Angel declares that she likes the looks men gave her when she dropped her clothes better than the ones she gets for being a mutant freak, and Raven wonders, just for a moment, if she’d even consider the looks women might give her. The looks Raven would give her.
The thought stings. She shouldn’t be thinking about that. She never thinks about that.
She remembers finding out that that part of herself was just as abnormal as the rest. She remembers being fourteen, and the sudden realisation that the pang of longing she sometimes felt when looking at a pretty girl was more than envy, more than just a desperate wish not to be scaly and blue.
She remembers going to Charles, confused and frightened. She remembers how his eyes rose from his book, brow furrowed. She remembers the exact moment shock replaced concern on his face. Most of all, she remembers the way he took her hands in his and told her that she shouldn’t be feeling this, and that if she couldn’t help feeling it she should never, never act on it.
(She was surprised at the time, that Charles, her Charles, the one that had taken one look at her true form and smiled more broadly than she’d thought possible, felt so strongly on the subject. Surprised at the panic and pain he couldn’t keep from his voice. Of course, now she sees the way he looks at Erik when he thinks nobody’s looking – desire, shame and that same fear clinging to the edges of friendship and love – and she understands.)
The next day, she made him promise he wouldn’t look into her mind anymore. She hadn’t minded until then, because what better proof was there that she wasn’t alone? But as it turned out, she had been alone; and her mind was as defective as her body.
She hid it, the way she hid her skin under a layer of beige and her hair under strands of blond. By the time Charles started charming aloof co-eds by waxing lyrical about heterochromia, freckles and dominant life-forms, it had all merged in her mind. She likes stubble and broad shoulders just as much as she likes the soft curve of breasts and high, musical voices; the colour of her skin is part and parcel with the ability to change it at will – and so what if one is everything she yearns for, and the other something unnatural that she hides at all costs and can’t help hating herself for sometimes?
Men and women, scales and flesh – they’re all part of her nature, and so it isn’t really a lie.
It isn’t a lie, she tells herself again and again. It isn’t.
Angel, her big, dark eyes, her long legs and her shimmering wings end up leaving with a ruthless, destructive bastard that called her a queen, and Raven feels the possibilities that she’d been so sure she hadn’t considered crash and burn.
But Hank is endearingly awkward, and he finds her (her mutation) fascinating. He knows how it feels. And she can be sure he wants her back. So it was probably for the best, really.
Later, Erik tells her that he’d rather see the real Raven, Charles refuses to look what he supposedly accepts in the face (again), they save the world only for it to spit in their faces, and the fragile construction of delusions and half-truths she’s so carefully maintained all this time shatters in a million pieces.
The world is a narrow minded, hateful place, filled with narrow-minded, hateful people. Humans, mutants, people like her, "normal" people, hating others, hating themselves – it doesn't matter, and she won’t have any of it.
She understands Charles still, and leaving her brother lying in the sand is one of the most painful things she’s ever done.
But understanding is not forgiveness.
This world is not for her, and so she’ll build a new one. Somewhere she can be proud.