What Is, What If

by Zanne


Disclaimer: Nobody's mine in this one. Nathan, Irene, and everybody Nathan mentions belong to Marvel. "The Second Coming" belongs to William Butler Yeats. Events kept me away from the 'net for the weekend, and I ended up having far too much free time to think with -- and used it to brood, mostly. I ended up getting outdone in that department by a fictional character, le sigh. I make no money off of this, so please don't sue the poor, starving artists. ::grin::

Continuity: Eh, I dunno. I'm not even sure there'll be a chance for a conversation like this to take place. It's set shortly after Cable #68, after he somehow gets back from wherever he is (at least that's as far as I'm up to date on current events)

Note: This whole little tale is one half of a conversation between Cable and Irene; Nathan's half. Everything except the final paragraph is spoken word. The part in ~these~ are his thoughts.

Archiving: If you really want to, ask and ye shall recieve.

Feedback: Praise cheerfully read. Flames printed out even more cheerfully and set on fire. Gotta love irony.

Don't apologize. Even back when I had my telepathy, people were still able to sneak up on me. Yes, I know. There's no excuse for that.

No, I'm not thinking about jumping. I'm just ... thinking. What about? Everything, nothing. Past, present, future. Seers and prophets. It's nothing, really. I just–

Well, if you insist, then have a seat. Trust me? You're not going to fall.

Hmm? What? Oh, this? Just, um, just a collection of works by Yeats. Don't look so surprised. I always did love to read. Some of the stuff he wrote makes me wonder if he wasn't a prophet, though.

Which one? This one here, page 238.

‘Turning and turning in the widening gyre, the falcon cannot hear the falconer; things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, the blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere the ceremony of innocence is drowned; the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity. Surely some revelation is at hand; surely the Second Coming is at hand. The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out when a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert a shape with lion body and the head of a man, a gaze blank and pitiless as the sun, is moving its slow thighs, while all about it reel shadows of the indignant desert birds. The darkness drops again; but now I know that twenty centuries of stony sleep were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle, and what rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?'

Quite appropriate, wouldn't you say? Yes, I have it memorized. Like I said, it makes me wonder, with the uncanny way he seemed to describe the events of now, if Yeats wasn't a soothsayer.

So many prophecies have been written about that great, last, final hour. Some agree, some conflict, all of them describe chaos on a scale that this world has never known. I wonder if there's any truth to be found in any of them.

So much damage, so much destruction. So many lives lost that I might have been able to save somehow, had I acted sooner, fought harder.

Don't look at me like that. It's true, and you know it. How many more people would be living right now had I acted faster to stop the Harbinger? Instead, I acted like a flonqing fool and kept trying to defeat the cursed thing, even after I knew we weren't getting anywhere.

Yet, to look at it from another perspective, the toll of the havoc it wreaked is far less than what it could have been. The skyline's the same – well, almost the same. People still live, still breathe, still work, still play, still fight, still love, and still hate in the streets below us.

Was it worth it? If we went down to the street level, if we looked at the individual faces, I know it was. Up here though, watching miniature taxis and cars, and huddled masses of tiny, ant-like humans, where it's all so abstract, I have to wonder.

I once heard someone say ‘some must be sacrificed if all are to be saved'. Is that the truth, or merely an empty platitude people use to justify their actions?

That's what's been keeping me up nights. Did my actions merely buy the citizens of New York City perhaps only a few more days of life? Did I just defeat myself? Has Apocalypse won by default?

Prophecies foretell the future. It's been said that the future's constantly in motion, being shaped and molded in the present. Nothing's written in stone. Yet, I am from the future. It's my past, and that's written in stone. Does that guarantee the prophecy unfolding as it was written, or is the future still a malleable object? Oath, sometimes trying to figure out the mechanics of this is enough to give me a headache.

Did I just make the biggest flonqing mistake in my ‘chosen' life by saving this city? Saving all these people?

I'm afraid I did.

I feel like everything's slipping out of my grasp, and the harder I try to hold on, the more I lose my grip.

You've got a readable face, you know that? To answer that question you're just dying to ask, but you can't figure out how, no, I'm not giving up. Not even when it looks like I'm fighting a lost cause.

No, I don't have a death wish. I think I finally realized that, somewhere out over the Atlantic when I thought for certain that was gonna be it for me. I don't want to die, no more than you do, Irene. But I'm never going to quit this war. Too much is at stake. As long as there's a breath in me, I'm going to keep fighting, to try to prevent the world I knew from becoming the world you know.

But somewhere in the time stream, something's changing because of what I've done. But is it changing for better or worse? That's what I don't know, and that's what's driving me insane. I always did hate not knowing the variables.

But if that prophecy is true, I don't know what I'm going to do now.

Hmm? No, I ... I don't regret it. Yes, I know.

The reason I sound so ... unsure ... is because right now, I'm seeing everything so abstractly. But the minute we go back down to the street, the minute we see all those faces belonging to people who would be vapor right now, I know I don't regret it.

He's killed too many people, Irene. If there's even a chance I can stop him from killing any more, I have to take it, prophecy be damned. It's that simple.

So what's left? Just keep on doing what I've always done, and keep him from killing as many people as I can, and hope that when I face him, I haven't set myself up to be kicked in the ass too badly.

Hmm? Yeah, I know. I'm not solving anything by brooding over it. Why do I? I think it's a family trait. Can you blame us, when it seems like the flonqing universe thinks anybody with the name Summers or Grey is some big, cosmic joke? Living, walking examples of Murphy's Law in action.

All my life, it seems to be a case of too little, too late. Jenskot, Tyler, Maria. Even Domino. Sometimes, I wonder if she ever really forgave me for that incident with Carlsyle.

Who? Oh, Vanessa Carlsyle. Copycat. She used to be Domino. Yeah, yeah, I know. Long story.

That is not true. Not everything about me is a long story.

Like what? Well.... Well, I know there's something. I just can't think of any right now.

That's not funny. No, it's not. Not everything about me is complicated. It's ... well, I guess it is.

But it's still not funny.

You're devious, you know that? Yeah, you do. Wipe that grin off your face. I did not smile. No, I didn't.

You cheated. I was just sitting here contemplating – oh, all right, brooding – and had worked myself up into a perfectly good, foul mood, and you just had to come along and ruin it, didn't you?

Huh? Hmm. You're right. It is rather windy up here. Usually is, when you're on top of an eighty-something story building.

Cold? Well, you found your way up here....

You're buying? All right, then. No, it's just I've never turned down a cup of coffee in my life.

Yes, I suppose you're right. There is another constant to this universe besides death and taxes.

~Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, the blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere the ceremony of innocence is drowned; the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.~

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