sermocinare: (Silhouette and her nurse)
[personal profile] sermocinare
Fandom: Watchmen
Title: A Host of Seraphim (1/4)
Rating: R
Warnings: none
Characters/Pairings: Adrian/Dan
Disclaimer: Watchmen belongs to Mr. Moore and Mr. Gibbons.
Summary: After an accident in the genetics lab, Adrian grows three pairs of wings and calls the only person who might be of help in this kind of situation: Dan.
Author's note: Originally written for the kinkmeme. This is the slightly revised and edited version. Shameless hurt/comfort, angst, and fluff ahoy!


It took Daniel a while before he realized that the insistent ringing of the phone wasn't part of his dream, but rather reality intruding on him, drilling into his sleep and breaking apart the landscapes his subconscious had painted. When he had finally untangled himself from underneath his blanket, he half expected the ringing to stop, but apparently, whoever it was wasn't one to give up quickly, which meant that this was probably important.

Well, it better be, seeing how it was about three in the morning.

“Hello?” Dan's voice sounded dry and raspy with sleep, even to his own ears.

“Daniel. Thank God you're home.”

“...Adrian? What... it's the middle of the night...” Dan pinched the bridge of his nose, trying to shoo away the last cobwebs of sleep hanging around the edge of his mind.

“I know. I'm terribly sorry.” And surprisingly enough, that didn't sound like a platitude, but rather like the hands-down truth. “I wouldn't have called you if the circumstances weren't as they are. But...”

There was silence for a few seconds, which was unnerving. Adrian had never been at a loss for words. Then, there was a rushing sound, an inhalation of breath on the other side of the line that sounded almost like a wave running away from the shore.

“Daniel, could you come over? Right now? Please. I can't explain this over the phone, it's just too...” Another silence, then: “Please.” There was no mistaking the note of despair, the sheer pleading in Adrian's voice, and it sent a cold shiver down Dan's spine.

“I'll be over as quickly as possible.” Dan tried to sound reassuring, but didn't quite manage, worry taking over his thoughts. This was all so unlike Adrian. Calling him in the middle of the night, the silence, the begging... something was seriously wrong.

“Thank you.” Adrian breathed a sigh of relief. “I really didn't know who else to call about... this.”



By the time Dan was standing in the elevator riding up to Adrian's penthouse, his mind had come up with about half a dozen of the most horrible scenarios possible, even though most of them were completely implausible. After all, if Adrian had lost a limb or shattered every bone in his body, he wouldn't have called Dan. He would have done the sensible thing and gone to the hospital. Besides probably not being able to phone anyone at all any more. But then again, logic had never stopped anyone from imagining catastrophe, and Dan was no exception.

The doors of the elevator opened directly into the penthouse, and for a moment, Dan was taken aback by the darkness that surrounded him. None of the lights were on, the only illumination being provided by the bone-white half-moon in the sky, whose ghostly light painted everything into shades of black, blue and gray.

“Adrian?” Dan called out, one foot inside the apartment, the other still in the elevator, as if to keep an escape route open.

“I'm over here.” Adrian's voice was quiet, just a notch above a whisper.

Dan turned his head in the direction the words had came from, and for a moment, he was sure he hadn't in fact woken up back when the phone had rang, that it had been part of some strange dream, a dream that was still feeding his mind with images that were just too surreal to believe even while he was still asleep.

Adrian was standing in front of the large glass windows that made up the penthouse's outer wall. He had placed himself as far away from the elevator's doors as possible, the room's sofas, armchairs and table somehow reminding Daniel of the moats and walls surrounding a medieval keep.

And Adrian, oh, he looked like something from a different time and place, too, something that had stepped out of the murals decorating the ceiling of a gothic cathedral, an angel come down from heaven to grace earth's poor sinners with his presence. Or possibly smite them, burn them with holy fire in the name of his all-powerful God.

Dan closed his eyes, shook his head almost violently, but when he opened them again, they were still there. Three pairs of wings, their feathers white as freshly fallen snow and almost glowing even in the dim light of the room. From what Dan could make out, they were sprouting from Adrian's back, top, middle and bottom, and oh, they were huge, the bend of the uppermost pair arching high over Adrian's head while the tips of its feathers almost brushed the floor. The other two pairs were a bit smaller, hidden away beneath the uppermost pair, probably not even visible if Adrian had been standing with his back towards Dan.

“My God, Adrian...” Daniel breathed, and he could see Adrian tense up, wings pulling in like a cloak, their feathers shaking slightly, blurring their otherwise sharp outlines. “They're beautiful.”

“No, Daniel,” Adrian replied, shaking his head slowly, his voice still barely audible, “they're not. They're freakish and abnormal.” Then, Adrian straightened up, stepping towards Dan with a sad, tired smile on his face: “But I knew that you would most likely think differently, and that's why I called you. You're the only person I know who wouldn't simply run away screaming. You're the only one who might actually stay around and help me find a solution to this problem.”

“Of course I'll help you,” Dan murmured, still a bit in shock from everything. Somehow, hearing the other man speak had driven home the point that no, this was not a dream or some angelic vision, this was, in fact, Adrian. Who had grown three pairs of wings. Dan took off his glasses, taking a few steps into the room until he was standing in front of Adrian, then put them on again: “How did... what happened?”

“An accident in the genetics lab,” Adrian said, his expression grim. “Someone didn't follow proper safety protocol, and I got, well, infected. I started feeling sick a few days ago. Fever, back pains, and then, tonight...” He held up his fists and uncurled his fingers, mimicking a small explosion.

“Did it hurt?” Dan blurted out the question before he could stop himself, regretting it instantly.

The corner of Adrian's mouth twitched upwards: “What do you think? Let's just say that I'm glad that I am the only one who actually lives in this building, and that the walls are pretty much soundproof. Also, you really shouldn't go into the bedroom if you're squeamish. I'm afraid I'm going to have to redecorate. I don't think the blood will wash off from the wallpaper.”

It was only now that Dan noticed the discoloration, the dark spots on the edges of the uppermost pair of wings. He stepped around to get a glance of the feathers on the outside. They appeared to be matted, splotched and streaked with black, and Dan felt a cold shiver run down his spine. It must have been torturous, having those things burst out of your back, even if they probably hadn't been as big when they broke forth.

“God, Adrian...” Dan reached out towards Adrian's shoulder with one hand, but Adrian moved aside, keeping himself out of arm's reach. Always keeping himself out of reach. If you thought about it for a moment, it was rather fitting that Adrian should have grown wings...

“Can you fly?” Another question, following Dan's line of thought.

Adrian gave a shrug, then winced: “I don't know.”

“You haven't tried?” Dan looked at Adrian, not even trying to mask his incredulity.

“Well for one, my back still hurts quite a bit from just having my skeletal and muscular structure rearranged, and having these things jab through the skin from the inside,” Adrian shot back, his voice dripping cold venom, “and also, that is not the point, Daniel. The point of all this, the reason why I called you here, is that I want you to help me get rid of them.”

Dan shook his head: “I'm sorry, Adrian. You called the wrong person.”

“You won't help me, then?”

Adrian still sounded angry, but the way he drew his arms around his torso, and that short flicker of hurt that had flashed in his eyes... Dan sighed, softening his expression: “No, that's not what I said. I said that you called the wrong person not because I don't want to help you, but because I can't.”

“But you know so much about birds, their anatomy...”

“Yes. But Adrian, you're not a bird. You're human.” Dan kept his voice low, soothing, as if talking to a scared child: “You should go to a hospital. Or even better, go back to your genetics department. I'm sure they can help you.”

“No. I can't do that, Dan. I can't. I couldn't bear the way they would look at me, as if I'm some... some freak, some sideshow act. Not again.” The last bit had been said so quietly, Dan almost didn't hear it. The room fell silent for a moment, then Adrian drew a deep breath, straightening up a bit, and gave Dan a pained smile: “Besides, I fired the genetics department. For their gross negligence of basic safety precautions.”

“...all of them?”

“All of them.”

Dan couldn't help but chuckle: “I didn't know you had a temper.”

“Just because I've grown wings doesn't mean I'm an angel, Dan.”



Dan had done his best to try and talk Adrian into going to the hospital, but Adrian had proved to be more stubborn than a mule whose hooves had been glued to the floor. In the end, both of them had started pleading with the other, and Adrian had won.

“I'm just not ready for anyone else to see me like this, Dan,” he had said, giving Dan a look that was so scared and lost that all that had been left of Dan's resolve had melted away like snow in the desert. “Just help me get through the first few days, and maybe then I'll go?”

Now they were standing in Adrian's bathroom, with Dan trying his best to rinse the blood out of Adrian's feathers. It was a good thing that Adrian hadn't spared any expenses when it came to furnishing the bathroom, putting in a shower that was big enough for at least four people. Dan thought of the little cabin he had in his brownstone, and shook his head. They would never have been able to maneuver Adrian in there.

“I guess you'll have to experiment with folding them a bit,” Dan said, raising his voice a bit above the rush of water, “else, you'll get stuck in doors and elevators all the time.”

“Or bump into them,” Adrian grumbled. One of his wings had snagged on the doorframe on their way into the bathroom. “That hurt.” He was standing with his forearms resting against the wall, his head pillowed on his hands and his eyes closed while Dan tried to get the blood out without having to resort to shampoo. “But the water feels nice.”

“How much sensation do you have in them?”

“Depends.” Adrian gave a shrug, the slight motion of his shoulders amplified into a short almost-flap of his wings. “Higher up, where the new muscle and bone is, it doesn't feel much different from someone touching my back through a layer of clothing. Further down, where it's just the feathers... I'm not sure. A bit like if you were stroking my hair. But not really. It's hard to describe.”

“You know,” Dan mused, “I've always wondered how birds feel their wings, the wind rushing over and beneath them. And now... it's fascinating.”

“Oh, I believe it is. From the outside.”

Dan bit his lip. “Sorry.”

“No.” Adrian sighed, then turned his head to give Dan a small smile: “I'm sorry. I shouldn't have snapped at you like that. After all, you're here, and you're helping me. I should be grateful. And I am, really. It's just that I'm tired. And...” Adrian swallowed hard, his fingers clenching, a small line appearing on his brow.

“It's all right,” Dan said, saving Adrian from having to spell it out. “I would be scared and confused, too, if it were me.”

Adrian gave a short, rumbling chuckle: “Somehow, I think you would probably manage this a lot more gracefully than I have, so far.”

“You never know,” Dan said with a soft shrug.

For a while, there was no other sound than the gentle rush of water while Dan painstakingly removed all traces of blood from the otherwise pristine feathers, and even though he knew how Adrian must feel about it all, Dan couldn't help but be fascinated, almost enthralled by Adrian's wings. He noticed the myriads of different feathers, from the almost tiny ones that covered the leading edge right down to the primaries, the largest of which were longer than Dan's arm. Occasionally, Dan would run a finger along a rachis or a vane, following its curve and contour, sometimes right up to where the shaft disappeared into the skin. He really would have to talk Adrian into going to a hospital and have x-rays taken, just to see if the bone structure of his wings corresponded with that in birds, or if this was just an analogous form with an entirely different skeletal anatomy.

“Daniel.”

Adrian's voice broke through Dan's musings, and he blinked: “Hm?”

“Do you think that you'll be done soon?” Adrian's voice sounded tight, even a bit strained.

“We can stop right now. Did I hurt you?” Damn. He should have paid more attention to what he was doing, instead of letting his curiosity, and his hands, run wild.

“No,” Adrian said, shaking his head and biting his lower lip, “don't worry. But I do think you should stop now.”

“Sure. I'm sorry. I really didn't mean to hurt you.”

“Dan.” Adrian drew a deep breath, and Dan could see that he was shivering slightly. “Please. You are not hurting me.”

“You don't have to pretend-”

“Daniel.” Adrian's voice was low, and he turned his head to look directly at Dan, his eyes dark as he flashed him a strange little grin: “For the last time, you are not hurting me. Actually, you have been doing pretty much the exact opposite of hurting me, and if you don't intend to help me with resolving that issue, I suggest you leave me alone for a few minutes.”

It took a few seconds for realization to dawn, but when it did, Dan immediately felt the heat rush into his head.

“Oh. Oh, dear. Um, yes. I guess I'd better leave you alone, then...”

Fumbling the showerhead back into its place, Dan quickly turned and stepped out of the shower, trying not to slip on the wet tiles as he bent down to retrieve his pants from the floor. Pulling them on over his now somewhat damp boxers, Dan reached for his fogged-up glasses and tried very hard not to think about what Adrian had just said.

As he closed the bathroom door behind him, he could only just pick up Adrian's faintly grumbled words: “Jesus Christ. That's just what I need right now. More erogenous zones.”

--

After a surprisingly short time – but oh, no, Dan was not letting his mind go there – Adrian stuck his head around the bathroom door, looking at Dan with a suitably embarrassed expression: “...Dan?”

“Hm?”

“How do I get these things dry?”

Oh. So that was what Adrian was embarrassed about. But then, it kind of was a silly question, if you thought about it.

“Haven't you ever watched a bird take a bath?”

Adrian blinked, then frowned, his tone a tad defensive: “I grew up in the city.”

Well, so had Dan, but he had still managed to observe how birds dealt with getting wet. Dan furrowed his brow slightly, then readjusted his glasses: “Well, you could always use a blowdryer. On low. But I really wouldn't recommend that, it might mess with the structure and cohesion of your feathers. Honestly, I'd just try shaking them a bit, and let the rest dry on its own.”

“I'll try that, then,” Adrian said, before pulling his head back and closing the bathroom door. A few seconds later, Dan heard a loud rushing, rustling noise, almost like a huge flock of pigeons passing overhead. It ended in a loud crash, followed by the sound of something metal and several other things hitting the floor, and a shout: “Ow! Damn!”

Dan rushed to the bathroom door, knocking once for courtesy before worry took over and he opened the bathroom door a fraction, just enough to peek through. “Adrian? Everything all right?”

Adrian was standing in the middle of the bathroom, most of his body hidden by the slight curve of his half-outstretched wings, one hand rubbing his skull gingerly. The marble-tiled floor was littered with various things, a razor, a brush, a can of hairspray, some kind of metal cup...

“I'm all right,” Adrian groaned, petting his hair down and managing to look both lost and angry at the same time. “It's just that as I was shaking the wings,” he didn't say my wings, Dan noted, “I accidentally hit one of the shelves, and managed to hit myself in the head with that can of hairspray. It must have had quite a velocity, the way my head is hurting...”

Dan had to duck back out of view, pressing his hand to his mouth to hide his grin, and the giggle that was threatening to bubble out of his chest. As soon as he had himself back under control, he stuck his head into the bathroom again: “You know, we should try and somehow measure how much force is behind those wings of yours. Birds' wings are surprisingly strong, and seeing how big yours are, they might pack quite a punch, figuratively speaking.”

Adrian pulled on his pants, still hidden behind his sloping outer wing, and gave a deep, long-suffering sigh: “Honestly, Daniel, I'd rather think about how to get rid of them. I'm quickly getting tired of bumping or smashing into things just because I don't know how to control these things. Did you know that in the time between me calling you and your arrival here, I managed to knock over a 3600 year old artifact? It is rather annoying. Not to mention costly. I really hope it can be repaired.”

“Well, if you would just go to the hospital-”

“No.” Straightening up, Adrian turned his head, giving Dan a sharp look, his wings slowly pulling in against his body until they were once more lying against his back. For a moment, neither man said anything, then Adrian broke the building tension with a soft sigh. He shook his head, his damp hair falling into his eyes: “I have my reasons. Please, Dan, just let it be.”

“All right. But,” Dan adjusted his glasses again, then narrowed his eyes at Adrian, “if you want me to help you, you're going to have to start listening to me, Adrian. You called me because you wanted my expertise. And now you're just going to have to trust that I know what I'm doing.”

Adrian blinked, then looked away. Dan could see the muscles in Adrian's jaw working, as if Adrian were literally chewing over what Dan had just said. Dan felt a pang of guilt over having been so harsh to Adrian – after all, the man had just gone through an experience that had been both painful and frightening, and on top of that had the potential to throw Adrian's up to now well-ordered life upside down. That, Dan mused, was probably the worst part of it. Adrian was used to being in control in almost every situation he put himself in, be it a board meeting or a confrontation with an armed robber. In all the cases they had worked together, Dan could count the times Adrian had been genuinely taken by surprise on one hand. And now, this.

Dan sighed, and took a few steps into the bathroom, until he was standing next to Adrian. This time, Dan didn't even attempt to touch him. “Listen, Adrian... I'm sorry. Just trust me, OK?”

Adrian looked at Dan out of the corner of his eyes, and finally, his lips curved into a small, tired smile: “Just trust you. That's harder than you think. But I'll try. If nothing else, I'll try to be less... prickly about your suggestions as to what we should do with these.” He gave the wings a small shake, their feathers rustling together softly.

Dan returned Adrian's smile, nodding: “That sounds good. I probably won't be of much help with getting rid of them, but I can help you with making the best of it while you have them.” He let his smile widen to a grin, and gave Adrian a conspiratorial wink: “At least until you've hired a new genetics team.”

Adrian blinked at him, and Dan almost thought he had gone too far and was in for another snappish response, but then, Adrian's mouth started to twitch, his chest trembling with half-smothered laughter: “Oh dear. Yes, that is probably the second stupidest thing I've ever done in my life.”

“What's the stupidest thing, then?” Dan couldn't help but ask, chuckling.

Adrian gave him a smile, challenging and mysterious: “Maybe I'll tell you one day.”

“Looking forward to it,” Dan quipped, then turned around and went back into the living room, with Adrian trailing behind. He sat down on the sofa again, his forearms resting on his knees, and squinted up at Adrian. It was only from this angle that Dan noticed the dark shadows underneath Adrian's eyes, and the slight tremble in the other man's fingers. Leave it to Adrian to grow a pair of wings and still carry himself as if he'd done nothing more exhausting than going for an afternoon walk in the park.

“You know, I think we could both do with a bit of sleep,” Dan said, leaning back on the sofa and not even trying to hide a small yawn. “After all, I was woken up in the middle of the night, and you, well, I kind of think you haven't had much sleep at all til now.”

“That does sound like a good idea,” Adrian said, and Dan could see the hint of a thankful smile playing around the corners of his mouth. Then, Adrian looked back in the direction of the bedroom, and crossed his arms in front of his chest, eyes narrowing: “Although I really don't feel like going back in there.”

“Do you have a guest room here?”

Adrian nodded: “Yes. You can sleep there, if you don't fancy the ride home. Of course, I can also call you a cab, and you'd just come back here tomorrow? Or rather,” Adrian said with a smirk in the direction of the windows, where the blue of night was just starting to give way to the greyish-pink hues of early morning, “later today.”

“Um, I was thinking more about you, Adrian. I'll just take the couch. Honestly,” Dan said, holding up his hand to stop Adrian's counter-arguments in their tracks, “I'm fine with that. Just give me a blanket and a pillow, and I'm a happy camper.” Dan chuckled: “After all, it's not like I haven't fallen asleep in front of the TV on my own couch countless times, and yours is a lot more luxurious than mine.”

Adrian considered this for a moment, then gave a short nod: “All right. If you say so. I'll get you a pillow and a blanket from the guest room.”

After handing Dan the blanket and pillow, Adrian had excused himself. “Good night, Dan. And thank you for being here.” Dan had returned his smile, and then set about making himself comfortable on the couch, which had taken less time than he had thought.

Adrian's sofa really was quite roomy and comfortable, and now, his head resting on the smooth purple silk that encased the pillow, Dan listened to the sounds of Adrian rustling around in the guest room. Judging from the noises and the occasional muttered curse in what was probably German, Adrian was having a bit of a problem finding a comfortable position to sleep in. If he were a bird, Dan mused, his mind already foggy with sleep, he could just sleep standing up, locking his knees in position, but oh, that probably wouldn't work what with Adrian's torso being upright and all. Did angels need sleep? But Adrian wasn't really an angel, not by a stretch, even though he really did look glorious...

It was to that thought that Dan fell asleep, the first rays of the sun still hidden behind New York's artificially raised horizon.

Chapter 2
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May 2013

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