Angel, Iceman and Beast characters are trademarked and copyrighted to Marvel Comics. They are used without permission and no money is being made on this work.
This is a response to the 'fear this' challenge issued ages ago featuring, you guessed it, Angel ... and Iceman and Beast.
A special thanks to the illustrious queenB for her help is in order - thank you!
If you liked it, I'd love to hear from you. Feedback is welcome at [email protected] . If you want to archive it, just ask.
"Faster!" Bobby cried, shaking the back of my seat, his fingers wrapped so tightly around the inexpensive covering that his knuckles turned white.
I laughed in response, pressing my foot to the gas, feeling young again with every mile I added.
"Warren, buddy, a snail just passed us. Faster!"
"I fear a sonic boom is in our immediate future," Hank said, covering his eyes with his hands. His mouth was wide with a smile. "It goes without saying, my friends, that Warren pays for the speeding ticket."
"Speeding ticket? We aren't speeding!" Bobby shouted out the open window, sticking his head out of the car as he whooped and hollered for a good five minutes, his hair whipping madly about his face. "Slow, old man, slow!"
I grinned, imagining I could smell the burning tires, that I could hear the sheer speed of the car, faster and faster as if we were finally outrunning the miseries from which we fought so hard to escape. Hank peeked out from behind his fingers, watching in awe as the trees rushed past us in a blur of fury, the world a finger smudge of green.
"And how old are you again, Bobby?" I shouted, hoping he could hear me above the sound of wind through his ears. He merely thumped my chair with his legs, yelling foul obscenities at Mother Nature.
"We are adolescents ensnared in the bodies of men," Hank decided, shaking his head in mock pity. I turned my head to look at him, to grin a authentically happy grin, and I took my eyes off the road for a split second. One second. One.
"Holy shit!" Bobby screeched, falling back into the car as I slammed on the brakes, too abruptly, too hard, and the car spun out of control, flipping into the ditch. Hank's arms reached out beside my head, grabbing hold of Bobby's pants save to his life. My head hit the window, shattering the glass, and I blacked out.
And I was there again in the Morlock Tunnels. I opened my eyes, the scent of foulness hitting my nostrils, the sight of dim light and walls splattered with blood. A dream, a figment of the past, something unreal, something that couldn't hurt me. It did not make it any less horrible. I hung there, my body a mass of pain, my wings torn and ripped, bleeding, twitching, shaking. My fingers, pointed to the ground, dripped the blood of my sins into a pool of dark red.
The same dream, always, unchanging, never ending.
It was my eternal nightmare. Condemning.
"Warren." Furry hands on my face, tapping my cheeks lightly. My eyes fluttered open, taking me away from the sewers, away from my hell, yet at the same time, trapping me in it.
I was immediately aware of the blood scent, putrid and sickening. I could taste it. I was bleeding.
"Scott will have our posteriors," Hank said lightly, helping me sit up. I looked at the car, saw that old piece of metal wrapped around an unsuspecting tree that had split in half at the impact, lying in shards on the long grass.
"Ow," Bobby said, nursing a bleeding nose. "I have the biggest wedgie of my life."
I closed my eyes, the smell making me sick, and in the darkness, behind my eyelids where the monsters slept, all I could see were white feathers, a cloud of beautiful white feathers being cast into the blackness.
"What happened?" I muttered, trying to ignore the awful smell.
"There was a flock of ..." Hank stopped abruptly. "We were driving and you hit ..." I looked at him, blinked, aware of the words missing from his vocabulary. He never talked in the vernacular, not unless something terrible had happened. "*We* hit a flock of ... birds, Warren."
Years ago, when the mess with Apocalypse had first happened, Hank had been in the car with me, driving to some nameless place in some nameless direction, and I had hit a bird. A beautiful bird, so free and unassuming, so ... oh God. Oh God!
There were feathers everywhere, on my skin, stuck to the blood from my head, and I screeched. It was a cry I thought had come from someone else. It couldn't be me. No human could make that sound, and I was human, I knew I was. Hank seized me in his grasp, but I pushed him away, scrambling to my feet. "Warren! You didn't mean it!" Bobby said, trying to grab me, to stop me, but I was too fast, too strong, too out of my mind with terror. Instead, he tripped me, and I fell into the group of small birds, bloody and broken as I had been so long ago, back when I had been ripped into hell.
It was my nightmare. I would never escape it.
"I'm sorry," I whispered, picking up a tiny body in my fingers, holding it to my cheeks. It was still soft, still warm, like my wings had been, still warm and soft and alive, and they cut them, *hacked* them from my body, like monsters, inhuman monsters. I was a monster!
That scream escaped my throat again, that cry of utter pain and loss, and I stared at the dozen small bodies that littered the ground, wings twisted and broken, their only happiness ripped away by a savage.
By me. Oh God.
"Warren, it was an accident," Hank said softly, taking my hand and prying the bird from my fingers as I stared bleakly at him, my cheeks stained with tears. Bobby stood behind him, guilty and pitying. "Warren, there is no comparison here."
"I broke their wings," I said, my voice young and quiet, the heat pumping through my ears as I sat, kneeling, praying for deliverance of my damned soul. Blood on my hands. Blood on my soul. "I ... *broke* ... their .... *beautiful* .... wings."
"You didn't know," Bobby said, our guilty eyes meeting. "I made you go faster."
"We are all equally at fault, Warren," Hank added, calmly using his shirt to wipe the blood from my hands, holding my wrist tightly in his fury paw.
I frowned a crooked frown, overwhelmed with guilt and remorse and shame. I hadn't meant to react like this. I didn't know what had come over me. Or I did, and it humiliated me to admit that the hurt was so deep it left an irreparable scar. Those poor birds ...
"We will bury the birds. Does that sound acceptable, Warren?"
I nodded my head, sniffing loudly, feeling more and more foolish. Bobby got up and gathered the bird bodies using his coat - he loved that coat - treating them with utmost care and respect. Hank removed a piece of metal from the car. He walked to the closest tree left standing and began to dig, watching me carefully out of the corner of his eye.
I stood up and walked to the grave, taking the birds from Bobby's nest and laying them into the dirt, tears blurring my eyes. I knew they were humouring me, trying to make it better, trying to make the past hurt less, and I let them. I was man enough to admit that this was my most terrible dream, that I needed help, that I need them to make it better in any way they could.
"Birds of a feather, may your flight to heaven be safe and joyous," Hank said as I began to scoop the dirt over my tiny victims, sniffling and crying with equal frequency.
Hank pulled me to a stand, keeping a firm arm over my shoulder.
"Could you not tell the others ... this happened?" I asked quietly, pushing the tears from my eyes with dirty hands.
"Scout's honour," Bobby swore, and Hank gave him a bemused look, raising a blue eyebrow. "What? I was a boy scout for almost a week! That's gotta count for something. Come on, I need honour from somewhere."
"Ah, shut up, you muppet," Bobby said with a grin, punching him in the arm. "Uh, guys, small question, what do we say about the car? I mean, Scott's going to realise we twisted his precious ford around a tree."
"I cannot see a twisted car. Can you see a twisted car?"
I smiled ruefully. "No, Hank, I don't see a twisted car."
"Wonderful! Neither can I!" Bobby exclaimed, beginning to walk, whistling with his hands in his pockets. Hank bounded over to him, jumping on his back, and I laughed, seeing Bobby collapse under the massive weight.
"Blue against ice! Tag team!" Hank declared, giving me a mischievous grin, inviting me to join in.
I held back, content to watch them have fun, to lighten the mood, to help me forget what I had done. They were amazing friends to do so much for me.
"I'm sorta blue! Honest!" Bobby muttered, his mouth wrapped around Hank's forearm, trying to slobber his way to freedom. "Really, look at the ice, it's sorta blue. Squint and it really becomes obvious! I'm blue! I'm blue!"
"No, Sir Robert, you are not."
"I really am! Warren, get the furball off me. Can't breath, allergic to fur, need hospital, shag carpet attack, so heavy. Jeez, Hank, you're one heavy bastard. What did you have for lunch? So hot. Sweltering. Hot! Dang, I think my leg just broke. I see the light. Come to me, precious light. Oh, look, it's Sparky! I'm coming, boy!"
I laughed at Bobby as he feigned severe injury, refusing to move from the centre of the empty road. I blinked, and I could hear him calling my name, but I was far away again, like a memory or a dream. My eyes were focussed on the birds that watched me without judgement, without hate or spite or sorrow, those tiny creatures with their beautiful wings sitting in the trees.
And my wings tightened against my body to remind me they were still there, still attached to my shoulders, still alive and gorgeous and mine.
You don't miss the touch of feathers until they're gone.