by Alicia McKenzie
DISCLAIMER: The characters in this story belong to Marvel, and are used without permission for entertainment purposes only. It is set a year into Scott and Jean's 'honeymoon' in the future, after The Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix #1.
"Hush, little baby, don't say a word--Momma's gonna buy you a mockingbird--" I paused, smiling down at Nate, who blinked sleepily, yawning and waving a small fist at me. "What's the matter, sweetie? Don't like the song?"
"Uh-HUN-uh!" Another yawn.
"I see," I said, very seriously. "No ear for music. What a shame." I tickled him under the chin, and he giggled, grabbing at my hand. "We'll just have to fix that, won't we, kiddo?"
"Up!" he suddenly demanded, his eyes brightening.
I gave him a mock scowl, and he giggled even louder. "No, no 'up', Nate. Past time you should be asleep, which was why I was singing to you in the first place. Plenty of time for 'up' tomorrow. Besides, your daddy doesn't like it when I use my telekinesis to throw you up into the air. As if I'd ever let you fall--silly Slym, isn't he?"
"My word, you certainly have a one-track mind. I wonder what side of the family you get that from?"
He scowled. "Up!" he insisted, struggling with me. With a sigh and a grin, I set him down, and the little monkey ran right for the door of the little stone shelter we'd found out here in the middle of the wastelands as we made our way to the safety of one of the remaining Askani sanctuaries.
He didn't get very far. Scott chose that particular moment to step back into the shelter, and Nate ran right into his father's legs, landing on his rear with an indignant howl.
Scott gave me an inquiring look, and then scooped Nate up. "He trying to make a break for it again?" he asked, the grin entirely familiar, even on the distinctly altered features of his clone body. It had been a year since Rachel had first brought us to this time, but it still felt strange, to be in different bodies. I wondered if I still looked as odd to him as 'Redd' as he did to me as 'Slym'.
"Just restless," I said with an answering smile. "You should have let him run alongside you for a while this afternoon, rather than carrying him on your shoulders all day." Of course, getting Scott to put Nate down was a challenge at the best of times. I sometimes teased him that Nate was going to forget how to walk. "You could run him around the inside of the shelter for a while, see if that tires him out any--"
Scott chuckled. "You've got more energy than you know what to do with," he said to his son, an edge of relief to his words. I smiled softly to myself, knowing how thankful Scott was that the T-O virus had apparently gone dormant. Knowing, and sharing the feeling with every bit of strength I had.
"Out!" Nate demanded, and punched his father in the nose with a small steel fist.
"Ouch," Scott said ruefully. "Maybe in the morning, Nate." His eyes met mine, suddenly serious. Looks like an acid storm's brewing up out there, he sent along our psi-link.
I shuddered. #It's a damned good thing we found this shelter, then.# The thought of being out there somewhere in the wastes, only a telekinetic shield between us and the driving rain that could melt the living flesh off your bones was NOT a pleasant one.
You won't get any argument from me, Scott said, sitting down in front of the fire with Nate on his lap. Nate squirmed restlessly, and Scott let him down, keeping a careful eye on him. "Don't go near the fire, Nate," he said warningly. Nate gave him one of those irrepressible, challenging looks we'd both learned meant trouble, and deliberately reached a hand towards the flames.
I stuck a telekinetic shield between him and the fire at the same time Scott reached out for him. We'd both had to develop good instincts, since Nate had started to walk. It was absolutely staggering, the amount of trouble he could get into.
"Nate," Scott said, severely, but Nate only giggled and ran back to me, flinging his arms around my neck and hugging me tightly.
"Sure, come to me," I said, mock-sternly, as I pulled him up onto my lap. "Redd'll protect you, huh?"
Scott was watching us with an entirely different smile now, the sort of wistful smile that meant he was taking a snapshot of a scene and wishing it could last forever. I smiled back at him tenderly, even as I shifted Nate into a more comfortable position on my lap.
A year, a full year of wandering across the strange, terrifying, deadly landscape of thirty-eighth century Earth, and yet Scott had never lost that sense of wonder. That--amazement that we were here, that Nate was here--that the three of us were together, the way he'd so desperately longed for us to be.
I suppose it was pretty amazing, from his perspective. Felt pretty wonderful from mine, too. Even with everything we'd left behind, all the people I missed so terribly--the Professor, my family, Hank, Bobby, Warren, Ororo and the others--I wouldn't have traded this for the world. This second chance--this new life. Nate had always deserved so much more--from all of us.
Nate curled up against me, finally settling down. "Bird," he said sleepily.
Scott got up and came around to sit beside me, sliding an arm around my shoulders. "I heard you singing," he said, with a grin for my blush. "It sounded beautiful, Jean. I guess he liked it, too."
I kissed the top of Nate's head. "So you did like the song about the mockingbird," I said with a chuckle. "I thought you said you didn't."
Scott shook his head, still smiling. "You know, I don't think I've ever heard you use baby talk to him. Not once."
"Well, it would be impolite. Wouldn't it, Nate? You understand every word I say to you, don't you?"
Nate yawned in my face. "Bird," he said again, and looked right into the fire.
"Right, a mocking--" I paused, frowning a little as I followed his gaze. For a moment, I could almost see something in the flames, a teasingly familiar fiery shape dancing just at the edge of visibility.
As Jubilee would have said, no way.
"Jean?" Scott murmured.
I started, and shook my head with a sigh. "Nothing. Just imagining things--must be more tired than I thought, I guess."
But it would be nice, wouldn't it? I couldn't help a smile.
Scott chuckled. "I think we're all tired. Look at Nate."
He was curled up against me, sound asleep, a look of perfect contentment and trust on his little face. I felt an incredible wave of tenderness. I was making new memories here, it suddenly occurred to me. My memories of Nate, not just Madelyne's. And it felt so good. I pushed that out along the link to Scott, and felt a surge of happiness in response.
"He seems pretty soundly asleep," I remarked casually. "Out like a light."
"Oh?" Scott asked. Casually.
"Oh," I mimicked, looking up at him and smiling. He leaned over and kissed me.
And the flames danced with an odd little movement that might almost have been laughter, or the
fluttering of wings.
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