a prequel piece to Lighting Fires. a look into the life of the Grey King before the arrival of the Timeline Demolition Squad.

warnings: AU - Fateverse. sci-fi. hints of past maybe-slash. violence/murder. language: pg-13 (for one use of f***).

pairing: hints of past one-sided Wade/Nate.

timeline: a year and a half before the Savant and his girls arrive in the GX bundle (in Lighting Fires, from Pyrotechnics for the Soul), 2K+ years after Narcissus.

disclaimer: marvel owns all the characters, i just made more alternate universe versions of them.

notes: 1) there were prophecies about Nathan's birth hundreds of years before this, and he was supposed to bring about a new age of prosperity. too bad their world's prosperity would destroy a bunch of other worlds. 2) Blackblade!Wade is pretty much a Jedi (i guess that makes Savant!Wade his Sith counterpart?). he's a fricken one-man-army. 3) i have no idea how Scott kicked the bucket. feel free to write about it. Nathan was about six and Jean was uselessly pacifistic (if it'd been Madelyne, she woulda whooped some butt). 4) i love happy endings that are set-up for horrible angst.

visit The Fateverse Glossary (merianmoriarty (dot) deviantart (dot) com/art/Fateverse-Glossary-174203180) for terms, concepts, Nodes, and important people.

The Grey King

Nathan has been told all his life that he is Special. He is Unique. He is an Irreplaceable Treasure. He can't even remember how long ago it started.

He can remember his mother trying to rule after his father died. He can remember the look of helplessness and hopelessness in her eyes. He can remember the way the other queens went to war, and the way she couldn't stop it—didn't know how to. He can remember how much it hurt to hear her desperate, lonely thoughts, even as she smiled and told him that it would all be different when he was old enough to wear his father's crown.

Nathan can remember the look of disapproval on their General's face.

"There is a very simple solution," Blackblade had said so many times.

"How can you even think such things?" his mother had always replied.

And as long as Nathan was nearby, that was where the argument ended.

Once, when he was eleven, he managed to stay hidden from them both, which was quite a feat—no one had ever snuck up on Blackblade, and Nathan's mother had his same gift of hearing thoughts—and then he heard more.

"What will you leave him?" Blackblade hissed. "You're letting those selfish bitches peck and squabble like hens in a box. That land is theirs only because the Grey King allows them to live on it."

"What you suggest is all-out war. Wholesale slaughter. I will not believe my husband wanted that."

"And why have we warriors, if not for war? Your husband wanted order. He gave it to them, and they accepted it gratefully, and they'll do the same for his son, but they won't sit by and let one of their own pretend superiority."

"Pretend? I could destroy them all!"

"So could Hope, or Lorna. And Emma has the best resources, and Alison the greatest army, and none of that will stop them from ripping each other to shreds. You've shown them only weakness. What's to stop them banding together to kill you and fight over who will play regent to the next Grey King? Their mothers did it before."

"There's you. You stopped them."

There was silence for a time, and Nathan felt a cold shiver of something from Blackblade.

"Yes. I did."

The next day, Nathan's mother was found dead in her chambers. Her neck had been broken in her sleep.

Nathan doesn't like to think ill of Wade. Wade is his best friend, and a far better parent than his mother was. But the facts are the facts, and they paint a rather grim picture of his mother's death.

When she died, the other queens attended the funeral personally. They had a rather nasty little argument, but in the end they agreed that General Blackblade should serve as regent until Nathan was fourteen.

Wade is a great General, a man well acquainted with war and politics. And he was a good regent. He taught Nathan everything he needed to know to keep his kingdom in order, to keep the queens under control.

"How long have you served my father's family?" Nathan once asked as he watched Wade read some book on past wars.

Wade raised his eyebrows. "Something like a thousand years now, I imagine," he said disinterestedly.

"Were we always kings?"

"Well, the first one made himself into a king. He took me with him, and he pointed to a place that had something he wanted—clean water, good soil, hard stone for building—and he said make that mine. And when he'd done it enough times, there started being talk of armies and taxes and a kingdom, and he liked the word so much he decided he'd call himself 'king.' He was the 'Grey King' because of the wolf pelts he wore. Barbaric little fall-back, if you ask me, but I'm the only one left who understands that wearing fur was looked down on two thousand years ago."

Nathan thought about that sentence. He thought about 'I'm the only one left,' and 'two thousand years ago.' "How old are you, Wade?"

Wade gave a little frown, the way he always does when Nathan calls him by name. "I don't actually remember. That's the truth, so don't press me, Nathan."

Nathan shifted a little. "Was it very lonely for you?"

Slowly, Wade closed his book and beckoned.

Nathan went to him and leaned against his shoulder companionably.

"I have bounced a hundred kings and two hundred princesses on my knee since this kingdom was formed. For a long time, it was the only part of my duty that even took the edge off my loneliness. And then you came along, and oh, you annoy me with your millions of questions and your constant pestering and all the ways in which you resemble your mother…"

Nathan pouted a little before he remembered that he was fifteen and kings don't pout.

Wade laughed and hugged him. "But you are shaping up to be a fine king, and I am so very proud of you. No, Nathan, I'm not lonely anymore."

It has been three months since then, and Nathan's powers have been flaring out of his control. He's seen and heard things he knows he shouldn't. A tryst between two guards. A maid's petty thievery. A page's horrifying early childhood.

He tries not to let it bother him. People have dark secrets; his General taught him that long ago.

But he never thought he'd see Wade's secret.

Please. Please, you can't leave me here. I didn't mean to do it. You know I didn't. Nate?

Stay here. Live for centuries with your nice new face, knowing what it cost, knowing that people died. In two thousand years, this world's Nathan will be born. Who knows? Maybe you'll befriend him and betray him, too.

No! No, I didn't. Please. I'm sorry.

You're not.

Fuck you, you don't know what it's like!

I don't. But you do. And now you're going to know what it's like for a whole world to only see your pretty face and your blood-stained hands. Goodbye, Wade.

Wade is shivering on the floor.

Nathan feels dirty. He feels like he's done something unforgivable, like he reached deep inside Wade's chest and tore something out. All because he asked why Wade served the Grey Kings, and got angry when Wade wouldn't answer.

"I'm sorry, I'm so sorry," Nathan sobs, and falls to his knees beside his best friend. "I had no right. I'm sorry, Wade."

At the sound of his name, Wade clenches a fist, and Nathan wonders for a moment if Wade is going to hit him…

"No," Wade says hoarsely, and reaches for him. "It isn't your fault."

So he sits there and hugs Wade tightly until they both calm down.

"I am a terrible person," Wade whispers. "I am the worst sort of monster. I killed three billion people because I was tired of being ugly. Billion. With a B. Even if you gathered up everyone in the world right now in one place, you'd only have about a million. It's like killing this world three thousand times."

Nathan shakes his head. "You're a wonderful person. You're my friend. My best friend. Being the Grey King is such a hefty responsibility…the only thing that makes it bearable is knowing you'll always be here. To hell with that stuffy old bastard, he didn't know you like I do."

Wade laughs—or maybe sobs. "I'm sure you're right, Nathan."

Nathan understands now that Wade has waited two thousand years for him. More than old prophecies, more than his mutant gifts or his mother's insistence, he feels that this is what makes him an Irreplaceable Treasure.