And Then There Were Four – Conclusion
Chapter Eleven: Full Circle
(Thanks for your support!)
Emma shut her mind as she stared at the blank expression on Scott's face. Her school was in ruins, her students (it was becoming sickeningly redundant) were gone, and as if it wasn't bad enough that she was standing next to Jean Grey… well, she didn't want to hear his thoughts break her heart.
As if his face already hadn't.
Emma winced at Jean's voice before moving forward towards Cyclops—Scott, though he didn't even realize it, walking past Frost to stand in front of his wife.
Ororo Munroe pulled her hand from her face as she stared blankly in unison with several of the other X-Men. She wasn't sure what to think as she looked at her best friend… but found her thoughts wandering as Emma Frost walked past the small, battered group of X-Men to stand by herself.
Her own heart sunk… and as her eyes turned elsewhere, to the equally shocked Henry McCoy, she knew by his eyes that he shared her thoughts.
"I… hate to bust this up," Hank broke the silence—a job, he thought, he should be receiving money for, "but we need to start tracking Rachel at once. We should contact another super-team, and…"
"You're… alive," a stunned Scott Summers blurted out, his first words to the redheaded woman standing before him.
"Déjà vu?" Jean joked, her lip quivering.
Hank uneasily turned away, motioning to the leader of the X.S.E. "Ororo, perhaps you could…"
Storm nodded, rising into the air. The weather goddess focused for a moment, her mind's eye turning to the grounds of the Institute. Moments later, rain began to fall – dousing the unimaginable damage the explosions and fires had caused.
"Scott," Alex spoke, moving towards his brother. "Scott, we have to…"
Cyclops shook his head. "You're right. Storm, nice work. I don't know how much of the Institute is left standing – but I want Logan, once he's recovered, to lead a few of you through the grounds. We're missing far too many X-Men." His thoughts turned to the image of the dormitories. "And… maybe we can find other survivors as well."
Scott finally turned from Jean. "Alex… Hank… I want you to—"
"That won't be necessary, Scott," Jean interrupted, walking to the middle of the group. "Storm…"
The windrider turned, a look of unbelief on her face. "Yes, Jean?"
"I need you to come with me – but the rest of you, stay here. I know where Rachel is – I can feel her. She's very confused… very disoriented. I can handle her."
"No way, Jeannie," Logan spoke for the first time—most of his skin making a triumphant return. "I can't believe I'm talkin' to you right now, but I have t'get over it. There's no way you're just leavin' on a suicide mission so soon, Storm on your side or not."
"Logan," Jean said softly, stepping back. She focused, a grin flashing on her face after a moment. Flame spread all around her, an immense display of power no matter how often one saw it. "I can handle her."
Jean turned to Cyclops, placing her hand on his shoulder. There was nothing either of them could say.
Emma felt her stomach turn as she watched The Phoenix lift off, Storm behind her. She'd jeopardized everything – her thoughts turning back to an early conversation she'd had with Charles Xavier.
"You'd asked me why you would want to stay here, Emma," he'd said. "Why you, after teaching at the Massachusetts Academy, would ever want to teach for this Institute… why you would ever want to become an X-Man."
She'd remained silent, but it didn't matter. She'd shielded her thoughts, but it didn't do any good.
"You're searching, Emma… searching for the right thing to do. The right opportunity to prove whom you really are. There are times, Emma Frost, when we must forget about ourselves… when we must think of only others – of a greater good.
There are times when we must be an X-Man."
Frost, at the first sign of a tear, quickly shifted into diamond form—all emotions gone for the moment. Turning, she looked to her team. "I'm sure she'll be in contact… let's search the grounds."
Ororo pushed herself to her limit, bending the winds around her in an effort to keep up with Jean. Her thoughts leapt back and forth—and she couldn't help but feel as if she were dreaming.
"I wish I could offer you more of an explanation," Jean called to Ororo telepathically, "but I don't know that I can."
"Jean… I just can't believe you're here," Ororo replied. "You're supposed to be dead."
"So was Magneto."
The two smiled. It felt good—dancing across the skies with your best friend, as if there weren't a care in the world.
The image of the skies flashed, disappearing and melting into the small cottage Jean and Scott shared in Anchorage.
"Jean, what's going on?"
"Don't worry, Ororo… I won't let you fly into a plane. I'm telepathically guiding you through the air while I hone in on Rachel. I thought this would give us a chance to catch up."
Munroe was weary… almost frightened. The power she was experiencing was unspeakable… or perhaps it was that Jean's power level hadn't surprised her in quite a long time.
"Ororo… please. Trust me."
Storm smiled. "Of course."
"I wasn't supposed to come back, Ororo… not yet."
"Jean… tell me how this is possible."
Grey hesitated for a moment. "Do you remember when Emma was shot while in her diamond form, Ororo?" Storm nodded, giving room for Jean to continue. "Hank had pieced her back together… and I… the Phoenix… I brought her back to life, Ororo. I recreated someone."
Storm simply looked at her friend. "Ororo… I'd never experienced power on such a scale… it was… indescribable. I didn't even know I could do it… and I didn't know it, but I'd… imprinted… myself on Emma's psyche."
"Jean, you're not saying…"
"Emma brought me back, Ororo. I don't know if it will last… I don't… I don't know anything."
"Oh, Jean," Munroe said softly, running her hand across her dearest friend's face.
"I know they're together," Jean murmured. "It was my doing."
Storm raised an eyebrow—perplexed at the very thought.
"Everything was wrong, Ororo… Scott would've left the X-Men… Hank would have tried to reinstitute everything we'd ever worked for… only he'd fail, and…"
"Jean, what are you talking about?"
"A horrible future that I had no choice but to stop, Ororo. I changed it… changed the entire thing… but it meant that I couldn't return… The Phoenix, Ororo… once it touches you it never leaves."
"Jean… this is too much," she admitted. "You should focus before you become too distracted… you've only just returned, and… we need to find…"
The Phoenix's eyes narrowed. "Need to find…"
Rachel Grey stumbled to her feet from a field several miles from the Institute. She remained silent.
"Rachel, I need you to think for a moment… I need you to relax."
Grey stammered, trying desperately to call on the flame that she'd grown so close to recently. Nothing happened as she attempted to psychically assault the man before her – she was too weak. She couldn't focus… couldn't feel her powers…
"You're dead… killed … my mother…"
Erik Lensherr caught the young woman as she fell into his arms, his thoughts moving from the reversal of her blood flow to Charles Xavier. "I have her, Charles," he thought. "She must not have been as powerful as you'd expected… the mental cloak you'd placed on me worked – and she went down very quickly."
"Bring her to the ship, Erik," Charles Xavier replied.
"I hope you know what you're doing, old friend."
Kitty Pryde intangibly walked through the remnants of the main dormitory, meeting the eager faces of the Beast and Havok. Her face was quite different from their own.
"Some rooms are surprisingly in tact," Shadowcat said somberly, referring to the large wreckage behind her.
"No one, Kitty?" Alex asked.
"No one's alive, no," she said in almost a whisper. "They're all dead – at least those that I can see."
Much of the dormitories lay scattered across the lawn in heaps, what was left of the X-Men combing every inch of them.
Cyclops and Emma Frost searched together uneasily, walking alongside the debris in hope.
"You should use your telepathy, Emma," Scott said flatly as he looked to his girlfriend, armored up in her diamond form – void of emotions… but also void of her telepathic abilities.
"I'd rather not," she barked.
"What do you want from me?" Cyclops stopped, staring into his own reflection upon her skin.
"I don't want a damned thing," Emma growled, turning away. As she did so, she lowered her form – diamond returning to skin. She sighed, covering her eyes with her hands.
"Emma… I'm sorry."
"Sorry for what, Scott?"
"It seemed like the right thing to say."
"I brought Jean back, you know."
"We needed her. It's kind of funny… she brought me back to life once – helped guide me back, at least. She'd created some sort of exchange policy so that I could do the same for her, need be."
"Emma – you don't…" He hesitated. "You don't have anything to worry about. I'm with you."
Frost shook her head, placing her palm over Scott's heart. "No, Scott."
He started to speak… but as he did so, Emma placed the index finger of her other hand over his lips. "No you're not."
"Jean… what's going on?"
"I don't know… I… what are we… doing… can't… concentrate…"
The scene around Jean and Storm changed once more – this time, they found themselves inside of an aircraft.
Storm's eyes immediately darted to the man piloting. "Charles…?"
"In the events of late," the X-Man known as Northstar said, pulling debris from debris as he worked alongside Iceman, "I…"
"I know, Jean Claude."
The former Alpha Flight member stopped dead in his tracks – something he rarely did. "Bobby?"
Iceman turned, placing a hand on his teammate's shoulder. "I'm… flattered, I guess. You're a great guy… and a great X-Man, Northstar."
Northstar turned. "…Thank you," he said in a low tone – returning to his work.
"…Nightcrawler and Bishop have been accounted for," Wolverine grunted as he walked toward Kitty, Alex, and Hank.
A twinkle shot through Kitty's eyes – but the sudden realization that followed murdered the thought instantly. He'd said accounted for… not that they were alive.
"Logan… how are we ever going to recover?" Pryde began to break down. She was tired of pretending she didn't want to die inside… this was the most horrible thing she'd ever witnessed… and that was saying quite a lot. And it was all because of …
"Logan… something's happening."
"I had hoped you wouldn't witness this," Charles said as he turned to his two former X-Men. Jean and Ororo stood, looking down at their mentor.
"Jean, it's… wonderful… to see you," he spoke blindly, avoiding eye contact with his prize pupil.
Grey's eyes darted to the front of the plane. "…Charles, is that…?"
"Magneto?" Storm erupted, her eyes scanning the vessel immediately. "Charles, what is going… Rachel??"
Rachel Grey, strapped into a seat, lay unconscious.
Jean Grey's eyes went wide. "Charles, you can't…"
"…do this!!" Jean Grey shrieked.
Scott Summers leapt up beside her, turning to his wife immediately. "Jean, are you… what is it??"
She paused. Charles… Emma… Xorn… Magneto?
"Jean, is something wrong?"
Wiping the sweat from her brow, Jean looked at her husband with a puzzled look. "I'm… just a dream, Scott.
Just a bad dream."
"I thought of a name," Annie smiled at her fiancé, the X-Man known as Havok.
Alex gently rubbed the woman's stomach as he looked into her eyes. "Carter."
"You doin' okay, Ray?"
"I'm great, Kitty… just looking through some old pictures, that sort of thing."
"As long as none of those pictures feature any dorky X-Men named Sprite, I think we'll be fine," Rachel Grey's roommate chuckled as she jumped onto the bed with her friend.
Rachel flipped through the pictures, Kitty looking over her shoulder. "Here's the first night we stayed at Braddock Manor!"
"Oh my God!" Kitty giggled, taking the picture from Rachel's hands. "That was insane… I'll never forget trying to find a late night snack with Meggan – and Brian was absolutely insane when Kurt…"
The two looked at one another.
"You wiped their minds, Charles?"
Xavier hesitated before answering. He sighed, staring deep into Hammer Bay. "I only did what I had to do, Erik."
A fury burned inside Erik Lensherr. "My god, Charles… why not me, too? And you, of all people, should know better than to…"
"As far as my X-Men were concerned, Magneto, you killed Jean Grey. You. Our arch enemy, in so many words… you killed her... and when poor, young Rachel resurrected the Phoenix Force in this timeline, in her own right, she was nearly driven mad…
The loss of so many children… of so much life… it would not have only shattered her, Erik… not only Emma, nor Scott… but it would have forever crippled my X-Men."
"Or crippled your dream… Charles, you're no better than—"
"Damnit, Erik! You aren't listening!"
"You erased years of life, Charles! You erased people! Your students! Nightcrawler! My own daughter! And not just mine – but many children; children to whom their parents will simply never know! I'd never known you to be possible of such a thing… of something on such a scale… but even if I had, I'd never even suspect you of ushering in such an atrocity!"
"Aren't you tired, Erik? Tired of the pain? The suffering? Parents aren't mourning their children… Jean doesn't have to deal with Scott's disloyalty… Emma with the loss of her students… Rachel the fact that she is responsible for the death of so many loved ones, just as in her own timeline…"
"Had I known your intent months ago, Charles, I'd have never helped you rebuild that school." Magneto paused…
"Or did I know?"
Charles looked away.
"What have you become, Charles Xavier?"
The founder of the X-Men remained silent for some time after that… the man who he'd rebuilt Genosha with standing behind him.
"…you're right, Erik. My God… you're right."
Xavier fought as hard as he could… but began to weep nonetheless.
Magneto turned. "I'll prep the jet."
Author's Note: Again, thank you for all of your reviews... hope you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed writing it! What will happen once Charles and Erik reach Westchester? Who knows... (did anyone just smell a sequel?)