The Queen of the Concrete Jungle

Characters: Klavdiya Vasiliev, Jean Grey
Rated: PG (Language)
Summary: Inspired by a conversation with one of her teammates, Jean Grey visits Mutant Town to leave gifts for the woman known as the Hunter.
OOC Date: Friday, February 23rd 2018
IC Date: Friday, February 23rd 2018
Where: Mutant Town - Harlem - Manhattan, NY

Having heard mention of a moderately mysterious woman named 'Diya' who makes a point of helping out and protecting people in Mutant Town, and expressly the way this woman apparently makes a point of caring for the otherwise disenfranchised, it seems the curiosity and interest of a certain fiery mutant psion has been piqued.

Given her interest and her abilities, learning more wasn't too terribly hard; certainly far easier than it would be for most folks. She can soak up enough from the thoughts and memories of people around Xavier's Mansion to learn that the woman is most often known as 'Hunter', and that many - in fact most - of the students and staff seem to have encountered her at least in passing whenever they have worked at one of the soup kitchens in Mutant Town supported by Xavier's, which includes volunteer efforts.

What the redhead will have found there gave her a solid feel for the woman's appearance - definitely 'homeless modern/young military vet' - and when she has been seen. It seems the woman comes by that particular soup kitchen every day - without exception. She brings a gathering of homeless, those the volunteers identify as 'Hunter's people', and sends them in to eat. She never comes inside, instead waiting outside, watching over the kitchen and her people until they are all done and ready to go, and then she sees them safely back the way they came.

Apparently at least one or two volunteers also know that the woman gets her own food brought out to her on the street outside, an arrangement Lexi Nemo started and others support. They are also aware that the woman has come at night sometimes to help clean the kitchen, and that at least twice she has been noted to have intercepted trouble headed for the kitchen or those working or eating there. They believe her to be metahuman in some manner, but apparently not a mutant. That certitude also seems to come from Lexi rather than anyone else. But they all also know 'Hunter' travels armed, and won't hesitate to draw if the situation warrants.

With all of that information, it is not hard to visit Mutant Town and the vicinity of the soup kitchen, and pick up those who have met 'Hunter', and narrow down to a collection of three or so alleyways in which 'Hunter's tribe' - others think of them as her 'people', her 'clan', and at least one thinks of them as her 'pride' - usually stay.

Drawing close to that site, a few things would clearly stand out. First, it is apparent that the homeless here actually arrange themselves in a manner that supports protecting each other. Only a few stay out towards the sidewalks, panhandling. Others stay inside the alleys, out of the way and largely out of sight, and it's apparent some of those stay close to the alley mouths, ready to back up those out on the sidewalk if trouble comes. There's real organization here, if minimal. And there's also a substantial population of wild, ostensibly feral cats in the area. On the ground, in the alleys, on the sidewalks, up on fire escapes, and even on the roofs, there may be as many as fifty cats.

And all the way at the back of the alleyway, tucked behind dumpsters, there is a figure who huddles alone and out of sight. Watching. Waiting.

Hunting those who would dare to bring harm to Hunter's Pride.

Jean Grey doesn't have much, but the ability to borrow from the Institute's garage has allowed her to cut exorbitant rental fees out of her rideshare driving bottom line. It's from this meager stash that she draws a couple hundred in cash and more still invested into clothes and other basic living supplies before setting off to track a Hunter.

There are a lot of minds packed into Mutant Town, and not all of them work the way one might expect. Sifting through enough of them to finish her profile and close in on her quarry's lair takes perhaps an hour spent slumped over in a Prius, after which she picks a number and drives. One by one, she stops by each of the three alleys, enacting a pattern that'll be most easily remembered in dreams:

Backpack full of supplies slung over her shoulder, she finds a few members of the Hunter's pride. Each receives four things: a warm sweatshirt or hoodie wrapped around a couple bills and some supplies; another, random garment wrapped around more cash and supplies; a memory of finding these gifts by sheer happenstance; and a compulsion to share the garment-wrapped package with the Hunter.

The cats don't bother Jean at all, but the fact that she has to choose - to say nothing of the psychic background noise of a homeless commune in an area already dense with the desperate and unwanted - is discomfitting, leaving her on edge by the time she wanders into the alley currently occupied by the Hunter.

Not so far from the dumpsters marking off the Hunter's perch, a jacket, scarf, and jeans-clad Jean crouches before a wiry and weary-eyed man. The waves of calm rolling from her psyche serve to lower her threat profile, but she's keeping it subtle: he's allowed to be nervous; she just needs him not to balk long enough to leave him with his presents.

"It's wild, isn't it?" she whispers, his eyes captured in hers as her consciousness gently rearranges his. "You'd think they'd maybe check the pockets, but, no: guest abuses hotel maid, hotel maid dumps guest's things… only in New York, right?"

This close, Jean would be unable to miss that the mind of Hunter is, like so many things in Mutant Town, far different than the norm. There's the fact that all of her senses seem cranked up to a level that would stagger and overwhelm most; she could likely give the Wolverines a run for their money. There's also the fact that english is by far not her native language. Jean's experience would be enough to tell her it seems like Russian. And then there's the fact that Hunter obviously suffers from PTSD. Hypervigilance and paranoia combined with hyper-acute senses and the fact 'they' really are out to get her.

And there's a rather oppressive aura that emanates from that depth of the alleyway. It is one that speaks to the animalistic hindbrain directly, shouting one reality that lies beyond all words in a realm of pure truth: predator. killer. Death incarnate.

As Jean is finishing her work with the older man, Hunter emerges from beyond the dumpsters, staring at the woman intently. The aura of calm may be affecting her, as she has not drawn her weapons. But she is aware that something is 'up', and is keenly tuned into the woman who does not belong in her homeless haven. "Kevin. You alright?" she murmurs, her voice soft, rough, and mush-mouthed, obliterating whatever accent should normally color her words. Emerald green eyes with a curious amber backlight shimmer peer from beneath the sand tan billed 'baseball cap' she wears, dirty, greasy, lanky ash blonde hair spilling out the back.

Focused as she is on gently molding a small piece of a mind without throwing the rest of it out of balance, on mustering calm amidst pervasive anxiety… Jean doesn't so much sense the Hunter's mind as she feels the presence of an apex predator creeping around her periphery, at once familiar and utterly incomprehensible in its precise flavor of barely-checked primal instinct.

That she's able to maintain an even tone and psychic serenity is purely a function of years spent testing death and dismemberment in a wide array of forms. Even still, an ancient piece of her self inherited from long-forgotten ancestors reminds with chills shuddering down her spine that death lurks low and eager in the darkness beyond her fire-light.

When it speaks, the clipped cry she emits while whipping around to face it similarly burbles up from from ancestral memory; the raised fists and rapidly lowering stance that follow are one hundred percent Gracie, though. Thanks to the psleuthing, her defensive nerves settle once she actually takes a couple of seconds to look the Hunter over and her cheeks puff with a slow sigh when her hands fall.

"Yeah," Kevin says as the interloper steps away from him and loosely clasps her hands behind her back, "but…"

He trails for a beat, looking as if his brain is rewinding.

"… oh, yeah, fuckin' a— hey!" he then exclaims as his eyes dart between Jean's bundles. Standing, leaving the hoodie on the ground, he tosses a long-sleeved shirt wrapped into an oblong package towards the Hunter. Jean went small, based on the information at hand, but the sizing might be a little off. "Found this a little bit ago— some maid came by, dumped some jerk's crap off in one of the dumpsters back there," he says with a vague gesture opposite the seat of Diya's lair. "Kinda looks like your size, so I figured…"

The woman vet is about five-nine, built without being a bodybuilder, rangy and strong. She'd probably be pretty attractive if she weren't unkempt, unclean, and dressed in worn-out ex-mil gear. Not exactly flattering, those styles, but she probably doesn't care. Those green eyes watch the startled, shrinking redhead curiously. Then she moves closer to Kevin, sniffing at the shirt subtly. "OK. I'll take it. Thanks." she offers, taking the shirt from him, noticing clearly the small package tucked inside, even though she visibly does not investigate to see what it is.

Once Kevin is settled again, Hunter comes forward a bit more, regarding the redhead more directly. "What do you want here?" she asks, simply, baldly. She doesn't mince words or dance around the subject. She may not know what Jean did, but she knows she did something, and that puts her metaphorical - and possibly her literal - hackles up. But she asks, rather than just attacking. Others have come by before to help, and chosen to do so in odd ways. So she asks, first. Claws later.

"Nothing," Jean quickly, quietly replies after swallowing. She doesn't exactly look at the Hunter until she's spoken to directly, keeping her at the edges of her vision 'til then; even when addressed, her eyes don't quite meet the other woman's, the stranger whose territory she's trespassed upon—

"I— nnh— "

— alone—

"— why can't I— " she groans, grimacing as she strains to force her gaze to that of the predator intruding upon her safety. As she slowly inhales, a few small flames roll down red locks, lingering at the tips; her face then falls into her hands, allowing her to rub it for a brisk moment.

It's just a woman— she's just a woman, Jean tells herself; there is no primal darkness, no predator waiting to devour, and the fire's all hers. This doesn't quite flatten the hairs at the back of her neck or banish the bone-down certainty of being sized up for imminent violence, but it's enough to let her make eye contact and speak like one person to another, rather than as prey to predator.

"My friend Lexi told me a little about what's been happening here, is all; I haven't really been here in a while, so I wanted to see for myself," she explains after folding her arms across her chest to show an expression that is, perhaps, a bit too resolute for the moment. "Drop a few things off."

Just a woman indeed. But clearly, something more besides, whatever she may show outwardly. 'Hunter' eyes the flame-licked locks of red and the rest of the woman's slow adjustment, and takes a couple of steps back, giving the other woman more distance, more ability to stave off that imminent panic attack; she's seen the reaction before, countless times, and knows how to tone it down.

"Ah. You come from fancy house in woods, north." Hunter offers, still mush-mouthed. This close, Jean can pick up the stray thoughts of the other woman's mind, as she constantly reminds herself to make her speech mushy, to fight against the natural urges of enunciation. She can also pick up that most of those thoughts don't slide across in English, but in Russian. "Purple girl talk too much." she murmurs, but without rancor. She clearly doesn't like to brag and keeps a pretty low profile.

Hunter glances down at the shirt, then back up. "Cash? Bringing cash, leaving it?" She nods. "They need it." But to be fair, most will spend it unwisely. It just is what it is.

"Yeah— it's not much," $10 a pop, leaving Diya the other $100 to do with what she will once she collects it all, "but I don't intend to go another two years without coming back. So."

The fire lingers until Jean realizes it's there, at which point she does everything in her power to look as if she spontaneously combusts on a regular basis— even as she rapidly combs through burning strands until they aren't. Once that's taken care of, she puts on a smile - a bit tense between the fire and the off-hand reference to the Institute, but genuine just the same - and not only approaches Hunter, but offers her a hand to shake.

"She was very low key about it, if it makes you feel any better," the redhead offers. "I kinda pried it out of her. My name's Jean… Diya, right?"

"They call me Hunter." Diya offers. "Please. No use that name." The other woman watches Jean carefully. "No need bring money." the mush-mouthed ashen blonde offers, shrugging. "Use money, food for kitchen. Feed people." As expected, as Lexi's thoughts would have told Jean: Hunter is a profoundly humble sort who does not much appreciate or generally accept praise or reward of any kind. She's annoying that way.

A strong, calloused hand takes Jean's firmly in a brisk shake as Diya nods. "You leave long time. Now back. Lex, others, happy. Yes?"

"I dunno what you mean, there," Jean says, playfulness filtering into her voice, "but if you happen to find some money, and feel moved to pay it forward, that's totally your business."

Her grip is firm, if not as much so as Diya's. "Yeeeaaah," she tentatively replies before the slow bobbing of her head becomes a single, sure drop. "Yeah, things got complicated for a while, then slightly less so. Like they do, all the time, for everyone." Withdrawing her hand, she hooks a strap of her mostly empty backpack with a thumb. "How long have you been out here? If you don't mind me asking, obviously, just— it feels like you've had good effect on the area, on the whole! Not that people wouldn't look out for each other regardless, but the way they do it… it's impressive, is all."

There's a little bit of a twitch from Diya as Jean gets playful, apparently not quite expecting that. Somehow she imagined Lexi would have explained to someone a bit more about Diya's own uniqueness. But the homeless ashen blonde is not going to complain. At least it seems Lexi has not been telling others to call her 'Tigger'. Grrr.

"Complicated things, I understand." Boy does she. Diya is still dealing with being ostensibly hunted by the very armed forces she swore her life to in serice, all because of something she herself has no control over. It's complicated indeed. "Have been these streets … few years." She shrugs. "Most. I teach them, watch backs. Protect." And she protects them as they protect each other.

"They're lucky to have you watching over them," Jean replies, unable to keep warmth from her voice despite Lexi's warnings about Diya and appreciation. "You clearly know a thing or two about a thing or two." Given the suppressed accent, she can't help but wonder why these streets, in particular. Diya might notice the question lurking somewhere behind emerald eyes as the other woman appraises her, but nobody's likely to fake sounding like a lush for kicks; she keeps it from actually popping out.

"I'm pretty sure I know what you're gonna say," she continues, voice falling quiet and sober, "but regardless: if /you/ need anything - even if it's just to talk to another nosy person who can do so without panicking - I'd like to help. I know a very little bit about trying to survive with nothing, even if I was nowhere near as good - or constructive - at it as you— enough to know that it's nice to not do it alone, at least."

"A lifetime's experience." Diya answers honestly, and shrugs her shoulders again. She doesn't explain where that experience was gained, or what it means. It just is, and that's all that matters. "I am as lucky to have them to watch over, as they are to have me."

Diya shrugs a little as Jean makes her offer, and nods. "I welcome the help I get." She doesn't specify what that is; it's up to Lexi to explain if she chooses to do so. "The same will go with you and yours. If you need something, remember that the Hunter is here. If there is something I can do to help, I will do it." It's what she does. It is who she is.

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