We Need to Talk
Roleplaying Log: We Need to Talk
IC Details

Never a good sentence to hear… though necessary for Alison to say, after Warren and Domino's 'incident.'

Other Characters Referenced: Domino
IC Date: May 28, 2019
IC Location: Centerport, New York
OOC Notes & Details
Posted On: 06 Jun 2019 18:41
Rating & Warnings:
Scene Soundtrack: [* ]
NPC & GM Credits:
Associated Plots

There was a bit of a wind-down period, after the entire messy confrontation with Domino — with Neena Thurman. Most of it due to Alison's insistence that Warren get medically checked out in case of concussion, or any lingering damage of that type.

Warren didn't think such was necessary, per se. He's always healed cleanly from any sort of injury, ever since his secondary mutation made itself known. But since it would put her mind at ease, he promised to do so before they parted ways for the day. It was quick enough to arrange, requiring no more than a simple phone call straight from the office; his personal physician — who has been on call for him ever since he was a child, and who was one of the first to know about his wings — is practically full-time staff at the estate, and is also well-accustomed to turning up at the tower or whatever apartment Warren is roosting at on short notice.

Warren told him not to bother coming out to the city this time, though. As he had the unfortunate obligation to see to business at the estate the following day, he set that as the location for the appointment.

Such it is that by later in the evening, he is no longer in the city. He's left instructions behind that if Ali turns up looking for him, someone should take her over to the estate in a helicopter.

Leaving the city and heading east to Long Island is like entering a different sort of universe — especially if you're going to the 'rich' parts of Long Island, which Centerport, New York certainly qualifies as given its position smack dab in the island's so-called Gold Coast. A hamlet that seems to exist for no other reason than to house obnoxiously wealthy people and support much of the yachting activity of the North Shore, it's a rather intimidatingly idyllic place with sprawling beachfront properties and an overall character of sedate wealth which dates back generations.

Many of those old Gilded Age mansions have been turned into museums, the families which built them having vanished with time, but there's still a number of the old guard families hanging around. One of those is the Worthingtons, whose estate is secluded even by the standards of the wealthy, being seated on a low promontory jutting out into Long Island Sound.

It is the first time Warren has let Alison come out here. One gets the sense that he would have preferred to keep her away — but obligations are obligations, and he has to be out here at least once in a while.

The helicopter comes in fairly low, though not low enough to obscure the sweep of the estate with its extensive grounds, gardens, winding footpaths down to the beaches and docks, and the fact that other than the main 'big house' there appear to be other secondary dwellings and buildings scattered around. There's a helipad too, on which the chopper makes its landing.

Warren is waiting on the path somewhere between the helipad and the house proper, wings and arms folded, looking disgruntled by the entire affair. He doesn't look any worse for wear from a glance, at least.

There was too much left unsaid.

Alison Blaire, in the moments after Neena Thurman, did not broach any of it. With her attention no longer divided on a mercenary, worried whether a slip in alertness may mean a woman with a grudge attempting round two with her gun, she focused on her next priority.

Warren was already healing well, but she insisted he get checked out. Even mutants with healing factors should never be too relaxed around head injuries.

There was more needed to be said; there was more, so much more, reflected against Alison's eyes. Some people, angry and dismayed as she is, would not waste time to get it out on the table. A different creature entirely, Alison looked the plan opposite of someone hungry for a confrontation: too upset, too tired, too rattled.

Only when it was certain he would be all right without her worried watch, and no longer requiring any of her help to see to his injuries, or the ruined state of his office — Alison left Warren behind for the evening, and went home. And all that left unsaid went with her.

Only on the elevator down the Tower, did Alison realize her hands were trembling. She politely declined the car waiting for her, and in some cavalier mood, opted to walk back to the lower West side. When she got back to her apartment, she didn't sleep well.

She spends the next day steeped in work, perhaps to lose herself in its routine — let a distraction or ten do its medicating work on the background clamor of her unsettled thoughts. By mid-afternoon, Alison can no longer bear another financial report on registration-impacted state medicare, and returns to Worthington Tower to catch Warren in person.

He's not there. In his stead, a helicopter waiting on standby.

Unsure how to think about the whole affair, Alison nonetheless accepts, and settles in for the ride. This time she opts for the noise-cancelling headset to stay on, despite sound never bothering her — the decibels of a roaring aircraft unable to elicit a bit of pain. It will, however, build her charge far beyond what she's used to possessing in the day-to-day — beyond what she's used to suppressing.

She's going to unfamiliar environs, and she doesn't want to make mistakes.

One would think the posh ride over Manhattan to meet one's princely, billionaire boyfriend would leave a girl grinning in her seat; Alison is a different breed, used to this in many ways, and solemn in so many others. She used to feel isolated on the private planes and penthouse suites, not exalted beyond the world, but removed from it — looking on life through cold glass. This brings back so many old memories. She looks out the window and down on it all, millions of lives moving by in a rush of those churning metal blades.

She at least appreciates the view, in its own way. The colours that come out of Long Island, as the helicoptor swings to its old money side, where manicured green crosses into the blue of the water. The estate finally comes into her first sight, before it eclipses her entire field of view. Alison has known extravagance, and visited countless distinguished homes in her career — they are nothing to this.

The helicopter lands without any trouble, and its two-man staff help Miss Blaire down from its cage. She thanks them, then sees herself down the walk, crossing her arms against the first seabreeze that ruffles her dress — a far temperature change from New York's concrete jungle. She finds Warren, and on approach, Alison's first look at him is her own appraisal of his face. "How are you feeling?"

Too much was, indeed, left unsaid. Warren could feel it too, in the empty spaces where there should have been conversation.

In lieu of words, there were only significant glances, gentle hands checking for injuries, and then a quiet parting for the evening. That much was normal enough. Warren and Alison were never a pair to be joined at the hip, the two of them immensely busy individuals in their own respects — and accustomed to having their own space and their own sovereignty over that space.

What was less normal was the awkward terms under which they parted. She needed time to process what had just happened and how she felt about it. That much he could see reflected amongst the anger and dismay in her eyes. He did too, if he was honest with himself; there were plenty enough aspects of what he had done which troubled him. It wasn't the first time he had felt his own restraint on his anger break like a dam — wasn't the first time he had seen himself subsequently do things as if he were outside of his own body.

It was the first time he was worried someone watching him might have had their view of him brutally changed forever in a way that — mattered to him. He didn't want to look at Alison and see fear.

He worked through the rest of the evening, and brooded most of the trip out to the estate the following morning. He checked on Alison via the proxy of the foundation; she was working, they said. He left it at that. The estate manager, reviewing the accounts with him, noted his uncharacteristic silence; accordingly, he kept the discussions concise. Even 'concise,' they take up most of the early afternoon.

Warren gets a message that he's got incoming company the moment the helicopter leaves Worthington Tower. He clears his schedule for the rest of his day; he didn't want to talk to his relatives anyway.

Such it is that when Alison arrives, it will be to Warren waiting on the walk winding from the helipad to the manor proper. Any of the potential romance of the moment seems similarly lost on him; there is no fanfare to the way he receives her as she steps down from the chopper and crosses the helipad to inspect his face. To ask how he feels.

"Fine. I had the checkup done; nothing was shaken loose that was not already loose before," he says. He looks fine. His blood has done its work, and there are only the faintest shadows across his features to suggest the injuries he sustained. The darkest shadows, in fact, are under his eyes and appear to simply be from lack of sleep. "Come. We'll go in the back way, before Laurie figures out you're here and makes something of it." There is no real explanation of who Laurie is. Being explicit is for the lower classes and new money.

He turns and leads her towards the rear grounds, without further preamble. "I apologize for leaving the city so abruptly," he begins. "There's only a skeleton crew here, but this place still needs some looking over at least once a month." This place — and the family associated with it. Between that, and looking after the Institute, and the X-Men's finances, and the company, and the foundation, perhaps it's little wonder he seems exhausted and preoccupied. Especially since several of those things in his care are not doing so well as of late.

His poise lapses, uncharacteristically, his measured words stuttering off into silence. He looks down at the pristine grass of the lawn which they're crossing. There are a lot of things he could say. "You didn't take the car back," is what he settles on.

One would expect some grand, romantic crescendo to come with Alison Blaire's first step down on foundational Worthington soil.

It's all a bit anticlimactic.

Her first visit to the home of his family. Her first look into the very roots that bred Warren, and, on open display, the grand wealth it has always passed down from hand to reaching hand. And for Alison, who has never held deep, or lengthy relationships with anyone, much less to the degree that availed her to see someone's home, meet their family —

At the back of her mind, something prickles at her thoughts. It dogs Alison the entire walk she takes to meet Warren, arms crossed over her chest, her cloaked coat bundled in to keep the seawind from stealing it off her shoulders.

She looks up at him, watchful. But even in the absence of any romantic fanfare, Alison looks able to meet Warren's eyes, and consider him in her patient, pensive way. There is no fear on her face, none it appears for him — though something else weighs her expression down, a pulling undertow that does not let her smiles stay for long.

"Good," she says of his face, his cleared good health. One less worry burdening Alison, and she lets it exhale free.

He motions her to follow, and she obeys — spending only a moment more to appraise the darkness under his eyes — falling into step at Warren's side. Alison's presence hovers close, though it has been closer in the past — the slight distance of someone that they chase when they need their own space, their own thoughts. To remember herself, in the midst of everything and everyone else.

When Warren proposes slipping them in through the back, Alison meets it with a beat of silence. The request comes to little surprise: more often than not, her life is side doors and back entrances, sometimes not just for her safety but for the convenience of others. Celebrity comes with its own loaded meaning and misinterpreted context, and sometimes it is just easier to ghost her way in, and not let her fame add work and complication.

Though, with a single look up at the stone and marble wings of the closing estate, huge, oppressive, ornate, and royal — the thought steals across Alison's mind. The possibility Warren may be inclined to invite, then hide her. She's famous, but all her celebrity isn't a stone's throw to the shores of this world.

She says nothing of it. Instead, Alison remarks, sincere: "It's a beautiful house, Warren. Whenever you talked about this place, I had an image in my head — I didn't come close."

And then he apologizes. Alison waves it off, letting that go with a shake of her head. "It's fine. You've got enough on your plate. I appreciate this — but you didn't need to clear anything for me, if that's the case." She turns her head, seeking to catch his eyes. "I hope I'm not intruding on anything."

She follows his gaze, instead, where it reflects the greenery of the estate's grand, tailored lawns — so unlike anything in her upbringing. He speaks of the car she waved off last night. Of course he'd know.

"It's fine," she repeats a second time. It's not enough, and Alison knows it. "I needed some air after everything. And now I need to talk about what happened."

It is anticlimactic. Perhaps that's the way Warren prefers it, after a lifetime of grandiosity and ostentation.

He's certainly not dressed with any fanfare. In his plain collared shirt and jeans, he could be any one of the 'skeleton staff' he mentions, and not the master of the estate. The distinction comes in the way he holds himself. This is ground on which he stands easily, with neither bravado nor self-consciousness: merely the accustomed neutral anyone might feel, standing on the lawn of their childhood home. The Institute might have become more of a true 'home' to him, with time, but here — for all the straitjacketed discomfort this place came to represent for him — here are his roots.

Foundational Worthington soil — and as Warren walks it, it is plain how deeply his roots go here despite his outward self-deprecation about the entire thing. The biggest tell are his wings, which drape at his back in a relaxed and resting state.

It doesn't last long, though. Not with Alison's silence, and the increased distance to her spacing at his side. It starts with a ruffling flicker of his feathers, the white plumes stirring and sleeking as tension draws his wings in just a little tighter. He meets her eyes briefly, eyes which do not look away from his — but which consider him in a pensive way which soon enough has him turning away again.

The matter of his health pushed away, Warren proposes to take them in through the back entrances. Her moment of silence doesn't escape his eyes; few things do. He studies her a moment, before he allows a mote of explanation: "Laurie is the household manager. She is enthusiastic about visitors. It makes her very good at her job, but today, I'd rather skip the thirty minutes of welcomes, and introductions, and platitudes, and coffee."

Their path takes them around the side of the mansion, along the grounds and through a meticulously tended rose garden. The estate is beautiful, to be sure, and well-kept, but there is a certain anachronistic quality to the grandeur that — contrasted with the fresh memory of modern Manhattan — is a vivid reminder that one walks on a relic. The heyday of the Gold Coast socialites ended decades ago, and left here — amidst the marble arches, perfectly-manicured lawns, and regal architecture — is only ghosts and shadows. A museum piece with little relevancy to the flash of the modern age, gutted of the drama and excitement of the Gilded Age aristocracy.

Alison speaks, sincere, of the estate's beauty. Warren's pensive features suggest he's thinking more about its datedness. "It is beautiful," he allows. "I would probably have turned it over to the county as a museum, if not for the fact the family is attached to the place. Their horror at the suggestion was immense." Probably as immense as the dry quality of his voice.

She subsequently dismisses his apologies, seguing into her by-now familiar demurrals. His gaze turns to her as he leads her up a flight of steps towards a rear veranda, and the set of French doors which open onto it. "Intruding? You've rescued me. I had nothing to look forward to for the remainder of the day save further review of the accounts and — probably — a sitdown with my aunt. Both things I prefer to avoid."

But is what he's made time for, in their place, really going to be much less awkward? Doubtful. Her refusal of the car was tell enough of a disturbed mental state. Which — of course he knew. That's one of the downsides, dating a man like Warren Worthington: the invisible web of their surrounding support staff see and report everything.

He pauses, just short of the doors, when she finally says it. She needs to talk about what happened. His right wing flicks a little, before both fold tightly and sleek down smooth.

"All right," he says. "We may as well here. Fewer ears." That, and he doesn't want to do something uncomfortable under a roof. He usually feels better with the open sky overhead.

There is little mistaking the anxiety that bleeds off Warren Worthington, his mannerisms, his words, his bearing. Alison hurts to sense it so close. Hers is a matter-of-fact temperament, but she's the furthest thing from cold; her first nature is guilt, and her first instinct is to soothe.

It takes a lot of control not to do that. Some things are so important that they can — will — lose their impact the moment she softens a single edge. And, right now, she might not be afraid of Warren, but she's afraid for him.

She walks at his side, present in many familiar ways, if absent in the rest, and certain devoid of her usual affection and play. There is a distance now, and Alison holds her side of that invisible boundary line, letting it define her now — letting it, in other ways, give breath to doubts she usually does not let tarry for long.

Warren notices one of those doubts well enough, helped with his sharp eyes. He clarifies his own words: he has no inclination to hide her, and if he does, it's not out of shame.

Alison wears the shame instead: ashamed, a moment later, to have been considering such a thought. "Laurie sounds quite sweet," she says back, a little contrite. Her answering glance seems to thank and apologize in the same heartbeat.

Her smile tilts up, brief and wan, when he celebrates her arrival as a rescue. However, something self-deprecating and humourless spreads like shadow, alleying her features: he might not be seeing this as a rescue for very long.

And, after they ascend the steps, but before Warren opens the estate's immaculate back doors — Alison speaks up. Why she's here. And what she needs from him. A talk.

He proposes right here. Right now. Rip it off, like a bandaid, out on his estate's veranda.

Alison doesn't have any argument against it. She answers with a short, pensive nod, and pivots away, lingering farther away from those still-shut doors. It feels less an act of distance, or avoidance, and more one of deep thought — on the spot to collect, and make sense, of a dozen disparate speeches in her head.

The unfortunate consequence of waiting this long to confront him. Passion has a way of stark, unimpeded clarity, when the emotions are immediate, raw, and unconfused — brooding can have a way of muddling things up.

Arms folded, half against the wind, and half to gird herself, she paces away, drifting to a cease point back at the stairs which bore them up. She only frees her hands to lay them down on the stone rail. And, for that next moment, Alison looks out on the green.

"OK, here goes," she begins, voice soft. Even assured of their privacy, Alison keeps her voice low — never quite sure who or what could be listening. Old habits. "I know you apologized. And I know Neena forgave you, in her way. But I wasn't able to sleep last night."

Uneasily, she turns, looking back just enough to give Warren her face, her eyes. The near-whisper of her voice comes the farthest cry from what alleys Alison's face, dead seriousness, sleepless confusion, latent anger, and crystal-clear horror. "I had the life scared out of me twice. When she pulled that gun, and when you let her go."

His tension is not necessarily out of fear of her reprimands. It is out of a certain nervousness about her distance. He didn't want to screw up with her — didn't want to screw up what they have. She has been more real to him than any other woman who ever turned his eye. And now — he's let her see him doing this. Let her see a glimpse of the kind of person he is under the angelic wings… the kind of person with darker impulses he's only semi-aware of himself.

Walking like this, in a rare moment of quiet privacy, he would usually have touched her by now, reaching out to play with her hair or curl her in a wing. Now, however, he keeps his hands — and wings — to himself.

He doesn't keep his eyes to himself, though. He likely couldn't, even if he wanted to; he's far too used to keeping a sharp watch on his surroundings, his keen sight taking in information constantly. It means he notices quickly when she seems to have a moment of doubt; relating it back to his own words, his brows lift in a faint 'ah' to himself. His clarification turns her body language contrite.

"She is sweet," he says. "I have known her since I was a boy. One of the people who practically raised me."

He glosses past the obvious problems with him referring to her arrival as a 'rescue.' He doesn't need to look at her to know the expression on her face, nor to guess at what it means. His salvation is only a temporary one, and in fact he's liable to be plunged into something much worse in just a few moments. Never one to delay or try to run away from anything, Warren decides to just rip off the bandaid right here. Charge into whatever this is headlong.

He abandons the doors, turning back towards her. He doesn't interrupt or try to impede her as she drifts away, obviously deep in thought how to put this.

She eventually finds the words. But it's less the words that strike him, and more the look of horror in her eyes. Those white wings open a little, as if their owner were instinctively considering fleeing into the sky, before ruffling their feathers and slowly shutting again. He shoves his hands in his pockets, tension coming to roost in the lines of his shoulders. His wings draw tight against his back as he thinks, his eyes averted.

"I'm not sure why I did," he says, his voice very low. "I was thinking about all I had tolerated up until that point. That point when you came in… and she pulled a gun in response… I reached a place I didn't have tolerance left. I spend a lot of my life thinking I don't care…"

He pulls at some of his own feathers, in a nervous preening gesture. "I surprise myself sometimes to realize I'm actually angry. I'm never quite prepared for the realization."

The unfurling of those great, white wings draws Alison's eye; it is impossible for someone not to look upon a spectacle of that magnitude. The gesture brings a moment's askance to her, and in that timeless wait between breaths, the momentary fear that Warren may give into impetus, fly off, and leave her confrontation behind.

She recalls him, many years ago, leaving behind uncomfortable moments far less than this. It's a testament to his maturity that he stays, and Alison lets it give her hope.

This is certainly the more daunting path taken: choosing her apprehensive pacing, or the look of horror reflected out her eyes, to the escape the open, blue skies promise — freedom from this topic, and all it might take from him.

In the least, despite her distance, nothing about Alison Blaire threatens withdrawal. Even through her anger, all of this is some laborous act of reaching out — trying to cross a bridge in the faith she may be able to bring Warren Worthington back.

She listens to what he has to say. She exhales, frustrated, neither consoled by the words nor aggravated. His honesty, however, goes a long way with her.

"I keep replaying it over in my head," Alison admits. "Between the two of us, we had her disarmed. There was a point where we had it under control. When you took her into the air, you sealed it. That was the moment it ended." Her eyes try to hold us. "But dropping her, Warren. It was a step too far. Letting someone believe they're going to die? It's not what we do."

Her hands come off the stone rail. She rubs one across her face, breathing out into the cradle of her palm. Alison's next words are knot-tight: "And then Neena called it a necessity, talking about herself like she's some less-than-human thing that requires a bit of torture to calm her down. Dehumanizing rhetoric no doubt straight from the mouths of those monsters that experimented on her — it's appalling. I don't want this ended on that — that what happened was in any way necessary, or right. I don't want her to make you believe that."

For a moment, she simply stands there, silent between her own words — taking Warren in. Taking in the way he pulls anxiously at his own feathers.

Alison draws closer. "There's nothing wrong in being angry. I don't want you to think that — like there's something wrong with you. In fact, you're not angry enough. You obviously do care, and quite a bit about things, and you have to be angry more times than you let on. Whatever it is you're doing, Warren, isn't sustainable. You're going to end up surprising yourself, and perhaps that time, you don't catch someone in time. Perhaps you make a mistake you never meant to happen, and then you have to live with it."

Warren has, in fact, flown off in the past over much less than this. In fact, in the past, he'd fly off over pretty much any sort of tough conversation or emotional matter which he didn't like. Put a fight in front of him, put insurmountable odds in front of him, put a dangerous situation in front of him, and he'd be the first to charge. Put his own flaws in front of him, though — the flaws of others, their messy emotions and fears — and he'd turn tail and fly off faster than the Blackbird.

But the years of his life eventually brought terrible things which he could not fly away from, no matter how he tried. In time, he learned to face them rather than flee them.

Not that it isn't still hard for him to do so. That brief moment where his wings seem, of their own volition, to consider reverting back to old habits, is testament enough to that.

A man accustomed to masks and lies in his daily life, Warren prefers honesty when it comes time to talk with the few people with whom he is close. That, at least, is another positive which helps Alison through this difficult conversation, though the things to which he admits are not easy to hear — nor do they really solve the issue at hand.

He is silent as Alison lays out, point by point, all the many reasons the situation was completely under control, and his last act was an overstep completely beyond the pale. Her eyes try to hold Warren's; his blue gaze averts, refusing the contact, staring off across the grounds instead. "She needed to know how it felt," he says. "I wanted her to know how it felt. Not because it bothered me when she did it to me, but so she might think twice if she considers doing it again to someone else."

He lapses into silence as she steps closer. His body language draws in, wings cloaking around himself in a telltale defensive way. I don't want her to convince you what you did was necessary or right, Alison presses. "I don't believe that," he says. "I don't — I'm not going to keep handling her this way. But she needed a line drawn. I… did the first way that came to mind, in anger. Yes. But she needed one drawn. She already felt free and comfortable enough to use unrestrained violence as her chief way of communicating with me."

He picks and preens at his feathers, silent, as she reminds him it's all right to be angry — and that pretending he's not, or whatever he's doing, will just make the outbursts worse when they come…

"I always catch what I drop," he says, a little ruffled — literally. His white feathers are lifted. "What point is there to the wings, to me having them, if I'm not good at them?"

Her forward step hitches into a halt; Alison stiffens up. She seems to take Warren's returned declaration like a slap across the face.

She needed to know how it felt.

"I want you to listen to yourself, Warren," she warns, her voice twisted with apprehension. A cold wash of something knots her insides. "Is that what we are? We're judges and executioners? Please don't make me go dig up statistics on how fear is the worst deterrent for behaviour, because I can tell you right now: it's not. There's other ways to handle that. We could deal with her violence without debasing ourselves to answer fear with fear. We could have turned our backs and walked away. We've done it before. There's self-defence, there's defending others, and we have to make rash decisions to save lives, but what you're implying steps so, so far over that line. You can dress it up however you want it, but it was revenge. Plain and simple."

Through all this, Alison does not stop trying to seek Warren's eyes. Him closing off, retreating in — it's the last thing she wants. It's what she feared may happen, the worst possibility — he feels dead-right, and she can't convince him otherwise. The thought paralyzes her.

Where is the Professor when they need him?

She presses on, voice urging: "If it's your right to moralize through fear, then where does it end? Do we start waterboarding our prisoners? Make people agreeable by convincing them they're about to die? Do we get to pick and choose who gets the wrong side of our abilities?" Alison goes quiet a moment. She swallows, delibrately trying to break all the passion, all the circling agitation and disbelief out of her voice, because she doesn't want anger confusing this — she doesn't want these next words though of a slap back, a reprisal, a punishment. They are spoken out of pure fear: "This is the sort of rhetoric you'd hear from Magneto."

Her arms cross again over her chest, her fingers curling down over their opposite forearms.

Warren's confidence only seems to hurt Alison, widening the fissures in her bearing — granting him deeper glimpses down into the terror that frames every ounce of her, chases out every word she implores to him: "Everyone makes mistakes. We're not miracles, Warren. We're not gods. We're just people. I've fallen for you, Warren. I'm trying to make it that when you do make a mistake, it won't destroy you."

I want you to listen to yourself, Alison warns.

Warren is quiet. A wing flicks restlessly, before both drape at his shoulders, pulled around himself with the defensiveness of a drawn cloak. His telling silence holds when Alison asks him if they're qualified to sit in judgment on others, his gaze flicking away uncomfortably. Perhaps he does hold that conceit about himself, sometimes. He doesn't necessarily feel what he did to pass that judgment was right — isn't necessarily convinced he did no wrong. In fact, he is certain — from what the Professor taught him and what Alison is repeating to him now — that he was wrong.

He just doesn't seem to know how to admit he was wrong. It feels like weakness, and that was the one thing he was always taught to avoid at all costs. There is a distinctly proud, aloof tilt to his golden head even now… a show to ward off all the people that would take advantage of the Worthington heir weak and wrong.

"If you believe one thing," he finally says, voice stilted, "believe that I wanted to protect people. I chose… an overly harsh way to ensure she wouldn't continue to do all those things. Threaten people. Inflict her powers on them."

And though Alison doesn't want her invocation of that name to feel like a slap, Warren takes it like one the minute 'Magneto' crosses her lips. He physically flinches, his head turning physically away. He struggles with himself a moment, before he says, "I shouldn't have done the eye for an eye." It is rather transparent Warren has rarely ever had to admit fault like this, and one of the reasons is plain from the grandeur surrounding them. Very few people in his life have ever been able to dare telling him no. The Professor was one, and in his long absence — in a world which increasingly makes the wrong choices look not only appealing but necessary — his children are prone to stray.

And when he speaks of his wings, of not making mistakes with them… the external presentation of his words is pure confidence, but it comes from a place that is anything but. The wings are all he has, and they are not much, and he does not want to hear that he would make mistakes with the one thing he has. We're not gods, she argues, and he actually cracks half a smile — though the expression looks more like self-directed wryness. There is a distinct bitterness to the look.

It passes. The rest of his resistance seems to collapse with 'I've fallen for you.' "All right," he says, his voice low and strained, the unaccustomed words pulled out of him. "I did the wrong thing. I was angry… and I…"

There are a few beats of quiet, in which his eyes finally return to study her.

"Are you afraid of me?" he abruptly asks.

"I know you want to protect people, Warren," Alison answers, no single beat of hesitation in her voice. "I know she's dangerous. And I may never forgive her for endangering you. But we're never going to have a shortage of enemies, people who threaten us and others in our lives. What is one toe over the line today will be two feet tomorrow. When we're pushed again and again, it's so easy — so tempting — to push back. But that's not the Professor's way. He never chose the easy road."

It all comes down to one name — one dark, twisted potential what falls from Alison's lips. Charles Xavier's greatest friend and greatest regret; Erik Lehnsherr, whose soul died through a thousand small cuts. A man who let every hatred and every loss take a piece of him, until the blood coated his hands with enough permanence that he could no longer remember how they felt clean.

She does not miss Warren's flinch. The words strike as intended, weaponized with the weight of years behind them; it hurts her to watch it gut him right out. But this is important. Deathly important. Without the Professor here, if this duty must fall onto her shoulders… so be it.

In the end, Warren cedes. Alison takes it in with silence. He bares a side of himself to her he thinks weak, but she does not seem to think so. There is no measure of victory in her bearing, no arrogant pleasure to hear him admit wrong, and no judgment for a single one of his spoken words. She only looks on. If there is anything in her face, she comes closest to pleading.

He cracks half-a-smile, humourless and sour. Alison's eyebrows knit, searching out the source of that expression. It's the look of a man who spends every waking moment knowing he is not a god, though wishing he were one.

She isn't sure how to feel about it. But the smile passes, and her thoughts chase it into a forgetting — distracted, instead, by Warren's last question.

It cuts Alison straight to the quick. How he says it. That he even feels he must, at all.

Her crossed arms let go, disentangling, as she answers him by immediately stepping forward. Distance will hurt him, she knows. And if he believes that for a second —

Alison comes in close enough to reach for Warren's face, and cradle him within her careful hands. "The only time I feel safe is when I'm with you."

"It is tempting," is all Warren says in reply at first. "You get tired of the hard way after so many years. And the easy way is… effective. I see how effective it is on a daily basis."

There's little lingering force to his voice, though. He knows what he did was wrong. He knows well enough how easily it's compared to what Magneto's done over the years — what the Professor brought them all up to oppose. Making points through physical dominance and intimidation, practicing eye-for-an-eye… it was never what they were about as a team.

It's hard, though, with a world which feels free to take and take from you. Especially when you are someone who regularly sees the ugliest, most venal sorts of people day in and day out.

Alison has Warren well enough deflated now, however: chiefly from the invocation of that name — and the unpleasantly-clear relief into which it threw his actions — and from her steady words, which sound so much like the ones he was brought up hearing. He is not someone who finds it easy to admit mistake or show weakness, but she makes it less difficult for him with her empathy and her lack of judgment.

A lot of their bond was built on their ability to be genuine with one another, when they could be genuine with no one else. Perhaps he remembers that, because soon enough he relents. Enough to crack half a rueful smile at her reminder they are not gods. The world, and most people in it, are so predisposed to treat him like one on a daily basis that it seems it is easy for him to forget that fact — and he is indulging a little incredulity at himself that he would forget that fact.

A more sobering reason Warren loses all will to argue this point, however, is the obvious look of terror on her features as she regards him. His eyes are excellent at catching expressions, though not necessarily excellent at discerning the reasons or emotions behind said expressions; his first fear is that she is afraid of him. That his actions have changed something between them.

Alison is quick to close the distance she'd been holding from him. When she reaches up to take his face, she will find him tense and uncertain under her touch. A few moments of silence pass as he studies her — her answer, her expression, the inflection of her voice and the feel of her touch — before he relaxes into it. The sunlight shades briefly away as his wings open, curving around them both in a curtain of white feathers.

"No pressure, huh?" is his initial, wry reply. "Well — I shall do my best." His right hand lifts, long fingers hooking carefully onto her wrist and holding it. "After all, I've finally gotten you to like me. It only took ten years." His brows arch, amused. "You may have made a monogamous bird of me, yourself. No one else can say that."

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