Water For The Dead
by Alicia McKenzie
DISCLAIMER: The characters belong to Marvel, and are used without permission for entertainment purposes only. This is a response to Kaylee's 'Blow Me Away' Challenge on OTL.
No moon, he saw, turning his face up to the sky for a moment. No stars. No light, anywhere. Dead leaves crunched beneath his feet as he walked onwards, each unsteady step pulling him forward. In the back of his mind, he knew where he was going, and tried futilely to turn in a different direction. Back to the mansion, or off into the woods--straight into the lake, for all he cared. Drowning would be better than this. He imagined it, imagined water filling his lungs as he gasped for breath. Tears trickled down his cheeks, mixing with the rain.
He imagined giving up. Giving in to the cold that was growing inside him, the shard of ice that had lodged where his heart used to be and was spreading with every moment, freezing his blood. If only it didn't hurt. If only giving up made the pain go away.
His pace quickened involuntarily. He began to run, breathing raggedly, trying to ignore the tears that fell faster and faster. Trying to outrun the pain, while it chased him, only a step behind, laughing softly, reaching out for him with slim, strong hands that could kill and comfort with equal grace.
Wait for me--
A choked moan burst from him.
Don't forget me--
He lost his footing on the wet grass and went down hard, the impact knocking the breath out of him. He felt his body curling involuntarily into a fetal position, a useless instinct to protect itself from an attack that wasn't coming from without, but from within. No way to protect himself from a mind torn and bleeding, quivering in anguish from a loss too great to bear. No way to block that type of pain.
This is a pretty boneheaded idea, all things considered, Nate. Are you sure about this?
Back in that moment. Feeling her standing beside him, close enough he could hear her heart beating, the soft sound of her breathing. Her hands falling lightly on his shoulders, soothing away tension.
"Has to be done, Dom." A cracked, rasping whisper, barely audible over the sound of the rain.
A soft laugh. Stubborn son of a bitch. All right, then. Let's dust off the PACRAT and get going.
No. No, no, no--
Sobs racked him, great, tearing sobs that threatened to turn into laughter that would shatter his sanity and turn what was left of his soul to dust. Of all the times for her to start listening to him--
THEY would be happy, to see this. THEY had been telling him, over and over, to let himself grieve. To stop trying to be strong.
He hated them. All of them. They didn't know, couldn't understand. Hadn't been there when he'd held her in his arms, when she'd looked up at him, her violet eyes wide with shock. Hadn't seen the light drain out of those eyes as her blood soaked his uniform, stained the ground.
Nate--not like this--not yet--
A cry, almost a howl, of soul-destroying despair, and he was struggling back to his feet, running again, not bothering to fight the pull any longer, not caring about the rain, about the wind that had suddenly returned, so powerful that the trees were bent over almost to the ground.
"DOM!" A challenge, screamed out to the cold and mocking night, to the uncaring universe that had stolen both of the women he had loved.
Half his soul, ripped away.
Do the math, Dayspring. Nothing left. Nothing to care about, nothing to make life worth living. Only the cold, and the rain, and the laughter.
Oath, the laughter.
Blinded by tears, by the rain, he stumbled again and fell. But he was there, now, so it didn't matter that his legs wouldn't hold him.
He was there. By the grave. By the simple tombstone, the tombstone that didn't have her name.
He hadn't even known her name.
She had been all the light in his life, all the warmth in his heart for years, and he hadn't even known her name.
Sir-- The soft Kentucky accent, the gentle voice choked with tears. Sir--you gotta let her go, sir. Let us take her.
No. If he didn't let her go, then it wasn't real. If he didn't have to admit it, if he could just hold her, and whisper all the words he'd never said, and stay there like that forever, then this would all be a dream.
He would wake up.
The sunlight would turn the air to gold. And she would roll over beside him, blinking up at him with sleepy amethyst eyes, cursing him for a morning person. And he would reach out, brush hair like black silk out of her eyes and tell her she was beautiful.
Nathan--let go, Nathan, let us--Oh, God--Scott, I don't even know if he can hear me--
Nate! A harsher voice, that made him shudder even now, days later. Cold, harsh, deliberately brutal. She's dead! Look at me, bub--you know it!
"Dom--Dom, wake up--" he whispered feverishly, tasting blood in his mouth, his fingers digging into the mud like claws.
Telekinesis, to keep her heart beating.
Cable, she's dead! Tabitha, sobbing hysterically. Stop it, she's dead, can't you see?
Lightning split the sky. He counted. Just as he had counted then. The seconds before the thunder. Each faltering beat of her heart.
The thundercrack sounded, a sound as if the sky itself had shattered. Just as the link had shattered, blown apart in the moment of her death, taking everything that was good in him with it.
He remembered screaming, convulsing as she was pulled away from him. Hands holding him down, urgent voices, the quick sharp pain of some kind of injection.
Waking, in the mansion.
THEY had watched him ever since. Every moment of the day, every endless hour of the night. Watching. Waiting. Never leaving him alone.
Waiting for him to crack, to cry on one of THEIR shoulders, to be logical and grieve like a good boy. Afraid. Expectant.
Greedy. As if they wanted to feed off his tears.
As if tears mattered. As if tears could do anything to fill the void. They simply passed through, burning like acid when they finally hit the bottom, but vanishing, leaving only the scars.
--knew very little about her. But we did know what was important. We knew that she cared enough to fight for what she believed in--
Sitting there, staring at the coffin, Xavier's voice droning in his ears. G.W. on one side of him, Garrison on the other. Tense, more nervous than grieving. Waiting to grab him if he showed any signs of throwing himself into the hole with the coffin, he'd figured.
He hadn't. Tears still pouring down his face, he lifted his head, raising a shaking hand to trace the inscription. He'd stepped forward and laid a rose there, perfectly composed. A white rose, whose petals could never be as velvet-soft as her skin.
--handling this well, don't you think?
--calm. Too calm, Bridge, if you ask me--
Standing there, staring off towards the gravesite, ignoring the quiet conversations going on behind him. Her wake. He was drinking at Dom's wake, he had suddenly realized.
The glass, sliding through nerveless fingers, shattering on the stones of the patio.
Refracting the sunlight as it fell, gleaming almost like crystal. More beautiful, in the moment before it was broken, than ever before.
Like she had been.
Hey, sugar. You want to come and help me with dinner, maybe? Rogue's voice, too cheerful. She was just like the rest of THEM. You ain't just going to sit up here forever, are you?
The steely shine of the knife.
They'd locked the armory. Wouldn't let him in the Danger Room.
Oh my God! Hank, someone, quick!
Green eyes full of tears. Blood splashing on the counter.
Ah didn't think he'd--oh, God, Jean, ah'm so sorry, ah should've been watching him--
It's not your fault, Rogue--
Not her fault.
Not his fault. THEY kept saying that.
Not your fault, Nathan. You have to accept that.
Not his fault.
You stupid, stubborn, selfish son of a bitch! Logan, raving at him. Not like THEM at all. The only one.
He hated him for it.
Blessed him for it.
What the hell did you think you were doing? Fists clenched, claws extending and retracting unconsciously as he stood by the bed. Do you think she'd want this, you idiot?
Staring at those claws. Imagining them piercing his heart, putting an end to it all.
You damned coward.
Yes. He was a coward. His head sank, a whimper tearing free from his chest.
--never thought I'd see HIM like this--thought he was tougher than this--
He couldn't sleep. He couldn't wake up. Everything was a dream and yet painfully real.
The stone was real, cool beneath his fingers. Somewhere beneath him, she was sleeping. He laid down on the ground, the strength draining from his body, leaving bone-deep weariness behind, the exhaustion of nearly a week without any sleep except that brought on by shock or drugs.
Every time he closed his eyes, he was there, holding her as she died.
"Don't go," he whispered.
Don't leave me--
A flashlight beam playing over him. He winced, flinching away from the light as if it burned, and it was immediately switched off.
Someone kneeling beside him. Someone tense and unhappy, rigid with pain.
A hand gently touched his shoulder. "Come inside."
An indrawn breath. "Nathan--" More unsteadily.
"Don't leave me--" Tears, mingling with the mud and the rain. "Please--" A plea, as if she could answer him.
As if there was any answer, anywhere in the whole endless multiverse, to explain why he'd lost her. To tell him why he wasn't supposed to love, what higher purpose it served to show him heaven and then snatch it away again, leave it cold and lifeless in a box in the ground.
"Dom--I love you--don't go--"
"Nathan." Grief, anguish in the single word.
Strong arms went around him, held him tightly. Shivering, weeping, he leaned into his father's embrace.
And it rained.
continued in The Bondage of Sorrow
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