the phoenix's favorite host was always jean. she had stayed the longest with rachel. madelyne wasn't either of them. she was a living, breathing spark of the phoenix, come alive in an accident. she wasn't sought out as a body, she wasn't someone who accepted the mantle. she was a manifestation of the phoenix.

there are some things that she believes are instinctual to her that might not be for them. she might not have the precision of either of them, she might not have the same fears as them, but wielding the power of the phoenix was still something that, once she gave herself to her, it felt simpler. being able to gently stopper lily's powers enough to make sure she could live a normal life without completely taking away her sense of self had been relatively easy. she was a baby, still discovering herself, and it had felt like an easier task.

having to do so for nathan, a grown up man and not a child, with an intricate network of psychic power and technology was different. their relationship was different, too. one that had started out with a nurturing maternal love, poisoned by machinations, anger and despair. now it was approaching something more normal, not necessarily filled with regret so much as a wish for things to be the way that they were before, to have a bond completely denied by circumstances and, on her part, her own behavior.

for him, she focuses herself the way she had years ago when he had disappeared. focused all of her energy on the phoenix's power, on the vast breadth of it she wielded. mally breathes carefully, fingers working diligently with her will.

there isn't entirely magic in this, not entirely psionic as she works. she weaves it carefully in a tighter vice than she used for lily. the margin for error is smaller here, with much more consequences for mistakes. she can feel the phoenix straining, and tries her best to communicate her will with her. trying to console her as she wove and wove, trying her best to protect nathan from the torrent of it all.

by the time she's effectively done it, she feels so, so tired.

but it's done. a temporary way to keep the phoenix from overwhelming him, and something to slowly loosen as he learns to control it.

You don't forget your children's faces, even if after the moment they're born, everything goes terribly, irrevocably wrong. You don't forget them, even when you cradle them in your arms, intending to wring the life out of them. You don't forget them, even when you're dying in the arms of the woman you replaced. You don't forget them through lives, through deaths, through alternate realities, through anything.

Even if you hate how everything turned out. Even if you hate his father, even if you hate yourself.

You love him. You can't help but love him, the boy you spent so much time with, the boy you told your fears, your hopes, your dreams, your wants for him. The boy you fought everything for, even when everyone else had given up. The boy you sold your soul to get back, to be the mother he deserved. The boy who's existence was orchestrated by a man you loathe so much you'd kill him again just for fun. You love him. You love him even though you wanted to kill him.

Right now, you can feel a flame in your head awaken as you go about your day. You can feel the Phoenix awaken, can feel it swell with might, with power like a flare in your head. Your whole body burns with it, the flame of it.

Then, you realize that it's him. It's Nathan, and he is coming alive with the Phoenix, and it's overwhelming him, and as fast as you can, you drop everything for him. Your skin turns to gold in the overwhelming heat to protect you. Your hair, even, turns gold to protect itself against the flames, sending out frantic messages where you can, determined to get to him before anyone else can.

Just stay put!

I'm not going anywhere.

Or anywhen.

Almost as soon as you think it to him, you know that it's a mistake. Even if he says otherwise, you forgot for a moment just how teenagers are. The part of you here, that has a life dealing with teenagers, she understands exactly that this is the worst thing to say in this situation.

Just like that, before you can really get a good grip on him, he slides through time.

It's not despair that overtakes you. No, you've got too many tricks up your sleeve, too much grit in you to let yourself despair over something like that. The gold recedes, and the fire swells, before you push it down, force it under your control.

What's time to a deity that stretched itself over all Creation? What's a little bodyslide that it couldn't handle?

You're his mother. For good, for ill, he is yours and even if in the first few tries, things weren't right, you now have all the tools to do otherwise. Heart, mind, soul and a bit of determination. One breath is all it take to prepare yourself. You don't think of the implications of this, you don't consider that maybe you can make a mess. That's not your job.

The power comes searing up through your body. It bursts through you as you fall into the very thing that gave you life.

It's not a long trip to do it, to get to the heart of the Phoenix. The body is immaterial here; the soul is all that matters as you go. There are strands of power, of time in your grasp. You flex your fingers, and you concentrate on him, on where and when he went.

He slides. You fly.