by Lesa Soja

Nick spent a long time looking for his wings. He went through reams of pictures and acres of web sites, searching for examples, possibilities. He even studied the Victoria's Secret Angel collection commercials, which was what got him noticed by the others.

"Nicky," Howie said, "what the hell are you doing?"

"Yeah," AJ said. "Those aren't drag queens, you know."

"You checked, huh?" Nick said, and Howie laughed and cuffed him on the ear. "I wanna get some wings."

"Ah," Howie said, nodding.

"Wings?" Brian said. "Like, for a costume?"

"Yeah, kind of," Nick said.

"Cool," Kevin said. "We should think about that for a show sometime, maybe."

"Sure," Nick said absently. "That'd be fun."

The models' wings weren't really the type he was looking for, but at least it was another option to keep in mind.

After that the guys would occasionally toss catalogs into Nick's lap. "How about these, angel wings? You look good in white."

"But I'm no angel," Nick said, deadpan. Brian grinned.

"Okay, goth boy, here you go," AJ said, another time. "Black as death at midnight, you know you want 'em."

Nick looked at the page, smiling. "No," he said, "but I think I know who does."

"You could get white ones and have them dyed," Kevin said, ever practical, and that was what Nick finally did once he chose a source, a small company near LA. He had several phone conversations with a very helpful woman there, discussing shapes and balance and the different dyes available. Then he settled in to wait for them to arrive.

The box was very wide, but quite flat, low enough to slide under a bed. Inside it the wings were protected by a voluminous plastic bag. Nick pulled that off with careful attention.

He loved them immediately.

He held them up by the center bridge to look at them. The backs of the wings rippled slate blue into gray, and the undersides were paler gray marked with dark bars. The flight feathers were tipped with white. When he turned his arm, they made a smooth, sustained sweep across his skin.

He closed his eyes and soared up in spirals into a dazzling sky.

He tried the wings on briefly, but they looked out of place against his Goonies T-shirt and jeans, so he only swung around in circles a few times to check the fit and then took them off again.

"When are you gonna wear them out?" Howie said.

"When we're back in New York, I think," Nick said. "There'll be a chance, there."

He put on pale brown leather pants first, and boots. He cocked his head to the side while he was getting dressed and looked in the mirror. His eyes glinted brightly back at him.

Then Howie helped him lift and settle the wings. The straps bit into his shoulders slightly, but that was nothing. The weight of them rested perfectly over his back. He turned quickly and heard the air rush past the feathers.

"Damn," Howie said.

"Wanna come along?" Nick said.

"Nah, 's not my thing." Howie smiled indulgently. "You have fun, though, 'kay?"

Nick grinned. He felt fierce. Predatory. He had sharp eyes, he had an instinct. He was going to find what he was looking for.

He put the wings back in their box for the trip to the club, taking them out once he was inside the entry and handing the box over for safekeeping with his coat. It was a little harder to put them on by himself, but he managed, turning a few times back and forth to feel the balance. Then he took a deep breath and went inside.

Nick figured if he wanted to dance he'd better do it early, before the floor got too crowded for him to move. So he got a quick drink and then stepped into a spot not too far from the edge. It was always different dancing at a club like this than dancing onstage, and it was different again with the wings on - he moved more broadly, his feet, his hips, his arms held wide and his head tilted to the music. Every time a light flashed behind him, he saw the sweeping silhouette of his shadow on the floor and caught his breath.

A woman wearing cat's ears, with fine whiskers trembling on her cheeks, paused in front of him. "I oughta eat you up," she said. Nick smiled gently and shook his head at her. That wasn't right, at all. She shrugged and went on across the room.

After a while there got to be too many people around Nick for him to be able to move freely, so he stopped dancing and went back to the bar for a bottle of water. He couldn't really sit in any of the chairs or couches, though there were plenty of them, and he had to remember not to lean against anything either. So he walked slowly around the edge of the dance floor while he drank, watching the crowd carefully. Several people looked at the wings, but no one stopped him.

When the bottle was empty, he threw it into a trash can and went down the short hallway to the other room. It, too, was filling up. A man on his hands and knees was carrying a rolled-up newspaper in his mouth, and another man was speaking softly to a woman wearing hooves and a halter with a red plume. Nick looked around for a bit, but there was nothing for him there, so he went out again back to the main room.

He had to turn sideways to slip past some people standing in the entrance to the hallway. When he stepped clear of them, he sighted the back of a familiar dark head. His smile turned hungry. Nick glided through the crowd and hovered over Chris Kirkpatrick's shoulder till he turned around.

Chris didn't say anything for a moment, studying Nick with narrowed eyes. Nick floated still in the air, wings barely moving.

Then Chris stretched out his hand, palm down. "On my arm," he told Nick quietly.

Nick swooped down, down, down at a dizzying pace and came to rest curving his fingers over Chris's gauntlet. His heart was beating fast.

Chris gave him an approving smile. Nick dropped his head and followed Chris down the hall.