Categories > Comics > X-Men0 Reviews
Angel lies awake listening to the rain and remembering the events of the past that brought Beast to his side in the present.
It never fails to amaze those who think they know him when the gentle, giving Hank McCoy turns into the unyielding, unforgiving, tyrannical Dr. Beast. It only happens when he has exhausted every other option, when he feels his patient slipping away into self pity and hopeless apathy. He can smell suicidal thoughts and they send him right over the edge into fangs flashing, growling, knuckle cracking fury. He fights so hard to save each and every life that the idea of deliberately letting one lapse away is unspeakably evil in his mind. The Beast is quite intimidating. He's really not that much taller than average but much, much broader, and the long arms, ape like build, massive chest, and huge hands and feet make him look much larger, the blue fur that might make someone else look silly only serves to make him seem inhuman, alien, and for it that much more menacing. The funny thing is that he is so used to people cowering before the Beast when he finally unleashes it that he has no clue what to do when they do not. Maybe that was why when I dragged my ass off the rehabilitation workroom floor for the hundredth time that day and pulled myself up hand over hand on his white lab coat and unleashed every ounce of my formidable Worthington temper with vicious abandon, the cobalt blue eyes widened in shock. Then he completely ruined the effect by smiling warmly, lovingly into my face and wrapping those arms around me.
‘I won't let you fall, Angel, and I won’t let you give up.’
His words seem to echo in my mind now, singing softly in the sound of the rain pouring down. I open my eyes in the darkness and let them adjust until I can see the flimsy white curtains blowing like fettered ghosts in the wind from the open windows. They send dancing shadows across the ceiling as my mind sinks back into memories
"You're losing your touch, Henry." I murmured as I struggled to get my footing. Without the wings I had to relearn everything walking, sitting, moving in general. Without their weight I tended to fall forward. My muscles still twitched as they used to do creating a constant subtle shifting of the wings that helped me mantain my balance. I was adapted for flight, not this earthbound hell. Now everything hurt. It was always too hot or too cold because my wings were no longer insulating meor spreading and flaring to disperse excess heat. Gravity was trying to drag me down and crush me. Surely my hollow bones would snap under the force. For the first time in my admittedly privileged life, the harder I pushed myself the harder I failed; and not too surprisingly, the shorter my temper grew.
That was the worst part. As the only son of a man of immense wealth and power, I had never been denied anything I really wanted. I was intelligent, charming when I chose to be, schooled in modern political games and adept at high stakes power plays. Failure was something that I had never actually considered as a possibility. It was a bitter pill to the Worthington blood that flowed in my veins.
“So sorry, I shall endeavor to be more menacing the next time you start pouting.”
“I never pout,” he sniffed, “you must be mistaken.”
“Mmm Hmm, forgive me. Perhaps the whiney petulance and air of general angst mislead me, Lord Worthington.”
“That’s better, and don’t let it happen again,” he did his best snotty British royalty accent earning another warm smile from the physician. “What is that smile for, Henry?”
“I think you are going to be okay, my dear friend. The battle is far from over and you may hate me for pushing you as hard as I will, but I think you are going to be okay.” Claw tipped fingers reached out and pushed the sweat damp curls back from his face. “Were you aware that you call me Hank around the others and Henry when we’re alone?”
“As a matter of fact you do. You always have. I must confess I’m curious as to why.”
I took the first step on the stair simulator without using the handles hissing a little as my calf muscles protested. “Everyone, even your family calls you Hank.”
“Take it slow, shift your weight, use the heel not just the toes. So why do you call me Henry? I don’t think it is an attempt to annoy me. That seems a little too urbane for your style of teasing.”
I looked up at the small square of blue sky taunting me cruelly from the opened blinds. I actually did do it deliberately, but my reason for doing so was not something I had ever put in so many words. I tried, but how did you explain what you were not clear on yourself. “I want you to know it's me addressing you when you hear your given name. I want you to think of me when you’re with people who call you Henry because they don’t really know you. How is that for vanity? Besides I like Henry, it’s a good, warm name."
“I would never mistake you for anyone else, rest assured of that, Angel.”
“You wouldn’t; even though I am damaged goods, in more ways than one?”
“What do you mean by that?” The voice was suddenly harder as all Hank’s attention focused on him.
The doctor’s radar was picking up deeper wounds than the eye could see, the deep emotional tears from the one part of what had happened in the Morlock tunnels that I told no one. Hank knew because he had tended the physical damage and spent more than one night watching over me and chasing away the nightmares.
All X-Men had secrets. They were only human but blessed or cursed by birth to find themselves in superhuman roles far too often. They made mistakes and sometimes innocent people died from those mistakes, they told lies to protect their pride, their reputation, sometimes even their sanity, and they kept secrets from each other for the same reasons. I could have gone to the professor and let him work his mind magic, dim the memories, make them easier to accept, or maybe even Betsy. She was always there whenever I turned around. She was a lovely lady, graceful and strong, a warrior, but the thought of letting someone crawl around in my head made me shudder.
McCoy was actually one of the foremost medical research scientists in the world not the MD the world in general saw him as. Over time he had expanded his repertoire of talents as necessity demanded becoming an engineer when his friend Charles Xavier set out plans to build his dream. When Xavier found the financial backing he needed he put together his team including Hank and he became a warrior. The Beast was born and a gentle and compassionate soul was plunged into a world that often included extreme violence and bloodshed. From that world he emerged wearing the coat of triage physician and surgeon. His compassion was what led the many mutants who passed through the halls of the Institute to turn to him with their secrets and their hidden fears. He was not a psychiatrist by license or training but he was the best listener, the strongest shoulder to cry on, and the most accepting person to unburden too. If he ever felt the weight of others problems, or got tired of hearing them complain, it never reached his cobalt blue eyes or his deep comforting voice.
“What do you mean by that, Angel?” He asked again a little more firmly.
I had been staring out that window thinking and the repeated question made me jump. I was saved from answering when I overbalanced toppling quite gracelessly backwards. True to his word, Hank was there before I hit the floor.
I had poured most of my attention into my other life after that. There was very little time to think about broken wings in endless boardroom meetings, conferences, laboratory tests, presentations, and charity events. I had mourned my feathered wings and worked hard to regain a pale semblance of my life. I had found lovers then driven them away. I had become an outsider at the school I had helped build. Never mind that I was still far from human, I had no wings and no powers so I looked too human for them now. My self-pity flared into a cold anger that people seemed to sense immediately serving to isolate me even farther.
There were exceptions of course. Logan stayed the same no matter how much I pushed him or how often I vented on him instead of the one I really wanted to hurt. Gambit never seemed any different, but then had been living in his lies so long, he was used to maintaining his persona in any situation. Charles had died what seemed to me a totally useless death. Hank and Bobby were my life lines, the only ones that refused to stay away from me, the only ones that were real and I doted on them as much as I abused Logan. Even when they ever so subtly hinted that I was being overprotective and a little smothering.
Smell of shampoo, clean, simple, exactly the kind you would expect someone like him to use. I turn my head and bury my face against his shoulder to breathe it in. The scent is as soothing as the rain, as the warm nest of twisted blankets we lie in. I am a cleanly person, but Hank puts me to shame with his fastidiousness. Perhaps it is something that happens to doctors as a result of seeing up close and personal what common germs and bacteria can do. It might also be the fur.
He never complains about it itching or being too hot or any of things you might think. In fact he hardly ever mentions it at all. The only time he ever jokes and kids about it is with the children or when the only thing that will break the dark mood and earn a few rueful smiles is a one liner at his own expense. It’s not that he wants to deny the royal blue pelt. That would take far more self delusion than he possesses. People forget that he has his share of demons to battle, scars that fade slowly if ever at all, and times when he just wants to cry out to God that it isn’t fair, that he never asked for this. Just like all of us.
I love to touch him, run my fingers through his fur. It’s short in some places and very smooth, hardly different than a man in a good velvet shirt, the kind that stays soft no matter what direction you rub it. In other places it is several inches long. One of my favorite places is between his shoulder blades. I like lying on his back, gripping his shoulders and burying my face in that thicker fur as we move together muscle and skin and feathers and fur and two hearts pounding like the thunder outside.
He is a quiet sleeper, I like that too. I almost never stay the night with a lover. In fact, I very seldom take my clothes off with one. I am not ashamed of my wings, far from it. I just don’t want that much intimacy. They are my secret to be shared only with those precious few I trust. He is the first person I have ever brought to my own bed. Not that I’ve ever been celibate or even overly selective. The ones I cared most for like Candy and Betsy I took to the school or the loft I keep near my offices when I am too tired to get back to Xavier’s. Besides it, I have an apartment here, a condo there, impeccably decorated places that mean no more to me than a random airport or conference hall. There are times when you do things for the good of The Company regardless of your personal morality and times when the stress and pressure have to be relieved in some non-destructive way. My personal assistant chooses them for both myself and father because she knows exactly what we like and under what circumstances. She is discreet and thorough and makes sure we are too so that there are no mistakes. The reporters really hate that there is no dirt to dig on two single, eligible, high profile playboys like us. I really need to give her a raise or maybe nominate her for sainthood.
Hank will never have to be part of that other world I live in, I will not allow it. Father is dying to get his hands on him. That is probably the reason he seemed genuinely pleased for me when I told him that I was serious about this one and showed him the ring, He actually embraced me. I expected some slack over not producing little WWIV before settling with a man. He is bisexual too, a fact that would probably shock those reporters into a heart attack. In fact, he actually did sit down with me, in the Bahamas when I was sixteen and tell me all about the birds and the bees and the birds and the birds and all the infinite combinations of the two. He helped me choose a couple of candidates to illustrate the lessons he had given me. It was a bonding experience to say the least.
Those days are over though. I have no desire to repeat them, in fact I never want to wake up beside anyone except him.
The very thought is a shock to my system. A shining band of platinum and diamonds sparkles on my left hand as the lightning flashes weakly. Nestled right beside it is the heavy, silver family ring with overlapped W’s in ebony. I did it right this time, my love deserves that. The world’s second most eligible bachelor according to Vogue and People magazines is now officially out of the running. The Angel is taken.
I stalked into the main laboratory without knocking and moved straight across the intervening space. A deep voice full of concern asked if I was okay and I actually had to stop and think it over before answering softly, "No, Henry. No I am pretty sure that I am not okay"
I stood in front of him chest to chest, or chest to hologram in that particular case since Hank wore the human hologram he hid behind when at the hospital or medical center. I ignored it and laid my forehead down on a broad shoulder letting that clean fur scent push away the smell of antiseptics and the sharp, dirty penny smell of metal corrosion. At that moment I could not have cared less if anyone knew we were mutants.
“Could the tests be wrong? Could the metal be soldered or welded or I don’t know glued or something?” I sounded desperate. I was desperate.
Hank's whispered regret was hoarse as if he were choking on the tears I had refused to shed. It was all the answer I needed and the anguished moan that escaped my throat sounded like nothing human. The world tilted. My flyer's instincts informed me as clearly as a pilot's instrument panel that the horizon and attitude had changed. Hank had lifted me in his arms and effortlessly carried me to the leather couch in his tiny, cramped, loaner office. The smell of coffee and microwave popcorn were strong in there and the couch was cool on my bare back except where the bandages wrapped around the bases of my dying metal wings.
My own immune system betrayed me. It was not the first time I had been betrayed, but that did not make it one bit easier to stomach. My immune system had kicked into mutant speed and was attacking my wings and bones. The metal I had hated for so long was crumbling away, entire areas were dulled to almost white and shot through with cracks and pits. Already I had lost the ability to shoot the feathers like flying blades. The best I could do was raise an annoying cloud of dust and sharp little metal splinters.
Logan had suggested I only fight enemies who had not had a tetnus shot in the last few years. I was not amused. Unfortunately, everyone else found it rather hilarious. Surprisingly, the jerk must have actually felt sorry for me because he pulled his punches more than usual and even caught my fists before I could break my knuckles on his jaw again and earn the Wrath Of Beast.
“If you are thinking about taking out your anger on Wolverine again, don’t. I refuse to waste valuable supplies on temper tantrums.”
“If you’re rummaging around in my mind, better get out before you trip over something you didn’t want to see.” I teased Betsy with that whenever she guessed what I was thinking. It fell rather flat in my own ears.
“I am quite glad that I am not blessed with psychic abilities, though it would certainly be useful at the moment. I know you are falling apart my friend, my brother, my angel. I can heal the physical, but I can’t take that sadness from your eyes or the grief from your heart. I would pay any price to be able to make you well in body and soul, to give you back your sky, your peace, your smile.”
I pulled away and gave him a shaky smile. “I guess I’ll live, Henry don’t worry about me.”
“That is not going to happen, my friend. Why don’t you tell me everything, vent those emotions. You know I’ll never betray your trust.”
Betrayal, that was the heart of it. Bad enough that I had to learn to live without my wings, but then to discover that my teammate, my sometimes friend Remy Lebeau had been the one who sold out the Morelocks. He had led Sabretooth and his Marauders down into the tunnels where I was being held prisoner. He had caused the violence that damaged my feathered wings. Then my good friend and right hand man Cameron Hodges gave the orders that cut them off. Two betrayals at once broke something inside of me. I went mad with fury, lashed out in anger even committed the most shameful act of my entire life leaving him in the snow to die thousands of miles from shelter. Even now, it makes me feel nauseous to imagine what happened to him out there - what I did to him. He had been a kid, he had made a mistake. It wasn’t like I had never made one myself. I have apologized, but there is a coldness between us now and I just don’t know how to get past it. Then in the midst of all that angst and grief I was betrayed a third time. Mutilating me was not enough, Cameron tried to kill me. He was just another mutant hating human, but one who hid it well. I drank with him, lunched with him, trusted him with my fortune and he tried to kill me. Worst of all, Hank thought, just for a little while, that I had done something as cowardly as committing suicide.
Then there was Apocalypse.
Apocalypse had taken that anger and used it, used me, stolen me away, raped my memories, and turned me into a monster. He had given me steel to replace flesh and bone. There was so little left of me in that cold and empty thing, but my friends had refused to give up on me. The ones who really believed in me brought me back. Bobby had almost died to do it. I have thanked him a million times already and will a million more. Hank had been there, as he was always there to pick me up and put me back together once more making me fight to live, to accept this new state, and the sky, the beautiful sky, was mine once more. Freedom, peace, and absolution were there in the wind and the sun, the clouds and the storm, the rustle of the leaves that whispered that it was okay to forgive and forget. To give that back then take it away again is just too cruel for words, to vicious an act of penance for any evil I had committed.
“No, I’m sorry Henry, I just want to forget it.” I am such a liar.
I shiver in the night and press closer to him. His size, his warmth, his gentle strength, they are comforting and real and far away from skeletal horses, narrow tunnels, death, ice, and the end of the world.
My father had called Hank back from wherever he had gone because I refused to obey any of the other doctors and Hank had come without question, without hesitation. I sat back against the cold couch and held Hank's shoulders so hard I knew there would be bruises beneath the hologram and the lab coat and the thick blue fur. I did not cry, I would not cry, I could not cry, not ever. I could rage however, and rage I did, cursing and railing and demanding to know why. Henry, brilliant, tenderhearted, loving, Henry McCoy had done the only thing that could have ever reached through the fury and the grief and brought comfort to the man inside. He had wrapped those oh-so-long arms around me tightly and pulled me close in a fierce embrace and rocked me like a child. I did not cry, Worthington's did not cry, ever. If Hank had noticed the wetness that soaked through his lab coat and fur in the area of his shoulder, he had never mentioned it so I never had to deny it.
As the storm of emotion quieted, I remained still listening to the solid heartbeat of my companion. My hand absently stroked through the soft fur at his neck above his lab coat. Then, quite on its own the errant hand drifted down his chest and with a subtle magic learned from many forays past buttons, snaps, and bra hooks, the coat fell open and the wayward fingers combed through the silky pelt. My name reached my ears in a softly questioning voice, but I had no answers to give so I refrained from answering or even opening my eyes. I brushed a small nub and halted the un-condoned investigation to tease it to hardness. He called me Angel this time, instead of Warren. That was good, my name was and is Angel. Warren is my father. I was Angel and all I wanted then was to fly away and forget Warren had ever been, but I could not do that because my wings were crumbling away to dust or perhaps rust would be more accurate. The only refuge I had was in sweet smelling fur and long arms that were now on my shoulder pushing me back in concern as the only voice I could trust called my name worriedly.
I shift a little and press my right ear to his chest. Smooth rise and fall, steady sussurection of his breathing in sleep, strong, steady thudding as the big muscle pumps its life giving fluids. I am comforted now I was then. The flapping of the curtains seems to echo it. Somewhere in the night the thunder rolls, growing steadily more distant and non-threatening. I am home, the mansion by the sea where I grew up.
The curtains blow in the storm because I cannot bear to close the windows, to feel trapped. The horror I survived in the Morelock tunnels changed me forever. It is not claustrophobia like Ororo’s but it is close. I must have a clear path of escape, preferably a path to the sky. The floor in here is tile over cork sub-flooring, sloped to prevent pooling, and there are drains to carry moisture away. The furniture is waterproofed, the linens and drapes washed and dried frequently. Even the heat and air vents have been modified to take into account the open windows. Dad never asked if he could close them, he just modified the room so they could stay open. I think I realized the depth of his love for me then, and my oldest and deepest wound began to heal at last.
The wood frames were heavy and awkward and I had twisted the second one trying to get it out. I heard it crack. Father would be upset, Karl would not say anything as he fixed them, but I would know the old German caretaker was disappointed in me. Nana, his wife, the housekeeper and cook and the closest thing I had to a mother since my own had died would not be so subtle. She would give me a sad little frown that would do more in a minute than all the shouting my father could manage in the hours he would stay angry. I squared my jaw and dragged it through the house and out to the workshop where I stacked it neatly on top of the other screens. I was a neat and orderly boy by nature and even if I knew I was going to get in trouble, there was no point in making a mess. I walked with exaggerated casualness back through the house up to my own room. I had chosen one of the fourth story corner rooms. I liked to be up so high above the rest of the house, where you could barely hear anything from below. It also kept my father from intruding on me as often. We did not talk much anymore and it grew easier and easier to find reasons not to break the habit. My eyes fell to the school packet on my desk. I would be leaving soon. No more private tutors, a real school with other students.
I slowly unfastened my shirt and folded it neatly on the side of the bed. Then unwound the long strips of sheet material I had cut into bandages. As I released the last one They rose from behind my reflection in the mirror. A deep breath then a flexing of stiff muscles and they flapped fanning up a breeze that tossed my hair and blew the curtains. I had studied every book on wings, birds, and flight I could find even harassed father's pilots into telling me all they knew about the airplanes and helicopters they flew until they even let me pilot a little here and there. The more I learned, the more complicated it all seemed, the more afraid I was, but the dreams would not let me be. Every night I soared and dove and spiraled on my own wings. I tasted the wind, breathed the sun, and wore freedom like a shining cloak around me.
My reflection looked back at me from the freestanding brass mirror. It showed a twelve year old boy with tousled blond curls and bright blue eyes, a little too thin for his height, a little too pale for mid-summer, a freak with bird's wings growing out of his back. I turned away and climbed up on the window sill standing a little shakily and spreading my wings. The breeze blew in and filled them like the sails on dad’s yacht almost pushing me back. For a moment my resolve faltered as I looked down to the manicured lawn so far below. Then I rose on the balls of my feet finding my balance easily. I weighed very little for my age, a fact that had begun to worry my doctors a couple of years ago. Now I had even more reason to work hard to avoid them. I could not cut the wings off anymore, it hurt too much and they grew back anyway. I took a deep breath and felt my heart hammering in my chest. Then I jumped.
My own heartbeat is so much faster than Hank's as I lie in the darkness remembering times long past. That is why I have to eat more often and rest more frequently than many of my friends. People who say someone eats like a bird have no idea how much birds must eat just to keep their weight up enough to avoid malnutrition and maintain the muscle and fat needed to be able to fly. Hank is constantly watching me to keep me from driving myself to exhaustion or illness. I get furious with him when he grounds me, but he just offers me his limitless sympathy and a cup of tea. He makes very good tea, but he does not give so much as an inch of slack when our wellbeing is involved.
I smile into his chest. That is actually a very good thing. I am a Worthington and I cannot change the nature of my blood. Give me an inch and I will take a couple of miles. I caress one small nipple with the pad of my thumb causing him to shift a little in his sleep. It is hard to resist them, hidden as they are from prying eyes. I think I will tell him tomorrow the story of my first flight. I can already imagine the horror in his eyes at the thought of a child plunging out of these windows without anyone to catch them if something went wrong.
He was falling fast, frozen for a long while with fear. Then he remembered that he needed to do something with his wings. He flapped them frantically. It was much harder than he had expected and the wind fought the movement. Panic caught him, but he forced it aside. It was like swimming he reminded himself. His dad had taught him to swim and now he moved like a fish in the water. The air would hold him up, but if he panicked he would drown or in this case fall. He stretched his wings as far out as he could and the downward motion became a forward glide. He shifted them without thinking and he was climbing, another shift and a little jerk and he was dropping. He discovered that instinct would guide him if he did not allow himself to think about it.
A wild, fierce joy swept through him like nothing he had ever felt before. He was flying! He laughed in delight and felt the wind snatch the sound away. He felt a bump under the tip of his right wing and leaned into it and knew in that moment what an updraft was. He climbed and dove and spiraled in big vulture style circles and even managed a shaky barrel roll. He closed his eyes and was one with the sky and the wind. His first flight ended only because the cramps hit.
He struggled to land as the muscles in his back side and chest screamed in agony. He was coming down too fast. The ground was rushing up to crush him. Once more instinct kicked in and in spite of the pain he threw his wings back, fanning them hard creating a backwash of air that slowed him down. He landed in a staggering run in the horse corral. He was much further from the house than he had thought. He collapsed curling up in a ball on his side with his wings out behind him twitching violently and thumping against the ground with the spasms. He cried out at the pain but gathered a sobbing breath and lurched to his hands and knees.
Calloused hands caught him from behind and lifted him to his feet. They moved up his back and sides pressing in to feel where the knots were worst. Then Karl was guiding him to the horse barn with no expression at all on his face. He had whispered "I'm sorry" as the old man worked horse liniment into the abused muscles. What had he been sorry for, flying, falling, being a mutant, maybe breaking the window pane, none of that, all of that and more, he had never actually known.
"Come, Master Worthington, Nana will make you a nice hot tea that will keep those muscles from cramping up when you try to sleep. Next time you fly, you let us know, so we can keep an eye out in case something happens, eh?" Later as he sipped the tea and the stout matron brushed the sticks and hay out of his hair he asked her quietly if they were going to tell his father.
Nana had patted his head, "No little Angel, but you will, in your own time."
The screens never did get put back in. Karl had come up once, probably on Dad’s orders, but instead of putting the screens back, he had widened the sill to accommodate growing feet. He had also installed hand rails that ran the length of the windows on the outside. I asked him if he thought I was going to lose my nerve and he ruffled my hair and chuckled.
Karl and Nana are gone now. They passed on within days of each other, quietly and peacefully while I was away in college. I came back for the funeral and was shocked to see my father cry. I suppose he might have cried when mother died, but I was too young then to remember. For the first time, I saw him as human and I wanted to comfort him, but I just did not have the words. I laid my hand on his shoulder. It was not enough, but it was all I had and somehow it seemed to help just a little. We had a drink together afterward and he asked about my plans and my friends, everything but my wings.
A soft sigh and the big body beside me shifts. His arm slides around me, holding me fast as if I might fly away. A smile touches my lips in the darkness as I realize that I could very well fly away. I could if I were not just too comfortable in this warm bed with my even warmer lover. I have never before in all my life felt so contented and satisfied and I know it is from more than the long night of passionate sex. God above, what a night of passion and pleasure! I should be dead to the world right now, but instead I am wide awake listening to the wind and the rain and sifting through my own mind peering at old memories like faded photos in a forgotten album.
He was homesick. He would never have believed it. He was far from a child at twenty one. He had graduated college at an advanced pace and stepped into a position as an executive in his father's corporation. In six month's he had risen to CEO of domestic affairs and done so in such a public and spectacular way that no one could even begin to suggest he had been given the position out of nepotism. Not that anyone who knew how poor the relationship between his father and himself really was would ever think that in a million years. He had just started to get bored with the power when a Charles Xavier convinced his personal assistant to grant him an appointment, not an easy task since Barbara was jaded and suspicious as only a corporate PA could be. He had listened to the man's words and more than that he had listened to his own heart. So, a few grants and gifts later and he was here in this vast, empty, echoing, mansion turned school turned secret headquarters.
It would not be empty long he knew. The children were coming from all over the States. The professor was bringing each of them in himself after locating them with Cerebro. The team leader, Scott Summers and the only girl on the team so far, Jean Grey, were with him. For now, the only ones in the massive structure were himself, a good natured kid named Bobby who could freeze things including himself, and the only member of the team he had not yet met, Dr. McCoy. The doctor had arrived a few hours ago completely exhausted according to Bobby and gone off to rest. Apparently he had built most of the equipment here including Cerebro, the incredible jet they called The Blackbird, and the levitating wheel chair the professor used when not in the public eye. He was not sure where the mysterious genius was holed up, but he knew Bobby was crashed out sound asleep in front of the TV in the main living room.
He wandered down hallways at random trying to shake the depression that was dragging him down. His wings felt strangely exposed unfettered by the leather harness he used to strap them down under his coat. He felt very small and very alone, the way he used to feel when his father would drag him to hospitals and labs after he discovered his wings. He had only to close his eyes and the scene played out again and again in his head. The bathroom door opened unexpectedly, He had spun around surprised and only then realized that the huge, multipaned mirror behind him reflected his image back from all angles. His wings, his damned wings, rose almost defensively above his shoulders mantling slightly.
How those words were branded into his brain and his soul. That tone of voice from his father as if he were deformed or defective in some way, as if he had an illness to be hidden until it could be cured, those words echoed down his memories just the way his footsteps echoed down the empty, metal floored hallway he was in. His eyes blurred before him and he took a ragged breath as his heart began to jackhammer in his chest. Panic attack, his physician called them, his heart beat so fast because of his mutation, stress could bring them on. Stress could have been his middle name as easily as Kenneth he thought as he reached blindly for the first door he found. He needed to sit down, to calm down, to get a grip. He walked into a shadowy room lit only by a few strategically placed nightlights. It was familiar although he had never been in this room before. Stainless steel and antiseptic, counters covered with delicate equipment, hulking machines that hummed softly to themselves, a laboratory like a thousand others he had been in. He spotted a shadowy place on the floor between two cabinets and folded himself down into it pressing his wings tightly against the wall and drawing his knees up to his chest.
He did not cry, Worthington's did not cry. How long he sat there he did not know, but his fit of grief was interupted by a voice, one so gentle and non-threatening he raised his head to peer out from under his tangled curls.
"Well, what have we here? Are you one of the students? I didn't think anyone had arrived yet."
He did not answer just peered trying to see through the dim light. The owner of the voice could only be the doctor and this was most likely his lab. He could make out someone rather broad in a long white coat. He was asking if he would care to join him for a cup of hot tea because tea makes everything better. He almost laughed at that realizing his new partner thought he was one of the children hiding because he was frightened and homesick. He was trying to lure him out with that gentle voice. He blinked and made an odd sound, half chuckle half gasp as he realized the warmth and compassion did make him want to come out, come out and fling himself into arms that would hold him and mutter ‘there- there- everything will be all right little angel’, the way his mother had and Nana after she was gone.
"I am going to turn this light on, so I can make sure you are alright. Please do not be frightened when you see me. I promise I would never ever harm you."
His eyes widened at that, what did the good doctor expect him to be afraid of? Curiosity grew pushing aside the sadness to peer out as a dim lamp clicked on revealing a man built like, well like an ape, with too long arms and huge hands and feet. His face was kind though, dark blue eyes peered at him nearsightedly until he pulled a pair of spectacles from his pocket and perched them rather precariously on his nose. His skin was pale, the kind of pale he was used to seeing on scientists the opposite of his own deeply tanned skin. His black hair stood up wildly on his head, almost like an animal's ears. His actual ears were strange, rather pointed, as were the bottom teeth he could see when he asked him if he was alright. He guessed he was about the same age as his father and maybe that was why he met his eyes so openly.
"You know, I remember the first time I ever stayed away from home. I crawled under the bed and cried myself to sleep."
That voice, the real compassion, the superficial reminders of his father, his own turmoil all combined to push him up out of his hiding spot and into those long arms that opened without question and wrapped tightly around him. He chuckled the moment he felt the soft exclamation as McCoy realized the frightened child he was holding was in fact a full grown man a head taller than him with enormous wings. He pulled back and looked at his new partner summoning the Worthington mask to hide the emotions he had been caught up in.
"Dr. McCoy I presume?"
"Yes, and with those wings, are you Mr. Worthington."
"No, Mr. Worthington is my dad, people who randomly give me hugs can call me Warren, and my friends can call me Angel."
"Rather appropriate somehow," He was flustered no doubt but he covered it well. "Then, would you join me for a cup of tea, Angel."
We were so young then, so naive. That was before we had enemies, before friends and lovers and our own hearts betrayed us, before collars and cures and way too many funerals with no body to bury, before metal feathers and sharp claws, before blue fur and blue skin, and a thousand cups of tea that never actually made anything better at all. I lean in and kiss my sleeping companion tenderly on the navy blue lips. I have regained my skin colour and my feathery white angel wings, but Hank is still blue and covered in fur.
How strange the paths life carries you down. Such a simple and innocent beginning, we were going to make the world a better place for mutants and humans alike, use our powers to protect all mankind and forge by example and caring a lasting peace and understanding. I thought the dream was dead in me. I lost my hope and my faith somewhere along that winding path. Tonight though, as I lie here, I can taste that dream on my lips, feel it burning in my soul. Some deep wound inside of me has healed at last and the power and nobility of the principals I have been paying lip service to for more years than I care to recall are shining inside of me, through me, wanting to reach out and burn away the shadows that surround me. .
I raised my eyes meeting Henry's worried gaze. My voice when it came was flat in my own ears the voice of a dead man, "I broke up with Candy. That's why she was at that protest. We had a dinner date. Her friend told a friend of mine that she was sure I was going to ask her to marry me. I just - I never felt the same way she did. She was a friend, and wonderful with the public and the papparazi, she was fun to be with and good in bed, but that's all she was, Henry, a convenience. I'm a cold blooded bastard. I did not want to have to deal with any histrionics if I told her face to face, and I did not want to let it go and have her get clingier than she already was. I didn't want her trying to push me toward something that wasn't going to happen. I called her and told her I thought we were moving a little to fast and that I needed some space. If I were any kind of decent human being, I would have waited until I saw her in person and broken it to her gently. Instead, I put myself first and now she's dead."
"Warren, I- I don't know what to say." The distress was clear in the doctor's voice.
"I could have kept it from happening. Betsy was my fault too. I couldn't have stopped her from rushing into danger. I never could make her do anything she didn't want to do. Maybe though, if I had been there by her side, it might have been different. Maybe Creed would have come after me instead."
"You don't know that, and you two decided together to call it off. You didn't dump her. You can't blame yourself for that."
"It was mutual in that neither one of us fought it. She found out what no one else ever did. It's just a hazard of having a relationship with a psychic. She saw why I can never give my heart to any woman and no matter how much she tried to change it, short of using her powers on me, she couldn't make me love her. If I had tried to fight for it, she might have stayed with me, but she never did believe in fighting losing battles."
"I don't understand what she saw? No matter what you think, I know you are a good person and you are certainly lovely and talented and intelligent. What is it that saboutages your relationships?"
"They all wanted me to love them, to say the words and mean them. One thing I have always tried to be is honest. I could not say it, I just couldn't. They didn't understand why. None of them except her."
"You're being too hard on yourself. What is it that makes you so afraid to risk your heart? I know you are far from a coward."
"I am not afraid to risk my heart, I just don't have a heart to risk. I gave it away a long time ago."
"What? To whom?"
"Ah, it doesn't matter. I've got to tell Paige that she needs to stay away from me, for both out sakes. Hell, half the people in the mansion think I'm a child molestor, the other half think I'm stupid enough to let some little bit of twitch play me for a sugar daddy."
"Now, Warren, anyone that knows you knows better than that."
"Who knows anyone here now. Look at them. They are strangers. Charles is gone, Scott is gone, Storm is off on her own, Rogue is on the other side, you're with the Avengers as much as you are here. The X-Men are not what they were and I don't know where they went."
I rose abruptly needing to leave, to run somewhere, anywhere but a warm hand caught my shoulder and pulled me against a shoulder that had always and would always be there for me. It was a little broader now and quite a bit higher up, the fur far longer and silkier though the same shade of blue. I took a deep breath, same clean smell of shampoo. The breath came out tight and shaky into the warm mane. I looked up into yellow-gold eyes and missed the cobalt blue pair I loved so well. Hank wore a stranger's face and body, feline more than ape-like, more powerful and predatorial than he had been before the secondary mutation.
He spoke softly against my ear in a voice that was only a bare whisper. "Even the X-Men who were always here look at me like a stranger now, I don't think I could bear that from you. I know you're thinking of flying again, I can feel it, smell it. You know what it feels like, when you were Archangel, to look in the mirror and see a stranger. I understand you are hurting now, but I selfishly need my best friend. I need your strength and confidence, your voice and presence. It is too much to ask of any friend, but please stay. Whatever happens with Paige or the others, please stay, for me."
"Yes, Henry." It was all the answer I could give and all the answer that was needed.
How I wanted to tell him back then, but I was terrified of losing the one friendship that meant more to me than life itself. Maybe he would have loved me, maybe he would have given me the old 'we're still friends' speech and actually meant it. Maybe he would have put me on medical leave and hauled me off to the psychiatrist. I could not be sure and the risk was more than I could tolerate. I was unstable for a long time during that dark time after I buried Candy's burnt and broken body and wept over the scattered shreds of Betsy's ravaged flesh that Sabretooth had left for me to find. I had very few anchors in my life and I clung to them with silent desperation to keep me from flying apart. Hank was one of them, the strongest and the surest.
"Warren," soft wonder in his voice. "Your wings- they're back. The way they were before, feathers, oh my stars!"
I laughed aloud and stretched them to their full, impressive length letting the white cotton robe I wore fall unceremoniously to the stone pavers of the balcony of my top floor room at the mansion. I stood there naked in the warm spring rain whole again. I tilted my head back letting the wind and the rain wash me clean again. I was alive, finally alive.
"I hate to sound like my mother, but you will get sick out there like that as magnificent as you do look at this moment."
"Magnificent?" I brought my gaze to the doorway where Hank stood.
"Oh, my angelic friend, I am quite certain that Piccaso, Van Gogh, and Boticelli would be moved to tears at this moment. "
I did not miss the shininess in his eyes and without thinking about it, borne on the power of my own relief and joy I advanced on my friend and pulled him into my arms.
Hank wore only his shorts and his lab coat open down the front. He had scrambled out of his own bed at the crack of dawn and pelted up the six stories from the basement where his lab was to the tower. He had only just talked me into moving back in in spite of Emma Frost's presence, so when his phone rang just as the eastern sky was growing light and a low, throaty voice had growled a cryptic, 'they're back' he had wasted no time going to the source of that voice fearing something terrible, no doubt.
For the first time, I felt the incredible sensation of warm, soft fur pressed to my own bare, damp skin. Hank stiffened for just a moment then relaxed wrapping his arms around my waist and hugging me comfortingly.
"I am so glad for you," he had whispered into my ear. "I prayed for a miracle."
"I want to thank you," I heard myself say as if someone else were speaking, "for so many things, dinner tonigh? I know a quiet place. Please, join me."
Hank had accepted.
I kiss him again in his sleep and he murmurs something under his breath and strokes my rear and thigh. You have no idea until you feel it yourself how erotic fur on flesh feels. Five thirty in the morning, after making love to him four or maybe five times and being loved almost as many and my cock jumps to life with a mind of it's own pressing into his belly longingly. I sigh and shake my head. My dad warned me about the Worthington libido when I was a boy and in that one thing he had been absolutely right.
Dinner led to a walk in the park, then a concert, then a broadway showing of Cats and even more dinners that grew more intimate, more lingering as I finally stopped lying to myself about what I wanted and what I needed. Hank was so innocent in the ways of seduction, I don't think he ever realized when I led friendship across the line into something else entirely. Others around us saw it long before he did, but I was zealous in protecting him from their rumours and their snide little jabs so they never registered in his brilliant mind. There were a thousand times the moment was almost right, but for him I would not settle for almost. A little at a time I revealed myself to him with nothing held back, the good, the bad, the weird. He accepted all of it, just as he accepted me before he knew who I was or saw my wings.
The perfect moment finally came at last.
We were walking shoulder to shoulder along the path from the family graveyard up to the mansion. I had shown him the garden maze and the vast flowerbeds and the family burial place. I laid a bouquet of dafodils on my mother's stone and brushed away some imaginary dust. Father and I both visited her often and even if the caretakers had allowed any disrepair, one of us would have seen and corrected it. There was a long rumble of thunder overhead and Henry looked up at the heavy sky.
"It's going to rain soon."
"I know." I touched his elbow, "let's go inside until it blows over. You can see my humble abode."
I laughed easily hearing my wings rustle behind me. "Something like that."
I took him through the library watching as his eyes lit up and his hands wandered curiously over the titles. They were his hands again. The cat-like secondary form he had taken on had just as suddenly begun to reverse itself and except for a few small difference he was the Beast I had come to think of as my own. From there we ghosted through the hall of portraits. I had not turned on the overhead lights, so we were bathed in the warm glow of the hurricane lamps mounted on the walls which the servants had lit when the storm starting brewing.
"This is your mother?"
"Yes, Katherine was her name."
"She was beautiful. You look more like her than your father."
"Thank you. You're beautiful yourself, did you know that?" I smiled as he turned to me. I could not see his blush, but I could almost feel the heat from where I stood as he stuttered out a disclaimer. I had pity on him and reached out laying a finger over his lip. "I know what you meant, Henry. Shhhh."
He chuckled, "I am not thinking quite as clearly as I should be for some reason."
"Good." We reached the door to my bedroom and I opened it and motioned him inside. The sky outside was now dark except for distant flickers of lightning, The curtains blew with a soft thrumming like wings. I watched him look around and go to the window leaning out a little into the cooling air.
"There are no panes in the window."
"That's a long story."
The thunder roared long and low as I walked up behind him and wrapped my arms then my wings around him from behind.
He sounded breathless and a little confused as I offered a silent prayer to God that now was the moment and I was not reading it wrong. Then, before I could back out of it, I leaned down just a little to whisper in his ear, "Henry McCoy, I love you."
I had never said those words to any lover. I was always an honest person. Now I had said them and they could not be taken back. I half closed my eyes and waited for the fallout.
"I- I- ah, are you sure? Me?"
"It was always you. From the day you held your arms out to me and offered me tea, I was sure."
Warm body turning in my arms, strong hand cupping my cheek, the other big and solid and heavy on my shoulder, he felt so real so there. Mouths met in the warm pool of golden light. I closed my eyes as my heart seemed to falter in my chest. I could have happily died in that moment, but then I would have missed what was destined to come next. My tongue pushed past his lips taking a moment to caress his upward jutting fangs before plunging into the mouth I had longed so long to taste. Only when he physically pushed me away so we could both gasp for air did I allow it to end.
"Stars?" I breathed catching his face between my hands as I finished his sentence.
"Something like that," he pressed forward claiming my mouth again and time stopped as our hands roamed each other impatiantly tearing off any clothing with the bad luck to be separating us.
I kiss his lips, his eyelids, his cheeks in the darkness and he murmurs my name in his sleep. I like that, a lot.