Flight of Fancy by paxnirvana
Rating: R
Fandom: Uncanny X-Men
Pairing: Archangel/Stacey X
Archive: Please ask first.

Author's Note: Post Uncanny #400; this makes reference to my Bobby/Emma fic "Diamonds of Ice", but you don't need to read that one first. And heck, so far I like Casey a lot better than Morrison - I just wish they'd get him a steady artist. Synergy, we need synergy! Though Tom Raney does draw a mighty fine Archangel in #399... But a mutant whore house? Now I've seen everything... *rolls eyes* NO WAY is this for kids. 'PG' my ass, Marvel. 12/18/01

Disclaimer: This is for the amusement factor only; no money being made by me. However, their real owner - Marvel Comics - is messing them up so much, they may not make any money off them either.

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Warren Worthington stood on the roof of Worthington Enterprises New York headquarters building, arms folded over his chest as he stared out over the darkened cityscape. He'd left Bobby in Westchester, watching over the injured Hank. God. To see Hank that way, broken and beaten. It had fanned the rage that had simmered in him since returning from Montana and their inconclusive battle at the Cathedral of the Church of Humanity.

This had come after discovering his purportedly pro-mutant board of directors had invested Worthington Enterprises money in what had turned out to be a mutant whore house. Not exactly the kind of image or support he wanted. Then, before their roving X-team could really talk to them, the girls and their madam - except for Stacey X - had been murdered by members of the Church of Humanity. A new foe. Another hate group out to exterminate mutants. The fanatics had even gone so far as to kill the human customers for daring to consort with mutants. More hatred. More blood. More death.

Logan and Kurt had stayed behind at the mansion too. Kurt still bewildered and confused by whatever it was the Supreme Pontiff had done to him. It hadn't been obvious, whatever it was, but something in Kurt had changed, something vital and as yet unknown. His once boundless confidence was rattled, at the very least. Maybe Jean could help him sort it out. But then, Jean hadn't had much luck with Scott so did they honestly think she could help Kurt? Warren thought bitterly. And Xavier had just recently decided to take a trip to see his estranged lover, the Empress Lilandra of the Shi'ar, - after exposing them all to the world as mutants first - so he couldn't help either. If he even would have. And that thought brought only rage as well.

What a mess they all were.

Behind him he heard the rustle of leather. He cast a hostile eye over his shoulder, wings furled tightly to his back.

"What is it?" he snapped. Jono and Stacey still stood there after exiting the X-Jet. It was Jono's long leather coat shifting in the warm evening breeze that had reminded him of their presence.

//Wot should we do now, gov?//

"Go inside. There are plenty of diversions there. Try Bobby's room," he said coldly. "He's got games there, or there are systems to study. Or you can rest up. We don't get down-time often. You should learn to use it wisely."

Jono looked concerned, his brow wrinkling above the glow of the psi-fire that spilled unconfined from his chest. It looked like he'd forsaken his bandages forever. Beside him the sweats-clad Stacey shifted uneasily on her feet, gaze darting between the two of them. Silhouetted by the lights from the open hangar doors behind them, the stark rust and black patterns of the scales on her forehead and cheeks almost made her look like she was wearing a mask. Uncharacteristically, she stayed silent - or at least there was no sharp reply back to his caustic words. She'd been quiet since they'd left Westchester. Watching him from her yellow-green eyes.

//I'm sorry 'bout the Beast,// Jono said in his strange psi-voice, gaze meeting Warren's. Warren stayed still. Then after a moment nodded sharply in acknowledgement of the offered sentiment.

"Appreciated, Starsmore," he said, turning to face the glittering city again. After a moment he heard them move away, then the hiss of the door as it opened to let them into the complex. Finally, he was alone.

He stared sightlessly out over the city. Annoyed. Angry. Jono had meant well. He was only trying to be compassionate. But it had made Warren furious. What could the boy know of the helplessness he had felt after seeing his long-time friend beaten nearly to death by someone he had trusted? Weren't enemies like the Church of Humanity enough? Did they have to be wary of their own people as well? Of children? When would it end?

He took a deep breath, let it out impatiently, tired of his angry thoughts. Maybe a flight would ease some of his frustration. He unfolded his arms and zipped off his heavy uniform jacket. Pulled it over his head to free it from his wings. Dropped it to the roof beside him. Then unzipped the armored bodysuit beneath, stripping it away to expose his skin to the night and the air, even leaning down to remove his boots. He stood there a moment, dressed only in tight thigh-length black briefs - it wouldn't do to shock anyone looking out their windows - before he spread his wings up high preparatory to taking off.

"Yeah, baby - whew, what a show," a husky voice said from behind him. He whirled, automatically falling into a fighting crouch with eyes narrowed, to find Stacey still standing on the roof behind him.

"Why didn't you go inside like I told you?" he demanded as he straightened up. His wings fluttered once in irritation, then stilled. She moved across the roof, not directly toward him, but took an oblique path to the side of the building. She stopped there at the waist-high safety railing and peered over the edge.

"Strip in public a lot do you?" she said, glancing over at him briefly. She leaned back up and looked out over the city much as he had, her scaly skin gleaming oddly in the city lights. "I would have tried but there isn't much call for mutant snake girls in your average strip joint and they have that annoying no-touch rule. Made it hard to use my power. Besides, I'm a lousy dancer."

"Go inside," Warren said tightly. She wrinkled her nose at him.

"You always this pissy?"

Warren stayed silent, glaring at her as he folded his arms over his chest again. Wondering why she was loitering. She just frowned back at him, eyes narrowed speculatively. Then she shrugged and looked away.

"Were you going to fly?" she asked after a moment of tense silence. And there was a faintly wistful tone in her voice. One he'd heard plenty of times before when people asked him about flying. Sometimes it was endearing. Now it just annoyed him.

"Yes," he snapped.

"Don't let me stop you," she snapped back, glaring. He raised a brow, gave her a short nod, then swept his wings up high.

"You couldn't," he said as he launched himself into the sky.

Wings beating strongly, he flew through the warm night air, all thoughts of the girl on the roof already gone. Ah, to be in the air again! For no other reason than to fly without a goal. It was the height of bliss.

He went high, at first, above the tops of the nearby buildings. Then swooped at speed through the manmade canyons. Congested streets spewed noise far below. With his vision, he could easily see the people milling beneath him, count buttons on shirts if he wanted to, but he chose not to. He looked instead to his route; to the next corner to turn, or the next building to fly over. Staying well high enough to avoid power lines and signs, of course.

He choose to skim a short way down the side of an old apartment building at break-neck speed. Caught glimpses of astonished faces as a few of the humans within saw him flash past. Ignored them to skim sharply up at the bottom of his dive into an equally fast climb, then at the top of his arc turned lazily on his back to look up into the sky, at the few stars to be seen through the glare of the city lights. But they weren't a comfort either. He'd been to some of those stars and the beings there were often just as screwed up as those on Earth.

With a snort of irritation, he turned his attention to the currents in the air around him, the warmth of the night, and the action of flight instead, arms spread wide. As he flew, he reveled in the easy response of his wings; the sharp turns, the breath-stealing stoops from on high, the deceptively lazy beats that lifted him high into the air. The feel of air rushing through his feathers and around his body, over his skin was like no drug he'd ever experienced. Pure euphoria. Even the feel of the wind in his short hair was exhilarating. The freedom of movement, of motion. The escape from gravity and the troubles to be found on the ground. The usual magic of flight stole over him at last, calming him. Soothing his rage, or at least setting it aside.

It was no secret he preferred the air to the ground.

Warren had no idea how long he'd been aloft, but finally hunger made him sharply aware that he was burning a considerable amount of energy and had eaten little all day. He scanned the streets below him, recognized buildings. He wasn't far from his own building. It took only a few moments to reach it.

The roof was in complete darkness now, save for the coded lights on the landing platform. The hanger doors were closed. When he'd filed for aviation access to the building, the city had given him the same kind of permit they issued to the FF and the Avengers. Tacitly acknowledging his status as a costumed hero, even if he was just a mutant. It meant he paid a heavy fee for the privilege of landing a VTOL jet on an office building. And a heavy fine if they violated noise ordinances. So far, they'd managed to keep the noise down. There were advantages to having access to alien stealth technology.

He came in slowly, wings beating heavily. Walked out of the air onto the raised landing platform near the hanger doors and stood there a moment letting his breathing settle. Feeling almost peaceful.

"Why are you blue?" The question came out of the darkness behind him and he spun, instantly alert and ready for battle. Stacey was perched on the railing near the hanger, long legs wound through it and her back propped against the hangar wall. Apparently not at all afraid of heights. She had her arms wrapped around her chest and her odd yellow-green eyes gleamed in the night.

"What are you still doing up here?" he snapped. And all the relaxation he'd gained from his flight vanished.

"Those pictures I saw at the mansion - the old ones - you were a regular ol' white boy in those. So why are you blue now?" she asked, cocking her head. He stepped down off the platform, scowling.

"Don't you have anything better to do?"

"No."

He sighed in annoyance, then walked over to the railing near her. Leaned back against it, fluttering his wings against his back until they settled to his satisfaction. She watched him the whole time with a rapt, unblinking stare. Just like a snake, he thought suddenly.

"There are about half a dozen incredibly large files in the database on exactly when and where and how I ended up blue. Read those if you need answers. I don't feel like talking about it."

"Touchy," she said mockingly, lifting her chin slightly.

"You feel like telling me how you became a whore?" he asked, annoyed. Not exactly like a snake after all, he thought; she had eyelids. She blinked them at him several times to prove it. He was briefly sorry. Knew that he'd stepped over a line and hurt her. And he might even have apologized if he hadn't seen her use her mutant power on Bobby for profit. If he hadn't witnessed the taunting way she reduced his friend to a shuddering, groaning, satiated heap on the floor with a simple touch. Ecstasy through hormonal control. Then her eyes narrowed and a hard look came over her face.

"No, I don't. Were you always an asshole too?"

"Yes. Are you done staring at me yet?" he shot back coldly. Irritated with himself now. She glared at him, then opened her mouth and her tongue showed briefly between her teeth as she sucked in a sharp breath. It was an odd gesture. It unsettled him slightly. Which in turn annoyed him.

"I've never seen wings on anybody before. So sue me for being curious," she said with a careless shrug.

With his own eyes narrowed, he stretched his wings up behind him, spreading them wide and high up over them both. She went very still. Her eyes widened almost comically and she stared at them as if mesmerized, her expression relaxing from wary scorn into simple wonder. He felt a lurching in his stomach. It had been a long time since he'd noticed that kind of reaction to his wings. A long time since he'd even bothered to look for it.

He brought them down slowly, scooping them forward around them both. Her gaze tracked the wing closest to her in fascination. The long flight feathers brushed against the railing she sat on with a dry sound, making her start slightly.

Her mouth had rounded into a little 'o' of surprise. And to his shock, it made her look very young and he wondered just how old she really was. Her scaled skin gave her a smooth, ageless quality. She reached out and trailed a tentative finger down the edge of the lead flight feather. He felt the touch only as a faint quivering. The feathers had no sensory ability themselves, but if the touch was firm enough, it was transmitted to the root where it grew from his skin. The skin of his wings themselves was very sensitive, however. That sensitivity was what gave him his control in flight.

She glanced over at him, eyes wide. A light of awed discovery in her gaze. His mood softened slightly. He let his wing remain, extended toward her. She touched another feather hesitantly, then stroked down the shaft with the grain carefully.

"Do you feel that?" she asked in a hushed, wondering tone. He let the corner of his mouth turn up. It wasn't quite a smile.

"In a way," he said. Then he straightened up and took a step closer, crooking his wing sharply around her. He scooped her off the railing with ease. She gave a yelp of surprise as his wing first touched her, then her arms flailed briefly as she lost her balance and slipped to her feet beside him. Inside the circle of his wings.

"Hey, what's the deal..." she began, then trailed off when she realized how close he was standing to her. She closed her mouth with a snap and stared up at him as he looked down at her. And he remembered the sinewy strength of her from when he'd wrestled her to the floor after she attacked him at the brothel. She had some dangerous moves, but he'd lived for two years with a ninja and fought far longer as an X-Man. She'd never stood a chance. He lifted his own hand then, watching her the while. Her mouth was open slightly again, the end of her tongue laying against her bottom teeth. A decidedly odd habit.

"Touch for touch," he said quietly. Then he trailed a finger lightly down her cheek. The skin there was smooth and only faintly ridged. Not truly scaled, but not simply human skin either. It was surprisingly soft. Her yellow-green eyes went wide and she backed away from him until she was stopped cold by the barrier of his wings.

She seemed surprised by their strength. A common enough reaction which never failed to amuse him. How did people think he managed to carry his own weight - not to mention the weight of others - through the air if not by main strength? People often assumed his flight was effortless; because he was so strong he knew it often appeared that way. But it was a hard-earned strength. And he used only a fraction of it now to keep her there in front of him.

She was slender, but whipcord tough. A fighter who had waded into battle without hesitation. Lean and fit and hard. Her long limbs were covered now in loose sweats, but he remembered the pale yellow scales on her belly, the rust and black diamond pattern that ran down her back, and also along the sides of her arms and legs. Idly noted the odd silvery-hard sheen of her fingernails, the sleek shine of her short black hair, the dark red of her lips; and the startling yellow-green gleam of her eyes. There was no way she could hide what she was. A mutant.

Then he remembered the brave little speech the house madam had given Bobby. On mutants empowering themselves by not hiding what they were. But by running a whore house? The memory fanned his anger.

"How many?" he asked, his tone silky smooth as he watched her from under half-lidded eyes.

"What? How many what?" she asked, her voice thin and a little shaky.

"How many men did you drop writhing to the floor like Bobby?" he asked, a small smile touching his mouth. He felt cold and remote. As if it didn't really matter. Yet it did. It always did.

She bared her teeth at him in a hissing snarl. "'Angel' certainly doesn't mean nice, does it?"

"Archangel. A warrior angel. And I've rarely been accused of being nice. How many?" he asked again shaking his head without ever moving his gaze away from her eyes. For a moment she seemed disconcerted, almost alarmed. Then a sneer crossed her lips and a cold veil dropped behind her eyes. She swayed toward him, running her gaze over him speculatively, her tongue flicking out briefly along her bottom lip. Her very full bottom lip.

"You're not all covered up now, pretty boy," she said softly, lifting her hand toward him. "That makes it my kind of game..." He raised his chin and let steel enter his gaze.

"Be very careful," he warned her. Her hand hovered inches from his bare chest.

"I have to play nice and you don't?" she sneered, letting her gaze wander over his face, his throat, his chest. Insolently. "I don't think so." She closed the distance to the skin over his collarbone and he made no move to stop her. Simply watched. Her touch was slightly cool, her mottled fingers pale against the blue of his skin. Then her fingers skimmed down his heavy pectoral muscles, her thumb brushing the darker blue nipple. It peaked instantly at the contact but nothing else happened. Yet. He glared at her, holding still. Not pushing her away, even though he knew she could induce nausea as easily as ecstasy. And he wasn't eager to experience either one at her hands.

Then she looked up into his eyes and her tongue came out and ran along her bottom lip again. She stiffened subtly, anger rising behind her eyes. "You said you sent Drake in there to find out what was going on because he looks the most like a human - or was it really just because you aren't interested in women?"

"What makes you think that?" he asked with cold precision, watching her closely. Her fingers trembled against his chest, uncertainty joining the anger in her gaze.

"I can taste pheromones," she said, opening her mouth and sticking her tongue out slightly. She drew it back in and swallowed hard. "He responded to me right away. But you - you're different." He watched her coolly. She looked shaken. Disturbed. Maybe even scared.

"I have better control than Bobby," he said flatly. "And I'm not interested in whores."

Raw pain flared in her eyes. She snatched her hand away from him as if his skin burned her. She tried to turn away, but his wings kept her there, surrounding her completely. She glared back at him, her expression hurt and furious and tense.

"Bastard," she snarled. He just raised a brow at her.

"Did you like being a whore?"

She flinched, shame wrinkling her brow. "It wasn't like that. They never touched me."

"No, you did all the touching, didn't you?"

The look of pain and shame was chased away by fury. She turned around to face him again, hands fisted at her sides, teeth bared as she glared up at him. He let his wings fall away from behind her.

"You are a complete bastard."

"So they tell me."

"Well, why don't you tell me, Mr. Filthy-Rich Bastard," she shouted suddenly, leaning close to him, "just how a girl who looks like me and does what I do can make a regular goddamn living, huh? I didn't have a rich daddy. I didn't have a fancy school for mutants recruit me. You don't know anything about my life, you self-righteous fuck, so back off!"

"I know you don't have a choice about being a mutant," he snapped, his own anger rising. "But you do have a choice about what you do. The best you could come up with was being a whore?"

The fist came at his face with impressive speed, but he managed to catch it anyway. She snarled at him and swung the other fist, teeth bared in a way that would make Wolverine proud. He caught that hand by the wrist too and hauled her against him to prevent her from kicking. Then he transferred both wrists to the grip of one hand and slid his arm tight around her back, trapping her against him.

He was vaguely surprised that she didn't use her mutant power on him. Then realized that if she made him nauseated, he'd puke all over her. As for the other… She struggled futilely against him. Cursing him loudly the while, glaring and hissing. But he held her with relative ease, wings spread wide for balance, his back still braced against the railing.

He gave her captured arms a shake and she went silent, glaring up at him. Her breasts were flattened against his bare chest, her legs tangled with his. She jerked back against his hold one last time, then went still.

"You definitely need more training," he said, staring down into her heated eyes. "I'll schedule time for you with Wolverine."

"Bastard," she snarled. "Who are you to tell me what I need?"

"This is that chance you were whining about not having, Stacey," he ground out. "Don't waste it."

She glared up at him for a long moment, yellow-green eyes unblinking as she searched his expression. Then they welled with moisture and she swiftly closed them, turning her face sharply to the side. He could feel her draw a deep breath and let it out on a shaky sigh.

"I hate you," she said, her voice low, her teeth clenched.

"Get over it," he replied, unmoved. "If you want to stay on the team, you've got a lot to learn."

"Like how to fight better?"

"Among other things. Everyone pulls their weight. You are going to get crash courses on computers, surveillance equipment, weaponry, piloting, equipment maintenance, experimental technologies..."

"So I don't pull another dumb stunt with a teleportation net?" she cut in sharply, glaring up at him again, referring to the way she'd ended up as a prisoner of the Church of Humanity.

"Yes. And we'll have to study your mutant power too. Find out exactly what you can do with it - other than make people orgasm or throw up," he said, looking into her suddenly uneasy eyes. "I shouldn't be able to keep you here this easily. Not with skin to skin contact. Why didn't you use it on me? I certainly made you angry enough."

Her skin was more human-like than it appeared. A flush ran up her cheeks, vanishing into the heavier scales around her jaw and forehead. She caught her lower lip in her teeth and transferred her gaze to his wing beyond his shoulder. She shuddered against him.

"I hate it when people puke all over me," she said quietly.

"That's not all you can do," he replied just as quietly. She shuddered again and tugged on her imprisoned wrists. He let them go, but didn't relax his arm from around her waist. She rubbed at her wrists, holding her hands away from his skin. "Why didn't you bliss me out, Stacey?"

"I don't like to do that," she said, her voice even softer than before. She glanced up at him, then quickly away, licking her lips nervously. "To people I... know."

He arched a brow, giving her a dubious look. She flushed again and pushed firmly against his chest, all the defiance and anger and unease gone from her expression. Replaced by cool caution. He let her go and she stepped away, rubbing her upper arms as if suddenly cold.

He watched her for a moment longer then walked across the roof to where he'd left his heavy uniform. He laid the jacket and the suit over his arm and gathered up the boots in his free hand before he paused a moment. Then he stretched both wings up high and wide - something he couldn't do very well indoors. Spreading the feathers to their full extent, he ran his gaze over them carefully, wondering how much grooming they would need after the long day. A few were frayed, but not badly, and if he tended them now, they'd stay in good condition. His stomach rumbled, reminding him what had pulled him out of the air in the first place. Food. Then sleep, maybe, if he could keep his concern for Hank out of his mind. He should call Westchester for an update. He settled his wings against his back with a few deft flicks.

"You lost one," he heard her say from behind him. She was standing where he had left her, her arms still wrapped around her chest. Yellow-green eyes fixed on him. He looked down at the ground. A single white feather lay there, gleaming in the dim light of the city.

"I lose them all the time," he said with a small shrug. "They grow back. I'm going in now. Are you?"

She shook her head. He shrugged and walked into the hanger, then to the elevator. It was a dedicated car, only used between the four top floors he'd appropriated for the team. It arrived with a discreet ding and he stepped inside, keying the living floor.

He looked up as the doors slid silently closed to see Stacey crouch down to pick up the feather he'd left behind.

- - fin - -