In My Image - Interlude
DISCLAIMER: None of the people mentioned here are mine (story-weaseling plot-hogger that he is), they belong to Marvel. Story mine, no profit.
NOTES: My excuse for this over-sentimental drivel? Lynx made me do it! Okay okay, I did it for her because she's been having a lousy week. So sue me, I'm a softie. Sometimes. :)
Anyway, this takes us from not long after X-Force left in part one to the beginning of part two (which I promise I'm really thinking hard about working on), just from Cable's POV. Hey, one or two people wanted to know what was happening to him! ;)
Cable lay quietly, consciously working on relaxing every muscle in his body. Then the breathing and on to the Askani techniques... anything to make the pain stop. Anything except more painkillers. They just made him feel stupid and with his telekinesis less than reliable the TO virus started to push so that he couldn't sleep. And he wanted to sleep very badly.
Another brief flash through closed eyelids hardly registered - he was seeing all sorts of strange lights, usually in time with his pulse. It wasn't until he heard movement near his head that the other presence was noticed by his pain-dulled mind. It reacted well enough with old instincts, sitting him up and opening his eyes. The eyes noticed that it was a quietly-dressed Madelyne Pryor before squeezing shut again as his brain seemed to bounce off the front of his skull and he fell back with a groan. "What do you want, Madelyne?"
"I just came by to see how you were."
"Oh, I'm just fine."
Madelyne snorted quietly. "Right. Could we try it without the machismo?"
He gave in. "I'm in so much pain I can't see straight, actually."
"I noticed." She was speaking softly, without the usual bitter edge. "Would you like me to help?"
Habitual distrust fought with the incredibly soothing feeling of her slightly cool hand on his forehead. "How?"
"I could stop you registering the pain, try to help you help you fix the problem, or just send you to sleep if that's what you want." She paused for a moment, then knelt down next to the bed. "Or... I could give you some of my power. The Phoenix..." She trailed off uncertainly.
Cable froze. It would certainly help, he could use it to repair most of the damage and the... no, she couldn't just give him something like that. It would be more than just raw energy, and she knew it. An actual fragment of the power which kept her alive and took so long to regenerate. Months at least, years quite possibly. He didn't even know if she'd recovered from what Stryfe had done to her. That was a bigger debt than he was willing to get into. "No. Not power."
"Why not? I don't need all of it."
"I don't need a piece of the Phoenix force, thank you. I'll be fine, and I doubt I could afford it."
"What's to afford?" She was a little louder now. He winced. "If I give it to you I give it to you, I don't have an ulterior motive for helping my son!"
"Maybe for normal people, Maddie. Us? All of us have an ulterior motive. I only realised this when I was about twelve, so you've probably got a few more years before you have to admit it. I'm old and cynical." And in pain. If she'd just go away so he could sleep...
"Don't you get it, Cable? I don't see you as an adult. I look at you and see a little baby with fluffy hair and a round face wearing pajamas with teddybears on them! You know why? Because I'm your mother and that's what mothers do!" She paused for breath, eyes glittering with what might have been tears. "I don't care that you're old enough to be my grandfather. You're my son. You can't escape that Nathan. No matter what... I'll always be your mother."
He didn't know what to say. Everything else somehow paled next to that ferocious devotion. It was almost scary. "Maddie..."
He could hear her thoughts, clearer than anyone had been in weeks. Her emotion was affecting her shields, images and feelings poured though. Images of him, the love and anger and loss that kept the Phoenix Force burning... and a jumble of words she couldn't contain. I was willing to die for you. Oh my darling, you think I wouldn't do it again? In a heartbeat... my little one, all I've got. I missed so much, I'm so sorry...
Her hands were clenched at her sides. Hands that had he didn't remember, but had been such an important part of his babyhood... With his normal hand he reached for her small fist, unbending the fingers to lace them through his own. "I believe you."
Madelyne started to cry, pressing their linked fingers against her cheek. "It's just not fair."
"I've thought that a few times myself... Not many things are."
"No. And it sucks." She looked down, still absently brushing the backs of his fingers across her face. "Tell me something, Nathan..."
"Was she a good mother? To you?"
He wasn't going to lie to her. It was really about time people stopped doing that. "A very good mother. If it wasn't for what she taught me I probably would have gone mad... But she never said she was my mother, she just said we were a family."
"...Thank you." She smiled tearfully. "I don't know that I would have been much of a mother, you know. I didn't really know who I was... I guess I still don't. But I would have liked to try."
"Never too late."
She looked questioning, and childishly eager. She restrained it though, trying for attentive instead. "Meaning..."
Cable closed his eyes in a wince. "Funny thing, seems like I need a mother right now..." He sighed. Not that he hadn't been coddled enough in the last few weeks by Domino and X-Force... and Pete, because Pete wasn't about to let him do anything Domino might yell at Pete for not stopping. "Maddie... if you send me to sleep, I need to be sure that the TO virus doesn't get out of control." Having to ask irritated him, but the idea of sleep was far too beguiling to let something like pride get in the way.
She thought about that for a second. "I think I can get rid of the pain and knock you out without interfering. I'll keep an eye on it if you like."
"Thank you." Just in case he managed a repeat performance of the one that had made Domino insist on sharing his room, despite the awkwardness. He didn't mind too much, even the short slip had been frightening.
"Okay." Madelyne took a shuddering breath and wiped her eyes with the back of her sleeve, then reached for his other hand and looked carefully from one to the other. "You're going to have to show me how you do it, though."
He was definitely reluctant to let her into his mind, no matter how sincere her feelings. But there was no other way, and days of near-constant pain had worn him down. He let down a small corner of his shields and established a surface link, enough for learning. Maddie was instantly a golden-green presence, almost too bright even in thought.
Fast too. Running the edge of the TO, then skipping back up to examine his defenses, prodding his shields and reaching curiously towards his silenced psi-link with Domino.... #Hey!#
#Sorry. Just...# She sounded incredibly sheepish.
#Trying to tidy my room for me?#
#Oh no. Just coming into your room on the pretext of cleaning and getting carried away looking through your stuff...# The warm presence slipped back out. "Ready?"
She grinned suddenly. "You know, there was this song I used to sing when you were little..."
He had to draw the line somewhere. No matter how desperate and lost he could feel that she was. "If you really must, please wait until I'm asleep. Plausible deniability."
She sighed in mock disappointment. "Okay. Sleep well, dear one..." She kissed him lightly on the techno-organic palm and her power spread over him like a warm blanket, taking away all the pain and leaving oblivious peace in its place.
* * *
Cable woke up refreshed, but not quite relaxed. That would have required the absence of that nagging feeling one gets after doing something foolish that seemed like a good idea at the time. When you feel like your head is literally going to explode lots of things seem like a good idea.
"Madelyne?" He blinked and looked around, but she was nowhere in the room or within his very limited range. Stupid, Dayspring. No matter how sweet she was, or how much she loved him... dammit, she changed alliances faster than some women changed their underwear! Mother or not, he was an idiot to have trusted her that far. She was just too unpredictable.
Sighing, Cable swung his legs over the edge of the bed and wriggled his toes thoughtfully. Where had his normal paranoia been? Sleepily he poked around inside his own mind, almost as if he expected to find the lost suspicion complex lying around like a forgotten hat... then groaned. His shields were severely weakened now, having been quietly drained of energy in a subconscious attempt to stop the migraine. He'd forgotten, hadn't been around another telepath recently. So Madelyne's need to be accepted had swept in, neatly tripped the paranoia, tied it up and stuffed it into the closet.
She hadn't meant to, he was quite sure. But he was much more comfortable being a mistrustful neurotic, and now felt all... vulnerable. He didn't like people seeing him in pain. Domino only got to because... well, she'd been around for a long time. It was unavoidable, so he was used to her.
She's your mother, his conscience prodded. Her bad luck, cynicism sniped back. Then his stomach finally managed to get a word in edgewise and he went in search of food. Cautiously, primed for any further emotional ambushes.
Madelyne was sneakily sitting in plain sight at the kitchen table, sipping a cup of coffee and picking idly at a sandwich. She looked up after a second, not at all surprised. She would have felt him wake up, come downstairs... for a moment he was wildly jealous of the scope and strength of her power, then shrugged it off. He was used to family members being stronger telepaths. But only there were damn few who could match him for sheer bloody-minded bastardry - being the underdog did teach you to go for the tactical groin. And Stryfe had demonstrated quite satisfyingly that even nightmares fold whimpering after a good knee to the nads.
"Much. Hungry, though."
"Here." She pushed the plate a little towards him. "I'm just playing with it, not really in the mood. And no, I don't need to eat. Not alive, after all." She sighed. "It just makes me feel more... normal."
He gave in and sat down on the opposite side of the table, taking the food. "We don't do normal."
"True." Madelyne raised her eyebrow at the pointed look he was giving her coffee. "No. Caffeine will just make headaches worse."
"Please don't get maternal on me, Maddie. It's too strange."
She shrugged. "Didn't think I'd get away with it when you felt better." She didn't give him the coffee.
An uncomfortable silence fell, seconds stretching.
Madelyne stood up. "I should go."
"Somewhere to be?"
"No. You want me to."
He did, a little. Having Madelyne around was difficult and confusing, and in his current state he really just wanted to pull the covers over his head and stay there for the foreseeable future. But he didn't know Madelyne, and was suddenly scared that one of them might die before he got around to it. "No I don't."
She blinked, then smiled an unusually bright smile. "You know, I think that's one of the nicest things you've ever said to me."
"Look... how about we try to have a normal conversation? Without bringing family into it."
She smiled. "That sounds..." there was a pause and a sigh, "...like the phone ringing. Five says it's something you absolutely have to go do."
--Continued Part Two
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