Facetime
Roleplaying Log: Facetime
Participants
IC Details
Synopsis:

Warren confronts Domino with a checklist of her past. Alison comes in for fire support. The situation goes totally bananas.

Other Characters Referenced: Jean Grey, Carmilla Black, Dani Moonstar, Deadpool, Charles Xavier, Magneto
IC Date: May 27, 2019
IC Location: Some old building that Warren owns, NYC
OOC Notes & Details
Posted On: 28 May 2019 02:23
Rating & Warnings: R for language, angst, and some red red kroovy.
NPC & GM Credits:
Associated Plots

Warren Worthington always likes to say that one of the most important things to him is his privacy. And it's true, not just a platitude; for someone like him, there are few things more precious. His life has been a matter of public record, scrutinized by too many eyes, ever since birth. Growing up, there's always been people watching him, judging him, and wanting him — or finding him wanting, as the case may be.

That's part of what made it a rather obvious hypocrisy that he doesn't always extend the same to others. Case in point: a certain Domino, whose recent actions were enough to get him to do some… 'background checking' on who exactly she was.

The results of the search, along with the urgings of certain parties, reminded him that perhaps he should treat the privacy of others with the same reverence he treats his own… though he doesn't exactly regret doing his due diligence, and likely would again. Perhaps coming clean is just his means of assuaging his conscience, which happens to look quite a lot like Jean Grey. Perhaps it's his innate nobility remembering to kick back in, amidst the businesslike shrewdness with which he was taught to conduct his affairs.

Either way, Domino gets a message to stop by the Tower at some point, because he has something to tell her. Discretion is advised, as much for her benefit as his own, but to be frank people have long since gotten used to women stopping in on Warren, for reasons which are probably better not contemplated. The media won't blink much for another. The employees certainly don't — that is, unless the woman starts to butt into business. Alison's made a few enemies already, this way.

Now Worthington may live and die by precise appointments set exactly on the hour, but he's aware free spirits like Domino likely don't play by similar rules, and so when he lets Alison know that he's given the merc a notice to come up to the office (chosen for being isolated from the rest of the workforce in the Tower), it's more to the tone of 'be nearby in general, please.'

***

Things have been fairly quiet lately in regards to the ongoing 'agreement' Domino has established with Warren. Really, it's a contract by all counts with less paperwork involved. Ever since the shopping excursion in the M-Tec facility she hadn't heard a word from the guy.

Which means she's been free to pursue other work, and even the oddball personal matter or two.

A failed assassination attempt led to her teaming up with the intended target to start taking jabs at A.I.M. (Scorpion helped.)

A mob-run casino got completely shot up then all but completely destroyed after a helicopter crashed into it. (Moonstar helped.)

An apartment in Gotham got shot to pieces and a bunch of gangster thugs got slaughtered. (Deadpool helped.)

Then were the demons down in New York City. That hadn't been her fault but she had certainly left an impression with all of the killed hellspawn. It had been an interesting day.

To get a message from Warren out of the blue seems somehow quaint with everything else that had been going down over the last handful of weeks. 'Discretion is advised.' Well darnit. What good is having a lovely new Ferrari if she can't use it for business trips? It's not like she can use it out in the field!

When she rolls into the parking lot it's with the same bland silver Mitsubishi Lancer she had jacked over a month ago, it blends right in with all of the other corporate sedans. Just smaller. Her manner of black dress actually looks somewhat office professional to the untrained eye. Those in the know would recognize the discrete tactical branding. It'll fly under the radar a lot better than the albino wearing it.

It's true, Dom does live by her own rules. But, she's pretty good about being punctual. If anything she's only a few minutes late because of all of the navigating around the inside of this older building. Soon enough there's a shady looking mercenary standing in Mister Worthington's office.

"I was starting to wonder if you had forgotten about me, Warren. What's the sitch?"

***

It's hard to say whether Warren is aware of what Dom has been up to. Or, perhaps more accurately, whether he's aware that the things which have been in the news are connected to her. He has, as she's noted, been rather silent as of late in general, and it's hard to guess whether he's been keeping tabs on her at all. Though perhaps that's to be expected; he's a busy person in general, and their arrangement was always more 'at need' than continuous. Not a reliable source of cash flow, but when he delivers — he certainly delivers.

Given all that, perhaps getting a sudden message from him now might seem alarming. The fact no one is sent to personally escort her on arrival is also a bit strange; he's always made arrangements for her reception ahead of time at any of their other encounters, even when — as today — discretion was necessary.

Still not that unusual, though, given the lack of desire to draw attention to their connection. The first really blatant signal for Domino that something is unusual comes when she's finally shown into his office. Warren is working behind his desk, in shirtsleeves, which isn't the odd part; the odd part is his lack of immediate, ingratiating pleasantries when he looks up to her entry: whether an invitation to sit, refreshments, or otherwise. Every other time he's received her, he's always been so on-point with the requisite social niceties befitting a host that their absence now is jarring. In fact, it's left to her to broach the conversation.

That seems to jar Warren back into his usual Warren.exe processes. The preoccupied look slides off his features, replaced by the typical bland smiling he affects for the world. "Did you miss me all that much? Don't worry, I never forget a lady worth remembering." He finally rises from his desk, wings flaring a little for balance before folding neatly behind him again. "Especially not one so enthusiastic as you were on our last meeting."

His gaze goes a little abstracted. "Very memorable."

He lingers a moment, standing behind his desk, before he shakes his head and picks up a file folder. "I think you should sit," he finally says. "I've a bit of a confession."

***

Oh boy. Something is most certainly off here. It's a heaviness in the air. An energy tingling across the skin. The first oddities about having no escort and the like could have been chalked up to a number of scenarios. Maybe he was trusting her enough to not need someone keeping an eye on her?

Yeah. RIGHT.

Getting to the office proper, seeing the CEO in question, having to verbally kick him out of his momentary trance, it all stacks up. And that isn't everything.

The instant that Warren begins to speak has her eyeing up the rest of the room. Is this some sort of trap? Did he finally decide she isn't worth the trouble and called in the authorities? With that massive skylight it'd be real easy to bring in a helo and pin her with a searchlight. All of the glass around here may be beneficial for the corporate birdman but it's always left her feeling way too damn exposed.

Then it gets worse. 'I think you should sit.' White hands fall upon black hips as Dom's attention refocuses on Warren, kind of a mix of 'are you shitting me?' and '-God- I hate complications.'

And a 'confession.'

A 'confession' could cover a near limitless range of possibilities. Only about three percent of them are beneficial for someone in her situation. And then there's perhaps the biggest tell of all:

No drinks set out.

This isn't business. This has the feeling of something far less enjoyable.

Something about the Sentinels? Did he secretly send off her info to the DPS to be registered? Did he throw out the gun she kept in her room at the Institute? Maybe he scratched her car?

With the clear demeanor of someone who would much rather be getting shot than having to be here to deal with -whatever- this news is..she drops down into a seat on the other side of Warren's desk. It's not a neat and tidy landing, either. More of a 'fine, my ass is planted, let's get this over with' sort of defiance.

Then come the palms held out and up. 'What is this all about, then?'

***

Warren is a rather thoughtless creature even at the best of times, and so it hadn't even really occurred to him that 'betrayal to the DPS' might be top of Domino's immediate concerns when called up to the isolated top of a skyscraper and told the functional equivalent of 'we need to talk.' It's a rather terrible feeling to have, especially for someone like Domino, with a long list of people who might want her dead and very good reasons to want to avoid the authorities.

If it had occurred to him, perhaps he'd feel a lot worse about all this. Especially given the part where she at first takes the lack of escort for a gesture of trust.

Finally remembering himself, he essays a brief attempt at his usual flippancy, before — the tone falling flat on the overall mood — he just cuts straight to the chase. Her body language brings him to grimace a little — he's not really looking forward to this. If only Jean Grey didn't have more principles than he did on this matter.

"We said, when we first talked about you and the team, that we'd want to get to know you," he says. "I got a little more personally invested in doing so after… your reaction, the last time I tried to ask questions I thought were rather standard fare for getting a bead on 'someone with whom I would be out in the field.' I wanted to know if there were going to be things we needed to watch for as regarded you."

He pushes over the file folder. "…But you should know if you're getting background checked," he admits.

The file folder contains… well. A single sheet of paper, bullet-pointing the details of her life Warren was able to find. There is only one omission; there's nothing written in there about Milo Thurman or her brief marriage.

***

Everything happens for a reason. Doubly so with a luck bender. Sometimes all anyone can do is weather the storm and hope that it all works out for the best once the dust has settled. But it's never so easy when the brewing storm is sitting right in front of you, is it.

One point in Warren's favor, he doesn't dawdle. Getting straight into business is a good way to stay Domino's irritation, even when it's business which she doesn't want to hear about. It's like ripping off the Band-Aid. Just get it over with and move on. If..getting over it and moving on is an option.

As Warren starts to talk about their business there are some very subtle cues within the pale woman. Much like the micro-expressions which someone gifted with Warren's incredible eyesight can so readily pick up on. Tension begins to creep into her muscles simply upon figuring out that this 'business' of theirs happens to revolve around -her.- Her eyes become so focused that they could put a laser to shame. His hesitation is noted, sure. He might have an idea of what he's getting himself into.

What he's already -gotten- himself into.

The folder being passed over is thinner than most of the contracts she's received over the years. She could have almost laughed about how little he was able to find on her that it would all fit onto a single page!

Then she starts reading the bulletpoints.

And that storm seated across from Warren grows darker.

This goes so VERY far beyond checking for parking tickets or unpaid bills. It's a thousand times more personal than gathering information on previous contracts which she had taken.

This is the CliffsNotes on the disastrous Hell which had been her last two dozen years and change of living.

Still having said nothing her Arctic blue eyes flick away from the page to stare back at Warren. Then he gets a first-hand experience at just how fast she can move when properly motivated.

The chair she had been sitting in is shoved back so quickly that it tips over. Before it hits the floor she's halfway across Warren's desk, having zero regard for anything currently sitting upon the finely finished surface. Her momentum is meant to collide with the other mutant, to ram both him and his chair flat against the floor where he won't be able to make full use of his wings. She's also aiming to be right on top of him once he lands.

Regardless if she gets that far or not, the very first piece of contact will come from a very white and very tight fist heading very quickly toward that beautiful blond's face.

***

It's fortunate indeed, in a time like this, that Warren's nature isn't to beat around the bush, himself. His reckless directness usually isn't much of an advantage, and in fact becomes a problem more often than not. It led to this entire avalanche of a situation, after all; he felt something needed doing, and he did it. It took other minds, later, to come in to remind him about other things like sensitivity or respect.

Warren has come a long way since the self-centered and arrogant boy he was at eighteen, but there are still times it's evident he was raised in conditions which did nothing to dispel the notion the world is obligated to cater to his whims.

Of course, that's the farthest thing from the truth, especially when it comes to people, and the evidence of that is brewing right in front of his face as Domino processes just what he's confessing to have done. It is all there on the page. At first glance it doesn't seem as if he's found that much — just one page? — but a second reveals that he has in fact found far too much. Like most men of his type and profession, Warren is very good at summarizing a great deal of information down to the need-to-knows.

There is a brief beat of silence when she looks back up at him, after processing what she's read. Warren is standing still, right where she left him, his features neutral, his blue eyes tracking her expressions.

He starts to speak, but whatever he was going to say is lost to the ages. Even his eyes, optimized to track moving objects even in the midst of 200 mile-an-hour dives, can't help him when she jumps straight out of her chair and across the desk. Perhaps having anticipated Issues, Warren does not in fact have anything valuable on it at the time.

Unfortunately, something even more valuable is being targeted: his own beautiful person. His single backstep knocks the chair out of the way, and it's the only one he gets before she lands on him and drives him to the floor back-first. It's a smart move, pinning his wings under him, because they're always the first thing to react when the adrenaline spikes, and the second he wastes trying to free them is a second he doesn't have to use his hands instead to stop the following attack.

Not that he seems inclined to, judging by his initial lack of resistance or reprisal when her fist introduces itself square to his face, snapping his head to one side and fanning his hair into a disarrayed blond arc across the pristine floor. It's really kind of unfair that he's lovely even when being hit. Nonetheless it's truly a cathartic moment, hitting something that beautiful, especially after what it's done

"I deserved that," Warren mutters, possibly through half a mouthful of blood, his wings twitching to try to free themselves. He seems to think that might be it. Humorously enough. "Now if you let me explain — "

***

There's another small list which would easily fit onto a single page in a neat bullet-pointed list. It's a collection of rules which Domino has created over the years, a straight and clean guideline on how she should live her life. Such strings of wisdom to be found on that list include 'don't fight fair' and 'don't trust anyone.' The one rule that she's breaking the hell out of right now?

Don't take it personally.

Maybe she hadn't given Warren or anyone on the roster anything to work with when it came to her. (See Rule #2: Don't trust anyone.) But to think that this man, the effective leader of the X-Men, had somehow dug so deep into her past to have come up with such a detailed list, secrets and memories which should have been, were SUPPOSED to have been, buried for the rest of eternity, and done so behind her back?

One punch is Not.
Going.
To be.
Enough.

There lies within her grasp a beautiful face connected to a beautiful body and all she can think is to completely destroy it, to fuck it up and ruin it forever. To have seen some of those listed items dating back to the Project and everything she had to endure within it, those points alone could have sparked her rage. To say that she has some suppressed anger issues from that period would be a serious understatement.

Still no sound. Still no words. Just a madwoman's glare as her fist comes around for a repeat performance, and the hits keep coming. Time and time again. All of those issues are getting a chance to work themselves out on poor Warren's face!

***

There's a lot of different leadership styles among the various people who have led the X-Men overall, or the various subteams thereof, over the years. What happens when Warren Worthington is allowed sovereignty? Somewhat… flexible morals, is what.

His childhood, the way he was brought up, the circles in which he's moved and the people he's met and the business he's transacted… all of it's contributed to who he is today, which is a very pragmatic person who quite often sees things in very clear, ruthless lines running from A to Z, and for whom the rest of which lies in between A and Z sometimes gets — a little lost. There's a certain 'do what must be done' to him, an ability to cut some losses if they'll achieve a greater end result, which is very valuable in the business world — and rather at odds with the ideals he claims to profess out loud.

The idealism of Xavier's Dream was attractive to him, in large part, because it was a sort of platonic ideal to which he could aspire. And to aspire to something… it has to be pretty far removed from what you really are.

He needed to know about Domino, and he needed to know in order to best protect the rest of the team in the event she got squirrelly during a firefight, and he did what he needed to do in order to achieve that. Then he was reminded of the human cost afterwards. Then he was reminded what the Professor would have done (most of the time, when he wasn't doing even more shady things himself). Conscience brought him to come clean.

Of course, there's always a price for honesty. That's another thing Warren learned early. That price is currently being taken out on his face, because one isn't enough. Domino suffered, and that suffering just got exposed like a raw nerve and put on the table, and nothing will suffice now but to destroy the beautiful creature responsible for it. "If you let me explain" is cut off by another hit, and "Neena — " (probably not the best choice of name to be using at the moment) by another, and "Really — " by a fourth. That's pretty much about when his own temper goes.

Her fist comes in again, and finds itself met in both his hands instead of in his face. There is a surprising experience to the way that block transitions into a joint lock that secures both her arms, pulls to off-balance her forward, and follows with a twist of his lower body that aims to continue that forward momentum and sling her right off him — hard enough to fling her a fair distance. It's a move that should frankly be impossible for someone of his slight build from a position of so little leverage, yet he doesn't evince strain while trying it.

He braces his wings against the floor, trying to flip back over and regain his footing afterwards, because even then he's still not quite sure she's done. Her face said that clearly enough.

***

The twisted irony is that Warren's flexible morals and the driving belief of doing 'what must be done' is almost dead on point with how Domino's mind works. Once they come to terms they could potentially work very well together. For her the job might sometimes be difficult to stomach but it always falls back to the mantra of 'mission first.' Second chances aren't easy to come by.

Let alone third chances. Or more. She's lost count over the years.

What Warren had offered to her had been more than just another job, yet this she may end up destroying as well.

It isn't until Warren actually blocks the next face-bound strike that any sound comes from the woman. It's more of an enraged snarl as she's sent flying away from him to hit the ground and slide a couple more feet before she's back upon her own two feet. If this were a typical fight she'd find something nearby to use as a weapon. This time she wants to directly feel the impact. Like she's punching herself as much as Warren.

The element of surprise has already been used. Warren's up, he's got his wings back and he knows what's coming. Dom may be fast but super-speed is not written into her X-Genes. He'll be able to respond, and her ability to use the full suite of tactics has been somewhat compromised. Welcome to round two.

Any pieces of furniture which are unfortunate enough to get in her way will be violently flung aside, though saving any rearranging of the room her march toward Warren is entirely too silent. Shoulders are bunched and fingers flex out only to curl back into fists. Tonight's penance demands more blood be shed and whatever gets within range of her is going to get attacked, but is Warren willing to press forward or try to retreat?

***

Warren doesn't say anything at first, as Dom regains her own footing and re-assesses the situation. He's busy smearing blood from his mouth and looking at the damage, his blue eyes tracking briefly downwards to the red dripping from his fingers as if shocked it's even there. His eyes flick back up to her a moment later as the crash of a chair being flung out of the way reminds him to keep his eyes on the angry woman in the room with him.

She hasn't pulled a weapon, though. He's not sure whether that's good or bad, in terms of her mental state towards him at the moment.

A flick of his wrist sheds the blood onto the floor. His wings lift a little, flaring in the way birds posture at threats to make themselves seem larger. "I know you're angry," he says, "and I owe you an apology. But will you sit down? It will go much more smoothly if we /talk// about this."

If someone's going to make an aggressive move, it's clearly not him — yet — though he does reach to the side and yank his desk between the both of them in case she does get gun-happy. The thing is solid as hell, several hundred pounds; he pulls it with one hand, sliding it across the floor with a grinding protest of wood.

"This is exactly why I did what I did," he complains, catching a sidelong glimpse of himself in the reflective surfaces of the windows. "Your reactions to things — "

***

Yes… There it is. Bright blood defiling an otherwise perfect face. ..With that perfect hair and those perfect teeth and those perfect wings behind a perfect desk in a perfect fucking office and goddammit—

"You had -no fucking right- Warren!"

Maybe they can talk it out later? She hasn't gotten it out of her system yet.

If the table is so heavy and moved with such a lack of effort it isn't yet known to Domino. She's vaulted over it once before. She can do it again! The span of his wings sure makes him appear to be a much bigger target but when it's narrowed down, when brought back into that 'mission first' mindset? It's still the same old silhouette of a man.

Just like Every. Other. Target.

She may come to find some new respect for those wings before this encounter is through. She's seen him fly. Seen him carry other people while flying! But it's all been theatrics. She's never had the full degree of perception required to put the pieces together. They're just WINGS and wings are inherently fragile. As are birds.

Birds don't take punches very well. They probably don't take to being kicked well, either.

At Warren's 'your reactions to things' she slaps a hand down across the desk and vaults sideways over it, sending a pair of combat boots toward his stomach. Drive him back, get him to stumble. Maybe knock the wind out of him. It'll make this a lot easier. Once she's in close enough his wings won't be so useful, she has to reach through that gap then not lose her ground.

It's all about closing the gap. Warren favors his wings in just about every possible situation. If she can clear the wings then she can get back to business proper.

***

It's a correct assumption, to fight with the expectation that he would favor his wings. The trouble is that Warren actually doesn't want to use them right now. They're the strongest limbs he has, and the results of using them on her would be much worse than anything he could inflict with his bare hands.

At the least, he didn't want to use his wings up until she said that. Transparent anger flickers across his bloodied features, marring the perfection of them in a most satisfying way.

"Maybe I didn't have a right to go far as as I did," he says, his wings bristling, "but I had some right to go look. Some obligation to — "

She really doesn't like that.

She's over the desk again in a heartbeat, clearly aiming to get inside the reach of his wings to avoid them. The feathered limbs sweep backwards defensively, out of her reach, and he takes her two-footed kick with both hands in a soft sort of block, giving backwards a few steps to slake off most of the hit's momentum. Instead of trying to get clear afterwards, he turns around that point of contact, hooks the bowed curve of one wing beneath her, and angles to use her own momentum — and her aerial status — against her again in a stiff and powerful redirection.

The end point of this redirection? With the added strength behind his wing, it's going to be the far wall of the office.

***

So different from Erik Lehnsheer's dictatorial shadow cast over his Brotherhood, a leaden weight pressing his conscripts into a single, streamlined, homogenous way of being —

Charles Xavier, the man who could make anyone think the way he wished, advocated his people to choose for themselves. The X-Men, now bereft of his leadership, commit to do just that.

And Alison Blaire among them likens herself a centrist among her teammates: she cannot seem to agree with Jean's idealism, or even find worth in much of Logan's bleak pragmatism, but she can find her footing somewhere in the tao of it all. And in the case of Domino, she related her own opinion to Warren —

He did nothing wrong vetting the mercenary, especially when she gave him reason with that stunt in the car. The team has a duty to protect itself, even if within methods the Professor may oppose… but, as Jean specified, the X-Men has equal duty to inform Domino of what they did. The act of a background investigation made this personal, and the woman in the hot seat has the right to be angry, and the right to cut ties with the X-Men and turn her back on them forever.

However, for Alison, anger does not give Domino the right to be violent. And this is why she insisted to be here. If Domino can accept the news without a raised hand, then she will not enter the room, not interject on the conversation — not make Domino feel even more like an object, dressed down, paraded, all her secrets exposed to an entire team.

But if she does act up —

Alison waits on stand-by. It is not the most engaging work, sitting stake out in a room adjacent to Warren's office, but she seems to enjoy it. Seems to enjoy the quiet, really, like it's the most natural thing to her — her childhood was a series of cold, sterile rooms at home, while her father worked late and successfully pretended she never existed, and her career was more often sitting alone in hotel rooms than the glam her magazine covers would suggest. And now, she repeats it, catching up on some emails with Aegis, while her eyes turn intermittently on the closed door, and the confrontation beyond.

There is not much she can hear. Let it be known Worthington Tower is built old, strong, and well. No paper walls here. In fact, it smothers most of everything to a murmur of two distant, distinct voices —

And then a thud. And then a vague grind and slam of moved furniture.

Alison rises from her chair, on alert. She pauses for only one moment, unwilling to overshoot her presence, and possibly incite Domino to a worse mood —

She hears another slam, and that decides it for her.

An instant later, a side door opens to the office, and a third bursts in. There is no mistaking the celebrity-familiar face of Dazzler, whose searching eyes first find Warren, and absorb the pummelled state of his face. Her expression locks down, and her body frames with escaping light — a moving, convulsing coronal field that does nothing save to warn. Immediately, she is searching for Domino's trajectory, while moving closer — the pop star likening herself to a bar bouncer. "Hey, hey, hey! STOP this!"

***

Hand to hand combat is incredibly limited when dealing with an opponent who has more limbs than you do. Case in point, Domino's fast and aggressive approach might have unnerved some people but Warren is ..surprisingly calm about the whole ordeal. Maybe he's had to deal with a lot of mad wiry ladies trying to drop-kick him across tables, who knows.

What is more known in this moment is that her approach was not as good as it could have been, and when he had thrown her across the floor a moment ago? It's like that but a lot more. It turns out Mister CEO can do more than sling fancy words and dollar signs around when he needs to.

Dom hits the far wall with a solid thud and a growled "RRGH!" before unceremoniously falling to the floor. It would seem that the time for 'up close and personal' has officially come to an end.

Also she's bleeding. Where the back of her head smacked against the wall and where her side caught something else on the way down. A lamp, a furnishing, she really doesn't know. It hurts, though. It gives her something new to focus on. A reminder of what it feels like to be so blinded by anger.

It's an easy and effortless shift back into old habits and prior conditioning. Alison's arrival and her call to stop is a bit to little and a lot too late. Neena's losing herself to the very force which had required all of this digging from the start. The whole reason why Warren rightfully had been concerned about her behavior. Triggered once more.

The target remains. There's one correct method to properly engage. One which she has access to.

Neena gets back to her feet and bends her head from side to side, all while eyeing Warren. Lots of space between them now. All she needs to do is move a bit further away from the wall…

…And draw the bright stainless Beretta 92 from its holster.

Killing an angel wouldn't be the worst of her sins.

***

Mister CEO looks useless except for talking, preening prettily, and throwing money. Mister CEO has also trained and practiced intensively in hand-to-hand with Scott Summers for thirteen years now. Mister CEO usually lets people see only the former, up until he needs the latter. It's useful for situations like now, when people suddenly start trying to kill him (or at least mess up his face, which is about equivalent to killing him). People trying to kill him has been a pretty common occurrence for the past thirteen years, to be honest — and that category has included Magneto — which is a large part of why he's pretty calm about this all.

And as it turns out, given the particular styles of combat he and Scott sparred in most often, fast and aggressive is what he's pretty uniquely suited to counter. The no-kill philosophies of the X-Men lent themselves to martial arts which were pretty 'soft' on the whole, with an emphasis on redirections, takedowns, and bloodless neutralization of aggressors. A lot of judo and aikido, really. And something that makes you really good at those disciplines is having two extra limbs to grapple with.

Unfortunately, given what they'd seen from Domino that spurred this entire investigation in the first place, he's aware there's a point where that's probably not going to be enough… and given what they know about her, he recognizes it when the albino snaps over from rational thinking into 'unreasoning, triggered rage.' Her eyes focus on him as a target now…

…and it's at that opportune moment that his backup, in the event of a situation just like this, shows up. The first thing Alison sees is Warren, considerably bashed up and beaten about the face in particular, his lovely features and golden-blond hair shrouded and matted with blood until even their beauty has become hard to see. Which is — quite a feat.

His eyes flick towards Alison briefly, a mote of relief appearing in them, before they track instantly back to Domino. "She's taking it very poorly," he says, in the understatement of the year. "Probably hit her trigger, she hasn't said a word…" His gaze fixes on her as she eyes him, his wings slightly opened, the white feathers lightly spattered with red in a few places. A trail of fresh blood rolls slowly down the side of his face, adding to the mess, from a cut just beneath his hairline.

His fixed stare picks up the sudden movement instantaneously. "Alison — " he warns, before he automatically averts his eyes.

***

One long look on Warren Worthington's ruined face — the flesh discoloured, and the rest lost in the blood run from open lacerations — and Alison Blaire… barely reacts. No grand expression of rage, indignation, or upset.

She locks down, draws in, and exudes nothing but cold seriousness. Contrary to the chill crawling down her face, she — lights up, her suppressed photonic field let go to fan out in its natural state. It licks across her body in a full sheet of radiating white light — colour dancing through its crimping wavelengths with every new sound she absorbs.

Domino's hurt snarl dances red through the field; Warren's voice gilds it in sparks of yellow that twist into veins of blue. Stance widening, immediately Alison does not react — testament to the training of the X-Men, her first priority is to try to control the situation, try to enforce a stand-down —

But it isn't happening. Pragmatically, Alison is already fearing the worst. Warren's face is evidence enough. Domino isn't cooling down. She's ramping up.

Warren's quick words calcify her fears. Alison's mouth presses into a thin line. She tries not to glance at him again; she needs her head clear. She can check her temper, but she can only do it for so long —

And a glint of something reduces the rest to white noise. Her blood runs cold. A gun.

Warren calls her name. Alison has no time to answer — only time to react.

Her field charges. Her eyes white out. And, the instant after Warren turns his eyes —

— the entire room FLARES with a lightning strike-fast plume of light, bright enough to burn the eyes. Not the first time Alison had to use this defence; she knows how to modulate it just enough. Just enough to damage the eyes that they aren't going to be combat-ready for hours, but enough not to permanently blind.

She outstretches an arm. She could do like she did before, when those monsters cut into Warren's wings — she could sieve her light down and try to cut off a limb. She does not. She does, however, focus her photons in another way — heat directed onto the casing of that Beretta, to make it a potential hot branding for Domino to hold.

***

There's another powerset in this office which Domino doesn't have much personal experience with. Just hearing about it doesn't inspire a lot of shock and awe, either. The girl makes light out of sound. Whoop-dee-doo.

The fact that Alison is -here- and seemingly prepared to get involved is another matter altogether. One which will be dealt with later. When Dom's not too busy trying to murder Warren.

Then comes a realization which is both cold and hot. She's been tossed into a dark room and left alone with a primed flashbang grenade plenty of times in the past, there are tricks to try and minimize the impact of such an attack. But with a thrown grenade there's some amount of prior warning involved.

Not so with Dazzler.

It isn't like staring at the sun so much as being -consumed- by it. The light is immediate, unrelenting, and -everywhere.- The top floor of Warren's office probably lights up like a beacon in the night with all of the windows up here, giving New York City a brand new lighthouse for a blessedly brief moment.

The anguished howl comes next, quickly followed by an unexpected heat through her palm. Again..prior training had prepared her for some of this. Picking up an all black and all steel gun which had been left under the desert sun will burn, but it could beat the alternative. Maybe Dom could hold out and keep it in hand..except that the grips had been replaced with solid aluminum ones.

And holy hell does aluminum hold heat.

There's already a visible outline of the grip's texturing in her palm before the gun hits the floor of the office. The skin, as with the eyes, would heal, but it will stay with her for a while.

So long as that was her only weapon then the situation should be pretty well taken care of, but since when does she only carry ONE weapon?

The Project probably taught her blind fighting, too.

***

The biggest hallmark of the X-Men as a team is their relentless, rigorous training in order to operate AS a seamless team. In the field, they work with the oiled efficacy of a military unit, working flawlessly around and with one another's powers — and often combining them — courtesy of intensive drilling to work together.

Warren's been working with Alison, on and off, for years. He knows immediately when the flashbang's coming. His head's averted and his eyes are closed before the flare of light even goes off, and he's already turning back even as the light fades. And in those few moments where he's got nothing to do, really, but close his eyes and think a bit about what just happened

— that Domino pulled a gun not just with him in the room, but with Alison in the room (and Alison being there too, also put at risk: that's really the tipping point)…

— he realizes suddenly that he's angry, because this is the second time Domino has lost her marbles with him after what he felt was a MOSTLY reasonable interaction, and he's sick of this shit. He's usually so patient, usually tries so hard to be understanding and not like the stereotype of the self-centered asshole he used to be, but again… when people really need to try hard to be one thing, it's usually because what they truly are is something very different.

Sight will take a little while to return. In those few moments of blindness, there's only Domino's other senses to guide her, and her other senses are reporting the massive beats of a pair of wings descending rapidly on her.

One hand reaches to close in the front of her clothes, not unlike a shutting talon, and if he gets purchase? He's swinging around and straight out one of the wide floor-to-ceiling windows, leaving it open in his wake.

He won't go far, not yet. He doesn't have to. Right outside the window is already hundreds of feet up. She put him at the mercy of her powers before. He seems to be in the mood for eye for an eye.

"Stop this," he says. "Or we'll see how lucky YOU feel."

***

Alison Blaire, surrounded in a veritable universe of unknowns, is keen on one, overarching constant: she hates guns.

She hates guns. Hates the dirty, vicious look of them. Hates the way they are designed for the human hand, and hates the way how everything changes, finger-on-trigger-quick, at their first sign. Life and death gets decided between seconds.

And life and death could be decided here. Warren, with a bullet in his heart, unable to heal it —

She concentrates microwaves to burn that weapon out of the mercenary's hand. It's hell on Alison's charge, and she feels her field contorting with its loss of stable energy, but she doesn't stop until that weapon is dropped.

When it does, it's a small relief. She steps forward, hand still outstretched, and canny enough to figure a woman worth Domino's price carries more than one gun on her person. The plan is already writing itself. Get her unarmed, get her calmed, call in the team for further back-up, and get this crap sorted fast.

"Warren," Alison finally speaks again, in the first moment she can. "Are —"

So much for plans. She doesn't even get the time to finish the thought. She doesn't get time for anything, really, save to witness the way he turns on Domino, so fast when those wings are in play, too fast to stop.

Alison's expression fixes with shock, and her field dims, unwilling to act again with him in the line of fire, and she looks on helplessly as he flies both mercenary and himself into the dead air beyond his office.

Unable to fly, there's no way she can follow. Unable to speak, Alison holds her tongue — what the hell can someone say to Domino to get through that? Being held in the air is the ultimate control tactic, restrained without a bit of strong-arming. Struggle and fall. Not that Warren would let that happen —

***

Through all of this, one detail is certain: Being airlifted out of a tall building by a winged person while completely blind is an -incredibly unsettling sensation.-

How high did they go? Five feet? Five HUNDRED feet? More? Suddenly there's nothing but the cool evening wind, the distant sounds of the city quite a ways below, the feeling of being held by what feels like way too little…

And a pissed off corporate bird.

Neena's good at holding her voice but her eyes aren't wide only because she can't see. The entire ride up is nerve-wracking as All Hell.

Where fighting goes it's also the equivalent of a cold shower. Domino talks about not knowing her own power but she DOES know that if she can't see something coming it is much less effective. Now she won't be seeing anything for a while. Physically she may be left hanging over the city but power-wise she's pretty damn well grounded.

Both of her hands clamp down around Warren's one wrist. You know. Just in CASE he gets the thought in mind to let go. Though her response to all of this?

"That Alison really lights up your life, huh."

This is very quickly followed up with a heartfelt MF-bomb. Being blind, not a fan! But, this is honestly a good sign. When Dom is breaking out the jokes it probably means she's either in a more typical frame of mind…or she's nervous as hell and doesn't want to show it.

Onto a more serious note, "How many people, Warren? You brought -her- into this and I'd bet my last bullet you didn't put that damn list together by yourself. -How many?-"

Alison's absolute hatred of guns will probably become a repeat conflict so long as Neena's on the team. If Ali happens to get a close enough look at the heated one lying on the floor she might find something just a -little- out of place with it, however. Maybe Warren noticed it as well when he flew over it to grab its owner. There's a peculiar little design on the bottom of the magazine, like a finely engraved image done in tribalistic style.

It's an image of a cat.

***

Alison steps forward to restore good sense. But bloodied, punched out, confronted with a gun, and all over an action he felt was at least mostly justified? Warren isn't really feeling the 'good sense' thing right about now. Mostly he's feeling rage and — rage makes Warren extra reckless.

His passive defense turns, with surprising speed, into predatory offense. There is no other word to use for it; there is in fact something primal about the imagery — the sound and sensation — of vast raptor wings descending from above. Something coded into basic instinct, left over from when human ancestors, walking the branches of trees, still needed to watch for shadows from above.

He's fast on the ground, with a body naturally tuned to the human peak; in the air, with his wings in play, he's even faster. He's caught Domino and swung them both out into the sky before Alison can react. And he doesn't come back for her shock, nor for the muted awareness of how much she's going to chew him out for this later —

There's a lesson to be taught right about now.

It's certainly a bucket of ice water on Dom's rage, especially given her lingering blindness from the flashbang. She might not be able to see exactly how far he's carried her, but there's more than enough other cues. The scream of the wind around them at this altitude is tell enough, and the sheer distance of the city noises far below: so faint that the regular, sonorous beats of his wings around them, holding them aloft, drowns them out easily.

His hand in her clothing — the only thing holding her up — tightens markedly at her bad joke. He doesn't sound — or feel — like he's in the mood.

For a long few minutes there's only quiet in response to her question. No sense of movement — he isn't carrying her higher — but at this height it doesn't matter if he goes higher or not. This fact keeps him well within audible range of Alison, if she comes to the window.

"Three," he finally replies Neena's question. "Other than Alison. Three know the details."

"But you know what? I think I was justified, Domino. I think I was very fucking justified. If you don't know why I think I am, then we can make very clear lessons of it. There are two which I feel are related to this issue. The first lesson is that being on the X-Men is being on a team where you trust your teammates completely, and that requires — a certain openness. The second lesson is what it feels like when someone responds to your very simple questions by putting you completely at the mercy of their powers, which — I don't care if it's me, but I care if someday, it is one of mine. We may conveniently have both of these lessons in one go."

That's about when he drops her.

***

As for that gun, and it's engraved cat —

Alison might think about it later. For now, she kicks it aside on her trajectory to the window, letting the disgusting object clatter away to fetch up against one of the walls. Let it be dealt with when the time comes.

For now, there are pressing things. Namely, the sight of Warren dangling Domino over a fatal fall, buoyed only through his charity and good will.

Left at the mouth of the open window, Alison waits there, helpless and unable to follow, the outside wind raking through her long hair. Her field still emanates off her skin, too shocked and distracted to remember to suppress it, and the white light twists and bleeds with strobed, half-formed colours. Apprehensive oranges. Nervous yellows.

She cannot ignore her nerves, even when it looks certain Warren is no longer in the same danger as a minute ago. By all rights, he has the upper hand. So why does she feel so discontent? Is she now worried about Domino?

It gets worse when she, half-deafened by the wind, distantly hears his words, all snapped down on the woman dangling from his hand. The anger knots his voice, making turn after turn until it becomes a noose. She's witnessed him angry before. She didn't like it then. She doesn't like it now.

He speaks of lessons, and something intuitive passes a chill down her spine.

Alison opens her mouth to speak, to insert herself however she can between them in that moment, and seek clarity. It's too little, too late.

It's about when Warren drops the woman, lets her go, lets her fall. Because he can.

"WARREN!" is Alison's shocked cry.

***

Three.

-Three fucking people.-

This is soooo not over. Domino is going to find the names of those three. And then? She's going to have a little chat with them. One at a time. Weapons not included. She's not so far gone as to want to bury anything and everyone related to this background check. These three were just following orders. Orders which -Warren- had issued. In her mind her actions were pretty well justified, too.

Before she can verbally tear into Warren about getting so many people wrapped up in her privacy he decides to have something of a motivational speech. This can't be a good thing, can it… She got under his skin. Right past all of the feathers and perfect fucking golden hair. When one of the first words he uses is an f-bomb of his own it's a pretty sure deal that he's been given proper motivation over -something.-

Though even blinded she could have rolled her eyes. Could have. But doesn't. Here is a stern but level voice which strikes the right chords in the albino's subconscious. She's been down this road before. Many times. Which means she's also rapidly coming to the realization that something else is going to follow. Something she's going to appreciate a whole lot less.

"Warren don't you fucking dro—"

Neena's not going to give him the benefit of a scream of terror. Not that he needs it. With vision like his he'll see it written all over her face. Like snapping fingers the anger is gone and the full weight of the situation comes crashing down on its way toward terminal velocity.

Why did she pull the damn gun..? She wasn't REALLY going to use it…

Was she?

Had the Program gotten itself so deeply embedded into her brain that once a certain point has been reached she loses herself and becomes the weapon which they had tried so hard to create?

And why the hell did she feel so nostalgic today to bring the Beretta? It's a terrible choice for concealed use, yet the sentimental ties she has to that stupid thing…

Neena's gone too far. It'd be a proper test of her luck if they give her another chance after tonight. If Warren doesn't let her hit the ground first. It's easy to joke that he'd never kill anyone but she's learned enough about the guy to have her doubts.

All that's left is to turn herself around so the ground can be met face-first, though so much for seeing it coming. Limbs stretch out to the sides to create resistance but without intervention or a damn miracle all she can do is wait for the end. Even Alison sounds freaked out. This had not been a part of the original plan.

It's almost funny. This is not how Neena had expected it to go down, but going down it is.

***

This probably was not what Jean had had in mind, either, when she advised Warren admit what he had done. To be quite fair to Warren — it's certainly not what HE had in mind, either. Things just sort of… happen… when emotions run high and guns are pulled out.

And that's the thing about Warren. All that self-control, all that perfect hair and perfect beauty and perfect affectations of ridiculous frivolity… has to exist to bottle up something. And the more something gets bottled, the more it builds up until — when it suddenly re-emerges — it's something on a truly shocking scale.

Alison's seen him angry, more than anyone else: perhaps barring the Professor himself, who cheated. It's never been a good experience any time she's seen him snap. And Domino has sure made him snap. He speaks first, of course, to impress upon her exactly why he is going to do what he is going to do, and then?

He lets her go.

Warren was taken to his first board meetings, alongside his father, at the age of eight. His life trajectory had been decided for him since birth, and it was thought it was best to start him early on what he would need to know. He knew the broad strokes of what that meant, even at such a young age, and he studied his father and his father's peers closely. Their behavior. Their interactions. He noticed that sometimes — often — there would reach a point where kind diplomacy was no longer the most effective means of leadership, and only a raw assertion of dominance would get an aggressor to back the hell off.

That's kind of what this is — on top of the lessons which he speaks of out loud.

Distantly, he hears Alison's shock, but he doesn't look over. He'll deal with whatever she thinks about it — later. He's busy watching Domino, counting the floors in his head. It's not actually that many before he turns in the air and dives after her. He's mad, but not taking chances.

She's not fallen more than half the height of the building before the familiar sound of beating wings covers her, and arms snatch her out of freefall. Apparently she merits the princess carry again, now. He's silent as he brings her back up to their point of origin, slipping back in through the same window he exited, and he lets her down immediately.

He walks away afterwards. If she can't stand on her own, he isn't sticking around to hold her up.

"If you are finished trying to shoot me," he says, turning back to face her, wiping away the blood still rolling down his features, "we may move on to a discussion of what this is going to mean, going forward."

***

As Domino falls, some part of Alison falls with her.

Because this isn't right. This isn't right. This isn't defending themselves, or each other — this isn't even neutralizing the use of force from a skilled, dangerous woman, who trusts little and has been engineered to be deadly. There is disarming a weapon, and then there is —

This.

It's a clear step over the line, not a control measure, not a tenant of the Professor — it's a reprisal. It's a revenge. And, for a moment, Alison fears it might even be a murder.

Hands clinging to the sides of the window, bent forward, she looks on until both Domino and the swooping Warren both disappear into darkness. Moments crawl like small eternities, and she can't think —

Until they appear. Both of them. Domino, not dead, and in one piece in Warren's arms. Alison steps back reflexively, moving out of the way to allow them both inside, her eyes back-and-forth between the two — looking on without really thinking at all. She's usually always thinking, but right now, her mind is dry, and her pounding heart is somewhere in her throat.

A thought does come — and Alison mindfully strafes the pace to place herself between Domino and the lost gun recently kicked away.

Just because the mercenary is thankfully in one piece, and unhurt, it doesn't mean she's still not seeing red — and hungry to return the sensation of being dropped.

Alison, for her part, says nothing. May even look like a background piece. She feels like one, now. Paces behind whatever this has become.

***

It isn't luck which saves Domino this time. What ultimately brings Warren to catch her out of the freefall isn't known. But, thanks to not being able to see it coming, the return of his talon's grasp and the sudden jolt of a strong and unexpected change of direction pulls a strained grunt out of the albino.

Hopefully he isn't lining up for another shot.

The acoustics change upon re-entering the building but having feet touch back to the floor comes every bit as unexpected as having been dropped. Lo and behold..she drops again. It's not her most graceful moment, though it is one which is allowed to persist. Dom doesn't try to get up and dust herself off like it's no big deal. She's just going to stay right there on the floor. Catch her breath. Give Warren his moment. He's won.

The guy could have just killed her, and -this- time she sees it as having been a fair play. Not that she has any desire to openly admit that his actions were justified.

Though he's just so freaking -casual- about the whole situation! Dom's on good terms with her anger, but this guy? She's really getting the feeling that he's repressing a LOT of baggage!

A blank blue stare drifts across the floor as an empty hand comes up toward the sound of Warren's voice. Still catching her breath, "Yeah, I'm..I'm good. Let's try doing that ..'moving on'.. thing now."

There is going to be plenty to talk about, and as mad as she was with Warren? Now comes the bonus feeling of owing him more. Whether or not he requires more details of her past, to fill in all of the blanks between the items neatly typed out upon that single sheet of paper. You don't do what she just did and walk away from it like nothing happened. Some amends will be in order.

-Don't take it personally.-

At least she's starting to make out some hazy outlines now. Sources of light floating in the blurry darkness. Would it have been too much to ask to be lucky enough to have blinked at -the exact moment to not go blind?!-

At least Alison seems to have kept a level head through everything.

***

Alison's continuing silence draws Warren's eye. He looks at her, perhaps reading her disapproval and shock from her face, before he looks away again. Whether he does so in shame or cool self-justification is hard to tell, right at this moment. It's not what the Professor would have done. Or is it?

Whatever it is, they'll fight it out later. The two of them learned a long time ago to keep private what needs to be kept private.

Domino's acquiescence seems to cement for him for now, at the least, that he did the right thing to kick her forcibly out of that murderous fugue state. His wings don't close even to her submitting body language — they stay half-open, feathers spread, in a lingeringly aggressive display. He does not, at the least, look like he's enjoying any sort of 'moment of victory.' Primarily, he looks angry that any of it happened at all.

Repressing a lot of baggage, indeed. His cold return to 'business as usual' is evidence enough how robust his ability to push down emotion is. And why not? There's no further point in theatrics, and a lot of agenda items to now be worked through.

Her voice — the tone of it — seems to finally get him to relent. One face of the angel — unremitting and destructive — trades for the other face. Dom's searching hand suddenly finds itself taken by his, Warren clasping it to finally give her that assistance in standing. He guides her over to the sitting area (which remained largely undisturbed, somehow), and puts her in a seat.

"Will you come sit, Alison?" he says, remembering gentility even with his ruined face soaked in blood. "I believe the trouble has passed, and I… cut you off, earlier."

His still-tensed wings belie his cool diction. "I… apologize." There is the sense he isn't really just apologizing for 'cutting her off.'

***

While Domino remains safe on solid ground, Alison looks like she's still falling.

Falling and falling and falling. Her mind runs in circles, and she's rattled enough to let it, while her blue eyes detachedly fix on Domino, not yet willing to trust the mercenary is finished.

But, on the contrary, Domino seems to… relent. It may have been a step too far in Alison's opinion, but it seems the skyscraper-high drop did the trick. Of course it did the trick.

If those tactics didn't work, they wouldn't be used by the Magnetos of the world.

She can feel Warren's gaze on her; Alison's glances back, but her attention seems to be on the blood rolling down his face. She can't seem to immediately meet his eyes.

However, she does relax, giving up some of her nervous energy, when Warren holsters diplomacy into the hand he gives Domino, offering a steady point for the half-blind, recently-dropped woman to find her bearings. Alison glances back on the gun, considers it, then reaches down to pick it up. She's no seasoned soldier, but she seems to know enough to point the barrel down as she removes the magazine and empties the chamber. Then, simple as that, she crosses the office and sets the emptied weapon down on the desk, well out of reach.

Alison looks thoughtfully down on her hand when she takes it back. A moment later, her field dims down, and the light folds back into her body, suppressed as what feels more natural to her — how she's always survived in hiding.

At her back, Warren invites her to sit. Alison looks back, considers, and this time meets his eyes. Searching for something not easily found.

Instead, she silently moves to the second room, momentarily out of sight. An instant later, she returns, bearing a towel stolen from the office's private washroom, and Alison draws closer to wordlessly press its bundle to his face. Perhaps that's apology accepted.

Her silence lingers for an instant. Then, she speaks: "Domino," she says, realizing it's her first, official interaction with the woman, "your sight will return soon. So long as you rest."

She pauses a moment. "Privacy is important to people like us, I know. We took yours. You endangered one of ours — whether or not you understand, this is how we protect our own. We'll destroy any information on your wish, and let you run checks to show we're not concealing anything from you. You can be angry. I'd be angry. You can walk away, and we'll never try to step on your life again. But you can't do — all this. If you're set to gun us down, then we have a problem."

***

Perhaps the second last offer that Domino would have expected to be given by Warren is a helping hand. With that initial moment of contact she actually flinches slightly, uncertain if she should be jumping to the defensive or not. It's good that he leads her over to a chair, such guidance is necessary.

Alison's clearing of the pistol brings another momentary wave of tension. Neena knows those sounds all too well. This is also how she can tell that it's being cleared. There's no reason to worry about Ali. Not anymore.

The seat is briefly mapped out with her hands until she knows where to drop herself. The right knuckles are pretty well scraped up after having decked Warren a couple of times, there hadn't been any holding back. It's hard to tell if all of the blood is his own or a mix of the two.

Rather than her usual hardcore flop into the chair the pale lady is leaning forward with elbows on knees and face resting within hands. Kind of like a person who just sobered up after an all night bender and realized that, yes, -that just happened.-

Defensive. Scared? A lost little girl. It's a sharp contrast to how she had been only moments ago.

Warren is allowed the time to bring all of the pieces back together without any interruption from the pacified merc. Her heart's still racing from being dropped. The feeling of betrayal is still a raw wound. Punching and yelling and making murderous gestures is the fun and easy stuff. Now comes the part she Really dreads.

The Talk.
-In Warren's lair.-
With Dazzle backup.

This deck is -totally- stacked in his favor.

Since Alison is the first to speak her mind she also receives the first reply. The energy may have left Dom's voice but the sarcasm center is still running true. "Oh good. I was beginning to worry."

The following 'sales pitch' is nothing new. At the part about gunning them down Dom hesitates, hands slipping away from her face with only a trace amount of blood being left behind on a cheek. Several options for response leap to the front of her mind and all of them are held back due to having sharp edges. Maybe it's time to …God… tell them how she feels.

"Knowing what you do..you bring me up here and sit me down in front of a tidy list of everything that I had spent -years- trying to bury and forget..starting with a subject where I had vowed to erase anything connected to it. I have no intention of 'gunning you down.'"

"But you already saw this coming, didn't you," she presses while, perhaps ironically, turning her blank stare in Warren's direction. "Went so far as to have backup on hand. I'd say there weren't as many surprises on your end as there were on mine."

One finger is meaningfully held upward as thoughts are recollected. "Warren I don't know -how- you found out about the Project but you'd better hope those ends are locked down tight because if word gets out it's gonna get a whole lot worse for everyone."

***

The jump of tension in Dom's hand as he takes it gives him slight pause, but under the circumstances it's not surprising. He doesn't call attention to it. He just helps her stand, and guides her over to a seat. It feels soft, plush… it's probably the sectional by the coffee table. She might recall that it's white; her blood will almost certainly ruin it. Small pleasures.

Warren speaks into the denouement, quick — shockingly quick, really — to regain some equilibrium and self-control after that sudden snap. He invites Alison to come sit; she doesn't immediately respond to his invitation. In that long moment of consideration, his wings pull flush to his back, tightly held. His eyes follow her when she leaves the room, and track down towards the towel she holds when she returns. They close briefly to the sensation of her pressing the bundled fabric to his face, and his wings relax.

His golden head bows towards her, leaning into the contact. After a moment, he inclines his head in a nod and lifts a hand to keep the towel pressed against his features. His own blood, held against the injuries, will start doing its work to heal them soon enough if it's kept where it is.

Temporarily self-muffled by that padded towel, Warren lets Alison speak first, her measured words metering out into the silence. Perhaps Warren's slowly becoming aware he should have just let her say all this to begin with, perhaps he's feeling guilty about his rash actions, or perhaps he's just catching his breath and taking the time to study Dom's expressions and body language. Hard to say.

It's as much an emotional comedown for him as it is for her, no doubt.

"Knowing what I did… Yes. I had backup on hand. Because you clearly have not forgotten all of this, much as you have tried," is his initial response to all of it, his usual precise diction a little blurred from the towel. "The gun has been your immediate response to many things in the past — the gun, or the functional equivalent of it in lethality. There are others on our roster who were brought up as weapons and raised in violence, but their pasts are plain to us — as much as they can be — and they take orders in the field to curb the killing impulse."

His head lifts, towel lowering a little, his voice becoming more clear. "We have a certain investment in people with this sort of background, in fact. People who have been hurt and used for their powers. You do not have to see us as adversaries in this."

As for how he found out? There is a beat of silence from him. "Funny enough," he says, his voice painfully dry, "a lot of people respond to money. I worked my way eventually to someone who had worked on the Project. I would think he is as invested in ensuring no one ever finds out we spoke, as you and I."

***

For now, Alison receives Warren in pure silence. Anything she may want to say to him — can wait. For a time when they have less an audience. Privacy is a necessity they both share.

In the meantime, she meets his eyes. First, she checks his pupils, perhaps worried about a concussion, then, her own focus opens, and takes in the rest of his face. So much blood. But Warren nods mutely, and Alison takes that as gesture enough that he will be all right — his body will fix the rest, as it's unnaturally attuned to do in so little time.

Reassured, she lowers her hand to leave him with the towel, and her eyes cut back down to Domino. The Dazzler is many things, but she is not cold-hearted — not a steely soldier who can dispassionately dehumanize others between blinks of an eye. But her bearing is a watchful, steady neutral — a self-possessed woman who can compartmentalize every emotion, and leave the lot of them in their boxes for as long as it avails her.

Has anyone ever seen the famous Dazzler have an outburst? Lose control? Even when she stood on the stage of the last performance of her career, her mutant status exposed beyond her choice, and lain bare for millions to see — she was calm. Calm then, calm now.

Interestingly enough, she remains standing, unwilling yet to sit. All that calm is probably skin deep.

"Good," she answers Domino's promise of no guns, no reprisals on the X-Men — difficult to say, however, if she chooses to believe it.

She quiets when Warren replies, unwilling to interrupt; her eyelids hood with unspoken agreement. Alison does agree with the X-Men's policy of taking in the dangerous strays — even if she doesn't always like it. Doesn't always trust the types they let into the fold.

"I get how much a slap in the face it is to have your life paraded in front of you. But when things happen like that stunt you pulled with Warren, in the car — some things become necessary. But I promise with Warren, all of this was as much concern because of you as concern for you."

Talk of the Project brings Alison to exhale, her arms crossing loosely. The type to always worry, always concern herself with dangerous what-ifs, she takes Domino's warning with complete seriousness. "Warren knows how to be careful," she eventually says, confirming his words. "And with them lurking at your periphery, you'd be in a stronger position to have us in your life, Domino. We have a vested interest and long history with stopping things like that."

***

When Warren talks about having supported others whom had been brought up as weapons Neena releases a long sigh but is otherwise quiet about the subject. The 'certain investment' is a curious piece of information, though when he spells out that they need not be her adversaries there's an upward turn of her more visible brow.

Alison is next when mentioning the stunt out on the road. "You do realize that's how my ability works, right? It's not like I was looking for a side order of vehicular manslaughter." The other part is..also an interesting point. Because of her and -for- her. Much like Alison's doubts about a full-on disarmament from the albino, she's not prepared to fully trust what Dazzler is saying here.

Then the next admission from Warren. Money. Of -course.- That isn't surprising. What is, and is way more than merely 'surprising' for her, is that he claims to have spoken to someone -from the project.- She comes to sit bolt upright, vacant eyes going wide. "Oh -shit,- are you serious?" There's that edge of panic again. Despite both of their assertions that Warren knows how to be careful she's not looking all that convinced.

This seems to make up her mind about Alison's previous offer. Dom lightly pinches the bridge of her nose then flicks the hand off to the side, head dipped toward the floor. "Burn it. ALL of it. Anything connected to your digging, anyone involved needs to be silenced—no, I don't mean killed. This ends here. Right now."

The healthier of the two hands comes up and sort of rolls itself into a fist but there's no clear indication that it's seeking something to strike. Once it relaxes she darkly mutters "You have no idea how much I hate to say this."

In comes a breath as her head is brought upright and angled sort of between the two. "You want answers? Then ask. This is a one time offer. We clear the air then we put this back into the ground. You have until I'm able to see well enough to find the door."

This said, her head rolls in Alison's direction. "And don't even think about it, Ali." She could keep the albino blind for a long time!

Dazzler does nail another important point. Dom would be in a stronger position to have them in her life. It strikes way too close to home for comfort, this time she sort of melts back into the chair again with what might be an air of defeat.

"The bounties are on Warren's list. You already know why I'm here."

***

Alison is calm and compartmentalized. Every emotion in its place. Her life has taught her forbearance, and it's taught her how to channel and redirect emotion when it arises. Warren? His emotional landscape, perhaps, is far less refined. Not that uncommon among men, versus women, in Western cultures: men, at a baseline, are taught to control and control and control, but they are not taught how to productively release or manage their emotions once they finally cannot repress or control them any longer.

And that's how you get situations like this, it seems.

He seems to have managed to force his anger back in a box for the time being, at least. Alison talks, and he holds his silence. He doesn't interject until Dom's remark on that being how her ability works, and it comes at first in the form of a rather discontent bristle. "You weren't looking for it. But you made quite plain, at the time, it was a potential consequence. Your ability only ensures you come out all right. You were quite clear on that point."

He peers at her around the towel. "It was just me, that time. But I won't have that dice-rolling with anyone else." He's used to recklessness, risking himself — he might even have enjoyed it. But his attitude does a hard swerve when he pictures it being done with someone else…

He sighs. "Everything about you signaled something hounding you, from your past. When people come to us with baggage, we need to know it. That's the only way we can effectively support one another. Jean always says… trust flows both ways. We need to be able to trust you… and you also need to be able to trust us."

To that end, when she asks how he learned… he is honest. Her panicked response hackles his wings a little in wariness, but she doesn't jump up, and his feathers settle a moment later. "It stops here," he agrees. "They do not know you are alive. I would prefer to keep it that way as long as possible."

But Domino is now offering a carte blanche to ask questions before the matter is buried again. Warren angles a brief glance at Alison, before looking back at Dom. "This was the reason you came to us when registration ramped up? Who else might be after you other than the bounties you've accrued?" A pause. "Are there aspects of the Project still in operation anywhere that you know about?"

***

At the consolation that Warren was never in danger, due to Domino's unique powerset —

— Alison remains nonplussed. At first, she says nothing, but her silence speaks volumes of its own. That life-or-death faith on a mutant power — it rings perilously close to some of her anger with Warren. Their abilities are boons, benefits, gifts, yes, but they are not infallible miracles from God. Men should not be seatbelted in to luck's whim or women dropped by faith of a pair of wings, because no life is worth flippant confidence. Mistakes happen. Mistakes have happened.

Even their most powerful teammates can disappear off the face of this earth. Even they can die.

Eventually, she remarks, not unkindly, but curt: "It doesn't matter how your ability works. Negligence has the same ends as malice."

The strangest words heard from a celebrity pop star. Alison Blaire really is her errant father's daughter.

Her mood mirrors Domino's kneejerk anxiety against the Project, and Alison tenses, glancing momentarily at Warren. Did they poke into something as bad as Styker, or Trask?

But she stays silent, especially as Warren promises — it stops here. "What Warren said. The Professor never turned his back on anyone — in any situation. That's how we mean to operate. We'll assist in whatever hides you from danger."

Eventually, it comes down to something of a victory — and Domino agreeing to answer questions. It exorcises some of the tension out of Alison's shoulders, but displeasure of ten different flavours still runs through her. So much about all of this — the method, the nature of Domino's tired defeat — that rankles her nerves. Things for later.

The remark on subsequent flash-bangs on the merc's poor eyes — Alison glances back. Her steady voice curls with wryness. "Wouldn't dream of it. So long as you remember your gun safety, Malevich."

She looks at Warren — be right back — and disappears again to the private bathroom. Alison returns a minute or so later; she may not trust Domino, but she knows how to help an exchange of information, and the less this feels like some Brotherhood-esque interrogation, the better on her own heart. She comes bearing a glass of water, and a second towel, setting them to the table in front of the sectional. "In front of you," she offers to Domino, but says little more — she doesn't want to interrupt answers to Warren's questions.

***

Domino could argue against the points that Warren brings up in regards to their joyride but the man has a point. He has -several- points, and Alison has one very solid one. What they both says is the truth. Once more she has to concede and quietly move on. Same with the whole trust ordeal. It's no different in the merc world, you don't get something of value without offering something of value. Trust is the currency around here. It's not their fault if she's in particularly short supply of it.

The 'Malevich' jab isn't understood but she still rolls her eyes, quick to the defense with "Kindly don't question my trigger discipline." Granted there aren't any new holes in this office due to live fire though there is certainly something to be said about her gun handling when the adrenaline's running high… It can be pretty frightening to anyone who isn't her.

Warren's first question is met with a snort. "Registration made for a good excuse." Her forehead comes to rest against splayed fingers of one hand. It might look like she's bored but that isn't the correct emotion in play. "Seemed like every time I tried to join a fight things got worse more than they got better. I thought what the hell, come join this clusterfuck and maybe I could kill two bir—"

Everything about her goes motionless save for a slight upward tick of her brows. Then she subtly clears her throat and tries that again.

"Deal with two problems in one go. Safety in numbers and a fight where maybe I could actually do some good for a change. Trying to wipe out a bunch of pirates is a pretty thankless and high risk job, as it turns out."

As for other people being after her, that brings about a humorless smirk. "People don't forget this face, Warren," is said while motioning toward the spot with her one hand. Conveniently they're both on the left side. "Try my best there's always -someone- who gets out alive. They remember, then they tell their pals. Short answer: Everyone."

Ali's return and 'in front of you' has the merc leaning forward, first trailing the sound of the glass being set down then branching out from there. It might appear that she's familiar with working in 'lights out' conditions, both the glass and towel are easily located. The former she drinks from, the latter is wound around her right hand and held in place.

As for the Project she gently shakes her head. "I wouldn't know. My intel there is that the other six before me were duds and they were rapidly losing faith with me. I might have been next on the block. Though there was one mistake there in your report," she idly waves a finger off in the direction of where she thinks the single page might be. "There were only seven of us. Not eight."

***

Warren slants an askance glance at Alison at her silence not only for Domino's insistence he was never in danger, but her continued silence when he clarifies that 'never' is — by the albino's own admission at the time — hardly an accurate takeaway. His expression flickers, something that looks a lot like irritation coming and going on it, but he doesn't say anything.

The rest of what she says will certainly be an argument later, because Warren thinks the diceroll of an uncontrollable power is far less certain, and therefore hardly comparable, to the wings he's spent half of his life fully mastering.

He has nothing to say on Alison's reminder of the offer of safety, belonging, and redemption that the X-Men have always provided — it's no more than he would have said and no more than he personally believes — instead spending the time holding his own blood against his face, and considering. The rapid-healing is already doing its work, at the least.

Alison's sidelong glance when it comes to the Project catches his eye. His reaction, for the moment, doesn't amount to more than a grunt. "No more than we've fought before," is his outwardly-dismissive response. "Madmen with more ambition and resources than morals."

He drops into silence to hear out Domino's other answers to his immediate questions. Her slip-up with the idiom doesn't seem to trouble him — he's already heard every bird-related joke on the face of the planet. "You wouldn't be the first to come to us with such motives," is all he says. "Red in their ledger, enemies on their tails, and abilities they wanted to put to use for some — good, for a change."

A pause. "Though we have ways to handle the loose ends that don't involve making sure nobody gets out alive."

He exhales a breath — apparently already done with his inquiries. "I don't need nor want to ask twenty more questions of you. I was missing context for your acts; now I have it. As I'll no doubt be amply reminded later — I've done enough already. I always talk about the inviolate nature of my privacy, and then I was callous with your own. That I will acknowledge, and that I will apologize for — and that, I will be quite clear, was all my idea. The three I asked to help me did so only because I asked."

He shuts his eyes, as if to ward off a headache. "I'll leave my prying at that. If you believe there are other things important for us to know, then you'll tell us as it becomes necessary." His voice twists with wryness. "We'll do it as Jean put it: you trust us. We trust you. Seem fair?"

There is one thing she illuminates that puts a distinct frown on his features. He lowers the towel from his face, revealing that most of the lacerations have already closed up. "I don't tend to believe in mistakes," Warren says, experienced in so many different forms of human lies and mischief. "There are only things that are being hidden from us, because people don't want us to know. There were only seven — so far as you know."

***

That look Warren slants Alison — she lets it go. Or files it away for later. This is probably one step in the disciplined way she keeps her calm; letting herself react at the wrong place, at the wrong time — that always invites lapses to let in the anger.

And she is very angry. There is peace among the three now, however tentative and uneasy, but Alison's heart is still pounding with the adrenaline that just won't go.

Arms still crossed, her hands shut around her opposite forearms, the gesture tightens a notch when Domino lingers close to bird-killing idioms. Alison frowns at that. Frowns big.

She retreats into a pensive, listening silence, absorbing Domino's words — imagining the visuals behind the hellish story of six unsuitable test subjects before her. Alison, thanks to the X-Men and Excalibur, is no stranger to the reality of monsters using mutants for their own ends, experimenting on them, even turning them into killers… but the thought still twists her stomach. That shit like that exists out there, or that she ignored ten years of it to concentrate on her career — she's not sure which part nauseates her more.

Her discomfort — the chilling thought there's a second Stryker not behind bars at Rikers — meets Warren's spoken dismissal. Alison doesn't reply, though her fingers tense briefly against her arms. Ever the worrier, she's not convinced.

But all culminates into Warren — letting the rest go. Dropping any sorts of questions either of them may have opportunity to say, prying ones that could clip Domino straight to the quick of her past. Helpful questions that could benefit the X-Men, perhaps. But questions that, perhaps, were won of letting a woman think for long seconds she was falling to her death. Lines in the sand, Alison thinks. Once crossed, can never be taken back.

She's glad Warren relents. Though she's not letting him get away with putting the entire investigation on his own back.

"For the record," Alison inserts, "me being here was my idea. And I insisted on it." She exhales. "And the team will trust you if it's returned. I'd spend some time considering the resource that we are. There's just one rule when it comes to who we are, and what we do. No killing."

***

Oh, if only Domino could see all of the glances being passed between these two… It might make for a -very- interesting read. All she has to go by are the pauses between them both where she can merely sense that an exchange is underway. It quickly becomes apparent why Warren had tapped Alison on the shoulder for backup. Beyond her surprisingly effective powerset in regaining control of the situation it's clear that the two have a lot of faith in one another. 'Trust' is definitely tonight's theme.

The rest of what Dom has to share is taken well. Perhaps a little -too- well. In fact, he's not planning to ask any more questions. Maybe she got lucky and said the right words? That'd be ..cool.

Again there's something he says which stands out from the rest. Whether intentional or not there's something of a demand being given. 'You'll tell us as it becomes necessary.' No wiggle room there. As she interprets it, this is the cost of continuing to do 'business' with the X-Men. An obligation to share when relevant.

For everything now running through her mind it is condensed into a simple flick of a hand to his question of 'seem fair?'

Yeah. Seems fair.

Naturally it wouldn't be a deep, meaningful conversation with the X-ers if the mantra 'no killing' didn't come up at LEAST once. Dom's heard it time and again. She had even promised Piotr before he brought her to the grounds. There have been some slips along the way, and pretty much -everything- relating to her work outside of the team is in direct violation of this rule, but it's met once again with a heavy sigh and an insistent "-I know.-"

This time, however, it comes with a little something more.

"Look. If you -really- want to know what happened that night in M-Town then let's get into it. And for the record, Warren? That was a -very narrow- focal point for getting to know what makes me tick."

Still. As history has proven, something needs to change. As it turns out, Neena already has an idea brewing.

It would seem there's one more twist. The mystery of Subject Eight. Neena frowns while Warren talks of it and again her head shakes. "No..no, we -wrecked- that place on our way out, there wasn't—"

A possibility that they could have resumed afterward? So thinks the probability manipulator! The mental shift is sudden and reduces her next comment to something above a whisper. "Son of a bitch."

What's one more force to hide from..one more nightmare to haunt her, right? Though it's a most uncomfortable note to leave on.

The subject is rolled around in her thoughts, getting blended into the slurry of bad memories and frazzled emotions. It's kind of an odd phenomenon..Neena had almost hoped that they would ask more questions as if it would somehow ease the burdeon on her soul to get the truth out there. That she isn't some kind of monster. That—

"I didn't kill those kids."

The admission comes out of nowhere, as does the rush of moisture to her eyes which is quickly blinked away as she 'looks' off to the side. The fire back in Chicago, right before she had left the care of the church. This one quiet admission seems to reveal the largest offender.

***

Perhaps Warren, too, is finally feeling that the conversation is edging into Brotherhood territory. However freely it seems Domino offers him the answers he wants now, they will still always be answers taken from her by force — the product of duress. They could benefit the X-Men, certainly — but at what kind of price? Alison isn't ready to let Warren pay that yet — and he's not quite ready to pay it, either. Domino might, in some way, want a grilling as a form of absolution… but at this point in time, Warren thinks grilling her would be an act requiring him to be absolved.

He drops it. The rest will be her choice. It's as Jean said: trust and trust alike. That was the whole point of this to begin with, before it all went … sideways.

Of course, martyr that he is, he immediately tries to take all the blame for all the events that transpired. Alison isn't letting him take claim for her presence, though. He shoots her a look, but lets it pass.

Just one rule — no killing, Ali reiterates. Warren mops at his face in silence.

He doesn't speak again until it comes time to lay out some ground rules of his own as far as continuing association with the team. It's hard to say whether that 'tell us as it becomes necessary' was an ironclad demand, or simply Warren's way of speaking; to perhaps no one's surprise, he is the sort of personality that never speaks in requests, nor asks permission for anything he does. Perhaps best to just assume the former, given everything.

"I would like to know," is his somewhat grumpy remark, when she says they might as well get into what happened in M-Town. "And 'for the record' — it's always one small thing which flags bigger problems."

His gaze turns to her, a little shrewdly, as she mentally works her way through the idea of there being another after her. "Funny thing about people like this," he says, transitioning to raking his fingers through his hair to fix some of its disarray. Is he really preening right now? "You pull them up by the roots, and they always find a way back." He squints pointedly at her, even if she can't see it. "You see? Important things to know."

He falls silent at her final admission, however. "I didn't think that you did," he says, equally quiet. "I've seen many, many power manifestations gone wrong, over the years."

He hesitates. "Besides which… there was one other thing which came up in the searches. Mister Thurman…"

Warren is silent. "I did not put it to paper. On some things, it is best to be absolutely certain there is no record."

His blue eyes shadow under his lashes, as they turn downwards. "If it's what you want, I will do what I can to erase or close these avenues where record of you was found."

***

This one is all on Neena. Warren wants to know about that night. Having made the offer doesn't make it any easier, but… As he says, one small thing flags bigger problems. That event had become the turning point, responsible for everything else afterward. If there's any key detail which she could help shed some light on, that would be the place to begin.

Soon.

Warren has another one of those irritating lessons to share. Then about the kids.

Then about her dead husband.

It isn't the first time tonight that every muscle in her goes perfectly rigid, as if she's imitating a marble statue. Instead of lunge across the desk she swallows once with some effort, dips her head, then gently nods. Warren made a point to not mention it on the paper. It's an act of consideration which she is secretly grateful of.

"Milo..gave me more than a last name. After losing him, I..felt like I had lost any chance of a normal life."

With the offer to erase all of that history would mean, in turn, that the history of her marriage would also cease to exist. It's a bitter thought to accept. A closed fist presses tightly against her lips. Then she nods once more.

Just in case that isn't enough of a deep dive into Repressed Memory Lane, she still owes them both an explanation.

"Mutant Town." The words are said as she gives the edge of the desk a level stare, still only making out subtle and hazy details of its outline. "It was off to a good start. No fatalities on either side. I came around a corner and nearly ran over a DPS agent. Then something landed on his head. Like a ..seed…" she flicks her good hand again while fighting for the right word.

"Soon as it touched his helmet these roots burst out and burrowed their way into his head. Through the helmet. Through the shield. He stood there, screaming like crazy. And..I had a good idea of what he was going through. It was a gel suspension matrix. Wires..inserted into the brain. Through small holes drilled into the skull. It was part of their neural programming attempts. Seeing it happen tripped a switch in my mind, like it brought back a piece of what they had tried to make me into. I lost my shit. They lost their lives."

***

Warren's come a long way since his young days as a stereotypical white privilege asshole, but there are some habits which just die hard. Like the mansplaining. Domino tolerates it admirably, at the least. Tolerates it… because something comes up now that claims all her attention.

She tenses. Warren tenses too. This was, he felt, the most dangerous piece of information. Perhaps the one piece of information that, looking it in the face, made him finally have to admit Jean and the others were right. This was personal. Too personal to put on a page and throw at her…

He left it off. But he still wasn't too sure that bringing it up at all wouldn't trigger her to fly into his face again.

Ultimately, she doesn't. His wings relax marginally. At her words, his golden head bows a little. I felt like I had lost any chance of a normal life. "We are in the business of 'not letting that be true,'" he says, his voice kinder than it has been. "For anyone that we can."

Sometimes that means erasing the past, and it is an option he offers to her. He had the resources to find the information; he assuredly has the resources to erase them. Both as a courtesy, and for her safety and theirs. He found the paper trail; others could.

As for Mutant Town? Warren listens in silence to the explanation, though his expression trends more and more disturbed as she explains what happened — and how it tripped her straight back into those horrible memories. Back into what they tried to make her into.

There is a long silence after those words. Even if she still cannot clearly see his face, the character of his quiet is by now familiar. She's experienced it now.

What she is telling him makes him angry.

"If they still exist out there somewhere," he finally says, "we will shut them down, and this time we will make it stick."

Another moment of quiet.

"These are the things I wanted to know," he moves on, his voice modulated back to normal. "To know what to expect, if people encounter their triggers out in the wild." He turns the towel over in his hands. "We work with a lot of people with pasts like this," he says. "The offer is open for you."

***

Dom's heard Warren get angry before. Experienced it first-hand. Hearing the tone in his voice when he promises to shut down the Project resonates within the albino. Partly because it's a similar determined claim which she had heard through the very Project he's intending to destroy. It's a soldier's guarantee. It's given another nod. There's some mixed feelings on her part, eliminating it means having to face it again and that won't be easy.

But wouldn't it be worth it?

Yeah. Yeah, it would.

At the end of everything Warren has to say, Neena shows a humorless smirk. More and more it seems like she belongs with her own kind. "I wouldn't have told you a damn thing if I wasn't interested in staying. I also would have hit something a lot more sensitive than the head."

A hand is brought in front of her eyes and waved a few times to a frown. Getting there, but not as quickly as she would prefer. What else is there to do but say something snarky, like "Good talk."

Oh, and…

A turn toward Dazzler. "Don't be mad at him, Ali. People like me, we're wired differently. He did what he had to do."

She might not even blame him for it.

***

So much of the time, Warren is gentle, flippant, courtly… even ridiculous at times (often). But there's a definite 'other side of the coin' to him, and one which tends to be a rude surprise to those not prepared. There is a vein of anger buried in him that doesn't often see the light of day, but when something taps deep enough to strike into it…

Well. Days like today happen.

At the least, it seems the three have muddled their way to some form of agreement — some peace. A promise for more honesty, from both sides… and a promise that in exchange for that ask for increased vulnerability, the team will have her back. If it comes to the Project rearing its head again… they'll meet it as a group. It's in all their interests, after all, and besides — the X-Men is more than simply a group of mutants who happened to attend the same school.

That settled, Warren leans back — though Neena has a last quip for him. "You wouldn't dare," is his equally breezy remark. "There's lineage in those. It'd be more than your life is worth to harm them."

Good talk, she says, and Warren's feathers rustle a little in what might be a gesture of amusement. "I've had better," he says, "but — productive, at the least."

Domino has a last remark for Alison, however, one which turns Warren's head with surprise, the towel dangling loosely from his fingers. He knows Ali well enough now to know that remark's only got a 50-50 odds on saving him, but it's worth a shot. "The lady would know best," he notes in support of Neena's comment, from the background.

***

Through most of it, Alison receded into a deliberate, unintrusive silence, content to wait on the wings of some of the more sordid details of Domino's past.

Dead kids. Subject Eight. The Project. Milo. Alison provides no comment; the farther removed she acts, the better she feels about it. There are sheltered details of a woman's private life, and a life that sounds by the moment to be closer to a torturous nightmare than anything else: it puts Alison's own cold, sterile, loveless, but normal, upbringing in startling perspective.

It must hurt enough to know three more people in the world know about it. The least she can do is back off, not overload Domino with too many perfect strangers asking too many intimate questions — making her feel like some center ring circus animal on display. For all her distrust, and frankly the grudge she may bear for some time — that thing with Warren in the car, drawing her gun, actions not easily forgotten on her part — she doesn't want to hurt Domino where it's personal.

And all of this — is so personal it hurts.

So she hangs back, arms still crossed, attention on the mercenary even if her blue eyes are drawn away.

Drawn away, and briefly shadowed. Talk of wires pushed through someone's brain… Alison tries to banish her over-visual thoughts with a rub at the bridge of her nose. Jesus Christ, she thinks. That thought is going to keep her awake for more than a few nights.

But a truce seems set between Domino and the X-Men, the mood between both Warren and Neena casting off old weight with jokes and snark. One wouldn't even think, minutes ago, one pulled a gun on the other, and the other replied with a skyscraper death drop.

Domino then speaks to her, and it draws Alison's blue eyes. There's a flicker of something in her expression, like surprise before her poker face smoothes it down. Domino is exceedingly perceptive, even without full use of her eyes — Alison takes note of that.

As for an answer? She looks back, gaze steady, eyes deliberating. She doesn't answer. It's not a topic she's willing to indulge, here and now. Instead, she shifts, glances at Warren in a silent communication of what she next intends to do, and retreats to the desk. There, Alison finds Domino's gun and magazine, and takes them both carefully in hand.

If Warren agrees, or offers no objection, she honors their side of this new deal, and offers Domino back her disarmed weapon in a first gesture of good will. "Neena, is it?" Alison says instead. "If it's all right to call you by that."

***

It's so strange to hear her actual name being used again. It's almost difficult to hear it being said, though there is some element of healing which comes from it. Stepping away from being a device and returning to what it means to be an individual.

A slight hesitation comes from Alison's offer but response comes the moment that ghostly fingers take hold of the offered weapon. "Yeah. I guess it is." It's an odd answer which could fit both of Ali's questions. The gun gets tucked back under an arm without another thought, it's so completely unnecessary now that it seems odd to have it out of the holster in the first place.

Dom comes to her feet and gives both Alison and Warren a brief nod. Now seems like a wonderful time to step out and go find somewhere to rest.

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