Paper Trails

By Brenda Jean Carlson



Have you ever had an idea or image that just won't go AWAY? I though that sort of invades your mind as a possibility and just won't go leave? Well this is what happens when that happens to me. The below is an 'alternate universe' of sorts - or maybe not. An explanation for some things about the Dom I'm seeing in cannon, and perhaps some clarity on her behavior as being especially angry and dark: if you look at it from a certain perspective. WARNING - ADULT CONCEPTS listed below. Serious topic, fluff and happy ending not included. This piece is Rated R, so readers beware.

Special thanks to Duey - who's late night chat MONTHS ago first planted the seed of the concept, and to Jeanna and Andi, for all their encouragement, on and off the word processor, of me lately. Feedback, as always, is latched onto like a starving pit bull.

I can’t say for sure if this is a monument or not.

I don’t know if you can or should be satisfied with a piece of paper. A damn letter I wrote because I would have eventually knocked some poor son of a bitch's head off if I didn’t pick up this pen. I don’t know if you’ll be able to live with a plain white envelope for a coffin, or a grave plot the size of a safety deposit box. You deserve something... more: a gravestone with flowers. A name - even if I can’t seem to find one that fits you. You deserve to be a memory, and I hope mine’s acceptable, that my way of saying 'so long' is going to be enough.

You deserved something better kid, but I’m afraid I’m all you’ve got.

But then, maybe I got this all wrong - maybe you don’t want or need a bunch of friggin pansies or roses. You certainly didn’t start out that way: more like in sweat and desperation, all wrapped up atop crumpled sheets. You were the result of a near mad grappling of anxious bodies - two people trying to figure out how to hold on, and let go. You started in confusion and hunger, in an act we were both reasonably sure we knew our roles in...

You started in a darkened room, took root in an uneasy love.

Fight and flight. Dreams and denials. You could never accuse either of us of not running the spectrum. I’ve hated your father. I’ve punched out his lights. I’ve thrown him a loaded gun in the middle of a chaotic crowd, absolutely certain he’d know and catch it. We’ve stood back to back, and scowl to scowl. Been best friends, mutually suspicious past betrayers and partners. We’ve played the games, run the missions, been equal parts of a patchwork family more than once. Mostly though, we’ve danced a close dance - you know how they say ‘it takes two to tango.’ We got *used* to being two - and we avoided stepping on each other’s toes.

It was just him and me on the dance floor. And then suddenly, we were three.

You didn’t announce yourself politely, either. Hell, you didn’t give me any warning at all - more like snuck in. You remind me of your Dad in that way - wait for the least likely time to speak up, and then blindside me. I was supposed to be at Becca’s that day to check up on *her,* to bring a ridiculously lopped-ear Peter Rabbit to my bunny-obsessed God-daughter. I was supposed to be eating far too much over-frosted cake with a three year old, then taking her mother out and getting her drunk afterwards in retribution for forcing me to actually enter a Toys-R-Us...

I was supposed to be drinking HER under the bar that night, not passing out before the first round of drinks even came.

Two weeks. That’s all the time I had. Not long enough to even really digest the information. Two weeks wasn't long enough to really wrap my brain around the idea, or long enough for Nate to get done with his business with Bastion and come home. Hell, you usually get three weeks notice for a job in the Merc business these days, and if you don’t, you get your pocket padded a little more for being willing to take on emergencies. The average citizen takes longer than fourteen days to buy a CAR, but I got thirteen or less to figure out how to tell him...

Well what, you think it was gonna be simple? Yeah, sure, I was just supposed to say "Hey - wanna trade the handle ‘mutant messiah’ for ‘Daddy’ in about eight months."

Go ahead and smile, kid. That certainly would have been a memorable way to get the conversational ball rolling.

No, he never found out about you. Well, what was there to say: "You almost got a chance at another family...but now it’s gone. Tough luck." Oh, that would have done us both a lot of good - I just live to cause him more pain. His *right* to know? You can’t grieve what you didn’t have. Like he needed something more to guilt over - I think his Fridays are open. The man still wakes up screaming out for Tyler and Aliya; he’s lost more than any man has the right to, and yet still retained such an air of determination.

Besides, what’s the point of telling him, he can’t change anything. It’s about time someone offered the guy his first taste of the bliss that come with naiveté. And that’s why, if I have any say in the matter, he’ll never have to know what he and I lost to Grayzanova.

No, I don’t think she ever knew about you either. The bitch would have taken too much pleasure rubbing it in my face to let it pass if she’d found out. To be honest, I barely thought about you myself - I was busy trying to save all of our butts at the time. Do I regret the chance I took now? I’ve always fucking hated hindsight, but in this case I really can’t say one way or another. No, it’s not that I didn’t think you were important, but like I said, my main focus was keeping our heads attached.

Your ‘brother’s and sisters’ needed me too, kid. What else was I supposed to do?

I’m sorry your life ended on that operating table. Well, there or somewhere on the road between me and a semi. Earl was a nice enough guy when he played white knight to my damsel, but I couldn’t likely have told him after I went into that dingy bathroom and watched our lives together bleed away. I mean, you weren’t even one and a half months along, we barely had time to get acquainted. Even now I’m not quite sure if I should be saying goodbye, or if in reality I never actually had you to begin with.

I look at this leaky pen, and haven't a damn clue what I'm supposed to be saying.

What were you ever really about, little one? I mean...did you come as some kind of symbol, or lesson? Were you supposed to be a sign there was some freakin' hope in this world, or a warning that normal doesn't have a place in this reality? I'm sorry, but I can't figure out what to say to you. How to offer you anything for your grief. I mean, how am I supposed to say that it'll get easier with time, when in reality you didn't get the chance to learn to live with it?

Life isn't fair, kid, but then I suppose that's not exactly any news to you.

Cripes, is this starting to sound unbelievably morbid or what? As if we both haven't figured out by now that shit happens. I've seen so much of it, tried to mop it up countless times, as if I could somehow keep the water behind a faltering dam. Funny, how after a while you almost get numb to the stench: you don't realize you're practically unseeable through the muck...

And then one day you look down and yourself, and it's all you can do to just hold in your lunch.

You would have come into one screwed up world, kid. Maybe things are actually better the way they were dealt out. Life here for the uninitiated isn't exactly a picnic: we rarely sleep a normal night, and while we’re on the subject, I'm lousy at changing diapers. You would have likely have been in a world of uneasy boundaries from the day you were born - with some people anxious to see you dead, and other's wanting to recruit you. You would have been a Summers by gentics, and that alone would have left you in need of counseling...

But you would have been alive. And a lot of people would have loved you.

I can just see it now. Theresa would have practically had a cow. Tabitha would have squealed at the top of her lungs, and Berto would have made some slappable praise to Cable about his virility, requiring I rip out both his arms. Scott and Jean would have raised their eyebrows, and I doubt I'd have been able to make it out of the mansion before Hank got word and found me.

Yeah, Nate would have insisted I go with ‘old furry’ for a proper checkup, and I'd have told him to stuff it, like I always do...

Hey you would have been on the way, kid, but some things wouldn’t have changed.

You would have had a crib full of stuffed animals before you were even born. I heard all the stories about that from when Nate was a baby. These x-men clones apparently don't have the originality to find anything but teddy-bears and plushes in the children’s department.

...Yeah I'd probably have allowed one or two of the things to stay in the nursery, but there WOULD NOT have been been bunnies painted on the walls. And heaven and a kevlar vest help anyone who ever, EVER tried to introduce you to Winnie the Pooh. Of course, then there would have been your dad: who would have bought you Eyore just to get my goat up. I don’t doubt he would have gotten up for at least one of every night's several late feedings... moaning all the way about being too old for all of it. Yeah, he probably would have accidentally gotten the bottle and his mugs mixed up and addicted you to coffee before you were even two years old in the process.

Would I have killed him for it? I’ll have to think about that awhile.

It would have all just been so freaking *bizarre* - the toys, the missions, the toilet training. I was over at Becca's less than a week ago, remember: Tammy's cute, but the kid still gets into EVERYTHING. Can you imagine what it would have been like with the Summers' genes involved - telekenetic tantrums whenever we tried to re-convince you that you did like broccoli.

As If I could have survived that intact...I think Apocolypse himself would have folded.

But then again, little kids sleep a lot. Once we got Tam to actually close her eyes, we were guarenteed at least nine uninterrupted hours of undisturbed quiet. You would have been a good point man for starting the food fights, and you dad watching you as you eventually started dating certainly would have been an event worth filming for the media.

Tammy climbed into my lap after I gave her that rabbit, you know. Planted a slobber-loaded kiss all over my left cheek...

You probably would have had your father's ability to turn into a puppy-dog at will, and civilization as we know it would have stopped.

You didn't deserve any of what you got out of the deal from start to finish. Not planned, not adequately cared for, not even remembered as a real loss. The only thing you've got left to the life we started was the promise Grayzanova will pay for what she did.

I promise, I SWEAR, I'll see you get some kind of justice. And then maybe you'll be able to find a peace that will let you leave me to my life in the place it was before you were a lost chance.

You'll have every chance to let it go kid...

What do you mean, "What about me?"

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