It’s not immediately noticeable, but whenever Herc steps to close, Stacker feels his skin prickle, the skin between his shoulderblades strain from holding in his wings.
And Herc- it’s the way his walks, the slightly hunched shoulders. He’s no refugee, like Stacker.
“Are you hurt?” Stacker gets up, setting the teacup aside.
Herc starts, then holds very still, forcing himself straight. His eyes dart to the door, but Chuck is still in the garden, playing with Mako.
“It’s okay.” Stacker says softly. “What happened?”
There is no answer, but Herc closes his eyes, and draws out his wings.
Or what’s left of them.
“Iron teeth-” Stacker breathes, his hand starts out, but his holds it short of touching the bloody, hacked mess. His own wings huddle, shamed.
“I made my choice.”
“I know.” By the republic- what is going on up there? Hell was foul enough but at least you could leave. What is this new horror? “Can we do anything?”
“Not short of cutting them off entirely.”
Stacker hesitates, looks over the thin, stick remains of the bones poking out from Herc’s shoulders. “We could.” He says carefully. “You won’t fly again.”
“I know.” There’s an eternity of pain in his voice, raw, miserable. “I tried. I wanted to save her.”
Stacker rests a hand on his shoulder. He thinks of the flood, of Mako caught in the undertow. Stacker doesn’t know if he had been sent for her or someone else but- he’s known at that moment he had no choice but to break the rules. He had saved her, and the door home and slammed closed beside him.
“At least let’s go to bathroom,” he tries instead, “I can at least clean them, we could find bandages.”
Herc is still for a moment, then lowers his head, nods.