Heartstrings and Other Broken Things
Roleplaying Log: Heartstrings and Other Broken Things
IC Details

Jean Grey and Emma Frost talk. They don't kill each other, so let's call it a success.

Other Characters Referenced: Warren Worthington, The Hellions
IC Date: October 30, 2019
IC Location: West Chester, NY
OOC Notes & Details
Posted On: 22 Nov 2019 18:51
Rating & Warnings: G
Scene Soundtrack: [* ]
NPC & GM Credits:
Associated Plots

In the early afternoon, there is a crunch of gravel in the front circle. The dark sedan responsible - shiny and sleek - pulls up to the bottom of the front steps like it did only days ago. It's a long trip to make twice by car in less than a week, from Manhattan to here, but here she is all the same, making it.

Jean may or may not feel it when the psychic landscape changes, making way for the mirror-like presence of one Emma Frost. It is a mostly unannounced arrival, save for whatever message Logan would have left behind that she'd been here once before and had every intention of coming back in search of the then-absent redhead. She leaves the topic unnamed, not giving him the benefit of her trust.

When the car comes to its stop, Frost emerges from the backseat with her hair pulled and twisted up into an elaborate chignon. Her cosmetics today shine in a palette as cold as her name, lips and cheeks painted a frosty rose. Her long duster brushes against the ankles of her stiletto boots, but parts enough to show the lace-edged turtleneck and white leather skirt beneath. It's one of those kinds of days.

Before she's up two of the steps, her awareness stretches to fill the space around her, searching for the somewhat familiar presence of the other telepath to see if she's wasted yet another handful of hours of her life.

Emma may note the stellar glow of ancient flame reflected off of the newly lustrous landscape, or she may not.

What's certain is that when the White Queen consciously extends herself, there's a gaze like bomb blasts frozen in emeralds to greet her expanding perception.

«You were looking for me,» evenly blooms through astral space.

Normally — now normally, ever since that time Jean died, then un-died — her presence tends to spread warmth through local psychic space; the subtle realm tends to smolder, gently, as Phoenix's wings stretch, and settle, and fold around her surroundings, an outgrowth of her not-so-hidden desire to tuck the world to her breast and hold it fast to keep darkness at bay.

A flat, «I was away,» unrolls between the other woman's ears. «How can I help you today?»

Today, Phoenixflame runs cold, trickling firelight through psychic corridors in syrupy pulses without letting the blaze itself roam free. It— would take a psychic to know that loving protection's far from her thoughts today, but not an especially insightful one.

Emma, then, ought to have a crystal clear idea of where the woman she's here to see is right now, if only figuratively— which means she may also fail to be surprised when initial attempts at pinpointing Jean's location beyond 'the Institute' wind up drowned in thrumming radiance.

I was away, Jean offers with decided lack of clarification.

« I noticed, » comes Emma's sharp reply as she continues to ascend the stairs without so much as missing a beat, as one might perhaps when confronted with such an obvious fact. Today, the other presence might run cold, but it is nothing in comparison to the frigidity of the blonde's bluntness. « Now, » she continues, ascending the stairs until she stands staring at - staring through - the doors presently closed to her, « are you going to let me //in to discuss business, or are you going to insist I stand outside to discuss business? »

Like a pop-up book bursting through the world—
Like expert stagehands shuffling set pieces behind the curtain—
Like ink lines coalescing into shapes and perspective—

— Jean's mind spins a more comfortable reality for she and Emma to occupy.

Business, Emma said. Emma's here to discuss business, so those doors she's staring at…? Not only do they rapidly stretch along both axes, not only do they seem eager to retreat backwards from Emma, a subtle ripple across their surface banishes them, leaving a broad plane of glass overlooking Wall Street. The stairs she's stuck on sink until they're flush with the ground; by that point, of course, they've also grown luxuriously soft and wine-coloured, probably because a flat patch of concrete in the middle of a luxuriously soft, wine-coloured carpet wouldn't look terribly professional. A semicircular desk carved from dark wood seeks to rise up between the Queen and the picture-doors; save for a row of three monitors and a thin keyboard, it's bare—

A row of monitors, a thin keyboard, and pale, slender fingers knit tightly together.

Frozen emeralds begin to open in the air before Emma. A deep green blazer and skirt with bright gold buttons and accents sketches itself into being, and the woman wearing them gradually comes into focus as their smears and wild lines sharpen into something more. The face those emeralds reside in remains as blank as an unfinished mask well after the rest of her achieves proper clarity, but vivid red waves lazily flutter around it just the same.

if she achieves proper clarity. If Emma's willing to indulge a measure of compromise on what 'outside' means.

«Business,» the redhead wonders without quite wondering. At least her eyes kind of narrow to indicate that she's curious.

«Okay, sure,» she continues after a moment. «Let's— do you want a drink, or, I don't know, a cigar, or something? We can talk. I have time. Thank you for coming.»

Another mind, another creature, might marvel at the world that unfolds before it. Might wonder how magnificently the world turns at a whim.

Another creature, perhaps.

Jean will no doubt feel the way that the disapproval bleeds off of Emma in waves, and she would be well advised to take that to meaning that Frost has every intention of letting it bleed. Parlor tricks and semantics. « Yes, your gratitude and grace is overwhelming and awe-inspiring. I could have done this from Manhattan. »

Emma in turn might note the way her disapproval splashes against Jean's psyche then rolls back towards her own, rather than being allowed to seep in.

«You didn't come to be sarcastic, Emma.»

The Queen might also note the total lack of any similar such emotion in Jean's retort. A quarter turn to the left, and it'd be a judgment, a taunt; as it is, it's just true, as best as Jean can tell, that the blonde probably has better things to do with her time. There's little emotion to go around period, but at least she manages to let a bead of contrition slip through the mask; she didn't need to soak in Emma's disapproval to note it.

«So why— »

She tips her chin and closes her eyes. A beat passes—

— and then her hands unknit and spread.

«Why did you come?» she asks, meeting Emma's gaze. «What business do we have to discuss?»

« I didn't come to be sarcastic, no, » Emma projects with a cutting smile to match. « That travels with me wherever I go. »

Emma's eyebrow arches in the psychic realm, where outside she refuses to indulge Jean Grey's rudeness any longer. She breaks out of the world of the telepath long enough to descend to her car and get inside. « Actually, this little show brings me right to my first point. Because you are proving what I believed to be true. You're hiding in your ivory tower when you should be out. Your most prominent figure right now is dead, and I haven't heard one word from you. From the Institute. Not even a 'thoughts and prayers'. »

She snorts. « Additionally, I was coming to see what the plan was regarding looking into the people from Alaska. It was my understanding from Worthington that there was going to be a reckoning. Clearly, there's a hiccup in the plan. »

«Oh, so you came to be ironic,» Jean snaps after 'ivory tower'. «Gotcha.»

A brunette with flawless skin, a dazzling smile, and severely upscaled proportions fills the astral office space's picture window whenever Emma slides back in; she's drawing a pencil along the edge of her eye with the utmost of care in the split-second before she vanishes.

The sudden spike in warmth seems a little more stubborn, however.

«A press release,» comes once she politely lets Emma finish. «Warren and Alison are dead, and you— »

There's no air here, but Jean lowers her head and takes a long, slow breath anyway; simulated space cools as she lets it out.

«I've mostly been involved in student intake-slash-egress, lately. If there were files,» she says, low and flat, head bowed and hands clenched, «detailing any plans to investigate, retaliate, et cetera, then I'd have to go over them; if not… it'll be taken care of. They'll be taken care of; we should have the manpower for it.»

« Ironic? Hardly. I am supremely concerned about the sucking void left without their public presence, yes, » Emma says, before shrugging. « But you're absolutely right, of course, that I clearly have no clue whatsoever what it's like when those dear to me die. Nor what it's like to need press on with business more important than feelings. How dare I intrude on your little pity party? »

With her eyes closed and resting against the backseat of her car in the physical world constructed of flesh, steel, and bone, the blonde tells her driver, "Back to Manhattan, Alex."

He looks at her from beneath the brim of his cap and behind the shine of his glasses, but doesn't offer a word of protest or question. The young man, only a few years younger than she, has grown very accustomed to blind obedience for her seemingly strange or misplaced requests. Like driving two and a quarter hours into West Chester just to walk up a pair of stairs, knock on a door, and walk down a set of stairs. …And be ready to drive the same back again. Half the day, for a five minute interaction with a mansion door. Still, he does listen, and the tires begin to crunch once more as the car begins to creep towards the front gates.

All the while, Emma's eyelids flutter as she continues the astral debate. In that fluid world, the blonde will easily go wherever she's tugged along, offering no resistance. There's no effort on her part to change the psychic landscape or otherwise exert her influence over the environment, save to summon for herself a single, floating steel stool of a decidedly utilitarian quality upon which to perch as she crosses long, slack-covered legs and cast her haughty, judging gaze in Grey's direction with her chin held high and a wooden pointer with an apple at one end held across her lap as though a scepter. « But it's so lovely to see just where the matter sits, so thank you for that. I think I have what I need. »

//But it's so lovely to see— //

«don't leave,» don't leave out of Jean's mouth before she can stop it, because it isn't a mouth so much as it's one of a complex system of symbols meant to translate the experience of being in a space anathemic to physical reality into something that the human mind can conveniently process.

The odd slip of the 'tongue' comes with the territory.

«Please,» follows because the damage has already been done.

Now that both thoughts are out there, she lets them linger for a beat, just to see where they sit with the judging blonde.

«There's no Danger Room scenario for dealing with any of this.»

Whether Emma chooses to take another go at the doors or not, they crack open, then.

It isn't until Grey will remember her manners that Frost will bend. As sternly as the last order came, a new one comes: "Stop the car." The White Queen decrees it, and her subject obeys, the slow-moving vehicle drawing to a stop again.

« Of course, there isn't, » Emma will readily agree, although she hasn't any real appreciation for the depth of the programming that exists there. « No one ever promised that there would be. » She taps the red apple of her pointer against her palm a couple of times. Contemplation, perhaps. Maybe frustration. Her impassive features—made a ghostly shade of pale blue by the realm they occupy—give little indication as to which, and her sentiment is locked away tightly enough that nothing easily bleeds from her. Even her words come without her lips moving.

« Why should I stay? »

«Nobody here would hound me for a press release, right now.»

Each word is spoken crisply, carefully; tension ripples through airless space.

«They would let me…»

«They'd let me…>

Another brunette flashes through the window. She's younger than the last, with shorter, spikier hair; the flawless skin and dazzling smile persist. She's just beginning to tap excess foundation from her brush when she vanishes.

«I want to stay here, Emma— I need to stay here.»

She breathes, slowly—

«I don't want to be stuck here— I can't be stuck here, Emma…»

— and the 'world' shudders when she lets it out.

«I haven't seen anybody in days, and right now, I'd really prefer it was you, if I'm gonna break the streak.»

She takes another breath.

«I think I need you to stay,» she deliberately states.


Emma would be a complete idiot if she didn't, at least for one bright and shining moment, perceive the distinct trap-like qualities of the offer as the confession is made. She is not at all trusting of the statement that she's the redhead's preference for anything, but she'll let the thought pass without comment.

She considers and weighs, and then comes to a conclusion, and her astral form again wavers as she uses her sight to move in the physical world.

The car door opens, and the blonde allows the man-tamed earth to pass beneath her heels for a second time as she recrosses the terrain and then stands in front of the cracked open doors. Once again, she stares at them. And then her hand moves to push open the heavy front door if it will move. « Let's try this again, then. »

It does move.

«What did you do after you lost them?» gently echoes through office space that's growing hazier, dreamier as seconds and steps pass.

It moves, and the stellar flare obscuring her location fades until Emma has a clear path through the Institute and its gawking eyes, up a couple flights of stairs towards dorms sitting unused ever since the school's younger students relocated.

« It wasn't particularly pretty, » Emma replies, her shoes clicking sharply against the floor as she moves. « But we do what we must, and then we move on. »

The woman in white ignores the stares wherever they may come from, her coat brushing against the leather of her boots and skirt with a quiet rusting nearly lost beneath the fall of each footstep. Emma's used to eyes upon her, and her chin held high doesn't drop a degree as she winds her way upwards to the chamber indicated to her.

It's probably a little clearer to Jean than most just how ugly thoughts can be; Emma hasn't completely dealt with the loss. It meant the losses in Alaska hit harder, and that it was harder to hide in the aftermath of months of systemic abuse. But here she is, seeming just as glassy-smooth a surface now as she ever was. The damage lies deep and unseen by most.

«What'd you want to do?»

The door Emma's headed towards isn't cracked, but it's unlocked. It won't remain so for long: as soon as Emma's on the other side of it, it'll slide shut with a soft click.

On the other side, what's immediately obvious is that wherever Jean was the last time Emma came, it must not've taken her far from here— it couldn't have: it's been days, easily, since the last time she showered. Days, potentially since the last time she left the room— since the last time she budged, for that matter, from the hastily spread queen bed opposite the door. Wrapped in sheets and a comforter, she's slumped against the wall with her legs folded somewhere beneath the fabric. A couple of scorched, tattered masses of textile lie beneath the bed; between them and the black marks swirling along otherwise bare walls here or there, a subtle hint of smoke permeates the room. Against one of the walls, there's a simple leather bag that must've been stuffed with whatever clothes were at hand after a sweep through a drawer or closet. Against the other, a half-eaten meal's sitting on a wheeled cart.

"… blend, blend, blend until you're happy with the way you look…" wafts from the psychic's cocoon. Sputtering flames intermittently lick past the makeshift comforter hood that leaves her eyes and a peek of crimson locks visible. LCD radiance barely leaks through the narrow, short slit beneath her chin; her eyes don't leave it, even when Emma's inside.

"How did you move on?" she asks in a slow, quiet creak.

« I wanted to kill things. »

Herself, namely. But alas, the world is forced to deal with an intervention that kept Emma Frost very much in it.

She slips through the door and doesn't flinch when it locks. Instead, she simply steels herself and stands with one hand coming up to rest upon her hip as she lets her wintry gaze take with a deceptively casual once-over the smoldering ruin. "I decided to," comes the chilled, unbothered reply. She doesn't coddle the other psychic in that regard, and there is certainly an underlying sternness beneath the syllables.

"There were those who encouraged me along, but ultimately, I decided to."

Jean is silent for a few seconds. Her eyes still don't move; she's wholly aware of Emma's on her, but that's not enough to miss even a moment of blending. She does, however, tense, shrinking the slightest bit further into her high thread count embrace.

Eventually: "I don't think I believe you," she quietly decides.

"Not the— you made a choice, sure; of course. You decided to try and do something different from whatever you were doing…"

Apple-cinnamon— coconut— sage— Chanel… a series of artificial scents weakly permeate the room, the longer Emma's judging it, one after the other; then Jean's shoulders just sink, leaving a confused mess lingering in the air.

"… but I don't believe the nonchalance, not for— … not for that. I—

"I've lost people before, Emma. I've lost people and blamed myself before, even, but I— I was right there, when the first domino fell. I could've stopped it; I could've been close enough to him afterwards, to watch over him before— — whatever happened to them, happened, and…

"… I want to do a lot of things, right now," comes in a whisper, competing with muffled phone audio. "I can imagine a lot of things, right now, but just— letting the guilty, and the grief, and the anger go— just moving on, just like that…"

The video ends. Her thumb snaps towards the screen on reflex, only to freeze just shy of it. She slowly breathes in, and out, and in—

Her eyes lift until she's barely holding Emma in the corner of one—

"I don't know much about your relationship with them, but I know who they were to you, I— I can't believe that moving on was that simple."

Then it's back to the screen with a shiver.

"I'm not exactly in a position to judge whatever your process looked like," she flatly acknowledges.

"You can believe whatever you like. I don't really care," Emma replies, hip jutting out a little more as her lip curls a little bit in irritation. "I didn't come here to collect your opinion on the matter."

A half-formed laugh escapes into there -'"And I certainly don't remember ever saying that it was simple."

"Of course, it wasn't simple," Jean sighs. "I know it— I'm not— nnh—…"

She shuts her eyes for a second. The phone falls so she can scrub her face in both hands.

"I just want you to be real with me, Emma," she murmurs, dropping her hands and letting the phone float up into her full view. "I didn't ask you to stay because I wanted to fight, I— that's it; I need real, right now, I need honest, I— really— need to not be alone with my thoughts…" Her eyes barely flick towards the immaculate blonde again.

"How did you move on," she asks— pleads, softly, "without just giving in to your worst impulses?" After a slight pause, she adds, "— I mean, did you?”

"… not give in to them?"

Instead of retreating back to shelter (CURRENTLY PLAYING: a gentle-voiced woman who can't wait to show everyone her pre-bed skin routine), her eyes stay on Emma.

“Well, we always knew that restraint wasn’t my strong suit, didn’t we?”

It’s certainly not a denial. It’s not quite an admission.

It affords Jean Grey all of the latitude that she’ll need to draw whatever conclusion she’d desire to draw, although Emma’s smile fades away once more to only leave the stern and disapproving teacher in her.

“The important thing is that I’m here, and I’m telling you that you are being derelict in your duties. There are children who are depending on you to get your act together if you are going to call yourself the head of a school. And there are things to be done that can’t be done from here.”

The blonde crosses her arms. “So, if you don’t want to be stuck here, then unstick yourself. I didn’t see anyone but you locking the door, and I have a list of things that need doing… None of which are serving as your personal sis-koom-bah squad.”

While mirroring that short-lived smile is beyond the redhead, a subtle ripple of appreciation distorts the astral air between them. Jean looks up and listens, silent and taut until—

“I’ve **never* called myself the head of this school— how could I?” she immediately interjects. “I didn’t even start grad school when I— “

Her eyes close for a beat as a sigh rushes from her nose.

“Emma… … Emma,” she exhales, enervated and cracking an eye to peer up at the blonde, “come on— if I wanted a cheering section, why would I…?” Her eye opens further as it roves pointedly down, then back up until it’s making contact with frigid blue. It stays there for a couple beats longer after she trails, and it’s only when it begins sliding away that she murmurs,

“I could peel every mind in their orbit — every mind that’s ever even thought about them apart like oranges until the truth’s running down my chin,” and lets the blankets slack and slip far enough to reveal hair in sore need of a comb and studded with intermittent flames. “I could scour HYDRA from the world — leave fields of glass in the places they once infected, so anyone who’d even consider following their path knows where it leads; it’d be hard, but…”

Jean’s tongue flicks past her lips while more flames begins to strain past the blankets, warm but never burning. “Burn the hate, the exploitation out of Alaska; reduce the churches and clubs that Purifiers gather in to rubble; take all the posthuman tears, and terror, and alienation I’ve soaked in for years and just, drive it all into every mind dreaming of ways to make it worse until they come up with something better. Or shatter; whichever came first…

“Finding the motivation to do something is not a problem, right now, Emma,” she whispers.

“She’s fueled by emotion; when what— — happened,” in the Club, with the black leather and green eyes gleaming with cosmic-scale mania, “happened, that was why,” is threaded with fear, and shame— and accompanied by a full-body sweep of fire that, given a moment of brow-knitting focus, recedes to a gently crackling embrace in fairly short order. Once she manages this, she continues:

“What were they like, Emma? I was gone when they were around, I— I saw our files, but there’s no way any of us could’ve known them like you did.”

— oh. That’s not continuing at all, but at least she sounds sincere as she carefully presses the diamond Queen.

I’ve **never* called myself the head of this school.

Emma’s eyes narrow to tiny slits at the remark, and judgment lays heavily there.

“If not you, then who, precisely, is? Because, you’re right. You didn’t know my Hellions, and I did. In their infinite imperfections and vexing inconsistencies, their brilliant hopes and possibilities… I knew them better than they knew themselves. Because I made a choice to do so. And you are doing the children—who are presently depending on your school and the adults supposedly running the ship—an incredible disservice if you give them anything less.

She’s talked down to, and it doesn’t sit well.

“I don’t care about what you can do, Miss Grey. I care about what you are doing. And that is…”

Her shoulders shrugs, her hands float at her sides, and her eyebrows lift expectantly.

“…what, exactly?”

“Leaving minds unpeeled and unshattered,” Jean flatly murmurs. “Leaving blocks free of ruins and fresh glass; Alaska, unburnt…”

Jean doesn’t flinch from the White Queen’s judgment. She doesn’t even try to fool the other woman’s senses into softening it, somehow; the slit she’s peering at Emma through doesn’t widen a centimeter as bare flickers of— something stir just beyond it.

You made a choice,” is marginally less flat, and getting less so by the second. “You did, and it was good one: I don’t doubt that you were good for those children, and that they were good for you. You cared for them; you loved them.” The blanket’s corner flaps begin billowing apart from one another, revealing a deep red tee, green pajama pants, and a burning embrace writhing from her ankles all the way up her neck.

“But I didn’t make that choice— I haven’t, and you driving up here, sneering down at me because I haven’t found a second in the middle of mourning my dead best friend to just— to completely reorient my life, and what I want to do with it around what you think I should do doesn’t— !“

A shudder briefly wracks her body as her eyes flick from Emma.

“You wanted to be what you were to them, but I never…”
A heartbeat later, she’s standing inches away as her eyes flick back, half-open and seething with a welter of indignation and sadness. The long breath she trails into draws fire inwards, gathering it around a point at the center of her chest. From there, it begins seeping back into her being, where it — for all intents — belongs.

“God, I— “ she murmurs, soft and self-conscious and darkly, distantly amused. “… you’re incredibly frustrating, when you want to be.”

It isn’t remotely an insult.

“Thank you, I— She’s so distracting, I… the less I can think about them…” she tries to explain with wan circles of her hand. “I’m not in here because it’s comfortable, Emma,” she whispers, and then—

Her eyes angle away from Emma’s, and—

Unpainted lips twitch into a taut, short-lived smile as she tentatively admits, “I was hoping for a little more… I don’t know, bonding? To make you a little less of a stranger? But frustrated works, too; frustrated’s better than livid…”

They angle back up while the blanket draping her shoulders slides to the ground. After a deep sigh, she offers a gentle, “They sound wonderful, and I’m sorry that I didn’t have a chance to meet them— I’m sorry that you had to lose them. You don’t— you don’t really strike me as a woman who takes people in easily…”

While she lets the thought trail there, she does try to punctuate it by reaching out to try and touch — even squeeze, if she can — the other telepath’s hand.


The contact is whisper soft—a brush against Frost’s cool hand—before she realizes what is happening. The response is immediate. She recoils, her eyes flashing a bright and frozen blue that would be missed by anyone not of their ilk.

Emma pulls her hand back immediately, as though she would melt under the other telepath’s fingertips, and it hovers behind her as though wounded as the reflexive hunt for insincerity sets against Jean.

Of course, the damage may already be done. Her defense and control is not yet restored to what it was before Kenai. In the presence of anyone else, it’s likely imperceptible. Hairline fissures and weak spots on a snow-covered pond.

Frost’s spine stiffens with the prospect of discovery, but the rings of psychic energy fade.

“No,” she slowly continues after a moment. “I made a lot of bad choices, but a good teacher knows when to intervene before someone else makes the same ones.”

She rubs her hand. “I am here because someone needs to get you moving. If that makes me frustrating, so be it, but I didn’t dictate a plan. It was Worthington who said there would be one. I thought if anyone could understand, you would. What they did in Kenai endangers all of us! But, if you’re telling me there isn’t a plan, then I will remedy that. Mourn your friend in the company of friends. Just don’t dare tell anyone that I didn’t try to help.”

The suggestion of bonding is clearly a trap.


She does not take the bait.


Jean is sad, for one thing: it’s wound around her psyche, braided with anger that can’t be anything more than impotent, tight enough to suffocate if not for the pinpricks studding it.

And she’s frustrated, with herself and her inability to do anything, thus far, but avoid making her friends’ lives even harder, more tragedy-stricken than they already are.

After days in bed with dazzling smiles, flawless skin, and burning susurration as her only company, she’s tired

… but through all of that, she’s still her. «?!» flares in the other telepath’s thoughts. Astral fingers delicately grasp inquisitive instinct; a little warmth tries to ripple beyond them, to feed the next best thing to a brisk hug or firmly squeezed hand back through a tenuous psychic connection.

When the magenta fades from her eyes, they’re fixed squarely on Emma with the corners of her brows tilting slightly upwards. A breath later, those brows start to fall while her eyes shrink and her bottom lip briefly rolls inwards.


A quick swallow smooths the sad edge from her voice, then she jams her hands beneath her arms for safe-keeping.

“… was serious: I don’t know what, if anything, he had planned. If it really was nothing, then — like you said, this affects all of us,”

a sentiment which hangs in the air for a hair too long as Jean lets out a long breath,

“… so we’ll figure out what happens next together.”

Her eyes shift down from Emma’s for a second afterwards. For the first time in days, something other than grief, rage, shame, or fear churns beyond the burning wall that rings her thoughts. Emma’s such a proud person—

“All of it— we can work on all of it together, if you want. If it’d help you, having someone who can understand what you’re dealing with,” Jean murmurs. Emma’s proud, and - frustratingly, in this moment - intelligent to the point of wariness, so why skirt around it?

“It’s the least I can do: you have helped— thank you.”

The corner of her mouth twitches up and her eyes lower for about as long:

“Any future assistance could just be between us, if that’d make it easier; I wouldn’t dare tell anyone that the White Queen’s less than perfect,” she gently assures.

Jean gently assures and Emma gently, yet ever so thoroughly, rebels instantly against the thought.

“It will need to be,” the blonde retorts, her eyebrows lifting. “I am here without any knowledge or promises from my…” Esteemed colleagues doesn’t seem to quite fit the bill. And neither does any other name by which she can call the Hellfire Club. “Well,” she uses to conclude the open thought with a laugh that is precisely zero percent amused, “from anyone else.”

“As for anything outside of settling the matter of Alaska, I will deal with it myself.”

The decision had been made that night to get Emma far from the team, distance them as much as possible from whatever would come of the aftermath of her time in unkind hands as though distance mattered for a telepath of her calibre. A telepath outclassed by so few, and only by certain measures.

“But for those responsible, yes. I want what was promised, Miss Grey. I want a reckoning, and I want to privvy to the details. All of them. In exchange, I will make a better deal than I even gave Worthington. I will help you and I will help keep attention from turning in your team’s direction until it’s done. But the offer does expire; my patience is great, but not limitless. Either you find a way to do the job to your satisfaction, or I will do it to mine.”

She sniffs sharply after it’s said, her sharp gaze dropping to her hands. From forth the leather handbag hung upon one of her wrists, Emma extracts a pair of wrist-length white leather gloves and begins pulling them on. “And I think that concludes our business, yes? You have your people to talk to, I’m certain, and I have other matters to which I need attend.”

The gloves on, blue eyes lift and blonde eyebrows loft expectantly.

“So I’ll leave you to it. Good day, Miss Grey. And my condolences for your loss.”

She doesn’t really wait before turning on her heels after a final expectant lift of her eyebrows and moving to leave.

“You’d be doing me a favor, Emma.”

The terms were met with a small, but firm nod. Vengeance needs no more explanation; why — continue — to dwell on it, when there are more complex and delicate concerns hanging just out of reach? Despite the gesture, there was a distracted quality to the way Jean held her fellow telepath’s gaze that only now — as she lunges into that unvoiced expectation, that almost certainly hypothetical question — sharpens into full focus.

“The Professor was already gone when I came back. Betsy’s always in motion. Rachel… even before she left the country, it would’ve been— awkward, I think, to work with her,” she continues, quieting briefly. “But practicing with you — refining control, with someone who understands her powers intimately — would be incredibly helpful.”

A long breath leaves her nostrils and the rest of her deflates, now that the bulk of her pitch/gambit is out.

“I’d owe you,” she then thinks to reiterate, “if you let me help you.”

Afterwards, she watches Emma intently while the door cracks open.

A low, “Thanks,” is then given, “regardless.”

Emma pauses at the door, her gloved hand hovering just above the doorknob as it cracks ajar.

It's a ghostly sort of thing that might give someone less well-versed in the wide world of metahumanity cause for concern. But they are not mere mortals in this room, and the blonde turns her head just enough to set her carmine-stained lips above her pristinely white shoulder.

"You're welcome, Miss Grey. I'll be in touch."

And with that, the visiting mind witch departs, taking her glassy and deceptively understated psychic presence with her.

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