Gene's wings blend in perfectly with the dark colors of Darkley's School for Bad Boys. "My parents are high-ranking members of a biker gang," he brags. The proof is there for everyone to see, too. Green and charcoal splatter across the top of his coverts, joined by the little patches of color from his large circle of adopted aunts and uncles and cousins.
Brad's wings have bright silver tips and when his mom brings him a care package, the same bright silver gleams from the soul-feathers mostly hidden near her back. "I never knew my father," he tells Lloyd one night, in a rare moment of vulnerability. "Haha, see? No indigo anywhere here." He unfurls his wings and spins, and the only other color on his feathers is Lloyd's own.
Even Finn, the magician's kid, has acid green feathers scattered throughout his white primaries and secondaries. They glow when he's angry; he says it's a side effect of being created from pure magic. Lloyd doesn't have a problem with that, not really. But the fact remains that even the kid magically spawned on some isolated island has a heart-color brightening his feathers.
And Lloyd? Lloyd's wings are as white as the day he was born. There's not a splotch of heart-color anywhere on them, and he's checked, too, every night before he goes to sleep. White wings are the worst kind. They announce to the whole wide world that nobody has ever loved him: no, not his mom, not his dad, not the friends he's grown up with since forever.
Oh, he remembers his mom. He remembers the wings speckled with gold and purple, folding around him in a gesture of safe. The same wings betraying him, leaving him alone and abandoned on the doorstep of Darkley's. The olive green heart-color never appearing on his own wings, no matter how many times he looked in a mirror.
He doesn't remember his dad. He knows that he left before he was born and that he was the one to paint his mom's feathers in purple. But there's no face to go along with this knowledge- only rumors, stories, and gossip.
It doesn't bother him. Really. If he just ignores the ache in his heart and the repulsed yet pitying looks of his teachers, he can get through his day just fine. Darkley's, however bad it might be, is way better than the outside world.
That's what he thinks for a while, at least. But it can't go on forever, and something inside him snaps one day as Finn taunts him over the lack of presents on his birthday. Who needs love when you can have fear instead? he thinks, as he seizes a cloak on his flight out of the building. He slips the fabric over his blank wings, blanketing them in the darkest color there is. And he steps into the outside world, leaving behind all he's ever known.
The kids at Darkley's usually have just the one or two heart-colors from their parents. Lloyd's not prepared for the sheer amount of color that almost everyone has on their wings. He wanders, wide-eyed, for several hours in the village outside his school. Then his head kicks in and he shoves his heart aside. He's out here for a reason. He's gonna be the greatest villain in Ninjago ever, and then, people will stare at him for something far better than his white wings.
The plan is perfect in his head. The execution, well, not so much. Four ninja drop from the sky and carry him off, kicking and screaming, to their flying ship. Oh, he hates it at first. But the ninja slowly win him over and he starts to think of them as not friends, not yet, but not enemies either.
Kai's flight feathers are painted in gold and blue, but most striking is the large patch of dark red feathers that cover his entire mantle and stretch out to most of his outer coverts. Lloyd doesn't know much about winglore, but Kai tells him that the mantle feathers often represent the protector. The rest of his coverts are speckled in a rainbow of colors, but the biggest areas are covered in the colors of the other ninja.
Jay's upper coverts are colored in gray and pale blue. Lloyd catches flashes of color on his inner wings when he's training, but the lightning ninja moves too fast for him to clearly see. The feathers near his left alula are tinted in a maroon that darkens with each passing day and creeps down farther and farther- the same color as the feathers on Kai's back. Cole's, Kai's, and Zane's colors tint the edge of his flight feathers, climbing higher every time Lloyd sees them.
Cole's feathers are dyed in a rich gold and a faded orange, each covering a piece of his wingtips. "The orange used to be brighter than this," Lloyd overhears him telling Jay one night, as he sneaks into the kitchen for a midnight snack. "But she, well, you know. I guess that's why it's my favorite color." Jay's heart-color- a brilliant blue- is the largest of the ninja's colors on his coverts, but the others shine brightly too.
Nya's wings are tapered, built for speed. The secondaries on each side of her back are colored in the same gold and blue on Kai's, and a burnt orange color spreads across her mantle and creeps down to blend with the others. Many spots of different colors speckle her wings, but the biggest of them is the same color as Jay's that takes up a whole four feathers on her coverts.
Like Lloyd, Zane's feathers are almost completely white. A sea green colors the secondaries of his right wing, but slowly spreading across his wingtips are the colors of the other ninja. Something about the ice ninja draws Lloyd to him. They sit together in the crow's nest for hours at end, Lloyd talking and Zane listening, and something clicks into place for him. It isn't long before Lloyd sees his own green appear on his alula.
And Lloyd checks his wings every night when he's alone and he doesn't have to hide. And every night he's met with the same image- blank wings meeting his blank stare that doesn't, can't understand what's so unlovable about him that he still has no heart-colors.
He loses his cloak when the serpentine capture him. It's unnerving. He's been with it so long that he feels naked and vulnerable without it's weight, but the snakes seem not to know or care about the human's winglore. Cramped within the metal cage, his wings grow dusty and ragged. Broken feathers hang from their shafts, bent at odd angles where they get stuck between the bars of his cage. His skin itches much the same way it did when he had to get out of Darkley's, but this time it's much worse and worst of all, there's no escape he can see for him anytime soon.
Lloyd's not sure what to think when he sees the dark man inside the Fire Temple. The tingling in his coverts surges as they lock eyes, and Lloyd is left gasping, but the moment passes and he's tugged away as Pythor tries to flee the volcano.
The man chases after them. He throws snake after snake over the edge into the lava. He fights whole groups of them at a time, winning every match. His eyes never leave Lloyd. Lloyd's throat feels dry. Is this-?
But his thought never gets to finish. Pythor jerks the cage on its hook and the door flies open and Lloyd falls.
He screams. His wings flare, but they are too damaged, too weak from the long term of disuse to be helpful. He crashes into rock.
He's not sure how long he stays that way, only that suddenly a presence is at his side and helping him to his feet. Lloyd stands up and it's Kai, face flushed and hair spikes dropping into his face and the gold on his wings arching in a protective stance above him reflecting the glowing magma below.
They escape somehow. Lloyd doesn't know how. But they're back on the flying ship and Kai is getting congratulated by the ninja and the dark man is still watching him. Lloyd gulps. He's been waiting for this moment all his life, but now that it's here, he doesn't know what to do.
The room goes silent. The dark man still watches him. Lloyd takes a breath and starts again.
"Are you my father?"
He doesn't know what he wants the answer to be. Or, at least, he doesn't think he does. But when the dark man nods, slowly, like he isn't sure himself, something breaks inside Lloyd and he covers the distance between the two of them and flings his arms around his waist. Garmadon stiffens. Lloyd feels tears breaking at the corners of his eyes.
"Why?" he whispers, and in that one question there hide so many more. Fingers card through his hair. Lloyd chokes on his sob.
"I'm sorry, Lloyd," Garmadon says, and like the question before, it holds more words than were spoken. His voice is low and rough. It's just how Lloyd imagined it.
"Lloyd," he says again, "I've missed so much. I did not know I had a son, but now that I have you, I am never letting go." Crimson eyes stare into crimson. And Lloyd feels the same shiver from earlier crawling down his spine.
He breaks away abruptly. Is this-? He hardly dares to hope. Not caring what anyone else might think, he stretches out his wings, displaying the vulnerable inner feathers, and brings them around so he can see. Lloyd scrubs at his wing. The soot falls off, the dust and the ashes, and there.
His fingers stutter over the inner coverts of his left wing, over the deep purple coloring the unkempt feathers. His mouth opens; no words come out. Something taps his shoulder; he looks around to see Kai.
"Over here, silly. I know you must have felt it earlier, and I've gotta say, you couldn't ask for a better mantle cover." He grins, easy and cocky but there's something else in his eyes, something more vulnerable.
Lloyd twists his neck. There, just out of the corner of his eye, he sees a flash of burnt orange. His heart definitively skips a beat this time. Two heart-colors in one day, after a lifetime of no color. He keeps staring, looking back and forth between the two.
"You're acting like you've never seen a heart-color before," scoffs Kai. He's scuffing the toe of his boot against the deck floor.
Lloyd only nods dumbly.
Kai's face morphs into poorly disguised horror. "Wait a minute. What did they do to you at that bad boy's school? They don't paint your wings black, do they?" he asks, like having black wings is the worst thing he can imagine.
Lloyd laughs at that. It's kinda breathless, kinda sardonic, all around astonished.
"No," he says. "No, not black."