Roleplaying Log: Cold
IC Details

Alison and Warren in the hospital, the first few days after the dire injury to his wings. Cameron helps(?)

Other Characters Referenced:
IC Date: September 15, 2019
IC Location: New York Presbyterian Hospital
OOC Notes & Details
Posted On: 17 Sep 2019 05:47
Rating & Warnings:
Scene Soundtrack: [* ]
NPC & GM Credits: Cameron Hodge run by Warren
Associated Plots

They were most of the way back to the base in the Adirondacks before Warren regained any kind of consciousness. Unfortunately, he was not granted enough mercy by the universe to be unconscious the entire way. His healing blood was more of a curse than a blessing in this particular instance, because its effects meant he started to wake up before he could be stabilized and put on a drip of good strong painkillers.

The net result was that he spent his brief few moments of lucidity breathing shallowly in abject pain and clutching onto Alison's closest hand, before passing out again.

The next time he wakes is hours later. Kiff has by this time arrived to help see to the arrangements for transport, because advanced as the X-Men base is, there are some situations in which "recuperation in an isolated, secret vigilante mountain base" is not the best choice. Wakefulness is, of course, a relative term, because even strong as Warren's metabolism is, the amount of painkiller he's on is stronger, and he spends most of the trip south in a dazed, semi-awake state.

New York Presbyterian is one of the finest hospitals in the country, particularly its Columbia University Medical Center, and it is to that one which Kiff takes Warren. They are asked if Mr. Worthington would prefer his stay to be in the concierge ward with its luxury accomodations, posh assortment of amenities, and afternoon high tea services (of all things); Kiff says succinctly that Warren was in one of those once and declared it pointless, self-importantly wasteful, and cringeworthy, and that just having a private room and some medical care for his mangled wings, without all the pomp and circumstance and smoke being blown up asses, would do fine.

Once Warren was installed, Kiff called Cameron Hodge. Cameron dropped everything instantly and came to the hospital. He has not been far from Warren's side since, having brought his work with him; maybe not necessarily always in the room, due to not wanting to disturb his friend with the incessant phone calls, but — close.

By this point a little over a full day has passed since the Incident, and Warren has been capable of complex thought for approximately zero of those hours. It's late into the evening hours before he starts to wake into anything resembling a lucid state, by virtue of a combination of the initial care he's received, and his own blood. Cameron and Kiff are not in the room — they're down the hall, putting their heads together on possible statements to release when the time comes.

Of course the first thing he tries to move is his wings. Of course, that doesn't work out well, because what's left of them is held locked in makeshift traction, spread out to either side of his body in an attempt to keep them straight — perhaps hoping his own powers will find some way to repair them if they're just kept in the right alignment.

If such is even possible… it's plain that it will stretch the limits of his self-healing abilities. Most of the beautiful white feathers are missing, and what's left are crushed despite efforts to comb and pull them out straight. The shattered bones and ripped musculature have been set and stitched to the best of anyone's ability, being that no one really has training with 'bird wings springing out of a man's back.' Warren's personal physician, Doctor Stuart, who has been his doctor since he was a child, is the closest to any kind of authority — it's probably only by his guidance that this system was rigged up with any modicum of success to begin with — and even then, there's only so much he can do.

The work is done well, at least, which means that Warren's attempt to move yields nothing but a faint twitch where his left wing joins his body. The right, almost torn completely loose, of course doesn't move at all. A faint sound of surprised pain escapes him as he tries to open his eyes.

Alison Blaire is not used to the cold.

Not used to just how unbearable temperate climate — even in as humid a city as New York — feels on the skin. And she's certainly not used to the quiet torture that is air conditioning, blowing down on her through the Institute, through the en route transport, through the white-walled halls and rooms of New York Presbyterian.

Not once in her life has she ever drained her full charge, and the reality beyond the constant framing of light and heat is like a different world. All the more different to have Warren Worthington bleeding in this same world, darker, colder — not the same one she left behind scant hours ago.

With the Demon Bear left to ashes behind them — and Alison can promise this, because her same hands are black with that ash under the nails — she hasn't once left Warren's side. His shuttle back was met with her hand taking his — feeling colder than usual, but still her — and Alison's mindless soothes and promises spoken close to his ear.

The next twenty-four hours are a too-cold, sleepless blur. Alison cannot follow Warren into his initial surgery — cannot stand faithfully at his bedside in a sterile room — so she opts to do next best. She volunteers to donate blood, and though there is hospital policy against registered mutants doing so, they err on caution and figure with a type match, that perhaps mutant-to-mutant transfusion is for the best.

Tired and cold without her light, she shivers in the chair.

Alison feels the next many hours slip through her hands. She forgets how many faces walk in and out of her periphery, recognizes and gives harried looks to both Kiff and Cameron, but tanks best she can. The on-staff physicians and nurses cannot release much to her under the hospital's legal red tape; she's not his next of kin, despite sharing a vigiliante team with him for how many years. It's not like they're married, and she has any right to his information.

Fortunately, she's famous enough and public enough that, with enough push, Alison gets her way past the hard boundaries of visiting hours. Doctor Stuart, in his own helpful way, keeps her updated the best he can.

She dozes in a nearby chair, barely sleeping, barely able to turn off her mind to progress past a skipped-stone's unconsciousness — and the second she hears movement, she's awake.

Some people, in a situation like this, seeing someone they love, would be tears, emotions, displays — scenes. Alison isn't. Even a clear head now, ever bit of her held in that same, gentle state of restraint, she places her phone aside and leans forward to touch down over Warren's closest hand. Hers is still cold.

"Hey, hey, hey," comes Alison's voice, and it's much warmer, and as patient as ever. He won't heal this up if he keeps moving. "Just relax. Everything's OK. I'm here with you."

Kiff is gentle with Alison despite the sleepless strain that haunts the corners of his own eyes. He has a few words of comfort for her, but it's not long before he has to go take care of business. Above all, he is good at his job, and his job right now is to keep all the moving parts of Warren's life operating smoothly even in the absence of Warren himself.

Cameron is similar, if a little more reserved due to the fact he and Alison have interacted less than she has with Kiff. His own chief concern is his best friend's health, and he does not seem like the sort of man inclined to share his grief or worry.

This leaves Alison alone for vast stretches of time, except the few moments where Doctor Stuart emerges to provide her sparse updates on Warren's condition. Finally, however, she's allowed into the room with Warren where he's recuperating from the initial surgery. The surgeons have done what they can for his wings, but the — the things on display, in that tortured-looking traction, do not resemble the beautiful white things she has become so accustomed to seeing.

More time passes. Not as much as one might expect, though — his metabolism, his self-healing, works even now, and he starts to rouse before long. The first things he tries to move are his wings, though he quiets obedientily to the quelling touch of her hand. His head turns slightly towards her voice, though his blue eyes don't yet open. Still disoriented, no doubt.

"You are cold," are his first words, blurred from the anesthetic but still intelligible. "What happened?"

There is a long stretch of silence. "Did everyone get out OK?"

"It's the air conditioning," Alison replies easily. "They really crank it in here."

She doesn't know how to even phrase the truth: 'I thought you were dead so I lost control,' doesn't sound the greatest for bedside small-talk, so she shrugs it off.

Instead, her eyes soften to Warren's next question. Of course, him being him, the first anything out of him would be concern for everyone else. She studiously watches his face; it's a convenient target to keep straying glances off the state of his wings. The look of them is a punch in the gut. No worry. They'll be fine again soon enough. This she believes without a single, flagging doubt.

"Not a single casualty," she says tenderly. "All thanks to you. You did good work, Warren."

Alison's hand tightens on his. "Unfortunately," she says, far more loftily, "you have more work to do to heal up. So it's paramount you rest now, and let your body do that work."

It's the air conditioning, Alison says. Warren is silent a few beats. He knows it's not the air conditioning, but he doesn't have the strength to quibble.

Instead he asks the question which is next on his priority list: did everyone get out? Her answer brings a visible relief to his features, though it salts a little with bitterness when she adds it's 'thanks to you.' "KO in the first fifteen minutes of engagement," he says, voice raspy. "Would not have been unusual for me — ten years ago. I should be doing better today."

His expression is easy for her to watch; his healing has already taken care of most of the injuries, save his wings. He is still beautiful even here and now, under these conditions — the improbability of that is perhaps the most visible way the non-wings aspects of his mutancy will ever express themselves — but his features are a little marred by the exhaustion and trouble dogging his expression.

Her cheerful optimism should clear those clouds from his face, but something about the tone of it, the sheer cheerfulness of it —

"Ali," he says. His eyes finally brave the harsh overhead lights to dare open. They have little of their usual aquiline acuity, the crystalline blue of them fogged with pain and anesthetic. "I can't feel my wings." He starts to try to turn his head, to see.

The sparse few minutes of consciousness after a day — and Warren launches immediately into self-castigation. Alison tilts her head, her cobalt eyes hooding with a distinct look, though she doesn't push the issue — there's no good that comes out of arguing with a man in a hospital bed, two of his limbs hanging on by threads.

"You saved a life," she reminds, voice gentle. "Because of you, two parents aren't burying their child today. You have no idea how proud I am of you."

Rearranging herself, halfway in her chair, halfway leaned onto his bed, Alison eases in carefully to drape herself up and around Warren's bedded head. She brushes the hair from his forehead. Her own face cannot disguise its sleeplessness, but her smile is sincere — not a trace of deceit like those struggling looks people adapt to convince the dying that everything is all right.

The only anything that comes close is her beat of silence at Warren's last, heartbreaking words.

She lingers closer, drinking for herself the first look of his open eyes. "Shh," she soothes. "They have you so medicated that you might not feel much of anything right now. You just came out of surgery, so you're probably still numb."

He wants to look, she can tell. Alison tries to deter it, just a little, with a hand on his face. Look at her instead. "It's fine. This place will keep you comfortable, but it's your blood that will be doing the real work. You just have to rest."

Warren has always been an arrogant sort, but it is not the sort of blind, complacent arrogance that is content with personal mediocrity. It is arrogance born of knowing he has always excelled in most things to which he's decided to apply himself. He has always been an odd blend of great haughtiness about his capabilities, and a great drive to maintain those high standards for himself. There are few things he is harder on himself about than his philanthropic work, and his work with the X-Men trying to protect and save lives.

He might have also picked up some of that hard work ethic from Scott, over the years. Miracles do happen.

Such it is that the first remark he makes is a self-critical one. He's awake enough to notice Alison's telling silence in response, but he doesn't have the energy or desire to point it out either. At the least, her reassurances do seem to salve away his self-castigation. He can be self-critical, but he's also irretrievably vain, and it's pretty easy to convince him out of whatever few doubt spirals he might enter. "A few more than just one, I think," he quips — good that he's got enough energy to quip. "But I'm glad the kid is OK."

What is MUCH harder to distract him from — are his wings. Though he smiles wanly to her as she curls in close around him, the expression doesn't last long before he's trying to move, to look around her — to see what has become of the wings he can't feel. His eyes open slowly, the beautiful blue of them clouded but familiar, as he turns to see —

Alison stops him. He resists her slightly, those blue eyes turning up towards her instead, but after a moment he gives up with a sigh. There's definitely a sense this isn't over, however. "I don't feel medicated," he lies, but he doesn't resist much beyond that quibble. "It had better not take long."

His eyes half-shutter. "Tell me what happened after. Did you kill it?"

The quip comes to Alison's relief and approval. There is something intoxicating hearing someone do something as absurd as joke mere hours after watching them bleed out.

The light mood is something she wants to hold onto for them both — as long as possible — and though Alison knows it's inevitability for Warren to see his wrecked wings, there's nothing helpful about being struck by the look at them so soon in his recovery. His soul needs to heal, too. If she saw any of her limbs looking… like that… she'd be similarly distraught. Too distraught to go back to sleep, rest, heal.

So Alison plays a very clever defence. There is nothing restraining about her hands, and nothing confining in the way that she keeps Warren from any stray glances — that won't help, either — and instead she fills with frame of vision with something fairer. Namely herself.

"Mm-hmm," she says to his comment, patiently unconvinced. "They got you drugged to the gills. It won't take long. Your blood is something else."

Eventually, he relents, and Alison rewards Warren's obedience with a light kiss. Smiling peacefully down on him, her eyes hooded, she is a picture of true, earnest faith — worried, yes, but believing infallibly in the higher power of his abilities. He's made miracles happen before, and he'll get through this too.

The only change in her expression comes at his next question. Something lingers in Alison's eyes, not glancing away, but unfocusing for a beat of memory. "We did. It's done. Dani rescued all the souls trapped inside — and, hopefully, her closure with it. It shouldn't ever haunt us again."

The joke puts a relief on Alison's face that is so transparent, Warren can see it plainly even in his exhausted, bleary-eyed state. Perhaps setting her mind a bit more at ease is part of why he was so quick to make one; he has always been mindful when it comes to taking care of what's his.

He's also always just been a pretty resilient soul. When you're lucky enough to be born into the highest echelons of human existence, you grow up with optimism baked into your very bones — or at least, an inability to comprehend that the world might turn against you. Though the situation is dire, Warren hasn't truly registered the seriousness of it. Not yet. Like Alison, he still believes that this is something temporary… an injury, like all the others he has sustained over the years, which will heal soon enough.

Even so — probably not the best idea for him to see his wings right this moment. The sight of them might cause even a prodigious confidence like his own to be shaken. Alison blocks diligently, keeping him from looking without being too obvious about it, and presenting him with a far more preferable view: herself. He sighs, but seems tired enough to give up and lean into her kiss.

Tired enough to want to go back to sleep… but there's one last question he has to ask. Her answer closes his eyes. "Good," he says. "I was… getting tired of that thing…"

The soporific tug of the drugs in his system pulls him back under, mercifully, before he can start getting ideas about trying to see his wings again. It leaves Alison on her lonesome… though she isn't alone very long — a few hours, maybe — before a glance up would yield the sight of Cameron standing quietly in the doorway.

"Exhausting yourself in a vigil isn't going to help it go any faster," he says, not unkindly. "You don't want to run yourself so ragged you get sick. You ought to go get some water, at the least. I'll sit with him."

"No more nightmares," whispers Alison, and she anoints her promise with a kiss to Warren's forehead.

The last anything he hears, as he slips back under, is the familiar creak of the chair as she settles back in, prepared to sit sentry while he sleeps. He won't be here alone.

With a sigh, relieved both to see him sleep and be spared some time more from seeing his wings, Alison leans back and readies herself for the long haul. She spends the next few hours sedentary, sharing quiet words with visiting physicians and recording nurses, and otherwise waiting the hours away in a half-doze. Her half-shuttered eyes watch his wings, studying them — hopeful for the chance to see the evidence of healing between eyeblinks.

She's dozing with her eyes open, lost in some thought or another, when Cameron Hodge's voice ceilings the hospital room.

Alison turns her head, and takes the chide with a humoured half-smile. She doesn't count herself particularly close to him, but it's still nice to see a familiar face. "Twenty-hour days are my bread and butter," she murmurs back, with an apologetic tilt of her head. She leans it against her knuckles, as visibly tired as he says, but intent to remain rooted on the spot.

"It's fine. A nurse brought me coffee a while ago. I'd —" she glances toward Warren in bed, silent a moment to listen, certain he's still asleep. Her voice remains too-soft. " — like an update. Have you heard anything?"

Warren drifts back into sleep-unconsciousness quickly. He's sitting up in the hospital bed, propped upright so his wings can be spread out to try to heal, but that doesn't seem to bother him. Sleeping sitting up is child's play. He slept standing up often enough in the past; he was capable of doing so. Another aspect of his avian nature, most likely.

The hours pass by, slowly, dripping away with the slowness of molasses. Attending physicians and nurses come and go, but they don't have much to say. They check his vitals, and they leave. Perhaps they, too, are hoping to see his healing measured in hours instead of the usual days and weeks for a human; perhaps, they, too, are interested in seeing the potential miracle of watching flesh regrow before their eyes via Warren Worthington's well-known blood blessing.

No such thing happens. His wings droop unchanged over the hours. In fact — though it might be one's fearful imagination — they seem to get worse.

In time, Alison suddenly realizes she's no longer alone. Cameron's familiar gentle voice insinuates into her semi-doze, so soft-spoken that at first it might be counted part of a dream. But there he is, in the doorway, when she looks up. He is a bit distantly polite — the two of them never got close or anything, not like Ali did with Kiff — but there's never been any disputing how close Cameron is to Warren. He's been here almost as constantly as she has.

A rueful half-smile pulls at the corner of Cameron's mouth at Ali's demurral. "Of course," he says, of her familiarity with twenty-hour days. "Though the circumstances are a little different. A few fans seeing you exhausted and ragged — that's not such a big deal. But I think it'd be better to spare Warren the potential worrying if he wakes up and sees you looking haggard." He exhales a sigh. "But — if you insist."

She says she'd like an update. Cameron's brown eyes flicker briefly with some undefinable emotion. His pause before speaking is noticeable. "They expected a faster rate of healing, based off what little they know about how his blood works," he finally says. "Yet there's barely any progress. Thing about his blood is, there has to — there has to be contact. It has to flow through the areas in question."

His brown eyes turn to the ruined messes of Warren's wings. "They think the damage was so extensive there just wasn't that delivery path during the critical first few hours."

He snorts. "Not that I let it sit on that. That's — I'm not just giving up like that. You know? I pushed. He'll be back in surgery tomorrow, they'll see what they can do."

They don't look worse to Alison Blaire.

Delusion has a way of tricking the senses. Unchanging belief can resculpt one's entire world. And in Alison's, Warren Worthington with sick, rotting wings goes against logic.

Treating this no different from the last time Warren was bedridden — he was flying within days, just like he will again — Alison meets Cameron's arrival, and choice words, with a humoured crook of her mouth.

"Haggard," she repeats his descriptor. That's not a word used often on the Dazzler. Her papery, sleep-deprived voice intones with a tease. "Ouch. Please, don't mulch words with me. You can be honest."

It's a show of lightness and play; Alison, however, is worried, and it shows through her wordless declaration to remain seated, remain at post at Warren's bedside. She needs to stay on top with the surgeons, and may never forgive herself if he wakes, looks for her, and finds nothing.

Transparently exhausted, she sits through that beat of silence out of Cameron, blue eyes on him. If Alison notices it, she doesn't speak on the issue. She's got that unreadable look up on her face, the kind that reveals nothing save the fact that she's thinking. Perhaps girding herself, fearing the possibility Hodge has heard bad news, and is trying to mentally mince his next words.

He answers her request, and she is silent, blinking the remainder of her drowse away.

First, Alison checks on Warren. She feels a bit like she's playing chicken, with him asleep a foot away — this is information he'll get, but she'd like to control the when and how. Certainly not here, and like this. She keeps her voice low, seriousness smelting away the earlier play. "They… what? Are you serious? They can re-establish blood flow. Graft veins — his blood has fought worse odds and healed people back to health."

Cameron promises he's not giving up; Alison leans back, agitated, but relieved to hear it. "Good. They're thinking within limitations. We're not human. Medicine doesn't apply equally to us. I could… get in contact with some mutant physicians. They wouldn't let that shit slide."

Cameron meets Alison rueful humor for humor, his half-smile quirking up into a full one at her response — albeit one which still lacks a bit in the genuine amusement department. Too worried for that. "Sorry," he says. "It's a habit. PR thing. All the white lies go out to the world. The clients, however — they need some brute honesty, more often than not. 'Really — this is how you're going to look if you go out there right now.' That kind of thing."

For all the external lightness of their interaction, however, neither of them seem about to give up their post at the bedside of the winged man for whom they both care. Cameron regards Alison a few moments more, before he seems to accept her presence as the permanent fixture it intends to be, and settles in himself. Her question is, eventually, met with a blunt answer, as promised.

Her response climbs his brows slowly towards his hairline. The expression is the only visible reaction, but it carries the air of a look that disguises a myriad of deeper responses.

"You want to be careful saying that sort of thing," he says after a few moments, his voice still patiently gentle. His brown eyes watch her neutrally. "Take that as my advice from the PR angle. Warren's not going to be like this forever. You'll want to go back to what you were doing before all this, and that whole coexistence and outreach stuff will be harder if people have you on record talking about the human condition as a limitation."

There is a brief pause, before Cameron inclines his head. "Anyway… I'm pushing them to try grafts with this coming surgery," he says. "They were very by-the-books for the first one. Never occurred to them to scaffold a method of delivery for his own natural healing."

The implication behind 'limitation' hangs in the air between them, as loaded as a guillotine.

Alison, on her side, is stubborn certainty that she is right. That is, until Cameron's caution forces her one moment's backpedal to remember her own words. She exhales, with just enough self-consciousness in her tired worry to close her eyes and lean her face into her hand, rubbing the fatigue from her eyelids.

"You know what I mean," she murmurs, barely maintaining the patience for semantics. "I'm not saying non-mutants are limited." Except she was, except she is — all of allopathic medicine is a distant laugh compared to the miracle of Warren's blood. "Just that it's a limited diagnosis to treat Warren, or any of my kind, the way someone would treat a human. Triaging limbs is different with him. He can't get septic. He won't get sick. If they can't think outside the box, I don't want them near him."

The Dazzler made a career out of making demands, and Alison is no different. Especially not where Warren is involved. She seems unlikely in any of her type-A way to cede control.

Fortunately, that flash of ire is gone from her eyes when her hand drops down. "And I'm taking this out on you. Thanks for being on top of this, Cameron. Warren will be happy to see you when he wakes up."

You know what I mean.

"Yeah," Cameron says. "I know."

He lets it go. Especially after she seems to eventually take his caution about the optics to heart. Especially when she apologizes for taking it out on him, and thanks him for being on top of things. His eyes turn to Warren's quiescent form, and stay there. "I'm not going to let them treat him as they would treat a human," he assures. "He'll be treated as the mutant he is."

He is silent a moment, watching Warren as if no one but the two of them were in the room. It is a brief moment of vulnerable intimacy which Alison hasn't often had cause to see from him, given he was so typically handling business when she saw him in the past. Only her last remark turns his eyes back to her, as if he's remembering she's there.

A mote of sadness comes and goes in his eyes. "He usually is," he says. "I was hoping he would be now, but…" He is quiet a moments, before he turns away. "I'm going to press about moving up the surgery. They could be doing better on trying alternative methodologies. Whatever they need to do to get his blood going through his wings."

He disappears. But as promised, a few hours later, Warren is taken away from Alison again for another round of surgery. This one lasts longer — hours, as every expert who could be quickly called in attempts to figure out how to rebuild a set of shattered wings — and the recovery is longer. The days slide by, and people come and go to see him. Warren is conscious about half of the time, and alternates between continuing optimism and numb silence as the various experts drawn in try, and fail, to diagnose why his wings simply will not heal.

Tonight marks nearly a week since the incident. The last time his wings were hurt, he was flying short distances ago by now; this time, the late evening finds him still confined to bed, because moving would disturb the remnants of wings which have not only not healed, but actively rotted since they were first hurt. There's a tablet sitting in his lap which he was nominally reading, but his head is slumped and he's not looking at it, or anything in particular.

His wings have transitioned to being bound up, but even the wrappings can't fully dampen the smell of dying flesh.

Alison knows an emotionally unguarded moment when she sees it — which is why her eyes do not linger long on Cameron Hodge.

He seems to forget she's there, and it seems an oddity in itself — that an idol and cultural cornerstore like the Dazzler can be overlooked, just like that. But she can be, and she is — and she was, when she was Alison Blaire. Her presence draws in naturally enough that it's not much of a reach.

Her eyes are on Warren's wings, silent and contemplative, as she allows Cameron his own peace. Alison only glances back when he speaks.

Something, almost like the first dusk to an inevitable defeat, shadows his words. She doesn't like it. "He will be," she corrects, voice soft and of an unbreakable faith. "This hasn't happened to him. Not to this magnitude. This is new, and we need to keep our wits about us. I've seen a lifetime of things that defy explanation, and this will be no different."

She does relent, cooperative, to Cameron's gameplan. "Thank you. Keep me posted. And — he's in pain, but he's cognizant. Make sure they send someone in here to talk to him before I drag the physicians in myself. Because it's not you and it's not me who's going to be making these decisions. It's what Warren wants.

Her tired smile, coupled with those requests, sees him out.

And through the next few days, Alison Blaire is a constant presence in New York Presbyterian. Most of the staff see her enough to lose that initial star-struck awkwardness, and she's just another shadow haunting the halls, waiting on news when she's not a constant presence at Warren Worthington's bedside. She has her entire life moved here, and lives quietly from her sentry spot, catching up on work when he's asleep, tending to him when he's awake.

The surgery comes and goes, and Alison asserts herself more and more on the team of surgeons and physicians. She always has ideas, options for alternative treatment, and she makes constant phone calls — Aegis' contacts of registered mutant doctors, and others specialized in metahuman abilities — for experts to weigh on on his course of treatment.

When the wings begin to rot, she is unmoved. Hope is a powerful force, a blinding one, and Alison does not see — does not smell — what does not fit her worldview. Warren will get better once medicine properly facilitates the miraculous working of his body.

"I have coffee," she announces, bearing two styrofoam cups upon her arrival. The five-minute jaunt to the cafeteria is the longest Alison has let herself stay away from Warren. If she sees his wings, they do not change the patient look on her face, expression weightless and unworried. She sits down to begin doctoring both cups with sugar. "Catching up on work?"

Cameron Hodge is a consummate businessman and executive, and even with her limited interactions with him, Alison would have instantly recognized his deep intelligence and cool competency. Not coming from money the way Warren did, when he got into Harvard, it was on raw merit. He has always held himself accordingly, with the sort of unflappable professionalism that could quiet rooms full of even the most jaded, hardened businessmen when he began to speak.

Here and now, for the first time, Alison sees that demeanor crack, and something else come through. The something else which first drew Cameron to Warren. The something else which stood Cameron at Warren's side when his parents died. The something else which keeps him standing here, even now, looking at his best friend with a brief, exposed longing: come back, and let's go back to how things were before everything changed.

Then his expression closes off again. His eyes turn back to Alison, remembering she is there. Most people in this situation might take comfort from Alison's words — might cling to the dogged optimism that she expresses, because the alternative is so much more fearful. Cameron just looks at Alison — her commands, her demands, her decrees — before he ultimately inclines his head. Light reflects from the lenses of his glasses.

"I'll take care of things," he assures. "Take care of him."

True to his promise, over the next few days, he takes care of things. He presses the doctors; he takes care of the paperwork; and as demanded, sends the physicians to talk to Warren about his wishes should the unthinkable happen. Warren is… not a cooperative patient to speak to, alternating between the numb silence of denial and angry outbursts of how he would sooner die than do anything to compromise his wings. The staff grow a little worn down by his mood swings, but Alison keeps after them unrelentingly, and his treatment never flags.

Not that it stops what seems inevitable. The second surgery seems to help at first, but abruptly he takes another downturn after a day.

Day by day, his wings gangrene. Most of the time Warren joins Alison in her blind, unmoved hope — her absolute refusal to see what is happening before their eyes. Sometimes he does not. Today seems to be one of the latter days.

He doesn't respond at first to her greeting, nor her question. He shows no interest in the coffee. After a moment, he seems to remember himself, and tries to speak. Nothing actually comes out of his throat, his first attempt at words a voiceless movement of his lips.

He goes still, closes his eyes, and then with an effort seems to shake away the fog. "I was," he says, his voice a rasp. Extended bed rest has dulled off the aching edges of his beauty; his golden hair, limp and lackluster for the first time since she has known him, straggles into his dim blue eyes. "It's hard to focus. The questions of where I am, what happened… they will have to be answered soon."

He is silent a few moments, before he adds, "Cam was here, talking about a third surgery. I said, whatever it takes."

Because of respect, because of social decorum, Alison Blaire only sees Cameron Hodge that way for a moment. Not long at all, but long enough to let something mirror against the lenses of her eyes. The flicker of some half-formed thought, which dissipates before it can take shape.

There are more pressing things to think about. So Alison considers, and then lets it go.

She has not seen Cameron since that night. Strangely enough, she has not thought much of him either. An inoffensive man never staged to be a centerpiece in life, who worked shadow to Warren's glowing sun — Alison loses track of him from her thoughts. She can still feel him, or at least his efforts, enmeshed into every decision made into Warren's welfare.

After all, he promised to take care of his best friend.

Alison does her part by stirring coffee. That, and her abject refusal to say the things others do in Warren's presence — how are you? how do you feel? how are the wings? — because she refuses to see this as anything but a temporary pit stop before the long rest of his life. His wings are not unresponsive to his body. They are not in a state of decay. It is the fault of the hospital, of the surgeons, of modern medicine, of society — how can they treat mutants if they don't even want to look at them?

It is a hurdle they will jump, because they are strong, because they are resilient, because they are X-Men, and because they are not alone. Alison projects this with the patience she allows Warren's failed first attempt to speak. It breaks her god damned heart, but she projects it.

His symptomatic confusion presses at her, and she reaches out to touch his face: an affectionate brush of her fingers. It's as much as sincere brush of contact as it is Alison trying to ascertain if Warren is fevered. "No power can keep you from working," she complains affectionately.

"Don't worry about those questions, anyway," she continues brightly. "I'll take point on the rest. Nothing I haven't handled before."

Leaning back, contemplating whether she should abandon the coffee and just force Warren to drink some water, Alison's eyebrows lift at mention of Cameron. She's surprised she didn't pass him in the hall. "Then that's how it will be. Whatever it takes. I was just on the phone with my own lead. There's a specialist with Cedars that has worked on similar cases. Mutant patients, mutant anatomies. I'll fly him in tomorrow."

The seriousness softens out of her eyes. "You've always gotten what you want. You're going to get this too."

Cameron Hodge has always been little more than a shadow beside the showy brilliance of Warren Worthington. Some men would have found much to resent about that; Cameron, however, was always a gentle, unassuming sort — and the sort perfectly suited to play the part of the power behind the throne.

It did not matter to him if people saw him as a moon to Warren's sun. Warren was his sun too.

Perhaps Alison notices that to some degree… but at the moment, it's not really the sort of novel or immediately-useful information that draws her attention for long. It's not a secret the two men are best friends, nor a secret how close they are. Neither is it a secret how much Cameron has done for Warren over the years, and how much he continues to do for him even now.

The days pass, and Cameron's quiet, unassuming influence can be felt in all the decisions, small and large, made in the interests of Warren's welfare.

Close as he and Warren are, though, Cameron still seems content to leave Warren's emotional care to Alison. Perhaps he thinks her more suited, as the significant other; perhaps it just hurts him too much to see his friend robbed of all his trademark vitality and arrogant strength, reduced to a state of passive, drug-fogged bewilderment. A glance down at the work in Warren's lap would reveal that he is only on the second page. Never made it any farther than that.

He only responds when she brushes his face. He leans automatically into the contact, and closes his eyes tiredly to her promises to take point on everything — the questions, the work, the inquiring public. Given his lifetime of taking control of the care of everyone around him, it is heartbreaking to see him so wounded as to permit someone to now take care of everything for him. And without so much as a single word of objection…

His first words, in fact, are about Cameron. He listens passively to her talk of specialists, and though he transparently tries to show interest, it is just as transparent that he is too exhausted for enthuse. The only thing that does seem to spark a brief resurgence of the Warren she knew is her reminder that he's always gotten what he wants.

He smiles then, ruefully — even exhales half a laugh — though the responses seem more suited to someone recollecting themselves as they were years ago. Thinking back on his old self as he might a stranger. "I do," he says, his eyes slowly opening. "I do always get what I want. I used to say that, a lot…"

His eyes turn out the window. "Even though there were times I did not."

Hearing that laugh — rough as it is — slants a sunshine of hope across Alison's face. So when Warren immediately backtracks off it, and amends his joke with darker thoughts —

She leans in to peck a kiss on his mouth, and tell him in a tease, "Yeah, your more ridiculous requests." It's a determined attempt not to interact with that air of defeatism — not allow him any opportunity to marinate in it for long. Trauma processing is important, and grief needs to be acknowledged, but Alison is no psychologist — and, deep down, in the well's end past her delusions, it frightens her to enable his negativity.

Contrary to her music, she's always been pessimistic. She can't be now. He can't be now. It's too early in the game, and there's so much to do.

Brushing away some of his hair, she leans back to her chair, taking Warren's work with her in a wordless declaration of her assumed responsibility. This she can do, and well, she thinks; Alison can at least keep the threat of work away from Warren, so his only worry can be focused on his own recovery.

"When you think about it, the last decade has stacked us all serious odds. We all grew strong. We defied expectations, probability — God, laws of physics. I'm not letting any short-sightedness get in my way. This is going to be fixed," says Alison, with that unfailing forward momentum. The furious chariot that is not built or bridled to spin in reverse.

Her hand finds his, her touch careful — her skin slowly warming after those few cold days. "And I need just one thing from you, Warren. Just a bit of faith. It's healing to keep a positive mind. The body needs it."

Warren says nothing back to Alison for at least a minute.

"What's healing," he eventually says, "is my blood, and it's not doing it. The wings are on my back, I know how it's supposed to feel when things are working as they should, and they're not. I used to be able to feel and move every feather. I lose control over more and more of the ones that are even left every day. Every few hours."

His hand is unresponsive under hers. "I want to sit here and have faith. But I sit here and feel that instead."

That minute of silence plays havoc on Alison. With each second mounts a building sense of dread, that she said too much, pushed too much, shouldn't have asked anything of him, not this early on —

And when Warren speaks, Alison is demonstatively quiet. She doesn't try to interrupt, or argue, or even emote — just that frozen silence, nascently similarly to that way deer freeze in headlights. He's never spoken like that to her before.

He's also never had his wings in traction before. He's also never had her ask him to 'chip up' under pain and fear — she was right. She spoke wrong. She deserves this.

"I know," Alison says, and though she does not outwardly say it, her bearing and voice cringe with apology. "I hate they haven't found an answer to that. But they will. I'll bring in the best minds myself. I'm going to make the solution happen."

Her hand lingers on his a few moments more, before it guiltily pulls away. She thinks to speak, gives a couple false starts, but no longer trusts her own words, fiercely re-thinking whether she'll speak wrong again. "Is there anything you need right now?"

Alison locks up in cringing, apologetic silence. Warren doesn't want to look at her — doesn't want to look at what he was just responsible for doing to her — but after a moment he makes himself look her in the face, absorbing her guilt and pain and fear.

It makes him think of years ago, when he was a young teenager on his first hunting trip — pure tourism, really, just stupid — and he shot a doe out of season by mistake. He hadn't cared at first, had just laughed and bragged about his first kill and known that whatever legal problems arose would mysteriously disappear before the power of his surname, but then he'd walked up and found that she wasn't where she had fallen.

He found her, eventually, laying by a stream. He'd gut shot her. Her eyes, as she looked up at him, looked the way Alison's do now, frozen and shocked with the sudden unexpected hurt.

He mercy killed that doe, that day. He does something similar, today; Alison asks if there is anything he needs right now, and he takes his eyes off her and turns his head away.

"I need to be alone," he says. He can't hurt what isn't present.

It makes her think of years ago, too.

'I need to be alone,' says Warren.

'Leave me alone,' echoes the voice of her father, low, irritated, when Alison was five and started singing him the song she made up about the neighbour's cat.

The memory rhymes too well with this, enough she feels some unwitting surge of panic to beg forgiveness — though that never worked, not on her father, not on Roman — so Alison doesn't, swallows it back, because none of this is about her. She's not the one laid up in that bed, suffering, forced to passively witness the entire world fail to fix him the way he has endured to always fix others.

He takes his eyes off her, but Alison still smiles for Warren, just in case. "Of course," she says, agreeing, not wanting him to think his request is too much. Everyone deserves a bit of quiet.

Rising up from the chair, his collected work in her arms, she hastily makes her way to the door, lingering only at its threshold. "If you need me — just ask the nurse." She'll stay on the premises. Just in case.

Carefully, she shuts the door behind her, and leaves Warren to his solitude.

And then Alison just stands there, several moments more, her mind replaying and replaying the last few minutes. She pulls awkawrdly at the sleeve of her shirt, then a nurse passes by, catches eyes, and she returns the greeting with a winning smile. She moves off to make herself useful.

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