Beta readers: Noelle Pico
“Rachel, no.” He grasped her tightly by the arm, restraining her from flying off. “It’s too dangerous.”
“Careful, Cable,” her eyes narrowed, there were no pupils, no irises, just a white glow, “you wouldn’t want to get burned now.” Her hair was fiery red as it floated in the air. Her skin radiated a powerful yet warm aura. She was frightening and beautiful in the full glory and might of her family’s lineage. But not even this show of utmost power was enough to make the silver-haired time-traveler step down.
“I won’t let you throw your life away.” He pulled her close to him and looked down at her; genuine love could be felt behind his gruff tone.
“Cable,” she whispered to him and her glow seemed to weaken slightly, “I have to do this.” The glow in her eyes faded and they, for what would probably be the last time, looked into one another’s souls, and the unexplainable link between them that traversed time, space and reality itself, explained all, though both wished to deny the truth it spoke of.
“No, you don’t.” He held her firmly by the shoulders and looked down. “You can’t beat him alone. Let me come with you.” He pleaded and looked deep into her eyes.
“You underestimate the power of the Phoenix.” She laughed, half-heartedly. “But you’re right,” she glanced away, “I don’t think I’ll be coming back.”
“You can’t leave us.” He shook her as the words spilled out, his voice cracking like it never had before. “Not Scott, not Jean.” He paused, shutting his eyes for a moment before continuing, “Not me.”
“You understand now, don’t you?” Her words were calm and sympathetic, yet unwavering in their resolve. “That’s why you know I have to do this.”
“Isn’t there any other way?” The glow in his left eye faded, and a tear formed at the edge of his right eye.
“No,” she looked down and shut her eyes, her voice barely a whisper, “there isn’t.”
Silence lingered between them, and both individuals looked for words to say, but there were none to find. So instead, the younger of the two, who was in some way also the elder, took one of the most important individual’s in his life in his arms, holding her close, hugging her tight.
Rachel Summers looked over Cable’s shoulder at the limp bodies of her mother and father, who she had concealed the truth from this whole time. She prayed that the Professor would tell them everything she was unable to after all of this.
“Don’t feel bad.” She touched her companion’s cheek, wiping away a tear that had forced its way out of his eye. “You’ve already given me the strength and hope I need to face this.” She peeled off his weak grip, kissing him on the cheek before turning and soaring toward her enemy, toward her destiny.
Cable dropped to his knees, and screaming with all his might, hoped that she could hear him over the distance, over the noise of the battlefield, over his own sobs and croaks. Hear the words that kept running through his mind, but only came out as whispers. “I love you, Rachel…”
She held the baby in her arms. Genetically, they weren’t, and yet they were, biological siblings. But none of that mattered, their love overcame all boundaries, and nothing would keep her from protecting her brother.
But she had been too late. He was dying. Apocalypse had succeeded in infecting him with the virus. He only had moments to live, before he faded into nothing.
The most powerful forces from two different universes within her and here she stood helpless to save one of the most important people in her life. So she did the only thing she could do. She did what she couldn’t bring herself to do a few moments ago. She hugged him, and cradled him like an older sister should.
“Don’t worry, Nathan.” Her words came out broken as the sobs welled-up from inside her. Her tears streamed down her cheeks. “I’ll be right here for you.”
He woke up with a start and instinctively reached for the gun he always had at his bedside. What he found wasn’t the comfortable feeling of the handle and trigger. Instead, he found in his hand the only picture he ever had framed, captured behind glass and maple wood.
He looked at it and part of him died inside. If only he could find it in himself to smile again, like the brown-haired boy in the picture, standing beside the tall and lanky man with ruby glasses, the beautiful red-haired woman, and grandmother Askani.