Late Night With Angel and Atlas
Roleplaying Log: Late Night With Angel and Atlas
Participants
IC Details
Synopsis:

Carolus and Warren discuss recent events and current worries.

Other Characters Referenced:
IC Date: October 08, 2019
IC Location: Xavier's Institute
OOC Notes & Details
Posted On: 09 Oct 2019 06:03
Rating & Warnings:
NPC & GM Credits: Kiff played by Warren Worthington
Associated Plots

* OOC Time: Tue Oct 08 20:11:57 2019 *

* * *

The last time Warren and Carolus spoke, Warren was freshly shorn of his wings, and he had declared: he will not return to the Institute.

That was weeks ago, and it seems weeks of mouldering in blank idleness have a way of changing a man's mind. No matter how drastic the emotional injury dealt, after some time, most people — especially with the amount of support Warren has been receiving — will mentally wake up a little bit, and realize there is still a world going on around them.

Namely, a world filled with attacks on his company, with Purifiers, and with people being murdered by mysterious mannequins.

It must be admitted the first two triggered Warren more than the last, but all three brought him to message Carolus — first over the X-Men comms in response to the filed AARs, and then more privately to ask for a bit of a sitrep. The location is the Institute, which is a pleasant surprise and perhaps a positive sign he's starting to feel more like himself again.

The opened bottle of wine that sits on the desk beside him in the office he's commandeered is a less positive thing — but at least it's not something stronger. Perhaps he's just easing himself back down.

The hour is late — he probably still wants to avoid students, and Warren is reading financials by lamplight. He apparently finds these things soothing.

* * *

It's been a rough couple of weeks, and Carolus has actually taken up the habit of being more proximal to the Institute since his encounter with Father Death. As confident as he is in his partnership with Ghost Spider, the fact of the matter is that you can't rely on the same person to keep an eye out for you 24/7 . It'll drive them crazy, and he's already perfectly aware that Ghost Spider is frayed enough.

If doing better.

So many of his nights have been spent in spare dorm rooms, and tonight is one of those nights in which he is intending to do the same. As a matter of fact, he's just now strolling up the front walk with his backpack in his secondary left hand.

Although a desire to meet has already been communicated, the scent of Warren Worthington in this place so soon after his declaration that he would not be returning is still a little jarring and unreal. But then, he reasons to himself, if any of them were able to give things up so easily there wouldn't be nearly as much of a problem.

He follows the scent, the vague whiff of alcohol that accompanies it as he gets closer drawing out a frown.

As Carolus arrives at the door of the dimly-lit office, his eyes flick towards the bottle of wine, then towards Warren. He doesn't bother obfuscating his expression, although there's nothing exactly /disapproving/ or judgemental about it, either.

"I'm glad to see you in these halls again, Warren." Carolus says by way of greeting, leaving his backpack by the door and folding both sets of hands over one another in front of him.

"Was there anything in specific that caught your eye, and that you wanted the highlights of?"

* * *

"You want a glass?" is Warren's distantly cheeky response to Carolus's distinct side-eye for the wine. It's rusty, but his usual flippant humor circuit seems to be struggling back to life. "I'll pour you one."

There is a brief pause. "Ah — or wait. You're underage, aren't you? Well… that's a felony for me, then. Or is it a misdemeanor?" He pours himself another glass, thinking about it. "I never remember."

It is difficult to tell how much this expression of more 'normal' behavior on Warren's part is a genuine recovery, and how much is forced cheer. A bit of both, perhaps, given it's been barely two weeks since Warren refused to ever enter these halls again, and no one recovers that fast. Still, as Carolus observes, old habits die hard, and people find it much more difficult to give up things which are meaningful to them than they might at first expect.

This place is hung in old memories for Warren Worthington. But it is also the only place that ever centered him. Made him feel like he had a real purpose to achieve in life, beyond becoming another rich Worthington scion…

He blinks away the thoughts. He can't quite answer that he's also glad to see himself in these halls; he settles on a more neutral, "It was hard to stick to staying away. Dani told me a bit of what happened at the Tower…" He hesitates. "Which was my first point. I meant to thank you for being present. These are… unusual and difficult circumstances to return to active duty on."

It's his turn to glance a little askance at Carolus, the younger man's track record reflecting in his blue eyes. 'Not much of a track record' — though there isn't much judgment for that fact.

* * *

"Not sugary enough for my tastes, but thank you. A misdemeanor most of the time, though, I think. Depends on the particulars." Carolus says, seriously enough that it's hard to tell exactly how much of it is actually a joke. He glances at the bottle again. Truthfully, though he's not about to admit it, the fact that it /is/ just wine is fairly heartening.

As concerning as Moonstar's rumination on what she'd /rather/ be drinking the other day was, he wouldn't blame Warren much if he was drinking something considerably heavier than wine. If anything, Carolus suspects it must be an improvement, given that Dazzler was reprimanded for allowing Warren to drink too heavily to be treated.

Stepping a little farther into the office to make it clear that he's not just waiting for an opportunity to leave, Carolus nevertheless declines to take a seat for the moment, instead merely standing in front of the obligatory two chairs all of these offices have across from their desks.

"You're welcome. It was… an unusual incident." Carolus smiles thinly, "I understand that it turned out to be somebody's science fair project. I feared something more sinister than that by far."

Catching the look Warren casts him, Carolus shrugs, "I did not cope well with the invasion. It sounds silly, I suppose, considering that I've been…"

His wings twitch visibly against his back, "… navigating fresh murder scenes lately. But it was what it was, and I find that I am adjusting well in the present. It will not be a problem."

* * *

"Well. Not so bad as I thought. Still best avoided. I didn't enjoy my last stint in jail." Except he totally did. There was a protest, there was lots of conscientious objecting, it was all dreadfully George Clooney-esque. Enjoyable.

Those were the days. Simpler times.

At the least he does seem to be dialing back down to merely wine, though to senses like Carolus's, there's faint vestiges that hint on what his stronger poison was before. It's not coming off Warren himself, thank god, but the faint notes of strong scotch whisky linger in his clothes. A few weeks of hard drinking don't wash out so quickly as that, especially when the reason you're drinking also leads you to neglect basic grooming a bit more than usual.

All indications — combined with the over-bright cast to his blue eyes — that this veneer of more normal behavior is held up very tenuously. Still, at least it's being held up at all, right now.

He casts a rather thoughtful eye at Carolus when the other mutant does not sit; his gaze touches briefly on those wings as they twitch, before quickly averting. "So I was told," Warren says. "With everything else going on, I thought it might have been… more, myself."

Carolus's rather frank addressing of his glance seems to abash Warren briefly, by the way he diverts into a sip of his wine. "It's not silly," he says, quietly. "You were… fifteen? Sixteen? Young, for that kind of thing. I was older than you when I first left the team because of something I'd seen. I didn't come back for four years."

He sets the glass aside. "I'm glad it's not a problem for you anymore, adjusting. But if it does become one at any point…" His gaze averts distantly, aware of his status as the current poster boy for huge team-quitting meltdowns, "…there won't be any shame in stepping back."

* * *

"It's fine. If I feel like being criminally irresponsible, I will make certain to avoid implicating anyone else." Carolus says, smiling faintly this time to make it clear that he is in fact joking this time.

His antennae lift, tilt, and fall back into place. The smell of heavier alcohol is becoming clearer, though how long ago it was taken he couldn't say. Especially with the more immediate presence of the wine filling his senses with its numerous subtle scents. It's a lot nicer than the scotch, to his senses.

"If it is, I am certain that somebody will ascertain that fact. Moonstar, probably. I am not altogether certain the myriad of contacts everyone has around here, having not stuck around to accumulate them myself but— she is a wonder for digging up things people don't want found."

"But I am quite certain we have had just as devastating science projects crop up /here/, so it is not too farfetched. And it doesn't seem to have been designed to do /expedient/ harm, besides."

His grin fades a little at Warren's reassurances, gaze turning a little distant. Carolus nods slowly, finally deciding to take a seat. He situates himself at the edge of one of the chairs, so as not to compress his wings against his back.

"Thank you. I suppose, though, that most of it is just… random chance, and thinking about…" He gestures with both right hands, "How things might have gone differently if I hadn't been getting it back together. And registration. Registration had a little to do with it. So did how much we lost, I suppose. I half-expected both of them to just turn back up one day, right as rain. I think all of us did.

Clearing his throat, and moving away from the subject of Xavier (and apparently Magneto), he adds, "I do not think that I have the fortitude to stubbornly ford on while falling apart, Warren, so please don't be worried that I will let myself flare out spectacularly."

* * *

"That would be the SHIELD connections, I expect," Warren says, of Dani Moonstar's incredible ability to dig up dirt. "Well — and her natural knack for investigation. I've relied on it often enough myself. That said, I'm sure she would have flagged it if there was something to be concerned about beyond 'a child's careless experiment. I will not complain about one less thing to worry about."

The conversation turns a little more heavy, after that. Warren notes Carolus's decision to finally take a seat, though again… his eyes turn away at the too-familiar habit of sitting forward to avoid sitting on or against one's one wings. Maybe it made him sharply, acutely aware of how he's still sitting forward on the edge of his seat, himself, the habit too ingrained in him to be forgotten after a mere few weeks.

He doesn't pry on the specifics of 'how things might have gone differently.' He just turns the wineglass by its stem, where it rests on the table. The old Warren had a gift for conversation, for making someone feel quite at ease in his presence with well-trained social graces; this one lingers in more long, absent silences, even when the social tension grows a little noticeable in the quiet.

"I'm familiar with the sentiment," he finally says. "I didn't come back until the Professor was — confirmed missing. I didn't show the world what I was until registration forced me, either. Things I should have been… more ahead on, if I had been paying attention…" If he hadn't been absorbed in his own grief — much like he is now. "But there's an extra dimension of… coping that is necessary for those who don't physically 'pass' for human. We tend to need more time just to cope with what we are, on top of everything else."

Spoken like someone who used to take the visibly-mutated under his wing, to share his own experiences with them and help them fledge. Which he did — when he had a wing to take them under.

Now? He just shakes his head, after a beat. "That may be the wiser course of action," he says dryly, of Carolus's last remark. "I have an incredible talent for forging on when falling apart. So does Tony." He speaks of Stark with old, congenial familiarity. "It rarely served either of us well. We had a habit of forging on in the wrong directions — and then, the flaring out — "

He closes his eyes, briefly, remembering. "The Purifier you mentioned," he says in a sudden switch, a more personal note of faint anger grinding into his tone. "He was acting alone?"

* * *

"Neither will I." Carolus agrees, with a nod. There's enough trouble going around. A disastrous fluke is preferable to… for instance, Poison Ivy deciding that Worthington Industries has offended her.

He doesn't interrupt the silence. These lines of thinking are all too common both within their community, and humanity as a whole. But it's easier to imagine some heroic reversal of bad fortunes when one is in some way superior to the average person on the street. An extra push here, an added pull there, from one of /them/ might truly make a terrific difference.

What, for instance, if Professor Xavier had never made the decision to conduct himself as he did? The world would be a much different, arguably much worse place.

"It's liberating, in a way. The support it offers in the field, too. Registration, that is. But I can't ever quite shake the notion that, perhaps, we just signed up to be among the first victims. Not that I would change it if I could, now. If it's going to work out, then somebody has to take the first few steps. Even while protecting the ones who didn't want to, I think that's what he would want."

"For people to be ambassadors, if they can."

Carolus issues a breath of amusement, following the talk of needing to cope with just being. The first smile that is whole and unfettered by the weight of the circumstances curves his lips, and he says, "A woman called me pretty, recently. Twice, in fact. It was a… jarring change of pace."

He allows the subject of forging on along the wrong path to pass without comment, "Father Death, yes. I doubt it. He was by himself at the time, but nobody running solo has the cash to get in touch with black marketeers swinging around modified chitauri weaponry. Whether he's independently wealthy, a gang member, or linked in with a broader cell of Purifiers, it's hard to say, but I'm sure he has a support network somewhere."

* * *

"Registration," Warren muses. "In a way, it was the one thing that was more threatening for human-passing mutants than it was for us. For them, it meant being forcibly exposed. For us, it just meant that we could finally go outside without hiding." He takes another long drink. "I'll admit to feeling some relief to just… registering, and being able to take off the heavy coats, and the harnesses, and to…"

He stops. He meant to say 'to fly whenever I wanted,' but the hurt is still too close to the surface. "I suppose I pass, now," is all he says instead, and he can't quite keep the bitterness out of his tone. His gaze strays automatically to the open sky out the window; his closed hand is white-knuckled where it rests on the desk. "So I understand both perspectives."

But it's not a bitterness he can maintain long in the face of listening to Carolus espouse the Professor's deepest-held ideals. There is a soothing quality to the familiarity of it. His gaze softens visibly to hear the old man's dreams still pouring out into the world, from younger souls. Perhaps it's just because Warren was Xavier's third student, steeped in these things for years and years, but even now — shorn of that which made him most visibly mutant — he remains one of the deepest adherents of that dream. Even if he can admit and acknowledge his mentor was not — perfect. "It is what he would want," he says, his voice low. "It was all he ever wanted — for us to be the ambassadors for our kind. And the better people — always, the better people." Perhaps Warren is reminding himself, too, when he says that.

Now… Warren has a raptor's eyes. It's not hard for him to discern small differences even in facial expressions. The genuine note to Carolus's subsequent smile — the general thrust of his remark — does not escape him, and it pangs at Warren with that familiar taste of privileged guilt. Hard as it was to bind his wings and hide them, he never had to deal with mutations most might charitably call… 'bizarre.' He says nothing of it. "Once may be polite," is Warren's advice on the matter, instead, and the first hint of a sly wicked smile crosses his features since he lost his wings. "Twice is 'come get me.' So go get her."

It's a needed moment of levity before the topic of the Purifiers, a group against which Warren holds a rather personal enmity. "There was a cell operating in the area recently," Warren says, his voice thin. "They were getting their orders from Stryker, funneled out from prison by a go-between. They… had a special dislike for me." Not hard to picture why. "We got them when…"

He stops. Again, he'll have to mention the wings. How they tried to cut them off. How they didn't succeed — then.

He looks down, visibly stumbling over his own thoughts. "…There are reports on the incident," he dodges. "But, we might not have gotten all of them. This 'Father Death' might be a member who got away from the clean-up, or he might just be a rogue element with a similar MO. Fortunately, even black market cash deals leave trails… if you know how to follow them." Warren smiles faintly. "Or have even more money to sling. Whatever backing you might need for the investigation I will provide." He says nothing about going into the field. Sitting quietly at the Institute is one thing, but taking the field as an X-Man? That may be one thing where when he says he is done with it… he means it.

* * *

"There is something to be said for not being immobilized for half the day." Carolus grants, barreling on through in spite of Warren's clear trail-off and subsequent bitterness. Or perhaps /because/ of it, if their prior meetings were anything to go by.

He doesn't linger, though. It seems like it would be a bad decision. The subject of Professor Xavier's dream snares his attention instead.

"I do not know if I would say that I am being the better person, in doing this. I am… certainly doing something, that is important to me because it was important to somebody who is important to me. But it is something that, occasionally, very late at night, brings me to a dark place. I think it will be fine, and I want it to be fine. Perhaps it will be fine. But it's also not hard to imagine that, although it may be fine for someone, somewhere, someday, that it may not be fine for me — or you — in the end."

"And although I would not take it back," He continues, "I certainly do not wish to join Ms. Peterson as a historic case-in-point."

Warren's candid advice on how to interpret the compliments that so clearly pleased him elicits a wistful look from Carolus, followed by a shake of the head, "It wouldn't be a good idea. But… it is helpful for someone to say so. It is not something to which I am accustomed, and I am especially uncertain of how to respond to such things."

Regarding the Purifiers, Carolus leans back — a little, not all the way — and admits, "I do not know if he is literally a Purifier. He fits the M.O., so they came to mind immediately. Christian extremist trappings, regarding mutants as demonic. It is possible that he is more of a copycat, but I thought that it was easiest to communicate what he was up to with that label."

"I made a MASH joke and he called himself Father Death, he wasn't exactly forthcoming about much of use." He adds, with a roll of his shoulders.

"I… don't know what sort of support to ask for. I am as unaccustomed to tracking down sources of illegal arms deals as I am answering potentially flirtatious compliments. But I appreciate your support, and I am certain that it will come in useful."

Both sets of Carolus's hands are brought together, "Er… there is one thing. Not related to this. Ms. Blaire — that is, Alison — seemed extremely distressed on both occasions that I was proximal to her recently."

"We… are all in the habit of trying to go it alone for too long. How much differs only by degrees. But," Carolus's antennae both droop a little as he looks away nervously, "though we only recently have met, it is plain even to me that she is burning the candle at both ends. I do not know what a proper remedy may be, but I think you may be the only person from whom she could receive one."

* * *

Warren's head tilts back and forth, considering. "Being the better person," he eventually says, "doesn't always have to come with holding the better sentiment. At least, in private. The Professor was a telepath. He knew better than anyone how far the divide between thought and action could be. And he always taught us it was the action — what people did, after they had their dark thoughts — which was important, in the end."

It was a conversation he certainly had frequently with Warren. Under the free-wheeling, playful, carefree exterior were plenty of dark things: arrogance, impetuosity, and a capacity for blinding, violent tempers. He couldn't predict the brooding, though. He never predicted the loss of wings which would create this capacity for brooding in Warren, his student who was least inclined towards extensive self-examination.

And Warren does plenty of it, even now when he's struggling to be normal; it keeps sneaking back in at the edges, triggered by any too-long thought of his wings, by a passing glimpse of the sky, by Carolus's bleak rumination that though it may someday be fine, there is no surety that it will be fine for either of them — in specific — in the end. "No," Warren says. "No guarantees there."

He does rouse out of his bleakness long enough to take an interest in Carolus's love life (typical Warren), though the younger man does not share the enthuse on the matter — or at least, doesn't share the cavalier attitude towards it. Warren, forgetting his privilege again; all he ever had to do was look at a girl and wink to 'go get her.' "Hmm," he says, with a look that clearly says he doesn't really get 'not a good idea,' but isn't going to pry. "Well, you'll learn. People will get more used to the metahuman. This will happen more often."

As for the maybe-Purifier? Warren frowns at the clarification they don't really know what the guy is, but he seems to have refound some of his old confidence in terms of declaring how the matter should be squared. "You might not be," he says, "but Dani is. With her help I'm sure we'll get the right threads to pull… and threads always pull easier when there's incentive involved." Must be nice to be so wealthy you can just discuss 'incentive' without apparent consequence.

But… Carolus isn't quite done. There's one last matter, unrelated, which has been on his mind. Hearing Alison's name closes Warren's expression, the older man leaning back slightly in silence.

"I wasn't… kind to her," he finally admits, low. "I left… all the work to her. I don't know if I'm the only source of a remedy, but I'm the one who she most deserves one from."

His head lowers. "I'll convey her your care. I think she would appreciate it. Or a word from you, if you wanted to convey it yourself. She — " he briefly considers whether to reveal this, " — doesn't always feel she belongs, or that people believe she cares about the team."

* * *

"I'm sorry," Carolus says as he rises once more from his seat, "I know you don't need /my/ stresses and worries added to your own. But I'm grateful for what you had to say about them."

He hesitates here, separating both pairs of hands, and then says, "That is a powerful tool at your disposal, and I do not think I am the only one to whom that sentiment applies. There are probably many others — here, yes, but elsewhere also — who would be grateful to hear similar words."

He smiles once again, wings vibrating lightly, "I know I'm pretty. Just not used to hearing it. I would like to say that it did not mean that much, in the grand scheme of things, but that would be a lie. It doesn't take much. And I'm sure I'll hear it again, eventually."

The matter of the Purifiers draws out a curt nod, before it is left by the wayside, all that he has to say having now been said.

"If you think that it would help to communicate my concern to her, then you may do so. I will check in soon, if I can." Carolus offers a sheepish look, "I had intended to already, but things got weird and complicated, as you are now aware. It sounds to me as if you are already aware of what you need to do yourself— so go get her."

He sidesteps to the door, lifting his backpack from its place against the frame while still facing Warren, "I think… it is quite clear that she takes things seriously. But perhaps that is something that has been assumed without being said too much. /I/ will take care to remedy that when I see her."

"Perhaps it is strange of me to say so," he continues, "but I can't help but feel a certain striking camaraderie even for those of our community who have chosen a sharply different path. Maybe that just comes from years of the Brotherhood existing parallel to the Institute."

Carolus issues a great, heavy sigh.

"I should turn in soon, and— there are still topics left that we did not fully explore or even touch on. So if it is agreeable to you, I would like to do this again in the near future."

* * *

Warren evinces a faint, brief smile at Carolus's apologies for the 'emotional imposition.' It's a sad expression still, which does not touch his eyes the way it used to, but at least he's sort of remembering how to make it… even if it's missing crucial pieces like 'joy.' "I think," Warren says, in answer, "I'm reaching the point where I'm ready for that again. I wasn't, for a while — couldn't think about anyone else's internal landscape, or needs. But to get back to a place where I am…"

His head lowers. "…it's what the Professor would have wanted." For me to know what to say. For me to know what to teach younger mutants. For me to keep taking people who were once in my position under wing — even if the wing isn't quite there anymore.

That smile makes a reappearance as Carolus expresses he'd meant to check in earlier with Alison but — things were weird, and complicated. "They usually are, around here," he says. The smile lingers longer, because Carolus is turning his own advice back on him now. "I did already know what to do myself, I guess, so I will — ah — go get her." There is blessedly no clarification on how. "But… to hear someone else noticed how bad off she was, when I didn't, and did nothing…"

His expression grows sober. "That's a wake-up call," he admits.

He contemplates the wine, before he decides to recork the bottle. "I do think she'll appreciate hearing that you think so, though," he says, of Carolus's observation that it seems clear Alison is quite serious about the team. "And that what we're about, here… is that kind of camaraderie. No matter what paths we take, we're all mutants." His eyes go distant, remembering a recent conversation… the conversation which, for him, was a turning point. The conversation which told him that his was his universal fate, and resigned him to accept it. "'There will be a time when all we have left is each other,'" he says, and though he sounds as if he's quoting someone, he doesn't say who.

He is pensive a moment, before he shakes his head. "Go rest. We'll talk again soon." The door closes on a Warren who seems as if he will be up a while yet. Perhaps burning his own candle at both ends, now.

A little down the hall, a young man recognizable as Warren's personal assistant, Kiff, waits. He stands deliberately out of easy earshot of Warren, even were the office door open, which is a fact explained when he nods Carolus closer. "Warren might be ready to just resign and let it go," he says. "But some of us aren't. There's a lot that was just… fishy about how all this went down."

He proffers a file folder. "Dani has a copy. Evangeline has a copy. So you don't have to," he says. "But I thought I would ask."

* * *

Carolus offers a cheesy right-handed thumbs-up to Warren on the topic of what the Professor would've wanted, which drops a moment later when Alison's condition returns to the fore of the discussion.

"You have to be in an okay place before you can help somebody else find their way back to the same without being dragged down by the effort. I don't think you were ready to offer anyone else a hand up when I noticed that Alison probably needed it. That's nothing to be ashamed of, it's just life."

"And I'm glad you think so," he says, "sometimes I worry that people will just think that I have an excess of sympathy for the devil when I express thoughts like that."

He doesn't linger. The smell of someone loitering in the hall hangs on the air, which Carolus assumes at first is probably a student snooping about. He only recognizes Kiff once he's up close on him, approaching upon invitation.

His antennae rise in a questioning expression before he's offered the folder, which he flips through rapidly, clearly only getting a surface-level understanding of what's going on.

Then it snaps shut again. Carolus looks worriedly at Kiff, "I can try to look into it, or help with any inquiries made, but I don't know if I'll be more helpful than Dani could be. My most immediate thought is— we need to make sure the wings were actually disposed of as-described, if that hasn't already been established."

"I'll look at this a little closer while I wind down. Come fetch it if you need it back on your way out, and thank you for bringing it to my attention." He inclines his head towards Kiff, and then carries on through the hallways towards the Institute's dorms.

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