Notes: So I couldn't stay away from a definitive ending. Hope you enjoy!
I Know (The Epilogue)
It is Christmas Eve and I am dying. Breathing is hard. Moving is even harder. I never thought I would see this day, or better put, I never thought I would see this fate. X-Men died in battle, under torture, protecting innocents, by an assassin's hand.
Robert succumb to a mutated strand of the legacy virus.
Ororo fell out of the sky when an experimental weapon shut down her powers.
Henry's lab exploded, the reason still unclear.
Katherine disappeared into a black hole.
X-Men died spectacularly, and barring that, at least importantly and loudly. They did not die of old age, which is exactly what is afflicting me.
One hundred and nineteen years old. My teeth are all missing. I have been confined to a bed for the past four years, my bones made brittle by osteoporosis. My blood pressure is normal: wish I could say the same about my blood glucose. Limbs which carried me through war zones look like flabby sticks, unable to even carry me to the bathroom. Looking is hard enough thanks to glaucoma which was recently diagnosed by Frederick, one of the mansion's resident ophthalmologists.
The mansion. I am one of the few who call the Xavier Complex "the mansion." It moved from New York to Massachusetts sixty years ago after Emma grew tired of it constantly being destroyed. Now, this headache inducing structure towers seventy stories at its apex, stretches at least four miles in every direction, and is only one of ten global mutant assistance facilities. Phoebe Stepford's granddaughter oversees it all, reassuring that this organization remains in the Frost family.
Jessica is a good girl. Reminds me much of Emma in her youth, all arrogance and fire with no knowledge of failure. She and Rachel's granddaughter, Amanda, make a wonderful pair, another Frost-Summers pair. Despite it being a lifelong goal, I have yet to determine what any Frost woman sees in a Summers.
Logan still agrees with me.
Speaking of which, I feel his presence before he opens the door. Too slow now: if that was someone out to kill me, I would have been dead. I cannot even smell the cigar smoke on him any more. Age has left me with cynicism and little else.
"Merry Christmas, darlin'. Am I interruptin' anything?"
I resist the urge to send a sharp telepathic blast at him, he who looks not a day older than when he stumbled out of the Canadian wilderness. Yet, I feel sorry for him as he watches us go. As we die, another burden falls to him, another name he feels obligated to remember, another legacy he needs to uphold, another set of relatives he wants to protect. That is what he is, the protector.
After all, protecting others is all he has left.
"What kind of question is that?" I chuckle as I feel the IV let go another drop of opioid analgesics.
His wide-brimmed hat lands on the nightstand as he sits in the chair next to my bed. "Tryin' to be civilized, Tessa. Can't have the world thinkin' I'm some kind of mountain man Scrooge now, can I?"
A terrible cough takes away my voice. I can feel his heart skip when he sees me in pain. Sooner or later, the opioids are going to lose their effect. When they do, the doctors tell me they will use selective nerve blocks to cut off the "uncomfortable" regions. They will shut down my body one piece at a time, allowing me to fall into a painless, endless sleep. Then, they block my phrenic nerve and I will stop breathing all together.
Of course, they try not to make a big fuss about that last part.
When I recover, he is holding my hand and lending me strength. I am one of the last—Warren, Elisabeth, and his precious Jubilation are the only other ones—and my pain is his. In that ever gruff but gentle voice, he asks, "Got anything you'd like to tell me? Any unfinished business you'd like to see done? Maybe a little Christmas wish?"
He does this for every one of us who has some warning of their demise. I had no idea until Emma, her telepathic powers expanding with age unlike mine, contacted me in her final moments. We shared a unique connection, she and I, one born from a past we did not want to revisit. She asked for forgiveness; I told her she did not need it from me. We were too old to fight anymore, and whereas she had a family tree extending from one end of the globe to the other, I had no descendents. Our battles would die with us. As her parting words, she said, "Make sure you come up with something good to surprise Logan."
Her wish was for him to get a life outside everything X.
My wish is for him to listen.
"Did Charles tell you anything about me?"
A grunt and a shake of his head. "Chuck had a lot on that mind o' his when he checked out. Mentioned lotta bad things but didn't say nothin' 'bout you."
I close my eyes and take a long, measured breath. This story will consume the last of my strength, but it is a story that needs to be told. While I am content to let my trouble with Emma fade away, I will not let what Charles did fall to the wayside. I made my peace with him years ago, but I can still despise what transpired. The future generations—the other idealists, the other telepaths, the other Charles Xaviers—they must learn the harm their powers and influence can do. They must realize their students are not pawns or soldiers. Who better to keep the lesson alive than Logan?
"I remember you asking me why I never considered companionship in my life."
A squeeze of my hand tells me he remembers. His exact words were coarser, but the meaning the same.
"I told you I had the same reasons you did."
He nods, a dark expression clouding over his already soulful eyes. "Some o' us don't got what it takes for love. Some o' us ain't meant for it."
"Because we are missing Jean…"
Until tonight, I have never seen Logan cry. Ororo told me he did when Mariko Yashida refused his hand in marriage, but that was hearsay. I have my proof now. He neither bawled nor sobbed—tears cascaded down his leathery cheeks with a silence of him stalking his prey. He reminded me of me all those years ago when I touched the Phoenix the first, last, and only time. His soul hurt so bad his body could not hold it in. When I finished my tale, he shook his head, kissed my wrinkled forehead, and excused himself. I know he is off to drink himself into oblivion because that is what he does whenever Jean creeps into a conversation. I would have joined him if I could.
Then the clock strikes midnight.
It is Christmas again.
I allow myself a gaze out the window, to a place I helped conjure, to the world made possible because of my sacrifice. Mutants no longer hide in shame or fear. Humans no longer persecute us. There is a tenuous harmony brought about by the opportunist in each of us. Separate we are strong, but together we are invincible. There was a time when fires and Sentinels cast the only illumination onto the streets.
Not anymore. Festive lights bathe me along with the moon's glow. That is all I can see through my used up eyes. I call upon my paltry powers and feel… feel a happiness permeating those around me, even the on-call medical staff. I leave the world a better place than when I found it: many others cannot say the same.
Yet, logic tells me I should feel a pang of disappointment. No family. Fewer and fewer friends. Only Logan knows my legacy but he has so much to carry. I am a loner, a loner till the very end. Even Remy—mysterious enigma he existed as—had his scores of adopted children attend his funeral, but what do I have?
I peer at the nightstand where Logan's forgotten hat remains.
Her voice pulls me back to the window; it is the fastest I have moved in too long. Within the glass, Jean—as beautiful as the day she kissed me—smiles. She vanquishes the disappointment and fear lingering in me. With a simple look, she reminds me why I lived this long, why I persevered for this dream, why I helped build the Xavier name when the man betrayed me so.
"I will not be long," I whisper.
Another hacking cough blinds me. A warm trickle runs down the corner of my mouth as the worst headache overcomes me. Through the ringing of my ears, I barely hear my heart monitor beep erratically, and against the pain, my dull battle instincts tell me the medical staff is charging in. They yell nonsensical words while a doctor reconfigures the life support system to adjust to my advancing diseases. My vision returns, but only briefly and hazily: Jean stares at me from the window.
Then it all darkens. I lie in this nothingness, certain I am not floating, certain I am dying. It is so cold here, the kind of cold that bites at your sanity. I am lonely, but at least now, I feel no pain. I feel no joy. A consuming desperation drives through my heart as I realize the world I have known for over a century is beyond my reach.
It is an adjustment.
Suddenly, a flicker off in the distance glows like a candle's flame but warms like a shot of Logan's whiskey. My body rises from its bedridden slumber, the age burning off wherever the light meets it. My arms and legs grow strong again. My unkept, snowy white hair turns jet black, the shine and bounce in it once more. I feel the scars on my cheeks, Elias Bogan's "gifts," drip down off my face and fall into the darkness around me. I stand, and for the first time in a long time, the sharp sting in my left hip does not bring tears to my eyes.
I am born again, and standing before me is Jean. She takes me in her angel's arms and the darkness dies. The disappointment is at an end. I know now my suffering was worth it because… because…
Because Scott had Emma. Logan has eternal life.
I have Jean.
She brushes back my unruly strands of hair. "I waited for you, like I promised."
My thumb wipes the lone tear of happiness running down her cheek. Tenderly, she kisses my loneliness away. "I know," I smile.
- The End (For sure this time).