“Are you crazy?!”
Wiccan sighed, looking up as his brother landed, claws digging into the sturdy wall to keep himself balanced. His tail whipped back and forth in aggravation.
“Magneto is going to kill you!”
“I couldn’t just let him die!”
“What part of ‘Absolutely no contact with humans’ don’t you understand?!” His wings ruffled as he stretched and folded them back quickly several times. “I swear, it’s like you’re trying to get us exiled!”
“Magneto’s not going to exile us,” he drawled, eyes skyward. Really, his brother could be incredibly taxing when on a tangent.
“Just because there’s a whole ‘Know who your descendants are’ rule in effect the last century does not mean he’s going to go any easier on us.”
His tail swatted his brother against the back of his head and Wiccan scowled.
“No humans, Wiccan! NO HUMANS! It’s not a difficult rule.”
“Just because you poked your head out of the egg first, doesn’t make you the boss of me.”
“Of course it does!”
Wiccan heaved a sigh and turned to climb the side of the building. Speed followed.
“You’ve really got to lose the fascination with the wingless wonders, Wiccan. They’re nothing but trouble.”
It wasn’t anything he hadn’t heard before. Magneto liked to preach about their superiority and how important it was that they never fall for human lies. They all knew the story. Once, when Magneto was no more than a hatchling, their clan had been betrayed by the very people who had been their friends and allies for over a millenia. The villagers had sacrificed them to save themselves; which ended up doing absolutely no one any good. Most of the clan had been destroyed or sold off as exotic collectors items, and even experiments and pets. Magneto himself had ended up in a lab where he’d witnessed the depths of human depravity, and the horrors committed upon him and his brethren still cast a shadow over the clan. He’d grown strong though, made allies and bided his time until he could escape. After doing so, he’d sworn to reconstruct the clan and return it to glory, even more blinding and powerful than it had been prior - back to the days of lore, when once they had been a majestic race, honored, respected and feared across the known world.
He took his oath seriously. And it was slowly choking them. Not that Wiccan was about to mention it. He rather liked the freedom to fly as opposed to being restricted to the manor.
“Magneto’s one to talk,” he grumbled as they took flight, wings stretching widely. “After all he and Charles-”
“How many times do I have to tell you not to bring that up?!” Speed hissed, catching him by the wrist. “You don’t point out the leader’s inconsistencies, Wiccan. Whether or not they’re flaws. That’s how you end up down the path of no return.”
“You say things all the time,” he snapped, snatching his arm away. “How’s it any different?”
Speed rolled his eyes and they banked left. As usual, his brother moved with so much grace and dexterity, Wiccan felt ungainly. It was almost unfair for it to be that effortless for Speed, when they were twins. A very rare thing for their kind, they were declared a miracle at first hatching and it had taken its toll. Speed seemed to be addicted to praise. Soaking it up and doing his best to keep it coming. Wiccan disliked the attention. Disliked even more that the circumstances of their hatching forced them into certain situations well beyond their control. Their twinhood bolstered their clan’s wealth and influence. It gave them power - more than just perceived power. It gave them outright abilities. Most of which Wiccan harbored and Speed controlled.
“When I say them, I give care to control every aspect of the statement. How it’s said, where, when and around whom. You have to think before you speak, Wiccan. You can’t just say whatever you like because the clan will be ours one day. It won’t be if we’re insubordinate. You know that.”
He did know that. He didn’t particularly enjoy the fact that their status gave them a higher than average chance at being chosen to begin with. But they were also of Magneto’s bloodline. Something that had never mattered to their kind until Magneto had made it so, when their numbers had fallen so low. After they had become weak, forced to hide in shadows and keep to themselves. Especially in this new land across the sea. He, Speed and their rookery siblings had all been laid and hatched on the shores of the land their clan now called home. Which meant they were even more of a secret. It was frustrating and confusing and lonely. Wiccan didn’t understand why Magneto couldn’t see that more humans were like Charles - their clan’s one and only friend, and the only one Magneto would listen to, even in his darkest rages - and less like the ones who had betrayed and destroyed their clan long, long ago.
Wiccan wanted to see the world. Wanted to meet people. Wanted a friend as loyal and devoted as Charles. Someone he could trust when the sun came up, who could trust in him when it went down. There was more to life than hiding in shadows and increasing their numbers in some desperate bid to survive. Numbers hadn’t helped them before. What good would they do them in the future? No, what they needed were allies. Tried and true, and lots of them. If only Magneto could see that. Charles would not be around forever - human lives were short, even advanced humans with special gifts. They needed assurance, they needed to make friends now. New friends, young friends. Make them and keep them, well into the long years of their lives and beyond the days of their passing.
The world was changing and they had no time to lose. It was a race Magneto didn’t even know they were being forced to participate in. And they were losing.
“Besides,” said Speed, wingtips brushing Wiccan’s in a fond caress as they glided along. “You know Charles is special.” He smiled. After a moment, Wiccan smiled back.
“We need someone special,” he told his brother in a moment of weakness.
Speed sighed. “Not this again.”
“We need more daywalking allies, Speed. You know we do.”
“We do,” he agreed easily enough. “But flying around, getting involved in random human affairs without a thought to their situation or how it’ll affect the clan is not the way to do it, Wiccan.” He glanced sideways, then with his usual ‘Fine, you win’ grin, he held his hand out, talons extended. Wiccan slipped his own into it and they gave a simultaneous squeeze. “I’ll talk to him. But, if I do, we do it my way. Understand?”
Wiccan tried to keep an innocent face as he nodded. They both laughed and spent the rest of the trip home in companionable silence.
Wiccan stretched widely, stone skin hitting the ground with energized speed. To his right, Speed hopped free of his perch, turning to face him, their tails tangling. “So...what do you want to do tonight?”
“You promised,” Wiccan reminded him.
“I did,” he agreed. Squaring his shoulders, he drew himself up, only to be interrupted by Juggernaut.
“Magneto wants to see you,” he informed them in a gruff voice. He wasn’t the friendliest so close to waking.
Speed smiled. “Well, look at that!” He grasped Wiccan by the face and kissed him full on the mouth. Laughing as he was shoved at like the meddlesome elder sibling he was. “You behave yourself now, while I go talk to Magneto. Don’t get into any trouble! It won’t help our cause.”
Wiccan mantled his wings, clasping them across his chest, even as his arms crossed the expanse. “I’m not a hatchling. I can manage to spend an evening out of trouble. Even without you around!”
His brother’s grin stretched into a full smile, awash in amusement and fondness. The tip of his tail flicked across Wiccan’s ear. And with a clasp of his talons to his twin’s forearm, he was off.
Keeping to the shadows, he followed the human with a clearly malicious agenda. He was trailing a blond who was taking a run in the park, a pair of earbuds settled securely in his ear canals, effectively smothering all sound. Really, Wiccan couldn’t understand how humans could have so little concern for their own well being. They were overall as a species, more trusting then skilled. Their communal nature was admirable. Yet, unlike the humans in the stories of his clan history, there were few warriors among them. Those that were were sent to far off lands to keep trouble from reaching the shores of their home. And in so doing, they completely failed to curtail the true root of all their issues. The troubles that stirred and brewed at home. Unlike Gargoyles, humans couldn’t seem to live too many to a specific area. The more diversity in their community, the greater the unrest and violence.
He made ready to pounce, as the malcontent picked up speed, lowering a shoulder to take his victim to the ground; a green body collided with him. Wings spread wide, talons outstretched as the human turned and gave a cry of fear. He kicked out, eyes wide and panicked and getting to his feet, ran off in a completely different direction from his intended target.
Wiccan blinked at the towering green figure as it looked around hurriedly. He was already descending when the other began to shrink.
“Wonderful capture, brother!” he greeted, wings sweeping back. “I’ve never seen--”
The other turned, wings half absorbed into his back and skin decidedly pink. He looked...well, probably as shocked as Wiccan. And then his eyes widened and he pointed with a very human finger. “I KNEW IT!!” he cried. “I knew you were real!”
“Of course I’m real!” Wiccan managed to snap, somehow channeling Speed’s arrogance at the perceived insult.
“And you can talk!”
When Wiccan failed to find a similar burst of communication, the boy continued. “I mean, this...this is amazing! My father...WOW! Look at you!”
Wiccan’s wings flexed back as the boy’s eyes swept over him, drinking in every curve and color.
A moment later, what he’d said permeated both of their conditions. The boy went red and scrubbed a hand over the back of his head. Wiccan’s tail whipped back and forth behind him.
“You aren’t one of us,” he managed - thankfully recovering not long after.
“No. I’m not.”
“You’re...an advanced human?”
“Something like that,” he replied with a shrug.
Wiccan tilted his head, observing him. Affording him the same courtesy of a thorough, full body assessment. The other didn’t so much as twitch.
“I’m Teddy, by the way.”
He crouched slightly, leaning sideways to look around him without moving.
“And umm....your name is?”
“Wiccan,” he replied without hesitation. His brother was right, he did speak out of turn with absolutely no concern for decorum.
“Hi,” said Teddy, waving as humans did when encountering friends.
“This is so cool!” he murmured, unaware of Wiccan’s sensitive hearing.
“What are you doing out here? And how did you change your appearance?”
“I’m helping.” He shrugged. “I have a gift, I might as well use it for the greater good, right?” He grinned and Wiccan felt something go unsteady within his core. “Besides, it’s fun.”
Wiccan nodded, straightening. He had a feeling he should leave, but the inclination to wasn’t presenting itself with any particular urgency.
“What about you?”
“I’m on patrol,” he answered, failing once again to do the right thing. He’d have to ensure his twin never found out about this. He’d never hear the end of it.
“Patrol?” Teddy echoed, interested. “Do you live around here?”
“Our territory stretches over several miles.”
His shoulders sunk at the sudden realization that he was behaving much like the hatchling Speed had teased him about being. “I have to go,” he said, desperate to do the right thing for Speed’s sake, even if it went against what he felt.
He looked down at the hand about his wrist. Teddy looked down as well, then sort of stared at it as if it were utterly foreign to him. As if he had no inclination how his hand had come to be there. After a long, tense moment, he released Wiccan, who didn’t leave as he had intended. He could see the hope flair in the blue eyes. The boy was pleased.
Wiccan was a dead gargoyle.
“Can...can we see each other again?”
“Tomorrow night,” his mouth replied without his common sense’s consent.
The boy lit up with something akin to happiness and Wiccan sighed internally. A big, big pile of dusty rubble. That was him.
He was nervous the entire flight home. If he was twitchy and obvious, Speed would question him and he would answer, because they were always honest with one another. Then all the careful planning and cajoling would be for naught. Speed would get upset, yell, and then forbid him to leave his company, trailing him for weeks and forcing him to part with his new friend. Wiccan wasn’t ready to give Teddy up. Wasn’t prepared to share him yet. He would have to be a secret - may the moon keep it for him, because it was going to be the most difficult thing he had ever done to evade his brother in order to keep him from finding out about the human.
As he approached the manor however, he was distracted from his own predicament by the feel of the air. He pushed forward, even as he was met halfway by some of his rookery siblings.
“Where have you been?!” demanded Patriot.
“Magneto is looking for you,” Stature gasped. “He’s sent out search parties! He’s not happy it’s taking so long to find you.”
Dread pooled in his stomach. “Does...does anyone know the reason?”
“Does it matter?” Patriot replied, tail thrashing slightly in agitation. “You’re here now. You’ve been found. We’re going to deliver you to Magneto personally.”
“Don’t worry,” Hawkeye soothed. She lowered her voice, drifting closer. “He isn’t as angry as it sounds.”
Wiccan hoped not. His eyes scanned their surroundings for Speed as he was escorted home, but he could find no trace of him. The dread became a knot of worry the longer his twin evaded his wandering sight. By the time he did locate him, he was so agitated and relieved, that he crossed over to him and wrapped him within a full body embrace. Arms, wings and tail clinging closely with equal pressure. Speed clutched back for a desperate moment, before his body drifted back in forced relaxation. Wiccan turned, following his twin’s line of sight and cleared his throat. He eased back, body snapping to attention at the look Magneto had pinned him with. And then the head of their clan gestured to his right.
“My apologies. I am certain Wiccan has a suitable explanation for his tardiness.” The way he said it implied he better have or else there’d be consequences. Wiccan wracked his mind for a way to phrase his evening without giving anything away.
Speed’s tail bumped his, and their tips twined. Wiccan relaxed and slipped into a bit of a bow. “I apologize for keeping you waiting,” he responded, sincerely. The twins’ wings brushed, an almost infantismal movement, but it lingered long enough for someone to see, for there was a sound of understanding, followed by, “Ah, I see.”
He wasn’t sure what they had been discussing, or why it had his brother so upset. Had no idea who had just spoken, though the voice sounded vaguely familiar.
“Well, Marvel? What shall it be?”
Everyone - including Wiccan and excluding Speed - looked to the tall Gargoyle across the room. Wiccan blinked, surprised that he had overlooked such an imposing individual. His concern for his twin had overpowered all sense and reason. Although, to look at him, he wondered if it also had not been the other’s intention as well.
He crossed the room to them, and Speed straightened, drawing himself up to his full height - which Wiccan noted was almost, but not quite equal to Marvel’s - and brushed his twin behind him by degrees, with a wing. Wiccan could feel the need in his twin’s body and affronted, returned the gesture. They struggled slightly, without any actual words or movements to bring attention to them, but Marvel noticed anyway. His sharp eyes seemed incapable of missing anything and after a long, intense stare, he turned and nodded. “If it is tradition, I consent.”
Speed’s eyes glowed slightly and he opened his mouth to protest, but Magneto cut him off. “If we are all agreed.”
Wiccan turned to his grandsire and frowned. He had not agreed nor consented. He was still unaware of what had occurred, and why there were strangers among them, nor what they wanted...It must have showed on his face when he finally figured it out, because Speed brushed his wing aside to take his hand.
He could feel the world shift sideways and continue spinning, threatening to shake itself free of the lot of them.
Magneto moved around them, wrapping the twins in one arm and Marvel in the other. Marvel, who was too busy eying them with a sort of measured hostility. Wiccan had no idea why he should be upset, he was by far getting the better end of the deal. Speed met Marvel’s gaze, a growl vibrating his chest. They glared at each other, and Wiccan couldn’t get an eye in edgewise as they were all ushered to the ledge.
“Friends, family,” Magneto said, once they were all visible to the rest of their respective clans. “Let us now greet the first of many days together! Where we once existed, cut in twain, we now face this new dawn reunited! Rejoice, brothers and sisters! For your futures are secure.”
A cheer went up around them, but it did nothing to warm the chill in Wiccan’s blood. Nor did the sun, whose first rays caressed his skin. For the first time in his life he was thankful that he had no choice when slumber came. For the anxiety that rankled every nerve would surely have kept him awake for a year.
As his body slowed and stiffened, turning even his heart to cool stone, Wiccan found his thoughts with Teddy. Strangely, he found himself focusing on how he was to explain this to him - someone, a human, who he’d just met.
Speed’s wings burst to sudden life about him, and his own instinctively followed suit. The sun’s final caress freezing the twins in a desperate tangle of consolation.