For the first month, he tells himself that this is just a thing , you know, an X-Men thing , because, shit, X-Men are always slipping into alt-dimensions, and time-traveling, and how strong could Nate Grey be, anyway?
The X-Men will come back. They always do.
Besides, he knows what death feels like. They didn't die that day, he tells himself. Hell, that's what he tells Kate, apropos of nothing, while the cameras are watching Gwen make a little bit of mayhem.
I would know if they were dead.
But then things get worse. Death starts stalking the city of angels, and that he feels. At first it's sporadic, easy to miss in the psychic mass and in the news, mutants dying at an increased rate from before, which had already been higher than the non-mutant murder rate.
He tries to ignore it. He's safe enough; he's maybe a third-rate Avenger, but that'll keep him.
He puts his best t-shirts in the back of his closet. Considers dyeing his hair back to auburn, but doesn't. He may be a West Coast Avenger now, but he's still Quentin Quire, and if his hair is what gets him killed, at least that's still dying for something.
Things fall apart with Gwen like they were always going to, because he's bad at pain and wears his sadness like anger, and anger like a weapon.
Laws come down, because a modern Republican administration will always side with the oppressor, and Quentin can't ignore things anymore.
He leaves in the middle of the night.
Kate catches him at the door.
“Where are you going?” she asks. They've all tried to act like nothing's wrong for the last three months, because admitting to the problem means having to face it, and nobody's ready for that.
“Home,” he says.
She frowns. “They seized the —”
“I know. I don't care.” He swallows his hurt. “I think I might be one of the most powerful surviving mutants. They're going to come for me, eventually.”
“But you want it on your terms.” She sounds a little bewildered.
He nods. “Yeah. Shit, Kate, I felt them vanish. I'm only alive because I didn't go when Jean Grey called for me and the rest. I was never an X-Man, and fuck, we're barely Avengers, but like I was gonna come running just 'cause she called.”
“Try not to die,” she says, swallowing.
He nods. He knows she gives a damn, but the problem is: he doesn’t. There’s nothing left to care about besides the cause, because the people he loves are dead. “I’ll try.”
He thinks, as he walks out into the glittering L.A. night, that she might believe him.
It takes a week to get to New York. He buys a car with an empty checkbook and a suggestion that he has the means to pay for it; it’s wrong, but doing the right thing never saved him before.
Alone with himself and his thoughts in his beat-up little Chevy, he turns over the facts:
Evan is dead. Evan is dead.
The future Quentin’s feared for years is moot, because living in a world without Evan Sabahnur in it is already eating away at Quentin’s soul.
Idie probably went with him. He’s not sure, but he hasn’t been able to feel her, during this cross-country voyage, as he casts his thoughts out like a lasso, like a moving Cerebra, searching for other mutants.
If she’s alive, she’s still too far away to find.
The X-Men are dead. Evan and Idie are gone. Mutants are without institutional defense, because fuck , the X-Men were an institution of their own. Without them, no one will make anyone pay for this, or even threaten to.
He realizes this too late, he thinks. Maybe he could have done something else, if he’d understood before what it meant to be an X-Man.
Bulwarks against the world that hates and fears them, a world that overwhelms him now.
He never wanted to be an X-Man. He still doesn’t. He can’t . Even if he tried, it would just mean dying like an X-Man, and he’s done enough dying for a couple of lifetimes.
But it’s tempting. Alone, on the interstate, it’s tempting.
Could they stop him? He’s as strong as Xavier was, almost as strong as Jean Grey, and his thoughts always moved faster than theirs. He can build autonomous visions and run them in other people’s brains. His future self sent Evan back to Kansas . He can do almost anything.
Hell, he doesn’t even need to have a body anymore.
They can’t kill someone who isn’t alive. They can’t kill a ghost. Or an idea.
For the first time in years, he feels his molecules shudder, threatening discorporation. He exhales. If it comes to that, it comes to that.
He keeps driving.
He turns, because that voice, that accent -- “Idie?”
She looks different, her hair in braids and her eyes hidden behind sunglasses in the middle of winter, but he knows her. He’d know her anywhere, just from the way her mouth shapes his name.
“Thank God,” she breathes, and they stand there, frozen, in the woods just outside the fencing around where the Institute sits empty, ready to die with its old inhabitants.
“I thought -- I thought you must’ve --” he stammers, his voice breaking. “With Evan.”
She makes a noise of grief, what he can see of her face tightening. “I wasn’t there.”
He finds the mirror to his own grief in those words, but when she wears it, he despises it. He steps toward her. “I wasn’t, either,” he says. “Fuck, I was filming a fucking -- a fucking reality show in L.A.”
She steps toward him, too. “I just...I didn’t go. I thought they’d be fine.”
“Me too.” He can’t stop himself; he closes the rest of the space between them and folds her into his arms. “And now they’re dead.”
What could they have done? Maybe nothing. But it would have been less painful than this.
“Evan…” she murmurs. “He went, of course he did.”
“Yeah.” Quentin presses his face against her hair. “Of course.” It hurts, but of course this would be how they lose him.
Not to Apocalypse, but to Evan’s own goodness. To his belief that being an X-Man was the best way for him to be good, in light of everything else the world saw him as. To, fuck, to Nate fucking Grey and what boils down to Summers bloodline drama, as fucking usual.
He doesn’t realize he’s crying until Idie holds him tighter. She’s crying, too, and her mind is throbbing against his like an open wound.
They cry together until there are no more tears left, and snow is falling all around them.
He takes Idie to a diner in Salem Center. There's a waitress that looks a bit like Jean Grey, worried about a regular customer who's six-two and always wearing sunglasses.
Quentin felt that on the way up, and he needs to see it for himself.
If Cyclops is alive , he tells Idie in their heads, mutants have a chance.
Scott Summers never wanted to be a faith against the night, but hey, Quentin's working on limited resources here, and will take what he can get.
They're sitting there, hands around cups of cocoa, for a good half hour before Cyclops arrives.
Quentin recognizes him even in a moment like this; he's ridden shotgun with the Phoenix, and in all her life, she's only ever loved one man. She knows Scott Summers’ neurons like Quentin knows his own, and so he can taste Cyclops’ ghost as easy as his own, in this little coffee shop with its redheaded waitress.
He doesn't look well, Idie projects, careful as ever.
We don't need him to be well. We just need him to be alive.
Like he told Idie, if Cyclops is alive, mutantkind has a prayer. Without Scott Summers, who do they have?
Quentin knows, after all, that he wouldn’t make a very good savior.
They get a hotel room at a budget chain, and Quentin pays real money for that, mostly so that Idie won’t be disappointed in him. He holds her hand as they find their way to the room, and keeps holding it even when they’re safe inside, and she finally takes her sunglasses off.
Blue and orange, fire and ice. His own personal Book of Revelation, and he hardly knows what to say to her.
“I missed you,” is what falls out of his mouth.
“I missed you too,” she says, taking his other hand in hers as she slips the glasses into her pocket. “You just...fell off the map for a while. And then I went with Evan and the others, so…”
He nods. “Yeah.” And shit, he feels guilty about that. “How was that?”
“It was nice. I mean, Evan got sucked into the past and met En Sabah Nur, but otherwise…”
“Oof.” Quentin tugs her back to one of the beds. “I spent some time as a Shi'Ar deity. So...that was a thing that happened, too. Got to hang out with Lady Thor for a bit.”
“Wow.” She frowns. “How did you wind up a deity?”
He shifts a little. “Well, Lady Thor got in a fight with the Phoenix, and I kinda...broke into my afterlife and distracted the Phoenix with a proposition.”
“What kind of proposition?” Idie asks, raising an eyebrow.
He grins, just a little, a ghost of what it would’ve been even three months ago. “So, the Shi’Ar have two major deities, and they went to, uh, god prison. So the Shi’Ar needed something to worship, right?” He lets go of one of her hands, scratching the back of his neck. “So I say to her, hey, why don’t we do that? We can just be a god for a bit, see if that calms things down.”
Idie shakes her head, smiling a little herself. “Of course you did.”
“Yeah. And that’s what we did. We just sort of hung out on Chandilar, with her kind of...partially hosted in me, partially still in the White Hot Room.”
“Wow.” She sits down on the bed, and he sits down next to her. They’re still holding hands. “I just took teen Bobby Drake to a gay bar.”
That makes him bust out laughing, and wow, how long has it been since that happened?
“Wow,” he says, when he gets his breath back. “I disappear for three months, and you just go full lapsed Catholic bisexual on everyone.”
She giggles, just a little bit. “It was fun. Bobby got a couple of phone numbers, and Evan was the pride of the dance floor.”
“Shit, really?” Quentin shakes his head. “Jeez. You guys just get up to all the fun shit without me, don’t you?”
“Looks like it.” She squeezes his hand. “It’s good to see you again, though.”
He sobers a little, and threads his fingers through hers. “Yeah,” he agrees. “Given how things are…” I thought I’d lost you, too , he projects, just on the edges of her mind, like a mental whisper.
She pushes back a ripple of comfort. “We will survive this.”
“Yeah,” Quentin agrees, softly. “Yeah. We will.”
He goes with her to a midnight mass on Christmas, but keeps his mind firmly shielded.
With the way the world is now, he doesn’t want to know what people are praying for.
Idie kisses him first, just on the edge of the New Year. They’ve been on the verge of it for a couple of weeks, now, since they met again in mid-December.
He kisses her back, because the world is ending around them in ways he didn’t ever guess it would. He kisses her because he feels powerless, despite possibly being the most powerful mutant left alive. He kisses her because she’s the only thing in the world that comforts him, anymore.
When he finally pulls back, he leans his forehead against hers, taking her face in his hands. “I love you,” he says, like he’d never said it when they were in school.
“I love you too,” she whispers back, her hand curling around his arm, just below the elbow.
It feels bittersweet, to hear it now, and know, without a shadow of a doubt, that it shouldn’t just be be them here. To know that he’s not the only one she loves.
He kisses her again, more gently this time. “We’re gonna make it through this,” he murmurs. “Next year’s gonna be our year.”
She laughs, just a little, tears in her eyes. “Yes, yes it will.”
And, with her in his arms, he can almost believe it.