Roleplaying Log: Peripeteia
IC Details

Cameron tricks Alison away from Warren in order to cut off the latter's wings. Alison reacts as one might expect. Warren, on waking, also reacts as one might expect.

Other Characters Referenced:
IC Date: September 21, 2019
IC Location: New York Presbyterian Hospital
OOC Notes & Details
Posted On: 24 Sep 2019 06:24
Rating & Warnings:
Scene Soundtrack: [* ]
NPC & GM Credits: Cameron Hodge run by Warren
Associated Plots

It has been hours since Alison left Warren — at his own demand — and it has been dead silent every single one of those hours. Warren regrets telling her to leave after the first hour, but by then it is too late to easily call her to come back, and some part of him is afraid to.

Even then, all he would have to do to get her back is ask a nurse to get her. But much as Alison might wait, none of them ever come looking for her.

A few visitors come by, in those long lonely hours. It should help with the solitude, and maybe it does for a while, but after they leave, Warren just feels more alone.

He's also dead drunk… courtesy of one of those visitors.

That fact might be part of why, finally, he caves and tells someone to send for Alison. The alcohol is making it hard to remember why he sent her away, and it is also making him selfish enough to not want to sit alone.

In those ensuing hours, Alison got to work.

Part despairing helpfulness, part crushing guilt, and part insistence to pretend nothing is wrong, she tackled Warren's mounting pile of requests and authorizations — some with Aegis, some with WI that he can later sign off — from a half-lit, emptied boardroom. Refusing to leave the hospital grounds, despite his protest to leave him alone, Alison found herself a quiet spot, and proved to be unintrusive enough that hospital staff left her alone.

There, she tackled endless emails, working on even as the blue tint glare off her tablet stung her eyes. She wasn't sure when she last slept, but she couldn't, not yet, not now — too much to do, and if she closed her eyes, she might end up sleeping through an update, or procedure, or request — what if he needs her?

What if he doesn't? He told her to go.

Alison tried not to think about that. A failure in itself, with her mind wandering back into memory. A matter of time, right? Something in her that she needs to fix. It wasn't long until her father wasn't happy, and expected something more. Wasn't long until she wasn't enough for Roman, who pushed her to give, give, give, and was never happy with any of her attempts. Will Warren leave her too?

Her thoughts break only at a knock on the door. One of the unit clerks kindly alert her that Warren is looking for her.

Alison doesn't hesitate to elevator back up to his floor.

On her way to his room, however, a familiar face stops her. One of the attending physicians, young, the staff lead working tandem with Dr. Stuart, doesn't even try to fake a smile. Instead, he takes Alison impatiently by the arm, and traps her angrily between the unit desk and himself, so that he can best verbally dress her down in front of his entire staff, and any unlucky visitors looking on.

Alison doesn't even see it coming. She's too tired, too shocked, too terrified — oh God, what happened to Warren?! — to react.

He questions whether it's her competence or her lack of care that found his patient drunk as fucking hell in his bed, which has effectively delayed hours of pre-op procedures, and moved his third surgery from a window that required the last-minute reorganization of six schedules. That she would ply him with drink that a man who is septic should have if he wanted to suicide within the hospital's walls, and that he's considering calling the police or throwing her out on her ass, if not both. He doesn't care how famous she is, but he won't tolerate this bullshit in his practice.

Alison absorbs it all like a punch to the gut. Warren is what? What happened in the time she was gone? And she didn't —

Or did she? She wasn't here to stop it.

She could argue back. She could demand him to back off. In the end, however, she just stands there. No words happen. And from some distant point, she watches herself stand there passively while she's humiliated, promising it'll never happen again.

He lets her go and storms off. The rest of the staff awkwardly refuse to look at her. Alison lingers there for a moment more, standing in shock, before she remembers herself, and quietly continues her way down the hall.

Soon, there's a mild knock on Waren's door, warning entry, before it opens. Alison is back as requested, smiling even as she's hit with the smell of rot. In her blue eyes is an unchanged warmth, like the last words between them never even happened. "It's me," she greets, low.

Warren has no idea what happens to Alison. No idea that she's several floors away, being unjustly reamed for what he and Neena did. No idea that she's being humiliated by someone for something which wasn't her fault at all. No idea that she's being pushed around by some young asshole who got reamed by someone higher on the totem pole, and who decided to pass along his misery to the nearest soft target he could brutalize.

No idea what she's suffering for him, after she's already worn herself thin keeping up with his work, his obligations — his reponsibilities, which waited for his signature and received hers instead.

Perhaps someday, later, Warren will find out.

For now, he sits by himself, and is oblivious.

When Alison finally returns to his side, wearing no hint or sign of her hurt and fears and doubts — only a patient smile to soothe his with — she finds Warren sitting right where she left him. His posture is one of self-protective, tense anxiety, his hands clasping his opposite elbows, his shoulders drawn in and his head bowed. He asked to be alone — and apparently, he didn't like getting his wish.

It's me, she says.

"Ali?" he asks, in a tone of voice which is the aural equivalent of a hand groping towards a lifeline. He's shivering. He looks like someone coming down from being drunk as hell. "I, um. I…" Words transparently escape him. "…Come here."

For a silent beat, Alison absorbs the sight of Warren.

He palpably wears the after-effects of alcohol all over him; however it happened, even with a missing bottle, it's all over him — a man who drank himself to oblivion. The hospital is resigned to do little but help him wait it out, and assist that with an IV drip to keep him from dehydration.

It's a sad, sorry sight, really.

A few weeks ago, Alison might have said something more disapproving — more honest. That Warren shouldn't have been reckless about his own health, and choices like this have a steep cost —

Weeks ago, when she was more sure of her footing in his life, in this — sure enough to be able to say what she wants, even make a fight happen, without fear of damaging something more — but now, Alison holds still.

She doesn't trust it, or herself, so she lets it go. Warren can do no wrong.

"Yeah," she says to the sound of her name, her voice sifted with concern at the way he says it. Shutting the door behind her, placing her things aside, she crosses the room to his bedside, looking down with the worry heavy in her tired blue eyes. "I'm here. Can I get you anything?"

It's a sad, sorry sight — and what makes it worse is that Warren Worthington was rarely ever someone to whom those adjectives could have been applied in the past. The last time he could have been described this way, his parents had just been brutally murdered. Alison would remember that time well enough.

Now it's his wings dying, rotting straight off his back, and it's left him in such a disoriented, distraught state that he would do something as stupid as accept alcohol when alcohol is the worst possible thing he could be drinking. It's plain how much he's been drinking — and shocking and confusing, how did he even get ahold of that much? — and he knows it. He waits silently, as if expecting that lecture from Alison, too.

It doesn't come. Only silence. She's too unsure, now, to go after him like she might have before.

He's confused, at first… but eventually he accepts it without much questioning. After all, it means he can get what he wants: Alison coming to his side when he calls her. He reaches up when she draws close, pulling her down in mute answer to her query whether she can get him anything. The gesture says wordlessly that he only really wants one thing.

"Just stay until the next surgery," he says, his voice tired, his head leaning against her. "There'll be another one soon. The last… so I hope."

At the least, there have been a few other changes since she left that are more positive than his sudden BAC. A half-finished bag of bagels, a little plushie bird, some stolen flowers, and a teddy with a terrible X-patch on it sit on the table.

How Warren got ahold of enough alcohol to make a robust physiology like his this drunk, Alison has some ideas — and a clearer list of likely suspects.

A few weeks ago, she might even be angry enough to go on the warpath. Right now, she cannot even seem to hold onto the fury; it ghosts out of her, too exhausted, too unsure, too worred, and too heartbroken at the sight of him to remember anger.

She remembers his anger, however, and his last wish to be free of her — though that doubt also disappears the moment Warren reaches for her. Every nervous thought in her head eclipses with the desire to soothe, and Alison obliges, all too ready to give Warren whatever it is he wants.

Leaning down, she joins him on his bed, mindful of his wings — neither willing to have Warren reach against their traction, or herself touching too-close to the tortured limbs. Alison folds her arms carefully around Warren, one of her hands threading her fingers up into his hair. She holds him close, where her strength is tired but sure, and always emanating her lamplight warmth.

"Of course," she whispers back to his request — there's no question. No other place Alison wants to be. "I hope too. Whether it is or isn't, we'll see it through."

Please work, Alison prays silently, though she's not sure to whom. It's been long enough, he's suffered too much — please just make it happen.

Her eyes, distant, stare at the new additions to visitors' gifts in his room. The teddy in particular warms her — good, he hasn't been entirely alone the last while. Though she'll probably have to take the stuffed animal with her. The patch might be borderline incriminating.

Even mindful as she is, the movement of the bed to her joining him upon it hurts. She'd feel him tense up as she settles, holding his breath against the spiking pain in his wings where they just-barely-still connect to his back… but if she tries to pull away guiltily, it will be to find his hand closing insistently around her wrist, preventing her from leaving. He would rather she be close, than he be entirely free of pain.

He doesn't say anything to her soothes. He just leans tiredly into her arms, and starts to nod off, which is probably the best indicator that they worked that she could hope for.

He remains that way for some time, the alcohol slowly purging out of his system. Once he's clean, that's when the doctors start to come back, quietly shuttling Alison away so they can prep Warren for the third and — they hope — final surgery. They have to attend to the necrotic flesh, they tell her, and they're hoping to try some new measures they've devised from poring over the data the DPS provided on his blood. But they can't predict the outcomes for certain.

That is all they can tell Alison before they take Warren away.

The surgery is not a long one, even by normal standards. A few hours pass, and then Warren is returned to his room with a fresh set of bandages veiling his ruined wings. Cameron arrives along with him, somber and vigilant, with a last parting look for the departing physicians which can only be called withering.

"I hope they're not telling you nice things," is Cameron's blunt greeting for Alison, once they're alone. Warren is still under. "Because if they are, they're blowing smoke up your ass. The way they talk to me, it sounds like they're giving up. I told them, that's not fucking good enough, but all they'll say is they don't understand why things aren't happening as they expect."

He scrubs his hand across his face. "I don't think they're motivated enough. They need a good whip to get them going. Or a really fat carrot — though I'm more inclined for the whip. You said a specialist was flying in? I'd… see what you can do to accelerate things."

He sits by Warren's bedside. "I'll look after him."

That barely-restrained flinch of agony — there is no disgusing or mistaking it, not this close, not this torturous. Stricken, Alison looks heartbroken all over again. She'd barely disturbed anything, barely tired to touch him, and he's in this much pain? It's far more pain than she realized.

Her hope had been an infallible thing this far, telling herself again and again there is no deterioration, and Warren's body would sustain itself before the inevitable repair, but this —

She leans back, horrified to hurt him — only to be stopped short by his hand on her wrist. Alison looks down on Warren, worried and sad, but even against logic, she cannot tell him no.

Under his protest, she remains, trying to be as careful as possible, and arranging herself that she will not need to move. There, she tries to bring whatever hopeless salve she can to his pain, holding him close, her body feeling like a heat lamp against the hospital's cool air. Leaned down over Warren, Alison strokes a hand through Warren's hand, and very lightly, lowly, sings. She stays this way for the time he takes to fall asleep, and beyond — anything to dodge the thoughts in her head.

She stirs only at the beckon of the staff, who roll Warren away to his third surgery. Alison promises he will not be alone.

And he isn't — she haunts the hospital, spending time entirely on the phone. The specialist from Cedars sends word of his own delay; one of his patients requires emergency surgery, and he has to delay travel by a day. Alison feels desperate enough to offer him money to beckon him overnight; there is an awkward pause on the phone.

Warren's surgery ends, and the team cannot promise her anything. Same ride, same spiel — they don't know his physiology and how it will react, they have to observe over the next day and see. It's not enough.

There's little Alison can do but just sit by Warren's bed, her breathing metered by the sounds of his machines. She feels so helpless. She can barely think; she's already lost track of the days. She's not even certain when she last slept. Not for longer than three hours since he was injured. It takes her fifteen seconds to even register Cameron Hodge is speaking to her.

Alison seems to look through him, until one or two of his words blinks clarity into her purpled eyes. Probably hearing the first curse out of him. "They're useless," she whispers back, little strength even to bring volume to her famous voice. "They're useless."

The specialist, he says. Alison's brows knit. The specialist who should be on a plane from Los Angeles right now. What can she do? She can keep calling.

"I'll keep trying," she says, rising. He offers to stay in her stead, and she is grateful. She needs to do something. "Call me when he wakes up."

Taking refuge out in the hall, Alison leaves a harried — and, admittedly, furious — voicemail, only to be stopped half-way by an incoming call. Her name is Dr. Yeung, and she works out of the Mayo Clinic, and she was a fluke — one of the many desperate leads sent out with promises for compensation.

Having received Warren's results and a sample of his blood, the woman speaks excitedly over the found: talks about how she tried a new tactic, and found his blood remarkable — it seems to operate not unlike undifferentiated cells. She thinks MSC therapy on his wings — with his own treated blood — will be the fix.

Alison doesn't know what the specialist is even saying, but it's enough — enough — for that surge of hope. She promises to send a private jet to Minnesota for an immediate pick-up. And for a brief, beautiful window, everything goes according to plan.

Until there's a call in from WI's pilot, with mention that the aircraft has been grounded at JFK — something requiring a sign-off on expired safety checks — and needs someone from Aegis to authorize same. Alison barely restrains herself from throwing her phone. She doesn't want to leave the hospital, but Kiff is delayed — and there's the chance they may not listen if she begs him to go. At least her celebrity can force policy along.

JFK should delay her a couple hours. Alison texts Cameron just that. Anything happens — call her.

It is hard to maintain hope against the hard evidence of Warren's continuing pain. If he were healing as he was supposed to, there would no longer be any injury at all, much less pain sufficient to cut through the drip they have him on — and from no more than Alison's slightest movement.

This is the kind of pain triggered by flesh which is gangrening, not healing.

She leans back automatically, but — anticipating her recoil — Warren stops her, his hand closing on her wrist in a silent plea. It is a plea he still cannot bring himself to make aloud, both because of his nature — so used to being unflappably strong — and because of what he would be admitting by making it.

He doesn't say anything even after she wordlessly consents to stay, curling carefully around him to offer some human warmth and comfort against the cold sterility of the hospital. He is tense at first, palpably restless, but her hand through his hair and her low voice in his ear soon combine to help him sleep. He always privately loved how her famous voice would only sing now for him.

Eventually — too soon — the staff shoo her away, and take him to a third surgery. It passes, apparently uneventfully, and the conclusion is another wait-and-see.

Apparently that's unacceptable to more than just Alison, because soon enough Cameron appears to have his say about the matter. Neither he nor Warren were ever crass speakers, both of them eloquent sorts capable of expressing themselves perfectly well without coarseness. When either of them actually curses, it's an event; especially Cameron Hodge, a man most acknowledge as one of the best in the PR business.

The curse out of him, now, startles Alison out of her daze. They're useless, is her listless rejoinder, and Cameron inclines his head in plain agreement. The only thing they can do, he suggests, is keep pushing… and he proposes she do just that. He promises to watch Warren.

And watch Warren he does. But he makes a few key phone calls and does a few other crucial things, too.

Matters seem to both fall into place and fall out of place for Alison Blaire, all at once. A sudden, surprise call comes through — a possible new lead to be pursued. Alison leaps on it immediately, directing a private jet to fetch this new specialist… except then the plane's grounded at JFK by — some red tape or another. Probably not something that can be detangled remotely — not quickly.

One step forward, two steps back. Alison determines she's got no other choice. Kiff's already tangled up on another errand and can't switch streams; it's got to be her. Her text is answered immediately by Cameron: go, I'll take care of things here, you better go right now if you want to be back by the time Warren wakes up.

By this time, it's nearly one in the morning, and while it's easier to get around New York — traffic's less — it's still not a short jaunt to get out to the far end of Queens from Manhattan. At the least, the entire trip to JFK, Alison receives fairly regular texts from Cameron, maybe every quarter hour, assuring her that everything is fine and he'll take care of Warren. "Focus on getting the help he needs in, as quick as possible," Cameron texts. "I'll focus on making sure he stays with us."

It's a little after half-past-one when she arrives, and JFK meets her with a guarded air and leagues of red tape. It takes a lot of preliminary shouting before she can even identify who the decision-makers she really needs to shout at are; and since those decision-makers aren't all awake owing to it being two in the morning by now, many of them have to be turned out of bed and then told why they were turned out of bed.

None of them are particularly happy about it.

In the chaos, Alison might not immediately notice the lull in Cameron's updates. The last 'all's well' came in at about 1:35, and then nothing until a terse message at about 2:20, stating that Warren's blood pressure went a little low, and he's being treated as they speak.

Cameron's last text assures Alison again that he is there, watching to make sure Warren comes out of all this okay.

The ride to JFK feels like a small eternity.

It would be a lie to say Alison does not spend that time dozing — despite all her frenetic energy, all her worry, her body can only take so much, and she's fraying under a handful of hours slept over the last week — lulling sporadically to the darkness and familiar stop-start of the car. Thankfully, she's not the one at the wheel. It'd end with two bodies in the hospital.

The intermittent buzzing of her phone keeps Alison waking up, guiltily realizing herself, taking in Cameron's updates, responding, and eventually dozing off again.

Thankfully, the lights and clamour of the airport are enough to keep Alison awake; thankfully, she doesn't have to personally tread either, driven to the private terminals, where apologetic personnel and steely-eyed TSA agents are waiting to talk clearance.

It's something, she finds, she didn't even need to personally attend. Busy bullshit. A waste of her time. But she gets it handled, gets the jet dispatched to Minnesota, confirms flightplans with the specialist, and keeps Cameron Hodge appraised the entire time.

All seems well on both fronts when she makes plans to leave. Cameron's last message is promising. Warren's out of surgery, and asleep. She'll be there to meet him shortly.

Alison leans back in the car, and immediately passes out.

She wakes eventually to the sound of honking vehicles. It's one hour later, and they're still stuck in Queens — some multi-car pileup — and Cameron's last message was fifty minutes ago. Fifty minutes.

Her heart drops out.

She immediately calls him. It rings to voicemail. She doesn't leave one. She calls again. Nothing.

Barking orders at her driver to re-route, to get them the hell back there, Alison switches to text. What happened?? Where is he??

The drive back takes nearly another hour. Alison spends the entire time doggedly texting, begging details, if he's awake, if he's conscious, if he's all right, if he's stabilized, what does he need? What happened?!

Finally arriving just a few scant minutes before 4 a.m., Alison rushes New York Presbyterian's front doors, and the elevator ride up to Warren's floor is another, worse eternity.

Alison's first call doesn't get an answer. Neitehr does the second. Her text doesn't get an immediate answer, either.

It's an agonizingly long five minutes before Cameron sends back a message, unpunctuated, hastily-written, without his usual polish, that Warren is in emergency surgery. Septic shock. They have him stable right now, and they're doing whatever they have to in order to ensure that he comes through okay.

Whatever they have to.

The remaining drive back is the worst hour of Alison's life, though a little after 3 AM, Cameron sends a final brief update that Warren is no longer in danger and is resting in a recovery room. Still, the elevator ride up is torturous… especially as Alison steps off onto his familiar floor only to discover an odd, deathly silence. No staff, no nurses, no visitors… only the empty hallways, echoing with the eerie silence of a place that just harbored a great deal of activity which has since been hastily vacated.

No one stops her as she steps towards Warren's room. The only occupant is Warren himself, and he is still under.

Mercifully so, as Alison would be able to see in a glance — because Warren has been laid on his front, making it very plain that his wings are no longer there.

There is nothing at all on his back except the heavy bandages wound about the place where his wings once were.

She has a long few minutes to absorb this horrific sight, before her sixth sense might tell her she's no longer alone.

"He was dying," says Cameron, from where he stands in the doorway looking on.

Septic shock, reads Alison, on the screen of her phone. Bullshit.

Her answers are similarly shock-quick, typed one after another: It's not sepsis. Keep him hydrated. Tell them to hold. Keep him stable. Look for something else. I'll be there fast.

There is no more sleep for her after that. She's never felt more awake in her life, feeling dread like a water torture, broken-tap-slow, dripping wakefulness on her forehead by the moment. The ride back is so slow it hurts.

Everything about the race back to Warren's hospital room speaks of some deep wrongness — too quiet, too vacant, too isolated — and Alison twists worse with nauseated anticipation. Something's not right, all her intuition screams at her, all the way until she stops at his familiar door. She opens it and lets herself in.

She nearly startles and checks herself, half-stepping back, sure she's found the wrong bed, because it's not him there. Just some man in his place, smaller, normal, human-shaped. She nearly doubles back to the unit desk to ask them where Warren's been resituated.

But something in that fast glance tells her that it's not necessary. That she only needs to look again. Alison doesn't want to, because it means what she doesn't want to believe —

Yet, she looks.

It is Warren. His face, his hair, his sleeping shape, looking a fucking shadow of himself without those white wings. He looks so small, so breakable, so different — because his wings are gone, because his wings are gone.

Alison stays that way, unmoving, too sickened even to speak. Her eyes blur.

They took his wings away.

Cameron's voice seeps in at her shoulder. Alison flinches to hear it, to understand those three words. Not a fact. An explanation. An explanation for what they — no, what he did. Cameron Hodge, who's been calling the shots.

She jerks a looks back on him, stricken, furious, then acts. She can barely feel her own feet, marching her forward, or her hands, tangling into his collar, to wrench him out of that room, and back against a wall. She's surprisingly strong for her size, and adrenaline numbs the rest.

Her eyes are not eyes, nothing human about the way they flare with light. "What did you DO?!"

It's not sepsis.

Alison doesn't even get an answer to that one.

No answers are forthcoming until she finally returns to the hospital, to see for herself what has become of Warren since she was gone. She only left him two, three hours — and yet it feels like everything has changed since she was last here, some unseen tidal shift taking place beneath the surface that swept away everything familiar and replaced it with this haunting, eerie silence.

Replaced it with — this strange blond man, in the room where Warren should be. What is he doing there? He's in Warren's place. She'll get to the bottom of this. She'll…

…realize that it's not someone else. It's Warren. Warren, looking a shadow of his normal self, diminished and mundane and disappointingly human without the beautiful arches of his white, feathered wings. They took his wings… his wings, which he had said over and over he would rather die than live without. His wings, which were so much a part of him, so much a piece of his imagery and identity, that to see him without them is akin to looking a viciously defaced work of art. To see him without is to see him looking — like a human, and the one hallmark of his mutation was that he would never, ever, look like a mere human. He looked angelic —

— and now, he looks like a man.

Alison recoils, sickened. His limbs were cut off. Finding him this way is not markedly different than finding a bird laying on the ground with both its wings shorn off. And into this moment of horror, intrudes a voice.

Alison turns on it so fast that, if Cameron Hodge were not expecting her anger, she might have seriously hurt him.

As it is, he puts up no particular physical resistance against her, letting her slam him back against the wall. His expression retains that tired patience — except for a split second where it does not, in that first moment when his spine knocks against the wall and he gets a good look down into the utmost fury that whites out her eyes in inhuman light.

For a split second, anger flickers in his eyes… the kind of bone-deep, all-consuming anger that bares like a hidden knife, and cuts just as surprisingly deep.

Then it's gone. "I'm sorry, Alison," he says, his voice toneless. "He crashed so fast. They said that it was this, or losing him. There was rot all through his wings. It was poisoning him."

For that same split second, fury meets fury.

Maybe Alison notices it. It's hard to see anything — perceive anything — through the red. She spent a lifetime of severe, ascetic self-denial, restraint conditioned into her by an authoritarian father who did not allow laughter or tears, emotional displays, noise, individuality —

And now, now, she is so angry that her hands fisted in his lapels shake. Light burns from her whited-out eyes, energy seeping out from her field that Alison no longer has the capacity, the care, to hold back.

It's hard to see anything else through her own rage, her own horror. Apologizing to her, reassuring her, while this was happening.

"You — mutilated — him!" she spits out breathlessly. "You cut off his life!"

Aburptly, her shaking hands let go. Alison pushes away, as if Cameron Hodge were venomous, too sick, too repulsed to touch. Instead, her hands climb up in some half-aborted gesture, her fingers curling into the palms. "You're the fucking poison! I told you! How many — we're not like you! He would have pulled through! We don't get sick like you, we don't die like you! You let them hack him apart! And you sat back and let me believe — you fucking snake."

Cameron doesn't say anything as Alison rails on. He just looks at her, his features blank, though as she speaks on and on, something very like surprised disgust starts to creep onto his face.

"Yeah," he says. "Just like the mutants I've seen come through with mutations that make their bones too brittle for them to walk, or the ones that have acid running out of their pores 24/7. They ask for cures, if you didn't know. They beg for them."

His voice never raises, but it's clear enough. "Anyway. People live without their limbs all the time, and that's they key part: they live. I prefer my goddamned friend to be alive, myself, even if he has to 'look like a human now.' Did you give a shit about his life, or were you happy to keep gambling with it just to prove some point? Well — have it your way. Next time I'll sit there and do nothing, and watch him die on the table to satisfy your 'miraculous master race' delusions. How did you ever fake any of that coexistence bullshit for that long?"

Shock and outrage fill every last inch of Alison Blaire's expressive face. No matter how hard her father tried to make her a cold, unfeeling creature like him — he failed.

"Oh, fuck that!" she spits, no longer aware of the volume of her voice — and the Dazzler's voice is built to reach and overwhelm — or who may exist that may overhear. There is nothing in this moment, absolutely nothing, save for Warren's mutilated body, and her unending fury. "Evolution is just as fucking unfair when it gives people cancer! This is not about that — this is about a man whose blood can heal." She stabs one shaking finger back toward that too-quiet room. "Who HAS healed far worse than that, and you don't have a single shred of faith to believe in what he is! You're supposed to be fucking family to him!"

But it doesn't end there, not by far, not when —

— Cameron's voice, quieter, softer, and far more measured, strikes through hers like a secret dagger to the ribs. Did you give a shit about his life?, he demands, and the notion shocks Alison silent. The light flickers from her eyes, and without the heat to scour them away, fresh tears fall.

One part of this is true. She wasn't there. Guilt hits her hard enough to alley in a split-second of doubt.

Then Alison locks back down, closes a fist, and in a perfect mirror of years of Scott Summers' combat training, hooks her fist at Cameron Hodge's face.

Alison was trained well. The punch drives square into Cameron's face, breaking his glasses — and probably other things, judging by the blood that starts to run down his features from his nose, the corner of his mouth. He staggers back a step, the wall behind him catching him, briefly disoriented.

There are a few moments of silence, as he stanches the flow of blood with some shock.

"No," he eventually says. His voice is blurred, emerging only with difficulty from his broken face, but it carries nonetheless. "I think it is exactly about that. 'We don't die like you?' That shows me exactly what you're truly about. Besides… you're quite wrong. Plenty of you die 'like us' all the time. Plenty of you die more easily than us, in fact."

He takes his broken glasses fully off his face. "I waited," Cameron says. "I waited as long as I dared to wait. But faith doesn't cure people. Sitting around until the eleventh hour praying for some mutant miracle isn't good enough for me. Not when it's my best friend's life on the line. Plenty of you have abilities which suddenly fail you when you most need them not to fail."

His brown eyes, for once unveiled by glasses, stare flatly into hers. "Wouldn't you know about that?"

Half a beat passes. And then there is a tortured breath from behind them, a slight shift of movement. Warren is waking up, and the first thing he tries to say is Alison's name.

Cameron steps back. The look on his face briefly reflects that of a man who just took a worse blow than the one Alison just physically delivered.

Distantly, her knuckles ache — Alison feels it, doesn't feel it, too pickled in the alcohols of fury and misery. Was this the first punch she's thrown in her life, a woman who never needed to — whose light can scald away so much more?

She can't think to remember. Can't think past the most simple, reflexive of actions, like the muscle memory of the Professor's voice offering context to each choice — and, remembering herself, she disengages, steps back.

There's no follow-though to that hit, and she tempers enough of herself to give Cameron Hodge his space. He is not spared, however, the look on her face, spearing with the judgment she cannot catch her breath to voice. You did this to him. You did this, and it didn't have to be. How could you do this to him?

"You didn't wait," she eventually answers, her voice the antithesis of his, jagged at the edges, a woman barely holding back something that will cull her ability to speak at all. "I almost did it, and you didn't wait. You didn't even tell me… you let me think…"

She can't finish the thought.

Not when it's my best friend's life on the line, declares Cameron, and Alison is already shaking her head no.

"His wings are his life," she whispers. "You —"

She cannot interject. Not for long. Not when he says that.

Wouldn't you know about that?

Alison says nothing, the argument punched out of her. Tears streak down her face.

Silence hangs between them like a no man's land. She makes no move to cross it. Does nothing, save tremble slightly in the hands, until —

Alison turns to the sound of Warren's voice. She pauses, heartbroken all over again, and forgets Cameron Hodge entirely, leaving him where he stands, where he bleeds.

She closes the door on him without a look back.

And like stepping between one world to the next, she changes, no more anger, her edges gentling, her eyes bright, as she makes her way directly to Warren's bed. "I'm here," she whispers down, reaching for his hand. "I'm here."

You didn't wait, she says.

"There was no time left to keep waiting," is his answer.

There is a brief interlude where there is nothing but silence, after Alison and Cameron finish plunging verbal knives into one another. It is a silence that is broken suddenly by Warren stirring, his familiar voice struggling through the fading anesthetic to call out.

Alison closes the door on Cameron. Warren made clear which of them he is asking for, even in his confused state. In the sudden privacy of the hall, there is a brief raw moment where Cameron does not trouble to disguise the irrational hurt on his features. This was what he wanted, all he has built the last many months towards; this one small window where he could strip away all he hated about Warren Worthington. Why does it hurt to still not be chosen? Does he not despise Warren now?

Could he ever?

He remains standing where he is a few moments longer. Then he turns and walks away. The feeling will pass. But the satisfaction of Alison Blaire's tears — that will remain.

Warren, for his part, does not seem to be aware that Cameron was ever present. He tangles his hand with Alison's when she reaches to take it, his grip frail and listless from all that circulates in his system. "I don't feel right," he slurs, though his voice grows steadier with each syllable. With his wings gone, his strength seems to be returning, his body and its natural healing no longer impeded by the parasitism of that rot. Whatever it was. "I don't… I don't…"

His shoulders tense. His features wear first confusion, and then a growing fear. He tries to turn, to see. "I can't…"

His grasp suddenly closes down hard enough to be painful. His breathing shallows into the terrified pants of an animal in a trap. "Ali…?"

With a strangled sound, he suddenly pitches off the bed in a pure panic response, ripping out all the IVs, the monitors, everything. His shoulders tense again, shoulderblades turning to try to work muscles that no longer exist. He strains hard enough that blood starts to soak the bandages wrapping his back; the unexpected pain makes him gasp.

"Where?" he asks, retreating against the side of the bed. "Where — are they — "

Just like that, Cameron Hodge is exorcised from Alison's thoughts. At least for now, there are more pressing matters, namely the way Warren's bleary calling of her name eclipses all else.

Her hands cover his, trying to impart contact through his confusion — her fingers pressing as if wishing that were enough to fix this. Fix that the rest of his life is forever changed, and will never be able to do again what was meaningful to him.

Alison looks down with sad, desperate eyes, and her lips press briefly against Warren's first, slurred remark. All she can think to answer is to make low, soothing sounds to him, not to panic, not to be distressed. She has no idea what even to say.

Then, snakebite-quick, his bearing changes. His hand vices around hers — the one whose knuckles are already bruising — and pain stars her eyes. Alison wins the struggle to disguise it from her face, even though it feels like her wrist might pop if he applies any more pressure — frankly, because he's terrifying her.

Especially when he leaves the bed.

She answers the noisy crash of his body with a surprised cry, thinking — does she call the help button? no time? he needs help! Cords snap off of him, and she reaches out to him through that mess, down on her knees to fold her body around his. Partially to restrain Warren from hurting himself, partially to try to comfort the panic. "Warren," Alison pleads, still lost for words. There is nothing — absolutely nothing — she can say to fix this. At this point, it's everything now just so he doesn't do himself more harm. Tears blink free from her eyes. "Warren, just look at me."

Perhaps it's the look in Alison's eyes that gives Warren his first hint that something is horribly wrong. The look in her eyes, and the way she doesn't say anything to him — just makes the mindless soothing noises one makes when there is nothing to say. But it is the inability to feel his wings which really makes him panic — the inability to feel anything, not even the gangrene pain to which he has become so accustomed over the past week.

The worst part about Warren's subsequent fall off the bed is that it was plainly not meant to be a fall. This close, knowing him as well as she does, it would be easy for Alison to see that the spasmodic movement was an attempt to open his wings and fly away in frightened retreat. A pure instinctive panic response, which could no longer be fulfilled.

The unfortunate lack of wings, of course, resulted in his unceremonious crash to the floor.

Once down he stays down, on his hands and knees, bewildered and terrified by his body's failure to respond as he expects. He hides against the side of the bed, trying to comprehend through the lingering anesthetic. He barely seems to feel Alison's arms around him (so easy to get her arms around him now, with over half of his body mass gone — no more wings in the way), nor to hear her pleas of his name. She begs him to look at her, and he looks through her instead, wide and wild-eyed and obviously shreds away from a complete meltdown.

People rush in — a pair of doctors, man and woman, and a gaggle of nurses — no doubt alerted to a disturbance in their patient when all those monitors popped loose. The woman starts to quietly direct some of the nurses to help her prepare a sedative if necessary. It's left to her male colleague — one of the surgeons who assisted in the amputation, in fact — and a few of the male nurses to try to verbally and physically defuse the situation before they must resort to sedation.

"Mr. Worthington," the unfortunate surgeon starts, "please, you need to calm down — "

"What did you do?" Warren pants, on the verge of a total breakdown. "What did you do? Where are they? What did you DO with them?! Are they here? Are they HERE somewhere? You didn't take them away — "

"They were killing you," the surgeon protests, flustered. "They were removed — they were disposed — "

That last ill-chosen word surges Warren clear off the floor. It seems those rotting wings truly were the only impediment to the rest of him making a full recovery. In half a second, his left hand is vised about the other man's throat, and he's lifted him clean off the ground as far as his left arm will extend.

"You disposed?!" Warren repeats in abject, furious disbelief, while in the background the other staff decide to skip straight to trying to sedate the hell out of him, because fuck that!

It is easy for her to see… even easier for her to feel. And the display, Warren lost in an undeniable panic that not even she can soothe or heal, breaks Alison's heart again and again.

Perfectly aware of her own helplessness — if there was anything she could have done, it would have been hours ago when she was here — she still tries, even if it means joining Warren on the floor and wrapping herself around him, seeking to yield or buffer any of his subsequent fits to come. At least if he thrashes around in terror, she can absorb the worst for him.

Alison doesn't miss the blood at his back where his wings should be. She's always been blessed with a cool head in moments like these, but now she can't stop her own quiet tears.

She spends the next moments like that, eyes squeezed shut, arms gripped down, saying absolutely nothing and simply holding him through that wild animal panic.

Fortunately, unfortunately, they are not alone for long. All at once, the tiny hospital room is bloated with bodies, personnel of all types rushing in to see to him. Alison looks back facelessly on them, pleading the first thing to touch her expression — before her eyes crease to hear the talk of sedation.

"No," she tries to argue, sick at the idea of Warren forcibly sedated. He's been violated enough for one day. "He doesn't need —"

But the surgeon is talking to him, and then Warren is — comprehending, answering, and, with a terrifying surge of strength, tearing himself up to his feet and free of her arms. Alison follows suit, clumsy as she shakes with adrenaline. It surprises her, seeing him this way — he was so weak, so frail, just hours ago.

She doesn't want to believe it. Was Cameron right? Was she killing him?

Not that it matters right now, because in a split-second, it looks like Warren is about to be the one committing homicide.

"Warren!" Alison cries out, faced with the sight of him one-handed bearing a man's weight up, choking him —

For a brief second, something in her thinks darkly, spitefully: this is deserved.

But not right, and that's why Alison moves, inserting herself with a hopeful trust she will not be collateral damage. She grabs Warren by the wrist, trying to break the grip, trying to get him to look at her — anything. "Warren, no! Not like this!"

Panic is the only way to describe it — the pure, trapped, panic of a bird stuck in a cage and hurling itself again and again at the bars, uncomprehending of the fact it's only doing itself harm. Her body wrapped around his, at the least, seems to be buffer enough to prevent him from thrashing about and hurting himself even more… though that in itself is depressing. She was never able to wrap herself around him like this before, never able to close him up in her arms; his wingspan always made that impossible, always made her feel small compared to him and the great twenty-foot spread of his limbs.

Now all of that is gone. Now what she holds in her arms is only a man: four-limbed, ordinary, and limited.

Or — well. Perhaps not entirely ordinary. Wings were not the only mutation Warren had, and their removal seems to have restored the rest… quickly and coincidentally enough that even Alison has to doubt herself for a moment. Was Cameron right? Was it the wings, all along? Was she the main obstacle to him getting better?

Was she killing him by insisting they remain on?

She doesn't have much more than a moment to contemplate those troubling questions. In the time it takes for her to hesitate, to think about that, someone manages to say the absolutely wrong thing to Warren… and he rips immediately out of her arms, fast and strong enough to bowl her over, going — quite literally — for the throat.

For one spiteful moment, she considers letting this play out. They deserve this…
…but it's not who either she, or Warren, are.

Warren tenses palpably when she interjects between him and the gasping surgeon and grabs onto his wrist, the muscle locking up even more tautly beneath her touch. For a moment he stares straight past her, his maddened eyes focused on the frightened doctor, before his expression twitches and he lets the man drop straight down.

"You've destroyed me," he says. To the surgeon — to everyone. "You — who let you destroy me?"

He stands there, shaking, looking uncertain whether he even wants the answer to his question.

"I want out," he says, at first shakily, and then more sure. Rage climbs into his syllables, and stiffens the spine of his voice. "I — want — out. I sign myself out. I'm leaving. You can't — " He staggers trying to walk straight out the door. The sick coppery smell of blood intensifies, as his reopened wounds seep blood. " — You can't keep me here. Ali — come here — we're leaving — "

In many ways he feels the same in her arms; in many other ways, he feels like a stranger. Still, Alison hangs on, trying to ignore the hole in her stomach.

There's nothing to fix this, and she cannot believe herself naive enough to hope. What would she do if she woke up without her voice? Or, worse, without her full senses — her hearing, unable ever again to hear music, unable ever again to make her light?

She would be devastated. There would be no words in this world to fix it, and so Alison offers none to Warren. Just her weight, her warmth, her tactile presence, and the promise inherent in all that for all he shall hurt, he won't have to do it alone.

Her eyes stay shut through far more traitorous thoughts. All her fault, either way — isn't it? Nothing she could do to stop him from losing his wings. Everything she could have done to accidentally kill him.

Alison, lost in her own moment's devastation, reacts too late to the here and now.

But even in her own bitter resentment — one that, despite her self-loathing, equally judges those men and women who mutilated Warren without his consent — Alison does not spend longer than a heartbeat staring up at Warren holding a struggling man by the throat.

There is right, and there is wrong, and this is very wrong — wrong to kill, wrong for Warren to do something he'd spend a lifetime regretting, wrong for the consequences that'd befall him for a brutal homicide, one that'd strip Warren of everything else, reputation and assets and freedom pulled from him as easily as his wings…

Holding him by that aggressing wrist, Alison ignores her own quiet stomach-flip of panic; Warren isn't even looking at her. What if he's too far gone? What if she has to use her light to stop him? What if —

"Warren," she begs again. "Please."

To her relief, he lets the man go. Alison quickly interjects herself, placing herself bodily between Warren and the rest of the medical team, her body language telling: don't come closer, for your own protection.

She lingers, unwilling to crowd Warren, but intent on his every last word — every last change in his face. He wants it? He'll get out. Her attention shifts to the blood wetting his back, assessing how dangerous it looks — painful, but not in any way detrimental, especially not if Warren can heal again like he used to, now that his wings —

She snaps to attention at his demand. Her bearing gentles, compliant. "We are leaving. You don't have to stay here."

Alison glances over her shoulder, eyes hard on the staff. "Get out. Get the paperwork ready to sign. And have Doctor Stuart call me."

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