The last thing Warren remembered was being found under heavy pieces of rubble, grabbed and manhandled onto a stretcher and flown to the nearest hospital that had the appropriate equipment to deal with his many extensive injuries and who didn’t mind having a mutant in their trauma division who had metal wings sticking out of his god damn shoulder blades.
He woke up one day and a nurse took a tube out of his throat soon after, and as he stared up at the white panelled roof with the fluorescent lights, he wondered how the hell he got there, and how anyone knew to pluck him up from the rubble. Then he turned his head and saw Ororo sitting in the seat beside the bed, her long limbs tucked up to her chest, her eyes firmly fixed on the T.V as she watched the Simpsons. When he coughed, she jumped upright and reached for a plastic cup filled with water and pointed the straw at his lips without a word. Warren reluctantly drank from the swirly blue straw.
“Why are you here?” He rasped once she pulled the straw away from his lips. “You betrayed us when we needed you most. And now you’re here?”
Ororo leant back and crossed her arms against her chest. “That’s not a nice greeting for the woman who sent a search and medial team out to that hell site to save your ungrateful ass.”
“Whoever said I wanted to be saved?” Warren tried to growl but it came out more like a gasp.
Rolling her eyes, she placed the half-empty plastic cup back on the table. “We all wanted to be saved. If we didn’t want to be, none of us would have accepted his offer. Neither would you.”
Resigning because he knew she was right, Warren turned his half-hearted glare away from her and nestled deeper into the pillows. “Why did you come back for me? You left with Erik and his friends.”
“I did,” Ororo agreed with a nod of her head. “But on the way, I talked about you to the Professor and convinced him to go back for you. I think he’s going to let you join the school if you’d want to.”
“What the hell's he a professor of anyway?” Warren muttered under his breath and tried to adjust his wings to a more comfortable position. Seeing his struggle, Ororo sat forward and rearranged his pillows before helping him back down. “And as if anyone would want me to join the damn school.”
“The blue one you fought in the temple was very adamant about going to get you.” Ororo glared critically at her nails as she spoke. “And he was actually the one who put in the proposition about giving you a position among their ranks.”
Warren frowned. “The monkey?”
“No, you moron, the boy with the tail. Who teleports.”
Thinking back, Warren remembered the scared and desperate boy in the cage who was more interested in fleeing and avoiding Warren than attacking him. He had changed in the short time between escaping the cage and meeting again during the battle. He was still skittish and afraid and reluctant to fight, but despite Warren’s best efforts to subdue him, the boy still managed to not only avoid Warren’s grasp but escape with the rest of his team. “Why the hell would he want me to join? I tried to kill him. Quite a few times.”
Shrugging, Ororo shook her head. “He says he believes in second chances. He’s a nice kid, actually. His name is Kurt.” She added as an afterthought. “He’s still learning, but he’s one of their best. Rough upbringing, I think, he might have mentioned growing up in a circus but I might have gotten some details mixed up. There is… a lot of new people that I need to learn about.”
Sighing, Warren continued to stare at the ceiling and ignore Ororo who was definitely not staring at him out the corner of her eye. “And if I join the school? What then?”
“Well, I don’t feel so alone anymore.” Ororo dropped the act of being disinterested in the topic of conversation and leaned in close to Warren, her nails tapping lightly on the edge of the metal barricades. Warren hadn’t even noticed they were up until the sound reached his ears. “I have a home now, Warren. With running water and lights that I can turn on and off when I wish and so much food I don’t know what to do with. I feel safe for the first time in a long time. Even with him, I didn’t feel like this.” She ran a hand through her white hair absently, a nervous gesture that Warren had begun to associate with her, just like running his hand through his metal feathers that were no longer fluffy and soft to the touch. “There’s… finally a place for us. Somewhere that people will accept us for who we are. Who won’t ask too many questions about where we came from.”
She reached over and ran her hand gently down the length of Warren’s battered and glinting wings, and he was almost bitter about the fact that he could hardly feel her touch. “No more cage fighting. No more brutalizing our own to survive. No more hoping to be chosen for a beating just so you can be sure about your meals or your winnings or your safety.” She leant down close so she could whisper in his ear. “No more dreaming about a place where you are free from shackles and surrounded by friends and family. This place Warren… it’s everything I’ve ever dreamed of. Everything I’ve ever wanted. A home. A family. A meaning. I know that if you give it a chance, just a chance at least, that you’ll find something there that you’ve always wanted too.”
Warren tiled his face to look her in the eyes, but her face was so open and hopeful, that he had no choice but to close his eyes in resignation. “I’ll think about it.” The comment was worth it just to see the beaming grin on Ororo’s face, full of glee and excitement and pride.
Bending down, Ororo placed a kiss on Warren’s temple. She was about to say something else when a nurse in pink scrubs and a clipboard entered and informed them with a sympathetic wince that visiting hours were over before ducking back through the curtain and leaving them alone. “I guess I have to go,” Ororo muttered as she stood. “Do you want me to come back tomorrow? I can stay away if you’d like me to.”
Biting his lip, Warren thought in silence for a moment before he shook his head. “Not tomorrow. I think I want to be alone… with this.” He waved his hand bitterly at his situation. “But the next day?”
“Sure,” Ororo smiled and she tucked Warren tighter into the bed and ran a hand down the edge of his razor-sharp wings before walking to the curtain and following the nurse out of the room, leaving Warren alone in the hospital room.
A month passed with the constant visiting of Ororo and the irritatingly endless check-ups from nurses and doctors and physios who took care of his wings but didn’t actually seem to care about what happened to him, and it got to the point where he would look out the window and plot a plan regarding smashing glass and flying away from the terrible place.
His feathers started to fall out one by one, not in a shedding sort of way, but where the real white feathers grew back, the metal shell that once covered them and made them titanium strong and sharp as daggers dropped off, discarded. There was a small collection of metal husks on his bedside table that had begun to pile up as time went by.
One day, while Warren was twirling one of his old feathers in his fingers in an attempt to stave off boredom, he heard a voice in his head, kind and wise, and resisted jumping up in surprise. Hello Mr Worthington, my name is Charles Xavier. It has come to my attention from an acquaintance of yours that you have been considering attending our school, at least for sanctuary. Warren didn’t reply, sensing that the speaker could already know what he was thinking. If you wouldn’t mind, I’d like to send one of our students to come and collect you immediately so you could recover around those of your own kind. I feel as though you would prefer that to being in a hospital.
The presence left his mind and Warren felt like the decision had been made regardless of what he wanted, but his final thought before the student arrived was please not Kurt, please be anyone but Kurt.
There was a bamf! sound from Warren’s left and standing there, sheepishly twirling his tail around his body, was Kurt. Warren resisted a sigh. “Uh, hello.” Kurt said, reaching out a hand. “I’m taking you back to the institute. Can I…” He hesitated and Warren felt a twinge of guilt at how nervous Kurt seemed to be around him. “May I touch you? Will you hurt me?”
In answer, Warren held his arm out to give Kurt wordless permission and a weary yet genuine smile grew on Kurt’s face. He reached out and grabbed Warren’s arm and in a burst of smoke and a moment of weightless darkness, they were somewhere completely different, with a comfortable bed and a room that seemed to be a dorm. Beside his bed was already a man in a wheelchair- the same man they had captured all that long ago- who smiled kindly at Warren before turning to Kurt. “Thank you for that, Kurt. If you wouldn’t mind, me and Mr Worthington have much to speak about.”
Kurt nodded at the professor and smiled sheepishly at Warren before he disappeared and Warren was left alone with the older man.
Ororo and Kurt seemed to be the most regular visitors to his bedside while he was healing, giving him much-needed conversation and providing gifts of books and movies that Warren hadn’t even known he’d missed. Kurt seemed to be hesitant to get too close to Warren, but he came without fault. Once, when Ororo and Kurt passed paths in an instant before Kurt disappeared again, waving at Ororo, she turned to Warren with a smirk. “What?” he snapped once she sat down.
“He’s not all bad, is he?” She asked knowingly. “I think you should get to know him, once you’re up and about again.”
“He’s crazy,” Warren objected. “Who the hell would want to be this nice to a guy who not only tried to kill him but almost helped destroy the world?”
Ororo shrugged. “He’s nice to everyone. I don’t think he has a mean bone in his body. He’s just… pure.” She smiled. “He goes to church whenever he can and he’s just a very forgiving person.” Leaning forward, she placed a hand on Warren’s and smiled brightly. “You should talk to him. See what he’s like for yourself. Be friends with him if you want. But I think it’ll be good for both of you.”
“No,” Warren said immediately.
Clasping her hands under her chin, Ororo pouted. “Please? For me.”
Sighing heavily through his nose, Warren closed his eyes. “Fine.” He agreed reluctantly and he could see Ororo’s winning smirk through his closed eyelids.