~~I stand atop a building, a building amidst countless others, elevated high above all else, keeping me forever alone. When the night comes it is like ink, thick and consummate, obscuring all faults as it spreads slow as molassas over the cityscape's desolate glory, hiding it from my eyes. I want to go into that absolute darkness, it calls me, it is where I belong. I open myself up to it, welcoming it into my soul.
It will make me perfect.
It will destroy me.
I do not care.~~
Jean awoke with a gasp, the last remnants of her dream slipping away even as she reached for them. It was unlike her not to remember her dreams; but not unheard of, so with a lazy yawn she stretched her body and slid out of bed.
She dallied in the shower, the feel of the hot water against her bare skin and in her hair was delightful and much missed. The world was miraculously fresh and new, and everything was just waiting to be experienced again.
She took her time drying, brushing, and braiding her hair. She used the toothbrush that had been laid out for her and dressed in the clothes that Moira had left on the chair next to the bed. Faded blue jeans, dark green sweater, undergarments. She recognized the clothing as some that she had left behind on Muir after her last stay; and she remembered being disappointed that she could not find the sweater upon her return to Westchester. It had been one of her favorites.
She noticed that the cuffs were beginning to fray with age, and with barely a thought she rearranged their molecules, tightening the stitches, returning the resilience to the cloth. Her power did not give her any trouble at all; in fact, it was even easier than she remembered. The feeling of pleasure tinged with fear she received from using it was the same; but the constant need to tap into more was satiated. At least for now. With a statisfied smile she left her room and went to find Moira and Sean.
"Are you ready, Mr. Essex?"
"It's Dr. Essex, actually," he replied, his crisp, British accent strained. Immediately he was ashamed. Reminding people he was a doctor was a pompous habit he had picked up; and in no way suitable here and now. They probably thought he was more concerned about his prestige than his own son, something he had been accused of many times before.
If they thought less of him it didn't show on their faces. The elderly coroner and the young police officer that had accompanied him were looking down at him with nothing more than concern and sympathy as they waited for an answer. Nathaniel Essex, more frightened than he had ever been in his entire life, got to his feet. "I'm ready," he said unsteadily, his mouth dry.
They entered the morgue and walked to the back in silence through the rows of dead. On the table, covered by a sheet, was the small form of a child. They stood next to it and the coroner pulled the sheet down, revealing the boy's face.
"Oh, God, oh God," Nathaniel shuddered, his strength draining from him as he saw his son so cold and still.
The police officer cleared his throat. "I'm sorry, sir," he said, somewhat embarrassed. "You have to make definate identification. Is this boy Adam Essex, your son?"
"Yes," he choked, "it is." He turned away from the body, not wanting to remember his only child like that. Oh, God, what was he going to tell Rebecca? This would kill her. And she would blame him. Why shouldn't she? It was his fault. It was all his fault. His and one other's. Human belongings had been found in the restroom of the subway, and Nathaniel was willing to bet his life that whoever owned them was responsible for Adam's fate. And he was willing to give his soul to have that person punished.
The strong and pleasant aromas of brewing coffee, frying bacon, and simmering oatmeal lured Jean to the kitchen where she found Sean busy at the stove and Moira absorbed in a stack of newspapers at the heavy wooden table. They looked up as she entered, and Sean caught her in a tight hug.
"I'm so happy to see you well, lass," he said, "you have no idea."
She returned his embrace. "I missed you, Sean," she smiled, "both you and your cooking."
"Famished." She sat at the table across from Moira as he poured her a cup of coffee and refilled Moira's mug.
Moira was looking at her curiously. "You're hungry?"
"Yes. Why, shouldn't I be?"
"Well, I'm not going to argue with what your body is telling you; but no, you shouldn't be hungry. Your power levels are the same as they were before you lost control, when you didn't need to eat, drink, breathe, or keep warm to survive."
Jean stirred her coffee thoughtfully. "Is it possible that my powers could be at the level where those things aren't absolutely necessary; but because of some other reason, I feel that they are?"
Sean placed a plate of bacon on the table. "What kind of reason?"
"Because I want them to be?" She picked up a slice of bacon and nibbled on the end. "Before, I didn't have to do those things, although most of the time I still did, because I liked to or wanted to, because I was used to it and it was a reminder that I was human."
"And now you feel like you have to do those things?" Sean asked as he joined them at the table with three bowls of steaming oatmeal. He poured a splash of cream into his coffee. "Even though you know that you don't have to do them?"
Jean looked confused. "I guess so. It's strange. A part of my mind knows that if I don't eat, I'll be fine; but then my body feels like it's starving, and another part of my mind is telling me I must eat, and breathe, and everything else. The only reason I can think of for why that would be is because I wanted it that way, and so it happened. Pass the brown sugar, please."
Moira handed her the small blue and cream colored sugar bowl. "Jean, what do you mean, 'I wanted it that way, and so it happened'? Are you saying that when you came back to life, you altered your perception of your powers in some way?"
"That's exactly what I'm saying; but I can't be sure that's exactly what happened."
"Don't you remember what happened? How you came back? That was part of what I wanted to speak to you about last night - just how did you come back to life?" Moira looked at her quizzically.
"I remember the nothingness. I remember wanting to come back, wanting another chance at life. I remember thinking about how I could rebuild my body and how I could fix it so that my powers were under control; but I don't remember actually doing any of those things." She averted her eyes. "It's like before, on the shuttle, only worse. I died and I brought myself back to life, I know I did, but I'm not sure how I did it; and I'm not sure I want to."
"Think back to when you died, on the moon," Moira replied. "Did you do anything then that might have--"
"I don't want to talk about that," Jean interrupted, her voice shaking.
"I'm sorry," Moira apologized. "You were being so open about everything else, I thought it would be okay to discuss that."
"Well, it's not. I'll tell you everything I know about what happened after I died, you can run all the tests you want; but I don't want to talk about what happened on the moon, or before."
Sean patted her hand. "All right, we won't make you talk about it now; but Jean, I think it would be a good idea if you talked to someone about the things that happened. You can't ignore it, or it will eat you up inside; and you can't run from it, or you'll never learn from it. Moira and I are both here for you, and I'm sure that your friends and Charles will be too, once they find out you're alive."
She flinched slightly at the sound of the Professor's name. "You haven't told Charles yet? Why not?"
Moira sipped her coffee. "Lilandra is staying with him and I didn't want to take the chance that she would act first and think later, seeing as how she has a habit of doing that where you're involved; and you were in no shape to defend yourself. As soon as she leaves, I'll tell him. Sean and I were even thinking about going in person, since we have some news of our own to tell him as well." She glanced pointedly at her right hand and the simple ring that adorned her fourth finger.
"You two are getting married?!" Jean exclaimed, her mood instantly lightened. "That's wonderful! I'm so happy for you!" She got up from the table and hugged them both. "Did you set a date?"
"Not anything specific; but we were thinking about June of this year," Moira replied. "Logan's wedding made us realize that we weren't getting any younger; and there really isn't any reason why we shouldn't get married."
"Who's Logan?" Jean asked, as she took another mouthful of oatmeal.
Sean and Moira exchanged a puzzled look, then understanding dawned on Sean's face. "Logan is Wolverine," he explained, "he didn't reveal his real name until after you were gone."
Much to her chagrin, Jean felt a stab of jealousy. "That's nice," she said, trying to keep her voice neutral. "So, who did he marry?"
"A simply lovely woman by the name of Mariko Yashida, a Japanese noblewoman. She and Logan are almost exact opposites, but it works."
"She's Sunfire's cousin?" she asked, the name Yashida ringing a bell.
"Yes." Sean refilled his cup, offered to do the same for her, and she shook her head. She had been trying not to think about Scott, afraid to discover that he was dead. Or married. She knew that she could get on with her life without him; but she hoped that that wouldn't be necessary. All the talk of weddings had brought up the memory of his proposal to her, after she had fought the X-Men at her parent's home, and the part of her that was still sane had helped Charles defeat the rest of her mind. How desperate she had been then, how scared. There had been moments when she had even believed the Phoenix part of herself to be a different person, in order to dissassociate herself from the horrible things she had done. Scott knew the truth though, he had always known, and through it all he had stood by her. She knew that the love he felt for her, and she for him, could survive death; but would it survive rebirth?
She cleared her throat. "What about Scott?" she asked hesitantly. "How has he been doing?"
"You'll have to ask him how he's been doing; but I can tell you what he's been doing," Sean replied as he carried his bowl to the sink. "He left the X-Men after what happened to you, worked on a fishing boat for awhile, then caught up with the team again. For the last three months he's been working for his family's airline in Alaska."
"His family?" she said casually, hoping that it simply meant he had discovered Corsair was his father.
"It turns out that Corsair, of the Starjammers, is actually Christopher Summers, Scott's father! Can you believe that? Scott and Alex were so happy to find out that their father is alive and healthy; and they even have grandparents now."
Jean felt guilty. She hoped Scott didn't know she had known; or if he did, he had forgiven her. Ororo had been right, she should never have kept that secret from him; but she had given her word, and that had to mean something. "That's amazing," she said, hoping she sounded amazed. "What about Ororo, and Kurt? And Peter?"
Moira pushed her chair back and stood up. "There's plenty of time for you to get caught up with what's been going on, lass. I promise you'll be filled in on everything. For now, I want to run those tests you said you'd allow."
Logan was not adjusting well to married life. Even though he loved Mariko more than anything in the world, he couldn't get used to the domestic aspect of their new life together. For instance, he didn't expect to be asked where he was going, and he felt terrible if he gave Mariko his standard answer, which was simply, "out." He didn't always know when he'd be back and he didn't want to disappoint her with no answer, or a false one. He didn't like the guilt she unknowingly made him feel when she sweetly reminded him not to smoke in the house, or not to drink too much, even though she knew his healing factor would prevent any damage. Most of all, he didn't appreciate how overprotective she was, although he knew it was just a reflex for her and she was trying to make this work as much as he was.
The truth of the matter was simple. He was afraid of failing Mariko as a husband; and he felt he was already on that path, only a little over a month after their wedding and despite all her reassurances that they would be fine. He still could not believe that this wonderful, gentle woman had married him; and he didn't know what he'd do if he ever lost her. She was his calming center, his sanity, his rock of support. For her sake, he was willing to do whatever it took to be the best husband possible. Unfortunately, old habits were hard to break, especially when he wanted to break them in such a way that his sense of self wasn't lost. He hoped he could do it. For Mariko.
He broke from his reverie and turned to see his bride standing behind him. God, she was beautiful.
"What is it, Miko?" She looked as excited as a child as she led him to a chair and sat him down, kneeling at his feet.
"I have a surprise for you," she beamed.
"I certainly hope it's a good surprise," he teased
She giggled demurely. "Yes, it is a good surprise, my love." She took his hands in hers and her dark eyes locked on his blue ones. "Logan, you are going to be a father."
He sat stunned for a moment, and then his mind began reeling. A father? Of a baby? Him? That was more preposterous than the thought of him as a husband. He looked down at his wife who was watching him expectantly for a reaction, stopped thinking about all the reasons why he couldn't be a father, and came to the realization that this single piece of news made him happier than he had ever been in his entire life, with the exception of the day Mariko had married him. All worries melted into the background as he thought about what this meant. He was going to be a father! He reached down and pulled her into his arms, kissing her passionately.
When their kiss broke he found he was grinning like an idiot. "You're pregnant?" he asked, wanting to hear it again and again.
"Yes," she laughed. "I am."
"How much? When's the baby due?" He put a hand on her flat belly, as if by some miracle he would be able to feel the child so soon.
"I am about a month along. She will be born in October."
"She? How do you know we won't have a son?" he pulled her onto his lap and she kissed him again.
"No, we will have a daughter. I am sure," she responded in her precise English. They had spoken only Japanese for the beginning of their relationship; but once she had expressed an interest in learning English, they had spoken almost nothing else. She was very proud of how much she had accomplished in so short a time. So was he.
The doorbell rang, breaking the perfection of the moment, and Logan considered ignoring it. After almost four years of living in Xavier's mansion with many other people, he still wasn't used to living alone with Mariko in their New York City penthouse. Not that he was complaining, by any means. It was just that he was used to having someone else answer the bell if he was busy.
With a sigh he got up and went to the door. "This had better be good," he growled as he opened it.
"Did we come at a bad time?" Kitty asked, trying to peer around him to get a look at the interior of his place.
"Kitty and I were in the neighborhood, and we thought we would stop by and see if you were here." Kurt's smile widened. "I brought beer," he said, holding up a paper bag.
that case, come on in." He was in too good of a mood not to share
it with his two best friends. Especially if they came bearing beer.
In Emma Frost's mind, the Frolicking Tulip Mental Institution in Concord, New Hampshire was staffed with nothing but incompetents. She wasn't surprised, of course. Most of the time she thought that the whole damn world was incompetent.
There were some real prizes here though. She didn't even have to use her powers on some of them, just let them stare at her cleavage for a minute and they'd tell her anything she wanted to know. Pathetic.
She figured that they didn't have to be that intelligent to wipe drool off the faces of the idiots and crazies and hand out basket weaving supplies; but they should at least know enough to not let just anyone waltz in and see a patient who was supposed to have no visitors. Leave it to Pierce to pick a place as unprofessional as this to stash their former contemporary.
She yawned in boredom, gave a disdainful look to the orderly who was currently enraptured with her breasts, and asked him again what room Jason Wyngarde was in, and if he could please unlock it for her? Her tone of voice made it abundantly clear that she would be ever so grateful to him; and he hurried down to the end of the hall and opened a door. Cretin, she thought. She didn't like how on edge institutions made her; but it was fun to play with the employees. She'd give him something to remember her by, all right. A splitting headache.
She went into Jason's room and locked the door behind her, giving a telepathic suggestion to the orderly that he was feeling sick and needed to go lie down right away. Jason was sitting in a chair by the window, blanket pulled up over his legs, eyes staring blankly, spittle on his chin. They couldn't even do that part of their job right, she thought in disgust as she took out a tissue and wiped it away so she wouldn't have to look at it.
"My God, Jason, you look like hell." He really did. Without his illusion power he was a skinny, sickly, pale old man who appeared to be closer to death than life. The loss of mental functions didn't help either.
"Well," she sighed, "let's get started. I need you at least coherent if you're going to be any use to me." She bent her head and concentrated, entering his broken mind and slowly, carefully, putting the pieces back together.
"I have good news," Sean announced with a smile as Jean and Moira arrived home from their weekend expedition to Edinburgh, which had been a reward for the grueling week of tests and questions. Exhausted, the women flopped onto the couch, shopping bags strewn on the floor.
"You like my new haircut, Sean?" Jean asked, running her hand through the shorter, stylish cut that framed her face and brushed against her shoulder blades.
"It's lovely, lass. Did you two buy out the entire town?" he inquired, gazing in astonishment at the packages.
"I don't know what Moira's excuse is; but I just came back from the dead. A girl has to celebrate."
"Big deal. I'm getting married." They laughed as Sean waded through their purchases and sat between them, an arm around them both.
"Ladies, I just got off the telephone with young Sam Guthrie of the New Mutants. It seems that Lilandra has left the planet; and as an added bonus, Scott is coming home. I think it's high time we paid a visit to Westchester.
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