Warren Worthington III not_a_parakeet
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A Room at the Hyperion Hotel, Los Angeles, California, Thursday Evening
How was it that Warren, who was used to spending hours preening his feathers, and then another good twenty minutes making certain his hair was just-so, was still ready to go out well before Karla was? It felt like he'd been waiting in the hotel room for just about forever, poking at things, bored, and trying to be patient while Karla did... whatever it was that ladies did when preparing for a night out.

He sighed, poking through the stack of receipts that had been left on the nightstand. So long as Karla was taking years in the bathroom, he might as well balance some- hello.

In Warren's hand, tucked away under the receipts, was a letter, written on Worthington Labs letterhead. And, just like that, his breath caught, fingers twitching as he tried not to pierce the paper with his claws.

There, in his father's handwriting and addressed to Karla, was a letter. Short, so short that a glance was all it took for Warren to get the gist of what it was about, the sight of his name in the body of the letter keeping him from putting it down right away.

Karla, thanks for your letter. I'm glad to hear that Warren is doing well. I would very much like for us to meet, please let me know when it would be convenient for you to do so.

Slowly, quietly, he set the letter back down on the nightstand, not quite able to look away.

Suddenly, he was far less excited for the ballet.

Look, when Warren was able to do his makeup in under forty-five minutes, he could start complaining to Karla about how much time it took her to get ready. Ditto when he had to strap himself into ridiculous undergarments and pantyhose. A pair of silk boxers did not much time take.

"I'm re~ady!" she singsonged, coming out of the bathroom. "And before you say anything bratty about how long I took, look at my hair. You can't tell me it wasn't--"

Ooookay. Why all the sudden tension in the room? Had Wesley called to cancel or something?

"Warren? Are you all right?"

Warren didn't look up. He just kept his eyes on that piece of paper, sitting, slightly crumpled, on top of the receipts.

That was probably a good indicator of things being not okay.

"I haven't decided yet," he replied, reading that one line again.

I'm glad to hear that Warren is doing well.

"You've been talking to my father?"

Karla froze, eyes immediately going to where the letter was lying on the stack of papers. Her heart clenched in her chest and she wanted to immediately run over, hold him, explain that it wasn't what he thought.

Even as she pictured herself doing that, her traitorous mouth opened and said, "Yes. You've been going through my mail?"

Dammit, Karla!

"It was in the stack of receipts from your shopping trip earlier," Warren replied, his voice slipping into something softer and colder as he worked on quietly putting up a wall. "It was hard to miss, tucked in with the records for all the dresses you ladies bought earlier."

He'd just wanted to enter them in his ledger, Karla. That's all.

"He was happy to hear from you."

Karla stepped forward, reaching for the letter. "I suppose he was. I'm not known for my stimulating correspondence, though." She sighed and looked up at him, into his eyes. "Warren, this isn't about you."

"Isn't it?" He held the letter out of her reach for just a moment, long enough to look at it again. "Because roughly one third of the reply was about me. And you're going to go talk to him?"

He should have stopped there. Should have stopped at scared and uncertain and maybe a little hurt. But this hadn't been the first time she'd gone to his father behind his back, either. All he could think about was the sight of the man, sitting in the audience at his graduation, there by an invitation that he hadn't sent. And so he didn't.

"I bet you two will have all sorts of interesting things to talk about."

Those words came with a growl.

"Excuse me?"

Karla had been all set to explain this to him, to tell him about her idea for Glacia and the landens and medical supplies to help them become less dependent on the Blood. To let him know that she'd sent the letter uncertain of his father's response and hadn't told him because if Warren Jr shut her down entirely as she'd half-expected, then he'd never have had to know at all. Remind him that she'd wanted to talk to him in his dorm, but that he'd been studying.

But that last comment of his had her snapping her mouth shut and narrowing her eyes. "Just what the Hell are you implying, Warren?"

"You sent a letter to my father behind my back, Karla," Warren replied, feathers prickling behind him, now. "What am I supposed to think, here?"

No, there was no being rational when it had anything to do with that man. None. Ten years of living in a harness. Ten years of being ashamed of himself for not just growing wings, but also growing wings that grew back if you tried to cut them off. And he knew that through experience.

When it had something to do with Warren Worthington Jr., he reserved the right to not be rational at all.

"That maybe I had a damn good reason to do it!" Karla snapped, arms folded across her chest. "One that doesn't involve you! In fact, maybe you could give me the benefit of the doubt before jumping to stupid conclusions! I'm only your girlfriend and all!"

"You couldn't have... I don't know... given me some kind of warning that you were striking up a friendly rapport with the man who strapped me to a table and had his doctor wave a syringe in my face? I mean, I'm only your boyfriend. You might have noticed over the past few years that maybe that kind of thing has left a few raw spots behind?"

Two could play the 'you should have known me better than that' card, here.

"And you really think that I would be...what? Spying on my own boyfriend and carrying tales back to his estranged father?" Karla asked, barely keeping from shrieking that. "Do you honestly think so little of me?"

Warren knew he should bite his tongue the moment his answer came to mind.

He knew.

"It isn't as though this would even be the first time!"

But there it was. He'd trusted her before, too.

There it was.

So this was a really excellent time to knock on their hotel room door, right?

This was Wes. Knocking. "It's Wesley," he called. He'd managed to get dressed in his formalwear without fighting with anyone, guys. Take a lesson. Gosh. "We're nearly ready to leave, if you two are finished."

Wesley's knock was a gift from the Darkness, truth be told. It forestalled the next thing Karla was about to say, which would have been hard to take back.

"Just a moment!" she called, her voice a little higher than normal. It often was, when she lied. "We're just finishing up here."

She looked at Warren with eyes that glittered--tears, sorrow, rage, it was hard to tell. All three most likely.

"You are a cold son of a bitch when you put your mind to it, Warren. I'm sure your father would be proud."

It didn't make any sense, but it was less cruel than what she might have said before. It let her blink away the tears, plaster on a smile, and pick up her wrap.

"Shall we go?"

Warren took that barb with barely a wince. After finding the letter in the first place, he was half convinced that any blow that could come after would pale in comparison. Apparently, he'd been mistaken.


One word, simple, empty, and, just as she said, cold. He gave Wesley a curt nod as he pulled open the door, pointedly leaving the jacket Karla'd had made for him, specifically to allow for his wings, behind. He'd weather the chill, tonight.

And, as he stepped into the hallway, he didn't even offer her his arm.

Wesley looked from Warren to Karla, mildly taken aback by the chilly atmosphere between them right now. "Er... right," he said slowly. "Is everything all right?"

Karla laughed, bright, cheerful, and utterly false. "Of course, Wesley darling. We're just in a hurry to get to the ballet."

She was just going to insinuate her arm into his, if that was all right. Just because her escort wanted to prowl ahead like a caged tiger didn't mean she couldn't walk on someone's arm.

"Everyone else ready?"

"Can we just go?"

Warren needed to get out of here. He needed to get outside, for the few minutes they'd have outside, get some distance from that room and that letter. He wouldn't be able to get distance from her, but two out of three was going to have to do.

Let her hang off of Wesley, then. See how much he didn't care.

"I'd rather not be late."

[Preplayed with glacial_witch and wesleynotponcy who also coded this! NFB/NFI, follows this, more to come later!