Whose Children?

June 19, 2018:

Jean Grey meets with Emma Frost for one of the Institute's regular 'assessments' of the White Queen. Given recent developments, however, Jean is more interested in assessing the safety of the children. Emma is not pleased.

An Ungodly Expensive Tapas Place, NYC


NPCs: None.

Mentions: Scott Summers


Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

Lovely. It's that time again already.

You get a little grief-crazed once when your students are murdered en masse and no one ever lets you forget it.

Oh, the institute is kind enough to veil the intentions on the surface. But beneath that, where telepaths of a higher caliber live as naturally as breathing, the blonde with her perfect soft curls knows that it's nothing other than a matter of distrust parading as concern.

Emma Frost, by all outward appearance, really couldn't care less. But-again-that is not where telepaths of their caliber live, is it?

The restaurant is an ungodly expensive tapas place that specializes in the gastro gourmet craze. The imported wine selection is sold by the carafe only.

The White Queen has already secured for herself a throne of power, the furthermost corner of a rounded booth. It puts her facing the door, and the safety of the wall behind her. She's already ordered her carafe of a red Spanish table wine, has already poured the glass that halved her store.

She sips her wine in her batsleeved dress of white gabardine, enjoys her mental defenses that appear in the astral view as though a fortress of mirrors, and waits for her assessor to arrive.

Why couldn't it be Summers?

Why couldn't it be Summers, indeed?

The answer is because Summers is, shall we say, not the right tool for this particular job. For multiple reasons, not least of which because he would not arrive with the kind of telepathic shielding that precedes Dr. Jean Grey's own appearance on the scene.

It is perceptible even before she arrives. Where Emma's own defenses are a tower of mirrors, Jean's are a Gordian knot of endless flames. The psychic heat of them is palpable before she even steps in the door, a moving fire that obscures with smoke and twisting light.

Dr. Grey has chosen to dress conservatively, arriving in a charcoal grey skirt suit with her red hair pulled up into an absent, messy bun. The jacket is off and over her arm, in observance to the increasing June heat; the blouse beneath is black, in observance to something else.

"Good thing I brought the 'company card,' as it were," the doctor quips, as she takes her seat opposite Emma. She has no problem putting her own back to the door. What concerns her will be directly in front of her face. A faint smile haunts her features as she continues, "You have excellent taste, as always. We mortals struggle to keep up."

Jean settles, and crosses one leg over the other. Green eyes level with blue. "Hello, Emma. It's been some time."

Emma smiles. The curve of it is not kind, but it is superficially polite. It, to the casual observer, strikes all of the right notes. It pulls her carmine lips and lifts her rosied cheeks. It does not, however, have any impact whatsoever on the suspicion of those crystalline eyes that lock on Jean Grey and hold all of the potent and venomous threat that one would expect of a wary asp.

"It has," Emma purrs, her head gently tilting to one side as she hums softly in consideration. "You look well. So glad to see it, darling."

Her manicured hand, perfectly kept talons tipped in white, reaches to nudge the menu in the redhead's direction as she recrosses her legs in the confines of her figure-hugging gown. She, to the surprise of none, is not as conservatively attired.

"But, really, you needn't bother. My plastic is more than sufficient to the task. Particularly since you went so far out of your way as to come into the city."

My plastic is more than sufficient to the task, says Emma. Jean's smiling widens by a tick. It's not as venomous as Emma's, but it carries some of that same duality, that same divide between superficial meaning and true intent. "I'm sure it is," she says coolly, and leaves it at that.

She accepts the menu when it's passed over, skimming the entries with a perfunctory semi-interest. The carafe of wine shifts a bit, before Jean seems to remember herself, and reaches out to pour herself a glass manually instead. She's nominally here on work, but some jobs are helped along by a healthy bit of alcohol.

The poisoned niceties Emma offers draws a look, green eyes shadowed by lashes. 'Glad to see it,' is she? "As well as can be expected given the troubles that face us all, lately," Jean replies lightly. "But I do appreciate the thought, dear."

Ultimately she orders nothing save a coffee, at least for now. Placing the menu aside, her attention focuses on the woman across the table. "It's a bit of a treat to come down to the city once in a while," Jean says, sipping at her wine. "It's a change of pace, and it enables me to address some matters in Mutant Town I have wanted to for some time."

She smiles faintly. "Of course, that isn't the main purpose of my visit, is it? You are." That sense of heat against Emma's defenses intensifies, just a bit. "You take care of yourself quite well, of course… but there have been quite a few setbacks and pressures upon our kind lately."

One eyebrow pricks upwards the slimmest degree, but Emma doesn't answer the slight with any other acknowledgment. Some time is not nearly long enough. Thoughts are appreciated, Jean says, but the blonde smiles in contentment that her thoughts are unknown.

Fire blazes against her defenses, scorching but contained. It reflects against mirrored surfaces, shines back its probing glare.

"There have been," Frost agrees, voice chilled even as she hums anew. She picks up her own glass, swirls it, and lets her pale eyes drink in the sanguine sight. "How fortunate for us that Mutant Town has its stalwart defender, ready to sweep in." Sweep in, her thoughts betray, behind her. She's done her own things there, in the shadows. Made a peace of sorts with the powers that be there. It's a burnt offering of crumbs, set in front of the wall for the other telepath.

To say that Emma doesn't like poking about in her mind is an exercise in desperate understatement. And also it is something of an amusement, her refusal to give and demands to take.

Jean notices those scattered crumbs thrown in front of the psychic barrier. She leaves a few of her own: an impression of scornful eyes upon the self-preserving, clandestine way Emma has chosen to offer her 'help.'

The flames press against Emma's mirrors. They reflect back, well-contained, but after a moment it might become clear Jean is choosing not to try and force her way in. In part because of her refusal to cross some ethical boundaries except in dire need, and in part because ripping into a mind does nothing for Emma's actual rehabilitation. The pressure is, for now, no more than a weighty reminder that she is there, she is aware, and she will not brook excessive games.

Perhaps that is why Dr. Grey turns blunt. Especially in view of one of the major reasons she is here today…

"You know it has never been about sweeping in like white knights, fixing things here and there, and swooping out again," she says, putting her glass down. "It's about education and outreach. It's about maintaining a presence that can be turned to when our people are in need. And to speak of education…

She puts her wineglass down, though slender fingers remain hooked about its stem. "The purpose of these meetings is to assess you for your own health," Jean says, perfectly aware of the effect her words will have, "but me? I want to assess whether you are prepared to be around my children again. Scott thinks so." And as has been evident over the years, she and Scott do not always agree.

"Are you prepared?" she asks the younger woman bluntly, "Ms. Frost? What do you intend to teach my children?"

A smile reappears grimly on her features. "I do need to draw up the curricula for the fall."

Ah. There it is.

"You act as though it was my idea, Jean." Thickly coated eyelashes bat, once and then twice, the woman CEO leaning back in her booth seat. "The funny thing about education is that someone must actually want to hear the lesson." She's not talking about the school, but rather the earlier topic. "So, yes. Somewhere that people can turn. It's not all about making sure that you're recognized for the refuge. Just that it exists, hm?" She chuckles, the sound low and barely audible. "Otherwise, it's a little self-serving, isn't—?"

But there's a pause. A waiter who comes to take orders. Emma feels his approach before he comes, and her eyes sharply turn in his direction as she silences herself before the thought is finished. She orders a few of the more adventurous plates. Waits for the other woman to place hers.

"Of course it was not your idea," Jean says calmly. "Anything that exposes you to the examination of too many eyes — in a way you do not like, anyway — is rarely your own idea."

The waiter interrupts at about this moment. Jean's expression slips back into her previous friendly smiling, though she places an order only for a single light plate of olives.

The waiter departs. The look Jean turns back on Emma is as hard as the hot fire against Emma's many psychic barriers. So gentle in so many respects, there is one sticking point where Jean turns as hot as nuclear fire. "So we may skip the sanctimoniousness about refuges and self-sacrifice. We both know those aren't the main drivers behind anything you do."

Her gaze takes in the woman opposite her, with the withering, penetrating quality of a fire boring through dead wood. Perhaps searching for lingering hints of that madness, that instability. Perhaps just to hammer in her words. "Given what you've been doing recently, Scott believes you should have a chance, and so you shall. No one can deny the effect of your actions, nor deny that it is a net positive you have taken them — only, perhaps, question the suite of motives behind them."

Jean's hand tightens on the stem of the glass, but she does not drink. "What will be most relevant to me is whether another class of children winds up dead, and how you will react."

"Oh, yes, Jean," Emma replies, serenely caustic once the server's gone. "You know me so very well, don't you? The one so delicately above reproach and so very not hypocritical when she doles out her perfect judgments." It burns, perhaps, that proximity to Jean's presence. It must, certainly. It's one thing when it's a human who lets a psychic through, passing by like a hot desert wind. They may know it was there, but do they really bear the scars of it? It's another thing entirely to erect defiance, an out of place iceberg in the heart of the sun. "Well. You know what they say about pedestals. Don't break your neck placing yourself upon one. It would be so terribly sad." She lets a half-chuckle form before it dies upon her lips. "I might even cry."

Emma sets that iceberg anyway, relaxed shoulders defying even her innermost instincts.

Leaning forward, the blonde tilts her head. "You say that you care about me, but we know it's a lie, Jean. You don't. Because if you knew anything about me at all, you would know that I would eviscerate anything that would dare try to—" Before she's done, the blonde realizes that her voice has grown too passionate. She snorts derisively and resumes her place, further away from the Phoenix.

"There," she says, looking decidedly sideways towards her clutch purse beside her. She collects it, opens it, and begins thumbing through bills for the ones of proper denomination. "Do with it as you will. I think we're done here."

Half a smile actually crosses Jean's face at Emma's acidic response. It likely doesn't do anything to dispel the accusations which Emma hurls at her: hypocritical, self-aggrandizing, prone to place herself so very high above the rest. But there is a flicker of sadness around the edges of that look. A wistfulness to Jean's features, that shows a full awareness of the ways in which she is not perfect at all — in which she is not so perfect and pure.

Such as what she chooses to say next. There is a line, and Jean crosses it. The flames know, the Phoenix knows: the truth may only be reached through the pain of being burned to ash. And Emma's truths are buried so deeply it requires a hotter flame than most to sear them free. To Jean, to ensure the safety of her children, to ensure Emma too values the safety of the children… it is worth it.

She listens fully to Emma's answer, too passionate and quickly cut off, before she speaks to address any of it.

"I know what I've been given the evidence to know," she begins. That psychic heat suddenly relents, and Emma's tower of ice stands alone. "And I suppose that flows both ways."

She finishes her wine. "I think we are done," Jean says softly, placing her glass with careful precision back on the table. She has an answer, after all. Not a whole answer, but enough of one. For now. "We'll speak about the format of your classes later."

Her green eyes turn away, and she lets Emma do as she will. Get up, turn her back, walk away… the former Phoenix will not stop her from however brings her most comfort to leave. She only has one remark in parting, to one of Emma's assertions in particular. We know it's a lie you care about me…

"I presumed to know many things about you, Emma," she says. "And how true were they?"

To accept charity, Winston Frost once told a young Emma, is to accept that there is a deficiency of character or means that requires charity to be given. Charity is a thing given by greater beings to their lessers. He denied her the charity she asked for that day - the thing she wanted long forgotten in the wake of the lesson - to forge her into a greater being.

Today, charity is again offered. In the face of it, Emma pulls a bill bearing the likeness of the great author of unstable morality: Benjamin Franklin. She sets it on the table, tucking it beneath the foot of her wine glass.

Jean's retreat is noted by the other telepath, and Frost is not comforted by it. Rather, the blonde in her white ensemble chills to a sub-zero climate, refreezing herself into something steady and firm on all fronts so that she can begin leaving the table before the entrees arrive. It's hardly her first liquid lunch. "I suppose we'll find out in the fall, won't we?"

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