Disclaimers and notes as in first part.

by Diamonde

Scott buried his head under the pillow, but that didn't help at all. Cotton and stuffing weren't much of an impediment to thought and no matter how hard he tried he couldn't block them out. The anger and hurt battered on his weak shields, whole sentences coming though every time he slipped.

*"If you want to build your whole life around one kid go right ahead, but don't expect me to play along! Dammit, Alex, when are you going to learn how to live your life for yourself, not someone else?!"*

Tears wet the sheets as he held the pillow tighter over his head. It might not stop the angry voices in his head, but it would muffle his sobs quite well.

*"You want me to chose between you and my son, is that it? And you're supposed to be the adult? Go to hell, Sam!"*

Stop it! I didn't mean to, nobody asked me if this was what I wanted... Scott cried harder. He couldn't block it out; the tide overwhelmed him until he didn't know who he was crying for.

*"He's NINE! He needs me!"*

*"Well Ah don't. And obviously you don't need me either!"*

They were going to break up and it would all be his fault. Everything had been perfect until he'd moved in and now it was all going wrong... I could MAKE them stop. I could! But it wouldn't last. If he stopped the fight they'd just have it again later, and worse. I have to go... Rubbing his eyes, Scott ran for the door. For a brief moment as he left he could hear their actual voices. They were trying to fight quietly so he wouldn't hear them. Shutting the door quietly behind him, Scott ran until he really couldn't.

His feet hurt and he was lost, but Scott had finally managed to get himself back together. His shields were still shaky, but he didn't feel like someone was ripping him up from the inside out anymore. Must have been picking that up from one of them... why do they do that to each other if it hurts so much? And why does this always happen because of me? Mom, Lorna... He pulled his legs up onto the park bench and rested his face on his knees. I didn't mean to... But the guilt didn't stop. He must have done something, even if he didn't know what it was.

"You didn't necessarily do anything. They might blame you for it, but in the end they probably brought it on themselves."

Shocked, Scott raised reddened eyes to see who'd suddenly answered his thoughts. He looked a lot like Cable, but the 'feel' was all wrong. "Really?"

"Oh yes. When they get to that point, people will fight over nearly anything." His accent was also similar to Cable's, but there was something different about one or two of the vowel sounds.

Scott watched warily as the strange-familiar person sat down on the other end of his bench. "I'm not supposed to talk to strangers, you know."

"Do I look like a stranger?"

Well, he could hardly argue that point. "I guess not. Why not?"

"We're related."

"I've never heard of you."

"I'd never heard of you either, until recently. You know what our family is like."

That made sense as well. It was much easier in his universe, there were hardly any of them left. But over here he'd been tossed headfirst into a complex set of conflicts he didn't quite understand. This version of his mother wouldn't talk to his uncle, Jean wouldn't talk to Maddie and Cable went through times when he wouldn't talk to anybody... "Yeah... What bit do you come from? You look just like Cable, but without the scars."

"That's because I'm his clone. They don't like talking about me because of it, I'm a bit of an embarrassment." There was self-mocking bitterness in that, a private joke that wasn't really very funny.

"That's not very fair." As the child of a clone, Scott took that personally. "Even Alex?"

"Havok? I think he's scared of me."


"He got mixed up in a fight I was having with some of the other bits of our family. I really didn't have anything against him personally but he was taking their side and I was angry."

"Seen that before." Scott nodded sagely. When Alex had tried to defend Maddie, the other Scott had all but bitten his head off until they'd realised the littler Scott was listening. Then it had suddenly gone quiet. "Why are you here, then?"

"I was looking for you. Do you always ask so many questions?"

Scott thought about that for a moment. "Yup. Why were you looking for me?"

"Curiousity. Then I felt that you were upset, and thought I'd come and talk to you."

"You're a telepath too." Scott nodded. "I noticed that straight away, you know."

"We are a little distinctive, aren't we?" The man laughed softly, knowing that Scott didn't need tohave his thoughts answered to pick a telepath.

"Only if you know the right way to look." Scott tended to look that way first. This new family member glowed bright gold inside his head, but in a strange way. It was more like a seamless cocoon than a glow, as if he was carefully making himself separate from everything else. Then again, when she was really upset his mother sometimes did the same thing. Maybe he was having a hard day as well and had just wanted someone to talk to.

"But you're not just a telepath. What else can you do?"

"I'm precognitive. And sometimes other weird stuff happens, but we're not sure exactly what that is."

"I thought so." The not-Cable appeared delighted to be right. "Precognition can be difficult. Are you any good at it?"

"Better than I used to be. I'm still not very good at picking what I see, though, and anything from more than a few days away tends to be a bit hard to figure out."

That seemed to disappoint him. "Well, I suppose your control will improve as you get older."

"They say it will."

"As long as you practice."

Scott rolled his eyes. That was starting to sound more familiar. "I do practice. I cheat at cards all the time. You can get away with lots of stuff if you know exactly when to stop before you get caught."

"Cards only have fifty-two options. What about people?"

"Bits and pieces, but it tends to blur with my telepathy and I'm not sure whether I'm just picking up their mood or actually predicting."

"Can you read my mind or mood?"

"Nope. Your shields are too good. Actually, you've got the best shields I ever seen." That was a slight lie. He could read vague shapes past the shields, enough to worry him. This man was horribly unhappy but didn't seem to know it. He reminded Scott rather frighteningly of the Fallen. Not as scary, the strange clone wasn't as madly aggressive as the Warren of Scott's world had been, but the same sense of twistedness. No, not twisted. Broken. Smashed up and then put back together again all wrong...

"Thank you. So why not try predicting what will happen to me in... oh, the next two hours?"

With a philosophical shrug and appreciation for the way his grammar had been left uncorrected, Scott concentrated. Then tried harder. Then frowned and looked up in confusion. "I can't see ANYTHING. Normally I get at least something..."

A slow, satisfied smile spread across his face. "Thank you, Scott. You just answered a very important question." His voice had the purry sound of a cat that's just managed to get away with something. "And just in time, too..."

Time... what IS the time? Scott blinked and looked around. It was getting dark, he'd been out for a long time. "I should get home... except that I'm lost." He didn't ask if his strange companion knew the way. The air of hungry self-satisfaction was starting to make him feel creepy and once again he didn't know what he'd done.

"I wouldn't worry. They're all out looking for you now. In fact, there should be someone right.... now."

"Very impressive, Stryfe." Cable came up at a run, glaring at his double with a hate that made Scott dizzy. "Scott, get up and come over here. Now."

With a frown Scott stood up and walked over, looking from one to the other in confusion. Stryfe didn't move, he just smiled. "No need to worry, Nathan, I was just chatting to our latest brother. Or should we call him a cousin? Maybe we should just split the difference and be uncles."

Grabbing Scott's arm tightly in one hand, Cable backed away. "Like hell. Every time I think you can't sink any lower you manage to surprise me, Stryfe. He's a little kid, and you're NOT getting your hands on this one!"

"He's a very unhappy 'little kid'. But I already got what I want from him, thank you for asking. He can't read my mind or see my future and I like that in a relative. Have a nice day, Scott. Try not to live up to that unfortunate first name." Standing up with a laugh, Stryfe turned and disappeared.

Letting out his breath almost explosively Cable sank down to his knees, hand tightening on Scott's arm convulsively. "Ow! Let go." Scott scowled.

Instead of letting go, Cable grabbed him by the shoulders and shook him. "Bright Lady, Scott, didn't anybody ever tell you not to talk to people you don't know?!"

"But he knew ME. And he looked just like you!"

"That doesn't mean SHIT in our family, and you know that. Now you had better promise me you'll never, ever do anything that stupid again!" Cable's fury was almost tangible, although Scott could tell that very little of it was directed at him personally.

"But he was so lonely..."

"I don't give a flonq, he deserves to stay that way! You PROMISE me!"

"Why should I?! You're not my fucking mother!" Scott pulled back as hard as he could but couldn't break that grip. He had to settle for looking down and turning his head away, knowing that that wouldn't hide the tears of bitterness and frustration.

"Scott, Stryfe is one of the most completely evil people I've ever met. He's been trying to kill me and mine since we were kids-he DID kill my wife-so if you should listen to ANYONE about him, it's me! But if you don't want to listen to me go ask my version of your mother, she'll tell you the same thing. He damn near killed her too."

"OUR mother! At least he admitted that and wanted me around! And he didn't even do anything, he just talked to me! So you can all just stop YELLING!" He was screaming as he finished, then burst into hysterical sobs. "Why did you even bother looking for me? You should be happy to get rid of me!"

"Of course I looked for you, we were worried about you! Why would I want to get rid of you?"

"Because I'm the one who screwed things up with Sam and Alex and you KNOW it! You've probably had to listen to them same as I do!" He didn't mean physically. He could see the bond between Sam and Cable, feather-light though it was. It could be hard to keep people that you loved out of your mind, especially when they were hurting...

"Is that what this is about?" He finally relaxed the convulsive grip on Scott's shoulders, letting his hands drop. "Scott, the only people who screwed up their relationship are Sam and Alex, okay? It's not your fault, you just got caught in the middle of problems they already had."

"That's what Stryfe said." Scott wiped his nose on his sleeve and continued crying. "But they WERE fighting over me, I could hear it. My shields are so bad and they were so angry..." The dam broke. Here was another telepath, someone who could understand, and the feelings tumbled out with the words. "It just hurt so much... why are they doing that to each other? And they fight in whispers because they don't w-want me to hear, but I wish they'd shout because then I wouldn't have to pretend that I don't notice! And they're not even listening to each other anymore, they just keep hitting back because they're both so unhappy... it's like they're going to keep tearing little pieces off each other until there's nothing l-left, and I can't make it stop!"

"You don't have to, kiddo." Cable reached out and hugged him gently, and Scott sobbed into his brother's broad shoulder, almost hiccuping and stuttering his words with the force of all that built-up emotion.

"I can't n-not feel it, but they don't seem to know what they're doing to each other! Maybe it would all be e-easier if everyone was telepathic and then at least they'd have to listen to each other. They think that the other one doesn't really c-care, and Sam's so angry at him and but Alex is so scared..."

"Even telepaths lie to themselves, Scott. If they're not listing to what the other one says then they wouldn't listen to what the other one feels either. They'd just lie to themselves and make excuses... like Stryfe. He does what he does, but he tells himself that all the pain he causes doesn't matter because they deserve it. Sam and Alex can sort this out without being telepathic-they just have to start listening somehow. And you scared them, kid, so maybe that's just what they needed to make them start paying attention." Picking his half-brother/cousin up easily, Cable started to walk back the way he'd come.

"No they won't. They'll just blame each other for starting the fight and then they'll both yell at me... how was I supposed to know he was a villain, anyway? You don't exist in my universe, I didn't know you h-had a clone."

"Well, now you know, so you're not going to make that mistake again."


"And you can always yell back if they start saying stupid things."

Scott nodded and let himself be carried in silence for a few minutes. It was rather comforting, the casual way Cable held him snuggled up just like Alex had when he was smaller. "It... you think it isn't my fault?" He couldn't shake that thought. It had to be, didn't it? They'd been fighting about him...

"Scott, if Stryfe and I ever say the same thing, chances are it's true. It's not your fault."

Scott didn't answer that, it sounded too much like pointless comfort. After all, Nathan would hardly say yes, would he? Then again, Nathan wasn't living with it the way Scott was, so how would he know? Scott wiped his eyes and took a shuddering breath, but the guilt stayed.

"You're right." Sam was digging through the closet when Alex came back into the room after finally Scott to sleep and dragging himself away.

"About what?"

"About 'us' being too hard on him. It might not have been before but it sure is now." Sam finally found the bags that his things had been brought from San Francisco in and tossed them out onto the floor. "Ah'm going back to X-Force. Ah'm well enough that Ah can take care of mahself and we're probably both better off if we're not trying to live together at the moment."

Alex looked away, blinking. He knew it was true and that that was the way it looked like things were going to end up anyway, but it still hurt. "Fair enough."

Sam paused and closed his eyes for a second as he reached for the few shirts that had settled in so nicely in amongst his lover's things. Or maybe it was 'ex-lover'. So he's not even going to try to stop me. Not that Ah want him to, of course... "Fine."


They kept the bed between them, not that it did a very good job as a physical obstacle. It just reminded them both that they wouldn't be sharing it anymore, that they couldn't lie next to each other and not speak and not touch but still feel that the other one was there, even if they were angry.

It didn't take Sam long to pack, not when he wouldn't let himself drag it out. Then he had to look up and try to think of something to say. What he wanted to say was how much he loved Alex but how angry he was at having that particular ultimatum pushed on him, no matter how unspoken, that he hated fighting and just wanted to curl up in that bed and stay there forever, but that he couldn't do that and still be himself... "Let me know if you change your mind and decide you actually need a life of your own, if you're lucky you might catch me before Ah change mine."

"I couldn't keep pretending that it didn't matter anymore. It wasn't fair."

"To who?"

"You. I'm good at lying to myself, Sam, I've been doing that for years. But for whatever reason, I don't like lying to you."



"Next time... keep lying to me, stop lying to yourself." Sam picked up his bags and left before he could change his mind and stay.

The sky was no longer a haven, it was just empty. Both the stars above him and the clouds below him seemed cold to Sam, surrounding him with uncaring light that glittered off tears. Tears that he needed to get rid of before he arrived-he hated crying in front of people as much as Alex did, but for different reasons. Sam hated putting the burden of his unhappiness on the people he loved, Alex hated looking weak or unsure. Can never admit that it hurts, as if that will take something away from him... You idiot, Sam, as if that's not what he's been doing for weeks. Couldn't let you see that it hurt him until now and then you walk out on him...

He was tempted to turn around. Except that he didn't think he'd find Alex if he did. He might find something that walked and talked like Alexander Summers but his Alex was already gone, back to whatever place Summerses retreated to so that you couldn't touch them anymore. Not that it ever worked, because they took their hurt in with them.

Maybe it was over and he just couldn't let it go. Or maybe he already had.

Cable was the only one waiting for him when Sam landed quietly on the roof, holding a steaming cup and looking up as if there was nothing more important in the world than watching the stars and waiting for Sam to drop out of the sky. "Beautiful night, isn't it?"

"If you say so."

"I suppose you wouldn't really have been looking." Cable easily took the bags and offered the mug instead. "Coffee?"

Sam took the mug reflexively, blinking down into the liquid that had been bleached to a light grey by the moonlight. It occurred to him vaguely that Cable didn't put milk in his coffee, but he didn't pay much attention to the thought.

Nathan made no move to go inside and Sam was glad of it, the sky might be cold but at least there was only one of it and it was never curious.

"Hurts, doesn't it? When someone asks you to give up something you'd die for because they can't stand the thought? Because it makes you realise how much they love you and then you really know how much it's going to hurt them when you say no."

"Yes," Sam whispered.

"And you want to, but you know that if you give up one piece of yourself then you're not the person they love and you're not the person that loves them, either." Nathan watched quietly as Sam's tears returned, spilling like liquid diamonds. "So instead you just hold on to both, refusing to give in while it nearly tears you in half until they make up your mind for you by leaving. And then you realise why you needed them and what you should have said, but unless you're really lucky it's too late." He looked up at the stars again. "Trouble is, you can never really understand it until that moment and you can spend years trying to make up for it."

"It... it wasn't mah fault."

"Then whose fault was it, Sam?" Nathan's reflective tone hardened for a moment and he looked back at Sam, eyes expectant.

"Ah... maybe it was. Was it?" Sam frowned, matching Nathan's questioning gaze with a troubled one of his own.

"What makes you think it was anybody's fault? I don't."

Sam looked away, rubbing at the wetness on his face. "Then tell me what Ah should have said so Ah can go back and say it! You said Ah couldn't die but this is killing me..."

Nathan gently took the cup out of Sam's hands, leaving it to float in the air as he wrapped his arms around trembling shoulders. "I can't tell you."

Sam rested his head against the smooth material of Cable's uniform, eyes closed tightly. "Why not?"

Nathan patted his almost-son soothingly. "Because you have to tell me. Why do you need him, Sam?"

"Because Ah DO!"


"Because Ah love him and it hurts when he's not there..."

"Why need? You gave up on him for this, why are you standing here without any idea of how to do it anymore?"

"Ah don't know..."

"Yes, you do." He asked one more question, so quietly that Sam almost missed it. "One person isn't enough to make anyone do this, what on earth can he give you that makes it any easier?"

Holding onto that comforting strength, Sam cried helplessly. "Not one person, all of them, they give me a reason to go out and do it... but Alex gave me a reason to come back."

The bed felt huge and empty, like Alex had known that it would. No warm body pressed against him, sleep bringing a respite from the hell that he'd dragged them both into. No soft breath to fall asleep to, no smooth skin to press his face against and lose himself in and no memory of how to sleep with so much room and all the blankets.

Rolling restlessly across to the other side of the bed, Alex stared up into the darkness and thought, dragging all the hard questions out to be brutally asked. How could he have let something so good become so painful in just a few weeks? What right did he have to demand something easier without acknowledging why it hurt so much? And why did he keep putting other words on what was plain, simple fear?

He'd been scared, terrified at the very thought of losing someone else, scared of being hurt so badly again. And so to stop himself from being hurt at a hypothetical time in the future he'd forced Sam to leave and made sure he hurt immediately, as self-inflicted as if he'd cut his own hand off to save himself from possibly injuring it later.

But, in complete defiance of all the narrative conventions he'd been raised on, admitting that didn't magically give him an answer. Instead it just forced him realise that his complete unhappiness and lack of a way out was all his own fault, which made him feel worse.

The horror and pain that he'd been holding off for a month took advantage of his sudden weakness and swept in, battering his resolve to shreds and dragging out weeks worth of repressed tears. Without any will left to fight it, Alex was swept under. It pulled him down, past denial and entrapment and hopelessness, washing away pride and logic and need.

Time lost meaning until, what seemed like half a lifetime later, Alex slowly came back to himself. The panic and the anger were gone, leaving him empty and cold. And lonely. Three AM would have been ironic, but it was more like four-thirty when Alex finally fell asleep.

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