[mass multi-media text message]
Text: For some memories. And because I’m Instagram-ed out for the day.
Tagging: The Cuckoo Sisters, Remy LeBeau & Cole Harris with Tar Baby & Beautiful Dreamer
Location: Clarke Bros. Grocers; Bedford, NY
Time Frame: Afternoon, Wed. July 15, 2015
General Notes: XRPG event
Almost immediately upon entering the local grocery store, Cole heard the beep! beep! beep! of barcodes being scanned at the register along with music overhead that sounded like it was coming from a country hits radio station. After pulling one shopping cart free from the bunch lined up at the front of the grocery store, Cole guided it through the store from its front end rather than the designated handlebar. His other hand was wielding his cellphone, eyes staring at an informal list of things to buy--the items mostly consisting of snacks he knew he wanted, as well as requests he’d gotten and a few general snacks he figured those who were not on this particular outing might want for the trip. Glancing up from his phone, he indirectly spoke to his present company, “Most of what I plan to get is junk--chips and shit like that. I’ll probably come back on Saturday for some and fruit so it doesn’t go bad before we leave Sunday. And I’m hoping they’ve got some coolers for sale because warm water and Gatorade are fuckin’ gross.” Cinnamon irises went from the Cuckoo sisters to Remy and back again, “Do you guys wanna split up and just dump everything in here or just go through the store all together?”
Welcoming the cool air blasting through the doors as he entered the store, Remy ran through a mental list of items he planned on purchasing, most of it being candy. He was looking at the bright yellow signs advertising what was on sale, when Cole interrupted his thoughts, “yeah that’s what most of us eat anyway..and by most of us, I mean me” he grinned. “I think I saw coolers and ice in the back. I think if we stick together it’ll be better in case we pick up the same stuff and we can veto snacks like gross smelling cheese that will induce a bus load of vomiting” he joked. “What do you guys think?” Remy asked, looking at the Cuckoos. He scanned the store looking for which aisle they should start heading down. “Do you wanna start down the chip aisle?”
The Cuckoos stuck close together when they crossed the threshold of the grocery store, avoiding eye contact with the passing humans. People sometimes stared when they went out in public; it was rude, but there was nothing to be done about it. Best to focus on the task at hand. They had made the case - several times, since the picnic - that they didn’t need much food. They were determined not to miss out on this trip because they might provide a logistical challenge. And they were probably against stealing, even if it would be very easy to cover all of their bases that way. Esme would keep pitching the thought, just in case. Tagging along for this trip would allow them to veto anything overly complicated. A few water bottles would be good, if it got even warmer as they went south. “We’d be able to map the place out if we spread out around the room. Or we can follow you, since we’ve never been here before,” Sophie replied. “Getting a cooler would be a good idea, I think.”
Cole listened to the suggestions from Remy and one of the sisters--he’d had a slightly delayed realization that it was Sophie who’d spoken up--and decided, “Let’s stick together.” He eyed the signage above a few of the aisles until he remembered where the chips and snacks were stocked and pulled the cart in that direction. “We probably won’t need to go down more than a couple of aisles anyway, and if there’s coolers in the back, we can save that for last so no one’s having to carry it all around in the meantime.” Pocketing his phone again, Cole parked the cart near one end of the aisle full of various chips, cookies and crackers. He knew what kinds of snacks he liked and hadn’t known any of their other friends to be particular about theirs, given the list he’d just glanced at again and Remy’s recent response. But as he started a slow stroll up the aisle, plucking bags off of the shelf, he glanced back at the sisters and asked, “What do you girls like?” all the while unattentive to the rapid-growing quiet toward the front half of the grocery store.
Scanning the aisle for Fritos and Cool Ranch Doritos, Remy listened as Cole talked to the girls. Picking a few bags off the shelves, it became more apparent that the only people he could hear talking were his group of friends. Raising an eyebrow, he tried to listen for any other sounds other than the low music over the intercom and the beeping at the register. Trying not to raise any alarm, he kept up with the group, stopping to price check dips. If anything changed, he’d warn the group. For all he knew, there could have been a legitimate reason for the change in noise level and he didn’t want to seem paranoid. Turning his attention back to the slim jims in front of him he asked, “How many of these should we get? They seem to be a favorite.”
Sophie was in a state of heightened alert out in public, surrounded by humans. She didn’t think that anyone would take the initiative to bother a group of seven people, but she didn’t like to abide by assumptions alone. While Irma was distracted by the array of different flavors and options in the aisle, and Celeste shuffled her feet and avoided making eye contact with anyone, she moved to investigate the strange silence that seemed to have descended over the store. The other four held their positions to avoid causing a stir while she moved down to the end of the aisle. It was Celeste’s voice in their collective minds, and her nails digging into her arm as she froze in place. Some of the others had maintained better composure. Sophie backed away slowly from the end of the aisle, hoping against hope she hadn’t been seen. “Y-you know what, maybe we should forget chips and jerky,” Phoebe said tersely. “This really is unnecessary, we should just head back to school.”
Cole’s eyes returned to the items in his hand after posing his question but as he placed them inside the cart, he looked to Remy and then said, “If they’re the individual ones, maybe ten. I don’t know if everyone’s going to want them or not but it seems like a solid number and we can always get more on one of the stops along the way if we need to.” He was going for a small pack of Oreos but arched a brow as one of the Cuckoo sisters broke away from the other four and started down one end of the aisle. It was then that he realized the constant beep noise from the checkout had stopped sounding. Realization settled in further when Phoebe spoke up; nothing seemed to be going on in the store anymore, save the borderline unbearable twang of the country music overhead. Abandoning the cookies and the cart, Cole crossed over toward Celeste, eyes narrowing slightly to take a look. His steps faltered two strides in, however, when he heard someone begin to scream, only for it to abruptly cut off, or rather, become significantly muffled. Defenses raised, Cole placed a hand on Celeste’s shoulder while giving a gentle tug to urge her further back down the aisle with her sisters; he didn’t see anything, or anyone for that matter which agitated his nerves while simultaneously driving him to look about for anything that any of them might be able to weaponize if need be.
At Cole's response, Remy picked up 10 beef jerky's and put them in the cart with the rest of the snacks. Turning to face the aisle once more, he stopped abruptly when he saw one of the sisters move to the end of the aisle and then heard the other suggest that they leave. They know he thought to himself. As Cole followed Celeste and guided her back towards the group, Remy remained on edge and followed suit to see what had made the girls want to leave. He put his hand in his pocket, wrapping his fingers around the deck of cards he always carried in anticipation of having to use them. His grip tightened as he heard the scream and his heart rate began to increase. He looked across the aisles and saw a teenage boy who looked like he just walked off stage after performing with his rock band. He wasn't sure where the scream came from. Looking past the boy he saw a young teenage girl who seemed to be with him. Unsure of who they were or what the problem was, Remy stood where he was and waited for an indication of who was causing trouble. He looked over to Cole and in a low tone uttered "how do you want to handle this?"
Silent cursing sounded over their link as the boys moved to investigate. Celeste was pulled back into the group, all of them shuffled to the back of the aisle to supposed safety. They were just fine with remaining out of sight. This might be the time to mention that they probably weren’t the ones in danger here. If they were spotted, they were going to be outed no matter what, they were sure of it. Even if no one actually shouted their names someone would give away the game. What were they even doing in Bedford? If Callisto had sent them on some fool’s errand that would gain far too much attention they should have said no. All of them should have told her to go to hell a long time ago, but that was neither here nor there. Sophie glanced at Remy - he seemed to be looking to strategize with Cole, ignoring the five of them. Backed into a corner, backed - damn it, they had to think. Okay. Establish channels, assess the problem. Handling things seemed likely to escalate into a fight. Maybe if they could just talk them down quietly everyone could leave without uncomfortable discussions. Their eyes flared a bright white as they hailed the two Morlocks telepathically.
The two Morlocks seemed too engrossed in their fun to have continued checking the aisles for other customers. Beautiful Dreamer had her palm out, close to her lips and was blowing a wispy, smoke-like substance at one of the clerks; the clerk’s eyes went wide while the rest of him stilled for a few seconds only for them to go from their once professional composure to borderline infantile. They were giggling away while punching keys on the cash register until the drawer popped open and they began gathering up the cash for the girl. Meanwhile, the apparent wannabe rockstar, Tar Baby’s hand and wrist went from a creamy pale complexion to something likened to thick, black ichor. He hopped up to take a seat on the small conveyor belt next to the register and reached over to smack the bewitched store clerk. As his blackened hand moved away, the same sticky substance was now across the clerk’s mouth, muting his noise like the screaming woman. The difference this time was his aim was sloppy and the thick blackness was also across the clerk’s nose. Tar Baby and Dreamer’s amusement over the whole ordeal seemed to be cut short as the two mutants stilled and their eyes darted around the grocery store. “Who the hell…?” Dreamer started to say but Tar Baby cut across her with a loud, thick Cockney accent, “‘Old on..I know that voice...It’s them damn Cuckoo girls! Kissin’ X-Men arse now, are ya?” But he hadn’t seemed invested in running yet. Dreamer on the other hand knew she wasn’t much of a fighter and relied heavily on her ‘dream’ smoke to get her both in and out of situations, but Tar Baby was leading this vengeance-charged mission and until now, she didn’t know how close they had gotten to X-Men territory. Ignoring the now panicked clerk, she backed away from the register. “C’mon, Tar Baby,” she hurriedly whispered while stuffing the stacks of bills into her pockets, “L-let’s just take the money and go!”
Cole glanced just enough over his shoulder to see that Remy was approaching and at his question, he hadn’t answered right away, still thinking on what they ought to do. He saw the slightly odd-looking boy and then his eyes went to a curvaceous girl, Beautiful Dreamer, who looked around their age as well, possibly a little bit older and less confident in what she was doing. After watching the two for a moment, Cole then darted his gaze back and forth between Remy and the Morlocks. He tilted his head a fraction in Remy’s direction to whisper his thoughts, “Well we can’t touch whatshisface there and the girl’s got some kind of mind control there so we can’t get close to her either..” While assessing the situation and seeing the clerk now struggling with the sticky substance, Cole was also trying to remember as much as he could about the layout of the store--which aisle held what. He didn’t know what substance Tar Baby was secreting but there were only so many things that wouldn’t receive the adhesive well. One in particular crossed Cole’s mind and he’d had just enough time to whisper it to Remy, “Oil. Like olive oil or something. It might be resistant enough to help that guy out without getting it stuck on ourselves in the process. Next aisle over.” He cut his sentence short while jerking his head to his left but the plan on dealing with Beautiful Dreamer came to a halt when Tar Baby called out the Cuckoo sisters. With his face now contorted in shock and confusion, Cole turned his head, twisting some of his torso in the process to look back at the now white-eyed quintuplets.
Remy's eyes widened looking at the scene unfolding in front of him. He barely heard Cole's idea about the oil from his low tone. As he had turned to go down the neighbouring aisle, he froze momentarily at the mention of the Cuckoos. How do they know the Cuckoos?. Fearing that the repercussions were going to be more severe than he had anticipated, he continued hurriedly down the next aisle, his gaze darting to every shelf for the oil. He plucked a bottle from the shelf and made his way back to Cole. "I got it, but how are we getting close enough to use it if she's capable of mind control with that smoke?". Wracking his brains, he tried to think of a distraction. Instinctively, putting his hand in his pocket, he pulled out a card, charged it and threw it at a carton of orange juice on a shelf by the punk boy. The carton exploded, spraying its contents around the room and in the eyes of the two teens. "That's our window, run!". Remy ran to the clerk and dragged him down the nearest aisle, bottle in hand. The clerk, visibly shaken and panicked over the fact he couldn't breathe was grasping at Remy's shirt as the teen struggled to get the cap off the bottle. Once the cap was loose, he poured the fluid into his hands and over the black goop and started peeling away chunks.
The shock in Cole’s stare was everything they had been trying to avoid here. They should have known better than to hope for the best. The Cuckoos continued to stare straight ahead, letting their power signature conceal their expressions. The boys were still scheming and planning, and actually trying to help the humans caught in the scene. They were a little torn about that. (About everything, really.) Though they had no interest in hurting humans for the sake of it, they doubted any of those people would lift a finger if their situation was reversed. Better to focus on Tar Baby and Beautiful Dreamer, two of the younger members of the gang. They had actually joined well before Dreamer, though they had been something of an unusual case at twelve. Phoebe was against hurting them too badly, it still felt a bit like betrayal to be getting in their way at all. Celeste had no such reservations. The others weren’t feeling especially charitable toward Tar Baby either after what he’d just done. Remy charged off, but they remained where they were. Charging into his line of sight was only going to lead to trouble, or more trouble than they were already in. No getting around that fact now. Their collective anger was only visible in a slight contracting of their brows, a quiet feeling directed at the boy who had called out to them. There wasn’t any point playing dumb now, better to pass what they could to Remy and Cole. “You idiot,” they said together, “You can’t just behave like someone who could find their own reflection in a mirror for five seconds? If you need her to get you arrested or dead before you get the message, that’s your problem, but you have no room to judge us. Last warning - take off or we take your brain through a spin cycle.”
Cole watched Remy take off past the sisters but only from his peripheral. Focus! he told himself, snapping out of the brief bewilderment to actually do something. For once, the use of his own powers hadn’t crossed his mind first, but that quickly changed right after hearing the Cuckoo’s informative timbre sound in his mind. Giving them one firm nod, he effortlessly expelled two of his clones who sprinted past the sisters as well, down the opposite end of the aisle. One had gone to grab a bottle of cooking oil while the other carefully searched about for the woman whose muffled screams had stopped but still seemed to be expressing a struggle with the sticky tar-like gunk. Heeding The Cuckoo’s warning, as well as the momentary distraction they and Remy provided for Tar Baby, Cole took off with as much stealth as possible. Dreamer was conflicted between helping her comrade and running; touching him meant she wouldn’t be going anywhere but Cole could see her hands hovering and retreating from his fidgeting body. He crouched low, close to the two Morlocks, simultaneously withdrawing his phone and hurriedly pulling up his contacts. The logical thing, of course, would have been to call 9-1-1 but it sounded like a quicker way to escalate problems rather than solve them. A new idea crossed his mind but he wasn’t sure how effective it would be; most of it hinged on how intimidated either of them might be about the X-Men and if they would chance engaging with a presumed X-Men. For the time being, if he was going to give it a try, all Cole could do was withdraw his current clones, stay put and concentrate. One clone became a part of him after guiding the once gagged woman to Remy’s aisle for safety. “See if you can get them out, or look out for them, okay?” was the last thing it said before vanishing in front of the teen. The other clone neared Cole with a bottle of canola oil and left it close just before Cole withdrew it and put all of his focus on producing a new clone--hopefully one that would help end all of this.
Neither of the two Morlocks were prepared for their plan to have gone south at the hands of fellow mutants. Tar Baby knew the risk, of course, but Dreamer seemed ready to give up her inner conflict of helping him in favor of sparing herself from whatever the unseen defenders might have to dish out. Still struggling to wipe away the blast of orange juice burning in his eyes, Tar Baby hollered, “Fuckin ‘ell! Li’le cowards! Think ya gonna make me forget about ya or som’fin?” In his struggle, he’d accidentally taken a swing at his ally, inadvertently pinning one of her free hands to the register with his unforgiving adhesive. He’d gotten the juice from his eyes but realized what he’d done with a spat, “Shit!” Dreamer went from wary to absolutely panicked as she tried to yank her hand free and begged Tar Baby to help despite knowing he would only make matters worse. “Do something!” she fussed while on the verge of pulling her arm out of its socket. Tar Baby’s gaze was darting around in search of the Cuckoos or any movement for that matter but when he saw someone crouching nearby who wasn’t one of the five sisters, he abandoned Dreamer and started toward him while gathering an excess of the adhesive in his hand. His determined strides faltered however; he and this crouching teen had made eye contact but he hadn’t taken off running. Wha’s wrong wiv ‘im? he wondered, instead backing away, closer toward the two aisles where Remy and the Cuckoos were. He hadn’t taken his eyes off of Cole as he moved, until he saw the quintuplets now showing up in his peripheral line of sight.
Remy kept trying to remove the sticky goop from the clerk’s mouth as the Cuckoos entered his mind. “Thanks guys” he said to himself as he the last of the tar came off his face. He looked up in time to see Cole with the other victim, only after he had vanished did he realize that it was a clone. Remy immediately tried removing the tar from the frightened woman before abiding my Cole’s request. He looked around trying to figure out what was going on around him. He had to get them out. He ushered the two store employees to be quiet and to follow him down another aisle near the exit. As they moved, he could hear the teens, one with a clear british accent yelling in the distance. Remembering that getting too close would be a problem, Remy decided a few more “distractions” would be necessary to get them out of the store. He wasn’t sure if the teens were targeting the clerks or if they were just causing trouble, so he tried to get them out quickly. Facing the exit with the man and woman behind him, he pulled 2 cards out of his pocket and threw the charged objects behind the teens, causing them to look behind them. As they did, Remy ushered the 2 employees outside into the parking lot. With the victims safely out the building, Remy re-entered the store to help his friends. He stayed low beneath the checkout aisles and waited.
Sophie stood at the center of the ground of blondes, squaring her shoulders in anticipation of what they were about to do. Remy and Cole seemed more concerned about getting the civilians to safety, out of range of Tar Baby’s seemingly random attack. (Knowing him, it might well be random. Knowing humans, it might also have been provoked somehow. They were torn on that matter.) So far as they were concerned Beautiful Dreamer was the only genuine threat here if she decided to be. She was trapped, which meant they were giving her a wide berth while they focused on the loudmouth. But if she was still here when human police arrived she might be in real trouble...they were torn on that matter too. Perhaps they could cover her escape once they’d made an example of Tar Baby. She hadn’t hurt anyone, it was just money. Stores had more than enough to spare a bit, didn’t they? “Or something,” they replied as they edged through the aisle to keep stocked shelves between themselves and their quarry. With that, the psychic collective lashed out at his mind. Their psychic reflexes were slow at first, after months of disuse motivated by their fear of the telepathic staff, but they were angry. Anger helped brush away the cobwebs and focus their power to attack his memories. It wasn’t as though he had proper training to face them - perhaps Callisto should have looked into that before sending them to Bedford. Or perhaps she was hoping they’d kill him. The thought of her finding vindication in this stopped them short in his memories; they moved instead to tap his frontal cortex enough to overwhelm without digging deeper to do worse damage.
Nothing seemed to budge for Beautiful Dreamer and her unintended arrest at the checkout. She remained panic-stricken and the longer she had been stuck at Tar Baby’s doing, the more she felt certain that the police were going to show up at any second. She could distort the scene and make it seem to them as though nothing were wrong at all but her dream smoke had a shelf life and it wouldn’t make a difference if she couldn’t figure out a way to escape before the effects wore off. Her head swiveled frantically while she looked for something to help pry her hand free but her attention was momentarily seized by her fellow Morlock. Tar Baby seemed to be fine just a moment ago but the sudden strike on his mind made him howl in pain. Reflexive to the unfriendly invasion, he gripped the sides of his head, as though covering his temple might pacify what he was now feeling but it brought him no relief. He couldn’t muster his generally foul mouth to respond with anything intelligible but was, instead, brought to his knees, mouth agape while staring blankly at the store’s tile floor.
Cole was only seconds away from pushing the clone from his body but was startled by the hollering Tar Baby was doing. His eyes narrowed for a moment, unsure of why the sticky teen was crying out in pain when, from what he could see, nothing had happened to him yet. But almost as quickly as he wondered this, he remembered the Cuckoos. Cole hadn’t really seen much of what they could do so he didn’t know the extent of their powers, but it seemed he was learning quite a bit about them today already; he could only assume that this was there doing or that the motor mouth was prone to chronic head pain--the latter seemed far less likely in this case. When Tar Baby fell to his knees, Cole averted his attention long enough to assess what Beautiful Dreamer’s state had been. Beyond her, he’d seen Remy return and spent a moment debating whether or not the girl would cut through her obvious fear to see him as a threat and attack or if she had been too wound up. A small part of him felt a little bad for her but he also wasn’t in support of robbery. Taking a chance, Cole snatched up the bottle of canola oil, kept low and made his way over to Remy. As soon as he was close, he said, “Hey. I think the girls have Aldous Snow over there under control right now. But...whatsherface doesn’t seem as hostile.” His head jerked in Dreamer’s direction and then showed the bottle of oil. “It might be risky but...if we get her to give up the money, do you think we should we help her?”
Remy watched as the British teen writhed in agony on the floor, wondering what was wrong. Coming to the conclusion that he was no longer a threat, he focused on the female with him. Remy thought about what Cole said. "Yeah she doesn't seem to be too keen to be here. Maybe she'll be intimidated by your clones? We could tell her we won't hurt her if she gives up the money. Getting the cops involved doesn't seem like the best idea considering the tension between humans and mutants." The less fighting he had to do the better. The last thing he wanted was for anyone to get hurt. All he wanted was some snacks and it turned into mission impossible. Rescue the hostages and take down the bad guy. Hoping their plan would work, he waited for Cole to produce the clones before edging closer to the scared girl, careful not to get caught up in her smoke. The Cuckoos seemed to be holding their own. All they needed was the money and this nightmare would all be over.
"Maybe. She might also get more fearful and defensive and if she does and uses that smoke shit, I'm screwed," Cole pointed out. This, of course, could have also been true with his original intimidation plan but they couldn't sit and do nothing; the rescued clerks and whatever shoppers that managed to get out may have already called the cops anyway. Bowing his head to concentrate and visualize as much detail as possible, Cole pushed a silvery form from his body that soon took on the taller, muscular, identical appearance of a crouching Wolverine. Cole had only seen the X-men uniforms once before by chance but he wasn't sure if the memory would attach with his replica or not. Keeping his head down to better commit to his focus, he waited as the clone of Logan rose up, revealing itself in jeans and a solid black v-neck to the frantic Morlock girl. The two made eye contact and after taking in Dreamer's visible spike in panic, the Wolverine clone raised its hands only slightly while the familiar gruff voice said, "Easy there. I'm not here to hurt ya..girl." While he had previously heard Logan's voice, Cole wasn't sure if he was producing convincing enough speech so he put his concise speaking abilities to use, having the clone pick up the bottle of oil and gradually approach her. "I'm gonna get you out but I need yo-..ya to hand over the cash and get outta here after. Got it?" After she quickly agreed and dug the money from her pocket, the Wolverine clone pocketed it; he opened the oil bottle, coated his hands and neared Dreamer long enough to pry the once warm tar free from her hands. Cole's instinct was to have the clone look for a towel to wipe off the oil but with an internal, resigned sigh, he had the clone wipe it off on his pants--unbeknownst that it was more Logan's style anyway. Still casting the girl Logan's signature hard, menacing but alert gaze in case she went back on their deal, he watched her stumble backward before turning and hurriedly huffing away, leaving Tar Baby on his own. Relieved that the plan worked, the clone quickly stuffed the bills back into the register, only to vanish and become part of Cole once more. Within seconds of its return, the feeling of being hollowed out followed and Cole dropped a hand to the floor to better steady himself. "Goddammit, I hate this," he whispered in reference to the side effect that had yet to make much improvement. He wanted to stay put for a minute or two--enough to gain his bearings a little better but Tar Baby's agonizing cries proved too distracting for him to settle down. Reaching up for the counter overhead, Cole pulled himself from his crouched position with his other hand holding his head. He used whatever stationery items as support along his way toward the other mutant. In doing so, he saw the Cuckoos standing firm and fearsome in the aisle where they had all once been. Though he hadn't intended to look weary and borderline exasperated, Cole pushed past his drained state long enough to project a stern, "Hey!" to the sisters. His voice then lowered to a slightly more conversational tone and volume, "I don't know what your history with this jackass is, but...we need to stop. You need to stop." His leaning on a display table had been entirely necessary but he tried shifting his weight to better support himself while trying to persuade the sisters to stop...whatever it was that they were doing to Tar Baby. "Someone's bound to call the cops. I don't want that attention. Do you?"
The Cuckoos were all but oblivious to their surroundings as they kept Tar Baby trapped in their psychic hold. Cole’s voice seemed to come from a long way away. It would be so easy to press on and ignore it. They had spent so long abiding by the X-Men’s every rule, practically playing harmless, they hadn’t anticipated what a rush it would be to finally let loose again. That was dangerous, wasn’t it? Yes. They had to go back to the school and compartmentalize. Every dangerous thought back in its proper place. The bright white glow remained in their eyes, but the rest of the world rushed back into focus as they released their quarry. Tar Baby wasn’t even comatose, but they doubted he’d be so eager to charge in for another round. Wounded male ego might encourage him to have another go eventually, but he’d need to get his wounded synapses in order to form a coherent plan of attack. “No,” Sophie agreed finally, “We don’t want that attention. But the people in the store have already seen us all.” “Any one of the people you two took all of that effort to save might try to harass you for your trouble,” Esme and Celeste said together. “They shouldn’t have gone far, though…” Irma said. Sophie locked eyes with her sisters for a moment before they nodded. “We can fix this. You and Remy head for the - ah. Or Remy could help you out, perhaps. We need to focus.” Shouldered squared, the five sisters marched to the store’s exit and cast a mental net for the patrons. The ones that had fled on their own, the ones that Remy and Cole had rescued, and the employees. All of them had seen far too much today. Their hive mind moved more carefully now, focused on carving out the offending details en masse without leaving a swath of damage behind. It was something they had done before - ironically, as members of the group they had just set themselves against today. Many of the members of the Morlocks were physically distinctive, and it would have been dangerous to have too many people searching for them. Psychically bludgeoning people everywhere would also attract unwanted attention. Carefully editing people’s recent memories let them pass through New York City without being hunted on every street corner. More like...every other one. Though the school might serve as a buffer against some push-back, they still didn’t fully trust it. The last thing they needed was some small-town grocery store patron with an anti-mutant agenda getting an excuse to claim they had all been trashing the store. When the clean sweep finished their eyes faded back to blue, and their shaking hands pushed sweaty curls from their foreheads. Staff disapproval be damned, they couldn’t afford to get so out of practice like this. Their brains were buzzing and every footstep seemed too heavy to bear.
As Remy’s eyes widened as he watched Cole bow his head and instead of clones of Cole emerging from his body, he saw Logan. “That’s amazing”. He breathed a sigh of relief as the money was returned and the girl ran off. He looked back at Cole who seemed to have a hard time standing. Remy put his arm around him and helped him walk towards the exit as the Cuckoos erased the fiasco from everyone’s minds. Thank god this is all over. “That was pretty amazing! I didn’t know you could do that! Are you ok? I got ya.” Walking out into the parking lot, Remy felt relief that they could go home in peace and that no one got seriously hurt. “So much for getting our snacks. Maybe we’ll try another store some time, this one is a little too excitable for me” he grinned. He waited with Cole for the Cuckoos to exit the store before getting in his car to go back to the institute. All he wanted to do now was go home and pretend like today never happened.
Thankful for Remy's support, Cole leaned into him as the Cuckoo sisters took it upon themselves to rectify the scene for all of them. "Thanks," he finally said to Remy, uttering it for two reasons. When they got to their cars, Cole nodded at his question, "It's a pretty new ability I'm still working on. But I'm alright. It's not as bad as other times are since I didn't do much with him." It was true, that by the time the Cuckoos would be at the cars with them, he'd be okay enough to drive--but still craving a nap. He cracked a hollow smirk about the snacks; his mind was eager to overwhelm him with a replay of everything that has quickly transpired during their otherwise harmless outing: the rapid decline of the trio's simplicity when everything went silent, having to loosely strategize, the things he had seen and heard... It made him sigh but he forced his thoughts elsewhere as best he could while fishing his keys from his pocket. Remy was right--they could get snacks another day before the trip and if it seemed like the Morlocks were back in town to stir up more trouble, there were other places to shop. Pushing off of the hood of his car, Cole made his way to the driver's side door and pulled in the handle while looking over to Remy, agreeing with his suggestion aloud, "Yeah. When the girls get here, let's just go back to the school." After his eyes swept the area once over, he got into his car, brought it life to get the air going and took advantage of being able to sit safely again, all the while doing what he could not to think too heavily on everything that came out of the outing, for now at least.
Their heavy feet carried them back to the car eventually, and the Cuckoos were glad to sit down again. It was best not to make too much eye contact with Celeste just now, or she might get insufferable about how correct she had been about the dangers of going into town. They were also avoiding eye contact with Remy and Cole. They had already discussed some of Cole’s changing powers with him, which made the new development there slightly less surprising than it might have been otherwise. That wasn’t the issue. It didn’t seem like either of them had been seriously hurt, either. At least they had that on their side. Beautiful Dreamer had been gone by the time they had started paying proper attention to the room again, and they only hoped she had the sense to put some real distance between herself and the store. Whatever else had happened, however, there was no getting around Tar Baby’s highly unhelpful declaration. They didn’t want to have to explain themselves on the way back to school. At some point someone was going to try shouting at them again, or - or something equally ridiculous, and they were going to have to deal with it, but maybe they could put it off just a little while longer while Bedford grew smaller in the rear-view mirror.
Tagging: S.P.I.C.E. & Dr. Jean Grey Location: The X Institute counselor's office; Bedford Hills, NY Time Frame: Late afternoon, Wed. May 13, 2015 General Notes: The Cuckoo Sisters are asked back to Jean's office for a talk. | Death (conversation) tw
Jean had been gradually preparing her office for the summer break, sorting through files on her computer, as well as tangible records she had on graduating students who had no plans of returning to the school before the summer's end. Like previous years, the notes and paperwork would be archived; she was also sorting through books to pull on the very full cases in in her office, and trying to find new homes for the number of trinkets gifted to her by friends and students. For the time being, she would have a slight mess around her office that mostly appeared to be misplaced boxes with desk trinkets collected in two and a few cream-colored folders stacked perpendicular to other boxes' lengths. For a little while this afternoon, she had carved out some time to speak with The Cuckoo Sisters--another check in although with the recent weekend's events, she had more specific questions for the quintet than the last time she spoke privately with them. Placing additional chairs in the office for each sister added to the room looking cluttered, but access to said seats was not much of an obstacle. With her long, fiery hair gathered up in a low ponytail, she continued weighing whether or not to box up a few trinkets on her bookcase, frequently eyeing the long, sleek photo albums they stood in front of, all the while waiting for the sisters' arrival.
Sophie led the way into the room, with her sisters trailing close behind her. They couldn’t think of anything they could possibly be in trouble for this time - though instinct had prompted them to rattle off a list of things Doctor Grey might be cross about, just to be sure. Sure, they had a tendency to be awake at all hours, but a telepath ought to appreciate how difficult it could be to sleep sometimes. It wasn’t like they went out and set fires when they couldn’t sleep. Once again, there had been enough chairs placed in the room for all five of them. It was undoubtedly considerate, but it also removed a fantastic excuse to flee the room and return to reading somewhere. They didn’t always mesh well with authority figures. It couldn’t be helped, really, given how many people that were supposedly meant to care about them proved untrustworthy. Real authority came from competence, not titles. They had learned that a little too late, and now they were all here. Sophie took the center seat and folded her hands in her lap, while Celeste glowered and Phoebe surveyed the items on the bookshelf Doctor Grey had been looking at without really focusing on them. Esme inclined her head slightly toward Irma for a silent comment, but Irma shook her head. They had to at least let Doctor Grey get a sentence in before anyone jumped to accusations. She hadn’t really done anything to them. Not yet, as Celeste was quick to remind them all. “You wanted to speak to us,” Sophie said, staring across the desk at their teacher.
Jean heard the girls, or rather she had become aware of them shortly before they showed up at her door. She had moved a porcelain Precious Moments figurine aside and pulled two of the slender albums out to place on her desk. "Good afternoon, girls. Yes, I did," she confirmed, pulling her chair a smidge in her direction to sit down. One hand rested casually on the topmost album while her other hand sat idle beside it. Her eyes moved from one pair of blue eyes to the next as she said in a cavalier tone, "I hope you're all well. It seems you were missed at the prom this past weekend." To snuff suspicions, the woman added, "A few of your peers mentioned you that night."
The Cuckoos exchanged brief glances at that. It wasn’t exactly what they had been expecting, if they had been expecting anything at all from Doctor Grey. Their first instinct was to be defensive and push her away from the topic. Whether it would work as well with a telepathic teacher was anyone’s guess, but it did wonders for getting ordinary people to give up on topics that the sisters didn’t want to touch. “Well, as we understand it, it’s rude to show up without dresses,” Sophie said primly. “And anyone we might have asked for help with that is quite dead,” Esme continued. “Not that they might have felt obligated even if they were alive,” Celeste said, crossing her arms over her chest. It was better not to make too much eye contact with the enemy. “They weren’t our real parents, after all. And proms are expensive even for one person. For five? I don’t know that they would have wanted to finance that either way.”
Jean listened to the girls reasoning for not attending the prom, not refuting that prom attire had the potential to be costly. Sure, there was the thrift store in town but she wasn’t ignorant to the fact that most would be buying from the local apparel store; if appearances in that respect mattered to them, it too would make sense enough for the professor to not say much more on it. Her eyes went from one girl to the next as they spoke, hazel hues lingering on what Esme and Celeste had said. While she wasn’t sure if the information she had would provide any solace for the girls, she didn’t want to sit on it beyond this day. After taking a breath, she moved her hand away from the album, eyeing it for a moment. “Do you girls mind me asking…” Her head rose, eyes and all, while she squared her shoulders she didn’t realize had slumped, “...how did you find out that the parents you had weren’t your real parents? I know that some adopted children are told and others...well, you’re all telepaths so I suppose the better question would be were you told anything about either of your birth parents?”
Phoebe tsked slightly behind her teeth. “We probably mind a bit.” They were hardly known for taking personal questions well, it shouldn’t come as any surprise now. Sophie stared contemplatively at Jean for a long moment, debating how to answer the question, if she should. Was it really anyone’s business? Then again, a bit of uncomfortable truth had ended the previous line of inquiry. Perhaps that could be repeated. And if it was, it ought to be her, not Esme or Celeste. Prom was one thing, but neither of them could be trusted to remain emotionally detached from this particular line of questioning. “We were never told. Not directly.” Sophie shifted her posture in her chair slightly, though she was determined not to look down or fidget too much. “We were always...attuned to each other, to a degree that humans noticed, but not to other people. We were twelve when our telepathy came in, and we got all of the details out of their heads.” “They didn’t want us anymore,” Esme cut in, narrowing her eyes at Jean. “Happy? They were too freaked out by the fact that we’d gone from ‘strange’ to ‘worrying’ and they didn’t think they could cope. They wanted to send us all back. Of course, then they died.” “So, whatever you’re planning to do with that, there you have it,” Celeste said. “What are you planning to do with that information?” Irma asked.
She was used to the generally curt responses from the sisters, already steeling herself before Esme interjected. She’d given the girl a lot, stern gaze and then looked to Celeste and finally Irma. The rejection was something she could relate to--better than most students were aware of--given the events that transpired when her own powers manifested coupled with her decision to run away to the Institute against her parent’s demands. It took a very deep breath before Jean turned her attention to the albums, feeling a little less certain that they might help out. As she sighed through her nostrils, her slender fingers lifted the album cover back and after flipping a few pages in, she slid the bottom album out from underneath to do the same. In it, there were pages of images from her old friend and mentor--some were taken right there around the school while others were from class trips. Similar photos were fitted into the page sleeves of the other album, including one photo of Emma in her diamond form. It was one of the few where she wasn’t at the very least donning a smirk, but Jean remembered her being permitted to snap the photo. Now she sat before five incredible likenesses and had been ready for them to react in further distaste for her, were her own hopes wrong. She held one album out to Esme and then held the second one to Irma. “Nothing,” she finally responded to Irma. “I just wanted to know if you knew anything about your birth parents, since...well, since a few of us here knew your mother.”
Irma and Esme took the albums without comment, though the other three hastened to look through their eyes to avoid the visible indignity of leaning in. The photos all featured a blonde woman, at least several years old by the clothing in them, though it must have been fashionable at the time. They hadn’t been that attuned while dealing with so many issues of their own. And this - this one was of that woman with an expressionless face cast in shining diamond. The word mother seemed far too loud for the room. A shout in a library, some weight that hit them in the stomach only to settle there like a lead weight preventing them from leaping up from their chairs and storming out immediately. That couldn’t be true. It couldn’t - because wouldn’t they have known? They were telepaths, telepaths weren’t caught unaware by horrible surprise information, they were the ones digging out secrets in advance and coming to arguments prepared. How many mutants could really have had a diamond form? They couldn’t get around that picture. The one, inescapable thing even as they tried to scoff at the woman’s nose and insist that they couldn’t possibly be related. It couldn’t be that common in such a small community of people. It couldn’t be. But it couldn’t be anything else. And it was amazing how much information they thought they had wanted for four years could feel worse than not knowing, somehow. “How long?” Sophie asked, when she finally managed to remove the block that seemed to have formed in her throat after a long stunned silence. “How long have you all known about this?”
Jean habitually folded her hands as they rested on her desk top again. She didn’t need to read their minds to know that they were shocked. Her eyes were on the albums for a moment, thinking about the photos in there: Emma with her, Scott and Ororo as young adults; a couple of photos of her and the Professor--headmaster and Vice Principal--and a handful of group photos Emma had taken of the aforementioned. Sophie’s question snapped her gaze back up to the girls. For a moment, Jean pursed her lips together feeling the inevitable discomfort that she’d anticipated from the questions, and answers they were owed. “We...a few of us on staff and I knew her before, and after you five were born. She was a professor to Scott--...Professor Summers, Professor Munroe and myself when we were students, and she was the vice principal until her death.” The last three words were spoken significantly quieter than the rest of what she’d said and after closing her mouth in attempts to swallow back and relief the dry feeling in her throat, she patiently waited to see if they had more questions they wanted answers to now.
Irma was afraid she was going to drop the album; her hands were shaking under it, unable to steady enough to even turn the pages. Esme, meanwhile, had flipped through the book she had been given at top speed, only to halt abruptly when the next shoe dropped. Because of course it wasn’t enough to have this alleged - something thrown in their faces. Of course not. There had to be something worse to follow. Esme snapped the album shut and dropped it unceremoniously onto Jean Grey’s desk, though Irma still seemed unable to move. Several different instincts were at war in their collective mind. The urge to throw things was making a very strong case. None of them had been prone to tantrums as children. Esme had sometimes made a bit of noise to get attention, but the kind of screaming and kicking they had seen in the supermarket candy aisle hadn’t been their style. Now, however, they were reconsidering their position on it. “This is sick,” Irma finally managed. She didn’t think she could manage anything more than that, so Celeste swooped in. “It is,” she said angrily. “Show us all of this after months just to tell us she’s dead? We’ve got enough fake bodies in the ground claiming to be our parents. We didn’t need another.” “You - if you all knew her before then you’ve known this our entire lives. All the time we were living with humans, the time we spent homeless, and everything else, and you couldn’t so much as call to tell us about any of this?” Sophie demanded. “If we hadn’t turned up here would you ever have told us?” Phoebe asked. “We somehow weren’t worthy of the information?” “As if you had the right to keep it?” Sophie muttered to her own knees. Esme stood up. The action made her feel a bit more in control, if nothing else. “Going on about wanting to help us, really. But why on earth are we feigning surprise? Burn the whole mess for all I care. We don’t need this.”
While Jean half-expected anger, without actually reading their minds, she couldn’t have known what words would be teamed with that anger. A part of her was feeling her own bit of upset, whether she ought to or not. But she couldn’t--and didn’t want to--erase the relationship she’d had with Emma Frost, nor could she forget how everything had gone in the time following her passing. But they didn’t know and that wasn’t their fault, so despite the venomous accusations, she quelled the feeling as best as possible, while responding to the girls. “There’s nothing fake about who I’ve shown you or what I told you. The Professor and I especially did our best to watch from a distance but we had no way of knowing how best to go about telling you all what we knew. Us not telling you sooner had nothing to do with the five of you being or not being worthy.” She forced herself to take a breath, making it short so to keep going uninterrupted, “For a short time, we didn’t know where any of you were and when we discovered that you had joined with the Morlocks, it didn’t make it any less complicated figuring this out. None of you trust us--you’re freely admitting it right now, not believing that any of us here want to help and support you. It wouldn’t have given you any more reason to believe me if I had told you when you first arrived, or if I had managed to get past your former comrades long enough to tell you then.” She stood up, primarily to collect the photo albums, her photo albums, and once they were back in her possession, she calmed the rising sharpness in her voice again. “I’m sorry that we didn’t find a sooner, or better way to tell you all. Really, I am and if I knew what would allow you to trust at least one of us here enough to tell you sooner, I would have gone that route. But the point is, she is your mother by birth and genetics. If you don’t want to know more than that, I’ll respect that and I’ll make sure the Professor knows too. But you’re right, Sophie, we didn’t have the right to withhold this from the five of you.” Her eyes fell on the sister she’d spoken to by name, “It doesn’t change anything, but I am sorry.”
Celeste said, bitterly, “Now, long after it could have done us any good at all, was not the best way to go about telling us.” Maybe they wouldn’t have been welcome at the school at twelve; they didn’t usually admit below the high school age. Or maybe they wouldn’t have wanted to go - but then, after finding out that they were unwanted, they would have run to anyone who had promised they were welcome. That was exactly what they had done, just not here. The memory of that brought a further sneer to Esme’s pale face. “We have trust issues,” she said, drawing out the words unnecessarily. “Astounding. You’ve really got to the heart of things now, Doctor Grey. I can’t imagine what repeated events in our lives might have given us the impression that trust is not rewarded with anything but more anger down the line.” “You can’t blame this on us. That ‘we didn’t trust people enough’ so you couldn’t even try to mention it,” Sophie said quietly. Where Esme was standing up, and Irma was shaking to contain her emotions, Sophie had remained almost entirely motionless. “You can’t, or shouldn’t, try to suggest that you believed we were too dysfunctional for this information. This isn’t our fault and you can’t assuage your feelings on the matter by pushing off the blame.” They were silent for a long moment after that. Esme was breathing like she’d been running a race, Irma clenched her hands on her lap, and Phoebe started tapping her feet without consciously realizing what she was doing. It was just easier than really thinking about any of this. It had never been more tempting to simply let themselves fall into the cold security of their diamond form. Being like that felt untouchable. No thoughts pressing in from the outside world, ordinary hazards not even leaving a scratch if they dared to approach at all, and none of that rubbish emotional entanglement to get in the way of decision making. No good plans were ever made letting emotions have free reign over things. They were a menace. A stupid, useless menace that cropped up at the worse times, and - and they weren’t going to give anyone the satisfaction of seeing them lose their composure if they could help it. If it wasn’t too late already, with the half-formed outburst already on the table. “Was that all you wanted to say?” Sophie’s eyes were still blue, not diamond, but her gaze had shifted to a point somewhere on the wall, though she took in none of the details. “Only we do have homework,” Phoebe continued. None of them anticipated getting any homework done tonight.
You’re misunderstanding me! was what she was shouting in her mind but outwardly, she’d shut her eyes and dropped her chin a little toward her chest, taking another deep breath. She was highly tempted to invite them into her thoughts and memories--to clarify that her statements on their trust or lack thereof wasn’t her blaming them for the withheld information. But she’d been aware enough not to go that route and provide ammo for backlash and potentially pouring more fuel into the flames. She knew exactly why she, the Professor, Ororo and Scott eventually agreed not to tell them right away; arriving at the school itself was overwhelming for anybody. Not having full knowledge of what all they were walking away from by leaving the Morlocks was another cause for the professors’ delay as a number of their students came to the school, with some level of post-trauma. Jean’s first sit down with the girls had nearly been the time that she would have told them, but she hesitated. Now, of course, she was wishing she had gone ahead and shown them, or that she had chosen a less abrupt way to tell them even now. Every single ‘should have’ was flooding rapidly through her head, stomping out the upset she’d previously felt for the girl’s wrath and accusations but she couldn’t keep her focus on it; right now wasn’t about her. It wasn’t about anyone but the five young girls in front of her. They were brilliant, like her, beyond their years in many ways but they were still young and while she didn’t know every detail of their lives, Jean knew that they had been through enough. She would spend plenty of time after this, looking into the past on how differently a lot of things could have been handled, but for the time being, she wanted to try and do what was best for the girls and right now, granting them the space she knew Sophie was asking for, seemed like what was best. There was much more that she wanted to say and lying wasn’t what she felt the girls were owed, but it wasn’t the time to divulge more. If they wanted to know more, she wasn’t going anywhere; her memory was sharp and her photos were plentiful. Scott and Ororo were there too, had she now alienated herself from doing anything helpful for the girls beyond this point. Accepting all of this, she opened her eyes again and gave a single nod and a hushed tone. “Yes. I won’t keep you from your homework.” Her hazel hues were on nothing in particular as she gave mild attention to the office door she was now opening for them.
Sophie nodded once, and stood up. The other three immediately followed suit, glad for an apparent course of action that didn’t require conscious thought. It wasn’t quite as good as actually shutting those emotions away, but stamping them down could suffice for the moment. None of them wanted to say another word to Doctor Grey. They had questions, certainly. They were a hive mind with a naturally inquisitive nature. Even on their worst days, they always had questions. Just now, however, they didn’t think they could handle the asking. Not the answers, as Miss Grey undoubtedly suspected, but the actual asking. Begging for scraps of information from the people that had been quite happy to let them go on in ignorance grated Esme’s nerves in particular. Celeste wasn’t sure she could trust anything that came out of that woman’s mouth, that it wasn’t being edited to suit her needs since they couldn’t get a proper read on her if they wanted to. She also wanted to get Irma out of there; sooner or later Irma wasn’t going to be able to stop herself crying and she deserved to be away from prying eyes when that happened. Phoebe just wanted to get out of the cramped office and breathe again. What good did it do anyone to know there was just another literal skeleton in their sparse closet? Sophie led the way out of the open office door and the others fell into line, not buzzing with anticipation or animatedly debating the day’s events in their collective thoughts, but wondering if it wasn’t a good time to go to bed.
Tagging: S.P.I.C.E. & Prof. Jimmy Dorian Location: The X Institute Kitchen; Bedford Hills, NY Time Frame: Late afternoon, Th. Apr. 9, 2015 General Notes: The six former Morlocks converse
The Cuckoos had been making regular trips to the kitchen during spring break, though regular meals were still offered to the numerous students remaining at the school all week. They weren’t the only ones with nowhere else to go. They were, however, the only ones they knew of who had been studiously avoiding the new staff member. Rumors of his powers had circulated a little, sure. Speculation of what might happen to certain people without their powers was inevitable and a little dull after a time. Even Phoebe wasn’t listening in on them much anymore. Their own hesitation was not the man’s abilities, but his intentions. The man that had been introduced to the school as Professor Dorian was a man they had known for four years as Leech. A Morlock, so they had thought, with no desire to break ranks with Callisto. His presence had always meant that no one could seriously challenge Callisto; anyone that might have would never have stood a chance without their powers. Even with Sophie at full strength, the five of them couldn’t take their former leader in a fight. Maybe they hadn’t understood his motivations as well as they had always assumed, or maybe something else was at work here. His sudden addition to the school staff had been certainly been something for them to contemplate after most of the Brotherhood’s debris had been cleared away. The suspense of wondering had finally driven them all into too much distraction, which had led them down to the kitchen in force. The sisters made no secret of their presence in their matching t-shirts, rummaging through cabinets or leaning against the countertops to continue their silent debate on the matter. Schedules dictated that he would be here soon enough if they waited.
Jimmy hadn’t really visited the school much since getting to know it and its staff. He spoke in person with Professor X and Scott Summers first, and then branched out to meeting the rest of the current staff over the past year. His choice to learn about and help out at with the school had entirely been his own and he had his reasons, but very few knew what they were. It was refreshing for him and strangely liberating despite the forewarning that other former Morlocks were attending the school as students. He didn’t know how many or who exactly he might see, but there weren’t many reasons for him to get nervous when being around others. For the present, he needed to ready the next meal of the day and take care of preparations for the next day’s breakfast. Having helped out for a few days already, he’d had an idea of the demand preparing meals for roughly one-hundred people, three times per day was; it certainly made him respect Kevin Sydney even more, even if he could only--at most--stand in the same room as the man. But when he entered the kitchen with soups and a sandwich buffet in mind, his steps faltered at the five identical blondes already occupying the space. He hadn’t said anything yet and his powers were consciously hugged close to his body--only affecting those who might touch him--but his dark eyes moved from one sister to the next, confirming that all five were there. Carrying on toward one of the two refrigerators, Jimmy’s low, slightly raspy timbre arose. “So this is where you all ended up?” His eyes were on the fridge, pulling the door open so that he could retrieve the vegetables to chop.
Phoebe was the first to spot his entrance, mentally nudging the others away from their idle tasks. She was almost glad to see him, despite him having the worst powers she could possibly imagine. (None of them fared well when cut off from the hive mind; migraines were a minimum of the symptoms.) No matter the circumstances of their departure from the group, he was familiar. Irma poked her head out of a cupboard, then slowly shut it and took a step back to get out of the way of his work. While they weren’t supposed to be in the kitchen while the staff was working, it was much easier to corner him here rather than getting suspended. So long as they didn’t get in his way he’d have no cause to complain about them now. Their posture was more casual than it usually was around the school, where they still didn’t feel entirely at home. Familiarity also encouraged a bit of bite. “He doesn’t seem at all pleased to see us,” Celeste observed. “Yes, we’re here. Not dead. Despite what everyone undoubtedly hoped when we took off. Sorry to disappoint and whatever.” “There aren’t a lot of options available to five homeless mutants,” Sophie said. “It was this or a life of crime. Telepathic crime, not the old kind,” Esme continued.
Already familiar with the occasional biting responses, Jimmy rolled his eyes while closing the fridge with his foot. “Yeah. I’m bummed as all hell. Damn,” he replied to Celeste, not looking to any of them while his tone was saturated with sarcasm. He rifled through a couple of drawers until he remembered where he could find a cutting board and grabbed some knives from the block on the counter and got going. “Lesser of two evils?” he questioned, going off of how Sophie and Esme responded. The sarcasm was still present in his voice, even though he’d been partially serious about his query. While he wasn’t entirely surprised, coming to the conclusion that they weren’t lingering in the kitchen by coincidence, he wasn’t the most welcoming or patient when met with the opposite so he continued his dicing and slicing, asking the sisters, “So what did you want? You wanna know why I left? Why I’m here of all places? Or what’s for dinner?”
Sophie folded her arms, but made no effort to move from her spot or interfere in his work. “Something like that, yes.” They had chosen the school as a matter of desperation more than a sincere desire to become part of the student body. Though the Cuckoos weren’t going to pretend that this place was a terrible prison, there were quite a lot of rules to manage. And because they had been forced to come, they were feeling a bit less charitable about it all on principle. They were able to blend in and keep civil tongues with the staff, but that didn’t make them feel as though they truly belonged here. It was just a mask that was easier to put on over time. If he felt so inclined he could end their whole charade with the other students with a few words. He probably didn’t care enough about their existence one way or another to bother; that much had been made abundantly clear by the whole group when they had been left behind. “To ask why you’re here,” Irma answered promptly. “We’d never suspected you to shout at her and hit the road or anything of that nature,” Esme said. “Though if you’d like to share the dinner menu we’ll listen to that too.” “Is this part of a plan or just a lot of bad timing?” Sophie asked.
Jimmy stopped cutting the vegetables long enough to look around the cabinets for a pot to use. He found a colander next and used it to rinse the diced pieces, hearing the sisters’ responses and his shoulders rose and fell by the time Esme said her piece. “Menudo and vegetable soup, with make-your-own-sandwiches, are what’s on the menu tonight,” he said, dumping the newly rinsed vegetables into the pot. He cut up some more, planning to do the same with some peppers and onions before adding in potatoes he’d diced earlier. “Didn’t Xavier tell you and your classmates already? I’m here to help out until Sydney gets back on his feet. After that, I’ll be at their new Suspension Center.” For a moment following, he’d said nothing at all, putting his quiet concentration on his food prep but after rinsing the second batch of vegetables and dumping them into the pot as well, Jimmy finally looked up to the sisters again. “Truth be told, I don’t owe any of you an explanation for why I’m here and I doubt either one would put your shared mind at ease. Here’s what I’ll tell you though... of course I have a plan. I usually do, even before any of you knew me. Do my plans with me being here have anything to do with you? No. Is it ‘a lot of bad timing’? That’s up to you all to decide but if you feel like you need to keep an eye on me to make sure I’m not gonna kidnap one of you and take you back to Callisto as bait or some kinda hostage, then knock yourselves out.” His eyes had gone to each of the five before he lowered the pot into the sink to put some water in it and move the entire thing onto the gas stove. As it clicked before igniting, Jimmy finished, “You don’t need to trust me and I’m not looking to earn it from any of you if you don’t want it. Doesn’t really seem like your style anyway, but if it’s any consolation to you, you’re probably not gonna see much of me after your usual chef’s back to his usual self.”
He was quite intent on his task, seemingly obvious to the stares of the watching Cuckoos around the kitchen. Or perhaps determined to ignore them simply to prove that he could. They were never certain where they stood with people they couldn’t read. It wasn’t just the migraines that came with losing their telepathy that made them so afraid to be without it, they relied on it for a lot. They had been fully telepathic for more than four years now, and ever since they had started peering into the minds of others they had learned not to trust them. Being without that sense felt vulnerable, no matter how normal it was to the rest of the world. Phoebe glanced around the expansive room. “They have got quite a lot of food here. And it just shows up, delivered, all the time. They don’t even seem to notice it.” “We never thought it was about us,” Sophie said, a note of mild exasperation in her voice at the runaround. “We know full well none of you give a damn what happens to us so long as we’re not in your way. You just didn’t seem the most likely defector.” “What on earth would be the point of holding one of us hostage? Do you imagine the school cares if we live or die either?” Irma demanded. It was harder to hold up masks when they were up against a familiar face. What would be the point of the pretense? They had long since arrived at the conclusion that it didn’t, not really. No matter what anyone there said to the contrary, they didn’t trust anyone not already linked into their collective to care when things went bad. They weren’t getting burned twice over. Even expecting this place to be safe had already proven to be a bad idea. “We don’t really trust anyone. They can’t disappoint us without expectations,” Celeste said quietly. “Trust is an exercise for idiots with short life expectancies,” Esme said. “Do you want us to stay out of your way, pretend we don’t know you?” Sophie asked.
Jimmy almost laughed out loud. He wanted to when his hostage situation was questioned. “Then by your assertion, I guess you’re all a bunch of idiots which would beg the question of how much time you’ve left yourselves.” He rummaged through the spice cabinets near the stove, adding some seasonings into his pot, “Don’t look to me to go defending Xavier against you or agreeing with you on what he thinks or doesn’t think of you all. You’re all plenty hard-headed from what I’ve seen so I’m not gonna waste my breath on that. But the fact is, you had to have exercised some level of trust in this place, coming here just like you did coming underground. You say you don’t have a lot of choices but you do have choices and you made them with a degree of trust that you could be here and not be looked at as criminals or homeless teens, or whatever you’re concerned with being perceived as.” He kept his tone low but matter-of-factly while his head shook a few times, “You clearly do trust people or you’d probably be dead, but hey, silly semantics over ‘trust’, right?” After going back to the fridge to gather broth to add to the vegetable soup, as well as what he needed for the menudo, Jimmy told them, “I don’t really care if you wanna pretend you know me or not. Me having been with the Morlocks isn’t a secret to all of the student body since I didn’t exactly make it a point to stay hidden all the time. And I’m sure the ones around here who do know about that aspect of my past probably aren’t as invested in secrecy like you five seem to be. I hear gossip runs rampant around here, but I would like you to make yourselves scarce of here sooner rather than later since you’re all crowding me a little in here.”
Irma arched a brow, nonplussed at his reaction. “We trust you and them not to poison the food, fine. I guess we need to allow at least that much or we’d end up very hungry.” Principles didn’t generally stand up to the cold light of day. Pragmatism ultimately had to win out against everything else when survival was the name of the game. Maybe Callisto had taught them something after all. It was all they had really been after here. Did survival count as an expectation? Perhaps that made them hypocrites on both counts. Being in a hive mind could also be an echo chamber reinforcing all of their ideas about the world around them. It would be easier to admit to any number of crimes before they admitted they were ever wrong about something. They’d just keep that detail to themselves before they got more snark from their number one fan here. (What was he a professor of anyhow? They might accept that Doctor Grey actually had the title fair and square, but when had he ever snuck off to earn a degree?) “Constant lying does help quite a lot,” Sophie said evenly. “We don’t have to trust the other students, we just have to keep our stories straight. If there weren’t so many damned telepaths on the staff we probably would’ve lied to them as well, but it was never an option.” “The other students don’t care enough about us to gossip about us either,” Celeste said. “Which is nice,” Irma said. “If the school gave out money it would be even better, but it doesn’t seem to be happening. So we’ll have to settle for staying uninteresting enough to be sure that none of the other students care that we’re still here.” “As you’re now the teacher, it really is about whether or not you want to have anything to do with us, not the other way around. We’ll get out of your hair. Good evening.” The carefully selected words and clipped tones had slipped back into place as they prepared to head back out into the world. With a nod from Sophie, the other four began to divert toward the door, leaving her as the final blonde in the kitchen. She gave the kitchen a brief glance, then looked back to Professor Dorian and nodded once before turning to follow her sisters.
Jimmy barked a curt, low laugh, “Good to know that you draw the line at starvation.” His visible focus remained on the produce he’d taken out but he kept on listening to the sisters. Giving another roll of his eyes, he said, “Wow. Well you five are incredible,” not withholding more blatant sarcasm. “Like I said, I don’t care whether you want to pretend to know me or not so no, it isn’t really about me. You’re bent on keeping to yourselves so I doubt there’d be much for any of you to tell without drawing attention to yourselves. And since you wanna believe that everyone here’s without reasons to take any interest in you whatsoever, why should I care what you would or wouldn’t say about me to others?” His power kept his thoughts protected from most, but by no means had he been bluffing about his apathy over his former affiliation to the Morlocks or what the sisters could say about him or who they might say it to. The only person on the grounds who he’d been entirely honest with regarding his past and intentions had been Professor X. Jimmy knew he was a mutant with seemingly unparalleled abilities pertaining to the mind. He didn’t know if the elder man could read his thoughts and couldn’t get a read on his facial expressions when trying out a few lies. So he was entirely honest about his eventful past--his time in Spokane following his military service, attending school on the other side of the country. His mutant gang ties in Washington and encounter with the X-Men that led to his ties to the Morlocks and loyalty to Callisto, all under pretense, albeit difficult to pretend at times. And now he was here, watching four slender backs retreating from the kitchen. They cleared out of the room and Jimmy looked up in time to catch Sophie’s departure nod to which he gave a single wave with his knife-wielding hand. “Adios, ladies,” he muttered before resuming his culinary duties.
The Cuckoos stepped carefully as they approached the office, as if making as little sound as possible in the corridor might actually put them somewhere more pleasant. Like a beach, or a four hour math class with particularly difficult equations. The latter wasn’t entirely sarcastic, as they did enjoy math, but the point remained: they didn’t really want to be here right now. This whole meeting was preposterous. Since their arrival at the school they had done nothing to warrant any suspicion on the part of the staff. They hadn’t even been in detention for breaking school rules. If this was about staying up a little late for coffee sometimes - well, it was rather a lot of escalation over some difficulty sleeping. That wasn’t the only thing Doctor Grey might want to talk to them about. That worrying thought had been circling ever closer once they turned into this corridor. Sophie’s fist paused in front of the door, hovering uncertainly. They hadn’t been particularly forthcoming about the details of their previous activities, it was true. Despite some resentment toward the group, they didn’t actually want to see them all dead or arrested. That crossed a line. If she had hoped some time here would have changed their minds about that, she was mistaken. If this was simply an excuse to get them in the room to comb through their minds for details...well, their options were limited. So, with a deep breath, Sophie knocked twice and turned the knob to lead their way into the office.
Jean stood behind her desk, one hand rested on her hip while the fingertips of her other hand ran across a series of books on her bookcase. Most of the spines had titles related to psychology while the others were miscellaneous novels and a couple of photo albums. She stopped her forefingers on a photo album and was about to pull it free but paused at the pair of knocks on the office door. “Come in,” she spoke simultaneous to the door opening. Her head turned to look over her shoulder as she watched the Cuckoo sisters file in and as she returned her gaze back to the bookcase, she finished pulling the album out and then moved to sit down at her desk. She’d borrowed a few chairs from Ororo’s half of the office space and already had five standing in front of her desk for the sisters. “Please, have a seat,” she cordially spoke while mildly exercising her telekinesis to close the door. After taking up her own invitation to sit and pushing her deep red tresses over her shoulder, Jean rested her hands on her desk, just over the retrieved photo album and asked, “How are you all doing today?”
The Cuckoos stepped over the threshold into the office, trying to glance around surreptitiously. They were curious about their surroundings, but they didn’t want to look it. They were almost always curious about something or other, it was more a question of their current audience. There were enough chairs for all of them. That was the first thing they’d noticed. She’d probably found a few extras around. The world never seemed quite ready to accommodate their sheer force of numbers. It was actually tempting to start blurting that they hadn’t done anything wrong. Certainly nothing that could be proved, if that was her angle. But that would seem more suspicious than staying quiet. As far as they knew they really hadn’t broken any rules anyhow. Celeste’s nagging worry that Doctor Grey was going to try to pin something on them arbitrarily was affecting all of them. “We’re fine,” Sophie said as they took their seats, folding their hands primly in their laps. “And yourself, Doctor Grey?”
Jean looked to Sophie as she answered her question and then nodded, pulling her hair back so that it wouldn’t continuously fall in her face. She pulled the band on her wrist off, threading her hair through it while responding, “I’m well, thank you. A little tired, but nothing worth fussing over.” Her words concluded with a soft smile and when her hands were free again, she resumed resting them over the album--her fingers lightly folded between one another. “Well, I don’t want to keep any of you too long, but I ask you all to come by to see how you were doing.” Her gaze casually shifted from one sister to the next as she explained her reason for requesting their presence. “I know that the five of you have been here for a relatively short while, but hopefully you’re feeling a little bit settled in here?”
The Cuckoos exchanged brief glances before looking back at Doctor Grey and repeating her words back to her. “To see how we’re doing?” That didn’t sound at all reassuring. Several different thoughts started up at once. What exactly did she think they were up to? She was telepathic, couldn’t she just look and find out what they had been doing for herself? She didn’t really need to ask. And if she didn’t need to ask, the actual asking must serve another purpose. Possibly to see if they would attempt to lie about something while she scanned them. “We’re all together,” Sophie said finally, “So we’re fine.” “And there hasn’t been any trouble, if that’s what you’re hoping,” Celeste added. A silent sidelong look from Sophie stopped the rest of her retort cold. Any sort of - of caring, or even a facsimile of the attitude, set off alarm bells right away. Celeste was feeling that more than the others. It meant that someone wanted something from them. Irma tried to project a more reassuring line of thought to her sister, that they were all safe in their all-in-one mind. Indifference they could work with. It was honest, and not too demanding. Anything else was trouble.
The repetition of her query made Jean nod again and Sophie’s echoed response of her earlier question had Jean wondering whether or not she should have phrased it differently, but the added remark from Celeste had her looking slightly miffed. “Why would I hope that there’s been trouble?” she asked, letting her uncertain gaze linger on Celeste before sharing the look with her sisters. “My question wasn’t to front an ulterior motive and I’m sorry if you thought or think so. It’s not unusual, however, for Professor Munroe or I to check in with students. We know it’s not always easy to adjust being here, even if you’re wanting to be here as opposed to being forced to come.”
Celeste tsked behind her teeth. “To prove we’re untrustworthy.” The others hadn’t really wanted her to say that, but it was harder to keep a lid on little outbursts when one of them felt strongly about an issue. Her expression gradually settled back into neutral as she slipped into the hum of their collective thoughts, stewing more quietly in her mistrust of the woman on the other side of the desk. She still believed there was an ulterior motive lurking somewhere, but she wouldn’t find it by shouting when the rest kept urging her to settle down. The rest were taking a much more restrained approach, striving to be tactful without revealing weakness. “We do appreciate the school accommodating us,” Sophie said. “Even without notice,” Phoebe continued. “We’ve endeavored to avoid burdening school resources or initiating interpersonal conflict,” Irma finished.
Jean’s shaped brows raised slightly but it was short-lasting. While she hadn’t known the reason for suspicion and hadn’t felt alarmed enough to investigate further, she wasn’t a stranger to being met with more guarded students. “Proving something like that would imply that we first suspected you to be untrustworthy. If that were the case, we probably wouldn’t have been so accepting of you staying after slipping onto the bus to get here.” As three of the other sisters expressed gratitude, Jean told them, “Well, we are glad to have you here, despite apprehensions any of you might have.” She lowered her gaze, briefly staring at the fleur de lis emblazoned on the front of the photo album. Now’s probably not the time, she thought to herself and when her gaze returned to the sisters, she added, “If you have any questions, you’re more than welcome to ask myself or any of the other professors on staff. I hope you all know that.”
Esme smirked slightly in spite of herself. “You know we’re telepathic and where we came from. The harmless orphan routine wouldn’t work here - er, that is, it would’ve been smart to be suspicious when we turned up, even while letting us stay.” The other students didn’t know about all of that, and they had agreed that there was no cause to tell them. The staff on the other hand knew full well, and they had expected them to act accordingly. Their enrollment was genuine, but they had still expected some sort of suspicion to follow at first. After suspicion had settled for lack of any evidence to support it, they had primarily expected indifference. Experience had taught them to be both cautious and private. They had known Callisto for a lot longer, and trusted her a lot more, and look how that had ended. “It’s not entirely what we expected,” Irma said. “We’ve been fairly...self-contained for four years, Doctor Grey,” Sophie said. “I don’t mean any disrespect, but we’re accustomed to sorting things out for ourselves. The past is the past, it can’t be changed.”
Jean shrugged her shoulders, “I do know that. I also know that a number of our staff here are telepathic as well--myself included--so if we felt a reason to be suspicious of you now, this would be an entirely different conversation at undoubtedly an earlier date than now. Is that how you think we perceive you five? ‘Helpless orphans’?” After posing the question, she added, “Besides, you five aren’t the first students to come to us from the Morlocks. We may not catch every single thing but more often than not, we’re able to decipher who comes to us with ulterior motives and who doesn’t.” A part of her meant for the statement to sound final, and she was fine with moving on and assuring Sophie with a slight raise of palm, “No disrespect taken. It’s merely to inform you, not to demand that you seek us out for answers or resolutions.” As she lowered her hand, her fingers pinched the frame to her glasses and she slid them on while reaching out to power on her computer. “You’re all welcome to go if you prefer. That was all I wanted--a simple check-in.”
The Cuckoos shook their heads in response to her question. They didn’t think the school had perceived them as helpless orphans; there were far too many telepaths on staff for that to have worked, even if they’d tried. The Xavier Institute would have to content itself with sarcastic and disaffected orphans instead. It was just a routine that had worked well with the Morlocks, though selective memory helped Esme pretend that they had not, in fact, been rather helpless orphans at the age of twelve when they had first been cut loose. “You may wish to know…” Sophie paused to collect her thoughts while Celeste silently argued against continuing. “If there are ever any humans claiming a distant relation, we’d prefer they were barred from the campus. The people listed as our parents in the paperwork weren’t related to us. We don’t need any additional contact with any of their relatives.” They stood in a single, synchronized motion, and made their way out of the office in a single-file line, heading up in the direction of their rooms to continue their own discussion of the matter.
There was mild relief when Jean saw their heads shake. As the computer screen changed, requesting her password, she made to move her hands onto the keyboard but her fingers hovered over the keys as Sophie spoke up to her a final time. Jean kept her light brown irises on the teen through her stated request. She wanted to say more, or rather, she wanted to ask them one question but knew better than to expound the matter further. “I’ll make note of that,” was all she said as the sisters stood and departed from her office. Closing the door behind them, Jean lowered her gaze once again to the album and her shoulders fell slightly. She let out a soft sigh, abandoned the keyboard and slowly stood up to put the album back.
Tagging: Eva Bell & Phoebe Cuckoo (mentions of: Other Cuckoos, Adrienne Blackely, Anna Marie Raven Location: Various, Xavier Institute | Bedford, NY Time Frame: Daytime 7th February 2015 General Notes: Eva needs to take a cold shower
Eva had never been very good at sneaking, her clumsiness never helped but she also found it really dishonest, yet here she was doing it. She was following the Cuckoos, not stalking, simply observing and remembering habits. Who was she kidding? She was stalking them. But she couldn't think of another way.
Phoebe stood out from the group like a beacon and Eva would often catch herself staring. She wasn't sure how she'd missed it the first time she'd met the sisters. On that occasion she had thought they were all identical with only slight differences, boy had she been wrong! Phoebe was definitely the most beautiful girl of the 5, Eva was jealous of how the girl's blonde hair seemed to dance around her head and Phoebe's laugh, an everso slightly higher pitch than the other sisters' but an infinite amount cuter.
Each time Eva caught a glimpse of Phoebe's heavenly blue eyes she would lose herself in thought, imagining how she would gaze into those eyes, they would slowly get closer to her, the gaze Eva was under getting more intense as the distance lessened. Those striking blue eyes would slowly be covered as eyelids decended, Eva's own eyes would close in perfect unison, a pause, then Phoebe's pink glossy lips would touch her blackened ones, Phoebe would pull back, teasing, of course, but then their lips would glide softly over each other, the intensity building slowly but surely, a sharp tug on her hair forces Eva's head back and the teasing caress of a tongue on her neck...
Eva stopped herself, those kind of thoughts were only suitable in the company of a cold shower, something she'd been taking a lot of over the last few days. She followed the Cuckoos for what seemed like hours, to different empty classrooms, the kitchen, the lounge, outside in the snow. Did these girls go everywhere together?
It was while Esme was making one of her usual sarcastic comments that Eva suddenly felt a rush, Phoebe's face had lit up into a big smile but she had dropped her head almost instantly to look at her feet. The rush seemed to turn into a red mist before Eva's eyes as she spotted who the smile had been aimed at. Her roommate Adrienne, she shook her head to calm herself down, she must have imagined it. But seeing Adrienne made her wonder, she hadn't seen her roommate in days, had she been so annoying that she'd driven her newest friend away within such a short amount of time?
Feeling both guilty and dispondent Eva made her way to the lounge and curled into a tiny ball on one of the sofas. She couldn't even think of a way to get a message to Phoebe without her sisters somehow seeing it or being involved. She felt her mood slipping but was distracted as she saw Marie out of the corner of her eye, she turned her head and her eyes followed the girl across the room, literally starting over her left shoulder and ending up over her right.
Eva sighed, she defintely needed a cold shower.