Angelica was among those gathered in the War Room. Only Lorna was absent from the adults staying at the Institute. Alex wondered if she had passed the evaluation without telling him.

"Thank you for coming," Professor Xavier said. "I called you here because I recently received a message from Dr. Cooper. The evidence Hank collected from the Indiana facility is enough for the Government to shut down the Mutant Registration Agency for good."

"You mean until Congress passes the law," came an angry retort.

The Professor raised an eyebrow. "I prefer to be more optimistic, Alex." He took in a breath and described the legal process. All those gathered noticed that nothing about the Mutant Registration Agency would ever reach the public ear. "Dr. Cooper and Hank both believe that a spokesperson for Mutant Rights will facilitate the proceedings," Professor Xavier finished.

"My most gracious thanks, Charles," Hank eloquently began, "for your generosity as a host and providing me with a home in this most beautiful abode. Alas, it the time has come when I must depart. Dr. Cooper has offered me an opportunity to fight for Mutant Rights as an orator rather than a soldier."

To Alex's surprise, Ororo looked pained to hear the news, even before he deciphered Hank's words. He did not know they had grown close. "I am going to miss you, Hank. You will always be welcome at the Institute." They shared a friendly hug.

"You're leaving?" Hank was half the reason Alex had returned to the Institute, and Angelica was slated to leave in a few days. Alex managed not to sound betrayed, though the room's two psychics picked up on the emotion. They refrained from commenting, despite a sympathetic look from Jean.

The rest of the gathering involved nothing but long goodbyes.

Xxxxx

Alex spent the rest of the afternoon with Hank. He helped pack and gather things together. Along the way, he even managed to receive a letter of recommendation as small compensation for losing his friend.

"This is what you wanted, isn't it?" Alex asked. Three of them stood in front of the Institute awaiting a Government car: Alex, Hank, and Ororo. "A world where your identity is no longer a stigma?"

Hank gave an elaborate gesture of assent. "'It's wisdom to recognize necessity, when all other courses have been weighed, though as folly it may appear to those who cling to false hope.' J.R.R. Tolkien. Loathe as we are to admit it, soldiers may fight a war, but victory requires politicians."

"Unfortunately." The car drove up to the Institute to the sound of Hank's chuckling. "It won't be the same without you." They exchanged one last goodbye, and Alex went back inside. Better not to draw things out anymore. Besides, Ororo probably wanted a moment of privacy.

Alex looked at the envelope clutched in his hand. It contained a letter that would guarantee entrance to any graduate program. At least at a university without a bigoted entrance board. He returned to his room for the night, once again with thoughts of a life outside the X-Men.

Xxxxx

Dinner was supposed to be a party of four, but it began without Alex's arrival. "What do you plan on doing?" Jean asked. The students were closer to Lorna in age, but Jean was the only woman she got along with. Probably because most of the others were still in high school.

Lorna shrugged and ate some of her soup. "Probably return to college. When the MRA came after me, I knew the only way I could finish was if I stopped them from coming back. I need to head back."

Scott was confused by her answer. "I thought you were staying."

His fiancée did not bother to explain the reasons. Lorna may have had a crush on his brother, but she clearly did not have the patience to stick around hoping for the possibility of romance. "I'm sorry to disappoint you," Lorna said in a tone that showed how much his input on the subject mattered to her.

"Forgive Scott," Jean pleaded. "Men tend to be a little dense." She partook from her own soup with the slightest bit of resentment. She had looked forward to Alex's cooking, though she could not blame him. Instant soup did not compare with plasma-induced barbecue.

"When you were in your meeting today, I printed out a graduate school application. I need to hurry back to school if I want a chance at getting in."

Xxxxx

Alex felt lost as he wandered the Institute halls. He knew he was there to help people, but what was that worth without the people who made life worthwhile? As much as he liked Bobby Drake, the teen was not yet one of his peers. He was not worth staying at the Institute for.

The lights of the computer lab caught Alex's attention. He went inside and switched on one of the monitors, intending to check his e-mail. It was too soon to expect a message from Hank, but he needed a distraction from his thoughts. The excuse was as good as any other. On the screen was an application to a graduate program at a university in California.

Alex was surprised to recognize one of the professors at the website: the author of one of his textbooks. He remembered the book particularly well, because the subject matter just drew him in. It was just a generic geology text, but the chapters on geophysics were particularly well-written. Alex detected a passion in the author that he had discovered in himself.

He printed out a copy of the application, and suddenly his ambiguity was gone. There was more to life than altruism. Alex needed to do something for himself again. That something was to earn a doctorate in geophysics. All he had to do was finish his undergraduate degree and get a handle on his Mutant abilities. With a clear objective in mind, it was only a matter of time.