Graceless Endings
Roleplaying Log: Graceless Endings
Participants
IC Details
Synopsis:

In which Warren, Alison, and Carolus discuss weighty matters of what-ifs and ongoing worries in the halls of Xavier's Institute

Other Characters Referenced: Gwen Stacy, Starfire
IC Date: September 25, 2019
IC Location: Xavier's Institute
OOC Notes & Details
Posted On: 26 Sep 2019 04:59
Rating & Warnings:
NPC & GM Credits:
Associated Plots

* OOC Time: Wed Sep 25 20:28:49 2019 *

* * *

By now, the word has spread around the X-Men over the intranet channels that Warren is safe (for given values of 'safe') — but minus his wings. The message came from his personal assistant Kiff, and was about as terse as one might expect: 'Warren is out of the hospital. However, his wings were amputated. He is staying at his family estate on Long Island for the time being. Further details when I know them.'

And Kiff left it, essentially, at that.

There wasn't really any explanation on what would happen going forward — whether he would return to the team in any capacity, much less in the de facto lead capacity he had previously held. There was no discussion, either, of whether the checks will keep coming and whether he will continue to be so involved in the financial back-end of the Institute and the X-Men.

This is perhaps not surprising. Even if flight weren't already Warren's entire life, two of his limbs were just removed, and to all appearances without his consent. It can be safely assumed he isn't thinking about Form 990s right now.

And yet… perhaps the familiarity of wrangling finances is more soothing to Warren than to most, because today, a few days after the amputation, finds him having turned back up at the Institute. He does so late at night, however, perhaps eager to avoid too many questioning eyes from the students and children who still make their home here even with the specter of registration.

He comes in through a roundabout way, a side door with which he's well familiar after happier days sneaking around with Bobby (Scott never wanted any part of it). Though it's transparently painful to him to be here in the condition he's now in, he sticks it out, moving quietly down the hall towards the staff office where he kept most of his records regarding this place. It helps that he is not alone.

* * *

For her part, Alison Blaire has always been a bit of a fickle X-presence. Never known as one of its more staid members.

Rumour is twice, ten years ago, the Professor himself offered her membership, and twice Alison turned him down, choosing to utilize her abilities for her career rather than for the good of mutantkind. Whether selfish or merely playing it safe, she went off to achieve international stardom as the Dazzler —

And neglected the here a bit. However, much like a prodigal daughter, she'd always come back: here and there, missing the team, and guilty for pretending normal too long, she'd be a sporadic haunt until some grief or another chased her away back to the safety of normalcy. Well, crazy famous pop star celeb normalcy.

Except for these days, with the Dazzler's career nearly a year destroyed, and her reintegration back into the X-Men a bit more permanent, she's been around. But not "around." Still at the fringes, or the wings, and never allowing herself to feel as guiltily deserving of the X-Family as its more enduring members.

She doubts she'd be here if by her own choice; today's visit is entirely because of and for Warren. His trek to the Institute has come with accompaniment, the equally radio-silent Alison joining this late-night jaunt to help catch up on the neglect that is WI's financial backing of the mansion and its resources. With little else she feels she can do these days — what can one do for the man you love who just lost his wings? — Alison knows protestant work ethic. She can do that.

"Anything you want me to pick up to take back?" she asks Warren in the meanwhile, sotto voce.

* * *

Carolus didn't come to the Institute seeking Warren Worthington, or Dazzler. He's been meaning to visit, but today's visit was just to find /somebody/ he could inform what he's been up to in person. He's not feeling great about the apparentl /fashion serial killer/, and only a little better about the Ghost Spider matter.

He didn't expect Warren would be an option to talk to, yet. At least, outside of a hospital bed. Dressed to conceal most of his mutations, Carolus is best described at the moment as looking like a ragamuffin. A bit too clean to be a homeless person, and a bit too ill-dressed to look like he has any sort of business of dressing himself. The usual extra-oversized hoodie over equally-oversized t-shirt and relatively normal jeans. He isn't bothering with a hat today, though, so his antennae are on full display.

It is this specific detail that alerts him to Warren's presence. Carolus can identify people by scent, and regulars at the Institute were certainly no exception to that. He nearly fumbles his satchel coming through the front door, catching it just in time. Recovering, he turns his head in the direction of the side entrance.

Using a back door? Carolus agonizes over following the scent, and then makes his decision. He emerges at the opposite end of the hall from Warren and his companion a short while later, clutching his satchel in both visible hands awkwardly.

"Mr. Worthington?" His voice is uncertain, tentative. Not pitying, but definitely surprised. Seeking confirmation— and perhaps, just a little, offering an out if Warren wants to take it.

A little more sure, his attention turns towards Dazzler, antennae lifting a small distance as he does, "Ms. Blaire. Or would you prefer Dazzler? It's… not always easy to tell for certain, I'd rather not assume."

He seems like he's about to add something towards her, but stops himself short abruptly.

* * *

"I'll figure it out once we're there," is Warren's tired reply to Alison. "I didn't leave… personal effects here. There might be some paperwork, though. We went digital with most of this stuff, but some of the… ah… more sensitive documents were better left on paper."

He breaks off, however, as he catches sight of movement down the hall. Easy, with eyes like his. He tenses palpably at Alison's side, in that way that suggests he's at least thinking about running away, but in the end 'running away' just isn't any part of Warren's DNA. Even wingless and diminished, there are some aspects to his base nature which have not and will never change… even if physically he looks ruined, a maimed shadow of his former self without the great white wings which were so integral a part of his image.

One of those unchanging things about him is a tendency to charge directly at situations which frighten him. The Professor always called it 'courage.' Others like to call it 'stupid.'

He recognizes the younger man, as they draw closer. Not many chances to directly interact over the years, what with Warren's administration of the school being a rather distant affair and his focus being more on the X-Men side of the aisle, but… he has a good memory, and he always takes especial note of the kids who come through with highly-visible mutations, for obvious reasons.

Especially kids with wings. His gaze tracks instinctively towards Carolus's back, even though the wings aren't visible right now, before a harrowed sort of look passes across his blue eyes, and he looks away.

"'Warren' is fine," he says, to cover the moment. His voice is thin, but reasonably steady. "You're here late, Carolus. I saw the message you sent. Is it regarding that?"

He… sounds like he should. The Warren.exe process is saying the right things. He's operating… better than he was a few days ago, when he was freshly shorn of his wings and nearly catatonic with shock, but there's a brittle artificiality to his tone that makes even the familiar words he's saying — words one would expect out of Warren Worthington — sound off. He's going through the motions, because going through the motions allows him to live in denial a little longer, but they are still only that: just motions.

* * *

The third voice steals Alison from her thoughts.

Her first movement is a reflexive one, and it's the brief, subtle way she touches Warren's closest arm: something like a soothe, offering that it will be all right.

Her head turns, and her eyes immediately find Carolus; Alison offers him an immediate, pleasant smile. She doesn't seem to recognize him — even in better days, Warren spent far more time at the Insitute, whereas she kept a more regimented physical presence in their pro-mutant foundation, Aegis — but she takes it in stride. When you reach her level of notoriety, every day is new faces that always know far more about you.

"Please, call me Alison," she says, appropriating a cheeriness that one wouldn't expect a woman to possess, days after all the reports of the papers, and the loss of Warren's wings. Her body language opens, gracious and patient, possibly hiding the fact she is taking constant, surveilling glances at Warren beside her, maintaining vigiliance of his mood. These days, it changes on a dime — of course it would, Alison, he's in shock — and within a heartbeat, 'just enough' can easily become 'too much.'

He seems to be handling it, however; as Alison hopes, a large part of Warren's life, and everything therein, is for the bodies within these walls. It might be the best thing for him to talk with them a bit.

Otherwise, she seems to intuit the bit of hesitation — something unsaid — on Carolus, but her thoughts derail to Warren's question. Alison holds her silence, for now.

* * *

Carolus wouldn't have blamed Warren for not wanting to see him, but he does smile when the 'problem' of his own presence is met head-on. That's a good sign. He was afraid of what he might need to expect, visiting the older man in the hospital. It was a part of what made him drag his feet— not really knowing what to do, or say. He shifts his satchel to his left side, tugging it open idly with his right hand.

He catches the glance Warren casts towards his back. Carolus's wings are bound up, but there's still the characteristic hump that such large anatomical features are bound to produce, even when terribly uncomfortably hidden.

A sympathetic throb of aggravation ripples through him, and he has to suppress the buzzing shudder that his wings threaten to give. It's part of why he was so nervous about this. Carolus emotes fairly heavily through his wings, whether they're free from bonds or no.

"If you're sure, Warren." He acknowledges, turning his gaze away and drawing something out of his satchel. A flash of color later, and he presents Warren with a stuffed caterpillar. Each segment is a different color.

"I… had intended to visit you sooner." He offers, apologetically.

"The dimensional vortex— no," Carolus answers, truthfully, "Ghost Spider is settling in fine. She got involved with the Titans, so she is more-or-less settled until she finds a way out. If she finds a way out. I'm going to keep an eye on it, but she's mostly just… lost, and alone. Don't feel right leaving it there."

"Are you familiar with the incident at the end of New York Fashion Week? I got an increased order from the deceased designer's studio, and when I went to look into it the new management ended up hanged from a length of gossamer in her atelier. Revoltingly theatrically, actually. Whoever it was pretended to be a mannequin until I looked away. I wanted to let somebody know I might be dealing with some sort of… anti-fashion serial killer. Starfire was involved during the last incident, she's my next stop."

His antennae perk conspiciously in response to Alison's introductions.

"Ah— I'm so sorry, that was very rude of me." He says, smiling politely and inclining his head a little, "I'm Carolus Sinclair, alias Atlas. It's a pleasure to meet you, and I appreciate the extended familiarity, Alison. You may use whichever form of address for me suits you, I am not picky."

* * *

Warren used to emote heavily through his wings too. Used to. He knows what to look for, and with the extraordinary, raptor-grade vision he has, he can pick up on a lot of minute movements that humans miss. The jitter of those suppressed wings is very faint, but Warren's sharp blue eyes follow it as if he can see it.

He can pick up on a lot of other things, too. Carolus's obvious discomfort and nervousness shades Warren's tired eyes with some guilt — a guilt which intensifies when the younger man fishes a stuffed caterpillar out of his satchel with an apologetic note to his voice.

"Things happened very fast," he says, taking the caterpillar with care. "There's no need to feel guilty about anything like that." His expression shades briefly wry. "I was not the best company, anyway."

It's true, really, Alison's assessment; much as it's painful for him to be here now, with everything that first brought him to this place now cut away, there is a part of him that still finds comfort in the Institute, and still responds to the sight of younger mutants learning here… making their way through their lives much as he had to, when he was younger. It seems to lift some of his bleak mood to be here, looking after things as he used to… but every so often, he tries absently to move his wings, to reach to preen his feathers, and the constant reminders drag him back down.

Still, even wingless, the impulse to take younger mutants under wing is obvious. Alison would see more animation from Warren, here and now, than she has seen in over a week. "Ah," he says, of Carolus's assessment with regard to the dimensional 'Ghost Spider.' "That's good. The Titans will take care of her. Though our doors here are always open, as well."

His gaze shades distant. "They always will be. I will not return… but this place will be looked after."

As far as the incident at the close of Fashion Week? Warren exchanges a troubled look with Alison, equal parts disturbed and guilty. "I confess I haven't paid as much attention to it as I usually do," he says, that classic patrician talent for vast understatement in clear evidence. "You should loop in the Titans, certainly, but canvass the team for backup as well."

His gaze averts. "Don't want anyone to get hurt."

* * *

The stuffed caterpillar gentles Alison's eyes. She approves, but says nothing of it.

Despite her outward receptiveness, she is on edge — waiting for what may be simmering just beneath the surface of interactions like these. Questions and comments people — good people, kind people, well-meaning people — can't help but say: 'how are you?' or 'I'm sorry for what happened.'

The sorts of things she knows Warren cannot take right now, much less anyone in his understandable state of shock — the reminders, and social protocol inherent in same, take it out of you.

Yet, to her surprise, there are no such things from Carolus. Instead, he seems to be offering some sort of team-focused sitrep, which others haven't really inundated Warren with — herself, as the worst offender — and, while Alison prickles with some worry, she cannot deny hope that Warren is… taking this well.

Possibly not well, but functionally close to it. It makes him look years away from that catatonic shape he made, just days ago, in the darker rooms of his estate.

She listens on without too much surprise at the oddities — dimensional vortexes, all part of the X-Career — and answers Carolus with a smile that is warm, but doesn't quite rhyme with the sleeplessness in her eyes. "Not rude at all. Lovely to meet you, too, Carolus." That seems to be her chosen form of alias; Alison is old-school, only really preferring codenames for the field.

Warren remarks back on not returning to the Institute. Alison tries to ignore the knot in her gut. Definitely not well. "I'm sorry you had to deal with that," she says instead, of the fashion incident — of the body. "Talk to me if you ever need back up. I have some of my own contacts in the biz."

* * *

"Yes. But even so." Carolus responds to Warren's reassurances, though his body language loosens up a little all the same. He raises the shoulder strap on his satchel over his head and allows it to hang, apparently done with its contents for the moment. He brings his hands together unconsciously, finger running along the opposite hand's knuckles thoughtlessly.

"I offered. I was under the impression that she needed to finish her education, but she is… well in control of her abilities, and highly reluctant to unmask. I do not think that she will settle here unless she absolutely must, and she doesn't have documentation in this universe so it would be… will be… something of a problem for her in general."

"Even if that wasn't a factor, I don't think she wants to set down roots. I can't blame her for that." He adds, a little grimly.

Warren's declaration doesn't seem to surprise Carolus much. He nods slowly, a little downcast, before straightening up and adopting a more clear and resolute posture.

"You will be missed, Warren. Do what you need to do, but try not to be a stranger. In the future, I will aspire to do better than chance meetings in familiar hallways at night." Carolus says, gentle but certainly bittersweet in his regard for the situation.

On the more serious note of Fashion Week's grim conclusion and his own handling of the matter, Carolus nods a simple affirmative.

"That is the plan. I observed appropriate safety measures insofar as I was able at the time-of. I will submit a more formal report shortly. It was…" Carolus sighs, fidgetting lightly with his strap, "It was distressing. It's different, from the invasion. We didn't have time to process much up front, back then. I didn't, anyway. That poor woman, she was just…"

"Spinning there. Still warm." Carolus is quick to take any excuse to stop thinking about it. His attention returns to Alison, "I would be most appreciative of back-up, and local contacts. I am not unconnected, but I am a new entry to any side of this business. When I asked the receptionist if anybody particularly crazy worked there, she said, 'Nobody more crazy than you'd expect in fashion.'."

"I feel as if my expectations of personal conduct were over-optimistic." He concludes, dully.

* * *

The team-focused sitrep is, to be honest, probably the safest way to approach Warren at the moment. Probably the best way, too. The routine of it seems comforting in a way — a rote series of social gestures and responsibilities with which to occupy the mind — and it's certainly better than him sitting alone in the many beautiful, extravagant rooms of his family estate, staring at a wall and doing nothing at all.

That he returned to his estate was in itself a self-destructive act. He had long since stopped identifying strongly with the careless, spoiled, extravagant person he was when he lived there — felt the place to be a lingering trapping of his less-evolved, pre-X-Men self — and that he exiled himself back there did not speak very well of his mental state. It's as if without his wings, he doesn't feel himself fit for anything but to return to the life of the idle modern-day noble, cloistered away and dreaming in isolation.

He's certainly the better version of himself within the four walls of the Institute — just as he is now — and that makes it all the more worrying that he expresses a clear intent not to return after this final visit. Alison's concern, if he detects any of it, is ignored; that, combined with Carolus's gentle words on the matter, seem to raise a tension in Warren, the older man's expression flattening. If he still had his wings, they would have ruffled, the feathers lifting in restless warning; and the instinct to do so is still strong and present, judging by the way a flinch of pain crosses his features. It still hurts whenever he tries to move what's no longer there.

"We all do what we need to," is his tired response. "In my case, that may be 'being a stranger.' For a while, or forever." His tone says he doesn't know, and has no energy to care.

Yet Carolus's admission on how disturbing it was, what he saw… Warren's gaze tracks back towards him, and the prickliness leaves him in a familiar resurgence of guilt. Can't help but still respond to a younger mutant's distress. Perhaps much of his exhaustion can be sourced to the constant seesaw of his mood, lately… even he can't figure out what he feels at any given time. "I will ask Danielle to look out for the report," he settles for saying. "She can help you take care of these matters."

A pause. "There are a lot of things you'll see if you continue," he says. "It can be a hard road. Remember," says the maimed evidence of what could come to pass, "that you can stop at any point if it becomes too much."

* * *

Nobody more cray than you'd expect in fashion…

"Yeah, they're an eccentric bunch," Alison remarks on that, taking a brief detour back into memory. One of the things about early celebrity she recalls, and never really caring for — when her life was on her label's beck and call, she felt like a glorified coat hanger to the fashion industry. "Give me a shout if you need access in anywhere. I can make some calls."

She tries not to linger too long on the visual of a hanging body. Alison's mood is already at too low a tide.

Especially when Warren doesn't even hint, but says outright that tonight's his last stop back at the Institute, perhaps for a long time, perhaps for good. Though Alison has a deft poker face, and can keep things like these held in, it surprises her how much hearing that hurts. He's said as much before, and to her, and she's here to help him get that done — but to hear it announced aloud seems to calcify it. She feels kicked in the stomach, because it's an entire worldview changing — Warren, like Jean or Scott, was always about the Institute. Him leaving it behind feels not unlike the day she learned the Professor went missing, still not to return.

She doesn't comment aloud on any of it — Carolus' gentle reminder that Warren's always invited here, and Warren's prickly return — and doesn't try to offer anything promising to couch what this visit is. No pretty lies like 'oh, we'll be back soon,' or 'you never know.' It is what it is, and it hurts.

"I should — ah, go on ahead, and dig up the remaining paperwork," Alison offers, because as strong as she's been the last two weeks, she thinks she needs five minutes alone. There's a dangerous sting to her eyes that she's terrified Warren will witness. With a comforting touch on his arm, and a smile to younger man, she quickly adds, "Nice to meet you — email me if you ever need anything."

And Alison ghosts by a few steps to the office up ahead, to do just that work — and hide herself in it.

* * *

If Carolus notices that raising of hackles, he doesn't show it. Perhaps he misses it, and then again perhaps he ignores it deliberately. He smiles, and recites, "But this rough magic I here abjure and, when I have required some heavenly music which even now I do, to work mine end upon their senses that this airy charm is for, I'll break my staff, bury it certain fathoms in the earth, and deeper than did ever plummet sound I'll drown my book."

"We are, to a one, uniquely dreadful at doing what we need, Warren. Me, too."

He heaves a sigh, and turns, "But thank you for the advice and the support. I should finish my report and get going, and I wouldn't like to keep you. If it wouldn't displease you, I might come call on you some other time. For now, though, if there is nothing that I can do for you…"

"Good night. I'll be in touch, Warren, Alison." Unless either of them stops him by word or action, Carolus heads back down the hallway the way he came, to find some quiet space to write in.

* * *

The recitation draws Warren's eye. "It never did say," he observes, "how that worked out for Prospero." A long pause. A rueful flicker crosses his blue eyes. "Maybe it did, and I just don't recall. Classical Lit at Exeter was a very long time ago."

But wounded animals are always so self-absorbed in their own pain that they don't notice the pain they inflict on others. Not, usually, until it is too late. It's no different with Warren, who does not seem to notice the effect of his own self-indulgent misery up until Alison is walking away.

He's not blind. He's the opposite of blind, really, with his vision that can pick out text two miles off. He can see the too-bright look in her eyes, past the smile and the pat on the arm, and guilt at having apparently done something to hurt her mingles irrationally with shock that she's walking away from him. People — don't walk away from HIM. He expected her to be here, and she's walking away?

But what could he really expect, behaving like that?

Left behind, Warren likely looks about as stunned and abandoned as he feels. If he still had wings, they would have pulled in, flat, against his back, the feathers sleek in distress; it is transparent how naked he feels without that shelter. He barely seems to hear Carolus at first, the niceties blurring up until 'I might come call another time.' His head turns to 'if there is nothing that I can do for you…?'

"What would you do?" is the abrupt question. "If you lost yours?"

* * *

Carolus stops, half-turning back towards Warren. A part of him had wanted to talk about it from the start, but he thought that it was the wrong time. That he couldn't be the one to bring it up. That if he did, it would just make things worse. He meets Warren's gaze for a moment, and looks away towards the ceiling in thought.

"I would feel like a composer gone deaf, an artist gone blind. But when at last I was done hurting, and wishing, and hoping I would still be Carolus Sinclair, Xavier's Institute Class of 2017. And then…" He raises a hand, index finger extended towards the ceiling, "I would get a pilot's license, and play make believe."

"To me," Carolus doubles back to the Tempest, "that story is one of graceful endings. That's why I like it in particular. Who knows if the world agrees. I doubt it."

* * *

Carolus thought all those things. And he was correct. If he had been the one to bring it up, things would have ended very differently. Warren Worthington has been known for a lot of things over the many years he's been 'Angel': a fixture of the X-Men and of the Institute. One of those things was the fact that it was difficult to trigger his temper, carefree and breezily confident as he was…

…but when it was triggered, holy shit!

But he waits, and his reward is for Warren to create the opening himself — for Warren to ask the question to which Carolus has already considered an answer. And when Carolus does answer, Warren doesn't interrupt until the younger man is finished.

"There wasn't much grace in my ending," is Warren's eventual reply. Either he has not realized the obvious message — that graceful endings are not things which happen to people, but which they must make for themselves — or he has realized, and is ignoring it. "He chose his… I didn't.

"But hey," he concludes, his voice sardonic, "at least I already have the pilot's license."

He turns away. His golden head bows, perhaps in self-reproach. "Some other time, then," he says, perhaps finally aware he can only potentially cause further harm if he stays. "See Danielle Moonstar with your report. She will take care of the rest." Left unspoken, as he walks away after Alison: in the ways I no longer can.

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