feeling confined by the bustling cars and looming skyscrapers of manhattan, andrew and jason decide to travel out to the countryside for the day to get some fresh air. they meet in the park in the morning to plot their course, jason with his helmet and bike, and andrew with just a warm coat, his ever-present camera, and a backpack full of snacks. his moth daemon, quillen, is burrowed into said coat, wings tucked into the hood and body pressed to the back of andrew's neck to keep her from shivering delicately in the morning cold. after a brief discussion about their ideal destination, they agree on a winding mountain pass andrew spotted once while flying overhead.
"i don’t think many cars go out there. there should be plenty of room to bike. and fly," he explains with a slight grin, nodding toward the peregrine falcon daemon perched on the handlebars of jason's parked motorcycle.
"it'll be nice to let her stretch her wings," jason admits. "there's so much traffic in the city she has to sit on my shoulder half the time."
he looks over at remiel, who blinks at him with her perpetually serious expression before giving a firm downstroke of her wings and taking off. andrew's gaze and lens lift to capture the sight of her shooting into the sky, his bangs ruffled by her slipstream as she streaks past his shoulder and curves upward to loop idly above their heads, barred wings outstretched. she hardly needs to flap them at all to keep herself afloat, whereas andrew's own daemon's wings flutter like a heartbeat when she flies, their movements constant and fleeting as they strike against the air. quil crawls out of his hood, now, to observe, beadlike amber eyes following the falcon's easy glide. jason catches this, catches them both drinking in the sight of his daemon, and although he feels a twinge of self-consciousness at the attention they are giving this intensely private piece of him, he can't help but admire her as well.
"my mom cried when remi settled," jason tells andrew as they watch her circle above them, sunlight peering in thin shafts through the breaks between her feathers. "she didn't tell me why. later, kofi told me she looked just like my dad's daemon."
he's told andrew about his family -- about his absent father and the father who tried but never truly succeeded in filling the space he left -- but not about this. not until now. for some reason he feels the need to tell andrew what she means to him so when they fly together, he’ll understand. he keeps his eyes glued to the sky as he speaks, words soft and steeped in purpose.
"i always thought i didn't belong with them, but... from then on, i knew."
his mom had been teary-eyed for days after remi settled. it made him feel like he was an alien in the place he was supposed to call home -- like he was a mistake, never meant to exist there in the first place. he looked into his soul's piercing, yellow-rimmed eyes and saw the father he'd never meet staring back at him, silent and distant, his secrets buried eternally in the hollows of her bird-bones. he wanted desperately to find out who his father was, to find out why their souls matched, just knowing that when he did he would know who he was as well. but even after he learned his father’s name and who killed him, he still didn't know who he really was. the answers he sought were not going to be found in the town he was born in, in the town his father died in.
"eventually we had to leave. we couldn't stay in one place any longer."
he watches remi make another sharp loop in the air, unable to travel any further from him due to the invisible tether between them that keeps her heart tied to his. it's not right to keep a bird like that caged up. eventually even his own ribs began to feel like prison bars keeping them locked away from the truth that lay in the open road. the first time jason rode his motorcycle and remi got to soar higher and faster than she ever had before, he cried, too -- only his tears were tears of happiness rather than his mother's remorse. his fingers curl around the helmet clutched in his hands when he recalls the treasured memory, but his eyes never leave the sky where his soul revolves.
"she needs to fly," he tells andrew, with inexplicable longing tangled in his tone. "i need to fly."
andrew's gaze finally tears away from the falcon and lands on jason's upturned face instead. the sunlight glints off his camera's lens and the whites of his teeth as he smiles.
"then let's fly."
they were made to do this, andrew thinks. the two of them, the four of them. they were never meant to crash into the pavement like they did in the universes of their births. their souls always knew this, he thinks, and crafted themselves wings to inspire flight. jason may not be able to fly the way andrew does, but his wheels make up for his lack of wings and neither him nor the falcon above him ever fall behind as they soar through the mountains beside andrew. quil, who would never be able to keep up no matter how hard she fights the currents, remains safely tucked against andrew's collarbone in the folds of his jacket, hidden by the shadow of his chin. she is meant to fly in the quiet, somber times, when andrew cannot. but for now she enjoys the wind that rustles her antennae, bitingly cold compared to the warmth of andrew's sheltered skin.
andrew lets loose a holler of elation as he twists in the air alongside remiel, whose screeching response leaves her lungs in tandem with jason's own elated whoop. the feeling bubbling between them is one neither of them can describe in words; it's the joy of total freedom, the freedom to do anything, to go anywhere, without limitations. this unadulterated joy is what jason had really been seeking all those years he'd spent wondering where that missing part of him was. each time he gets on his bike and tears his own path through land and sky with his soul flying at his side, he all but forgets that he never knew his father, because he can feel him all around him. he’s in the smell of the pines, the pumping of remiel's wings, in the heat and the thrum of the engine roaring beneath him. the answers he was searching for were not in the past, but in the trail ahead. by teaching him to fly, his daemon had brought him in touch with the part of himself he never thought he'd understand. his father’s urge to fly is in his genes, in his blood -- and in the feathers of his sharp-winged soul.