Aggressive Altruism

Characters: Klavdiya Vasiliev, Jean Grey
Rated: PG (Language)
Summary: Days after a psychically induced riot in Mutant Town, the neighborhood's ex-Russian defender finds herself fending off a persistent redhead's attempts at charity
OOC Date: February 28th, 2018
IC Date: February 28th, 2018
Where: Mutant Town - Harlem - Manhattan, NY


Inside the besieged soup kitchen, the Tiger finds members of her Pride who are, by now, either apologizing to one another, not really making eye contact, or lingering fearfully; at best, it's awkward. She also finds Jean Grey with her face resting against a table, conscious but clearly out of it. Whenever she leaves it, there'll be a couple little points of blood where her nose was.


It could've been worse than it was, but Mutant Town will likely bear some scars from Monday's machine-induced riot for quite some time. It isn't just the structural damage; that aspect of it is bad, sure, but building materials can be bought and sweat spent to ameliorate it. The economic effects of business owners having their livelihoods impacted, even ruined utterly in a minority of cases, are rather more insidious than any property-centric woes, but beyond even this - beyond the reach of money's ability to bridge the gap between trauma and stability - is the damage done to the very fabric of the area when a portion of its residents were reduced to what many outside of Mutant Town already believed them to be:

Violent; wantonly destructive; corrupted by fiat at birth.

Jean hasn't spent much time away since Monday. She may not have much in the way of money, but she has plenty of time, dozens of tons worth of labor, and more experience than she'd like in soothing minds suffering from rent trust and and the renewed wariness that comes with it.

Just being here in case someone else gets it in their heads to try something is a grim bonus on top.

Since Diya's soup kitchen of choice went relatively unscathed, she made arrangements to set up a small 'booth' - a fold-up table, two folding chairs, and a cardboad sign that currently reads, 'The ears are: OUT' hanging down in front - in a corner to give anyone who needs someone to talk to— and, perhaps, provide a little hit of calm to soothe their nerves for a spell. 'Doctor' is crossed out beneath 'ears', after some initial misunderstandings; ditto for the 'is' beneath 'are'; her status, written out on a piece of paper, is taped in the appropriate place. Why is she out? Because there's at least one prospective patient she knows she won't be seeing in there.

"We haven't really gotten to talk much," is the first thing she says upon spotting and closing in on Diya enough to put herself in (human) earshot, wherever the Hunter may presently lurk. "How…" she drops into a more tentative register, eyes scanning over the scrawny woman, "… are you?"

Tracking down Diya was a bit more challenging than before; apparently 'Hunter' has been staying pretty scarce and non-visible since the incident, so fewer people are aware of where she is or what she's been up to, for Jean to glean that information from their minds. But Hunter's Pride know she is about, and some of them are aware of where she's been: on the move. As always, there is an air amongst them of mystery, things they do not know about her and refuse to ask. Hunter just is; one does not question it.

Nevertheless, when the Pride comes to the kitchen, Hunter is there, even if she is on a rooftop across the street rather than on ground level. Jean can tell that Hunter is more heavily armed than before, even before reaching her; the woman's surface thoughts include ranges, markers and windage, and a barrel as long as that very nasty-looking long gun she has strapped over her back just can't be hidden by much.

When Jean finally approaches, the greasy ashen blonde in the dingy sand-tan and olive drab inclines her head towards the redhead. "No. Haven't." she answers the first, honestly. Not that Diya talks much. But she is not completely non-verbal. "Not … hurt." Not physically. But it's pretty clear she's jumpier than she was, less trusting, less accepting. More alert for threats to herself and her Pride. "You kept them safe." It's the closest to a real complete sentence Diya has ever offered Jean, made all the more amazing by that intentionally mush-mouthed accent-killer diction of hers. "Safer than others. Thank to you."

Dressed in a red coat; long, colorful skirt; black boots, and red and gold knit cap, the redhead's ponytail and garments are still settling into place as a few lingering eddies of telekinetic force fade from around her. That Diya's armed doesn't bother Jean: she approaches without hesitation even as she clocks the bulge on the Russian's back.

"I would've done more, but it was like the whole neighborhood was on fire," she quietly replies, voice carrying the texture of self-admonishment more than pride. "It was all I could do to pick out a calm thought to focus on, and…" Green eyes close as she trails into a brief shudder, then try to meet the Russian's when they reopen. "The phantom rainwater scents'll go away in another day or so, by the way, if anyone happens to ask," she adds, managing to find a small smile.

Jean doesn't stop until she's within arm's reach of the soldier, at which point she ever so slightly lifts and extends a hand; she doesn't dare reach unbidden, but she's ready to. "You and everyone else actually kept people safe, outside, where the trouble was," she notes. "You can be proud of that." Her head gives a quick, reflexive swivel in search of eavesdroppers and her consciousness echoes it; once she's satisfied, she brings her eyes back to Hunter's face and drops her volume to the point where a normal woman would all but require her to lean in in order to hear her— which is exactly what she does, right hand still subtly primed.

"Look," she softly says, "I don't wanna be overly presumptuous. But: that isn't natural… right? The…" Her left hand flicks up, gesturing towards her own mouth before it falls.

"… right? I don't need to know why! But: if you want to talk - comfortably, naturally - I don't care where you're from, I can make sure that nobody who might can hear."

When Jean draws close Hunter visibly tenses up and inches back; she's keeping her distance, without actively running or leaping away. And her movements, though economical, are not nearly as smooth as before. There is a jerky, twitchy air about her now that was absent before. She doesn't seem proud at all, but she also remains largely non-verbal.

When Jean finally hand-signs to refer to her accent, or lack of it, the Russian woman shrugs. She does not trust easily, and despite all that Jean has done, Diya does not know her well. Lexi does, but Lexi is not here to vouch for her right now. "Can make person … not hear. Maybe not recognize or care." She's guessing, based on what she has observed, but it's a canny, intelligent guess. She may be homeless, even wild. But stupid she is not. "Machines. Transmitters. Not just ears and minds."

Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get you. Diya is clearly paranoid. Tense. Hypervigilant. But she's also smart enough to know that those who are out to get her can get around a lot of the benefits those in Mutant Town can bring to bear. She has remained free because she listens to that paranoia.

Jean doesn't pursue, but she doesn't lower her hand, either— not yet, anyway.

After a couple of, "Yeah"s for Diya's initial observations, she offers the Hunter a small smile, supremely confident compared to the self-conscious or soothing expressions she's given thus far. "Mostly just ears and minds," she admits, "but the former's trivial, and the latter…"

She allows that smile to grow, even as her eyes slide from Diya's.

"I could probably count the number of people I'd really worry about hearing us in that arena on a hand," she softly states without a hint of arrogance, "and none of them are sneaking up on me if I don't want them to. I could make a little space for us— in a corner of my brain, since the astral space here is…" She meets Diya's eyes as a grimace whispers over her features, then waves that particular thought off.

"Think of it like an invisible, pop-up parlor," she instead offers. Once she does, she dares to take another step and tries briefly - gently - touching fingers to her shoulder in the hopes of providing a little bit of assurance— not to mention simple contact, given her nerves and the way she seemed to hold herself at a remove from the Pride she protects even before it was assaulted. "I wouldn't know anything you wouldn't want me to, still. It's up to you, though: I just want you to be… I dunno, comfortable. At ease, for just a little while. You deserve that much— everyone does."

Hunter's emerald eyes sharpen and narrow peering at the redhead. She keeps flicking her gaze here and there, all about them, clearly staying tuned in to her surroundings and her duty in watching over her Pride. But she seems a bit non-plussed by the redhead's assertion of assurance and confidence.

The touch only lasts a moment before the woman backs away again, still spring-tight and wound up. "Should not. Touch mind." she offers. Not must not. Just should not. "Not safe. No like find there." Diya's tiger is not exactly the friendliest creature, especially to invaders.

"Deserve?" Diya questions, and turns away to spit. "Not question. No ease." She gestures to herself. "Control." Then she gestures out and down, towards the soup kitchen and the people below. "Or death."

"You wouldn't be the first soldier with psychic scars and a wild side I've touched brains with," Jean quietly points out, "so I'm not worried; I'm tougher than I look." Her hand draws up and back to loosely hook the back of her meck as she follows Diya's spitting and gesturing.

"I'm not gonna pressure you, either," she acknowledges with a nod afterwards. "I can't blame you for being on edge, considering…" Green eyes drift back down to the soup kitchen and linger. "… but I'll be around if you ever feel differently," she concludes after a beat. After another, her voice falls to a whisper as she chides, "Should've done more— I could feel whatever— Psimon— did for a second, before things got real bad, but— then they got bad, and I got pinned down. Still…"

It takes a second or two before she shakes this off, turns her head towards Diya, and tries to pivot away from dwelling, at least for now; they'll both be a little more prepared if there's a next time, and so - hopefully - will the neighborhood. Speaking of things Hunter might or might not deserve…

"Did you happen to run into anyone else, after the last time we spoke?" she quietly wonders, talking around the unwitting gift-givers she prepped amongst the Pride. Given the moment, there's no smile, or even tonal amusement to go with it - trying to tie mirth to infringing on a paranoid soldier's pride is a risky maneuver on a good day, without a recent riot hanging overhead - but her tone does lighten, a little.

Diya eyes Jean curiously, realizing that the psychic redhead has apparently not put together the tigress of the aftermath of the incident with the soldier now before her. She had imagined the other woman's telepathy would make that connection a foregone if unavoidable conclusion. Apparently not. Oh well.

"You. Did good. Keep Pride calm. Safe." Diya admonishes Jean; Diya certainly could not have done that no matter how hard she tried.

"Presents came." Diya admits, not even trying to hide her awareness of what the other woman has done. "Should keep. Help others." Diya gestures out at the wide expanse of Mutant Town around them. She considers this for a bit, and then shrugs her shoulders. "Should take. Again. Give. Help." Oh how vital the connective tissues of a sentence can be to making sense!

It isn't so much that Jean hasn't connected the dots; the picture they form just doesn't scare her, whether due to ignorance or sheer confidence. Diya might also note a distinct lack of trembling and a ready willingness to try and meet her gaze, compared to last time.

She doesn't really react to the admonishment beyond a small nod of acknowledgment, but a small smile forms at the admission. It sympathetically softens a bit as Diya— mostly— expresses herself. She hesitates before trying to respond, trying to better parse those words— and keep the gentle push that wants to come from slipping out.

"I'm gonna help others," she then offers while letting her hand fall from rubbing at her neck so she can loosely fold both arms beneath her chest, "but they have you looking out for them, too— not to mention Lexi and anyone else who takes an interest. They're— they're not 'good'. But they're watched over, cared for." The rest of her body turns towards the wiry woman as she speaks those last few words and her head cants a little.

"Where does that leave you?" she asks, pausing for a split-second afterwards before just going for the jugular early, rather than commit to politely dancing around it for the next several days, or weeks, or months…

"Lexi warned me you'd be nervous about being recognized, but why are you so resistant to accepting help? Sacrifice, I get… but your well-being is valuable too, isn't it? If only for what it means to them." Her eyes and chin flick towards the edge before her attention returns to Diya.

An image flashes across Diya's mind's surface, of two huge duffles stuffed and heavy with stacks of cash. "Yes. Others." Diya responds, nodding to the redhead. She agrees with that. Her people are well looked-after for being homeless. She recognizes others need help, too. But these are her people. They are her first priority.

"Leaves me. Where am. How am." Hunter answers honestly, baldly. It's not a good answer. It's just the truth. Her situation isn't changing.

But when Jean finally asks about her resistance to help, something hard comes to the soldier's eyes. Fire-forged and relentless. She touches her chest. "Help." The implication is: those who help me. Then she sweeps her hand out at the expanse of Mutant Town. "Find." And again she touches her own chest. Two fingers, split, touch beneath her eyes. "Look." And then a brutal chop of one hand into the palm of the other. "Destroy."

A reasonable transation: If you help me, those who look for me, when they find me, will destroy you to get to me. And her certainty of this is absolute. It is a fact of the universe, as indellible as 1+1=2.

Red brows rise at a vision of— bug out bags?

A rainy day account?

Bemused green eyes narrow and run over the Russian woman for a couple seconds afterwards before Jean remembers her manners.

Tracking the answer that follows tests those manners a little, though, just because it's difficult to follow a game of Charades cut with mushy words without looking like she's struggling. Widening eyes eagerly trace those gestures regardless, though— and once the fourth word's out and she's had a second or two to piece things together, they snap to Diya's and shrink back down. Diya's already seen something like the resolve she shows now, shining in the wake of her first brush with the Predator; the fire glowing within it - a defiant, protective glare stoked and fed by nearly a decade of brushes with hunters relentless to crush vulnerable prey beneath blind hatred and dark agendas - is new.

"They'd try," she amends, firm but gentle, "and they'd fail. You can ask Psimon," who by the time the Tiger pinned him down and roared to drive his situation home, was already well on his way to breaking down, seemingly out of nowhere, "how I get about people I like being threatened; he'll tell you literally anything you wanna know." Reaching to gently touch the wiry woman's shoulder again, she assures, "I can't speak for anyone else… but I'm not afraid, and you don't need to be afraid for me. I don't scare all that easily."

Diya frowns at the redhead unhappily. She does not like that the other woman is apparently unafraid of the scariest thing in Diya's entire worldview. She can't fix it, but it is what it is. Damnit. "You ask. Why? I tell." That's the only thing she has to say right now. She sweeps the area, and pauses as she spots something. She narrows her eyes, not bothering yet with the rifle over her shoulder and behind her back. She doesn't like seeing people with protest signs, but she's not going to blow them apart for their arrogance or their anger.

She is a soldier, not an assassin.

"Tell Lex. Check freezer. Three days." Diya offers, turning back towards Jean at last, ready to ignore what she spotted. She doesn't explain further. But her intention to 'liberate' a large cache of cash and donate it to the food kitchen. She trusts Lex and the others - Jean included - to know how to distribute that money to those in need throughout Mutant Town. It won't fix all of the problems. But if the number of homeless doesn't increase, that would be at least one improvement over the problems they now face.

"I know," Jean quietly replies, nodding. "I understand. I just feel like you have enough people to worry about, and I wouldn't want to burden you for no reason. I just— sorry, not trying to be an ass, I just…" Her lips briefly twist into a pensive line. "Now that I know you're out here… it's, well. It's hard to ignore."

Even with the benefit of not trying to disguise an accent, the woman who's mostly done her protecting of the needful from the comfort of a mansion equipped with millions in bleeding-edge resources probably isn't doing much better in making herself understood.

"I don't want to infringe, but I don't want to do nothing, either."

Stepping back - frowning, slowly, but seemingly also willing to go without commenting on sign-waving discomfort - after that admission, she keeps her gaze squarely on Diya rather than let it search the streets. This is all banished with a brisk wave of a hand before her arms refold and her chin tips down.

"Anyway. Sure," she says of the freezer, eyes getting glassy and voice flattening. "I can do that."

Down below, a sign-wielder remembers that he'd made an appointment for 10 to 4 with the cable company well before this protest was ever planned and starts bouncing anxiously from foot to foot; another panics as she begins hastily digging through her purse in search of the phone her fingers keep gliding past; another still gets gradually more invested in phone-scrolling than sign-toting until he inevitably just wanders off upon spotting a rare monster lurking just down the street…

Jean'll likely leave the distribution to Lex and anyone else with actual experience; she may not know enough to not nose into a paranoid veteran's affairs, but she's at least got the smarts to stick to her strengths.

The vet glances at Jean curiously, weighing her words, her scent, her agitations. Then she just shrugs. Then she extends a hand, slowly, resting it lightly on Jean's shoulder. "You helped. Thank you."

That seems to be just about all the touchy feelie emotional stuff the Hunter can tolerate, as she withdraws, more emotively than physically, returning to her watchful stance. As she wanders along the rooftop, ready to leap to the next one and continue as she watches over her Pride returning to their alleyways, she glances at the redhead once more. "Walk safe." And then she is gone. Again.

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