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Scene Title Numb
Synopsis There are a lot of unlikely heroes, in these stories, and one of them is set against Nick.
Date December 10, 1995

England, London

The passenger car is empty but for two people sharing one soul, as the train hurtles its way east toward Suffolk, England. The elder of the two versions of Nicholas Ruskin muses that he probably should have left the boy in London, and instead brought Eileen this far eastward, toward the North Sea where she could pretend to see selkies diving among the cold gray waves.

But it was the sleepy little girl Nick passed off to the police in London, lying about finding her in a park abandoned by her mother, lying about having seen the same mother beat the child in an alcoholic rage on another occasion. They bought the story. Luckily Eileen was too sleepy and too confused to argue. He left a fake number and address, promising to be of help in the future, should they need him to take the stand. He's sure it won't be too long before the story unravels, but by then he'll be far away.

It is the little boy who is asleep curled on the two seats that face Nick's. The man knows part of the reason he chose the boy — himself — to remove from London. The town of Ipswich in Suffolk is quaint, old-fashioned, charming in that old world way with none of London's grime and soot and corruption. Perhaps there, little Nick Ruskin can grow up to be something better than he had in London.

Most importantly, he'll be far from Eileen.

The man's face is reflected back at him from the windows, dark now that the sun has set; theirs will be the last train in for the night. He'll find a church or orphanage or police station to drop the child at, and head back to London — and then back to 2010. He stifles a yawn — the temptation to nap is there, but resisted. There will be time for rest later — in a life better than this one, he hopes.

In some theorist's reality, Nicholas is a hero. Changing your past to steer it in a less harmful direction is certainly heroic for the pale face little stick-figure children he's casting to different corners of London. The Vanguard is crippled, early. A little boy is given a way out from being a monster. What is made of Nick, the future version, who knows? Maybe he comes undone, or wakes up as a different person altogether. Not knowing might be a torture.

But really, only if he cares.

Someone is closing in on the carriage, skipping from one car to the other. There's the rumbling, accordion-like connective hallway between the two, sliding doors that are shoved aside with impatient, pale hands, and the man that steps into the clear is almost so familiar it's surreal. There aren't supposed to be anyone but strangers, in the past, or friends and acquaintances too young to worry about. John Logan should be only a little taller than wee-Nick, preoccupied with chasing a football around the square of fenced off concrete behind his duplex, or ducking through the backrooms of Silk, knowing nothing about any of this.

Not twenty-nine, with weaponry concealed a plainly black coat of wool, and an aggravatedly determined cast to a steely expression that only does something to mask away his own silent panic that he is in the past.

Nick doesn't hear or see the entrance, but there is something almost extrasensory sometimes, that even Non-Evolved humans can tell when someone new has entered their space. Perhaps a slight change in air pressure or an imperceptible rise in room temperature of a tenth of a degree. His head rises from where it rests against the back of the ugly purple and teal abstract print fabric of his chair, so very nineties, and he swings his head to the side, weary blue eyes sweeping the aisle and finally the doorway to the car.

Black brows twitch and the taller man is instantly on his feet, moving to step in front of the younger version of himself, to block the foursome of seats at the mouth of the aisle, to protect Nick from Logan's grasp.

Alanis Morissette's "Ironic" won't be released as a single for another two months, but the '90s hit could be a theme song to this moment.

"What the 'ell are you doing 'ere?" Nick demands of Logan — there is no fake American accent now, as he's been speaking like a Brit here in his homeland, here in his past. There's no reason for the masquerade. There's anger again, so very familiar, in Nick's eyes, but there's also fear. He's so close to doing what he came to do.

Pale green eyes focus on the taller man down the other end of the carriage, Logan pausing as if being spotted brings about paralysis, maybe. It might. His hands are bare and empty of anything, and this is a quality he displays with a splaying of his fingers in silent gesture of— not exactly surrender. But opening fire on a train is a quick way to get arrested. Not that that's stopped him before, but. He glances over a lean shoulder, the hollows beneath haughty cheekbones shadowing a little as his jaw tenses.

Pushes an expulsion of air through flaring nostrils, a huffing sigh. "I dunno how this works," he gruffs out. Two hands rest on either corner of two chairs on each side of him as he rocks a step forward. "But I'm told you don't either. That you was lied to. What you trying to do, Nick?" His own accent is his natural one, dropping his less elaborate pretense for dropped consonants and whole words both.

Nick's jaw clenches and the ligaments and tendons of his throat move as he swallows hard, tilting his head so he can keep the small boy in his sightline while glaring down the aisle at Logan. "Lied to? There wasn't enough said for there to be lies. He asked if I'd like t'change sommat in my life, and I took him up on it," he says, voice low, regressing in his own diction just as Logan does, as if they are simply taller versions of themselves in 1995, not completely different people.

He glances at the smaller version of himself that is so different — still optimistic, still hopeful in so many ways. Nicholas is stirring slightly, though still sleeping, but the slight movement makes the man more nervous.

"I'm just putting 'em in diff'rent places. Away from their mum. Away from each other. What's the problem with that?" The question is asked accusingly, a jut of his chin toward Logan. "Who brought you here?"

"A Jap with a sword. Scared the life out of me." Mostly because Logan racistly assumed he was Feng Daiyu for four seconds.

Another step creaks forward in patent leather shoes, a hand going out to grip the silver pole that acts as handhold, sidling around it as Logan attempts to tip a look towards little Nick, an eyebrow raising as he scans the empty chairs for the little girl half of the siblings, but he doesn't spy her, and accurately assumes she's no longer present. Mouth twists in some displeasure, but little does he know, that other pieces of Hiro Nakamura's gameplan are in motion.

But that's another story. "I'm not stupid, Ruskin. You don't go back in time to give someone a change of scenery. You're trying to change things. Make them better. You think that's how it works?" White teeth show in a sneer. "You can't change the past, mate. The future, though, I could show you a thing or two about that."

Logan's words bring a snort of derision and one hand goes to his side, touching the gun beneath his jacket more to ground himself, to remind himself that it's there. It stays there — for now. "Why not? Why bloody not? If I change this now — maybe I can have a future. Otherwise, it doesn't fuckin' matter, John. If I can't fix what was broken now, it ain't ever going to get fixed. You tell your Japanese friend to stay the hell out of my life — past, present, future. It's my life, and if I have the power to fix it, why shouldn't I?"

Nick's words are passionate and vehement, punctuated by shakes of that shaggy dark head. The selfishness in his words don't register — he's not thinking about anyone else's future or present — that his life or Eileen's would impact others doesn't occur to him.

"What d'you care anyway? I mean, besides the fact that some guy with a bigger sword than yours is apparently pushing you around." What the fuck is up with people with swords, anyway? goes unasked.

It's occurred to Logan. This is visible in the way he narrows his stare across at the other man, leaning his back against silver pole, and twists a cold smirk at that last part, a proud tip of his chin upwards as if to say that no one pushes him around. Especially not Nick Ruskin. "It's your life, and it's mine too. I dunno what happens, if you get spirited away to some other corner of the country. Maybe nothing. Maybe I find someone else to be friends with. I know what I did."

That last part cuts harsh across the carriage, sudden defense and ferocity in his emphasis. "So don't start. But did you know the one bleeding time I ever tried Refrain? The memory drug? Brings up pleasant recollections and everything? I saw you." And Logan knows, probably, how retarded that sounds, and how cheap it sounds, but he throws it out anyway.

A glimmer of a belated glance towards Nick's roving hand, some tension setting in his posture. He manages not to go for his own gun.

Yet. "I'm not waking up a different person. Even fractionally different. And the Jap with a bigger sword's a little concerned about everyone else you know, but probably figured I'd be the one to not mind shooting my way through to winning." Maybe. There's been a few guntoting heroes. But ones that might sympathise with Nick a little more than the gaunt figure standing opposite him now.

Those words make Nick feel 14 again — stupid and naive and innocent and defiant all in one — and he shakes his head, snorting again. "How bloody touching. You saw me — so you never touched it again, eh? That's enough to make you swear it off for good." There's a humorless laugh to accompany the self deprecating comment.

"As for you not waking up diff'rent, well, that's beggin' the question, isn't it? You really think that me and Lee growing up in diff'rent places is going to change that bloody much? If I never meet you — you might find this fuckin' shockin', John, but I won't consider that a tragedy, mate."

The mention of shooting has Nick's fingers curling around the gun finally, tugging it loose but keeping it low, aimed at the floor — not quite ready to make a threat.

"Uncle Nick?" a small and groggy voice murmurs from the row of seats; suddenly pale blue eyes that are wide and innocent suddenly peer over the back of the chair at Logan, two hands steadying him as the boy kneels on the seat cushion.

"If it didn't change nothing, then why are you here? Changing nothing? Why does whoever sent you back want you to do it?" Logan is ignoring the peeking, smaller version of the man he has in his focus. "Just— what. Charity? Some bloke who can go back and forth in time gives a shit about your piddly little life? Don't be thick, Nick." The rhyme makes that almost mocking, until he finally glances towards the boy peering at him.

Unsure exactly what to say, defense and guardedness freezing him for a few seconds, more so than even the pistol pointed at the floor of the train. Flicks his gaze back towards Nicholas, as if waiting for him to— you know. Take care of it. Or introduce them. He does add, a little amused, "'Uncle'?"

He isn't stupid. He accepted the offer from Samuel quickly, without thinking through ramifications, through paradoxes, through possible events falling like dominos. Nick has no idea what Eileen has done in her life. But he can't see how anything she's done or gone through can possibly go unimproved by undoing the past.

How could removing those dark years from her life have anything but a good effect on her life, and everything surrounding it?

He stares at Logan, shaking his head. "I don't know why the fuck, but there's that whole thing about not looking a gift horse in the mouth, yeah?" It takes him a moment before he realizes the little boy is looking at them, and he glances back. "Yeah, well, it worked. What am I s'posed t'say? I can't even understand it. How are they s'posed to? They don't even know about Evos and shit," he mutters, as if lying to the children is the worst of his sins.

The man closes his eyes for a moment and brings a hand up to rake through his hair. A voice comes over the loudspeaker, announcing a stop. Nick reaches for the boy with his free hand. "Come on, Nicky, this is our stop," he says, taking that small hand in his larger, and two sets of blue eyes turn to regard Logan. One with curiosity, the other full of warning. "Just let us go, John. If you wake up tomorrow and don't remember me, I'm sure you'll get over it. It's not like you'll know any better."

"You're so weak," is really all Logan has to say to all that, a lazy blink and a feline smile accompanying this easy judgement.

And then he's moving. Pistol neglected in its holster beneath his arm, his hands are apparently free of weaponry as he lunges in an attempt to get close before Nick can put his gun up. One hand is open, aimed to grab pistol and disable it, the other one clenched in fist. That shining silver is glinting in a spike from between fingers only registers when Logan actually has it in a position to wield. Fights mean, as he says, and mean can also be synonymous with sneakily concealed blades.

And, you know, attack one hand while the other's just occupied itself with gripping the hand of a small child. Whatever!! The knife is aiming only for big Nick, at least, looking to stick into the meat of his upper arm.

When one hand grabs Nick's gun, Nick doesn't let go, but instead pulls his own hand upward, jerking Logan's with it, to smash at Logan's face with the pistol; unfortunately for him, the knife makes contact with his other arm at the same time. The leather of his jacket helps to take some of the blow, but it's enough to make him gasp with pain, letting go of the boy's hand.

If it were Eileen, he'd yell for her to run, to hide, to get away — but it's Nick.

He jerks that gun to try to loose it from Logan's prying hands. His blue eyes, narrowing with pain, focus on the wide and terrified gaze of the boy scrambling away from the two grown men in the aisle. The tug of war with the gun doesn't worry Nick — of the three people in the car, he won't be sorry if it hits any of them at this moment, though he only has one target for which he aims:

Himself — the little one.

Logan doesn't follow the logic. Probably. He doesn't know Nick's guilt, whatsoever, doesn't understand it, wouldn't comprehend what would drive a man to twist the gun in this direction. However, he does feel it in the strain of his own hand, feeling his struggle overcome in a certain direction, and thinks to look down the line of its aim to see it squared on the blue-eyed boy thrown into the middle of all this. His own eyes shutter wide in realisation.

Doesn't speak or yell warning, just levers himself with all his wiry strength into pushing the gun harder out rather than inwards, playing to the natural strength of an arm. The bullet blows by little Nick, punctures the ceiling instead. Logan continues his attempt to tip other man into a tangle amongst the seats, digging blood-letting fingernail marks into the back of Nick's hand.

He's cheating, now. A euphoric effect is forcing itself over Nick, a slow welling up of bliss from low in his gut to high in his chest, making his blood run warm, his head feel light on his neck. Logan's eyes are like traffic lights. Green means go.

The child screams, eyes going up to the ceiling as he scrambles further away, dropping beneath the seats and beginning to crawl on belly under them toward the exit.

The man he will one day become drops the gun when his wrist comes down on an armrest, stumbling into an awkward half-sitting, half half kneeling position. He hisses as he feels those nails raking, a hand coming up to grip Logan's wrist, intent on snapping it away and hopefully the bone too — but then the anger lolls out of him. The anger in his eyes fades, the tension of his jaw eases; pupils dilate and he shakes his head, parting lips to take a breath of air, to ask a question that no longer seems important. "John," he breathes out, and then he laughs — a rare thing, sincere and warm, and most impossibly happy.

"Yeah," Logan breathes out. "I know."

He doesn't stop this invasion of chemical happy, and knifes a glance towards where he can't see little Nick making his get away. That'll do. For now. Fingernails let up — are forced to, anyway, this thinner wrist in Nick's grip, and the skin on skin allows for his power to have that direct channel. His own knife has dropped somewhere, and he's awkwardly positioned over Nick, a knee against an arm rest and a foot set to the floor, as if keeping him cornered. "Lookit me, saving your life. Bet you're not going to thank me either," he mutters, close enough that warm breath flagging off his words curls near Nick's ear.

Fingers find purchase in this black hair, tug his head back to study the focus of his eyes, his own still poison green.

There's another giddy laugh and Nick shakes his head, too content to argue. Why were they arguing? Why was he trying to kill his former self — and theoretically himself now (he's not quite sure how that work out). His life is good. He's happy.

Dilated blue eyes search those intoxicating green depths, that impossibly green gaze. Nick swallows at the feel of fingers in his hair, of warm breath on his skin, of his hand around Logan's and he shivers slightly — it's not borne of fear, however, and Logan will likely know his power well enough to know that.

"I don't know what to say, mate," he murmurs — it's an honest answer. His mind can't seem to work right now. "If you really came to help me — I … thank you." The hand around Logan's wrist relents, easing in that death grip and instead slides down to grip the hand, squeezing lightly.

It's possible to be pleased on some hedonistically satisfied level at the effect of his own ability. Never stopped him before. This time, Logan is also mildly creeped out, darting a mistrustful glance for the tangle of their hands, although it's only a frission of discomfort, one that arrives and departs just as quickly. And doesn't stop him from returning that squeeze in a quick, compulsive kind of gesture.

"Do us a favour, and hold that thought." The chemicals don't relent, and neither does Logan, for the next few seconds — he takes for himself a prize, which is a brief and near chaste— as chaste as it could possibly be, anyway— kiss to Nick's currently yielding mouth. And then, completely off him by the time the train is thinking about going, moving as fast as he can without running. Swipes up his knife in the next moment, kicks aside dropped gun, and blinks his eyes into their pallid tones as his power is wrenched from Nick's system.

It takes a little while to calm down, though, the slow drain of warmth, back into something more neutral. Logan only has that much time and the doors squeezing closed to get off the fucking train with the real prize.

Little Nick finds a hand gripping the back of his shirt on his way to his feet, propelled the rest of the way out the door along with Logan's trajectory.

By the time Nick is about to lean into the kiss, to give and not just accept, it's over and he's left in that eastbound train, brows beginning to furrow as the warmth seeps out of him, as his head grows less foggy, and as he realizes he's just lost. The failure is a dull ache, still tempered by Logan's effect in his system.

The blood loss probably isn't helping either.

He reaches inside his jacket to feel the wound — it's not fatal, but the sting is suddenly intense, now that the euphoria is fading. He kneels, peering under seats to find his gun, shoving it in the waistband of his jeans and moving toward the door. It's time to get stitched up and re-evaluate the plan — follow Logan or head back to London — he has options.

Right now, it doesn't seem hopeless. He's numb — and numb is not a bad place to be.

He isn't saying anything. Logan isn't. The kid he's directing to walk, nearly frogmarched through the train station, isn't asking questions yet, but he will be, inevitably. For now, Logan is content to just curl a hand around Nick's wrist and pull him along in long strides, his own adrenaline from the scuffle still working out of his system in short, sharp breaths.

Dares, then, to cast a look over his shoulder at Nick emerging from the train. And stops.

It happens in the time it takes for Logan to bat an eyelash, the way he sees Nick's shape on the platform, and then gone before his eyes have a chance to focus. His hand compulsively squeezes around the little boy's arm, some alarm having Logan send a scoping glance around the station, seeing nothing.

Nick had options.

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