Disclaimer : They don't belong to me, my house isn't big enough for the two of them, let alone the rest of the gang. Marvel can have them, but I want Scottie when they're done. No money, no donations, no currency is being traded, made, etc. This is more of an "am I on the right track?" than work of art. Constructive criticism is sought/required! If you flame me, though, I'll whine to Darqstar and let HER tell you what she thinks of you! So there! Be afraid! ::Mitai crosses her arms across her chest and sniffs:: Some swearing, little violence.

Comments to jaya_gm@hotmail.com.


On Letting Go

Jaya Mitai

10/17/98

 

"What the hell were you thinking?! You could have gotten killed, gotten us all killed!" Scott couldn't remember a time he'd been so furious.

Nathan turned from the cockpit windshield and glared at Cyclops, leader of the X-Men, his father. "I didn't _ask_ you to come-"

"You just thought you could take on Apocalypse by yourself?" His sarcastic tone was enough to infuriate one of the most powerful mutants on Earth to the point that his eye could have lit a small country.

"That's what I was _born_ to do!" he screamed back. "Or have you forgotten?" The tilt of Scott's jaw indicated how hard it had hit. "I didn't have a choice-"

"There's always a choice!"

The two men were literally a foot apart, getting closer.

"I wasn't going to just stand by-"

"You should have waited-"

"I wasn't about to let him-"

"ENOUGH!"

Neither man turned at the mental and physical voice of Jean Grey-Summers, but both fell into furious silence. The redhead telepath rubbed her temples, walking into the front of the plane. Ororo Munroe gave her a tired smile and poitely excused herself, leaving the cockpit of the Blackbird carefully. Jean glared at Scott before he even opened his mouth.

"Scott, shut up." She didn't spare him another glance. "Nathan, what you did was very brave. And very stupid." He started to interrupt her, and at her look decided against it, readying himself for the tirade. He didn't have to wait long.

"You've pulled a lot of stupid stunts, Nathan, but this? Attacking Apocalypse on a whim, by yourself, without even telling anyone where you were going? This has got to take the cake. And you know what your trouble is? You've gotten away with it. Every time you've pulled some asinine harebrained stunt, you've gotten away with it. And one of these days you're not going to."

She had been advancing on him steadily as she spoke. By the end she was right in his face. To his surprise, instead of trying to slap some sense into him, like Dom would have done, she wrapped her arms around him, snuggling into his chest instead. She said nothing, but he nodded slowly, and returned the embrace awkwardly. Scott could only guess they were talking telepathically. He turned from them, trying to distract himself by taking the plane out of autopilot and flying himself.

They were tired, that was all. They were tired. Actually, that was an understatement. The team was exhausted. They'd gotten a frantic call from Forge two days ago, who had informed them of his suspicions after, of all things, a high school news report of something extraordinary seen in the mountains of Northern California- a cave nymph. At first they had though that Forge had lost it, then they saw the photo. One light in a dark cave. About eye level, actually, and shaped so.

Now all Scott could wonder was, why the hell would Forge monitor school newspapers?

#A man of time, Scott. He probably came back and told his past self to look for it.#

Scott just grunted, still thinking himself too angry for civilized words, shielding his thoughts. The hand that gripped the throttle bar was white. Why did everything that he did with his son have to become an argument?

Because the man is going to get a lot of people killed. Because he doesn t think about the consequences-

But that wasn't fair. He knew the consequences of his action, better than any of them, better than Bishop, even. He knew the consequences of his actions for 2,000 years. Supposed to save the world from Apocalypse . . . it would be wonderful, if he succeeded. But how many people wake up on a Saturday morning and think, hmm, should I mow the lawn today, or try to destroy an immortal, all-powerful super-mutant that thinks he's a god?

And how many of those people actually have a shot at it?

But he didn't; Jean knew it, Scott knew it, why the hell couldn't Nathan see it? If it weren't for the techno virus, he'd be as powerful as Nate. Between the two, he had no doubt, but they would both surely die in the process.

And why did he have to have that attitude about it? He acted as though it were expected from him, as though he couldn't do any less than try to kill himself all the time. Scott could see him out of the peripherals of his visor as Ororo retook her seat as copilot. His mind mentally catalogued her pale color and listlessness as injury even as he watched Nathan's jaw set in that infuriating square line-

Just like his.

The thought wasn't projected by Jean; it was his own. Just like him. Nathan was as stubborn about trying to save the world as Scott was. So what was it that drove them crazy every time they spent more than thirty minutes in the same room?

Nathan was a good team player. He was aware of what was happening around him, not just to himself. He looked out for the others, whether he'd admit it or not. Being Earth's last hope surely had changed Cable into the callous, cynical man he'd become, as surely as had the Askani. He was cold, ruthless, and he would kill, if he deemed it necessary. Why couldn't he see that it's almost never necessary? Every human killed by a mutant is thirty more against them.

Scott watched the clouds, leveling over a patch of air that looked a little bumpy almost without thinking. Nathan had done something very stupid, but no more brainless than some of the other members of the team. Dazzler taking on the Juggernaut, for one. That had been stupid. Remy taking needless risks, like today. Hank expected him to die before they even made it back to the mansion, despite the Shi'ar medunit in the back, and for Hank to admit that meant that it was really bad.

Nathan's thoughtlessness might cost him an X-Man. The man sometimes acted like a child, no logical reason behind his actions, and otherwise acted like the entire world rested on him , no surprise. It was how he was raised, what he was taught. Stryfe had only reminded him. It made Nathan distant, never thinking of the immediate effects of his actions-

That was unfair. The man had more than enough to worry about, he hardly needed his father to act this way. Father indeed. He wondered how Jean could stand it, looking at Cable, knowing that he was the child of the clone of her. Flattering, in a way, and she knew that Madelyne was sent to seduce him by Sinister, but it burned him deep, deep down, in a place he couldn t reach, couldn't let Jean reach. He felt as though he had betrayed her, and wasn't Nathan a constant reminder of just how deeply?

And was that the source of tension between them? Scott flicked one of the many toggles on the board before him, cloaking them from several military jets doing abnormally high tests. His mind switch back immediately. No, that couldn't have been it. He couldn't hate Nathan for something that the boy , the man , had no control over. Surely he was more rational than that.

So why? The logical voice in Scott's mind would not let the matter drop. He had to work through this, figure it out. Apocalypse had nearly had the boy. Had Nathan in his hand, being slowly crushed. Had told him how weak and pathetic he was. Nathan, by that point, had been too exhausted to do anything more than try to breathe. If they gotten in just a few moments later . . .

Jean had long ago finished her embrace, and touched Scott's shoulder gently.

#Let it go, Scott. What's passed is passed. And if we hadn t caught Apocalypse now, we never would have known about the contaminated water . . . millions could have died. Let it go.#

His shoulder was tense; he didn't relax. Nathan had done something stupid, he was getting no more than anyone else on the team. *I . . . can t. I won't. He has to learn-*

#You're not teaching him anything, Scott, other than the fact that you're pigheaded. The two of you are so alike . . . why must he believe exactly what you believe? Why can't both of you be right?#

He didn't answer, and Jean shook her head in disgust and left him. Ororo was seated in the copilot's chair, eyes closed, slouched rather than her normal straight-back posture.

"He might have saved us all, Cyclops." Her voice was quiet, and laden with fatigue.

"He might have gotten us all killed, too." He tried to bite back the words, but they came despite him. Apparently his self-control was about as weary as his body. What _was_ it about Nathan?

"When was the last time you told him that you loved him?"

Scott blinked, and almost said - no, it was smothered by another wave of sarcasm.

"He's a telepath, Storm."

Ororo sighed, a sound like wind through cane. "Don't count on that being enough, Scott. Sometimes it's nice to hear."

He continued flying in silence, paying casual attention to everything and none at all to the black goddess. As soon as he was sure she was asleep/passed out, he set the plane on autopilot and gently picked her up. To his surprise, though he knew she weighed very little, he found that he could barely carry her. He brushed past Rogue and Bishop, Rogue trying to pace and Bishop trying to convince her to sit down. Scott carried Ororo to the back, and the medunits. Hank was bent over Gambit, studying his vital signs. He had been thrown twenty feet into a wall, then fallen another twelve. They were doubtful that he was going to live.

"Hank, I think she's got internal damage. Her color is bad but I don't see any bleeding." On her tight white uniform, it would have been all but impossible to hide.

The Beast stood gently took her, probing quietly, one of his bright blue eyes swelled nearly shut. As soon as he got near her abdomen, her eyes opened, glazed and unfocused.

"I am fine." Her voice was too steady. "Please, just let me sleep. Remy needs the attention more than I . . ." She had already drifted off. Hank glanced around, finally lying her gently on the floor.

"I don't think it's as bad as you fear, but there is internal bleeding. I'll need to treat her." He glanced at Scott, who showed no signs of leaving. "Go. I need the space."

Reluctantly, Scott made his way back toward the cockpit. While Logan looked concerned, he also looked like hell, unable to get up. Rogue, however, was merely tired and already anxious about Gambit. She touched Scott's shoulder.

"She gonna be okay?"

He nodded tiredly, mind racing. He'd already flat-out lied about Gambit; luckily, he didn t have to do it again. "Yes. Hank's looking after her."

Rogue nodded, fidgeting with her gloves before sitting back down nervously. Bishop was with her to make sure she didn't hover around the injured Cajun and get in Hank's way, as she was wont to do. Bishop just glanced at his team leader, a neutral glance that spoke volumes to Scott. He nodded only once, then returned to the cockpit. They were near Salem Center, now; another few minutes and they would be safe and sound-

Now, as Scott looked over the unfinished, unstable building, he kicked himself for thinking those words.

Five, all girls, one as young as twelve. All mutants. FoH everywhere.

And one of the girls was covered in blood. Watching her leapt from one i-beam to the next, Scott was sure that it wasn't all hers, which could mean one of several things, and none good. And a mob of large, angry, armed men screaming "Muties!" and "Murderers!" didn't bode well. And most of his team was at home; they were reduced to four weary X-Men.

"Rogue, you take Bishop up. Nathan, you and I are taking the long way." Bishop, Rogue, and Nathan opened their mouths to argue, then heard the terrified screams of the girls and thought better of it. Scott raced towards an elevator the construction workers had had installed, Nathan hot on his heels. It worked, too, but slowly, built so that the construction workers could just step off when they got to their floor, and Rogue and Bishop were on the roof by the time he and Nathan made it to the second floor.

Abruptly the elevator took off like a rocketship. Only Nathan's strong grip kept Scott from falling.

He whipped his head around, the eyes behind his visor glowing faintly.

"Nathan?! You're too weak-" The moment the words left his mouth, he regretted them. He started again, only to be interrupted as they hit the top floor. Cable coldly released Cyclops and strode past him onto the roof, bringing his fist down across the back of one of the attacker's necks. The man went down like a felled oak.

Immediately the others turned.

"Hot dog! More X-meat!" Seven of the sixteen armed humans confronted the father and son.

Scott let them have it, everything he had. But after almost two days of nearly steady guerilla tactics on Apocalypse, it wasn't nearly enough. Nathan began to work his magic, and though his face was set like a rock, the fury in his eyes indicated that he was doing far more than causing them headaches. And that was not counting the ones he was chucking around with his telekinesis. It was obvious that he was out to show Cyclops just how "weak" he really was.

Bullheaded stubborn fool! Scott mentally cursed the man, knowing that it was falling on deaf ears. Tactical error, same one Logan always made " never fight when you're angry or you have something to prove. They were too tired for the telekinetipath to pull this shit. Why else would Scott tell Rogue to only carry Bishop with innocent lives at stake? What did Nathan have to prove?

Scott caught a bat coming at his side, wrenched it away cleanly, and swung it like a pro, knocking away the gun that would have taken Bishop's head off. Something struck him from behind, heavily, and bore him to the ground with the force of an NFL quarterback that had been hit by a Humvee. Winded and dazed, knowing that he was on the ground and surrounded, he used a tactic he been taught by the Cajun himself - he feigned unconsciousness.

After a few "for good measure" blows, they left him lying there, pressing the attack on Bishop and Cable. Scott raised up his head, checking on them, still trying to get his breath back.

Rogue was carrying the mutant girls to safety. She'd gotten to the last one, the one covered in blood. The girl refused to let Rogue touch her, despite Rogue's claim to be invulnerable, and Rogue was trying to catch the running girl and keep the FoH off her at the same time. He could tell from her speed how very tired she was, and considering the size of the small girl, she was having quite a time. Bishop was doing his usual take down routine; between he and Nathan, nine of the FoH were down for the count, seven to go.

Scott got to his feet, kicking the knees out of the one behind Nathan while the telepath "caught" the remaining girl, assuring her telepathically that she could not hurt Rogue. He had to be, because she stopped, suddenly looking relieved. It really amazed Scott how careful the man could be sometimes, and how cruel and thoughtless others.

In his distraction he never saw it coming. One moment his senses alerted him that he was in danger, a man with a knife, and a second later he was tumbling towards the side of the roof -

Instinct kicked in, and he twisted his body, kneeling in the air. As he came to the ledge, his knees caught the foot high guard and that was all that kept him from tumbling over. Again, instinct made his arm shoot out, catching the wrist of whoever had knocked him -

And he found himself holding onto his son. Nathan grabbed his wrist, holding on for dear life. The shock of suddenly stopping a good 220lbs nearly sent both men plummeting. Scott reached out his other arm, grabbing the ledge and using all the strength he had left just to keep from losing his grip on the building. He gritted his teeth, breath hissing through his teeth and nose, tightening his grip. His arm felt like it was being torn out of its socket. Any other time, any other day, he would have been able to just pull Nathan up, but not today, he was too exhausted, his arm wouldn't obey him.

"Grab . . . my arm with . . . your other hand."

Nathan just shook his head. "Can't. Too heavy . . . bastard slashed something important." A dark stain on his left shoulder was growing at an alarming rate, his metal arm hanging uselessly by his side.

"Can't you-" He shook his head slightly, afraid to move, afraid to offset Scott's balance. #Too weak.#

Scott winced at the words thrown back in his face. Though they dripped sarcasm, both men knew that he couldn t help himself telekinetically because he'd been "proving himself" before, and knew what it could potentially cost. Both men were perspiring with the strain, and despite the gloves they wore they were losing their grip fast.

Scott was nearly frantic, doing the math in his head, calculating angles and options that were being discarded right and left, outwardly as collected as always. He had never felt so frustrated. There is always another choice, another option. I WILL NOT drop my son off a building. It was unacceptable.

"Dammit, Nathan, help me!"

Nathan met his gaze quietly. "Let go, or we'll both die."

That galled Scott for some reason he couldn't quite fathom, as though Nathan actually expected him to do it. "The hell I will!" He tried with every sinew in his body to lift the man even a few inches, enough to get him a foothold, but his arm and his back were too tired, muscles too fatigued. He contemplated trying to let go of the ledge and use the other arm, with both he was sure that he could pull Nathan up, but if he lost his grip or his knees gave out, they'd both die. Nathan was right. It didn t keep Scott from trying, his mind a buzz.

"I'll not let an X-Man die on my watch!"

Cable's grin was humorless. "I'm not an X-Man, Scott. Let go." V He dug his fingers into the other man's wrist, not caring if he was cutting blood flow for a moment, it was one more moment for Cable to send a distress call to Rogue.

#Scott . ..#

Scott froze, realizing what Cable was about to do. Experience with Jean and Charles and Cable's exhaustion were the only things that kept the man from simply entering Scott's mind and making his father release him. Cable swore in frustration as he hit mental shields he was too tired to break. Both could hear the laughing of the FoH. If they didn't fall in a few seconds, they were going to get help.

"I'm coming!" Bishop yelled, and the barrage of gunfire and plasm blasts was continued. Rogue was on the other side of the building, making sure the girls were safe, completely unaware of the danger, and neither Scott nor Nathan had a free hand with which to hit the communicator and tell her. Even if Nathan had already done it telepathically, there was no way she'd get there in time, and she was probably too tired to catch him during the fall. There was no hope of help.

Again Scott tried, his entire body trembling with the effort he put into it, teeth gritted in a grimace of more than physical pain. Nathan's feet kicked, looking for a foothold and finding none on the vertical steel beams. After a moment he stopped, again knowing that it was upsetting Scott's precarious balance, knowing that three pounds of offset weight were all it would take to send both men to their deaths.

#Tell Dom I . . . love her.#

"Tell her yourself -" Nathan slipped again. The men were holding on by palms, now, instead of wrists. In another second, Scott knew he wouldn't be able to hold on to either the building or his son.

#Dad . . . let go.#

Scott didn't shake his head, didn't have the time. Everything he was was concentrating on holding onto the man dangling twenty or more stories above the street, looking up at him unflinchingly, unafraid. The ledge was not sturdy; Scott was losing his grip, his fingers losing feeling. He couldn't let go, wouldn't let go. And his son knew it. Nathan released his grip, and Scott was holding onto a limp hand, which slid even further as the glove slipped over unresisting fingers.

*No, God dammit, Nathan Christopher, hold on to me!*

#And tell . . . Mom while you're at it.# With a calculated twist of his wrist he tore his hand from his father's grasp. He kept the link sustained, he kept eye contact. He just started growing smaller and smaller. There was no fear, just acceptance, and a wry feeling. This was not how he had expected to die.

"Don't count on that being enough, Scott. Sometimes it's nice to hear." Ororo whispered in his ear. But that wasn't enough, to tell him. It wasn't enough to say the words. There was no time to say the words.

As Jean had taught him, he balled up his emotions and threw them at the link, toward his son, as he watched him fall. He sent everything he felt, he had no time to sort through the fear and frustration and love he felt for his son, his own regret, his own disappointment. It all went hurtling to the flying man with the speed of thought. And he was amazed at the intensity, and how little of it was the negative feelings that he had dwelled on not an hour ago.

#Yeah, you too.# was the gruff response, and then the link vanished, leaving him alone with his thoughts, leaning over the side of the building, eyes open, forcing himself to watch Nathan crash onto the car, watching the windshield shatter, the flying glass sparkling in the light. Watching another, brighter light dim, die.

And then he was dragged to his feet, dragged away from the edge, and Bishop could see that there was no Nathan attached to his arm. He paused, glancing down at the street even as Rogue flew up from the other side, the FoH that had been such a threat disposed of neatly.

She didn't say anything; Nathan had contacted her, then. She just looked at Bishop, and then at Scott.

"I couldn't hold on." He pulled his eyes from the tiny, almost miniature toy-like image of his son, turned from the street toward the construction elevator. "I couldn't hold on."


BACK