No More
Roleplaying Log: No More
IC Details

Alison has a serious talk with Warren about the Purifiers incident, after he wakes up enough to be yelled at.

Other Characters Referenced: Jean Grey, Rachel Summers, Meggan Puceanu
IC Date: February 10, 2019
IC Location: Xavier Institute, Westchester
OOC Notes & Details
Posted On: 17 Feb 2019 07:02
Rating & Warnings:
Scene Soundtrack: [* ]
NPC & GM Credits:
Associated Plots

The healing properties of Warren's blood scale with degree of injury. Minor injuries heal over in a matter of seconds, but as the wounds grow worse and more extensive, it takes more time and more blood, applied more consistently, to perform the repairs.

This presented a problem for Warren in this instance, as a great deal of his blood wound up on the ground instead of soaked into his wound, where it would have done the quickest work.

Still, his natural abilities meant that he was able to do his recuperation in the infirmary at the Institute, rather than requiring the more advanced facilities at the base in the Adirondacks. He's been laid up there since they got back Friday evening, with his injured wing spread and carefully elevated in a sling. This positioning holds the wound in the appendage shut, so Warren's own blood can do its work.

His healing abilities mean that he's been clear-minded enough even despite the extensiveness of the injury, and by now he's sitting up. Mostly all he needs, on top of the powers of his own blood, is fluids, painkiller, and rest, all of which he is getting.

Well, most of which he's getting. The minute he was able to sit up he started doing work. It started with making and taking calls, and then progressed into writing reports on the tablet he keeps bedside.

He is reading his tablet even now, no doubt scrolling through the news.

Some things heal quickly. Other things, not so much.

Such as, when the others at the Institute trickled away when confirmed that Warren Worthington was better than stable — on the mend, actually — Alison Blaire remained as a determined ghost, haunting his room in the infirmary.

She did not say much, and did not do much; hers was an unobtrusive presence, vacating only for the sake of privacy, only to resume her customary place like some blonde-haired, tired-eyed sentinel. She cancelled most of her own appointments, did little work, and refused to look at her phone. As Warren slept, Alison kept her eyes up on the ceiling, miles away from here, and lost among her thoughts.

She was there, quiet, when he first awakened.

Eventually, the others chased her out to take care of herself, get some sleep, especially when her sentry watch wasn't necessary, and Alison reluctantly, but tiredly obeyed.

Her bloodied dress gone, her own injuries bandaged, she slept a good fifteen hours straight.

Soon comes a knock at Warren's door; there stands Alison, dressed down from her usual look — wearing sweats and a hoodie marked with the Institute's colours and Xavier's name. She hasn't gone home from Westchester since the group arrived, not even to pick up her own things. Her hair tied back, and her eyes still a little shaded with purple at their lower lids, she lingers there a moment. Standing on the spot, taking him in, and watching him work.

"Hey," Alison says, a little anticlimactically.

When he awakened, Warren himself was a major voice in chasing Alison out of his room to get some sleep. Even with his mind fogged with pain and lingering disorientation, he saw her exhaustion and the rumpled, stained clothes she was still wearing, and thought first — as he always does — of others beyond himself. Her visible injuries just made him all the more insistent.

"What good are you going to be if you collapse, too?" he had grumbled, still only half-conscious. "Go shower and sleep. No one is going to jump in the window of the Institute."

She left and slept. He slept too, though not so long; he's awake again before long, his body already repairing in hours what would usually take days. The first thing he did was examine his own wing to the best of his ability, his heart in his throat despite the brave face he has put on about it up until now. He didn't calm appreciably until he found that the injury was sealing well enough on its own, with no apparent loss of strength or mobility.

Once assured, he found himself able to turn his mind back to work. He spent hours returning missed calls: from Kiff, from Cameron, from various other stakeholders concerned about what this was Going to Mean for Worthington Industries. Always 'what it would mean for the company,' Warren thinks tiredly, midway through another long conference call.

By the time Alison reappears, he's done with calls for the moment. He glances up to her knock, and there is a long moment of awkward hesitation.

Warren himself looks a lot less glamorous than he usually does. Or, well — he's dressed a lot less glamorous than he usually is. He's in an Institute-branded t-shirt that was cut out carefully around his wings, leaving his arms bare for the IVs. "Hey," he says, with equal anticlimax.

His phone, on the nightstand, starts to vibrate insistently. He grimaces an apology, glances at the screen, and mutes it.

"Cam's been blowing up my phone," he says. "Come in. Did you get rest?" A pause. "Was anyone hurt? People haven't really told me much yet. I mean — I read Rachel's report, but no one's really talked to me."

While her injuries were ugly but non-critical — bullet grazes and mild contact burns — just as visible were the spots of dried blood clinging to Alison's hands. Spots not easily washed away: at her wrists, under her nails.

Not her own blood, either.

But all of that lingering gore held little impact, compared to the look on her face. Alison, frankly, was terrified. Even within the Institute's near-untouchable walls.

However pressed away to see to herself, she inevitably returns, hovering on the spot as her eyes turn immediately on Warren's physical state, his repairing wing.

Her greeting is awkward. So is his.

Alison pauses a moment, opens her mouth as if to speak — and is interrupted by the loud knocking of Warren's phone against the stand. She disengages, granting him permission to see to it if needed, looking down and away — out into the hall. The inherent resolve behind whatever compelled her back here, so soon, unravels with doubt.

Were he to answer the phone, she would have quietly excused herself out. But Warren does not, and there Alison stays, her shrewd eyes watchful.

"I got rest," she answers, though with a certain weight in her voice to suggest it wasn't good rest.

Upon invitation, Alison wades into the room, not yet taking pains to sit. She lingers close to the far corner of his bed. "Everyone's fine," she assures. "Meggan took the most of anyone, but it's not critical — nothing beyond what she can handle."

Her eyes are back on his wing. "How do you feel?"

Few things escape Warren's gaze. His blue eyes are sharp as a hunting raptor's. He can read a phone screen from a mile up; it is easy enough for him to see even the smallest spots of blood left on Alison's hands, spots that are not easily removed by cursory washing. They were the first thing he saw, waking up. The second was the bullet grazes on her body. The last was the look of terror on her face.

That look sticks with him. It makes his rest uneasy.

He doesn't rest too long, accordingly, and he's soon enough awake again and trying to lose himself in work. That doesn't last long, either; Alison is back within a few hours, haunting the door in her quiet way. Odd, he finds himself thinking, that Alison Blaire should be so quiet, when the Dazzler on stage shines and sings so crazily-bright. Or — maybe not odd at all.

The phone interrupts their awkward exchange. Warren almost drops it, groping to switch it off. The movement sways his wing a little in its sling, but the motion doesn't seem to bother him. The healing is going well.

The tone of her answer doesn't escape him. Neither does her refusal to sit or come closer. "I"m a convalescent, not a plague carrier," he says, his voice light and his calm expression so carefully held in place. He remembers the fear on her face; he feels it his place now to be strong. "Come and sit." A pause. "Unless you are angry with me."

His dismissiveness of his own state does not extend to the state of others. His expression hardens a little to hear Meggan took 'the most.' "When I said she should expose herself to stress to acclimate, I didn't mean so soon — and I didn't mean this," he says, his blond head lowering. Even in a sickbed, in perhaps the poorest condition he's been in in some time, his hair shines the rich gold of ripe wheat, as the low light glances across it.

He follows the trajectory of her eyes when she asks after him. His left wing is almost fully extended for the healing process, eight feet of white feathers fanned beside his bed. How does he feel?

"Fine," he says. His blue eyes lower, the expression in them veiling away into invisibility under the crescents of his thick, long lashes. "If angry."

Most of the X-Men and Excalibur are old hats when it comes to — this.

The denouement after the rescue. The triage after the heroics that is anything but exotic, idealistic, larger-than-life — when reality crashes like a too-much hangover, come with that tinny stink of dead blood, the horrible sounds people make when they are in pain, and the endless hours of uncertainty that follow. Alison never stuck around as Dazzler long enough to get acquainted with this part; to ever find that morbid, companionable ease to shrug off the near-death and quip one's own wounds away.

She ran without looking back when Jean Grey died. There's a look in her eyes like she wants to run here, too; run from the fear of realizing she may not be good at any of this, after all.

But Alison does not run. She's not the most courageous of the X-Men, but here she tries.

She tenses a little when his injured wing moves in the sling, a nervous energy in her hands like she'd be ready to dart — catch — do something — were Warren to lose balance, but nothing of the sort happens. He chides her reluctance, however, and Alison obeys, looking a little sheepish to be read so well. She comes closer, finds an open spot on the edge of his bed, and carefully alights down.

"I know you're not," she answers wearily of his apparent plague-carrier-bird status. But, perhaps damning, Alison says nothing about whether she's angry.

Her body language doesn't suggest anger; she's gentle, tentative — only smithing herelf to something stronger when Warren chastises a non-present Meggan. "She did what anyone else would have done in that situation," Alison corrects, a little terse.

She pauses a moment, but doesn't stop there. "You didn't show up to dinner, and I couldn't reach you. I asked Rachel and Jean to look for you. Whatever it was they sensed — " Her eyes tighten at the corners. "It was an emergency."

He answers her question: fine. Angry.

The first memory of the Purifiers comes with that confession, and Alison reaches to cover Warren's hand with hers. Her fingers tighten on his. She stays quiet for a heartbeat longer, before her soft voice hangs low in the room. "Why were you there alone? You could have at least told me."

Most of the X-Men are old hats at this, and Warren is perhaps one of the oldest. Not just because he was one of the first, but because of his basic nature. An overconfident hothead in his youth — perhaps still one, even now — he was often the first in and last out to any situation of danger, and he got himself hurt with his rash valiance so many times that by now he is completely used to the flippant denouement… the dismissive quip-away of one's own life-threatening injuries.

On some level, Warren Worthington — privileged beyond belief, and raised to expect that nothing is beyond his reach — is still convinced nothing can truly hurt him permanently.

Only a few things could shake him beyond his cavalier excess of valor. One was Jean Grey's death. Even that made him break and run… and he wasn't the only one. In these moments, looking into Alison's eyes, he sees a look there not dissimilar to how she looked back then, moments before she ran too.

It brings him to reach for her, impulsively, gesturing her closer before she can run away again. Something in his blue eyes briefly seems to plead. He may be one of the most courageous X-Men, and she may not be; but right now, he's not up to his usual form in that regard, and he needs her to help him out.

She comes closer eventually, settling on the edge of his bed. He looks a little dissatisfied that she's not closer, but her failure to remark on whether she's angry makes him hold his tongue. Her remarks on Meggan get him to speak, however. "She did, and bravely," he says tonelessly. "It was not a chastisement — not of her." His head turns, his blue eyes staring off out the window. "It was a rebuke of myself. I wanted her to have… an easier progression of it, and instead she got this."

He says nothing to Alison's remarks on what she did once he didn't show. His eyes only tighten slightly at the corners. His hand doesn't reject hers when she reaches to hold it, but it doesn't turn to hold back.

Her questions tighten his hand under hers. She can feel his long fingers curling. "I cannot overstate how routine these sorts of things were to me, before," he says. "It would be like you informing me of every appointment, every audition, every passing engagement done in the course of business. I'm asked to go to places and speak… a lot."

He is silent a moment. "Obviously things are different now everyone knows what's on my back."

The simple act of reaching for her decides Alison Blaire, just like that. It's not often her formidable doubts are dismissed in a single, simple gesture — but here it is.

She's not had many people reach for her. Surely, for Dazzler, in her make-up, her flawless white uniforms, her stage gilded with light, and her voice lift to the stars — millions, even Alison, herself, reached for that fantasy.

But, here, now, with Alison Blaire in sweats, and her expression grounded with seriousness, severity — reality. This is new. And this is something she's always so long wanted.

And, more than that, he wants something too — begs for it, silently, with his eyes. An instant later, the bed dips with Alison's added weight. Though not as close as she could be — still sorting through her own emotions to get there — it is unlikely now she'll leave him alone.

Especially with that broken dialogue he's built up in his head.

Alison slants Warren a critical look. "Life isn't that simple. Especially when you're still set to make yourself responsible for the Purifiers."

There's a sting in her voice to hear him blaming himself, what was done to him as his own failure, something to be criticized or punished — but emotions run deep. If Alison finds Warren potentially culpeable of any mistake —

It's that he let himself be alone.

"Then let's review the facts. Those assholes picketed one of your businesses. They targetted you. That's considerable grounds for extra caution." Alison's hand tightens a degree down on Warren's, not to comfort, but to press a point. "Let's turn it around: what if I had a known cult fixated on me, and hit weeks ago, with a confrontation that went violent, and I ran out of town, alone — no security, no heads-up to the team — without as much as a text to you? You'd be pissed off, right? You'd insist to come with me, as I would have insisted to come with you."

Obviously things are different now, Warren remarks. In his voice is something that breaks Alison's heart.

In it is the weight of that same, dragging chain she feels, every step of her life, from the day she was exposed.

"Warren," Alison confesses, "I'm afraid. It was mainly what brought me home to you all. Not just — some brave attempt to help. I use my light to change how I look when I leave my apartment. If I could hold it longer, I'd be tempted to do it permanently. I'm terrified every moment I'm alone. Every time someone recognizes me, now, it's different — I hold my breath, in the chance they hate me. Things are different for us. Everyone knows who we are, what we are. Whatever we had before, it's gone."

Her hand gentles, but doesn't let go. "We can hope it won't be forever. But that's what it is today. I hate it. I don't want it to make me paranoid, or to put you in a cage. But we have to adjust to it."

If Warren is aware his simple gesture gives Alison something she has chased all her life, there is no indication of it in his features. He is not, ultimately, a complex creature; he is a direct man, with direct thoughts and direct wants. The circumstances of his life enable him to be so straightforward in all his dealings. There are precious few things in the world he could not have just for the wanting of them.

Often, that is true even when it comes to people. He reaches for Alison, and he gets her… if not as close as he might like her.

He doesn't press her closer, at the least: his mind is faraway, on some other thought. His hand is slack under hers when she covers it, though it tightens a little, his head turning and lifting, when her voice turns chastising. Even in his stunned, wounded state, it's not in his nature to meekly brook anyone else's authority. It looks more reflexive a response than anything, though, especially given that he does seem to be listening to what she has to say.

His expression is set a little stubbornly, though, the feathers of his good wing lifted a little. At least up until she turns it around. What if it was her? Would he have tolerated Alison going off by herself if she even suspected any Purifiers were lurking about? He wavers a little, feathers sleeking back down, but there are still lines of protestation in his face. "Who could have expected such a targeted hit?" he says, a little tiredly. "That degree of special attention would have been flattering — if not for the hacksaw involved. What I was told was there was no more than the normal amount of cultish outrage I've always dealt with. Zealots have always hated me. I would have had to stop going outside years ago if I let that scare me."

There is a long pause. "They were scaring my people," he ultimately says, very simply, with the clean clarity that says: here is the real reason, behind all the excuses. "I promised I would protect them. Hell, Alison, I said I'd stand up and take the heat, and if this isn't taking the heat — "

I'm afraid, she confesses, and that more than anything else gets him to stop. He shuts right up and looks at her. His hand finally turns, taking hers and folding it into his palm. "It was brave," he says. "Showing up even when you are afraid is what bravery is."

He hesitates. "But you're right," he admits, "that it's a change I will have to get used to. There was a divide, before. I was only chased around when I was in a uniform. My civilian life was safe." His good wing folds in close around his right side. "Time to get used to the fact they're the same now."

His response is quick, reflexive, and borne of a lifetime of privilege. Few persons in this world have ever deigned to press orders or ultimatums onto a Worthington, and even less so, Warren since he assumed the seat of his family's considerable wealth and power.

Alison does not even need to speculate; the evidence plays in the twitch of his hand beneath hers, the calcification of his expression, and the telling fan of feathers in his good wing. His experience is going his way without criticism.

It's fine; Alison's experience is dealing with insufferably stubborn men. She knows how to be clever. Usually an easy way to slip the dagger into their smithed armor is to turn the inconsistencies of their logic back on them.

"No one could have expected that," Alison answers, recent memory darkening her eyes. All she can see and hear is the saw grinding through his bone, and she pales against the reverie. There's no expecting that. She couldn't have ever designed such a horror in her own mind. It makes her feel sick there are those that could, that did.

She pauses a beat, then adds, "But, I'm a bit of an invaluable resource when it comes to this. Over-preparation against what we can't expect — I've had to live that way for a number of years, even before they knew I was a mutant. I called it professional paranoia. I can't speak for hindsight, but I know I would have suggested something. Even to go with you. I don't want you to stop going outside — to let those murderers out there think they can control us — but I think we can be cautious about this. I wish I could offer you any sort of hope that it gets better, because it doesn't — but it gets manageable."

Alison's eyes lower, gentle and sad. "Or, at least I keep telling myself."

Her blue eyes lift when Warren finally strikes the heart of what put him into the hands of the Purifiers — that same recklessness that comes of his valiance. She exhales, not surprised, but answers with a squeeze of his hand, unwilling to punish him for such a thing. "I understand. I would want to do the same thing. It's absolutely noble you gave the world your anonymity, and I'm there with you. But we have to be careful waging this war."

To help, Alison gives up one of her secrets. Her fear, her terror, and how much both plague every day of her life. This vulnerability that now impacts his daily routine is reflected in her. And yet, Warren calls it brave.

She gives him a silent, indescribable look, and after a pause, finally moves closer — as close as he wished her to. She doesn't miss the way Warren's good wing tightens to his body, and Alison reaches into those feathers, carefully begging entry, to slip herself in beside him, slipping an arm across him and nudging her head to his shoulder.

"I'm sorry it has to be this way," she confesses. "We'll outpace them. Out-think them. You just have to promise me — it's done together. With the team. With me." Alison's voice hangs for a moment. "I thought —" she begins to blurt, but stops before it's said. //I thought you were dead. When they hung you from a tree, cutting you apart, and you did nothing — //

"What it means," she says instead, "to see you safe." Please pay the price.

Men like Warren Worthington, in their native environments, simply do not ever hear 'no' when they reach for things (not ask for things; asking permission is another thing with which they have no experience). At worst, they hear a demurring 'maybe' that will simply take time to turn into a 'yes.'

This made of Warren a young man who found Jean Grey telling him 'No' to still be an incredibly novel experience — at eighteen years of age. It took him a long time, too, before he would follow Scott's orders without bridling. But both these experiences wound up being vital to his development as a person fit for wider society. They matured him such that he was ready to responsibly head the Worthington family when it came — settled far too soon on his shoulders, with his parents' untimely deaths.

Often enough, however, there are still many hints that Warren does not… think… like most people do, does not interact with the world like the average person who cannot manifest their desires into reality instantly with the power of an old name and old money. Some of that utterly-privileged confidence is evident in his startled features when he turns his blue eyes on hers, surprised that anyone would chastise him or admonish him to 'review the facts.' It's on the tip of his tongue to say she sounds like a lawyer, but he restrains himself at the last minute — and probably a good thing, too.

For all his indignant bristling against her authoritative tones, however, the fight leaves him as she turns the logic back on him. Even more clever — she reveals a vulnerability of her own, triggering his protective instincts such that he forgets his own outrages. His blue eyes regard her, searching and intent, as she hints at the shape of her past. As she hints there's good reason for her to be experienced with being so paranoid. He doesn't say anything immediately, but his feathers bristle in that way that she's come to realize signals a certain desire to charge off in someone's defense.

"It will get better," he declares, with the confidence of a man who has met very few desires he cannot fulfill. "I'll make it so. I refuse to accept 'manageable.'"

Still, she insists, they have to be careful. Warren's good wing twitches, but he subsides after a moment. "…Next time I'll tell you. Before anything," he concedes. "But that goes both ways. I want you to tell me, too. And someday, I want you to tell me what you fear. What you think about, when you talk like you just did." What happened to you, before me. "I will make it go away."

If there's one thing he won't accept right now, though, it's her deprecating her own confessed fears. He insists it is bravery — for what is courage but the overcoming of fear? — and her response?

He blinks as she shifts closer, but quickly enough discerns what she wants. His good wing opens slightly to allow her in. It folds back in around her once she's settled, long enough that its fanning primaries easily cover her entire body, and his gaze turns so he can regard her head lain to his shoulder with a pensive air. His eyes tighten a little at the corners at her aborted sentence; he seems to take the meaning.

"Well," he says, "here I am. In one piece. And from here on out, it will be together," he promises. "No more running off. I'll take precautions. But, Ali — " He hesitates. "I can't consider my own assured safety my top priority. I won't ever stand back if someone of mine is suffering."

Alison Blaire does sound like a lawyer. She also doesn't realize it.

One can transverse the globe a hundred times, trying to outpace their roots — but, in the end, they always rise and make their claim. One always keeps one foot planted back at home, even when home is a cold, empty place, haunted by the ghosts of the life she could have had.

It'd probably hit her devastatingly hard to know her father's careful cultivation still holds strong; and, even that was not enough to bid him to love her.

But just as her words are careful things to eat away at Warren's outrage, his returned vow dares to do the same to her long life of skeptical overcaution.

Alison finds her urgency mollifying under Warren's refusal for 'manageable.' For his sincere, valiant detours off her pressing arguments to bid her to share her fears in him, so he can fix them.

It's not that easy, the sad, cynical part of her thinks. You're the one in the bed right now, so we need to see about making this go away before you promise anything, she also thinks.

Alison speaks aloud neither thought. Truth be told, her heart flutters to hear it aloud, she wants to believe everything Warren says, and she's already forgotten the infirmary around him — backgrounded to the power of his assertions. He no longer looks wounded in one wing, limited for the time being, and a survivor of a murder attempt: he's himself, and she doesn't dare do anything to take that away.

"Someday," she consents, meeting promise with promise. "When you're better. We can talk about that. It does go both ways, and I'd be a hypocrite to keep you in the dark. Secrecy becomes such a bad habit."

But this — all this — is about being here for him. With that worry allayed, and that initial awkwardness forgotten, Alison does just that. She nudges Warren's wing aside to steal her place at his side, her jaw nudged to his shoulder. Her eyes close to the shutting draw of his feathers, and she gives to a moment of quiet, taking it all in. So much blood came out of him. She was thinking dark, fatalistic thoughts.

"Good," she says, voice soft, of Warren's vow. But — he adds. But. There is the foundational seat of his nature that he cannot turn off, not even at her request.

Alison exhales, ruminating it over. And decides she would be monstrous even to ask him to do that. "I know. I'd like to think I wouldn't, either. We'll just think of ways to better prepare for the possibility. Especially, Warren, as our double lives are exposed to one, it wouldn't take much for anyone to find out, and exploit what they perceive as your weaknesses —"

Mid-sentence, her eyes flicker, as Alison's own words make her think. She sets it aside, for now. "We have the resources to ensure, at least, that no one can target you through your employ."

Her head tilts to look up at him, her blue eyes gentle. She brushes aside a lock of his hair. "You'll just have to work with me. If we're really going to try this, I'd like to keep you around for a while. You flying off will always affect me."

She doesn't realize it. Maybe that's what stops Warren from blurting it out. He doesn't know much about her, if he really thinks about it and is honest with himself, but what he does know is that there's no love lost between her and her father — and her father's demands of her.

He knows the specter of family expectations well enough, himself. He has been in her company long enough to easily read that specter haunting her, hidden between the lines of a woman raised by a judge who talks like a lawyer, yet ran off to become the Dazzler.

That cuts both ways, however, and she has been in his company long enough to start to become aware of how to manage to him: and what quirks of his she will have to manage. It is rapidly becoming clear that valiant foolhardiness will be one… as well as his own attempts to manage her by trying to shift the focus to his intent to fight away her problems, and off the inconvenient fact HE'S the one with his wing hanging half-off his body right now.

A fact she reminds him of, though she is loath to dampen the spirit he's showing. 'When you're better' draws the expression one might expect: a mutinous frown. Still, she ultimately consents, which seems to mollify him… and her nudging aside his good wing distracts him even more. Or at least, she nudges at it — it doesn't actually move until, after a moment of surprise, he opts to open it and let her in.

It folds back over her afterwards, drawing her quite literally under his wing. She soon finds there is a reason the metaphor embodies protection and care: it's hard to feel anything but such things in that warmth. "I'm not much for secrets," he begins. "Or at least, I don't want to be anymore. My life has been secrets up until now." His eyes briefly meet hers. "No more."

His gaze goes a bit distant as he admits that there are some things which he will not compromise about himself. Her answer draws his eyes back. He doesn't miss the hitch mid-sentence, and his expression turns questioning, but she doesn't say anything at the moment and he does not push. "We can't eliminate the risk," he says. "But I will try to restrain my usual… incaution. For you," he allows, dryly. "None of the 'with your shield or on it,' I promise."

Some flicker of a teasing look revives in his blue eyes. "I am mostly retired from making girls cry."

It becomes increasingly apparent the sort of job Alison may have ahead: playing devil's advocate to some of the most reckless manifestations of Warren's protective instincts. Not quite limiting or punishing his nature to shield others — it's a part of him with which she's finding herself quietly besotted — but to check-and-balance his impulses and mitigate his risks.

Some people might feel daunted by such a task. Alison just feels grateful to perhaps be needed.

"Secrets are definitely not your style," she agrees, an undertone of wryness curling through her words. Warren Worthington unbuttoning his shirt for the international media plays long-sufferingly across her memory.

Curled to his side, Alison relents to the comfortable layer of Warren's wing. But just as he gives to her, she tries to return, her field eager to warm him — who knows how cold one can get after having lost so much blood.

So much blood.

It is an unfathomable leap from that image scoured in her memory — saw blade on bone — to Warren next to her, alive and like himself in nearly all ways. Alison wants not to take a moment for granted.

"I feel like I've kept some sort of secret since I can remember," Alison says wistfully. "Like hiding a photo of my mom after my dad pretended she didn't exist. Then the singing career, for a while. And, the whole mutant thing, from… everyone. You get good at them. But I'm like you. I don't like them either." She's quiet a moment. "It's nice to finally talk, for once."

She meets his eyes, in turn. And Alison echoes, "No more."

Her hand tightens on his, her thumb making wandering circles over his knuckles as Warren speaks of risk, and promises restraint. Alison exhales, a let-go of tension and let-in of relief. It's a good compromise. She can work with that.

Blue eyes on his, chin nestled still to his shoulder, Alison doesn't miss Warren's tease. "Only mostly?"

If nothing else, it is rapidly becoming clear that Alison Blaire may be exactly the balance that Warren Worthington needs. A cautious and mitigating eye to balance his recklessness. This hasn't escaped Warren himself, though he remains quiet about it; perhaps lingeringly rebellious about his impulses to charge off in bursts of protective valor.

"They aren't — anymore, no," Warren says, opting to address the topic of secrets instead. "I've had so many over the years that I'm thoroughly tired of them now. Secrets from my family, from my childhood friends and classmates, from the world, and even from the other X-Men. I've led what feels like four separate lives simultaneously — up until I finally made that press conference. No more."

A pause, before his blue eyes shade playful. "Here's one that absolutely no one knows except you, now: I impersonated the Archangel Michael once. 'Minister at Exeter Academy turns self in, after so-called divine visitation.' It was more fun than it should have been — though the circumstances that forced me to were… obviously much less so."

Perhaps it's the product of having done 'strange X-Men things' continuously for years — been through countless missions and injuries and traumatic events — but Warren does still seem shockingly like himself with Alison now, even mere days after having zealots try to saw off his wings. It says something about his resilience… and implies much about what he has been through to gain that resilience.

It also probably helps, honestly, that they did not succeed in taking his wings. Much of his lighthearted dismissiveness, at the moment, tastes of a subdued and deeply-hidden relief.

It fades, however, as she starts to give him some secrets of her own. He doesn't speak at first, but his wing curls a little more tightly when she talks about her mom, holding both Alison and all her unnatural heat in close. "You lived four separate lives at once, too," he says. "It's a relief, after all that, to just live one."

His ultimate acquiescence to be more cautious seems to mollify some of her tension away, at least; enough for her to begin to joke back when he teases her. "Only mostly," he confirms, something wicked in his grinning. "I cannot help their tears of awe at my resplendence."

"Four lives too many," Alison says to that, a heaviness to her voice of someone who intimately understands those pains.

They were the most chaotic a good ten years ago: a dutiful pre-law student to her father, a serious musician to the talent scouts, a mutant and fickle teammate to the X-Men, and a devoted performer to her growing base of fans, addicted to their feedback, and desperate for their love. She tried to be someone for everyone, save for one person: herself. Alison Blaire didn't have time to look in the mirror and wonder if she liked the woman staring back.

By now, so many of those lives have streamlined, and others have died. No more music. No more performing. No more thinking of "Dazzler", or even "Alison", without thinking — mutant.

She can imagine it being hauntingly similar for Warren. The heir, the playboy, the old guard, the successor, and now the public mutant —

"It's safer to live out of those little boxes," she adds, pensive. "Sometimes, I even wonder, if I wasn't exposed — would I still be living that way. Safer, easily controlled. But it does take a toll. It makes everything so isolated, tiring, and lonely."

But in a small gift, Warren confides in Alison a secret he's told no one else. His short acting career — credit being 'an actual Archangel,' comes met with a lift of Alison's eyebrows. A wry smile dares her mouth, only disappearing when he ventures sparingly into the reasons why he would do such a thing. She doesn't need to think hard to get an idea. "Ever the protector, Mr. Worthington. This is why it'd be unforgivable of me to ask you to stop."

She reaches up to lay a hand on his face, her words coupled with an affection sweep of her thumb to his cheek. Tenderness holds her eyes to his.

Until 'resplendence' happens. Alison's gaze breaks away, up to the ceiling to implore the throne on high to grant her blessing to endure this. "You'll have to make due with tears of forbearance," she entreats, before she leans in to kiss him.

And Warren's four lives? He has been the dutifully successful son and heir his parents wanted of him, the profligate and wild young rake who broke hundreds of women's hearts, the valiant and airy 'rich boy' of the X-Men, and — somewhere under all that — Warren Worthington III, a young man bearing a name with two previous owners, and as little an individual identity as such a thing would imply.

He has lived his many lives in the boxes his birth and his genetics have seen fit to place him in. People made judgments of him the minute they looked at him, no matter which life he was living. Even when he was anonymous, known only as 'the mutant called Angel,' people still looked straight at his wings and judged.

At the least, sometimes — as he relates, in a private story he divulges only to her — those immediate assumptions were to his benefit, and to the benefit of others. She does not ask for details of what drove him to do such a thing, and he does not offer them, but what little he says outlines the shape of something heinous, well enough. Something that outraged his protector's instinct enough for him to risk his wings and his mutant nature in an early impersonation of an archangel: furious and wreathed in God's wrath.

He was a little too good at it. Alison can picture it easily herself, and her remark elicits a low laugh from him. "You can't make a stream flow uphill, no," he says. His expression turns sober again, "There are some things for which I will never stand."

As for living in boxes, in those compartmentalized lives? "It was safe," he agrees. "But it was painful, and it was fake. Like binding my wings — that was years and years of pain. The freedom, the trueness to oneself… it's worth it to me, even with the risks it brings."

His face turns easily towards hers, when her hand reaches to guide it. "There are other things that are worth it," he says, as he leans into her kiss.

Then because he's Warren Worthington, he tries a little more, but his wing slips out of its sling and that puts an unfortunate end to the matter.

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