“Ow... it was you...” Wade groaned as he lay on his back on the cement, his left arm blown off by the grenade, shards of glass sticking in his skin, red baseball cap blown off his head. Hurt like a bitch, but he'd dealt with far worse. In comparison with everything he'd been through, this was nothing.
But you know what what wasn't nothing? Nathan fucking with his brain.
“What'jou do... some kind of Jedi mind trick thingie, right...?” Wade said weakly, accusingly, even as he started pushing himself into a sitting position.
“I linked your synaptic signals to the datastream I manipulate, the infonet,” Cable explained as he stepped through the shattered window of the bar, Wade sitting up to glare at him, clutching the stump of his severed arm. “Gave your memories pixilated substance and let your subconscious do the rest.”
“But you made one, big mistake, Nate...” Wade growled, shards of glass being pushed out of his skin to clatter on the pavement, his arm aching as it quickly regrew. “You tapped into a bunch of people I killed 'cause they either deserved it or they were trying to kill me...” Wade pushed himself to his feet, grabbed his red baseball cap with his newly regrown arm and slammed it back on his head as he stared Cable in the eyes, glaring venomously. “And you thought I gave a damn about having killed anyone!”
Nathan held his glare. “That's two things.”
“...You're right,” Wade admitted. “Two things. So,” he gestured around at all the windows and signs that were featuring Ajax, Hajin Bin Barat, Tiamat, and other ghosts from his subconscious, “can you turn this crap off now?”
The cruel faces and harsh words disappeared.
Wade whirled on Nathan. “You're an idiot, sometimes, you know that?” he snapped, jabbing a finger at the mutant's chest. “With all the baggage I carry around in my fried brain-pan—did you really think some kind of subliminal implant about the people I killed would've made me—do what—?” Wade spread his hands, voice harsh and mocking. “Feel all bad about myself—boo hoo—and come running back to you begging forgiveness for the Civil War and Rumekistan and the thing with the gogurts and—”
“—That's not important right now!” Wade snapped, glaring. “So—did you really think it would work—?”
“Well... yes...” Nathan admitted, looking embarrassed, scratching the back of his neck with his T-O hand. He brought the hand back down, expression turning serious again as he said, “I thought you'd come to me... ask for my help... and we'd go from there.”
“Guess what?” Wade hissed, jaw clenched, eyes hard. “I don't need your help. I don't need you!”
Wade turned on his heel and stormed away, even as shrieking police cars screeched up to the curb, red and blue lights flashing.
“Wade...” Nathan ventured. “I didn't make the images you saw—you did. Whatever they said that got you so angry... that was you talking to yourself.”
The police stepped out of their cars, pointing guns at the both of them.
“So you might not need me...” Nathan continued, “but you need something.”
“Maybe I do,” Wade said flatly, body tense and still.
“Bodyslide by two,” Nathan said, effectively removing them from the police situation.
They reappeared on the roof of Wade's apartment building.
“Just don't say anything for a few minutes, okay...?” Wade said quietly, pointedly not looking at Nathan as he stood at the edge of the roof with his hand on the wall that was supposed to keep people from falling off the building. Wouldn't have been able to stop anyone if they were determined to jump, though.
There was a cool, gentle breeze that ruffled Nathan's hair around his head, and the torn cloth of Wade's jacket around his new arm.
Nathan was quiet for maybe a minute, but the silence was tense and uncomfortable, and Nathan never was that good at leaving well enough alone.
“...Always comes back to this,” Nathan said finally, softly. “For two people who say they don't need each other, both of us keep doing a lot of stupid things to try and stay together.”
Wade stayed stubbornly silent, not looking at him.
But just when Nathan was about to give up and leave, Wade spoke up softly.
“I thought you knew,” Wade said.
Nathan stilled, looking at him.
“When we were in Rumekistan's sewers and I asked how you knew you could trust me,” Wade said, still not looking at him, “and you said, 'Blind faith,' and smiled at me—” Wade turned to meet Nathan's gaze accusingly. “I thought you knew.”
“Knew what?” Nathan asked carefully.
“That I can play the acting game even better than you can,” Wade snapped, brown eyes fierce and hurt. “That you weren't manipulating me—that I let myself be 'manipulated' to help your cause.”
Nate stared at him, expression gone blank.
“That I was going to betray you because I knew you needed and wanted the Six Pack to succeed so that you could save the day,” Wade continued harshly. “That I shot you in the back with a stun-gun so nobody would have to shoot you with a real gun. That I'm not actually as much of an idiot as I act like.”
Nate looked confused, then surprised, realization crawling over his chiseled features and quickly turning into something like guilt and pain.
“I thought you knew that I was in on it,” Wade said, his voice cracking slightly. His eyes were glistening and he quickly turned away, looking back out over New York, the thousands of windows and cars and streetlights making the city glitter brightly beneath the darkened, starless sky.
“I mean, c'mon,” he continued bitterly as he moved his gaze down to the cars and people far below, “the video feed that caught me on camera before I blew up the reactor on Providence—I stuck my tongue out at the camera and showed my New York State I.D. card so that everyone would know it was me and that I was working for the United States government—do you honestly think I would have done that otherwise?!”
“You...” Nathan trailed off softly.
Wade was sure that if he looked at him, the wannabe-messiah would look stunned as he made all the connections.
“Me,” Wade said dryly, voice wry.
“The Civil War?” Nathan asked, confusion evident in his voice.
“Did you honestly believe that I believed in any of that patriotic bullshit?!” Wade demanded, turning to face him again, noting that, yes, Nathan did actually look stunned. Which maybe should have made him feel triumphant—he'd shocked Cable, know-it-all control-freak!—but really just hurt more than anything. “I don't give two fucks whether supers register or not,” Wade sneered, before his voice lowered slightly as he admitted, “I just like fighting...”
“So, at the White House, and the One World Church...?” Nathan asked, blue eyes—one normal, one glowing—wide.
“You acted your part; I acted mine,” Wade shrugged, before narrowing his eyes and pointing his finger at Nathan's chest, accusingly. “Dude, I told you I saw what you were doing! I told you that playing the part of the idiot is fun most of the time, but it stops being a yuk-fest when you start believing it's true!”
Wade was standing right up in Nathan's face. Nathan, who held his ground and didn't flinch at having Wade's furious, ugly face so close, and who had an expression like someone was bleeding him out.
“But I acted the part anyway!” Wade yelled, eyes dry but burning. “I said what I was supposed to say, to get you your media attention. I said the exact right thing to make the American Government look bad about the kicking the crap outta anyone anywhere thing—which is actually true, the American Government is way too self-entitled—but I said I was American and I'm not American. I'm Canadian, in case you forgot. And did you really think I didn't see those cameras?!”
“You...” Nathan blinked quickly, right eye looking strangely wet (or maybe that was just in comparison to his glowing T-O eye), “did all that... to help me?”
“I thought you knew!” Wade shouted.
“I...” Nathan said, looking away.
“Didn't, obviously,” Wade said, turning to look back out at the city, clenching his hands on the low wall that formed a railing.
“And you see,” Wade continued, voice quiet, which was somehow worse than when he was yelling, “I thought that you were my friend cuz you could see past my act , somehow, see that I wasn't the brutal, idiotic, mindless killer everyone thinks I am, but that you never actually let on that you knew cuz you knew how hard I work to keep up that reputation.”
Wade looked back at the sorta-mutant 'savior from the future.' “But if you didn't know,” Wade said, “that only begs the question: why do you hang out with me, hire me to do jobs since nobody else will after I risked my line of work to lobotomize you, and try to get me to come back to you?”
His voice was caustic, and Nathan tensed, unable to look at him.
“Because I'd say that you think I'm just a pawn that you can manipulate,” Wade continued sourly, “but you tried to get me back even though I'm of no further use to you.”
Nathan flinched, like he'd been punched in one of his non-metal parts.
“So, if you didn't see me, and you didn't see what everyone else sees in me, then what the hell did you see?” Wade growled, hands clenched into fists. “You obviously thought you were manipulating me the entire time. And you're not supposed to manipulate your friends, so 'friend' doesn't really describe our relationship, and we're not exactly lovers because you never tried to make that kind of move—”
Wade exhaled harshly, demanding, “So what are we?”
There were several beats where Nathan didn't talk, didn't move.
Finally Nathan turned to meet the mercenary's hard gaze, his own looking pained.
“I... don't know,” Nathan admitted softly.
Wade snorted. “We're just two lost fish swimming in a fish bowl, year after year...” he sang softly, looking back over the city that never slept.
“Pink Floyd?” Nathan asked, raising his white eyebrows.
“Eternal classics, man,” Wade grunted.
Nathan stared at the scarred mercenary for a few minutes in silence, Wade studiously ignoring him.
“I...” Nathan started hesitantly. He swallowed, looked down at his hands, clenching them. “I'm sorry...” An uncomfortable pause. “For not seeing...” Another struggling pause, like the words were getting stuck in his throat and took all his willpower to dislodge them rather than choking them back down. “For messing with your mind...”
“Yeah, about that,” Wade said, turning so he could lean back against the wall, narrowing his eyes at the half-metal man. “You know why you have such a tragic social life?”
“I'm sure you'll tell me,” Nathan said dryly.
“It's because you can't admit that you want one,” Wade snapped, “and cuz you can't admit that you need anybody.” Wade's upper lip twitched upwards in a hint of a sneer. “You want to be the man with all the answers. You love being needed, so you try to make your 'friends' dependent on you, while trying to remain independent yourself. But healthy relationships have to be a balance of give and take, interdependence—even I know that,” Wade threw up his hands, “and I suck at relationships!”
Nate was looking down at his hands clutched tightly on the edge of the wall. “I'm sorry,” he said, voice brittle.
“You know what you should've done, Priscilla?” Wade asked, stepping closer and actually jabbing Nathan in the chest rather than just pointing at him. “Instead of trying to make me need you, you should have just swallowed your damn pride and asked me to come back. You should have admitted that you needed me.”
Wade crossed his arms, glaring for a moment at the side of Nathan's turned-away face, before he looked down. “And you know what, Nate?” Wade said, voice quiet and broken like he was telling some deep, dark secret about something he hated about himself. “I would've come back...”
Nathan's left arm was clutching the wall so hard the cement started to crack. He carefully relaxed the T-O muscles before questioning softly: “But now?”
“Now?” Wade said with a shrug, turning his back on the larger man. “I don't want to see you ever again, unless you apologize for real, and admit that you make mistakes just like all of us, and tell me that you either actually need me with you or that you just want me with you.” He turned back to Nathan, who was looking at him now, a tinge of hope visible behind his blue eyes.
Wade clenched his jaw, brown eyes strangely hollow. “But that you want me, that you don't just want to fix me,” he continued, voice dull, flat. Weary.
He closed his eyes, took a deep breath through his nose. When he opened his eyes again, they were hard, sharp, just like his words when he opened his mouth.
“Because I'm done acting like your psycho killer puppy and fixer-upper project,” Wade hissed, clenching his fists as he took a step closer to the larger man. “Face it, Nate. I'm not broken—I'm a little twisted, maybe, a little cracked, but I've always been that way.” Wade laughed, the sound harsh and wrong in so many different ways. “There's nothing here to fix.”
Nathan just stared at him, blinking hard.
“You came in like a wrecking ball, Nate,” Wade laughed with a shake of his head and a wry grin. “When you should've just let me in.” He started humming, tapping his fingers on the wall in some erratic beat that was probably supposed to resemble some kind of tune.
Nathan watched him for several moments. “I will always want you, Wade,” he said quietly.
“You know what?” Wade said, turning back to the sorta-mutant and rolling his eyes. “Come tell me that again after you return to life after sacrificing yourself like a moron, and we'll see whether I believe you then.” He met Nathan's gaze unflinchingly. “Cuz I sure as hell don't believe you now.”
Nathan swallowed, eyes lowering. “I never meant to start a war.”
“I know you didn't,” Wade snorted. “You never do. You only ever have the very best of intentions—” the snideness was heavy in his tone, “—only, not everyone sees it that way.” Wade looked sideways at the other man. “Providence is under attack because of your vision,” he prodded. “Even striving so hard to create peace, all you do is bring war.”
Wade's lips quirked as he watched Nathan's back and shoulders tense up.
“You do know that Providence is going to fall, right?” Wade continued, voice almost gleeful. “Your dream is going to fail, and you won't be able to recreate it.”
“I thought you believed in me,” Nathan said stiffly, facing away from him.
“Yeah?” Wade snorted derisively. “Well, news flash: I never believed in your dream.” Chuckling darkly, Wade started tracing random patterns on the cement wall he was leaning over, not paying any heed to the cars driving through the streets several stories below. “I would never be able to stand a world where you can't kill a fucking terrorist that's making plans to destroy the place. You're really a dumbass, you know that, Nate? Thinking that, surely, everyone wants peace.”
“You—?” Nathan said, whirling around to stare at the mercenary, eyes wide, mouth open slightly.
“I got rid of the evidence,” Wade shrugged. “Wouldn't want you die of a broken heart because some bad guy you thought was reformed turned out not to be.”
Nathan's eyes narrowed. “You do realize that that's what happened, right?”
But Wade talked right over him, grinning. “And then my mind played along and got rid of any evidence in my memory, too!”
“Wade—” Nathan started severely.
“But for all your dreams of peace, you wouldn't actually be able to live without a war, would you?” Wade asked, raising his hairless brows beneath the red baseball cap. “You'd just create one, or go find one, and throw yourself into the middle of it like the wannabe savior you are.”
Nathan grit his teeth and squared his shoulders.
“Me?” Wade continued with a casual shrug. “I can't even tell you how wrong it felt to live in a place where it wasn't like the entire world was against me.”
Wade looked at the larger man, scarred head tilted to the side, eyes gaging. “Some people flourish best under oppression, Priscilla,” he stated, lips quirking slightly, pointedly. “We need something to rail against. We need a cause. We need the hatred in order to feel stronger standing up beneath it.” He raised his brow again. “Can't feel the burn if the weight is too light to strain your muscles, now can you?”
“Are you insinuating that I am one of those people?” Nathan asked coolly.
“Some of us were made to take pain because we can suffer it better than others,” Wade said, holding the other man's gaze, a quirk of his lips before they stilled.
“All the pain I've endured...” Wade continued, “getting killed, stabbed, hacked to pieces, blown up, getting my head exploded and having it grow back—”
Nathan winced almost imperceptibly.
“—you can't tell me that wouldn't drive anyone insane,” Wade said with a snort. “I'd like to think I'm actually pretty sane, all things considered.” He shrugged. “Not everyone would be able to remain relatively functional through having a healing factor and constantly dying of cancer.”
Nathan looked away, down at his metal hand, the silver-colored plates that slid together in mimicry of a human limb, the techno-organic virus that was constantly trying to consume him.
“There's no relief for someone like me, Nate,” Wade said lowly.
The unspoken, 'There's no relief for someone like you, no relief for people like us' hung silently in the air between them.
“You know, Nate,” Wade said after several long moments of silence, his voice quiet and mumbled, almost like he was talking to himself more than the other man, “I've killed a lot of people.”
Nathan didn't say anything, didn't look over at him.
“I've killed so many people I've lost count,” Wade continued with a quiet, humorless laugh. “You know why, Nate?”
“No,” Nathan said, “I don't.”
“So,” Wade said, looking over at the larger man with a gaze that appeared almost desperate, “do you think it's because the number got so high I just stopped caring... or that I never cared to begin with and that's why the number got so high?”
“I...” Nathan turned to look at him, searching the mercenary's shadowed gaze. “I don't know, Wade.”
“...Yeah,” Wade said with a short, wry laugh, looking down at the knife he was twirling absentmindedly between his fingers, and probably had been playing with for a while without even realizing it, “neither do I.”
“In the bar, when you were going to shoot at the innocent civilians?” Nathan asked, raising his eyebrows.
“You mean when I did shoot at the innocent civilians, and you saved them?” Wade corrected with a snort, leaning back and staring up at the starless night sky, the ulcers on the skin of his neck stretching wider with the movement. “Heh.” His lips quirked. “I figured: screw it, what difference does it make whether I just stopped caring or if I never cared at all? I've lost count, so at this point it doesn't really matter if I add a few more to the total, now does it?”
“That's not true, Wade,” Nathan said, softly but severely. “You know it's not.”
“Could'a fooled me,” Wade shrugged, before glancing over at him. “Say, Nate,” he mused, “do you even know the definition of the word 'providence'?”
“'The protective care of God or of nature as a spiritual power; God or nature as providing protective or spiritual care; timely preparation for future eventualities,” Nathan answered immediately. Probably read the definition off the infonet.
“See, there you go,” Wade nodded, scratching at one of the opened sores on his throat as he glared at the other man. “Do I seem like the kind of person who'd take any of that?! And besides, you know I don't believe in any God—my religion is Bea Arthur, chimichangas, violence and Death.”
Wade was still scratching viciously at the ulcer, which had started oozing.
Nathan's eyes landed on the spot with a frown. “Wade,” he chided. “Don't scratch. You're only making it worse.”
Wade looked at him in astonishment for a moment, hand frozen on his neck, before he started laughing, half-collapsing over the wall. “You do realize how ironic that is, coming from you, right?” Wade gasped, grinning with dark mirth as he wiped at his eyes. “You can never leave well enough alone...”
“At least I don't scratch at my techno-organic virus,” Nathan stated evenly, causing Wade to erupt in another bout of laughter.
“Just trust me, Priscilla,” Wade said as his laughter passed away, and he pushed himself back up to a standing position to meet the other man's gaze squarely. “Providence will fall, and it will be for the best.”
Nathan stared at him silently, and Wade shrugged, shoving his hands in the pockets of his jacket.
“The comic writers will have made their political statements,” Wade explained, “some granola-eating hippies will have hope for a future they'll never see come to fruition, the Marvel Universe will spin on in never-ending chaos and ends-of-the-world, I'll go back to being a crazy mercenary, and you'll find another war to fight, and it will be like this whole thing between us never happened.”
There was a pause as Nathan continued staring at him, searching, and Wade looked down, the baseball cap partially shielding his expression.
When Nathan spoke, his voice was soft. “I'm sorry.”
“For what?” Wade asked immediately, looking up at the larger man in surprise. Hardly a fraction of a second later he'd recovered enough to raise the muscles of his eyebrows and twist his lips into a smirk. “For you being so incredibly blind while my eyes are all-the-fucking-way open? For stealing the last pizza pretzel? For making me miss my Cable (TV)?”
“For everything,” Nathan said, tone soft, eyes painfully earnest as he took a step closer. And yeah, that was definitely a kicked-puppy expression he had going on there. “I'm sorry for how I've treated you. I'm sorry I get so consumed with the bigger picture that I often miss the details. I've used you, Wade, and I'm sorry.”
Wade snorted as he looked away. “You might be a little regretful about it, but you can't honestly say you would ever have done any of it differently, now can you?”
“I'm grateful for everything you've done for me. And I...” Nathan took another step towards him, putting a hand on the mercenary's right shoulder, turning him. “I need you, Wade—”
Wade whirled around, left fist flying towards Nathan's face.
The larger man caught his fist.
“I want you,” Nathan said seriously, looking down at Wade.
Wade jerked himself away, turning and walking several paces towards the other side of the roof, hands jammed deep in his jacket pockets. “Really.”
“Yes,” Nathan insisted, staying where he was and staring after the mercenary.
“You want me,” Wade said, tone flat as he kept his back to the other man, shoulders tense, staring down at his feet.
“Yes,” Nathan said, trying to imbue his voice with every ounce of honesty he possessed.
“You mean you want to use me some more,” Wade said.
“No!” Nathan sounded alarmed.
“So you actually want me,” Wade said, looking over his shoulder at the half-metal man, raising his hairless eyebrows skeptically.
“Yes, Wade,” Nathan said, eyes almost desperately scouring the mercenary's face before settling on his cold brown eyes.
“Why?” Wade demanded with a vicious sneer, hands clenched at his sides. “Cuz I think we've already established that you've thought this entire time that I'm a complete idiot.”
Nathan flinched, but immediately returned his gaze to Wade's, bracing himself for the mercenary's virulent tirade, determined to take it.
Wade glared at him furiously. “So you don't like me,” Wade sneered,“which means that you must just like my loyalty. You must like all that I've done for you, the fool that I've played to your know-it-all messiah—no doubt you try to keep you around because I'm so bad that I make you feel good about yourself, huh?”
Wade stalked up to him, scarred face twisted with bitter fury, but Nathan resolutely held his ground. He might've tried to say something at that point, but Wade clearly wasn't done.
“Or because I'm so messed up,” Wade pressed a finger-gun against his temple, “that you like being able to help me?” He pretended to holster the finger-gun, tilting his head. “Or because I'm the one thing you know that you don't understand? Because I'm such a wildcard,” he pressed a finger hard into the center of Nathan's chest, “that you feel the need to keep tabs on me?”
“Wade...” Nathan said softly, looking at him with a pained expression.
Wade threw his arms up in exasperation, demanding, “Do you even listen to anything I say?!”
“Yes,” Nathan said, frowning.
“Then listen here:” Wade hissed, getting his ugly mug into Nathan's face, trying to make him cringe away. “I hate you.”
Nathan didn't cringe, just stared at the other man sadly. “...You have every reason to,” he said quietly.
“Well, fuck you, Nate!” Wade shouted, punching him hard in the face. Something made a loud cracking sound.
The punch knocked Nathan back a step, and he put his right hand to his left cheek beneath his glowing eye, feeling a trace of metal beneath the scraped-off bit of synth-skin. “I'm sorry,” he said, looking back at the mercenary, who was setting the broken bones of his fingers so they'd heal faster.
“I really thought you knew...” Wade grumbled, flexing the hand as if to test that it was still working properly. Which of course it was.
“I'm sorry,” Nathan said again. He searched the mercenary's face.
Wade knew that the left side of his face was made out of metal. If Wade had really wanted to hurt him, he would have punched him on the right, or in the nose.
“Yeah, just keep repeating that, like a fucking broken record—” Wade snorted, looking up to glare at him, “—but somewhere else, because if I hear you say that again I am literally going to kill you.”
“Wade, I—” Nathan started, reaching out for the mercenary, though he stopped when Wade shot him a warning look. Nathan bit at his lip. “I'm just—I—”
“What, cat got your tongue?” Wade said with a scoff. “Meow. Y'know, I'd totally be one of those ugly, hairless cats—”
“Wade, just—!” Nathan said in frustration, grabbing the mercenary's shoulders in a bruising grip, making Wade widen his eyes. “Just listen to me for a moment, would you?! I'm not good at—at expressing myself about these things—”
“Yeahhh, I'd gathered that,” Wade drawled, eyes narrowing again. He tried to pull away, but Nate just gripped him harder. “Your introspection could definitely be worked on.”
“I consider you to be a friend, Wade,” Nathan said seriously, eyes boring into Wade's own, trying to make sure that Wade understood.
“I—I enjoy your company,” Nathan said, noticing how hard he was gripping and Wade's shoulders and quickly loosening his grip, though he didn't let him go. “You're funny—and yes you're damaged and unpredictable—”
“Thanks, Nate,” Wade drawled with an eye-roll.
“—and it's awing,” Nate continued, catching Wade's gaze again. “You played me, and I didn't even know it, and—”
“I think that's more a fault on your part, than any skill on mine—” Wade pointed out with a snort, looking away.
“—I like watching you fight, Wade,” Nathan said, taking the mercenary's chin in his hands to force Wade to look at him, “I like sparring with you, I like listening to you talk, I—”
“Aww, sweetie, I'm touched,” Wade drawled, eyes unimpressed, half-lidded. “Really, you're gonna make me blush.”
“—You have very oblique ways of going about things, but you always come through in the end,” Nathan insisted, looking at Wade with a strange kind of desperation. “You aren't afraid of me—and you care, deep down, even if you hide it, and—yes your morals are twisted, but you keep trying, no matter what happens to you—”
“Bounce back like a rubber ball, that's me,” Wade shrugged, starting to shift uncomfortably, eyes flicking everywhere but Nathan's face. “Bouncing off the ceiling and floor and walls till I get lost under the couch or break a window and go flying out. And you know me, I would totally be bouncing around the Empire State Building, so when I flew out I would hit someone on the head and kill them, and then bounce of their head and give someone else a serious concussion, because that's just the kind of bouncing rubber ball I am—”
“Wade, you—” Nathan gripped his shoulder harder with his T-O hand, flesh hand still holding the mercenary's chin, “—you remind what it means to live and—Wade,” Nathan looked at him seriously, “you give me hope.”
“Hope?!” Wade practically shrieked, eyes wide. “First of all, Hope doesn't even exist yet, she doesn't exist till later, and I do not give her to you, you acquire her all by yourself, even if I help you out with it—and second of all, I am really not a hopeful guy. Like, I'm pretty much about the opposite of hopeful, as in I'm really actually hopeless—”
“You may not be hopeful, but you are inspiring, Wade,” Nathan said, lips quirking upwards. “You inspire hope. And no, you are not hopeless, Wade.” Nathan's thumb brushing across the mercenary's uneven cheek.
Wade shuddered, and Nate dropped the hand back to his shoulder.
“Uh, see,” Wade said, tone nervous as he tried to look everywhere but at any part of Nathan, “everybody else in the world would say that I am hopeless, because even when I try to be better, it never works out.”
Wade's eyes landed on Nathan's blue ones again. “And I inspire Hope?” Wade asked with a dubious raise of his eyebrows. “Really?” He snorted. “Yeah, see, I'm calling bullshit.”
Lifting his hands to Nathan's, Wade began working to remove the strong grip from his shoulders.
“You really just like that I believe in you and that I keep coming back, no matter how far you throw me, like a fucking boomerang,” Wade said as Nathan finally got the hint and let go, taking a step back. “Or a bad penny. Or that sword from Michael Jackson—” Wade paused for a moment, frowning, before he brightened in realization. “Oh wait, no, I meant Percy Jackson, even though those books weren't out when our comic was written—but who cares, right? What was the sword's name again? Riptide, right?”
“That, too,” Nathan chuckled, unperturbed by Wade's rambling. Then he sobered again, looking at the mercenary with a kind of melancholy curiosity. “So tell me: why do you keep coming back, if you hate me so much?”
“I...” Wade looked down at his feet, scuffing a sneaker against the roof and hunching his shoulders. “Because you care. Fuck knows why you care, but you do, and that's...” He turned to look almost accusingly at Nathan. “That's rare for me, okay?! I'm a stupid, pathetic, basketcase-nutcase who's so desperate for something that he'll follow anyone for a genuine fucking smile and the words: 'No, don't shut up, Wade.'” Wade paused, tilting his head thoughtfully. “Well, that on top of some cash and some invitations to exciting fights, of course...”
Nathan swallowed. “Wade...”
“Don't try to apologize again,” Wade snapped, whirling on him.
“I don't know how to make this right,” Nathan said softly as he looked at the mercenary almost pleadingly, something like pain visible in his right eye. His left eye flashed. “I don't know how to fix this...”
“Then don't,” Wade said with a shrug.
“I don't want to be your enemy, Wade,” Nathan said quietly, sincerely, arms held stiff by his sides as if he was trying not to reach out, afraid it might spook the mercenary. “There's nobody I'd rather have by my side.”
“Then tough luck, big guy,” Wade snorted, before he blinked and looked around. “Hey, do you even realize how OOC this is for us to have spilled our guts like this? Something can't be right...” He sniffed at the breeze that brushed across his sore-covered skin. “Smell anything suspicious in the air?”
“Wade, please,” Nathan said, voice coming scarily close to begging, expression dangerously close to pleading as his eyes scoured the mercenary's face. “Tell me how I can fix this.”
“You can't fix this, I already told you,” Wade said with a roll of his eyes, absentmindedly scratching at a large ulcer on his cheek.
“No, not how to fix you.” Nathan said, stepping forward to grab Wade's wrist, bring the hand down away from the aggravated sore. “I want to know how to fix this—how to fix us.”
Wade glared at him, pulling away harshly. “Okay, we are definitely not in a comic anymore,” he grumbled. “Only fanfictions ever get this mushy-feelsy.”
Nathan was looking at him with something that was maybe confusion, or maybe concern—whatever it was, it was ridiculously tender.
“Ugh, this is disgusting,” Wade said with a shudder, covering his eyes with a hand and pulling a face. “You just do your thing, Priscilla, and I'll do my thing, and we can still end this relationship with you sacrificing yourself and me coming through at the last moment, and there will be forgiveness and unspoken sappy emotions all around and we'll both get our own solo series and never have to worry about teaming up for extended periods of time ever again.”
“Come back with me, Wade,” Nathan insisted, his tone indicating that he was probably wearing a sad, hopeful, pleading puppy-dog expression, which Wade was pointedly not looking at. “Please. You said I should've just asked, right? So this is me asking for you to come back.”
“Or, what?” Wade snapped, removing the hand from over his eyes to glare at the other man, who definitely had an expression like a stupid puppy locked outside in the cold. “You'll use my subconscious to torture me again? Humiliate me on televesion to teach me a lesson?”
“You already admitted you were just playing along for that,” Nathan pointed out.
“Yeah, so?” Wade snapped irritably.
Nathan smiled slightly, gaze soft. “You never cease to surprise and amaze me, Wade.”
“Okayyy,” Wade said, taking a couple steps backwards with a hand held loosely in front of him. “You know, I'm kinda done with the mushy stuff now. Obviously my system burns through this talk-about-your-feelings pollen or whatever faster than yours.”
“I can't figure you out, Wade,” Nathan frowned, stepping forward, Wade backing up till he hit the low cement wall, glancing quickly behind him over the edge before he glanced back at the wannabe-messiah's face.
“You said to ask,” Nathan continued, approaching the mercenary, setting his hands on the top of the wall on either side of Wade, who stood there perfectly still, watching him. “You said to stop apologizing. So what do I need to do? Do you need me to beg?”
Wade swallowed, glancing away.
“Have I messed up so badly this time that this can't be repaired?” Nathan questioned, eyes scouring Wade's face, trying to figure out what the unpredictable mercenary was thinking.
“Heh,” Wade said, putting a hand on Nathan's chest to try to push him away.
The larger man didn't budge.
“You don't get it, Nate,” Wade said, removing his hand when it was clear pushing the larger man away wouldn't work. He looked over his shoulder at the sidewalk far below.
Nathan was close enough that Wade could feel the man's warm breath on the side of his face.
“Nate, just... just go,” Wade said, voice suddenly sounding strangely weak. “This has to end this way. That's the way this story goes. We just got a little extra time to spill our feelings this time around, but it's not going to change the ending. There's no other way for this to go. Blame the comic writers and artists for the story, and the fanfiction writer for not knowing enough to be able to change it.”
“You're sure we can't change this, Wade?” Nathan asked softly, breath tickling Wade's cheek.
“Yup,” Wade said with fake cheer, popping the 'p' and trying not to let his breath hitch.
When he glanced over for a second, Nathan's eyes were a deep, remorseful blue, his left eye flashing and casting his kicked-puppy expression in harsh light and shadow.
Wade quickly looked away.
But then there were large hands on her shoulders, one warm and one cold, and when Wade looked up in surprise, he suddenly found Nate's lips on his.
Wade was frozen in shock for a moment, before he remembered that this was the kind of thing that happened in fanfictions, and he closed his eyes and let himself relax into the kiss, parting his lips to engage Nate in a war of tongues.
The kiss was desperate, sad, pained, apologetic, resigned, and far too short.
It was more a goodbye kiss than anything else.
When Nate pulled away, a question in his eyes, Wade snarled and push him hard in the chest before ducking under the larger man's arms and striding several feet away, back turned.
“Just... just go, Nate,” Wade said quietly.
Nate opened his mouth, about to say something.
“And don't say you're sorry!” Wade snapped without looking back at him. “Just don't... don't say anything. Please. Just go.”
Silently, Nate left
Glancing back, he saw Wade cross the roof back over to the door that let back into the building and slam the door behind him, so hard the wood cracked and the resounding bang rang out for several moments afterwards.