Strange, perhaps, to be looking up at the stars again after being amongst them. Strange still the renewed press of gravity, of motion with a downwards force always involved. With the Blackbird nestled back in its basement nest, and a wee Nate Grey-Summers tucked into his own little clutch of blankets and storybooks, secure with both Mum and Dad returned to Read Stories, Jean has escaped a school caught up in triumph and mourning both, and has found herself a space on the lawn just on the edges of the garden lights.
Some few minutes ago, a taxi cab dropped off it's passenger at the front gates without any great pomp and circumstance. The young man who hired it has walked up the drive, his blue eyes looking over the familiar grounds with a nostalgic smile on his face. There is a warm comfort to being back in this place, surrounded by familiar scents and sounds and sights. Jean's peace is broken, quietly and calmly, by the sound of footfalls on the blades of grass that make up the lawn. There is nothing remotely threatening about this presence, nor is there anything in the way the young man carries himself to indicate that he is out of place.
Jean's mind, battered and beaten and stretched all out of shape, has not yet managed to recover enough to shield her from the minds of New York City. The quiet remove of the Xavier estate is another matter, however, and thus there is simply the woman and her thoughts, and a light barrier to keep out others', leading to Jean's first notice of a new arrival being the sound of those soft footfalls on grass. She starts slightly, like some little girl caught unattentive in class, and then relaxes as she determines who they belong to. "Piotr," she murmurs, the little effort made, as usual, to try and twist an American tongue into Russian pronunciation.
To contrast against Jean's American tongue, Piotr's Russian accent is coaxed into the American words as he comes up to stand behind where his former teacher sits. "Jean," he greets her. "How has your trip home been? I have heard much of how the trip itself went. It is everywhere." He sets the bag containing his property down at his side and smiles down to her.
"It's been..." Jean begins, and then pauses, considering words and images, and the absolute mess of angst and sulk and bitterness that is Cassandra Villeneuve, amongst other students. She rises from the grass with a sigh, and offers up a hug of greeting. "Eventful," is the word she settles on.
Piotr steps closer to Jean and hugs her warmly to him. In spite of the different in size, his touch is tremendously gentle. He nods his head to her summary of the events. "Eventful seems right." His smile is perhaps a hint meager, fully aware of the enormity of the things that have transpired. "And how are you?" His concern comes through clearly in his words and his expression, the question far more than just conversational.
"Oh, you know me, Piotr," Jean assures, tipping her head to smile up at the seven inches of height difference between them. "I'm soldiering on." The smile fails to reach her eyes, but the darkness helps to shield that somewhat, as she steps lightly away. "Kitty will be glad to see you back again. She'll need someone to stand by her."
A soft chuckle rolls out of the Russian, his cheeks pinkening gently. "I will be glad to see her as well. I have missed her greatly. The rest of you too, of course." There is a little awkward bumbling over addressing that topic. He is still, after all, Piotr. "How are the children holding up after what has happened?"
"But," Jean interprets the pinking, and bestows a fond, if tired, smile upon him, "The rest of us are not your girlfriend." Brief and light as behooves a telepath with receptive as a default, she pats his arm, and nods slightly towards the garden path. "Walk with me a bit," she requests, before giving an answer as her feet find their way. "They're... having difficulties. I'm afraid that the asteroid didn't seem real to them. Stopping it... doesn't seem to be nearly as impactful as--" Jean pauses, shoulders rising and falling, and does not name the ghostly elephant in the room.
Piotr leans down to once more scoop his bag up and sling it easily over his shoulder. He walks along beside Jean, falling into step with a slow nod of his head. "The asteroid was something very far off in outer space," he begins. His eyes drop to the grass beneath his shoes, watching the way the unruly blades are pressed down to the earth with each footfall. "She was not." His emotions threaten to surge up and past his control, but he pushes them down firmly.
"She'd hate it that they're this broken up," Jean murmurs, eyes on the stones beneath her bare feet as she reaches them. "She didn't-- I was with her, when--" Silence, then, and an ill-timed puff of night wind chills at her arms and shoulders and leaves her rubbing at them for warmth. "She knew what she was doing. She did it. And she was proud and pleased that she did. But... they can't understand that. We're -not- raising child soldiers here."
"Death is never easy," Piotr says quietly. "We were all crushed when we lost Jones. It is normal that they grieve for her, even if she left us as a hero." The Russian's chuckle is once more a quiet, humorless thing. For a moment, he falls silent, simply watching the stones as they walk along. "It hurts," he says, "Losing her."
"Try remembering that when all you can feel is their pain, and their blame of you," Jean offers, with a dry and humourless curve of her lips in the darkness. "Especially when you have your own doubts... I may take a brief sabbatical, once," A hand waves indirectly "all this is settled. I think I'm beginning to absorb teenaged angst by osmosis," she offers, in a weak attempt at a joke. But who better than a Russian to indulge in darker humour with?
Piotr's hand moves over to pat Jean's shoulder gently, a rather sibling sort of gesture. "Jubilee is a grown woman now," he says, not quite ready to refer to her in past tense. "She chose to give herself so that the rest of us could live. There is no blame for you, unless you wish to be blamed for teaching her to be selfless and heroic." He smiles down to Jean softly, his expression tremendously earnest. "If you do need your break, I think perhaps I can resume my old position here."
"Regardless of if I take a break or not, you're welcome here, Piotr," Jean promises, looking up at the patting hand, and patting it briefly with her own. "Which, of course, means that you're -also- welcome to go hunt up one of the rooms and put down that bag you're lugging," she notes, the pensiveness and the loss fading for a moment in vaguely older-sister clucking.
The vague older-sister vibe is something that Piotr welcomes. He chuckles once more, though this time with more feeling behind it, no longer the hollow thing meant to soften the impact of discussing the death of a girl practically a younger sister to him. "It is not so heavy that it's a problem to carry it around," he assures her. For emphasis, he rolls the shoulder it hangs from. "What is there for me to do? There must be much." He looks down toward her once more, his smile warm and carrying his eagerness to help.
"Not so heavy for -you-, perhaps," Jean notes, with a tip of her chin and a twinkle to her eyes, however brief. She walks in a silence more companionable than fraught for a time, mental to-do lists pushed aside in favour of spacefaring rolling forward and crackling importantly for attention. (Out of sight, the Phoenix recoils just a little deeper at such impending administrivia.) "Well, I imagine there's a lot of marking and course syllabi for review with your name on them..." she begins with a slight drawl, before she pauses, and rests a hand once on his arm. "But," she admits more seriously, "What's really needed is to just be there for the kids. Like I was able to be there for all of you, when I was a few years younger and someone you could befriend instead of just respect or disrespect."
"Ah, it has been a year, has it not?" The Russian cannot help but grin a hint. "I imagine that there could be quite a pile of papers waiting for me." He takes a moment, glancing up toward the sprawling building of the school. "Is my old position open? I think that I would be my most useful returning to RA for the boys."
"Bobby is slogging away through his undergrad," Jean confirms, with a little nod to emphasize that it is so totally confirmed indeed. "So yes, we've been mostly making do with teacher-sweeps. An RA would be ideal, especially since we've skewed a little to the boys this year."
Piotr claps his hands once with a quick laugh. "I was hoping that I would be finding plenty to do," he jokes. "Really though, with my BA completed, I will have very little else to do now that I have come back to America. I will have to talk to my more academically experienced friends to find my next move." The towering figure shines his smile onto Jean at that, obviously indicating her.
"Well, as any academic will tell you," Jean notes, with mock-solemnity as the garden path takes them towards the front porch. "The only thing to do after getting a B.A. is to go on and get a Master's. But that," she concludes firmly. "Will keep. Right -now-, I believe Madam Vargas will be heartbroken if I don't bring one of her best eaters by to be stuffed before bed."
Piotr breaks into the first full, genuine laugh at the advent of Madam Vargas and her kitchen reign into the conversation. A hand goes to pat against the flat of his stomach, "I would hate to disappoint her, but there is some kind of a strange brick that the stewardess was telling me was a Salisbury steak..." Pete trails off, taking in a deep breath as if trying to prepare his stomach. Seeing a time of need, Piotr returns home to resume his old job and of course, to catch up with his second family, beginning with big sister Jean.