2012-03-04: Speaking From Experience


Jill_icon.jpg Rashmi_icon.jpg

Summary: Rashmi comes to check on how Jill is dealing, tells her a story, and offers wise words and a shoulder to cry on.

Date: March 04, 2012

Log Title: Speaking from Experience

Rating: PG

Romania - Tower - Jill's Suite

A plush velvety carpet with a intricate leafy pattern in red and white lines the entire floor of the room. Dark blue fabric with a similar style patterns line the walls of the of the room where it meets a white curved white ceiling. Golden decor trims the curves of the ceiling in intricate swirls, circles and lines and the ceiling forms a sort of arches across the room. A large chandelier hangs from the high ceiling and lights the room with a bright glow. Two marble pillars come down from the arches to the floor to form a sort of chamber for a large four poster bed.

The bed is sideways against the wall and is surrounded on three sides by dark blue bed curtains that match the walls. Plush pillows lie against the bed's velvet and silk linens and tall decorative headboard. The top frame of the bed is gilded with much detail and design. Across the bed on the other wall sits an elegant dresser in front of a large ornate mirror with perfumes, exquisite hairbrushes, combs and other beauty products necessary for a woman.

In the middle of the room sits a golden table with a black top decorated with reds and with two velvet plush arm chairs on either side. In the middle of the table is a porcelain tea set that seems to always be filled with a rich hot chocolate and a tray with an assortment of pastries that always seems to replenish itself.

The room always seems to be the perfect temperate of comfort from a white details fire place against one of the walls. A large mirror rests behind the mantle which is decorated with two golden candelabras and a golden clock. The candles in the candelabras are always lit, flickering gently, and never seem to neither melt nor get lower. A large white and gold dresser sits along the opposite wall filled with gowns made of silk and the most decadent linens.


The localized tornado that had seemed to strike Jill's suite has passed, or more likely Igor crept in to tidy it up while the girl was away. Still, there are piles of… things scattered about nonetheless. Stacks of playing card boxes lie empty, their pasteboard cards spread about haphazardly. Various piles of coins and other detritus litter the dressing table with small handwritten notes in blobby black ink denoting which is which and for what purpose. Sitting in front of the fireplace, the blonde-formerly-blue girl Jill is toying with three apparently identical antique coins. Her sleeveless white dress is cinched, high-waisted, with a pink belt and silver clasp, delicate lace around its sweeping neckline and in a double row on the hem.

A gentle knock sounds at Jill's door, Rashmi's muffled voice floating in from the other side. "Jill? It's Rashmi, um… May I come in?"

The blonde girl perks up at the noise, then her expression brightens. "Come in!" she chirps loudly enough to carry through the heavy wooden door. She rises from the velvet armchair to answer it in person anyway. "Rashmi," she greets cheerily and sweeps back to let her inside. "Sure, sure, entrez."

Rashmi chuckles at the grandeur of Jill's invitation, bobbing her head in thanks. Once Jill stands back enough to allow her to enter, she takes herself to the middle of the room, taffeta skirts whispering at her ankles. "Thanks… I just thought, y'know, I'd check up on you see how you were doing." Pausing, she takes a long look about the room, whistling quietly. "Y'know, I hadn't really paid attention before, but… This room is *really* nice."

Jill shuts the door gently and swishes hurriedly back to the table by the fireplace. "They're all pretty swank, aren't they?" she agrees, setting two cups on saucers and lifting both the teapot of hot chocolate and an eyebrow at Rashmi. "I'm… umm… doing okay, I guess?" she answers, not sounding entirely certain. "I asked for a bunch of stuff that might help entertain the others, so I'm working on putting together a little show." A soft laugh, more like a 'heh' sound. "Funny. I never thought I'd be doing parlor tricks in an actual parlor."

Rashmi bobs her head at the raised chocolate teapot. "Yes, please, thanks." Gathering her skirts, she sits down in the chair on the other side of the table, settling back. "Y'know… that was *really* nice of you, Jill… All I could think to ask for was copies of the Lord of the Rings, I *should* have thought of something we could all enjoy. I'm really impressed by that."

Doling out two full and steaming cups of hot chocolate, Jill slides one gingerly toward Rashmi and arranges the sweets tray to be equally accessible. Her cheeks flush pinker at the praise. "Well," she waffles, taking the opposite seat. "Evelyn actually had a better idea. She asked for a violin to play music for everybody. I should've thought of that. We both play, did you know? But she asked first and Igor brought her a *Stradivarius*."

"I didn't! Wow…" Rashmi pauses, blinking in thought, then leans down to pick up her cup. "….So here's where I sound incredibly ignorant, but um… Those are the really rare violins, right…?" Her own cheeks darken a touch in embarrassment, the cup brought up to her lips.

Jill doesn't seem to notice Rashmi's embarrassment, simply nodding enthusiastically. "Uh-huh. They're famous for having a really rich, full sound. They were made by one guy in, like, the 1700s so there's not very many of them. Maybe 300 in the whole world, I think. And even the best experts today still can't reproduce them, even using the same type of wood and everything." She pauses in her lengthy explanation to take a sip of her hot chocolate. "They're literally worth millions of dollars and are so rare that every one of them known to exist has a *name*," she gushes.

"That's…. wow," Rashmi says quietly, clearly quite impressed. "Are you guys going to play it sometime? I think I'd *really* like to hear it."

The blonde girl waves her hands. "No. Well, maybe. I don't know." She exhales. "Ev gave it back, said she was afraid of playing it because it's so valuable. And after I thought about it a while… I'd kind of agree with her." Here Jill stops and raises an index finger. "But. Only if it was real. If it was some sort of… magic-conjured-up thing instead, I might not feel so bad. So I think what we're gonna do is like a little test. Try asking for *two* of them. One for each of us." Jill nods smugly.

Rashmi blinks, raising an eyebrow. "That's pretty interesting… but um… You said there were three hundred of them, right? And, um…" Lowering her cup, she gives the room they sit in a significant look-about. "…Whoever has us is… well I guess you'd probably call him really rich, right?"

"Even so." Jill nods to the question and picks up her cup gently with both hands. "It's not like you could just run down to Wal-Mart and buy one even if you had the cash. Most of 'em are in museums, I think, and prolly not for sale at *any* price. Having one?" She makes a show of pondering it over. "Unlikely, but possible, I guess. Having two of them, though?"

"That sounds almost as impossible as, um… well, most of what we've found here," Rashmi says, lifting a shoulder. "…Which probably means you're right, it's likely to be magic. But even still… if it *was* okay to play a real one, wouldn't that be the kind of thing you'd remember for the rest of your life?"

Jill sighs, a dreamier sound of longing. "Yeah. Considering how few people ever get to see one, let alone touch it, let alone *play* it? Yeah, it would be." She lifts the teacup to sip demurely. "Eat your heart out, Mrs. Dufrane," she mutters over the rim. "Uh… my first violin teacher," she explains bashfully.

Rashmi chuckles quietly, nodding. "I think I can understand… I'd probably feel the same way, if I got my hands on the original manuscript for the Silmarillion. … …Um, if you couldn't tell, I'm a giant fantasy nerd like that… Tolkien, Alexander, Lewis… All that."

Setting her teacup down, Jill picks up the trio of antique coins still on the table. They are old, that much is obvious, but dull grey and quite pedestrian looking. Hardly the solid gold doubloons one might expect from the rest of the extravagance. "Ahh." The blonde girl makes a noise of understanding. "My great aunt, she's a literature professor at the University of California in Berkeley, she tried to get me to read Tolkien but I couldn't get into it. Saw the movies, though." Jill gets a sheepish grin, rolling one of the coins gently between thumb and forefinger. "That's probably some kind of fantasy nerd sin, right?"

"Only if you *do* happen to be a fantasy nerd," Rashmi replies, watching the coins with idle curiosity. "I can see how a lot of people'd find it incredibly dry, but, I grew up on it. But honestly? I think at least in that case, the movies were just *perfect.* Aragorn's speech near the end of Return of the King?" Sitting back, the redhead sighs up at the ceiling, smiling at the memory. "*Incredible.*"

"And Viggo Mortensen *was* pretty hot," Jill adds with a sly grin. She stretches her arm out with a flourish, showing off the coin. Closing her fist tightly around it, she opens her hand again, uncurling one finger at a time. The coin is gone. She can't resist showing off a little.

"Yeah… yeah he is," Rashmi muses, then shakes her head. "Oh! That was neat, how's it work?" Pausing, she blinks, brow furrowing. "…unless you're not supposed to tell, which is fine."

Jill smiles, broad and bright. "It's a lot easier to do that kind of trick when my hands aren't transparent, I'll say that much." Wiggling her fingers, she reaches out as if snatching something in midair then lays the coin down with a soft tap on the tabletop. She does it again, and again, until three coins rest side by side. "It's so amazing," she breathes, nudging the coins with her fingertip. On the front side is a picture of a young woman in profile, surrounded by the words 'Victoria Dei Gratia' and dates ranging from 1850 to 1881. "I can palm things again. I really missed that."

"I can imagine," Rashmi murmurs, peering down at the coin for a moment, then back up. Her head tilts to one side, and her smile widens. "Y'know what always used to help me relax a little? Brushing my hair, I think it'd help you a lot. D'you mind if I?"

The blonde girl's smile falters, just a little, and she reaches up to tease at a lock of her slightly wavy hair. Protectively, it seems. "Umm… well, no," Jill begins, slowly warming to the idea. "I mean… I guess I'm sorta out of practice. I didn't really need to for so long…" Closing her mouth, she nods decisively. "I think I'd like that."

Rashmi bobs her head, rising to collect the brush from the dresser, then returns to stand behind Jill's hair. Collecting a good-sized hank, she starts to draw the brush through, picking out the occasional tangles with a deftness born of long, long practice. "Y'know," she says thoughtfully, "I miss my hair. It was the only real vanity I had, y'know? Never got it cut, all my life. When I went to school, it was so long that even when I'd braided it, it was down to my feet…"

Jill preemptively winces whenever the brush hits a snag, but Rashmi's skill with a hairbrush is superb so there's no following yank and pain. "S-so… why *did* you cut it?" the younger girl asks, trying to resist the urge to turn around or fidget under the careful ministrations. Only down to her shoulders, Jill's hair could hardly be considered long and luxurious, but compared to Rashmi's pixie cut, the attention is understandable.

Silence, for a time, broken only by the whisper of the brush through Jill's hair. "…I'm going to have to ask you if you really want to know," Rashmi says quietly. "It's… not a very happy story. Extra not happy, because it has a little to do with things as they are right now. So… do you *really* want to hear?"

Jill would look forlornly down at her feet if it didn't mean possibly tilting her head out of Rashmi's reach. She has to make do with squeezing tight fistfuls of her skirt. "I… I don't know," she replies, hesitantly but honestly.

"Well," Rashmi amends, taking up another handful of hair and beginning the same long, smooth, soothing strokes of the brush, "I don't really much *mind* telling. Just… well. It hurt, a lot. It was one of the worst times I think I've ever known, and to be honest even with all this… it really hasn't even come close. Just… I don't want you being scared of what I talk about happening to *you,* because I can honestly say I don't think it'll be like that at all."

"N-no," Jill stammers, shaking her head a fraction. "I'd *like* to know, if you feel like sharing. I mean, we hardly ever talked, before this all happened, and… and you were so nice to me, and-" She sucks in her bottom lip and chews on it fretfully.

There's a quiet laugh, behind Jill, a shake of the head. "It's okay, y'know… I know you're trying *really hard* to be brave, and really… you're doing a good job. I'm *amazed,* honestly, how quick you've managed to pull yourself together." Not once has the brush faltered, but in the silence one can almost *hear* the redhead's gears turning. "If you're sure… it was a little over a year ago. You know Hosea, right? *Really* big, thick accent, born-again type?"

"If I were all alone, I don't think I'd be doing so good," the blonde girl confides, voice shaky. "But Ev is here, and Sophie too. I don't even know 'em that well, not as well as I thought I did, but I feel like… maybe if they think I'm not scared, they won't be either?" Her fingers lace tightly in her lap and her head bobs in a faint nod. "I've met him, yeah. Somebody else I don't know real well, but I know him."

Rashmi nods slowly. "It's a good thought, Jill, and it probably really is helping… but you don't have to fake it all the time. Not to yourself, and *definitely* not to me." A breath is let out, drawn in. "…So last year, he really wanted to go back home, and talk some things out with the guy that helped him turn his life around. He lived in Nigeria, you see… So the school said 'Sure, *also* we'll give the village as many supplies as we can spare and they need, would you like help taking it over?' So Hosea, me, Connor, my boyfriend… who wasn't my boyfriend *yet,* not really. Anyway… Kisha, a couple teachers, got into the Blackbird, flew to Nigeria. A real, honest-to-God humanitarian mission… I was so *happy* to be going, y'know? How often d'you get just the *chance* to do some real good?"

Jill listens carefully, making soft 'mm-hmm' noises at the appropriate times to show she's paying attention. She *would* be excited at the thought of a real volunteer relief effort if she didn't already know the story wasn't a happy one. Though with Rashmi behind her, the small, sad grimace at the mention of Kisha goes unseen.

"Yeah, that's what I think now," Rashmi says, as though guessing the excitement would be leavened by foreknowledge. "But at the time… it was wonderful. Bu-u-ut… The thing about the village is, a lot of the people who lived there used to be soldiers. The local warlord, Nero, he'd raid all the surrounding villagers for children to train into killers for him… Sometimes they'd escape, find God, turn around. Well… while we were there, Nero's people went on one of their raids."

"Oh no," Jill breathes in despondent sympathy. She opens her mouth to ask an immediate question but cuts it short and falls silent, not for the sake of narrative flow but because she really isn't sure she wants to hear the answer.

"No, actually," Rashmi says, guessing what the unspoken question was, whether right or wrong, "that's not when I got taken. See… Connor wanted to go free them, Hosea wouldn't let him go alone, and… well, I just *had to do something,* y'know? So, we geared up, and snuck over to the base… And just as Connor was about to open the door, it all went to hell. Connor and Hosea are—were both teleporters, and me…. not… so much. I had to hide and hope they'd pass by… but… they didn't."

Jill shifts and twists in the chair, turning her face up to look at Rashmi now that the brushing seems to have stopped. "They… they just left you there?" It's not quite an accusation, more disbelief and hurt, but close enough to count.

Rashmi purses her lips in thought, nodding slowly. "Yes… but you don't understand, Jill, they *had* to. See… Hosea used to be one of Nero's soldiers. Nero *knows* what mutants are capable of. He *wanted* more mutants. If Hosea and Connor didn't leave, probably we'd all have been taken or killed, and *then* what? Besides… I *knew* Connor would come after me, and they'd already taken Travis -my boyfriend- in the raid. Of course, all that I didn't think about till after, but, still. It's important to know these things."

Finding that her new spine doesn't twist quite as freely as the old lack-of-one, Jill shifts further until she's kneeling on the armchair's cushion, facing backwards, toward Rashmi. "But… the teachers," Jill insists. "You said there were some of the teachers there. And some of them used to be…" She visibly searches for the right word, eyes flicking about and mouth moving slightly. "Superheroes, basically. Right?"

"….Right, but it wasn't enough," Rashmi says, raising a finger. "We're talking a military base run by a man who thinks it's good training to give twelve-year-olds knives, and tell them to kill each other… and that the loser's sister will take a bullet in the head. *Hundreds* of soldiers like that, Jill… no morals, no ethics, just point them at what you want to see die and say 'Go.' So Connor went back home. Walked into the Embassy, told Magneto he was going to help. …Which he did, but that's another part of the story. All *I* knew was, they'd taken my suit, thrown me in a little dirt room, and told me I was going to be Nero's wife. …. But before you ask, no. He wanted to break me, before he did any of that."

The blonde girl looks obviously crestfallen that simply telling the teachers wasn't enough to set everything right, and further horrified at the vivid depiction of Nero's 'army'. She hangs on every word. "And… and then what?" she asks, afraid of the answer.

"And then he tried to break me," Rashmi says softly, circling around the chair to sit in front of Jill, on the floor. "Like he'd break everyone he took. At first, it was slave labor… Like, give me a bucket of paint, and telling me to paint an entire bunkhouse… and then having me caned, when I couldn't manage it."

Scuttling like a spider, all elbows and knees, Jill turns around in the chair again to sit cross-legged with her hands in her lap. "But you didn't?" she asks, more a statement than an actual question, though the question part of it is a little strained, a little needy. Her hands bunch up the material of her skirt again. "You… you knew somebody was coming? Coming to rescue you?"

"Oh, I did," Rashmi says quietly, "but you need to understand, Jill… When you're being tortured… when someone is taking *time out of their day* not just to hurt you, but to hurt you for a *purpose,* and that's all that was… faith isn't enough. And while I knew Connor would come back… I might not have survived that long, if it didn't happen when it did. See, if I didn't want to break? I had to fight *back.* *Knowing* that it would be harder on me, I had to stretch Nero's patience with my disobedience *just* enough… And when they dragged me back to my little dirt floor, I'd *always* have just enough strength to say 'I win.' Not everybody there spoke English, but a few did. And I thought, if I did that long enough? People would start to see weakness in him."

"But-" Jill starts, but there are too many things she wants to say and they all bottleneck before reaching her mouth. "I don't-" she tries and fails again. Pressing her lips tightly together, she breathes through her nose several times. "I'm… not sure I could've done what you did," the girl manages, shaking her head and loosening strands of hair to fall in her face. "I'm not strong like you."

Rashmi reaches up, tucking a strand of hair away from Jill's face. "Yes," she says softly, "you are. Because no matter what else happens, from now on… after we go home? Whenever there's a problem, you'll remember this. And you'll realize, you've already *been* through one horror… and you've survived. That's a *big thing,* Jill… When we go home, and time has passed, you'll look back, and you'll realize. You survived, because you were strong enough. And you can only get stronger, having that kind of faith in yourself."

Jill's hand reaches up at the same time, fingertips brushing Rashmi's. She lowers it quickly, more a reflex than a conscious action, and swallows hard. When she speaks again, her voice is thick in her mouth but she perseveres. "What… what happened next?" asks the girl, shifting the attention away from herself. "And how did… your hair…"

Rashmi shakes her head. "That was the day before it all went wrong for him," Rashmi whispers. "He couldn't break me by beating me, he couldn't break my will by whipping *another* little girl for my disobedience… Because then I'd do everything exactly right, as best I could. But I'd still say 'I win' when I went back to my cell. So, he hacked off all my hair, to keep with him in case he had to kill me. And whenever I was around him, he'd have it where I could see it; the one thing he really *could* take from me forever."

"I'm sorry." It's all she can think to say, but it is said with the truest of intent. Jill's face falls and she don't look up at Rashmi for a long moment. "Did they get him?" she asks with a kind of monotone coldness, neither clarifying who 'they' might be or what she exactly means by 'get him'.

"Oh yes," Rashmi says, voice firm. "The next day… well. Connor and Hosea came back, with Magneto, and Ms. von Reigenleif, and a *bunch* of other people… And yeah, Nero got beaten. He *almost* died, Hosea could have killed him. But he left that to Travis and I… and we said no. He'd go to an international prison, and he'd be tried by the UN. Because if we *did* kill him… he'd've won that way, too. But we wouldn't let him."

It's unclear from her muddied expression whether Jill is relieved or upset at the news that this horrible person lived. She sniffs once, rubbing her nose with a forearm in a very undignified manner. "So… you won instead," she concludes hollowly.

Rashmi's smile is genuine, and she nods her assent. "Yes… which is something else it's important to remember… Sometimes, Jill? The good guys *do* win. It's just hard, because if they really want to win, they can't betray their principles, or if they do, try their hardest to make it right, somehow… I think I understand what you feel, Jill… You want everyone to be the best possible person they can, because you *know* they could if they wanted, right?"

Unable to articulate the sentiment as well as Rashmi has just done, Jill dumbly nods her agreement. Her index finger wipes at her eyes in turn. "It-" She starts to speak but falters. "It just seems like…" She tries again and makes more headway. "Like there's already enough badness in the world." Hardly a poetic quote for the ages, but at least it's heartfelt.

The smile becomes a grin, and Rashmi sits up on her knees, leaning forward. "…D'you want to know my secret, then?" she whispers, her voice hushed and conspiratorial.

Expression miserable but eyes open and expectant, Jill leans forward as well and nods again.

Rashmi's grin widens, her arms spreading out to either side. "Everyone *is* good and wonderful, Jill," she says, with perfect assurance. "Everyone, *everyone* has something pure and beautiful in them… some people just think it's easier to ignore it. But *never do.* Because if you put that goodness in the spotlight, if you're *totally positive* it's there and show it to them however you can… They'll believe you. And they'll start to feel better about themselves. And then, just a tiny bit, you've changed the world a little. And then you do it more, the next day. And again. And you never stop. Because it's all about perspective; what we see as reality, *is* reality, and to change the world, you have to change the minds of *everyone in it.*"

A small sounds bursts from Jill's mouth, a short sharp exhalation like a sob parting her lips. No, not quite like a sob. It's a laugh, because she does it again more clearly a moment later. Not a joyous laugh, or a ha-ha funny joke laugh, it's merely the sound of bottled up worry, fear, and tension being released, however briefly. "Okay," the girl says for lack of anything better, but it sounds like she gets it even if she's on the emotional razor's edge between smiling and crying. "Okay."

Rashmi's arms fall to her sides, her head tilting slightly. "But that doesn't mean you're not human, Jill," she continues. "I told you… you don't have to bottle it up, around me. If I can help you, I *will.*" And now she raises her hands, spreading them out toward the blond. "Even if it means you just need a good cry."

"I wanna go home." That simple sentence seems to be the last straw. A hot tear rolls down Jill's perfectly human cheek. Carefully extricating herself from the chair, she joins Rashmi on the floor and awkwardly wraps her arms around her. Even tears seem in short supply of late, running dry quickly and reducing Jill to simply holding on.

Rashmi wraps her arms tightly about the terrified blond, saying nothing until the tears have run their course. "Shhh," she says, finally, her voice gentle and calm. "I do too. And we will. We *will.* Connor's coming for us, Jill," she whispers, "I know he is. And he *never* comes alone. You'll see."

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