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Unto Us, A Child...

Disclaimer: I don't own these characters, except for Rhapsody.  Slym, Redd, and Nate Dayspring are characters owned by Marvel comics. 

Note: If you haven't read Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix, do it!  It is a *very* good miniseries, and this story will make a whole lot more sense if you're familiar with it.  For those of you who haven't read it, Slym is Scott, Redd is Jean, and Nate is Cable, and the whole storyline is set a thousand years in the future, when Apocalypse rules the world and humans are enslaved by the mutant caste.  Scott and Jean are raising Cable while they all pretend to be ordinary humans.  Now, on to the story...

The Dayspring unit walked through yet another checkpoint on their way to their latest home.  They were dusty, weary, and half-frozen from the long trek through the winter snows, but they'd made it to New Canaan City safely and were more than grateful for that blessing.
The pretty red-haired woman looked down at the five year old boy snugged to her hip and smiled.  "Yes, Nate?"
"What's that song you're humming?"
"Silent Night.  It's a very old song.  I'll tell you the story behind it when we get to our new squat.  Now hush and listen."  Redd began to sing then, her words in a language that had been dead for a thousand years.  "Silent night/ Holy night/ All is calm/ All is bright/ ?Round yon virgin mother and child/ Holy infant so tender and mild/ Sleep in heavenly peace/ Sleep in heavenly peace..."  She kept her voice down, not wanting anyone to overhear her easy command of the ancient English words, and Nate nestled his head down into her shoulder, comforted by his adoptive mother's gentle crooning.
Slym, Redd's lifemate, limped over to them and gently caressed his son's hair, adjusting the cloak around the boy's thin form to better conceal the metal arm and the facial scarring.  "I've made contact.  This way."  He led the way through the milling crowd of ordinary humans, dodging the occasional slumming mutant as he followed a red-cloaked man at a distance. 
Red-cloak led them through a labyrinth of streets and tunnels until they reached a particularly old and maze-like section of the city's underbelly, where he stopped and gestured for them to join him.  "Our section leader, Lady Rhapsody," he introduced them, bowing respectfully to the thin, scarred woman who bore a small medallion identifying her as a Sister of the Askani. 
She bowed to them.  "Welcome, Unit Dayspring.  I've been anticipating your arrival with some pleasure.  Come, join me in my quarters."  She led the way into a set of rooms, and threw off her cloak with relief.  Even here in the heart of the city, the streets were cold, but these rooms were warm and even cozy, if somewhat shabby.  She gestured for them to make themselves comfortable on the floor pillows, and they gratefully complied.  It had been a long walk from Old Bagda, and their pack shmule had been killed by a predator halfway through their trip.  They were more than willing to lay their burdens down. 
"Redd?  You gonna tell me the story now?"  Nate asked drowsily.  He'd nodded off a while before, but the warmth and light of Rhapsody's sanctuary had awakened him.
"In a little while, Nate."
Rhapsody looked curious.  "What story is this?"
They exchanged glances.  "The Christmas story," Redd replied.  "Have you heard of it?"
Rhapsody tilted her head curiously.  "No.  Is it a tale of Xavier and the First Ones?"
Slym shook his head with a smile.  "Older than that by far.  It was two thousand years old before Xavier was even born."
Rhapsody looked impressed.  "I was told that you knew tales of the Long-Ago, but I had no idea they went back that far.  May I listen?"
Slym shrugged.  "I don't see why not."  He exchanged a glance with Redd, then said, "Tell you what Nate, since Redd sang the song that got this whole subject started, why don't I tell the story, okay?"  Nate smiled and snuggled up to Slym, who began.  "Once, long ago in the land of Israel, there was a young woman named Mary..."
He told the story of a young maiden chosen by God, of the angel who told her of her pregnancy and that her child was to be the prophesied Son of God, and of how Joseph, her intended husband, chose to marry her despite her peoples' taboos against premarital and adulterous sex and raise a child not his own.  Of how they traveled through the winter to the city of Bethlehem to pay taxes, though Mary was heavy with child, and how she came to bear her child in the stable of an inn, because there were no rooms to be had.  Of the angels who sang to the shepherds in the fields and told them that the savior was born. 
Nate was enthralled, as was Rhapsody.  As Slym's voice began to crack with overuse and exhaustion, Redd took up the story, telling of the three Magi who followed a star to the child Jesus and of the wickedness of King Herod, who thought that the child presented a threat to him and so slaughtered every child under the age of two, but failed to kill the infant Jesus because an angel had come to Joseph and warned him to flee before the soldiers could find them.  Of how the Magi finally found them and gave them gifts, honoring the one their arts told them was the prophesied king. 
Eventually, Nate's eyes drooped and he fell asleep, curled up in his adoptive father's lap, and they all fell silent, watching the child that so many had risked so much to save. 
<And is young Nathan the next Jesus?> Rhapsody asked in their minds, using the telepathic abilities known to all the Sisterhood of the Askani. 
<No.  Nate is all too human, I'm afraid.  No Son of God, merely the son of a man,> Slym replied wearily. <But he has a destiny to fulfill and an important role to play, and Apocalypse, for all his power, is still but a man himself.  It's a hard road he has to travel, but I think he can do it.  I know he can do it.> He tried hard to conceal his yawn, but the road had been long and the hour was late.
"Ay, me.  Look at me, keeping you up half the night telling sleepytime tales," Rhapsody said, apologizing.  She'd kept them well supplied with food and drink, however, and the other rebels who had slipped in quietly during the storytelling gladly took their packs as they were led to the rooms that had been set aside for them.
Slym laid his son on the pallet in their new rooms and brushed his hair back from his face.  If he looked hard, he already see the very first touches of grey beginning to lighten the reddish-brown of Nate's hair.  His hand then traveled down to the star-shaped scars around Nate's right eye, legacy of his continuing battle with the techno-organic virus that he'd been infected with by Apocalypse as an infant. 
"Scott?" Redd said, using his real name for the first time in months.  "Are you all right?"
Slym looked up at her with a sad smile.  "I'll be all right, Jean.  It's just... I know how Mary must have felt, all those centuries ago.  It's hard to know that you're raising a child with the power to change the world.  Hard to know that their lives will be so very hard, and the sacrifices so very painful.  All I want to do is to protect him, to love and cherish him and keep him from harm.  But I know I can't and it hurts."
"But you do it anyway, because that's what he'd want you to do.  For all the pain he's gone through, Cable... Nathan... hasn't given up."  Redd wrapped her arms around him.  "All we can do, all anyone can do, is give him what happiness we can, for as long as we can.  All we can do is love him, and stand by him, and hope that when the job's done, he'll be able to find peace."
Scott smiled slightly.  "Peace on earth, good will toward men..."
"Mm.  Merry Christmas, Scott."  She gave him a kiss.
"And God bless us, every one..." he answered wryly.


Other Stories By TM


The Man I Am Inside

Unto Us, A Child...

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