Pam, mentioned in passing here, is a character that Persephone came up with a while ago. She has a whole history that, unfortunately, Peek hasn't posted yet.

by Lise

Chapter One

It didn't go the way they'd hoped it would.

In the first place, it looked like Alex was missing a leg, and an eye. The stump where his right knee should have been was green. A little green couldn't be a good thing; Nate muttered, 'oh flonq' and frowned so much that his eyebrows met.

The two of them were holed up in a dank cellar, with supporting roof beams of ice and nothing to eat. They were both dirty and smelled like mothballs, like wet dirt. Alex, in particular, stank; Nate thought it was that limb, a cloying rancid meat smell. Then again, it might have been the pile of stale newspapers in the corner, the mold thick and strangely fresh. Nate sneezed, and wrinkled his nose.

The first thing that Bobby said was, "You're not real, you can't be real."

The first thing that Alex said was, "You'd better stay back; he's not doing so well today. He said that there were flowers everywhere right before you showed up."

They approached quietly, Nur with his hood draped over his face and holding a corner of it to his nose delicately. The wool still had the faint tinge of sheep, of pasturing and the strong odor of animal paddocks. He could remember that from his youth -- not sheep, but that grazing animal oily stench.

It was preferable to the rot in front of them.

Nate started out quiet, low, asking if they could help them both and take them to a better place where there were no shifts, where they could eat and clean up and not have to be afraid. Bobby wouldn't hear of it -- Domino saw him stick his nose up in the air, and then he said, "I smell flowers."

Nate took the opportunity to move closer, too quickly, too close to Alex. He raced over, and Alex was hardly a match for the teke-- he fell over into a pile of garbage on the floor, unconscious. Nate almost gagged as he picked Alex up, and winced when he realized how young he looked.

Bobby whirled up, clutched his fist wildly. "Leave him alone! Don't touch him or you'll freeze where you stand!"

His hands came up, and his breath was sour, rank. Domino clutched her chest, gasping as the air in her lungs dropped to freezing-- this Bobby didn't fuck around, she thought. Nate did the same, dropping Havok's limp body and crumpling to the ground.

Nur stepped forward, unaffected, holding his hood over mouth and nose like a veil, a curtain of perfume and clean to protect from the mushroom smell of decay. "Bobby. Is that your name? Bobby." His voice was soothing, and Bobby whipped his head around. "Bobby, be still. Calm yourself. Fight it."

Domino gasped, where she lay with her head pressed against the stale earthen floor. She choked out, "Keep it up, Nur. I can breathe again."

Bobby looked back at Nate, sprawled beside Alex's unmoving form, and his face was fearful. "Alex! Alex, can you hear me?"

Nur continued inching forward, getting closer and closer to Bobby. "He will be all right, Bobby. We want to help. We want to stop him from being sick."

"Alex -- isn't sick. He, he'll be fine. I."

Nur was about two feet from him when Bobby raised a fist in a warning. "Stop. Back."

Nate croaked out, "Nur, be careful. He can hurt you just as well as us, even if he can't kill you."

Without breaking eye contact, Nur answered, "It will be all right, Nathan. We want to help you both, Bobby." Softly, he continued, "Do you not want to feel well again? Whole?"

Bobby's voice was cracked, and he whispered, "Well?..."

Nur bridged the gap between them as Bobby fell to his knees; face one of heartbreak, hands coming up to cover his face. Nur mumbled, "You will be well."

And hit Bobby over the head. He fell into the pile of rotting papers, getting fetidness and sour stagnant water in his hair and all over his face. Nur knelt down beside him, and took a small breath.

Domino and Nate both flipped over on their backs, gasping desperately and staring up at the ceiling -- made of ancient rotting planking. "Jesus, Nur!" Domino said. "That was close."

Nur said absently, "Yes." He looked down at Bobby, unconscious on the ground. "What a poor man."

Nate replied, "Let's take them back to the Oasis before either of them wake up."

Nur mumbled softly, "So they can be well." The air outside was fresh and Nur inhaled, a remnant of something whole and unbroken in the smell of fresh-cut flowers, sweetly perfuming a world now dead and ripe with mold.

They got to the Oasis without too much mishap; Domino almost fell in a crater in a world where the air was brimstone and ash, smoky and hard to breathe through. Nate dropped Alex twice, though Alex didn't complain. He was out cold. Domino commented once or twice that he was probably just looking for a chance to pass out from his injuries. Nur didn't respond.

They had dressed the wound as best they could. After the initial shock of seeing Alex Summers so close to death, none of them had gagged again.

"This can't be good." Franklin dropped his shovel, and squinted at the three -- four -- figures approaching him, one being carried by Nur. He said it flippantly, but watching Nur dump the body down on a crate, and then gesture to him, Franklin was ready for the worst. He went over. "Who did you-- Havok?"

Domino rolled her eyes. "You could say that again. And Bobby Drake."

The man standing behind her turned wide eyes on Franklin, and just before he could freak out, Franklin put a hand on his forehead. Bobby's eyes rolled into the back of his head, and Franklin concentrated, trying to get rid of all the energy his body and mind had accumulated. He was at it for almost a minute.

Nur got some water for Alex, who looked around groggily. "Where are we?"

Domino grinned at him, showing off her teeth. "Welcome to the end of the world."

Alex laughed, and spilled the cup of water all down the front of himself. He was wrapped up in blankets so tightly he was barely visible. Franklin rounded on Domino. "Come on! They're only here two minutes and already you're at them."

She wrinkled her nose. "They *could* use a bath."

"True." Franklin gestured for Domino to lift Bobby, and Nur to help Alex over to the water trough.

Alex held up a hand, saying, "I'm fine to walk. Just give me a minute." He stood up, spilling the rough blankets off his lap, onto the ground. That's when Franklin looked down and saw his leg. Or rather, lack of one.

"You're telling me there's nothing you can do?"

Pam, their resident expert on disease, frowned, her forehead wrinkling. "I don't know if I can help him." Sun streamed in and lit up the room; on the bed, Alex Summers was most likely dying.

"Why not?" Nate's mouth was turned down permanently.

"It's-- I think it's a form of cancer."

"What?" Nate's jaw dropped. "How?"

Ilsa put a hand on his shoulder the same moment that Pam replied, "It's not a disease, as such. It's not a foreign element in his blood. It's a part of him. His cells, replicating themselves out of control. I'm surprised it hasn't progressed farther along."

Alex wiped a cloth across his forehead, and smiled wryly. "Looks like I won't be going to the dance tomorrow night."

"What dance?"

He shrugged. "Oh, well, guess it doesn't matter then."

Nate turned to Pam. "You're telling me that he lost his leg to cancer?" She nodded. He turned to Franklin. "Then is there anything you can do?"

Franklin chewed on his lip, hand to his head. They had washed the wound, and Franklin had cauterized it. He said slowly, "I don't think I can repair the limb; even if I did, there's no telling whether he'd be able to use it as well as he's managing now. The gangrene's gone, thanks to Pam, and the wound is clean. The cancer... I think it's spread everywhere. I might be able to slow things down, some--" and he held up a hand, "but there's no way to tell whether it'll work."

Nate's eyebrows furrowed. "Then do it."

"I'll need some time to prepare, and I think Alex might want something to eat, some rest. I might be able to slow the cellular disintegration, but I don't know enough anatomy to stop it." Franklin sighed. "I'm sorry, Nate."

Alex sat up, awkwardly, and said weakly, "Do you always talk about people as if they aren't in the room?"

Nate turned sharply, and even though no one could read his mind, everyone immediately thought of Irene.

Lorna couldn't believe her eyes. It was Alex.

She took a breath, stepped forward hesitantly, and then, seeing Bobby and him huddle close together, fled.


Nate glanced back at Alex. "Yeah?"

Alex shuffled his feet. "Thank you."


"Saving Bobby like that. He wasn't." Alex coughed, looking out the window of the house. There were green spaces here, green spaces after months, years of wastelands. It was almost impossible to believe. He coughed again. "He wasn't doing well."

Nate replied softly, "It doesn't look like you are, either."

"Oh, I'll survive."

Nate sat down on the mattress, and Alex sat down beside him. After a moment, Nate asked, "How're you holding up, anyway? Some people get a little shell-shocked."

Alex nodded. "I can see that."

"Listen, Alex." Nate scratched his neck. "I need to ask you something."

Alex grinned wryly. "Whatever you need."

"Do you think Bobby'll go the distance?"

Alex blinked. "I think that he'll make it, yeah. He's tougher than he seems, even though he's erratic."

Nate nodded. "Good." His lips twitched. "What about you?"

"Me?" Alex kept grinning. "I'm chipper, I'm fine."

"God, you are." Nate sounded almost disgusted. "You're almost as cheerful as Franklin."

Alex looked out the window again. He said quietly, "It's easy. You guys figured out a way to make things grow again."

"So, how many of us did you know from-- before?"

Nate said it casually, but Alex could tell that he was anxious to hear the answer. He answered, "I hadn't met you, or Domino. I knew a Kitty -- a much younger Kitty -- and Bobby, of course." He paused, wondering how much detail Nate really wanted him to give. "We were all younger than most versions of the X-men, it seems."

Nate didn't look at him when he answered. "Yeah. You are."

Alex tried to change the subject. "Fully trained, though." He tried to joke, "Even housetrained."

"Good. Franklin hates mess on the carpet."

Alex chuckled. "I can understand that."

"Alex--" Nate grimaced.

Alex held up a hand. "I'll be well enough." He lifted up his shirt to show off some kind of armor, lighter than the stuff that Alex had worn in Nate's own time, and much more comfortable looking. Alex said softly, "It feels good to think I can help again."

Nate glanced at him, a little surprised. He just answered gruffly, "We take all the help we can get."


continued >>

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