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"Bethlehem" (1/3) Scott, Warren; movie/comic (Special #5) ADULT

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  • Minisinoo
    BETHLEHEM (Special #5) Minisinoo http://www.greymalkinlane.com/min/bethlehem.html Summary: Warren comes back to the mansion. What does he want from Scott?
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 19, 2002
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      BETHLEHEM (Special #5)
      Minisinoo
      http://www.greymalkinlane.com/min/bethlehem.html


      Summary: Warren comes back to the mansion. What does he want from
      Scott?

      Warning: ADULT. Deals with very unpleasant topics. I refuse to
      glorify prostitution or the scars it leaves.

      Notes: It's so easy to make Warren simplistic in fanfic, but like
      Scott, he's complex and easily misunderstood. And like Scott, he
      does have a deep-seated sense of right and wrong. Warren was the
      Avenging Angel before he was an X-Man. I owe Lelia for some insights
      into Warren. Cameron Hodge should be familiar to readers of
      X-Factor. The lyrics are from "The First Noel," and "O Little Town
      of Bethlehem." The poem Warren quotes is "The Hound of Heaven" by
      Francis Thompson, though yes, I know, I took the words out of
      context. (There's a picture of Warren on the website link; actually
      several images in this chapter.)

      ------

      "The professor tells me that you're in charge of the stables."

      Almost jumping out of my skin, I swung around to face the newcomer, a
      curry brush brandished in front of me like a weapon. His eyebrows
      went up and he raised both hands in surrender. "Don't shoot,
      sheriff."

      Warren Worthington. I'd forgotten how deep his voice was. And how
      big his wings were. They'd carry him places I could never hope to
      go, places where people like me served the meals and the booze and
      their bodies for entertainment. Mere animated meat, all thoughts,
      dreams and aspirations beaten out of them by the impossibility of
      escape.

      It had been ten days since the events in New Hampshire, and a week
      since things at the mansion had truly calmed down enough for me to
      grow curious about the man I'd saved. So I'd spent an afternoon
      surfing the internet, reading old business reports and gossip columns
      about the Worthingtons, and Warren. He was an American prince. Even
      the professor's wealth was unimpressive compared to his.

      And I'd seriously thought he might become my fellow student? My
      friend?

      What a joke.

      Now, I turned back to my horse and continued my work. I wondered
      what he was doing here at the mansion, less than a week from
      Christmas. Didn't he have family? "Yeah," I answered at last,
      remembering that he'd asked me a question. "I'm in charge of the
      stables. Sort of."

      "How sort of?" He'd come closer, moving so that he could see my
      face, and the proximity of his voice startled me once more.

      I covered it well. "It's not like I know a hell of a lot about
      horses," I explained. "But I like them. And the professor can't
      keep the place clean himself."

      "Doesn't he have grooms for that?" Warren slouched elegantly against
      the edge of the stall, moving his wings out of the way. Those wings
      might be pretty, but they must be a royal pain in the ass, too.

      "I guess I'm the groom," I replied.

      "I thought you were a student?"

      "That, too." I wondered why he was still hanging around talking to
      me.

      "How old are you?"

      It was nosey, but the fact that he'd asked at all surprised me enough
      that I answered before I thought about it. "I turned sixteen in
      October."

      "Ah. A Libra -� or a Scorpio? No, don't tell me. A Scorpio." He
      was grinning.

      I stopped currying my gelding to glare. "I don't believe in that
      horoscope shit."

      The smile widened. "*Definitely* a Scorpio."

      Shaking my head, I returned to my work. December or not, the work
      made me hot and I pulled my sweatshirt over my head, tossing it on a
      stool. The t-shirt beneath stuck to my back and chest and I could
      feel his eyes move over my body. It made me uncomfortable. "Did you
      want something?" Irritation brought the question out sharply.

      His eyes flicked up from my body to my face and he pushed his
      shoulder off the stall wall, walked over. "I have a horse. Well,
      two of them, actually, but I think I'll only bring one. The
      professor said I should speak with you about it." I must have been
      gaping like a fish, because he added, "He said that you'd know which
      stalls are empty, and where there's space in the tack room for my
      saddle, etcetera and so-forth."

      So he was coming to school here after all? And the truth would out
      at last. With a prospective real student, I'd been relegated to
      hired help, and living here like I was, I didn't even have the right
      to tell him to take care of his own damn horse. So I turned back to
      mine � or rather, I turned back to the horse I was permitted to ride.
      "All four stalls at the end of the row behind us are empty. Mare or
      gelding?"

      "Stallion, actually. That's part of the problem. I have a gelding,
      but I'd rather bring the stallion, and he'll require a box stall."

      "Fucking great," I muttered. All I needed was his damn mouthy
      stallion trying to take a bite out of me every time I passed that
      stall door.

      He must have overheard my comment because he added, "I could bring
      the gelding, but he was my first horse and he's old now. I think
      he's earned his quiet pasture days." He moved even closer, right up
      next to me and laid a hand on my horse's neck, patting him to keep
      him from spooking. "Also, Charles suggested that if I brought the
      stallion, he'd be willing to forgo stable charges in exchange for
      having El Sid breed his mares. He's pure Spanish Andalusian. I
      think poor Charles was drooling at the chance for some Andalusian
      crosses."

      I didn't have a fucking clue what an 'Andalusian' was, but I'd have
      bet good money it was the Ferrari of the horse community. "Sounds
      peachy," I said now.

      "Actually, he's a grey, not peach."

      It took me a minute to recognize that he'd just tried to make a joke,
      bad as it was, then almost against my will, my lips tipped upward.
      He clapped his hands in apparent delight. "Splendid! I was starting
      to wonder if you knew how to smile at all! That's the first one I've
      seen on your face."

      It was? But smiling wasn't something I'd had much cause to do, and
      my face didn't automatically twist into that expression. Most often,
      it showed no expression at all. I'd worked hard for that, and now
      turned away, tossing the brush onto the stool with my shirt so I
      could pick up a blanket to spread over my horse's back. Warren
      helped without being asked, then nodded to the horse. "What's his
      name?"

      "The professor named him Thunder Major, but I don't like that." I
      shrugged, feeling guilty for the critique. "It seemed kind of silly
      for such a quiet horse. I just call him Lardbutt."

      I wasn't prepared for Warren's reaction. He bent over, wings
      fluttering spasmodically as he laughed so hard he almost couldn't
      breathe. "Lardbutt! I love it! Priceless! Not one ounce of
      pretense at all!"

      "Well, he's *fat*," I said, bemused. Granted, the name was funny and
      had been meant to be, but it wasn't worth busting a gut.

      "Oh, oh." Finally, Warren managed to calm himself and unbend, wiping
      tears out of his eyes. "Oh, my. I named mine El Sid, and you named
      yours Lardbutt!" And he went off into another peal of laughter. But
      the humor didn't seem vicious; he was genuinely amused. Shaking his
      head finally, he ran a palm over his mouth. "In any case, do you
      think we can find a box stall for El Sid?"

      'We'? What was with the 'we' shit? I knew damn well who'd be
      shoveling the manure. But I wiped dust off my hands and said, "Come
      on. The box stalls are on the other aisle." It wasn't like I had a
      real choice here, so I showed him the two stalls and he looked them
      both over for the solidity of the wood and any rough sections that
      might leave splinters in his precious horse's hide, then settled on
      the farther of the two and followed me to the tack room to decide
      where there was space for his equipment. We ended up having to store
      some of what was there, stuff that Warren said was so old it ought to
      be tossed. But what did I know? "You really are unfamiliar with
      stables, aren't you?"

      "I'd never been on a horse in my life until I got here," I answered
      truthfully, but didn't elaborate.

      "How did you wind up running the stable?"

      "Like I said, Xavier can't do it. And I like horses. They're . . .
      sensible." Then I realized what I'd just said and grinned even as he
      caught the unintentional pun a beat behind.

      "Horse sense!" he exclaimed.

      "Yeah. Horse sense. Anyway, the old groom had to retire last year.
      It was before I came. There was another guy who'd been hired part
      time, but I don't know if he had too much to do, or was just lazy.
      Anyway, I realized he wasn't cleaning out the stalls all the way,
      especially back in the corners where Xavier couldn't see. Sometimes
      he'd just lay down new hay on the old. I found fungus in the frogs
      of my horse's hooves, so I started checking the others. It was
      really bad for some of them. We had to call a vet. When I told the
      professor what I'd found, he fired the guy." The shame of that came
      back and I felt it burn my ears and cheeks. "I wasn't trying to get
      him fired; I just wanted him to do his job better."

      Warren had straddled a bench, his hands gripping the end while the
      tips of his white wings trailed in dirty hay. He studied me.
      "Scott, what you're describing is a serious oversight. You could
      have wound up with lamed horses. It wasn't just a matter of not
      doing his job. It was a matter of cruelty to animals who had no
      voice of their own. He deserved to be fired."

      I kicked at the wall absently. "That's why I said something in the
      first place -� the horses. It wasn't like they could complain. But
      the guy had some kids at home, y'know?"

      Sighing, Warren looked away, out the door. "Responsibility is
      heavy," he muttered, but I wasn't sure he was talking to me. "Still,
      Scott -� people make their own beds and it's not your place to wash
      their sheets for them."

      I just blinked at him in surprise. It wasn't what I'd expected out
      of him. "So you're going to do your own damn laundry while you're
      here, so I don't have to?"

      Now it was his turn for bafflement at the sudden leap of topic. "Why
      would you do my laundry?"

      I threw up my hands. "Well, who else is going to do it? The
      professor has a cook and a maid, but Hank and I do our own laundry
      and stuff, and I do Hank's when he's too busy with his rotations, so
      I guess I'll get yours, too, like I'm getting your freaking horse to
      take care of."

      The white wings rose and fluttered with agitation like a bird's
      might, and Warren pulled in his chin to study me from under blond
      brows before saying, "Actually, considering the fact that you seem
      to be between grooms at the moment, I'd planned to suggest to Charles
      that I bring in one of my own -� who would take care of my horse and
      yours, too. Frankly, Scott, you don't have the experience for this
      job long term, even if you do have the conscientiousness. I doubt
      that Charles planned to saddle you with it permanently -� pun
      intended -� so I'd had no intention of asking you to take care of my
      horse. As for my laundry . . . I confess, I hadn't expected to do it
      myself, but if that's the way of things here, I'd like to think
      household appliances can't be *that* difficult -� though the one time
      I tried to run a vacuum cleaner, it chewed up a corner of my mother's
      imported, top knot grade Bokhara Persian rug. Of course, I was six
      at the time. The maid wasn't happy, and neither was my mother. I
      wasn't permitted to 'help' again."

      I wasn't sure if I should laugh at that or not, but he was grinning
      himself, so I grinned back. "What's a Bokhara Persian rug?"

      "A type of pattern -� the classic type, in fact. It's what you think
      of when you think 'Persian rug.' Dull, if you asked me." He grew
      serious then. "Charles told me that you were to be my fellow
      student, not my servant. I have plenty of servants. I'm not
      interested in another. I am interested in a friend from whom I don't
      have to hide these." He fluttered the wings again, like anyone else
      might flutter fingers in emphasis. Big emphasis.

      "I don't live in your world," I replied bluntly because I was so
      taken by surprise, I didn't have a chance to figure out a more
      politic answer. "I don't know how to play golf."

      That made him laugh again, if not as hard as at the name I'd given my
      horse. "Good God! Golf! Well, if you'd really like to learn how to
      play, I'd be glad to teach you!"

      And that was how I wound up learning golf from Warren Worthington,
      III.




      That week before Christmas was one of the strangest I'd ever
      experienced. Warren and I spent ninety percent of our waking time
      together -� at lessons, around the mansion, and even out Christmas
      shopping in the city, ferried by his chauffeur. He seemed bound and
      determined to be my friend, attacking it with the same fervor some
      people decided to quit smoking. It might have annoyed, had his
      company been less enjoyable. But he got my backhanded jokes, and �-
      as I'd thought that very first morning after his rescue -� he was
      plain nice . . . the kind of guy who held the door for little old
      ladies and left out milk for stray cats. He defied stereotypes. We
      both did.

      He still didn't know what I'd been before I'd come to Xavier's, but
      it was hard to camouflage the enormous discrepancy in our social
      backgrounds. I asked him once if he didn't worry what his friends
      would think -� his real friends, people from his own social class -�
      about him hanging out with me, not to mention his doing his own
      laundry. He'd shaken his head ruefully and measured Tide into the
      plastic scoop before dumping it into the washer bowl under my
      supervision. "What friends?" he'd replied. "There are two types of
      people who want my attention, Scott. Those who hope to get something
      from me �- money, reputation by association -� and those who hate my
      guts and want to bring me down. Then there's you. You have no idea
      how rare you are. You don't want a damn thing from me."

      "Except the CDs you borrowed."

      Warren grinned. "Yeah, yeah. I'll give them back this afternoon."
      I helped him load his clothes in the washer, then he shut the lid and
      turned to face me. "Look, I'm the one the rest of the sorry little
      wankers want to be seen with, not the other way around. I *define*
      cool." But his smile was as bitter as it was ironic. "They can
      think whatever the hell they want. I'll name you a friend if I want
      to." And we went up to the solar for another lesson in irons and
      golf balls.

      For the next few days, I pondered what he'd said -� that he defined
      cool. He'd been joking of course, but it was something I hadn't
      considered before. When one occupied the top rung of the Social
      Ladder, it resulted in incredible pressure to stay there, but also a
      certain freedom to set one's own parameters �- all determined by a
      hair-trigger instinct for social Russian Roulette. And for whatever
      reason, Warren had decided to gamble on me. Maybe it was just for
      gratitude; I'd saved his life.

      In any case, he dragged me out to a party on Christmas Eve after we'd
      opened presents at the mansion with the professor. Hank was off
      visiting his family in Deerfield, Illinois, so it was just the three
      of us. Warren had no reason to go home. His parents were in Bangkok
      and he didn't expect them back until after New Year's. So when the
      present-opening was over, he took me off to some party where he
      flirted with every girl in sight and got so smashed that I almost had
      to carry him back to the limousine. I hadn't understood his
      desperate need for oblivion in a bottle until I'd thought about how
      it must feel to have living parents who may as well have been dead.
      I was an orphan in truth. Warren was one in effect. 'You're
      eighteen now, Warren. You must have friends you'd rather spend
      Christmas with.' His father's words on the phone from Thailand. But
      what the man had meant was, 'I have more important places to be than
      home with you, and you're a semi-adult, so entertain yourself.'

      He'd entertained himself by getting too drunk to see straight.

      Maybe I'd have fought with my parents, too, if they'd lived, but
      death had preserved my pristine memory of them. I could dimly recall
      my last Christmas as a son, not an inconvenience. We'd gone to
      midnight mass, then home again, Mom and Dad singing carols in the
      front seat while Alex and I had fallen asleep in the back. Christmas
      morning had brought presents and candy-canes and ham for lunch, just
      the four of us, cocooned by snow in cramped base housing, but we
      hadn't cared. Alex and I had received a new sled, and that was all
      that had mattered to us -� a new sled, Pooh mittens, fresh Nebraska
      snow outside, and parents to cheer us on.

      It's such small things that I remember.

      I made Warren leave the party around midnight, and asked the driver
      to find a Catholic church nearby for mass. I didn't even know if
      Warren was Catholic. Probably not. And God knew, I hadn't been
      inside a church in years, but this was also the first Christmas in
      years that I'd felt like celebrating hope. So I splashed water on
      his face in the cathedral bathroom and we went in half way through
      mass to sit in the back. I didn't take the sacrament because I
      hadn't confessed. He didn't take it because he'd fallen asleep.
      When mass was over, I had his driver return us to the mansion while I
      sang carols in the back under my breath.

      ** "The first Noel the angel did say was to certain poor shepherds in
      fields as they lay . . . ." **

      It was the wee hours of Christmas morning and I had a half-drunk
      angel zonked in my lap. What wonderful irony. He was asleep, so I
      slipped my hand beneath the collar of his shirt and touched the edge
      of bound wings. Soft feathers. Hope.

      ** "O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie; above thy
      deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by. Yet in thy dark
      streets shineth the everlasting light; the hopes and fears of all the
      years are met in thee tonight." **




      "I've got the mother of all headaches."

      It was about two in the afternoon on Christmas day. Hank was due
      back in an hour -� he actually had to work tomorrow �- and the
      professor had gone to pick him up from the airport. I'd decided to
      stick around so someone would be here when Warren woke. Now, he'd
      come into the den where I was lying on the floor, messing with the
      pieces of a new war game the professor had given me for Christmas.
      With presents opened on Christmas Eve -� apparently a Xavier family
      tradition �- there'd been no reason for us to rise early.

      I glanced up and offered my bottle of spring water. "Drink. You'll
      feel better." He staggered over to take it. "And don't cry on my
      shoulder. You're the fucking idiot who got plastered last night. I
      have no pity."

      "Fuck you." But he opened the bottle and drank. I didn't make any
      of the other remarks I could have, just returned to my game. He sat
      down beside me to watch.

      "You wanna play?" I asked.

      "Scott, I haven't got a goddamn clue what to do with all those little
      squares of cardboard."

      "I'll show you."

      He thought about it, then shrugged and said, "Okay. Why not?"

      "Great. Now, look at the pieces. Here's the unit name, here's the
      size, here's the troop quality, and here's the movement allowance,
      normal and extended . . . . "

      I'd barely done more than explain game rules and set up the board by
      the time Hank and the professor were back. Hank didn't get past the
      den; instead, he plopped down with us, delighted by my new toy.
      "Splendiferous! The Battle of Zama!"

      Warren gave up his position immediately -� his eyes had been about to
      cross, in any case -� and Hank and I played. Hank was Scipio; I was
      Hannibal. I beat him around two in the morning, long after the
      professor had gone to bed. "I don't think history went that way,"
      Warren remarked. He'd sat up with us through the whole game,
      needling Hank and half-watching DVDs of IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE and
      MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET. Was he hoping for his own Santa Claus to
      bring him a new existence?

      Hank ignored him and said to me, "You have a definite knack for
      this," as he helped me put away the little colored squares in their
      Ziploc baggies. I just shrugged. The truth was he *didn't* have a
      knack for it. I doubted West Point would have any interest in my
      application.

      "How was Christmas at home?" I asked, to change the subject.

      His smile was warm. "Delightful. Cold, but delightful. You will
      have to come with me to visit some time. My mother would dote on
      you. Perhaps this summer. You can see how a farm runs." He glanced
      around to include Warren in the invitation. "Both of you can come."

      "Oh, lovely." Warren snorted. "Will we get to milk the cows and
      feed the pigs?"

      "Don't be a jackass." What bug did Warren have up his butt? He'd
      been flat *mean* ever since Hank had gotten back, which didn't seem
      at all like the Warren I'd come to know this past week. Maybe it was
      just that Hank got along with his parents. On the way to our rooms
      later, I pulled him aside. "What was with you tonight? Are you mad
      because Hank got to go home and you didn't?"

      Glancing away, he fluttered his wings, which told me he was nervous
      for some unaccountable reason. "I'm just tired."

      "Bullshit."

      He sighed. "Okay -� maybe I am a bit jealous." A pause. "You
      seemed glad to have Hank back."

      "I like him," I said simply. "He's a nice guy. So are you �-
      usually."

      "Ooh. Ow. Slap on the wrist noted, Mr. Manners." But it wasn't
      said with heat, just his usual dry humor. Abruptly, he sighed again
      and rubbed at the bridge of his nose. The hallway lights had been
      dimmed for evening and they cast shadows on his face, drawing tired
      lines under his eyes. "It's been a shitty holiday."

      That stark admission touched me for some reason. "I know," I told
      him, and felt guilty because, for me, this had been the best holiday
      I'd had in a long while. I wished I knew something to make him feel
      better, but I didn't, so we walked to our rooms in silence. When we
      reached my room, I turned to face him. "Can I ask something weird?"

      "I don't know," he replied. "Can you?" Annoyed, I boxed his arm,
      and he grinned. "Sorry, couldn't resist. What'd you want to know?"
      His expression was serious and polite.

      I blurted out the request fast before I lost my nerve. "Can I touch
      one of your wings?" I hadn't forgotten the furtive feel in the
      limousine the previous night -� and curiosity killed the cat.

      He was studying me, caught between amusement and surprise. Then he
      flexed a wing and bent it around in silent invitation. Light poured
      through, pure and white, as if I were standing inside a cloud.
      Reaching out, I ran fingers along the feathers. They were as soft as
      I recalled up near the bone, but the pinions were stiffer. "Does it
      feel strange to have them touched?" I asked him.

      He ran his own hand down the skin of my arm where I'd pushed up the
      sleeves of my sweater. "Does that feel strange?"

      Actually, it did, and I flinched minutely. I didn't like to be
      touched. But aloud I said, "No."

      "It feels the same for me. Or maybe more like this" -� and he moved
      his hand up to stroke my hair. That time, I couldn't conceal the
      flinch. He frowned. "What's wrong, Scott?"

      "Nothing," I lied. "I'm just . . . a little funny about my hair."

      I could see in his face that he didn't believe me, but he let it go.
      "The feathers insulate the skin -� like hair."

      I ran a hand along the top again. "They're soft here." I regretted
      it as soon as I said it.

      But he smiled and, reaching up, yanked out a fluffy covert feather
      from near the joint, then offered it to me. "Merry Christmas."

      I took it. My own personal angel feather. "Thanks."

      ---------

      Continued DIRECTLY in part 2/3.....


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