Fire - Head Bowed
Jonothon Starsmore furnaceface
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From Brooklyn to Xavier Institute for Higher Learning, Sunday Fandom Time


Raven
It was like Agio all over again. So many needed her help, but she could only tend to one at a time. She absorbed their pain and healed the worst of the wounds that had been inflicted upon them, and calmed their fears so they would rest and not panic and risk her work being undone.

Then she'd move to the next, not waiting to fully expel the pain and emotions she'd taken. It hurt and she cried but she wouldn't stop until there were no more to heal or she had nothing left to give. When the ambulances began to arrive and take those who had been stabilized away and the only victims left were the ones who were beyond her help, she found a corner at the front of the church, as far from the hole in the floor and the dead that still lay in the basement as she could get, and she huddled there, shaking and struggling to purge all the suffering from her soul.

Jono
Jonothon didn't speak.

In fact, he wasn't entirely certain that the right words for any of this even existed. There were always words. But then... right then... none were coming to mind.

But the moment that his legs would let him stand on them again, he was seeking her out. And the moment that he found her, he crouched down and wrapped his arms around her. He'd been sending out calm as best as he could since they'd arrived. He was no empath, but at least he could do that. Now, however, it was something else that he was sending her way. Something without words, full of love and reassurance and apology.

There were no words for how sorry he was. None.

Raven
Her soul was still raw and bleeding, and Raven tensed when she first felt Jono's touch. But his love was like a soothing balm on the lingering pain, and she relaxed as she realized it was him and not another hand grasping at her, begging for help. She couldn't stop shaking, though.

"Why?" she wept. "How could they do this?"

Jono
Fear.

Ignorance.

Desperation.

Jono shook his head, pulling her closer in his arms. There were a million and one reasons that he could pull out of nowhere. A million and one, and none of them could justify this. None of them could explain this away. Nothing ever could.

//They don't know any better,// he said, finally, settling on something that seemed to sum up most of those reasons as he grasped about blindly for them. //And they don't want to know any better.//

This let them believe that they were the dominant species. Evolution was some sort of slight against God. Mutants were more powerful, but they were still mortal. Hate. Insecurity. Lies.

A million and one reasons.

Raven
"No," Raven said fiercely, shaking her head. "They know better. Surely some part of them knows what they do is wrong. They simply do not care." Which made it worse. Mindless destruction was one thing. Purposefully inflicting pain and murder was true evil.

She clung to Jono, her trembling beginning to subside as she worked more of the pain away. Her father destroyed worlds for power; Sebastian had killed for the same. This was just hate. She didn't know the mutants who had been tortured and killed here, but she had seen glimpses of the beauty in their souls as hers had touched them. They'd given no reason to deserve this other than merely existing.

Jono
//We're not th'same as them,// Jono murmured quietly. //We want to be. So many of us want to be. Th'students at th'school... most of them never wanted powers. They wanted to grow up to be... Nurses. Actors. Firefighters. The same things that human children want to be.//

But they looked different. Humanity had a long history of mistreating those who looked different, even before mutancy became such a hot issue.

And they had a genetic skill set that most humans could only dream of. That made them Other. That made them unpredictable and potentially dangerous.

//They're afraid that we're going to replace them, someday. I've heard so many mutterings about some sort of vast Mutant Agenda on th'news that I'm almost beginning to feel left out. Nobody's ever approached me to join.//

That was intended to be some sort of lighthearted banter. Problem was, Jono sucked at lighthearted banter. Mostly, it just came off as tired and bitter.

Raven
Raven drew in a shuddering breath and let it out slowly as she finally managed to banish the last of the pain. Its wake left her dizzy as the post-healing euphoria settled in. Her shaking stopped, but not her clinging. She wasn't going to be letting go for awhile.

"I wish there was more I could do to help," she said. Find the ones in hiding and let them know that they were loved. Take away the fears from those who distrusted the ones who looked different. And some dark part of her wanted the ones responsible for this massacre punished.

Jono
They would be. If nothing else, Jono was certain of that. That the X-Men would find those responsible, and they'd make thoroughly certain that this never happened again.

//You've done plenty,// he stated, softly. //You've given a lot of these people a second chance, Sunshine. They might not have had that, otherwise.//

Raven
"But there is still so much hate," Raven said, voice muffled as she buried her face against his shoulder. "They are safe for now, but what of a month from now? Someone could hurt them again."

Someone could hurt him.

Jono
//Someone could,// Jon allowed, closing his eyes for a moment to get his bearings again. //That's life, luv. I don't think any of them are under any illusions that this is the only time they'll ever hurt because they were born.//

Which didn't make it any better. He knew that.

//But we'll do what we can for them. Give them a place to stay, if they need. Find them a place to go, if they prefer. They're not alone, now.//

Raven
"I hope they stay," Raven said softly. "I do not want to think of them alone, especially after this."

She lifted her head, waiting for him to open his eyes again so she could look directly at him. "I am so grateful that you did not choose to hide yourself away from the world. You know that you are loved. And I will never allow you to forget that."

Jono
Raven, how did you always know exactly what it was that he needed to hear, even when Jonothon himself didn't?

//Knowing that has kept me going,// he admitted, letting himself get lost in her eyes. Much, much better than being lost in the chaos that surrounded them both. //That no matter what happens here, I'm still worth something, somewhere. It's... good to have, in th'face of things like this.//

He squeezed her tightly, and then relaxed his deathgrip on her a moment later.

//I love you, Raven. And I think... I think I would be very lost, without that much.//

Raven
"I love you," Raven said, letting that love flow out of her and surround him. For a moment, at least, nothing around them mattered. "And I will remind you of that as often as you need." And then a few more times.

"And I am not the only one who thinks you are worth something. Karla and Warren and Squall and Rinoa all came here to help you without question. And I am certain many more would have come if they knew you needed help."

Jono
//I couldn't think of anybody else,// Jono replied. //I mean... there are other people that I would call in an instant, if the situation had been anything different. But... healers. All we had was th'one nurse and Archangel. I was... kind of amazed that more than you three showed up. I'd only really thought of you, Karla and Squall...//

But words couldn't quite express how thankful he'd been that there were more people than that, willing to put everything down to help.

Raven
"I will always come when you need me," Raven said. "Always. No matter what. You are the most important person in my life."

She knew he'd come when she needed him, too. He already had, more than once. And she'd put him through worse than this. It wasn't guilt or the need to repay him that motivated her, however. It was love.

She closed her eyes and relaxed back against him. For just a few seconds she wanted to forget the horror she'd seen, but she'd do it all again if she had to.










Jean
With the survivors stable and the Church of Humanity taken care of for the time being, Jean finally allowed herself to relax and calm down some of the students of the school.

It made the dream of peace all the more difficult to even imagine after a day like this, though.

Jonothon Starsmore
//Jean?//

It had taken Jono a while to nerve himself up to finding her. She wasn't part of Kurt's group, so Jean was one of those members of the untouchable elite, up there with Scott and the rest, that he had never really spoken to outside of meetings or emergency situations.

He kept worrying that he'd be too casual around her. She wasn't the same Jean that he'd argued about soccer versus football with. Wasn't the same one who had gotten glitter up his nose years ago, in their high school days.

//Jean, I... I think I wanted to apologize. For th'way th'place has been upside-down lately.//

... Okay, so the Church of Humanity and Alpha Flight and X-Corps and the Juggernaut and the rest of it weren't exactly his fault. But, you know. Jono liked to start broad and narrow his options down as conversations progressed, sometimes.

Jean
It did help that she was a founding member of the school too. Oh, and died once or twice!

"I think the school is in a constant state of upheaval," she replied with a slightly strained smile on her face. "These days."

Jonothon Starsmore
//Just these days?// Jono almost sounded wistful at that. //I don't remember a time when it wasn't.//

For all the time that he'd been here, right?

//They do mean well, for what it's worth. They're just... not... used to this.//

For whatever definition of 'this' one wanted to use, there.

Jean
"They're young," Jean suggested. "Everyone is either very young or too old."

The sad expression on her face only lasted a brief moment before it was replaced by something far more placid.

Jonothon Starsmore
//Mostly young,// Jono agreed, eyebrows furrowed slightly. //They've all seen their share of hard times, but I don't think most of them can fathom th'things they've seen here. It's all still... sinking in.//

He couldn't help but wonder what it meant that he was getting used to slaughter like they'd seen back in that church.

//I... should've told somebody before messaging them for help. I realize that I sort of... invited a stampede into this place without warning. But Lee... Angelo...//

He hadn't been thinking, so much as acting. And they were still alive, so he wasn't particularly sorry about it, either.

Jean
"I'm sure Scott will want a word soon enough." Not that she knew for sure these days. "But it wasn't a bad thing you did."

Just... ill-advised.

Jonothon Starsmore
//They saved a lot of lives, these past few days.// Jono lifted his shoulders in a shrug. //I'm willing to take whatever words Scott wants to have with me, in light of that. I think I can spare that much.//

And if it meant that he was stripped from active duty on Kurt's team... Big deal. It wasn't like Kurt was putting him to work lately, anyhow. Hell, it wasn't like Kurt had really pulled up his bootstraps and done a hell of a lot, himself. Maybe things would change now, but...

//I keep trying to think of what this place might've been like, before. I mean, the Academy wasn't... too bad, generally. We had our bumps here and there, but until th'riot there, it was mostly just people like Emplate, or Black Tom. Other mutants.//

Jean
"Before people knew about us here?" Jean asked, crossing her arms over her chest as though it was a hug. "It's been building for a while. The kind of fear that turns to the hatred they had for us."

And then things would get so much worse.

Jonothon Starsmore
//Before then, right,// Jono agreed, cramming his hands into his jacket pockets. //I think maybe I was spoiled, on that island. Sure, I had to keep wrapped up, generally, but when anything attacked th'school in Fandom, at least we all knew that it wasn't necessarily personal.//

Here was... so much more tiring. Even Silent Hill, in retrospect, didn't compare to some of the atrocities that he'd seen since graduation.

Jean
"Not here." Because they could never have it easy. Or a breather between things.

"Are you sure this is where you want to be then?"

Jonothon Starsmore
Jono was silent for a long moment before glancing up at Jean.

//... I think I would be more sure, if I knew that I was making any sort of difference. I usually get left on th'blackbird, unless they need something blown up. Which... even that is less often than you'd think. So... Kurt and Bobby trash my flat in London telling me all about how this is my responsibility, and I finally agree to join, not because of that, but because I had nowhere else to go, and... now that I'm here, I feel like it is my responsibility, and I'm just...//

He shrugged, maybe a little helplessly. Maybe a little apologetically, because he did have a bit of a tendency toward rambling.

//Junior-member Jon. Presumably, Kurt and Warren keep me around because I can be useful when communications are down.//

Jean
"You know, when the team was first formed, I was the weakest member." It was the skirt. That horrible, horrible skirt.

Jonothon Starsmore
//Looking at what you can do now... that's difficult to imagine,// Jono noted, raising an eyebrow. //Did you at last get to get off th'bloody jet?//

One of the seats was kind of starting to get a permanent indent in it in the rough shape of Jono's ass, was the thing.

Jean
There was a hint of a genuine smile there, thinking about the old days. "I wasn't about to let them leave me behind."

Jonothon Starsmore
//I don't take so well to being left behind,// Jono admitted. //I keep meaning to bring it up to... Kurt, or Warren, I don't know who's even in charge anymore. Logan's the only one who takes me seriously, now that Stacy's left. But he and Warren aren't exactly th'best of friends.//

Why the hell wasn't Logan leading a team? He seemed good at... pretty much everything he did.

Jean
Because Logan was busy with all his other teams. How did he manage them all?

"Warren can be a little--Warren about things," Jean replied dryly. "He's still coming back to himself."

Jonothon Starsmore
Yes. Himself. And Paige while he was at it.

Jono wasn't exactly some kind of great ex lover of Paige's or anything, but he'd been on a team long enough with her to want to make certain that some middle-aged flyboy didn't take advantage of how stupid she was being.

//... Maybe I'll talk to Scott, instead of either of them. At least it's easy enough to tell when he's taking charge of a group, or whatever.//



Raven
Raven had spent time resting after the return to the mansion, then more time in the infirmary to see to the patients there, old and new. She'd spread herself thin healing so many, but she could still help speed along their recoveries and ease the fears of the mutants who had been brought from the church.

When she left the infirmary to take a break and find something to eat, she spotted Jean. She hadn't known her counterpart in Fandom personally, but the resemblance was clear. Wanting assurance about the Church of Humanity, she decided to approach her.

"Hello," she said softly. "We have not been properly introduced, but I am Raven, and you are Jean Grey, are you not?"

Jean
Jean glanced over at her for a moment, possibly measuring her, possibly just to confirm who it was speaking. "Jono's friend."

Raven
Raven nodded. "Yes, from Fandom," she said. "I am a healer, as you have probably seen now. I am glad I was able to come when Jono contacted me to help the people here."

Jean
Right. The school where Deadpool was vice principal. Jean would just keep her thoughts on that place to herself.

"It's not often people offer help," she decided on.

Raven
Raven had her own opinions about Deadpool, but it would likely be rude to share those as well.

"I offer my gifts freely to any who have need of them," she said. "And I could never refuse Jono."

Jean
At least Deadpool wasn't dating any child of Raven's.

"I see," Jean replied, nodding vaguely. "Was there something you needed?"

Raven
"I wished to ask you about the ones responsible for this," Raven said. "I know that several of you went to seek them out. Will they be able to cause any more harm here or to mutants elsewhere?"

Jean
"The ones responsible for this?" Jean asked, taking a deep breath. "They're taken care of. But that group is far from the only one."

Raven
"I know," Raven said sadly. "Jono has told me of the dangers of his world. There is so much hate, and it makes no sense. I wish there was more I could do to help."

And relieve her own fears at the same time.

Jean
"People are afraid of what they don't know and can't control. That turns into hate when someone with a mind for violence comes along to inspire them."

Really, it could be said about a lot of groups this was true of.

Raven
"I have studied Earth history, so I have seen similar patterns in its past," Raven said. "I have also seen planets destroyed in the name of conquest and power. Somehow that evil is easier to understand than that hatred I have seen demonstrated here today."

She lifted a hand to rub her temple, trying to will away the images of the church and the bodies in the basement. That was going to haunt her for some time. "I am glad that you are able to offer a haven for mutants here," she said. "I hope that more are able to take advantage of it and learn they are not alone."

Jean
"At the moment," Jean said, looking away. "Survival is all we can hope for."

Raven
Raven felt tears welling in her eyes. "I pray that it will not always be so," she said. "You deserve so much more.

"I have told Jono that I will stay as long as my gifts are needed here," she added. "I hope that is acceptable for you." As long as Jono wanted her there she'd stay, but she'd rather have the approval of his teammates as well.

Jean
"I think we have it under control with Xorn," Jean replied diplomatically. The girl looked about read to break at any moment. "You'll have to talk to Scott about that."

Raven
"Very well," Raven said, trying to be just as diplomatic. "I do not wish to cause any problems for Jono with my presence here. But if he needs me, I will not abandon him, either."



Raven
Raven really wasn't looking for anyone in particular as she wandered through the mansion. She was, however, keeping her senses alert for anyone who was troubled after everything that had happened and might wish to talk. The injured might not be the only ones in need of healing. Even those who had escaped being harmed might still be upset and afraid.

Well, maybe there was one person she wouldn't mind speaking to if she came across her. She was still just a tiny bit troubled by what Warren had said about Paige and whether or not she intended to play games with Jono's head.

She wasn't jealous. Just protective!

Paige
Paige was going to consider today a loss.

Yes, in spite of the fact that her friends were going to live, and the people who had hurt them had been dealt with. Today? This week? A total wash. She'd been told to make herself useful by some bossy friend of Jono's the other day, and then Warren had told her that she was wasting her time.

And so, Paige Guthrie was going to spend today in a mood. And she was going to accomplish that by hanging out by the infirmary in hopes of Annie or Warren wandering by. Annie, so that she could vent, and Warren, so that she could... Also vent. But differently. With a lot more finger pointing and maybe a few accusations of stringing her along, the jerk.

Raven
She wasn't Annie or Warren, but Raven stopped when she saw Paige lingering by the infirmary. She could sense her mood and wondered if maybe she shouldn't approach her some other time. But no one else was around and she didn't know when she'd have another chance to speak to her alone, so she moved toward her.

"Hello, Paige," she said politely. "I know these past two days have been distressing, but I hope you are doing well."

Paige
"Yeah, well enough, I guess," Paige said, before turning around to get a look at the girl who...

Oh. Jono's girlfriend. She tried not to hide the disappointment that crossed her face when she realized it was one of those girls who had been so pushy in the infirmary the other day.

"I guess we all owe you guys our thanks, huh?" She was going to attempt to be civil. Even if it was difficult, knowing that this was the girl that was so close to Jono, and all. "For coming in here and healing everybody."

Raven
"I am glad I could help," Raven said, feeling that disappointment as much as seeing it in her expression. "I have told Jono I will remain as long as I am needed here, for there is still healing to be done."

She pauses a moment, studying Paige. "But you do not like that," she said. No sense dancing around it.

Paige
Paige shrugged. She might have been uncomfortable knowing that Raven could feel how she felt, but she was under no illusions about how plainly she'd worn that disappointment on her face.

"I guess I don't." She frowned. "Not that I'm not thankful. I mean, losing Jubilee or Angelo or any of them would have been terrible. But you guys..."

Kind of took over. And you were dating the guy she'd had a crush on since forever, and that other girl was dating a version of the guy she wanted now and Warren had been all weird at her the other day and she kind of wanted to smack something.

"You're all so... here."

Yes. That made perfect sense.

Raven
"I am sorry," Raven said. "It is not my way to be so intrusive, but I know Karla and Squall are...louder than I am. But their hearts, as it is said, are in the right place. We only wished to help."

She could see how strangers rushing into the infirmary to take over would be off-putting. There just hadn't been time to waste on pleasantries when lives were on the line.

She relaxed her shields so she could gauge Paige's emotions with her next question. "Do you love Jono?" she asked.

Paige
Paige's reaction was... indignance with a side of moodiness. Mostly. Her shoulders straightened and she went up on the defensive right away, in any case.

"I don't know what that matters. He's all over you anyhow," she pointed out. "It's not like I'd stand a chance. If he's not throwing himself all over goth girls like you, it's wild flings with pop sensations in London."

Bitter? Oh, yes. What did Sugar Kane have that Paige didn't? Besides money, and fame, and probably her own personal helicopter, or something...

Raven
"He did not engage in such a 'fling' with that woman," Raven said, a touch indignant herself. "That was something the tabloids made up. He would not hurt me in such a way."

She drew in a breath to calm herself. "And it does matter," she said. "I understand how it feels to love and not have that love returned. But treasure the friendship, and do not throw it away with foolish games."

Paige
"Well, he wasn't exactly leaping up to deny anything," Paige huffed, deciding then and there that she pretty much didn't like any of Jono's weird friends. "And who says I'm playing games? I'm over him. I have my sights set somewhere else, now, anyhow."

No, she wasn't over him. And she had her sights set on the winged billionaire who was, like, nearly twice her age.

But it wasn't Jono, so it wasn't any of Jono's girlfriend's business, either. Humph.

Raven
"There was no need to, for anyone who knows him would know it was not true," Raven said.

"And Warren believes you are playing games. He knows of your feelings for Jono and thinks you are using him to make Jono jealous. This is not healthy. You cannot help who you love, but you can deal with those feelings constructively." She was trying to help, see!

Paige
Paige? Was so wrinkling her nose at you, Raven.

"And what would you suggest?

Since she'd swept in out of nowhere and apparently knew everything, now.

Raven
"I cannot tell you how to feel, since your feelings are your own," Raven said. Though, technically, she could change exactly that if she had a lapse in ethics.

"But if you value Jono's friendship, then talk to him as a friend, and show him you are not playing games. Friendship is just as beautiful as love, and it would be a tragedy to destroy one if you cannot have the other. And if you wish to pursue this relationship with Warren" -- Raven managed to not wrinkle her nose right back, since she didn't entirely approve of that relationship from what she'd seen -- "then you must be honest with him as well about what you feel. He believes you are using him in an attempt to make Jono jealous. I am uncertain what you have done to make him think this, but you must show him that you are not."

Paige
Paige furrowed her eyebrows a little while she listened to what Raven was saying, trying to disprove everything that she could, at least in her mind's eye. Of course she'd say those things about friendship with Jono. She was kind of biased on that count.

But the rest...

"And I suppose Warren told you that, did he?"

Raven
"He said it to the nurse after he told you to go," Raven said. "He knows your feelings for Jono, and he thinks you are trying to spite him. And that is no foundation to build a relationship upon. You must prove him wrong."

And in doing so, back off from Jono and not try to play games with his head, which would make for a cranky empath.

Paige
The trouble with being Paige was, while she could listen to Raven's words and actually hear some sort of sense in them somewhere, especially if what she was saying about Warren was true, she was also impossibly proud and militantly independent, and if anyone was going to presume to tell her what to do with her love life it sure as hell wasn't going to be the one who was sleeping with Jono.

"Must I?" Her expression went sour at that. "Well, thanks for your advice, but I think I know what I'm doing."

Which was why she'd had so many successful romances in the past! Sure!

Raven
Raven shook her head sadly. "I did not wish to anger you, but I have, and I apologize," she said. "I loved Jono for a long time before we were together, so I am not without some understanding of your feelings. And I think if you continue on this path, you will lose the respect of them both."

Azar, Paige!

Paige
"I never had Jono to begin with," Paige said, her words getting a little louder, a little more fierce. "I would have liked to. But he always had his head so far up his ass that he couldn't see that anybody liked him, for the longest time."

... Which was actually a pretty fair assessment.

"And I'll thank you not to presume that you know what path I'm on. What Warren thinks and what Jono think aren't even close. And I've never met you before, so I hardly think you're qualified to tell me what I'm doing wrong."

And, because Paige was now on one of her rants, and wasn't about to stop...

"You can keep Jono. If Warren thinks that I'm using him to try to get to someone else, he's wrong, and I'll show him that. But I don't need somebody else telling me how to do it! I'm a big girl, thank you, and I'm entirely capable of figuring these things out for myself!"

Raven
Raven couldn't argue much with the first part, though she'd never use such colorful terms. But she wasn't about to start taunting Paige that she had been able to make Jono see where Paige had failed. She wasn't the type to rub it in.

Even if some tiny tiny petty part of her almost wanted to.

"I am sorry," she said. "I did not intend to upset you, as I said. I only wanted to help. And I do wish you well. I hope that you can work things out."

And if she'd succeeded in getting Paige to back off from Jono, at least she could count that as a victory.



Old Warren
To say that Warren Worthington III was tired after the day they'd had would have been a gross understatement. It took more than a little effort for him to make his way up to the roof without swooning. Two days in a row of draining himself almost indiscriminantly meant that it was going to be a while before he was completely back up to par.

But lives had been saved.

Lives had been lost, too.

Either way, this was over. And as soon as he was confident that he could take off without flying himself straight into a wall, he was planning on having a nice, long flight around the campus.

Warren
This Warren was both younger and smaller than the one that was already up on the roof, but there did seem to be a saying about birds of a feather...

"Hey." He stood there quietly, looking at the other man. Tired, but... strong. He looked like he'd seen more hell in the past month than Warren himself had seen in his entire life. But he was still standing there. Still doing this. "I don't suppose there's room for two up here?"

Never mind that it was a mansion, and that the roof was absolutely massive.

Old Warren
"I don't actually hate myself enough to say no," Archangel replied, turning a tired smile in his younger counterpart's direction. "And the fresh air could probably do us both some good."

The company could probably do them some good, too.

"You did well out there."

Was it some sort of perverse self-flattery to tell himself something like that?

Was that boy really himself, though? A healing factor already. A sort of soft-spoken meekness that he'd never really known. This younger him was about the same age now as he'd been when he'd grown his own wings, but he'd said that his power had manifested when he was seven.

Different enough. And even if he wasn't, maybe that was exactly what he would have needed to hear at that age, too. His early years with the X-Men, when it was just him, Bobby, Hank, Scott, and Jean... they hadn't been anything like the way things were now.

Warren
"Thanks." Warren lingered back for a moment more, and then moved forward to take a seat beside his older self. It was... oddly comfortable, he realized, looking out over Westchester while sitting next to somebody that he felt as though he'd known his entire life, similar to himself, but different.

Kind of like a big brother, in a way. Somebody that he could aspire to be, who was like and different all at the same time. The same blood, no less.

"Is it... always like that, here?"

Old Warren
"Not always. Sometimes, we get there in time to stop the worst from happening."

Sometimes. Sometimes, which wasn't a most-of-the-time. Wasn't even a half-of-the-time. It was just what it was. It was not nearly enough.

"And sometimes, we even come back here with reasons to smile."

Warren
Warren sat there in silence, picking apart those words. Picking apart the unspoken words behind them. Making absolutely certain that he understood before he opened his mouth and spoke again.

"I keep feeling guilty," he said, finally. "I never had to deal with that. Not really. I... I knew it was bad. But knowing and understanding aren't the same thing." He sighed, closing his hands so tightly against the eaves that his claws left little gouges behind. "I keep thinking that I could be doing more. But I'm just not..."

Old Warren
"Not the tights and superteams sort?"

Call it a wild guess. Almost a vaguely hopeful one, for that matter. The X-Men were a part of who he was. They were his entire world, now. The better part of his lifetime had been swallowed up in tacky uniforms and supervillains and sentinels and the letter X.

He'd picked up more regrets than anything else along the way.

"Do you suppose you need to be? Is that what you figure it would take in order to be good enough?"

Warren
"I..."

Was he really that transparent? Was it that obvious that he felt that the deficiency wasn't in his actions or in his intentions, but somewhere deeper than that?

"I don't know," Warren mumbled, looking down over the grounds. "I just feel like I should have known about things like that before. Like... I never really understood how they saw us until now. So all this time that I spent hiding from it, I could have been doing something about it."

Old Warren
Oh, tiny-Warren. You were so different from him. One of the first things that he'd done, after realizing that he could fly with the wings he'd grown, was pull on a costume and use his power of flight to try to help people.

"How do you act to fix something that you don't even realize exists?" Warren's voice was carefully neutral. He had a hundred questions he wanted to ask the boy, a hundred reiterations of why, and it took every ounce of self-control to remind himself that this child-him couldn't possibly hope to rebound from all that he'd seen as quickly as he could. Now wasn't the time. "You're only one person, Warren. If I had a nickel for every time I had to learn that lesson..."

... Possibly a bad analogy when you were a Worthington. He'd recover from this one with grace and poise. Yes.

"I'd be a Stark, instead?"

Good save?

Warren
Warren huffed out a soft laugh. Apparently, he got the joke.

"I just feel like I've wasted so much time, trying to figure out who it is that I'm supposed to be. When I came to school, everybody there seemed to already know me, because they all knew you. Bobby, Hercules, Deadpool, Madrox, Mr. Rogers..."

He was going to stop listing them off. And refrain from clarifying that Mr. Rogers probably wasn't the one that his older self was getting a weird look on his face about.

"But I'm not you. We have the same name and the same power and I guess we've got the same fortune, but there's this... standard for Warrens that's been set. And I'm not the one who set it."

Old Warren
Well, that was... interesting.

"And do you want to be?"

Now Warren was seriously beginning to wonder about what sort of school it was that Jono had gone to before he'd returned to the Massachusetts Academy. Bobby? Hercules?

Warren
"The one who set the standard?" He waited for the nod in reply, and then shrugged his shoulders a little. "I don't think so. Not like that. I do want to be known on my own merits, though. I don't think my life is going the way yours did. I don't think I want to be you."

He froze for a moment, looking his older self to be certain he hadn't offended, somehow. When the only reaction he seemed to get was another nod, a silent prompt for him to keep going, he let himself breathe again.

"I would settle for being as competent as you, though. Or confident. Or strong..."

The list could go on for a while. But he figured that his point had gotten across, anyhow.

Old Warren
Oh, kid. Had he ever been anything like that? Ever? Warren shook his head a little.

"You might not be me, but all I've seen since you got here was compassion and competency," he chided. And now he was feeling very much the big brother, himself. "You stepped up to task yesterday and volunteered your own blood when total strangers were suffering. And then, today, you did the same thing, and you kept a cool head on your shoulders for more than yourself, but for your teammates, too."

Yes, Warren was thinking of them as a team. It was just the next logical step in his internal thought processes. Plus, it was convenient vocabulary, cope.

"You held yourself together and did what needed to be done, Warren. While other people were panicking at the door. How isn't that any of those things?"

Warren
Dammit, old Warren. Stop making legitimate points. It was difficult for tiny Warrens to be excessively hard on themselves in the face of things like that!

"I... Guess... But you... you do it all the time. It's like it's your job or something."

Weren't the misconceptions of youth adorable, Archangel?

Old Warren
At this point, if he didn't think this other-self would find it demoralizing and more than a touch demeaning, he probably would have reached out to pat the kid on his head.

"No, my job is keeping Worthington Industries from running itself into the ground, while the board continues to try, and fail, to pull it out from under my nose," he replied, shaking his head and frowning. "This isn't a job. It's a duty. It's a way of life. And I'm not always as collected as I look."

Really, the boy shouldn't have looked so surprised at that.

"Even superheroes get scared sometimes, you know. There isn't some sort of magic element in these uniforms that chases all of that away. But I've got years of experience on you. Don't I? I was about your age when I started doing this. How long have you been?"

Warren
"A... year?"

There hadn't been anything as messy and horrifying as this until Rapture. So... So a year. But it had been a very busy year!

Old Warren
"A year?" Archangel's eyebrows raised at that. A year. And he'd kept it together that well? Was this kid for real? "If you weren't so worried about it, I never would have guessed. I think you're on the right track to wherever it is you want to be. Just don't be afraid to be sure of yourself more often than when you're stuck in the middle of a crisis. When it matters, you're all of those things that you seem to envy in me. That's what counts."

He was going to stop there, before he started into some kind of 'heart of a hero' spiel.

"You're closer to being what you want to be than you think. You just don't have the experience I have."

And for this boy's sake, he found himself hoping that he never would have that experience.

Warren
Older-self, stop sounding so much like Lucivar.

... No, really. The way he was saying those words was just... uncanny.

"Well, if it's all the same... I think I'm going to work on self-improvement anyhow. Maybe try to find a way to help prevent things like this, back home." There was a wry, tired smile as he looked out at the scenery sprawled before them. "Maybe I won't need as long as you've had in order to catch on."



[And that's all she wrote! There's a catch-all warning for just overall unhappy X-Men sorts of discussions within, but the worst of it is over, now. This one follows this, this, this, and this, and this! Preplayed with mouthy_merc as Jean, and trigons_child, glacial_witch, whateverknight, and angelo_wings who rocks like a rockstar for coding this one up! And now I'm going to toss up some short OCD for more aftermath threads and OOC comments and whatevs. Woo!]

Aftermath!

furnaceface

2011-09-18 07:05 pm (UTC) (Link)

Back at the Institute, for those taking off, sticking around, still reeling, sending messages to see if their friends are okay, what-have-you.

Re: Aftermath!

furnaceface

2011-09-18 07:12 pm (UTC) (Link)

Well, that was... that. They'd survived the worst of it. Theoretically. The Church of Humanity had been taken down, at least, which meant no more horrors until the next thing crept along. At least this time, he'd been allowed to put his foot out the door in order to do something.

Even if it was mostly as an escort for the people who could do something. Being the junior member of the X-Men sucked. He couldn't help but wonder as he sat on the front step, looking out over the school grounds (which looked like complete shite after all that had gone on there lately), what it was that Lee had been so fond of while she was one of them.

He didn't figure that he'd have any great when I was with the X-Men stories to annoy people with at every possible opportunity.

Re: Aftermath!

trigons_child

2011-09-18 08:48 pm (UTC) (Link)

After more rest once they'd returned to the mansion, Raven went looking for Jono.

When she found him on the steps, she sat down next to him, wordlessly slipping her hand into his. She leaned against his shoulder, quiet for a long moment before she finally softly asked, "How are you?"

Re: Aftermath!

furnaceface

2011-09-18 08:54 pm (UTC) (Link)

//Tired.//

He didn't even need to think about that one.

//If anything happens tomorrow, I swear to God I'm going to... to...// And there, the fire left his words as the flames from his face simmered down again to a quiet blue. //...Wish it hadn't.//

Jono Starsmore. Hear him roar.

Edited at 2011-09-18 08:55 pm (UTC)

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Re: Aftermath!

whateverknight

2011-09-19 03:35 am (UTC) (Link)

Not all that long after they'd arrived back at the mansion, Jono got a text message on his phone.

Rinoa isn't feeling okay. We're going back to Fandom. Goodbye. If you need us again, let me know.

Re: Aftermath!

furnaceface

2011-09-19 03:39 am (UTC) (Link)

It took Jono a few minutes of staring at the message to remember that people generally replied to these things.

Lord, he was tired.

Take good care of her, Squall. I'd be surprised if anyone was feeling absolutely fine after all of that. Thank you, both of you, for everything.

Re: Aftermath! - whateverknight, 2011-09-19 05:21 am (UTC) (Expand)

Re: Aftermath!

not_crucified

2011-09-18 07:27 pm (UTC) (Link)

Angelo had, somehow, bullied someone into getting him a wheelchair and pushing him outside so he could smoke. Annie had raised high hell about it, but had subsided when Angelo pointed out she could either let him go, or he'd find a way to sneak out on his own.

After a man survives a crucifixion, he damn well can smoke if he wants to.

Re: Aftermath!

furnaceface

2011-09-18 07:36 pm (UTC) (Link)

//Finally got that fag you were looking for, I see.//

Someday, Jono would start conversations with 'hello.' But not today. Why the hell should he, today?

Re: Aftermath!

not_crucified

2011-09-18 08:07 pm (UTC) (Link)

"It was smarter for them to give in, than have me break out of jail on my own time," Angelo agree, taking a long drag. "Damn, I needed this."

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Re: Aftermath!

glacial_witch

2011-09-18 08:14 pm (UTC) (Link)

After getting back to the mansion, Karla just couldn't stay inside. Not with all of what she'd seen preying on her mind. She'd been a Healer all day. Now she needed to be a Queen for a little while, trying to find some comfort and soothing by being with the land.

She didn't go far, just out of range of the lights of the mansion. Just far enough so that the emotions within would be blunted a bit. It took more effort than she really wanted to think about to make a witchlight--she knew she should eat but she was completely uninterested in food right now--and then she got to work, digging for the sake of digging. Trying to breathe and push her emotions into the land, even as sobs threatened to choke her.

Re: Aftermath!

furnaceface

2011-09-18 08:42 pm (UTC) (Link)

It wasn't Jonothon's place to be out here. He was aware of that.

It wasn't his place to watch Karla doing... whatever it was that she was doing. Finding herself. Making her peace. Whatever it was. But they hadn't ended their last conversation on the greatest note. And in the middle of all of that...

In any case, he'd brought a plate of food, heaped high. The cooks in the kitchen had looked at him oddly when he kept gesturing for them to add more, but he shrugged them off. So now... he had that much to offer her. Whatever they'd served for dinner. And a better light to work by, because he was taking a seat nearby with that plate in his hands.

Re: Aftermath! - glacial_witch, 2011-09-18 08:54 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: Aftermath! - furnaceface, 2011-09-18 08:58 pm (UTC) (Expand)
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Re: Aftermath!

not_a_parakeet

2011-09-19 04:15 am (UTC) (Link)

Warren had been given an assignment, the last time he'd spoken to Lucivar. He was to talk to someone about his guilt. About every little thing that he hated about himself, everything that he held against himself.

A Warren that he was never going to see again now had some new insights as to what life might have been like for him if he'd manifested as a child and grown up without a mother. And he had a few new insights as to what people were like. Insights about the state of the world at large, and just what he was to blame for (which wasn't much) and what he wasn't.

He wasn't entirely certain if the things that his older self told him were biased, if maybe he was just saying what he thought Warren should be hearing. Maybe he'd compare notes with Lucivar.

Either way, that was what had held him up. Sitting on the roof, watching the sky darken. Waiting for his wings to be steady enough to hold him in the air. Finishing a long talk with someone he knew perfectly and barely knew at all.

It was Karla's witchlight that guided him to her, and he landed nearby. Quiet, at first, watching her dig, watching her struggling with tears. He didn't know if he should interrupt, if this was just one more thing about Karla and her caste that he had yet to really comprehend. But a few moments later, he was kneeling down beside her and draping a wing over her shoulder all the same. He didn't need to speak to be supportive, and he didn't think his feathers would get in the way of her digging.

At least, he hoped they wouldn't.

Re: Aftermath! - glacial_witch, 2011-09-19 06:28 am (UTC) (Expand)
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Re: Aftermath!

angelo_wings

2011-09-19 01:29 am (UTC) (Link)

Rinoa was quiet when they got back to the mansion, still feeling that dangerous itch. Her control was somewhat better, thanks to whatever-it-was she had done to Squall. Which only made her feel worse.

She packed as quickly as she could. She needed to get out of here, right now. She hoped that wouldn't seem rude. She was okay with seeming rude if it did.

Re: Aftermath!

whateverknight

2011-09-19 02:21 am (UTC) (Link)

Squall didn't have anything to pack. Sure, if given the option, he'd probably hang around and not-chat with Jono and his friends, but something was wrong with Rinoa.

He knocked on her assigned door, worried.

Re: Aftermath! - angelo_wings, 2011-09-19 02:29 am (UTC) (Expand)
Re: Aftermath! - whateverknight, 2011-09-19 02:38 am (UTC) (Expand)
Re: Aftermath! - angelo_wings, 2011-09-19 02:42 am (UTC) (Expand)
Re: Aftermath! - whateverknight, 2011-09-19 02:46 am (UTC) (Expand)
Re: Aftermath! - angelo_wings, 2011-09-19 02:52 am (UTC) (Expand)
Re: Aftermath! - whateverknight, 2011-09-19 03:07 am (UTC) (Expand)
Re: Aftermath! - angelo_wings, 2011-09-19 03:23 am (UTC) (Expand)
Re: Aftermath! - whateverknight, 2011-09-19 03:44 am (UTC) (Expand)

OOC!

furnaceface

2011-09-18 07:08 pm (UTC) (Link)

Because I love me some of the tiniest OCD in the world, okay?

I want to thank everyone who took this plot, with a bare-bones goal of not letting one of Jono's best friends die, and ran with it! Ahddie and Elaine, for their awesome NPC work! Nic, Nuance, Relly, and N for letting me fling their characters headfirst into hell! Special cookies for Relly and N who did all of the coding, and for Nuance who tacked up some of this stuff for editing.

I heart you guys. :D