Secret for Secret


alister_icon.gif chess_icon.gif

Scene Title Secret for Secret
Synopsis After a brush with death, Alister tries to break down walls while Chess keeps building them.
Date May 10, 2018

Staten Island Trade Commission

It's a normal busy day at the Staten Island Trade Commission. But by the time Chess gets to Alister's penthouse, she's greeted by him in an electric wheelchair, reading the Kant book she gave him, wearing an uncharacteristic t-shirt with the pants from one of his white suits. On his feet are some simple Italian leather shoes.

"Hello, Chess." is all he says, and she can probably tell he's covered in bandages, under his shirt.

It doesn't look like he's done much today, as he seems quite settled in for the evening.

She stops short when she sees he’s in a wheelchair, tipping her head and lifting a brow. “Jesus. What happened to you? Or did you just decide that walking is too proletariat for you and that rich people shouldn’t stoop to such levels?”

The joke is said lightly, not an actual insult, or at least, it doesn’t seem to be. She moves to lean against the back of a chair to face him, nodding to the book. “Good to see you got it. I wasn’t sure the kid I paid would actually make the delivery.”

"I was shot, repeatedly, while saving some hostages, believe it or not. I'll be in this wheelchair for about a month. My equipment is still functional, don't worry." Alister stares down at the book, then closes it, sitting it down onto a coffee table. "I've realized a few things, Chess… I realize that my life isn't ordained by fate, that nothing is set in stone, that my life could be taken at any moment."

"I've been reading this book, and thinking…" He stares at her, his eyes having what can only describe as a sort of vulnerability, lacking in his usual pretense. "What if being the person that I am is not actually contributing to the life that I want to achieve? What if my parents were wrong, about more than the things that made them fail?"

“Shit,” is Chess’ terse response to the news he’d been shot. She quiets as he speaks, lifting her brows and shaking her head just slightly at the words ‘ordained by fate.’

At least she doesn’t laugh outright. He’s having a moment.

“That’s the first time you’ve almost died?” she asks, her voice a little more gentle. “One, of course nothing is fated. Life isn’t a Greek tragedy. Two, I guess it depends on what you want to accomplish. And three, I’m sure your parents were wrong about a lot of shit. Human beings are fallible, even the good ones, and from what you’ve said, I’m not sure they were that great.”

She smiles, a small thing that doesn’t quite make it to her eyes. “Welcome to the human race, Al.”

"I suppose I've been lucky, for a long time. Throughout the war, my time on Staten. I always just thought I was an exceptional human being and the world understood. But no, it seems it was just luck…" Alister holds a hand out to her, nodding for her to come closer. "I want to be better, I think. I want to try… altruism, the kind where I simply feel good about good things."

"I've read this book, and, well, the context, it's like the antithesis to Rand, and I just…" He throws his head back, then lifts it back up, shaking it. "I think I might be an awful human being."

Chess moves closer, taking his hand and squeezing it lightly. “I know it sounds, I don’t know, pretty cold, but trust me, the universe doesn’t give a shit about any of us. I don’t mean it to be mean. It doesn’t care about me, either.” Her mouth pulls down in a sympathetic grimace. “Sorry it took getting shot to realize that, though. That’s never fun.”

The book, she glances at, and tips her head to look at him again. “Rand is an awful human being, so yeah, throw that shit out. Kant was a bit of a racist, actually, so don’t buy into that wholesale like some bible or anything. I agree with some of his views, but no one gets everything right. Marx had some nice ideas and some crap ideas, too, as we’ve figured out now, yeah?”

Her dark eyes move over his face, as if to read him like a book. “The fact you want to be a better person means you’re not awful, so give yourself a bit of a break. We’re all flawed. We try to do better. Maybe stop trying to be some ideal of what you think a person is and just be a person.”

"Being a person, without pretense, without purpose, a person simply to be a person, it's something I've considered, but not something I've wholeheartedly pursued." Alister gently pulls her hand up, pressing it against his cheek, closing his eyes. "I suppose it's about following your heart, right? I've followed my pragmatic desires, but I can't say that I've ever truly followed my heart."

"Perhaps I should shift the way that I'm teaching Sibyl… though perhaps Sibyl already knows better than me." He shifts his eyes up to her, smiling in that weird haughty way that he tends to smile at times. "You are truly one of the greatest investments I've ever made. I'm so fond of you and yet I don't even know your name."

Her eyes widen just a little as he rests her hand against his cheek, and she lets it rest a few seconds before squeezing his hand and tugging her own back, crossing her arms in that defensive way that seems to come as second nature to her.

“Sibyl seems like a good kid. And yeah, she’s pretty precocious. Maybe instead of trying to mold her into something you want her to be or you think she should be, you should just let her become what she wants to be,” Chess suggests.

“My name is Chess. It’s as much my real name as anything else,” she adds, a little defiantly, as if to dare him to say it isn’t. “What it says on my ID, what my once parents called me, it’s arbitrary.”

"I'll ask her what she wants, but she seems to lack hope. She believes that life has to be nothing more than survival. I know that I can't save every child, but if I could just save her, if I could show her something more, maybe it'll matter…" Alister lowers his forehead into his hand, going into deep thought. "I've never liked my… privilege over the poor. I know that I sound as if I look down on them, on you. Perhaps I do, in a way that I don't intend. But I just… I want everyone to feel what I feel, to lead the life that I lead. I want them all to live in luxury."

"I want Staten Island to be a metropolis, but the only way to do that is to make even more money, to use capitalism. I don't know how to make things better through charity…" He looks up at her again, something in his tone just sounding a bit… lost. "Help me understand, Chess. Help me understand how I can be good and make things better."

Chess kneels, sitting back on the heels of her Chucks and resting her arms on her knees. “Well, for one, you need to treat people who aren’t rich like they’re equals, because money isn’t what makes someone better than another person.” She holds up a hand, before he can object. “I don’t mean me. I mean just in general.”

She studies his face and sighs. “I don’t know how to make anything better, Alister. I’m not even that good of a person. So don’t look at me like I can save you — I barely even take care of myself, you know? Basically it comes down to doing things that are right because they’re right, and not because it benefits you. Not seeing people as things you can manipulate and use in order to get what you want.”

She shrugs. “I’m not sure that meshes well with someone trying to make a business empire or whatever you’re trying to do, but there’s such things as business ethics. I’m not an expert. I’m not an expert on much except blowing shit up.”

"I'll figure this out. I think I need to have a discussion with Sibyl as well." Alister stares down at her when she crouches, still taking things into heavy consideration. "As for my plans, well, returning clean water to the island is still the highest priority. If I can do that, I'll be in a position to do more. But you have to know that if I want to make a difference, I can't simply be a charity."

His mood seems to be a little somber, which is quite unlike him. He's very low energy tonight. "Are you staying?" he suddenly asks, his tone suggesting that his question is more of a request.

“Water’s not a bad start. And running a business isn’t immoral. No one said you had to be a charity,” Chess says. “I asked you to give to the veterans to see if you would. I didn’t mean you have to give away everything you earn.”

The question about whether she’s staying or not is met with a shrug and a sigh. “I shouldn’t really be here as it is. It’s better if I travel at night, but I can stay a few hours, at least.” She glances to the door, then back to him. “I saw Sibyl working out on the gardens. Her idea?”

"Sibyl said that money couldn't buy her peaceful days in nature, enjoying plants and trees, picnics, things like that. I disagreed, so I put her to work. I don't plan for her to do it all alone, but I want to show her that with hard work, and money, she can have the security that she wants." Alister starts to hunch over to reach out to her, then he suddenly jerks back up straight, reaching down to hold his abdomen in pain.

"I want to show her that she doesn't have to pursue money for the sake of money, I want to show her that her dreams are possible. I want to give her hope, I want to give her power, that girl…" He starts to calm down, after wincing in pain quite a bit. "She's not my daughter, but I need something to love in this world, something to love more than myself. Nurturing her, caring for her, it makes me realize what it must be to be a father. You're a part of that, too, or, well, that was what I planned. I just…"

"I don't know what I wanted, what I was trying to do." he admits, and starts trying to push himself up from the wheelchair, holding his abdomen long enough to make it to the couch and sit down. "I needed something more than my sister, something more than these people I pay. I would want you around even without the incredible sex."

Chess’ eyes narrow, a sympathetic wince when she sees his pain, and when he gets up to move, she follows like she might be there to catch him if he falls between his chair and the couch. Once he’s down, though, she leans against the arm of the couch, an arm’s length away.

His final comment makes her huff that short, breathy, scoffing laugh of hers, with a shake of her head. “Should copyright that, put it in a Hallmark card. ‘I would want you around even without the incredible sex.’”

At least she doesn’t air quote.

“Just so long as you actually care about her, and aren’t just doing all those things because you feel you need to understand those things for yourself, then it’s a good thing,” she says. “I, uh.” She glances at the door, then back to him. “I told her to let me know if she wants to get away from here. The fact she doesn’t seems to mean you’re doing all right by her, so that’s good. I don’t think you’re an awful person.”

Another perfect greeting card sentiment.

Chess nods her head at him. “Remember I said I wasn’t going to love you. I should probably stipulate that you shouldn’t love me either.”

"I truly want her to lead a life that she can be proud of. I can't say that I entirely know what I'm doing, I'm simply trying to guide her, trying to help her find what she wants, something more than the hopeless survival that she's stuck in. I believe that she should do what she wants, but… is it so bad to want to teach her to dream, and achieve those dreams? She's truly a girl who doesn't dream…" Alister sounds genuinely sad at the thought, a clear concern for him, perhaps one of his primary motivations, perhaps not, who knows.

He reaches up to carefully take her wrist, trying to usher her over onto the couch proper, though he clearly doesn't have much leverage, considering his injury. "You should know that even if I improve as a person, I'm still a man prone to doing what he likes." He moves his hand up, trying to reach her face, staring up at her with those clear, blue eyes. "You're entirely under no obligation to love me, but what I feel, well, let me be concerned with that, until you're ready for it to be your concern."

At the questions about Sibyl, Chess simply shakes her head. She doesn’t have answers for that — she’s like Sibyl, simply surviving, herself, though she doesn’t say as much.

The fact she was choosing to live in an abandoned Armory might say as much for her.

Chess lets him tug her to the couch; when his hand touches her face, she shakes her head again. “My life’s complicated and trust me when I say you don’t want to get involved in that mess,” she says, flatly. “This,” she gestures between them, “isn’t supposed to be complicated. Don’t make it more than it is.”

She pauses, then adds, “Don’t make me more than I am. I’m not a saint and don’t deserve to be on whatever weird pedestal you have me on. I helped you that night because you had the kid with you. If it was just you, I wouldn’t have done it.”

"You think it's all about that? You think I don't like what I've gotten to know about you so far, what you say to me, what we discuss?" Alister leans in as best as he can, though slides his hand to the back of her neck to try and make her bridge the gap, due to his wounds. He tries to briefly press his lips against her's, then pulls back, locking his eyes to her's. "Nothing has to be 'complicated', as you put it. Connecting isn't a complication, I've yet to ask you to marry me or 'go steady'."

"I have very little concern about whatever danger or inconvenience your complicated life poses to me. I've already gotten shot multiple times, so I will surely shoot your danger in the head and actually use cover next time." He pulls back from her, resting against the couch now, his movements clearly causing him more pain, so he tries his best to relax a bit. "I don't need a saint, I think I know very well, after spending time with you, that you are far from a saint. I don't need you to uphold some image that you believe I have of you. I only want you to be present, and yourself, and to perhaps put up with my occasional flights of fancy."

He groans, closing his eyes, then points to the painkillers sitting on the coffee table. "You don't have to remain distant to remain uncomplicated. Even if I did love you, how do you think a man like me expresses love? Do you take me for one of these… no, sorry, I shouldn't talk like that. I apologize, it's respectful, isn't it?"

Chess’ eyes drop, and she lets him pull her down to kiss her, but she shakes her head at his words. “It’s bigger than you think. And anyone who cares about me is probably in danger,” she murmurs, tone apologetic, as she looks down.

“I shouldn’t even be here,” she repeats, again.

She turns to get the bottle of painkillers for him. “A man like you probably expresses love in big gestures and flowery monologues. Somewhere there’s probably a woman who likes those things.” She smiles, a little sadly. “I might have, once. These days, it seems just…” she gestures vaguely, to fill in the gap of the word she can’t quite find. “Extra, I guess.”

"I'm a man who expresses his love in whatever way I find thoughtful. Though there was a time when I would have dropped a golden statue on a woman's lawn. I've learned the importance of thoughtfulness, even if, I admit, I do enjoy the large gestures." Alister takes the bottle, taking two pills from it, with a glass of water he has sitting on a little table next to the couch.

"I don't need you to love those things, Chess. If I were going to make a gesture…" He goes silent, seemingly thinking about what he's going to say next. "I'd probably tell you my real name. You're not the only one with a dangerous life."

He turns to her, now, offering, "Secret for secret? How about you indulge yourself in a little complication?"

Both brows lift at the mention of golden statues and she shakes her head a bit incredulously. She huffs another breath of a laugh at the mention of fake names.

“You mean you actually chose the name Alister for yourself? I take it back. You are an awful person.”

Her lips tic up at the corner in the smallest of smirks.

“I’m not going to tell you anything important,” she warns. “Not if it has to be true.”

"My name is Leonardo Raphael Maxwell, I used to be the owner of Maxwell Development Corporation, until I was kidnapped by the Institute and they stole my ability. The world thinks I'm dead, and I can't reveal that I'm alive because my enemies might assassinate me if I don't have enough power to scare the shit out of them." Alister just lays it all out on the table, keeping his eyes on her, though not turning his whole body.

"Your turn."

The name doesn’t seem to mean anything to her — there’s no flash of recognition in her dark eyes, but she lets out a sigh when it’s clear that he isn’t holding back, that his secrets are the important ones and not simply that he actually prefers California wines to French or sleeps with a night light on.

The quid pro quo doesn’t come for a long moment. Chess sits, a bit awkwardly, looking down at her hands, scratching at a chip of nail polish on her thumbnail.

“People are trying to kill me. So if anyone comes looking for me, play dumb. Even if they seem nice.” She glances up. “Even if they say they’re my sister.”

"Would you like a gun?" Alister asks, before immediately pulling out the small drawer under the tiny table next to the couch, and pulls out a glock. He offers it to her, safety on, nodding. "Not quite as nice as Sarah McClocklan, but she'll get the job done. I know that you have your ability, but take it from me, don't take your ability for granted."

He offers that advice with a heavy weight of seriousness in his tone, no humor in his eyes. But then he shakes his head. "You can stay here with me as long as you like. I'd love for someone to come after you here, I live in a stronghold that's meant to serve as a meat grinder between me and the outside world."

"When we're alone, you can call me Leonardo, if you want, or Leo, whatever you prefer. Sibyl doesn't know yet."

Chess shakes her head, not taking the gun. “No. Thank you, though. I don’t like guns. And if she comes for me again, her ability… it won’t hurt her.” She doesn’t explain more.

Sarah McGlocklan gets a raised brow, but she doesn’t ask.

“I can’t stay long. People will worry. I shouldn’t even really be out… but I get claustrophobic. Restless. Staying in one place.” She glances to the door again, like even sitting here for so long is hard for her. “That’s why I was at the Armory. It wasn’t the only place I stayed. After the war, I find it hard to stay in one place.”

There’s another truth for him.

“I don’t want them to come here. If they do — I’m sorry. I should lay low, but it’s hard for me. I feel caged,” she says. “The other place I’m staying, it’s pretty safe. But there are people there I don’t want to get hurt.”

"You lack security, even before this." Alister presumes, reaching for her hand to gently pull her closer. "When what's going on with you right now is over, I can offer you security. Or, if nothing else, I can at least offer you supplies for the Armory… if that would make you happy."

He raises her hand to his cheek again, smiling. "I think that's enough complication for now. Stay a while longer." The gun is returned to its drawer. "Just long enough." he doesn't say for what, he just continues to try and draw her closer. "But promise you'll come to me whenever you truly need to."

She shakes her head. “Armory’s not an option anymore. No more Rapunzel tower for me,” she says with a small smirk. “I don’t need supplies. If I wanted to live like a human being in an apartment, I could.”

Chess lets herself be drawn closer and she brushes her lips across his lightly.

“No promises, Donatello.”

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