove'ah like lamps'n chairs'n such." She gently nodded her head.

"This just seemed like a win-win for all parties involved, ya feel me?" She bent over and picked up the two big garbage bags, hoisted them up onto either of her shoulders like they weren't nothing and she stood proud of her work outside.

"No need t'thank me!" She said further. "Your pretty face is all the thanks I need, Sweet Betsy." She made a kissy face at the other and then turned around and start marching off with the bags on her shoulders.


Nerina pulls her arms together as the gust of wintery air intrudes. She was just starting to get warm! Aiming the give a mild glare at the young woman, the flautist's body freezes when it lands on Rogue and she stares. Her eyes widen and her shoulders bristle in recognition at the mutant's hair and voice.

A low, hot breath steams out the blonde's nose as she shoots an accusing look several degrees colder to Betsy. "So you do teach mutantes here."


Betsy returns Nerina's look with one that's equally cool, and utterly unruffled. "All the residents of the Institute are metahumans. Many are mutants," Betsy says, though for most that may be a distinction without a difference. "It is a difficult world for many of us to dwell in alone. Strength and solidarity in numbers," she adds. It might explain why she's so glacially impossible to read— something about the purple-haired Brit goes beyond simple traditions of emotionless. Like she's carefully hidden away from the world the sense of 'person' that most people experience around one another.

"Just don't make a mess, dear," Betsy tells Rogue, focusing back on the pretty Southern belle— though whereas Remy had just moments ago received a cool sort of diffidence, she's unable to completely conceal a tolerant bit of amusement for Rogue's antics. Either that, or Betsy's susceptible to flattery.


After a bit, Jhiao pauses and looks up towards Elizabeth. "What about meta animals?" Because woe be to anyone who tries to tell her that she is a two-foot, rather than a four-foot who can take two-foot form.

Yep. That's the extent to which any of that mattered much to her. Silly two-foot prejudices!


Nerina leans forward over her forgotten half-plate of food. "You too?" she accuses, her own coolness beginning to thaw before the flicker of a temper. There's still a table knife in her hand but she might have forgotten about that too - hopefully.


"Elizabeth is very special two-foot. She can communicate, even without two-foot mouth-sounds." Jhiao explains, ever so helpfully. "She also dance very well."


Rogue marched toward the garage where there was a large dumpster hidden behind a wooden privacy fence. She'd toss the garbage bags in over the fence while humming a song to herself (sweet child of mine).

A second later and she'd start back toward the backyard where she'd left the mattress. Her gloved hands went to her bare elbows and she rubbed her elbows and bare forearms. "Damn its chilly." She muttered to herself while strolling along!

Back at the mattress now, Rogue knelt down and picked it up, and held it HIGH over her head. "No more fun times for you, bouncey pad… You're going to Dump City!" She said to the inanimate object held above her mane of whild two-toned hair.


With all this noise how is a witch supposed to sleep? Wanda trudges down from upstairs with a yawn and a wave. "Hey, everyone" she manages to get out before heading straight for the food. She's not even sure who is there. Wanda spends a couple of nights a week here but has been in the process of moving out…if she's allowed. Wanda finds a bowl and some cereal…regardless of time of day. "Is Rogue annoyed again?" she casually asks.


Betsy just lifts one brow at Nerina. "Yes. Myself, too," she says, flatly. Unlike many mutants, however, she doesn't seem inclined to volunteer her particular talents. "There are precious few places in the world where mutants can freely gather without having to camoflague ourselves. This is one of them. Does the idea of being around other metahumans trouble you?"

'Other'. Betsy clearly has keyed, somehow, to Nerina's superhuman talents.


Having said what she has to say, Jhiao is quietly eating again. She watches Wanda stumble in, but does not speak or interrupt. Nor does she try to address Rogue's antics, or the tension between Nerina and Elizabeth. She has been proven right; either Nerina will stay like a eise survivor, or she will not. Jhiao is just stoking her inner furnace steadily. Quiet leopard in two-foot form.


Nerina's breath hitches and her silverware meets the table with a metal clatter as the flautist stands abruptly. Her eyes are locked onto Betsy's, fiery when they catch a glint of the room's light and her mouth twitches, wanting to form a sneer. "Stay out of my head, trasgressore," she warns before grabbing her backpack stepping blindly towards the entryway in a huff.

"Oof! Che diavolo!?"

…And straight into a certain witch, bowl of cereal and all.


Rogue heaved the old mattress over the fence and into the dumpster with little to no effort and then she pulled her gloves off of her hands and nodded to herself. "You're gonna make some Junkyard Dog a happy camper." She called after the mattress before turning to strut her way back toward the school.

Once at the dining hallway doorway she pulled them open and walked in with a heavy sigh announcing her arrival.

Rogue scanned her eyes around the room then, looking at any and all inside. "Ya'll were just talkin' about me, weren't ya?" She said, a grin showing up at the corner of her lips.


Wanda was all set to dig into her cereal with too much sugar when it is suddenly all over her…and milk too. At least she doesn't get angry and turn Nerina into a newt. It's more of a resigned expression on her face like this kind of thing happens a lot. Which it does when you control probability. And then she sees who it is that collided with her. "Nerina? What are you doing here?" She would hug the blonde but that would just get her covered with milk too. Wanda finds some paper towels to pat at her drenched oversize red t-shirt…of course it's red…which has an X-Red logo on the back (they were going cheap in the closing down sale). "I wasn't" she replies to Rogue.


Jhiao looks up, head turning to regard the confluence of circumstance that is the tumbled pile of Wanda, her breakfast, and Nerina. One could only imagine her tail lashing in agitation. Nerina is upset. But Jhiao doesn't understand and has no idea what to do about it.


Betsy lifts both brows in mild surprise at Nerina's vehement objections, and then the girl is storming off before anyone can respond. Betsy twists smoothly and rises from the table, just in time to see Nerina upset Wanda's milk right into her hoodie. A small sigh of relief escapes her when Wanda confirms that she knows Nerina, and Betsy glances at Jhiao. She makes a small, encouraging tilt of her head towards the girl— suggesting nonverbally that perhaps Jhiao is suited to helping calm down the agitated young flautist.

From a more practical perspective, Betsy gathers a few clean dishtowels and walks to Wanda's side. She offers a few to Wanda to clean herself, then hunkers down and starts sopping up milk and cereal from the floor— though she carefully doesn't let the milk get near her nice, clean boots!


"Rosso?!" Nerina is as surprised as the witch, likely more since she lacks magical senses. But instead of a warm smile of recognition, there's a stern frown as she tries to push Wanda to the side and step around her to continue on her way out. "Leaving - again. This fossa is worse than X-Red. Telepati again, *and* full of mutantes…" The young fishwife glowers darkly, devolving into Italian grumblings under her breath.


Storm is like any other here, apparently waking up.

But she already has a thermos of coffee (already consumed), and had eaten over an hour ago.

Stepping into the dining hall is something new to wake up to, though. Jhiao she has met with Betsy and Meggan, the other….
… Sha catches on the tail end of her delivery to the viole(n)t ninja fatale, and in turn recalls her from the day of delivery of the closing of X-Red Headquarters and a call for joining.

The meet was not at all impressive nor great and the woman who showed her despise to their kind being within the hall is met with a stare of emptiness and a light up-tik of one corner of her lips. Not at all surprised at the mess she has walked into, but steps aside to let Nerina leave.

Again.

"I will differ with that opinion." A nod of head from Storm to Nerina and towards the coffee-make she goes, not feeding into it but bearing a load of questions for the who, how, and why.


"Why do you insult my new friends, who have made us both welcome and shared their bounty without judgement or anger?" Jhiao asks, sharply. "If you do not wish to stay in this nice, new den, you may go. As always. But insulting these people … that makes no sense. And they do not deserve your anger. There will be no peanut butter." Hunh? What?


Rogue saw the cereal mishap and it made her wince for both parties, but Wanda in particular. "Oooo… dear." She muttered quietly before closing the double doors behind her and then walking over to an open seat. She sat upon it side-ways and put her left arm onto the table, resting elbow and hand there, drumming her fingertips against the wood of the table softly while watching the others. She'd been doing a fair amount of cleaning/re-arranging all day, so this was a moment of rest for the young southern gal.


Betsy acknowleges Rogue with a small nod— not to be rude, of course, but there are somewhat more pressing issues at hand. "Rogue, please fetch a mop and bucket?" Betsy requests politely of the woman, as she gathers the sopping dishtowels and gets the worst of the mess up. She transfers them to a bin, and at that moment, Storm joins the little entourage.

"Ororo," Betsy greets the other senior X-er, wiping her hands on clean towel as she waits to see if Wanda and Jhiao can persuade Nerina to stay or if she'll insist on departing.


Wanda sighs, just a little, at Nerina's reaction. "I think sometimes you forget that I am a mutant too and you like me" she says after her friend before looking to the others. "Did anyone try to read her mind? She does not like that. I do not think any of us would like that, da?" A welcoming nod and smile for the boss - that would be Storm - before she helps with the cleaning too. "I will clean it" she says to Rogue, excusing her from mop duties.


"You know how and why you are special, Rosso. Find somewhere that is not crawling with *them*, da?" Nerina suggests to Wanda before whipping her head back to address the leopard-girl. "Any telepath who thinks my mind is her playground deserves to be buried at the bottom of the ocean," she replies in eerily complete English, accented but not embellished by her native tongue. "And I won't share a house with mutante."

Rogue gets a sharp warning glare as the blonde pushes off again.


"Betsy." Though as the coffee is poured, the cap is not quite gripped, instead both hands place on the counter top and straddling that 'T' tank of a midriff white the lines along Storm's shoulders can be seen as Jhiao defends, and there is a mess on the floor to be cleaned and it is beig gathered up by those being overly gracious.

How many times? How much more? For how much longer?

"Then leave, and do so with no further insult. You are in the wrong home and we are not sorry for welcoming you into it, but your hatred was not welcome past the front gate." Storm has not even turned around to look yet, her fingers are curled into the counter top and with a deep breath her head rolls back, that shouldered mohawk of white falling down her back.

"What actions have you donr to not inspire a wariness from us?" And now, Storm turns to look at them, lifting her thermos as it heavily steams in her grip, sipping slowly from it.


Rogue was about to stand up when Betsy told her to go get a mop and bucket. "You got it, Purple Rain!" She replied, but then halted when Wanda said she was already on it. "Or not… thats cool too. ya know, whatevs…" She cleared her throat and sat her jeans-shorted butt back down onto the chair at the side of the table.

At Nerina's glare, the southern belle smiled at her. "Hey, you're that… oh… right. Hah. Thats why you look like you want me to die…" She slowly nodded her head. "S'okay. I get that look a lot. I won't hold it against ya!" She pulled her cell phone out of her pocket, kept humming that old rock song and went about tapping away on her phone's screen.

While tapping away on her phone screen, Rogue listened to Storm's words to the angry-one and she smiled and quietly said "Yeh." in punctuation to them, a big grin on her red painted lips.


Bristling, Jhiao twists around and marches over towards Nerina and Wanda, glancing at the woman she does not know and offering her a hand to climb to her feet if it is desired. Then she turns her stormy amber gaze upon her friend, and there is something in her eyes not even present when she battled the thugs in the alley that early morning.

Angry, angry leopard.

"Nerina, you have just offered insult to a friend, without cause. You will apologize. Now." There is no compromise in Jhiao's voice, and there is a whipsaw tension to her entire body, a palpable vibration of fury. If she were on all fours she'd be visibly bristling, fur all poofed out. "Elizabeth did not read your mind. She read mine, and that because it helped her communicate and understand me."

Jhiao looks to Betsy, and bows deeply - almost a full 90-degree angle. "I beg your pardon for bringing this hatred into your peaceful den. The mistake was mine. I will go."

That said, Jhiao seizes Nerina's bicep in a grip that small hand should not be able to generate, and hauls her around like a sack of rice, dragging and shoving as she rather forcibly sets about to escort Nerina's negativity out of the Mansion.


"Jhiao, /stop/," Betsy says— and though her voice is mild, a bit of psychic suggestion makes it a powerfully compelling command. She looks around the room at the others— Rogue on her phone, Wanda sopping up the mess, and Storm balefully eyeing Nerina.

Finally, she focuses on the young woman. "I make no apologies for being a psychic, any more than you would for overhearing someone's conversation as they yell into their phone," Betsy tells Nerina, her cultured tones carrying a bit more authority in them than her cool diffidence of prior moments. "I cannot /help/ but overhear things."

"And I will not apologize for being a mutant. As is Wanda. As is Ororo, and Rogue," Betsy adds, gesturing to each woman in turn. "Nor should they apologize for being /what they are/, any more than Jhiao should apologize for being what /she/ is. No one here demands anything of you. No one requires anything but a bit of basic civility and decorum," she adds, and lean as she is, there's a strong authority to the set of her shoulders. "We value people enough that /despite/ your rude and hateful remarks, we will still offer you a seat at the table to dine with us," she adds, waving off Jhiao's ire. "Words spoken in haste are often ill-considered and I do not hold them against you."

"If you insist on leaving, no one here will stop you," she tells Nerina. "If you would rather embrace prejudice and the despair of isolation, so be it. Know that when you are ready to return with civility in your heart— we will be here."

She lets those words hang, then nods at Jhiao as if apologizing for interrupting. "Ladies," she says, to Ororo, Wanda, and Rogue. "Would you care to join me for some tea?" she invites, walking back to the table and giving Nerina soem space to make up her own mind.


Nerina will see the disappointment on Wanda's face at her words. "I am one of /them/" she notes softly before getting back to the cleaning. Her fingers glow scarlet as she changes the temperature of the wet areas to evaporate the mess…and set a few cereal flakes on fire but they are quickly patted out. All the anger in the air makes her sad though when Jhiao gets physical, that makes her a bit irate.

"There is no need for that" Wanda calls out after the Leopard before moving to keep up with the pair. "Nerina was leaving. Though I would like her to stay. But if she still wants to leave then I will escort her out. Please." She holds out her now non-glowing hand to Jhiao to take over and looks at Nerina, now with a 'let it go' look. More out of hope than certainty. Then a look over at Betsy. "I would like some tea" she nods before smiling to Nerina. "Join us? Join /me/?"


Jhiao's anger is a new sight to Nerina but not one the girl backs down from. Standing straight with her back stiff and her eyes set, she meets the only person in the room eye-to-eye with her firmly. A seaspray of bitter anger is foaming beneath the surface but towards one of the flautist's rare friends, it doesn't quite break. She looks across the room from face to face, giving Rogue another terse glare, Storm a twitch of dismissal as another insulting shape tries to form from her lips, and Betsy an open frown but staying enough to listen.

She lands on Wanda last, the overhead lights playing across the gaunt and weathered edges of her face to add years as her eyes hang coldly and detached, not holding sympathy for the plea.

The flautist takes a deep, slow, hot breath as she turns her back to the room and presses her hands together. There's a brief, sharp scratching sound as she slashes her untrimmed nails across the fat of her palm and sticks the wound in her mouth.


Storm remains as she is, unmoving, sentinel, and stoic as all of the action unfolds.

Wanda's removal of the mess and admittance.
Jhiao's attempt at removal.
Rogue's accord and acceptance.
Betsy's own diplomatic resolve.

Nerina's norm. (That Storm has ever seen)

A single hnd rises when Jhiao accepts the weight of Nerina's burden, and her passion as well in having part here that is good. "Per-Bast. Please…" Storm states, those eyes now mostly white instead of indigo now rest on the feline in her bristling, as well as taking deep breath against her own, but none-the-less, it is true.

"Tea is offered to family and friends. In that, it means calm, acceptance, livelihood, and that the little ones here trying to not hate themselves," A pause and that level stare is upon Nerina. "Don't hear how to keep doing it."

Dismiss, by all means. You can be as well, a challenge is there, but also… Acceptance, despite!

"I find it hard to think words of haste when this is not the first time I have heard her venom." Though, coffee set aside, Storm claims her seat for tea.


Jhiao literally sweeps her amber gaze around the room, at all of the people. She tried to make this right, or at least deal with it. She has been rebuffed. She will not strike in anger; her Master would roll over in his grave if she did so. But she will not, cannot, remain. "I care for you, Lilting Song." Those words are her mind-picture name for Nerina. "But I cannot accept your hate for others, for good people who have done no harm."

Done, Jhiao whirls and marches out the front door. Perhaps a minute or two later, the eagle-eyed may spot a grey form bounding out acros the grass of the eastern property, towards the tree lines. And they may find discarded robes and sandals out there as well.


Rogue finished tapping something into her phone on its screen and she then set it on the table's top and then leaned forward and lowered her head down until her small chin was resting on the table and her arms were crossed atop her knees… She let her green eyes go from one person to the next, listening to them all talk.

When Betsy offered tea, a grin spread across Anna-Marie's lips. "Ah would love some tea, madam." She said in a nice formal tone to her southern voice.

The others were listened to as well, and Anna-Marie sat up straight in her chair again, then leaned back in it and grinned.

"Mutant et fier." She whispered fairly loudly in French (the subject she teaches here) while looking right at Nerina, possibly taunting her… okay, she was opnely taunting her. The grin she was sporting made it rather obvious.


"Jhiao, no" Betsy permits herself a frustrated sound as the leopard darts off, and she follows the psychic trace of the shapeshifter until she vanishes into the woods. Betsy makes a mental note of Jhiao's direction, frustration on her features, and despite the diplomatic victory with Nerina, Betsy shoots the woman a 'look' clearly blaming her for Jhiao's upset, but unwilling to start a new fight over it.

She lids her eyes and flings her awareness towards the woodline. «Jhiao. Please return,» she requests of the snow leopard. «No one's honor has been irreparably harmed. Nerina is scared and frustrated— it is the nature of scared animals to lash out, whether two or four-legs.»

A beat. «We have some fine steak tips, if you are hungry,» she adds, with a strong sensory image accompanying the message.

She opens her eyes and moves to the table, settling into place, and starts pouring hot water for people. Being the Brit she is, of course, she doesn't just dump teabags into the little pot!

"/Rogue/," Betsy grates, snapping a look at the southern Belle's idle taunting.


Wanda has never been good at confrontation. It either ends up in mass death or…well…it's usually mass death. She watches Jhiao slink off with guilt and makes a note to make it up to her later. And now Nerina has turned her back to do some self-harm. Wanda wonders why she keeps trying to have friends. With a defeated sigh she heads over to the table and slumps onto a chair. "So how is everyone?" Wanda doesn't realise that Rogue is taunting her friend but she does realise she still hasn't eaten breakfast.


Nerina's shoulders sag as blood and tension leave her body together. She takes several breaths of silence to herself before releasing her hand and hiding its newest red tear inside her black arm-warmer. It leaves her a passive recipient for Jhiao Ting's parting words and while her face doesn't show it, Betsy might sense the hitch it creates in her mind.

Flicking her head back sedately, the blonde looks casually through her bangs at Wanda, Betsy, and Rogue. "I stand corrected: I won't share space with a telepath who cannot /help/ but read my mind," Nerina slowly answers, speaking in deliberate, conscious English. Rocking even further back, she makes a half-turn with her weight settling lop-sided on one leg, and both eyes land on Storm. The goddess' words finally summon an expression from her lips - a dry, crooked smile.

"You know nothing," she retorts mirthfully before turning back towards the doorway. "But who cares?" She asks to no one. Her feet resume their march and the girl offers a one-handed wave with her new bad hand.

"You'll all be dead soon anyway…"


Jhiao's departure and then Nerina's words…

That final sentence.

With the way things have been, are going, and why Xavier called her back, that moment for tea has Storm lowering the small cup in Nubian hands. She was about to ask Rogue her sweetening secrets and try to 'sweeten the deal'. But "threats"? They are not boded well with all she has done to bring as much cohesiveness and peace.

The tea does not even rock as she sets the cup down and looks to each with a light sigh, although the stoicism remains the doors leading from dining hall to front are flung open with a sudden wind behind Jhiao!

"As you fail to try, and still speak the same, then your welcome is worn out." Storm slowly stands and Nerina will find the wind at her feet a bitter cold, but preluded by a non-physical ushering out and to the gates.

"We are welcome to you, but not until your hatred is gone, like your friend of Bastet. Start with her for apology, and to return here - Xavier. The door is as open as you let it be."

Storm did not only have the other X-Men to worry for, but moreso the children and Nu. As much as she did not desire to do this, she had to for the many over the few, or one.

Going public needed no hatred, more hope.


Rogue had stood up to her booted feet and had started toward the doors to the kitchen while the others spoke after her little taunt. She watched for Nerina's reaction and lifted a gloved hand hand to offer a wiggle of her fingers in the girl's direction. "Bye now, Sugah." Rogue said to her with a smile.

The southern gal was in-fact headed to the kitchen to go and get the items that she used to sweeten her tea with as she had ever intention of making it a super sweet cup, to wash away the nastiness of this day. Afterall, she'd gotten a brand new mattress today! It was supposed to be a happy day!

At Storm's assistance in helping guide Nerina out, the southern belle turned around and walked backward toward the kitchen to watch this display. She grinned and softly shook her head. "That neve'ah gets old." Was quietly uttered then before vanishing into the kitchen to get the items she was hunting for.

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