by Alicia McKenzie
DISCLAIMER: All the characters in this story belong to Marvel, and are used for entertainment purposes only. This story is based on the Cable -1 issue, where a newly arrived Nathan Dayspring pops into our era in the vicinity of Muir Island, where Moira MacTaggert rescues him from Rev. Craig and a mob. The issue left off with her promising to take him to see Charles Xavier, and that is where this story begins. Since I don't subscribe to the ridiculous retcon that depicts Cable as being in his late thirties, I've made some changes. 'Brave New World' takes place over twenty years before Marvel current-day. Thus, Rahne is not Moira's ward yet in my version. A very young Amelia Voght is also in this story, which may be a stretch on my part, but then again, if I didn't love playing with the timeline, I wouldn't be writing about Cable. :)
"Flight 236 from Edinburgh is now arriving at Gate Seven," a pleasant female voice announced over the P.A.
Charles Xavier couldn't suppress a sigh of relief. Finally. The plane was over two hours late-apparently, they'd had some kind of mechanical problem at the other end. The delay itself didn't bother him, but JFK was crowded this afternoon, and the ambient telepathic noise had risen from irritating to seriously wearing in a very short space of time.
#Have you ever noticed how travel seems to bring out the worst in people?# Charles sent to his companion, who gave him one of those slow smiles that always made his heart skip a beat.
"Sardines in a can, Charles," Amelia Voght said, tossing her long red hair back over her shoulder. From anyone else, the gesture would have appeared coquettish, but one look in Amelia's eyes and you knew she was too straightforward for that. "Sardines in a can, on a schedule." She snorted as she began to push his wheelchair towards the appropriate gate. "Unless you'd prefer me to be more ladylike and talk about the 'stresses of modern society'."
"Never, Amy," Charles replied with a chuckle, even as he frowned inwardly at the faint, bitter undertone in her voice. Something's bothering her. He automatically squelched the brief, thankfully transient desire to touch her mind and find out what the problem was. No, that was entirely inappropriate. But if he could get her to talk about it-"Is there anything wrong, Amy?" he asked, more hesitantly than he'd intended. "You sound-a little unhappy."
"Unhappy?" Amelia steered his chair around a cluster of Girl Scouts, most of whom were sleeping on the floor, using their backpacks as pillows. "Why would I be unhappy, Charles?"
Now, there's a loaded question, he thought with a certain dark amusement. "You were definitely unhappy when I told you about our-guests," he said discreetly. "I simply didn't know whether or not you had resolved your feelings regarding the entire matter-"
"Stop analysing me, Xavier, Charles F.," she said, her voice light but warning. "You know 'my feelings'. They're the same as they were when you first told me." They reached the gate, and she brought his chair to a stop with a little more force than absolutely neccessary. "I don't see why you have to get involved."
Charles sighed. "Amelia-"
"No," she said, quietly but forcefully. She moved to stand by his side, but refused to look at him. "What makes you think that you have to take in every mut-person with psychological problems who comes to your attention?" She was staring fixedly across the busy airport, but Charles saw the muscles along her jaw ripple with tension. "I sometimes think you have a God complex, Charles."
He raised an eyebrow, but deliberately didn't respond to that last goad. "You're so certain that he must be delusional, Amelia?" he asked, keeping his voice as level as he could. But he didn't understand this-insularity of hers, and he never would. She was, quite simply, openly hostile towards anything that would involve them in the wider 'mutant community'. Hostile-and afraid, he often thought. Their arguments on the subject, of late, had grown increasingly intense. She'd even been against him helping young Jean Grey, which suggested a lack of compassion that he found most distressing.
Amelia stared down at him, disbelief etched on her features. "You don't think he is?"
"I simply think it's unwise to jump to conclusions-"
"Charles, he has to be! I mean, this story he gave Dr. MacTaggert is-"
"Incredible, yes," Charles admitted forthrightly. "And it may be the product of delusion, I won't dismiss that possibility. But if it's not, and he's telling the truth about where he comes from, I feel obligated to-"
Her green eyes narrowed. "What?" she said, very softly. "Recruit him?"
Charles let his frustration show on his face. "Amy, I am not going to get into this with you! This is not the place or the time-"
"Charles!" Startled-and chiding himself for not paying attention to the stream of disembarking passengers-Charles looked up to see Moira heading in his direction, beaming. She seemed to have a death-grip on the arm of the man beside her, and was pulling him along with her, gently but firmly.
Good Lord, he's tall, was Charles' initial, inconsequential thought as he got his first look at Moira's mysterious 'visitor'. He appeared to be in his mid-thirties, though it was difficult to tell; his brown hair was lightly streaked with silver, but the face beneath seemed more youthful, even with the unusual scars he bore around one eye. Well over six and a half feet tall and powerfully built, he carried himself with that indefinable something that would have made Charles think 'soldier', even if Moira hadn't told him about how she had first seen him, dressed in outlandish armor and carrying more weapons than a small army.
A soldier, yes, Charles decided. Probably a good one, his instincts told him, but one who had been pushed almost to his limits by some unimaginable stress or trauma. Charles didn't need to be a telepath to see that. It was all there, in the stranger's body language. His posture was rigid with tension, and his gaze roamed the airport almost desperately, as if he was seeking out an escape route. He would have bolted already, Charles realized, if not for Moira's gentle restraint.
Instinctively, Charles reached out to him with his telepathy. Perhaps a brief mind-touch would reassure him-
His jaw almost hit the floor as the probe was deflected so smoothly and swiftly that he didn't even manage to make contact for a moment. Frowning, Charles concentrated, scanning on a wider band in an attempt to pick the man's thoughts out of the crowd.
Nothing. Not even the 'echo' he should get if the stranger was shielding. It was as if he simply wasn't there, at least from telepathic standpoint. According to Moira, he went into her mind and learned English. That suggests a high level of ability, but I've never seen anything like this before! It's as if his mind is totally inaccessible to either a casual scan or a light probe-I wonder if his defenses, whatever they are, would be equally effective against a full-fledged psi-attack?
He was not, however, going to attempt it and find out. Charles gathered together the remains of his composure, and smiled brightly at Moira as she and the stranger reached them.
"Hello, Moira. It's been too long." As soon as the words were out of his mouth, he could have kicked himself. I'll be hearing about THAT from Amelia for the next three days, he thought resignedly.
"Charles!" Moira let go of the stranger, who shivered and took a step back. She gave him a reassuring look, and then leaned down to kiss Charles firmly on the cheek. "Ye look tired, Charles. Have ye been overworkin' again and nae sleepin'?" she continued sternly, hands on hips.
"Now that is the pot calling the kettle black," he snorted. "This from the woman who has to set her alarm to remind herself to eat?" It was so easy to fall back into the old rhythms, the familiar sort of banter he and Moira had always engaged in. And there was no edge to it, thankfully. Not like the sometimes vicious verbal sparring that had, more and more of late, come to mark his relationship with Amelia.
Moira made a face at him, and then grinned. "I could do this all night, Charles. Ah, how I've missed ye!" She turned to Amelia, her exprssion suddenly scrupulously polite. "Amelia. Ye look well."
"Dr. MacTaggert." Amelia's voice was cool, but not overly so, and Charles breathed a sigh of relief. Thank God. The first time they'd met, Amelia and Moira had not gotten along. Not surprisingly, considering they both had strong wills and stronger tempers, they hadn't bothered to hide their dislike, either. But this time, Charles could sense in them both a determination to be civil, and he was too grateful to question their reasons. Amelia's gaze shifted from Moira to the stranger, and her expression changed, became less stiff. "Hello," she said very softly, as if talking to a wild animal that would flee at the slightest provocation. He stared right over her head, and didn't respond. Amelia frowned, but didn't look offended. In fact, she seemed almost concerned, which surprised Charles. That's a surprising change in attitude.
"Nathan?" Moira said patiently. When he didn't look at her, she made an exasperated noise and reached out to touch his arm. He shuddered, and would have backed away if she hadn't held on to him. "Lad, if ye go all catatonic on me again, I'll be very annoyed with ye," Moira said sternly. "Now, say hello t'Amelia. It's polite to answer when someone greets ye."
The stranger-Nathan, Charles corrected himself-blinked at Moira, and then turned to Amelia. "Hello," he said quietly in a deep, somewhat harsh voice. His accent was decidedly odd, almost musical, and impossible to place.
#Catatonic?# Charles sent to Moira. She blinked, and then gave him a rueful smile.
Aye. He heard her thoughts as clearly as if she'd spoken them aloud. He seems t'be able to handle small crowds, although he acts like he expects someone t'jump out from behind every corner and attack him. But if the crowd gets too big, he just-freezes. Turned into a bloody statue in the middle of Heathrow, when we were on layover.
#Ah.# Charles would have expected something like that from an untrained telepath, but from one whose defenses were so formidable? Or perhaps it wasn't the telepathic pressure, he thought suddenly. If he has truly come from two thousand years in the future, it may be a very severe case of culture shock.
But there would be time enough for speculation later. He looked up at Nathan and smiled, trying to project a mixture of welcome and reassurance.
"It's good to meet you, Nathan." He felt his smile grow, become more natural. "Moira tells me you've come a long way to see me."
He had meant it lightly enough, to break the ice, but Nathan regarded him doubtfully. "A-joke?"
Charles felt a sudden rush of inexplicable sympathy. "Not really," he said soothingly, and then glanced at Moira. "Why don't we pick up your luggage and get going?" he suggested. Something told him that none of them were going to get much sense out of Nathan until he relaxed a little. Which certainly isn't going to happen her. "It's much quieter back at the estate."
"A good idea," Moira said briskly. "We'll all do better t'be out of this madhouse."
"Mad-house?" Nathan asked, looking puzzled. "Is that-is that why everyone here is so-" Moira sighed, and he fell silent, visibly confused.
He has difficulty with idiom, Charles realized, seeing the honest bewilderment on his face. A downside of learning the language telepathically, perhaps? In any case, his instincts were telling him that Amelia was wrong. He might not be able to scan Nathan's thoughts, but he was quite sure the man was not delusional. Deeply troubled, yes, but not unbalanced.
"A figure of speech, Nate," Moira said gently, taking him by the arm again. She gave Charles a warning look. I think the rest of the questions can wait for a wee bit, don't ye? she thought at him. He nodded, and she looked satisfied. "C'mon," she said, her tone business-like once again. "Let's be going, then."
Nathan Dayspring sat stiffly in the back seat of the-automobile, he reminded himself. Their progress was surprisingly smooth, not at all what he would have expected from such a primitive mode of transportation. Oath, it uses petroleum, he reminded himself in disbelief. They had stopped to refuel a while along, and he'd been appalled to find out how the vehicle was powered. Aren't they concerned about the pollution? The air, the atmosphere was far cleaner here than in his own time, but it wouldn't stay that way for long. They'd passed thousands of similar-looking vehicles since they'd left the-airport. The whole thing seemed more than a little self-destructive to him.
Still, as he stared out the window, watching other vehicles pass by, he felt a certain wonder at the freedom of movement they implied. He glanced at Moira, who sat beside him, her eyes closed. Xavier was in the forward seat, with the red-haired woman, Amelia, who was piloting-driving, he corrected himself. "Moira?" he asked hesitantly, not wanting to bother her if she was resting.
But she opened her eyes immediately. "Aye, Nathan?" she asked with an expectant smile. "Another question?"
I'd much rather have ye askin' me questions constantly, she'd told him yesterday, than watch ye get all glassy-eyed, trying t'figure out what ye dinnae understand.
He flushed, remembering the half-scolding, half-motherly tone she'd used. "I-" Xavier half-turned in his seat to regard him, that considering expression back on his face, and Nathan froze.
Xavier raised an eyebrow. "Go on," he urged, his voice calm.
"I-all these people, traveling so freely-" Xavier's steady gaze was very unsettling. Nathan had never been so close to a 'legend' before. With all the virtues tradition ascribed to the man, Nathan had expected a figure of awe, someone not quite-human.
"Nathan?" Moira said, breaking his train of thought. Nathan flushed agian, hoping Xavier hadn't heard his thoughts.
"I-are there no-" He hesitated, inwardly writhing in frustration when the proper word didn't present itself. Just because he'd learned the basics of English from Moira didn't mean he could speak it properly. It was so different from the battle-language-yet strangely familiar, at the same time, as if he'd heard it spoken before, a long time ago. "Checkpoints?" he finally ventured, not sure he had it right.
Xavier looked thoughtful. "Oh, there are," he said finally. "But only at borders between countries. At airports, as well. That long line we waited in, where the attendant checked yours and Moira's papers-"
"Clever of you to get a fake passport for him on such short notice, Dr. MacTaggert," Amelia murmured, not taking her eyes off the road ahead. Xavier's eyes narrowed, and he gave her a hard look. She half-shrugged, and he frowned.
"In any case," he continued, turning his attention back to Nathan, "there are restrictions on international travel. But here, in the U.S., we can move freely within our borders." Curiosity glinted in his sharp eyes. "Was that not the case in your time?"
Nathan tensed. "N-no," he said cautiously. "You-weren't permitted to travel without permission." Not that it ever stopped my Clan- Closing his eyes against the renewed flood of pain and guilt, he wished desperately that he could let go, return to that comfortable, uncomprehending state of shock he'd slipped into after Moira had rescued him from those townspeople. Being aware and alert meant remembering.
And he remembered it all so clearly. None of those helpful gaps that marked his more distant memories had appeared, to numb the pain of the last two years. No, he remembered every detail, as sharp in his mind's eye as if he was looking on it for the first time. Every detail of that last battle, every moment he had spent in the hands of the Canaanite interrogators-the face of every man, woman, and child that Stryfe had slaughtered in front of his eyes-
Someone was stroking his arm gently, talking to him in a soothing, encouraging voice. Dimly, he realized that it was Moira. "Nathan, it's all right, lad-c'n ye hear me? C'mon, now, open your eyes-"
His eyes flew open and he gasped, his whole body spasming in reaction to that powerful, insistent call. Still shaking, he looked around wildly, momentarily disoriented. They were no longer moving, he realized dazedly. The vehicle sat, quiet and still, on the other side of the road. Moira was speaking to him quietly, reassuringly, and Amelia had turned all the way around in her seat, watching him with a strangely reluctant concern.
But it was Xavier who was studying him most intently, Xavier who nodded as Nathan met his eyes. "You did hear me," he said, sounding vaguely satisfied. "I wasn't sure you would. Your shields are-very strong, so I had to project it on as wide a band as I could."
"You were loud," Nathan said shakily, answering without thinking. Xavier, unaccountably, smiled.
"I suppose I was," he said, sounding kindly. "I'm sorry, Nathan, I didn't mean to 'shout' at you." His expression wavered for a moment, and then smoothed again. "If I-provoked this, with my question, I'm sorry," he said levelly. "I won't ask you anything more about-where you came from until you're ready to tell me, Nathan." It had the sound of a promise.
Nathan nodded jerkily, obscurely ashamed of himself for taking the escape Xavier had offered. Xavier turned and said something quietly to Amelia, who gave Nathan one last thoughtful look before she righted herself in her seat and started the vehicle again.
"Please, dinnae go scarin' me like that again," Moira said softly. He stared down at her, torn, wishing he dared explain at least some of it. She's been so kind to me-
But he couldn't. Not only that, he wasn't sure if he was supposed to. Blaquesmith hadn't exactly been forthcoming with his instructions. Seek out Xavier and Learn what you can from him until I arrive had been the extent of it. Learn what? Nathan wondered desperately, yet again.
But he'd had no chance to argue, to demand more details, not when all of this had taken place in the middle of a battle about to be lost. The Canaanites had been breaking through their lines, and most of the troops allied with the Mao-Sino Pact, the last ones to resist the Canaanites, had been preparing to flee. Their position would have fallen to the enemy in mere minutes, and Blaquesmith had barely been able to maintain the remote link to the TDC. He'd had to decide, right then and there, whether to trust Blaquesmith and go, or stay and fight. There'd been no time for argument, one way or the other.
But remembering the battle only led back to thoughts of those he'd left behind. Tetherblod, Dawnsilk, Hope, Boak- Other names as well, all that was left of his Clan after their catastrophic defeat at . It didn't matter that they'd urged him to go, Tetherblood actually threatening to knock him out and throw him into the timestream if he didn't go willingly. No, he made the decision, in the end. It had been his choice to leave them, on Blaquesmith's word, and let the old Askani spirit him away to safety in the past. He'd escaped, while the remains of his family tried to fight their way out of a death-trap, there on the banks of a Nubay River running red with blood-
Coward, he accused himself, blinking back tears. You abandoned them, left them to die-
But Blaquesmith had said this was the only chance, the only course of action that would allow him to change anything. And as much as he hated himself for all the failures of the past two years, as badly as part of him had wanted to stay and die, he couldn't have told Blaquesmith no. Blaquesmith was a master of the half-truth, but Nathan had never known his teacher to tell him an outright lie. If there was the slightest possibility that he could change things, that he could save those he'd failed-
His mind raced feverishly over everything Blaquesmith had said to him, every word. Had he missed something, distracted by the battle? Some hidden instructions, any clue to what Blaquesmith intended him to do here, besides wait for him to come? There has to be something-
After an indeterminate amount of time, he returned to full awareness of his surroundings with the realization that the car was slowing. Glancing out the window, he saw that they were no longer on the wide, crowded road. This one was narrow and quiet, lined with-
Trees. Nathan felt his breath catch in his throat. Oath. So beautiful. Once, in the carefully-tended garden of a Canaanite city governor, he had seen trees like this, but nowhere else. Most of the land, in his time, could barely support subsistence crops, and where larger vegetation had grown, it had been vast and mutated, like that in Ebonshire.
Amelia slowed the vehicle even further, and turned down an even narrower road, barely wide enough to accomodate them. After a minute or two of travel down this long, winding path, they came to a gentle stop. With a sigh of relief, Moira opened the door and got out. Hesitantly, he followed her example, and nearly ran into Amelia, who muttered something and went around to the rear of the vehicle, opening the larger door there. She reemerged with Xavier's wheeled chair and brought it around to the other side of the car, where Xavier shifted himself from his seat to the chair, displaying a surprising amount of strength in his upper body.
Nathan forced himself to look away-he certainly wouldn't want anyone staring at him if his T-O virus had gotten out of control, or something like that-and looked up at the building before him.
"Bright Lady," he murmured in the battle language before he could stop himself. Amelia gave him a quizzical look, Xavier a thoughtful one. Moira merely looked interested, as if his reaction was something unusual.
But he couldn't help it. The building-no, the home before him (there was a definite sense of permanency about him) was like nothing he'd ever see. For one thing, it was beautiful, almost unashamedly so. Graceful-clearly built with aesthetics in mind, not merely efficiency. Not visibly fortified, and lacking the cluttered, organic look the buildings of his own time possessed. Personally, he had always preferred his Clan's field-dwellings. But he could admire this without reservation, even though the clean, elegant lines of Xavier's home were as alien to him as-
As the rest of this world.
This is where the First Ones will gather, he thought in awe. This is the beginning of everything.
Then he remembered what the end had been, and his awe vanished, replaced by bleakness. What right did he have to be here? A curious sort of despair gripped him. He had betrayed his trust, failed every ideal this place stood for. I should be on my knees, begging for forgiveness. Not-
"Welcome to my home, Nathan," Xavier said, wheeling his chair forward. Fighting to keep his distress from showing on his face, Nathan looked down at him. The sincerity he saw there only made him feel more wretched. "Shall we go inside?" Xavier suggested.
Nathan nodded, mutely. He followed, too numb to respond to Xavier's attempt to engage him in conversation, too heart-sick to explain why he was unfit to put one foot inside the door.
And in the end, far too tired, one way or another, to care.
"You're been very quiet, Moira."
Moira wrinkled her nose at Charles as she poured herself a glass of water from the pitcher sitting on the table. The two of them were in the den, in front of an open fire that did a good job of driving away the early spring dampness. "Och, I'm a wee bit tired, m'dear man. The last two days have been just a little hectic, if ye hadn't guessed."
Charles smiled, but Moira knew him too well. He had that analytical glint in his eyes again, and she waited, with patience born of long experience, for the inevitable question. He didn't disappoint her. "You seem-very taken by him, Moira."
Moira rolled her eyes and wished, not without a shred of amusement, that Amelia would reappear. She had shown Nathan to his room so that he could get some rest-an idea that Moira had heartily agreed with, considering the amount of stress he'd been under-but she was taking a blessed long time about it.
"Ye had better nae be makin' any implications about my professionalism, Charles," she said, letting a bit of warning creep into her voice. He shook his head instantly, and, mollified, she continued. "Firstly, I owe him my life. Aye, the explosion never would have happened if I had nae put him into the scanner to begin with, but that does nae change anything."
"Very true, Moira, but I think this goes beyond gratitude." Charles' voice was cool, and Moira scowled, well aware he was goading her so she'd reveal what he wanted to know.
"Plagues take ye, Xavier, ye be as irritatin' as ever," she grumbled, and this time, his smile seemed entirely sincere. "Fine, then. I will admit, I've come t'care about the lad a great deal in a very short time-"
"That's another thing, Moria," Charles said, looking indecently amused. "Calling him 'lad'. He must be your age, if not older."
"Really?" she inquired a little testily. "I'm nae so sure, Charles. I ran a number of physical scans on him, and I still have nae resolved that to my satisfaction. Besides, age does nae have anything to do with it." She sighed, and sat down, swirling the water in her glass moodily. Charles waited patiently, projecting that same impression that he was listening very intently, that all his attention was devoted to her at the moment. It had been a very attractive quality, back when they'd been together-she put the past from her mind, and continued determinedly. "He's so-lost, Charles. Whether or nae he's tellin' the truth about comin' from two thousand years in the future-and I, for one, believe he is-he does nae know the first thing about living in this world. I've seen that, even in just two days. And there's such pain in him, Charles. I dinnae need to be a telepath to know that-"
"I know," Charles said softly. "That little episode of his in the car-" Charles shook himself.
"Aye, and that's not the first." Moira hesitated, and then went on. "The first night he spent on Muir, he did-nae sleep well." She made an exasperated sound. "Ah, will ye listen to me? I was workin' late, reviewing some of the tests I had done on him, and I heard him cry out. I went in to check on him, and the next thing I knew, he's out of bed like a bloody shut and huddled in the corner of the room, actin' like he cannae decide whether he wants t'melt into the wall or rip out the throat of anyone silly enough to come near him."
Charles nodded. "This armor of his-his weapons. Nothing you recognized?"
"Nae. Very sophisticated, more high-tech than I've ever seen-nae that I'm a specialist in the area, o'course." She took a sip of her water. "I'll hold on t'them for him. We could hardly have taken them on the plane, after all."
"And his-cybernetic parts?" Charles asked hesitantly, as if unsure how to phrase it. Moira perked up.
"There's the rub, Charles. I'm not sure they are cybernetic. Not after that wee accident we had. The metal is nothing I'ver ever seen-" She shook her head. "That alone should be proof that he's something out of the ordinary, even if he is nae a time traveler. Which, as I've told ye, I do think he is."
Charles nodded thoughtfully. "You may have been mistaken about him learning English telepathically from you-don't bristle, Moira, I'm just playing devil's advocate, here. But from what you've told me, it seems clear that he used some sort of telekinesis to save you from that falling debris. That, in turn, makes his earlier feat more likely."
Moira growled. "Ye be annoyin' me again, Charles. Ye sound almost like you're tryin' t'convince yourself that he isn't who he says he is. Why not just go into his mind-aye, I know that's against your precious principles, but surely ye don't have to do a deep-scan to know if he's telling the truth."
"I would if I could, Moira," Charles said resignedly, and proceeded to tell her about his inability to even register Nathan's psi-imprint. Moira pursed her lips, considering the problem.
"Well," she said reluctantly. "I suppose that makes things more difficult. But ye seem to have had a great deal of luck with young Jean, Charles. Are ye willing to try again with Nathan?"
"Of course," Charles said promptly. Too promptly, for Moira's liking. She scowled at him.
"Good. But I'm warning ye, Charles, go easy with him. He's nae in good physical shape, although you'd never know it to look at him-"
"Heavens, no," Charles said, looking surprised. "He looks like he could juggle a horse."
Despite herself, Moira snorted. "Aye. But I'm serious, Charles. He's suffering from exhaustion, and some kind of shock. That alone worries me, but the med-scans I did picked up a number of half-healed injuries, too-broken bones still knitting, new scars. His immune system is nae working up t'snuff, either. Add t'that his mental state, and he is nowhere near as healthy as that horse ye suggested he could juggle." She met Charles' eyes, putting all the force she could into her voice. "And if ye do not intend to act accordingly, ye will tell me now, and I'll take him back to Muir with me, whether or not he wants t'come."
Charles' expression was sober. "I will do my best to help him, Moira," he said firmly. "I promise."
Moira nodded, reassured. "Your word's always been good t'me, Charles."
"I'm glad to hear that," he said with a sudden grin. Forgetting all the tensions and concerns of the last couple of days, Moira laughed.
"Will you be all right?" Amelia asked as Nathan looked around the room slowly, an expression on his face almost of disbelief. Her conscience pricked her, but she couldn't help her brisk tone. She wanted out of here, away from this tall, sad-faced man and his haunted eyes. He made her uneasy, on some deep level she couldn't quite articulate.
He sat down on the bed almost hesitantly, and looked up at her. "Yes," he said in that same, quiet voice. Amelia was beginning to wonder if he could speak any louder than that. "I am-" He blinked, and then shook his head. "Thank you," he finished, almost in a whisper.
"You're welcome," Amelia said awkwardly. "Um-I'll let you get some rest, now." She started to go, and then stopped, turning back towards him. A little courtesy never hurts, Voght, she told herself sternly. Your beef's with Charles, not with him. "Sweet dreams," she said, giving him her best effort at a friendly smile.
And he actually shuddered, as if she'd hit him. The smile fell right off Amelia's face, and before she knew what she was doing, she was sitting down beside him on the bed. "What's wrong?" she asked gently. "It's just a figure of speech."
"Figure of speech-" he echoed her slowly. "I-" He blinked at her for a moment, as if he'd forgotten what he was going to say. Amelia started to worry. Was he freezing up again? That business in the car had spooked her-it had been like he'd left his body sitting there and gone somewhere else.
"A figure of speech," she said quickly, and he seemed to re-focus on her. "You know, an expression. You wish someone sweet dreams, you're basically telling them that you hope they sleep well. That's all."
He seemed to take a moment to absorb her explanation. "Oh," he finally said, awkwardly. "I-didn't understand." Then, he gave her the most heart-breaking smile she had ever seen. "I-I wouldn't wish my dreams on my worst enemy."
It was the longest sentence she'd heard him speak yet, and the anguish just beneath the surface cut her to the heart. Whether or not Nathan was telling the truth about where he came from, it was honest pain she saw in his eyes, and something in her reached out automatically, thinking only to comfort.
"I've had a few dreams like that myself, Nathan," she told him. "I usually try to think of pleasant things before I fall asleep. Friends, family-" She trailed off, shocked, as he seemed to withdraw into himself, as if shrinking away from a blow. "Nathan, I'm sorry, I didn't mean-"
"It's all right," he said in a bare whisper, not meeting her eyes. He was trembling very slightly, as if some internal struggle was being waged. "I-think I should get some rest now."
She rose, feeling oddly reluctant to leave him. "Okay," Amelia said helplessly. "Look-I won't be far away. If you need anything, just yell." He didn't respond, didn't even look at her. She bit her lip and then turned to go. If he wanted privacy, that was the least she could give him.
"Thank you, Amelia," he said softly, just as she was going through the door. She nodded, and shut the door carefully behind her. Some instinct made her linger for a few minutes, and what she heard banished the last traces of her resentment. One muffled, broken moan so full of pain that it tore at her heart, and then nothing. Silence. As if he couldn't bear to let himself weep.
to be continued...
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