Disclaimer: Marvel owns them, no money is being made, yadda, yadda, yadda...

Rating: PG13ish. Some blood, some swearing.

Notes: This, slightly, parallels some lovely stories by Andrea and Persephone (I believe the first is 'Brothers' but it's 2 am, and I should be in bed...). But, hopefully, differs enough to be... completely different. Hrm. Also: This was finished, and slightly checked, but there may be spelling errors. Sorry.

Dedication: To Alicia Mc. This is your fault, darlin'. ;) Plus, late though it may be, Happy Birthday! And get well soon. :)

Half a Cup-Full of Destiny to Go

by Ana Lyssie Cotton

She jerked awake, panting. It wouldn't happen. Please, gods, no. It couldn't. It wasn't *fair*. She shivered as she focussed in on the two sleeping forms nearby. One of them mumbled in his sleep then subsided, and she slowly began to relax.

The last day had--day, year, month. She wasn't sure how long she'd spent tumbling through the timestream. But she wondered if Brian had survived the chaos and been completely sane when he'd taken her place.

She hoped he had.

A tendril of fear curled along her spine, as the nightmare images flittered across her inner eye again. Pain, and death. The two boys old and grey and fighting an endless war. And one of them would die. She remembered the news reports on that one--he'd tried to kill Professor Xavier, and failed. A life for a life. Death begat death.

It was so very unfair that it had to happen--had already happened, if her memories were to be trusted.

Cable had lived to adulthood, and gone into his past, searching for a way to stop the rise of Apocalypse. While Stryfe.... His megolamaniacal reign had begun an epidemic. Illyana, Revanche... So many others. People Rachel hadn't ever met, but had felt die.

She had set them on that road.

A part of her felt so angry at herself for even suggesting that it could be her fault. But it was. She had seen herself--older, wiser, maybe more controlling. Giving orders to a cadre of warriors, building a tower. And in the end, dying, while the scions of Apocalypse finished off her world.

It had happened. It could happen.

One of the boys stirred, crying out in pain, and she crawled over to him. "Shhh." her hand smoothed along his brow, brushing the blond-red hair from his face. "It's ok. You're safe."

"Auuu.... Father. No. Please...."

The whimper tore at her, and she cursed what she would become. To allow an innocent boy to be destroyed. And what? For the sake of Destiny? Of Fate?

A frisson of anger slashed through her, and she swore softly. Not this time. Not to these two. Because if there was one thing that Rachel Summers had always disliked, it was things like 'destiny'. Fate could kiss her ass.

--

-A Long Time Ago....

::Hey, baby bro.::

The sound of a contented giggle echoed through her thoughts, and Rachel Summers smiled. ::Coo t'you to.:: She wriggled her nose at the baby as he waved at her over their mother's shoulder. So much had happened over the last day. Her baby brother, Nathan, had called for help. And she'd blasted out of the lighthouse she shared with Excalibur, only to get to New York and find herself turned into a mannequin. While her brother's 'biological' mother tried to sacrifice him to demons.

It would have made a fantastic story, if it hadn't been so real.

And now Nathan Christopher Charles Summers was being cared for by her mother, Jean Grey. Only, this was a woman who hadn't had any children yet. There were alternate timelines involved.

He was in good hands, though, Ray decided as she sent one last happy thought towards him and let the Phoenix force wing her away from the Ship that X-Factor used for their headquarters. ::Remember, kiddo. You ever need me, just call.::

--

The scream had torn her out of the timestream, dropping her to earth. She'd been buried, several tons of rock piling upon her as the shockwave shook the mountain range. Consciousness had taken a bit longer, and then she'd pulled herself out.

Only the echo of the cry remained to guide her to the child who had emitted it. Rachel wasn't even sure he'd known he'd done it.

She was lucky. Her fall out of the timestream had dropped her early enough that she arrived on the scene a relatively short time after the child had cried for her. The palace was devestated, huge chunks of masonry collapsing on each other while fires raged through a good third of the edifice. Rachel shoved her way through looters and people fleeing, not caring who any of them were, intent on that elusive mind that had called for her.

The corridor suddenly opened into a large room--possibly the throne room, but her focus wasn't on the decorations of state. It was all for the four figures crouched at one side, mostly ignored by the others.

Familiarity touched them, as if she had known them--should know them. Two adults, and two children. One of the boys seemed unconscious, while the other had a metal arm. It glinted in the light from the nearby fires. The man was tall and square, his body language that of an exhausted fighter who'd won. The woman was similar, her hair blood red in the light.

A creature was stalking towards them, cloak billowing behind him. Rachel absently caught him in a telekinetic fist and tossed him into a wall.

The action caught the woman's eye, and she looked up, her gaze worried as it traveled around the room.

Green eyes met blue. For a moment, there was nothing, and then recognition flared from the woman. "Rachel!"

"Mom?"

But there was suddenly no time. As if someone had thrown a switch, things changed. The man and woman began to fade from this time, as if the batteries had run out. Rachel reached for them, desperate, worried.

::Take care of your brothers.:: Jean sent, ::We love you.::

::MOM!::

But it was too late. The cry shattered against the barrier of a thousand years or more, and Rachel Summers was left alone. Again.

"Hey."

She stared at the kid. His eyes weren't focussing right, but he seemed at least somewhat awake. "Yeah?"

"Redd said you could help us."

"Redd?"

He grinned, "Yeah. Mom. Redd. Anyway, if you can help me, we can get the Prince out of here."

"Prince." Rachel shook her head, "Never mind. Questions and answers later." She stooped and scooped up the unconscious child. "Lead on, MacDuff."

--

The next several days passed in a blur. Rachel was glad that Nathan was in good shape, because most of her time was spent keeping patrols and scavengers off of them, and Stryfe quiet. The patrols seemed to be coming from at least ten different factions of Lord Apocalypse's court. Nathan explained that in between helping her keep their small shelter fortified. Stryfe had nightmares that dragged him screaming from his sleep--and then he'd clam up and stare at the two of them as if he wished they didn't exist. Eventually he seemed to decide it was time to actually become a functioning member of society again and joined them. He was a very imperious little brat.

It reminded Rachel of herself when she'd first joined the X-Men, really, so she cut him some slack. So utterly angry at the world, and sure that if she just kicked enough ass it would all be good. Nathan seemed to detest this, but understand it, too. Stryfe was scared and didn't know how to be himself through that fear.

Of course, maybe being the template for Apocalypse's new body wasn't quite as stressful as, say, being a hound for Ahab. But it must have its terror and self-loathing-filled moments. Probably.

Rachel wasn't letting him get away with much, though. First time he'd called her a peasant, she'd only not decked him because it would be a bad example. And she had to be a good example for them, after all, they were just kids. Kitty would have laughed if she'd ever thought Rachel would be a mother figure. Rachel herself much preferred the role of older sister. It was more comfortable, and less confining.

It was galling, though. She'd been in this situation before--save a dying planet, kill the badguy... and that time, she'd been able to leave. To give the people who were there (and more qualified) the task of putting their world back together.

She didn't have that leisure, here. And Rachel wondered who in the universe had thought *she'd* be a good messiah figure.

Someone drunk, probably.

There was no way to get any of them out of this desolate future, either. The power required would destroy half the planet. Probably. Rachel wasn't willing to find out yet.

Of course, the first obstacle had been food.

It had taken a bit, but Rachel had finally found something that appeared edible--the result of centuries of rabbit inbreeding, no doubt. Once cooked over her fourth attempt at a fire (Nathan was proving useful in his woodscraft), it almost tasted decent. Stryfe wasn't having any.

"I refuse to eat meat as prepared by your hand, woman."

Rachel narrowed her eyes at him, "That's Rachel to you, bub."

"I still--"

"He just won't eat it because it isn't *good*." Nathan interrupted, smirking slightly.

"Are you maligning my cooking, Nate?"

"Yes."

She swiped at him with the makeshift tongs. "Bah. See if *I* cook for you two heathens ever again."

"Slym always said I cooked better than Redd, anyway."

"Well, he isn't here to give me his opinion." She pointed out dryly. A second later, she wished she hadn't said it, since Nate went rather pale and silent, and turned away from her. "Damn. Look, kid, I'm sorry they couldn't stay. You know they loved you."

"Yeah." He shrugged, "Right."

Stryfe had been studying them, and now he snorted, "As if they could love a peasant like you."

"At least I'm not a stuck-up snotty brat." Nathan huffed back, glaring at the other boy.

"Boys, boys..." Rachel sighed. They looked so much alike, and Nathan... He had to have been HER Nathan, the little baby brother she'd watched over once so long ago. After all, the link was still there, even if it appeared to be dormant now. "Let's not fight while we're still in danger, all right?"

"Danger!" Stryfe sneered, "We're only in that because you insist on hiding from my Father's troops."

"Your 'father'--"

Rachel cut Nathan off, hand raised for silence. There had been... something. A momentary touch, of something curious about them. It had felt almost familiar. But it couldn't have been, because she had never been in this time before. Still...

They had silence then, until the boys went to bed. In five hours, she'd wake Nathan, and he'd watch. But for now, it was her task. Stryfe was still too weak to manage watching in any capacity, so she made him sleep the night through. He took it as his due, of course. It was bound to be a rude awakening.

While they slept, she studied them with her telepathy, feeling out that bond that connected her to both. It had been a long time ago, for them, barely four years, for her. She'd told him to call her when he needed her. And he had. They had. She wasn't certain which of her brothers had cried out for her. But it didn't matter. They were hers, and she wasn't letting the future happen to them. Ever.

--

Another day, another carefully-plotted half-assed trip into one of the nearby towns for supplies she couldn't quite make. This time, it was one of the newer towns that had begun to pop up in the chaos surrounding the destruction of one regime. Rachel sensed it wouldn't be long before there would be another.

The guard at the gate was the normal hollow-cheeked and cold-eyed type. He was barely old enough to shave let alone hold the gun in his hands.

"Papers."

::I don't need any papers.:: She replied, crossing her fingers that no one around would notice this little slip. For once, she was lucky to be almost alone. The boys were keeping each other company (and Nate was making certain Stryfe didn't leave their 'home').

"Papers." The guard repeated.

"Oh, well." Rachel slammed her fist into the guard's chin, a bit of TK behind it sending him into a happy sleep. "So it doesn't always work." She glanced around to make sure no one had seen her assault, and then dusted her fingers. "Time for a little creative borrowing."

Moments later she was slipping in and out of buildings, carefully filling the two bags she'd brought. Once that was accomplished, she loitered through the streets, picking up gossip and anything else that seemed interesting. Most of the people didn't even seem to care that there might be more upheaval in their government. Some thought this new world might have wonderful opportunities. There were also the occasional street preachers, standing on corners, harranguing people that the Lord Apocalypse would Rise From the Ashes and Reclaim His Thrown. It just would take him some time. And a lot of superglue.

Rachel was careful not to be noticed too much. Not only would her hair mark her out, but this settlement seemed to be almost exclusively male. If she hadn't needed these supplies, she wouldn't have risked it.

She grimaced. Nate had wanted to go, and she'd refused. Neither he nor Stryfe--and they really had to give him a better name--were ready to venture out and see the world.

--

When she got back, the boys were bickering again.

"HEY!" They both turned to her, identically sullen expressions on their faces. "Oh, that's lovely." Rachel threw up her hands, "Why did *I* get stuck with the two bratty brothers? Huh? Why not Kitty? SHE liked kids. She'd have the two of you eating out of her hands in an instant."

There was no response from either, although Nate was scuffing his toe on the ground.

"Well?" She set her hands on her hips and said, "Which one of you is going to apologise first?"

More silence.

"Fine. Neither of you eats tonight. Unless you can find it in your heads to apologise. Speaking of which, Stryfe, we really need a better name for you."

"My name is Prince Stryfe, Heir to the Lord Apocalypse!" The child replied hotly, anger flushing his cheeks pink.

"If you can't come up with anything better, I think I'll call you Tinkerbell." Rachel replied calmly. She looked at Nate. "And no laughing from you, or I'll call you by your full name, Mister."

"Full name?" He looked interested.

"Yes. And no, we can't share your name with Tinkerbell. He needs one of his own."

"My name is not Tinkerbell!" The kid yelled, stomping his foot.

"Then come up with something better," she replied placidly.

"NO! I HATE YOU!" He shrieked, turning to run from the small hut.

Before he could get more than a foot, Rachel had caught him in telekinetic bands. "Behave, boy."

"You mutinous peasant, how dare you restrain me!" He was nearly white, now, as if the restraint were bringing back suddenly unpleasant memories.

Rachel resisted the urge to probe his mind and find them. It wasn't that she didn't want to, but she sensed that now was not the time to deal with a lifetime of trauma. "Then name yourself, child."

"No. I--" Suddenly, the boy began thrashing. "You can't do this to me, I am--"

"Stop it!" Nate's hands caught the other boy's shoulders, and he shook him. "You're acting stupid."

"I am--" The boy froze, and he suddenly seemed to wilt. "I am Prince Stryfe. Unhand me, peasant."

"No. And my name is Nate Dayspring. And I'm not a peasant."

Rachel had a fraction of a second to sense the explosion and stop it. The room tilted, and she staggered into the makeshift shelf that held their cookpots. The sound was louder than the explosion would have been, and she went to her knees as Stryfe unleashed another telekinetic blast. She clamped down on the third one, and held him, gritting her teeth. "Listen to me, child."

"Never!"

Fire began tingeing the edges of Rachel's vision, and she pushed it back as she stood, stalking towards Stryfe. "Listen, brat. I can shut you down. I can turn you off so effectively that you will never be able to use your in-born talents again." She stopped in front of him, and leaned forward. "Do you really want that, little boy?"

There was a trace of fear in his eyes as he shook his head frantically. And there was a vague nameless terror licking at the edges of her mental shields. Rachel slowly began to release him, her anger cooling as he sat down onto the dirt floor and wrapped his arms around his knees.

Nathan looked between the two of them. "I think we should call him Scott."

A half-hysterical laugh bubbled from Rachel, and she finished dampening down the Phoenix force. "Maybe. Your father would certainly find an irony in it. But how about... hrm. Christopher, instead?"

"Christopher," Stryfe whispered softly. He slowly raised his head, and Rachel was stunned to see the sudden open and naked longing in his eyes. "I could--Christopher."

"Then," she said just as softly, kneeling next to him and touching his cheek with a finger, "Christopher it is."

"Shucks," Nate said ungraciously. "I wanted to call him Tinkerbell."

--

Later that night, Rachel sat out in the starlight, a mug of something that could have been considered tea cradled in her hands. If tea tasted of dirt and things best left unnamed. A wry smile touched her lips. She'd never thought she'd miss Moira's coffee.

It was slowly beginning to get cold out here, but she couldn't shake the strange feeling that she was missing something. Or perhaps she wasn't. The thought of Moira's coffee caused a bleakness to settle over her. She could never go home, never see her parents or Kitty or Kurt again. Meggan and Brian would be happy. That was consolation. Small, but there. And she was stuck in a future not of her own making, left to disrupt her own plans.

Or the plans of others. She wasn't quite sure how that all worked. Only what she'd gleaned from the few contacts with her baby brother (now twice her age--or the version she'd met had been. It made her head hurt trying to consider the way it all fit together), and his ride-along friend the Professor.

Shaking off her bleak thoughts, Rachel turned her mind to planning the next several days. It was time to move further out into the wilderness. To get away from the broken civilisation this country was studded with. A slight gring crossed her lips as she considered making her way to Westchester. It would be fitting in an odd way. And it wouldn't be too hard of a journey--not unless Stryfe--no, Christopher, she corrected herself. For a moment, she wondered if her grandfather would have been upset at the appropriation of his name.

But he had been a kind man. Would be. Still was.

Time travel, Rachel decided as she finished the dregs of her drink, was fucked up.

--

Reaching Westchester--or what had become of the place--was far easier thought than done. In the light of the following days, Rachel was to find that a cross-country trip with two warring younger siblings was not as easy as one might think.

And the patrols were beginning to get thicker, and more organised.

This wasn't as worrying as Christopher's continued nightmares. The child woke less and less, but they were beginning to bleed over into Rachel's dreams more and more. And Nate's, too, although he never said anything. Rachel wondered if it was the psi-link that allowed it to happen.

She wasn't getting more than nameless terror and pain, and the occasional flashes of something that brought her awake with cold sweat slicking her body.

But it was more than enough to cause her to watch Christopher more and more, and to try to touch his mind. It was harder than she had thought it would be, he seemed to have stronger natural shields than she had expected. And he knew she'd been poking at them.

"I will stay with you until such time as it is no longer convenient to me," He began saying one morning, his tone incredibly cold. "But I refuse to allow you to continue to attempt this breach of mental shields."

"I--"

"No." He chopped his hand in the air. "My mind is mine and mine alone, Rachel."

She released a breath, then slowly nodded, "Even if I can help?"

A snort came from Nate, "Why would you help him?"

"He's our brother," She said in response, "Why shouldn't I?"

"Because he's being a spoiled brat."

"It is--" Christopher shook his head, "You wouldn't understand."

"I do, actually. It's a final violation." Rachel sighed, "I'm sorry, Christopher. I really was simply trying to help."

"Don't let it happen again."

And that had been his final word on the subject.

With the help of the Phoenix force within her, Rachel had obliquely studied him, getting a feel for his mind by the way it affected the world around him. And what she was piecing together worried her. Christopher's mind was fractured, in pieces that impinged on the world around him at varying lengths and different shades.

The astral plane seemed to be strewn with half-finished attempts to repair itself. Rachel wasn't even sure these were conscious attempts.

It was hard to look and not reach out to fix--even though she wasn't sure she could. It was like a massive jigsaw with half of the pieces chewed on by a dog whilst the others were accidentally dropped into the dishwasher and warped beyond recognition.

Ten days had passed since they had begun the cross-country journey when Rachel found herself searching out firewood alone. And had a strange encounter.

"My lady!" The voice came from behind her, and she whirled.

"The hell?" Rachel stared down at the odd-looking creature. "Get off the floor."

"You are my lady, my goddess. You shall bring the Askani to life and prominence!" He looked at her from his kneeling position with reverence. "Mother Askani, I pledge my fealty to you."

"Look, I don't know who you are, but I'm not this Mother Askani, and I sure as hell aren't a goddess." She paused, considering, "The Phoenix force is awesome and powerful, but it comes with a price."

He stood and smiled, the stretching of his thin lips almost a caricature. "My lady--"

"Stop that."

"Moth--"

"Rachel. Just. Rachel."

"Rachel, then." He composed himself, "With my help, Rachel, you will help the stars along their destinies, and men along their paths to righteousness."

"Yeah. Sounds like fun. NOT." She crossed her arms, "I've seen what Destiny does to things, bug."

"I am Blaquesmith!" He declaimed, as if it would mean something to her.

It didn't. "That's nice. Look, nice to meet you and all, but I have three hungry mouths to get firewood for. So, if you'll excuse me, I must be going."

"But--" He grabbed her arm.

Rachel glared down at him, "Release me."

He did, hastily, "My-Rachel. You must listen. There is much you must know, and much that is still yet to be done in the Great Scheme. I know not how you came to be here, but--"

"But nothing. I'm gone, old bug."

"Please--"

Her patience snapped, hunger sharpening the worry. "MY BROTHERS are waiting for me to bring firewood. So, either, get away from me, or die."

"Very well." He stepped back, "But this is far from over, my lady."

Before she could say anything else, he was gone, as if he'd never been. Rachel frowned and gently poked at the spot he'd occupied. There was a faint psi-residue, as if he'd teleported. Which he must have, she decided grimly. Time to make sure there were better protections and defensive shields around their home. Wouldn't do to have more people dropping in unanounced.

--

It wasn't going to work.

Late at night, staring into the darkness, Rachel *knew* this. Understood it at a visceral level that made her want to curl up and cry silent tears. But this existance spent flittering here and there--even a circuitous route to Westchester had to be cautious--stealing what they could, killing what they couldn't... it would end, as all things would. There wouldn't be a 'better way'. Or a better day. The chaos left in the wake of Apocalypse's defeat was slowly being filled by a hundred different factions. They were making alliances, making trade strategems, and consolidating their power bases.

Soon, very soon, this future she was living in would be as bad as it had been before the defeat of the Lord Apocalypse.

And Christopher... There was so much destroyed inside of him, so much twisted from how it should be--could have been. Only Rachel didn't think she could fix it. Not with time, not with the Phoenix. And she was beginning to think that there was no hope left.

No answer to the questions she wanted to ask.

Except that, inevitably, Fate and Destiny had already seen her path.

It wasn't what she wanted. She loathed the very thought of it. Disliked even the idea that she could use the brothers she loved to change the outcome of her life. Of this future. Because there were others, weren't there? You could change one, and a hundred others would spring up, created in that instant of change.

Or was it tens of thousands?

How often had she had these moments of doubt? How many other times had she decided to do as Fate wished?

And it was that that stayed her, that led them deeper into the wilderness.

Because Rachel had long ago decided Fate could go hang.

Even if it destroyed her past.

It certainly wasn't as if that had never happened.

--

"Rachel?"

"Hrm?"

Nate leaned against the tree next to her and tilted his head. "What's the matter?"

"I'm worried." But her mind wasn't really on the conversation. It was flitting through the forest, trying to find a better ford for the river they'd found that morning. It might once have been the Mississippi; now it had overflowed its banks and become several smaller streams, spreading out over the plains like some ancient strumpet who has more jewels than pounds.

"It's Chris, isn't it."

"Maybe."

"You think he'll become evil."

She sighed, "I don't want to talk about it." Truthfully, she was beginning to wonder if they could survive. If there wasn't a reason she'd formed a cult and sent her baby brother to live a life of pain and destruction.

Maybe there was more to Blaquesmith's proposed 'Fate' than she'd wanted to admit.

"Well, I've been thinking. I don't think you have to worry. For instance, he hasn't stuck his nose up in the air for weeks." Nate wrinkled his own proboscis in apparent concentration. "And... I've been helping him."

"Huh?"

"With his mind--well, not all of it," he corrected himself hastily. "But we've been sort of... sharing dreams, and I found out that I could make things better, could patch things while we slept."

"And... he let you do that?"

"I think he feels better." Nate hedged,

"Uh-huh. Nathan Dayspring, what aren't you telling me?"

The young lad spread his arms and tried his best innocent look. "Nothing, Rachel Summers."

She snorted and stood, resolution in her stance. "We'll talk about this after we've crossed the river."

"Yes, ma'am." He winked.

But they didn't have that chat. Somehow, while crossing the river, the boys got themselves separated from Rachel. She tried to grab hold of them with telekinesis, and totally missed the massive tree trunk that sent her spiralling into unconsciousness.

--

Her mouth tasted like something had crawled in it and died. It reminded her of the night she and Kitty had stolen Brian's bottle of whiskey and tried it out for themselves. The next morning they'd felt horrible--worse than the day they'd smoked one of Logan's cigars. Rachel wrinkled her nose and tried to open her eyes.

It was dark, which told her very little.

The absence of light appeared to indicate to her body that it was time to hurt, and boy did it. There was fire down her left side and a careful investigation of her aching head produced a massive bump that was sure to have her seeing double for days. She chuckled weakly, imagining two Christophers and two Nates. Her days would never be restful.

Her lungs protested the movement, and she wondered how many times she'd smashed into things in the river before reaching the bank.

Except that she wasn't wet. This feeling suddenly transmitted from certain nerves, as if they were making up for the other nerves' over-use of the pain receptors. A soft wince escaped her and there was suddenly a soft light nearby.

"You're awake." The voice was vaguely familiar, and sounded relieved.

She squinted towards it, turning her head carefully. "Who the hell--Blaquesmith?"

He bobbed a short bow. "My lady."

"Stop saying that."

"Why?"

"I am--we had this conversation last time."

A placid smile seemed to touch his strangely thin lips. "As you will, Rachel Summers."

"How the fuck do you know my name?" She winced as the vehemence in her voice caused a few more twinges from her chest.

"The same way I know that your destiny will shine among the stars."

"Stop that crap," She slowly dragged herself into a sitting position, and growled. "I have no destiny, I have no fate. I'm just me. And if you don't stop telling me I have one, I'm going to get very angry."

"I am merely trying to help."

"Do you know what would help?" Rachel asked, eyeing him with loathing.

"No."

"If you, and all the others like you, would get it through your skulls. I don't want your destiny, I don't want your fate, I simply want to live." She jabbed a finger into her breastbone, and winced, "I want to be, simply, ME. Not some Mother Askani, not a Goddess, not a priestess, or the shaper of the worlds to come."

"But it is your destiny."

"To get sucked into the time stream?" She demanded, "Is that it? I'm screwed, because I'm a Summers? Do you realise something, Bug? I was happy as I was. I had a life, friends, a purpose. And now? Now I have two brothers who need me."

He merely looked at her.

"You know what I don't have, Bug?" She stepped towards him, the rage falling away into a sick certainty. "I don't have people telling me I'm supposed to be this or that. I don't have someone playing with my mind because they think that's what is right for me. I've had that before. And I'm done with it. This time," Her finger poked his shoulder. "This time it will be different."

"Different?"

"Yeah."

The rock in her left hand connected with the side of Blaquesmith's skull. There was a sickening sound as the bones underneath slowly broke and pushed inwards, goaded on by telekinesis. The shocked look in his eyes slowly faded as his body folded into a heap at her feet.

For a moment, Rachel stared down at it, then she flung the rock away and turned to inspect the rest of the cave.

Against the wall was the perfect tool for her next task. She limped carefully towards it, picked it up, and swung it experimentally. It reminded her of a scythe and she turned back to the body on the floor.

She frowned, had he moved? No matter. There was a reason she was planning to chop his head off. Perhaps she should burn the body as well, make certain he couldn't heal himself. Logan could have, for instance. She remembered Moira once commenting that you'd have to dismember Logan and keep all of the parts separate for him to completely die. And even then, with his jacked-up healing factor, he could come back. Or grow parts back.

The scythe-thingie wasn't particularly easy to manipulate, but by the fourth swing she'd nearly completely hacked the head off.

A slight gush of blood accompanied the round object bouncing off into the recesses of the cavern.

Then, with a sigh of distaste, Rachel began to make her way from the cave using the staff of the weapon as a crutch.

::RAY!::

The mental voice caused her to stagger as she left the cave. Reaching out, she touched Nate and Chris's minds, ::I'm fine.::

::Where have you been, we've been trying to find you for hours?:: Christopher almost sounded worried.

::Unconscious.::

::Right. Stay where you are, we'll find you.::

Rachel considered the slowly approaching black tunnel at the edges of her vision, and doggedly continued away from the cavern. ::Meet you halfway.::

::Don't be stupid. Are you hurt?::

::Bruises.:: She replied shortly. She paused to catch her breath, and the left side of her twinged a bit. ::Cracked rib, I think.::

::Not good. Don't move any more. I think we're closer.:: Nate sounded suddenly very in charge.

Deciding that that was actually good advice, Rachel slowly lowered herself to the ground at the base of a tree. ::Don't... take too... long.:: She whispered mentally.

And then everything slid away.

--

When the boys found her, they bustled her off to a cave of their own and made her drink nasty watery soup. But it was warm, so she didn't complain. Then they bundled her up, divvied up the watches, and made her sleep.

In the morning, they continued on. Only this time, Rachel had a slight goal. It was more than Westchester. It was a glimmer, an idea. That maybe the three of them could make a difference in this world. Perhaps it didn't all have to end in blood and tears.

Or maybe she was just picking up Kitty's optimism.

-finis-