Title: Queer
Rating: T, for language and a slashy, smutty encounter.

Summary: Jerry is infatuated with the strange angel Sean, but Sean doesn't even know he exists...at least, not until Jerry finds Sean being bullied after school one day.

Author's Notes: The third of the Strange Angel stories I've posted on here, this one has absolutely nothing to do with Lucinda and Matthew of "Flight" and "Moon Worship"! I hope you enjoy it anyway.

It is a small bedroom, dingy and ill-kept, like any teenage boy's room. Had he been paying attention, he might have noticed the rock stars—Freddie Mercury and David Bowie, and other classics of the seventies and eighties—sharing wall space with muscle-bound bodybuilders and athletes. He might have noticed the pile of laundry on the floor, or the rack of barbells in the corner. He might have noticed the CD collection, a strange mix of rock and soul, with show tunes squirreled away in between.

He might have, but he doesn't.

He only notices the narrow, unmade bed, and the hard, compact body of his companion, and then the sheets against his back.

Jerry had been watching Sean for weeks before Sean even noticed. Then again, Sean was a senior and a native of the school district, and Jerry was a sophomore and just over a month new; they had no real reason to interact. How could a high school senior be expected to take notice of a mere sophomore?

Of course, Sean never seemed to notice much of anything that was going on around him. He seemed very detached from the rest of the student body, but he managed to pull it off without seeming cold. It was one of the things that fascinated Jerry so much about him, if, by no means, the most compelling.

Sean was handsome enough, though not really stunningly attractive. Thin, tall, and pale, Sean had a pointed face and a small nose with freckles spattered across its bridge. His glossy blue-green hair was shaggy and often fell over one unfathomable dark eye or the other. He was lean and delicate and overall rather otherworldly looking, and altogether unmistakable.

That might have had something to do with his tail.

Strange angels, they called themselves. No one could say with any certainty what, exactly, they were—the most popular theory was complex and scientific and had something to do with genetic variation. What was sure was that they existed, there were records of them existing back through history, and that they were still being born with serene regularity.

They were human, yes, but they were avian as well. The degrees to which any one strange angel was one or the other varied. Jerry had done some extensive research on the subject, and knew they could exhibit combinations of characteristics that ran from one extreme to the other. There were some that were almost entirely human, with something like vestigial wings or a smattering of feathers marking them as unique; others were so avian that they looked like an anthropomorphized bird stepping out of a fantasy world. Sean, to Jerry's eye, struck the perfect balance. His avian features were undeniable, but he was human enough that he didn't seem completely alien.

Jerry was fascinated. Sure, he'd seen strange angels before. They were on the news and in books, and every once in a while he'd see one flying overhead or strolling the streets downtown. That had been when his family had lived just outside of Philly, though; cities were notorious gathering points for them. Even then he'd never seen one up close, in person!

The last thing he'd expected when his parents moved the family out here to Nowheresville, P.A., was for there to be an honest-to-goodness strange angel attending his school…and for that angel to be completely, wholly, utterly fascinating.

Like all the strange angels, Sean did not just resemble some generic bird; he was very clearly a peacock, complete with russet and blue wings and a full tail. Jerry had only seen it fully fanned once, when Sean had been patiently displaying in a class and the door had been open as Jerry passed. The rest of the time, he kept it folded and flat, trailing it on the ground as he walked. Jerry had no idea how he avoided getting it stepped on.

So ever since they moved here, to this tiny out-of-the-way town, Jerry watched Sean, and tried not to think about how often the strange angel occupied his thoughts.

They come together awkwardly.

It's difficult—this is the first time he's ever done anything like this. There's not a lot of opportunity for his kind at their school, where the ordinary, the middle of the line reigns supreme. He wants to be wild and careless, as if he does this all the time, but there are interfering factors. Where does this hand go? Why is that knee there? The wings are a real problem, and he has to flip his companion over so that his tail doesn't get pinned painfully beneath them.

It's hard, but they're figuring it out.

Jerry thanked Mr. Schmidt, the American History II teacher, and exited the classroom in a hurry. He appreciated that the teacher took the time to answer his questions, but it still didn't mean that he wanted to be roped into some tedious dialogue about whatever Mr. Schmidt thought it was he and his peers found interesting. No matter how good of a teacher he was (and he was a decent teacher), Jerry did not want to be his friend.

The halls were empty as he stopped by his locker before heading out of school. The day had ended twenty minutes ago, and in the manner of all high schools, the students had abandoned the building as soon as possible. There weren't even any stragglers on the path that ran from the back parking lot to the development where Jerry lived, up and behind the school.

It was actually kind of nice to have a little peace walking home.

As he came around the fence that enclosed the school's football field, though, he heard voices ahead in the band of scrubby woods that separated the school and the ranks of townhouses, and realized his walk wouldn't be entirely solitary.

"Hey man, where ya goin'?" an aggressive male voice demanded up ahead.

"Yeah, man, you don't live around here," another chimed in. They sounded familiar, but Jerry didn't know many people that well yet, and couldn't place any of them by voice alone.

A third spoke now. "Come on, man, don't you know it's rude not to say anything when someone's talking to you?"

"Aw, he's just a fag," said the first voice, and there was a distinctly mocking, fluting tone to his voice. "You know them fags. They got no manners."

Jerry felt his stomach drop into his feet at that. He suspected he knew who the anonymous voices were…

"No kidding," said one of the others. "Doesn't even have the manners to ask permission to come into our neighborhood!"

"Come on, you guys," a fourth voice broke in. The tone was calm, with a touch a plaint in it. "I'm just going to do a project."

"Well, you gotta ask us, fag," said the first.

"Yeah, fag. We don't let freaks into our neighborhood."

"No fags, no freaks."

Could it be…?

"Why don't you go home, flyboy?"

It was.

"Fly away home, flyboy!"

Jerry knew who it was they were targeting even before they came into sight around the bend in the trail. There was only one "flyboy" in their school. The nickname didn't just refer to Sean's wings, it made a mockery of the fact that he actually couldn't fly. It wasn't uncommon for strange angels' wings to be too underdeveloped to get them off the ground, and that tail made the matter entirely out of the question.

He saw Sean, a couple hundred yards ahead, flanked by one of the aggressors on one side and two on the other. His suspicion was borne out—two of the boys were from the basketball team, and the third was often in the school weight room when Jerry went in, in the mornings, to lift. Sean walked with his head up and a pleasant expression on his face, but there was strain evident in the way he held his arms and wings.

Jerry let his backpack swing from his shoulder, drop to the dirt.

Suddenly, one of them grabbed the messenger bag slung over the strange angel's shoulder and yanked viciously. Sean flinched as the strap cut into his neck and shoulder, and flailed his wings. One of them clubbed one of the basketball players, a center named Rich, full across the face. He snarled and leapt onto Sean's tail, grabbing both of his wings and yanking them back and down sharply. Sean let out a strangled yelp as his knees buckled.

Jerry took a step, then another, then began to run.

"Get the hell off of me!" Sean gasped, clawing at the arm tight around his throat. "Let me—" The second basketball player shoved Sean down and brought his knee up simultaneously. Sean collapsed again, but they hauled him up once more.

At this point Jerry was pelting towards them at a dead run and even though he ran without any sound other than his sneakers on the path, he was too close to ignore. He wasted no words. He just tackled Rich.

Unlike his brothers, Jerry had not opted to pursue football at the high school level. He just didn't like it. That didn't mean, though, that he didn't know how to play—he'd had to learn it as a defensive skill, or he would have been crushed to death at an early age—and though he was short, he was strong. The pair of them hit the dirt hard, and it was Rich who absorbed most of the impact; Jerry was well able to stay on top of him, keep the upper hand.

"Let him go," he said the other two, lifting his head and staring straight at them. They stared back, clearly dumbfounded, and since Rich was still gasping and spluttering under him, they did. They released Sean, who dropped to his hands and knees, coughing. "Now step off," Jerry ordered. They backed away.

"The…hell…you doing?" Rich croaked, still short of breath. "Let me…up!"

"Shut up," Jerry snapped. "You're a no-good bigoted prick, and if I see you harassing Sean or anybody again, I'll—"

"Do what, soph? Tattle?"

"Yeah. To Coach Bradley."

Rich was a center on the varsity team, a good player (as far as Jerry knew) but nowhere near as valuable to the team as he told everybody he was…and he knew it. The threat was a good one; Rich was one of the many kids who was nothing without his spot on the team, and one of the rare few who was aware of it. He frowned, and glowered, and squirmed, and finally said, "Whatever, you freak."

Jerry rolled off of him and jumped to his feet. Rich rose more slowly. For a moment there was a silent tension and Jerry was convinced all three of the goons would jump him, but the threat was enough.

"You're probably a fag too," was all Rich muttered, before turning and stalking off, careful to skirt widely around Sean. The other two followed him.

"Jeez," Jerry said. He turned to Sean and dropped to one knee in the dirt. "Hey. You all right?"

Sean coughed, turned his head to the side, spat. He tried to smile. "No," he said frankly.

"Come on, get up," Jerry said, taking him by the arm and pulling him to his feet. Sean was a full head taller than he was, and Jerry found himself staring straight at the charm around the strange angel's neck as the older boy straightened painfully to his full height. It was an inverted triangle of silver and pink enamel. "Those guys hassle you much?" he asked, just to have something to say.

"Once in a while," Sean admitted nonchalantly, as if it were no big deal. He bent to pick up his messenger bag, wincing as he did so. He shivered, gave his wings a flip, and shook his tail with a sound like a rain-stick. "When the mood strikes them. I think it has something to do with the full moon…"

Jerry laughed, which was probably what Sean had wanted. "You don't live around here," he said. It wasn't a question; Jerry would have known by now if Sean lived in his neighborhood.

"S'posed to meet Tiff Jennings for a sociology project," Sean said offhandedly. He was patting down his pockets, looking for something. "Shoot, I think I lost her address."

"I know where she lives," Jerry said, without thinking. Tiff Jennings was a junior whose mother had thrown a big housewarming party for his family when they moved in. Mrs. Jennings had also tried, unsubtly, to convince her daughter that "that nice Davidson boy would be a good match for you". Jerry had neglected to tell either of them why he wasn't a good match for any girl, though he'd sorely wanted too.

"Show me?"


Jerry retrieved his backpack and the two of them headed down the path and into the townhouse complex. Sean seemed unruffled by the near beating, though the tips of his wings did keep twitching. Jerry was still rattling from the adrenaline…and from being so close to him.

Tiff lived three houses down from Jerry, and a walk that seemed interminable going to school was nothing today. Jerry pointed him up the walk to the door, grinned nervously, and turned to go.

"Hey," Sean said from the stoop as he walked away. "What's your name?"

"…Jerry. Jerry Davidson."

Sean grinned slowly. "Nice to meet you."

They kiss. This is easier, now that all their various appendages are arranged. It is not his first, not really. A girl had kissed him at a Halloween party last year, but he didn't count that. To him, it wasn't real; she'd been more than a little drunk, and wasn't exactly known for her virtue. He'd shoved her away and left the party, but that didn't mean it hadn't happened.

This is real, and nothing at all like that first. This feels thrilling and exciting, and if it's a little damp, at least he wants it.

Jerry's parents both worked full-time, and he was the only kid left in the house, now that his brothers were in (or already out of) college. His mom wouldn't be home until around five, his dad a few hours later; every day after school his time was his for a while. Today he was glad of the privacy; having to deal with his mom or dad right now would have been completely, abysmally awkward.

He dropped his pack in the corner and slouched straight to the fridge. There was an ice pack in the freezer, and he sat in a chair to hold it against a knee suddenly painful. It must have hit a rock when he tackled Rich. It hurt, but he'd been hurt worse wrestling his brothers.

Thoughts of what just happened, what he'd just prevented, circled and whirled in his head, too fast to track. He tried to relax. It was difficult, but without Sean there keeping his heart rate up, he was able to wind down.

The doorbell roused him from a doze he didn't even remember falling into, and he realized with a start that over an hour had passed. He vaulted to his feet, yelled out, "Hold on!" and hobbled to the front door, knee protesting all the way. (Damn! He must have banged it harder than he'd thought.)

It was Sean. "Can I come in?" he asked.

"Of…of course," Jerry stammered, opening the door all the way and standing back. Sean swept in with his head high. The rasp of the feathers of his marvelous tail against the doorjamb seemed to go on forever.

"Listen," Sean said without preamble, turning carefully to face him. He looked entirely out of place in their mundane living room, like a peacock in a pet store. "I know I was short with you before, and I didn't really mean to be." He smiled the sort of slow, charming grin that would have attracted girls like moths, had he been normal. "I'm sorry. I didn't thank you for helping me out."

"Well, I…" Jerry was at a loss for words and feeling remarkably shy. "I mean, I couldn't let them push you around like that…"

"They're bullies," Sean said, identification and absolution both in the simple statement. He inclined a hip against the back of the couch and crossed his arms. "I try to ignore them, but when they hurt, they hurt."

"Are you all right?" Jerry asked, feeling on slightly more solid ground here. "We've got aspirin and ice and stuff." He gestured up his own ice pack in demonstration.

"So did Tiff's mom," Sean said. "I'm all right."

"Oh. Okay."

"Listen," Sean said again, a little bit hesitantly. He looked Jerry in the eye, then dropped his gaze to his feet. "It's not that I don't appreciate the help, but I have to know…" He trailed off.

"Know what?"

"Why? I mean, I don't know you and you don't know me, and most of the kids in this school wouldn't go out of their way to help a freak." His voice turned bitter, and for the first time Jerry began to wonder if the barbs actually affected the unflappable Sean after all. "Especially not kids like…er."

"Hey," Jerry said, with some rancor. "Just because I like to look good doesn't mean I want anything to do with those meatheads. I'm a lifter, not an athlete."

"Sorry," Sean said sheepishly. He paused. "So why, then?"

Jerry shrugged. "Let's just say…" he said slowly, glancing once again at the pink pendant at Sean's throat, "that I like to look out for my own."

"Oh," Sean said. He thought about that for a minute, then looked up. There was a mischievous smile on his lips. "You too?"

Sean pulls back and smiles down at Jerry, feeling a little hazy from the painkillers and a little euphoric from the kiss. Jerry reaches up and runs wondering fingers over the arches of his wings. Sean feels his tail twitch. With a sound like the leaves on a thousand trees whispering together, the great fan lifts and spreads, opening up all the way. Jerry's eyes light up as it drifts down, curving forward and draping them both in a dappled azure tent.

He doesn't want to think about tonight, or tomorrow, or anything past the next touch, the next caress. Let the eyes on the feathers watch now; they'll decide what to do under the eyes of the world later.

Author's Notes: All feedback is welcomed; let me know what you thought! Thank you for reading!