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Moira climbed out of the small cab and looked around, raising an eyebrow. 'Lichtenstein? O' all th' places....' she thought, turning and paying the driver his fee. He waved cheerfully and then drove off, leaving her at the very edge of Vaduz. These neighborhoods were slightly more run-down than the rest of the capital city. Still breathtaking, but she doubted that Nathan had picked this place because of its tourist attractions. She looked down at the hastly written address and headed towards the last house on the block in front of her. It wasn't shabby looking, but it didn't announce "Hey, look inside, look inside!" either. Exactly what she had expected. Shifting the overnight bag slightly, she raised a hand, knocked loudly, and then waited patiently.

Inside, Nathan Dayspring's eyes snapped open at the sound. He stared up at the cracked ceiling for a moment, trying to gather his scattered thoughts and remember where he was. It was harder than it should have been; his head wasn't aching nearly as badly as it had been when he'd sat down, but he was still ridiculously dizzy, even lying perfectly still.

"Stop whining and get up," he muttered to himself and sat up slowly, swinging his feet over the edge of the couch. His equilibrium threatened to abandon him entirely, but he gritted his teeth and held onto the edge of the couch, using it as support as he pulled himself back to his feet. Really, he was doing entirely too much falling over these days. It was getting embarassing.

On his way to the front door, he stopped to check the security monitor, and relief washed over him as he saw that the person knocking was Moira. She had gotten here faster than he had expected. The email he'd sent her must have alarmed her.

Glancing around, Moira muttered to herself. "It's bloody February an' he's makin' me stand on 'is doorstep?" She knocked again. "Nathan, ye giant oaf, 'tis not like I'm..." She stopped as the door swung open. "'Bout blo...oh damn, Nate, ye look like -shit-." Her voice softened with worry and she stepped inside, dropping her bag on the floor with a dull thump. He looked like he hadn't slept in days, or shaved or -showered-...but she still threw herself into a hug, glad to see him no matter what the cause. "What's goin' on?"

Nathan stiffened instinctively, but forced himself to relax and to hug her somewhat tentatively back. This was Moira, he reminded himself, one of the few people he could positively trust not to invade his personal spaces for nefarious purposes. Old instincts died hard and all that, but he was the one in control of his reactions, not the training.

"Where should I start?" he asked tiredly, drawing back with a sigh and leaning against the handy wall to his left as Moira closed the door behind her. The house felt as if it were spinning slowly around him. It was almost enough to make a person nauseous. Moira looked up at him, her lips pursed and her expression taut with worry, and he managed a smile. "Not to worry. It's not the virus."

"Maybe not, but I'm nay takin' -any- chances, Nathan," she shot back. "Do ye 'ave somethin' ye can sit down on? I need ta rest me old bones, twas a long flight." She hadn't seen him looking like this for a long time. Granted, she hadn't seen him in a while, but...she had fought too hard to keep him alive to be taking any chances now.

"In here," Nathan said, making an aimless gesture in the direction of the sitting room where he'd been lying down. Moira took his arm, as if sensing that he needed support, and Nathan had to repress another flinch. "I didn't intend to drag you to fucking Lichtenstein for this," he confessed, leading her over to the couch. Sitting down was more than a relief; the room stopped tilting around him, and he managed something closer to a normal tone of voice as he went on. "But I--just didn't think I could manage an international flight in the shape that I'm in."

"Ye look like shit, ye would 'ave 'ad th' medics all over ye in this shape." Moira frowned at him. "An' what in bloody 'ell are ye doin' wit' a safehouse in Lichtenstein?" She was taking a quick visual assessment as she spoke, trying to figure out what might be wrong. He had said it wasn't the virus, but... God, she hoped it wasn't, she thought worriedly.

Nathan gave a chuckle that sounded rusty even to his own ears. "Because the Swiss don't like me? Little matter of a bank job a couple of years ago." Moira gave him that look that he knew meant she was debating whether or not to smack him upside the head - despite all the support she had given him over the years since he'd left the program, he knew she had never really approved of him turning mercenary - so he went back to the issue at hand. "Uhm," he temporized, pausing to clear his throat. Time to cut to the chase. "My precognition's all fucked up, Moira."

Overly succinct, maybe, but fairly accurate. His precognition was indeed fucked up, and he had no idea why, especially when he had lived with it so--amicably for so many years. Sure, it wasn't particularly pleasant having part of your brain tuned 24/7 to an ongoing war two thousand years in the future, but he had learned to compartmentalize. The program, much as he liked to curse it and everyone involved with it, had taught him a number of meditative techniques that had been very helpful.

But all of that control had slowly disintegrated over the last year. At first, it had only been a matter of that future world impinging on his consciousness of this world more often than it should. It had been a few months before the really violent episodes had started, and for a while they had just come as nightmares. When they had started happening during his waking hours was when things had started to go rapidly downhill.

And she was going to have his balls on a plate when he confessed that the migraines and blackouts were messing with his telekinetic control, too. Maybe he'd save that tidbit for later.

"How?" Moira wandered back over to where she dropped her bag and brought it back over. Kneeling on the couch, she removed a stethoscope and without even asking stuffed it down his shirt. She ignored his look of "it's cold!" and listened. "Deep breaths, Nathan," she chided, before removing it. His heart was galloping faster than a horse at full run. This was not good.

"What's changed, an' when did it start?" She was more worried than she wanted to let on. Nathan was an old (even dear, though neither would admit it) friend, one she had helped through a very bad time in his life. As he had done for her. She frowned, wishing she knew why a secondary mutation that had been stable for so long would--flare up like this now. Some sort of side-effect of the virus? That was an unpleasant thought.

"Uhh--" Oh, this was going to be awkward, Nathan thought bleakly. "I can't control it anymore," he said, opting for the easier part of the answer first. "It keeps--pushing everything else out of my head." Moira frowned at him again, and he struggled to find the right words. "There are times when I can't see anything but the Askani and their war, Moira. Everything in the here and now goes away." An edge of frustration entered his voice as he went on. "On good days, it leaves me with a migraine. On bad days, I actually black out. You want to know why I'm in Lichtenstein, Moira? The Pack told me to go away and get my head together. I can't be out in the field with them. I can't do the job anymore, and it's pissing me off."

"Oohhh..." Moira really didn't like that Nathan had gone off to play big, bad, brooding mercenary but she knew that it was his life now. Laying a hand on his, she ignored the involuntary flinch once more. She didn't like to admit that it hurt, but knew that as much as he
trusted her, there was still a long way to go. "Nate, I'm sorry, I really am."

She frowned, suddenly, and smacked him upside the head lightly. "But if'n th' Pack decided...how long, Nathan? How lon' 'ave ye been 'oldin' back, tryin' ta get past it?"

Nothing to do but bite the bullet and tell her, Nathan thought wildly. "I--um, well. I guess it first started--well, May or June of last year. Around then." Moira's eyes widened. "Maybe a little later," he amended a little nervously. He had a healthy respect for Moira's temper and other forces of nature.

"YOU BLOODY IDIOT!" Moira stood up and threw her hands in the air. "I didna put ye back together...ye...ye...oh, stop wit' th' puppy dog eyes!" She cupped her face in her hands and realized she was shaking slightly. She figured it was anger. "Ye could 'ave -died-. Blackin' out? In yer line o' work? Why didn't ye call me? Tis not like I'm 'ard ta find."

Frustration, anger and fear. 'Damn him, damn him, damn him.' He was up there with Rory and Charles for respect and friendship. And he didn't tell her?

"Moira, I--" He bit off the rest of it, fighting back a surge of entirely inappropriate resentment. He had called her, after all, and he did both want and need her help, but--damn it! Did the woman have to act like his life belonged to her, just because she'd saved it? It was enough to give a man a complex. "I thought I could handle it," he said, the words coming out stiff. "I did handle it, for the first little while. Then it just--got out of hand."

"Nate, tha's what friends are for! Tha's what friends wit' medical degrees are for!" She stopped herself before any more angry words could spill out. Yelling wasn't going to solve anything, but she was tired. She had been on the go for too long, with all the emergencies and problems and classes, and now this? "I...everythin', Nathan, or I cannae 'elp ye. I need ta know everthin'."

She paused and took a look around. The house is pretty barren, just liveable but not by much. However... she could see into the kitchen, and there was at least a fridge. "Got anythin' ta drink while we talk?"

Nathan took a deep breath and extended a hand towards the fridge, concentrating briefly. Its door swung open, and he pulled at two bottles of Coke with his mind, careful to control their speed as he levitated them out of the kitchen and across the room to the couch. Murmuring a thanks, Moira reached up to take one, and he released his telekinetic grip on that bottle before he took the other and opened it, setting it down on the coffee table. He didn't really want it, but maybe the caffeine might perk him up a little.

"I think I've covered the basics," he said wearily, all of his momentary irritation fading away. She had a point, after all. "And I'm probably being unjust to the Pack. To G.W. and Dom, at least. They were trying the whole tough love thing, but if I balked they were also planning to drag me off to some hospital somewhere--I forget where." He took a deep, unsteady breath. "I just didn't like the sound of it. If I wind up in any sort of government facility, I risk the program finding out that I'm there. If they thought I was vulnerable, they'd probably send a retrieval
team." They would jump on the opportunity, he suspected, despite the fact that he had sent their
last retrieval team back to them in pieces three years ago.

Picking up the bottle, he stared down at it, rather than looking at Moira. "I guess there's something else, though," he said, not looking forward to her reaction. If she'd yelled at him for how long he'd gone without contacting her about this, she was going to be livid when she heard this part of it. "My telekinesis doesn't seem to be--quite as reliable, this last few weeks. I honestly don't think it's compromising my grip on the virus, but if it keeps up--it could."

*Livid at the least,* he thought grimly, waiting for the explosion. The virus that had killed the rest of his black ops team after that mission in China and hastened his departure from government service was still lurking in his bloodstream and just as nasty, even seven years later. Moira's drug cocktail and his telekinesis kept it from spreading through his sytem, but the drugs wouldn't be enough if he couldn't hold up his end. Moira had warned him about that right from the beginning. He was something of a medical miracle, she'd told him, but the duration of the miracle
depended entirely on his ability to focus.

But really, his telekinesis wasn't going haywire or anything, not like his precognition was. It was just that his fine control was--lacking, probably because of how crappy he felt, and restraining a certain little bastard of a microscopic virus was the primary thing he did with his telekinesis at that level.

Moira placed the bottle of coke gently down on the table and walked out of the room. Nathan suddenly winced when he heard repeated thumps. She was kicking the wall repeatedly and rather hard from the sounds of it. The thumping stopped and silence stretched around the house.

Breathing hard, she came back in, slightly red in the face but under control. Mostly. "Nathan, 'ave I told ye tha' ye drive me ta th' brink o' insanity?" Sighing, she sat back down on the couch next to him. "I'm glad ye called, I really am. I'm jus' -worried-. An' I'm glad ye didna go ta Muir on yer own...'tis nay a good place fer ye right now." That, she realized, was an understatement. Nathan was technically AWOL and with the Army, or part of the Army, camped out at Muir...

Nathan started to tell her that he knew about Muir, but the words caught in his throat as strange reddish lights flickered at the edges of his vision. Swallowing, he leaned forward and set the Coke bottle back on the coffee table, trying to ignore the way the muscles in that arm began to twitch as he moved. Moira was saying something, but the words were unintelligible, as if she was talking underwater. There was a strange, bitter taste in his mouth, and he could hear something now, like the sound of voices singing in a language he didn't understand, only the longer it went on, he did--

--and then he was standing in a forest he knew, a bizarre forest where the trees were immense and twisted, almost nightmarish. Ebonshire. There were people all around him, a column of soldiers in armor, marching through the forest. Clansmen. His clansmen. Askani. And a few of them were singing, singing a marching song in the battle language. Mist hung in the air, and he caught himself thinking that it shouldn't be so peaceful, not with where they were going and what they were planning to do when they got there. But even as he was trying to pull together the ghostly fragments of memories that weren't his and figure out what that was, there was the screaming of engines from above. Attack craft, he realized, from the Canaanite gunships up in the sky. Only they couldn't see the sky, not with the canopy of the forest in the way, and everyone was scattering, running for cover. But it was too late, it had always been too late, and as bolts of blue plasma lightning slashed through the trees and burned everything they touched, the last thing Nathan thought was the first line of the battle language's prayer for the dying. But only the first line, because by then, he was on fire--

"Nathan?" Moira blinked at him, concerned. He had gone quiet and his eyes had glazed over. He obviously wasn't with her anymore. 'Th' bloody visions. Right...these are nothin' like what I've been helpin' Marie-Ange wit' lately.' She reached over, putting her hand on his upper arm and squeezing it slightly. She had never seen him space out quite like this before.

He shuddered at her touch and then jerked violently. "Na--shit, Nathan!" Moira lunged as the big man suddenly toppled over, heading straight for the coffee table in front of them. She managed to catch most of him before she was dragged down with him, and her added weight shifted them enough that he didn't end up cracking open his head. Moira cried out, then bit down on her lip hard as she landed wrong, with most of Nathan's weight on her shoulder that had hit the ground first. Dislocated, from the feel of it, and she couldn't get it back into place, not with him collapsed half-on-top of her, twitching and unaware. 'Only one possible way,' she thought. She had done this once before, but it hadn't been this bad...

With her free hand, she touched his head, concentrating, and 'yelled' as loudly as she could in her head. He wasn't much for using what telepathy he had, but at this range he would have to hear her, surely. *NATHAN! Nathan, I need ye ta come back! Nate. Nate, tis Moira...please* Tears leaked out of the corners of her eyes as the pain hit her like a truck. *NATHAN!*

--Moira. Moira in pain. Nathan clawed his way free of the nameless Askani soldier still screaming and thrashing as his flesh shriveled, only to hear Moira shouting at him in his head. Even as his mind cleared enough to let him realize what had happened, he was already automatically reinforcing his shields. No telepathy, his subconscious babbled at him frantically. Only as a defense. Only shields.

It took all the strength he had to disentangle himself from Moira, and as soon as he did, he sagged to the floor again, unable even to check on her. There were white starbursts exploding behind his eyes and he could hear his heart thundering in his ears. He couldn't even seem to catch his breath, and fuck, he could still smell burning flesh.

"Ow. Ow ow ow." Moira wheezed. The pain wasn't only from the shoulder, but also from the sudden slamming on her mind when Nathan had put his defences back up. She had been lucky they were down in the first place, she might not have reached him otherwise. Moira's own vision was blurring a bit and she struggled to sit up. It felt like her shoulder was on fire but she had to put it back. 'Got to get enough leverage....'

"God...what a...mess...we are..." she gasped out softly. Her eyes were screwed shut and tears of pain leaked through as she struggled to right herself. "We're...too old fer...this shit." She was frustrated with herself now as she scrabbled for purchase.

Nathan heard the pain still in her voice. "Moira," he croaked, blinking rapidly and willing his vision to clear. He managed to raise his head, turning it in the direction of the blur he knew was her. "You--are you h-hurt?" A spasm of coughing hit him suddenly, and even as he rode it out, he could taste blood at the back of his throat. Not a good sign.

"I'm pretty sure me shoulder is dislocated," she replied, grabbing the table with her good hand and leveraging herself up. She had dislocated her shoulder once a few years ago and knew that this was going to hurt like a son of a bitch. The coffee table she was using looked sturdy enough. She judged the distance and lined her shoulder up.

Taking a deep breath, Moira slammed her dislocated shoulder into the side of the table and screamed as she felt her shoulder pop painfully back in. She fell back down, clutching her arm and let the tears fall without bothering with them. "Shit shit shit....bloody 'ell."

Nathan let his head fall back to the carpet. "I'm--sorry," he said raggedly, and the voice of his first instructor in the program was suddenly there in his head, yelling at him that 'Sorry has no meaning, boy!' Squeezing his eyes shut, he pushed the memory away, wishing that he could do the same with the headache. "Dragging you all this way--just to fall on you. Need to get into the h-habit of yelling 'Timber'--or something--"

Whimpering slightly, Moira grabbed Nathan's knee and hauled herself up before collapsing next to him. "One o' those kiddies leashes, wit' bungee cord," she said breathlessly, fighting for a bantering tone. "Ye start ta go down, ye'll bounce right back up." Tired and still in a considerable amount of pain, she felt a sudden rush of determination as her mind finally
processed what had just happened. "Come back wit' me? Nay ta Muir, tis crawlin' wit' US soldiers. Ta Charles Xavier's school...I'm workin' there, like I told ye...be able ta look af...'elp ye get better."

Nathan opened his eyes. The ceiling, again. He was getting very tired of looking at this same cracked ceiling. Tired of a lot of things, to be perfectly honest. "Back to the good old US of A," he said tiredly, trying to remember everything Moira had told him about Xavier and the school. "Why the hell not?"

Date: 2004-02-21 08:05 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] x-crowdofone.livejournal.com
You guys rock, and so does this. :)

Re:

Date: 2004-02-21 08:10 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] x-rogue.livejournal.com
My sentiments exactly.

Date: 2004-02-21 11:33 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] x-courier.livejournal.com
Very, very shiny.

Date: 2004-02-21 02:17 pm (UTC)
xp_daytripper: (Amanda)
From: [personal profile] xp_daytripper
*adores you both*

Date: 2004-02-21 02:36 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] x-cypher.livejournal.com
Don't mind me. I'm just over in the corner here squeeing. :)

Date: 2004-02-21 05:38 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] x-dazzler.livejournal.com
*fangirls*

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