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 Same Old Self, March 4th | 4:30 PM | Closed
Auri Delavigne
 Posted: Mar 16 2018, 10:01 AM
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Hands tucked into his pockets, his collar pulled up to try and stave off the chill of winter in New York, Aurillion Delavigne made his way across the streets of the Bronx. He had walked all the way here from his apartment, not bothering with the subway or hailing a cab, because he felt he needed the time spent walking to get his thoughts sorted out. It had been a month and a half since he had been around, apparently, that time having been lost to him after a young mutant girl had inadvertently turned him and several others back to being teenagers. He still remembered the time he had spent as a seventeen year old, virtually every moment of it, but the memories felt as distant to him as anything that had happened to him twenty years in the past. That meant he was left feeling like there was just a several week long gap with nothing to fill it.

Not that Aurillion would let that bother him; he had a life he needed to pick back up and sort out. Being at Xavier's for over a month, even with how distant those memories were, had him reconsidering is stance on the school. He had always isolated himself, out of necessity, but he did care about his fellow mutants and saw a possibility there to actually make a difference. Considering how many people there had only ever known him as a teenager it could be awkward, but that was something he just needed to cope with.

Before sorting himself out though, there was something else that Auri needed to do. Before he had been deaged, he had finally made his peace with the Assassins Guild following Corday's attempted betrayal of Bella Boudreaux, when he had chosen to stick to her side instead of selling her out for his freedom. She had taken care of him when he had suddenly been deaged, he remembered that still, and not only did he owe her his thanks, but he felt that she needed to know he had returned to his proper age. And, unfortunately, that not everyone who had been affected by Kerr McKay had made that same choice.

It was not the only reason for his visit. He had stopped by his bank on the way over, retrieving something from his safe. It had been in there for years, but considering everything that had happened Auri knew it was time that the Old Blade was returned to its rightful owner. Even without the Old Masters putting as much pressure on Bella Donna as before - she had made a very clear statement about how that was not a good idea - it was the right thing to do.

Stopping at the bottom of the steps leading up to the front door of Bella's brownstone, Auri heaved a soft sigh. He dealt with the past, able to look as far into the future as any person, object or place would allow him to, but he had enough foresight to know that what was to come would not be easy. But then taking the easy route had never been something Auri was inclined to do, and he owed it to Bella to make an effort. After how he had lived his life for so long, isolating himself from everyone, he did not have many people whom he could consider a friend, but despite things not always going too well between the two of them, Bella Donna Boudreaux was about as close as he got.

Ascending the stairs, Auri rapped his knuckles on the door and waited. He knew Bella was inside, he could see the last time she entered her home, and he assumed he'd knocked loud enough for her to hear. When the door opened, Auri offered the blonde Assassin Queen a small smile, giving her some time to wrap her mind around who was standing before her before he spoke up. "Hello Bella," he greeted her. "We should probably talk."
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Bella Boudreaux
 Posted: Mar 16 2018, 01:31 PM
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There was a pattern forming in Bella’s routine.

In the past she maybe took a contract a month for herself. As head of the Guild she didn’t like to take paying jobs from her people when she already took a ten percent tithe from each successful hit. Much of that was funneled back into the Guild but it had also allowed Bella’s family to live comfortably for generations. She took contracts to remind her people that she was the best, that being royal wasn’t just due to her bloodline, but because of her skill. Bella Boudreaux had earned her position, and just in case anyone forgot...

They could just ask the Corday line.

If they could find a Corday to ask.

But in the last few weeks, Bella had been taking contracts nearly every night she wasn’t trying to drink herself into oblivion. She would leave her rifle at home, most of her knives, clean and organized in her room instead of strapped to her body. Bella was taking a lot of risks and the state of her when she opened the door made that painfully clear.

She had clearly been working out when the knock at the door made her pause. The heavy bag that had once been in the basement now hung in the middle of her living room, still swaying from impacts, terribly out of place and clearly abused. Her top lip was split, the scab fresh, a bruise stretching up her jaw indicating she had gotten way too close to a mark instead of maintaining a professional distance and fulfilling her contractual obligation with a well aimed bullet. Her right hand was bound in a compression bandage, still not healed from when Beast had put the knuckles back into joint since Bella refused to give them the time they needed. The queen had been spiraling downward for weeks.

And then she opened the door.

As light from inside washed over the man on the porch Bella stared in total wonder at the familiar face of Auri Delavigne, Flashback himself. The wild-haired teenager was gone and the smooth, sophisticated man she had been sent to kill a lifetime ago stood before her on the porch. “Aurillion...” Blue eyes wide in surprise and confusion, Bella couldn’t help but reach out with her uninjured hand to prod at the blonde man’s chest, as if to test his solidity. “Auri.” With a small sound of relief and joy, Bella broke rule number one among assassins and threw herself forward, arms wrapping around his shoulders.

The assassin queen was hanging onto Auri like a sudden lifeline had been thrown. Stepping back to hold him at arm’s length, Bella scrutinized her friend with a suddenly sharp, alert gaze. “How?” she asked immediately. “What happened? You're ok? You're ok!” She looked down the steps for the person missing, scanning the sidewalk as her heart skipped up into her throat. “John?” The flood of relief was making her weak-kneed. At last the nightmare was over.

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Auri Delavigne
 Posted: Mar 16 2018, 04:15 PM
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The woman in front of Aurillion did not look well. But then that was nothing new to the man, even if his recollection of her in her current state were but a distant memory to him. When it had come to making his decision to return to his true age, the way Bella Boudreaux had been struggling was one of the main reasons the young assassin had made the choice to do it. He knew she was troubled, and that concern for her young charge and the life that awaited him was a significant part of that. With Auri an adult again Bella would have one less thing to worry about, and one more person she could lean on for support. Even though the two had a difficult relationship because of what it had been founded on, Auri was prepared to be there for that.

What he was not prepared for, was Bella's reaction to seeing him.

For a brief moment Auri simply stood there, arms hanging limply beside his body as his brain caught up to what was happening, but then his free hand moved around to Bella's back to return the hug. "It's good to see you too, Bella," he told her, biting back on the words he almost followed that up with. Reminding her that despite his departure from the guild twenty years ago, he was still an assassin and this kind of display of affection could very well have seen her dead seemed like it would ruin a moment of positivity that he felt the Assassin Queen could use.

When Bella stepped back and immediately asked him how, Auri opened his mouth to respond but his voice faltered as he caught the way she was looking around; she looked like she was expecting someone else to be there as well. He knew very well whom it was she was hoping to see, and though not particularly sentimental, Aurillion still felt a sense of unease come over him knowing what he had to tell her. He lowered his gaze briefly, considering what he would tell her carefully, but he knew that there was no easy way to tell her. Meeting Bella's eyes again, Auri offered Bella a weak smile.

"The X-Men," he began, figuring he would start off with answering the "How?" and then work towards telling her about John. "They took us to some ancient, tropical land hidden away in Antarctica." There was so much more to tell her about that, about the hardships they had all endured there, about what had happened to him, but it was too much to tell her about right away. "Something there, I am honestly not quite sure what or who it was, had the power to return us to how we were before McKay turned us all into teenagers. We were given a choice, and my younger self took it."

Averting his eyes again for a moment, Aurillion sucked in a breath of air as he pushed himself to put to words what he needed to say next. Levelling his gaze with Bella's again, he let out a sigh before speaking up. "John refused the offer," he told her, deciding there was no delicate way to put it, so he would just give it to her straight. "I'm sorry, Bella. I don't know why he made that choice, but John is still seventeen years old."
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Bella Boudreaux
 Posted: Mar 17 2018, 08:33 PM
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Bella had slipped. She’d reached out for human contact and Auri’s hesitation did not go unnoticed before he returned the hug. “I don’t care,” she told him firmly, blushing in embarrassment at her social error. “Nothing against your teenaged self but I will save a king’s ransom on hair products.” She was so glad to see him, but could not help her eyes wandering, seeking out the tall, lean frame topped with a cream stetson.

“Of course the X-Men,” she responded with a stunned expression. There was clearly a story to be told, tropical lands hidden in the antarctic, but she was waiting. Clearly waiting.

"John refused the offer."

Auri’s words registered slowly and Bella turned her blue eyes on him in confusion. She had thought... Aurillion was an adult again, surely all of those affected by the time-turner had been returned to their original ages. The swell of joy that had made Bella weak in the knees and weak in the heart rushed out as quickly as it had rushed in when she saw Auri standing on her porch. John wasn’t there. He had chosen not to come back. He had chosen to be someone else, somewhere else, and Bella simply stared out over the street her face utterly impassive as she struggled to rein in the painful tightening in her chest that was making it near impossible to breathe.

Behind her back, out of sight of Auri Delavigne’s piercing blue eyes, Bella ground her injured knuckles against the flat of her front door until the heat of the physical pain cancelled out the sharp disappointment that was choking out her air. She had thought... She had thought for a moment she wasn’t going to be alone. She thought John would have jumped at the chance to be the intelligent, fierce lawman again. Bella had thought he’d come home. “Come inside.” Bella managed a smile for the friend that had chosen to grow up and stepped aside so Auri could step into the brownstone. “We probably have a lot to talk about.”

She wasn’t going to let her loss ruin the reunion she was having. John hadn’t come home, but Auri had. She could be grateful for that, and she was grateful, even if it meant she could no longer ground him. “Welcome back, cher.”

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Auri Delavigne
 Posted: Mar 18 2018, 05:20 PM
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Sucking in his lips slightly, Auri simply stood there on Bella's doorstep for a moment as he watched that brief flicker of hope he'd caught in the Assassin Queen's eye fade again. He felt bad about having to tell her that John had decided to stay a teenager, and even worse imagining how she must be feeling. There wasn't much for him to read into from the look on Bella's face, expressionless as she was, but that of itself was telling. Had he been closer to the woman, Auri might have reached out to her to offer comfort, but even though things had vastly improved between them when you compared where they'd started and where they'd left off before his deageing a month and a half ago, they weren't exactly close. He'd be there for her, but at a respectable distance.

Mirroring the smile Bella offered him as she invited him into her home, Auri crossed the threshold. "It's good to be back, Bella," he told her as they ventured into her living room. Not much had changed there since he'd last visited, either over a month ago when he'd still been an adult or more recently when he'd been a teenager again, but the punching bag hanging in the middle of the living room was an... interesting choice. Auri regarded it briefly, then turned his blue eyes back towards Bella Boudreaux but decided not to comment on it.

"It feels... strange to be back," he shared with her as he sat himself down, setting the wooden box he'd been carrying down next to him. "It's been almost a month and a half, but to me it's like no time at all has passed. Everything that happened during that time feels like it's twenty years into the past." It was an odd sensation, but Auri would adapt to it quickly enough. He would need to, if he wanted to sort his life out. Regain control over the assets his younger self had claimed, consider whether he wanted to breathe new life into the practice that had come apart in his absence... but those were worries for another time. For now, he just wanted to make sure Bella was doing okay. Well, so far it seemed that, no, she was not doing so well, but Auri preferred a more analytical approach over jumping to conclusions based on an initial impression.

"So, how are you doing?" Auri crossed his legs, resting his hands on his lower leg. "In general, I mean." While he was prepared to talk to her about how John's decision not to return to his proper age made her feel, Auri didn't want Bella to feel pressured into discussing it. She had been through a lot recently; losing much of one's immediate social circle due to some mutation-fuelled mishap wasn't easy. Even his younger self had taken note of that, and the seventeen year old had neither the education nor years of experience that the man currently sitting in Bella's living room had.
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Bella Boudreaux
 Posted: Mar 30 2018, 08:32 AM
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Bella followed Auri Delavigne into her living room and sank into the high-backed chair that always acted as her cozy little throne when she was hosting company. It was in the corner that kept her back at an interior wall and gave her a full view of her front door, her kitchen and the full of her front room. It was the safest seat in the house but despite its plush comfort, Bella winced as she relaxed into it.

“I would offer you a drink but I’m afraid I pushed Kaine a little too far and he retaliated by drying the house out. Something about alcohol not aiding in my ability to make quality life decisions.” There was a wry twist to her lips, an attempt to smile as she gazed across the room at her ward all grown up. “You’ll have to forgive me, Aurillion. This is a bit of a shock. I’m afraid I’d gotten used to you the other way. You were a sweet natured child. I’m stunned you chose this life all over again.

“You seemed happy.”

He asked how she was doing and the assassin gave Auri a slow once over, trying to gauge if it was him being polite or if he actually wanted to know. “Strangely... Knowing this is over is oddly pacifying,” she said quietly. No longer did she have to stress about the de-aged boys. Knowing they had chosen for themselves... That they were not just victims of circumstance but were where they wanted to be was somehow soothing. “But let’s not worry about me. I’m a big girl, Auri. A little bruised. A little pissy. But that’s nothing new.”

She smiled and pulled her knees up under her chin with another wince. “Tell me about you instead. This place you went. The tropical land in the midst of the antarctic...”


Kaine for the mention

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Auri Delavigne
 Posted: Apr 1 2018, 04:40 PM
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Aurillion's brow furrowed with concern at the way Bella Boudreaux winced as she sat down. She looked like she'd experienced quite the punishment, something that he distantly remembered as not being anything new despite not seeing it for himself in his recent memory, but it didn't occur to him how bad a shape she was in until then. Bella was squeamish about pain, so if she showed any signs of it outwardly, he knew that it was bad. He wasn't going to coddle her, of course, but he made a mental note to check in on her regularly just to make sure she wasn't pushing herself too far.

The Assassin Queen's explanation as to why she couldn't offer him anything to drink earned her a slight smile. "It's fine, I don't need anything," he assured her. He hadn't come there to be taken care of. He was there to let her know he was back to his old self, that John had opted not to take the same opportunity when it had been offered to him, and to make sure Bella was doing okay. Showing concern for her wellbeing as much as he was now wasn't quite like him, but perhaps on some level the time he had spent here when he was still a seventeen year old Assassin in training had left its mark.

When Bella mentioned that she was still needing to adjust to him being his old self again, and appeared to express some fondness for the seventeen year old him, Aurillion's gaze dropped briefly. That made it sound like she was at leas the second person who might have been more content had he stayed that naive, seventeen year old instead of returning to a life he had built for himself from scratch after leaving the Guild. Aurillion wasn't going to apologise for a choice that he had no part in though. To him, his current life was what was right for him, and he was happy that his younger self had not decided to continue living some strange, alternate version of it. The possibility that he could have was actually unnerving, because with the kid's choices differing so vastly from the ones he had made himself at that age, Aurillion was aware he would have effectively been erased from existence. Nearly everything that made him who he was, simply gone.

Aurillion decided to let the matter of his reverting back to his proper age rest for now. Without explaining to Bella what had happened in the Savage Land there really wasn't much context for the seventeen year old Auri's decision. Sure, there was his uncertainty regarding his relationship with Billy, and the concern he had for Bella after the woman had suddenly found the clock turned backwards by twenty years for both John and himself, but the main motivation behind the choice required a lot more explanation than that.

So instead he focused on how Bella was doing instead, though the woman was about as open as she ever was when it came to what was bothering her. She more or less dismissed his concern, assuring him that what she had been dealing with was nothing new to her and turning the conversation back towards him. "That it's nothing new is of itself reason to worry, one could argue," he told Bella, his forehead wrinkling slightly. "But if you don't want to talk about it, that's fine. I'll just have to ask again later." If she was going to be persistently unforthcoming about how she was doing, then he'd just have to poke until she broke.

But first, he would humour her and talk about the unusual trip he'd been on, to the best of his ability. "I don't actually know all that much about the place I went to," he admitted. "The plane that I... that my younger self was on went down upon arrival, and he woke up some time later trapped inside a labyrinth along with some of the others. That's about all I recall with much clarity." The reason for that was... well, hard to believe would be an understatement, but Aurillion would explain it regardless.

"The labyrinth was apparently a prison for something ancient and evil," Auri continued to explain. "And the moment that my younger self used our retrocognitive ability to peer into the labyrinth's past, that evil took possession of him. It was called Null, an actual demonic entity that fed off of negative emotions and was damn good at stirring those up in others. Almost stabbed one of the X-Men to death, broke one of his friends' arm and stabbed her too, then teleported right out of there." He paused briefly, just to give Bella a moment to process what he'd told her. Even to someone who led far from an ordinary life, and had dealt with her fair share of unusual adventures, Auri could imagine this ventured a bit too far into the fantastical to sound believable.

"The two weeks after that are mostly a blur," Aurillion went on then. "Oh, yes. Time apparently moved quite a bit faster there, so what was only a few hours out here was weeks in there." Just another small detail to add to the absurdity of it all. "I don't really remember anything before the creature was summoned by some priestess who wanted to siphoned off its power, stabbed my seventeen year old self in the heart and left him to return to the others to sow discontent amongst them." Aurillion almost interrupted his explanation again then, just to assure Bella that he was in fact not making all of this up, but instead he just kept on going.

"He didn't do as she had intended," he continued. "He isolated himself, carved up his body to try and get the remnants of the demon out. Cut out his eyes to--" That part, Aurillion wasn't actually sure about himself, having little to no recollection of the kid's motivation during that time, beyond that he'd more or less spiralled into madness. "Blind the creature? Keep it from finding its way to where the others were, perhaps," Auri supposed, shrugging his shoulders. "That's how the others found him. They took him back to the island they were staying on, where whatever offered John and the others the chance to go back to their proper age did the same for him." Auri gestured at himself then. "And that's why you're looking at me, instead of the seventeen year old version of me. He saw the offer presented to him by this... whatever kind of entity it was, as the only way to ensure there was nothing of Null left inside of him."

And that right there was about all there was to the craziest sounding story to ever come out of Aurillion Delavigne's mouth.
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