Continued DIRECTLY from part 2/3
Warren was nowhere to be seen when we got back. Maybe Xavier had
sent him off somewhere on purpose, or maybe he'd just disappeared on
his own. In any case, and grateful for the reprieve, I retreated to
my room to change, donning the blue pullover Mariana had given me.
Comfort clothes. Then I wandered down to the kitchen to ransack the
fridge. Hank had fed me at the hospital, but that had been hours ago
-� late afternoon -� and I was hungry again. The cook was gone for
the night. Xavier entered as I was eating at the little kitchen
table, motoring over to join me. He didn't say anything, just looked
at me. "What?" I asked, though I knew perfectly well what he wanted.
Sighing, I put down the sandwich. "I don't know where he is. I
haven't seen him." Of course, I also hadn't looked.
Xavier's smile was wry and patient; the one he gave me when he still
found me amusing, but was about to stop finding me so. "He's on the
roof," he told me.
"Oh. Gee, thanks."
"Can I finish my sandwich?"
"Of course." And he motored out again. Sighing, I glanced down at
the bread �- good healthy wheat at Hank's insistence -� but didn't
pick it back up. I wasn't hungry now. Tension had lodged in my gut
like dead dough, all the yeast killed, but the idea of simply
throwing away food still bothered me. Taking it out back, I gave the
ham to the cats and left the bread for the birds. Then I took off
upstairs to grab a jacket and find Warren. No damn sense in putting
Hank had showed me a path onto the roof that even I could manage, out
through an attic window that was near enough one of the pitched
gables to scramble up and sit on the peak. Warren, of course, wasn't
restricted by bipedal limitations. I didn't spot him immediately,
then saw him perched on the cross gables dead at the middle of the
mansion roof, like a shadow of some great, granite gargoyle. The
night wind fluttered his wings. He'd stretched them out, maybe for
balance, maybe just to relax the muscles. He must have seen me
trying to scramble over the slate shingles towards him because he
rose up in the air like Gabriel at the Annunciation, flying to where
I was and landing as gracefully as he'd risen. "Sit down before you
fall, idiot." And he helped me back to a secure perch on the gable
near the attic window, then settled beside me, wings still half
extended. They fanned me, lifting my hair lightly. My stomach spun
and dipped, and I wasn't sure if that was for his proximity, or the
altitude. In any case, we sat together in silence for a while; I
couldn't meet his eyes. Somewhere far off, I could hear a truck
honk. Now that I was up here, I had no idea what to say, and he
didn't, either. Despite how unseasonably warm the day had been, it
was cold at night, and I wrapped my jacket more tightly around
myself, pulling my cigarettes out of a pocket to light one.
"Care to share?" he asked, and I extended him the pack so he could
take one, then handed over my lighter. He's a chipper, not a serious
smoker, and never bought his own, just bummed them off me,
complaining about the fact I smoked Camels when I could have imported
French Gitanes. I told him if he wanted imports, he could buy them
When his cigarette was lit, he said, "What, exactly, did Cameron say
I wondered how much the professor had told him. "How do you know
that he said anything?"
"Because I know that bitch. I wasn't thinking, or I wouldn't have
stuck you with him." His smile was self-derogatory. "Bad
Shaking my head, I rolled the end of my cigarette carefully on slate
to make a cone of ash. Very precise. "What did the professor tell
"Nothing, Scott. Or nothing about what happened. He said I should
talk to you, but I didn't think you wanted to talk, so I came up
I nodded, answering honestly, "I don't want to talk. But I guess we
need to, if we're going to be living under the same roof."
Though his face stayed cool, his wings had started to flutter. I
understood now they were shaking in the same way a person's hand
might, when nervous or afraid. I focused on the shaking wings, not
his serene face. "Do you really like boys with blue eyes?"
Dead silence for three beats, then, "I like blue eyes period, on boys
or girls. I like pistachio ice cream, too, but I'll eat anything you
give me as long as it's ice cream. It's not the flavor. It's the
"So you're what? *Omni*-sexual? You'll take anything for a lay?"
He burst out laughing and swore vividly at the same time, then wiped
his face with the hand holding the cigarette. The dim red glow
reflected in wet tracks running down his face. Good God. He was
crying. "I meant I'd like you no matter what color your eyes are.
It's the you I like, not your eyes. Though I admit, they're pretty
"Oh." The tears moved me as thoroughly as the shaking wings.
Looking down at the slate between my thighs, I finished my cigarette
and thought hard. Maybe the best thing was just to be honest and
frank. I flicked the butt away like my inhibitions. "Warren, look,
I don't �- "
"You don't have to say anything. I know you're not."
"Shut the fuck up and let me finish." I glared at him, but he stayed
quiet. The wings were really shaking now. "And no, I'm not." I
looked off across the dark shadow of forest. "But even if I were,
the answer would still be 'no.' I don't want a relationship with
anyone. It doesn't have to do with you, or whether you like cunt or
dick or both." I don't know why I had to make it sound so crass, but
I wanted it ugly. I could see his wings flinch. "I'm just not
interested in that, and I wouldn't be even if you were a Gabrielle
instead of a Gabriel."
A long, long silence. Finally, he said, "So it doesn't bother you?"
"Not like you mean." I half turned back, but kept my eyes lowered.
"It's nothing religious or anything. I'm pretty much a lapsed
Catholic. If you have a boyfriend instead of a girlfriend, it's cool
-� as long as it's not me."
He pondered that a while. I still didn't look at him. The cold was
really starting to get to me and I'd begun shaking as well, a
bone-deep tremor. I could hear my own teeth chatter. Abruptly his
wings raised and arched forward, cocooning me in white without
actually touching. It was surprisingly warm, and startled, I glanced
up at him. His face was still, but not with the fragile,
hold-onto-dignity stiffness that it had been earlier. He seemed . .
. sad. "Thanks," I said, tipping my head sideways to indicate the
More silence. The wings insulated against more than the wind. They
dimmed sound, made the night safe, and I couldn't resist. I had to
ask. "Do you always give wing feathers to people you want to sleep
"No. Never. I only give them to friends."
"But Cameron said �- "
"Cameron used to be my friend, Scott. Then he was my lover. Now, he
hates my guts."
He shrugged, and the wings shrugged with his shoulders. "His father
worked for mine. He couldn't own me. I had wings and he didn't. I
have money and he doesn't, or not as much. None of the above. All
of the above. I don't know. I'm not sure people like Cam need a
reason, or they have so many reasons, none of them count. I
should've thought of it, when I asked him to keep you company, but I
just honest-to-God didn't figure he'd try anything. Or that you'd
take anything he said seriously."
"Why wouldn't I? He didn't lie. I can tell a lie. Most of the
"Oh, Cam doesn't lie. He's too good at twisting the truth. But I
thought you knew me better."
"Warren, I've known you all of a week."
He cocked his head to regard me, sharply, like a bird of prey, and in
that moment, he didn't look quite human. "You know me better after
one week than most people know me after ten years. I tell you things
I just don't tell."
Astonished, I could only manage, "Why?"
"Because I trust you."
"Do you always make stupid-ass knee-jerk decisions like that?"
"I could rob you blind and you'd never catch me doing it."
"Probably. But you wouldn't. I could leave my wallet on top of my
dresser and you'd walk right past because it's not yours. You're
honest to a fault, and you're proud. I can trust that."
Oh, I was proud all right. Proud as a whore. He had no idea what
I'd do to survive. Steal, con, sell my body . . . . I didn't have a
shred of dignity that I could lay genuine claim to. The only reason
I wouldn't steal from him now is because I didn't need to. "You have
some really funny ideas about me, Warren."
The won an unexpected grin. "I may have a few funny ideas, but I
think the rest of them are pretty on-target. If I've learned nothing
else about you in the last week, Summers, I've learned that you don't
give yourself half enough credit."
Instead of pleasing me, that just annoyed me. "What would you know,"
I snarled back, "about the credit I give myself? You know *nothing*
Instantly, the wings flicked away and the sudden return of night wind
was chilling �- his expression equally so. "Sometimes I don't get
you. And the really sad thing is . . . I think you want it that
way." We just glared at each other. "I may have told you things I
don't tell, but you're right -� I know hardly anything about you.
You hide it, don't trust anyone, just take and take. You're a damn
clam. It's *selfish*. Friendship has to go both ways, Scott."
Now, my shaking was from rage, not cold. "You have no right to judge
me! You've had everything handed to you on a silver platter."
"Oh, sure. Like being rich makes life okay."
"Would you give it up?"
He threw up his hands. "Some days -� yes! If it meant I could be
normal. If it meant I didn't have to hide these damn things." The
wings arched and beat for emphasis. "If I could have friends, a
lover, a family. Sure. I'd be the son of a goddamn welder if it
meant I had a father who gave a shit. I'd be anything at all *if it
just freakin' meant people didn't hate me!*"
The tears were back, but his wings were out and beating hard, half
lifting him off his feet. He really did look like an avenging angel,
and I knew, instinctively, that he was leveling with me. It was too
plebeian and uncreative to be a lie.
But I turned my head down. "I don't know how." I wanted to level
with him in return, even as I didn't want to. Sitting on the roof
gable with Warren beating the air right in front of me, scared by the
sheer possibility of trust, I pulled up my knees and wrapped my arms
around them, burying my face against them. "*I don't know how!*" I
screamed. "*I don't know how to be your friend!*"
He settled back down and the wings stopped. He just held them out as
he had before, for balance -� maybe emotional as much as literal. He
talked with them as much as he talked with words. "Try," was all he
said, then knelt down in front of me. "*Try.*"
I raised my face. "It's hard. To trust. It's so damn hard." And
that bared me even more than if I'd stripped naked for him. I'd been
"I don't want to hurt you," he said.
"You want to *fuck* me," I replied.
He shook his head. "No. I might want to make love to you, if you
were interested. But you're not." He shrugged, shoulder and wing.
"Fine. I don't know why it scares you. And I can see that it does."
He reached out to touch my hair, too fast for me to anticipate and
control my reaction. I flinched. "Just like that scares you. I
thought maybe it was a religious thing since you're Catholic �- but
you said it's not, and I believe that. People recoil in disgust.
They don't flinch like they think you're going to hit them." I could
see the pieces snapping together in his head �- like one of my damn
puzzles -� even as he was speaking. "Can you tell me what happened
to you? So I can understand. I won't touch you, Scott. I won't
ever touch you without your permission, unless it's an emergency or
something. But please, tell me what happened. Why are you so scared
to be touched?"
I didn't even realize I was crying until I tasted the salt in my
mouth. It was like my first day at the mansion when the professor
had confided to me how to hide from him. This, I thought, was the
measure of friendship. Giving up what one wanted for what the other
needed. A desire to feel with, *be* with, move the gut -� not just
with pity, but with solidarity in pain. Compassion with skin on.
Who had taught him to do that?
More, if he could reach beyond betrayals -� could I?
** How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given; so God
imparts to human hearts the blessings of his heaven . . . We hear the
Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell; O come to us, abide
with us, our Lord Emmanuel. **
A real, live angel. And it had nothing to do with the wings.
So I trusted. I leapt off the roof of my fears, telling him the one
thing for which I most expected to be rejected, and most needed to
"I was a hustler. Before I came here. I was a hustler on the
He didn't reply immediately. I think shock had stolen his voice.
He'd probably had suspicions of child abuse, incest, sexual assault,
violent rape . . . but not the bold, bald, nasty fact that I'd made a
living sucking cock and taking it up the ass. Nothing tragic about
that -� no socially-titillating expos�. I was just your common,
garden-variety catamite. In the face of that, he was silent. And
into the silence, my nervous words tumbled out like a prayer,
disjointed in desperation.
"I ran away, from Boy's Town in Omaha. I hopped a bus to New York.
My parents died when I was eight. Plane crash. My brother and I
survived. He got adopted. I didn't. I was in a coma for a while.
They put me in five foster homes after that."
I stopped and just shook for a minute. "Some were okay." I stopped
again. The wings had come back around me, white feathers hiding me,
shielding me. "Some weren't. I stabbed a guy. I had to. I had to
stab him. He kept . . . bothering her. He kept touching her. He
shouldn't have touched her like that. She was only six. So I
stabbed him. They told me he lived. But then they put me in Boy's
Town. I was a troublemaker. Nobody wants a troublemaker.
"Boy's Town is mostly an okay place. But one of the boys in our
house �- he used to cut me. All five of us. He made us bleed, and
promised to kill us if we told. It was stupid, but I believed him.
So I didn't tell. I ran away, instead -� took a bus to New York. I
played pool pretty well, but when you're little, it's not a good idea
to run cons. You need muscle to con. I was fast instead. Sometimes
I was fast enough to get away, sometimes I got caught." I stopped
again and rubbed my nose, forgetting for a minute it was mucus, not
blood. I stared at my hand, surprised to find it wasn't red. "Jack
caught me one night. Told me he'd let me live if I worked for him.
So I worked for him." I wiped off the dampness.
"How -� " He choked. "How long?"
"A year and a half, or really, a year and four months." One year,
four months and thirteen days. "I had a john who knew about Xavier
and he sent me here. The professor thinks I'm a mutant." I wiped my
face again. "Funny mutant with no special powers."
"Scott. Look at me." I obeyed. He had one hand held out. "I said
I wouldn't touch you without your permission." He didn't move the
hand, just held it there. "**I triumphed and I saddened with all
weather / Heaven and I wept together / And its sweet tears were salt
with mortal mine / Against the red throb of its sunset-heart / I laid
my own to beat / And share commingling heat . . . And now my heart is
as a broken fount / Wherein tear-drippings stagnate, spilt down ever
/ From the dank thoughts that shiver / Upon the sighful branches of
my mind / Such is, what is to be? / The pulp so bitter, how shall
taste the rind? . . . Now of that long pursuit / Comes on at hand
the bruit / That Voice is round me like a bursting sea . . . 'All
which thy child's mistake / Fancies as lost, I have stored for thee
at home / Rise, clasp My hand, and come !'**"
"God," I muttered, "You're as bad as Hank."
But slowly, I put my hand in his and our fingers clasped tightly. He
smiled at me, a human man with angel wings. A star in December. A
stable in Bethlehem.
And that concludes the 'Warren's Arrival' arc in the SPECIAL series.
The next story, "Primary Colors," begins the 'Meeting Jean' arc. I'm
not sure when I'll get around to that. I might turn to LIVING IN THE
BORDERLANDS or ACCIDENTAL INTERCEPTION for a while first. The nice
thing about writing a series is that one can contribute to it a
little at a time, as each of the stories do have a natural conclusion
of their own. :-)
Let me know what you thought. Feedback is always appreciated.
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