ArchivedLogs:Cold Mountain

From X-Men: rEvolution
Cold Mountain
Dramatis Personae

Mallory, Jackson, Aloke

2013-09-16


Jax and Mallory bring Aloke some much needed nourishment, physically and emotionally.

Location

<XS> Danger Room - B2


The room is normally large and circular, a geodesic hemisphere of hexagonal ceramic panels. It is the Danger Room, and is thus often full of danger, but is presently not particularly Dangerous.

It is, however, projecting the simulation of a small temple nestled in the peaks of Himalayan mountains. Aloke appears to be sitting lotus, looking out over the railing of this balcony hanging over a snowy abyss. It is currently snowing very heavily, creating a curtain of white flurries just beyond the balcony. Fortunately the balcony blocks the majority of the wind. The door behind him looks like it would head back into the temple, but is actually the entrance for anyone coming in or out of the Danger Room at the moment. Aloke is wearing thick, brown robes, but nothing fur lined, or anything else approaching what someone would need in the freezing temperatures the room is able to simulate. He just sits, breathing long breaths, in deep meditation.

In the monitor room however, Hank is looking perplexed. He can see the entirety of the simulation Aloke called up, but can’t seem to quantify all of the variables in this situation. Finally he turns and texts Mallory and Jax: ~Our mutual friend Aloke seems healthy, but possibly in need of further social interaction. Are you free to join us in the danger room?~”

The text message catches Mallory off guard, as they often do, while she works on grading papers - needless to say, she is more than willing to abandon said tedium to make her way to the Danger Room. Her hurried pace through the halls - punctuated with period of forcing herself to slow down so she doesn’t skid out on the polished flooring - brings her to the control room in short time, only slightly out of breath as she enters. There’s a confused and concerned look to Hank as she enters the control room, not wanting to burst into a simulation midway through, her dark eyes scanning the scene below after a moment. She has a small box of cupcakes, apparently from a bakery in the city, held gingerly in her hands, as though she were afraid to damage the treats by proximity.

Her mouth hangs open slightly as she takes in the view, gaze lingering on Aloke for a long moment, “Oh, wow. I don’t think I’ve seen this much snow before in my life. Is it ok, to just, ah, go down there? He looks so… peaceful.” Despite the fact she is wearing a sedate, fitted wrap dress that leaves her arms, lower legs, and tail bare, she doesn’t seem too concerned about the evident cold in the room. She hesitates, uncertain of how to proceed, glancing between Aloke below and Hank in the control room.

Jax’s reply takes a moment in coming, but even in the flat medium of text it’s easy enough to read his chipper warmth coming through. ‘Sure! Just a sec. Can we make the DR into Equestria? I mean if we’re teaching him about the magic of friendship and all.’

And, a moment later: ‘Does he have tea?’

It takes a bit for him to make his way downstairs to the control room, his warm Southern drawl audible outside the door for the voice-authorized lock even before he slips inside. He smells strongly of chlorine, his Xavier’s-School tee and black track pants some evidence of dressing more hastily than his usual flamboyant attire. His eyepatch, at least, is still bright, a cheerful smiling yellow sun embroidered into its yellow-bordered white cloth. There’s a thermos in one of his hands, and a black messenger bag slung over his shoulder; he gives a crooked twist of smile to Mallory’s box, dropping a hand to rest over the FreakAngels logo on his bag. “I brought cookies,” he says cheerfully, “he’ll have a totally balanced meal. -- G’mornin’, Doctor. Ma’am.”

Hank nods at the proffered supplies when Mallory shows up. “An excellent idea, actually. He and Jax discovered the other day that Aloke appears to now require a serious uptick in daily caloric intake, much like you and your brother do.” Hank looks up and smiles when Jax comes in. “Ah, speak of the dev-” His eyes flick to Mallory and he clears his throat. “Oh um, I’m sorry. No offense meant.” He gestures to Jax. “Not sure about Equestria, Jax. Is Aloke a fan? It might just confuse him.” Hank turns back to the monitors again, which show both Aloke in context, and also a picture of Aloke just sitting in a plain Danger Room - the room without the current illusion.

“I’m no psychiatrist, of course,” Hank begins. He’s right, he isn’t, but the stack of psychiatry texts piled in the corner suggest he might have been doing some light reading the last few days. “But my armchair diagnosis would be that Aloke is using this simulation to face his gripping fear of isolation. While I endorse this in theory, it may also be too soon for him to make long strides, ambitious as he is. Maybe it would be best if you two join him. I’m sure he’d like to see what you brought him. He /has/ to be hungry.”

When Jax arrives, Mallory offers a polite smile and a wave of greeting, although she does shift slightly, rebalancing her weight and trying to stay out of the way. “Morning. An please don’t feel the need to call me Ma’am. Mallory is fine, really, we’re co-workers, and I feel old enough as is with the kids calling me Miss Winthrop,” she says with a slight grimace, her Oxford accented voice hushed as she speaks. “Oh? Interesting,” Mallory responds to the new information, glancing down at the cupcakes, “He had mentioned, when he woke up, that he was to have more sugar. Doctor’s orders. Either way - baked goods, breakfast of champions, I suppose.” There’s a slight smirk and a quirked eyebrow at the start of the turn of phrase, and Mallory chuckles quietly, “None taken. Not the first time I’ve heard it. I use the phrase often enough, myself. And at least you didn’t follow it up with dousing me in holy water.” The deadpan delivery of the last part makes it somewhat unclear if she’s joking when she says this or not.

Quietly nodding to Hank at his diagnosis, Mallory looks out Aloke, guilt and concern shadowing her dark red face, echoed in her quiet answer, “Right.” A few slightly tottering steps towards the door leading out of the control room, and Mallory glances back, confusion clear on her face, “Ah, how real are the physics in there? I haven’t been while there’s a simulation going before, and if there’s ice, my traction isn’t the best, necessarily.”

“Breakfast of champions,” Jackson agrees in a quieter murmur, but there’s a definite added tension in his expression as he glances to the box. And then away, to Aloke, his smile easing once more. “Real. That ice’ll be icy.” He acknowledges Mallory’s name correction with a small tilt of his head, a reflexive “Yes’m --” that is followed by a deep blush, an apologetic shake of his head. “Sorry.”

He heads for the door, too, pulling it open to hold it for Mallory. But he glances back to Hank briefly before he leaves, with a slightly puzzled, “-- If you thought it was too soon for this kinda sim, Doctor, why did you let --” This trails off; his teeth drag against his lip ring, briefly. “Shoulda brought a jacket,” he says half to himself instead.

Hank seems relieved by Mallory’s forgiveness of his phrase, and possibly a little baffled by her further explanation. “Yes, well, he /will/ need a richer diet.” He nods at Jax’s clarification of the internal physics. “He’s right, Mallory, ice will be icy, but this simulation hasn’t put any ice on the actual balcony platform. Just smooth stone-” Hank frowns, possibly realizing that this isn’t much of an upgrade for Mallory’s hooves.

“I understand your concern, Jax,” Hank holds up a hand so he can elaborate before the two go in. “But there are a lot of factors at work here. As I said, I consider the exercise to be healthy, in concept. And I alerted the two of you only an hour into it. All of his energy readings are nominal, nearly human, actually. Though you may notice a return of the glow in his eyes. It seems weaker compared to images we have on file, but it seems like positive progress to me.”

Opening the door is like opening a portal to the arctic. Cold pours out, and little eddies of snow swirl around the two standing in the entryway. Further in is the impossible, vertigo inducing image of the mountain range, and Aloke sitting with his back to the doorway. Seeing him first hand now, it’s clear that he has a straw mat between himself and the freezing stones of the balcony. He doesn’t move when the door opens though.

Mallory nods to Hank, glancing down at the box of cupcakes contemplatively, “There are enough of us who need extra calories, it seems to be a rather common quirk of mutations.” When Jax opens the door, Mallory bobs her horned head slightly in an acknowledgement, “Thank you, Jax. And thank you for the warning about the potential for ice or slipping.” The arctic chill barely seems to phase her, although she sucks in a surprised breath at the brightness of light reflected from the snow, narrowing her eyes reflexively. The snow that lands on her exposed skin melts almost instantly, and steam starts to rise from her shoulders and chest; her extremely warm breath escapes her lips in a visible puff of white vapor, making her pause slightly before stepping through the door and into the simulation.

Each hoof fall on the frozen stone of the balcony lands with a sharp *click* noise which echoes through the open vista. Moving out of the way to allow for Jax to follow onto the balcony, Mallory takes a few more cautious steps forward, pausing to the side to fully take in the view of the simulation through squinted eyes. She stands still for a long moment, snow beginning to accumulate on the chill curves of her horns, standing in stark relief to the black surface. “Hello, Aloke,” she finally says, quietly and gently, “Do you mind some company?”

“Saw some’a the light back in his eyes when I took him out t’the lake.” A deep flush accompanies this statement, a small smile touching Jax’s lips briefly for the moment before he slips out the door properly to follow after Mallory.

His arms curl across his chest as they enter the frozen landscape, one hand hugging the thermos to his chest. It doesn’t seem to be the cold so much as the scenery that initially pauses him, though, gaze riveting outward on the mountains as his breath draws in in a quick gasp. It takes a moment for him to shift his attention, watching Mallory first and then Aloke. A glow blossoms around him, soft and warm, and a moment later he follows Mallory out onto the stone.

“Mornin’, honey-honey.” His quiet voice is warm as the halo of light around him. “I brought you some tea.”

“Oohh, look,” Aloke says happily. He unfolds his legs and stands, turning to face the pair, barefoot on the stone. “Two of my favorite people!” Then over his shoulder he adds, “No offense, Hank.” He steps forward and hugs first Jax, and then Mallory. “Oh wow, you’re both so /warm/…” As happy as he sounds, any experienced observer of people can see the thin veneer of control he maintains. It’s not that he’s about to panic, but he looks tired. Exhausted, really. His eyes though are even brighter than on the dock that day. Not quite /all/ the way back to normal, but it is definitely noticeable now, even from across the room.

“I would love some company. And tea and cupcakes sound perfect, thanks. I was just about at my limit for this time, I think. I wanted to come out here, and be alone, just to prove to myself that I /could/.” He retrieves his phone from his sleeves and makes a gesture on the screen. On the balcony is suddenly a solid, dark wood table with four chairs to match. “It’s nice, actually, because when I feel… when it starts to get away from me?” He looks at both to see if they understand what he means. “I just remember, it’s all pretend. This place. There are people right outside. I like that.” He gives a tired smile and sits heavily into one of the chairs, leaning forward, elbows on the table.

A slightly startled look crosses Mallory’s face at the way Jax greets Aloke, and she looks out towards the mountains in the distance for a long moment in an attempt to hide the color that rises to her already red cheeks. Aloke’s chipper greeting brings a pleasantly surprised smile to her features, and she sets the box of cupcakes aside in time to accept the hug. At first the slightest hint of tension noticeable in her posture, though that fades almost instantly as she returns the hug with a chuckle at the warm comment. She seems to notice the exhaustion, but refrains from commenting on it, simply happy to see him up and around.

The appearance of the table and chairs makes her blink in mild surprise, moving the cupcakes from their out of the way place to sit on a corner of the table, before pulling one of the chairs out to sit sideways on it, allowing her tail to extend behind her onto the stone balcony. She listens to Aloke speak, nodding slowly, “Sometimes,” she pauses, looking for the right words, “Sometimes it good to test your limits, to know where they are? But it is also nice to know that there are people who will be there. And sometimes it’s good to have tea, and cupcakes, and cookies, because tea makes many things better.” The librarian looks a bit sheepish, as though realizing /just/ how cliche that sounded, and runs a hand along one of her horns, dislodging the snow that had started to accumulate along the spiral in a mini avalanche.

“You do seem t’gravitate towards pickin’ hot friends.” Jackson flushes deep crimson immediately after he says this, eye scrunching up after he has returned the hug tightly. “-- I mean. Warm. I mean -- we both kinda run -- uh.” He lifts one hand, pressing the back of his knuckles to his eye. His other extends, offering the thermos to Aloke. “S’Darjeeling today. Man. When you want t’get away from things y’don’t fool /around/, do you.” His gaze shifts back outwards, over the mountains.

His small twitch of smile is brief, fading soon as he informs Aloke lightly, “S’pretty excellent cupcakes she brung, if the others I’ve had from there’s any guide. Think you’re wrong though,” this is almost apologetic, to Mallory, “tea don’t make many things better, it makes /everything/ better.”

His other arm curls back around his chest, fingers tucking beneath the opposite arm. “S’place is good for that.” His voice has dropped quieter, here. “Findin’ your limits, I mean. An’ not having to find ‘em /alone/.”

“God, yes it does,” Aloke says in response to Mallory’s comment about tea. Then he eyes the box she brought. “Oh wow, /that’s/ real too…” Aloke actually has a hesitant moment again. His eyelids flicker, and that distant look comes back. He makes a couple of quick, short breaths, which seems to remind him of his deep breathing exercise. He holds up a hand to forestall any overt worrying, closes his eyes and takes three long, deep breaths.

“I couldn’t be luckier to have friends like you two.” Aloke opens his glowing eyes, leans forward, and reaches for Mallory’s hand. With his other, he takes the thermos and sets it down so he can take Jax’s hand as well. His own hands are cool compared to either of theirs, but not nearly as cold as one might expect in someone sitting out here for an hour. He gives both hands one more squeeze and lets them go before sitting back again. “Thanks for coming.”

Mallory offers a chuckle to Jax, shaking her head, an amused smile on her lips, “Congratulations, sir, you just managed to out British the Brit over tea. I suppose everything /is/ better with tea. I’ll give you that.” Aloke’s reaction to the box of cupcakes gets a slightly nervous look from her, even as he holds up a hand to stop the worrying - it doesn’t quite work to keep the guilt from creeping back into her features. She glances down at the box of cupcakes, confusion telegraphed on her features at just how such a simple white box could make so many people so upset, starting to shrink back from the table slightly.

When Aloke reaches for her hand, it snaps her out of the mental morass she’d found herself sinking into, and she looks up at him again. A smile creeps over her lips at the sight of his eyes glowing again, and she squeezes his hand in return, her voice quiet, “Anything for a friend.”

“Sure they’re real. Who’d lie about cake, that’s serious business.” Jackson curls his hand through Aloke’s, squeezing back tight. He doesn’t sit, instead moving to lean against the balcony railing. “Tea’s serious business, too. Oh -- oh, I brought cookies, also. You’re basically just gonna be overloaded with sugar.” He digs into his messenger bag to pull out a tupperware of cookies, stepping forward to set it down on the table too. “-- ‘course we come.” His teeth flash in a bright smile. “Though next time, maybe y’can go all hermitty somewhere that’s a decent temperature.”

Aloke smiles at Mallory, eyes literally shining. “Hey, I may be fifth or sixth generation, but my family is /still/ nuts about tea. Including me.” Aloke puts a possessive hand on the cupcake box, sliding it towards himself. “And these, are amazing. I just… sometimes, I remember some of the things I thought about while…” He takes a deep breath, finally coming close to actually talking about the incident. “Umm… while I was away.” He blinks, almost as if he expects to lose track again, but it doesn’t happen. He offers a grateful smile to his friends, and heaves a sigh of relief. Little victories.

“Tea. Cake. Cookies. Load me up! I think my diet may end up being more like what you guys have experienced. Hank even thinks the lack of it up till now might have something to do with… my accident.” He swallows, repeating that mental check, like someone gingerly checking under a bandage. A tiny nod, and then he unscrews Jax’s thermos, breathing in the aroma. He looks up at the ceiling then and says in a normal volume, “Hey Hank, you wanna join us? Also, I don’t know the command for getting cups in here.”

“You go ahead,” comes Hank’s voice from the ether, even as three, brightly colored mugs appear on the table. One has an image of Applejack smiling out in Jax’s direction. The other two, with Big Mac on one, and Fluttershy on the other, appear in front of Mallory and Aloke respectively. “I want to continue monitoring your vitals, Aloke, but for the record, everything is looking good so far.” No comment about the mug arts.

Mallory laughs lightly, shaking her head, “Ok, so the British can hardly claim a monopoly on tea. But it is a true stereotype, in this case. My family really would have tea time, every day, and even the stupid sedate parties surrounding tea time, when all the rich old biddies in the neighborhood would come fawn over Thomas.” She snorts slightly - a surprisingly unlady-like sound from her, but smiles at Aloke pulling the box closer. The smile falters, but then broadens at his sigh of relief, “I hope I picked good flavors - they’re half vegan, half not. I… wasn’t entirely sure what kind you liked, so I sort of went with the baker’s suggestions.”

At mention of diet changes, Mallory offers a knowing grin, casually picking up and inspecting the mug in front of her curiously. “It can take some getting used to. But the cook here has been absolutely wonderful at accommodating us asking for extra food at somewhat random times, so there is that at least,” she offers with a slightly defeated shrug, still fidgeting in confusion with the provided cup. The comment about temperature gets a somewhat surprised look, as though she had just noticed that it is actually cold here, “It is rather nice, and certainly quiet. Never seen a place like this, outside of photographs in books. And certainly never this much snow.” There’s a little bit of childish glee behind her dark eyes as speaks, looking out on the vista again for a moment.

“You’re gonna join the ranks of hummingbird-people. S’sweet an’ delicious in our army.” Jackson sounds amused at this, resting his palms back behind him against the railing. “Oh, Ms. Chavan's had to deal with plenty more unusual eatin’ requirements than lots’a calories.” For a moment he shivers, and then the glow around him deepens, slightly. The mugs earn a quick curl of smile and a glance upwards, though the control room can't be seen. The cheerful red apples of Applejack’s cutie mark appear on his cheek. “My family don't really know no tea ‘cept sweet tea, but I been /educated/ in it since movin’ to New York. You-all drink it, though, I've had enough caffeine this mornin’ already to keep me goin’ a /while/.”

Aloke nods at Mallory and retrieves a cupcake at random which does not have the Happy Cakes vegan ‘V’ stuck in it, before setting the box in a more central location for everyone to pick at. “Oh, I’m not that picky. I’m just a vegetarian, not vegan.” He hooks a thumb at Jax, “This guy, on the other hand, is hard core though. My only requirement is meatless cupcakes.” Aloke makes a face, “Which, I guess, probably doesn’t make me that unique.” He chuckles, and seems almost surprised by the sound.

He pours tea then for himself and Mallory, and also pries open the tupperware container. He takes a couple of cookies and sniffs at them. “Oh man, Jax, how do you /do/ that to cookies? This shouldn’t be legal.” He grins, takes a bite, sips his tea, and then sets the tea down so he can double-fist with cookie and cupcake. The man has his priorities down at least.

“Ok, they had bacon cupcakes, but that freaks even /me/ out,” Mallory says with a grimace, chuckling and shaking her head, “Cupcakes are all meat free. Promise.” Once Aloke selects a cupcake she peeks into the box, thinking for a moment before selecting a super chocolatey looking cupcake, with chocolate sprinkles on top. Her smile grows at the sound of Aloke laughing, and she raises the cupcake in a tiny salute to him. As tea is poured for her, she nods in thanks to Aloke and Jax, “You sure you don’t want any? You may be caffeinated enough, but you look sorta chilly.” The freshly poured tea is producing tendrils of steam in the chill air, matching the occasional wafts of steam rising off her skin, as though to emphasize her statement. “Thank you for sharing the tea,” she says quietly, holding the pony mug in both hands and watching the steam rise for a moment, occasionally glancing up at Aloke and his excited eating, slight smirk on her features.

“Oh, that’s just all the crack I put in them,” Jackson answers cheerfully. “Don’t worry, s’vegetarian crack. -- uh, I /guess/ that makes them a little not-legal, though.” His breath frosts in the air, too, though in his case shortly afterwards the white plume of mist fashions itself into a flurry of small dragonflies that wing their way out over the balcony to dissipate somewhere beyond. “-- I did make cupcakes once with kinda. Smokey-salty pseudo-bacon coconut flakes. I could see it. If bacon’s your thing, anyway. I never really understood the craze.” His gaze flits over the cupcakes with a small crooked smile, and then drifts away. “Keep tryin’ to tell myself the cold ain’t real, don’t make it feel any better, though,” he says, amused. “But staying warm’s good practice. You go alla way in the city for those?” He nods towards the cupcakes. “Woman who bakes ‘em lives in my building. I mean -- if y’like ‘em.” His brow furrows for a moment, but he continues, “-- Could probably pick y’up more fair easy, save you a trip.”

Aloke makes a face at the idea of bacon cupcakes, and comforts himself by taking an enormous bite of bacon-free cupcake. It looks like a lemony-cake type thing, with a white frosting. He watches Mallory’s smile grow out of the corner of his eye, and finishes chewing before saying, “You have a lovely smile, Mallory. She should - Jax, don’t you think she’d be a great subject for a portrait?” Aloke has long been known around campus as a little awkward, or even self-conscious, but it seems he’s putting so much effort into recovering his mind, that he’s forgotten to be so nervous. So now he just says what’s on his mind. This could come with pros and cons. “Shoot, I should do you and Micah too!”

“Yeah, ok, crack in the cookies.” Aloke shrugs and grins. “Well, if that’s what it takes, I approve! But yeah, when it comes to sweet and savory, I take an ‘every thing in its place, and a place for every thing’ approach. No mixing.” He switches to cookie, this time, getting nearly half of it in one bite. Something seems to occur to him, halfway through, and he holds up his hand again. “Wait a minute, Mallory, you went into the city yourself? God, you could have been attacked!” He takes a moment to get over his shock, and then looks at the box in a new light. “That was… really nice of you, thank you.”

The compliment to her smile comes just as Mallory has her mouth wide open, slightly elongated incisors clearly visible against wine red lips, poised to take a bite of the devil's food cake. All in all, it is quite a flattering image; she freezes, red cheeks darkening visibly with the blush that rises at the statement. She takes the bite of the cupcake, admittedly a bit more daintily than initially intended, chewing and swallowing thoughtfully before answering. "Thank you," she says quietly, the blush still keeping her cheeks a decidedly darker red, "I can't say I've ever even heard it suggested, let alone in the same breath as a compliment." It takes a few moments before the blush finally starts to subside, hidden for several seconds behind a long sip of tea.

Her eyes follow the dragonflies that issue forth from Jax, mesmerised for a few breaths before the comments on her bringing the cupcakes draws her attention again. "Yes," she starts to respond to Jax, her tone measured, matter-of-fact, though a tinge of excitement creeps in as she talks about going to the city, "I hadn't been to the City, and I had wanted to at least see some of it, since it is so well known... so..." Her voice trails off at Aloke's concern, faltering entirely for a beat, "I wanted to do something nice for you. And, well." She runs a hand along one of her horns, again brushing off a small amount of snow, the resolve returning to her voice, slightly, "I know it probably was not the most well thought out plan, but I know enough to cover myself to keep from drawing attention. I made the trip safely, and I think it was worth it." A sheepish smile in Jax's direction, at the offer of picking the cupcakes up without the trip, "I would actually appreciate that, though. The trip /in/ to the city was actually far worse. I'm not built for most modes of transportation."

Jax's eye widens, a sudden fierce blush in his cheeks at Aloke's turn of phrase. "You should -- do --" He claps a hand to his cheek, scrubbing it there hard. "I mean, m'sure we'd both -- love if you --" His blush deepens. "Right, um, actually s'funny, this semester /I'm/ startin' a project, um. Workin' on a series of portraits of mutants. Hope t'turn it into a show once I'm through."

His nose wrinkles at the talk of the city, the glow around him dimming momentarily. "It was a fine plan, just -- kinda a long haul. But I mean -- I got plenty'a friends who live in the city an' also -- can't hide. After a point y'can't let it stop you living your life, I think." Though there's a quiet note of stress in his voice at this. "But yeah it -- gets rough, I'd be glad t'pick things up for you."

Aloke looks a little chagrined at having just mini-lectured Mallory about what’s safe, and nods at her explanation. “Yeah, you’re right. I just… haven’t seen you all in so long.” Aloke looks like he needs a moment, and fills it with more cookie, finishing it off, and freeing his hand for tea, which he sips. “I couldn’t stand to lose any of you, especially on a quest to cheer me up.” He offers a weak smile to make his words less weighty, but the lights in his eyes swirl to hard points, punctuating his earnestness.

Aloke swallows, and raises his eyebrows at Jax’s announcement. “That sounds like a great project, Jax! Why not let me do the artist portrait? Oh, unless you meant to do a selfie. Those are always so revealing.” Aloke seems to take Jax’s point to heart then too. “Yeah, I see what you mean. I can’t go around telling people what to do. No matter how right I am.” Aloke plays it deadpan at first, and then the hints of a grin start to quirk up the corner of his mouth. Sarcasm is a sign of recovery, right?

"Oh?" Mallory asks at Jax's announcement of his upcoming project, "That promises to be an interesting, and potentially controversial, collection. I look forward to seeing how it turns out." There's no response given to the sputtered commentary, the British mutant just taking another protracted sip of tea in an attempt to hide the blush that rises to her cheeks again for no reason.

Dark eyes look contemplatively at the white box of cupcakes as both Jax and Aloke talk, and she nods slowly, finally offering a quiet, "I'm sorry. I really didn't mean to worry you, even after the fact." She takes a deep breath, hazarding a glance up at Aloke, a slight smirk on her lips, "Uh huh. To be fair, you can. Just a good number are going to be just as stubborn as I am. Right you may be, but I'm more than just a bit bullheaded when I set my mind to something."

“For now I’m mostly jus’ hopin’ to find a gallery what’ll let me /have/ a show and -- um.” Jax’s nose wrinkles. “Well, a show for a day or two anyway ‘fore someone burns it down.” It cooould be a joke, maybe; at least his tone is light and laughter-laced, but the twist of his smile is a little wry. “Don’t know as wantin’ a life still is all stubborn. Can’t live in the mansion forever. Just --” His gaze travels to the box on the table, smile dimming before he looks downward. “-- Be careful. We’ve had some -- it’s been -- rough.”

He pushes himself away from the railing, moving forward to lean in and curl an arm tight around Aloke’s shoulders in a quick squeeze of hug. “I gotta get t’class ‘fore my students burn the art room down. I’ll stop by with lunch ‘fore I head back to the city?” The smile he gives the both of them is quick, bright, and then he turns for the exit.

Aloke is not fully successful at suppressing his smirk when Mallory suggests she’s ‘bullheaded’. His eyes flick to the impressive curve of her horns, and then it’s /his/ turn to blush. His dark skin hides it well, but his posture and expression are dead giveaways. He tries to cover by moving right on back to the notion of an art show. “Well, we could always bill the show as something else? Go in, in disguise, maybe?” He nods when Jax has to go. “Yeah, let’s have lunch, that’d be nice. Maybe Hank will let us whip up a cruise liner in here, so it’ll be a little nicer for you.” He reaches up to squeeze Jax’s arm as he goes.

Mallory leans on the table, gently swirling the cup of tea in one hand, “I rather hope it lasts more than a few days. And doesn’t get burned down. That is decidedly unpleasant.” She coughs slightly, but flashes a smile, “Maybe not stubborn, just tired of hiding, I suppose. I will be more careful though - I have gotten a great deal more concerned responses than I really expected.” A slight wave as the other teacher heads out, and a salute with the still steaming cup of tea.

Aloke’s smirk at her statement is not lost, and she allows herself a slight giggle, running a hand along the curve of a horn as she does. “Truthfully more along the lines of sheep-headed, but it just really doesn’t have the same ring to it,” she chuckles, the smirk spreading into a bright smile. Perhaps she is blushing too - but it could just be that the chill is actually getting to her - but that seems unlikely, given the steam still rising from her skin.

Aloke sighs and nods at Mallory’s remark about hiding. “Yeah, I’m sorry, that was insensitive. I can’t even imagine what it must be like for you.” He reaches over to squeeze her hand briefly before taking another bite of cupcake. “Sheep horns huh?” He’s speaking around the bite at this point. “Yeah, that’s it. I’d been trying to figure out what they looked like. But on you, they just look… regal. If you don’t mind me saying.”

“Oh, no, not insensitive. Honest,” Mallory says, gently squeezing his hand in return with a smile, “It’s just… for the first time, I feel like I /can/ go out without hiding entirely. Sure, I’m not going to walk through Central Park in a bikini, but I don’t have to dress like an extra from a Victorian Christmas Pageant either. Long skirt, long sleeve shirt, fashionable scarf and some glasses, and I look vaguely like I got a bad spray tan.” She coughs slightly, smothering her faint blush with another bite of chocolatey cupcake. “God, you are a sweetheart. Yes, somewhat close to the North American Big Horn Sheep - grows about the same rate, too. Normally females don’t have racks this large tho… omygod I did not just say that.” Mallory immediately puts her head down on the table with a slight *thunk*, presumably to hide the furious blushing.

Aloke blinks, and through some Herculean effort of will, manages to maintain eye contact with Mallory when she mentions the idea of her in a bikini. But he’s not particularly subtle, and any student of facial expressions would be able to identify his effort to not look… down. He blinks finally, and looks at the table to pour some more tea into his own colorful mug. He smiles softly at her compliment, but is unfortunately still pouring tea when she references racks. He drops the thermos, spilling tea all over the pretend table. He snaps it back upright pretty quickly, saving about a quarter of the thermos. He snorts, and then laughs out loud. “Oh wow. Yeah, yeah you do. I-” He gestures helplessly, completely at a loss for what to say.

This is punctuated by a suspiciously timed loud /thunk/ from the control room, actually only a short distance away, followed up by a soft chuckle. On second glance, it looks like the door to the control room didn’t quite close all the way after Jax left.

Mallory has started to giggle at herself, head still down on the table for a moment, despite the spilled tea. She had managed to reference herself in a bikini /and/ having a large rack, in the space of two breaths - laughter was about the only reaction she could think of. When she finally sits up, leaning her chin in her hand, still giggling fitfully, her face is still red(der) from embarrassment and laughter, an easy smile on her lips. “So, /that/ happened. I should probably go hide in the library for a while before I combust from embarrassment. Which would /really/ not help matters, since I have to teach class in a bit, and I’m rather fond of this dress.” She wipes a slight tear from one eye, still giggling as she does, but hesitant to move quite yet.