Storming The Sanctum

Characters: Ororo Munroe Jean Grey
Rated: PG-13
Summary: The X-Men's resident weather goddess receives an unexpected call.
OOC Date: December 10, 2017
IC Date: December 10, 2017
Where: Sanctum Sanctorum - Greenwich Village

It's the middle of the day when a 917 area code rings Ororo's phone, insistent until answered.

When - if - it is, the goddess will be greeted by silence for a couple of seconds, followed by Jean Grey's voice rushing to murmur, "Hello— Ororo? Are you, uh, busy? I think we maybe need to talk— really, we shoulda talked a while ago, so, actually, I think we definitely need to, uh. Talk. In person, if you want— I can give you an address…"

-

The address is requested in a tone of voice that seems a bit cold. In fact, it may not be a request so much as a demand, and once that address is given, the line goes dead on Ororo's end. There's not even a "goodbye."

In as much time as it takes to fly in from Westchester County, dark clouds begin to sour the mid-day sky over the location Jean provided. No rain falls, but there are threatening growls of thunder, and the clouds occasionally flash with crackling light. Descending from them is a white dot that is rapidly becoming a woman. In full costume, Storm of the X-Men is coming down, and it doesn't take a telepath to deduce that she might be a touch angry, thinking that someone is impersonating her dead friend.

-

Jean takes the darkening skies as a sign to hurry outside, by then bundled in a black jacket with a red scarf and knit cap. Familiar as it is, the cold edge in the wind-rider's voice couldn't have gone unnoticed, so at this point, she's mostly just grateful that - so far, at least - conditions remain dry.

Rising up behind the redhead posted on a Greenwich Village sidewalk with her eyes turn the sky, there is an aged mansion with a curving design set into its uppermost window. Just past her heels, a paved walkway behind leads to stairs, which in turn leads to double doors. As that white dot pushes through flashing clouds, green eyes focus upon it and a breath is held until the dot becomes a woman.

Rage prickles the surface of her thoughts, bringing her head low. A little contrition ripples outward in reply, but it's instinctive; if she waited this long, she may as well be eye to eye with Storm before explaining herself.

-

Ororo's costume has changed in the year that Jean has been away. She's buzzed down the sides of her head again, leaving her with a typically fabulous mohawk. She's also wearing a mostly white outfit without a cape. That her midriff is bared in December does not seem to bother the wind-rider in the slightest.

Ororo comes in for a landing in the middle of the street. Thankfully, no cars are going by to risk an accident. The goddess steps forward, towards Jean, but stops after a few paces. Her rage is also given a bit of a gut-check: despite having made up her mind before flying in that this was some kind of sick prank (at best) or villainous trap (at worst), Ororo is still given pause by seeing Jean in the flesh. She doesn't say anything yet. Storm is apparently just lost for words in the shock of the moment.

-

Red eyebrows rise as the mohawk comes into clear view. Unpainted lips twitch broadly upwards before beind drawn back into a more restrained display. Ororo's halting approach is responded to in kind, cheap black boots tromping across concrete and tar for a few steps before pausing.

Again, she reminds herself to breathe.

"You look summery," Jean warmly says, just loud enough to be heard across the distance. She then pulls a hand from her coat's pockets and offers it out to the goddess. "I know what you're thinking - I mean, duh, but I do - I'm not a clone, or Mystique, or some kind of Sentinel, or— I mean, insert Stupid Thing We've Dealt With here," she says, preloading a set of shared memories meant to verify her promise, should Ororo take her hand. As her head lowers, she continues, "I am, however, kind of an asshole, but that's— kinda why I called." After a beat, she tacks, "Sorry," onto the end, while flicking her eyes up to Storm's.

-

Even to those blessed with telepathy, Ororo can be unknowable. What makes her tick is something that even Forge has trouble untangling the workings of, and that's all he does. Jean offers her hand and begins to speak, and Ororo simply watches for a long moment, her eyes clouded over into solid whites, like an animal baring fangs.

Nonetheless, Ororo does end up accepting the handshake. Those shared memories activate, and the weather goddess keeps her grip. Even when Jean finishes speaking and apologizes, it seems like the silent weather-witch might not actually let Jean's hand go. Jean is just flicking her eyes back upward when she's suddenly pulled into a hug.

This isn't a hey-it's-been-a-while-how-ya-been kind of hug. Ororo straight up bearhugs her teammate, squeezing her like she's worried that Jean will float away like a balloon if she lets go. "Jean— !" Ororo exclaims, over the redhead's shoulder, her tone conveying far more than a full sentence could about how happy she is that her friend is apparently alive.

-

"O— !" the telepath manages to eke out before the air is crushed from her body. A beat later, her arms wrap around Ororo in turn, squeezing tightly for several seconds before she finally pulls back to whatever extent the wind-rider will let her.

"I should've called much sooner," she rapidly murmurs. "Like, definitely once Wanda— I mean before I ran into her, too, but after, I should've— just bitten the bullet, and…" Trailing, the telepath lets her head fall against the taller mutant's shoulder for a silent moment, sighing.

"— anyway," she lowly says as she again pulls back, "I don't really know how, or why, but— something— found and fixed me after I blew up with that Master Mold, and— here I am." Given her proximity, she takes a moment to study the new 'do and costume before swallowing a lump and adding, "It's good to see you again. How've you… been?"

-

When Jean releases, Ororo releases as well, and uses the moment to brush at her eyes because she's absolutely not crying a little. Those eyes have gone back to their usual blue hue, and the same could be said of the skies above, as clouds lighten and dissipate.

As Jean studies Ororo, Ororo studies Jean. 'Something found and fixed me' is a story the X-Men are no strangers to. The Siege Perilous… Sinister… Mojo and Spiral… There are a lot of options, really, and Storm is ready to consider all of them. "I am doing quite well," Ororo says with a sly hint of a smile. "Today has brought good news, after all."

-

"Well…"

Green eyes meet blue, barely touched by the smile Jean gives in return.

"So— it's complicated," she continues, eyes and tone sliding downwards. She takes a small step back towards the sidewalk rather than continue waiting for a motorist to provoke emergency telekinesis and/or tornadoes. "Something found and fixed me— and the first thing I remember afterwards is waking up in the middle of a burning psych clinic. I wasn't - I don't think - a patient, I was just— they were— something was wrong there— there was astral scar tissue, I could feel it. The patients, they were all fine - whatever happened just before I— they were fine; already in TK bubbles. The staff…"

Heel resting against the curb, she pauses for a moment to bow her head and swallow.

"Locked in a room, burned alive. Every one of them. I ran, let the fire department handle it— and ever since, I've just… I couldn't just go back to the mansion. So I've been couch-surfing."

After a slight pause, she adds - even quieter, "Secretly, until the woman who owns this place found me, and— well, now we're here. There're IOUs in the mix. And accidentally running into Wanda at a bank robbery."

-

The idea of a psych ward with astral scar tissue, fixing X-Men but leaving their memories of it blank, does not narrow down Ororo's options very much at all. Sinister, still. Weapon X? The Sugar Man?

Ororo listens to Jean's story, and it helps the goddess re-apply her poker face. As much as she wants to cry in happiness and hug Jean some more, the details that Jean are providing are ones that activate X-Man instincts. "You could always have gone back to the Mansion," Ororo says, softly, and as gently as a reminder to a child.

Ororo steps out of the street only when a taxi driver slows, stops, and honks his horn at her. She seems unperturbed by the development, but gives the road back up to those using it properly. "And this place?" Ororo looks up at the Sanctum Sanctorum, and gives it the same kind of expression that just about every sane person would give it, minus exaggerated spooky shivers. "I feel as though you are not surfing the average couch here, Jean."

-

Gentle as it may have been, the reminder draws a wince from the telepath, who parts her lips afterwards only to seal them into a tight line while dipping her head.

Turning towards the Sanctum, she gives Ororo a momentary glance before replying, "The last guy thought he was haunted, so he called - and, shit you not, non-supervillain name ahead - some woman who's the 'Sorceress Supreme' to do an exorcism. She," a gesture towards the venerable estate with the blessed window carving, "doesn't really stay here much, so she's been letting me use it over lurking in strangers' apartments." Lips briefly twist as her eyes return to Ororo, and then Jean finishes, "It's called the Sanctum Sanctorum, and it's supposed to have— I dunno, protections? Against all kinds of things. So I went with it— at least, for now. I— " The redhead's voice wavers and her eyes threaten to do the same. "I set those people on fire, Ororo— I don't remember, but I know I did it. How could I go back and start teaching kids with that hanging over me?"

-

Ororo breathes out through her nose and turns to look at Jean when the redhead starts to tease breaking down a bit. The wind-rider remains calm, or at least focused on keeping her own emotions from overwhelming her. "Jean, you have been an X-Man for longer than I have. You know as much as anyone the history of the team, and its members. Not all of us were upstanding individuals our entire lives. There are killers on the X-Men. Terrorists. Malcontents. People who have not always had complete control of their faculties. What the X-Men have always done for these people is help them. Help them not to bury their past and forget it, but to atone for it if they must and move on in a better direction." Ororo is very plainly lecturing Jean, but not in a mean-spirited way. There are no clapping emojis between her words. She just wants it to sink in to her friend that there was never a need to go it alone, and there's no such need now.

"I also should note," Ororo continues, "that from what you have told me so far, your own memory seems to be… unreliable, or at the very least incomplete. There is more to this than what you know. I trust in this because, well…" Ororo allows herself a small smile. "Is that not always the way for the X-Men?"

-

Shoulders slump as Ororo puts a voice to sentiments that've bounced around her skull for several weeks. Slow, intermittent nods are the only response the lecture receives until it's complete, the redhead turning to fully face her teammate before long.

"Yeah," she finally agrees aloud with a final, firmer nod, lips pressing together into something similar to a smile. "Like I said: complicated." Sighing, she pushes both hands up over her face and scalp. "You're right," she adds as they eventually settle against the back of her neck, "obviously. But that's kinda why I need to stay— well, not there, at least not right this moment: there's more going on than I know, and - yes, Logan, and Wanda, and the rest, we've taken them in despite everything, but we at least had a pretty good idea of whether or not Logan'd stab us in our sleep. I feel like I need to get a better grip on what's even happening— whether it's even safe for me to stay around you all."

For a moment, it seems as if she's content to leave it at that as her gaze returns to the Sanctum and her arms wrap around her midsection.

"Besides," she then posits, softly, "what if it's temporary; shouldn't I… know? Or at least try to?"

-

"Of course you should try," Ororo says. She's coming from a genuinely supportive place rather than a patronizing one, but considering the way that Ororo usually carries herself, it can sometimes be a bit hard to tell. To people who don't know Ororo, anyway. And people who can't read minds.

"The question is not whether you should try, Jean. Obviously, this is a matter that must be seen to." Ororo rests her hands on her hips. Her costume does not have pockets, but she does hook her thumbs into her two belts a bit. It's a very Logan pose, in its own way. "The question that should be asked is this: What can your friends — your FAMILY do to help?"

-

"I'm gonna need Hank to examine me," Jean replies after a couple of silent moments, "and the Professor or anyone else to verify me - I could've been loaded up with second-hand memories, if I'm secretly a trap of some kind - and maybe attempt a psychic data recovery on the missing gaps. I need for the students not to know— yet; this' a pretty weird situation for non-superhero teenagers. And— well— "

A hand falls to briefly touch Ororo's and green eyes shift sidelong.

"— forgiveness. Patience, probably. Your presence, definitely, I— it's been nineteen, twenty months since I saw any of you." Her voice trembles towards the end. After she finishes, she pushes out a sharp breath and musters an honest to Presence smile while self-admonishing, "Should've called way sooner— or not run away when Wanda spotted me, either way."

-

Ororo takes Jean's hand and gives it a reassuring squeeze. "You should have, yes," she says as politely as possible. "You know full well that you have my forgiveness, Jean. You will have my patience and most certainly my presence. If anyone at the Mansion would be bothered by your lack of contact, trust me, my friend — that bother will be outweight a hundredfold by their joy and relief at knowing that you are alive."

"I will contact Hank, the Professor, anyone who can help, at once. It is… impolite to say aloud, but you are of course correct. The details of your return need to be discovered if only to be sure that this is not the work of… En Sabah Nur or whoever it is THIS week." Ororo gives Jean's hand another squeeze, though, a gentle one. "Mark my words, Jean, whatever this is, we will get to the bottom of it. If you have been brought back to us as part of some manner of treachery… we will overcome it, and more than that, we will keep you. It is not the first time such a thing has happened, and not the first time we have won out against odds meant to cheat us."

-

"My money's on the Shadow King, and you actually being asleep, or in the middle of class, or something right now," Jean replies while squeezing in turn and pushing her smile out wider. "Psych clinic? Astral scar tissue? Basically plots itself."

She lets this hang for a beat before tugging on Ororo's hand, then leaning in to embrace the wind-rider, sans rib-threatening pressure.

"Thank you," she murmurs. "For coming, and for helping— for supporting. For being. Hopefully, we can… I dunno, get this figured out quickly, so we can go back to risking our lives doing insane things."

-

Ororo accepts the hug and returns it in kind, also sans rib-threatening pressure. She could muse on her own developing theories for Jean's return, but it hardly seems like the place or time. Right now and right here, it seems more prudent to simply give Jean the hug she needs.

"Of course," Ororo says to Jean's shoulder, patting the other woman on the upper back to punctuate her sentiment. "You will be back to fighting Unus the Untouchable in no time, Jean. I am sure of it."

-

"I'd even take El Tigre, honestly," Jean replies before pulling back and letting her hands sit on Ororo's shoulders for a little while.

"So," she tentatively wonders, hands eventually finding their way back to the warmth of her coat while green eyes make visibly vertical moves. "You decided to bring the mohawk back, huh? I like it— I'd say it suits you, but, honestly, I don't remember there ever being a thing that doesn't? Seems a little redundant."

Still, she can't help but add, "I mean, it does, obviously," after a brief pause.

-

Ororo is not in a hurry to extract herself from Jean. The redhead's hands on her shoulders are welcome, especially as a reminder that yes, this is real, Jean is real, she's alive and this is happening. That sense of relief and happiness radiates out of Ororo no matter how good her poker face is.

"Easier to wash," the wind-rider says with a smirk as Jean puts her hands back in her pockets. "The students are just about used to it now. Apparently there is an upper age limit for being creative with hairstyles."

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