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these wings are nothing like a gift

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James' phone buzzes when he's halfway across the street to Pauly's. It's a text from Pauly, which seems really pointless when he's nearly there and Pauly can tell him things in person. He needs coffee before reading; Pauly should know that by now.

He bangs on Pauly's front door. Pauly shouts, "go away, I'm not home" from inside, which is fairly normal, though James doesn't think he did anything particularly annoying lately. He sighs and shuffles around to the back of the house where Pauly always forgets to lock the sliding door.

There's a giant bird on Pauly's kitchen table, James thinks blankly. Why is there a bird?

He blinks. The image doesn't really make any more sense now that he can see that Pauly is...kind of under the bird, his head on the table? It's weird.

"Fuck off, this isn't the time," Pauly groans.

"Why is there a bird?" This feels like the most important question. "Pauly, why do you have a giant bird, and why are you letting it sit on you?"

Pauly sighs. "There isn't actually a bird." Which is stupid because James can see it.

Only it kind of goes weird as Pauly stands up, and Nealer doesn't know where it goes, and is it too much to ask that this is a hallucination brought on by lack of coffee?

"There was a bird," he says helplessly, and that's when wings burst out from behind Pauly, flapping wildly, and James is just done with this morning.

--

"But how?" he's still saying plaintively half an hour later, as he drinks Pauly's coffee and Pauly glowers at him from where he's hunched over the breakfast bar. Like a hawk, what with the wings and everything.

"I don't fucking know!" Pauly repeats. His wings flap, as they seem to do when he gets agitated. One swipes James upside the head for about the fifth or sixth time.

"How does something that looks that soft hit that hard?" James says, reaching out to touch it. His hand runs smoothly across the rust-coloured surface. It's kind of bony underneath when he presses on it, though his fingers slide silkily across the closely packed feathers.

Pauly shivers and yanks the wings in tighter. "Don't," he says, voice clipped.

James pokes at them again. "But how do they work, seriously? You didn't have wings before, did they grow or what?"

Pauly's knuckles are white on the countertop. His wing hits James in the head again as they stretch abruptly and then fold back tightly against his back. "Stop touching them. I don't know anything about it. I woke up like this, and I don't know how to fix it." His voice is shaky by the end, and James thinks this is more nerves than he's ever seen from Pauly, even in the playoffs.

He wraps his hands around the coffee mug to keep them busy, and tries to wake up properly. "Have you spoken to one of the team doctors?"

Pauly looks skeptical. "Yeah, I'll just drive to the rink. It'll go fine. No one will notice anything weird." He turns to face James, gesturing at himself, wings flexing behind him as if to emphasise the point.

He's shirtless. And the wings are kind of huge. James can see his point, though he thinks it was a good suggestion anyway. "Maybe Google?" he tries.

Pauly glowers at him, and hunches over his coffee again.

James pulls out his phone and tries to see if Google has anything to say about spontaneous wings. It's not very successful, though Pauly relaxes a bit after a while and starts looking over his shoulder. They run through a variety of deeply weird sites about angels, including some really baffling porn, but there isn't much else, and Pauly just gets grumpy again when James asks if he's sure he isn't some kind of divine whatever.

James remembers eventually that he said he’d go see one of the trainers about something today, and has to take off. He’s apologetic about leaving Pauly to deal with this, but he thinks Pauly might be a little bit relieved to be alone: he looks sort of tense around the eyes. James offers to bring up the wings with one of the doctors at the rink, but he only gets sarcasm in return.

He does it anyway, or at least tries to, but maybe it’s too subtle because the trainers start asking pointed questions about how his shoulders feel. He has to spend a lot of time persuading them that he’s not hiding some kind of upper body injury before he can go and do his workout, and he doesn’t manage to leave the rink until much later in the afternoon. He’s in the parking lot debating whether or not he should go back to Pauly’s when Pauly texts him. It just says I hate this, I have no booze and I can’t leave the fucking house, but having a plan really feels like a weight off of James’ shoulders, even if he’s pretty sure that Pauly didn’t find out that alcohol was the cure for inexplicable feathers while he was gone.

Pauly’s standing on the patio when James gets back the house, flexing his wings in the air. They look even larger fully spread with the wind ruffling the tips of his feathers. “Fuck, can you fly now?” James blurts. Paul looks scathing again and snatches the beer from his hands before stalking into the house.

James is kind of hoping to persuade Pauly to try, at least indoors, but the way Pauly’s slumped over the table when he walks into the kitchen stops the words in his throat. Pauly shoves a beer in his direction without looking up. “We’re going to get very drunk, and hope that this is a hallucination,” he rasps out.

James isn’t sure that will solve anything, but he’s also sort of hoping that Pauly’s right and he’ll wake up soon or come down off the drugs or something. He takes the beer.

--

They migrate to the living room eventually, Pauly getting crankier about how none of his furniture accommodates wings at all as he gets steadily drunker. He flops down on the sectional, face first. The wings spread out some, covering his head, the full span of them drooping to brush the floor. James sprawls out beside him.

They keep drinking, Pauly lifting his head just enough to get the beer to his mouth, still sacked out on his front. James wants to say something reassuring, but he can’t think of anything, just passes Pauly another beer when his runs out. He’s sort of staring, but he thinks wings really should be enough of an excuse. They’re just…there and…wing-y and confusing.

He strokes the span next to him that covers Pauly’s head. It’s still silky smooth against his fingers. Pauly grunts.

“They’re kind of cool?” James offers, trying to be comforting. “They feel sort of neat, man. Have you tried this?

Pauly moves; James thinks he might be shaking his head. He pets the wing closest to him again. “You should, it’s kind of weird, but kind of cool.”

He takes another swig of his beer, his other hand still resting on Pauly’s crazy wings. Pauly isn’t really responding, but that’s fine. James can just sit here and be reassuring and a good friend. “It’s going to be okay, probably,” he says, leaning back and stroking absently across the feathers again.

He’s sort of zoning out on the feeling of the wing beneath his hand, and probably a little too much beer when Pauly starts shaking a little. “You okay, buddy?” he asks. Pauly grunts. His wings fold in, then flex out again. James can see the muscles in his back move as they spread to their full width. It’s kind of trippy, even if the place where the wings join to Pauly’s back is covered with tiny fluffy feathers, and he can’t really see it properly. The feathers look really soft though.

They totally are. There’s kind of a weird bone in what seems like absolutely the wrong place on Pauly’s back, but the feathers that cover it are super fluffy and nice. James digs his fingers into them, and Pauly makes a weird noise into the couch cushions. James yanks his hand back at once. “Shit, does that hurt?”

Pauly’s voice sounds like it’s coming from a long way away when he mumbles, “no, it’s fine.”

James grins. “Cool.” He puts his hand back, stroking the down on Pauly’s back, and up the curve of the wing where the feathers become smooth and flat, interlocking cleanly against each other. It’s kind of a weird transition so he does it again, and then again. Pauly moves under his hand, and James tries to soothe him.

Pauly’s wings flex slightly under his hands as he strokes them. They really do feel strong enough to fly with, though James doesn’t really know a lot about birds, or if that would even apply here. “This feels really cool,” he says, completely inadequately.

Pauly shivers violently. James shushes him, running his fingers through the down on Pauly’s back again. Pauly doesn’t quite stop moving, restless under James’ hand, but he seems more settled as James strokes firmly along the wings, pleased that something he can do is helping at least.

When James lifts his hand for a moment to lean forward and stick his empty beer bottle on the coffee table, Pauly moans.

He cuts himself off at once, while James is still blinking in surprise, or maybe the sound’s just swallowed up in the hissing rustle of feathers as the wings flap wildly. Pauly flinches, rearing back, and falls off the couch, wings still beating uselessly at the air.

There’s a split second where Pauly’s suspended in the air. James has just enough time to think that maybe he could fly after all, before Pauly falls to his hands and knees, red-faced and panting. The wings don’t really fit between the couch and the coffee table; they’re kind of squashed and pulled at awkward angles all at once. It looks really uncomfortable.

He puts a hand on Pauly’s shoulder. “You okay there?” Pauly doesn’t respond, though his wings move restlessly, bumping up against James’ hand. “You’re freaking me out here. C’mon, stand up.” He reaches out a hand to yank Pauly to his feet.

Pauly’s weight is all wrong and unbalanced though, and James isn’t super steady right now anyway, so when Pauly’s wings start flapping wildly, they both go down this time. James lands on top of Pauly whose wings are spread out beneath the two of them and curving around them, still trapped between the couch and the table to make a valley of feathers with the two of them at the bottom.

“Shit, are you okay?” James says frantically, trying to run a hand across the bits of Pauly’s wings that he can reach to make sure that they didn’t break them or something in the fall.

“Yeah, I’m fine-” Pauly says brusquely, breaking off as his hips snap up sharply once, and James is abruptly aware that Pauly is hard against him. That, even more than the wings makes this feel vaguely unreal.

Pauly gasps, “fuck it,” and then James is being kissed, Pauly licking into his mouth sure and desperate. His fingers clutch at plumage, and Pauly groans. It’s totally better than the times James has vaguely thought about this, Pauly’s mouth insistent and clever against his own.

Pauly’s bright red and he won’t look James in the eye when he breaks the kiss. James grins, running his hand across the curve of Pauly’s wings again, just to feel Pauly twitch, a full body shiver that makes James’ own dick decidedly more interested in the proceedings.

“Fuck off, they’re sensitive,” Pauly says, voice going ragged at the end as James trails his fingers across feathers.

“Yeah?” James pets along the outer curve of the wings again, grinning when Pauly jerks against him.

“Fucking tease,” Pauly grits out. “Put up or shut up or go away.”

James leans down to kiss him. “Hey, no, I’m into it.”

Pauly eyes him suspiciously. “You did find all that weird porn really fast… is this about the wings?”

James says, “no!” indignantly, though it maybe doesn’t sound that convincing when he’s simultaneously digging his fingers into feathers just to feel Pauly rut against him. Pauly certainly looks like he might argue if he wasn’t too busy swearing, hands clenched tight in James’ shirt, and head tipped back.

It’s too inviting a sight for James not to mouth at his pulse, nose in the faint stubble on Pauly’s jaw. He’s still lying awkwardly, maybe too much of his weight pressing down on Pauly, half propped on his elbows, but when he tries to move, his hands just sink deeper into feathers and Pauly groans, firm hands on James’ hips holding him steady as Pauly grinds against him.

He settles for stroking along as much of Pauly’s wings as he can reach, the texture still infinitely strange against his hands, especially as every touch jolts Pauly against him. It’s weird; he can’t quite make himself believe that the wings are part of Pauly, that touching them can have this effect. He can’t argue with the view though. Pauly’s face is flushed, though James can’t tell if it’s embarrassment or exertion, and the way his breath visibly catches in his throat with every movement of James’ hands is stupidly hot.

He can feel Pauly’s thigh between his own, tries to rut down against it. The angle’s off; the friction he gets is tantalising rather than satisfying, and Pauly’s hands are clutching him too tightly for him to move. He’s still into it though, arousal building slowly but surely with every move that isn’t quite enough.

Pauly’s own rhythm against James’ hip is increasingly ragged. James briefly entertains the thought of getting a hand on him, but it doesn’t seem worthwhile when they’re pressed so close together, and Pauly moans like he might be seconds away from begging when James tries to move one hand from where it’s tangled in feathers.

He kisses Pauly instead, enjoying the way Pauly just gives beneath him, panting wetly between open-mouthed kisses. The noises Pauly’s making vibrate pleasantly against James’ teeth, and he tries to pet more of the wings, make longer strokes, though they’re still too large for him to reach all of. He’s still balanced awkwardly on top of Pauly, but he doesn’t think Pauly’s going to let him move.

James can tell Pauly’s getting close, grip tightening, hips frantic, less smooth than before, but he’s still surprised when Pauly tenses underneath him, head thunking back against the carpet and his hips jerk in time to the wetness James can feel spreading across the front of his shirt. It doesn’t seem quite plausible, though technically nothing about this day has been particularly plausible. His own breath hitches when Pauly starts to loosen his grip on James’ hips, shifting so that his thigh is much closer to where James needs it to be.

Pauly grins up at him, a little wary. “So, uh, sorry about that?” he says, and James can only blink at him, and grind his own erection down against Pauly’s thigh, more desperate now that he’s not distracted by the way Pauly looked, spread out and writhing under him.

Pauly’s hands smooth up James back, cup his head for a slower, more thorough kiss than they’ve had. It’s hot as fuck, and yet not what James needs right now. He whines into Pauly’s mouth.

“I can take care of that for you?” Pauly says, like it’s a question. He pushes James back without waiting for an answer though, and James doesn’t know what to make of it at all until somehow he’s leaning back against the sectional, Pauly kneeling between his legs and kissing him, hands occupied with James’ zipper.

It’s a weird view when Pauly bends down to lap at James’ dick. Pauly’s practically the familiar part here – even though James thought they’d never be in this position – compared to the wings folding and unfolding across Pauly’s back and over James’ legs. James’ dick twitches against Pauly’s tongue, and he nearly shouts as Pauly sucks the head into his mouth firmly, flickering licks against his slit.

He reaches out at random, gets a handful of feathers, and the sound Pauly makes around his dick is mind-meltingly hot. James pets the wings again, as Pauly’s head starts to bob, and fuck, the way Pauly’s fingers tighten on his thigh is amazing.

Pauly’s wings are spreading wide now, as much as they can manage between the furniture. James can see Pauly’s back again, the patch of down in the centre, which, it turns out, he can just reach if he curls down, wrapping himself around Pauly. Pauly mutters, “oh, fuck” against the head of his dick as James digs his fingers into the down on Pauly’s back, and the vibrations feel like they’re melting into James’ bones.

He makes a helpless noise in the back of his throat, and Pauly mouths at him again, hand firm on the base of his cock, before sliding down, hot velvet wetness almost too perfect on James’ dick.

Pauly sucks him, slick and sloppy, head bobbing in James’ lap. His rhythm is a little ragged, but James’ can’t help continuing to stroke Pauly’s wings, running his fingers through the down on his back, nearly purring in satisfaction at the way Pauly arches up against his hands.

Pauly’s slow, and the way he stops, breath stuttering, when James strokes him is driving James fucking wild with anticipation. He’s so hard it fucking hurts, and he’s too bent over to get any leverage to thrust, even if that wouldn’t be fucking rude. His brain feels stripped of all extraneous thoughts, too concentrated on how good Pauly’s mouth feels to even do more than clutch desperately at Pauly’s wings and hang on.

James is swearing incoherently now, words mumbled above Pauly’s bobbing head, faster now, though no less maddening. He’s been so close for what feels like so long that his orgasm shocks him, curving him even closer around Pauly as he shakes through it. Pauly swallows and coughs, pulling back to wipe at his mouth with the back of his hand.

“Fuck, sorry,” James mumbles, though all he really wants to do is collapse. Pauly sits back on his heels and raises an eyebrow as if he can hear James’ thoughts.

His wings also somehow look judgemental, though James doesn’t really know how that’s possible, especially when Pauly looks that rumpled, neck still the tiniest bit flushed, and his sweats hanging off his hips, giant wet spot particularly obvious. He stands, and extends a hand to James. “You going to lie there forever?”

“Maybe,” James mutters, but he takes Pauly’s hand and drags himself to his feet.

Pauly shakes his head. “C’mon upstairs,” he says, putting an arm around James’ shoulders. “’M too drunk to send you home now.”

James isn’t as drunk as he was before, honestly, though he’s still sex-stupid enough to follow where Pauly leads him, shucking off his come-stained shirt and jeans when Pauly strips, and climbing into Pauly’s bed. There are other bedrooms in the house, he knows this, though it’s hard to remember why that matters when Pauly throws an arm and a wing across him, falling asleep on James’ shoulder almost at once, heavy and warm.

--

James wakes up to feathers tickling his face. Apparently yesterday wasn’t just a particularly convoluted sex dream. He rolls over, and Pauly’s there, flat on his back, still snoring faintly. It takes James a moment to work out why the feathers in his face and Pauly on his back don’t go together, but when he does it seems imperative to shake Pauly awake. Pauly finally opens his eyes suspiciously, and James says, elated, “your wings are gone!” because it’s true, and it’s wonderful.

Pauly still looks suspicious. James grabs a handful of the feathers that are still bafflingly scattering the bed and drops them on Pauly’s face as proof. It may be a tactical error as Pauly sputters, swiping at the feathers in his eyes, but his expression clears. He looks ridiculous grabbing at his own shoulder blades to check for himself, but also so joyously relieved that James can’t help kissing him in celebration.

There’s a half second where James thinks the sex was some kind of wing and/or alcohol induced dream, but then Pauly kisses him back, hands tangling in James’ hair. It’s nearly better than not having wings, though James’ mouth is too pleasantly occupied to tell Pauly that right now, Pauly warm, solid, and delightfully lacking in plumage as he pulls James closer against him.