One Has Fallen
By: Tangle
Disclaimer: All your base are not belong to us.
Summary: Exiles-- Clarice has finished her mission and she's going home, but with the Age of Apocalypse gone, she had no home to return to. Instead, she returns to one of the last places she'd ever dream.
Rating: PG

~~~

"One of you is going home."

Please be Cal, he wants that so badly. But no, I want him to be here--with me.

"My name is Illyana Rasputin--Magik. I have become unhinged from my own time. I am your new team member."

Illyana! That's Piotr's sister! But she's . . .

"Who goes?"

God, I'm so confused.

"The Tallus!"

What?

"I have it--wait!"

No.

"Cal . . . ?"

I love you, I miss you, I never want to leave you. I love you!

"Clarice."

No, please, no, I love you!

*Blink*

~~~

*Blink*

This was familiar. This was too familiar, in a way that no empty, ordinary forest should ever be familiar. It was so general it could be anywhere and yet Clarice knew she had been here to this exact place. She had sat right here, had leaned against this tree. Had put her hand here and walked this way, stood here and watched. Heather had knelt over there, beside the She-Hulk. Calvin hadn't been too far, his hands bandaged. TJ had played with the children, her face a picture of despair that Clarice only recently understood. Morph had been off further away, taking care of Iron Man. Mariko had been amongst it all, doing what she could. And Clarice had, she herself had, stood right here. Overseeing it all with . . .

Mister Creed. This was his world. It all came rushing back so quickly, now she remembered it. This was the world with the children and David Richards and Weapon X and the Sentinels. She had seen him here, had fought with him here, he had to be around somewhere! He had stayed behind, raised that one child like he had raised her. He would save this world at the cost of righting his own time. He . . . he . . . where was he?

*Blink*

Not here.

*Blink*

Not here.

*Blink*

*Blink*

*Blink*

Clarice knew her search was futile. She was trying to find one man on an entire world. He could be anywhere, and with his set of skills he was. He was out there somewhere and she had no way to find him. Realization set in and she crumpled to the ground. Here she was utterly alone. No Mariko to be there, no TJ to tell her it would all be looking up, no Morph to make her laugh. No Calvin to hold her . . . no Calvin, ever again. And she couldn't even find Mister Creed.

If she were him, where would she be? She would find the safest spot she could think of, that's what she'd do first. But where would that safe spot be, where would he think to look? Where had they been? The compound was a definite no, and she doubted he would take two dozen children back into the desert. That forest was the most likely place. The more she thought about it, the more correct that assumption seemed. After all, why would the Tallus drop her off there, in a place she knew, if not for some specific reason? What if he was staying right around there, in that very spot she had arrived at? What if she had just left without thinking when he was there all along? What if . . . well it was certainly worth a shot. She had nothing to lose.

*Blink*

"Mister Creed?" Clarice wandered for a few minutes, searching everywhere and calling his name. "Mister Creed, please say you're around here. Mister Creed?" She pushed past some trees, her solid eyes hunting for any sign of him or the children. Something reached her ears, something so faint she could have easily missed it but it was there. Sounded like, sounded like . . . she almost had it and then it was gone. Crestfallen, she stopped still in her tracks. "Mister Creed?"

"Did I or did I not tell you to call me Victor, pup?"

Clarice spun in a quick circle, her heart racing, and only stopped when she figured it out and looked straight up into the grinning face of one Victor Creed. He was sitting in a tree above her, staring down and smirking like there was no tomorrow. Clarice had him out of the tree and standing beside her in a flash where she could properly hug him. "I don't care!" she announced. "God, I found you and I'm going to call you whatever I want."

Creed hugged her back, smiling more than he had in a long time. "You do that, pup. But in the mean time, let's get you downstairs where you can meet everyone." She looked slightly confused, so he explained. "We've carved out our own little niche underground, trying to keep away from the Sentinels. Lots of time has passed, kid, but not so much that it's all changed. Will soon, though. Come on, follow me and tell me exactly how you got back here."

And so she did. They traveled down through the ground through a hollowed tree as Clarice told him about the Vi-Locks and the Avengers. About Forge and the T.O. virus. About the Gods of Asgard and saving the world and Illyana and having to leave once more. He was silent the whole way, letting her do all the talking. He was just happy to have her back again. She was finishing her story just as they arrived in the main tunnels. It was now that Victor spoke. "You're here now, that's what matters. Just look around, we've grown since you were here ten years ago. The ones that were there remember you--and you may recognize a few of them." Clarice looked around, wide-eyed. "Go ahead," he urged her forward. "Be pleasantly surprised."

She was. Among the many strangers there were those she knew. There, that was Rogue! As a teenager. And standing beside her, holding her hand and smiling, was a young Remy. Beast wasn't dark--he was light blue, and hanging from the ceiling. A back-flipping Kurt Wagner landed directly in front of her, gave her a strange look, and then *bamf*ed off again. That . . . that was Morph! Flirting and playing jokes and making an ass of himself, that was Morph! All of them were near her age, they had all grown up but now she knew them. Or almost knew them. And that, there, sitting by himself, smiling at her and waving. That was Calvin.

Clarice felt her breath leave her in one smooth rush. A smile stretched across her face as she looked around, almost unable to believe what she was seeing. This was a utopia for young mutants, for anyone! This was perfect, this was full of people she knew and loved. This was a place where she could help set the outside world right without the gnawing fear that all that faced her was a horrible new world to fix. This was where she would stay, here with Mister Creed. And this, this was home.

~~~ End ~~~