X-men Evolution Fan Fiction / X-Men Fan Fiction ❯ BurnOut ❯ Chapter 3 ( Chapter 3 )
[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]
Rays of the rising sun crept along the contours of a winged female figure. Crafted from stone and steel her Art Deco features expressed strength and progress, as opposed to the conventional ideals of charity and compassion embodied by her nineteenth century predecessors who adorned the spires of lower strata. She and her three sisters, each guarding one of the four corners of the roof of the Worthington Tower, looked down sternly on the neighboring buildings of midtown Manhattan from their lofty aerie soaring sixty stories high.
Warrior goddesses of victory personifying the commercial triumphs and steely determination of Warren Worthington I, they were not beneficent angels. Just as the light broadened, the four, now clearly etched against the pink and gold dawn, were joined by a fifth winged form. His face was not directed downward, harshly judging those below, but tilted up towards the sky.
Warren leapt into the air. He was on his way to the Institute. Rising into the clouds, he realized the euphoria, the sense of release he used to savor when he left the terrestrial realm and its problems, had returned. He might see Jean Grey today.
Although she was ever-present in his thoughts and dreams, he had not seen her in the flesh since the day he fell. After spending two nights in Dr. Moira MacTaggert's ad hoc hospital, he had fully recovered. It was the only time he'd ever regretted his healing ability. He just wanted a chance to talk to Jean before he left, to thank her for resisting the pull of the stars and returning to Earth to rescue an imperfect Angel.
At the time no one except Professor Xavier and Moira were allowed in to see her, not even Scott. Warren would have stuck around, if only to be in Jean's vicinity; but without the excuse of illness, he felt uncomfortable remaining for no other reason than to eventually be granted access to Scott Summers' girlfriend.
He had spent most of the twelve days since he was discharged in the air, flying with no goal other than clearing his head of the indelible impression she had left. It was no use. The sky was empty. For the first time in his life, flying felt futile. Soaring into the clouds had no purpose because nothing was up there, unless she appeared, hovering at the edge of the atmosphere, waiting for him to fly into space.
Despite being anxious about his ability to control his emotions when he saw her, he had to be near Jean. He needed a legitimate reason to be at the Institute. So now he was seriously considering taking up Xavier on his long-standing offer of X-Men membership and a position at the school.
The idea went against his nature. His mutation had set him apart from other people starting in his early adolescence. His parents insisted that the freakish growths remain a family secret, so he could never remove his shirt in the boys' locker-room, or allow a doting girl to get too close. But to be around Jean he would do anything.
With Ororo still recuperating, Logan asked Warren to fill in as flight instructor. It had been two weeks since Apocalypse's destruction. With many of the X-Men under the care of Dr. MacTaggert, Ororo out of commission, and the Professor and Scott consumed with concern for Jean, Wolverine was the only one left to organize classes, bring the school together, and heal their communal wounds - tasks which did not come easily to Logan. He knew Cannonball and Sunspot desperately needed structured, challenging flying lessons before one of them impaled himself on a tree or smashed into a building.
Warren alighted on the terrace a few minutes early and Logan got the feeling he had circled the campus several times before coming in to land. An eager teacher, he thought. Before Sam and Roberto arrived, Logan gave Warren only two curricular requirements: the boys should get a half hour for lunch around noon, and by the end of the day they should be so exhausted they won't want to move for days.
Warren spent the morning working on their maneuvering skills using the tall fir trees in the glen surrounding the rear of the mansion. Things did not go well. It was an overcast day and not only was Roberto too impatient to wait until he'd charged up sufficiently before he took off, he kept using up all his power at once trying to match Cannonball's altitude and speed. Warren, feeling like a living net, had to catch him repeatedly.
Sam's abilities enabled him to shoot off at near super-sonic velocity whenever he wished, but he lost his sense of direction easily and veered into many trees, knocking one of them down. Luckily, in propulsion mode he was invulnerable. By noon the three of them had sustained multiple bruises and were ready for lunch.
When Warren and his charges entered the small kitchen area, it seemed vast and empty. Rogue and Scott were the only other diners. Scott gave Warren a tour of the refrigerator and made apologies for requesting he fend for himself. While Sam and Roberto were foraging, Warren approached Scott.
“Any news about Jean?”
“She's better,” Scott's demeanor didn't make it sound convincing. “I mean she's responding to us, she knows who we are, who she is.”
“They can't keep her from floating away. That's the problem,” Rogue interjected.
“She's generating this anti-gravitational force and she can't seem to control it. Hank is working on a remotely controlled system of weights which should be able to hold her down,” Scott continued.
“Unless she wants to fly off the planet. The Professor is trying to convince her she's better off down here with all of us.” said Rogue.
“Where is she?” Warren asked. He hoped he sounded merely concerned instead of desperate.
“She's in the Danger Room with Moira and the Professor,” Scott answered reflexively.
“It's the only space that can hold her,” Rogue added.
“She'll be out this afternoon. We're experimenting with a new harness.” Scott seemed nervous. Warren wanted to reassure him.
“If I can do anything, please let me know,” Warren said trying to sound calmly supportive while shivers ran up his spine and out through his wings at the thought of seeing Jean.
“The Professor says she'll be fine, it's just going to take some time,” Scott said. Turning to look out the window over the sink, he went on, “the thing is, she has this distant look, like she's not really here, or wants to be somewhere else.”
“Scott, she wants to be with you, with the Professor and the X-Men,” Warren doubted what he was saying was true.
Developing the endurance necessary for long distance flight was the lesson of the afternoon. The clouds had cleared so Sunspot was able to charge up more fully. With Warren's guidance, he resisted his desire to keep pace with Sam and was able for the first time to remain airborne unassisted for several miles.
Neither of the boys had any real long distance flying experience so Angel didn't have to go far to push them to their limits. Sam's ability to propel himself had practically expired by three o'clock. Warren led a descent into an open meadow for a short break. Roberto said he was so tired he wanted to sleep for a week. Warren knew he had successfully completed his mission. Logan wouldn't have to worry about these two getting into trouble for the next few days.
The last assignment of the day was to fly the half-mile back to the Institute. Warren was apprehensive about returning to the mansion. What would he actually do if he saw Jean? Would he be able to conceal his feelings? The sky beckoned. He told Sam and Roberto to take off; he would watch them from above. Warren stretched out his wings and effortlessly lifted himself 2500 feet into the air. Using his eagle-like eyesight he watched his students far below complete the final leg of their flight plan. They landed in the lawn in front of the main building and immediately collapsed in the grass.
Warren had started a slow downward spiral when he noticed a familiar shape hovering some hundred yards or so above the terrace. He dove two thousand feet in seconds. A steel cable connected to a harness tethered her to a large spool on the terrace. The wind played with her hair and rippled the fabric of her thin blouse. Her body buoyed by the air currents bobbed like a kite.
“Jean,” he answered, gliding closer to her.
“Why are you here?” she asked when he was near enough to talk to.
“Logan wanted me to give Cannonball and Sunspot flying lessons,” he responded.
Now he knew what Scott was talking about when he mentioned Jean's distant stare. Warren couldn't tell if she was looking at him or through him. Seeing her restrained by the harness made him think of a panther in cardboard cage. Jean Grey didn't seem to want to be tethered to the Professor or the X-Men or anything on Earth.
“I'd like Sam to study how accurate your maneuvers are, he knocked down a tree. And Roberto could learn a lot from your sense of control…maybe we could get a longer cable so you could join us,” Warren continued, realizing that exposing Jean to temptation was probably the opposite of what Xavier wanted.
“How long a cable? How far can I go before it yanks me back?” she asked.
“Jean, do you want me to remove the harness? Let me take it off. No one should tie you down.”
Jean's pupils dilated suddenly as she focused intently on Angel's face. The distant look evaporated. He felt her stare penetrating every cell in his body. At first he was afraid; he wanted to resist her intrusion. Then his fear melted away. He would open everything to her. He could withstand her fire. Luminescent waves flowed from her eyes forming a corona around her body.
“You almost died trying to keep me down before. If I go too high how will you stop me this time?”
“I won't try to stop you. I'll go with you.”