First Name Basis
Roleplaying Log: First Name Basis
Participants
IC Details
Synopsis:

Warren extends an invitation to Billy. An alliance is formed.

Other Characters Referenced:
IC Date: March 25, 2019
IC Location: Union Club
OOC Notes & Details
Posted On: 26 Mar 2019 21:14
Rating & Warnings:
NPC & GM Credits:
Associated Plots

* * *

The invitation would have come in the mail to one Billy Russo just last week, a few days prior to the unfortunate weekend that saw New York attacked once again. It is a gracious, discreet little card asking for the pleasure of his attendance at an upcoming charity event — black tie, date and time and place indicated neatly on its face — with something rather unusual on its back: an actual handwritten note.

Sincerest apologies for the short notice! Just pop by if you can, give your name at the door — would be delighted to meet you. I have heard much.

The dashed-off, careless signature beneath could, with some effort, be deciphered as 'Warren Worthington.' The fact the organizing body is the Aegis Foundation, fundraising on behalf of some Community Restoration Fund or another, confirms the supposition.

The date is the following Friday, the time a very standard 6 PM. The fact that a major terrorist attack happens in the intervening time does not force a reschedule this time. The steady roll of New York — particularly at this echelon — is difficult to disrupt, especially when New Yorkers are given a week to simply… adapt. The charity event's beneficiary list was deftly expanded to include relief efforts for the destruction in Midtown. Even the well-heeled pitch in to help, at times like these.

The locale is the Union Club on East 69th and Park, a very venerable old gentleman's club — third oldest in the country, in fact — which is struggling to retain relevancy in the modern day, and therefore exceptionally pleased to host any and all sorts of events such as these. Not at the cost of its exclusivity, though. This place boasted Presidents Grant and Eisenhower as members. William Russo is regarded with frank coolness by the reception staff, up until he gives his name. Then it's all smiles and bows, and Mr. Russo is treated with the degree of servility one might afford a visiting prince. They know he is on The List, and they know how he got there.

This early, most people are still clustered in the main hall of the first floor, talking around the open bar and admiring the fine, well-preserved colonial decor of the venue. The atmosphere is a little more subdued than usual, given recent events, but New York soldiers on, and most of the talk is serious in terms of charitable giving towards plans for rebuilding. The source of Billy's invitation isn't yet in eyeshot, but it likely won't be hard to find him eventually — he's got giant white wings.

In the meantime, Mr. Russo is surrounded by what appears to be a healthy cross-section of New York's upper echelon. Local and state politicians, moguls of local business, wealthy socialites looking for pet philanthropic causes, and old-money industrialists with their impeccably-dressed sons and daughters are all in attendance; all assume him to be one of them as well, and everyone is friendly and genteel.

* * *

This is the kind of place Billy Russo only ever saw from the window of a moving bus as his school trucked a handful of kids from their underfunded district into one of the surrounding museums for the day. Being a child of the system, he never had money of his own for field trips. The only thing that got him a spot was a small pool of money from the school board. He was one of the most hard-up kids in a hard-up school.

And now he's Mr. William Russo, bedecked in a black tie, with freshly-trimmed hair and beard for the occasion, walking through the doors of the Union Club with a personal invitation. Being as he is such an interloper, he didn't take any fashion risks. He wears a completely acceptable and immaculately tailored tuxedo of the classic variety.

He has no idea why he's here, but he's never been one to look too closely at a gift horse of any pedigree. Given his rise through the ranks, there are a handful of familiar faces, mostly in the category of business moguls and politicians. Old money generally doesn't have much use for the likes of him.

After getting himself a scotch on the rocks, he starts to work the room, beginning with those he knows personally, or by reputation. When he speaks, he does his best to push down his distinctive New York Italian drawl with its hitched-up grammar. It takes purpose and concentration, but he can make himself sound less obviously not one of them. That is, unless the interaction can be tilted to his advantage by letting some salt-of-the-earth authenticity creep through.

All the while he keeps a half-eye open for the blond man with the giant wings. He's deeply curious as to what he did to earn a personal invitation, but he's not going to waste the opportunity to hobknob in the interim.

* * *

Some people know Mr. William Russo already, and they're quick to greet him and exclaim over what a terrible turn things have taken — but what good work Anvil has been doing, through it all. Most others don't know him, but the first category is eager to introduce him to the second, and his natural charm does the rest.

About fifteen minutes into the hobknobbing, Billy will spy the man responsible for his invitation across the room; it's not hard to see the wings, even when they're tightly folded. Alison Blaire is by his side, and they're engaged in some sort of conversation with a knot of old money fogeys — all of them dressed to the nines, and all of them looking incredibly boring.

The crowd shifts again, and Worthington is lost to sight. Another ten minutes pass, and then — as Billy is finding himself introduced to some man whose family apparently owns all the pineapples in Hawaii — a voice cuts in smoothly with a rustle of feathers, "So you're responsible for this, Charlie. I've been looking for my guest for the past fifteen minutes, and here you've stolen him! Excuse us — "

And with the adroitness of long social experience, Warren Worthington guides Billy straight out of his conversation and out of the crush of people. "So glad you could make it," he says, his smooth socialite's demeanor a force of nature in itself, even before one gets to the monstrous wings on his back. "Shall we escape the gladiator's pit? They'll be hacking away at each other for hours yet, and I am sure you're wondering what on earth I want."

Out of the main hall, Warren looks left and right, and then claims an unused card room that is as opulent as the rest of the club house, decorated with a frieze of hearts, spades, diamonds, and clubs running about the ceiling in a fanciful display. "No trouble getting in?" he asks idly, making small talk as he closes the door. "I don't imagine you had any, they're nonsensically attentive here."

* * *

Those first fifteen minutes are already worth Billy's time and the monkey suit. Just being seen here is enough for his social credit in the eyes of people whose opinions matter in the world of military contracts. Which is why, despite his curiosity, he didn't disengage and try to approach Warren when he first spotted him. He figures, it seems rightly, that whatever the socialite has him here for, it won't be to talk to the people he'd like to.

So when his winged benefactor does appear, he smiles politely both to him and to his conversation partners. "Of course, Mister Worthington. And yeah, yeah, you could say that." And there's that easy, charming, eye-crinkling smile.

He allows himself to be led, depositing his empty glass on a convenient silver tray bfore they get to the card room. "None at all. But yours is a name that opens doors. But I don't need to tell you that." And then, "Yeah, I'm damned curious why I'm here. Not that I'm not happy to be. Always wondered what the inside of this place looked like."

* * *

Business cards get traded around, to be sure, but what's more important is Billy's mere presence here. Indeed, in the higher echelons of society, who you're seen with and where you're seen is important, and doors that would open a polite crack for 'a private military contractor' swing open for someone who appears to have received an endorsement from Someone With A Name.

That Named Someone swans over soon enough, chasing away Billy's conversation partners and placing claim on Russo's time. The card room is a welcome reprieve from the crowd in the main hall, managing a sort of coziness despite the obvious opulence. Warren is still hanging onto his own glass of scotch — he hasn't had a chance to finish it. It gets placed on a small end table as Warren gestures for Billy to take a seat first.

"Ah, well. Once you've seen one, you've seen them all, to be quite honest," Warren admits, taking his own seat once Russo is settled. "They all try to outdo one another in much the same way."

As for why Russo is here? "I'll be quite direct about it," Warren says, leaning back in his chair, an ankle crossing over his opposite knee. His wings drape obviously to either side, over the armrests. "Alison and I have been keeping a careful eye on the progress of registration, as you can imagine. It's never been done before. The logistics of it are monstrous to contemplate. And Anvil has been given a large part in making sure those logistics work. I was curious to meet the man heading it — hear a bit about his philsophy and approach." One wing twitches. "The lines have been orderly so far, and to all appearances you take a large part of the credit, but after what happened with SHIELD…"

* * *

"After what happened with SHIELD, we got ourselves a whole different ball game," Billy finishes. "Look, Mister Worthington, I knew something was gonna happen. Not…" he gestures vaguely, "…a building imploding and a helicarrier crashing into Liberty Island, but something. I knew I was signing on to guard a powderkeg. It's a bad policy, hastily rolled out. I can't change that, I can't fix that. But I've just tried to make sure no one was gonna get hurt on my watch."

Here, in the relative privacy of the card room, sitting across from someone he's fairly certain knows his brief biographical details at least, he doesn't try so hard to pretend like he's one of the elites. He's got the manner of a soldier who shoots from the hip and cuts to the point. "That's a short way of sayin' I've got contignency plans. The lines are gonna be more of a target than ever, because you got the people complying with the legislation converging in one visible spot. And these are people who are complying even after that whole thing about the uh, the mutant virus?" He clicks his tongue. "Biological weapons are not shit you play with. But I can't say I'm surprised that SHIELD was."

He sits back in his chair. "I've been working on a proposal for the Office of Public Safety to relocate the registration centers to more secure locations with a robust security and tactical workup to make sure they're not vulnerable to terrorist strikes. From either side." Those last three words are spoken pointedly, and with eye contact.

* * *

In the privacy of the card room and with talk turned fully to business, much of the genteel socialite mask Warren Worthington had worn earlier swaps out, changing for something more pointed. The sea change matches Billy Russo's own frankness, as the no-nonsense soldier re-emerges from the charming social-climber.

Maybe some people of Warren's breeding and gentility would have been shocked at Billy's salt-of-the-earth curtness. Warren looks like he appreciates it, because he's already had to spend a lifetime listening to highfalutin nonsense. He listens in silence, his aquiline blue eyes watchful, though some of that alleviates when Billy declares he just wants to make sure no one will get hurt on his watch.

"That's all we really can ask," he says, visibly mollifying. "Because you're right — it's just going to get worse. I've heard some reports of people watching the lines to identify nonobvious mutants, so they can harass them later. If you're able to get the centers moved to more secure locations so the lines can't be easily watched, that would help protect the confidentiality of people who are choosing to register." He meets Billy gaze for gaze. "Even after all this business with the 'mutant virus.'"

If he is offended at the pointed manner in which 'from either side' is said, Warren doesn't show it. If anything, the gesture seems to interest him in Billy even more, because it indicates a spine. "We're all interested in getting through this uncomfortable period peaceably," he emphasizes. "The Brotherhood certainly does not speak for me, nor for most mutants out there who simply want to live their lives. I have spent the better part of my life dedicated to pushing the idea that a peaceable coexistence is within reach. I don't intend to stop now."

A pause. "This does not change that I intend for mandatory registration to be a very temporary thing. I want the law overturned, Mister Russo." Spoken in the tone of a man who is very unaccustomed to not getting what he wants. "Until it is, however, we must live with it. I appreciate that you seem invested in the task."

* * *

And truth be told, even when Billy is in his more elite persona, he comes off more like a charming, direct man with a fancy MBA - maybe some new money's son. He doesn't go out of his way to pretend to be that man, but nor does he point out that he's a self-made man who made officer through tours in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Not unless that narrative serves him, at least.

"The open lines in convenient locations made sense when you were pushing volume and trying to encourage compliance - and before this became on the edge of some kinda…" he gestures with his hand, "…I don't know what it is." His hand drops. "A riot? Something worse?" He pulls air through his teeth to make a soft clucking sound. It's a tic that he doesn't exhibit often, but it's one he picked up from the laconic Frank Castle.

"I don't make the laws, just like I didn't give the orders when I was a soldier. But my job then, and my job now is to make sure everyone stays safe, and to control the situation. It's up to the politicians to fix this shit, and it's up to me and my guys to hold the fort until it gets fixed."

He sits up a little straighter and regards Warren. "The men out there," he nods back towards the party, "They call the shots. Now I could get into a whole debate about whether that's the way it should be, but in the end? It don't matter. I can't control them. But I can control my guys, and our handling of the situation. So, you work to get the law fixed with the tools in your kit, and I'll do everything I can to keep sandbagging the flood zone."

* * *

Warren Worthington had watched Billy Russo for some time while they were out in the main hall. He has eyes that can read a book from across the breadth of Manhattan; the main hall of the Union Club is child's play. The difference between the man he saw out there, and the one in front of him now, is intriguing. It doesn't bother Warren that Billy seems to have different personas for different occasions; he does the exact same thing, and has ever since he was a boy.

He does seem to prefer this more direct version of Billy Russo, however. In the end, people often tend to like what they're not surrounded by 24/7.

"People are scared," he agrees quietly. "And the last thing they should feel like is sitting ducks when they're waiting in a registration line. They already have targets painted on their backs for being what they are. The riots have already been happening; what this is is a potential breakdown of whatever orderliness could have salvaged from this." He shakes his head. "People emulate what they see and receive, and the Brotherhood showed them violence."

His gaze flickers to Billy's as the other man speaks, and Warren gives the other man the floor for what he has to say. He regards Russo a long moment afterwards, considering, before he seems to reach some internal determination about Billy Russo — and nods slowly. "Leave those men to me," he finally says. "In the meantime, I'm interested in providing you with whatever resources and connections necessary to ensure that for the time we have to endure this, it will be done in the safest and most conscientious way possible." A wry smile crosses his features, a hint of his typical effortless grace returning to cloak over his intensity. "Consider this my formal offer for whatever favors you need done. If it is a string I can pull, I will pull it."

His wry smile shades a little rueful, his arm propping on the armrest and jaw leaning to the back of his hand. "Of course, what I'm angling for is going to put you out of a contract eventually, but in recompense I'm certain I can hook you up with whatever you might wish to move on to, after this sordid registration business is done."

* * *

Part of the reason for his personas is survival. Billy wouldn't be welcome in the circles beyond that door if he talked like a straight-shooting military man to politicians and titans of industry seeped in old money. He feels like the approach will work with Warren because of those two very visible symbols of difference on his back. It's a calculated strategy, but a very subtle one. And from the course of their conversation, it seems to be a winning one.

He doesn't let it show just how pleased it makes him to hear someone with Warren's influence and power writing a blank cheque for favours. He does let a smile crinkle the corners of his eyes. "I'm very glad to be on the same page as you, Mister Worthington. And I may need to take you up on that sooner rather than later. To grease the wheels of my proposal. Cause every day that goes by with the old system…" he points out towards the streets, "…is another chance for things to go sideways in a real bad way."

As for the comment about being out of a job? He chuckles. "Hey, the end to a war means a soldier's out of a job, too." He tosses up his hands and lets them fall back to his thighs with a soft slap. "That don't mean we were all sitting there wishing it'd go on forever. Cause we were there to make the fighting stop. The whole purpose of us being there was so we one day wouldn't have to be." He shrugs. "Same thing here. I'm trying to build a reputation as a man who can keep the peace on American soil, with talented veterans who deserve good jobs in their own city, not just keep cashing a paycheck for a steady gig playing mall cop. There's other outfits for that."

* * *

Billy's guess that Warren is quite different from the rest of his ilk is a good one. Though he was born in extreme privilege, raised in extreme privilege, and has never known anything but extreme privilege, the moment those wings started coming out of his back, he became different from his peers forever… and his life took a sharp turn into a course that has brought him — ironically, given his mutation — down to earth. It's differentiated him significantly from the other well-heeled young men milling about in the hall outside.

Ultimately, Warren is much more grounded than his peers, and it is in part because his feeling of ostracism from them — courtesy of his mutant nature. And he appreciates bluntness far more than most ego-drenched old money moguls; especially when all the straight-shooting talk is about doing the best job possible to ensure everyone stays safe. Too many people he's met have not dared to speak bluntly or coarsely to his face, and that cringing obsequiousness has always infuriated him for essentially forcing him to live in a cloud of fakeness and lies. To him, it's always refreshing to find people with the spine to talk baldly to him, even challenge him… and so far as his keen eyes can tell, Russo is completely genuine.

Perhaps all that contributes to his first, half-smiling remark: "Call me Warren."

He lifts his head from the back of his hand, letting his arms drape loosely along the rests. His wings relax, feathers rustling. "I agree time is of the essence," he says. "After what the Brotherhood did, bigots will be gunning for every registration line they see. I'll see what kind of calls I can make to get your proposal heard by the right people."

As far as Billy's remarks on what it is to be a soldier, to essentially fight to bring wars to an end and put oneself out of a job? He tilts his head, considering, and something about the look on his face suggests that he knows a little of what that is like. He has been a soldier in a paramilitary group in a sort of shadow war himself… and it is one that is still going on. "It's good work," he agrees quietly, "for men who otherwise don't otherwise get a lot of good options. Nor a lot of support from their country, when they return. I should consider veterans affairs… it's not an area I've reached into before." He is briefly silent, head lowered, distinctly someone who wants to help in so many arenas and barely has enough time in the day for them all.

His head lifts a moment later. "Ah, but I shouldn't keep you forever. There's fertile ground to be worked out there — the more allies, the better." His head tilts towards the door. "But I will do what I can to forward your proposals, and whatever else would assist you to protect our people."

* * *

Billy Russo has also been very careful not to stare at Warren's wings. He hasn't ignored them, as the monied likely do, pretending he's just wearing some strange new backpack from Givenchy. But nor does he seem hyper-conscious of their existence. Acknowledgment, acceptance, moving on.

When he's given leave to call the billionaire by his first name, he's smiling more internally than makes it to his lips. Though there is a warm look in his dark eyes. "Well then obviously, it's Billy," he says with a soft chuckle.

"More money for veterans - I wouldn't argue against it. That lack of support is why I built Anvil. A lotta talent was going to waste. A lot of men and women who wanted meaningful work. But there are others who can't do the job, because they got messed up doing their duty. Them, I can't help."

He grins and jostles his leg a little, glancing towards the door with a bit of a mischevious grin. "I was hopin' you might be all right with me working the room a bit more. There're a few folks out there just sipping maritins I've been trying for months to get a sit-down with." There's an eagerness that he lets slip, strategically. That's the side of him who is a self-made man, who has built a business and wants to play with the big dogs - not just the altruistic veteran who wants to raise up his brothers and protect everyone. After all, both sides have to be present for his public persona to make any sense.

* * *

The wings have been on display the entire time, and it has been entirely purposeful. Ever since Warren registered, he has slowly been forcing himself to get over half a lifetime's worth of instinct to hide them. The fear of having them out in public is slowly fading, and it is in large part because he is finally choosing to hold them out proudly and force people to accept that yes — they are there.

Many people do stare, for far too long. Many others ignore them outright, trying to pretend they're not there. Both those reactions make Warren uncomfortable. Billy strikes the right balance of noticing them, accepting them, and viewing them as just another part of the man in front of him.

It is certainly quite evident that they're an integral part of the mutant known as Angel. The feathers lift, ruffle, or smooth down visibly with his moods; the wings themselves move occasionally to emphasize his points, almost like another set of hands in how they gesticulate or reflect what he is saying. They are expressive things, and to see them in action is to have a difficult time imagining them being pinned down for fifteen years. It would be like tying one's arms behind one's back for fifteen years.

"Anvil's done well for those men and women, it seems," Warren muses. He is one of the most prolific charitable donors in the world, and he's proving the reality behind the image right now. "But the funding is not there for the others. Maybe I can do something. It's worth discussion."

He soon enough kicks himself out of his abstracted mood with a apologetic graciousness, the social mask put firmly back into place. "More than all right. I asked you here, instead of to a private conversation, for a reason," he says. "As you said, I open doors. Access is one of the most potent advantages I can provide." He regards Billy Russo searchingly a moment, and what he sees of that eager ambition makes him add, "I know you have the wherewithal to make the most of it."

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