James Proudstar, more often known simply as X-Force member Warpath, sits in a cheap café in Ireland. On the table before him is a spread of empty glasses, discarded sugar packets, cigarette butts and all manner of diner debris. The cigarettes belong to Kelvin Doneghann, a reporter with connections to the Cassidy family, and the photographs are relics of the past… specifically the past between Theresa Rourke Cassidy -- Siryn -- and her uncle, Black Tom. Warpath looks over the pictures, over a small lifetime captured on scraps of paper. He looks into Siryn’s haunting and piercing eyes in each image, notices how guarded and uncertain they are. Tom Cassidy, he notes wryly, looks as if he’d swallowed a shot of castor oil right before someone said “Cheese” in every photograph.
This coldness, the shattered bond between uncle and niece, is the reason he thinks he’s there. It needs to be mended; this is the help that Siryn needs from him. And even if it means losing her, he’s going to try to provide that help because he loves her. He tries hard not to show how torn up he is over what his friend is going through… but Kelvin Doneghann keenly recognizes the look in Warpath’s eyes, no matter how much he tries to hide it. It’s a look that Kelvin saw every time he looked in the mirror during his teenage days. Theresa always was the kind of girl you could fall head over heels for, muses Kelvin internally, and her guardian was always the reason you were afraid to. Glancing at a picture of Black Tom holding Siryn as a child to punctuate his last thought, Kelvin is interrupted by Warpath, asking if there’s been any word on Tom’s whereabouts.
Kelvin responds that the police are still looking throughout the country, but haven’t found anything yet… but you’d think that a guy looking like Black Tom does now, walking along with a mountain of a friend called the Juggernaut, wouldn’t be too hard to find. You’d think, mutters Warpath, then adds that Terry doesn’t seem to think they’d left Ireland yet… she’s certain they wouldn’t go until Tom got what he came here for. Kelvin wonders what that would be, and Warpath dryly replies that she said they’d know as soon as Tom did. With a hmph, Kelvin changes the subject: he checked with the doctor at the hospital before coming down to meet Warpath, and Flaherty is in stable condition. At least Tom won’t be charged with murder, notes Warpath grimly, then adds that he doesn’t get why Tom would try to kill the lawyer of his estate… what does he gain out of that?
Kelvin can only offer that the Cassidy clan is full of secrets… old grudges, ancient feuds, that have led to more than their fair share of tragedy in the past… but the police think that if Tom truly wanted to kill Flaherty, there’d be nothing left of the old shyster except a pile of ashes. Again, Warpath wonders: then what does Tom Cassidy get out of all this? What Tommy’s always wanted, notes Kelvin: attention… from all of them, but most of all… from her. And, he adds, on that subject… how’s Theresa holding up? Like she always does, replies Warpath. She’s handling the situation… in her own unique way.
And, at that same moment, on the grounds of Cassidy Keep, Siryn tears apart the ground with her sonic scream in a drunken outburst. Her shrill power cuts apart even the howling winds of the northern coast, the sound of the ocean pounding against the high cliffs, and in her anger she rips apart the very object of her confused attentions with that scream: the estate’s garden. It used to be so well kept, and now it’s all fallen apart. Dried up. Withered. A glaring lack of attention to the needs of plants… and it would take so much work to bring it back to life, she thinks, as she reaches again for her bottle of alcohol before passing out in the rain that has begun to drizzle down. She knows, of course, that there’s only so much you can do to save something that’s been this badly neglected.
They can’t do it on their own. The plants depend on someone else’s help. They need the gentle nurturing of a caring soul. And who could do that for her? As she falls asleep in a nauseating swirl of whiskey, she’s vaguely aware that she knows such help has been offered… and she’s been too terrified to accept it. And by the time Warpath picks up her besotted body, she’s long passed into merciful stupor. When she awakens hours later, cleaned up and provided with hot chocolate, her thoughts drift to a new question… why can’t she thank him?
Sitting across from her, frowning, Warpath notes that she isn’t helping him much. Helping him do what? she leers defensively. Helping him help her, he replies. They’ve been in Ireland for two weeks, he’s been working with doctors and police and Kelvin to try to find Black Tom, to deal with his attack on Flaherty, and also deal with whatever problems remain between her and Tom… and all she’s done is hide in the Keep and drink, more than she ever did back in Camp Verde!
Siryn informs Warpath that he has no right to judge her… she can handle her own life, thank you very much. Then why, asks Warpath in exasperation, did she come home to begin with? Why did she ask him to come here with her?! Because, she shoots back, she thought he was her friend -- someone who’d support her, not preach at her like some bloody minister! Siryn pauses, picking up a picture of Black Tom and Sean Cassidy -- the Banshee -- and then mutters that she called him uncle. What? replies Warpath, thrown off by the sudden shift. He was her father’s cousin, explains Siryn, but she always called him ‘uncle.’
Warpath informs her that while he doesn’t pretend to know what her life was like growing up in Cassidy Keep, she doesn’t have a monopoly on hard times… or grief. Try having your parents die and then losing your brother, the only friend you ever had in the world… try feeling that kind of pain, he tells her, and then ask yourself… if you’re so ready to give up on yourself, why should the rest of the world try and help?
Elsewhere, the moon rises in the early evening sky over the small town of Castle Bar. Workers make their way to Kavanaugh’s Pub to wind down before heading home… while others, like Kelvin Doneghann, don’t have much of a home to go to afterwards. For that matter, neither does the man he’s here to meet…
Kelvin enters the bar and announces to the barkeep that he’ll have the usual, Terrence. A coke it is, confirms Terrence, then informs Kelvin that the big one’s been waiting for him… and he’s getting a bit anxious. Is he now? asks Kelvin, then, turning around, follows up with another question: Mr. Marko, he presumes? Cain Marko, sometimes the Juggernaut but at this moment just a man in street clothes, replies with call me Cain, Donneghan. Kelvin says to call him terrified. Marko replies that there’s no need to be… he’s got no beef with him. And neither he with him, Mr. M-- er -- Cain, replies Kelvin. He wants to help Tom Cassidy… and so asks if Cain can tell him where Tom’s hiding himself.
Poking an icy glare out from under his cap, Cain Marko replies with a succinct Nope. Well, replies Kelvin, that was to the point, wasn’t it? He then asks why Tom didn’t come with Cain, who responds by explaining that Tom can’t go out in public anymore… doesn’t like to. His face and body, they’re different now; he’d upset the local populace, if Kelvin knows what Cain means. Kelvin asks if that’s why Tom attacked Flaherty… is he losing control? Cain replies he’s trying to help Tom, trying to get him to stay in touch with himself. They go way back, him and Tom. In his life he never made many friends… and he doesn’t intend to lose the one he found. But, adds Cain, at the rate Tom’s going, it’s a race to see what stops him first… his own body and mind burning out, or a bullet through the head from a cop’s gun.
Kelvin points out that the policemen around there carry no guns… it isn’t America, you know. But enough about that… it’s simply amazing to him that he’s sitting here talking to the Juggernaut about a man Kelvin’s known his whole life. When he was a boy… he and his friends all looked up to Tom Cassidy, always wanted to be like him. Always looking so dapper, always a beautiful girl at his side. A charmer, but always with style. Except he couldn’t charm his way with the one girl he loved for real: Maeve Rourke. Tom stood as best man to his cousin Sean Cassidy as Sean married the girl they both wanted… and everyone in town knew that the scoundrel Tom had rolled the dice and come up sevens.
Cain interrupts to remind Kelvin that he knows the story, kid. And he always knows that’s when it got bad for Tom. That’s when he started trying to prove that Maeve was right in choosing Sean over him. And then, just when he had almost convinced everyone, including himself… Maeve died. Kelvin continues: that was a bad time. Kelvin’s mum told him that no one knew where Sean had gone off to… but Maeve had left a baby girl behind that Sean didn’t even know about, and Tom was left to care for the child: Theresa. They always said the Cassidys were cursed, and here was the proof: tragic love, young death. Ah, but it was a grand tragedy.
No one knew back then, continues Kelvin, that Sean Cassidy was an Interpol agent. No one knew he was a mutant, either. His assignments kept him away from Cassidy Keep for months after Maeve died, and when he came home he discovered what had happened. The poor man was devastated; he’d gone off in the service of his country, and come back to find it all turned to ashes. Tom meant to tell Sean about his daughter, try to cheer him up a bit… y’know? But Sean went and took out all his anger and guilt on Tom, blaming Tom for not having better watched over the woman they loved.
As they both stood over her grave, Sean snapped and let loose a sonic scream at Tom, tore up the ground, sent him flying down a nearby cliff, and then took off to spend his grief elsewhere. That’s how Tom ended up needing a cane for his limp, y’know. Sean’s attack, the ensuing fall… Tom broke his leg pretty bad. And later, adds Kelvin, Tom told him that as he watched Sean leave that day, he knew in his heart of hearts that none of it was truly his fault. But he also knew he’d have to pay for it anyway… and so would Sean. And then and there, to Tom, Sean was dead… and so, in turn, would he be to poor Theresa.
He always looked at Theresa that way, didn’t he? asks Kelvin to Cain. He felt guilty for poor Maeve, for Sean. Guilty that he wasn’t the man he wanted to be. That he wasn’t the noble soul he thought he was. In fact, he was anything but noble, and that ate at him, so instead of trying to swim against the tide… he just went with the flow. All the while, Sean Cassidy immersed himself in Interpol work, staying away from Cassidy Keep for years. By the time he came back to stay, it turned out he was still working undercover… this time to try to nail Tom for all the illegal activities he had gotten involved in. By then Theresa was in a private school, carefully hidden from Sean, so even she never knew the things Tom was up to. And everyone in Castle Bar thought that, at least, was a blessing.
Well, Tom went to jail for all his different scams, mutters Cain, and that’s where the two of them met. They both escaped, adds Kelvin, and came back to Cassidy Keep to get revenge on Sean, blaming him for everything that had gone wrong in Tom’s life. Kelvin pauses to light yet another cigarette, then presses further: And Tom still waited to tell Theresa about her father, didn’t he? She still thought herself an orphan. Nice bit of revenge, that. One problem though… the wrong person got hurt. Did Tom… did either of them, Tom or Cain… ever stop to think about what kind of effect that would have on her? Did either of them stop to think what would happen the day Terry discovered Sean was alive, and her whole life was a lie?!
Yeah, Doneghann, Tom thought about it, replies Cain curtly. Tom thought about it each and every day since he’s known him. But hate’s a funny thing, kid. It does strange things to people. Believe him… he, of all people, knows.
The next morning, the sun rises over Cassidy Keep. Warpath exclaims to Eamon, the butler, that the coffee smells great! Eamon replies that it had better, since Warpath’s the only one willing to drink the stuff. Warpath says that she wasn’t in bed… has he seen her? Eamon replies that the miss is outside. Don’t tell him, quips Warpath, the garden… right? She’s always gone there to think, explains Eamon, ever since she was a girl. He imagines she’s trying to make amends for last night’s outburst…
Warpath sits down on the steps leading to the garden whilst Siryn, clad in jeans and a loose jersey, rakes leaves. Sipping his coffee, he offers her a Morning. She replies with a curt Aye. A pause. Then Warpath inquires whether Siryn thinks, maybe, that she’s carrying this analogy of hers a bit too far? Probably, she’s sure, she replies. It’s just that gardening was a passion for Tom… making something out of the wind-swept nothing that surrounds the Keep. It became a passion for her as well… as much, she guesses now, to have something in common with Tom as anything else. It’s better, she thinks, to be obsessing over an attempt to grow something as opposed to destroying things. Which, adds Warpath wryly, makes her an interesting study in conflict, doesn’t it?
He changes the subject. It must have been lonely for her here, so isolated. No more, she replies as she balances her arms on the handle of the rake, than it was for him growing up in the desert. He had his brother, John, replies Warpath… he had family, and friends. She had Eamon and his family, shoots back Siryn… he’d be amazed if he ever saw them; a more lively bunch he’s never met. Well then, asks Warpath as he approaches her, why did she leave the place? Siryn readily replies that she was forced to.
Tom was getting more deeply involved in illegal activities, and she was shipped off to a boarding school when she was twelve. She knows that he shipped her off as much to protect her as himself… but that wasn’t how she felt then. That’s where she had her first drink. She was thirteen, she was still so angry at Tom for sending her away. She was afraid, too. Afraid she had done something bad and that Tom was angry with her. So she sneaked a few nips to dull the pain… she knew Tom would’ve been furious to see her doing it… but then again, that was the point!
Soon a few nips became quite a bit more. She thought she was being terribly adult… that no one could hurt her again. It eventually scared the other girls… they hated the taste, the way it made them feel sick to their stomach. They gave it up. But her? No matter how sick she got… she wanted to feel worse. She thought she was rebelling, y’know? Even though she was just killing herself. Then one day she got even more incentive. She was fifteen when Tom got arrested by Interpol agents for black marketeering.
She read about the trial in the papers, but she never went. She couldn’t. Tom was sentenced to five years; she never saw him dragged off in chains, never went to visit him in prison. She just shut herself off from everything, pretended it wasn’t happening. Putting his hand on her shoulder, Warpath tells her that when his brother died, he ran off… angry, hating everyone for what went down. The things Tom’s done in her life… they’re not her fault. How does he know that for sure? asks Siryn. What would Tom’s life had been like if he didn’t have to care for her… didn’t have to raise her? And all out of obligation to a woman he loved who didn’t love him back?
That doesn’t excuse what he’s done, replies Warpath with growing anger. He robbed her and her father of a chance to have a real life together! How can he be blameless for what he’s done? Tears welling up, Siryn tells Warpath that he has no right to judge Tom! He can’t blame him for being afraid, and alone… because believe her, those are the worst feelings a person can have. And doesn’t he see? She couldn’t help him… and when she found out he was a criminal, God help her, she didn’t want to.
Elsewhile, at the offices of the Connact Province Weekly Tribune, Kelvin Doneghann’s secretary informs him he has a fax coming through. As he examines the paper feeding out of the machine, she asks him what it is, and he explains it’s a communiqué from a research laboratory in France… the same ones who turned Tom Cassidy into the “plant-man” thing he’s apparently become. He then adds that the information in the fax looks like it corroborates what Cain Marko told him… Tom’s mind and body are deteriorating. The process which saved his life was not completed when the Juggernaut “rescued” Tom from the French and, if he doesn’t get help soon, he’s as good as dead.
As Kelvin rushes out of his office with the sheet of fax paper trailing behind him, his secretary inquires as to what his next step will be. Kelvin explains that he has to arrange a meeting between two people who very much want to help their friends… and the only way for them to do that is if they help each other…
Later, Warpath stands nervously on the stone steps in front of the Church of St. Michael’s. He’s always hated churches. He feels confined when he’s in one. Making his way inside, he approaches Cain Marko sitting in the shadowy, deserted pews and offers a truce. Cain only replies that he wouldn’t fight in a church, Geronimo… he’s got some scruples, y’know. Warpath replies that he does know, or else Cain wouldn’t be here to help his friend. Cain asks how bad it is and, holding up the fax Kelvin received, Warpath says that it’s bad enough.
The fax says that Tom’s mind and body are falling apart, and he’ll be dead in months… maybe weeks. Interpol and S.H.I.E.L.D. both want him bad enough that they’re willing to cut a deal… Warpath asks Marko to listen: if Cassidy turns himself in, he’ll get the medical help he needs to survive. Cain looks over the fax suspiciously before discarding it to the floor and approaching an altar of candles to pray. As he walks, Cain notes that it’s some choice, huh? Tom’ll survive but be behind bars for life.
Warpath asks him what he expected… they’re both escaped felons. Tom was behind the bombing at the World Trade Center and Cain’s an accessory to that crime. And to top that off, Cain tried hi-jacking a plane a few weeks ago… They want Tom, reiterates Warpath, and believe him: they’re going to get him. Whether it’s standing trial or on a coroner’s slab is up to Cain. Kneeling down, Cain asks what happens to him? If he turns Tom over, replies Warpath, they’re willing to be lenient. Lighting a candle, Cain emphatically states that he’s not going to turn his back on Tom… no way… he told Warpath that. Warpath begs Cain to listen to what he’s saying… Cain gets to walk, Tom gets cured… they’re both alive to live another day, get it?
And, thinks Cain aloud, he’ll be able to spring Tom… eventually. Warpath informs Cain that he did not just hear that… he’s here to help Theresa, that’s all. She needs some sense of closure out of all this, some sense that there’s still a right and wrong in the world. Cain says that he likes Terry… she was always a sweet kid. Then, his face turning to a look of grim acceptance, he asks Warpath -- “Geronimo” -- where they’re going to meet to do this. Warpath asks Cain where’s the one place he can think of that Tom won’t put up a fight, and Cain replies that it’d be the only place he was at peace, he supposes… at the side of the only woman he’s ever loved… at Maeve Rourke’s grave.
That night, Siryn stands at her mother’s grave, noting that it’s been a long time. Then, offering a Cheers, she withdraws a flask of liquor from her coat. From the shadows of the nearby stand of trees, someone asks her if she’s trying to warm herself from the cold. Turning to the figure dressed in hat and coat, Siryn inquires as to what’s wrong with that… uncle? It’s a cold world. Stepping forward, Black Tom whispers that he wishes Siryn could have known her. Things would’ve been so different… the three of them could have been together, like a family… how sweet that would have been. Placing flowers at the base of her mother’s grave, Siryn notes that Tom seems to be forgetting one thing… Sean Cassidy is her father -- not him!
Lunging forward in frustration, scattering the clothing that hid his newfound deformities, Tom shouts that a father isn’t a man who creates a child, it’s a man who raises a child! Where was her father then, all those years she was growing up? Where is he now? Good lord, exclaims Siryn in shock at his appearance, what’s happened to him?! She had heard but… oh, is this what his life has led to? Tom says that he did the best he could, and Siryn shoots back that perhaps it wasn’t good enough. What kind of life did he make for them? Did he ever ask himself that? She has, more times than she can count. He lied to her, her entire life… about her father and more… about himself. He tried to turn her down the same miserable road he was traveling, and then he thought he could redeem himself by telling her she had a father she never knew?
Batting the flask out of her grasp with his own gnarled, swollen, bark-like hand, Tom tells her that it was Sean who ran away… who abandoned her! He’s the one who stayed by Siryn’s side after Maeve died! He’s the one who held her after she scraped her knee or lost a toy. He’s the one who wiped her tears away. Shoving him back in anger, Siryn scowls and retorts that he kept her father from her! He told her that her father didn’t exist… how does he think that makes her feel? She remembers all that he’s said, and she could cry for the two of them, such love and tenderness there was… and then she looks back at him, at Black Tom Cassidy, and wonders if she ever really knew him at all. Exasperated, Tom tells her that it’s not his fault he turned out way he did! Screaming now, Siryn tells Tom to stop it! If it’s not his fault, then whose was it?! He always blamed everyone else but himself! Her father, her mother for dying -- when is he going to stand accountable for his own mistakes?!
Stammering for an answer, Tom finally collapses to the ground, clinging pathetically to Siryn. He blamed her father when Maeve chose him, continues a calming Siryn, and sometimes she thinks he blamed her for holding him back, keeping him tied down… and then she looks in his eyes and sees the uncle who checked her closet each night for the Bogeyman. Quieter now, regretful, she murmurs that there are things she hates about him, about Tom Cassidy… but, heaven help her, she loves him too. Crumpled, emotionally crushed, Tom says he knows… and then offers, if it matters, that there is one thing he does blame himself for… for not having raised her to be happy…
That’s odd, says Siryn, closing her eyes. She doesn’t blame him for that at all… for that one she blames herself. This didn’t have to be their life, y’know, she adds. The once choice Tom made… after her mother died, to not tell Sean about her… was the wrong choice. And like any choice it had its consequences that Tom never could have foreseen. She could have loved them both, her father and her cousin. She could have been the very thing that brought them both together again. Instead, he made her the focal point of their foolish feud… and ever since he made that choice, he’s run and hidden from life and pulled her along with him. She knows he didn’t mean to do it… but she’s not going to hide any more.
As she empties her flask into the soil at her feet, Siryn admits that she doesn’t know if she can help Tom if he doesn’t want to help himself. But she also can’t fault him for the mistakes he’s made, then turn around and repeat them herself. It stops here and now, for both of them. Then, finally, they both notice the silhouettes in the nearby night: Kelvin Doneghann, Warpath, and a host of officers. Kelvin, trailing cigarette wisps behind him, tells Tom Cassidy that it’s time… and Tom says he knows. As Siryn leans on Warpath for support, Tom asks her to tell Sean he’s sorry. She weakly says she will… uncle.
Placing his hands in the air as the officers circle him, Tom notes it’s been a merry show, boys… but it’s over now… and with one final glance at Siryn, adds: isn’t it? Watching them all march Tom away, Warpath says he’ll meet them back in the Keep, then turns into the nearby woods to meet Cain Marko. He offers him a thanks for his help, and Cain tells him not to mention it, Geronimo. Then, adjusting the brim of his cap, Cain calls back to Geron -- Proudstar, and tell him to listen… what he did today, the way he helped Terry out… doesn’t he know that if she starts helping herself, she might not need him any more?
Yeah, Marko, replies Warpath, he knows that. But, continues Cain, that means he might lose her, yeah? Yeah, confirms Warpath, that’s exactly what it means. Maybe, he says over his shoulder as he walks away, maybe that’s the price of friendship.