The writer: I love to tell stories.

The goal: A test bed for character development

Disclaimer: I do not own X-men Evolution

Chapter 61: Balance

It is a storm biblical proportions, as billowing clouds of fire illuminates the once gloomy night sky. The fiery clouds flow like ocean surf across the sky seemingly burning the air from existence. Hovering and maneuvering about at a lower altitude, a gathering of law enforcement, rescue and media helicopters continue to circle a catastrophic site, while at the same time trying to keep an eye on sky above. Thunder clashes shake the air followed by lightning like flashes that forces the pilots and their passengers to flinch out of fear. However, the thundering flashes do not come from the skies above, but from below. Watching from high above in their hovering vehicles, local authorities and media onlookers are almost stunned at the show of power beyond any of their comprehensions. Sharp bursts of light flash below them, forcing the determined camera men to flinch and close their eyes tightly. The light is then follow by a violent rupture in the air, causing each helicopter pilot to make a mixture of major and minor adjustments to their flight control trying to keep their vehicles stable in the sky. High power spot lights shine down on the bright dramatic scene only to find the area covered in a billowing massive dust cloud. Although the down draft from each of the helicopters creates a flowing gust of wind, it only adds to the chaos below, kicking up more dust into the fray. Despite all the titanic forces being displayed, the drama seems to be isolated in a near two hundred yard wide area. A rippling air wave lashes out slowly pushing the billowing cloud of smoke and dust away in somewhat circular manner, thus revealing the severely damaged industrial landscape. The ground is scorched with deep burns, riddled with shattered remains of building structures that now resemble ancient ruins of old. Standing with stern confidence among the smashed structures, Allan stares at Seth with an angered disposition. His blood red padded boots and gloves show signs of wear and tear along with his stylized uniform. Vanguard's helmet appears to be slightly dented all over as he breathes out heavily. Struggling to his hands and knees after appearing to be slammed face first in the damaged ground, Seth grunts out cradling a sharp pain on his right side. His similar yet darker stylized uniform shares the same battle worn appearance as Allan's. An abundance of energy seems to faintly radiate from their forms as they move about. With his eyes fixed upon Seth's downed position, Allan catches his breath and remarks, "It must feel really different being on the other end of a beating, huh Seth?"

Slowly raising and turning his head toward Allan, Seth glares through the eyeholes of his dent riddled helmet and replies, "You would know, wouldn't you?"

"I'm not ashamed to say I've been humbled a few times." Allan returns, "It just comes to prove that nobody in existence is above a good butt whoopin'."

Getting to his feet and standing defensively, Seth darts back, "Spare me your heroic bravado, Allan. It sickens me to watch you try and live like a pathetic mortal."

Illuminating another energy weapon from his left hand, Allan takes a breath and asks sarcastically, "So, by your terms, how should I live my life Seth?" as the energy weapon takes the form of a large battle axe with a long handle.

Dramatically, Seth holds his gloved fists out to his sides. In an angered tone, Seth remarks loudly, "Look around you, Allan! Look at us! We are the gods of existence! Our will becomes the forces of order and chaos!"

Allan watches as Seth begins to harness the abundance of kinetic and potential energy to him like a vortex. Various spectrums of light seem to draw into Seth's body causing his form to glow more intensely. All about the scorched damaged area, various pieces of debris float about, each turning and twisting freely in the air. Holding his dramatic posture, Seth yells out as opens his tightly clinched fists releasing the massive amounts out energy he had harnessed. His super charged body radiates brightly as a colossal wave of yellow glowing energy blossoms out from his form into the skies and arches toward Allan's position. So massive is the wave of energy, it pushes the air outward creating severe wind pockets that collide violently against the helicopters flying above. The sudden change in the wind pressure is enough force the gathering of hovering vehicles away while trying to maintain altitude. Some suffer rotor damage from the solid like air blast and are forced to take a hard landing. Allan takes a step back watching the arching wave of energy bear down upon him and speaks out, "We're not gods, Seth! But when someone like us tries to play God, that's when I get involved!"

At the last second, he raises his glowing battle axe high over his head and swings out at the careening glowing wave. Allan's counter attack literally cuts into the tsunami like assault splitting the wave in two. The severe force of Seth's attack causes Allan to slide back as he defends himself. The now split energy wave tears into ground around Allan's position eviscerating the already damaged terrain. Grunting from the attack, Allan musters his concentration re-harnessing Seth's unleashed forces into his glowing energized battle axe as he twirls the large weapon in a wide circular manner. Spinning with the twirling weapon, Allan throws the glowing wide bladed axe at Seth. The glowing weapon cuts through the air in a repetitive whipping sound, spinning towards its target at incalculable speeds. Both attacks happen in mere seconds leaving Seth little to no time to react as the axe collides against his dense chest. But instead of cutting into him, the glowing axe seems to detonate on impact in a bright and loud display. The blast wave from the impact explosion sends Seth crashing further back into dense piles of rubble like a streaking comet. Allan lets out a heavy breath and staggers a bit as he stares out to where Seth had crashed. Peering through the eyeholes of his dented stylized blood red helmet, he looks up at the sky noticing the glowing atmospheric change. Allan watches night sky clouds slowly swirl into a mixture of organic like flames. Distant sounds of thunder seem to bounce and echo from one horizon to the other. Allan then turns his attention to the sounds of the Brotherhood's embroiled battle. Deep loud thuds indicate the sound of hard impacts followed by climatic explosions. Focusing out with his mind, Allan can hear other desperate voices of rescue workers and frightened media personnel. Looking off to his right in the distance, he can see several rescue workers helping an injured news chopper team escape from their downed damaged helicopter. The sight of selfless humanitarians at work brings a slight smile to Allan's face as he nods. He then returns his gaze back up at the brilliant sky and whispers in a yearning tone, "I just need a little more time… please."

Allan's attention is then caught by the stirring sound of shifting rubble where Seth had landed. Taking a saddened deep breath, Allan slowly begins to step and advance. Walking up to the top of piled scorched rubble. Allan gets a better view of the drama unfolding. He stares back to look at the Brotherhood's battle. With calm eyes, he sees each one of them deliver precise attacks against the cosmically enhanced Shaw, then dive away from the mutilated creature's massive counter attack. The sight of their bravery under the command of Magneto humbles Allan as he mutters out, "Awesome."

Just then, the echoing yet gentle voices of Emma and Tessa telepathically speak in unison in his mind, "Allan, this battle between you and Seth can literally go on forever."

Turning his gaze back over toward Seth's rubble riddled position, Allan watches calmly as he sees his opponent slowly pulls himself out of the heavy debris. In somewhat serene manner, Allan verbally replies to the two telepaths, "I know. I guess that means something has to give."

--

Staggering from another earth shifting quake, Wolverine takes quick glances around, double checking for anybody left behind. His eyes peer over the molten damaged terrain that was once a quiet suburban neighborhood. Spurts of glowing lava sporadically spray out from the ground adding to the already build up of volcanic activity. A drawn out thundering sound echoes from the sky above as Wolverine looks up. Floating, somewhat suspended in the air at a height of sixty feet, a bright glowing sphere illuminates the night sky. Organic like white flames dance off the curvature of the round object as it radiates an abundance of heat energy into the storm clouds high above. The energy seems to feed off of the atmospheric build up creating a mix of swirling dark clouds and glowing fire. Looking at the burning sphere, Wolverine can see a male and female figure inside, floating apart but facing one another. He lets out frustrated sigh and starts to head back away from the chaotic scene. Carefully avoiding several piles of heats molten rock, Wolverine begins to get clear, but then notices Rogue standing alone just outside heavily damaged zone. He takes a quick glance back at the cosmic sight, then turns his attention back to her. But before he can speak up, Storm gently floats down on a gentle blanket of wind and remarks, "Agent Danvers has pulled the last of her men out, Banshee is falling back with our injured."

In a stern yet calm tone, Wolverine asks, "Who do we got left?"

Taking a quick breath, Storm gestures down the street behind her. Wolverine looks and sees Colossus, Havok, Paige, Cannonball, Dazzler, and Iceman waiting nervously. "I ordered the rest to assist the SHIELD agents with crowd control." Storm adds as she looks up at the fiery sky.

With a gaze of utter sadness, Storm watches as the swirling organic like whites flames mix into the billowing thunder clouds above, then slowly consume it's space. A bit of hesitation is sounded in her voice as she remarks, "Jean… she is… her power… it's burning the atmosphere. I can feel it."

With nervousness in his voice, Wolverine remarks, "I guess this is it."

Stepping up with a concerned expression, young Havok inquires, "Hold it, what do you mean by that?"

Placing a firm yet warming hand upon his right shoulder, Colossus speaks up, "He means we can run no longer, my friend."

Thier faces turn toward Wolverine with more concern as he says, "Jean has kept us on the defensive."

He looks over to Storm and asks, "Haven't heard anything from Charles or Hank?"

Storm sighs out and replies with a slight shake of her head. Following her reply, Wolverine adds, "We're cut off and on our own. We gotta do what we gotta do, or die tryin'."

Another deep earth tremor staggers thier position as they all look up towards fiery sky. Swirling mixes of white fire and glowing mist flow about as though orbiting the burning translucent globe containing both Scott and Jean. Floating and seemingly encased in the glwoing sphere, they both appear to be in a near catatonic state. Scott's body floats suspended and helpless while Jean's body pulsates of radiant energy facing him. Thier eyes seem locked onto each other widely in silence while thier minds invisibly meld with one another. A multitude of memories and emotions play back within Jean's mind. It is as though she is seeing Scott's life played back from the beginning. From his earliest memory of his mother and father's faces, to the moment he lost them in a plane accident, to finally the fear he felt when Jean lashed out at him in the parking deck. All the pain and happiness he had felt throughout his life surges through Jean's mind as though they were her own. Even the love he has for her. It is a genuine soul filled hug she feels from his heart, yet she tries to deny it, digging deeper for any deception. Jean's mind seeks out the betrayal she feels in her heart, but all she can find is pain, disappointment and sadness. Still in denial, Jean probes deeper, despite the echoing pain she feels from Scott. The severe strain of the powerful mental focus begins to wear Scott's mind thin, bringing him dangerously close to complete brain death. Jean reaches further into the emotional pieces of his memories, sifting through thoughts and feelings Scott had long thought was lost. Until finally she reaches a moment that seems frozen in time. With her power over total mental control, Jean focuses and mentally steps into the scene, finding herself standing in the moment where she had left Scott in the mall parking deck alone with Taryn. The image stands frozen silently as she seems to physically approach the confusing situation. Scott lays on his back with Taryn crouched down trying to help him up. Both of their faces express disappointment and a great deal of confusion. Scott's expression matches the emotional sensation Jean feels from this memory. She gently waves her hand releasing the hold she had placed over the memory. The moment begins to play out right before her eyes, with Taryn helping Scott to his feet.

----

The battle grows desperate by the minute as the Brotherhood expend all their strength and energy against the cosmically mutilated Shaw. With his right hand gesturing at the creature, Magneto strains against it's titanic strength, trying to assert his control over the thick metal beam he has wrapped around the upper torso of the monster. The reverberating sound of magnetism gives way to the ear splitting sound of bending and stretching metal. Magneto's right arms seems to buckle from the strain as he grunts out in pain. Shaw roars hideously ripping out from the metallic hold, tearing through the metal beam like a knife through warm butter with his elongated arms out stretching. Following Magneto's lead, Avalanche sends out a massive shockwave towards the monster. The loud echoing blast of hard granite juts out striking Shaw against his mid torso pushing him back. Charging from behind, Blob follows up by attacking Shaw with both fists. His massive fisted hands slam hard against Shaw's scaly mutilated back in a loud thud, abruptly stopping the creature's motion from Avalanche's initial attack. Severely winded from the prolonged battle, Blob staggers back panting while trying to catch his breath. He watches with horror as Shaw straightens his mutilated posture and slowly turns to face. With lightning quick reflexes, Shaw reaches back with his left hand and quickly grabs the large mutant around his neck. Blob reaches up trying to break the titanic grip, but his mutant strength gives way to heavy exhaustion. Shaw's voice gurgles as he laughs through his drooling grin, "Excelllllent... ressssist... fffight... ffffeed..."

Shaw hoists Blob off of his feet effortlessly while maintaining his grip around his thick neck. The rest of the Brotherhood regroups behind Avalanche and watch helplessly as their large friend hangs in the grip of the cosmic monster. As though throwing a rag doll, Shaw swings Blob toward the regrouped Brotherhood and send him careening at them. Each one of the battered Brotherhood yell out in fear and dive in all direction trying to avoid their thrown large teammate. Blob crashes into a nearby debris field of metal and cement mix like a falling comet. The impact is violent and loud, sending shattered pieces of building material sprinkling over and around the remaining Brotherhood. Her red outfit torn and tattered, Scarlet Witch staggers to her feet and remarks, "I don't get it! It's like that thing is getting stronger or something!"

Speeding at blinding speeds to where Blob had landed, Quick Silver voices out, with concern, "Blob is out cold, guys."

Toad hops back staring back toward Shaw's position and asks in earnest, "What do we do?"

With an angered expression, Avalanche grits his teeth and stand firm on a defensive stance readying himself for another attack. Helping Magneto to his feet, Gambit calls out, "Hold yo fire, kiddo! All we're doin' is makin' it stronger!"

Avalanche stares back at Gambit as Magneto adds with a bit exhaustion in his voice, "Gambit is right... our attacks are only feed it's strength."

"Then how do we stop it?" Quick Silver asks with frustration.

Lumber foot steps tremble closer as they all look and see Shaw's monstrous form approach. "Damned ifff you do, damned ifff you do not... you lllot arrre nothing but ffffood to mmme..."

Carefully passing Magneto to lean on Quick Silver's shoulder, Gambit steps off and away from the rest of the Brotherhood boasting at Shaw, "Then let's say we change the menu some, ugly." as he steps back into a combative stance.

His remark gets Shaw's undivided attention. With all his deranged looking eyes protruding from his mutilated head looking towards Gambit, Shaw boasts in return, "Foolll... your lllast attempt at heroics onlllly brought you pain at the hands offff the Enigma..."

With conniving grin, Gambit stares back Shaw and chuckles, "You're not the Enigma." as he hold his combative stance steady.

Shaw squares off giving Gambit his full undivided attention. Extending out his composite quarter staff into ready position, Gambit adds, "And let's not call this heroics..."

Drooling slime like fluids drip from Shaw's mutilated lips as he arrogantly inquires, "Thennn wwwhat ssshall we callll it?"

Gambit returns with an arrogant grin of his own, "Team work."

As though tackled from behind, Shaw suddenly finds himself in Allan's titanic headlock grip. Both cosmic beings grunt in the initial contact as they both struggle against each others strength. Allan pulls backwards yanking Shaw from his solid footing, maintaining his arm lock around the creature's partially scaly muscular neck. The ground shakes and rattles from their struggling steps causing the Brotherhood to stagger as they watch in awe. Shaw whips his elongated arms about, trying to work free from the violent hold. Allan adjusts his posture against Shaw's attempts to free himself, holding him firmly around the neck. Now locked in Allan's grip, Shaw ceases his struggle and begins to laugh. Although gripped around his neck, the mutilated cosmic mutant manages to hiss out, "Your sssstrength only serves tooo increase mmmy own, mmmmighty Vangaurd..."

Feeling Shaw's strength grow beneath his grip, Allan jolts his hold and grunts out, "Maybe, Mr. Shaw. But you're still new to the whole cosmic game. And in this game, ignorance is not bliss..."

Allan quickly releases his hold and grips Shaw by his right shoulder spinning him around face to face. The rapid change in tactics confuses Shaw for few seconds, but long enough for Allan to add, "I'm not just strong..."

Reacting with speeds faster than a blink of an eye, Allan attacks without mercy thrusting his right open hand toward Shaw's chest area. The attack gathers and pushes up massive amounts of wind and loose debris as it strikes fast and loud against the mutilated monster's muscular chest. A shockwave ripples outward from the impact, forcing the on looking Brotherhood to seek cover, but not lose sight of the horrific drama. Their fearful if not shocked expressions stare upon the sight of Allan's gloved right hand sticking out a blood dripping cavity through Shaw's obliterated back. Firmly in the grip of Allan's right hand is Shaw's still beating human heart. Taking a short breath, Allan stares at Shaw's astounded mangled face and continues, "... I'm as strong as I need to be."

Still holding Shaw firmly on the right shoulder with his left hand, Allan drops the beating heart to the ground and pulls his hand out of the gapping blood dripping chest cavity. Shaw staggers unable to make a sound accept for gurgling hisses. His expression is of fear and pain as he stares at Allan. Sighing out as though releasing as bit of frustration, Allan calls out, "Gambit, if you will."

Shaw falls to his knees, writhing in pain trying to clutch at his ripped open chest. He slowly turns his spasming head to where he last saw the Cajun mutant and spots him holding his still beating human heart in the palm of his hands. Gambit stands silently with disturbed expression on his face, holding the live pumping human organ in his hands. He shifts his eyes at the helpless kneeling Shaw and flashes an arrogant grin as his hands begin to glow around the heart. The glowing energy seeps into and around the beating blood dripping organ, signature of Gambit's mutant ability to kinetically charge objects at will. Stepping wide, Gambit lobs the glowing heart like grenade away from the gathered force. Shaw watches with dread as his heart arches through the air then dramatically explodes with the brilliance of a large signal flare. Unable scream out, Shaw arches his back in pain. Light shines out of his gapping open chest and out his multitude of eyes that widen from his spasming head. The Brotherhood each seek cover expecting the same implosion they had endured from Leland's demise. Shaw's body suddenly bursts into a ball of exploding blinding light sending out a mild shockwave. A slight thrust and pull of air tugs against the gathered team. But just as quickly as the explosion occurred, it quickly dissipates. Magneto gets to his feet to look and sees Allan standing firm with his body steaming from the energy blast. Gambit gets to his feet wiping his hands clean against his trench coat stating, "Not that I didn't enjoy seein' that loser meet his maker, but that was probably the nastiest thing I'd ever seen."

Magneto slightly grins at Gambit's words as he looks back at the condition of the rest of the Brotherhood. They each share i in the injuries showing light bruises and minor laceration cutting through their uniforms. Turning his attention back toward Allan, Magneto takes a breath and inquires calmly, "Allan, what of the Enigma?"

Without a word, Allan holds up his left hand signaling Magneto not to approach. A slight gust of wind picks up around Allan's position followed what seems to be glowing mist like energy that emanates from the debris riddled battleground. Ominously gathering around Allan's form, the haze like energy begins to swirl upward. Allan appears to take a deep breath as he stares up to the cloudy sky through his battle battered blood red helmet. He holds out his arms allowing the swirling flow energy to pass through him. The Brotherhood watch in amazement as a sudden burst of white light envelopes Allan and streaks upward like a column toward the illuminated night sky. The column of light parts the clouds in a loud white washing sound that overwhelms Allan's faint scream. The burst of light slowly shrinks in thickness as it dissipates into a distant echoing thunder. Allan staggers but remains standing appearing to be out of breath. Magneto and Gambit look upon him with concern unsure if they should approach. Allan lifts his head and looks at Magneto through the eyeholes of his face covering helmet. With a bit of hesitation, Magneto asks again, "What of the Enigma?"

Not even a few seconds after Magneto's inquiring words, another shockwave blasts outward from Allan's position knocking the members of the Brotherhood backwards to the ground. They each stumble and roll from the sudden force almost giving in to their heavy exhaustion. Looking back up, their eyes fill with dread and fear at the sight of a yellow glowing spear like weapon piercing through Allan upper right chest. The barbed like weapon seems to have penetrated Allan through back. A mixture of gasps and wide eyed expressions almost brings the immediate area to silence. The gathered team of mutants watch as Allan drops to his knees letting his head somewhat droop. Blood begins to seep out of his surprising fatal wound, dripping to the scorched ground. Standing in a boastful manner behind Allan, Seth grips the back end of the glowing spear like weapon and holds it firmly. Although sharing a battered and torn appearance, Seth seems to be worse off, seemingly appearing to be nursing a few wounds himself. Clearing his throat with a slight cough, Seth speaks out, "What about me, you ask?"

--

The pain strikes without warning. Rogue gasps out with a wide eyed expression feeling a sharp stinging sensation around her right chest. She drops to her knees trying to nurse the phantom like pain with her left hand. Tears roll down her cheeks as she grunts out in pain. Wolverine drops down to her asking out, "Rogue! What happened?!"

Clutching her chest, Rogue grunts and lightly pants out, "It's Allan... he's... in pain..."

Letting out a deep breath, she keels over passing out into Wolverine's arms. Dropping down to help Wolverine cradle Rogue's limp body, Storm voices her growing concern, "Is she alright, Logan? What is happening?"

Lightly brushing Rogue's white bangs from her face, Wolverine swallows nervously and glances at Storm replying, "This battle is bein' fought on multiple levels." as he turns his eyes upward and adds, "Come on Scott, reach her."

Storm follows Wolverine's upward stare, sharing his concerned expression. The rest of the remaining X-men approach taking up defensive positions around Storm and Wolverine. High above, in the floating swirling fiery sky, a bright yet silent drama unfolds. Suspended within a glowing transparent force field, Jean and Scott face one another in a near catatonic state. Deep within their minds, the young couple struggle to sort out a mixture of memory and emotion. Jean plays witness to Scott's dream like memory as it seems to play back right before her perception. She watches as Scott drives Taryn home in near silence. She can sense a sexual tension between them, however, they both keep it to themselves. With Scott, Jean feels a great deal of confusion and yearning to be heard. His thoughts jump from his concerns for Jean to a mixture of pity and remorse for Taryn. Jean watches on as Scott makes the turn into Taryn's neighborhood. She sees Taryn take several nervous glances over at Scott while he drives. Jean can feel a build up tension as they approach the front driveway to Taryn's parent's home. Upon pulling into the driveway, Scott shifts his sports roadster into park and sits in silence for a few seconds. His unsure thoughts only builds up the nervous tension. Taryn breaks the ice, "Well... thank you for the ride, Scott."

"No problem." Scott replies kindly.

Another few seconds of silence follows before Taryn decides to say, "I'm sorry, if I did something wrong."

Returning with a friendly smile, Scott remarks, "It's not you, Taryn. I'm not sure what is going on myself. I doubt I'll ever understand."

Jean watches Taryn use this moment to comfort Scott in this stage of his confusion as she gently reaches over to caress his right hand resting on the gear shift. The sight begins to infuriate Jean. Scott reciprocates by holding Taryn's hand. Jean's mind reflects her mood rippling the memory violently as she feels Scott's sincere care for Taryn's out reaching affection. It was almost enough to justify Jean's anger. Scott's heart is yearning for an affection he believes he lost from Jean, and now seems to seek in Taryn. The sight and feelings are more than enough fuel Jean's outburst. But just as she is about to let go of Scott's fading mind, his voice speaks up from the memory in words that freeze Jean in her place, "I love Jean, Taryn."

Although just words, Jean feels and hears the same words from his heart and mind, almost at the same time. Her eyes widen as she feels a complete content exception within Scott, as he settles in his heart for Jean's love. Taryn slightly smiles and replies, "I know. She's lucky."

Surprising Jean even further, Taryn's words echo of absolute sincerity as well. Both Scott and Taryn share smiles as they part. Stepping out of his car, Taryn waves goodbye saying, "I'll see you guys around."

Scott replies with a friendly smile and a playful salute before shifting into reverse. Jean then feels Scott's heart yearn for another level of love as his thoughts turn to hope. A hope that reaches for Jean. It is a feeling that she was not prepared to face. The betrayal she sought within Scott's mind did not exist. Jean realizes her search for justification of her actions is empty, and a great deal of sorrow begins to fill her heart. A level of sorrow she thought was lost since her interaction with the Enigma. Jean begins to feel a deep painful sensation of remorse throb from what seems like her entire being. The emotion is too much for her to bear as she telepathically yells out. A sudden rushing sensation overwhelms her perception as she pulls her mind away from Scott's. As though gasping for a deep breath of air, Jean physically opens her eyes widely. Her attention returns to the sight of Scott floating before her. Her breathing remains heavy realizing the grim fiery situation. But it is not the swirling mass of fire that flows around the protective sphere she has them encased in. It is the horrible spasming of Scott's body after having his mind forcibly probed by a higher being. Jean's face turns to panic as she reaches out to him in earnest. "Oh my God, Scott!" she cries out.

Moving over to him, Jean gently places her hands on the sides of Scott's face and slowly focuses her mind over him. Her eyes soften in saddened manner as she calms the chaos she had caused within his psyche. His panting breathing turns to a deep inhaling breath. Scott's body returns to calm relaxing state while Jean continues to telepathically caress his mind. Tears roll from Jean's eyes, then end up floating away in the weightless atmosphere she had created. "What have I done?" she whispers to herself.

With a groggy like groan, Scott suddenly stirs. His face slightly grins in the gentle hold of Jean's warm hands as he mutters out, "I'm... I'm ok... I'm fine... everything is alright..."

Jean quickly embraces him into a passionate kiss. Scott returns her embrace warmly, holding her with both arms around her slender waist. Holding each other with desperation, the young couple cling to one another. Scott softly remarks, "Everything is going to be ok now, Jean."

Gently releasing her hug, Jean slightly pushes away from Scott. Her posture, despite floating, shows of great sadness. Jean looks down out of shame then backup at Scott as she says, "No, it won't, Scott."

Before he can speak up, Jean reaches up placing her arms over head as though struggling against some unseen force attacking her mind. Her face expresses such pain with her eyes closed tightly. "It can't be ok... I've done such terrible things..." Jean struggles to say.

"I can hear them..." she continues, "I can hear the dying thoughts of Nung's people. I can clearly see the faces and hear the last thoughts of those people I executed. There are so many voices, Scott, I can't shut them out!"

Mustering the last of his strength, Scott reaches out to her saying, "Focus on me, Jean. Don't let go, I know you can keep it together."

Hearing the confidence in Scott's voice brings a slight smile to Jean's face. It is however short lived as her face slowly saddens. "Not this time, Scott. Things have gone too far."

With his visor off, Scott looks at Jean with grave concern. But before he can object to her statement, Jean floats further back and adds, "I should've been stopped, I should have stopped myself, but I wasn't strong enough." as she braces her head with her arms once more and continuing, "Now... you have to be strong for me."

A sense of deep dread mixed with confusion strikes Scott's heart as he watches Jean illuminate her body before him. Shaking his head, he calls out, "I don't understand!"

Despite her glowing form, Scott sees Jean smile contently, then slowly waves her right hand across his sight. A sudden build up of power surges within Scott as his eyes begin to glow bright red. He gasps out heavily and screams, "Jean... NO!"

But before he can react, his eyes release wide beam of concussive energy. A loud rip in the air echoes out as the beam of red destructive light careens into Jean violently. The protective telekinetic sphere they were both floating in dissipates like a popping bubble from Jean body being flung backwards from Scott's uncontrolled optic blast. It was as though a flood gate of energy had been released from his eyes. Scott quickly covers his eyes with his hands shutting them tight. But Jean being distracted from Scott's blast, her loss of concentration drops her hold on him and he falls from the sky along with her. Jean hits the ground first with the force of a crashing plane. Her impact surprises the battered team of X-men as they dive for cover. Wolverine catches sight of Scott falling but is unable to get to his feet. With desperation in his voice, he calls out, "Storm, catch him!"

Shuffling to her feet from her dive for cover, Storm quickly gestures out with her arms focusing her ability to manipulate the weather elements. She commands a gust of heavy wind beneath Scott's falling body. Her last second attempt slows the velocity of his fall, however, Scott still hits the ground rather hard. A muffled snap is heard as Scott grunts out loudly, tumbling to the rubble riddled ground. Scrabbling to his feet, Wolverine rushes over to Scott. Quickly checking his vital signs by making sure Scott is still breathing, Wolverine sighs out with relief to find his young friend still alive, but knocked unconscious. He reaches into one of Scott's uniform pouches and pulls out his spare ruby quartz sunglasses, placing them over the young mutant's closed eyes. The ground rumbles deeply as the fiery sky thunders from above. Wolverine look up then outward to see the remaining team of X-men regrouping to his position. He notices the condition of each member, looking as though they had been through a war. Shuffling carefully over, Colossus gently places Rogue's unconscious body next to Scott's and asks, "What now, my friend?"

Glancing back down at the two downed X-men, Wolverine finds himself reluctant to answer. He then looks over to the gathered team, one by one. Consisting of Havok, Dazzler, Colossus, Paige, Iceman and Storm, Wolverine realizes half this team is untested. His thoughts overflow with the notion that this, for some of them, is probably their first true mission, and maybe their last. Just as he is about voice out an order to the team, Jean's echoing voice telepathically speaks, "Breathe confidence into the team, Logan. I need them, to kill me."

--

Slowly backing away defensively, the battle worn members of the Brotherhood stare with horror at the unbelievable sight of Allan being run through the back by a glowing spear like solid energy weapon. Although gruesome in every nature, it is not the bloody wound that Allan has suffered that stuns them, it is the eerie silence from Allan that puts fear into their eyes. Appearing to be only breathing heavily underneath his face covering helmet, Allan sits quietly on his knees in slumped manner. Seth staggers off to his right releasing his firm grip from the back end of the spear. He limps trying to keep his weight off his apparent sore right leg and boasts, "Such... is the fate... for all those who call themselves heroes." as he glances back down at Allan.

Standing shocked at the sight of their friend on his knees bearing a fatal wound, the Brotherhood turn their attention to Seth turning their shocked expressions to anger. Gambit takes a more aggressive posture as he twirls his quarter staff into attacking position, then charges after Seth without a word. Despite his own injuries, Seth effortlessly swings out his right hand slapping Gambit's staff out of his angered grip, then quickly reaches out with his left hand grabbing the Cajun mutant by his throat. Seth chuckles and holds Gambit high off of his feet. "This again, Remy? You're starting to make this habit."

Struggling in Seth's grip, Gambit is unable to reply as his air supply is slowly cut off. Magneto stares at Allan for a moment, then turns his glare at Seth remarking, "If we are less than nothing to you, then why waste your time torturing us?!"

Removing his battle battered helmet off his head, Seth face shows an arrogant grin as he replies, "Life is only lived when one endures. And I am here to make sure everyone on this world endures everything."

Magneto turns his attention back to his young charges. They each glance at him for guidance, unsure of what to do next. An air of dead silence washes over the area as they watch Gambit struggles against the titanic grip of Seth. The silence, however, is suddenly broken by the light sound of panting like laughter. It is almost disturbing to hear such a jovial sound with a backdrop of what appears to be unending destruction. Even more disturbing as the light laughter turns to a more audible giggle. Seth expression turns from an arrogant grin to a curious smirk as looks around for the sound. Each member of the Brotherhood do the same turning their fearful faces into confused stares. Their ears follow the giggling back down to Allan, who they see lightly bouncing with his giggling voice. Clearing his throat lightly, Allan slowly raises his slumped down head peering through the eyeholes of his helmet and asks curiously, "So... that's it? This was your best?"

Seth's expression turns from curious, to confusion, then to near fear as notices Allan's eyes looking right up at him. He is shocked even further as he watches the spear like energy weapon slowly fade from a glowing yellow to a bright glowing red. The impaling weapon flashes then changes shape as it seems to mold into Allan's form. Seth breath grows short with fear watching what he thought was a fatal wound he had inflicted on Allan close and heal right before his eyes. Still unsure of the situation that is unfolding in front of them, the Brotherhood stare in awe. Their faces bear amazed smiles as Allan slowly picks himself off the ground and lightly pats his worn uniform free of dust. He glances at his right chest area acknowledging where he had been injured. Allan's once shiny outfit appears ripped from the attack. Allan nods playful like, then stares back at Seth turning his own expression to a more stern look as he says, "It's embarrassing how little you know yourself."

Dropping Gambit from his grip, Seth turns to face Allan. Quicksilver quickly shuffles over to Gambit, who coughs while staggering, and helps pull him away from the scene. The rest of the Brotherhood regroup and back away while not taking their eyes off the now tense moment between two cosmic beings. With a quick gesture of his hands, Allan manipulates the energies around him and repairs his tattered uniform to pristine condition. Seth stands even more confused watching Allan's uniform return to it's original starry like shine. "Wha... what the Hell is this?" Seth stutters out.

With a friendly grin, Allan speaks up, "Honestly, Seth, I had little to no clue how to handle you. More to the point, I didn't know how or if I could destroy you. The rules I have to live my life by prevent me from taking such blind actions without worrying about the impact it would have. It wasn't until I let you get that sucker shot in, that all the clues finally fell into place."

Seth powers up his hands and releases a massive column of yellow energy toward Allan. The blast rips through the air as it bears down on Allan's position. Gesturing with his right hand as though in a irritated manner, Allan casually snaps his fingers. Much to Seth's confusion, the energy blast fades off just before reaching Allan. Seth staggers back a bit shocked on how simple Allan reaction was. Allan adds, "I realized how simple it was to figure you out, Seth. I mean, the geezers don't acknowledge you, I couldn't sense your presence like I could with the others, and our powers almost seem to cancel each other out. But when that spear of yours touched my blood, it made all sense." as he smiles and continues, "Existence is indeed a random element. Where there was one unique being, there came two instead. Not brothers, but two sides of the same coin. I couldn't see you anymore than I could see the back of my head. The old farts couldn't see you because you weren't suppose to exist. But you did, and you blew it."

Trying to stand and appear to be not affected by Allan's words, Seth demands, "And what the Hell does all that crap mean?"

"It means," Allan replies while holding up his right hand out toward Seth and adds, "the rules don't apply to you."

A slight gesture of Allan's right hand ripples the air. Seth suddenly gasps as he appears to be stunned by an invisible force. Sparks of red energy strike and dance about his stiffed stunned body as he suddenly finds himself pulled toward Allan. Seth tries to struggle but with no result. His neck lands helplessly into the open waiting palm of Allan, who grips Seth's throat in the same manner Seth had gripped Gambit. Locked in the unwavering hold of Allan's hand, Seth gasps and struggles. Allan pulls him closer to the eyeholes of his blood red helmet and remarks with an arrogant tone, "This is gonna be very, very therapeutic."

Allan's body glows brightly, red at first, then a flashing white light. The flash grows so bright it washes over the Brotherhood as well. For the speechless members of the battle worn team of mutants, it is a warm welcoming light, almost revitalizing their exhausted bodies. A echoing washing sound surrounds them, as though they had passed through a peaceful waterfall. Each of their given senses leads them to perceive they are no longer on the ground, despite the perception of them still standing. Then Allan's voice angelically echoes around them, "Behold, the power of the Vanguard."

With the light surrounding them completely, Magneto, Gambit and the rest of the Brotherhood feel a full sense of contentment radiating all about. The smell of burning debris and the grimy heat fades away from them leaving a somewhat cleansed atmosphere, just as though they were never locked life or death battle. Feeling nestled in the light, they let go of their trivial troubles, letting days pass. It feels that their bodies had attained pure bliss as the days pass them by. Then a sudden echoing gasp catches their attention. Just as they each find comfort and safety within the light, it dissipates. Complete perception returns as the feeling of weight and solid ground form at the bottom of their feet. The growing odor of ash causes them to look around out of surprise. The fading light gives way to a dismal backdrop of ash covered ruins. A panoramic view of what used to be very large metropolis area now lies as crumbling wasteland of dry dusty blowing wind. Gambit looks up and sees the sky so clear he can almost see the stars. He takes a deep breath and remarks, "The air is thin, really thin."

Avalanche takes wide glances around in confusion as he asks, "Where the heck are we?"

"Relax guys," Allan quickly speaks up in a jovial tone, "you're safe."

They all turn to see Allan standing in front of a kneeling Seth. Both of their uniforms have seem to have been repaired. But to add to their confusion, they see Seth panting with short breaths. "Wh... where... are... we?" he pants out to Allan.

Placing his blood red helmet under his right arm, Allan crouches down to Seth's level and grins replying, "Welcome home."

Seth returns with a silent shocked expression as he continues taking short breaths.

Standing upright, Allan lightly clears his throat and adds, "Well, it took while to figure out where you came from. But I managed."

"A while?" Seth inquires with a short breath, "It's only been a few minutes."

Chuckling, Allan turns and looks down at Seth with joking grin. He reaches up with his left hand tapping his forehead playfully answering, "Strategic existence, Seth. Like I said, it's embarrassing how little you know yourself. But that doesn't matter now, you're home."

Scarlet Witch steps forward asking, "This, is where Seth is from?! It's a dump!"

Her comment catches Allan off guard as he breaks into laughter. In a playful tone, he says to her, "Now now, Wanda, don't be rude. We're all sure there is a reason why his world is in such crappy shape. Right Seth? I'm sure you can explain to all of us why your world, how should I put this, sucks?"

"Damn you Allan." Seth mutters out.

"Damn me?!" Allan continues to playfully return, "This was your doing, Seth." as he gestures around at the catastrophic sight and adds, "You're the one who took your anger out on this world. You collapsed this planet's core, making billions suffer slow deaths. But it wasn't enough, was it? You then forced your Sun to go nova, there by destroying what was left of any livable atmosphere."

Allan points up to the sky. The Brotherhood stare up to see a dimly lit star that barely shines brighter then the other stars in the sky. Crouching back down to Seth's downed posture, Allan tilts his head staring and adds, "This was the fate of other worlds that died at your hands. So it's fitting punishment that I bring you back to the first. On the exact spot, where 'she' died, right in front of you."

Seth's expression angers despite his shortness of breath. Without warning, he thrusts forward with his right fist at Allan's lowered head. The attack seems swift as Seth seems to achieved the element of surprise. However, the surprise lies with him as his tight fist slam solidly against Allan's left cheek. A quick sharp sensation tingles on Seth's knuckles at the second of impact, then quickly grows into a crushing, excruciating pain as his hand shatters against Allan's super dense structure. Seth's eyes widen at the shocking sight of his fist smashing against Allan's face like a car safety test. He feels his fingers snap and become dislodged along with tendons tearing under the shear force of his attack. Seth then feels his strength lag as he falls flat on his face into the gray dusty ground. He grunt and yells out loudly while quickly cradling his right hand closely to his chest. Allan remains still, unraveled from Seth's attempted surprise assault. "Boy, I bet that hurt." Allan arrogantly boasts.

Struggling to his knees, Seth pants out with pain in his eyes, "Wh... what did you do to me??!!"

With slight grin, Allan replies, "Technically, nothing. But that's changed now that you officially exist. To put it simply, I removed everything you've known, and gave you a lot of the one thing you were so eager to take away. Let us just say, you are going to regret all the things you have done for a very, very, veryveryvery, long time."

Staring at his now shattered hand, Seth shudders from the pain, then stares up at Allan saying, "You... took my powers?! That's impossible!"

"Improbable," Allan quickly adds, "and technically they weren't yours." as he clears his throat and stands up right in a commanding posture continuing, "So, as the Vanguard of the First Beings of Existence, I here by banish you to your dead home world, to starve, thirst, and suffocate for all eternity. Until such time one of us sees fit to grant you the one thing you will have to earn, death."

Stepping back while keeping his eyes down at Seth, Allan speaks out, "Does the punishment fit the crime?"

Toad swallows and quietly asks, "Um, is he talkin' to us?"

Magneto slowly glances around and replies carefully, "I believe he was speaking to them." as he gestures behind his young team.

The Brotherhood turn to see a gathered mass of strange beings standing behind them. A multitude of different creatures and unique beings either glowing or radiating some sort of power all stare down at Seth with disappointed expressions. Stepping forth, Fire Lord and Gabriel the Air Walker approach Allan in their graceful manner. "Ay," Fire Lord answers in a stern tone, "the punishment is indeed fitting."

Allan turns to the massive gathering of cosmic beings and asks out, "Let those who pity the Enigma step forward and grant him his only mercy."

The Brotherhood slowly glance back at the silent mass with curious expressions. One by one, each unique being disappears from sight as they depart. Each one turning their backs just before leaving in a fading manner until all including Fire Lord and Gabriel are no longer present. A eerie silence shadows Seth as the only beings left staring down at him are Allan and the young Brotherhood. "Anyone have anything to say before we close this chapter?" Allan asks the team.

Aside from a few smirks, mainly from Quick Silver and Gambit, the Brotherhood remain quiet staring down at Seth. Just then two female echoing voices speak up at the same time, "We would like to say something."

Appearing almost as translucent ghosts, Emma and Tessa make their presence known and felt in their projected astral forms. The two elegantly shaped women stand before Seth looking down upon him with disgusted expressions. "Why so glum, my love?" Tessa arrogantly asks him, "You have achieved eternity, embrace it."

Emma steps forward with a conniving grin and adds, "Try to think of it this way, Seth. You are still the most powerful being on your world." as she steps away giggling.

Gambit steps up next to Allan while looking down at Seth and asks, "So, is he mortal now?"

Allan glances at his Cajun friend and replies while shrugging his shoulders, "Immortally mortal, but yeah. He's 'de-powered', if that's what you're asking."

With a wide grin, Gambit boasts, "Works for me." as he quickly extends his composite metal quarter staff out.

With out warning, he steps up swinging his staff upward like a professional golf player striking Seth square under his chin. The sudden attack hits solidly causing Seth to grunt out as he flips backwards from the blow landing hard and violently into some dusty loose debris. Gambit's attack leaves Seth's face bloody slumping to the ground coughing. The rest of the Brotherhood watch with raised eyebrows as Gambit re-holsters his weapon and pulls out a fresh deck of unopened playing cards from his coat. He tosses the deck of cards into Seth's lap and remarks, "Incase you get bored, mon ami."

Gambit casually steps back to the group as they wait. Allan kneels down to Seth's level for one last time. Seth stares back with painful yet angered eyes. His face bruised and bloodied from Gambit's strike, he lays half way sitting up as Allan looks him in the eyes, then shakes his head silently in disappointment. Standing back up, Allan joins the rest of the Brotherhood sharing high fives with Avalanche and Toad. Seth struggles to right himself while trying not to use his shattered right hand. He watches as bright ball of light illuminates around the gathered team almost blinding him. Seth pants for air as he begs out loudly, "NO! D… don't … leave me… like this!!!"

The light flashes even more brightly before fading away from his sight, leaving Seth alone in the perpetual silence and darkness of his dead home planet, forever.

-----

Combining their powers into one defensive blast, Dazzler and Havok strain against the psionic blast of pyro-kinetic fire lashing out from Jean's glowing form. Havok's concussive force intertwined with Dazzler's beam of sparkling solid light is barely enough to deflect the tentacle like fiery wave as they both grunt and stagger back. The power impact is almost deafening with a flash brilliance of a giant road flare and striking with the force of bomb, knocking both mutants onto their backs. Rolling quickly back onto his feet, Havok recovers into a low posturing stance. He spots Dazzler a few feet off to his right slowly getting to her feet. She glance over to him remarking, "Let's not do that again, cool?"

Turning his attention back towards Jean's position, Havok snaps back, "I don't think we got much choice!" as he points frantically.

Another earth ripping wave of pyro-kinetic fire careens in their direction at high speeds. Both Havok and Dazzler scramble from their position trying to dive for cover. Just then Colossus quickly steps in front of the oncoming fiery wave. He stands firm and brace for impact gripping both of his metal fists tightly. At the last second he push forward against the impending attack taking the full brunt for the two friends he desperately defends. The organic flames collide into Colossus's sturdy metal body seemingly exploding in front of him like a large splashing wave against solid rock. The blast however is more than even his super dense form can handle as yells out in pain. The flames burn off his X-man uniform within seconds of impact at the same time striking him as though he had been hit by a train. His large body falls limp backwards and crashes just a few feet between Dazzler and Havok. Knocked unconscious from the attack, Colossus's metal form steams from the heat he had endured, however, being unconscious forces his power to revert his metal body back to flesh bone. Dazzler staggers back in shock at the sight of the large Russian being flung back like rag doll. Havok shuffles over to Colossus's limp body yelling out, "Yo, big guy!" as he does his best to check his friend's life signs.

Sighing out in frustration, Havok looks over at Dazzler saying, "I think he's hurt bad. But I'm no doctor."

Dazzler quickly shuffles over and helps Havok drag their teammate to a safer spot. Wolverine runs over and also lends a hand pulling Colossus away. He looks over to where Jean stands and sees her gripping her own red hair as though in pain. Her gentle voice echoes a bit as he hears a mixture of wining and grunt from her. With worried expression on his face, Wolverine turns his attention to his team's current condition. With Rogue lying out cold, Cyclops slowly coming around, and now Colossus unconscious, Wolverine lightly growls out, "We're droppin' like flies."

He watches as Storm tends to the downed X-men's minor injuries, then returns his attention over at Jean. "I gotta do something'." he remarks to himself just before charging off.

Storm does a double take with a fearful surprising expression as she see Wolverine in a hard run towards Jean. She yells out in earnest, "Logan, don't!"

But her please go unnoticed. Wolverine maneuvers through the random barrages of organic flames shifting his charging approach left to right. Gritting his teeth, he grips his fists and extends all six of his admantium claws and readies them for an attack. With Jean just few yards away, he leaps with all of the his strength holding out his claws fists out in front of his dive aims at Jean's throat. Effortlessly, Jean swipes out with her left hand waving a massive telekinetic force stopping Wolverine's charge and knocking him aside to the ground. He yells out in pain but is quick to tuck and roll back onto his feet. Jean immediately follows up with slash out of tentacle like flames that whips Wolverine across his chest. The burning attack sheers off a large portion of his uniform as well as flesh. Wolverine stagger back clutching his chest in pain. Despite his ability to heal almost instantaneously, he nearly gives in to the unbearable pain. The burning and gapping wound begins to heal as Jean speaks angelically, "You are not trying hard enough, Logan."

Wolverine continues to cradle his simmering healing wound as she continues, "Your attack seemed promising, but I can feel deep down in your mind that your heart is no longer into this. Hence you lack the killer instinct."

Taking a breath, Wolverine returns, "I don't wanna hurt you Jean."

Dipping her head while reaching up with her both hands, Jean groans out, then stares at Wolverine with sad eyes saying, "I don't want you to hurt me, I need you to kill me. And if you can't attack with all of your heart, all of your might, then this world will die."

Staggering a bit, Wolverine remarks, "It doesn't have to be this way, Jean! You can fight this! We can help you!"

Straightening her posture and releasing her grip on her red hair, Jean takes a deep subtle breath and returns calmly, "If you cannot deliver me, then you are useless here."

Her calm demeanor catches Wolverine off guard as he is suddenly struck by a pulsating telekinetic burst emanating from Jean's entire body. He is thrown backwards several yards crashing and tumbling uncontrollably through steaming piles of burning asphalt. Wolverine grunts loudly in pain as lands with echoing thud. Storm watches the grim scene and gets to her feet speaking out, "I'm sorry Jean, but you are leaving me no choice."

Raising her hands dramatically to the skies, Storm puts all of her focus to her power over the weather elements. Out of no where, large gusts of wind overwhelm the immediate area around Jean's position. Billowing puff of dark clouds form near the ground level as heavy rains pour down upon them. With another gesture of her hands, Storm calls up category five hurricane striking out with wind and rain up to speed of two hundred fifty miles per hour. As the rain flies in sideways from the extremely heavy winds, it begins to cool the lava covered terrain forming masses of steam that now blanket the area. Large pieces of home debris as well as loose chunks of ripped up street are flung by Storm's angry hurricane. Another gesture of hands calls down bright branching bolts of lightning followed deep rumbling thunder. The bolts of lightning crackle and careen into Jean's form causing a loud exploding flash. One after the other, the bolts of lightning strike dramatically. Despite all her great effort and concentration, the attack seems to wear on Storm. She begins to feel her strength give as she pours on the power. Storm breathing turns to heavy panting, she struggles to maintain her assault, but the strain of controlling such a massive angry system is becoming too much. Finally, exhaustion overtakes her, Storm's eyes partially roll back as she falls backwards passing out into the arms of young Paige Gutherie. At a loss for words, the young blonde mutant does her best to support the weight of her unconscious mentor. She shifts her own weight, trying to keep a good footing while bracing Storm's limp body underneath her armpits. But just as Paige begins to feel alone, Cyclops's groggy voice speaks up, "Paige, get… Storm to safety…"

Surprised, Paige replies, "Scott?! I.. I mean Cyclops… you're alright?"

Sitting up while cradling his left arm, Cyclops remarks, "In a manner of speaking. I think my arm is broken though."

Shuffling to a kneeling position, Cyclops flinches against the sharp pain in his left arm as he continues, "Move Storm to safety, I'll be right behind you with Rogue."

Huffing out in slight frustration, Paige shifts her weight again saying, "How? I mean not to be rude, Storm is heavy. I can hardly move."

"Then you'll need to transmute into something more dense. That will give the leverage to lift more weight." Cyclops adds.

"But," Paige returns, "I don't know how to do that yet."

Getting to his feet, Cyclops assures, "Yes, you can, Paige. Concentrate, think tough, think solid, think Colossus."

Gently placing Storms limp body to the ground, Paige closes her eyes and takes a deep breath. Without a second thought, she reaches behind her head gripping the skin on her the base of her neck tightly. She jerks and tears the loose skin like tissue paper and begins to peel it off rapidly revealing a shinier surface underneath. She peels and tears frantically exposing her new transmuted form that closely resembles the tough metal form of Colossus but with shining and flowing blonde hair. Paige smiles at her achievement as Scott says, "Nicely done. Now, get Storm to safety."

Paige seems reluctant at first and almost hesitates. Allan's voice suddenly speaks up startling them a bit, "Listen to Scott, Paige. He is in charge."

Turning to look, Paige sees Allan in his shiny uniform donning his face covering helmet over his head. Allan gesture Paige to move along as she nods and bends down to carefully pick up Storm. Cyclops and Allan watch in silence as Paige hoists Storms unconscious body up and lumbers behind some thick debris for protection. Turning his attention back to Allan, Cyclops inquires, "Allan? When did you get here? What happened with the Enigma?"

Kneeling down, Allan removes his helmet, placing it onto the ground as he checks on Rogue's condition. He smiles contently while gently caressing her bare cheek and replies, "No one has to worry about him anymore."

A distant wine and painful grunt is heard from Jean as the ground shakes once more. The skies above billow of fiery clouds and thunder with the sounds of a thousand fireworks. Both Cyclops and Allan turn their eyes upward at the dramatic sight. Jean's voice catches their attention once more as she cries out loud in an echoing tone. Cyclops returns his attention back to Allan remarking, "Wait a minute. Why are you here, Allan? You told me to get to Jean before you do. You told me to reach her. Did I fail?! Is that why you're here?!"

Choosing to remain silent, Allan reaches down and picks up his shiny helmet and quietly places it over his head. Without so much of a word he side steps around Cyclops and starts to casually walk towards Jean's position. Cradling his soar arm, Cyclops quickly steps in front of Allan saying, "You… you're here to kill her, aren't you?!"

Sighing gently, Allan glances down, then back at Cyclops, peering through the eyeholes of his shiny blood red helmet. His silence answers the desperate question as Cyclops adds, "NO! I won't let you! There has to be another way!" as he tries to hold back Allan with his right hand.

Allan can feel Scott trying to keep him from advancing forward. In a calm manner, he says, "Balance has to be returned, Scott. The scales have been tipped for too long."

Cyclops pushes against Allan's chest trying to hold him back, but slides backwards instead as Allan takes one step forward. Crying out again, Cyclops pleads, "Stop, Allan! Please! Don't do it! I love her!"

Allan halts his forward motion and stares Cyclops directly in his eyes. In very calm manner once more, Allan asks, "You love her that much?"

Staring back toward Jean's position. Cyclops sees her glowing form rise off the ground and slowly ascends into the air. He then turns his face back at Allan and says in a near crying tone, "Yes… yes, I do."

"And you would be willing to do anything to save her, and in turn, save your world?" Allan continues to ask.

Slightly drooping his head in almost sadness, Cyclops lightly returns, "Yes… I would."

Despite all the fiery drama unfolding around them, and air of silence come between the two young men. Allan then gently places his left hand of Cyclops's right shoulder, and pats it with friendly confidence. The sudden change in mood confuses Cyclops as he looks at Allan. "That's all I needed to hear, Scott." Allan says as he lifts his helmet off his head smiling.

Cyclops stagger a bit with a confused expression. Allan grins and speaks out, "Professor, can you hear me?"

Looking around baffled like, Cyclops hears Charles's telepathic voice speak, "Yes Allan, I can hear you."

Smiling at Cyclops with a friendly smile, Allan adds, "Then it's time."

Back in the Cerebro chamber, Charles takes a breath with a sullen expression as he says, "It is indeed. Tessa, Emma, please bring Elizabeth in, we will need her mind as well."

Both women stare at each other with concern as they quickly move to the chamber door to fetch the young telepath.

Billowing masses of steam flow all about as rain and fire mix. Cyclops watches as Allan kneels down and picks up Rogue in his arms. Her unconscious body lays comfortably in his gentle hold while he stands back up. Allan smiles and chuckles a bit, further confusing Cyclops. Another pulsating blast radiates from Jean's glowing form sending out a shifting shockwave. Cyclops staggers but remains on his feet. His voice starts to become desperate once more asking, "Allan, what's happening? What are you going to do?"

Holding Rogue close, Allan chuckles again, "Honestly, I don't know. I never really thought this far ahead. But, if things work out, everything will be alright. Don't worry, Scott, when the time comes, you'll know what to do." he says as he smiles.

Allan then turns and walks a few yards towards Jean's air born position. Cyclops watches quietly as Allan stops and stares upward at Jean, then back down at Rogue in his arms. High above them, Jean continues to struggle against her own growing power. Streams of tears pour from her eyes then mix into the swirling flow of organic flames that now dance about her glowing body. The flames lash out, burning the skies and scorching the earth below. Carrying Rogue in his arms, Allan takes slow glances around at the once serene suburban neighborhood. The dark early morning sky illuminates with red and yellow hues revealing the growing destruction from Jean's uncontrollable pyro-kinetic pulses. One after the other, quaint homes and care taken yards burn and crumble under the immense heat and force. Allan watches as fire and rescue units supported by a multitude of law enforcement and SHIELD personnel evacuate the awoken civilians further away from the danger. Sighing out, Allan turns his attention back up toward Jean. His eyes begin to glisten slightly as he stares up with a slight grin. Rogue lightly groans out as she gently stirs in Allan's arms. Playfully, Allan says to her, "About time, sleepy head."

Opening her eyes slowly to the sound of Allan's voice, Rogue looks up and asks, "Allan, you're alright?"

"Well, I'm not a hundred percent," Allan jokingly returns while nodding his head and adds, "but yeah, I'm still here."

Rubbing her eyes, Rogue's other senses catch up and she realizes the situation has escalated around them. She gasps out as Allan remarks casually, "I know, we're not out of the woods yet."

Gently placing Rogue down on her own two feet, Allan sighs out again, this time with a frustrated expression, "I tried really hard, babe. I tried so hard to avoid this. It's like studying for the wrong final exam."

Rogue's eyes widen in fear at the sight that now surrounds them. All around them the ground seems to be burning. The air ripples and broils cooking the atmosphere. Rogue knows the catastrophic scene should have obliterated her by now, but standing near Allan her fears seem to subside. She looks for the rest of the X-men and spots Cyclops standing off in the distant staggering and flinching from the same fiery background. Rogue's face turns to concern as she asks Allan, "Where're the others? They're not dead, are they?"

"No," Allan replies calmly, "they're all fine. Some of them will probably be really sore tomorrow though."

"If there is a tomorrow." Rogue sarcastically adds.

Looking up at Jean's glowing form, Allan lightly chuckles with a grin and remarks, "There will be, babe. You're here to make sure of that."

Turning her attention back to Allan with a confused expression, Rogue darts out, "Me?! You're the Vanguard. You can stop this. You have the power to stop Jean."

"I can't." Allan says while closing his eyes and dropping his head.

Rogue almost steps back speechless as Allan continues, "The rules that come with this, uniform, prevent me from getting involved any further. Unless of course, if I decide to just to outright kill her. But in doing so, I could in turn destroy this world anyway."

Allan can see the confusion on Rogue's face as he tries to explain further, "Look around you, Rogue. Jean's power has seeped into every fiber of this world. The air burns naturally now, the ground cooks almost by itself because she has altered the way it interacts with the air. Her power is fueled by the emotions of every sentient life form Jean is slowly replacing the evolution of this planet. And that is something that I cannot interfere with."

The ground suddenly quakes even more violently than before. Both Allan and Rogue grab hold of one another while taking glance around. Streams of fire seem to deflect off of an invisible protective barrier that Allan has encased them in. Rogue then pushes Allan away screaming, "Damn your stupid rules, Allan! This is my world you're talkin' about!"

Brushing his hands through his jet black hair in frustration, Allan speaks up in a stern tone, "Think for minute, Rogue! Cataclysmic events are what shaped this world from the beginning. Imagine if someone like me prevented the comet that killed the dinosaurs from hitting the planet. It was a natural event that gave rise global changes, the ice age, mammals, humans, and even mutants. Seth made sure that it was your world's natural assets that would mold Jean into what she is now. He knew that I couldn't stop her if came down to this."

Rogue's posture somewhat droops in sadness as she lightly cries out, "So that's it? This is the end?"

Stepping close to Rogue and gently holding her shoulders, Allan smiles at her and says, "No, it's not, babe. Look." as he point off to his right.

Rogue follows his hand and sees Havok and Dazzler join Cyclops using their powers to defend his position, blasting out against any incoming debris picked up by Jean's telekinetic pulse. With a confident smile, Allan says, "Your friends still fight. I can sense their determination, and your hope."

Slightly rolling her eye in frustration, Rogue darts out, "Yeah, Ah'm hopin' you'll save my world."

Allan smiles while caressing her shoulders and returns, "I can't save your world, babe. But you can."

Rogue falls silent while looking into Allan's caring eyes. She softens her mood as she notices a single tear roll down his right cheek. It is as though they've become oblivious to the carnage that deflects around them. "Do you remember what you promised me, with all of your heart?" Allan asks her.

With hesitation in her voice, Rogue replies, "Sort of, Ah mean, you asked me to remember everything that night. While we were at that place, the energy convergence or something. It was… blissful."

Allan smiles and adds, "It was, and more. Now I need you to hold on to that promise."

"Ah don't understand…" Rogue say nervously.

Smiling again, Allan returns, "Yes you do. I know you can feel our connection. It was very apparent when you passed out feeling the pain I felt from Seth's weapon. We're connected in ways nobody else will ever understand."

Sharing his caring demeanor, Rogue asks, "What're you askin' of me, Allan?"

"Make my powers your own," Allan says with confidence, "and save the world."

"What?!" Rogue returns with shocked expression, "Ah can't! Besides, you're immune to my powers."

"Not immune, " Allan mentions, "just resilient."

Rogue speaks up, "But you said Ah couldn't take what was yours…"

"…unless I give it you." Allan quickly adds in.

Falling silent, Rogue just stares into Allan's eyes. "But… that means you're gettin' involved."

"Not officially," Allan says, "your natural ability to absorb powers makes it so all I have to do is let go. But in order to take my powers, you have to take all of me."

His comment puts a mixture of fear and confusion on Rogue's face as they both look at one another.

A few yards back, Cyclops tries to keep a view on the fiery dramatic scene, but is forced to shift his position in order to avoid more burning debris. He constantly looks up into the sky above at Jean as he calls out, "Professor! What am I suppose to be doing?!"

Charles's telepathic voice returns, "Try to remain calm, Scott. You will know when the time comes, I promise."

Getting to his feet from a previous dive for cover, Havok speaks up, "This is nuts, Scott! We gotta fall back, bro!"

Staring back at his younger brother, Cyclops takes a breath and says, "You and Dazzler regroup with Paige and fall back. I'm staying."

"There ain't no way I'm leaving you here alone, dude!" Havok returns.

"That's an order, Alex." Scott quickly adds with a stern tone.

With angered reluctance, Havok acknowledges his older brother's orders and gestures Dazzler to fall back with him, leaving Cyclops standing among the fiery storm. Staring back up at what seems like the end of the world, Cyclops focuses his attention on Jean. The sudden feeling of helplessness begins to sink into his thoughts, a feeling he had dreaded.

Stepping away from Allan, Rogue shakes her head and yells, "NO! That's a stupid idea, Allan!"

"Of course it's stupid, Rogue!" Allan returns in playful tone, "But if you have a better one, I'm open for suggestions."

"This isn't funny!" She yells back in an almost weeping manner, "Do you even know what you're askin' me to do?!"

Allan's expression softens as he stares into Rogue's eyes as he answers, "Yes, I do. And you are the only one who can do this."

Rogue falls silent while staring back at Allan. All around swirls organic flames and floating debris as the land gives way to Jean's ever growing power. Keeping his gaze into her green eyes, Allan smiles at Rogue once more and says, "You have to do this, babe. I need you to do this. Save your world."

Tears roll down her cheeks as she softly asks in return, "What happens to you?"

"You got me." Allan replies playfully, "I've never tried this before."

Rogue almost cracks a smile at Allan's comment but is then distracted by a quaking shock wave caused by another telekinetic pulse. Both she and Allan take a step to keep their balance as the wave pass over them. Distant sounds of shifting rock and the sirens of local authorities fill the silence between shockwaves. In a calm tone, Allan remarks, "Your world is running out of time."

With a hesitating breath, Rogue says, "Ah… Ah don't wanna lose you."

"You never will." Allan returns quickly with a soft smile.

Taking a deep breath, Rogue throws all caution into the wind as she leaps into Allan's welcoming arms. Among the flowing burning devastation that surrounds them, they passionately kiss, inhaling one another. Rogue hugs Allan almost gripping his head as he wraps his arms around her slender waist. Letting her gloves slide off her hands, Rogue begins to run her fingers through Allan's jet black hair, kissing him as though ignoring the world around her. A tingling sensation begins to somewhat sprinkle through her entire body. The sensation slowly builds within her as she feels a sudden burst on energy from her center. Allan's body slowly glows in her embrace, his lips locked onto hers. Sudden, his body flashes brightly as it bursts with red intensity. Rogue would gasp at the sensation of both cold and hot energy within her if not for her passionate hold. Instead, the only sound she hears in her mind is Allan' echoing voice whispering, "I love you."

Staggering against another shockwave, Cyclops marvels at the brilliant sight of Allan's body suddenly illuminating like a star within Rogue's embrace. He cradles his broken left arm as he watches the light from Allan's body envelope Rogue like a warm blanket until neither she or Allan are visible to him. He takes quick glances around at the devastating organic flames that continue to swirl around him. A mixture of confusion and frustration strikes at his soul as all he can do is watch and yell out, "Professor, what's happening to them!"

"Remain calm, Scott." Charles replies telepathically, "Prepare yourself."

Trying to maintain his composure among what looks like Hell on Earth, Cyclops asks out while looking up, "For what?!"

A surge of power flow through her entire being. Rogue feels her body super charge with intensity like no other. The power is intoxicating and fearsome at the same time. But she begins to feel something else. A comforting presence that seems to radiate within and embrace her as well. She opens her eyes revealing red shimmering pupils as she grins with confidence. Rogue's body continues to glow with red brightness, but she now glows alone as she had fully absorbed Allan's entire being. Memories of another life flash through out her mind, yet she finds them just as comforting as the presence within her. She is reminded of the sensation she felt when Allan had allowed her to access his mind so she could sing at his concert. Everything begins to make sense to her. Allan had been preparing her for such an occasion. She feels everything he had felt, his fear of failing her world, his hope he had for her and the X-men and the disappointment he feels for his own failure with Jean. However, the embracing sensation she feels with this new imbued power runs deeper than she anticipates. It is then she realizes the feeling is Allan's deep love for her. Rogue feels as though she is embraced within his arms, snuggled up against his warm body on a cold night. With that comfortable sensation, Rogue also feels a great deal of contentment Allan has whenever he is with her. Her expression softens as her eyes slowly begin to glow bright red. The sudden surge of energy becomes her own. Slowly bringing her hands up in front of her, Rogue grips with both fists and begins to command the immediate flowing forces around her like she had been doing this her entire life. She looks up at Jean in the sky above and whispers out in a echoing voice, "Time to rock."

Rogue focuses a power unlike any she had ever absorbed as she gathers the chaotic energies around her then uses the forces to propel her into the sky like a shooting star. As she ascends toward Jean into the burning skies above, Rogue illuminates her body leaving a streaking light trail beneath her. The extreme forces of her upward thrust causes the swirling clouds of fire and debris to part from her flight path. Struggling against the growing forces within her, Jean lets go of her tensions catching sight of Rogue heading her direction. She fixes her attention upon her fellow X-man's new acquired power level and boasts out, "Does little Rogue believe she can contend with the power of the Phoenix?"

Reaching the same altitude as Jean, Rogue glares back with her red glowing eyes and replies, "Ah'm through playin' nice, Jean."

Despite the tears pouring from her angelic eyes, Jean flashes a conniving grin as she returns, "You don't know the game enough to even attempt to play. This world is begging to be healed of it's open festering wounds. The only way I know how to heal it is to burn everything! You want to play our game, Rogue? Then destroy me without hesitation, without mercy. My body and mind are committed to this, but my soul is in torment. Destroy me now!"

With a somewhat cold glare, Rogue answers back, "That's not why Ah'm here, Jean."

Turning her agonizing stare into a look of rage, Jean darts out, "If you cannot do what is necessary, than you are as useless as the others! I doubt, even with Allan's powers coursing through your veins, could you destroy me."

With that said, Jean lashes out with a column barrage of streaking fire from the skies. The fiery attack strikes Rogue against her right side causing her to slightly flinch at the brilliance of the impact as it seems to explode off her newly dense form. The relentless heated attack however obliterates her tattered X-man uniform to cinders leaving Rogue floating bare naked. Her body only seems to simmer from Jean's lash out as she looks back and calmly replies, "You right, Jean. Ah took Allan's powers not to destroy you, but to augment my own."

With any warning of telegraphing, Rogue lunges out with both hands at Jean. The speed of Rogue's advance catches Jean totally by surprise. All she can do is react with a loud gasp as Rogue places both of her bare hand upon Jean's cheeks. Unlike absorbing powers as she had done in the past, Rogue feels absolutely concentrated and focused. A flow of chaotic fire and energy rushes into her body like a bottle pour it's contents into an open drinking glass. However, this drinking glass has no fear of overflowing. Jean's eyes roll back, stunned by the sudden drain of her power. She tries to gather her wits and break free of Rogue's hold, but it is not only her power that is being drained, but her control as well. Rogue's focus is so in tuned she has isolated Jean's essence from the corrupting power of the Phoenix. Jean yells out, feeling as though someone is ripping her soul into two. As Rogue continues to hold on, her body begins to glow bright red. Jean appears to be stunned and shocked as she is enveloped into growing crimson light. Then with a quick spark, both of their bodies flash with extreme white light like an exploding star. The event is so sudden and bright, it blankets the entire sky, forcing all who look upon it to seek cover or hide their eyes. All, except for Cyclops, who stares up with silent awe.

Within the blinding light, all perception is overwhelmed by warmth and comfort. Jean feels her being let go as she seems to take a step into a familiar place. She looks down at her hands with curiosity as a sense of what she believes is normalcy settles within her. Jean takes a breath and continues to walk into a realm with no floor, walls or ceiling. All around is a hazy white light that slowly dims to reveal Allan comforting Rogue as she sleeps soundly with her head resting in his lap. Jean smiles and asks out, "Allan? What's going on?"

Returning with friendly smile, Allan whispers back, "Shh… she's taking a nap."

Jean's smile has hint of curiosity as she looks around and lightly asks, "What happened, Allan? Are we dead?"

Lightly chuckling, Allan grins and says, "Close, just call this a transitional state of body and mind. It's just another translation of strategic existence."

"Why is Rogue asleep? Is she ok?" Jean inquires with sincerity.

Allan smile contently down at Rogue as he explains, "Well, this is her mind, or at least her translation of strategic existence. Our minds are kind of linked, but her human consciousness is in a somewhat dream state. I'm just making sure she is comfortable. This does, however, give us a chance to settle things."

Jean stares back down at Allan while he sits with Rogue's head resting in his lap. She falls silent as he continues, "I'm really sorry things turned out this way. I never would have guessed in a million years that my worst enemy would actually be myself. But there are no absolutes in existence. You're going to be alright, Jean. I'm not going to promise life will get easier for you after this day. It's not easy to be at a state where you touch the face of eternity. You can't expect life to be the same, but it will get better."

"I don't understand, Allan." Jean replies innocently.

Smiling back up at Jean with a friendly disposition, Allan says, "You will."

Taking a soft breath, Allan looks around and speaks out softly, "Professor, it's time."

Jean looks around quickly and suddenly sees Charles standing casually off to her left with a content smile. He holds out his right hand and says, "Time to come home, Jean. I'm here to guide you back."

Looking back down at Allan and Rogue, Jean is at a loss for words as her expression shows of slight surprise. Allan smiles and gives her a friendly wink as he gently brushes Rogue's hair in his lap. Jean reaches up and up and places her left hand into Charles's right hand. Her perception suddenly feels pulled away from the white bright realm. A rushing sensation of passing voices gives way to a relieving deep gasp for air as she physically opens her eyes to a fiery glowing sky. Her back arches back in the arms of Cyclops who calls out to her, "Jean! Jean it's me, Scott. It's alright, your safe now."

With her senses slowly gaining bearings, Jean takes glances around and sees the devastation surrounding them. She looks back at Cyclops and speaks out in a somewhat groggy tone, "Wh… where are Allan and Rogue?"

Despite his eyes being covered my his ruby quartz sunglasses, Jean can see his worried expression as Cyclops turns his gaze upward. Jean follows his stare and sees Rogue's glowing form floating high in the burning skies above. Her arms out stretched to her sides with her back arches. Rogue's body pulsates with an abundance of energy seemingly gathering the chaotic forces that were unleashed upon this world. She floats in silence like a living star. Jean's eyes begin to fill with tears as she tells Cyclops with a groggy voice, "I'm sorry, Scott."

Cyclops looks back down at Jean with a slight smile and says, "It's ok Jean. Everything is going to be alright. I mean, it looks like Rogue and Allan are fixing things."

Jean slowly shakes her head as she begins to cry in his arms. Cyclops becomes even more concerned as he turns his gaze back up. Charles's voice telepathically speaks to him calmly, "Scott, you need to listen to me now, more than you ever have before."

Within the comfort of the hazy warm light, Allan shifts his position underneath Rogue's resting head and cradles her in his arms. He smiles and chuckles as he speaks out, "Hey there, caught you sleeping on the job again."

Rogue slowly stirs as she hears his voice and replies in a crank tone, "Dang it Allan, Ah was really comfy there too." as she sits up next to him.

Rubbing her eyes, Rogue looks back at him and sees him wearing only a white t-shirt and worn blue jeans with no shoes or socks, sitting Indian style, while she seems to be sporting her usual black skirt, tights, and top with a translucent green blouse. Also wearing no shoes or socks a well as no gloves to cover her hands. She lets out a soft yawn while stretching her back while Allan just watches with a content smile. She looks back with curious grin and asks out, "What?"

Allan casually shrugs his shoulders and replies with chuckle, "I don't know, you just look cute when you do that."

"Cute?" Rogue asks sarcastically, "Ah was just yawnin', Allan."

Allan laughs and returns, "Well I don't look that cute when I yawn."

"Who would with their mouth wide open like that?" Rogue quickly adds sarcastically.

She then glances around noticing the featureless white hazy glow of their surroundings and remarks, "Hey wait a minute! This is that cosmic thinking' place, isn't it?"

Sighing out with a grin, Allan sarcastically replies, "Strategic existence. Nicely put by the way."

Sitting up on her knees with wide eyes, Rogue quickly asks, "What happened to Jean and everybody else? Did your idea work?"

Sitting up on his knees, Allan shuffles closer to Rogue and says with a soft smile, "Everything is going to be fine."

She notices Allan's mood change as a slight hint of sadness is seen in his smile. Rogue's expression seems to reflect as she asks, "What's goin' on, Allan"

Looking down, Allan lightly laughs and says, "You know, when I first visited your world a few years back, I thought your society was backwards, failed, and doomed. I couldn't figure out why the powers that govern my life would guide me to such a world. But then I caught site of you and the X-men. I saw hope. And that was all I needed to see. I guess… it was my arrogance that blinded me, I don't know. I wanted your world to be free of the burden of evolutionary division. And I was hoping Jean would be the answer to that. Not everything turns out the way you want them."

Rogue sits silently as Allan gently holds both of her bare hands and caresses them with his fingers. Noticing his sadness grow, Rogue inquires, "What's wrong?"

Looking up into her green eyes, Allan's eyes begin to tear up as he replies with a slight grin, "I have to say good bye, Rogue."

Staggering while stepping back in protest, Cyclops speaks out loudly, "I don't understand, Professor!"

Returning telepathically, Charles says, "Remember your training, Scott. The narrow beam, you are the only one with the power and accuracy to carry out this task."

Looking down at Jean's resting body, Cyclops speaks out again, "Allan was teaching me how to do it, but…"

Charles quickly adds, "There will be a moment of vulnerability. You cannot hesitate."

Turning his gaze back up at Rogue's dramatic posture in the sky, Cyclops lightly asks as though asking himself, "Vulnerability?"

Rogue's eye widen as she leans in close to Allan asking, "Goodbye?! Why good bye? Ah don't get it."

With single tear rolling down his face, Allan replies, "Seth made sure in the end, that I couldn't do anything to save your world. But through natural evolution, through you and X-men, I found a way. I know you can feel the power we peeled away from Jean. It needs to be released back to the cosmos. I can't do that… you, and the X-men can."

Rogue attention is sudden caught by the quick spark of light shining from Allan's chest. A shimmering glowing star like burst twinkles from his heart as Allan stands and remarks, "I have to go."

Rogue quickly stands up as well yelling out, "NO!! This ain't right! Ah won't let you do this! Ah almost lost you once, Ah ain't gonna let that happen again!"

Allan smiles while gently reaching up and caressing her shoulders. Tears roll down his cheeks as he tells her, "I made a promise that I'm being forced to break. I don't want this anymore than you do. But we can't be selfish."

"Yes we can damn it!!" Rogue yells back as tears begin to run down her face, "Ah wanna be selfish!! Ah don't want you to die!!"

Allan quickly embraces her as Rogue begins to weep into his chest. The shining light twinkles out from between them as they hold one another silently. Allan speaks in a soft tone, "We both know it's the right thing to do, babe. Don't forget, right now our minds are one. I can feel everything from you, just as you can feel everything from me. You know how I feel about all this."

Sniffling, Rogue hugs Allan tightly as she mutters out, "You're… scared. You're afraid of what is gonna happen. You're afraid for everyone if you don't do this. You're sad for your father. You're afraid of… of losing me."

Rogue lets out a deep felt cry as she holds Allan around his torso. Allan comforts her in his embrace, gently sinking his face into her hair. He breathes in her scent while closing his eyes, then lets out a slow sigh remarking, "I would have spent the rest of my life here with you." as he grins and chuckles out, "Even though the tv shows here suck."

Allan's comment seems to lighten Rogue's mood as she giggles in his embrace. Staring back at each other while hold one another lovingly, Allan adds with a smile, "But I would take one year with you over a life time of never knowing you at all."

Reaching up very gently, Allan holds and caresses Rogue's cheeks while gazing into her eyes. "I knew I was staring into forever." he lightly tells her.

Rogue smiles despite the tears from her eyes. Allan shares her smile as the light from his heart begins to glow ever more brightly. Embracing her again, Allan looks into Rogue's eyes once more and says, "I love you, Ann." as they connect into a deep passionate kiss.

The light from Allan chest sparkles out from their loving embrace overwhelming the perception within the hazy white glowing realm.

Deep within the Cerebro chamber, Charles's eyes widen as his concentration increases. He speaks out in a commanding tone, "Ladies, focus all your efforts. We must separate Allan and Rogue's minds."

Behind him, wearing similar interfacing helmets, Psylocke, Emma, and Tessa close their eyes and reach out telepathically. Theirs thoughts, combined with the efforts of Charles approach what seems like a glowing visage of a humanoid figure, shining more brightly than any star in the heavens. Charles looks upon the figure with a bit of fear as he remembers this image from before. He lightly speaks out in his thoughts, "The dream… it has come full circle."

The united minds feel a great strain as they focus a pull against one mind that does not want to seem to let go. But as though getting a firm grip on a rope, they tug and pull at the individual. The minds of the telepaths begin to feel strain on themselves and almost weaken against the emotional hold the two minds they are trying separate have on one another. Pain and sadness seep into each of their thoughts as they struggle in this task. Until finally, in one single thought, the minds suddenly divide. Almost in one loud singular gasp, Psylocke, Emma, and Tessa open their eyes wide. They begin to stare at one another with unsure expressions, having felt Rogue's emotional reluctance to let Allan go. They turn their attention forward to where Charles sits in a near catatonic state, locked within the telepathic interface of Cerebro's augmented connection.

Staggering once more, Cyclops watches as Rogue's glowing form suddenly flashes brightly with her back arching dramatically. Then with pulsating ripple, the light leaves her body as though she had divided into two separate beings. One being her normal human form them other, a more broader shape male figure whose body seems more translucent with a shining star like light sparkling from his chest. Both Rogue and the energy form float a few feet apart with their arms out stretched to their sides. Charles speaks out to Cyclops telepathically in a more earnest tone, "There Scott! His heart!"

With confusion in his voice, Cyclops cries out, "I can't do this Professor!"

"You must," Charles returns, "it is the only moment of vulnerability Allan has given us. Use the narrow beam. Strike his heart, release the power source back into the cosmos."

Cyclops shakes his head trying to fight back the anger as he yells out, "NO!! I can't! I won't kill Allan!"

"Scott," Charles speaks out calmly, "Allan trained you for this moment. He knew your mutant gift relied on your body absorbing kinetic and potential energies around you and releasing it in the form of concussive light. But the narrow beam concentrates that energy into a more dense beam. Just enough power to obliterate his exposed human heart."

Cyclops hesitates and stares up silently as Charles adds, "The fate of this world now lies in your decision, Scott."

Looking up, he watches as Allan's energy form slowly floats away from Rogue's floating catatonic like body. A wave of unsure thoughts rush through his mind in a few seconds. Those seconds however seem like an eternity to him as he continues to hesitate. He takes quick glances around at the damage near and far, noticing devastation and chaos that still wreaks havoc around him. He looks back at Jean for assurance but only sees the sadness in her eyes for what needs to be done. Turning away, Cyclops grits his teeth. He then turns his gaze upward at Allan's glowing form and quickly snatches his ruby quartz sunglasses off his face. As though letting out a deep breath, he doesn't say a word as he opens his eyes into a concentrated glare. A bright ruby red spark flashes from his eyes as he releases the straightest beam of optic energy he has ever aimed. The narrow beam of red light streaks at light speed into the sky toward Allan's body. A moment of strange silence occurs as the red beam strikes at the shining heart in Allan's chest. A quick spark follows Allan's form arching his back in response to the impact. Cyclops's red narrow blast appears to pierce Allan's star glowing heart. Rogue's eyes suddenly open as she gasps loudly. In brilliant display of illuminated energy, a large column of hazy blue light seems to blast upward from Allan's floating position into the sky parting the clouds. The energy beam streaks through the quelling storm clouds with thunderous echoes. Allan's glowing heart then bursts brightly seemingly causing a chain reaction that causes the rest of his form to shine and burst as well into millions of sparkling and glowing tiny particles. The particles slowly and gently rain down, each dissipating. The bright column of light also fades off in the starry expose sky. Slowly and gently, Rogue touches down to the ground, dropping to her knees with a plain expression on her face. A few yards away, Cyclops shuts his eyes while dropping to his knees as well. Out of anger, he throws his ruby quartz glasses as far as his flagging strength would allow as he begins to lightly weep. Jean sits silently, also crying with Scott and Rogue in her visual range. Wolverine comes staggering out from a hill of debris and approaches the silent trio of battle worn mutants. He sees Cyclops on his knees, his eyes shut tightly with tears running down his face. Off to Cyclops's left, Jean sits in a near lying posture, also crying with a more shocked expression. A few yards ahead, Rogue sits naked and silent, with a more confused expression on her face as she slowly looks around her. Gazing around, Wolverine then notices the other members of the gathered X-men slowly making their way back towards him. Some limping, others helping their fellow teammates traverse the now dormant simmering battle torn area. Above, the sky slowly clears of clouds revealing the early morning glow as the sun slowly starts to shine the in far horizon. An air of silence overcomes the immediate area as the team gathers closer. Wolverine takes another glance around, hoping but knowing there is a face that will be absent. A unsettling sadness strikes him deeply, but he manages to hold back the outburst. "It's all clear, team." Wolverine speaks out, "Everything's… alright."

He watches as Iceman and Spike help Cyclops to his feet. The others are more reluctant to help Jean but none the less, help her to her feet with the aid of Havok and Dazzler. Wolverine shuffles over to Rogue and covers her naked kneeling body with a torn table cloth he had found in some nearby rubble. Rogue gently clutches the covering garment with her face still unmoved. Kitty slowly and carefully approaches while asking, "Is everything ok, Rogue? Are you ok? Where's Allan?"

Wolverine looks at the young mutant with a hint of sadness in his eyes. Kitty glances back at him as he lightly shakes his head in response to her question. Lightly gasping, Kitty backs away covering her mouth as though in shock. The rest notice her reaction as well as Wolverine's sullen mood. Approaching from the opposite direction, Magneto's large transport sphere silently floats onto the scene. The bottom iris like hatch opens deploying the battered members of the Brotherhood. Avalanche quickly makes his way to Kitty asking, "Hey, are you alright?"

Kitty dives into his arms hugging him tightly as she begins to cry. Unsure of what has happened, all Avalanche can do is reciprocate her affection. The rest of the Brotherhood disburse among the team to help with injured. Magneto asks Wolverine, "Allan made it here just in time I take it?"

Staring at Rogue, Wolverine simply replies in a low tone, "Yeah."

Realizing the gravity of what has transpired, Magneto closes his eyes and drops his head in sadness. A mix of confused questions and silent cries are shared throughout the group of gathered mutants. Off in the far distance, SHIELD and rescue personnel begin recovery efforts. Distant sirens and the sounds of helicopters begin to fill the air. Doing his share of checking up on the injured members of the X-men, Gambit notices Rogue sitting alone in silence covered only in a tattered cloth. He quickly pulls off his battle worn trench coat and drapes it around Rogue asking, "Chere, are you gonna be alright?"

With her plain gaze fix toward the ground, Rogue clutches the polite gesture around her and replies in a calm plain tone, "Just… take me home." as a single tear runs down her left cheek, glistening in the morning sunrise.

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The weeks that follow seem to be a time of slow healing for many of the Xavier Institute. Plenty of mixed emotions fill the halls as each try to come to terms or understand what has happened in their lives. Truth is the thought throughout the entire mansion. That thought becomes the center of discussion within Charles Xavier's office. Seated in various areas of the plush office, Colonel Nick Fury, Eric, Ororo, Logan, Sean, Emma, Tessa, Hank, and Mystique, gather Charles to share what seems like final words on the matter. "So, is there any way to know if that Seth guy is really no longer a threat?" Colonel Fury asks.

Logan speaks up, "The only person who'd know the answer to that, Nick, would be Allan."

"I was there when Allan and other entities passed judgment upon him," Eric adds, "Seth was left powerless and banished. If he is still alive remains unknown."

Sighing out while sitting back, Colonel Fury mentions, "I'm briefing the President and his cabinet later this week about what went down. And they're going to want more information than that."

Sean sits up with a smirk and says, "Sorry Colonel, but that's all we can give ye."

Shaking his head in frustration, Colonel Fury remarks, "How am I to explain to the President, that Allan, probably the most powerful being ever encountered, burst into a million particles to save our world?"

"And possibly, the stability of our universe." Hank adds with confidence.

Sighing out again, Colonel Fury returns, "You see, it's things of that nature that keep you people in the hot seat. How am I suppose to know that is what happened?"

"Simply take our word for it, Colonel." Emma quickly adds with attitude.

Staring back at her with military bravado, Colonel Fury says, "That's not going to cut it, blondie. Now, what about Rogue? She seemed more involved than any of you. Maybe she's got some answers."

Sitting up abruptly, Mystique quickly darts out, "The girl has been through enough! Do not give her any more grief."

"You forget your place Raven." Colonel Fury states to her.

"Quit the contrary," Mystique returns smoothly, "I've forgotten nothing. Rogue is my daughter, and if you wish my cooperation on any future endeavors with SHIELD, you will do well to member that, Colonel."

Cracking a slight grin while lightly chuckling, Colonel Fury replies, "Fair enough." as he stands while straightening his dark uniform and continues, "Look, I'm not here to step on anyone's shoes. Agent Danvers's field report was a bit vague on the details. I came here to fill in the gaps. Apparently, I can't bleed a rock. That just leave the matter about Jean Grey."

Speaking up calmly, Charles remarks, "She is no longer a threat to this world, Colonel. Nor will I allow SHIELD or any government agency poke or prod my students for answers they do not have. Jean has a long road to full recovery ahead of her. And it will be a bumpy journey, for all those involved." as he settles back into his wheelchair.

"We have no reason to hide anything from you, Nick." Logan remarks, "We're all just as shocked at the outcome things too."

Nodding at Logan's comment, Colonel Fury returns, "I'm just not too comfortable with the idea of things just returning to normal after something of that magnitude. Almost like they never happened."

"I am afraid things will be far from what we would consider normal, Colonel Fury." Charles adds, "Allan had opened our eyes to a whole new level of existence. The real question, is what do we do with that knowledge?"

The room falls silent for a few seconds before Colonel Fury decides to speak up, "Well then, I guess this concludes our business. I can assure all of you, it is not SHIELD's policy to trample on anyone's rights. But if any other information about the 'incident' comes up, I wanna be the first to know."

With that said, the others in the room with exception of Charles, stands and acknowledges Colonel Fury as he nods at them then turns to walk out. But just before he leaves the office, he slightly glances back and inquires, "For the record, Allan Paran is dead, right?"

The room falls silent again for a few seconds. Logan clears his throat and replies in a low tone, "Yeah."

Sighing out, Colonel Fury looks down and remarks, "I'm sorry. Good luck to all of you." as he turns and leaves the room.

The remaining group in Charles's office stand in awkward silence. Mystique casually walks up to the window and stares out while Emma and Tessa excuse themselves and leave heading toward the kitchen. Sean follows their lead walking out of the office with his hands in his pockets. With her silent gaze staring out the window, Mystique notices Rogue walking away from the mansion and towards the forest end of the property. Politely excusing herself from the room, Mystique quickly exits in a somewhat haste. Logan lightly breathes out while turning to Charles and asks, "How are the students handling all this?"

Closing his eyes gently, then slowly opening them, Charles replies with a slight smile, "They are each moving on in their own ways. There is always a sense of fear when one's mortality is tested. But they will grow from this. All beings must endure if they are to achieve their own greatness." as he looks up and around slowly before adding out loud, "Is that not right, N?"

Logan, Hank, and Eric stare at Charles with confusion, surprised at his sudden words. Just then, the room slightly cools, building up a swirling gentle breeze that gathers and takes form. With his broad form now taking shape right before their eyes, N, make his presence known dramatically, forming his flowing cape from the natural elements within the office. Logan jumps back in shock extending out all of his claws darting out, "WHOA! Heads up."

Eric drops back into a defensive posture while Hank steps in front of Charles in his defense. In a an echoing tone, N remarks, "Stay your petty indigenous abilities. My presence today is primarily informative."

Charles quickly speaks up, "He speaks the truth. So tell us, Negotiator, what does your presence mean?"

Almost in a serene state, N slowly turns toward Charles and calmly replies, "Balance has been restored."

"We are aware of that." Charles returns.

Straightening his posture, Eric remarks with a glare, "But you already knew that, N. Why are you really here?"

Some what returning Eric's glare with a cold emotionless stare, N answers, "Curiosity. What will you creatures do with such a gift? Will you return to you petty wicked ways, or will you evolve from this knowledge. There is always a price when a mortal attempts to be a god."

Taking a more broader stance, Eric says, "What does it matter to you how we live our lives when creatures such as yourself interfere with them? This whole fiasco was the result of such an act."

"Your lives mean nothing to me, and even less to others." N returns in a more stern manner, "However, for a brief moment, your world was the center of this universe. And a sacrifice of that nature does not go unnoticed. You are all becoming a part of a much larger community. Are you and yours ready for that responsibility?"

The room falls silent as each man stares at N with steady eyes. Charles calmly replies, "No, we are not, N. But neither was Allan, and yet he managed to defy all of you up to his last breath. But that is was intrigued you about him, about us. Allan brought a level of creativity that rivaled his powers. A methodology and ideal he had instilled in my students. And ideal you had abandoned to become what you are today."

N turns to Charles after hearing his words and stares at the wheelchair bound mutant for a few silent seconds. With his cold weathered glare, N remarks, "You are wise beyond your own existence, Xavier. Perhaps one day, you too will ascend. The Vanguard has indeed chosen his allies well. Live and die as you will."

Remaining on their guard, Logan , Hank, and Eric watch as N's form begins to dissipate from their sight. Letting out a sigh of relief, Charles sits back while bringing his hand together under his chin. Eric looks about the office and asks, "Do you think he is really gone this time?"

Logan steps forward while looking around also and says, "There is no telling' with a creature that powerful."

Charles looks up and notices Hank staring off as though lost in thought. His near confused expression has Charles sitting up as he inquires, "Hank, is something bothering you?"

Turning his attention to his colleagues in the room, Hank rubs the bottom of his chin and steps forward while remaking, "It may be nothing, but it was something N had said that caught my ear."

Logan glances at Charles and Eric with a baffled expression, then looks back at Hank. Clearing his throat, Hank continues, "He said, the Vanguard 'has' chosen his allies well, not 'had'."

The room again falls silent as Charles sits back slowly and gently into his wheelchair. Turning and looking out his window, he cracks a content grin while staring out and up at the clear blue sky.

--

Walking her way through the light brush and labyrinth of low branches, Rogue briskly hikes toward her destination. Thoughts run through her mind with every step. She had been very reclusive since the funeral and had managed to avoid full social contact with everyone at the mansion. This being one of the very few moments she could get without having anyone of them knocking at her door. The air is clear, neither too hot or too cold, as Rogue smiles while closing her eyes and taking a deep breath. The forest brush lightens as the path she follows opens up to a familiar clearing. In the center if the carefully landscaped plot, Irene's headstone sits silently. Rogue approaches humbly, kisses her fingers, then gently touches the carved stone. With a content smile, Rogue continues on the path ahead. Off to her left, she looks out off the cliff like drop off toward the ocean, listening to the distant sounds of ocean surf splashing against the rocks below. It was a ideal resting place for her foster mother. As she continues on the path, another thought sparks in her mind, that this was the ideal resting place for one other. The path opens up again to another secluded plot a few yards from Irene's. Rogue's smile slowly fades as she comes to silent stop. Her blank stare into the center of the clearing is almost of disbelief, despite the fact she had been to this place three times since it was landscaped a few weeks ago. She takes a few steps in and to read the carving on the headstone, Allan Paran; A Son, An Artist, A Savior.

Rogue sighs out as she tries to casually approach the plot. The dirt is some what fresh and has shown a little growth near the carved headstone. Standing very still with her eyes fixated on the carved name, she remarks, "Ah know it's a little cheesy, ah really wanted it to say something a bit more meaningful, or dramatic Ah guess. But we both know that ain't your style." as she lightly chuckles.

Rogue gently kneels and settles a few feet from the solid headstone and continues, "Ah don't know why Ah keep showin' up here. In a couple minutes Ah'm just gonna break down and start cryin' again. This must be part of denial Ah suppose. A very big part of me hopes that Ah might find you out here, either doin' one of your cosmic meditations or drawin' in one of your big sketch pads." as she clutches her hands together in her lap.

A single tear rolls down her cheek as she remarks almost sarcastically, "You see? Here I go."

Rogue wipes her tear then wipes her nose while sniffing. "Ah needed to get out and get some air. Ah just didn't know where else to go. You were always someone Ah could confide in." her eyes fill with more tears as she continues, "Ah never thought it would ever come to this, Allan." as she drops her head and starts to lightly cry.

Suddenly, a woman's voice calls out from behind, "Rogue?"

Sniffing and wiping her tears quickly, Rogue shuffles to her feet and turns to face the voice. Standing a few yards away at the path opening, Mystique stares at her with a concerned expression and asks, "Are you ok?"

Forcibly changing her mood, Rogue clears her throat while wiping away the remnants of her tears and replies, "Yeah, Ah'm fine. Just gettin' some air, that's all."

Glancing over at the peaceful grave, Mystique takes a breaths and remarks, "I'm sorry I missed the funeral, Rogue. I got caught up with SHIELD business."

"No biggie," Rogue quickly replies with a forced light mood, "it wasn't like missin' concert or anything. Besides, there really wasn't much to bury."

Mystique steps up and adds, "Stop it, Rogue. Don't do this. It's ok to feel what you are feeling right now."

Sighing, Rogue returns, "You're soundin' like the others. Ah have a feelin' they all think Ah'm suicidal or somethin'."

"I do have a right to be concerned," Mystique mentions, " I am your…"

"Ah know, AH know, ok?" Rogue quick interrupts.

Mystique stares at Rogue in silence with almost a hurt expression. Sighing out again, Rogue says, "Look, Ah'm dealin' with this the best way Ah know how. If ya want the honest truth, Ah haven't been sleepin' too well in the past few days. Ah'm too afraid to sleep knowin' Ah'll probably dream about him, then too afraid to wake up knowin' he won't be there when I do. It's been tough, but Ah'm dealin' with it."

Mystique smiles and adds, "You don't have to deal with it alone."

Remaining silent, Rogue glances back at the grave, then turns and starts to walk up the path. She stops for a moment as she slightly turns with a soft grin and tells Mystique, "Thank you." and continues on up the path heading toward the main grounds.

Making her way back to the main house, Rogue passes a few of her fellow teammates. She acknowledges them with a grin, trying to hide back the tears. She winds her way through the lobby area and then through the long hallways of the mansion until she reaches a familiar door. She walks up with an almost nervous posture and raises her right hand to knock. She then sighs out as though in frustration dropping her hand and opening the door. A familiar scent lightly overwhelms her senses as she walks through the doorway slowly. A half made bed with various articles of clothing sprawled across the sheets is the first thing Rogue sees as she glances slowly across the room. Littered on the floor are other pieces of clothing, including a pair of skimpy black panties Rogue had miss placed. She grins embarrassingly as she reaches down grabbing the her underwear from the floor, then stuffing it in her right pocket. Rogue turns to look on the large office like desk in the corner of the room and sees an open sketch pad with a partially finish image. Steeping up to the desk, she sees several drawing pencils randomly laying around the large spiral bound sketch pad. Rogue gets a better look at the image and realize it is a unfinished drawing of her, asleep. Careful details were obviously taken to capture this moment in time, down to the softness of the pillow her face seems to be resting in. The drawing is runs dark to the points where it looks unfinished with light thin sketch lines. Rogue takes a light breath, fighting back the tears she feels building. Her light breath turns deep as she turns away from the sketch and looks at the thin panel touch sensitive keyboard. She gently taps on the device bringing Allan's 22nd century personal computer to life. The holographic screen materializes and seems to float above the flat panel keyboard as it activates the main operating system. Rogue stares at the computer blankly unsure of what to do with all of Allan's belongings. She decides to shut off the portable computer but is unable to find any indication of a switch off method similar to the 21st century computers she is used to. Rogue leans in closer, her face near the holographic screen, as she tries to locate the shut off. Taking her by complete surprise, a flash of light catches her attention as a blue beam of light seems to scan her face. The event is quick precise as a little voice from the screen speaks, "Identity confirmed, play back message."

Rogue quick stands up right looking at the screen. A small window like screen appears with a text message reading, "Go to the garage."

Stepping back with a baffled expression, Rogue stands silently, not sure of what to do. She reads the message again as it begins to beep repetitively. With another sigh, she briskly exits Allan's room with a destination set in her mind, the garage. She passes several of her concerned friends, not purposely ignoring their 'hellos', but determined to find out what this message wants her to do. Upon reaching the large garage, Rogue hears the same kind of beeping she heard from Allan's computer. She slowly follows the sound, looking around with a nervous and baffled glare. She sees her black Camero parked next to Scott's Shelby Cobra as she make her way through. Finally, she realizes where the beeping originates from. The sound gets louder the closer she gets to Allan's sleek street bike. Rogue steps up to the high-tech vehicle and hears the beeping coming from aerodynamic matching helmet resting on the seat. She picks up the head piece carefully and stares into the opening trying to see why it is beeping, but is unable to determine why. Finally, Rogue decides to place the helmet on. Much to her surprise, looking out the view port of the sleek helmet, she sees Allan leaning back against her chrome finished black sports car. He stares back with a confident grin that catches her completely off guard. Rogue quickly pulls off the helmet and looks to where she saw him standing and sees no one there. Pausing for a moment, she lets whatever hope that built up in her heart subside. Then curiously, she slides the helmet back on. There, staring back at her, Allan's image seems somewhat translucent. The heads up display on the helmet visor indicates that the image is somewhat embedded. In the corner of the display reads playback message. Swallowing nervously, Rogue lightly speaks out in the helmet, "Um… playback, message?"

With quick flicker of the display, Allan's image suddenly animates as he speaks, "I know it's kind of weird getting a message like this. What you're seeing right now is a fully interfacing VPI messaging system. Kind of like leaving a sticky note on the fridge for someone." as he stands up off her car and begins to walk about. "It's cliché, but if you are seeing this, then something has happened to me. Geez, this is really morbid. Things probably happened pretty fast too I bet. But if you're seeing this, that means things also turned out for the best. I mean your world is safe, and you're still alive. That's all I really wanted." he then pauses with smirks and adds, "Well, that's not all I wanted. I mean wanted to complete my sketch book, I had this great idea to design a year book for the Institute, I wanted to set Wanda up with my drummer, I wanted to try the 'Death by Chocolate' at the Shake Shack, and I wanted to give that dream of yours a shot."

Watching the somewhat holographic recording, Rogue sits back on the seat of the sleek motorcycle in silence. The image interacts with the view of the garage she sees through the helmet visor, almost giving the image of Allan a ghostly look as it continues, "Look, I can't hope to know what you're going through right now. You probably have mixed emotions, confusion, sadness or anger. Who knows when you'll be seeing this, but I don't want you to be sad anymore. Despite what you may be thinking, despite all the crap you and I have been through this past year, crossing the threshold of our two parallel worlds to find you was destiny. No matter short it was, we both had a taste of Heaven. I couldn't have gone through being the Vanguard had I not met you. What we shared transcends body and mind, goes beyond space and time. No matter what happens or happened, even if it was brief, we both existed in each other hearts. Knowing that, I accept my fate whole heartedly."

Rogue watches the image of Allan casually step by her shiny black car and gesture with a smile towards the glove compartment and remarks, "I left you something in here, it was part of my hope and your dream. You may even find a better use for it. I made it from a piece of the sun. Don't ask me how I got it. Let's just say it was very hot. Oh and I'm leaving you everything I own. Not much, but then again, you'll be the only one with 22nd century toys."

Glancing at her car curiously, Rogue's mood seems to lighten as Allan's image steps up straightening his posture as he finally says, "I'm thankful for everything that has happened. It got me here, I met you and your friends. I learned a lot about myself in the process. But more importantly, you made me feel at home. I felt, safe around you. And I will treasure that wherever I end up. Now, the last thing I want from you, is for you to not give up on happiness. Live your life to it's fullest. Promise me, that you will show the world you mean business. Be that tough girl I remember who tried to protect me in that alleyway. 'Sigh' I love you, Ann. And I will always love you. Ann, Rogue, the one name wonder. I'll see you around."

Allan's content smiling image flickers and fades from the visor display startling Rogue. She blinks her eyes taking a breath as she quickly removes the helmet. Without a word she darts for the glove compartment of her car and opens it almost frantic like. Much to her confusion, she finds the compartment empty. She sits back in the passenger seat with a baffled expression at a loss for words. Just then a male voice speaks, "I think you're lookin' for this, chere."

Rogue looks up and sees Remy standing just outside the passenger side door, holding out his left hand with a small plush box nestled in the palm. With q quick glare, she snatches the little box from is out stretched hand and seems to cradle it in both of her hands. Remy remarks softly, "I'm sorry, Rogue. It's a bad habit of mine, ya know? When I realized what it was… well, I guess… I knew Allan woulda wanted you to have it."

Rogue's mood softens hearing Remy's honesty. She returns her attention to the small plush box in her palms. Gently, she flips open the soft lid and gazes upon a sparkling object. Rogue's green eyes widen and twinkle from the sight of a oval shaped, pristine gem embedded in a ring band molded out of what looks likes platinum. The gem seems to sparkle all spectrums of the light that hits it. Remy smiles and asks, "So, what exactly is that? Don't look like any jewel I've seen."

Rogue's expression almost saddens as she looks upon the unique ring. But she takes a breath and smiles as she replies in a friendly tone, "It's a piece of a star. He gave me the sun." she giggles out.

Remy smiles while sharing Rogue's mood. He then stands up clearing his throat and says, "Um, I really am sorry. I won't let that happen again, I promise."

Rogue glances back up Remy and with a sarcastic smirk that slowly turns into a friendly grin, she asks, "Would you like to go for a ride?"

Remy is caught off guard as she stutters out, "Um… a ride? Well… I thought… we were told, you wanted to be alone…"

Glancing at her hand, Rogue take the ring out of the box and gently slides the ring unto her left ring finger. She smiles contently at the sparkling piece of cosmic jewelry and says, "Yeah, Ah did. But, Ah think Ah could use a friend right now."

Raising his eyebrows, Remy replies, "Um, sure, ok."

He approaches the seam sleek motorcycle and nods while marveling at the design. Rogue chuckles and speaks up, "Uh uh, wise guy. Get yer own ride, this one is mine." as she grins friendly like and gestures to the high-tech sports bike.

Rogue quickly steps to the garage door panel and opens the rising paneling door, then quickly straddles the shiny street bike. She brushes her white striped brown hair before sliding on the matching sleek helmet and remarks to Remy with a wink. "Try to keep up."

A quick flip of a switch, then a throttle kick, Rogue revs the high-tech vehicle to life. Before Remy can react, she squeals the rear wheel burning rubber then jets off down the driveway at high speeds. Remy breathes out with a smile while he watches her barely wiz through the opening gates, and beyond his sight.

-END-

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CREDS:

Had to re-edit, sorry...

Anyways, I hope you all enjoyed the ride!

It's been a fun uphill battle for me, so thanks for keeping an open mind.

That's all... for now... heheheh!