Day Lily • Windflower

He didn’t like where this path was leading him, walking a trail of intentionally laid breadcrumbs throughout San Francisco towards an ever-growing uncertainty of what he would find at the end. Stryfe, he anticipated - there was only one reason he would have gone through so much trouble to jettison his doppelganger through the time stream while trapping Madelyne in the very pits of Limbo - and Madelyne, he hoped - contrary to everything that might have put a sour taste in his mouth, actions that he gave no room for explanation for, she was still his mother - and trouble, he wanted nothing to do with, but if there hadn’t been trouble, Nathan wouldn’t have had to endure the cat and mouse game that had become chasing down his clone, taking over a situation that his younger self wouldn’t have had the ways nor means to control when Stryfe, easily, was the more powerful of beings.

And wasn’t that a pisser?

Through no fault of Nathan’s own, through no lack of trying or attempts to ensure Stryfe’s path of destruction at the vestigial behest of a long dead Apocalypse was stopped in its tracks, it had been the clone, made with the intent to ensure Nathan’s survival and raised into something far more foul, with the strength, not the original and not the punk kid who had put him into what was likely a long overdue grave - at least one version of him. It had been the soft one, the one who was willing to bend the rules to allow the younger version of his parents, of their friends, to traverse an incorrect timeline where the future could have been irrevocably changed upon the death of one; and Nate had been there to make the call, to kidnap the X-Men one-by-one, making minced meat out of angel wings over coffee and crashing time traveling barges through space and time.

And still, Nathan knew that wouldn’t have been enough for a meeting like this.

Not if Nate had been alone.

There had been reasons for leaving Nate in the future - ones that didn’t so readily involve the trouble or danger present in what would have been attempts to track down Stryfe himself, but would help when the time came; and while Nate might have easily argued that he didn’t need to train more, that he already knew all he could about Askani combat and weaponry and just what he could so with a psimitar in his hands, Nathan knew that was the lofty attitude of a petulant teenage boy talking. In the end, there hadn’t been a choice given to Nathan: He would stay and train with Blaquesmith whether he liked it or not. He would improve on his telepathy through rigorous training provided by his long-time mentor. He would come back better - at least that was what Nathan had hoped when it wasn’t just Stryfe he was worried about now.

No, this reached deeper into the dimensional abyss than Nathan could ever think to travel and there was no telling what would come of his mother’s extended stay in Limbo due to the machinations of a son as much hers as he wasn’t.

“Really hope you didn’t screw things up, kid,” Nathan commented to no one in particular, eyes flicking down to the concrete beneath his feet. He was waiting - waiting for that tell tale flash of light, a pop of blue in an otherwise shadowed place that he anticipated would go unnoticed by the quiet streets of San Francisco at such an hour, that would drop Nate, new and improved, in front of him if everything he gone according to plan on the other side of the time stream and the kid hadn’t screwed it all up by trying to be rebellious; and it came and went, right on schedule, Nathan’s gaze hardening on Nate, psimitar in tow and the Light of Galador to his back, already outfitted for battle though his elder wasn’t so quick to jump into a fray.

“Got some bad news, kid,” Nathan said as the dust settled, standing himself up straight from the lean he had taken to against the wall of Arcana, the magic shop as quiet as could be and not just because it was after closing hours, “and it has to do with Madelyne.”

The concern crosses Nate’s expression before he can readily do anything about it, not exactly the hardened time soldier he was staring at - not yet, still years between him and that stoic reality he would grow into? “What happened to mom?”

“I don’t know how, but Stryfe found a way to trap her in Limbo without any powers,” Nate said, “so if you were counting on Madelyne to help you out with this one, you might want to erase that thought right now.”

The difference in reference hadn’t been lost on either of them, both falling into slow silence that seemed to creep in from the air around them - one, the son who had embraced the relationship that never had a chance to happen before Madelyne had been gone and he had been thrown into an uncertain future by a father who saw no choice and, the other, the son who had curbed anything beyond curious questions presented to a father who had been so quick to discard her and write her off. There would always be some conflict there, Nathan knew, if not because Jean Grey, the woman she had been cloned from, had stepped in so readily to call him her own, then because of the underhanded tactics Nathan had so readily experienced her employ. Maybe it had been his father’s influence, however slim it had been before Mother Askani had to send them back to their proper place in the timeline, but there was always something to disagree about.

And all the same, in life or death, she had always been there for him, something that echoed more readily through the voice of his younger self as he seemed intent to throw all planning and plotting into the wind to go into Limbo himself to make sure she was safe.

“We’ve got to help her!”

“Yeah, we’re doing that by getting rid of Stryfe. Madelyne can take care of herself,” Nathan assured his younger counterpart as he turned his attention to Arcana, pacing about the front of the seemingly innocuous magic shop while his mind mulled over the possibility of what might have been found inside beyond the bits and bobbles that drew in a far more benign magic crowd considering the powers that lied inside. Knowing Madelyne, it wouldn’t have been without its safety features - magical, of course - for moments just like this and with other powers involved, there was no reason to believe those hadn’t been enhanced and especially if Nathan was right about what could have been inside.

“I’ve got a theory he is after the M’kraan Crystal,” he explained further, “and I don’t think I need to tell you what that is, but it was one of the last things he accessed from the C.S.A. archives.”

“And you think that the crystal is in there?” It really wouldn’t have surprised Nate and not just because of the Phoenix, that ever-present cosmic force that, even sieved, he could still feel burning in the corners of his mind with an inclination to protect that which might have been hidden within the walls of Arcana, rather all he did know about the comings and goings of the C.S.A. and just who was the woman behind the skulled visage of Ghost Rider. If the M’kraan Crystal was anywhere it wasn’t supposed to be, not with the Shi’ar and not with the C.S.A., why not with the Phoenix?

“No,” Nathan said, though there had been no certainty in his answer even as he blinked out of existence only to cross over the threshold to the interior of the magic shop, Nate following much the same, “but it’ll be the first place he’ll look.”

All they had to do was wait.