Supply and Demands
Roleplaying Log: Supply and Demands
IC Details

When Warren Worthington and Alison Blaire return from the dead… Warren realizes that someone's been touching his things.

Other Characters Referenced: Jean Grey, Charles Xavier
IC Date: December 19, 2019
IC Location: A Rooftop Restaurant, NYC
OOC Notes & Details
Posted On: 04 Jan 2020 03:10
Rating & Warnings: G
Scene Soundtrack: Vengeance is Mine by Alice Cooper ft. Slash
NPC & GM Credits: Kiff by Warren
Associated Plots

There was quite a lot to put in order, for a man freshly returned from the semi-dead.

One of the first things to which Warren turned, after dealing with the immediate issues of ‘Cameron Hodge’ and ‘his murderous family,’ was the assessment of his empire after it had been left presumably unattended and at the mercy of malignant actors for so long. In his younger days, he might have left such a task to the countless others paid to do it; in his older years, after one too many betrayals, he’s gotten a little more controlling about keeping tabs on what’s his.

He had not turned to this task with any particular hope to find much left except an enormous mess to clean up, so it came as some surprise that he beheld all his things… mostly in order.

There was evidence of someone else’s hand having gone over his affairs, in fact, once he looked closer. An experienced hand. And once the joyful reunion with Kiff was over, once stories were told on both sides, Warren finally asked his assistant The Question:

Who touched his shit?

The answer led to a state that required Alison’s mindful soothing to alleviate.

A frowning Kiff was sent to tell Miss Emma Frost that Warren Worthington was quite alive and quite returned and that he would be quite interested in a meeting, at earliest convenience. Not quite being in the mood for games, Warren presented a location instead of requesting one: an enclosed rooftop lounge, at the top of a very exclusive Fifth Avenue hotel. He did not want her at the Institute, he did not want her anywhere of his, and he didn’t want to go to her laser-infested house.

In the interests of privacy — Warren doesn’t care about the public eye, and would as soon fight the gossip mill, but Alison isn’t so belligerent— he has it completely closed for the duration of their visit. Not even staff are allowed to remain, though Kiff at the least is close at hand.

It’s for the best, really, that Warren did not ask for the Institute as a meeting location.

Frost would not have appeared.

And, likewise, anything belonging to him.

Frost would not have appeared.

Those things would carry a feeling too disapproving and patriarchal for her to bear when she is already dealing with both of those things in excess from one Sebastian Shaw. So it is to Kiff’s benefit—a man for whom she really bears a perhaps astonishing little amount of ill will despite his message—that he comes with a mostly neutral location as his proposal when he comes to her office. He receives nothing but eminent politeness as his reward—a pristinely maintained veneer for whatever may lurk beneath. And, more importantly perhaps, her agreement without so much as the hint of a counter-proposal.

Another miracle of the Christmas variety, one might suppose.

She arrives, only fifteen minutes after the agreed upon time, with her infamous pride wrapped around her as battle armor. It lifts her chin high, straightens her spine and imbues it with iron, and sets her stiletto-heeled boots to a particularly even and muted staccato rhythm as they cross the lounge’s thin carpet to where a markedly changed Worthington and his escort, the celebrated Blaire, wait.

Her ensemble—a cable turtleneck shell, meticulously pressed slacks, and a faux fur duster atop her murderous leather ankle boots—is all in her expected white. It leaves pale blue eyes to bore proverbial holes wherever they glance from a face exposed by a hairstyle made austere in the way it’s swept sharply and deeply back on the right side by a large crystal-studded comb.

That is, after she removes her midnight dark sunglasses. Which takes far longer than it should, admittedly, for being indoors. Her greeting betrays nothing, cool and level, as she stops several long paces from where her summoners wait and kicks out one defiant foot to pose just so.

“Mister Worthington. Miss Blaire. My congratulations on your escape from the grave.”

Having recently joined the special 'newly resurrected' club among the X-Men, her murder and miraculous reanimation have not seemed to outwardly change Alison Blaire.

Same woman, through and through, wearing no visual manifestation of what the news reported, shortly before the city lost her body: gunshot to the head. There's nothing now, not even a scar.

Though one can say that all scars are not so physical. There is a new, added distance to her blue eyes, the choice of her having ordered a glass of bourbon early into the afternoon after a lifetime of never drinking — preservation of her voice — and, to Emma in particular —

A certain darkness that fogs the alleys of Alison's thoughts.

Seated at Warren's table, she is sombre at first glance, and when Alison glances up at Emma's arrival, her face is — surprisingly neutral. So are her surface thoughts. No suspicion, no immediate slouch toward hostility. Before when she used to think first of the Hellfire Club, now a new thought crosses Alison's mind, unbidden: she is remembering how Emma looked on that slab, small and pale.

None of that creeps into her face. Where others may pity, Alison takes a drink.

"Which is highly overstated," she says, not mean, but exceptionally dry. "They always say death is restful. It's a lie."

It is convenient on multiple levels that Warren's own desires aligned with Emma's boundaries in this regard; the last thing he was considering when choosing the venue was 'Emma's comfort level with him.' Anyone looking to avoid an overly patriarchal presence, at the moment, would certainly do very well to avoid meeting Warren on any ground he considers 'his own' right now. He is a pure embodiment of the patriarchy even just in his natural state, at rest. In the mood he currently is in, he might well rub her the wrong way (almost) as thoroughly as Shaw.

Still, it is a surprise both to Kiff and Warren when the acquiescence comes without the usual expected tussle. Kiff was quick to make the arrangements, once confirmed.

Accustomed to Emma's habit of being "fashionably" late, Warren did not bother to wait for the White Queen before getting started. A bottle of bourbon sits on the table he and Alison share, the clear origin of the glass which sits before her. Warren also has a glass, though it is mostly empty; he's already finished his first(?).

That Alison is nursing alcohol is an unprecedented sight. Warren seems tolerant of its presence, though there is a certain watchfulness that implies he is ready to cut her off when, in his opinion, she should be cut off.

That time is not yet now; his attention diverts when Emma makes her polished, defiant arrival. Warren regards her calmly, looking both completely unchanged and completely changed at the same time; though nothing about him seems immediately outwardly different, a long enough look at the feathers of his restored wings reveals a faint silvery, metallic sheen to the feathers when the light catches it at the right angle.

A look, with her psychic awareness, yields something stranger; those wings seem to have a vague consciousness. Her telepathic senses pick up Warren Worthington… and something additional that isn't quite Warren Worthington, seeded throughout his blood and body and wings. Something old, and alien, and fixated only on death.

Warren smiles blandly, a complete visual contrast. "Thank you," he says. "It was an ordeal I don't care to repeat."

Alison's dry response to Emma's greeting lifts the corner of Warren's mouth. It looks like a smile, but the sentiment that should accompany a smile isn't there. "One of the greatest lies we are told," he says.

He gestures, afterwards. "Have a seat. Pick your poison. I will begin with thanks for the help, while we were… incapacitated. But — you understand — I would prefer to hear more of the details. And there are other things we should discuss."

For a telepath, the outward appearance of things is only really ever half the consideration.

Particularly when one has fallen back into a familiar, comfortable distrust of everyone and everything and the constant vigilance that such a state requires.

That is to say, Frost sees her ignoble fall from feared to pitied in Blaire’s esteem. She sees the change in Worthington’s core… or what is speaking to it, anyway. She says nothing of either insight… but does allow them to recalibrate her internal scales.

After a moment of suspicious consideration, she cautiously walks forward. Caution, however, is a different beast when it manifests in a Frost. It means neither chin nor gaze are afforded the opportunity to lower. Her proud posture never finds a point of relaxing, even as she smoothly melts into the seat furthermost from the pair without being at another table altogether.

Pick your poison, he offers.

“What is out will suit,” she replies after a glance to the label, crossing her legs and settling her wrists across her thigh. “But there is not really much to tell. I’m certain you have the whole of what transpired and, if all is settled, I will gladly reallocate my resources—” That painfully anonymous foundation that mysteriously swept in with uncanny timing to bolster a reduction in Aegis’s support to the legal fund. “—elsewhere.”

It just takes a simple thing like 'being murdered' to turn Alison Blaire into a potential day-drinker.

Really, the blandness of the every-day nothing after all she's seen, all she's felt, all she's survived, steeped with the belief that this blandness itself is no sanctuary or peace, only a holding pattern —

It's hard to feel things the way she used to. Hard to feel anything at all, really, aside from being uncomfortably numb. The alcohol helps. Loosens the rest up a little.

So Alison finishes a third of her glass, somewhere along those moments of Emma's arrival. Her bearing is a safe neutral: that prickling suspicion of all things Hellfire Club seems to have gentled, or at least re-prioritized after the last couple months. Just as well, there's no starry-eyed hope bubbling off her, in that saccharine way which the X-Men are so effusive, needy to pull new allies among their ranks.

"One of many lies," she murmurs back to Warren, with a wan tug of her mouth.

But she doesn't interrupt the exchange between Emma and Warren, listening on. All the time in the world, it seems, even when she now knows there's not.

"Do you want to?" Alison suddenly asks, direct. "Reallocate. What you did in a few weeks was far more effective than what I did in several months. I'd be stupid to push you out."

Both of them read so deeply different, to the sight of Emma Frost.

Where Alison has gone numb and chill, perpetually tensed against the moment when the holding pattern will suddenly break and the hurt will come pouring in again, Warren — by contrast — seems to have finally let the deeply-buried anger within him off its leash. Despite his outward calm, under the surface he practically seethes, his native impetuosity and recklessness twined together with that new, alien influence she can sense worming through his wings and blood.

An influence that, it seems, keeps him perpetually restraining himself from the want for violence.

His blue eyes follow Emma as she moves, head high, to take the seat farthest from the two of them that is still socially polite. If he picks up on her body language as being a form of caution, he says nothing of it. Though her telepath's senses get a distinct read off him as if he were an oversized bird of prey, watching prey cross a meadow, there is also the sense that that is just — how he regards everyone, these days.

Shit Happened, it seems.

Warren can apparently still fake his old self superficially, though, and not just in the looks department. Though his courtesies are a little rusty, they're there; he seems to have gotten over his initial outrage over Emma having touched all of his things, with the help of Alison's more level coaxing, and come to consider the situation from a different angle. Emma's acceptance of the bottle currently on offer brings him to lean forward, pouring her a few fingers of the bourbon to pass it over. He does not pour Alison another glass; instead he merely leans back beside her, his head turning to her returned murmur. One of many lies.

The prickle of amusement that statement elicits from Warren reads morbid, in the White Queen's telepathic sight.

His gaze returns to Emma as she gets down to business. She says there is not really much in the way of additional details to tell; he nods slowly, as if that confirmed something for him. "I do have the whole of it, as told by Kiff," he replies. "Whom I trust. I would say I am in your debt… though I suppose you were more 'making things even.' That's fair enough."

She speaks, then, of reallocating her resources now that the crisis is past. Which — "That's what we thought a more personal conversation was in order to discuss," he says, before he lapses into silence with uncanny timing for Alison to speak up with her direct inquiry.

"There's not necessarily a need for us to immediately go our separate ways," he adds, leaning back, an ankle crossing up over the opposite knee. "Besides, I seem to recall that I made you a promise. Before. The least I can do now is keep it."

Blaire speaks of her lingering in the mix of the affairs, and Frost is quick to quip back, “I think that Mister Murdock would be much relieved if our understanding came to an end.” To speak nothing of the fact that if she wanted any lingering tie to pro-mutant legal efforts, she would certainly have them. She will be more comfortable once she is removed from the lawyer and her sneaking suspicion that he knows more than he lets on… or should.

Blaire is not ready to push her out. Even with the compliment to her handiwork in the short-time where she was helping Kassmeier in his recommendations, there is the feeling that it comes from somewhere stained by pity. Still, the desire of Emma’s cold heart—the desire that predates even her own cruel father’s conditioning—is to teach. If an able student wishes to learn, she has trouble standing idly by. “If you have questions, Miss Blaire, you may send them my way.”

Emma’s eyes close, and there’s a barely visible flinch of a shrug, as Warren speaks of her efforts to make things even. The gesture is dismissive. Minimizing. The closest thing to ‘comforting’ as can be managed in the moment, she affirms the sentiment between the pulse of words. It’s fair enough, he tells her after and she is ready to let it go.

She is ready to be done and on her way.

But then Worthington speaks of an unfulfilled promise.

And, to the predator and his ever-sharp gaze, he will perhaps see when the White Queen’s posture ever-so-subtly shifts.

You needn’t bother, she wishes to tell him, territorial of her own machinations and plans set in motion. There was no time for waiting. No time for waiting from a woman given to nearly fathomless depths of patience. But, sometimes, the moment comes without any assurance that it will come again. And it is helpful—when the moment requires swift action, clear direction, a deep set of pockets, and a lack of moral quandary—to be able to adjust and rise to the occasion.

And, more than anything else, Frost prides herself on her ability to rise.

(Phoenix, eat your heart out.)

“Oh?” is the whole of what she says instead, as though she’d forgotten and is unaware of the promise he gave her that there would be hell to pay for what was done in Kenai or that it’s ever far from her thoughts, sipping from her glass after a contemplative swirl of it.

"Hmm, perhaps," agrees Alison, with deliberate lightness, on remark of Matt Murdock — though it lends her to mentally question how the lawyer managed to cross paths with Emma, and was, one assumes, soured on her just the same.

Not that it's particularly difficult for Emma Frost to sour others. The woman has the skill perfected. Still, she seems almost — if not disappointed, then a distant sense of resignation, when the White Queen sidesteps the offer.

"It's not so much that I have questions," she decides to admit. "I doubt I'll be reassuming direct leadership of the foundation as I used to." Alison speaks slowly, like she's tasting her own words in her mouth as carefully one savours this expensive bourbon: new sensations, all of this, and she needs to know whether it is true to her.

It is.

She pauses, always erring on her own reserve, contemplating whether she should say more — and, well. It's Emma Frost. If the woman is particularly curious of anything, she'll find out either way. So Alison adds, soft, "I've lost some taste for it."

Easy to assume why. Being murdered does have an affect on a person.

"So, really, all I'm looking for is someone whom I can trust cares for the cause. Has a stake in it, and the skill to see it grow. If you ever change your mind, it's yours," she says, with a finalizing drink of alcohol.

But then Warren speaks of 'promises,' and Alison goes silent, giving him the floor. By the slide-over of her blue eyes, watching him pensively, she seems to have an idea of the shape of it all. Emma's savvy implore for more details keeps the ex-singer quiet and drinking.

One of Warren's fine brows lifts slightly at the mention of Matthew Murdock's name, but he makes no comment on the blind lawyer's involvement save to note it down — and pen a mental reminder to himself to pay a visit before long. Instead, he waits in silence to see Emma's reaction to Alison's line of inquiry. The sidestep is not a shock, given what he knows of Frost.

He does pause as Alison continues, though. He doesn't cut her a sideglance, but there's a sense of watchfulness to his thoughts. Not surprise at the topic — no doubt, the two have discussed this before — but perhaps surprise at Alison's decision to offer it to the White Queen.

Alison admits, at the end, she's lost some of her taste for the foundation. "We both have," is his quiet affirmation, his feathers rustling softly with a sound of steel on steel. "The foundation is being left to someone else's direct administration."

As for Emma's reaction to his own comment on matters being even between them — this latest mess, and the mess at Kenai, balancing one another out — Warren does not seem surprised to find Emma attempting to minimize the entire thing, and seems as happy as she to let it go once the entire thing is acknowledged. Of course — for her to do anything but minimize it would be to bring the spotlight too close back to her own moments of vulnerability. Warren is reluctant enough to talk about his own that he understands the impulse.

There are, however, other promises which he made which he now seems much more inclined to keep — and perhaps, keep in a different way than he intended before. 'Oh?' Emma prompts, and Warren lifts his wings in a shrug. "Kenai," is his blunt answer. Far more blunt than he was before, with all his airs and pretty words. Being turned into an engine of death for a while will do that. "Children were murdered, Miss Frost. I said then I would not let it go unanswered. Some promises, we're motivated to keep." Some penances we need to do, he does not say out loud… but his mind resonates with the sentiment.

There is a pause. Then his mouth quirks in half a smile, a more familiar look on his features. The old Warren Worthington look. "Well. Assuming you've left anything behind, that is."

The admission that the foundation will be handed off earns a lift of Emma’s own pristinely sculpted brow. It doesn’t seem to sit particularly well with her if the the fine line that her lips press into is any indication. Perhaps because of her own looking into things. Perhaps just because she hates having to reassess the playing field.

But then Warren cuts into the conversation and cuts it back firmly and without any delicacy.

And both Warren and Alison will know the sensation of a telepath’s overt displeasure as it pulses upon the space between them, an unseen oppressor as her eyes narrow. They might, too, feel the prick of a telepath’s probing as Frost unapologetically peruses where she can for signs of a trap.

“You can’t prove that I’ve done a thing, Worthington.”

There is little reaction from her, save the slight tightening of her hand around her glass. A tic of discomfort. Alison knows that psychic pinch, and it reminds her too soon, too much, of the weight of Apocalypse back in her head. She tightens with that flinch of discomfort, but the rest holds steady, under control. If she knew she couldn't handle this, she would have never consented to be at the same table with the White Queen.

Inside Alison Blaire's mind, there is no trap.

There is, however, a great, vast distance of something else. Thoughts she is struggling hard not to ruminate. Memories she is straining not to crystallize into images at the backs of her eyes.

The reason, really, why she only seems to be half-here at all, in this discussion, and already so deep into a glass of bourbon, when for years she never drank anything but clear water in the preservation of her voice. Now Alison has learned how such transient, unimportant things fail to matter, not when the stand in the shadow of images that cannot escape her dreams:

Emma can find no trap, but there is a momentary image of a ruined New York under jaundiced apocalyptic skies. Alison, waking up with a jolt, her skin still ice-cold from death. Alison, surveying a world where humanity nearly erased all of mutantkind.

She is heartbroken, she is suffering a fundamental lapse in her hope — which was always her center, and she just can't find much strength to feel as keenly as she used to.

"This isn't entrapment, Emma," Alison finally says, with little spirit left than to cut straight to the familiar. Anyone walking through her head gets the first name treatment. "I'm sure you get this a lot, but here it is: he's not the one you need to guard yourself against."

There is no trap in Warren Worthington's mind either, when Emma probes. There is only — more resistance than she would remember. The path into his thoughts is clear for now, but there is a sense that masses of psychic thorns wait invisibly at the wings of his mind; that those thorns root from a foreign consciousness that is not Warren himself; and that the wrong trigger might cause them all to suddenly snap shut.

Similar images wait in his mind as seen in Alison's — a ruined New York, a post-apocalypse narrating the near-genocide of mutantkind by humankind — but the perspective is quite different. Alison surveyed from afar. The images Emma gleans from Warren's mind are up close and personal, all first-person perspectives; him, carving human structures to pieces with steel-sharp wings; him, standing at the right hand of a towering, blue-skinned figure while mutants shout allegiance; him, watching his own talons sinking through the face of a human man.

There is discomfort from him, too, to feel another in his head, but he holds. Only his wings move, slightly, rustling more noisily than they did before.

He's not the one you need to guard yourself against, Alison says. Warren's head inclines slightly, both a confirmation and merely a tired motion. "If that was what I wanted to do," he says, "I wouldn't have arranged this clandestine little meeting so you could have a look in our heads. I would have done my prying well away from you."

One hand comes to rest on Alison's closer knee in a bracing gesture. "What we have to guard against is not each other," he says to Emma. "It's that future we saw. Which you've now seen. People who feel so bold as to kill children once, they get bolder. Once that kind of thing gets rolling down a hill, it's very hard to stop. We're here to discuss what's to be done, about that."

Emma sits for a long moment in silence, contemplating the intel gleaned from the crevices of two brains and the options left in the wake of it.

…And drinking, as two very long sips vacate her glass under the guise of a polite savoring of the vintage. The white-tipped fingertips of her empty hand drum along her thigh.

"I don't know how much of a 'discussion' there really is to be had," she replies at long last, her hand reaching up to pull all of her gently curled blonde tresses over one shoulder. "Their lives are forfeit, obviously, as soon as I can suss out the best way to get to them. Starting with the guards."

Possibly the only thing that takes Alison's attention off her drink is that glance of contact to her knee.

She looks down at it. An instant later, her hand lowers to cover his in no more than a light weighing of her fingertips over his knuckles. This gesture, too, seems equally bracing.

''There lives are forfeit,'' declares Emma, as though it were already fact, and — there's a flicker of something at the edges of Alison's face. That habitual lapse of disagreement any good X-Man would have against the wilful proclamation of murder, however deserved one could frame it. As deserved on them as it would be on the monsters that massacred mutantkind one dimension away, as it would be on Cameron Hodge…

Alison feels like she has little left but to cling on that lingering sense of 'that's wrong'. However, even as she does —

— she doesn't voice it. Not here, because surely the same would alienate Emma Frost on the spot.

Her lips part like she considers, briefly, to speak, but her eyes drift to Warren. In the end, Alison says nothing just yet, giving the floor entirely to him. After all, it's his promise to extend, withhold, or what-have-him.

Their lives are forfeit.

Warren evinces no immediate outward reaction. He finishes his glass, before leaning forward to set it aside on the table between them. He doesn't go for another pour.

His wings spread their feathers slowly. The gesture does not seem to be a conscious one, because after a moment he blinks, and his head turns slightly, and the movement stops.

"Then let's discuss what's blocking you from getting at them," he finally says. "And how you propose to disappear these people without notice."

"A number of them were taken into custody," Emma says, and then her eyes drop. "They're scattered and in various states of formal prosecution."

And just as masculine of the trio has his moments where things don't go according to plan, both Alison and Warren will feel as the notoriously buttoned-up Frost again bleeds sentiment. She oozes concern and suspicion. She drinks more, either unconcerned by or unaware of it. And, when her own glass empties, she nudges it forward for the gentleman to refill.

"All it will take is one of those insipid cockroaches opening their mouths, and I have my own nightmare to deal with."

Alison taps the nail of her ringfinger against her glass. The sound it makes is minute, and the action itself reads foremost as a fidget, something to busy her hands as she thinks.

She watches Emma; more specifically, she watches the brief way Emma Frost lowers her eyes.

"And I'm sure they won't have to talk long to find a captive audience in there," she finishes, with Stryker flashing briefly into her thoughts. The image makes her insides churn.

"If it were me in your position," continues Alison, in bleak honesty, "I'd want to see their heads emptied of any memory of me. Find a way to make it happen. Sometimes safety, and someone's actions, I guess, calls for such a method."

The gentleman does refill, of course. He offers Alison a refill, at that. It seems he hasn't decided she should be finished yet.

Alison's mention of how these people likely would easily find a rapt audience for their tales, however, twitches Warren's hand as he puts the bottle back on the table. He's likely thinking the same thing as her. It makes him think of Cameron Hodge, and how the most innocuous-seeming of humans can go so far if left unchecked. His expression flickers, and a hint of a chill crawls up the side of his neck. It's fleeting, just a fading of the natural color of his skin; he inhales, closes his eyes, and it disappears again. Maybe just a trick of the light.

"Formal prosecution," he repeats slowly. He exchanges a look with Alison. Another memory: his wings being sawn from his body, almost a year ago. Someone in a state of formal prosecution was behind that, too.

He shakes his head. "It would take just one of them talking to out you. Not to mention what they can get up to if they link up with the wrong people in there." Warren's blue eyes, paler than usual, lift to Emma's. "Besides, human 'justice' is not sufficient for the crime. I will help you remove them from custody. Then — you would be free to edit their minds at will."

"No," Emma agrees as she retakes her glass and sets it once more to her painted lips, her voice chilled to the point that it would likely make any number of people desperately uncomfortable. "Human justice is not nearly sufficient."

She takes in Blaire, and then Warren in turn when her eyes come back. When she leans back further in her chair, she gains just a few more precious inches from them both. "But a revision is not quite justice, either, is it? Still. I think it's more than your Charles Xavier would condone, hm?"

The refill is duly accepted, with a grateful tip of her glass. Alison is definitely not finished drinking.

Especially now, with 'the justified execution of anti-mutant murderers' on the table. It keeps her solemn, and even to her own surprise, alights some darker memories from the alleys of her mind: she remembers that mission, the remains of innocents slabbed on tables, their only crimes having been born with telepathic abilities. Emma, among them, looking smaller than Alison had ever seen her.

"It isn't," she agrees gravely of 'human justice'. The memory of Hodge's sentence reflects against her blue eyes.

But Emma is not finished, and perhaps to test them, test whatever change happened on these two X-Men — one of them among his most staid students, the other the prodigal rockstar — by invoking the name of Charles Xavier. Alison's expression is like a turn on the rack, tightening all at the corners — there's no denying the dagger strikes true, and hurts. Even then, it doesn't bring any change to the disquiet in her eyes.

"It is far more, I think," she concedes. "At least, if he thought there was an end to it, he might not have ever taught it to his students to repeat." She glances over at Warren, studying his face. "Personally, I have seen for myself that the current way… doesn't work. Didn't work, one world away. I can't agree with ending lives like executioners, but I can agree with protecting ourselves."

Those memories are not far from Warren's own mind. What's more, the images of those people on slabs now rhymes too well with another image that will be fixed in his mind forever: Alison on a slab, dead, looking just as small and gutted out.

Perhaps that's why he's still sitting here at table with Emma Frost, even after she baldly talked about murder. Perhaps that's why the judgment of 'human justice not being nearly sufficient' is now unanimous around said table. Warren himself took that step once he decided on extradimensional exile for Hodge, under the brutal yoke of another Magneto, rather than the insipid punishment that human prisons would have been. If he's strong, he remembers thinking, he will survive.

There was a time Warren believed humans would properly punish those who harmed mutants. Now, after that belief has been tested time and again, perhaps it is time to believe only mutant hands can punish sinners against mutantkind. And who better to punish sin than an archangel —

Warren stops the thought. It's not one that comes entirely from his own mind.

He falls tellingly silent when Charles Xavier's name is invoked. His eyes avert, and if Emma fishes for the discomfort of a man stretching past his old morals — the strictures of his old mentor — she will certainly find that. Though then again, there's a deeper layer of discomfort in his mind when he thinks of what Xavier would have condoned here…

He lets Alison speak first. "He would have told us to trust the system," he finally says, after she is done. "Only by showing trust for them, he said, could they trust us. But… he didn't live to see this. And he didn't see what Alison and I saw."

Under Alison's watchful eyes, his complexion remains unchanged — for now. "It is more than he would have condoned," he concludes. "But we've seen that more is necessary. We have to protect ourselves with more than the hope that they will choose to be kind. Yes… we will deal with this, with you. As I promised."

Warren meets Alison's eyes briefly, before they turn back to Emma's. "But I won't kill them in cold blood," he begins. He struggles with himself a moment, briefly, before he admits in a moment that exposes his own vulnerability, "My reason is… just this: if I start again, I don't know if I can stop. But there are more kinds of ends than just that. Many worse than death. Death is… a privilege, at times. A martyrdom." He talks about death with an odd new authority — or intimacy. "Let them be parted from their minds; they've misused them."

Emma considers both Alison and Warren once more, at length. Her gaze lingers longest, perhaps, on Alison. She needn't dive into images and memories. For whatever it's worth, she could perhaps spare the pair that particular intrusion. Certainly, she could likely find sufficient insight from the conflicts unresolved and discomforts, the pain of a bruised place hit, and the resonance of a word holding true.

She could. She really, truly could.

But she doesn't. She watches what unfolds in their thoughts, because it is as good as offered to her.

"They've misused a number of other parts, too," Frost counters, her voice low and barely above a snarl. She drinks again, taking the last of the cup — the lion's share of it — down. And then she rises.

"I suppose," she says as she unfolds herself, "Provided that you can safely and swiftly get me access, and that this stays between us, I am willing to consider the compromise." Speed, it would seem, is a valuable commodity. Unsurprising, when one just remembers the stakes. One wrong slip of the tongue, one trade for a freedom bid or favor, and then…

There's a pause, and then Frost frowns. "And I suppose the present distributions from my foundation to the defense fund can continue while you sort the details of yours. I can just leave things as they are for the moment. But you get to inform Mister Murdock."

Much unfolds among Alison's thoughts. She possesses a particularly busy mind, far more than the normal person — the ex-celebrity who has the aptitude and intelligence to have been a dangerous lawyer.

Now, as she empties half her bourbon, she ruminates on how Warren phrases it as 'more kinds of ends.' It sounds less, for him, like self-protection, and more like the enactment of a punishment. It worries her, vaguely. Enough to know she'll either need to keep an eye on him, if she doesn't speak to him specifically about it later.

She errs privately toward keeping an eye. She's a little reticent to speak to him about such things, after — all that happened to him.

It does give her relief, in that end, to hear Warren voice aloud his own reticence to violence.

But, just like that, ratified on her own drink — Emma appears to consent to these modified terms. When the woman rises, Alison follows her with her eyes.

"There is one more I would like in on this," she proposes, with a glance at Warren. He'll recognize the shape of it within her eyes. It's— "Jean."

And quickly, because while Alison isn't the most faithful X-Men, she seems to know enough to expect Emma to not exactly enjoy that option— "The reason being that… even if she did not agree with this, she would not attempt to stop it. I trust that." The reason also being a memory that fires among Alison's neural connections: a flicker of a memory of Jean holding her hand, Alison squeezing hers back, the women talking about how the Professor did not do enough—

"That would be my only ask. I don't think it's anyone else's business —" she looks to Warren, as if for confirmation, "otherwise."

The rest, however, comes as something of a surprise, as the White Queen concedes to help them, without so much as demanding anything in return. A favour for a favour? A small wince at memory of Murdock. "Does he really not like you? Didn't you at least try to charm him a little?"

Didn’t you at least try to charm him a little?

The flat stare that Emma Frost levels upon Alison Blaire is one that is nothing short of tried patience. “Please trust that I know when an effort will be likely wasted in that regard.”

The telepath sweeps a hand along her garments, and her eyes rest upon her handiwork as she affirms to herself that there is nothing but flawless presentation set before the outside world.

“As for Miss Grey?” Ice-cold eyes lift to Alison, and there is nothing yielding there. There is no smile, and her eyebrows and chin are all lifted high. Her spine is not curled now like it was when she was found in Kenai; it is ramrod straight and proud. “Absolutely not. I have already given her an opportunity to have any input. She squandered it. I don’t ask twice. I wasn’t raised a beggar.”

You get to inform Mister Murdock.

"Already on my calendar," is Warren's reply.

Otherwise, he seems to find the compromise at which they have tentatively arrived acceptable. "I want these people off the board," is his main investment in this. "And enough intel to pursue and put a stop to any similar outfits, as well as prevent this one from rising again."

All for the protection of mutantkind, of course. But Alison hears an additional note — hard and sharp — to Warren's voice. It brings her to look at him, sidelong, wondering if perhaps he's talking punishment instead. And truth be told, he is. He is in the mood to punish. He gave up everything for humans. And for what…?

Mercifully, he's pulled from that dark line of thought with a slight start when Alison expresses another proposal. This he is less familiar with — he wasn't privy to Jean and Alison's conversation — and though his eyes certainly don't show any objection when Alison glances his way, Emma certainly isn't thrilled with the idea.

"Hmm," he contemplates.

"I think we'd at least want to tell her we're doing this," he eventually says slowly, "since this is a matter we'd discussed with her before in the past." He grimaces. "I'm also… kind of the reason Jean didn't have time to properly pursue the matter. I'm the reason I didn't have time to pursue it…"

There is a pause. "But I will be the one in command. If there's any sort of request, it'll be quite clear it was from me and not you."

That drier-than-wine stare from Emma, partnered with that delivery — Alison Blaire flickers her first smile of the evening, brief, but equally amused.

She almost considers teasing Emma that she had no problem charming the boyishly-sweet Matt Murdock — but there's probably wisdom in not poking the irate White Queen too much in one evening.

The momentary levity, however, slides off her face with Emma's swift rejection of Jean Grey's presence; Alison considers it with a long, poignant draught of her bourbon, nearly finishing her second glass. She indulges that as Warren speaks.

It is all agreeable to her. Especially when Warren says 'the request will be from him, not Emma', Alison cements it with a nod.

"This is your life, Emma, ultimately. We want to help you, I want to help you… but this is your decision. I'm not saying that Jean needs to be drafted in," she cedes, though with a thoughtful flicker of something between her eyebrows, "but I do want her in the know. Quite a bit happened to us… away from here. Quite a bit changed us. I want to help you, and while I agree your privacy entitles you to us not disclosing it to the team, and I frankly won't, but I do want at least share it with her. But if you have a problem with even that, I understand. I understand privacy far more than most."

It's her life, Alison affirms, as though Emma needed it. And there's talk of command, and the mind witch's gaze shifts once more, sharply, to Worthington. In his own sphere, among his people, perhaps. She says without words — with the cautious narrowing of her eyes — that she lies far beyond his authority. He has no jurisdiction or sway over her, save what she allows.

She allows little.

There are conciliatory words from Blaire as balm, however, and Frost is willing to let her indignation remain unvoiced. "Inform her if you like, I suppose. So long as your Miss Grey doesn't move to interfere, I won't quarrel over it."

Grey already knows more than Frost would like, but perhaps she'll keep her mouth shut.

Stranger things have happened. Case in point, the two sitting before her, fresh from the grave.

Reaching into her purse, she extracts a pair of gloves which she proceeds to pull on. "Now, I think those are the important points, yes?"

It's a familiar old dance, for Warren — familiar enough to be soothing, after dying and coming back to life, and all that happened afterward. This is just another kind of business deal, and such things require negotiation. A careful give and take, as the opposing parties try to read one another's hands, and get as much as they can, while giving up as little as possible.

Alison wants Jean. Emma doesn't. Warren remains quiet as Alison clarifies her position — she, of all people, would understand the dangers of being suddenly outed — and then slips in to stitch the two wants together. He offers a shield for Emma's pride: she need not communicate with Jean personally. He will be the one in command. If there are any requests with regard to the mission, it will be him doing the asking. She need not.

It's a key word: 'command.' Warren recognizes the sharp look Emma slants him, on hearing it.

"Rest assured, Miss Frost," he says dryly, "I know where my jurisdiction begins and ends: with my team. What is between us is a business deal. Nobody will be aware, nor involved, who would interfere with the outcomes we've agreed on here."

He pushes aside the liquor. It seems Alison's second glass has been declared to be her last. "I believe so," is his answer for Emma's final remark. "We'll be in touch."

"Indeed," Emma replies with all of the feeling of a velvet glove wrapped around a gauntlet of steel, once she is satisfied that Worthington understands his place. It is pleasant and musical, and not at all the sort of tone to be trusted or taken at face value. "Good day to you both, then." She moves to turn but, before she goes, there is a nod of recognition for the quiet form of Kiff who hovers at the sideline and a quiet word of farewell that never finds its place upon her outside voice.

But once it's done, the blonde departs her present company, returning the trio to however else they will choose to spend the remainder of their time at the restaurant - the remainder of their day. It's once she's back to her car and being driven home that she quirks a half smile, pours herself a new drink, and settles contentedly into her seat.

That could have gone worse.

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