Author: Notmanos
E-mail: notmanos at yahoo dot com
Rating: R
Disclaimer:  The characters of Angel are owned by 20th Century Fox and Mutant Enemy; the
character of Wolverine is also owned by 20th Century Fox and Marvel Comics.  No copyright
infringement intended. I'm not making any money off of this, but if you'd like to be a patron of the
arts, I won't object. ;-)  Oh, and Bob and his bunch are all mine - keep your hands off!  
Summary:  a new assault against mutants is launched from an unexpected place; meanwhile Bob
puts in motion his plan to siphon off some of Jean's overwhelming new power....or die trying.
Notes:  Takes place shortly after "X2" and immediately after "Retrospect".

Duende (dü-'en-da), definition - 1. Evil spirit, ghost. 2. The power to attract
through personal magnetism and charm .




Brendan wondered exactly how he was supposed to do this.  He was almost accustomed to getting dumped;  for the brief time he bothered to go to high school, he could have set his watch by it.  Was it the third Friday of the month? Brendan dumping time!  But the shoe had never been on the other foot - he had never been in the position to dump someone else.

And look who he intended to dump!  Jesus fucking Christ, was he completely insane?! Matt Parker was not only the hottest guy who'd ever given him the time of day, but also the hottest guy who wasn’t on a T.V. or movie screen somewhere. So what if he knew it?  He had eyes, didn’t he?  A guy who looked that good would be an idiot not to know it.  Yet, did he really have to be such a putz?  Would it have killed him not to be a complete asshole most of the time?

Oh, probably.  It might even cause him actual physical pain to be nice for longer than five minutes.  When he was nice he was wonderful, but when he was mean he was horrible.  Brendan hadn’t even minded, not at first - but the longer they were together, the more it was impossible to ignore.  And now that Bren had found some weird acceptance amongst the Xavier group -- many of the kids thought he was an action hero or something, and for whatever reason Summers kept heaping responsibility on him, maybe because, thanks to his otherwise useless Human mutation, he could always remember something if he had done it or seen it once -- Matt, who was always accustomed to being the center of attention, was as jealous as hell.  Their relationship had clearly defined, tacit boundaries - Bren always played second banana to him.  He was forever the runner up, and not the King;  Miss Congeniality.  He stood in the wings, holding his coat, while Matt dazzled the crowd.  And now that Bren had inadvertently stolen the spotlight, well, things had gone completely to shit.

Not right away, though.  At first, Matt had been a little embarrassed by his freak- out after those guys attacked Summers and Munroe;  again, of the two of them, he was supposed to be the badass one.  In a way, he enjoyed basking in Bren’s reflected glow - if you could call it that.  (Brendan honestly loathed this attention.  What if it led to everyone finding out he was actually half demon, and that all of his worthwhile abilities sprung from that?)  But as soon as he was referred to as “Brendan’s boyfriend”, that was the end of that.

Bren thought Matt understood he didn’t want to steal his spotlight.  Really, he just wanted to be left alone; he wasn’t trying to swipe Matt’s crown.  How could he? But Matt refused to be reasonable.  Why not?  It was always more fun to be a drama queen. But Brendan just didn’t want to deal with it anymore.  Matt was
still the most gorgeous guy he had ever met, but he could be pretty ugly on the inside.

What a cliché.  How the hell did he get caught in a cliché?

Brendan wasn’t sure what the final straw was.  Matt calling him a sell out?  Logan returning to the mansion?  Maybe both, or neither.  He just realized he was tired of playing games with Matt, and tired of putting up with his shit.  Yeah, he was pretty, but that wasn’t everything. 

Matt had decided they should sneak out to the city, grab a break from the “little kiddies” (code for getting loaded and screwing around, basically), and Brendan agreed, mainly because he didn’t want to play out a break-up scene at the mansion.  But if he was honest with himself, he didn’t want to do it at all,  yet he knew he had to.  He still found Matt attractive, but he was starting to hate him; he didn’t want to hate him.  Best to call it quits before that happened.

Brendan stood on the sidewalk outside a trendy yet grungy club called Yellow (why Yellow?  Then again, why not?), smoking a cigarette like his life depended on it.  He really didn’t like cigarettes, and he hated the smell of them in his clothes but, when he was nervous, nothing calmed him quite as well or as fast as nicotine. And if he didn’t smoke right now, he’d chew his fingernails completely off.

He stood in an alley beside the club, that reeked of piss and vomit even though
he couldn’t see signs of either (thank…well, whatever),  close to the (illegally) propped open fire door.  Depeche Mode’s eerie paean to co-dependency, “Never Let Me Down” , was winding up, and he could feel minute bass vibrations through the concrete.  What the fuck was he going to do?  How was he going to do this?

“What the fuck are you doing - smoking the whole pack?” Matt sneered, coming through the fire escape.  Bren had told him he needed a smoke, leaving Matt to his tequila sunrise and flirting with the bartender.  He was honestly surprised that Matt had even noticed he was gone.

The cigarette was mostly ash;  he hadn’t realized that until now.  “Pretty much. Rum wasn’t cutting it for me, I needed nicotine.”

Matt shrugged, unconcerned.  In the strobing blue light leaking from the open door, he looked slightly bruised.  Beautiful all the same, with his multi-racial heritage giving him an exotic look that was almost haunting.  His bronze skin tone was set off with a tight white t-shirt and equally tight, worn jeans - if he slicked back his hair and rolled a pack of cigarettes up in his sleeve, he could have stepped out of a James Dean movie.  (Yeah, they had finally seen one, if only to figure out just who that James Dean guy was.)  The hundred dollar leather boots, diamond stud earring, leather driving gloves, and two hundred and fifty dollar suede jacket would have had no place in that time of benign, middle class rebels, however. “We can stop by a 7-11, pick you up a box of gum or patches or somethin’;  if ya use ‘em all at once, you’ll get a real buzz on.”

“How would you know?”

“I’ve heard.”

Brendan dropped his stubby cigarette on the ground and ground it out with the toe of his sneaker. “ I don’t think I’m that bad yet.  Wanna go back in?”

Matt shook his head, making his earring glint in the transient light. “They’re gonna close up in a minute.  Can you believe that?”  He had to raise his voice a little, to be heard over the White Stripes. “This is New York.  I thought everything was open at two in the morning.  Isn’t this the city that never sleeps?  There must be some place that isn’t so lame-ass as to shut down.  Hey, maybe we could go get those tattoos.”

Bren sighed and ran a hand through his hair;  he was actually hoping another sniper had them in their sights, he so didn’t want to do this. “You can if you want.
I think I’m gonna go back.”

Matt snorted disdainfully. “Pussying out on me, hero?”

He glared at him. “I told you not to call me that.”

“Pussy?” he replied sarcastically, with a smile that was as much a sneer as
anything else.

“Stop it, Matt.”

“Oh, what?  You’re becoming as uptight as Captain Buzzkill.”

He scowled at him. “Fuck you.”

He grinned at him, his teeth almost blindingly white in the dark.  For a moment, Brendan was reminded of the Cheshire cat. “Well, that’s the first good idea you’ve had all evening.” He reached up to tug at the lapel of his leather jacket, and Brendan slapped his hand away.

Matt’s sneer was full on now, anger glittering in his greenish brown eyes. “What crawled up your ass and died?”

“I - I can’t do this any more,” he said, looking down at the ground and shaking his head.  So this was it, huh?  Just like that; just like telling him to knock it off.


He made a vague hand gesture, as if encompassing the narrow toilet of the alley. “This, all this. I can’t … handle a relationship right now.”  Oh great, now he was going to use the “It’s not you, it’s me” cliché.  Could he be more lame?  Was it even possible?

Matt’s look turned hard, as if his eyes were frosting over, and he put his hands on his hips, like a mother about to scold her bratty child.  “Oh really?  Is it interfering with your superhero extra-curricular activities?”

“Stop that shit, would you?  Jesus …”

“Well, that’s it, isn’t it?  You’d rather hang out with Captain Buzzkill and Princess Prig and do that bullshit hero shit -”

“I would not!  Hey, if you haven’t noticed, Matt, I’ve done shit lately but hang around that fucking mansion with you!”

He backed up a step, raising his hands in mock fear. “Ooh, losing your temper. Gonna go all Hulk junior on me now?”

“Why do you always make fun of me?  Would it kill you for once to be supportive?”

“Supportive of what?  Have you heard that bullshit they push?  ‘Integration’. Yeah, right - the mundane can’t even accept gays or black guys moving into upscale neighborhoods.  Think they’re really ever gonna accept mutants?  No fucking way.”

Brendan wondered what would happen if he told him now he wasn’t even entirely Human - would he have a glib response for that?  And he thought just being a mutant alone was bad?  “What other choice is there?  Declare war on them?”

Matt shrugged with feigned nonchalance. “Why not?  We’d beat ‘em in a heartbeat.”

“And then what?  Have you taken a look at the world recently?  Do you want it? It’s a fucking mess.”

“But Xavier’s said it himself -- we’re the next evolutionary step.  They’re like Cro-Magnons or something;  we’re state of the art and they are so fucking yesterday.  It should be our world.”

“And then we’ll prove how Human we are by fighting amongst ourselves for pieces of it.  Yeah, that makes sense.”

Matt’s eyes stabbed into him like bullets. “This is all ‘cause of that breeder, isn’t it?”

Matt called all heteros “breeders”, but the sheer contempt in those words told
him which one, specifically, he was referring to. “Don’t go there,” he warned.

But Matt took it as a challenge, and his lip curled back in a snarl as he jeered, “Crushing on a breeder, and one with bad hair too!  Shit, what the fuck’s wrong with you?”

“Logan has nothing to do with this.”

“Oh, on a first name basis with him, are we?”

“Don’t be childish.”

“Oh yes, you’re 'Mister Maturity' now.”

“Just stop it,” he snapped angrily, on the verge of just smacking him.  He could
feel his demon side threatening to surface in his anger.  Did Matt appreciate how hard it was for him to keep it down sometimes?  Maybe he did;  maybe he was deliberately trying to provoke him.

Matt snorted disdainfully, and crossed his arms over his chest. “I shoulda known there was something wrong with you.  You and Samantha -”

“Shut up now.”  Every disagreement, he wheeled Sam out like clockwork.  A common weapon.

But Matt didn’t shut up - he wouldn’t.  He felt he had a point to make, and he was going to make it, damn him. “I think there’s something wrong with all you bis - you can’t even pick a fucking side!  You’re born traitors … “

“I’ve saved your fucking life!” Bren exploded, unable to bear any more shit from him. “You wouldn’t have survived one fucking night on the street if it wasn’t for me!  You knew jack shit -”

“I never needed you!”

“The fuck you didn’t!  You’re just a vacuous little pretty boy who thinks you can skate by on your looks or by threatening to “break” people with your power!”

Matt’s eyes narrowed to slits and his snarl became a truly ugly thing to see. “Vacuous?  This from a guy in love with a breeder, who wants to do nothing but impress that fucking mongrel -”

“That's not true!  At least Logan treats me like a person, and not just a toy to be used or discarded at will!”

“Ha!  You wish you could be my toy, you scrawny little runt.” His voice lowered to
a silky, mocking whisper. “Is this where we all cry for you, martyr?  Oh, your mother was a junkie whore -”

“She was not a whore!”

“ - and you were abused and molested and cast aside by so many people.  Shall I weep for you, martyr?  Shall I point out that you love Wolverine like the father you never had?  The father you wish would fuck you -”

He didn’t even know he was going to do it until he did it.  His arm shot out, and he back-handed Matt across the face.  His hand was a blue-green blur with accents of red, and only then did he realize his demon side had come out, in spite of his efforts to hold it back.

That was why a simple slap sent Matt flying across the alley.  He hit the wall with bone-shattering force, and slid down the rough bricks, coming to a rest on the cement.  For a moment, he wondered if he had knocked him out, maybe even killed him, but then Matt moved. “Oh, god,” Brendan gasped, trying to force himself out of demon-mode, but now he was so freaked out he couldn’t.

“Matt, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean -”

“I’m bleeding,” he said, sounding stunned.  He wiped his knuckles across his mouth, and even in this dimness, he could see the dark smear of blood across the back of his hand. “You limp-dick little fuck, you made me bleed.”

“I didn’t mean … I never wanted to hurt you …” Well, apparently he could cry in his demon form.  He had no idea he could.  But the tears felt cold, like ice water dripping down his face.

“You wanna get it on, is that it little man?” Matt said angrily, using the wall to
get to his feet.  He was trying to take off his gloves at the same time, which was difficult.

“I don’t want to fight.”

“No, ‘cause you know I’ll kill ya, ya little piece of shit.”

“No, you’ll only hurt me.  I’m not what you think I am.”

“Fuck, yeah you are.  You’re some stupid pendejo geek.”

Matt was determined to try and hurt him, he knew that.  And he knew he only had one weapon he could use, one that would either leave Matt homicidal or so kick the wind out of him he’d have no fight left in him.  He decided to deploy it, in hopes it would stop this now.  He really had no choice. “He has a better body than you’ll ever have.”

That stopped Matt dead in his tracks, one glove half off.  “What?”

He swallowed back his tears as best he could. “Logan. You’ll never be able to compete.” Vanity, thy name is Matthew Parker.  It was his greatest weakness.

His head snapped back like he’d been punched, and the look he gave him could have melted pure steel. “Take that back.”

“You know it’s true.”

His sneer was back, in spite of the blood dribbling down his chin, but the hate shining in his eyes was simply reflexive - his ego had been hurt far more than his body, but he wasn’t about to let that wound go unchallenged. “You’re just a
pet to them, you know; an ugly little mascot.  They want to show how liberal and accepting they are by including the likes of you.  But you’re a hideous, orphaned cur, and they’ll abandon you for the next pathetic thing that comes along.  No matter what you think, you can‘t compete in the big leagues.”

“You have no idea what I am.”

“Yes I do.  Pathetic.” And with that, he spun on his heel and stomped away, the perfect little drama queen until the end.

Brendan turned to the closest wall, unable to hold back the tears, and kicked the bricks until he was sure he'd broken his toe.

Oh, that bastard.  Why did he have to make everything so fucking hard?  Why couldn’t they just have a nice T.V. break up and still remain friends?

He didn’t want to hate Matt, but now he was sure Matt was going to hate him for the rest of his life.




That stupid little freak.

Matt wiped the blood away from his busted lower lip with the back of his hand, and paused to spit the blood from his mouth.  He hated the taste of it, metallic and salty, like old pennies.

Where was he going? Deeper into New York, into a city that actually seemed far more narcoleptic than anyone had ever admitted.  Darkened skyscrapers blocked out the sky, and he could have been on a movie set, or at the bottom of a barrel; something about it seemed so artificial and wrong.  Even the night seemed more gray than black, as if it couldn’t commit to a shade.

Why had he ever humored that ugly little punk-ass bitch?  Yeah, okay, maybe he knew how to survive with little money, maybe he knew a few tricks, but otherwise he was useless.  He was so needy and he never knew it;  Brendan's behavior positively screamed for approval and acceptance, like a stupid little puppy dog.  But he acted so fucking superior, like he didn't care.

And he'd also kept his pack of smokes.  Creep.

Just as Matt was trying to figure out if he had enough cash on him to just hit the bus station and get as far away from here as fucking possible, a man’s voice said, “You look cold.”

“Fuck off, pervert,” he snapped, turning to face him.  And as soon as he did, he wished he hadn’t called him a pervert.

The guy was fucking gorgeous.  He had shoulder length black hair, as sleek as velvet, full lips, and eyes as black as ink, set off by skin just the right shade of pale bronze.  He was tall and lean, and wearing expensive black leather pants (were those Gautier?) and a black silk shirt open at the throat, revealing some kind of claw-shaped pendant around his neck, held by a black cord.  He wore a long black leather duster too that seemed to cover him like a cape, and he seemed far too elegant for this world.  Everything about him screamed class and taste … and money.  Oh yeah, buttloads of cold, hard cash.  He was like a young Antonio Banderas, but even better looking.  (Like Antonio with a nose job or something.)

The man’s perfect mouth quirked up in a wry smile.  “How do you know I’m a pervert?  I could be a good Samaritan.”

Was he flirting?  Fine, whatever - he had to see what kind of cash this guy had. Maybe he had a fancy car too.  A chauffer even.  “Why don’t you tell me?  I’m cool either way.”

The man raised an eyebrow at him, but then pulled a handkerchief - an actual white handkerchief, cloth and everything - out of his pocket and started to lightly dab away the blood on his lip.  “Got hurt, I see.”

“You should see the other guy.”

“You’re from the Xavier school, aren’t you?”

Instantly, Matt’s defenses slammed into place.   How the fuck could he know that?  He stiffened and took a step back from the guy. “What the fuck is that?”

The guy didn’t buy his dumb act.  He shook his head, and with a smile, pocketed the bloody handkerchief. “There’s no need to be frightened of me.  I’m something of a mutant myself.”

“Oh really?” What was he, paparazzi?  Now he didn’t care about his car or his cash; something about this guy was starting to freak him out, and he couldn’t
put his finger on it.

“Yes.  See?” The guy’s eyes suddenly turned yellow, and he became … ugly.  His mouth grew sharp teeth, and his forehead wrinkled and became … misshapen somehow. “If you think the world doesn’t accept you now, you should try being one of us.”

The hair on the back of his neck was standing on end, and suddenly he did feel very cold.  He kept backing away, but the guy just stood there in all his calm and hideous glory.  So why couldn‘t Matt shake the feeling that this guy remained in control of everything? “Oh, wait,” the man said, with a grin of silky malevolence. “You will be.”

Someone grabbed Matt from behind, but before he could get even one glove off, he was plunged into quiet and icy darkness.  He just had long enough to wonder if he would ever wake up again before he couldn’t think any other thoughts at all.