Title: September Author: A.j. (Aj2245@yahoo.com) Summary: Everything ended the way it was supposed to. Three years later... Rating: PG Spoilers: The Twelve Saga, the *entire* second Domino Limited Series, and general knowledge of both Cable and X-Force runs. Warnings: Character death, but not real angsty.

Notes: It's not strictly necessary, but if you really want the 'mood' of this story, find a copy of Patty Griffin's song "Mary".

|Anything between these little doohickeys are meant as italics.|

***

September by A.j.

***

It's official. She's spending entirely too much time near gravestones these days.

This is trip different than the one to Jonathan's. A lot deeper and, if possible, less ridden with guilt.

Unsurprisingly, Nate's tombstone is butt-ugly. She almost laughs when she sees it, all towering stone and intricate scrollwork. Yeats is inscribed around the top of the grey-blue marble with all his names done in two-inch letters just below. The view, however, is breathtaking. September is beautiful in upstate New York. The trees hundreds of shades of yellow and red; not yet dead, but not quite alive.

She's snickering at the parallels as she settles her back against the stone monolith and raises her eyes to the bright blue sky.

The trip from the coast was shorter than she'd expected. All rolling hills and stupid SUV drivers. She hadn't really been planning on coming today. Or ever. It'd been three years, after all. First too shocked to move, then too guilty, then too used to not going.

|"He... he what?"|

She's spoken to Teresa recently. Asked her for information in the course of her own personal quest. The girl had looked good. Healthy, happy. And from the immense pair of boots barely visible behind her desk, Dom had a very good idea on why. It had felt good to see. Right.

Terry'd been the one to call, voice scratchy and dull, relating the details. Nate. The twelve. Akkaba. Apocalypse.

She'd been in Minnesota that day. The sky had been blue and wide, and the breeze cool against her warm skin. How Terry'd found the secure cell number, she'd never known, or thought to ask. Terry had, and that had been it.

That day had been hard. A hundred maybes and whys and expectations had crashed around her ears, and for the first time in so, so long, she'd curled in a ball and grieved. Opening her eyes the next morning |so gritty and swollen and tired| she'd been pathetically thankful that someone had remembered her. Had thought to call.

Sitting under the colorful trees, she wonders about the funeral. Not because she needs to picture it |Scott and Jean crying and everyone holding flowers?| but because she's never done before.

He hated lilies. Too many funerals and too much cloying sweet scent that rotted too quickly. She remembers walking by flower shops with him in the spring and feeling that bubble of distaste when he moved by the delicate white blooms.

Roses were more his style. It was a fanciful thing, really. They'd discussed flower preferences over after sex however long ago in some amazingly clean hotel. Nate never equated to sappy in her head, but thinking back, he'd had that side to him.

So, naked and sprawled in the honeymoon suite, |she misses the big beds he always gravitated to| head on her thigh, he'd told her about roses and thorns and reliance. And how he liked them because they were damn hard to kill, and even if their vines got twisted and their petals were ragged, they were still beautiful. Delicate and tough as hell.

Then he'd made her blush with a compliment and back to the sex they'd gone.

She hopes that he had roses in death. A riot of colors and buds and blooms, everything clashing and vying for attention. A sea of chaotic celebration that smelled like a hothouse in July. Something just for him. To honor. To remember.

She doubts it. But she wasn't there, so there's no somber lily-festooned memory to disrupt that hope. In her head, there aren't tears and stony silence. There are tears, because grief causes those no matter what, but there's also music. Something with drums, or Roberto doing his bad Sinatra impression. Jokes and alcohol and life twirling and being for him in death what he'd never been able to ask for in life.

She gives him that memory. Wishing it away into the air to wherever or whatever his soul or energy is. Laughing, crying. Something.

It's the least she can do, really. It's all she has to give.

She'd been thinking about him more recently. Not in terms of missing, exactly, but in the small things. Recalling how he'd made fun of her for putting cream in her coffee, or the way a Jerico slid neatly into his hand.

Hundreds of tiny thoughts of him crowding her heart and her head until it was full to the bursting.

Maybe that's why she'd started looking for her past. Looking back now, here at his grave in the autumn sun, she wonders just where that impetus came from, and why she'd followed it to its rather bizarre ending.

Laz was safe up at the house behind the hill. Jean had merely blinked confusedly before whisking him into one of the upstairs bedrooms for a nap. Scott had just smiled in his way, and given her neat, written directions and a tiny baby pumpkin to set on the marker. She was probably going to have to clear a few things up when she got back, but...

So here she was.

The hillside was everything and nothing at all like she'd imagined it would be. There was nothing in this place that reminded her of the man she'd known. Nothing at all. But it was so entirely him, she caught herself swallowing and burrowing deeper into his sweater.

She'd found it at one of her old safe houses. The one in Massachusetts that he'd hated because it'd only had a double bed, and that she hadn't used for almost a decade. It had been in the bottom drawer of a dresser in one of the back bedrooms, dusty, but miraculously untouched by moths.

It had seemed natural to shrug it on this morning in the darkness of the hotel room. It was warm and big and felt like him.

She felt safe in it.

She misses him. She can think that now. Time has softened the harsher edges that his death hadn't rubbed smooth. She misses his wit, and warmth, and the way he could melt her at five paces with just a smirk.

She misses everything about him in the way that only distance allows. Here, in this place, she feels the weight of that settle and spread. And in that instant, she remembers everything she hasn't allowed herself to recall.

The warm things. The sexy things. His hands on her face. All the amazing, sweaty moments where he had her screaming and made her mind melt into the bed or floor or chair or couch or bush or dirt road in Panama or the moments where he just made her smile clog her throat and eyes. The taste and smell and feel of what he had been close around her until there isn't anything but him.

No leaves, no crisp air, and no cold stone soaking through his sweater and into her back.

When she opens her eyes sometime later, she can feel the salt water drying on her cheeks. She's never cried for him. Not once, since that cold desperate night in Minnesota three years ago. But this is different.

Somewhere, in the place that used to be full up with him, she can feel an easing. She sighs as she blinks upwards, the sun sinking and throwing shocks and threads of color across the fall sky. Its beautiful and colorfully riotous, and as a smile breaks on her face, she thinks she can see roses in the clouds.

-fin-