ArchivedLogs:A Bright and Stormy Night
|A Bright and Stormy Night|
Aloke greets Ororo when she first comes back to the mansion. They hit it off.
<XS> Foyer - FL1, Then Ororo's room
Xavier's foyer provides a suitable introduction to the opulent mansion. Teak-paneled, wood floors immaculately polished, vaulted ceiling ribbed with dark wood boning, there is no doubt this school was built with no expense spared. The hallways branch off to the separate wings, with the grand staircase spiraling upwards to the residential dorms above.
It's the long, hot summer in Westchester, and the arrival of a teacher who apparently took a sabbatical for the season does not change that fact one iota. Ororo arrives with as much fanfare as she left, which is to say, none; she simply opens the front door and quietly walks in, swinging a very dusty duffel bag off of her shoulder and onto the foyer floor. A second look at it -- and a glance at her -- indicates that it may not be dust, but ash. Despite her better efforts at cleanliness while traveling, tiny flecks of the stuff sprinkle her hair like bits of shadow. Only with her glorious mane would ash seem like a contrast of darkness, instead of light. She smells faintly of fire, too, and not the sort of next-door neighbor grilling station smell, either. Her smile, as she looks around the place, is serenely happy, radiant with the simple pleasure of coming home.
Aloke was set up at an easel, pretty much smack dab in the middle of the foyer. No stool, apparently he prefers to stand. He's wearing tan cargo shorts, and a linen shirt with the top two buttons undone, and sleeves rolled up past his elbows. He's also barefoot. He's working in charcoal on canvas, and his hands are pretty much covered in black stuff.
He turns when Ororo opens the door, and he has to squint to adjust his eyes until it shuts again. Then his eyebrows go up and he smiles. "Oh, hello Ms. Munroe! I was told you'd be returning this semester. It's nice to finally meet you. Aloke Suresh," Aloke starts to offer a handshake and then sees the charcoal everywhere. He smiles an apology, and adds, "Sorry, just trying to squeeze in a little more summer work before fall begins." The drawing behind him is actually quite a skilled rendering of the winding, grand staircase.
Ororo's clothes are notably cleaner than the rest of her, as though whatever's in the duffle bag is so foul that she didn't want to draw attention in this rather upscale neighborhood by wearing them; tight black jeans, loose white blouse lightly embroidered with dark purple flowers. They, at least, do not smell of where she's been. Her vividly blue eyes widen as she's greeted, and study the speaker both thoughtfully and pleasantly. "Mr. Suresh," she responds warmly, ignoring any awkwardness that his lack of handshake could have caused and instead politely inclining her head. "Please, call me Ororo. We're glad to have you on board -- I'm sorry it's taken so long for us to meet." Upon spotting the drawing, she adds immediately and sincerely, "You do lovely work. I hope the students have been taking advantage of having someone of your expertise on staff."
"Oh, thank you," Aloke says. He glances back at his work briefly, but doesn't seem overly uncomfortable about the compliment. "I appreciate it. And please, call me Aloke. I really love being here. I was worried about leaving university life, but I've adjusted well, I think." Aloke looks over Ororo's things, and glances at her hair. "So, where are you coming in from just now? I bet you have some great stories."
[Aloke log accidentally missed a couple poses, where Aloke beamed away to stow his stuff, and then offered to carry Ororo's bag. She was nice about it.]
If Ororo is tired from her long journey, she shows no sign of it. Instead her eyes twinkle, and her head tilts back on her neck as she laughs softly, a sound as rich as rolling thunder. "Have no fear -- I take offers of help at face value, not as would-be insults. Thank you very much." She is wholly comfortable in her own skin, it seems, secure enough in her identity to not demand its dominance over deeds of kindness. And thus without further ado, she gently transfers the bag from her shoulder to his person. Curious, she raises an elegant eyebrow at the flashes of light, which briefly transform her hair to match their hue as the radiance glances off the shimmering strands. It's a silent but wholly casual query that doesn't so much demand an explanation as it contemplates one. She didn't seem especially taken aback by his use of it; no great surprise for someone who has made the Mansion their home for the better part of two decades.
In the meantime, she leads the way with steady, ground-eating strides through the hallways, greeting those she sees with smiles, nods, and the occasional gentle word. She is obviously glad to be back, and subtle lines of tension leave her body the further into the mansion she goes. She keeps up her end of the conversation in between helloes. "Do you tend to focus on still life, or did I catch you on an unusual day?"
Aloke scoops up the bag as promised, and falls into step. He grins at all the happy greetings Ororo gets as they ascend, but he does stop one student, probably a junior or senior squeezing in some last minute summer credits. "Ah, Mr Lerret, I still need your final, inked life."
"Sure thing, Professor!" And the boy is off again.
"Sorry about downstairs, I should have said first. But generally, I get around as a beam of light." He shrugs, about as nonchalant as someone can be, speaking of such things. When she asks about his art, the light in his eyes visibly brightens with his broad smile. "Actually, the entry stairs are a new challenge for me. I usually work outside, and honestly, the lighting indoors is driving me nuts!" He grins and flips the bag over his shoulder to take the weight off his hand a little.
Ororo bows her head in greeting to Mr. Lerret but doesn't interfere in what looks to her like an important interaction. She frowns, minutely, when Aloke apologizes. "Please... don't ever apologize for being who you are," she murmurs, soft and firm all at once, gentle but strong. As quietly supportive as nine words can be. "Your ability is amazing." And that, too, she seems to believe with every fibre of her being; she never ceases to appreciate the wonder of the world all around her. However, she lets the subject change without further comment, and chuckles softly at his explanation. "Well, if you'd ever like to mix the two settings..."
She unlocks, and pushes open, her door; sunlight spills in through gently windblown drapes, in both discrete rays and, between them, a radiant glow. It's as outside a room as the inside can be, short of being an actual greenhouse... and with all those plants around, it's awfully close. Leading the way inside, she eyes the filthy bag, then gestures to the middle of the spotless floor. "Easier to clean than the bed. Thank you once again for carrying it."
Aloke smiles brightly at Ororo's reassurance of his powers. "Oh, thank you. I just meant, 'I'm sorry if I startled you.'" He sets the bag gently down where indicated, and regards Ororo, and then her room for a moment. "Out of curiosity, what do you mean exactly, 'mixing settings'." Aloke seems genuine, and open.
Ororo tilts her head to one side, causing her hair to spill down her right shoulder. "I was referring to your comment about indoor and outdoor settings, that's all," she explains, while finding a large wicker basket and moving it next to the bag. In short order the contents of the latter are transferred to the former; all clothing, all of it dusty -- or sooty, to the trained eye -- beyond belief. There are quite a few little black sacks, as well, which are now more white than black. "I hope you do not mind if I keep working while we talk. There is always much to do when I come home."
"No no, I don't mind at all." Aloke waves a hand for Ororo to continue. "Long trips will do that. I just got back from a couple weeks in India, visiting old family. That part of my family even has live-in /staff/, and I still came home with a bag full of laundry." Aloke laughs, and leans back against the wall. "Your room sure seems like the closest thing to being outside at the same time as inside. I was briefed on the other staff when Xavier took me on. So I imagine you like to have a good, wide view of the sky in your space. Pretty close?"
Ororo grins a very bright grin at Aloke's story, then finishes dumping the last of the laundry in the basket and adds the bag for good measure. "Close enough," she agrees amicably. "Though it is less the view, and more the elements themselves. The evening wind, the morning dew, sunlight and shade... they are all as close to me as any friend. As is the rain, though I must at times make concessions for my library."
She glances at her books fondly enough to imply that they, too, are dear companions of hers, ones she hasn't enjoyed the company of in far too long. "So. I believe you asked me about my whereabouts, yes? I have spent the summer fighting fires in the American West."
Aloke's expression becomes one of open admiration. "Oh, that is /amazing/ Ororo. What a service that must have been to all the firefighters." He pauses, really taking a moment to picture it. "But... I guess you had to do it from afar, huh? Talk about thankless work." Aloke sighs. "Well, on behalf of everyone who will probably never know, /thank you/." He's only half sardonic too. He can empathize with the lack of thanks, but doesn't mean to over do the praise.
Ororo chins at the little black 'sacks' in the laundry. "Those are full face masks, for when I had to go in close. It would not do to risk my children to rescue others." She accepts the thanks and praise with a straight back and a steady eye; false modesty isn't really her bag. But nor is she without humility: "I am glad to be of service, though my contributions were often limited by the environment." She proceeds to explain while going around the room, tenderly checking each of her plants for parasites, and watering them (with a can): "Especially were my efforts focused on protecting certain isolated mutant enclaves in the mountains of California, Oregon and Washington. We were unsure if the firefighters would protect them, and certainly discovery would lead to their being forced to move. There were a few that had to be evacuated regardless, unfortunately. Even working the winds, not every home could be saved. The fires are hungrier every year, bred as effectively as any bioweapon in forests parched by a changing climate." Direct and to the point, she clearly considers the teacher an equal, worth her respect, and thus, her time.
"Oh wow, yeah," Aloke says, absorbing the implications of the burnt out conclaves. He moves to a straight-backed chair in the room, spins it around and sits on it facing backwards. He rests his arms across the back of the chair as he regards Ororo tending her plants. "Well, if there's ever anything I can do next season, I hope you'll let me know. I can really only take one person with me when I travel, but if it's just a short distance, I could move a few folks before needing to tap out."
And in a total non-sequitor, the artist cocks his head to one side, still watching Ororo, and asks, "Have you ever posed for a painting before?" Artists are notorious for their short attention spans, aren't they?
"I am honored by your offer of assistance. Be assured that I will take you up on it." Ororo caresses petals, runs her fingers along stems, and generally subjects her plants to intense inspection, examining them as closely as she might a baby. "On a somewhat less dangerous matter, would you be interested in helping me organize a late summer camping trip for those students we retain custody of year-round? There are a variety of isolated forests, and beaches, in New England. There are several we could take them to, though I am loath to leave New York City for long with events proceeding as they are."
But for whatever reason, she feels it's worth getting some recreation for the X-Kids, anyway.
She seems ... surprisingly unsurprised? ... by the question. Perhaps she knows other artists. She blinks slowly, once, her long lashes momentarily veiling her electric blue eyes like clouds across the moon, as she considers her answer. "Not in a very long time," she finally answers, rather delicately, as though tasting an old memory with the tip of her tongue. "Have you been doing many portraits of mansion dwellers?" It isn't a concerned-sounding question, merely a curious one.
"Oh, a camping trip would be great! Although, I'll admit to being a city boy, born and raised. I don't really know much about camping aside from what you'd unpack from the trunk of a car." Aloke grins and shrugs. "And with events in the city just now, maybe getting out for a while /is/ the best thing for them."
Aloke grins, and shrugs, an unabashed smile on his face. "Well, honestly? It hadn't occurred to me to offer before. But your form, in the window there." Aloke shakes his head, as if he's surprised at his own boldness. "Absolutely stunning. I'm moved to paint, the way I feel looking at a sunset, or a river valley..." He shakes his head and sighs. "This is not coming out right. I'm making a terrific first impression, aren't I?"
Ororo settles the considerable weight of her full attention on Aloke, pulling back from her plants to regard him with a... complex... expression. There's no embarrassment there; she is secure enough in herself to take the compliment without any awkwardness whatsoever. No, her gaze is confident, steady, sensual, and ... concerned? Compassionate, maybe.
"You are a very nervous man," she observes with a certain degree of gentle, dry humor. "You may trust me to construe your words without adding my own affectations to them, because I trust you to mean what you say." Then she smiles again, wholly and without restraint, and perhaps the warmth in the room intensifies a hair, her surroundings responding to her pleasure. "And you are also a very flattering man! There is nothing I would rather be compared to than that I love most, such as sunsets, and river valleys. I would be honored, Aloke," is her assurance. "On the condition that -- if your art should capture me fully," as in, as a mutant, which the rest of her sentence clarifies, "It not be circulated in a way that would endanger campus anonymity."
Evidently the protection of the children is more or less continuously on her mind.
Aloke laughs out loud, his entire form actually shimmering for a moment, turning him into a transparent version of himself made of yellow light for half a second. "You know Ms. Munroe, the funniest part is that I'm /actually/ not a nervous guy. It's been a long time since I met someone who completely spun me." He straightens up, but keeps to the chair. "Normally, I would have said something like 'Good god, you're beautiful, you must let me paint you.' I hope you'll take my fluster as further compliment."
He nods emphatically at her request. "Trust me, Ororo. Since coming here, I've come to love this place like no other. These children all like my own, and this home is a fortress to keep them safe." His tone is light, and not meant to be overbearing, but the light in his eyes swirls to focus as two hard, bright points. "I wouldn't do anything to endanger them."
Ororo watches Aloke shimmer with open admiration, leaning while shifting her weight to one hip, up against a bookcase. But what comes afterwards, when he literally burns with the intensity of his feelings for the cause, stirs a deeper emotion in her. Camaraderie is palpable within the room. "I believe you," is all she says, her voice a little bit husky. "Thank you for caring for them, Aloke. We are obviously fortunate to have you with us." She nods once, firmly, definitively. Yes. Very lucky indeed. "Now -- if you will please excuse me, I need to wash up, and then go find Charles."
She heads for her suite's little bathroom without further ado. Not one to waste time, Ororo. If she thought she could get away with it, she'd probably call the rain -- the ash in her pores defies conventional hygiene.