1963-07-20 - This Is My Bargain
Summary: When you invite trouble with a gold-plated invitation, expect her to make good on it.
Related: A Pandoric Smile
Theme Song: None
rogue louis 

At this time in the afternoon, the sun is coming through the windows in the lecture hall, giving a nice healthy glow to the people seated and listening to the professor as he speaks. Some of the students are attentive, the ones closer to the front, while the ones seated more in the back seem to be more focused on their notes or for a handful just striving to stay awake what with lunch having happened only an hour and some ago. Yet it's perhaps the professor who is most curious.

He's leaning there on the podium with his forearms resting there and his fingers interlaced. He smiles and speaks well to those around him, making eye contact cleanly, seeming to draw the listeners in to what he's saying, conveying the sense that he's there alone to speak just with that person and that it doesn't matter what he's actually saying. Though for an observer they'll hear a casual discussion on history.

"At that point, Honorius felt that the remaining garrison legions were needed elsewhere. He composed a quite polite letter, 'Hello chaps, so sorry, we're taking the soldiers away. Good luck making peace with the barbarians, cheerio.' and the like." Louis gestures to the side with one hand, smiling to a young student as he meets his eyes. "The troops bordered their ships, sailed off. And the Romans never returned. Though there's been some argument amongst various scholarly individuals like myself if Honorius intended to return. Some think he did, some think he had no intention."

Louis spreads his hands wide lightly, "Myself, I think he perhaps felt they might return… but not in his lifetime." A breath is taken as he steps away from the podium, walking towards the bank of windows and reaching for the cord to the shades. He pulls it a touch, giving more shadow to the room and perhaps cooling it off a touch. "Yet it was this exodus that left us with a good mass of artifacts. The legions apparently left in a hurry and to this day some old interesting bits can be found in the harbor's silt."

Society like to sort itself out in ranks. Something about the human mind appreciates group think and organization based on like types, proving man is a social creature. His tribes are laid out in neat lines, the rank and file sorted into those with a vested interest, and those simply trying to get the credit hours to pass, and those here on Daddy's orders. It helps for some, at least, the professor is compelling; for those who don't find him eye-catching, a shimmer of jade does the trick.

Man can also be an easily distracted creature. In fact, she relies on that factor. A ghost of citrus, sliced by vervaine, teases at the senses of the sleepy and the thoroughly distracted students in the back. While the tale of the twilight of the western Roman Empire unravels before them, the fabric of Britannia forever altered on the northern rim of the continent, a door opens and shuts quietly enough not to catch too much notice.

Another student among them isn't surprising. Sometimes they show up late. Personal needs after lunch can prove especially compelling. And observers of various sorts, often those with handsome endowments, happen. Autumn — they know her by another name on the roster, at least — crosses her ankles and settles into a vacant spot between two young men no longer quite so passed out. Her bag makes no sound touching the floor, and she ends up passed a pen and paper from someone trying to help. Never mind it has a phone number on it and a picture of an eagle choking on a laurel.

Find me, he said. She has. On home turf, such as it is, and that says something about the Bohemian.


The room is calm as he walks down that line of windows, adjusting each in turn. "There's an exhibit in the District of Columbia at the Smithsonian. If you get a chance to go down there some weekend I highly recommend it. Various artifacts from the 5th century. However, a few weeks before the end of the semester I plan to call in a few favors and see what objects I can acquire for a little impromptu exhibition here. A few swords, some old nails from the ships that were used. Each has its own story,"

He seems to get a touch distracted for a moment, but then shakes his head as he continues. "In any case. Do the reading for friday's lecture. We'll be shifting gears a bit."

For some reason his patter seems marginally off pace, but he recovers decently as he gestures to the door. "Now, off with you. I'll be in my office at five if anyone has anything terribly pressing. But it had better be important." He squints across the way as he points at a young woman as if admonishing her. "And your inability to go to the fraternity party is not an emergency, Heather."

With that said the students all start to gather up their things, stepping down the aisle and moving towards the door even as Louis moves back towards his podium, up to his suitcase which he begins to pack up with various pieces of paper and a few books.


The girl called out earns a faintly sympathetic smile while the redhead folds over the top of the paper with digits scrawled across it. Another, and then the softened crease makes an outstanding point to discreetly rip the option off. She isn't rude enough to discard the offer outright but instead makes a point of removing it from her sight. Out of mind, that way. The tidy writing dipped across the page means her head is bowed, and the frosted line of her bangs hidden somewhat beneath the broad cloth headband. Idle curls spool around her shoulders, bright as a vixen's pelt, too much a heraldic device to avoid notice. She waits as the stream of people running for their next class begins, calm in the turmoil of the building flood.

Measuring those prepared to peel off for the professor's office, she has the general's advantage of riding the line from behind. A slow burn as her green dress sways around her, the weighted strings holding the throat closed act as pendula, metal barbs swishing left and right. The student most likely to get through the door ends up on the receiving end of a quiet smile, and authority leveled through its favourite instrument: paperwork.

"Pardon. Would you mind?" She holds up a paper, one stamped with an official letterhead and typeset, barbed by a blue ink pen reeking of expense. "The dean's office directed me here to speak with the professor. A matter of some urgency, as my transcript requires his review, and a directed study… You know how they are." And so it will be she ends up on the business of academia installed in the ivory tower waiting without a touch.


The last of the students file out of the lecture hall, though a few spare the young woman at the end a glance, perhaps even a double glance. Perhaps one or two young men would wait for her to exit, but they're almost effortlessly shepherded out of the room by the professor waving them along and making slight 'shoo' noises.

Once that door closes, Louis turns to look at Rogue with a cocked eyebrow and a measuring gaze. It's only then that he accepts her transcript and casually sets it down upon the table that had served as his desk during the lecture. He hops up and back onto the edge of that table, hands resting on either side of him as he considers her rather openly as if she were a terribly interesting geode discovered in the middle of a golf course. The brilliant surrounded by the mundane.

"Autumn," He says in way of greeting, turning his head to the side to get another angle from which to perceive her. "How are you? Have you recovered sufficiently?"


"Have you read Stead and Liversedge's summary on Petuaria Parisorum? The excavations completed last year, and they released a blazing good review of the villas and town site." Were credentials needed? They may have presented themselves, even if the string of grades, class codes, and variations from Barnard establish the redhead somewhere in the first, possibly second, decile across the board. Typical humanities courses weave around odd choices, and a confused note flags "Genetic sciences? Inapprop; elig quest; confirm w/M-cTaggert" and other encrypted details of the typist pool.

Autumn could clasp her hands and drop her chin, hunching her shoulders forward to diminish her height as a natural reaction, but she doesn't. (See also, Psychology listed there.) Instead, she pulls one of her braids off her shoulder and settles against the nearest chair. Not seated in it, mind, though if Louis is inclined to be casual then she will too.

"I am doing well, thank you for asking." No adverse effects display themselves externally. Whether someone screams in their astral prison is another matter. Her tone softens a fraction. "No harm to you, then? Nothing lasting, I should hope?"

The tip of her toe lies against the floor, giving leverage, but she settles easily enough against the hard wooden ledge biting into her thighs. A shift of weight centers her gravity forward, but then, even if it's uncomfortable, she can hold far worse for much longer.


The credentials were ignored, at least for now. The papers simply set aside and forgotten. He folds his arms over his chest, looking thoughtful as he watches her make herself… uncomfortable. She speaks, she asks a question, she comments on what has passed and then asks him of himself. And all of that is met with that casual contemplative silence. There's something sphinx-like in his manner as he just looks on her, listens to her words. And eventually that silence settles into place like a long lost friend.

Yet he doesn't seem ill at ease with it. He seems entirely comfortable. A heartbeat passes, another. But then abruptly the silence is banished as he leans forwards and says in that tone of his that is both the Professor and yet not the Professor. "I was unharmed. The men you faced are unharmed as well. Though they, and their master, will not pursue you or yours again."

For some reason he seems entirely assured on that point. Lifting his chin he looks at her down the bridge of his nose calmly. "You are a mutant then, empowered. Connected to the others through Dr. McTaggert. I am finding more and more interesting people and they all seem to travel in the same circles. Is that not curious?"


Not so much uncomfortable as testing balance, an opportunity seized much as the orator ever seeks a new forum for discourse, and the writer hears rhythms and meters in the world around her. The redhead is no different, merely dispensing three points of boundary testing simultaneously. Body supplies the foundation for the position, her mind engages something nebulous beyond typical ken, and the soul dances in a radiant matrix of possibilities governed by an ounce of caution and a pound of inspiration.

Once he drops the gauntlet, the redhead has no choice but to answer for it. Silence might prove damning, even if it embraces her as its prodigal daughter. "The scientific and medical communities reach different verdicts," she replies. No trace of evasion lingers in the way she speaks, the changing light flooded across her countenance to render shadows softer, planes higher. "I am not inclined to become a specimen in a laboratory to help them determine the matter of a genetic anomaly or evolutionary jump, or if I fell out of the sky from the Astral plane and take human form to meet expectations. Or the gods made me Pandora for a fallen age, either. What answers exist are mine, not theirs." Mild words chosen without force still spirit a particular viewpoint, don't they?
Hers pause lingers there as she considers him in turn, measuring every fine detail of expression with the attention Michelangelo gave that accursed block of marble all Italians said could never be carved.

"Does it make a difference to you? I do not have a finite conclusion, for reasons given." That she hasn't asked the obvious questions are themselves the elephantine presence in the room.


Sliding off of the makeshift desk, Louis adjusts his jacket with a sweep of one hand, then pushes fingers through his unruly hair. Curiously enough he seems to give her words a strong weight of regard, considering them, letting them roll around in his thoughts for a time as if he were considering what he himself believed as well. But no insight into his mind is easily attained, those green eyes are possibly windows into his soul at times, but in this moment the shades are drawn.

"There is wisdom in not allowing another to define you." He rests his hands in the pockets of his coat as he looks upon her. His lip curls faintly, "It doesn't matter how it occured, what matters is the empowered are here. It's a terribly interesting time for us to be alive." He then drops into a chair beside her, crossing his legs and slouching a little in his chair as now he looks up to her, brow furrowed a touch. "What I am mainly considering, is what I should do with you. If anything. You have a lovely mind, and a rather intriguing manner. But I feel that if I were to take an interest in you then we would run the risk of corrupting you terribly."

A small smile, "It is a touch puzzling, wouldn't you say?"


Louis' descent is tracked by the girl in jade, adorned in the five virtues that spin around her in a tapestry light as a sylvan reverie. She flexes her heel and recedes from her earlier stance, giving the furnishings barely the slightest regard beyond their existence. None will suit her precise purposes, anyways. Instead she rests her palm in front of her, capturing some invisible weight within the crescent of her cupped fingers. "I have the distinct notion I am standing upon a precipice, one too wide to perceive the other side of except in hazy shapes and snowy peaks. Things I put names to might be pure illusions of a feverish mind. Beneath my feet lie the stars stretching down beyond imagining, light and dark reduced to mere pinpricks." A step is taken closer to him, not enough to breach the intimate circle of personal space that she, likely more than anyone else in Columbia if not Manhattan, or the whole city, knows the size of.

Memory of fading summer into the jewel shades of fall impressed into her nape and throat dance in their tune. "We live in an age of possibility and change. What most of them do not realize, I think, is that the push over the edge began decades, centuries ago." Her voice softens a fraction and she tips her head slightly, the halo shifting to rest against her vexed brow. Enigmas he presents are no less than the one she teases out at that very instant.

"Whatever I might say could bias your judgment and alter your decision." Her lips set together into a line, quelling their treacherous intent to signal more. "A ship in harbour is safe, but that is not what ships are built for. It is sometimes better to abandon yourself to destiny. I think I already have."


His legs are uncrossed, shifted, recrossed as he looks upon her. "There have been empowered individuals, who crossed the worlds with their great strides, leaving rapture and ruin in their wake." He rests a hand lightly upon the arm of the chair, "A long time ago. They've worn many names and some still remembered today. Yet you, and those like you are different. You exist at a crux in time where matters could shift one way or the other. Perhaps you will play a part, but that will most likely not be for many years to come."

For a moment his facade shifts slightly, his brow furrowing as he looks aside as if his thoughts were drawn elsewhere in that instant. He gives a small shake of his head as he looks back to her. "If you are known to Dr. McTaggert, then I believe you are most likely already on a good course to make your life have some measure of meaning."

There's a pause, then he says, "I am sure what you would seek most now would be control. Of your abilities, your mind. But what is it you would do if you could? There are those that hate you and your kind even now. People who are plotting for your downfall."


"Doctor McTaggert and the professor," she intones the title in such a fashion to indicate she speaks for that other, the titan to a jotun, "believe in a different path, a civil coexistence within society. America may be a fine country, but she has difficulties with those who are different, and we see the rallies in the streets and the fear in the rhetoric on the radio and newspapers. Of that, Professor King, I am well too aware the clock is ticking its fabled way through the eleventh hour. History shows the price of the alternative, the consequence when mankind puts a blade to one another's necks. This time the blade might not even be steel and the decapitation not fatal, at least to one side. I don't look forward to a day when someone kicks my door open and hauls me out to an internment camp. Nor do I want to see everyone I know and care for subjected to a pogrom, all on the basis of fear. Fear, the mind-killer, fear, the destroyer of hope."

She raises her hand to sculpt her braids back away, the disturbance dislodging that band of cloth straining so valiantly to hold back their weight.

"Creative solutions take more than an easy answer. I don't have one answer for you. You aren't the kind of man to accept simple or easy, are you?" Then follows the ghost of the smile, shorn of veils, a ripple effect pouring over her as she lifts off the ground until only her toes touch. Sitting, then, and crossing her legs is so much easier even though not a hint of wood supports her, and gravity refuses to obey. "Visionaries tend to stop from actualizing their plans when they encounter barriers. Having perfect control makes executing mine easier, to be sure. To learn, to understand, to have a better footing to make the right choice for the future. What would you do with the future is a dangerous question to ask someone when they are still looking into the haze, unsure of what they really see, or wondering where the leap of faith is going to take her. Because I recognize my own limitations right now, that the more I know the less I really do. Help me remedy it? That's why I'm here. Why are you? It isn't out of the altruism of your beautiful, starry heart, is it?"

"You see, it's not corruption you ought to fear. It's the many questions I have." She pauses. "That and an invitation to dance."


As she rises up he looks on her with that open consideration, his smile still living there, barely visible just at the corner of his mouth. "You are a temptation, Autumn." To him in some ways, her 'true' name does not matter to him. Not any longer. Were he to affect a conjuration it would be enough, the image of her he has in his mind would be sufficient and in some ways the universe most likely agrees with him. "For your questions tempt me to answer them. For I would be curious what you would do with all of the answers before you. To see all that you wished, and then what course of action you would take."

Shaking his head he rises up to his feet, smiling to himself as he extends a hand towards her, perhaps not to dance with her… perhaps only to bring her back to earth. "You are in a good place to make the change you would. A leader will have to emerge. A face before all those who would oppose you and yours. Whomever it is will have to decide if they will present themselves as one who will charm those who oppose them, or will cause them to fear."

A shake of his head is given as he murmurs with a smile that grows as he says, "As for a dance, perhaps should we see each other out and about. I'll spare one for you."


"Is it better to be loved or feared? Tempted or resistant?" An age old question raised three centuries and more prior hangs between them, even as she hangs suspended in that office for a brief moment.

And he raises his hand to her, and for all the world, universes collide and diverge into quantum slices on a theoretical scale. Taken, not taken, used to pirouette, left brushing open air or flame-kissed hair or a green sleeve. All those Autumns in all those parallel places do a hundred hundred different things, but the one in this place and time hesitates for a second. Pupils widen, curtains of her eyelashes lowered over gateways to endless skies.

She extends her hand to him, the faintest separation of long fingers curving like the moon above his.

"You haven't answered my question, Louis." A statement of fact has the same quality of poetry she's spoken to him, not so very far from this room, this place. "In your own time, or never at all. However you decide, I'll still be in your court. Come hell, high-water, or the inbred descendants of Stilicho's last stand, if that's what you want."


A deep breath is drawn, his chest lifting… and lowering as he exhales slowly. She can see a subtle narrowing in his gaze. No he did not answer her question before, did not offer up his aid, for the help that someone as her assuredly needs with the minds rampant and the very world seeming to hold such threats in even the most gentle touches. Those green eyes hold hers as she floats there, their fingertips a breath apart as he finally offers her quiet words.

"Very well, I shall help you."

And as easily as that all of those quantum realities coalesce together into the movement forward, into the stream of chaos that will eventually create the world of the future. It's a moment that carries a heavy burden of portent, and she can feel it as they look at each other, and that smallest of distances is closed when his fingertips finally touch hers.

At first it is much as before, that feeling of another, the feeling of her power activating… surging. But if it draws from another vampiric, ravenous, when her wild ability bares fangs into the core of this being's essence before her… it finds itself a veritable feast of mental energy, of minds and memories. Unlike any she has ever touched or realized. His mind is not represented as a single entity, existing along one stream of reality. He is a creature that transcends, that is a million creatures, that is one creature. He is one awareness, he is so many more. Yet these minds, these thoughts, they aren't screaming at her, they aren't striving for her attention, they aren't trying to overwhelm her. Instead they are held at calm… at check… a silent audience as she can feel the very power from him drawn into her.

And then the touch breaks. How long was it? The second hand upon the clock on the wall has not even moved.


A golden apple thrown at reality's feet awakens then, and in some sense the young woman pivots away from the grey wall of separation to stare into the sun the moment it goes nova and that star is Eta Carinae. She is, and she is not, she is he in all the multitudinous he, she is the drop of moonlight suspended in a single smile known across a room.

Every aspected manifestation reflects in those shocked emerald eyes that cast their refractory glow against the cosmic winds so briefly entwining one soul to another. How odd touch is a lifeline against madness and through it, down into the interstellar void, chasing the ouroboros until fangs seize its own tail and she is herself.

One second knells. Not before the backlash of being encoded to the deepest recesses of every quark announce themselves by alchemical processes to send euphoric rapture piercing through the young woman's being. Did Saint Theresa look thus, touching Heaven? A good thing hers is not the same empyrean, sterile monument to bleached virtue.

One second. Tick. Words would fail, and do, as she gazes into and through him. Them. Herself. None is really separate from the others, at the first. "You," in French, wouldn't be totally inappropriate here. It's not the same as one speaks to the One, the Source, or the Christian effigy in clouds and a great bushy beard. But the shades are there.


The hand lowers from hers and he looks up at her, perhaps a touch of sympathy is there in his eyes, a small turn down at the corner of his mouth as if the start of a frown, the faintest hint of regret. It's there for him as if he had just presided at the funeral of Louis King, for in a way, he had. But such thoughts are banished, are allowed to fall off and away as unworthy as he lowers his eyes slightly, as if gesturing for her to rest or to take her ease. And then he speaks quietly, "Us."

The next moment he steps past her, walking slowly down that oh so mundane aisle between the terribly ordinary desks in that so very terrestrial school. He pauses there next to the door, a hand lifting to rest upon the knob as he turns back to look at her. "You should speak with those that care for you, tell them of your plans. You owe them for their care and their insight." For some reason his tone is somber, as if the proper actions, the proper forms must be held.


The storm of knowledge flowering in its deep, abundant manifestations are a mandala to a speck of sand, details that in future hours and nights she recalls in breathtaking glory. For now, the rapture radiates through her in concussive sine waves, each weaker than the last. But the other part of the curse demands its due, the pangs of transgression called down by kismet. The transference of selves scarcely feels bad. On the contrary, it wracks her with jagged highs of insensate bliss that bite deep when the serpent turns on itself.

It shouldn't feel so good. But it does. Temptation never lets her down.

On the other hand, gravity that still holds them in a tight binary system brings suffused restraint. He mourns a sliver of himself and, in turn, the floating young woman doesn't exult so much as offer a deep, vast sweep of acceptance. Recognition of like to like, as much as one can conjure when dazzled breathless. "Always."

Always and always, a terrible truth. A simple fact. Already sworn, no ad hoc oath is anywhere necessary when she's spoken her will to the everlasting realms of being. Creation so vast, and so small, breathes through her being. The best she can do is nod, availability of words so paltry. "I would not treat them any less."


"Another time, then. Autumn." As he says this he draws the door open, and to an observer, perhaps a passerby in the hall, it looks like nothing more than a professor having spent a handful of minutes to speak with a student, to perhaps help them on their path into the future… or just to sign their drop slip.


Rote action carries her across the floor, swept out to allow someone else to take up the professor's precious time. Time is, after all, a commodity here in the vaunted halls of Columbia, as much as ideas or tuition. How easy to mistake exhilaration and trepidation gracing Ms. Astor — as the paper says, a placeholder for Autumn, in a society that isn't ready to accept adults freely changing their names, let alone being gods or mutants or extraterrestrial species. Dull curiosity chases her from peers waiting in line, but those two or three guys considering asking reconsider their plans. They may not know the underlying reason. The hallmarks are evident to the lizard brain nonetheless.

A murmur meaningless of words, lined by intent, brings her seated upon a bench. Two students squish sideways, giving just enough room for her to narrowly occupy. Her back hits the wall and she stares into infinity.

Somewhere, maybe, a golden-haired woman smiles while her greying husband starts, perhaps even curses to a prickling of awareness. Three women by a font throw their shuttle and twist the thread, wearing the same trace of a smirk as their wayward daughter.

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