The End: A Legend – by Darlin

Disclaimer – As usual all recognizable characters belong to Marvel and I make no profit.

A/N – X-Men: The End came out and after a year of muddled convoluted plots, some dropped due to demand by TPTB, I decided it needed rectifying. My version of what the after effects of that disaster might be a hundred or so years later.

-xox-

In the beginning the Earth was destroyed by Water and in the End it will be destroyed by Fire. And much like the Earth's fate, it was predicted by mages of old that a man who bore the name of an animal and whose mien was ferocious and uncontrollable would suffer a similar fate in his end. And it was true. But he was destroyed first by Fire.

Wolverine, X-Man, mutant, he became a legend that turned into myth then eventually spun into pure make believe. Earthy, virile and wholly unstoppable – he grew to be insane, some say. No one approached him for decades without dire need. They dared not risk his wrath. They treaded gently in his presence and thanked their Maker when they escaped unscathed.

It wasn't always that way. But the Wolverine was no ordinary being and as such could not expect to live like one. And oh how he lived. Hearty and robust and full of life and yet he could not love like an ordinary man. In the end it was love that truly destroyed him. And love that saved him.

The mutant they all respected, admired and secretly wished to be like, despite his deterioration into madness was as powerful in the end as he was when he'd first discovered his mutation as a boy. Yet a woman broke him.

They say he was fated to worship goddesses, a goddess of Fire who wielded Doom – the Phoenix – and a goddess of Water who wielded Life – Storm. The former destroyed, the latter brought life though she too had the ability to destroy. Fire was corrupted though she was reborn anew to redeem herself. And they say she did indeed redeem herself and that she was deeply cherished. She was loved by Storm like a sister and so Storm fought to save her, even sacrificing her beloved Wolverine though perhaps she never knew.

The Phoenix died, came back, died and came back again and again as was her wont. The final time, in the End, she took his soul and in doing so they betrayed Storm. No one knows if it was this that set him down the path of madness. The legend goes that the Wolverine has no spirit save in rage and in love. When he betrayed Storm he lost his heart and soul for though he had loved the Phoenix long ago that love had faded, but human flesh is weak, and all that was left was guilt that wrought rage.

It happened so long ago that what's true or false is hard to discern. What is known is that he married the goddess Storm. And because he was long lived and had never married it was thought he loved her dearly and above all others and yet when the Phoenix burst into life again she stole his mind and body and tossed back the dredges of what little remained of his essence.

Long ago the Wolverine loved the Phoenix but rejected her when she finally turned to him. Later he fell in love with Storm. He waited for her when she wed another and stood by her through sickness and health, but it was sickness that came and took her, leaving her body confined and useless. Still he stayed refusing to leave her even when they saw the signs that announced the rebirth of Phoenix. But in the end they both went to her aid, Storm also reborn and able to walk and fly once more. But in trying to save her sister the Phoenix she lost her husband to her. The Wolverine and Phoenix mated like animals in the open for any to see, regardless of all previous ties and vows. Whether Storm knew of the betrayal none know.

-xox-

He drives with an intensity seldom seen except on a professional race track. Music blares, pounding bass as deep and high as it can go. His brow is furrowed. Images flash before his eyes like dancing heat waves upon hot asphalt. He sees her – tall, slender, lovely, her long white hair blowing in the winds she creates – winds that she alone can summon. Her expression is heartrending though her mouth moves slightly hinting of a smile to come. He longs to see that smile.

It has been sixty years since her death. Simple, quick, no pain. He held her in his arms and begged for forgiveness. They say she whispered three words only. Some say it was "I love you". Others deny this for he had no peace after that day. He held her in his arms and cried the first tears anyone had ever seen him cry. He cried for his betrayal, he cried for his loss, he cried because his heart broke with her passing, and he cried because he knew he would live on.

He sees her before him, her face still, no sign of recognition and yet her stare is piercing, stabbing like a heated knife cutting to the quick into his very being. And his ravaged heart and soul yearns to hold her, to beg forgiveness again and again. If he could do that he feels he will be redeemed – an eternity of groveling at her feet, to take away any pain he may have given her whether known or not, no matter how insignificant. That would be his heaven.

Sometimes as he drives and the broken white lines blur into one never ending line that splits the road he sees fire. Flames engulf him as they did so long ago. Fire that does not burn. They know this because twice they pulled him from the wreckage, burnt beyond recognition and the only word he could say was – Phoenix. As if his one tryst when bound to another had left him scarred for eternity and that folly was paid for cruelly ever after. It's hard to say now with what few records remain.

There were other incidents as well. The pool of blood in his room once. Gunshot to the head. He'd tried to bleed to death, though he must have realized he wouldn't. You see why he's a legend now. He doesn't die. He heals. It's a blessing and a curse to him. He longs to leave this life which holds nothing for him here. He once said he knew they were waiting for him. Both Phoenix and Storm. But no more than that is known.

They say it was the Phoenix come back for him that caused the wrecks, destroying for she was incapable of anything else, but they never really knew. Sometimes the students see visions, an outline of what they believe to be a face in the clouds or sometimes in a sudden mist or on the edge of a rainbow when so graced. A woman's face, one of utmost beauty and she is one with the elements with eyes as blue as the sky and hair as white as the clouds. Myth, legend, lies – who can tell.

He stopped listening to music when Jubilation Lee died. Before they would hear the most eclectic melodies when they passed his room. Sometimes the students would stop and nod their heads to the beat and other times they'd hurry past covering their ears. They thought he'd stopped listening to anything or anyone because Jubilee was like a daughter to him and music was her love, but when they found him in the wreckage loud and unrelenting music was blaring.

-xox-

They're all gone now, the legendary X-Men, all save him. The students read about the X-Men and devotedly worship them. Each student has his favorite and each is real to them, not a myth or story of exaggerated greatness because he walks and breathes amongst them. They fear and respect him. There is no one left that loves him and he feels that loss always.

When death comes he already knows what he'll say. He'll admit every sin, every kill, every hateful thing he's done and not once attempt to balance it with anything good he might have accomplished in his long life. There will be no justification. He's not that way. He'll accept his punishment because he knows he deserves whatever is meted out.

He's ancient now and his hair is starting to gray but he's still just as he was when he first joined Charles Xavier's team. Body and face still young and vibrant, only the hair betrays him for his muttonchops are graying. And etched on his face is all the pain he ever knew.

They won't admit it but they wish he wouldn't linger, though they would regret the passing of a legend. No one should have to suffer as he. They can never decide if it's the Phoenix's unique form of torture or Storm's. No one has ever seen the Phoenix and many doubt such a being of infinite power could exist. But they weren't there and he never speaks of it. Just that one word uttered whilst trapped in the midst of the wreckage. More myth than legend. But life continues at the school whether they believe or not and how strong life continues to courses through his veins.

One day he simply didn't return. Before him were demons and angels, real and imagined and so he kept driving. Past the school and past the little sleepy town that had held him hostage for so many years because of love. He drove on to face his immortality with only the clothes on his back, his car and his music, as usual blasting relentlessly as if to deaden all senses.

He had no life there. Only memories. His memories were grief stricken and guilt plagued. But there was love there too. He'd loved deeply. The girls that had turned to him as father – Katherine and Jubilation. They had long since passed but they had spread their stories like gospel. And he'd loved the Phoenix too in his way. He'd denied her once but in the end he gave up his honor to be with her for one fatal moment. In the end he couldn't forgive himself no matter how he had faithfully loved Storm ever after.

In the end when the blessing of death was finally given to him no one knew. In the Canadian wilderness he sat against the trunk of a dying tree and looked upwards towards the sky, so clear and bright, and he saw her. Not Fire and Doom but Life – his Storm. She reached for him and everything about her was full of peace and welcome just as he remembered her. And he reached for her but found nothing tangible there.

And as if the fullness of his punishment struck him he cried out in despair. All that was on his heart, heavy with grief, he told her. And she knew and understood his deep love and his tortured heart. He asked for forgiveness, no, he begged for it because without her forgiveness he would be nothing.

"None was ever needed," was her reply.

Her voice was a whisper on the wind, all around him and in his very being and her smile lit his heart and rejuvenated his weary soul even as it engulfed him never to let go for those, those were the words he'd clamored to hear for well over a century, words that finally released him.

Some, they say, have died of heartbreak but the day the Wolverine died it was of a full heart. As he told her of his love, love that had always been there and always would, like earth washed clean by a storm, he was renewed. In the Beginning, the world perished by water but the Wolverine was saved by water – by Storm.