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  Surprise point of view. A few X-Files regulars have cameos, but you don't need any knowledge of the series. (For those who do have it, yes, I've assumed Scully and Mulder finally married at some point; remember this occurs several years after events of the current season). The native view of reality expressed here would fit most tribes, including the Cheyenne. Thanks to Naomi for the Jewish legend of seven possible mates for the soul. Kitty, of course, is Jewish. Finally, I know this isn't how Rogue got her super-strength in the comics, but this isn't the comics, and I never did like the whole super-strong/invulnerable/flying aspect because it made her a mega-mutant, and as I indicated with the professor, what fun is a character with no vulnerabilities? John Proudstar did die very soon after joining the X-Men in the comics; he probably has the record for Shortest X-Men Career Ever.

The PhoenixI see the world now with a sight no longer mortal, and I wonder if this is how Scott felt, when he first opened his eyes again after his mutation had manifested, to find that nothing looked the same. And not just from seeing through the red of ruby quartz, but truly different. Shifted. Altered in a fundamental way.

I don't see as a mortal does because I shed that mortal coil. I'm more than a ghost, less than a woman. Or maybe I'm just something else entirely and I shouldn't try to apply terms that are imprecise. It's unscientific.

That thought amuses me. You can take the woman out of the lab, but not the scientist out of the woman.

So what am I? Ironically, I'm not sure that science offers the best answer. Science is a tool, a key to understanding the universe, but different keys unlock different doors and science won't open this one.

I am a spirit, discarnate, without form or substance unless I choose to give it to myself. I am a power being who was once a woman. It isn't something my own religious upbringing prepared me to understand well, and I have found myself turning to half-remembered conversations I've had with others down the years.

Dani Elk River once told me about the spirit world of the Cheyenne. They see reality as multivalent, full of degrees of power -- a power which is amoral in nature. We all have it; what matters is how we use it. Like mutations. Power permeates all Creation, and human beings -­ mutant or otherwise -­ constitute but a small fraction of the complete web -­ one strand, not its center. I'd thought that a healthy view. We live in a multiverse, not a universe. Physics would agree with her, at least in essence.

But in that interrelated reality, there is room for all manner of beings: both of flesh-and-blood in the middle world, and of spirit in the sky world -­ power beings, spirit guides, and our ancestors. The Sacred Tree digs roots into the Earth our mother and branches up into the sky world, uniting everything. The scientist in me had wanted to smile with patronizing patience at her mystic imagery, but the part of me that glimpsed the dim -­ that part had understood. And now, I find her mystic imagery offers me a better language than science by which to talk about what I've become.

I am no longer Jean Grey. Death transformed me. I've evolved again, maybe: a mutant's mutant. Now, I am phoenix.

'They are the eggmen / I am the walrus / Goo goo g'joob ­- '

I must keep a sense of humor about this, you see, or I might start to think I'm a goddess, and we can't have that. I can kill with a mere thought, and that frightens me. But I can save a life, too, as I saved Scott and Warren.

Poor Scott. I want to hold and comfort him, give him strength now that he must carry forward Charles' dream. God knows, he's holding himself together by will alone right now, but I have no arms to hold him any more, so I must maintain my distance. It would be very easy for him to fixate on me, even in this spirit form, because he's like that, and his soul is so wounded. But he is mortal still, and I am not. The time we had together as a couple is past and he must move on. So I will keep my distance, though it breaks my heart. I gave him what I could, and I have saved for him what by all rights should have been reduced to ash in that last great conflagration that he set off.

"Mr. Summers? I found this. Look. It is not even singed."

I watch Piotr hold out our quilt to Scott, and stunned, Scott pauses in the frantic pace he's set to pull out of the mansion's remains before more troops arrive. With shaking hands, he takes the quilt, then presses his face into it, to hide his tears. He'd thought it gone. He'd told the other children weeks ago to put their mementos and valuables ­- things that couldn't be replaced- ­ downstairs in the lab, or in boxes to be taken to special storage off the grounds. Most of them had done as he'd said, and so they could forgive him -­ a least a little -­ for blowing up their home to save their lives. He'd set aside some things of ours, too: that little pillbox of my hair, our photo albums, some of my jewelry that he wasn't ready to part with (the rest he'd given away to the girls), and my wedding dress. But he's been sleeping with the quilt every night.

"A part of the helicopter landed on your bed," Piotr tells him. "I found the quilt when I was moving wreckage. It was safe underneath."

I'd made sure of that. Just as I am making sure that reinforcements will not arrive until Scott and the rest are gone. Only three cars do I let through, and I bless Charles for the foresight of contacting Mr. Skinner. They will need his help.

Maybe I could have prevented the black ops from arriving at the mansion in the first place, maybe I could have prevented all those deaths. But I hadn't realized, hadn't grasped yet what I could do until I conjured a wind to hasten Warren's arrival and then merged with the fire -­ all to save my idiot of a husband, who would have blown himself sky-high to protect the rest.

I never could abide martyrs, not when there are other possibilities. And I'm not going to let Scott take the easy way out; I won't let him die to avoid going through the pain of healing. They need him too much.

I guess that makes me his guardian angel. Or his guardian something, anyway.

I will have to explore the limits of what I can do. And I will also have to explore the limits of what I should do. I begin to understand Charles' quandary over the extent of his telepathic abilities. To have this kind of power . . . . Do I have the wisdom to use it?

Once asked who in all of Greece was the wisest, the Oracle of Delphi had replied, "Socrates." And when Socrates was later queried about that response, he'd said it was because he knew how much he didn't know. Charles told me that story. He lived by it. So must I, now. I am not a goddess. I may see with a wider perspective -­ know and understand things that, whhen I was human, I didn't. But I still don't see everything. I'm not omniscient. Frank probably sees more than I do. And he kept so much to himself. He's known for weeks that Charles wouldn't survive this. I think Charles knew it, too. I saw it in his mind, when he made the choice to remain in the hallway, when he cut his mental ties to all of them.

He isn't here with me. I don't know if he could have stayed after death like I did, but I felt his spirit pass over. My children are all grown up, he told me, they do not need me anymore. My son will protect them now, and he bade me farewell. I think he'd hoped that I'd accompany him. But I can't. I can't let go. I can't leave Scott. Perhaps I will be able to at some future point. But not yet.

So I 'sit' (or whatever it is I do now) in the lab and watch while Hank speeds through splinting Warren's broken and torn wings, and students rush around, packing bags and gathering their valuables under Ororo's direction. And when none of them are looking, a few bags pack themselves. And when Hank isn't looking, I move what he needs a little closer so he doesn't have to hunt for it. They're all too busy to notice, assume someone else did it. Someone else did. Me.

Nothing of value can be left. All our records were already duplicated and transferred to Boston, and Kitty is wiping from the computers anything that remains here. St. John burns all hardcopies. Frank tears apart Cerebro. Some of it can be packed, the memory cells, for instance, but most can't be. Logan will have to shred it into scrap metal. Other children do what they can. Some, like Piotr, hunt through the wreckage to see if anything is left worth salvaging. There's not much. The mansion was old and full of wood and other combustibles. Even the glass has been turned to slag. They move on autopilot, weeping silently at the scope of the changes made in their lives in less than an hour. Yet most of them have been through such devastation at least once before, when their powers manifested. They survived then. They'll survive again now.

The hardest part, Scott and Logan reserve for themselves: the gathering of the dead. They have taken them above ground. Bodies can't be left either, nothing to offer a DNA sample -­ even the dried blood must be washedd or burned away. The bodies will have to be incinerated. Too bad that Neal is among them; he could do it far better and more rapidly than St. John, who is already so tired that he can barely stand, deeply in shock over the loss of Jubilee, and worried sick about Rogue ­ who is being looked after by Bobby and Dani in order to free up Logan. But Marie will recover. She's a strong girl, and has John Proudstar inside her to help drive away the remnants of the alien hybrids. But that is their battle. I cannot help. He gave himself to her willingly, and she saved him from a slow death of bleeding agony. John will always be a part of her now, both his memories and his mutant strength. She came to just long enough to beg Scott to cut a lock of his hair; she will braid and tie it to his red-tailed hawk feathers, and wear them for him.

I leave those below to rise up through the layers of earth as easily as Kitty could, joining Scott and Logan even as FBI Assistant Director Walter Skinner arrives. He is bringing a handful of his agents, those who work on the X-Files. X-Men, X-Files . . . Charles was always amused by that. "I am," he used to say, "the true X-File." His little pun, though of course he wasn't. Mutants aren't unexplained phenomena, though I'm sure a few of us were investigated as that before our existence and the X-gene were widely known.

X-Files, meet the X-MenThe cars approach slowly up the lane, lights on bright, picking out the skeleton of the mansion and the burnt destruction all around. I feel the shock in their minds, the doubt that anyone could be left alive. Scott and Logan hid at the first sound of cars. Now, the agents get out of their government rentals to investigate, and Logan prepares to attack them but Scott calls him back. "That's Charles' FBI contact," Scott tells him, rising up from where he'd been crouching behind a brick mansion wall, Charles' body still in his grip. "Welcome to what's left of Westchester, Mr. Skinner. Welcome to hell." Yet he sounds more tired than bitter. Weapons are holstered, claws retracted, and Scott stands with Charles' body as Skinner approaches. Another bald-headed man, though Skinner is not yet old. His shoulders are powerful with the strength of one who has led an active life. Charles told me once that he served as a Marine in Vietnam, and he knew Scott's father, if not well. It's a small world.

He closes his eyes when he reaches Scott and lays a hand on Scott's shoulder, says, "I'm sorry, Cyclops. I know the two of you were very close."

"I'm not Cyclops any longer. The professor gave me that name, and the professor is dead."

"So what name are you using now?"

"Scott Summers. The one I was born with."

How ironic. He has discarded his code name even as I, finally, have found one.

Skinner smiles faintly, and introduces his agents -­ a pale-eyed man named John Doggett, who is the essence of a police detective, and two women, pretty Monica Reyes, who is a beta mutant herself, though she doesn't realize it, and a serious red-haired doctor of roughly my own age named Dana Scully. Scott suppresses his double take. I would laugh if I had breath for such things. Scott, love, you are so predictable. But he's noted her wedding ring, and his own is still on his hand. He wouldn't be ready yet, even if she were available. Yet two weeks ago, he wouldn't have responded with a second glance, and he wouldn't have looked for a ring.

He'll heal. I could be jealous of that, but it would be so very petty.

Logan has gone below to finish bringing up the other bodies. Unexpectedly, Dana Scully helps. When he asks her about that, she explains that she's a medical examiner. "Dead bodies are my business." I think he's amused. She glares at him, unmoved by the memory of nine-inch knives in his hands. I suspect she's seen worse, and I think I'd have liked her, had we met in life. She, too, has a temper concealed under ice because men don't want to take 'emotional' women seriously. When you work in a man's field, you must learn to act more like a man than the men do.

Their business below complete, the rest are emerging now, too. Skinner takes charge of the evacuation and Scott lets him. He's so tired that he staggers a little under the limp weight of Charles' body. But he's not ready yet to release it, to lay it beside the others. He clings. That is why I must keep my distance. He is weeping again, but the visor hides it. He stares down at the bodies: Neal, Fred, John Proudstar, Pietro, and our once-sassy Jubilee. Plus Charles. Six gone forever. Seven, I suppose, if they count me, but I'm not gone. I pass behind Scott and give him a little of my strength. He is sensitized to me, and I think he's aware of my presence on some subliminal level, but it's not conscious. That, I can allow.

Doggett, ScullyMost of the cargo is loaded into the Blackbird, and the children ­- who are still anonymous to the consortium -­ are split up between the cars of Skinner's agents. They will take them by different routes to Boston. Scott is not happy about this, but the Blackbird can't carry them all. Those who -­ like Kurt and Hank ­- are obvious mutants will go with him. Logan and Ororo, too. I watch Ro cling to Frank for a moment and feel a passing pang of jealousy, but more relief that she did not lose him, too. He will drive one of the few cars that escaped destruction -­ the Mercedes. I always liked that car. It has a few scratches, but looks remarkably good. He will take Rogue, with Bobby, Kitty, and St. John to assist. And Dani, too, because Dani was John Proudstar's friend. Rogue should not be around anyone just now who isn't familiar with her unique power.

Everything is prepared and it is time for last things. Scott lays Charles' body amid those of his students. Five facing east, one facing west at Dani's instruction. The other students won't leave till they've seen their classmates ­- and the professor ­- consigned to the elements. Dani mutters that John should have been buried high, but she knows that's not possible. Overhead, a hawk screams in the dark and everyone looks up in surprise. "His brother has come to take him home," Dani explains. Maybe she's right. The hawk's mind is wild, but full of power. A multivalent universe. The sacred all around us, if we could only see. Covered carefully and borne in Bobby Drake's arms, Rogue twitches at the hawk's cry. John has heard. Dani slips John's four hawk feathers into Rogue's fingers, and sings in Cheyenne. An honor song, a death song.

The four non-mutants watch all this curiously as St. John steps forward with his lighter. He looks to Scott, for permission, for forgiveness. Scott nods and John lights one corner of the blanket covering the bodies, and then passes his hand rapidly above them all like a benediction. The fire follows his will in a flashover. This way, no one must watch it creep, consuming them one at a time. The children hang on to each other as they cry, and a few gag at the sweet stink of burning flesh. Mr. Skinner and the other agents try to herd them away. It is not an easy scene for children, but they do not wish to go.

St. John is flagging; he cannot summon the strength to make it burn as hot as it must, hot enough to reduce bones as well as flesh to utter dust. I speak into his mind. Let me help you, John. You are too tired; I will give you strength. Don't fight me.

He's so startled, he loses momentary control of the fire and it wavers. Scott shoots him a look. Who are you?, St. John thinks hard.

I am the woman in the fire.

Dr. Grey?

Not Dr. Grey any longer, John. Dr. Grey died. Now, I am simply Phoenix. Let me help you. Have the rest of them move well back. But John, don't tell Scott about this.

I think he understands why. He's a smart boy, and he does as I say, orders the rest of them back. When they are all far enough away, I tell him to raise his arms ­- we must make this look good -­ and then I pour my power through him, twine it into his until it surges out in a great white burst. If he weren't so powerful already, this would fry his mental synapses.

The fire rises up and yellow-gold tongues lick the air like fluttering feathers. They go white-hot as we approach the necessary temperature. It is my power, but John's experience and training that contains it, keeps the fire in an unnatural circle until there is nothing left. It's over in the space of a minute, a final burst of glory.

They deserved more than this bedraggled memorial in the dark hours before dawn approaches. But it is the best that we can do. And funerals are for the living, not the dead. I should know. "Ashes to ashes, and dust to dust," Hank intones quietly as the fires whoosh out. "From earth we were created, and to the earth, we shall return."

"Amen," Agent Scully says, and both she and Kurt cross themselves, then glance at each other, a bit startled. Kurt smiles and automatically, Scully smiles back. There may be hope for us all yet.

Storm brings down the rain, washing away ash and blood, soot and tears.

It is at that moment that Piotr Rasputin returns from his final walk-through of the mansion. He is carrying something, a large square of oak wood. When he reaches the small gathering, he turns it so they can see, though darkness and rain makes that difficult. One of the FBI agents shines a flashlight on it, and a spear of Storm's lightning streaks the sky overhead.

It is from the main staircase banister: Piotr's design, carved by Scott's eyes. Fire has blackened it badly, though it remains mostly intact. A dragon coiling around an X and the words beneath: Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters.

Reaching out, Scott drags fingertips over it. "How on earth did this survive?" I know that he is thinking of our quilt.

But I had nothing to do with this. Some things are simply an act of fate.

Ororo with brown hairFive months have passed since the mansion was destroyed in the early morning hours of a mid-May night. The media spin was predictable: Xavier's academy was named the base of secret operations for the mythic 'Mutant Rights Organization' which had been accused of destroying the bunker in Maryland. The newsreels make much of previous mass suicide examples, such as Jim Jones or the Branch-Dravidians. The stain of fanaticism by association is intentional. The public was told there had been no survivors, yet Scott, Ororo and Logan's names have all been placed on lists of FBI's Most Wanted -­ just in case. They remain on the run, with fake identities secured for them by Mr. Skinner, and subtle changes in appearance. Scott let his hair go shaggy and grew back his beard; he has new glasses, too, more round, which Hank managed to coat with iridescent blue mirror, concealing the red quartz. Ro dyed her glorious hair to predictable black-brown, oils it and braids it to conceal the fact that it's straight by nature, not from chemical assistance. Logan, being Logan, changed nothing. Xavier's fortune, which was supposed to have gone to Scott as trustee, devolved on Hank instead. How his name managed to stay off the wanted lists, I don't know. Warren and Frank -­ as well as the children -­ remain unknown entities, but several have changed their names anyway. Kitty Pryde's parents even gave her a funeral, and now call their daughter once a month under the name of Judith Silverstein. She will have to wait a year to start at MIT.

Yet the passage of time means little to me. I find it increasingly difficult to recall what impatience means, and my memories of the flesh are fading. What was the feel of breath's rise and fall in my chest, the tickle-touch of dandelion seeds on bare skin, the green smell of thyme in the fields, or the tart-bright tang of ripe summer strawberries? I am even forgetting the taste of Scott's mouth. Maybe one day, when the last of these things fades, I will fade, too, or at least go where I feel no regrets. But for now, I remain, coming into and going out of their lives at increasingly long intervals. It hurts too much, to walk unseen in their world, it becomes too tempting to put on a semblance of skin and manifest myself. And that would do no one any good in the long run, least of all Scott. Least of all me.

But this day, I will join them for a while, even if they are unaware of it.

It's a few minutes after midnight, and they are headed for the beach, repeating a trek made ten years ago in the dog days of summer, sneaking out in the early hours of morning while Xavier slept. Scott, Warren, Frank and Ro. I didn't go that time. Hank hadn't gone that time, but they include him now. Standing outside in t-shirt and jeans, Scott throws a rock up at Hank's window in the third story of the new school's Boston brownstone. "You're going to break the glass," Warren hisses softly.

"No, I won't."

The window opens and Hank leans his head out. "What're you doing?" he asks in a normal voice.

"Shhhh!" say the four below. "You wanna go to the beach?" Warren adds in a stage whisper.

I can sense Hank's sleep-muddled confusion, then a huge grin splits his face and he starts to flip himself out his window to join them, then pauses. "Can Robert come?" he asks.

The four exchange glances. Bobby Drake hadn't gone the last time because he hadn't yet arrived at Westchester. But then, Hank hadn't gone the last time, either. They shrug in concert, and Scott replies to Hank, "Why the hell not?"

"Excellent. I shall wake him, and meet you below."

This is really very silly, but I think they enjoy it more for that fact. Ro and Scott let themselves be silly so very rarely, especially these days. As students themselves, they had snuck out to drive to the beach in the middle of the night, and now ten years later, they were bound and determined to have a wacky reunion in celebration of Scott, Ro and Logan's return home for a brief visit. Scott had news of what they'd learned about our enemies -­ human and alien both. If Rogue had gained nothing else from her absorption of the hybrids, she'd at least been able to confirm what Walter Skinner had told the professor. Even show-me-Scott and Warren-the-skeptic had a hard time denying it now. There were aliens out there who didn't want to Make Nice, and there were people hiding in the nooks and crannies of our own governments who wanted to use us to stop them. Big Brother knows best. 1984 for the Twenty-first Century.

But conspiracies could wait. They would, unfortunately, still be there in the morning.

Tonight, Scott, Ro, Frank and Warren -­ and now Hank and Bobby -­ are ssneaking out to the beach. Sean, Moira and Logan will be hugely annoyed in the morning when they find themselves all alone on a Sunday with over fifty teenagers. And Kitty-Judith will be annoyed because she wasn't asked to go. Next time, Kitty.

Hank and Bobby emerge from a side door and, giggling like twelve-year-olds, pile into Ro's jeep with the other four. It's a tight squeeze, and it's a good thing I don't have a body or we wouldn't all fit. Someone painted "Beach or bust" on the back windshield in white shoe polish. Probably Ororo. Her quirky sense of humor shows up in unexpected ways. Scott is driving even though it's Ororo's jeep because he's a control freak, and he pulls away from the curb squealing tires like a crook escaping the scene of his crime. "The Getaway Kid," Hank dubbed him a long time ago. He's an excellent driver if one doesn't account for the fact that he never goes the speed limit unless he absolutely must. I used to tell him that he set a bad example for the students; he gave his mutation as an excuse. Yet he doesn't drive fast because of his unique sight. He drives fast because he likes to.

We've gone all of three blocks before we hear the roar of another engine gaining on us, and then a motorcycle speeds past to pull recklessly in front of the jeep. Logan, of course. Without a helmet. He and Scott play tag all the way out of town and it's a good thing Scott has the radar detector on, or they'd have gotten four traffic tickets inside five minutes. Then they are on US 6 south to Cape Cod. They'd wanted to go back to New York, to the same beach they'd gone the first time, but it's a five hour ride, from Boston. Cape Cod will have to do. We must arrive in the dark hours before dawn or Warren can't go shirtless. And Hank couldn't show his face at all.

Most of them doze as Scott follows Logan, or Logan follows Scott down roads that, in this congested area of the country, are never empty even at this hour. We make it to the beach a little before three, jump the curb past a barrier into a closed parking lot, and all pile out. Even at the height of summer, in this latitude it's too cold for most to go without a cover in the night air. But Bobby doesn't feel cold and tears off his t-shirt with a whoop, tying it around his head like a neon-watermelon turban. Then he leaps the decorative wood fence and tears off down the beach access past sea oats to the water. Hank beats him, even though Bobby got a head start.

"Somebody's going to hear them and call the cops," Scott mutters. Public beaches are closed at this hour.

Warren pops him lightly. "Just call me Mr. Paranoid," he teases, then removes his own shirt to stretch out wings that have healed at last, though they're scarred forever. A few feathers grew in askew, a few grew in black, and some never grew back at all. But now, they are more interesting, because they're not perfect. "Relax, man," and he leaps into the air to sail an updraft out towards the ocean. Scott, Frank and Ororo watch him go as Logan finishes securing Scott's bike and joins them. Together, the four pace down to the beach more slowly. I am with them, though they do not know it.

Bobby and Hank are splashing in the waves as we stake out a piece of sand on the deserted beach. Then Scott sits down to guard everyone's stuff while Logan takes off to go jogging and Ororo and Frank wander off arm-in-arm in the opposite direction. Probably to talk about weddings. She wears a ring these days and Frank has decided not to return to Italy. We need him here too badly. He and Hank are rebuilding Cerebro.

But just now, they have all left Scott. Not intentionally. They just didn't think about it. And Scott will sit here, their base and anchor, content to do so because that's his nature. Mostly. Despite his earlier worry about the noise, he grins to see Hank raise Bobby Drake over his head and toss him twenty feet further out into the waves. Bobby lands with a huge splash and a shout. I think part of Scott might like to be out there, too, but then who would watch the blankets, food, shoes and socks?

You chose well, Charles.

I sit beside him on the blanket, admiring his profile and his thoughts, both. I was attracted to his face from the first moment I saw him at eighteen. Such a pretty boy. But it was his mind that I fell in love with. Even so, I invade it rarely although I swim through minds these days as easily as a fish through water. Yet his, I don't. It's not that I fear what I might find there: -thoughts of other women, or not enough thoughts of me. There are no other women, and won't be for a long time. He has too many wounds from which to heal. And I know how often he thinks of me still. Yet there have been mornings in the past month when he has woken and I was not the first thing that he thought about. And there have even been a few where he woke and went a whole hour without thinking of me once.

And that is a good thing. It is what keeps me, now, from drawing down the thread-light of stars to make a body for myself while I keep ethereal company with him on the blanket. It is enough to know that he sometimes feels my presence and it comforts him in a vague way. Yet my visible presence would interfere with his bereavement process. Funny, how we tend to place stock only in things we can see and touch, and Scott is worse than most. He still doesn't quite believe that I gave him his wedding night, but he refuses not to believe it, too. He needs to believe it. That night is a tender memory for him amid so many that are sharp. He (and I, too) got what most of us do not -­ one more chance to say everything, to close emotional doors. Maybe I was wrong to do it, wrong to interfere in his life, but I don't think so. He needed something good to balance everything else he's suffered that has been so hugely unfair, everything he's lost. Even now, his shoulders sag a little because no one is watching, and he's tired and depressed.

And I can't resist. I move behind him to lay spirit hands on his shoulders, press my body-not-body against his back to hold him up. He closes his eyes and whispers my name, as he does sometimes when he feels me near. As with our wedding night, he's not sure he really believes, but he needs to believe, so he speaks my name and I wrap my arms around his shoulders and lay my cheek against his as the wind off the ocean whips his hair into my eyes. I don't feel it in the way I once did, but I still feel something. And I feel, too, how his body has relaxed a little, because I'm here.

He is the soul of the X-Men now. He must be strong for them all. He promised Charles once, that if anything happened to the professor, he would take care of them. And Scott always keeps his promises.

And that, I suppose, is the real reason that I remain, this invisible phoenix, even six months after I died. He must be strong, but he's so alone, so sad, and if he finds a little extra strength because he believes I haunt him, then I will haunt him until he doesn't need me any more. Passion springs from the flesh, and it's been long enough now that I had no longer crave that. But love springs from the spirit, and the spirit doesn't die. Kitty Pryde once told me of a lovely Jewish legend that says when a soul is born, seven possible mates are named. Six will make one happy, but if truly blessed, one finds the seventh, the soul mate. And if one finds the soul mate, then one is bound to him forever, even beyond death. The first one to die will await the other. That story appeals to the romantic in me. How else could I explain falling head over heels for a boy almost nine years my junior, pretty though he may be? In Scott, I recognized my other half. And I will wait on him.

The flat horizon is graying finally with the approach of dawn. Soon, early beachcombers will arrive and we must be going. Scott sighs and closes his eyes. I kiss his cheek and release him so that he can gather the towels, shoes and socks, and attempt to gather our people as well. Logan has returned, but Frank and Ro are still in absentia, and like children, Hank and Bobby whine about coming in out of the water. Scott waves to Warren, still overhead, calling him to land. But Warren only dips a wing in acknowledgment, then turns to head right back out to sea. He must make one last pass, because he's Warren. And Scott must curse about it, because he's Scott.

But Scott halts abruptly in mid-tirade as Warren climbs the wind towards the eastern horizon, rapid and fast -­ the eagle ascending ­- and moonlight scintillates opalescent across wide white wings . . . like a vision of possibilities, like a rite of spring in the shadow of autumn. Like Hope that Pandora let out of the box. We stand facing into the direction of the world, the direction of the rising sun.

Cape Cod Beach

End Notes
(Or "Inside the Writers Studio" ~Puguita)

Acknowledgements:  To Crys, without whose medical assistance several chapters couldn't have been written, and to Naomi, for her careful editing, particularly of later chapters.  Good editors are worth their weight in gold.  A few others (Mo, Domenika, Robbi, Jenn, Anne) helped with specific information, and Kata was my 'test subject' for a couple early chapters. :-)  I'd also like to thank all those who faithfully sent wonderful feedback after each chapter's posting.  Feedback is what fanfic authors live for, since there are no sales figures to tell us if people are reading, and no royalty checks.  For the curious, the final word-count would yield a novel of about 220-30 pages in print.  Please let me know if you read it and enjoyed it (or even if you read it and hated it).

Will Climb the Wind have a sequel?  Not immediately, no.  It wasn't originally plotted with a sequel in mind, and I have several other story commitments to honor first.  I honestly never expected the enthusaism it generated.  It was meant to be a short novella diversion while I wrote Heyoka II.  It ballooned into a novel all on its own because "that middle stuff" took more space to tell than I'd anticipated.

Writing a sequel would depend on reader interest in one.  This story has a clear ending, and closure.  It doesn't require a sequel although it would allow one.  If I wrote a sequel, I'd probably write it as a deliberate pair.  I used the Iliad for Climb the Wind, and I'd do the Odyssey as a follow-up, since it would indeed involve a journey "home."  It'd be a chance to look at Scott as the Odyssean-clever strategist, and also a man separated from his wife by war.  But it would involve a much heavier crossover with the X-Files universe -- and that might not appeal.  Since it would be an X-Men story, all X-Files information (or any X-Files characters) would be introduced and explained, as they'd be strangers to the X-Men, too.  Nonetheless, it would be a crossover and crossovers are automatically problematic.  (And yes, I know that Marvel also plans to do a Scott-as-Odysseus comics mini-series in September.  All I can say is that I thought of mine before I heard about theirs.)

Why (and how) the Iliad?:  I said at the outset that this particular story was based -- very loosely -- on Homer's Iliad.  The parallels are more in theme than specifics.  The protagonist of the Iliad is, of course, the great warrior Achilles.  He is young and talented, forthright, loyal and honorable to the point of foolishness.  He can also be cold, ruthless, and arrogant (although in that world, humility was not a virtue).  He was regarded as "the best of the Achaeans."  (Achaeans = Greeks)

Scott is obviously my Achilles.  And although there are significant differences between the two, both are young and talented, and known for their loyalty and honor.  Achilles despised lying even though he lived in a culture which measured a man's cleverness by his skill at deceit.  If there's enough culture-gap between dark age Greece and the modern world that parts of the Iliad are puzzling for readers today, what makes it still a masterpiece after almost 3000 years is Homer's skill at showing the horrible cost of war, and his basic question.  What drives an honorable man to atrocity?  Can one's own sense of honor be as much a flaw as a virtue?  (His answer is 'yes.')

This is the age-old tale of the hero's descent and his redemption.  Achilles is the Mortal Hero.  And so is Scott Summers.

Although I made little attempt to draw specific parallels to the original Iliad, there are a few.  Jean, not Logan, is Patroklos, and her death is what sends Scott mad.  Yet the warrior's comradeship of Achilles and Patroklos is paralleled by Scott and Logan.  In the Iliad, Achilles is publicly shamed by the taking of Briseis -- that's why he retires from the war in the first place.  He's not being a spoiled brat.  In Climb the Wind, Scott's rape is the equivalent.  But in Climb, his withdrawal comes after Patroklos' loss, not before.  In the Iliad, Achilles' grief drives him into a descent from honorable hero to (amoral) god to (unfeeling) animal.  He disregards all rules of combat, refuses to take prisoners for ransom, and kills without mercy.  And he commits abomination on the body of his worthy enemy, Hector.  (He ties it behind his chariot and drags it in the dust around the walls of Troy, within sight of Hector's family.)  In Scott and Logan's escape from the bunker, Scott is both 'godlike' (one of Achilles' epithets) in his ability to hit his targets, and an animal in his treatment of his opponents.  He kills without mercy and shows no remorse for the body count he runs up.

In the Iliad, it is not until Achilles' rage is exhausted, and Patroklos is mourned, that Achilles is able to return to the realm of humanity.  There is even a 'ghost scene' on the beach, where Patroklos appears to Achilles to beg for burial, and bewails their parting.  But in the Iliad, the great friends are not able to touch (much less take a final roll in the hay).

It is at the end of the Iliad, in the grief-driven supplication of the Greeks' great enemy -- King Piram of Troy -- that Achilles reclaims his human compassion.  Priam is sneaked into the Achaean camp and Achilles' tent by the god Hermes.  There, he kneels at Achilles' feet and begs for the body of his son, Hector, so that he might give him a proper burial.  Priam appeals to Achilles' memory of and love for his own father, in order to take pity on Priam's grief.  In short, Priam finds a point of human contact beyond the hatred of war.  In the end, Priam and Achilles sit and weep together for their individual losses.  Likewise in Climb, it's an appeal from an enemy who is also a father -- an appeal about children -- which revives Scott-the-teacher's conscience.

And although Achilles is still alive at the end of the Iliad, every ancient (or modern) reader knows that Achilles died at Troy; his days are numbered by his choice to kill Hector.  In Climb, Scott does try to sacrifice himself, but is stopped, and it is Xavier who dies instead.  So if you know the Troy story and wondered why Scott got to live, it's because Xavier took "the arrow of Paris."

If you've never read Homer, do so (find the Fagels or Fitzgerald translations).  And if you want to know where this story came from, read G. Zanker's The Heart of Achilles : Characterization of Personal Ethics in the Iliad and Jonathan Shay’s Achilles in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character

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