X-men Evolution Fan Fiction / X-Men Fan Fiction ❯ End of our Days ❯ One Last Goodbye ( Chapter 2 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]

Chapter 2: One Last Goodbye
The Danger Room's doors were practically blown out when they arrived; mere minutes after Maddison had called them. Just before they entered though, four more people appeared in equal hurry. “Jean, what's going on - we got the Prof's message when we landed to get down here immediately?! Wow, what's with the door?” the purple-haired, Asian-looking woman in a ninja outfit asked the redhead, not noticing the stranger, while Angel eyed Magneto with a confused look. The dark-haired man - probably Thunderbird, paid him as little heed as Psylocke, whilst Nightcrawler's gaze was full of distrust. “Vat's he doing here?” he looked ready to pounce on Erik, had Jean not stopped him mid-step “Not now, Kurt! We got an emergency! And he's come to help.” the German mutant reluctantly backed off.
“Warren, Neal, get everyone who's unconscious or wounded out - Kurt, teleport them to the med bay! Erik!” Magneto's gaze whirled to hers from the floor “Try shielding them from anything that might hurt them meanwhile - most stuff in there has metal in it, so it shouldn't be a problem.” All four men nodded and rushed in, Magneto erecting his power's field around them for defence. “Betsy, Moira should be back by now as well, so can you alert her too. She and Charles will also need help with waking them up and taking care of whatever else might be wrong with them. I'll deal with Kevin and… tell Moira, he'll be alright.”
“On the job already, luv!” the purple-haired Brit affirmed and ran in the right direction, while Jean herself entered the wreck that was the Danger Room.
Heavy pieces of concrete and metal were flying everywhere around her and she was forced to erect a teke shield to protect herself from any falling bits. Seemingly, the simulation had gone awry, enhanced by the young telepath's perception-twisting powers. Glancing at the guys, she gladly saw that they were actually working together quite well. Erik hovered above ground using his magnetic abilities, while maintaining protection fields around the other three, whilst they got everyone incapacitated to med bay. Checking their minds, Jean breathed a sigh of relief - none of them were affected by Kevin in any way. Looked like Betsy's working with Warren and Neal, and her own with Kurt on defending their minds against telepathic intrusion; had paid off. At least, she didn't have to worry about Erik - his shields were securely in place.
Jean concentrated on finding Kevin, but he seemed to be trying to evade her by all means. Finally, she caught on a fleeting presence. `Proteus!' her mental voice lashed out like a whip and the human form covered by protective energy field stepped out from behind a derelict wall, an almost predatory grin on his concealed face. `I knew you'd come. It's always a pleasure to have you as a playmate.' (A/N: Ok, I know he's supposed to be Scottish, but I'm hopeless with accents, so please bear with me.)
`Kevin, stop all this nonsense!' Jean narrowed her gaze at the spectre, gathering her powers for a decisive blast, if it was needed. He simply leered at her `And I'd do that because?'
Jean felt her anger rise, but at least she had his full attention, which meant the guys wouldn't be hindered. Yet, a familiar, inward tug, reaching in the very depths of her being, manifested itself once more, but she suppressed it harshly, focusing on the boy. Unknowingly to her though, amber-coloured flames danced in her eyes, as she shot back equally indignantly `Because there is no reason for what you're doing!'
`Really? I'm a murderer, if you've forgotten - that's what they do! What a better reason than that, eh?' He glared at her fury clouding his own gaze.
That did it. In a flash, Jean stood before him and backhanded him across the face with her teke - no shield could save him from this one. “Enough!” her stern, powerful voice seemingly cut at him, as he stumbled back from the sheer force of her hit. Still, his resolve apparently didn't disappear, but there was slight fear in his eyes. “Proteus, listen to me - stop taking the blame for what you couldn't prevent!” Jean implored him one last time. A small, sad half-smile graced his lips, as he reverted back to his normal form “You should take your own advice.” She glared at him; her eyes were now two smouldering embers “It's not me we're talking about here!”
“Then how do you expect me to do it, when youstill let guilt, you shouldn't feel, burnyou up…” Jean caught her breath - that was way below the belt. “Don't go there!” she snapped at him warningly, a dangerous note creeping in her voice at his choice of words.
“Truth is sometimes ugly, I agree, but sooner or later we have to face ourselves…” Strange - he sounded so much like Erik, Jean realised. Was everyone conspiring on making her finally rise against her inner demons? Or maybe, she had indeed wallowed in self-loathing long enough…
A sudden, loud, ripping sound brought her sharply out of her musings, as several huge pieces of the run-down concrete walls loomed suspended in mid-air by the younger mutant's teke, spikes of twisted metal sticking sinisterly out of their edges. Before Jean could blink, the chunks were hurling at her, full speed.
And like the other few times before, Jean let all restraints drop down. A familiar, pleasant sensation overcame her, as she felt light, painless, free… Once more, there were no walls, no boundaries of any kind, but this time the redheaded telepath was thrown, out of the blue, in an endless universe with billions of lights surrounding her, as if in a welcome gesture. The stars…Herstars were calling to her - a bond, she hadn't known ever existed. Or simply, one she didn't remember. Yet now, now, the whole of this wonder beckoned her full force and she heard theirvoices, those of the first and most beloved of her creations. For, they resembled herself so much - fire, burning, eternal fire; since, even when a star died, another was born…
`Come back, Mother - it has been so long, since you wandered amongst us and danced on our light! Since your own heart blazed as ours do…Let yourself be free…'
Jean gave them a telepathic look of desperation `How can I be who I'm meant to, when I don't know how!' They were laughing softly `Feel the flames engulf you! Let you power be yours again - wield the forces of Creation once more…'
`I want to - I truly do…so much. But I'm afraid - a fear, that's way stronger than me…' she whispered to them mentally. `Don't be scared - there is no point in fearing yourself.' Jean almost jumped at that `You sound just like him.' there was slight anger and accusation in her tone, but their reply bore only sadness `Heis a part of this too, but what exactly, we are forbidden to tell. Yet, worry not, Goddess of the Fire of Life, for, youwill know when the time comes…But now, feel it - give in, feel the Fire consume you and fear it not, for only thus will you recall how to fully reign in your powers again! You know you can control it - you were able to stop easily before and it will not be any different now. Give in, just give in…'
It was so easy…No fear…To give in…Feeling so good…
And then, it finally came, washing over her like a tidal wave - all the pure unbridled power Jean had been suppressing. Her dormant half surfaced fully with the speed of light, as she once more let her abilities burst out, not even needing to concentrate on the danger ahead. One small sensation of it was more than enough…
Her eyes snapped open and she knew they were burning and that her whole body was swallowed by flames, her long blood-red hair - a flying blaze of scarlet and gold. Faintly aware of the stunned looks of the men, Jean's, Phoenix's, main feeling though, was delight, satisfaction, simple feel-good. She felt like…herself, despite the still existing, albeit gradually depleting, rift between her halves. And not to mention her lingering inability to call up the full extent of her powers, as some of them she only knew about from memory, but couldn't summon. Yet.
However, more pressing matters took her out of the best feeling she'd had for quite long, as the chunks of concrete were now too close for comfort - had it been mere seconds?
A simple look towards the looming danger and, to everyone present's amazement; it was dust, before they could draw a breath. “Feel like another round, Proteus?” Jean was slightly surprised by the faint taunting notes in her voice. Strange, her selves seemingly had finally begun to merge to an extent, if she thought of herself as Jean, even with all restraints down. It was definitely more than a welcome development. Still, she couldn't deny she had taken immense delight in the display. It had been oddly akin to…intoxication. And she wanted more.
Luckily, her sparring partner took on her ruse. “On another terrain, though.” was his answer, before his energy field disappeared, leaving his slumped body against the remnants of the wall. Quickly checking the guys' progress, Jean found out relieved, that they had taken everyone to safety, but were reluctant to leave her alone. `Go!' she sent to all of them `I'll manage.' However, what she got from the four was a stubbornly negative answer. She felt herself smile faintly `I understand. Still, at least some of you should help Moira and Betsy with the injured.' They were about to start arguing who was to go, when Magneto beat them to it. `I'll stay - I am as good as useless at medical affairs, anyway.' he projected to the young woman. Jean nodded mentally and after erecting a shield around herself, just in case, she let her own mind race towards the astral plane, where Proteus' had gone.
Magneto made a move to catch her falling form, but Thunderbird held him back “You won't be able to - not with the field protecting her. It'll take care of the landing.” And sure enough, her shield let Jean's body gracefully lean and slightly slump over the boy's, without as much as a scratch. The Master of magnetism turned to the other three “I shall be here when she returns.” Angel nodded “Just take care of her.”, while Neal added with a small smile “And make sure they both turn up for check-up promptly. Jean has a very bad record on this.”
“You can all count on me.” the silver-haired mutant turned to Kurt as well, only to find the German already gone. Oh well, he was going to deal with that one later!
Jean barely had enough time to conjure herself a weapon, when her mind finally hit the astral plane, since Proteus' attack was way quick. However, her mental sword clashed powerfully with his, pushing him violently, but swiftly, back without much effort.
`My powers have grown!' he growled almost menacingly, as he swung at her again. `I expected no less - you have potential, after all.' Phoenix purred teasingly, making him continue, as she dodged his blade with minimal strain.
`You're playing with me!' he hissed, making several more swords materialise behind Jean and surround her, aiming for vital points, but she chuckled, stopping them all in mid-movement and shredding them to sparkles of metal `And you're way too good at being toyed with.'
She could feel his rage coursing through him now full force, both from being unable to get to her and from something else buried deep inside. `You just had to bring that up, didn't you?!' his spectre's eyes practically blazed with fury `Yes, I let him use me, yes, I was a fool! If it weren't for me, they'd still be breathing - you think I don't know that?! Think I've forgotten...' Jean froze - she hadn't meant her words that way. All she'd wanted was to make him go on - fight her, so she could revel in using her power, feed her desire to submerge completely into its sweet grasp. And make him pour all his self-loathing into something else that wouldn't harm any others.
Instead, however, he had practically broken down before her, fallen on his knees and shaking with inward pain - sword, long-forgotten. Sending her own weapon into oblivion, Jean knelt beside him, her arms around his smaller form, as he cried, face buried in her abdomen. `Ssh…' she soothed `You couldn't have known - you were just 14. And close to mind-wiped too. If there's anyone to blame, it should be me…' His muffled voice came shaky `You couldn't have known either. Not you…not you.'
And as their minds left the astral plane, returning to their bodies, opening their eyes, they found themselves in the very same position. Only Proteus had passed out from exhaustion, but still clung almost desperately to Jean. And she had buried her other self again. Still, she had been right - theyhad been merging subconsciously. Control was so much easier now, as was calling up those of her `additional' powers that were `available'. And add to this her older self's thoughts being gradually more oriented at her surroundings and the present, and not so focused on the past anymore. The news was good - she was seemingly getting closer to her ultimate goal.
Almost an hour later, the mansion was mostly back to normal. All participants in the mishap had been taken care of - Proteus sleeping peacefully under the watchful eye of his mother in the infirmary. Psylocke and Xavier had wakened everyone unconscious or otherwise trapped in their mind by the young mutant's telepathic powers. Jean, after undergoing a thorough check-up herself (just like Magneto had promised), had gone to see Maddison. Meanwhile, said metal-wielding mutant, having just finished talking with his long-time friend, was lounging on one of the couches in the Rec Room, eyes shut, almost dosing off.
“I see, you're already feeling at home.” his ice-blue orbs flew open, but he instantly relaxed, when he saw Jean smile, albeit tiredly, at him. “I gather, things are fine now.” he returned, his normally reserved demeanour easily gone when talking to her, he noticed.
“I dropped by Maddie's room to see how she was doing - still in a bit of shock, the poor kid.” she frowned, several lines appearing on her delicate brow “She's sleeping now - at least there's no permanent damage. Goodness, I could use a holiday!” Jean gracefully sank in the couch next to him, but not too close. Apparently, she wanted to respect his personal space and he was silently grateful for that. Not that he would have minded, if it had been otherwise.
“I can see what you mean - those kids run you ragged, by the looks of it. And not only physically,” he rubbed his temples “mentally too.”
There was amusement in her eyes “I see you've already met Casey.”
“More like was besieged by him.” She tried to suppress a full-fledged laughter “I have to agree, he is one of kind.”
“In pestering people - definitely.”
“Come on, he can't have been that bad.”
Magneto's eyes met hers “No, you're right - he was actually quite amusing. But I am not prepared to go through another round with him. Not for that long, at least.”
“So, you are planning on leaving, after all?” if he didn't know better, he'd sworn there was something akin to disappointment in her voice, but he shrugged it off - why would she want him to remain, anyway? Not to mention, why would he himself want to stay? Yet, though the former remained a mystery, the latter's reply hit him harder than a ton of bricks. He wanted to help her - not just with her powers, but also through all else that was bothering her.
Lost in his own thoughts, Magneto hadn't noticed though, that Jean had fallen deep in contemplation too. Or that he had gradually moved towards her, so that now they were almost intimately close. Realising this, he slinked a bit away, in respect of her personal space, but still allowed himself to take her hand in his. And once more, she didn't pull away, instead turning to him “I thought you'd stay at least to hear the rest of the story…”
“For that one, I am definitely here.” he gave her a faint smile, which she returned. “And I can't begin to tell you, how glad I am.” Jean added, seemingly in a mock tone, but with clear sincerity behind it “Still, you didn't answer my question.”
“Caught in the act, I'm afraid. But, how about I propose you a trade: you finish up and then I will give you a reply. Deal?” he offered his hand and she lightly squeezed it “Deal. Now where were we, ah yes - Scott stayed in the town to placate the civilians, while the New Recs and I went to confront Legion. And that's when all Hell broke loose. ”
“What I did not comprehend though, is why did Charles send the young ones - wouldn't any of the others have been better suited to deal with him. After all, the kids barely had any experience in real battles.”
Jean found herself chuckling mirthlessly “Ironically enough, that was one of the reasons they came - to get more of said practice.” Her lips twisted in a curve, way too bitter to be called a smile, as she went on “I can still see them, you know - they were practically jumping with excitement, as we started off…It was Jubilee and Laura's first big mission - especially, since Jubes had just ran away from home to return to us. Jamie had to stay behind, `cause he was down with a virus - he was nearly crying that the others get to go… Only they never came back…alive.
“Lukas, it turned out when we faced him, had done all to get me there. He was sort of obsessed with me from before, and he somehow knew about my grown powers. He wanted a duel, just me and him, on the Astral Plane. Only a battle of the minds. And to make me accept, he took the others hostage - imprisoned their psyches on the Plane. I had no choice but to fight him - I was the only telepath in the group. If I duelled with him, at least I had a pretty good chance to win, which meant they'd be safe. ”
“Yes, it would have been way too hard to try freeing them, not to mention pointless. He just would have snatched someone else in their stead. And if you tried to release them, using the full potential of your powers, without having mastered them, would have had too many risks.” Jean simply nodded, at ease from his good grasping of the situation she had been in. Seemingly noticing this, he added, a sad smile tucking at his lips “I have had my own hard choices, my dear - and no one can blame you for yours. You did what was most prudent in the circumstances. There is nothing to beat yourself about, after all.”
“That's the point - there is.” He eyed her puzzled and Jean went on “I accepted, but when we started I… I let my powers take me over and it was…too good a sensation. I simply wanted to get deeper, feel them engulf me completely; test every limit there may be. And that was my biggest mistake…”
Erik had prompted her to lean on him, her head rested now on his shoulder and his gaze turned sideways to meet hers “Why would there be anything wrong with that? Did it affect the hostages in any way?” Jean sighed “It did, but not in the way I had expected.” Seeing his confusion, she clarified “I was too immersed in trying out my growing abilities, too focused on beating the crap out of Lukas and enjoying every moment. And I failed to notice he had back-up.”
“Another telepath, I presume.” Magneto added; his voice neutral and she confirmed “Kevin MacTaggart - Proteus. The boy we had to placate. Dr Moira MacTaggart, our new medic, is his mother. He was only fourteen at the time. His gift had just manifested itself, spiralling rapidly out of control and he was absolutely lost as to what to do. Moira tried to help him, but he was...a bit unstable and, as it turned out, also hanging out with the wrong crowd.
“Legion found him and, in return for a promise to let him use his powers freely, he secured his assistance in his `enterprise'. Kevin had no idea what it was - Haller had a mental hold on him too, practically brainwashing him into being his puppet, obeying his every whim.
“And when he knew he was losing, Lukas gave Kevin whatever signal they had and I felt the hold on the New Recs' minds tighten. I snapped away from the duel, but I was too late. Legion had been deliberately going down, while in fact transferring all his power to Kevin, through the mental bond he had forged when brainwashing him. All happened in mere seconds from then on - I had been too deep in and before I could get control of myself, they…they were dead…strangled. And with their minds gone, their bodies were as good as useless…” tears ran down the young woman's cheeks now and Magneto gently pulled her closer, letting her burry her face in his chest.
He ran his hand soothingly up and down her back, in an effort to placate her. “It's okay - let it out, you need to…But it's not your fault that the guy was a raving maniac, Jean. Though, I can see now…” he knew that feeling well, alright - the helplessness and guilt of being unable to save a friend, or a loved one. Lifting her gaze to his, eyes shining from the tears, all she could muster was “How?”
Erik sighed “I lost my eldest daughter Anya this way.” He couldn't believe himself - how come, all of a sudden, he felt free to talk about his most painful experience? Was it the fact that she knew what it was like? He could see it in her - all the pain, anger, self-loathing, though the latter was unfounded in her case. Or perhaps, like earlier, he simply found no reason not to be open with her, even about something as unsettling as this.
Maybe in the end it was simply a combination of both? Because, as strange as it was, he had to admit, he was beginning to feel an odd connection to her. Was it compassion? And though it wasn't the moment to contemplate this, he still couldn't help but share his own troubles - at least, it would show her she was not alone in her predicament.
“It was before the birth of the twins - my wife, Anya and I were living peacefully, like any normal family. Some mutant-haters though had found out that I was gifted and their thirst for blood had spread over everyone, whom I loved, as well. There was a fire…” he swiftly held back the tears that threatened to spill at the memory. Noticing that Jean was watching him intently, Magneto went on, his gaze distant “Magda - my wife and Anya were in the house at that time, but I was out with Charles.” He paused, unable to pass the sudden need to take a deep breath “We arrived just as the fire was already raging full force. I tried to break in, but Xavier held me back, saying he got no signs of life from inside. I was enraged, so angry that I could barely control myself anymore and…I released my powers almost without any control at the people gathered and especially at those, who had caused everything. The cowards hidden among the crowd.”
He felt Jean lightly touch his arm “I know what it's like…” she trailed off, then added “I did it too. After Lukas murdered the New Mutants, I…was absolutely beside myself and I let all my powers loose on him - the first time I had done this. I managed to break his hold of Proteus really easy and then simply relished in torturing Legion. He died at my hands, time and time again, in the worst ways conceivable, until I finished him with one final blow. Thank God, I at least was focused on him, or Kevin would've been dead too! I was so angry - at Legion, at myself, yet still loved the revenge; it felt so satisfying, as if I couldn't live without it. I thought I'd go insane, simply because I liked the experience so much…” she turned away, but then faced him again “But I regret nothing I did to him - he damn right deserved it!” The sheer venom in her voice startled Erik, but only for a split second. He couldn't blame her - he had felt exactly the same way. And she needed to know that it was perfectly ordinary in any case - they were normal people with feelings, after all.
“That is precisely what I underwent back then too, but the bastards earned it alright. Though, as it turned out, they hadn't succeeded. Not completely, at least.” The old pain seized his insides, as he relayed the rest to his young companion “I finally got inside and tried to get my family out. A huge flame erupted in our path and I shielded them with my magnetic field. Magda was fine, but Anya…didn't make it. The protection hadn't been strong enough on her side of the shield.
“Later on, anything else I would fail in never hurt like it did then. Nor did any of my successes feel as good as they should have. That first failure - my biggest one, was forever with me and though I've learned to live with it, for a very long time I could not forgive myself.” Magneto met her brilliant gaze and could see the raw compassion and what seemed like gratitude for simply being there, reflected in her pools of emerald. He lifted her chin to face him, as he added “I didn't try hard enough…However; you did all you could, even though it might seem not enough to you, then or now. It was not you who put a start to the situation - you simply tried to end it, in the best way possible. So, let go of the guilt…It is not yours to bear in the first place.”
Jean smiled crookedly at him “You should too, you know - all you said about me, goes for you as well. You did your best and it was those activists' fault not yours.” He looked at her, as if he'd never seen her before - and realised she may be right. Maybe, it was time he let go too. But he was going to make sure she didn't dwell on her own experience, either “How about we make another deal?” she fixed him with her gaze, indicating her interest. “I will try to finally forgive me completely, if you promise to make an effort to do the same for yourself.”
Jean considered it silently. She wanted, oh, God only knew how badly she wanted to try, but she wasn't sure she was going to succeed. Not with the only person, who truly understood her turmoil, leaving at such short notice. “How are we going to police our deal, though? How is each to know, that the other is making the effort?” He, however, did the last she would have expected - smiled at her, his normally icy-blue eyes lighting up, like probably they hadn't for ages. “Ah, my dear, here, I believe, comes in our first agreement. I promised an answer when you told me the story and I do intend to keep my word.” Jean drew a breath, feeling unable to hide her nervousness, but in fact doing it perfectly.
“Seeing as to how you could use extra help around here and considering the danger we all may be facing in the near future, I discussed the issue with Charles earlier on and-”
`Oh, cut all the sophisticated crap already!' The young telepath's mental voice cut him off mid-sentence and Magneto could barely hold back a laugh “Ok, then, to put it short - I am staying.” No sooner had he uttered that single phrase, that she did something totally unexpected.
He felt her slender arms go round his neck for a lightning-quick hug - it took him wholly by surprise, but by no means an unpleasant one. Truth be told, he actually quite liked her touch, the sensation of her silky skin on his, the feel of her pressed so close to him…No, he reproached himself, he had better not even start going there!
Nevertheless, he let his own arms encircle her small waist, a bit unsurely at first, but then slightly tighter. “It is for an indeterminate duration, but I still have to travel back for a couple of days, to get some things.” his lips formed a small smirk “I gather, you are fine with the arrangement.” Jean lifted her eyes to meet his “Very observant of you, smartass.”
“Now, now, there is no need to be sarcastic, young lady!” he mock-reproached her and she put in “I don't think any of the rest would object either, for that matter. Though there might be a problem with Kurt. And Logan…”
“Just `might'? Very probably, in fact. Especially young Mr Wagner. He did not seem particularly comfortable with my presence, earlier on. Not that I can blame him.” Jean, however, didn't appear bothered in any way by the facts implied behind this latter - apparently, she already knew. Instead, she replied “I'll talk to Kurt - he'll be fine in the end and besides, he'll be busy like hell, with the wedding plans and all.” Seemingly catching on his unasked question, the redhead added “Yes, he finally mustered the courage to propose. So, don't worry about him - he'll come round. And so will Logan - or I'll make them." She fixed him with a serious look "You're staying and that's it. Besides…it's always good, to have a real kindred soul around.”
He was taken a bit aback “Don't your friends…?” she shook a negative, but then explained “Don't get me wrong - they do understand the situation and, like you, don't blame me for what happened. Yet, they have never experienced anything similar - never felt inside the way I did, when I fought Legion. Or any of the others…”
“Others?” Magneto couldn't hide his confusion.
“Lukas wasn't the only one I vanquished in such a way - there were a couple of other mutants too. Ones, that had either threatened innocents, or were already responsible for the deaths of such. I thrust, you've heard of the Black Queen and the Shadow King?”
“The Hellfire Club and the Shadow King's crime ring were quite prominent. And the scandals, surrounding the downfall of each, were equally high-profile. But the authorities covered up almost everything about both. In the end, only a handful knew that Hellfire's most influential member, or any them in fact and the notorious Egyptian crime lord, were mutants.”
“Do you recall how exactly they were exposed?” Jean questioned and Erik nodded “Both were connected with quite a few mysterious disappearances. It turned out, Selene Gallio was a sort-of vampire, feeding on other people's life energy and Farouk had been lacking a body for quite a while. They had been kidnapping all the missing people to…fulfil their needs. A shame though, that Frost managed to escape any implication with Hellfire. After all, she played more than a major part in the ordeal.” He frowned in distaste - just thinking about the woman made him sick. He hadn't met her personally, but his awareness of what she had done and the inferences about her character, which he got from that, were more than enough to fuel an immense dislike for her. And as a judge of an individual's personality, he was very rarely wrong.
Jean seemingly shared his views “Too bad indeed, but as it turned out she had quite the links in all the right places, so she got off the hook. At least, I got the satisfaction that we were the ones to terminate both her group and Farouk's.” That certainly was news to the silver-haired mutant - there had been no mention whatsoever of the X-Men in anything to do with the fall of either organisation.
Seemingly seeing his confusion the young telepath elaborated “It was a deal with the government at that time. There were calls for reviving the Sentinels, so Mystique, who was already working for the suits, ensured the words won't materialise by promising our assistance, covertly of course. After all, they couldn't use S.H.I.E.L.D. or anything similar, since it would implicate them and that was the last thing the authorities wanted on their hands.
“The guys provided all the necessary cover and back-up, while `Ro, Betsy and I managed to infiltrate both rings quite easily, in fact. Hellfire's leader, Sebastian Shaw, was a womaniser, if I ever so one and `Ro had worked for Farouk sometime ago, so she still had some connections in there. In the end, it was battles in both cases, which, for one reason or another, eventually were largely up to me…”
“I see…” Erik murmured, his insides filling with sympathy at her unspoken confession. However, she looked away like before, expecting a bad reaction. Yet, he would never give her one, not when he knew what it was like. “It was the only way, Jean. Either you, or them - a matter of survival. And with more than one life at stake.”
“But that's the thing - it was so, yet I went too far, I enjoyed torturing them, watching them suffer at my hands. I took pleasure in making them pay, in demonstrating my power, in having them at my mercy…” He stroked her hair gently, whispering to her “And there is absolutely nothing wrong with this, my dear - they brought it upon themselves. Besides, nobody is perfect - all these sentiments, the vengeance, the thirst for domination, the desire to control are part of whom we are. They may not be particularly nice feelings, but they are something we cannot get rid of. Because it is these imperfections, that make us living, breathing, real people…And you shouldn't be ashamed of them.”
“I'm not and it's this lack of any regret whatsoever that sometimes frightens me.”
“Every person has a dark side, which they discover sooner or later. But instead of fighting it, we have to learn to accept and live with it. You may not like yours, yet you control it and by the looks of it, you are trying to make it an integral part of you. And no one can ever ask from you any more than that!”
“Have you accepted yours?” the question took him by surprise, but he resolved on giving her the truth “It was hard in the beginning, yet yes I have, eventually, prompted by experiences akin to yours. And I have no regrets either.”
Jean started to stand, but her companion gently caught her elbow and she smiled nervously “Of course, how could I forget!” She leaned closer to him, her hot breath caressing his face “I cannot thank you enough…” that wasn't why he had stopped her, but he decided to let her think it was, since he himself wasn't quite sure about the real reason. “It was a pleasure, my dear. Truce?” he asked, subconsciously referring to their standing with each other.
“Definitely.” And with that, she flew away, leaving him hoping that this was a beginning of sorts. Not just to an acquaintance, but perhaps to friendship, one day. `Kindred souls' she had called them and, as it turned out, to the Master of magnetism's more than pleasant surprise, they indeed were - even though, mostly in their share of soul-shattering experiences…
Meanwhile, in Caldecott Missipi, a middle-aged woman sat patiently in front of her fireplace, gazing into the flames. She didn't see them per se, but her inner senses made them out for her anyway. After all, blind people with years of experience didn't need sight in the end.
The fire blazed and crackled, flames eating away the wood, swallowing it in mere minutes. Such power… But then again, she shouldn't have been surprised - the most potent force of nature was expectedly so. Just like its embodiment…
The blind one sighed - her recent visions spoke of a variation, an unexpected alteration in the frame of the future she had already seen. A choice, which would change every possible outcome of the events to come. Something, she had not observed before, maybe because it had been too remote a possibility to ever happen.
Choices…The future she had already mapped out, she knew could be varied so widely by such simple things as a person's decisions to do one thing or other. One such unforeseen interference was all it had taken now to leave everything in shambles, making a new vision plague her. A figure shrouded in shadows, a man, whose face she was not allowed to see, two silhouettes merging into one. And power, endless, raw, untamed power, pulsing through the Omniverse and sweeping all in its way…
She looked at the small table on her right, where a pile of what looked like books sat. Some were older - their leather binding a bit worn at the edges. Their observer ran her long fingers over their surfaces, caressing them almost lovingly. Her life's work - it had taken her so many years and painful visions…Shame, that now it was redundant! And made such by the simple choice of a figure, unexpected as part of this whole ordeal. At least, not the part he would be playing now, with the drastic changes he had brought. Once more leaving the exact end unclear - that was possibly the most uncomfortable situation that could happen. Now, it all depended on them- the three main players in the sequence of events to come. And she hoped it wouldn't finish with everyone's undoing. Why did it have to be so hopelessly complicated?!
She ran her hand over the books once more, smiling tenderly at the thirteen pieces, embodying the use of her powers. She would miss them - in way. After all, she had put a lot of effort in these. Still, the future was never set in stone and she had no right to keep it frozen, even by the simple act of relishing in her work. She knew she had to let go…
And almost in flash, the flames in the fireplace roared even more powerful than before, as they hungrily swallowed thirteen books, leaving only cinder in seconds. Destiny cast one last look at them, until they were no more, whispering her final farewell. For it was time to turn to the new future - dwelling on what could have been wasn't going to be good for anyone. Or particularly helpful. And they would need all the help they could get…
That night, when going to sleep, she felt the usual familiar telepathic presence, tugging lightly at her mind, beckoning it to fall once more into the dreamscape she had been visiting, every night after drifting off, for quite a while now…
She didn't even bother to look at her reflection in the surface of the small, crystal-clear pond; she sat by like always - their meeting spot. She simply didn't need to see what she already knew was there. For, looking back at her would be a very different woman - ageless, yet eternally youthful face; eyes that seemed to have gathered all the time, which had passed in the universe; soul that travelled forever amongst the stars. So unearthly…that she felt like another person entirely.
Yet, she knew it was still herself - the part of her, which had lain dormant, until a bit more than five years ago. The half, that had gradually started surfacing, day after day and with each trial or battle, with every use of her growing powers, she became hermore and more. But somehow, the two still felt like distinct personalities within one body - one living by daylight and the other reigning in the dreamscape, when not fighting, yet she knew they were one…
Sensing the same presence again, this time stronger, the woman by the pond allowed a small smile to grace her lips. She absently traced her fingers over the water surface and, without turning, addressed her companion “You're late.”
A large masculine hand came to rest gently on her shoulder, the thumb caressing lightly the curve of her neck and she almost instinctively leaned into the touch, the palm moving upwards to cup her cheek. She felt him lower himself on the rock she sat on, his hand slowly tracing the path from her face down her shoulder and side. Finally, two strong arms wrapped themselves around her small waist and gently pulled her slim form into a broad, hard chest, the small of her back resting against a well-muscled abdomen.
For some reason I was afraid to come tonight.” he murmured, burying his face in her hair, as she relaxed in his embrace, feeling his muscles ripple under his skin, when it made contact with hers, even through what they wore. “I had this strange sensation I can't explain - like a foresight, that my appearance would bring an end. I know not to what, but it was no good feeling. Yet, I still could not resist seeing you again.” She could sense his smile and despite herself, let her lips form one too.
But it was probably only something trivial - what matters, is that youcame.” he whispered, massaging her upper arms soothingly. She knew he'd shrug it off - he was way too preoccupied with relishing in her mere presence, to take his mind's warning signs seriously. Phoenix sighed - she had always had that effect on him. `Always'? Wait a minute, now where did thiscome from?!
Pushing the uncomfortable recollection to the back of her mind, she let soft laughter escape her lips instead. “If it weren't you talking but me, I would've said that my other half - my conscious self, was rubbing off on me. Such emotional talk.” she retorted half-humorously, turning to face him and finding her emerald gaze caught into his captivating crimson one. But the joke in her eyes died out, when she noticed the seriousness in his.
What wrong is there with having emotions - you yourself had always had them, even back then…” he sounded hurt and deep in his pools of scarlet she saw that, strangely enough, he indeed was, though he tried hard to mask it.
I don't remember anything to do with feelings. Yet.” she refused to meet his imploring gaze “But given you've always been the one to condemn emotions as weakness, why the sudden change? I thought they were a disease, from which you didn't suffer.”
It's not sudden. But longer than anyone would ever know…” he whispered as much to her as to himself, she noted, wondering what exactly he had meant, when he went on, the hurt intensifying in his voice “So, you still don't remember what we had…”
His companion laughed quietly again, looking away towards the full moon lighting their silhouettes “`We'? There never was a `we' in the first place!” She tried to slink away from him, but his hand gently caught her wrist, prompting her to stay and face him as he stood up too. Phoenix tried to wriggle herself out of his hold, but to her own surprise, only half-heartedly. One of his arms took her waist again, while his other hand cupped her chin, turning her to look him in the eyes “So, you dorecall something!”
I told you, I don't! Can't you get a hint - why do you always have to make this hard for me?!” `Always'? Not again! Phoenix cursed under her breath. Damn her hazy mind, for shooting at her all those recollections from who knew where! Unfortunately for her though, he had caught on the very same word.
You can't hide it, you know…” his face was so close to hers, maybe a bit too close for comfort, she thought uneasily.
I have nothing to hide!” she snapped at him, the sheer force in her voice causing him to back off, but only by a fraction. The distance between their lips, she realised, was still alarmingly small. “We must stop this…”
His fingers played with a stray lock of her long, scarlet hair, as he breathed in her ear, massaging the small of her back with his other hand “Stop what?” Confusion could easily be discerned in his tone and gaze. Yet, an inexplicable sensation of dread was quickly settling in his gut and he couldn't help but think of the worst.
This.” she gestured at the utopia around them and then lightly tapped that of his hands, which was caressing her face. “And this.” she indicated leaning into his touch. He felt his insides turn to ice and all of a sudden it was too hard to breathe.
We can't go on meeting like this - soon we'll be on opposing sides again and it will be best for everyone, if the lines stayed clear.” He noticed her eyes harden at that last and all he could mutter was “Why...”
She couldn't face him - not any longer, for she feared that shewasn't going to be able to sever their sort-of `bond'. Turning abruptly her back to him, she tried her hardest “Because we both knew when we began this, that it was only temporary. You offered me knowledge which I needed and now that I have it, there is no reason to go on with something doomed from the start. Each had the opportunity to get to comprehend the other, so we could reach some kind of…understanding. Nothing more, for there simply can't be more…” She started to leave again, but his arms held her firmly where she was, spinning her gently to face him.
It doesn't have to be this way!” the desperation in his voice and eyes took her by utter surprise “The universe, destiny, power and everything else can go to Hell, for all I care! Just stay! Even if only in our minds' dreams, but stay - stay with me…” She shook her head sadly, feeling her own insides tearing apart with longing to take his offer, but the result... Maybe it was a bit too high a price to pay. “No…We have to do this, or I'll never remember completely I'll never be whole. I won't be able to live like this - divided, yet knowing these two halves are supposed to be one. I want be the real me, the completeme…Please…” she caught his equally aggrieved gaze with hers “Don't deny me this - let me go…”
He closed his eyes, battling the raw pain and despair he hadn't felt for eons, now tearing his whole being to pieces again. Just as mercilessly as before and as a horribly sickening sense of déjà vu settled in, a memory flashed in his mind. The same scene, only slightly different words: `I won't be able to live like this - tied down to one place, yet knowing that the whole of my creation is out there, waiting for me. I want to know it, the whole of it…Please…Don't deny me this - let me go…'
He hardly resisted the urge to growl in pain and frustration. “Why does it have to repeat itself?!” he almost shouted, startling his companion a bit and she gave him a confused look as to what he meant. He suddenly realised he had lost control and enveloped her into a fierce embrace, murmuring words of comfort to her, though he knew she wasn't frightened at all. He could never blame her. After all, she simply didn't remember. And all he wanted, was for them stay this way for eternity - just like he had wished so long ago…But, when had the universe ever gone his way?
He barely fought back two offending tears, yet he didn't care anymore. Nothing mattered - not when she was leaving him. Again.
I can't let you go. What binds me to you - it's stronger than me, I…I need you…” However, this heartfelt admission caused the exact opposite effect. Her eyes blazed with fury, flames dancing wildly in them as she spat “How can you even thinkthat you can cage me, rule my life, take away my choices! Who in the Universe do you think you are?!”
The man, who loves you more than words can say…” he had been unable to stop the confession from spilling out of his lips, not to mention his heart and soul - the secret he had guarded for millennia. He hoped beyond hope, that his whisper had passed unheard by her. Yet, he seemingly didn't have such luck, as having already turned to leave; she had stopped dead in her tracks when he had let it out.
Before he could blink she was so close to him that he barely restrained himself from taking her in his arms and never letting go. But the feelings reflected in her gaze, as choked out “Did…did you say something?” took his breath away. Comprehension, longing and a wild hope mirroring his own…
Yet, he knew he had to be deluding himself - she had shown him, now twice, that hishopes were empty, impossible, insane. And with the one word he breathed next he sealed both their fates “No.”
With the speed of light, the emotions he thought he had seen in her gaze were gone, as if they had never been there before - which it probably was. Never in her eyes - only in his mind… But after all, that was where they were - in their connected psyches, so it was normal to imagine the non-existent…
Her look hardened instantly as she glanced away. So, she hadimagined it. Then again, they were in their joined dreams, thus what more natural than to make-believe…
I see…” she trailed off, knowing this was it - no way back now. He looked at her, his eyes sombre and somewhat misty “So, it is war then…” She nodded affirmatively “It is - you know it can't be otherwise.” And indeed, the next time, they would meet in the midst of a blazing battle.
But as his arms wrapped around her delicate form, crushing her to his tall muscled body, each devouring the other's very soul with their lips, like their lives depended on it, the future didn't matter. And a thought rushed through both their minds - the impression, that their folly hopes had, in the end, somehow materialised. Even if it were only for the briefest of moments, and not even in the real world…
And engulfed in their dreams, two very different people shed a couple of tears - their last goodbye to each other and to something, which both, maybe wrongly, considered a hopeless endeavour. But perhaps, it was simply the case, that neither had even considered that it just might have a future…