No More Years

February 21, 2017:

Storm goes looking for Jhiao after the downfall of the meeting with Nerina and her removal from the grounds.
A friendly hand and return is offered.

1407 Graymalkin Lane - New York City

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: Nerina Megga Psylocke

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

For a few days now, almost nothing has been seen nor heard of from the snow leopard who has taken up residence in the forests of upstate New York surrounding the estate of Charles Xavier, home to the Xavier Institute. She ran out during an incident; a guest she had brought to see the safety, warmth and welcome of the Institute instead rejected it, and her new friends, and she was terribly upset. She has been, perhaps, sulking. But what she has not been doing is returning to the Mansion. Those who frequent or pay close attention to the forest have spotted her, infrequently, a ghostly soft grey form slinking from one tree to another, from one shadow to another. But she has not returned.

Storm is not one to force involvement or return, but she is one to check up after a few days of departure and no word… Just whispers from the surroundings that move in a non-ceremonial predatory manner.

Storm prefers the outside, and when a sleek shadow ripples akin to a stride instead of a whisper-wind, she takes flight and goes above to look down… Narrowing down areas and possibilities Storm lowers, the wind a whirl around her figure, kicking up foliage, rustling branches and long-fallen leaves as well as remnant of snow into a flurry.

But when she lands so does the disturbance, all at once, an announcement to not incite fear… Or a protective possession that could lead to attack.

Things ended poorly, yes. But it was what was necessary… For now. Bit by bit it can be repaired. Or so Storm hopes.

Thus far, Jhiao has avoided encountering anyone, beyond those rare glimpses. It is not unlike when she first arrived, haunting the woods for nearly a week before Meggan dared to come out after her. Now, only days go by and Storm comes. The whipping winds compel the creatures of nature to back away and leave Storm alone. Jhiao reacts as they do, but with a mind as sharp as hers she knows why the weather witch is here. So as the tall Nubian queen strides across the grass, the clouded leopard slinks around the trees, coming around her, judging her pacing, her posture, her scent. Until that furred head peeks out from a shadow, little rounded ears flicking with interest, focusing on Storm. And then a wuffle. Not quite a sneeze. But a sound made, intentionally.

"Jhiao, is it?" Storm at first speaks to the trees and the foliage, the rustle her own arrival made.

"You do not have to stay hidden. None of this is your burden to bare." And in saying such, even the solemn truth is upon her tone, a thing that even lightly shifts the temperature of the breeze.

The wuffle does not totally stop Storm from her stroll and her words, but a small smile ticks a corner of her lips. "You are welcome within Xavier's, Per-Bastet, I know you meant no offense, and I hope you do not think it was intended from me either." And in saying that Storm lowers into a crouch, fingers sweeping along the ground as they curl, shifting the fall-loss.

"But I understand if you prefer here, truly. I just want you to know the truth."

Jhiao is large, for a clouded leopard, but small for a great cat. She pads out from around the tree and lopes forward, chin down, nuzzling the lowered hand lightly.

The leopard's wide amber eyes then lift, gazing at the lovely dark-skinned woman. There is a profound sadness in her eyes, a humanity of wisdom that belies their lack of humanity in form. Of course, she does not speak. She cannot. Here is where Meggan or Elizabeth might have the advantage.

But where those who could hear or read/translate are devoid, Storm has patience and will. Understanding. And she will take the time to truly meet the Leopard on equal ground.

So when her muzzle strokes along palm, Storm turns it upward, having dealt with large felines in Kenya when the boys become men, it is more of a thing of sorrow for one or the other, and she gets it. One or the other dies.

But here, Jhiao will live, but it seems on a more human aspect of her soul then the beast. Rocking back, Storm stays tall, but seats herself beside the feline. "No need for that look, Jhiao. You are not to blame and we all know this." That cupped palm giving affection to the Leopard lifts her chin a bit and she sees a light smile, not bearing teeth, just calm. Then the look goes back towards the Manse.

When Storm sits, the leopard leans against the tall woman, her soft warmth pressed close. Then she lays her head in the Nubian queen's lap, a real gesture of affection. She shows no fear of the toothless smile; she respects and honors it, as it is how she would smile in her human seeming.

For Jhiao, her sadness is not guilt; she does not blame herself any longer for Nerina's foul words. But she is quite sad. She had a close friend; her closest, indeed, since her Master in the ancient temple. But that friend has done what Jhiao finds unforgivable. And the loss of her breaks the little leopard's heart. That is the sadness still in her eyes, as she presses herself against Storm.

No peanut butter here.

Guilt or not, Storm thought the Leopard deserved to know, and when the smaller body pressed in and rested there, Storm stroked fingers along her form, lightly along ridge of cheek and to her scruff, no gripping, but just a caress along to between shoulder blades and back.

"We don't give up easy, Jhiao. We just need assurance ours come to no harm. Even you." A look towards the small leopard and Storm's head tilts slightly.

"Just like right now, next we find the other after time, and see." A glance back once more and then forward, the strands of white falling down along shoulder to almost meld with paler peeks of fur as she lowers down and inquires.

"How long have you been alone?"

That question, offered at last, is not one she can answer without words. Not easily. But she is a smart little leopard, this one. She may yet find a way.

Jhiao nuzzles lightly and listens, amber eyes lively upon the dark-skinned X-Woman, paying her close heed and attention, as one should a leader. She chuffs lightly, a wordless promise that she will come to no harm; there is naught in this woods that could harm her. Not even the bears, for they could not catch her.

After some consideration, however, Jhiao lifts a paw, and draws out a pattern in the dirt at the base of the tree, carefully. A circle, surrounded by another circle, crossed by a third smaller circle. Then a much larger circle that passes through the first along one edge. Then her paw pats the drawing once, twice, thrice.

Is Storm tuned in enough to the leopard to realize she has drawn a representation of astronomy to represent the passage of a year?

The humanity in the leopard's eyes does not allow Storm to underestimate the "beast". And so she asked and received…

The pattern drawn is watched carefully, and then her eyes lift to the heavens as if in askance but instead there is the fall of weathered gaze to that of the drawing, and even if Storm did not understand, or did—-

Slowly, her form rises, but the stroke of fingers tug at her scruff in the direction of Xavier's. A hint at best with words. "It does not need to last."

And slowly her hand withdraws, but does not have to if Jhiao moves with her.

The little leopard looks up at Storm, consideringly. There is, as before, a real weight to that gaze, a soulfulness no 'mere animal' - anything but mere, of course - could equal. She turns her head towards the direction of Storm's intended travel, and then back to the woman. Then she tilts her head to the side, considering Storm, as if her gaze alone could pin the woman in place for examination. Then she chuffs, and starts to slowly lope along beside the white-haired woman.

She can at least try.

There is no try with Storm. A Goddess in Africa, a Leader here.

Jhiao is not 'mere' and she knows it, Jhiao knows it. Her mutual friend knows it, but has to learn. But trial and tribulation will define it.

Trying is all they can do, and all Storm will ever do for them!

A hand lowers once more and strokes fingertips along Jhiao's back. "No more years, Per-Bast? But I do wish to hear of them." A smile as they bot walk through slowly opening gates.

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