Fun Facts About Illyana Rasputin
Roleplaying Log: Fun Facts About Illyana Rasputin
IC Details

Rachel senses something weird at the mansion. That something weird turns out to be Illyana, which is a fair guess. Rachel decides to attempt befriending the woman out of solidarity between cosmic horror shows.

Other Characters Referenced:
IC Date: March 03, 2019
IC Location: The Xavier Institute
OOC Notes & Details
Posted On: 27 Mar 2019 04:10
Rating & Warnings:
NPC & GM Credits:
Associated Plots

Sometimes Rachel feels sympathy for those assholes who get on camera and put up their hot new never-heard-before-theory that if all the metas left the area then all the problems would leave too. It's not a real, fully formed sympathy in any sense of the emotion, but there's a certain brutal directness to the observation that she had much more downtime in the U.K. (relatively few metas) than in tri-city area (LOTS).

Realistically, there's no way of telling who is influencing who. Would there be fewer villains? Or would they just lose their taste for themed costumes? There is not enough curiosity in her to use her powers to peek through dimensions and gather information for a hypothesis. She will just have to wonder.

(No she won't. A year ago Rachel replaced introspection during before-bed time with food-related ASMR videos.)

This predicament of too many crises and too little free time is what makes this evening a rare treat. Rachel had absolutely nothing to do from this afternoon onward: no hunting down leads to find more Purifiers, no reaching out to media influencers to ask them to help put pressure on SHIELD, no skulking around trying to figure out what the Brotherhood and SHIELD are up to next. Just her and the limitless time-wasting potential of the internet. Relaxation mode would also be starring a set of free weights, but Rachel makes time for those on the regular so it's less memorable.

All goes well until twelve til midnight.

At thirteen til midnight, Rachel is sprawled in bed atop her covers in a pair of cotton athletic shorts and sports bra. Her laptop is balanced in her lap as she intently watches an elderly Japanese man perform some kind of cooking witchcraft with a whole lobster and a variety of vegetables. She is acting like she might one day understand how to do this herself, but she never will.

A minute increments. Rachel, on cue, startles upward and leans over to look down to the floor, eyes wide and a hand on her laptop to balance. Below the floor, and below the next floor and the next, is the basement. The basement they decommissioned when they moved the X-Men stuff to the Adirondacks base. The basement no one's supposed to be in.

Or no thing. That sensation she feels prickling down her back — it's the kind of cosmic disturbance that might be nothing, or might be something she shouldn't just hurl her astral senses at to see.

Rachel shuts her laptop, sets it aside, and swings her legs off the bed. She reaches out as she walks toward the door. Her phone flies to her hand, whereupon she sends a very important text to her group chat with Meggan and Kitty.

<phoenix_EX> if i get kidnapped by telepath from idk victorian england dimension, plz come rescue me

She steps out into the darkened hall and briefly considers going back to change into clothes. She can molecular TK something for herself if it gets real bad, she decides, and then floats off to make her way downstairs and downstairs.

Floating is the cheatey way to avoid creaking floorboards, you see.

FUN FACTS about Illyana Rasputin, sure to be known by anyone who saves the 'FACT FILE!' section available on the back of each and every box of XAVI-O'S(tm) brand cereal - "X-TRA NUTRITION FOR THE X-GENE ENHANCED!" - include:

  • While appearing taller thanks to a penchant for heels, Illyana is, in fact, only 5'4" - short, for a mutant female conforming to typical human physiology!
  • From the perspective of antiquated human governments, unaccustomed to dealing with time travel, alternate realities, and variable timeline fluctuations, Illyana is considered legally dead!
  • The psycho-empathic plane in Illyana's immediate vicinity has been described as "a suppurating wound on the collective consciousness," and "a wound from which reality cannot seem to heal," with disgraced mutant manipulator EMPATH(tm) comparing her mind to "a howling void so cold it would consume the sun itself."

It's the smell of ozone that announces her arrival. The burning-bright energy of her stepping discs fuses oxygen; not a lot, but enough for the human nose to detect, enough to make the hall smell like it's only just stormed. The flash helps reveal her, too, of course, hallway bright as day through the radiance of the bizarre, sticking, liquid-like light of the disc that drops from some five feet, ten inches above the ground to the floor, revealing Illyana as it does so and promptly vanishing to leave the hall once more dark and silent.

If it's an unusual hour for Illyana to appear, that's only because it's only midnight. She comes and goes seemingly at random, sometimes absent for days at a time. Some members of the team might wager this is because she is not particularly well-liked nor well-trusted, but it's a not really a thing she takes into consideration at all. She merely, in her opinion, has more important places to be and more important things to do.

Whatever that 'more important thing' happened to have been tonight would seem to include several hundred dollars of rubber: full-length gloves of black, a dress of red with a black band around the waist and black straps that frame (and help to mold) her chest and attach to a thick, black rubber collar at her throat; black ballet heels, feet held en pointe atop precarious platform lifts.

"Hello, Rachel."

She is lighting a cigarette. The paper is black, with a gold leaf filter; she doesn't have a lighter. The tip just, starts to burn.

"You do not need to lurk. I saw you when I arrived. It gets very bright."

Rachel floats silently around the corner, leading to the hall that will take her to the foyer. She's looking down at her phone. This excuses not immediately and directly seeing a stepping disc appear before her. Fortunately, one doesn't need more than a bit of peripheral vision to see such things, and of course there is the smell.

And the cosmic bits. It's not like Rachel enjoys pushing her senses out in all directions at all times, but this is right in front of her.

The psychic stops, drifting backward a few inches while the hellish phenomenon resolves before her. The sight is familiar enough that she doesn't drop her hand holding her phone, but she has at least looked up from it. Rachel is perfectly fine with holding her silence and muting her reaction while Illyana steps out, lights up a cigarette, and drops a line.

A part of it is admittedly because she wasn't expecting to run into someone dressed predominantly in rubber today.

"I wasn't lurking," she says. In simultaneous adjustments, Rachel alights upon the ground and also manages to pull her gaze up from Illyana's boots to return her attention to the blonde woman's face.

"It's late. Levitating doesn't wake people up."

The mansion is admittedly bigger and better insulated for sound than the lighthouse.

Rachel crosses her arms, which leaves one hand near enough for her to tap her phone against her bicep. She considers Illyana in light of the basement disturbance being now missing. Rachel only knew her by reputation — even in her own timeline, Illyana was older than her and therefore had little reason to associate. She also died, apparently without the benefit of her own personal Limbo to even things out.

"Are you back from a party or something? Or is that…" she briefly hesitates for the phrasing, "…everyday you stuff?"

Rachel has heard things.

"Okay. You were not lurking."

Around the strip of black at her waist, the rubber of Illyana's dress is noticeably thicker; it features a (very) small waist cincher that has been (*very*) tightly fastened, creating a contrast between her breasts and her hips that is, in truth, a little jarring to the tastes of most.

She holds the cigarette with her left hand and keeps her right hand on her hip. Her calves and her thighs are tense; her heels put virtually her entire bodyweight on them.

"I was out. I go out sometimes."

Illyana draws on her cigarette, milk-white flesh pushing out against the framed chest of her dress; she exhales through her nostrils and from between slightly-parted lips both at once, and when she ashes, a tiny disc of light appears beneath her cigarette in an abuse of power that seems both impressive and recklessly vain.

"To a club. I am sure you have been to a club, yes, Rachel? You *have* worn an awful lot of spikes."

Okay. Rachel narrows her eyes fractionally at the agreement. She's still taking Illyana's measure and it's difficult to place the contraction-free nonchalance as characteristic or sarcastic or characteristically sarcastic.

As Illyana speaks of going out, Rachel decides to gamble some of her respectability on looking over the other woman's outfit again. The first time was shock at being confronted in the hallway by a very particular kind of clubwear; this time is a professional assessment now that the subject has been broached in conversation. The waist cinch and en pointe boots get the most attention, and, judging from the faintly furrowed brow, Rachel is working out the physical tax in her head.

Another cosmic ping. Rachel looks up sharply, but it's in time only to watch the stepping disc ash trick. Ashing disc? Rachel betrays her own amusement at the corners of her lips and eyes.

"Yeah, I've spiked once or twice in my time."

The psychic drops her arms to her sides. She lets go of her phone in the same motion, but it only tumbles upward to float gently behind her.

"Didn't know you well enough to know you're into that kind of thing, but, I gotta say—" Rachel steps past Illyana, turning to walk backward with her arms spread in a theatrically hapless gesture.

"It makes sense."

The redhead stops mid-step, back heel on the ground.

"I guess I got up for nothing. Do you eat after you, uh, do… stuff? I've got a little more calorie budget to make up."

Past the whiff of ozone generated by her discs, Illyana smells of rubber, of cigarette smoke, and, faintly, of jasmine and of sweat. To the senses of the Phoenix, however, the read is simpler, more direct. 'Wrong,' scream the senses of the Phoenix. An emptiness, a void; a black silhouette on the cosmic background, representing not something that is unseen but something that isn't *there* at all, a human-shaped hole that cuts and rips against the world beneath it with every action that it takes. The discs are little better; they're *there*, at least, but that flashing light is representative of both time and space being contorted, crudely and hideously, being folded together through the interference of another world entirely.

Illyana -

Well, this didn't really go the way she had anticipated.

Her relationships with the body of the X are not, spreading broadly, the most positive ones. She's died, she's re-appeared, she's aged, she's de-aged, she continues to be regarded as a villain by the entire student body on the west coast for her actions immediately following her 'resurrection.' Save for a handful, Illyana expects combativeness, skepticism, or outright hostility.

"I - I don't, really eat," she replies, voice a touch awkward, even as she follows Rachel, brows furrowed.

"That is, I don't - *need* to eat. I *can* eat. I will eat with you? If you wish."

Rachel is trying not to hold Illyana's soul-screeching presence against her. Whatever the rumors about her, she was an X-Man in her world and an X-Man in this one.

Sure, the Phoenix may be all wing-sparks and rustle-fires because there's a broken something in front of it that it wants to consume and burn and spin out into the universe to satisfy itself in the rapturous ecstasy that is only possible in the midst of the madness of creation, but there is a secret about Rachel Anne Grey-Summers. It is a very important secret, and one that informs everything about her relationship to the cosmos itself:

Unlike her mom, Rachel went on a gal pal vision quest to learn how to tell the Phoenix to shut up and stop bothering her sometimes.

Illyana feels eerie. Rachel feels the flames heating snappishly at the back of her mind, but she ignores them for now. That price can be paid later. Illyana seems like the kind of person who wants to feel eerie, anyway.

Rachel remains paused mid-step as Illyana works through the answer. That hesitant tone in the blonde woman's voice, the furrowed brow. Those she recognizes. Funny how the moxie to wear shiny skintight things isn't always the same kind of moxie to hold an unplanned conversation. Rachel knows this intimately.

The redhead turns around on her heel and continues toward the foyer. Illyana now has the benefit of not being stared at (at least with eyes) during the trip. The phone bobs along cheerfully behind Rachel. Illyana may notice that, despite Rachel not watching her, she starts off walking slow and only speeds up if the en pointe boots prove to not be as much of a hassle as they seem. Telekinetic awareness offers some tricks.

"Sounds yes-ish," she says. She hooks her fingertips on the ornamental bannister topper as she makes the turn onto the stairs. It's an old habit that predates her time in this universe.

"I guess we only partially know each other. Have you heard all the gruesome stories about me yet?"

The motion of Illyana's lower body is at once exaggerated and natural, exaggerated through the mechanics of her heels but natural in the sense that she moves in them without an ounce of difficulty, of hesitation. The toss of her hips and the movement of her legs seem adapted to an entirely different style of locomotion than a human would generally employee; she does, however, tend to overbalance from time to time, as if accustomed to carrying additional weight or having some other, missing, means of countering it. Clomp-click-clomp go her heels, like the clicking of hooves; she keeps the pace.

"I suppose I have, yes."

Down the stairs; still she encounters no difficulty, though she does need to pause half-way up to give a sharp tug at the hem of her dress with both hands after the lifting of her legs has sent it crawling up her thighs.

"You are from a dead future. A world that was cauterized before it could fester. A world where you were forged into a weapon against other mutants. 'Hound.' That was the word, I think.

"I… can relate."

Hooves, Rachel realizes after a dozen or so seconds of walking. Like hooves. She wrinkles her nose, but immediately thinks of the giant phoenix-emblazoned jacket in her closet. Everyone deals with things.

Illyana passed the test of the hallway, but Rachel takes the stairs with a renewed care while she listens (and feels) for how fast her snacking guest is keeping up. She's feeling plenty awake now, and would prefer to take them at a brisk jog down, but with the Phoenix shoved into the back of her head it is much easier to exercise patience.

Regardless, Rachel does stop at the bottom. Her fingertips linger on the bannister. Half turned to face Illyana, she looks up and over to the other woman.

"Mostly right," she says, her words coming slower and more carefully selected. "You know more than a lot of people. Perks of being a demon queen, I suppose?"

There's lightness in her voice but little in the way of levity in her expression. Her gaze lingers on Illyana for a moment longer, and then she continues on toward the cafeteria. It's just another hallway away.

"Most people cite the Hellfire Club business and maybe Dark Phoenix if they're feeling nasty and speculative. So… considering what I've heard about you, I see why you can relate."

Illyana looks down at Rachel - rare, in this form, for her to look down at anyone save Scottish werewolves - and says, in a way that is almost certainly meant to be comforting, "It is no grand thing to kill a world. Anyone can do it, with the right words. Or the right weapon."

That last step down, then; eye-level, or near enough, to the redhead. Following, still, behind Rachel, clomp-click, clomp-click, clomp-click, smoking her cigarette, ashing into a void of light. She holds her left arm up, bent at the elbow; her right hangs at her side, hand again at her hip since descending the stairs.

"What is 'the Hellfire Club Business?'" Illyana asks, eventually. "Do you mean that you are a member? I have been to their branch in New York City, when I was younger."

Rachel holds Illyana's gaze while the two are arranged multi-level on the stairs. The revelation that the other woman shares with her does not receive an answer. Not a verbal one, anyway. The tension that enters the small muscles of Rachel's face tells a different story.

That last step down. Rachel finally looks away and continues leading on.

"No, I'm not a member," she says after a pause. There's another pause after, a shorter one that indicates she probably already knows what she wants to say but is signaling a subject change: "Why were you there? Rich person business, or were you invited?"

Rachel opens one of the double doors leading to the dining hall. The peg at the bottom of the door clicks into its slot in the ground when it's fully opened to hold it in place. Theoretically Rachel could have taken advantage of not wearing shoes to hit the slide on the peg with her toe, but she's determined to get some use out of being a telekinetic.

The hall, vast and currently darkened, was meant for more people than currently live here. The mansion was meant to be a full service academic institution for all ages. Of course, the reality of their legal situation does not care for 'meant to be.'

"Rich person business?"

Illyana laughs.

It's - an uncomfortable sound.

"No. My parents were farmers in Irkutsk Oblast. In Siberia? Nor far from Lake Baikal. They were - peasants. Simple people." Something shifts in the tone of her voice. *She's* uncomfortable. "Good people. They are dead."

As you enter the dining hall, she is silent for a moment.

"No, it was - our teacher? Yes. He took us there for a party. It was the public face of the club, wealth and privilege put on display. I remember torturing someone. It's odd, the more I think about it, the fuzzier it all becomes. But, then, a lot of them are second-hand memories, cobbled together from a dozen angles, a dozen perspectives."

With that bizarre revelation, Illyana reaches out; no, really, she plucks a spot of lint from between Rachel's shoulderblades and flicks it away.

"I have never been in this part of the compound before. Mostly, I keep to my quarters."

Rachel turns her head slightly when the laugh comes. Not enough to look over her shoulder, but enough to hint that looking over her shoulder was her first reflex.

It was… unique to hear.

"Oh," Rachel murmurs for Illyana's good, dead parents. Not loud enough to truly interrupt. "Sorry."

Rachel lingers in the darkened door frame, one hand on the knob, turns artfully as if she's about to go walking off to the right. It positions her so that now, at least, she can look at Illyana with a mere turning of her head. This is what she does. She looks. Or, rather, she watches, with growing intensity as she tries to channel experience-dulled horror into neutral bemusement. The effort is only partially successful.

And then there is lint. Rachel's gaze flicks momentarily toward the offending bit.

"I, uh, imagine you wouldn't," she says, stumbling only once and only briefly. "With the not needing to eat and all."

Rachel disappears behind the opened door. A moment later, the overhead lights come on to reveal the space: most of the tables and chairs have been folded and neatly stored to the sides of the hall to face the reality of the reduced campus presence. At the near end is the kitchen access where food can be easily transferred to long serving tables — or table, singular, currently — and on the far end there are grand windows and a double doorway leading to the rear grounds.

Rachel steps back out into view. Her arms are crossed again as she looks out through the mostly-emptied hall.

"When I first came here I was a stranger who took up the Phoenix after some admittedly unhinged rambling," she says. Her tone is quieter now. The silence of the room's enormity seems to swallow her up. "There was an alien invasion. I was too aggressive. Things went poorly. I… took things poorly. I broke into the Hellfire Club and tried to kill someone. It didn't go well. Spent awhile being someone's slave in another dimension."

Rachel glances over. Her gaze is even. It's just an anecdote to her, right now.

"I've never heard the official story of what you did. Only gossip."

Illyana's reputation is largely negative. It is, also, largely deserved. Perhaps it is for the best that the bulk of Xavier's would-be students have been exiled to another coast; to them, Illyana has never been other than a villain.

"Which time?"

She sits down. Someone has left a plastic cup on one of the tables; she begins to ash her cigarette into it. Her question proves to be rhetorical - she does not wait for Rachel to specify.

"The first time, I committed suicide. You could dress it differently, but that is the truth of it. I was not stable, and with time became less so. I - suppose 'had a breakdown' would be the right phrase?" she asks, expression unchanged save for the subtle lift of a shaped brow. "I was manipulated into burning off the dross of my humanity and then into ripping a hole in the sky, and at the end, I encountered an untainted version of myself as a child and broke time to pull her from Limbo and leave her on Earth."

Illyana's cigarette has burned down to just above the filter. She presses the cherry against her thumb to extinguish it, and then drops it into the cup. There is no burn, only a smudge of ash. She lights another and takes a long draw, nostrils flared when she exhales smoke.

"She died. But she was never me.

"Belasco did not favor the idea of my death. After retaking Limbo from imposters and would-be saviors, he used the blackest and most foul of magics to reassemble what remained of me. But I did not - and do not - possess the soul of Illyana Rasputin. So, I was anathema to him."

Another draw. There is a tilt to her lips, a hint of a sneer.

"That was the second time. Belasco drew some of Xavier's youngest into Limbo, demanding they divulge 'my' location. Most didn't even know OF me. A handful, I managed to divert when he summoned them. One was mutilated. And, from another, I stole a piece of her soul. And, then, I killed Belasco, to the extent that ones such as he and I can ever truly be killed.

"Oh," she adds, "And the girl lost another part of her soul later, when she returned to Limbo."

She flicks ashes against the rim of the cup.

"But I didn't take *that* piece."

Rachel moves toward the tables and the kitchen. When Illyana decides to divert to sit, Rachel changes course and joins her. She doesn't take a chair immediately, instead placing her hands on the back of one and leaning forward.

Her eyebrows move upward fractionally when Illyana brings up suicide. They stay there for the duration of the recounting. The only time that Rachel's gaze leaves the other woman's face is when she glances to see the routine with extinguishing the cigarette and lighting another.

It turns out to be a long enough window that Rachel pulls out her chair and sits down. Illyana is mentioning another death about the time that Rachel is settling into her seat. She exhales and folds her hands.

"That's, uh. That's a lot. I suppose I've got a lot too, but, it always seems more manageable when you lived through it personally, right?"

Rachel crosses her arms and is briefly silent while she studies Illyana's face. Her general surprise level has returned to normal, at least, to judge by her expression.

"So what brought you back here? Did you ever give that girl her soul chunk back?"

The serving window slides open. Two mugs of something steaming come floating out, making their way to the table.

"I went with a mint tea because it's hard to hate those," she asides.


It's so casual a dismissal. 'Did you remember to set your clocks forward?' 'Did you watch the news last night?' 'Did you give that girl back the piece of her soul that you cut out?'

And she seems entirely content to leave it at that, at least at first. But, for whatever reason - perhaps even the degree to which Rachel seems uncomfortable with the entire idea of it - she *does* elaborate, "That is, it is no longer mine to return. It, and the fragments that remain of my own, were lost.

"But I *did* kill the witch responsible for their loss. Several times, in fact. I spent many years searching for the medallion that houses the stones, but never found them."

Illyana accepts the telekinetically proffered tea and takes a small sip of it. She sets it on the table, hands cupped around it, cigarette protruding from between the fore and ring fingers of her left hand, nails clicking against the ceramic.

"I'm here," she says without a trace of hyperbole, "Because sometime soon Limbo is going to be torn open. And I do not mean that the wall between Limbo and Earth will fracture; rather, I mean that Limbo itself will be shattered. Limbo is a prison. When it is broken, the Elder Gods will be free to walk the Earth, and they will consume everything that is or was ever meant to be."

Illyana's eyes flick down to the tea.

"This is good. Thank you."

Rachel reaches up and takes her cup from the air without looking. One may imagine that telekinesis is coordinated with a similar reflex to handing yourself something with your other hand. Or, maybe she's just very good.

'No.' Rachel drinks her tea, looking at Illyana over the rim of her cup. The quiet stretches on. It is difficult to say if Rachel assumes there will be a continuation eventually, or if she hopes her lack of a reply will prompt a continuation, but she seems fascinatingly calm in that moment before Illyana continues to speak.

She sets her cup down. True to the word, she too cups her hands around it. Warmth has always been kind to her. She will not refuse a chance to be near it a little longer.

"You're welcome," Rachel replies, her tone flat, though not in aggression or disdain. It seems more like a rote thing in a very non-rote moment.

"So…" begins the psychic, after consideration. She speaks slowly at first and picks up more speed: "SHIELD is breathing down our neck about registration and is acting extra shady to metas, the Purifiers are trying to kill us with abused brainwashed mutants, the Brotherhood is gearing up for another string of political statement killings, Hydra is going to detonate a bomb or something, I don't know, in the middle of the city, and even if we take care of all of that, there's going to be another hell invasion that will make the last one look like a dress rehearsal."

Rachel purses her lips thin. She looks down at her tea. Her poor, gentle, innocent tea. It would never hurt her.

"A part of me misses when the biggest problems were all stupid choices I made. Those don't have a side effect of wiping out my friends, or the city, or, I guess, all of reality."

Given the enormity of her actions and in truth the enormity of her very nature, Illyana looks disarmingly human. Without the assistance of towering heels, she is also disarmingly small - even seated, Rachel is visibly and markedly taller than the Russian girl. Were it not for the makeup, the wardrobe - chiefly, the prominently displayed cleavage and the visible tone of her shoulders and her arms - she might even pass for fragile.

"That's the problem with The Dream. That's always been the problem with The Dream. Sooner or later, you wake up from it and the world is still as it was before you went to sleep. Just think how well it worked in *your* future."

Illyana takes a sip of her tea and a deep, lung-filling drag off her cigarette, pallid flesh pressing against the 'fabric' of her dress. This time, she exhales slowly; blood-red lips parted just a touch, a billowing line of smoke rising towards the ceiling.

"What makes you so sure you couldn't make a better reality?" she asks, eyes looking straight into Rachel's.

"At least you could claim your heart was in the right place."

That's the game with mutants, isn't it? No one is how they seem. There's always something going on beneath the surface. Every student an iceberg, every teacher a maze. Nothing to ever take for granted.

Except for Beak. That guy is exactly what he seems like.

Rachel looks up sharply at the invocation of The Dream. There are some tones that impart title case on words, especially in the right context. Sitting here in this empty dining hall — one that a year or so ago would be daily filled with people, until registration fears emptied the campus — is the right context for The Dream.

As Illyana continues, Rachel's expression grows increasingly sharp. Her brow knits and her eyes narrow, though the aggression in her face wars with the attentiveness necessary to hear the other woman out.

When Illyana looks back to her and drops the bon mot, Rachel holds her gaze for an aching two seconds. Then she glances away, exhaling sharply as if she could breathe out her annoyance.

"I get enough of that edgy wille zur macht shit from arguing with the twins while they're trying out their latest murder scheme. You think we're not trying to make a better world here? You think we haven't saved people, improved their lives? There's always someone ready to kick it all over and gloat that none of it ever mattered, because tearing something down is easy and final and building something up is hard and never finished."

Rachel glances back to Illyana. Her annoyance has burnt down to a smolder.

"I'd still rather chase a dream. I bet I can keep it up longer than they can."

Affect flat, tone truthful, Illyana says, "I don't have any emotional attachment to it, Rachel. Not the way you do. Not the way so many do. To me, it's - just another idea." She furrows her brow; her eyes shift downward for a moment. "I don't remember believing in it even when I was alive," she says, murmured.

"I'm sure you do try. And I'm sure you do make a difference. But - I don't know." Illyana takes another sip, another drag; she traces her thumb across the rim of the mug, shoulders tensed, back straightened, posture leaving her leaning ever so slightly back, away from the table.

Illyana's eyes drift shut.

"I rule a world that was built as a prison for things that even Gods were afraid of. I was raised there, under the whip of man who died more than eight hundred years ago and who taught me things that no human being was ever meant to know. And I have sat at a table made of bone and thorn with the devils of every culture."

Without opening her eyes, she lifts the mug to her blood-red lips and takes a sip.

"I am darkness and hurt given form. 'Hope' is not a thing I can even understand."

Rachel gives Illyana an even look from across the table. She leans forward while the other woman is talking, setting her elbows on the tabletop and folding her forearms atop each other. A challenging glimmer flashes in her eyes.

"Yeah?" she says. "And I'm fire and life incarnate. Wanna wrestle about it?"

Illyana's eyes snap open. The look on her face is one of confusion; brows furrowed, one raised.

"I don't -

"I don't know what that means."

A moment's pause, and then she follows with,

"Is that flirting?"

Rachel hesitates, but she boldly commits to maintaining her challenging demeanor. Among her many skills is knowing how to commit to a role.

"You gotta answer that one for yourself, princess. Did it seem like arguing or did it seem like flirting?"

Rachel sits back in her chair and drapes an arm over the back of it. She raises her other hand, which receives her cup when it obligingly floats up to her. She sips. It is a smug sip.

A visibly confused Illyana Rasputin folds her arms across her chest and leans backwards in her chair, cigarette still between two fingers of her left hand, placed now at her right elbow. With her brow still furrowed she stares down, silent for a while.

"I don't - I don't know," she eventually replies.

"I'm not good with… that. And sometimes, I'm not good with idioms at all. I had English blasted into my brain while I was asleep."

"Lemme guess: the professor, right?"

Rachel tilts her head back and drains the rest of her cup. She reaches forward and sets the emptied vessel on the table with a decisive little tnk on the wooden surface.

"Is this… you?" Rachel gestures vaguely in Illyana's direction. "Look, I get it, I'm into the latex hell queen thing. No love or hope, only life underneath my stilettos, et cetera. But…"

Rachel searches Illyana's face with another probing look. Psychics often have a nasty habit of prying.

"…you sound a lot more human when you're off balance."

She produces a huffing little scoff of disagreement and general discontent through her nostrils - her mouth is closed, lips pressed tightly together. Illyana's eyes are open wide, and she makes a point of not looking at Rachel; her head is tilted to the side, gaze directed off to a darkened corner of the room. Her arms tighten against her chest, and their positioning is defensive rather than provocative - across, rather than beneath, her breasts. It's a posture that's disturbed only long enough to drop (really, to throw down) her cigarette into the plastic cup she's been using as an ashtray.

"What - what are you trying to prove?"

She is, *very* clearly, uncomfortably vulnerable. It's only the smallest and slightest sort of vulnerability, and even that, she clearly despises beyond all measure.

"Look, I don't…"

She trails off; she shakes her head; she scoffs again.

"It is not business of yours."

The accent is a little thicker, now; the syntax, a bit less English.

Rachel doesn't use her powers on people without a good reason. That may not be the most ironclad assurance to someone without trust in her character, but it tends to work out for most people. This is to say that Rachel has not so much as dipped her astral finger into the emotions swirling around Illyana.

(Apart from ideology, Rachel isn't thrilled at the idea of mentally getting anywhere near a resurrected, possibly double or triple resurrected demon queen. She already has enough trouble with Wanda. The natural defenses are probably painful.)

And yet —


— a person with eyes and enough experience hardly needs psychic powers to see some things. This thing, in particular, is a kind of brash and conscious repulsion that Rachel knows all too well. Vulnerability gets you beat in some places. Vulnerability gets you dead in others.

The redhead's expression softens. She looks down and away, lowering her head to hide the barest shadow of empathic fondness tugging at the corners of her lips.

"Yeah, I'm sorry. Not my place. We just met."

Rachel stands. She picks up her cup and turns to release it in the direction of the kitchen. It goes sailing serenely off.

"I should get back to bed. But, if you can ever forgive me for stepping over bounds," she says, turning her empty palms up to show a lack of guile, "the next time you have some free time to go out, you can ask me along with you. Maybe I'll get really freaked out by whatever you're secretly into and we'll be even."

(It is for the best; to even brush against Illyana's mind is to become aware of how dangerous a place it is for an unprepared psychic, and of how grueling a task it would be to gain even the most meager entrance to it.)

Illyana's posture softens; she lets out a long, slow sigh of an exhale.

"You - did not do anything wrong. I am not mad at you. Frankly, you are the only person so far to talk to *me* rather than to their *memories*."

"A lot of memories in this place," says Rachel. She tilts her head up to look toward the ceiling. Her gaze travels its length as if she could find thoughts there, perhaps having floated up along with Illyana's cigarette smoke.

"A lot of… strong events. Sometimes a person's mind can get stuck on those for years. Decades. I can feel them. They're like knots."

Rachel raps her knuckles on the tabletop twice. That counts as knocking on wood, perhaps. She returns her attention to Illyana.

"I guess I often wish people would talk to me now instead of who I was… or where I came from, or who I look like. So…"

An empty pause. Rachel glances away, unable to find an end to her thought. She quickly seizes the conversation back by flashing a lopsided grin at Illyana.

"Anyway, see you around. Maybe next time we'll try solid food."

Rachel starts off toward the exit, raising her hand to wave over her shoulder as she goes.

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