by Alicia McKenzie
DISCLAIMER: The characters belong to Marvel, and are used without permission for entertainment purposes only. This is set a year after Wolverine #100 and my earlier story, Promise.
I should've been enjoying this. Life around the mansion hadn't been what you'd call pleasant, lately. This was exactly what I needed, to be out on my own, the Harley underneath me and the road stretching out in front of me. Not bad country to be driving through, either. Say what you will about Cumberland County, Kentucky, but it sure was easy on the eyes.
I wished I COULD relax and enjoy it. Seemed to me that I probably needed the break, after all the crap we'd been through the last few months. The healing factor takes care of the physical stuff, but it sure doesn't do much for the soul. I felt as old as these hills lately. Given the errand I was on, I sure as hell wasn't going to feel any younger come nightfall.
Recognizing the Guthrie farm coming up on the left, I slowed down. I'd been intending to go up to the farmhouse, let Mrs. Guthrie know I was here and why, but right there, at the last moment, something made me change my mind. Instead of turning in at the driveway, I drove over the next hill and then pulled off to the side of the road, stashing the bike behind some trees.
Too many explanations, if I did this the 'proper' way. Hell, I wasn't even sure myself why I was here. I'd paid my respects at too damned many graves over the years. People I loved--or at least, enemies I'd respected. Tyler Dayspring hadn't been any of those things. Underneath it all, he'd been a punk kid with a few too many screws loose--suppose that went without saying about someone running around calling himself the 'Heir Of Apocalypse', though.
He'd tried to turn me into his idea of a suitable Horseman, half-killed me trying to restore my adamantium, nearly killed Sam--and I'd killed him. No choice in the matter. I didn't regret it. Hadn't lost one bit of sleep over it
Yet here I was. A year to the day. And as much as I might deny it, part of me did know why.
It was beautiful here. The thought hit me as I got to the top of the hill and stared out over the land. Quiet. Peaceful. A little tame for my tastes, maybe, but I could just imagine what the sunsets must be like here.
And I was stalling. I sighed and glanced around, orienting myself. There. I started in the direction of the right hilltop, remembering how wary Jean had been about telepathically 'showing' me where they'd buried him. She hadn't asked me why, though. I sort of wondered about that.
Easiest going was up through the trees on the west side of the hill, she'd said. So I climbed, images spinning through my head like a film reel, all from that day in Apocalypse's citadel. I'd tried more than once over the last year to pull them together into some kind of whole. Hadn't quite worked. Some things I could remember clearly, some things I couldn't. I suppose that shouldn't really surprise me--
I stopped dead, every muscle in my body up and deciding to turn into stone. I was far enough up the hill now to see past the trees, to the gravestone.
And the man kneeling beside it.
Damn it, Jeanie--
No. She wouldn't have set me up, I thought wearily. I should've seen this coming. Of course Nate would've shown up sometime today. This was just bad luck, and my fault for having my head stuck so far up my own ass that I hadn't seen the obvious.
Damn it. I forced myself to relax, but stayed in the shadows, watching him. I don't like to think of myself as the eavesdropping type, but what the hell was I supposed to say? Morning, Nate. Nice day, ain't it?
Cable hadn't noticed me yet. Petty of me, maybe, but I was glad his telepathy was still out of order. Gave me a chance to decide what I was going to do--
Don't be a jackass. You know exactly what you're going to do. Wasn't that why I'd come? It damned sure wasn't for Tyler's sake. If he'd been a generic nutcase off the street, I wouldn't have given him a second thought.
But he hadn't been. And Nate, as often as I've wanted to kick his tin-plated ass into next Christmas, wasn't just another old sparring partner. There was something owed on my part, here. Made me mad as hell to have to acknowledge it, after what Tyler had tried to do to me, but I couldn't let it go.
I had to say SOMETHING. Gritting my teeth, I started forward--and froze again as Cable started to speak. His voice was so low even I could barely hear it.
He wasn't speaking English. It was that twisty, almost Gaelic-sounding language of his from the future, the one that made you dizzy if you listened to it. Didn't sound like a 'battle language' to me, whatever he called it.
I couldn't understand a word of what he was saying, but his voice told me all I needed to know. And even if I ignored the way he choked on every other word, I could almost smell the grief coming off him. He leaned forward and laid a hand against the gravestone, a hand that shook as badly as his voice, and whispered a few last words, tears pouring down his face.
It shook me up, seeing that. The man might be the coldest son of a bitch I'd ever known half the time, but this was wrong. I shouldn't be standing here watching this.
I turned to go and stepped right on a fucking twig. It broke with a crack like a gunshot, and I stopped dead. Aw, shit. How much more fucking CLICHED could I get, here--?
Cable was on his feet like a shot, falling into a defensive position as he stared into the trees, . I took a deep breath and stepped out before he could see me first. Time to ante up; I'd known I was going to have to face this sooner or later. This wasn't exactly the place I'd fancied doing it, but it wasn't as if I had much of a choice at the moment, was it?
"Nate," I said gruffly.
The surprise on his face turned to anger faster than I could blink. He straightened, brushing the back of his hand across his eyes, and glared at me. "What the hell are you doing here?" he said through gritted teeth. He didn't raise his voice, but that didn't mean squat.
"Passing through," I said levelly, not looking away from that burning grey and gold gaze. I'd known this man for a lot of years, seen him in a lot of moods, but there weren't any words for the look on his face right now. "Thought I would--"
"What?" Cable almost hissed. "Stop by and rub it in? You son of a flonq--how DARE you?" I stood there and took it. Only thing to do, really. "You come here, today of all days?" His left eye blazed and then dimmed, the muscles along his jaw rippling. He was barely keeping himself under control. I'd known him for long enough to know the signs. "I don't know what you think you're doing here," he said harshly, "but I've got NOTHING to say to you."
"Didn't expect you would," I said grimly. There was as much frustration in his eyes as anger, and I knew why. He could hate me for killing Tyler, but he couldn't blame me. Maybe someone else could've, someone who hadn't seen enough, who hadn't been through enough to know that you did what you had to do--but Nate knew. He knew what Tyler had done to me, how screwed up the kid had been. He and 'Ro and Domino had seen it, first-hand, when they'd found him leading the Dark Riders. "But I've got a few things to say to you, Cable."
"Good for you," he said bitterly, turning away. I watched him fight for control as he stared at the gravestone. "Too bad I have no interest in hearing any of it. Go away, Logan."
I gritted my teeth, reminding myself that I didn't get the privilege of losing my temper here. "Not until I'm done talking," I said. "Didn't expect to find you here, Nate, but this needs saying, and I might as well do it now."
Cable's head whipped around, his eye glowing again as he stared at me. "I do not want to fight you beside my son's grave," he rasped. "Don't push me, Logan--"
"Settle down." I let a little steel creep into my voice. Maybe he was reading me wrong, without his telepathy--I couldn't imagine what that must be like, losing a 'sense' all of a sudden. So I'd just have to clarify myself. I couldn't let this turn into a fight. Nate was right, this wasn't the place. Besides, Jean would kill me. "I'm not here to fight, Nate. Like I said, I didn't even know you'd be here. But since you are--"
"Spare me, Logan, I'm serious," Cable snarled, kneeling back down beside the grave and brushing dirt away from the inscription. "I don't think I can handle hearing your version of what happened. It was bad enough coming from Sam." He looked up at me, and I saw past the anger to the pain underneath, just for a second. His voice got softer, unsteady. "Just leave it, Logan."
Leave it. Sure. Leave it, let it fester away until the next time we were supposedly fighting on the same side, and then watch it blow up in our faces. Maybe he was willing to do that, but I couldn't. I'd never had any patience for beating around the bush.
"Like hell I will, bub," I growled. "I've left it for a whole year, Nate, and that's more than enough--"
"According to who?" he snapped, rising.
"According to me!" I barked. To hell with the diplomatic approach, if he was going to keep being this standoffish. "You think I WANT to be talking about this, Cable? This ain't a time of my life I particularly like reliving--"
"Join the club, Logan!" Cable flared, and I tensed up as he took a half-step towards me. But he didn't come any closer, or give me any kind of sign that he was contemplating TK-whacking me into next week. "I've never tried to defend what Tyler did to you. I've never suggested that you should have done anything differently--I know you had no choice, damn it! And I--" He bit back whatever he'd been about to say, his eyes burning with something different now. "I know what he did to you. I saw it, Logan--I saw you when Scott and Jean brought you back. There isn't anything I can--oath, even if I was given to apologizing, what the flonq could I ever say that would make up for that?"
I swallowed. Well, that was one way to lay all your cards on the table. It burned him to say it, I could see it in his eyes, but it was said. "You didn't have anything to do with it," I said, my voice rough. Frankly, I didn't like hearing it any more than he liked saying it. Not this. Not from him.
"If I'd--" Sweat stood out on Cable's forehead, his jaw clenching again. "If I'd--stopped him the first time in Egypt, none of this would have happened--" He laughed angrily, turning away. "What-ifs," he said bitterly. "You'd think I'd have learned, after all this time."
"Can't change the past, Nate."
"Speak for yourself." He ran a shaking hand through his hair. "He did so much--damage." His voice was strange, hollow. "Not just to you, either. I see those people in Akkaba in my nightmares, too--"
Too? "What he did, he did by his own choice, Nate," I said, keeping my voice deliberately blunt. "You're not responsible." He straightened, looking a little more 'here', and I found my mind drifting back to something he'd said before. "You don't ever wonder if I could have done anything differently that day?"
"Did you even listen to what I just said? I may make a habit of second-guessing myself, Logan," he said, his mouth twisting, "but only myself. That doesn't mean I don't wish that--" His voice broke, and he turned away, staring at the gravestone again. "What do you want from me, damn it?" There wasn't any heat in the question, not this time. He sounded tired, more than anything else. "What more is there?"
"I don't want anything from you, Nate." My voice came out a little rougher than I'd intended, and his gaze shifted back to me almost uneasily before he turned back to the gravestone. "I--" Moment of truth, and the words didn't come. I closed my eyes for a moment, fighting back frustration. "Damn it," I breathed. I hadn't expected this to be easy, but still--
"Don't strain yourself, Logan." Cable said coolly. My eyes snapped open, and I gave him an angry look. He shrugged, but there was something downright nasty about the little smile playing on his lips. His mood had sure swung in a hurry. "I'm assuming that was some kind of pathetic expression of sympathy struggling to get out, there--"
"Nate, damn it," I growled. "Would you just--"
"Why don't I put your mind at ease?" Nasty was putting it too mildly, I thought as I watched his smile grow. "I'll tell you the truth, so that you can make up your mind about how to feel about all of this without any lingering scruples getting in the way." The smile stayed, but the eyes above it were full of something that came pretty fucking close to scaring the crap out of me. I'd seen this man angry before, lots of times. I'd seen him in a killing rage--but this was something else. Something worse. The only thing that kept me from popping my claws right then and there was that I was fairly sure it wasn't directed at me. "Sam really did manage to keep his mouth completely shut, didn't he?"
"What are you saying?" Part of me wondered if he hadn't figured out some way to score points on me here, some 'fair' way to lash out like he so obviously wanted. But that look in his eyes--whatever he was about to tell me was going to hurt him a whole hell of a lot more than it did me. Made me wonder if this wasn't him getting something off his chest, instead--
"Oh, it's very simple. Let me spell it out for you. Tyler wasn't my son, Logan. He was Aliya's, but not mine." The smile was beginning to look a little brittle. It was like an old, old darkness had crept up and swallowed all the anger, everything. His voice was totally calm, even considering what he said next. "Not long after the rebellion started, she was captured. By Stryfe. Do I need to go on, or can that sterling intellect of yours put the pieces together from there?"
The day got a little colder. "Stryfe's son?" I asked. It was the only thing I could think of to say.
I'd never met his wife. Never known he'd been married, until recently. But I knew how much he'd hated Stryfe. Judging by how old Tyler had been, he and Aliya couldn't have been much more than kids when it had happened. Just the thought of what it must have taken for two youngsters to raise a child under circumstances like that--
The sort of love it must have taken.
"Stryfe's son. Not mine. Does that make you feel any better, Logan?" Cable laughed bitterly and looked away, the smile gone like it had never been there. "That should clear up whatever misplaced sense of responsibility made you come out here today."
Stryfe's son. Part of me grabbed hold of that tight, insisted that it made sense now. Tyler had been Stryfe's son. Stryfe's son. Just as warped and twisted as his father--only that wasn't true.
His father was standing in front of me now, holding on tight to that last shred of self-control, and trying to hold back tears.
No, knowing it didn't make me feel any better. It made me feel worse.
"You really think of him as that lunatic's son?"
"What I THINK doesn't matter, does it?" Cable said restlessly. "It's the truth--"
"It's bullshit, you idiot!" I said harshly. "If your wife was the type of woman to raise and love that kid no matter how he got conceived, she'd be pretty disgusted with you at the moment, bub--"
I didn't even see the punch coming. One minute, I was standing, the next minute I was on the ground, with what felt like a dislocated jaw at the least. "Well," I mumbled, working my jaw carefully as I looked up at him. "S'pose I deserved that one--"
"You're damned well right you did!" Cable snarled. "ALIYA would have killed you a year ago, Logan! In my time, you took vengeance for dead kin--some Clans made a flonqing ritual out of it!"
I got up, walking around him. Leaving my back to him, deliberately. If he was still mad enough to hit me with my back turned, then he probably needed to vent a little, and I probably owed it to him. If that last punch had just been impulse, though, this was just making myself less of a handy target.
"So why didn't you?" I asked, staring out at the hills. My jaw started tingling as my healing factor got to work.
"Why didn't I what?" He sounded more angry with himself than with me, now. Typical Cable. Never known anyone else who got quite so embarassed over losing his temper, even the times when some loud-mouthed ass like me deliberately goaded him into it.
"Play avenging angel. You know damned well what I'm talking about, Nate."
He was quiet for a minute. "Because I know you didn't have a choice," he finally said, all the emotion gone from his voice again. "I do, Logan. And maybe because part of me was so--afraid, before, that I'd have to do exactly what you did, that when it happened, it was almost--"
Almost a relief.
I turned around. He was kneeling beside the grave again, not looking at me. "He was--pretty messed up," I said, my voice roughening again. Trying to think of Tyler as a person, for the first time.
"It wasn't your fault."
"I wish I could believe that." Cable shook his head helplessly. "You--don't know what happened, Logan. How I failed him--"
"There anyone in this world you don't think you're failed, Nate? Or anyone you're not afraid of failing?"
He actually smiled, just for a second. "A few." Then the smile vanished, and he gave me the closest thing to a pleading look that I'd ever seen from him. "Logan--leave. Please."
He was right on the brink again, I could see it. "I'm going," I said hoarsely, trying to buy myself just one more minute. "I just--"
"It would be so much easier," Cable said softly, "if I still had my telepathy. Then I could figure out what you're trying to say and spare us both the trouble." He had his expression back under control, I saw. He reached out and traced the inscription with one hand, slowly. "Or maybe it's not something you need to say. Maybe it's something you need to hear from me. Or both." He shrugged, his voice going wry. "And they say I have no people skills."
I swallowed. "I don't--want anything from you, Nate." Hadn't I said that already? This conversation just kept going around and around in circles--I felt like I was bashing my head against a brick wall.
"You sure about that?"
He was too damned perceptive. Even without his telepathy. But I didn't have the right to ask it from him. Not here, not now. Maybe not ever.
But there was still something I had to say to him. And damned if the words didn't come this time, easier than they had any right to.
"I'm sorry, Nate," I said simply. "I know you don't hold much stock in apologies, but there it is." Oh, great. Now that sounded just wonderful. 'I'm sorry your son's dead, but I'm not sorry I killed him.' Real sensitive. I caught myself growling under my breath, and stopped. "I'll leave you alone," I said gruffly, disgusted with myself as I turned to go. Probably done more harm that good, with all of this--
I turned back around and looked at him. He gave me another one of those not-quite smiles. "I hated you for this," he said, his voice calm and clear. "I really did."
He raised an eyebrow. "You never were particularly good at catching the subtle things, Logan," he said, and bowed his head, murmuring something under his breath in his own language again. Tuning me out. He'd said all he intended to say.
I smiled faintly. "Yeah. See
you around, Nate," I said, and left him alone by the grave.
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