by Alicia McKenzie



DISCLAIMER: Characters belong to Marvel, and are used without permission for entertainment purposes only.

"Hello, Nathan. Why don't you sit down?"

"I don't think so."

"I could have my secretary bring in another chair, if you like. . ."

"No, the chair looks perfectly comfortable. That's not why I'm still standing up."

"Fair enough. Why are you standing up, then?"

"Because I'm not staying long."

"Ah. If you don't mind me saying so, Nathan, you seem very uncomfortable."

"Uncomfortable? Oath, I don't know what might have given you THAT impression."

"There's no need to be sarcastic. I was simply making an observation."

"Not to be childish, but I'll be as flonqing sarcastic as I want. I'm only here because. . .because I promised Jean."

"Mrs. Summers. Your. . ."

"Not-quite mother, yes. I'm sure you had the whole briefing from Xavier about my unusual family situation before he set up this appointment."

"Unusual is a bit of an understatement. I'm afraid Charles had to repeat himself three times before I was sure I'd gotten it all straight. Your family tree is certainly a tangled one. . ."

"Consider me doubled over with laughter. Keep making jokes, if you like. Why shouldn't you laugh at me? Everyone else does. Poor, deluded Nathan, tilting at windmills. . ."

"Nathan. . ."

"That sounded a lot like self-pity, didn't it? Pardon me while I go and cut my tongue out."

"Nathan. Perhaps we should talk about what happened? That is why you're here, after all. . ."

"I don't want to talk about that."

"What would you like to talk about, then?"

"I don't know. Your choice of decor, maybe. The weather. How the Yankees are doing. Why it felt good to break my father's jaw. . ."

"Did it?"

"Yes, it did. You don't look shocked."

"Should I?"

"Everyone else was shocked. Half of them just stood there staring at me with their mouths hanging open."

"And what did the other half do?"

"Tackled me, of course. They probably thought I was a Skrull, or that Stryfe had taken over my body again. There are an endless number of possible excuses, Doctor. The sort of lives we lead, we automatically look for outside causes first when someone has a psychotic break. It never occurred to them that I just. . .wanted to hit someone."

"I see."

"No, I don't think you do. I wish I'd gotten the chance to hit Logan, too. I mean, the day would have been perfect if I'd just been able to inflict a little grievous bodily harm on that sanctimonious hairball. . ."

"You and Logan don't have a very good relationship, I'm assuming. You sound very hostile when you speak of him. . ."

"I don't think you appreciate just how little I care if I'm sounding hostile or not. I don't care. I don't care if I sound hostile. . .I don't care if I come across like a raving lunatic who needs to be institutionalized!"

"Nathan, there's no need to shout. . ."

"You think I'm shouting? This isn't shouting. You don't get it, do you? What you all think is raving lunacy is actually my normal state of being. It's just my beloved family's narrow-minded twentieth-century way of looking at things that make them think I'm crazy. . ."

"I've talked to Scott and Jean, Nathan, when I was preparing for this session. I don't recall either of them mentioning the word crazy. Or anything of the sort, really. . ."

"They're not going to come out and SAY it. They just think it. I'm as alien to them as if I was Shi'ar. I can tell, you know. One of the fringe benefits of telepathy."

"You don't. . .trust them very much, do you?"

"Have they ever given me a reason to trust them? Have I ever given them a reason to trust me? If they knew what I really was, what I've. . .done, what I've been. . ."

"Nathan. . .calm down. It's all right. . ."

"I'm not looking for reassurance, stab your eyes! If they cared that much about me, they'd have left me alone, rather than forcing me to come and see you!"

"You don't think they're trying to help you?"

"I don't need their help! I did just fine on my own for a lot of years, you know. I didn't need them. I survived, made my own way in the world. I have. . .I have a PURPOSE. I don't need anyone trying to take that away from me!"

"I don't understand, Nathan. Who was trying. . .oh, I think I see. Does this have something to do with your argument with Scott? Is that what you think he was trying to do?"

"Yes. . .no. . .I don't know what else to call it. Scott just won't leave it alone. He seems to think that it's his right to question what I'm doing, that I'm not capable of doing the right thing on my own. . ."

"Maybe he's not concerned so much about the right thing as he is about what's best for you."

"Irrelevant. The right thing is the right thing. It's got absolutely nothing to do with what's best for me."

"I'm not sure whether to consider that a commendable attitude or a frightening one, Nathan. Self-denial. . ."

"I don't matter. Two thousand years worth of war and death matters. Nothing else."

"All right. I think I'm seeing the martyr complex Charles made reference to. . ."

"I am getting so sick of hearing that. I do not have a martyr complex. I don't WANT to die."

"What do you want, then?"

"I want this all to be over. I want to be able to wake up in the morning and not have the immediate urge to pull the covers back over my head. I want that little voice inside my head that keeps telling me to soldier on and remember the cause to shut the flonq up. Stop the world, I want to get off. . ."

"Hmm. You've had a very difficult year, Nathan."

"It's been a hard year all around, Doctor. I'm no worse off than the rest of the hopeless idiots wearing an X. We all have horror stories to tell. . ."

"Perhaps, but you've suffered a great deal of trauma this year. The death of your son, in particular. . ."

"Tyler has nothing to do with this."

"I'll be brutally honest with you, Nathan, and say that I'd be very surprised if that were true."

"Doctor. . .just. . .don't go there, all right? I don't want to talk about that. That's not why I'm here. I'm here because I lost my temper and hit my father a little harder than I intended."

"Is that all?"

"Um. . .all right. So I got a little out of hand with some of the others afterwards. LeBeau was asking for it. I didn't mean to throw the couch at Drake, though, he just got in the way."

"You. . .didn't mean to throw the couch at him."

"I didn't! I just. . .the couch was flying through the air before I knew what I was doing. My telekinesis is stronger when I'm angry."


"Now who's being sarcastic?"

"My apologies. So your. . .loss of temper resulted in a great deal of property damage and a number of injuries to your teammates. . ."

"They're not my teammates. I'm not an X-Man. They're just my family. And so what if I slammed some furniture and a few people around? I didn't kill anyone, did I?"

"Ah. . .no, thankfully. You seem to use the word family in a very sarcastic way, Nathan."

"Why not? They aren't really my family. They were. They were supposed to be. . .but the timestream had other ideas."

"Interesting. You personify the timestream?"

"If you have to ask that, you wouldn't understand the answer."

"All. . .right. Let's go back to your family, then. You don't feel close to them?"

"I. . .it's not that simple. They don't want me there. I'm an embarrassment. Another raven, croaking about destructions and dark futures. . ."

"Perhaps you have a Cassandra complex, rather than a martyr complex?"

"Troy will fall, Troy will fall. . .only none of them will ever live long enough to see it fall, you know. They can't. It starts here, it doesn't end here. You'd think they'd be able to see it beginning to topple, but they're lacking the long view, and they don't listen to me when I try to tell them that."

"I hear a lot of talk about the future, Nathan. About what your family can and can't see. Very little about what you see. . .how you feel."

"I. . .think I'll sit down."


"Don't look so satisfied. It's just a chair."

"That you're sitting in. Call me an optimist, but I think of that as progress."

"Progress is an illusion, you know. Historians think human society has progressed, but it hasn't. Not in the ways that count."

"Do you always do this?"

"Do what?"

"Switch to a philosophical discussion when the conversation gets too personal?"

"Why not? I'm a tool of philosophy. Of several different philosophies, actually. Makes life interesting."

"That's not the first time today you've characterized yourself as something other than human, Nathan. I think I'm beginning to see a trend, here."

"Towards what? Creative use of metaphor? Last time I checked, that wasn't a sign of rampaging mental instability. . ."

"You're afraid of that, aren't you?"

"Of what?"

"Of losing control. That's one of the reasons you're so angry right now, isn't it?"

"Oh, woe is me, I'm a control freak. Like that's news to anyone."

"Do you consider that a bad thing? To be a control freak, as you put it?"

"I have to be. It's part of what I am. . ."


"Who, burn you; I meant who. I have to be in control because what I do is too important. I can't let emotions get in the way."

"Did your parents teach you that? When you were a child, I mean?"

". . .no. My. . .teacher, did."

"Your teacher?"

"He's not really. . .I don't know how to describe him."

"You're very pale, Nathan. Something about your teacher bothers you a great deal, doesn't it?"

"Yeah. He won't stay dead. . ."

"Pardon me?"

"Kidding. . .just kidding. . ."

"Nathan. . ."

"It was a joke. A very bad joke. I. . .owe him a lot. He's. . .I wouldn't have made it this far, without him. He's very. . .he keeps me on track. I need that."

"Nathan. One of the things people in my profession pay very close attention to is body language. Yours, at the moment, is saying something very different than what you're telling me."

"I thought I was the mind-reader."

"You are. Actually, that's a good point. Why don't you look through my eyes, right now, and take a good long look at yourself? You're sitting here telling me you feel gratitude and loyalty to this 'teacher' of yours, but you're white as a sheet, shaking, and sitting in that chair like you expect someone to hit you."

"I'm not. . .it's not important."

"This teacher would be Blaquesmith, correct? Charles couldn't tell me very much about him."

"Blaquesmith likes it that way. He. . .isn't a very big proponent of involving the natives in the mission."

"Do you make a habit of defending him?"

"I don't. . .he's not. . .I'm not defending him. He doesn't need to be defended, he's more than capable of looking after himself. He knows what needs doing, and he does it."

"He sounds very efficient."

"And that's not a good thing?"

"I'm not saying that."

"What are you saying, then?"

"Just making an observation."


"He tried to get you to kill your. . .younger counterpart from an alternate timeline, I hear."


"Nathan, please sit back down."

"NO! How did you know that? The only person I told about that was. . .Dom. You've been talking to Dom."

"There are a number of people very concerned about you, Nathan."

"She. . .told you? How much did she tell you?"

"About this particular incident? Well, she gave me a very detailed description of what you told her."

"I told her all of it."

"Ah. Well, that makes things simpler, doesn't it? I don't have to try and drag the rest out of you."

"I. . .don't want to talk about that."

"Blaquesmith wanted you to kill this boy. . ."

"He thought he was. . .he was wrong, and I told him that. I didn't do what he wanted me to do, so what does it matter?"

"Blaquesmith is your only contact to the world you knew, isn't he?"

"So what?"

"I think I'll let you think about that a little."


"Nathan? What's so interesting about my wall? Nathan. Please try and refrain from slipping into catatonia in my office; it gets my secretary very upset."

"Very funny."

"What were you thinking about?"

"I wasn't thinking. I was just letting my mind drift."

"Do you do that often?"

"Not enough. I'm so. . .tired of thinking all the time. Trying to work out every move five moves in advance. . ."

"Do you do anything to relax?"

"I meditate. But it's not really relaxing. It's harder work than. . .it's hard to clear my mind."

"Have you been sleeping well?"

"I don't sleep well. I haven't slept well in. . .twenty years, at least. It's gotten to the point where I'm used to it, now."

"I see."

"That's an interesting look. What are YOU thinking, Doctor?"

"I'm thinking you're a very strong person, Nathan, but I'm also thinking that all strength has its limits. I'm also thinking that I understand very clearly why your family is so concerned."

"I'm. . .just tired. Edgy. I lost my temper. . .I don't see them hauling Logan in here every time he has one of his beserker fits. It's not fair."

"And you're not being fair to yourself, Nathan."

"You sound like Scott. I can hear you, thinking like Scott. . ."

"So what does that tell you, Nathan? You're a very intelligent man. What does it tell you when your father and a psychiatrist you've known for less than an hour both think you're pushing yourself to the brink of a total collapse and don't know how to stop?"

"I. . .can't stop. I can do a lot of things, Doctor, but I can't stop. I. . .thanks for your time. I appreciate it. . ."

"Nathan, wait. Nathan. . .blast it." The door closed behind his departing patient, and Doctor Eamon Flanagan sighed deeply, taking off his glasses and rubbing his eyes. "Damn. Sometimes I hate this job." There was nothing quite so painful as watching a good man destroy himself.

Flanagan lowered his shields and sensed Nathan leaving the building. Even at an increasing distance, he could still feel him, that awful tangled mixture of exhaustion and despair and guilt clear as a bell to his empathy. Once again, he reached out wordlessly, projecting a mixture of soothing emotions that had no discernable effect. Nathan wasn't listening, and he couldn't force him to, Flanagan reflected bleakly.

The empathic trace grew more distant, slowly fading. Flanagan was depressingly sure that it would be the last he saw of Nathan Summers. He'd like to get his hands on this Blaquesmith, and whoever else had been involved in turning that man into a missile aimed at one particular target and primed to explode on impact.

But the damage was already done, and whatever weight Nathan was carrying, the world or destiny or whatever one wanted to call it, it was crushing him.

"I hope it's worth it, my friend," he said softly, staring at the door. "I truly do."


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