Raven Skies: Epilogue

by Alicia McKenzie


"Nathan should be just fine, my friends." Hank's diagnosis was delivered in the calm, soothing, 'ultimate bedside-manner' tone of his. Usually, it made me want to roll my eyes. This time, though, I was grateful for it.

And I wasn't the only one. Domino sagged back against the wall with a shuddering sigh, as if she wasn't sure that her legs would hold her, and Bridge closed his eyes for a moment, muttering something under his breath that I didn't catch. Logan nodded slowly, and although he was outwardly impassive, I caught a distinct gleam of relief in his eyes.

Taking it all in stride, Hank continued. "First and most importantly," he said mildly, "the T-O virus appears to be well under control and within the limits of its normal incursion."

I breathed a sigh of relief, hearing that. As soon as Bridge had put a few rounds into the dampener, Cable's arm had returned to its normal appearance. But he'd been unconscious by then, unable to tell us whether or not he really had the virus under full control.

"You're sure, Hank?" Domino asked, sounding very tired.

He gave her a brief, reassuring smile. "Positive, my dear. Now--the stab wound was moderately serious, I won't lie to you. You did well to get him here as quickly as you did."

"Remote control for stolen SHIELD PACRAT," Bridge quipped. "Don't leave home without it." Domino shot him an irritated look, and he laid a hand on her shoulder in silent apology. "Joking, Dom. I'm just glad you remembered to grab it. Otherwise I would've had to pull some strings to get us transport back here, and then explain it to Val--" He gave a mock shudder, and Domino actually smiled faintly, shaking her head at him.

"Oh, to have been a fly on the wall for that conversation," Hank said with a tired-sounding chuckle. He took off his glasses, rubbing his eyes. "Be that as it may, I've repaired the damage. I'll need to keep him under observation for at least twenty-four hours, however--I trust that won't be a problem?" The question was clearly directed at Domino, who straightened, shaking her head firmly.

"Not if I have anything to say about it," she said grimly. "If I have to, I'll sit on the stubborn son of a bitch." She stared past Hank, towards the partition that separated the waiting area and the 'recovery room'. "What about his leg, Hank?"

"He may require some physiotherapy, but there shouldn't be any permanent loss of function," Hank said encouragingly. "And as for sitting on him, my dear lady, I'd hold off on that, at least for a couple of days." He tilted his head thoughtfully. "Ah--perhaps this is none of my affair, and I'm sure you'll all inform me if that's the case--but I can't help but wonder what you all plan to tell Scott and Jean when they return from Muir Island in the morning." An awkward silence greeted his question, and he sighed. "You must admit, you've been very sparse on details so far."

"It's sort of complicated, Hank," Logan growled.

"And not really their business," Domino said in a clipped voice. Hank gave her a surprised look, opening his mouth to say something, but she cut him off brusquely. "Can I see him?"

"For a few minutes," Hank said, looking troubled.

Domino brushed past him without another word, Bridge right behind her. I hesitated for a moment, glancing at Logan. He shrugged, and followed.

"I don't suppose you'd be willing to fill me in, Kai?" Hank asked almost plaintively as I started past him. "It's not that I begrudge patching him up--"

I sighed. It occurred to me to make up some story about space aliens with tentacles growing out of their ears, but considering how long Hank had been with the X-Men and how much he'd seen, he'd probably think I was telling the truth. So I dodged the question. "Like Logan said, Hank, it's complicated."

Hank gave me a surprisingly wry smile. "What about our resident time-traveling Summers isn't?" he asked, shaking his head.

"You've got a point, Hank," I said with a slightly forced smile, and made my escape before he could ask me anything else. Hank could be damned persuasive when he put his mind to it, and I didn't want to let anything slip by accident. I didn't figure that how things had ended would change Cable's desire to keep this as private as possible. Scott and Jean were going to have to be told something, obviously, but no one else really needed to know.

I stepped around the partition. Cable was lying on one of the bio-beds, apparently unconscious. He was still as white as a sheet, his face drawn with pain. He seemed to be breathing more easily, but still a little too shallowly for comfort.

Domino leaned over him, brushing the hair back from his forehead almost tenderly. "I swear, old man," she said in a low, yet oddly savage voice. "Once you're out of that bed, I'm going to wring your neck."

His eyelids fluttered open. "Promises, promises," he rasped weakly, blinking up at her as if he was having trouble focusing. He shifted slightly, a small, pained grunt escaping him, and Domino laid a restraining hand on his shoulder to keep him from moving. "What--happened?"

No one else seemed willing to answer right away, so I did. "They were gone by the time the PACRAT showed up," I said briskly. "The one whose leg you broke sent some kind of signal--"

"The recall--" he said, with difficulty.

"Whatever. Anyways, they vanished in your stereotypical flash of light. Even took the bodies with them."

Cable's mouth twisted bitterly. "SOP for--missions like this. You don't--leave any evidence behind." He fell silent, his breathing more labored, as if getting that out had exhausted him.

Domino straightened, a peculiar look on her face. "You mean this has happened before?" she asked, far too quietly. "Canaanites coming back after you?"

He blinked at her, his expression turning wary, and then sighed. "Not--for a blood rite. Otherwise--often enough."

"Recently?" she asked. He said nothing, but she seemed to take his silence for assent. Her expression tightened. "And yet you kept it to yourself."


"Bull--" Domino swallowed her angry retort, glancing warily in the direction of the partition as if she expected to see Hank lurking there glowering at her. "Bullshit," she said, once more in that deadly, quiet voice. "You could have chosen to trust us, Nate--"

"Trust has--nothing to do with it," he muttered, looking away from her.

"No, Nate," Bridge suddenly put in, sounding almost sad. "With you, trust always has everything to do with it." Cable didn't even look at him, but Bridge took a step closer to the bed, his tone growing strangely implacable. "Was it worth it, Nate? The life you've finally made for yourself here, everything you're in this era to do--was it worth almost losing it all, trying to atone for a mistake you didn't even make?"

That hit home. His left eye blazing, Cable struggled to sit up, nearly falling off the bio-bed in the process. Domino, scowling, pushed him back down firmly. It was a pretty clear indication of how weak he was that she managed it so easily.

"Stop that," she snapped under her breath. "First of all, you don't want Hank in here, do you? And secondly, G.W.'s got a point." Her voice softened slightly as Cable stopped fighting her. "You as much as told me that it was her, Nathan."

"It was my idea," he whispered in a broken voice. "Blowing--the whole bunker, to bury the terminus."

"But you didn't give the order," Domino said, gently but with a hint of uncompromising steel. "Jenskot did."

"I would have checked the bunker out again. Just to--make sure. But I was going--over orders with the group taking the prisoners back, and Jen thought I had--" He stopped, swallowing, his eyes suspiciously bright. "The explosion went off, and I--felt them die. I still--don't know how I made it back there so fast. By--the time I did, she was--trying to dig through the rocks. Not with her telekinesis--with her bare hands. She was so--" His shoulders shook in what might have been a suppressed sob. "The--whole rock face was unstable. I had to--drag her out of there before what was left of the ceiling came down on us--" He was fighting so hard for control, it was painful to watch. "By the time we got--equipment up there, to be able to dig down to the sub-level--there wasn't anyone left alive."

Miscommunication. A mistake. A tragic mistake, but an accident, all the same. "Do you really think she would have wanted you to do this?" I heard myself asking. It was a stunningly presumptuous question, considering that I hadn't even known this Jenskot had existed before today, but he didn't call me on it.

"Probably not," he said with a faint, shuddering laugh that had nothing of amusement about it. Only desolation. "Jen was--always more practical than me."

"I did meet her, remember?" Domino said softly. "She struck me as the sort of person who'd be more than a little ticked if her thick-skulled husband was chauvinistic enough to try and take the responsibility for something she'd done."

"Maybe," he said faintly. "But she--wasn't here to defend herself, was she? Or--to be angry with me." He closed his eyes, murmuring something under his breath, not in English.

"What?" Bridge asked.

"'In your place and in your honor'," Cable whispered, not opening his eyes. "Just a--saying, we had." He turned his face away, but not before I and everyone else in the room saw a single tear slide down his cheek. I looked away, unsettled by the display of emotion from a man who'd always come across as to me as cold and remote, even at his most relaxed.

Domino leaned over, kissing him lightly on the forehead. "Get some sleep," she said, her voice unsteady. "I'll go call the kids, tell them you're all right."

"Yeah. I--need to let the Contessa know where I am, too," Bridge said awkwardly. He squeezed Cable's shoulder for a moment. "Lay off the duels for a while, okay, Nate?"

"I'll try," Cable whispered. Bridge nodded slowly, and then followed Domino out of the room.

I exchanged a quick look with Logan. Hank was probably going to be in here anytime now, chasing us out. Logan's expression was unreadable, though, and he didn't seem to be in any hurry to leave.

"Nate," he said in an even voice.

"What?" Cable rasped, rubbing his eyes and giving Logan a wary look.

Logan opened his mouth, and then closed it again, staying silent for a moment, as if rethinking what he was going to say. "You and I have had our problems," he finally said. "But I just want you to know--I understand why you did this."

Cable stared at him for what seemed like an eternity. "I thought you might," was all he said.

Logan's mouth quirked. "Still think Neena's pretty much justified in wanting to throttle you, though," he threw back over his shoulder as he left.

Cable closed his eyes again. "Wonder if he'd be surprised to know that I agree," he muttered.

Walking over to the bed, I snorted. "Probably not," I said sardonically. "You're smart enough to know when you've stepped in it--I think."

He shifted again, wincing. "Kai--thanks. For throwing me the knife."

I felt my mouth curve in an odd smile. "Would've thrown it at him, blade-first, but you were in the way. And even as mad as I still was at you, I figured you had enough holes in you at that point."

His mouth quirked. "But you were--tempted?"

"Not really," I said easily. "But we'll still say that's two you owe me, I think. For my reputation's sake, if nothing else."

"And I'm sure you're--keeping track."

"Naturally." I chewed on my lower lip for a moment, considering the thought that had just occurred to me. It wasn't really fair to spring something like this on him, the shape he was in. Still--something told me I'd never get another chance to ask. "I'll consider the slate clean," I said, keeping my voice soft, non-threatening, "if you answer me a question."

Cable blinked. "Shoot," he whispered. That faint, almost-smile appeared and vanished again. "Not literally."

I ignored the attempt at a joke. "What's Anikia?"

He stiffened. His eyes, still shadowed by pain but somehow more alert, bored into me so intently that I shifted, oddly uncomfortable under the scrutiny.

He did finally answer, though. "Anikia," he said, his voice curiously flat. "It's what--we called Thessalonica, in my time."

"In Greece," I said. He gave me the barest hint of a nod. I took a deep breath. "That covers where, but it still doesn't really answer my question, Cable--Nathan," I amended firmly.

He stared at me for a long time, as if surprised that I'd actually used his name. "Anikia was--the end of a dream, Kai," he whispered, at last. "It's where--we lost the rebellion."

Such simple words; so much pain behind them. "I'm sorry," I whispered, inadequately. And I was--for prying, for touching on wounds that were clearly as open as open could be. "I--"

"I remember every--moment of that day," he continued, as if he hadn't heard me. "Right--up until the end." He finally did look back at me again, his anguish hitting me almost like a physical blow as soon as his eyes met mine. "I--really envy you and Logan, sometimes, Kai. If I--I'd do anything to be able to forget that day--and what happened after. A few--strategic gaps in memory--would be REALLY nice--"

"You don't mean that," I said, positive of it.

"Probably not," he said dully, the tension slowly draining from his body, as if he didn't have the energy to be defensive any longer. "Better to know what you are, I guess--"

"And what's that?" I asked, my voice strangely rough. That faintly forlorn edge to his voice was provoking a very strange reaction in me--part of me wanted to pat him on the head and tell him that everything was going to be all right, while another, considerably more vocal part of me wanted to smack him upside the head. I managed to squelch both impulses.

"Unfinished business," he whispered, and closed his eyes again. "The--Canaanites call us Remnants. Apt--name, I always thought."

All right--now he really WAS making me mad. "Funny," I said, my eyes narrowing. "I look at you, and I see a person. Maybe my eyes are just playing tricks on me--" At the honest-to-goodness glare I got in response, I couldn't help a sly smile. "Well," I quipped. "Fancy that. There is someone alive in there."

The corner of his mouth twitched again. "Usually--Dom's job. Kicking me in the ass--I mean."

"Well, she's not here, is she?" My smile grew, almost involuntarily, into a wicked grin. Why not? He'd walked right into it, after all--

He blinked at me, and then narrowed his eyes. "Don't even say it."

"In her place and--"

"Kai!" But he was smiling, if tiredly, and the atmosphere in the room seemed abruptly lighter. Not quite so--haunted. "Why does--everyone get such a kick out of--throwing my own words back in my face?"

"Well, you ask for it, with all these proverbs of yours," I said with a chuckle. "Not our fault you're so quotable--"

Hank poked his head past the partition. "Kai," he said, quite pleasantly. "He needs his rest."

"Right, Hank," I said, raising a defensive hand. "I was just leaving." I glanced down at Cable. "Take it easy, okay?" I said lightly, and left.

I didn't bother telling him to let it go, or suggest that it was over. I knew the first was impossible. The man was a Summers, after all, and had a full share of the family tendency to obsess over things with the tenacity of a frenzied pit bull.

And as for the second--well, that would have been me lying through my teeth. Things like this were never over. Not really. It didn't matter if you wiped away every trace of it except the memory, or even if you managed to reach some sort of accomodation with the guilt and the pain.

It would still be just one more to add to the list of ghosts.




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