red rose
2,681 words

There was hope yet that - at least sometimes - the kid could handle himself, his efforts to slice through the hordes not gone unnoticed by someone who, rather than jump into the fray of unshifted super heroes, wanted others to believe him long gone. He was a blip in time, disappeared from one timeline to the next to iron out the problems that couldn’t otherwise be fixed without intervention; someone who didn’t linger unless he had to, unless he was waiting, because he knew well enough just what it would end up happening if he stuck around and got attached: There would be another punk kid, another Cable, pulled from another capable point in his timeline to gun him down in an alleyway.

But once in a while, he found the means and some time to ensconce himself even if it wasn’t typically in a place like this - a safehouse where he could get some rest albeit never much was usual or a diner on a New Canaan street with neon lights overhead and everyone jacked into neural ports without a care as to what was going on around them, but never someone’s home, and never his mother’s home, not that he had so readily crossed the threshold of calling Madelyne anything other than her given name.

He just knew that was where he would find her.

Once the fires died down and the hordes of demons returned to the dimension they had stirred from with their goblin companions, eager to see the rightful ruler of Limbo crowned once more, and everyone was able to return to their regularly scheduled lives with a few more wounds to lick, it was inevitable and there had been plenty of photographs to prove it. She had children to raise and a family to take care of, all in a household to be maintained in a very normal state of being that felt so easily foreign to someone with such a skewed definition of the word; but then again, what about being a mutant had ever been?

“Nice place you’ve got here,” he said when she had made an appearance at last - not that he figured there was a time limit on how long she could have been out in the city, causing mayhem and destruction with her army of Limbo denizens. “I’d say it beats Limbo any day, but that’s just me.”

Oh. Nathan was here.

Mally had been expecting Gabriel to be worried, Jenny and Laura needing some comfort perhaps and Lily in her strange, baby Lily way, waiting on her. Even her dad being over wouldn’t have surprised her as she made her way back into her own home.

Limbo had been it’s own adventure, it’s own little maze of things. She had done everything she could, had reached into her own rage to force herself out and it had shifted something in her. That part of her that was softer, that had seemingly crept up in her recently was, well. Not gone so much as quelled. The rest of her was still buzzing on magic, still a little high from her own fumes, and she was still so much more than just a body that the reminder of herself as solely Madelyne, as an enemy.

As her son’s enemy. At least… this one.

But then again.

“I earned it,” she keeps her voice cheerful, pleasant, still buzzing a little. The lightsaber hits her thigh as she walks into her kitchen, her hair still a vibrant red down to her mid back, her more demonic form prevailing over a more human one. “Besides, you’ve got a lot of siblings. They need some room to run around in. You want something to drink, kiddo?” It didn’t much matter that she had shown back up in a leather jacket and jeans and boots, as if she’d been biking and not anything more, golden demonic eyes focused on him as she opened the fridge, pulling out a pitcher of water. “No one told me what happened while I wasn’t here -- and it’s been a while since we’ve seen each other. So… I can guess it wasn’t pleasant.”

His expression was deadpan even as she moved over to the refrigerator to grab the pitcher - not because there was anything surprising about her, her demeanor or devilish appearance prevailing, but the mention of “kiddo”. Old, greying, and clearly nothing of the sort, Nathan was a long way away from a youthful appearance and, for the most part, he had been to anyone he had come across with a future widely spent alone in the future with only four to do with Redd and Slym. Still, it wasn’t something he pressed, remaining right where he was seated, shifting only when it was beneficial to keeping the Goblin Queen in his sights.

“Way I understand it,” he started, elbows going onto the table, “Stryfe had a nice little trap set up for you and junior which worked out according to plan. Kicked him right into New Canaan and you into Limbo,” and a part of him had to wonder if that hadn’t been a part of it - the chaos that had become of it - not because Stryfe had thought so far, but because Blackheart had some foresight to make it only beneficial to him, “but I was able to intercept him once he had landed to save him any future trouble save for being a pain in the ass.” And, boy, had he been a pain in the ass.

“Made him stay there for a while, made him train, and when he was ready, he had the all clear to come back and by the time that happened, I’d already tracked down our mutual enemy to your magic shop,” Nathan explained with a sense of aloofness though considering what Stryfe had been after, he knew there was probably a lot more in those doorways than he cared to know about - not that it ultimately mattered to him yet. There was always a yet.

“Blackheart’s got him,” Nathan eventually said, shoulder shifting a bit in a shrug. While he wasn’t necessarily dead, he wasn’t exactly living either while his soul was in the demon’s possession, and Nathan couldn’t say it harmed nor helped the timeline when Stryfe would, inevitably, be back. “And junior didn’t die out there which, suffice to say, I’m a little surprised. Kid’s got a hard head.”

And relieved.

“Wouldn’t have thought I’d end up a Phoenix host though,” Nathan pointed out. “That’s something new.”

There had been missing puzzle pieces. She listens as he lists them out, telling her things she had simply suspected to things she hadn't known entirely outright. There's a sneer on her face at the mention of Stryfe, pouring the water out into two glasses, putting one in front of him whether he wanted it or not.

She wasn't going to tell him about the elbows on the table, but she was going to raise an eyebrow at it.

"Arcana?" Mally has genuine surprise over that. "What was in Arcana that they wanted so badly?" There were several ideas there — she had intentionally made it deep and with it's own complicated defense, so the fact that they'd had additional help was soothing even if his tone wasn't.

A snort leaves her at the last part, completely ignoring Stryfe's fate at the moment. He'd earned it, as far as she cared. Blackheart, well. She'd let him have his fun a little while, for now. Tracking him down could come after some power consolidation. "You're speaking from experience about the hard head. Should—" Mally bites her tongue, the sentence finishing in her head you should've seen yourself trying to walk, the falls you took. "I mean, this place is very different from your timeline. Supergirl is my cousin here, she's married to Warren. Why shouldn't a version of you be the Phoenix host? You're always a Pryor, aren't you?"

Not a Summers, not a Grey. Made, in part, for the Phoenix.

“Assuming you don’t have it locked away somewhere already,” and he wasn’t entirely sure if she did or didn’t, not one to go prying when there had been something more pressing to deal with while running out one door and into another, “Stryfe was looking for the M’kraan and if nothing else, the Phoenix is a good way to track it down. Naturally, that only left me a couple of options on where to go - especially considering it disappeared from the C.S.A. a bit ago.” There had been a piqued brow in her direction, something suspect, but no presumptions had been made on where it had gone in earnest.

“Bird brains actually settled down?” No, that was hardly the important part, but less to chew into than a name he didn’t recognize and the potential ramifications of having three Phoenix hosts in one place, an easy beacon to whoever might have been looking.

But then again, the Shi’ar had gone after the Greys.

“You know my last name is Summers.” But things were different here and the significance of being a Summers might not have resonated so deeply with Nathan as he existed here as it did an old man shot through time with only notes left by his father, found in long-ruined places to, to interrupt the time flow. This one, not quite as old though well being adolescence, might as well have been a Pryor - had a chance to be a Pryor - when it had little chance otherwise.

“And I’m guessing he knows? No wool over the eyes about who his parents are?” In a way and perhaps found in the way he had presented the question, it was a relief he did, Nathan knowing well enough just how confusing it had been when he had to fill in the blanks, thanks in no small part to the efforts of Sinister and Stryfe. It was a good thing, he thought. At least the kid wouldn’t be alone.

The M'Kraan Crystal? Quietly, there was some relief that no one had known that she'd duplicated the crystal in her own way, that they only knew that there was one. "It's safe," was the only assurance she'd give, just in case. "And far out of his hands. Seems like he's punching above his weight to try and go for that." And it was more than dumb luck that he hadn't gotten to it.

A snort leaves her, and she wrinkles her nose. "He got married last December. Cried all over your tie — and Betsy was there, too." She cocked an eyebrow, taking a drink of water, able to hear some movement upstairs — probably Gabriel, if she had to guess. "I know. You're still a Pryor, even if you don't quite see it yourself." Mally didn't feel like she had to mention that his bursts of tantrum she'd seen consistently had her fingerprints all over them all, or that she had to point out that she'd been the person who'd done all the hard work bringing him into the world.

Instead she nods solemnly, her claws tinkling against the glass. "We've talked before. He knows. Maybe more than he'd like to know, sometimes." Even without the amusement she felt sometimes whenever the Kid called her or when they could annoy each other, the fondness is real, true. "There's never been any need for me to lie to you, in any form you meet me. I'm your mother — whether you or anyone else likes that fact. If you've needed me, I've come to you and that holds true here and elsewhere."

The grin she gives is a little more cheerful. "And he's not as competent as you. Someone's gotta save your big head."

“He didn’t find it, so I’d assume so.” There was a cant of his head. Knowing who they had been dealing with, he knew Stryfe didn’t particularly care about weight class as much as he did wiping Nathan out of existence to take his place as the true Nathaniel Summers - something that he’d never be even if he had been successful in doing just that. The crystal? That would have been a sure bet way to do it - had there not been a Phoenix present.

With an ear to the sounds upstairs, he finally reached out to take the glass of water for a sip.

“At least that’s something,” Nathan commented; and she had been right. At no time had there been any lies, had there been any hesitation to help, and though some means might have come off as underhanded, they were generally for the best in the end. Sometimes situations called for it and he couldn’t fault her for that no matter how perturbed he might have been in the moment.

It was his turn to snort, brow piquing on his forehead for a moment as he took another sip. “You’re telling me,” he said. “He’s got a lot of ways to go, but he’ll get there.” Obviously or else he might have been sitting there a completely different man than the grumpy, militaristic soldier he was.

Taking the water was a nice sign. Even if this Nate wasn't the one in the present it was always encouraging, those little gestures.

Her nose wrinkles though, at the mutual acknowledgement that the younger Nate had a long way to go. "I'm… I don't know. It still feels…" Unfair. Like the same old song in a different key. That her child was still always, going to end up a gunslinger. He'd always be unstuck in time somehow, that he still had some things set in stone.

She bottles that part up. "Feels like you've got more to say than this. You aren't ever hear just to see me. Or Jean, I'm guessing." There's not a bitter edge to her name, just a statement of fact. "There's nothing else we'll have to look out for, is it?"

It always was and always would be unfair, that much Nathan was sure of. Nathan would always end up being infected with the virus that required him to be sent into the future and, no matter how impacted the timeline was by outside forces, he would always end up with the Askani and Clan Chosen, would always have to rally them together against one enemy or another - be it Apocalypse or Stryfe or whoever else wanted to step in when their times had come - and would always find himself displaced for one mission or another. There was no settling down, no staying in one place, no loving home where he could be someone else and live a life far more simple with a wife and kids that wouldn’t be destroyed.

None of it was fair, but Nathan had long accepted that. It wouldn’t have done him any good to stay mad though there had been times where that very Pryor emotion might have reared its ugly head for the decision Scott had ultimately made. Either way, he still had to be given up - be it to death or the future.

“Not for as long as Blackheart is doing what he will, but Stryfe is a roach and he’ll be back, someway, somehow. Not sure when -” he said, turning his ear to the upstairs commotion again, more movement, though Nathan is more focused on whether or not it is making its way to the stairs “- but that just means it is something to follow up on.” But that was business and, as readily as he did show up because of timeline peril, no, that hadn’t been why he had showed up.

“Guess I just want to be sure you’ll be there,” he said, trying not to readily harp on those forces that had ultimately lose his mother for seemingly good, turning a spark into something demonic until the Phoenix saw fit to make whole what had been splintered, “for the kid.”

And the unspoken: For me.