Warren wanted to strip off his shirt and free his wings as soon as his car rolled into the school driveway. "Just leave my luggage here and head back to the City," he told his chauffer. "I'll call you when I need to get picked up again."
"Yes, sir." The chauffer tapped her hat and popped the trunk open. A few people snidely remarked on Warren's insistence on a uniform for his two drivers. This particular driver didn't mind; the job paid well and the uniforms hid the fact that she had patterned scales from the neck down. She lifted the luggage out of the Bentley's trunk as easily as though they were pillows.
Warren rang the doorbell, loosening his tie with one hand. His heart beat out a countdown to freedom. One-get-it-off, two-get-it-off, three-get-it-off...
He pressed the doorbell again, keeping his finger down longer.
The door swung open a second later. "Jesus Christ on a crutch, man, keep your shorts on. There's classes going on in here."
"Oh, no." Warren's good mood deflated.
"Oh, fuck," said Remy, just as displeased. He shut the door in Warren's face and walked away, completely ignoring the fact that the new visitor was yelling as he repeatedly rang the doorbell.
"So the battle begins." Hank peeked out his classroom to see what the fuss was about. "Pay attention, children; World War VII is about to break out and I want a five-page essay on the causes and effects by the seventeenth of July."
Henry, the professor's voice floated into Hank's mind, stern but with streaks of amusement and weariness. Please lead Remy and Warren into my office.
Did your class end early, sir?
No, he replied. But it will do those two good to cool their heels in the waiting room.
Hank beamed at the thought.
It might be a good idea to remove the Malaysian hunting knives that are displayed on the coffee table. Just in case.
In the end, Scott left his class in Hank's care while he took a fuming Warren up to the third floor guest rooms.
"What the hell is Remy doing here?" Warren asked, stomping up the stairs. "Actually, y'know what? I don't want to know. And you don't want to know either."
"I don't?" Scott said, hitching Warren's garment bag higher over his shoulder.
"No, you don't. The last thing you need right now are those blood-sucking parasites hanging off your neck."
"I'm serious, Scott." Warren dropped his suitcase to grab Scott's shoulder. "Last time I heard from you Adam had just gotten suspended for having weed in his locker."
"It wasn't really weed," said Scott. "It was basil."
"Whatever. The point is you said that it was the last time you were going to go down there and fix their mess."
"And remember that time you had to talk to the registrar at Alex's university because he'd forgotten to pay for his tuition for the third time since he enrolled?"
"Alex is a bit absent-minded when it comes to finances." Scott shifted the garment bag again. This flight of stairs seemed to get longer and longer each month.
"Hell, where do I even start with Remy?" Warren snorted. "The guy's antique business is barely on this side of legal and you're not helping matters by giving him law tips. Don't get me wrong, I don't mind lending you the corporate lawyers but your brother's dealings is something else."
"Call it giddiness that one of them is actually earning money," said Scott.
Warren rolled his eyes. "First a 'security business' then an 'antiques business.' Is it just me or do all of Remy's businesses have something to do with his lock-picking hobby? Scott, you've been fixing their mess since you were twelve. You deserve a break. Let them solve their own problems for once. Or, hey, here's a better idea," Warren grinned evilly, "Let your dad actually be a dad for once and take care of it."
"I'm afraid my dad's a terminal case." Scott muttered. He sighed as he kicked the door open to Warren's usual room.
Warren threw his suitcase on top of his bed. "Your loyalty to them is great, Scott, really it is but what's the pay off for you? You've always helped them out and they never reciprocate; they just keep leeching off of you."
Scott opened the closet and hung Warren's garment bag on the hanger rod. "It's no big deal; I'm used to the cycle. Adam whines, Dad disappears, Remy begs for favours, and Alex screams that the whole world is unfair. If it all stops one day, the world would end."
"My point is--" Warren grasped Scott's shoulders, "--you shouldn't have to deal with them. Not right now. Not after... what happened... to Jean."
"Not after Jean's death," Scott said bluntly. His jaw hardened. "Don't worry, Warren. I can handle that too."
That went real well, Worthington. Prudently, Warren chose to retreat from the topic. He shrugged off his coat with a groan. "Help me get this damned harness off, will you? I just want to stretch them out before I go back downstairs."
Tension eased from Scott's face. "You're back in the school; just keep the harness off for the rest of your visit." He helped his friend pull off the coat and set to uncurling Warren's wings from their cramped position.
"Walking around without my shirt on in front of thirty kids. Great idea, Summers. That'll go over great with the board of directors not to mention my own sense of dignity. You vastly over-rate my exhibitionist tendencies."
"I'm not the one who got caught making out with Paris Hilton."
"For your information, she threw herself at me. I was just making sure she didn't hurt herself on that dance floor. Oh, Christ, that feels good."
Joints popped and creaked as Warren slowly stretched one wing out then the other. His wingspan was such that he could only extend one limb at a time. From the tips of his longest primary feathers, his wings measured twenty-four feet and generated a small gale when he took off at a flat stop.
Letting his head hang, Warren shook the wings out in a series of quick metacarpal flourishes that Scott could best compare to playing the scales on a piano. His wing bones were more avian than mammalian-- large humorous bones, elongated radii and ulnae but with unfused metacarpals that, Hank surmised, allowed Warren more control over his flight patterns. The slight difference also allowed him to tuck and curl them in such a way that he was able to wear the harness with little discomfort. His back and pectorals were slabs upon slabs of muscle, created in his early teens and developed ever since to lift his weight in the air. The rest of Warren's bones also changed as a result of his mutation, becoming more hollow. Warren landed badly once while he was still learning to fly but instead of breaking, his leg bone seemed to bend. All he suffered were a few torn ligaments.
"Take it easy," said Scott, pulling Warren's right wing out as far as it could reach. "Wait until you get blood back into them."
"I had to get a new set made and I still haven't broken it in. Do you have any idea how much new leather chafes in this type of weather?" Warren shook his wings again, the harness finally dropping to the floor. Feathers fluttered down, some of them slightly crooked. "Grab the other wing, will you? Thanks."
Scott moved to the opposite side of the room to pull on the left wing. More joints popped like corn kernels in a hot pot. "That sounds really disgusting."
"I'm getting old, Summers. I can't do things like wear shiny shirts and hang fuzzy dice from my rearview mirror."
"Or catch flashy socialites."
Shaking his head, Warren said, "No, no, no, Scott. One does not catch flashy socialites. One stands in the middle of a crowded soiree and waits for the socialites to come flying in, diamonds winking and pre-nups still hot from the printers. So, really, you're never too old. Just too poor."
Scott crooked one eyebrow. "Very funny, Worthington."
"You went to Yale. You tell me I'm lying and I'll tell you that you were stuck in those books for way too long."
"I plead the fifth. Hey!" Scott sputtered as Warren shoved him away with his wings. "Preen before you wave those things around; they smell."
Warren flapped his wings lazily, simply enjoying the feel of air ruffling his feathers. "They'll be cramped back up in the harness for dinner; cut me some slack."
"I told you that you can leave them untied around here."
"And I told you that I don't want to prance around topless in front of a bunch of teenagers."
"You won't have to." At Warren's inquiring expression, Scott explained, "Jean adjusted a few of the shirts you left behind."
"Adjusted them how?"
Reaching into the closet, Scott pulled out a blue striped shirt and flipped it around. The dress shirt now had two extra slits down the back barely visible as a result of the stripes. "Just shrug them on, slide your wings through, and snap the buttons up. Dignity spared."
"Jean cut up my Versace shirts." Smiling to himself, Warren said, "God, I love that woman."
Scott's smile went crooked. "Get in line."
"Ah, hell, Summers." Warren gathered Scott up in a tight embrace, wrapping his wings around the both of them, keeping the world at bay with a wall of white down even for just five minutes.
The American Lit class gawked as they filed past Remy and Warren. Not only did the air surrounding them crackle with violence, they were, in Jubilee's words, "Hottie McHottersons." Warren with his wheat-blonde hair tamed, sleek and swept back, his great white wings stretching and shifting, pulling the striped shirt taut against his muscled torso. Remy, on the other hand, lounged catlike on a chair, his ripped jeans, faded T-shirt, and scuffed biker boots clashing with the furnishings. His very indolence was an insult to Warren's agitation.
"Keep on posing, Fabio; maybe one of those kids will pop into your backseat." Remy picked his teeth, flicking his nails roughly in Warren's direction. "Be like the old times in your prep school with those mad roofie parties and peeking into the teacher's porn collection."
Warren sent him a look that should have been able to wither plants. "I'm not going to sink to your level, so don't even start."
"Boy, you only wish you could converse on my level."
"Sorry, I really don't care to stick my head that far up my ass."
"It'd be hard considering you already got a stick shoved up there."
"Gentlemen," Xavier called out sharply. "Please come in. And close the door behind you, Warren."
"Sure thing, Professor."
Remy swung his feet down, lolling his tongue and panting like an over-grown terrier.
"Remy, could you refrain from delivering any more witticisms?" said Xavier. He quickly turned to Warren who wasn't bothering to hide his sneer. "Don't forget that I've called you in this meeting as well, Warren."
"This is a meeting?" Remy asked wide-eyed. "Here I thought you were going to pull out the paddle."
"Get your mind out of the gutter," said Warren. "Oh, wait, I forgot. You live there."
"I'd rather be down in the real than in your cologne-infused dreamland. Tell me, Big Bird, when was the last time you took a crap without someone wiping it with a silk hankie?"
"Toilet humour, surprise, surprise. I'll start paying attention to your yapping once you can get through five minutes without referring to fecal matter." Warren looked at his watch. "I'm not holding my breath, of course."
Xavier sat back and steepled his hands. "So this is how the two of you would support Scott."
Warren's jaw dropped. "Professor, you know I have nothing but Scott's well-being in mind especially now that he's here--" he flung an arm in Remy direction, "-- bothering Scott with his scams and asinine problems."
"Yeah, like being around you is any better," Remy shot back. "Turning him into the country club set won't make him any likelier to sleep with you. Face it, Kentucky Fried, you're butt-ugly and he's taken."
"Please, drop the pretence of brotherly concern." Warren rolled his eyes. "You only come around when you need Scott to bail you out of another problem. What is it this time, Remy? Did you lose in Vegas? Another husband catch you sniffing in his wife's pants?"
"At least I knew enough to sniff. Obviously, Daddy Dearest cut yours balls off way too early."
"Professor, is his presence really necessary?" Warren asked. "What Scott needs now is time to regroup and come to terms with what happened."
"Scott knows what happened," said Remy testily. "What he needs to do is help me find Adam. I'll give him time to give that redhead of his a proper goodbye and we're off."
Warren let out a bitter laugh. "There you have it, Professor. He doesn't even know what's happened to Scott and he's demanding favours."
"What's happened to Scott?" asked Remy, senses going sharp.
"Now, you're concern--"
"Shut the hell up, Tweetie." Remy dismissed Warren with a sharp cut of his hand. "Professor, what's happened to Scotty?"
Xavier's lips tightened. Resting his elbows on the desk, he asked, "What do you remember of the... extracurricular activities that Scott and the others occasionally participate in?"
"The leather squad, yeah. Did that boy hurt himself playing hero?"
Warren threw his arms up. "For the love of-- Professor, permission to hit him with a brick?"
Xavier shook his head curtly. "We were attacked a few months ago. A government agency under the leadership of a... disturbed individual falsely believed this to be a front for an underground mutant army. They broke in and took some of the children. I'm afraid Jean Grey was... a casualty."
Remy's eyes narrowed. "Son of a bitch."
"Yes, and you come barging in at exactly the right time to bug him about your trivial dramatics," Warren began but Remy was already on his feet and stalking out of the room. "Where are you going?"
"Leave him alone, Warren," said Xavier. "I called both of you in for a reason. You are not entirely innocent in this situation either."
"Professor, I tried to return as soon as possible but I had meetings that couldn't be cancelled--"
"I know that." Xavier held a hand up, wanting to ease Warren's distress. "But whether you approve or not, Scott's family is still a major part of his life. Remy did come here on a legitimate emergency and I who suggested he stay."
"If they were so important to Scott, why didn't he tell them about Jean?"
Xavier didn't answer.