[identity profile] likesuns.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] thedirtyverse
[Early September of 1996. I stole Teddy in the next to last paragraph, sorry Shannon. :(]

Tess may have only been eight, but that didn't stop it from being completely inappropriate for her to do things like steal other people's jewelry. It was a Saturday, and everyone was home, and so it was harder than usual for Anna to throw her sister out of her room – when their parents weren't there, when she at her worldly thirteen was responsible for her younger siblings, she could literally throw her sister out of her room, or at least drag her, which was more normal.

Today, she had to scold her instead, and that alone was risking parents hearing. She didn't know what her parents were doing; her father wasn't drawing (drafting, drawing, as far as Anna was concerned he drew) and her mother wasn't in the hall to immediately hear her, but they might have been around. They weren't together, she didn't think, which would at least slow them down, and so it gave her a chance to make an impact.

"Put that down!" she yelled at her younger sister, who was happily going through Anna's jewelry box. On Anna's bed. "Just because I'm not in here doesn't mean you can help yourself!"

Tess looked up at her, eyes wide, and dropped the necklace she'd been holding.

"Now get out!"

"Why are you so loud?"

"Get out of here, Theresa May!"

The use of mostly-full name shocked Tess, who got up to run – and did so quickly enough to drop another necklace, one with glass pieces, from her lap. It clattered on the wooden floor and broke.

"You idiot!"

"I'm sorry, Anna, gosh, calm down a little –" Seeing her sister's angry eyes, Tess fled into the hallway. Anna inhaled deeply and tried to calm down and found she just couldn't, because that was the last straw, the day had been bad enough and the week had been bad enough – and so she ran off after her sister, intending to pull her back and make her pick up every little piece, or maybe just pull her hair, because that was the only thing that ever stopped Tess from being a brat.

But Tess ran out the kitchen door, and Anna couldn't stop her. So she let her go be in the yard. So what. Anna stopped, and sat down in a kitchen chair, and let herself calm down a little. She had to, this time. It was, after all, just a necklace.

Five minutes and what seemed like an eternity later, Tess poked her head back in. "Anna?"


"Can we have tea?"

Tea, Anna thought, would settle them both down. That was the power of tea. She didn't want to fight, and they'd been fighting all day, and maybe Tess was stupid but maybe making peace with Tess would make the whole day better.

Maybe. The teapot Tess always insisted on, a fairly nice one, was up at the top of the hutch behind the table. Their mother had put it there – their mother could reach it there. Anna eyed it somewhat doubtfully, and shrugged. "Can you get it down?"

"You're taller than I am."

Not by much, and their mother wasn't tall, either, but she usually stood on things and had reasonably good balance. "Why is it up there? Can't we just use the boring metal one?"

"No," Tess insisted. "If you get it down I'll fix your necklace."

"No you won't." Anna rolled her eyes, but pushed her chair closer to the hutch, climbed up on it, stood on her toes and reached for the tea kettle – and everything that was a blur. She felt herself stumble, heard Tess cry out and run out of the room, maybe even heard herself scream, and suddenly Anna, the chair, the hutch and plenty of dishes including several intensely valuable antique pieces were falling backward onto the floor. She couldn't catch anything because she was falling in midair – she could feel her heart racing so fast her ears were buzzing and she felt sick even though it was all happening so fast she wasn't sure how she could be aware of anything. She'd heard other people say they could see accidents in slow motion, but –

But she felt feelings she'd never felt before, sudden and sharp in her back, and pain far out where pain shouldn't have been –

Anna fell on the floor, along with the chair and the (broken) hutch and the (also broken) dishes and saw, also, a feather on the ground. Broken and a little bit bloody – the blood was from her hands. Her hands were cut open. The feather wasn't bleeding – feather? Huge feather, not from any bird she could recognize, and why did her back hurt? Her ears were still buzzing and she was still blurry and she tried to sit up and lean forward and found herself heavier than she had been.

The kitchen had shrunk.

Everything was the same barely-grey of the feather. There were feathers everywhere.

The feathers, she discovered in the same instant, were attached to her back. She could barely move because she didn't fit inside the alcove; there were pieces of dish shards in the wings that had sprouted from between her shoulders.

Anna screamed again (it couldn't have been more than a second or two after her first scream) and did everything she could to keep from fainting.

"Anna? – Anna!" Her father was the first one on the scene – the first one who wasn't Tess, anyway, but she'd already left. Kendrick was the first one there, in the doorway, and then on the floor next to her, kneeling unheeding in the pile of broken dishes so that he could wrap his arms around her with care. "Shh, shh, it's okay, baby, it's okay –"

Anna couldn't even see him – maybe she could if she craned her head all the way back over her shoulder, because he was there and the wings weren't too thick there, they just kept getting bigger and closing her in – she wasn't even sure if she could move them.

"My hand's cut everywhere," she said weakly, because it was the only thing she could think to say, and because Daddy, why did I just sprout wings? was completely and utterly ridiculous. Maybe she hadn't even sprouted wings. Maybe she was hallucinating them.

"Let me see it?" he asked, because he wanted to make sure that she wasn't bleeding so much that they'd need to go to a hospital or something – manifesting wings were psychologically troubling enough without adding massive bleeding and a visit to the emergency department. "Is it just one hand that hurts? It's okay, remember, just try to stay calm, I'll take care of it."

He hadn't really figured out how he was going to take care of it, ever since the day he knew Roz was pregnant, even though he knew he'd have to say something about it eventually. Maybe last-second terror would provide sufficient inspiration. He hoped so.

She tried to show him.

The wall was in her way. The wall, and the doorway, and the giant appendages she didn't know how to control.

"I – can't turn and face you," she replied, after trying. "There's –" Could he see them or not? He hadn't said anything about them! Wasn't he scared? She had wings.

"I – your wings. I know." There; he'd said it. He'd admitted that his daughter had wings, and in a moment he'd probably admit that he had wings, and then he'd actually be talking about it instead of sitting around being scared of the day when he had to talk about it. "That's why I need you to calm down, baby, so that you can get unstuck from the room. Do they hurt?"

Belatedly, he remembered that his grandfather had taught him, a long time ago, how to influence the emotions of those around him. Kendrick wasn't at all calm; still, he did the best he could to pretend he was, so that maybe – just maybe – he could make Anna calmer, too.

"I don't know," Anna had started to cry, the shock lessening as she tried to figure out if she could even really feel anything from them. "I don't know what they're supposed to feel like, or where they came from –" Did everyone grow wings? Was this a normal human fact her parents had shielded her from the way some people's parents didn't tell them about sex until they were in high school and already knew?

She thought they were sore, banged up, a little uncomfortable. But maybe that's what wings felt like.

"Well they're – they're yours," he tried saying, and wondered if that really sounded as insipid as it sounded in his head. "They take some getting used to, but they should feel as normal as your arms and legs, sooner or later, and be useful just about the same way – I mean, obviously you can't walk with them or hold a pencil or whatever, but – oh, dammit."

That last, at least, was thoroughly heartfelt. He was way out of his depth. He should have asked Elijah to explain the whole thing to Roz while she was still living with him and Lee.

"I can't walk around like this!" Anna snapped, unable to help it. She couldn't go to school when she didn't fit at her desk anymore. She'd block the entire third row's view. "How am I supposed to live with two extra limbs? Have they been there the whole time, did you know they were there when I was born and just didn't tell me, were they squished inside my back or something?"

Anna felt about three.

"No – they're there, they've been there, they're magical!" That was just about the only thing he knew to say about them. "They weren't inside your back, and they'll go away when you don't need them, if you want them to – they're just not really there when you're young, same with your brother and sister. Can you imagine trying to keep up with a baby who was flying around?" It was a weak joke, and it came with a weak smile. "You're growing up, you're a young, a young lady now –" his daughter was menstruating, and oh that had been an awful conversation too "– and this is part of growing up to be an adult eventually. Not for everyone! Just for some people who are a little bit – a little bit special." Different. Freaks of nature, maybe. Not a good thing to say to an upset thirteen-year-old.

At least her mother had been there, too, for the conversation about periods. Her mother had told her father and siblings and then they'd had a share of awkward moments – she hadn't gone to them and shown it off.


Anna couldn't imagine flying. She was too big to fly! "And – magical? Dad? Are you okay?" In the head? Although if he wasn't okay she wasn't okay either.

At least she knew she wasn't okay.

"Well, I'm a little bit worried that you're so upset!" Hah hah. And, of course, terrified about what Roz was going to say. Maybe he could clean Anna up and then Roz would never know.

"But –" Maybe his grandfather would help with the explanation, after all. "You remember those stories and pictures Elijah took, of Isabella Fitzwilliam? They were very close friends, your grandfather grew up with her son Charlie?" He should probably try talking more confidently, and not questioning every phrase before he even finished saying it. "Well, Iz was famous all over the world, a long time ago, for being an angel. Back when she was a little girl, no older than you are now."

"She died when I was a baby." Anna remembered that. She remembered people being upset because of Isabella's death, and her grandparents and great-grandparents going away for a funeral.

She'd never met Isabella, but she knew who she was.

"And – I thought she was famous for singing and being pretty. Did she fly?"

"Well, she – she was very pretty, and a very good singer, but yes, she flew a little. I think there are still pictures from some of her acts, before she was in the Follies, where she sang with her wings showing. And –" He hesitated, trying to figure out how to say it, before just blurting out, "and she didn't really die, either. It's just that her Andy had died, and she was heartbroken, and couldn't go on through life without him – so it's kind of like death, but if her family needed her enough, maybe she could come back someday."

Kendrick hesitated again, and smoothed a hand over Anna's hair, or at least what little of it he could reach. His knees were really starting to hurt. "Same with Grandpa Elijah, um. Actually."

"Come back?" Anna eyed him, raised an eyebrow. As best she could, anyway, leaning backward over her shoulder. "People don't come back from the –"

Well, the little voice in her head said, maybe not normal people.

She decided not to argue it.

"Okay," she said, instead. It sounded strange, but so did having wings. And besides, she'd still never get to meet Isabella or see her great-grandfather ever again, because Anna knew that true love was the most important thing in the world.

Okay! She said okay. That was good, that was – that meant he didn't have to keep explaining it, right? And that was good because that upped the chances that Roz wouldn't notice.

"Can you move any of the rest of you right now?" he asked carefully.

"Yeah." That she was sure of. She just didn't know how to make the wings go away.

"Okay, uh –" He stopped, and tried to take stock of the arrangement of Anna, hutch, and walls, to figure out how to get her out of there easiest. "I'm going to help you put your wings away so you can move more easily, okay? I just – I want you to start by trying to stretch your left wing up toward the ceiling so you can get it past the cabinets."

That was the most ridiculous statement Anna had ever had addressed at her, which was why it was doubly shocking to discover that the wing was in fact as easy to move as her hand would be.

She stared at it.

"Okay, okay that's good!" He hoped that would cheer her up, his cheering for her. "Now your right wing, I want you to fold it in toward your back, and that'll get it out of the hutch."

She repeated the same action on the other side, and tried to ignore how weird the entire situation was. And the pain in her hand. And the fact she had wings that she was moving around.

And then she had to stop to figure out how exactly she had thoughtlessly folded a wing. She didn't fold any other limbs! Folding shouldn't have been an instinctive action!

"You okay, so far?" He hoped she was. He hoped this whole thing would be mostly painless, except for all the problems with the dishes and her hand and his knees, which he was pretty sure were bleeding, too, and it would all blow over and Roz would still never know. "We can take this slow."

Anna shrugged – which moved her wings, which smacked the ceiling and she ducked her head, cringing. "Um. I guess."

She did feel a little bit betrayed. He'd been expecting this. He hadn't told her.

She couldn't resist asking, "Have you got wings, too?"

"I – yes, I do, are you okay from that," he added, referring to the ceiling-smack. "All the Capios I know do, actually, it's sort of a – an inherited condition."

Which was probably safer than calling it a blessing or a curse, either one.

Anna giggled, and didn't mention the fact that as far as she was concerned her mother was a Capio too and she wasn't related, and did that mean it counted as an STD, or did her mother not have wings?, and nodded.

"Just startled."

She had wings.

It was actually kind of cool, once the initial shock had gone. (Of course, her hand was still bleeding.)

"Okay. Okay," he repeated, because if he said it often enough it would be okay. "Now, I can't show you mine just yet, because there isn't room in the kitchen, especially not for both of us. And you're going to have an awful lot of trouble getting through the door until you put them away, so that's what we're going to do now. Okay?"

Trying not to giggle again, Anna replied, "Okay."

Which made it funny. Which made her laugh. And cry. At the same time.

"Shh, baby, it's okay," he repeated once again, and this time at least he could give her a proper hug, now that she wasn't all tangled up with her wings everywhere. "Just take a deep breath for me, okay? You need to be a little bit calmer for this to work easily. I'll bribe you with ice cream later if it'll help," he added, because desperate times, et cetera.

"Sounds good," Anna agreed with mild trepidation; she was all for ice cream, but he made it sound like whatever was about to happen was going to be unpleasant at best. "I think."

"Just think about the ice cream for a moment, okay?" he urged. "We'll go to Eddie's, why don't we, and what I want you to do right now is tell me all about what you're going to order. I know that sounds kind of funny, but trust me, okay?"

"Um." Anna blinked, thought about it for a second – "Banana split?"

"Do you think your teachers would accept that as a 'tell me all about' exercise?" he asked, mock-sternly.

"Do you expect me to believe you don't know what's in a banana split?"

"No, I expect you to tell me all about it! After all, maybe the teenager working there today doesn't know!"

Admittedly, sometimes the place did have less than the most wonderful of employees, but not one that would, say, forget a banana.

"Um, it ... has a full banana in it, and ice cream – strawberry, chocolate and vanilla, and a pineapple, and a few cherries, and some chocolate sauce and whipped cream and strawberry sauce and a fancy bowl. And sometimes chocolate chips. If you ask."

Not that Anna could figure out for the life of her why she needed to describe it. She didn't know he was trying to calm her down for the use of willpower – she thought it was much more dastardly than that.

"Sounds delicious," he answered, "and I think I might want to get one, too – I'll give you my chocolate chips, though." He waited a moment, eyeing her, trying to judge the right time for it – "And now I want you to think about how your body normally feels, without having wings there at all. Think about your back, and how it feels sometimes when it was itchy and then you got a good scratch, yeah? It feels all tingly and nice and normal, right? Think about that, and then – then just feel that again."

Anna squinted.

"So I'm pretending the wings aren't there," she postulated, "and then they won't be there?"

"Um –" Well, yeah. "Basically? It's theoretically more complicated than that, and there's a bunch of metaphysics involved, but – yeah, basically, that's how you tell them to go away."

"Oh! Okay."

Normal feeling back.

Normal feeling back that felt like a back instead of just neutral, which wasn't too hard because her hair was always scratching at between where her shoulderblades were and so she was perfectly aware of what that spot on her back was supposed to be like, and that was easy enough to imagine, and she could even get a mental image of herself without wings fairly easily –

Without wings, like she suddenly was.

The fan on the ceiling got a lot louder.

"Um," said Anna, suddenly dizzy. The room lurched a little. "Are they ever going to come back? I forgot to ask that."

"Whoa, hey, hold on there," he muttered quickly, jumping forward to catch her, just in case she was about to fall again. "They're pretty heavy, aren't they? Yeah, you can bring them back, it's basically the same thing in the other direction – you think about them being there, feel them there, the same way you just felt them gone. But don't do it in here, okay? There really isn't room for it."

Her hand was still bleeding. A lot. Shit.

So were his knees.

"What? Um – yeah." Anna swallowed. "So now what?"

"Now – uh." It was a good question, and he didn't really know what to say. "Now, why don't we leave the kitchen? I mean, I can show you my wings, if you want to see, and make sure that you didn't – oh, I don't know, didn't hallucinate the whole thing, maybe?"

"Sounds good," Anna repeated, swallowing again, trying to gather her balance and ignore the bleeding. Her hand didn't even really hurt anymore. It didn't really feel like a hand anymore, but it didn't really hurt anymore, and that was right when the door to outside opened again, Tess sticking her head inside.

"Daddy?" she asked timidly. "Is Anna dead?"

Tess had tried to find her mother and brother, but she couldn't. They hadn't been outside after all.

"I –" Kendrick gave up for a moment, covering his face with his hands. "No, Tess," he mumbled through them. "She isn't dead. She's right in front of you. You can see that she isn't dead."

"She might be a ghost!" Tess insisted. "We don't know that she's not a ghost!"

Did ghosts bleed? Anna laughed, rolled her eyes a little. "I'm not dead, idiot." I'm a total freak, apparently, but not dead.

"I'm not an idiot!" Tess shrieked. "Daddy, Anna's mean –"

"Both of you, be quiet!" He wasn't all that good at being stern, honestly, but he did a pretty good impression of it at the moment. "No, Tess, your sister isn't dead, and she isn't a ghost. I promise. And Anna – I know you're stressed and you've had a bad day, but please try not calling your sister names."

"She started it! She was stupid and then I wanted to not be arguing and she asked me for the teapot –" The fancy, broken teapot.

"Quiet, Anna!" He pinched the bridge of his nose. "Tess, go to your room."

"I didn't do anything! She called me an idiot!" Tess protested, starting to cry.

"I know she did, and I'm going to punish her for that appropriately, but right now, I am asking you, Theresa, please, go to your room. I'm going to take you to Eddie's later to make up for it," he added, as a carefully considered bribe – he'd never told Anna that he was going to take only her, after all, and maybe she'd think twice the next time she wanted to call her sister an idiot.

Tess was only eight, after all.

"Why can't I stay?" Tess sounded – and was – completely heartbroken. "What are you doing I can't be here for?"

"Grown-up stuff," Anna tried, since normally she did attempt to take care of her siblings instead of making them cry, but all that did was make Tess look even more hurt.

"I'm almost nine," she tried to argue. "That's a year away from almost ten and ten is grown up! Daddy please let me stay –"

Anna gave her father a defeated look.

Kendrick ran his fingers into, and then pulled on his hair, frustrated, leaving himself looking like a mad scientist. "I – Tessie, sweetheart, what did you see – earlier, I mean, when Anna fell?"

"Ummmm," Tess thought about it. And didn't know. She was scared. "I dunno? Bad stuff?"

"Because I have to talk to Anna about that bad stuff," he told her. "And you might not like it very much."

"Why not? I can handle blood and broken glass! I'm not four!"

"Because I'm your father and I asked you to go to your room!"

Kendrick almost never yelled.

Tess shrieked, and ran away, which got Anna crying again.

God fucking damn it all to hell, Kendrick didn't say – in part because he wasn't religious, and mostly because Anna didn't need to hear him swear along with yelling at her sister. He was going to have to spend a lot of time with Tess later to make up for that, he knew. Anna, meanwhile, got a tentative hug after a moment. "Hey," he said softly. "I'm sorry, I – honestly I never did know how I was going to explain this to you, and I really don't know how to explain it to her right now."

"You could've just let her listen to what you told me," Anna whispered. "I think she'd think it was cool. She loves magic and sh–stuff." Don't swear around your parents even if everyone at school does it.

"Don't you think she'll think it's cooler if you can go in and show off your wings by yourself?" he tried. "I thought you'd like to learn how to bring them out and practice putting them away a few times before you showed her, instead of having her watch you learn."

"– yeah, probably," Anna agreed. "But I'm not going to be able to teach her stuff, and she'll ask me if I have other magical powers too, and – I bet you do," she concluded suddenly.

Kendrick looked far shiftier than he realized. "Why don't we talk about that one later? It's – um, they're not necessarily the same."

"What's that mean?"

"Why would they be different? Or do you just not know if they're different?" Different strokes for different folks, after all, and neither of them knew the full capability of their species. And knowing that they were technically all capable of anything would have just scared Anna.

"Everyone has little things they do best," he prevaricated. "Right now, we don't really have any signs of what you're doing, you know? Up until today everything was human normal, and now you know you're something different, but you don't know what you're going to do. There'll be signs of it soon, though," he hurried to add. "Come on into the living room, anyway."

"So I can pick what it is? And then just work on it until I'm the best at it?" It was like sports at school, right? Of course, you had to have talent to be good at sports, but she had wings, which obviously meant she had to be good at magic.

At least she was able to follow him into the (thankfully pretty large) living room while thinking.

"Well, it's more like your subconscious picks it," he answered, and made sure that there wasn't anything light and loose in the living room to get caught up in the wind caused by soon-to-be-flapping wings. "But you can practice it until you're the best at it you can be, yeah. Best you'll be at that age, anyway – the more you practice, the better you are, and you might live for a very, very long time."

"How long?" She knew the human average lifespan was mid-seventies.

She also was starting to realize she wasn't quite human.

Kendrick just shrugged. "Until you're done, I guess you could call it. Like Elijah and Isabella – or maybe more like Grandpa Elijah's parents, I don't know. Careful now," he added, almost as an afterthought, before filling the space behind him with his wings. They looked a lot like hers, although with fewer dishes.

Anna leaned a bit backward so as not to get whacked in the head, and then stopped and stared.

"Holy crap," she said, because it was the only thing she could think to say. "Do I look like that?"

"Well... you look like you," he pointed out, smiling wryly. "But yeah, sort of. When you aren't crumpled up inside the hutch, anyway."

"Um. Right. Can I – touch one?" She didn't want to hurt him or anything. It might have hurt. It also might've been soothing, like having hair touched.

"Of course you can," he answered, and stretched one of them out to her, pinions hovering just in front of her hand.

Anna tentatively lifted her hand to the tips of his feathers, touching so gently she wasn't even sure he'd be able to feel it. "Soft," she observed.

"Yours are, too," Kendrick pointed out. "I – you know you should keep this a secret, right?" Another reason for Tess not to know, yet. "Part of that – you don't want too many people touching them. Especially not people who don't know how to touch birds."

"Yeah, I think if I told anybody I'd end up like that guy in Teddy's comics – oh god he's going to start calling me Warren."

"I think," her father offered ruefully, "that the only suggestion I have to help with that is for you not to answer to it – and I know that he sometimes does his very best to annoy you, and it's hard to ignore him then."

Saying well, he should work on growing up faster wasn't going to help, and she knew her baby brother was in therapy and knew not to make fun of him for it, so instead she didn't comment on it.

"We're not actually humans," she stated, instead of asking, but it was stated uncertainly.

"Grandma Lee decided that we were angels," he answered, which was sort of like saying no, we're not.

"Did she get that from – what they called Isabella? When she was little? I think I might remember that?" Anna was trapped in uptalk.

"America's Little Angel, yeah," he agreed. "Or, uh – before that she was the Irish Angel, I think. And yes – by then, Elijah and Isabella knew each other already, and they were good friends, so when Grandma Lee learned about – all of this," awkwardly, "the story goes that he tried to say they were called messengers, because that was what his parents called us, and she decided that was pointless nonsense and angels suits a lot better."

"Messenger of what?" Anna asked, and unknowingly sounded and looked exactly like Lee had when she had asked Elijah the exact same question.

"That was her point," he agreed, smiling – he missed his grandmother, so it was a bittersweet sort of smile, but it was nice to be reminded anyway. "And I don't think Elijah ever knew, and I know that I never knew, and either way why don't you try to bring your own wings out now?"

"Am I going to fit in the room?" Anna looked around, uncertain.

"I think so," he answered, and to be careful took a few steps back until his wings were crowding against the back wall. "Try taking a few steps closer to me, just to be sure, okay? Go ahead."

Anna nodded.

Neither of them heard the front door open, Rosamond's keys jangle, Teddy's footsteps in the foyer. The wings might've been choking the sound. But it worked out that, just as Anna concentrated just hard enough to convince herself she had wings again, and thus ended up with wings again, Rosamond stuck her head in the doorway, Teddy at her heels.

Teddy gasped excitedly; Rosamond grabbed him by the shoulder and pushed him back, and at the same time let out a "What the –" that she swallowed the last word of for the sake of her children. Which she was lucky she could do, considering she had just seen wings sprout from her daughter's back, and her husband seemed to have already had them, and they were both glowing

"Hi, Mom," Anna said somewhat cheerfully.

She'd assumed her mother already knew.

Kendrick, meanwhile, blanched completely, and ended up wrapping his wings around himself, as though they'd somehow hide him from the consequences of what was about to happen. He only said one thing.

"Well, shit."


The Dirty Life Universe

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