Saints and Sinners – By Darlin

Chapter Twenty-Two – The Way of the Phoenix

A/N - Hope everyone had a great Fourth of July. I saw Spidey and fireworks and got this posted so I couldn't ask for a better Fourth. I highly recommend Spiderman II to those who haven't seen it. It's awesome.

Now here's the end of this story. Hope it's not too disappointing but this was a decidedly different style for me therefore it needed a decidedly different ending. Thanks for the reviews, Isis Aurora Tomoe, Lerie, lilWolvie, Nienna of Sorrow, Shadowface (I agree about your thoughts on Legolas, very insightful), and thanks to wolvster.

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Mind control is such an easy thing when you let yourself go, giving full reign to the desire to know all, to control all, and to achieve your every dream. He craved it all.

They trusted him. Loved him even. Gave him their hearts, their souls, their very lives. He only desired to suck them dry, to take, and take, and use, and use till there was nothing left. Till all had submitted and he was their sovereign ruler.

Trust was broken the moment Xavier allowed himself to consider killing his own son. Trust was lost, never to be retrieved again when Xavier allowed himself to shut down the side of Magneto that made him so foul and evil. Now Erik Lehnsherr was hapless, weak, clueless, nondescript, and yet happy at last. And Charles Xavier? He had lost control.

Perhaps it was the constant demand to maintain his mental defenses to keep others thoughts from bombarding his mind trying to prevent an overload. Perhaps it started when he took out Magneto and left the villain believing he was now nothing but a mere human with only the potential to help others in a kind and reasonable, even groveling manner. Whatever reason Charles was no longer fighting it and he knew true joy for the first time. Would it be short lived?

Their world was in flames. Xavier's school was burning though they would not know this until too late. Some had fled beforehand. Those who remained would be doomed. They had no chance.

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Jean Grey was trapped inside her body. She could see Charles above her, feel his greedy kisses, feel the need he had for her but she could do nothing to stop him. Inside her mind she screamed repeatedly but Charles who could hear them clearly, paid no attention to the frantic cries. He had given in to the lust of the forbidden– a deep longing lust that had tempted and taunted him for so many years. It was as if every foul deed and desire that Magneto had before he had been brainwashed was now Charles' and those evil thoughts now mixed with Charles' own secret dark desires had taken control of Charles. Whether he could help himself or not he had succumbed to some supernatural need that willed him on forcing him to give up his inhibitions and restraints, forcing him to seize what he now felt was rightfully his as power unlike he'd ever known before consumed and corrupted him.

Beneath Charles, Jean's skin was warm, surprisingly so, he thought as he nuzzled her ear and breathed in her young scent. His hands caressed her hair – hair like fire and blood, he thought dreamily. But it was hot too he noticed, almost as if the strands were literally on fire and he drew his hand back, shocked as the heat penetrated his flesh. He gazed into her eyes but what he saw there were dark hollows that seemed to no longer to see. Her body was no longer limp but stiff, almost catatonic. Only the tears that streamed down her pale cheeks gave any indication of life. Unexpectedly, something inside the Professor felt saddened at the sight of his prized student, his foster daughter, his would be lover so distant and forlorn, and the growing forces within him faltered. It was only a fraction of a second but that was all that was needed.

"No!" he shrieked in absolute terror as he felt himself burning from within his mind.

The flames seemed to engulf his very soul sucking the very life out of him like a vacuum run amok. A raw, wretched, animalistic scream rent through the mansion sounding for all the world like the bloodcurdling cry of a mythical banshee, shattering the peaceful silence of the evening. And then the room burst into flames and they were both covered in a leaping, roaring tempest.

The piercing sound of a smoke detector was heard for a moment before it melted in the extreme heat. So hot was the fire that the ceiling gave way collapsing onto them in a shower of ash and dust. The flames licked up into the next floor destroying everything in its path until it finally broke through the roof, soared into the sky, and lit the growing dimness of the evening.

As Jean waged war with the man she'd trusted more than any other person in the world she seemed one with the flames. Charles face was a mask of charred flesh and blazing eyes as the power within him sought to escape his now useless shell but it was no use. The untried phoenix force within Jean was powerful beyond even Charles' comprehension and though he fought with all the combined strength of his own dark soul and that of Magneto's, the life and death struggle was over almost as soon as it had begun. They were both consumed, gone in an instant, leaving only their bodies quickly incinerated by the flames that now over swept the room.

Several floors below in the danger room the computers registered the fire then sputtered out altogether as if it had never happened. New at the controls and thinking it was a malfunctioning glitch in the system, a red headed youth who called himself Arcade ignored the brief warning anxious to put his new program to the test. Oblivious to what was taking place above them the young X-Men slowly straggled in.

Counting them as they entered, Scott looked peeved. It was already way past the scheduled session and Logan, Ororo and Bobby still hadn't shown. At least Kitty and Peter had arrived, strolling in taking their time. Kurt had been the only one to arrive on time, and in fact ahead of schedule but he was standing around looking rather bleak. Scott supposed it was because Rogue had flown the coop. He couldn't say he minded her leaving all in all. Personally and secretly he wished her well. The Professor had been right. She didn't belong with them; she didn't fit in and would have just been in the way.

As he thought of Rogue he watched Warren flying above them as if the Angel had no cares and Scott felt his annoyance subside. If Warren was that lighthearted it was a big improvement over his past reluctance regarding training and Scott liked that. Now he wished the others would get their act together. It wasn't so bad trying to master your skills. He couldn't understand why no one but him and the Professor agreed on that.

So four out of ten people had shown up or five out of eleven if he counted himself. Maybe even six out of twelve if he counted the new guy. Hank had given him a rushed version of who the new guy was before he'd excused himself saying he'd be back in a few minutes. That was over ten minutes ago. Scott wondered why no one could show up on time and then decided he better check out this new guy and headed to the panel that would allow him access to the small elevator leading to the observation room. He stopped in his tracks when he saw Hank entering with someone he hadn't expected to ever see again.

"Forge?"

The others had gathered around Hank and Forge by time Scott made it over to them but no one said a word. Logan had just entered the room. Warren backed away till he was across the room. The others just watched.

"Logan, did I ask your forgiveness yet?" Hank said with a smile full of true regret.

Logan stared at the two in silence. He looked around for Ororo, noticed that she wasn't there yet and wondered what was taking her so long because he had every intention of beating the hell out of both Hank and Forge and he wanted her to be there for it. He expected she'd want to get in a few licks too; maybe shoot a few lightning bolts up their sorry asses.

"Hey, sorry I'm late – whoa! What the . . . !" Bobby stopped in his tracks as he gawked at Forge.

"You seen, Ro?" Logan asked, not taking his eyes off the two men he was planning on killing.

"Um, yeah – she wanted me to give you this."

Bobby found he could barely get the words out but with a slightly trembling hand he handed the letter over then backed away. Like Warren he was prepared for Logan to cut loose and he didn't want to get blood all over him although he definitely wanted to get a good view.

Logan glanced at Forge then Hank before he opened the letter. It felt as if no one in the room dared to breathe as he read the letter. Scott had quietly stepped between Logan and the smiling Hank and the unconcerned Forge. He figured Forge must be either an idiot or mentally challenged if he wasn't worried about Logan tearing into him and Hank, well he just figured Hank was just plain stupid. He'd lost any respect for his friend with this little stunt. If it were up to him Scott would just let Logan beat them both senseless and then be done with it but since he was supposed to be the leader he knew he'd have to chance getting a beating himself in order to keep the order. Sometimes being the responsible leader absolutely sucked he thought grimly as he watched Logan read the letter.

Logan,

I'm gone but don't worry – not that I guess you would. You know me, I can take care of myself and I'll be back soon enough I guess. Now you behave yourself while I'm gone and don't beat the hell out of Hank or his stupid little sidekick. You might not know it yet but Forge is alive just like you thought he was. For me that was the last straw. I just couldn't stay knowing what he and Hank did. There's too much plotting going on and everyone's mad at everyone all the time. It's as if we're being torn apart, not only you and me but the whole team.

I want things to be the way they used to be without everyone wanting to kill each other and biting each others heads off. I just can't stay and watch everyone's lives being messed up like they are. Jean wants to kill me for being with you. Hank wants to kill you for being with me and how could you not want to kill Forge and Hank both for being the idiots that they are? I wouldn't blame you there but don't – please don't. It would just add to all the mess. Love's not supposed to be about hate and confusion and anger and fighting. I don't want anyone fighting because of me. I don't want any repeats of Jean, you, and Scott so please whatever you do please don't fight Hank or Forge. Just let it go for once. You told me that same thing too and I'm working on it.

I really just wished you'd left with me. I told you I was confused but you didn't even try to understand. Maybe now with Forge back you'll understand why I left. And you need to know that it isn't just me and Hank who feels this way. Jean thinks something's not right too. Anyway, maybe it doesn't matter now. Maybe a little time away will help us both. Give us time to think about us and what we want to do.

There's something I've realized while being with the X-Men. There aren't any saints and sinners in the world – none of us or all good or all bad. We're all just trying to survive and be the best we can be. We're all a little of both I think – like me, like you, even like the fur ball. Even the best of men sin and even sinners can do good. Me, I'm trying to be good so I have to go. Take care of yourself. I really love you, Logan. Please be the man that I know you are.

Love,

Ro

"You okay?" Scott asked when Logan folded the note slowly and neatly then stuck it in a pocket.

A nod was his only answer. Logan looked at Forge and Hank then suddenly started to laugh.

"I ought to kill you both and I'm not too sure I won't."

"I can't let you do that," Scott said.

"Oh I'm not gonna do anything," Logan said with a smile that was so sweet it was more alarming than any menacing look he might have given.

"All right! Let's get this show on the road people!" Scott shouted enthusiastically. "Hank, you and Forge check on Arcade make sure he knows what he's doing. I want to see that background check after we finish and then have him meet the Professor. And for the record you know you shouldn't have – hey, Bobby, where're you going?"

"Gotta take a leak."

"You've got three minutes and if you're not back by then we start without you. If we start without you, you can expect detention every night this week."

Bobby shot an irritated look in Scott's direction then walked out. He had no intention of coming back and the destruction he walked into didn't allow him to. Getting off the elevator on the ground floor he smelled smoke and causally walked through the house thinking someone must have left something cooking on the stove. It wasn't until the smell of smoke grew much stronger that he started to worry. Then he saw a wall of fire shooting straight up into the rest to the large house and he realized something was seriously wrong.

Running for the exit he whisked his cell phone out and hit speed dial. Listening while he ran he made it outside riding on his trademark ice slide. The line on the other end continued to ring. Where was the Professor? And was the danger room fireproof? Surely it had to be! He hung up and tried calling Scott. His call went straight into voice mail. Figures, he thought. Scott was so busy playing commando that he'd probably turned his phone off. Some commando, letting his home base and people go up in flames all around him. He dialed 911 and started looking for a way to get back in to reach the others.

While Scott was in commando mode Kitty had noticed that everything was running more smoothly than any of their previous danger room sessions. She wondered briefly who the red head in the observation booth was but didn't really have time to dwell on it as she phased through a gigantic robot intent on squelching the life out of her. And then it hit her. Not only the realization that something was wrong but she was literally struck full force by the robot. She hadn't been able to phase!

Peter, seeing Kitty flung against a wall where she remained motionless, gave a yell that turned everyone's head in his direction. Seeing what had happened Logan made his way over to check on Kitty. He found a pulse, nodded reassuringly to Peter then stayed near to ward off any other robots. To his chagrin the robots were made out of adamantium or something that his claws and Peter's strength could do little to damage.

"It's the protocol," Kitty mumbled.

"What, kid?"

"They're trying to kill us," she said as she sat up, holding her head in both hands. "Ororo told me Hank warned her about something in the danger room and when we went to check it out I found an encrypted file that no one was supposed to see but Ororo had left when I found it and I didn't get a chance to tell her. And then I was hanging out with Peter and I didn't think about it again. I didn't think it was a big deal but the Professor has a file on each of us on how to kill us!"

Logan was slashing at a robot while trying to protect Kitty and listen as well. He'd been successful with prying parts of it off then running off so it gave him chase and ignored Kitty but he was getting pretty fed up. It pretty much seemed indestructible. He glanced up at the control room and was surprised to see Hank watching with a look that clearly told Logan that something was wrong for there was no grin of satisfaction on Hanks face or even a look of interest. To Logan it seemed as if Hank was trying hard not to cry or either he was in a great deal of pain. His eyes were shut as tightly as possible and he was shaking his head while Forge and Arcade ignored him, talking and laughing together. Only Arcade seemed to be watching what was happening.

"We're going to die!" Kitty wailed as she tried to think what to do.

"You will not die if I can help it!" Peter yelled as he threw his robot into another one that was giving its full attention to Scott.

Kurt bamfed next to Kitty just as Scott came up to them.

"Something's wrong," their leader said.

"Brilliant deduction," Logan growled.

"Why aren't you people fighting?" Warren hollered from above as he continued dodging electric shock nets and deadly looking darts that were being shot at him.

"It's the Professor," Kitty said. She was standing now with Kurt's help.

"What?" Scott asked but then the robot that was assigned to him came upon him and he darted off shooting his optical beams as he did so.

"Why can't we kill them?" Kurt asked.

"Kurt, get Kitty out of here now and Warren, see if you can get Hank's attention, we need him to shut this down now!" Logan ordered.

Warren barely had a moment to glare at Logan. Dodging the arsenal that was being thrown at him was difficult enough, he thought with a righteous snort and he made no attempt to do as he was directed.

"I am unable to even teleport myself a few feet I am so tried! These things seem to know our every move and no matter how many times I teleport it always is waiting for me. We are trapped," Kurt said before he ran across the room from the looming robot that seemed programmed to track only him.

"That's the key," Kitty muttered. "Right, right! That's it! Everyone try to switch robots for as long as you can!"

The men looked up to see Kitty dive through the robot that was after Peter who hurried after her. Kurt, dodging his robot circled back but Peter yanked him brutally by the arm as soon as they were close. It was one of the last things they remembered – Peter demanded that Kurt get Kitty out as the huge mechanical monster that she'd phased through shook violently then stopped, then shook a little more before it fell hard to the floor and then the room exploded.

The fire had spread unlike any other fire that Bobby had ever seen. The unearthly intensity of the flames, of this bird of prey, took the house within its wings and consumed it as if it were a child's playhouse made out of frail paper and paste. And in the midst of the destruction a bird shaped of flames revealed its awesome plumage for all to behold.

"Nooooooooooo! Noooooo!"

Not a half mile away one lone angel soared through the air, her mouth gaping open as her cries of denial coursed from her throat. Before her very eyes the house, which she considered home, went up in an explosion that left only a gigantic flaming bird wavering high in the sky to mark its place. Whether guardian or foe, whether to mourn or to gloat she couldn't tell.

Ororo had gone back. She had decided to talk to Logan one more time. She also wanted to ensure that everyone was safe and make sure they actually listened to her about Hank's warning. She had thought to try to salvage what she could but now there was nothing to salvage – nothing to go back for. In tears, she turned and let the wind take her as far away as she could possibly get. She never saw the ice slide sailing around the hole that was all that was left of Charles Xavier's house. She never knew that Bobby, also in tears, had survived.

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Long miserable days turned into long unbearable months for Ororo as she aimlessly wandered the country. The newspapers had been full of the horrible news. Word spread that it had been a terrorist attack. Suspected terrorists along with any less than savory mutants were being rounded up and questioned. Many had been detained but none had been found guilty. S.H.I.E.L.D. had every capable person working on the case. Ororo hadn't tried to contract anyone with S.H.I.E.L.D. and she hadn't told anyone that she had been the lone survivor. It was better that the world thought she was dead. Maybe after the pain of losing all whom she loved so dearly finally eased she would be able to try and live life like a normal human.

After a while she had returned to New York. She planned on leaving the States but ticket in hand she had found herself filled with a deep longing and sadness that wouldn't let her leave her old haunts. She loved New York City more than any place in the world. When it was dark and the streets were less crowded she would take long walks after a meal at her favorite restaurant then she would take a carriage ride and closing her eyes she dreamed of what might have been.

Eating and watching people seemed to be her only entertainment now. Why she couldn't leave New York and go abroad as planned she didn't know. Well she did. Part of her was still at Xavier's with Logan. If she left New York it would be as if she were admitting that they were all dead and she would never see them again. For the umpteenth time she wondered why Logan hadn't trusted her enough to come with her. She wondered why the others hadn't listened to her. They would be alive even now if they had.

But she hadn't told everyone and because of that she felt immensely guilty. She should've tried to warn Warren or Kurt but in all honesty she hadn't given them a thought. Did that make her an even more horrible person than she really was? She didn't know but she felt that it was her fault that they had died. They didn't even have a chance to decide to go or not go like she had given poor Bobby and Kitty and Peter. Those three had been like family to her. She could hardly bring herself to think of Logan. So far she hadn't been able to think of him without crying.

All the I should have's in the world couldn't ease her guilt and pain there. She should've done more than shared her concerns with him, she should have insisted on him leaving with her but she hadn't. She'd been rebellious and angry and had left in a fit determined to teach him a lesson. What a stupid little baby she'd been – just like Logan had said. And like a baby she blamed herself no matter how much she knew it wasn't really her fault. She figured it was Hank's fault – the bastard. Somehow he had managed to kill them all. She wished he was still alive so she could have the thrill of killing him and making him suffer like the others probably had or like she was suffering now. Maybe fill his lungs with a nice thick cloud of supersaturated nitrates. He deserved no less.

Sadly, even thoughts of killing Hank in the most violent ways she could think of didn't stop her from feeling the guilt she'd lived with for so long now. Everything she did, including now, sitting in D'Artagnan where she was mulling over her food, made her feel guilty for she could taste, smell, breathe . . . live. To her annoyance her appetite had even improved of late when she shouldn't have been able to eat anything at all. Eating made her feel worse than awful plus she'd quickly regained the five pounds she'd lost when she couldn't eat that first month, and now she'd added on several additional pounds.

She wasn't as healthy as she used to be either. Now her head hurt all the time and her stomach constantly felt empty. Even now. She looked around the small café at the eclectic selection of customers. Talking, laughing, living. She had a raging headache but that just reminded her of Jean. Everything – everything she did any more reminded her of her friends and team mates.

Time for her medicine, she thought. She needed something to dull the pain. She took a long sip of water to wash the pills down. She felt better then. The water was cold and refreshing with a slice of lemon in it. After awhile she took a bite of her foie gras and sighed and then her sigh turned into a gasp which turned into a quick fit of coughing as she gagged on the fois gras that had gone down the wrong way.

All the while her eyes never left the man who had just entered. He looked around the busy little café with a look of expectation and when his eyes met hers he didn't bother to wait for assistance but headed in her direction. Beneath the cowboy hat was the scruffy yet handsome face that Ororo had come to realize that she would always love. Her heart felt as if it had turned into lead as it sunk to the pit of her stomach. Still he kept coming, shoving people out of his way with no regard until finally he stood before her trying not to grin. He twisted his face into a scowl and stared down at her.

It couldn't be – how? But it was. Logan. Handsome, rugged, and breathing – alive! There with her! Now. All she ever wanted. And he had come for her. How? But of course – his healing factor. How else? But why now? What had taken him so long to find her? To save her? Did he know how much she'd suffered? Did he know she was sorry for every mean thing she'd ever said to him or about him? Did he know she hated herself? Would he still want her now for she was just as much a killer as he had been? All she could do was stare at him. He was perfect. He was alive. Would he forgive her?

"I know what you're thinking," Logan said.

Ororo tried to speak but found she couldn't. He pointed to her chin and she looked around the restaurant wildly then realized what he meant and raised her napkin to her chin. Logan watched with amusement as she held the napkin without wiping away the trickle at the corner of her mouth.

"You're thinking you don't know what to believe," he said and his face cracked into a smile wider than Ororo would have thought was possible.

He was right of course. How could he be standing in front of her when he was dead and how could this feeling inside her that felt like the deepest love still be alive so strong and undying? Would the Professor never leave her in peace?

"Some of us made it."

She gasped, tried to speak and still could not and covered her mouth with the napkin.

"Jean somehow took out the place. Maybe something went wrong when the Professor was trying to keep all that power from making her crazy."

Another gasp escaped her lips.

"Guess you know it happened the same day you left. That's been six months now," he paused then sat down across from her. "You were right."

One might have thought it would have been hard for him to admit it but the admission came easily to him.

"How . . . ?" Ororo's mouth could barely move. There were so many questions.

"Kitty said you'd had her look at the danger room computers and she saw all this data that was on how to take us out – every last one of us. She was the one who figured that the program was running. She was the one who saved me . . . and the others."

"W-who?"

"Peter and Kurt. Scott's in a coma."

"Kitty phased her and Peter who had hold of Kurt and she just kept going through all that mess. Oh, and Bobby wasn't there."

"Bobby! He made it?"

"Yeah, the little ice cube bailed before the action."

"Oh, thank God!"

"Don't you wanna know how I made it?"

"Y-your healing factor?" she asked uncertainly.

He laughed and covered her hand with one of his.

"You gotta figure I'd be blown in a million gazillion pieces an' I don't think any healing factor in the world's gonna save you from that."

"Then how?"

"I couldn't tell you how exactly. All's I know is I saw this bird . . ."

"Of flame!"

"Yeah, an' I thought I heard Jean talking to me in my head then the next thing I knew I woke up in a S.H.I.E.L.D. infirmary all blown up in pieces – nothing below my waist pretty much, not even hands. Took me a long time to grow my limbs back," he chuckled.

"Jean," Ororo murmured as she suppressed a shudder.

He shrugged. "She said she was sorry."

"Sorry?"

Again he shrugged. "It's gonna sound crazy but she was in my head – spoke to me as if she was standing right next to me whispering to me. She told me she was sorry about you and her and me and her and mostly sorry about Scott. We didn't have a conversation cause I felt like I was in flames but they didn't burn and they did. It was weird but I felt like she was protecting me from the explosion. I figured that's how Scott survived too even though he's been in a coma since then. Maybe it was her way of being able to leave this world with a clear conscious."

Ororo felt strange. The air felt funny – thick and stuffy. Jean. She'd been such a horrible friend to her and Jean had given her Logan back.

"You still feelin' what I'm feelin', sweetheart?"

Her large eyes were full of anticipation. She looked like she was going to cry.

"And it ain't somethin' the Professor did to us even though you were right about some things. It's hard to keep brainwashin' people when you're dead. Speakin' of which, you hear about Magneto comin' back to life so to speak an' goin' on a rampage last month? Gonna take over the world."

Ororo swallowed and nodded at the same time. Her stomach was doing flips. He took the napkin from her free hand and dabbed at the trail of white that had run down her chin. He was so close she nearly couldn't breathe. He stood up a bit, moved his chair closer to hers.

"We had a deal remember?"

"A deal?"

"Yup. You an' me together."

"Together?"

"You sound like a parrot."

"You sound like you haven't changed at all."

"You sound like you have."

"I missed you."

"I missed you too, darlin'."

"I'm so glad you're alive!" she sobbed.

He let her cry, pulling her to him. Her sobs slowly became great heaves as she felt the deep sadness within her mingling with her new found joy, the emotions welling up threatening to overpower her. Her days and nights had been wracked with guilt and self hatred – to have survived when her friends, her only family had not had been almost too much for her to bear.

"We got a place in Salem. You know that safe house but, well Bobby an' Kitty can't even watch My Wife and Kids any more, said things ain't the same without you there. Course everything else has gotta be eatin' at 'em. I didn't tell 'em I came after you. Didn't wanna get their hopes up. So I want you to come back with me."

She looked at him, surprised still trying to breathe. He grinned and rested an arm along the back of her chair. She tried to wet her lips but couldn't and quickly closed her mouth.

"Breathe, sweetheart," he whispered as he patted her gently on her back.

She fell into him then, her arms going around his neck, her lips seeking his and when his obliged she found she could breathe because he was breathing for her.

"You gained a few pounds I see," he said as he helped her up and smacked her softly on her bottom.

"Hey!"

"I like it," he said with a satisfied grin. He pulled out a wad of cash, tossed it on the table then wrapped an arm around her, steadied her and started to take her home.

Was she dreaming she wondered? But she was in his arms and she went willingly. He kissed her, tore at her clothes even as they made it to the door. He ignored the gawking people – a useless audience.

Outside in the fresh air she still felt as if her head was pounding but it didn't matter. When she stumbled he was there helping her, his thick strong arms a cocoon of safety. She touched his face staring unabashedly. He kissed her lips. She cried for forgiveness. He held her tight and let her cry. There was no forgiveness needed.

Time seemed to stand still. It was still night. Dark. The air was chilly. Too many cars – so many flashing lights. So many people out and about now, she thought and wondered why. And was that a fire in the distance? It looked like a bird. Fireworks maybe? She couldn't think straight. Where was Logan? Now she saw him beside her as if suddenly appearing out of no where. They were standing before the same SUV they'd gone out in so long ago. He opened the door and helped her in. But he put her in the back seat. She vaguely wondered why then thought – it was time, I am his no one else's ever.

They could barely contain themselves. There were so many questions yet no time for words. His kisses suffocated her and she was glad to not be able to breathe. She was glad to let go. Not to have to think. She wanted to be with him, with Kitty and Bobby and Peter. She no longer wanted to live. She no longer deserved to live. No wait! What was she thinking? Her thoughts were jumbled. What was real and what wasn't? Would she ever know again? Oh, Logan! Where was Logan? She closed her eyes. I'm coming, please don't hate me, please forgive me. And she smiled as the flames grew bright above her.

.

"Is she going to make it?"

The doctor looked at the nurse without acknowledging her question but he glanced at Ororo then back at the nurse.

"Oh," the nurse whispered.

He supposed that was all anyone could say. It was as good a response as any.

"Why do you think a beautiful girl like her would try to kill herself?" the nurse persisted.

"Who knows? She's not a druggie. Maybe she broke up with her boyfriend I don't know, Diane."

"Debbie. My name's Debbie."

"My mistake. It's late. I need some coffee."

The nurse shrugged. The doctor wanted a moment's peace. She, Debbie, asked too many questions and there were other patients to take care of. It had been a long night and he didn't have time regretting some kid's wasted life. With a brisk nod he turned and went to see his next patient.

The nurse didn't know why she was interested in this kid. She'd seen so many teenagers in the exact same situation. Where they got such strong dosages from she never could figure it out. Or why a beautiful girl who wore a size one and was in her prime would want to kill herself was a constant mystery to her.

Now, if she could lose fifty pounds and get into a size eight, maybe even a size ten she'd be ecstatic and all her other problems wouldn't seem half so bad then. Not like now with the mortgage falling behind, her two teenagers skipping school all the time and doing who knew what. Maybe even like this girl. She knew there wasn't anything she could do for the girl now or even for her teenagers who never listened to her it's just that something was so familiar about this girl.

It was like she knew her but couldn't figure out from where. Looking at her watch she saw her shift was over and she was anxious to get home to her kids. Maybe she'd try talking to them, tell them how much she loved them. Maybe it wasn't too late – like this poor girl. It wasn't until she was driving home when Debbie realized why the white haired girl was so familiar to her. She was a mutant – an X-Man. She remembered seeing her along with a group of other mutants on the cover of Newsweek a long time ago. She was glad her kids weren't mutants and with that she put Ororo out of her mind.

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Inside the hospital busy nurses and aids and doctors scurried about their duties. Someone screamed and pointed out the window. Many stopped what they were doing to look and see what the fuss was about but others continued with their jobs, mundane and urgent. Those attending Ororo missed the sight of the bird of flame hovering in the sky just outside the hospital. They easily lifted her from her bed and placed her on a gurney then covered her almost carelessly with a blanket. It was warm and soft. She was already growing cold.

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