Riptide, Janos, loved to dance, more than any man Angel had ever met before. But he did, as she found in the months after they became the Brotherhood. She found out many things about her new family in that time frame. Raven, Mystique, missed her brother so much she cried at night, sometimes. Emma Frost, far from the cold and calculating woman she had appeared to be, was warm, and funny. Azazel still frightened her, but eventually, underneath the brutality and scars, she saw a man who told stories about home and friends, who smiled often.
And Janos loved to dance. Emma would put the radio on, or a record, and Janos would dance with them, leading easily, gracefully. They danced to anything they could find, and Angel loved every minute of it. It was how they wound down after a day, how they grew close.
Sometimes though, Azazel would sit in the room with him, doing some menial chore like sharpening his blades, adjusting the sights on the various rifles and handguns littering the place, or just playing solitaire. He was a quiet man, generally, and Angel just assumed he liked the company.
Except after a time, she noticed how his eyes always followed Janos. No matter what girl was with him, Azazel watched, subtly, head bowed over his task like he wasn't. But Angel knew how to read a man, and Azazel likely didn't even realize he needed to guard himself from her. Men always underestimated her, whether they meant to or not.
She had wondered about the dynamics of the relationships between the Hellfire Club. She was positive Emma and Shaw had been sleeping together, and she even spoke of him with something close to affection, but there was a tiredness to it that Angel knew all too well. She didn't pretend to mourn him, and Angel respected her for that. As for Azazel and Janos, she had speculated that maybe, just maybe, there was a reason Janos never seemed to care about hers and Emma's admittedly revealing outfits, or Mystique's complete lack of one. Azazel never seemed to care one way or the other, though Mystique's nudity had gotten a raised eyebrow.
Queer men were nothing new to her, and she thought maybe Emma was just as used to that part of the world as she was, but she didn't dare ask for fear she was wrong. Working where she had though, she had encountered more than one man who was only there for show, and at certain other clubs, clubs she didn't want to think about ever again, there had been men employed as well, normally feminine kinds who were just as likely to wear lipstick as she was. Neither Janos or Azazel fit that type, but she just could not believe that a man who liked women would not at least give her or Emma an interested look.
So when she noticed how Azazel followed Janos around the room, it lent a bit more to her theory about them. They never touched though, except during teleportation, and if Azazel thought no one ever noticed how he tried to hold Janos' hand, he was an idiot. Then again, when she tried to hint around the subject with Mystique, all she got was a confused look and a complete lack of understanding.
She watched carefully, when she had the time, trying to see if there was anything there, or if she was just writing stories out of boredom.
She did not know Azazel well enough to know if she was right about him or not, she thought, but she was almost positive that the look in his eyes was longing.
And she did know Janos well enough by now. He looked to Azazel often, when he thought he could, and he sought Azazel out when they weren't busy. He stood beside Azazel in meetings, listened to him with smiles that any woman could tell were flirtatious, and when Azazel once casually mentioned that he liked the color blue, she did watch and notice that Janos wore the color more.
One night as she danced with Janos to a new record Azazel had obtained for them, she watched Azazel as subtly as she could, and studied the way his blue eyes followed Janos, making absolutely sure that she was seeing what she thought she was seeing.
It was there for sure, that deep longing that made her want o reach out to him in empathy.
Okay then, she thought, okay then.
She waited a week before she said anything, making sure the words felt right. She needed to seem genuine.
When she went to Janos' room, she found him seemingly debating over two ties.
“The blue looks better with that shirt.” He turned to her with a smile, and selected the blue, likely just to be appeasing. He really was a good man, she thought, despite how brutal he could be. But then, she had seen in the battle that Hank, who she had previously thought of as the most gentle man in the world, good men could be just as violent as bad men.
She had no idea what side she fell on.
“Janos,” She asked, looking at her feet. “What do you think of Azazel?” His fingers faltered on his tie, but he recovered so quickly that if she hadn't been watching, she never would have noticed.
“Well, it's just,” She brushed her hair behind her ear. “Once you get past his face,”
“There's nothing wrong with Azazel's face.” He said defensively, playing right into her trap.
“I know that. That's why I was wondering, you know, what you thought of him. As a man.” Janos' face was definitely less warm now, as he studied himself in his mirror, fixing his hair needlessly.
“He is a good man.” Janos answered shortly.
“That can't be all you think of him,” She teased, trying to keep up her act when all she wanted to do was shake him. “You've known him for years.”
“Angel, what is the point of this?” He asked, his voice steady, but a little desperate.
“Maybe I'm interested.” His face fell, but it certainly wasn't over her. She stepped in, and shut the door. “Or maybe giving me a cheat sheet is a conflict of interest?” He bit his lip and refused to meet her eyes, tugging on his shirtsleeves.
“Angel, is a misunderstanding,”
She touched his hand, gently.
“Janos,” She assured, “It really doesn't bother me.”
“If you are really interested in him, do not-,” He swallowed. “Is stupid, I know. Ridiculous.”
“Have you ever even tried?” He shook his head. “Well then, maybe you should.”
“So he could stab me?” His tone was almost incredulous, if not for how sad it was. “No, no.”
“Or maybe you could start paying attention, to how he watches you. I think he wants you back. You'll never know until you try.”
“Easy for you to say Angel!” He shot, pulling away from her. “You are normal, able to be what you are supposed to be.”
“Are you kidding me?” She demanded. “Do you see these things on my back? The color of my skin? Do you have any idea how hard it was for me to get a job? Why do you think I was working strip clubs? It certainly wasn't for the atmosphere.”
“I am sorry,” He conceded, holding up his hands in surrender. “That was unfair.”
“It's cool. Whatever.” She shrugged it off, feeling overly-sensitive. Just because she was darker than him didn't mean he didn't get the same shit she did his whole life. The queer-versus-woman thing probably evened them out, in the end.
“You just cannot understand this Angel. Azazel and I have been through much together. He is my closest friend, and to lose him would be unthinkable.”
“But you're miserable like this.” For his part, he did not deny it, just looked away, his hands in his pockets. “And when you dance with us, god, you should see how he looks at you. Like he wants you so badly he can't stand it.” He shook his head still, and she gave up. There was no budging him, and she knew better.
“I cannot.” He insisted quietly.
So she let it go, and that seemed to be the end of it. Except now Janos seemed even more unhappy, and she wasn't the only one who noticed. Once, she had the displeasure of seeing him rebuff Azazel, who had only asked Janos if something was wrong. He had been sharper than she ever thought he could be, and the way it had hurt Azazel made her own heart ache. Azazel had been quiet the rest of the night.
Until the day came when Azazel was nearly killed.
It had been so close, he had barely grabbed Angel and Janos in time, but he had, and he had taken a knife to the stomach for his troubles.
Janos had taken care of him directing Angel and Emma while he worked, carefully stitching him up. The panic in his face hadn't left the entire time.
She passed the patio at one point, and saw the bandaged Azazel sitting out there alone, smoking, the radio playing. When she walked upstairs, she found Janos in the bathroom, gripping the sides of the sink, looking sick.
“Is this how you really want it to be?” She asked.
“Angel, not now,”
“No, now. We could have lost him, and he would never have known. You would never know what it's like to get to be with him-”
“Angel, be quiet,” He almost gasped, but Angel rolled right over him.
“No, I won't. If you don't tell him, I will Janos. This isn't fair to either one of you. So tell him. Please, Janos, just tell him.”
“I just cannot.”
“That's bullshit.” She hissed. “You're just a fucking coward. If you really cared about him, you wouldn't hide this from him, not when he's so obvious. He stayed behind for you, not me. He took that knife for you, because he cares about you.”
“Do you think I do not realize that?” He turned to her at last, and she saw how red his eyes were, how badly he was shaking. “Do you think I want that?”
“You can't make his choices Janos,” She said, almost wanting to cry herself. “You really can't. But you have the chance now, to be with him. So don't just run from it like this.”
“I just,” He didn't seem to have an ending for the sentence, words that would adequately express what he was feeling.
“He's downstairs.” She told him, her throat tight. “Ask him if he wants to dance.”
Then she walked away. There was only so much she could do for them, so much she could force Janos into. But she had seen Azazel's face when Janos fell, the way he had stiffened before teleporting forward with her hand gripped in his, to Janos' side. She had known then for sure that she was seeing what she thought she was seeing all along. And if Janos was too afraid to go after what he wanted, then he was an idiot, and he didn't deserve what Azazel was offering.
Later on, she walked past the patio again, the strains of music getting through the doors. Her heart leaped into her throat as she realized what she was seeing after a moment.
Azazel and Janos, Azazel leading.
She kept right on walking, so as not to intrude on something that was none of her business now.
After that night, whenever she danced with Janos, she still occasionally looked over at Azazel, to watch how he watched Janos. The desperate longing was gone.
She liked what had replaced it so much more.