The Brooding Nook
Roleplaying Log: The Brooding Nook
Participants
IC Details
Synopsis:

Pop stars and mercenaries may not mix.

Other Characters Referenced: Warren Worthington, Danielle Moonstar, Logan, Charles Xavier
IC Date: June 09, 2019
IC Location: Xavier's
OOC Notes & Details
Posted On: 10 Jun 2019 14:57
Rating & Warnings: PG-13 for a smidge of language
NPC & GM Credits:
Associated Plots

Something curious has happened since Domino and Moonstar had gotten back from retrieving the stolen image inducer. The pale lady has actually stuck around. Not that she's been social or easy to get hold of but like a proper ghost she's been haunting the grounds, occasionally spotted from the corners of the eyes by the others that call Xavier's home.

This evening's current lurking station is out back along the cliffside overlooking the water. It's a properly beautiful view with the sun hanging lower on the horizon and setting the gentle waves aglow.

Neena wasn't the only one here to appreciate the view but the other more adventurous souls hadn't bothered to stick around upon seeing her. They probably had better places to be, anyway.

The bottle of Scotch that's keeping her company, though? That one has no better place to be than right at her side.

Thurman hasn't been here for too long, just long enough to settle in, get a start on some drinking, and for those few others to have caught sight of that darned ghost once again.

***

Contrary to most of the other roster, Alison Blaire isn't a frequent visitor to the Institute. Not that she ever was, really, in her mercurial, back-and-forth history.

It's less to do with discomfort on the old Westchester stomping grounds, and more to do with discomfort with herself: ever since last November, when low-flying jets crossed her public concert, and exposed the Dazzler as the mutant she is —

She doesn't like to stay in one place too long, these days. She's a celebrity, and she's used to feeling exposed, vulnerable, and no longer landlocked in anonymity, but these days, the paranoia builds worse and worse. While coming to grips with her face and name constantly on parade in the media, and more than a little invested with a future in politics, old suspicions are hard to break. Best she keeps on the move. Best she doesn't bring too much attention to the school, if she can help it.

Hearing, however, about Dani's injury — thankfully healed — is enough to compel Alison a short visit. She arrives in the early hours, as usual, with care and without her media tails.

It helps when you have photons at your disposal. No image inducers needed for the Dazzler.

Gossip over the grounds is centered on Domino, and her new face, and her avoidant ways. Alison, with her workload, and her own conflict-avoidant temperament, would usually best leave those things alone — she sure gave Logan a wide berth back in the day, god, you couldn't pay her enough to deal with that — but there's something on her mind. Dani's injury. Domino's past.

Dangerous, soldier senses like Domino would sense an interloper on the way, gait slow, manner patient, and making no attempts to soften or disguise her presence.

It's Alison, dressed down in business casual, her arms folded over her chest. In another life, she'd sound wry. "So you found the brooding nook."

***

Alison frowns down at that proffered spot, right on the ground. The ground and all its dirt. She really doesn't want to get grass stains on her slacks.

Eventually, she exhales, well aware of the awkwardness it suggests to be hovering sanctimoniously close while the X-Men's newest, escape-experiment member sits and indulges in her Scotch. Alison accepts the gesture, and gingerly sits, arranging herself to face the neutral point of the scene — its summery colours, where blue water melts into the distant greenery, gilded under a low, late-afternoon sun.

"I always preferred singing to lecturing," she says to that, dry-humoured. "I just find myself in the position of having to do it a lot, these days."

Still, it doesn't take merc senses to read restraint, noosed in every way in Alison's bearing. Much left unsaid. But, unlike some of her more reckless comrades, she's not apt to rush it. Some people need a barometer reading before making plans.

For a moment, Alison is quiet, eyes out on the horizon. "I've actually got more questions than lectures. You must know about us. You must have done your homework on the Professor, and his legacy. What do you think about it? Do you agree with any of — this?"

***

They've barely gotten started and already the first tell has come to surface. It's a curious analogy with Domino, unafraid of getting her hands dirty and sitting in the dirt, and Alison standing tall with both clothes and conscience clean. This becomes something of a dare, would Ali come down to Neena's level long enough to have their talk?

Point in her favor. The singer comes to land.

Neena's content to stay quiet this time around. It's a small piece of common ground, both of them would rather be doing something rather than slinging words. The question which comes out of the moment isn't one which Neena is fully prepared to answer, leading to a more 'seat of the pants' response.

"A lofty and highly improbable goal born of the mind of an eternal optimist. Cool if it works but I'm not holding my breath."

Neena pauses to give it some thought, idly swirling the Scotch around in the bottle with a hand hanging off of a bent knee. "I figured you kids could use all the luck you could get."

Then comes a distant sigh. "Look, Ali. We all know that I'm not the peaceful protestor sort. That part's up to the rest of you. I'm just here as a force multiplier. One that doesn't always know where to be or what to do."

***

Excessive, pathological cleanliness is one of Alison Blaire's oldest of habits. One she's never been able to break. Passed down by her father, who liked his home and life to be as preserved as exhibits at a museum, with his only daughter privileged to look — and never touch. She learned to appreciate his way of applying control; she tried to replicate it every way she could, in one of her initial attempts to please him.

Of course, it was never enough.

It bugs her now to be dirty, but Alison deals with it. Puts every emotion in its place. There's a reason she's come here, and it's not to turn the errant, mysterious Domino into a terminus point for her feelings.

Neena speaks honestly about Charles Xavier, and Alison listens, eyes trained out on the waterfront. She holds any trace of judgment from her face.

"You know," she finally says, "you got one up on me, at least. I turned down Professor Xavier twice. Twice he asked me for my help, and twice I told him I was going to put myself first. I didn't want to die in some absurd war, when it was so easy for me for hide."

She's quiet a moment. "I realized, of course, that I was wrong. There's no hiding. Not for any of us. Not for many on our roster." And, she gives Neena her first glance. "Neither for you, either." The words are matter-of-fact. Not meant to jab and hurt, not meant to contort up with overwrought empathy.

The ex-singer shifts, her hands twined together across her bent-up knees. "I don't think the Professor would mind whether or not you agreed, or even understood, his cause. He'd appreciate you being here. He'd hope, at the same time, you'd keep an open mind." Her eyes mollify with memory. "And if you didn't want to be here, you don't have to be. He'd let you go, like he did me. Guilt free."

That's where it leads to. Alison Blaire, circling the subject of duress. "We wouldn't hold you to any of it. What we learned about you, and what we know. I want you to know this. In your position, maybe I'd end up feeling a bit like a glorified prisoner."

***

Alison's admission successfully breaks the ice. One of Domino's brows inches upward as she looks to the other woman. Charles himself had specifically asked Ali for her help and she took the selfish route. -Twice.- "To be fair, if Xavier had come to me I probably would have turned him down as well."

As Dazzler talks about there being no hiding Dom silently nods in agreement. She's tried, of course. Staying mobile has been her greatest ally there but word travels faster than career paths. The writing had been on the wall for a while, she would have run out of places to run to.

Really, the X-Men had been Plan B. Or maybe C or D.

Curiously, it seems that Alison is more uncomfortable in the moment than Neena is. The albino's taking it all quite well thus far. When Ali reaches the first major point on her list Dom just smirks.

"Your empathy is a nice gesture but it's not necessary. I know the doors are open, Ali. What bothered me was that Warren never tried the basic approach. Share a couple of beers, maybe bounce around a couple of silly life lessons. I still wouldn't have told him shit but I would have been a -little- more understanding if he had started off like a normal person."

"You know where we're at now? A few of you have the most complete playbook of my history of anyone else and yet you've -still- offered to have my back. I'm still pissed, but I know what my odds of survival are. And…" she dreads admitting this part, but… "I would have done the same thing. Warren's an ass but he has more than my comfort to worry about."

***

I probably would have turned him down as well, admits Domino.

Alison answers that with a light, airy sound, the closest she's come yet to amusement. "Most reasonable, sane people would," she says. Not every X-Men, it seems, was born and bred to save the world.

She brushes a piece of wind-blown dandelion lint from her silk slacks. "And it's not exactly empathy. I just want that, and us, on the level. I don't want the Professor's work dirtied by misassumptions of — I don't know, threats. Conscription. We're not the Brotherhood, who probably love to put the thumbscrews to their so-called traitors."

When Neena brings up Warren, it earns another glance of Alison's blue eyes, always pensive, holding leagues of unfathomable somethings beneath the surface. For a pop star, she's all poker face. "Well. He's not the type who likes to do things the normal way. But that stunt in the car, Neena. Honestly? I don't think Warren is sore about it, personally. He was afraid that it'd happen again to someone else. Someone brushes a bit too close, and gets taken on Miss Thurman's Wild Ride. He grew up protecting everyone in that building. That's his life."

She glances back over the water. "Not everyone believes in the cause the same way. Some would — have — died for it, some might not. But they do all consider each other family." Strange phrasing from the ex-Dazzler: 'them', not 'us.' " That's what they are to each other. It wasn't anything personal against you."

***

With Alison's admission about Xavier Neena smirks a good deal further.

"No, you aren't the Brotherhood. Your reason for threatening me was to keep me from hurting the rest of your team. I've always been here by choice. -My- choice. The moment I feel like any of you are trying to take that away from me? I'm gone. But if that was ever a concern I wouldn't have shown up in the first place."

When it's stated that Warren doesn't like to do things the normal way Dom snorts in a bit of forced amusement. She's noticed, of course! Sometimes she agrees with his direction. Sometimes she doesn't. Nothing too unusual here. But then Alison brings up the car stunt again..and Neena rolls her head back with a slow breath.

There is ..so much. SO MUCH. That she wants to say about it. Some of it she already tried to say before. But every single path will lead right around to the same ultimate point. Dazzler isn't going to approve. She will call it reckless, unnecessary. Dangerous. Excessive. Maybe she's right, too. Or maybe she isn't. Frankly Neena doesn't want to waste any more of her life trying to analyze what happened in the past. She would do 'the car stunt' all over again for any number of reasons.

The part which really sticks with her and keeps -all- of these would-be responses from bursting forth comes from Alison's mention of something like it happening to someone else. Someone 'brushing a bit too close.'

Someone..like Danielle Moonstar.

The ugly truth is that people -do- get hurt around Neena. People -do- die, and not always the ones that she wants dead.

Like the kids back in Chicago.

"I know it wasn't," finally comes in response before she takes another drink from the bottle. "But what about you, Ali? Do you consider them to be your family?"

Yeah. She caught that part.

***

For her part, Alison is quiet. Quiet, but not dismissive — on the contrary, every ounce of her bearing suggests a keen focus on Neena Thurman. How she takes in mention of that night, that Ferrari, and a lucky roll of her probability dice.

Perhaps she knows well enough Neena could argue. Perhaps Neena should argue, to try to belabour the intricacies of her power, and weigh fact into whether Warren Worthington faced dancer that night.

But, whatever her reasons, she doesn't. And Alison seems to notice that.

She glances toward Domino, perhaps expecting more, and not quite disapproving of the silence. Perhaps, within it, an unspoken concession.

And then that question.

Alison's next silence isn't as pensive as the others; this one is girded. This one is damning. Whether it be the devouring culture of celebrity, years of trying to retain privacy when all the world wants its piece, or just her natural reserve, she looks away, off-balanced, aggrieved that Neena's picked up on a tell and aimed the interrogation lamp right back.

For a moment, she wants to put on the Dazzler's smile, and lie. She's not too sure why, in the end, she doesn't.

"No," she eventually answers, her voice still matter-of-fact. As if, at the heart of it, it doesn't bother her. "Not really. Too much time spent away. I respect Xavier, though. What he was trying to do. The message comes the closest to what feels true to me. That we are at war. But the second we decide to fight in this war, we've lost it for good." Alison pauses, and her mouth hitches up in a humourless smile. "Or whatever that means."

Then she looks at Neena, dead on, almost imploring. "Eventually, they're going to need something more from you. Not back up. Not even your luck. Maybe something no one else has ever asked of you."

***

For a brief time it seemed as though these two might be able to put their differences behind them. To level with their respective positions and move forward. It was off to a good start, really it was.

It's curious to think that one slip of Alison's words could not only potentially undo all of this progress but actually take them a step further back than where they had started.

Neena's still processing everything. Both what is being said and what isn't.

Respecting Xavier seems like a footnote in Dom's mind. Charles isn't here anymore. He hasn't been for a while. It's not like Dazzler needs somewhere to stay, she's a rich and famous sort. That means there's two reasons for her to stick around, and she's just admitted that one of them isn't responsible.

Ali's dead on stare is returned here. Neena could play this one nicely, have a proper heart to heart with the singer. She could keep this on the more productive path.

Or, she could be true to herself. Say it as she sees it and damn the consequences.

Alison is speaking for the entire team. The team which she had -just admitted- to not feeling a part of.

Sure, Domino has a really strange way of working with others. She's self-centered, impulsive, and more often than not, a proper bitch. But when she wound up getting Dani mortally wounded she didn't stick around to have first dibs on the Cheyenne's personal belongings if Dani failed to pull through.

Guilt is an emotion only reserved for people she actually cares about.

'Family.'

Tonight the bitch wins the internal debate.

"That's a powerful thing to say coming from someone who's more interested in the safety of her boyfriend than the rest of the team, but let's hear it."

***

There's no denying those words hit their mark, and hit it hard. There's a twitch to Alison's eyes, and a surrepititious glance away: not at the water, this time, or the verdent scene in front of them, but down at her own hands.

Making sure there's no light. Emotion, in the past, has make her control slip.

But there is no light. Not really much of an outward reaction on Alison Blaire, whose career for ten long years was to sing the world back its hope, its inspiration, its missing heart.

There's more of that silence, the pensive question asked and received: is that what others think of her? Is that what they first see? Something Alison needs to keep in mind, if she is set on change.

Her hands curl their fingers back into her palms. Alison considers it all a moment longer, and then just… laughs.

The sound falls out of her, and unlike everything else before it, there's no music to it. None left in her. Just fatigue, and some deep, self-aware ache.

"That's actually kinder than the truth," is what she admits back. "I was interested in my own safety. I turned down this family twice because I wanted something more. And, in the end, I still lost it. Lost everything. I came back here to hide. To use them to feel safe again, or to be told that I'm not a terrible person for ignoring what I was, and what they were, for a decade."

Why is Alison saying all this? And to Neena Thurman, no less? Why share secrets to someone who pointed a gun, weeks ago, at Warren?

"What I'm saying is you're not the only shitty person here, Neena. So don't let that keep you out here, brooding. Don't let that make you deal with Dani out here alone. Even if you don't feel the family thing, let it change you. Let it get under your skin, and pull you apart. It's going to drive you mental, and you can't answer it with more car rides. I don't know what this place wants out of you. I still don't know what it wants out of me. But it wants something, and it's our job to give it."

She exhales. "And I promised I wouldn't lecture. Welcome to the X-Men."

***

Do something unexpected, get an unexpected response. Neena should be intimately familiar with this approach but even she's sometimes caught off guard by how a situation turns out once it's left her immediate influence.

Alison withdraws. Checks herself. Looking for control? She thinks it over. Then comes the laugh. Coming from one of her background and abilities it sounds entirely soulless. It's kind of eerie.

Alison is having a proper moment from the heart. Why she's choosing to do so around Domino is a question on the albino's mind as well. Part of her revels in the moment. Not because Alison seems to be opening up and trusting the mercenary so much as that it feels like Dom is regaining control of the situation. Control of -Alison.- This is more where she wants to be. That dark and manipulative side which does whatever is necessary to see her through to success, whatever that might happen to be.

She's not quite ready to step back down from the bitch soapbox.

"Sucks, doesn't it. Having your life pried open by someone you barely know. Someone you still aren't sure if you can trust."

Then her conscience finally starts to claw its way back into action.

"-But-… I appreciate your honesty."

Then Alison gets a turn. Again Neena's thoughts scramble for a retaliation, trying to home in on the single most effective and efficient counter-attack which it can muster. But again..Ali nails it. -Brooding.- Dom's not sitting out here because she feels bad for Dani. Dani's fine! She made a full recovery within -minutes- and had even told them both while at death's door not to worry about her. It was pretty badass and all but there's no reason to worry about Moonstar.

So why is she out here again? Guilt. And guilt falls under the overarching tree of Brood.

Then Dazzler tells her to -let it- get under her skin and pull her apart, followed by a welcoming. That seems rather odd in its own right, for the same reason behind the albino's earlier snarky response.

Neena takes another drink then stands and brushes herself off. This is where she steps off the conversation train.

"Thanks, but I've been welcomed to the team four months ago. You might want to consider joining us."

***

"Yeah, it sucks," replies Alison, with no trace of glib cynicism in her voice. "I hated it had to happen. You can decide whether you trust that or not. At least where we're involved, it's not impossible to settle the score. Check my wiki. It should have everything."

The words fall out of her, half-sour, half-effacing. The price of celebrity, and how the Dazzler paid that in full. Paid it well, without a single cent in debt — and they still took her career from her.

But something else comes out of Neena Thurman, and it's not another remark that feels like a fist across the face, or that bitterness — a small concession for honesty.

Alison's eyelids hood slightly, receiving the comment, but saying nothing back. Perhaps it's the reason of her strange, unaccustomed confession: to give back something to a woman whose entire shaky past — filled with torture, and experimentation — was lain bare.

The Dazzler was never ripped apart and pulled together in the way Domino knows, but in her own way — she can understand.

When Neena inevitably stands, taking her alcohol with, Alison does not compel to follow. She remains where she is, sitting on the ground, ruining her silk. More than willing to let Neena go, off to wherever the mercenary wishes.

That last remark comes like a jab. Alison takes it, even though it hurts, because it's true. True, and ironic, that she came out here at all to lecture Domino on the facets of teamwork, when she's never felt it for herself. Not like Warren does. Not truly.

And with that, the strange feeling that it may well be true: that Domino, brand new, and with her history, may be more the X-Man than Dazzler was or is.

There is no remark back. No reply. Nothing but silence from Alison, who can't even find the words to deceive herself away. Point for Domino, who wins the last word on this day.

In the end, Alison Blaire, who loves to be tidy, and clean, and in control — just flops backward, to lay her restless self down along the ground. Her outfit is ruined. Right now, she doesn't care. "We meet again, Brooding Nook."

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