Exactly One Year Later

They put his grave underneath a tree.

Somehow, I think he would have found that amusing.

I stare at it thoughtfully, hands in my pockets. Then again, he found a lot of things amusing. He kind of had to, otherwise he would have gone completely bonkers.

Me? Well, I had to be the strong one. The leader. Fearless Scott, always looking out for his team, and yet Loki was the one who held people's attention with his language and surly attitude and unrelenting stubbornness. I gave orders that he followed but if he didn't make it a trip... well.

I kneel in the grass, staring at his headstone through a red-tinted world. I refuse to cry. I did all of my crying at the funeral last year, when we buried an empty casket beneath the tree he liked to sit with or climb on or whatever.

Like I said. Scott the Strong, Scott the Brave. Scott, the Man Who Can't Be Moved. Or, according to Loki, Scott with the Stick Perpetually Wedged Up His Ass.

I snort. "Always were fond of that saying," I whisper. "I'll come by again soon."

I stand, wiping subtly under my glasses, and head back for the mansion. There was a DR session due to start and I couldn't be late.

I never told a soul about what happened that day. The day we split up and vanished around the world to fight for the safety of humanity. The day Apocalypse made his move and we rebuffed him.

The day Loki died.

Well, we think he died. No one was really sure of the ship's destination, and since we'd only ever used it the once - instantaneous travel, the day Loki lost his arm - we couldn't say when, or if at all, it would ever show up again.


My powers were on the fritz again, that day. I was fighting, but my grasp on the psychic energy that I was so familiar with was degrading rapidly.

And then I heard him.

I heard him, in my head, how he realized that his death was rapidly approaching and how he began to panic, to recall things he wouldn't ever be able to do or feel again. His last words still ring, crystal clear, in my ears.

I don't want to die. I don't deserve to die. I-


I set my brush down, one hand still threaded through my bright red hair. Thinking about him was useless. For all the power I sometimes possess, I couldn't bring him back.

There is so much wrong with me and my life that I sometimes forget the world goes on around me.

He got wrapped up in himself, too, sometimes. But somehow - always - he found the strength to get past it. Me? Not so much.

It was that woman again. Today, when all I wanted to do was sit and think about how things used to be, she shows up to beg my forgiveness. Well, she can kiss my ass. I've had enough of her and her lies.

I tell her as much. She looks at me sideways and says, "I'm sorry." I ask her what she was sorry for, and she says nothing, just looks at me with a stare a thousand miles away. Like she remembers what happened in the Sphinx, how she attacked Kurt and the rest of them, tried to kill him.

And then she flies away.

One year. A whole year since we lost him, and a whole year since anyone's felt anything resembling alright. We keep turning corners, expecting him to be sitting in the rec room, curled up on the couch, or perched on a ledge or sill, reading or gazing silently out the window.

We didn't speak much. Both of us kept to ourselves, mostly. But I remember a few good times. Comforting times. And they get me through the days when no one speaks at the mansion for the depression in the air.

And they say I have emotional issues.

It's quiet in my office.

I stare out the window, hands clasped in my lap. Outside, I see Scott kneeling down by the stone marker under the oak tree Loki used to frequent. To my recent memory, it's been about a year since he passed away.

I glance at the desk calendar, nodding as my suspicions are confirmed. Yes. One year to the day.

It is not a day I remember fondly, for many reasons, the least of all being the loss of one of my students. Of one of my family.

I took him in as a teenager, full of rage and pain and thirst for revenge. Looking back, it is that spark of defiance, that emotion, that must have attracted Magneto to him. Emotion to fuel his powers.

I watched him grow from a sullen boy to a wounded man. It almost seemed uncanny, his propensity for injury; when they were superficial, it was almost humorous.

And then he lost his arm. An entire limb, gone. And the boyhood shattered into bitterness, into manhood. Not so long after that, the kidnapping.

To say the least, the household was rather tense the entirety of his forced relocation.

I smile. My only solace today was the three weeks we gave him before we sent him off to die. Before I foolishly got myself caught and 'woke up' so to speak only to find every last member of my X-Men in tears, describing the horror of Apocalypse's demise.

There is much yet to accomplish today. I will keep Loki in my thoughts, but even he would understand how busy I am. I turn from the window and grab a pen. It's time to work.

My brother is being stupid, so I wrestle the chaotic energy within and throw him against the wall.

Pietro does not find this amusing, but he and I do not agree on this matter, and I doubt we ever will. He doesn't understand.

I never spoke with him about what my father did to me. How the memories of my past began to fracture and overlay with something more horrible than I'd ever imagined. And when I finally broke through the block, when my powers erased every instance of the fakeness from my mind, I said nothing.

I was a good actress, after all.

I remember today. I remember last year, today, hearing about the death of the man I pondered affection for. He and I, we shared the pain of betrayal from those who mattered most to us.

So I would go visit his grave. Pietro could go hang for all I care.

Xavier knew better than to stop me as I broke his gates again. I did that a lot, in the beginning. He finally just gave me the access codes and told me to control my temper. I told him to leave me alone.

Here I am, then. Staring at the rock placed above the hole in the ground where an empty box had been buried. Closure for the family. Not for me. Never for me.

"I wish I had known you better," I say, tracing his name in the granite. I leave behind scorch marks, but they'll come off with a wash or ten. "I wish I hadn't been so messed up for so long."

My respects having been paid, I stand, wipe the blades of grass from my knees, and depart.

I should have told him yes.

I suppose that'll always be my biggest regret. That he died, not knowing how much I did want to marry him. That I let him die without telling him how much I loved him.

Although it's not really fair, is it? He was my knight in shining armor, my warrior. In the stories I love so much, the warriors always come home. Maybe a little bloody, maybe beaten, but they always come home.

Real life isn't a story, though.

I'm not at his grave, much as I wish I was. No, I'm in a different place, out of New York, away from the East Coast entirely. Mom had to move, her job's contract was up and the new position was in a different state. I wanted to stay, but Loki was gone. With no reason and no home, I couldn't wait for him to magically reappear.

He didn't show up for two more months. And then they wouldn't let me see him, because he was too dangerous to be around people who couldn't protect themselves. Like I needed another reminder of my humanity, thank you very much.

I trace my hand across the wall, catching on the glow-in-the-dark stars and posters and slips of paper tacked in. My room is vibrant, but it's so empty.

And now he's dead and gone and I'm still in love with him. And I can't do anything about it.

I curl into my pillow for the third time since I woke up this morning and cry.

Somewhere... else

Blood and pain and destruction and chaos around me. Weakness in my body that won't go away, that burning drive that I have to do this, I have to succeed in this one thing. And then-

beep beep beep beep beep

My eyes snapped open.

It felt disturbingly like someone had taken an ice pick and jammed it into my brain. I reached up and ran my hands through my hair, unsnarling at least three knots before I could make it through without trouble.

Forcing myself to sit up and turn the damn alarm off, I sighed heavily and stood, padding my way silently over to the bathroom, hoping my roommate wasn't already up and using the shower. For once, I thought hazily, I might make it to class on time. Although the killer headache was a bit of a turn-off.

I knocked softly. There was no response, but I waited an extra minute just in case. When there was no noise or movement from within, I dared to enter the borderlands between my space and the roomie's.

Another sigh as I reached for the faucet and turned the water on, cupping my hands under the stream and dousing my face in warm bliss.

Maybe today wouldn't be so bad after all, I wondered. The hot water's finally working again.

With one hand I reached towards the light as I snagged my towel with the other. It was only then that I glanced up at the mirror.

The headache rebounded, twice as intense. Images flooded my mind's eye, faces, names, but most of all pain.

I screamed. My muscles turned to jelly and I dropped like a stone. I barely felt my head clip the counter on the way down, one thing sticking in my mind as unconsciousness devoured me whole.

My face was wrong. Hazel eyes where there should be silver. A fullness to my cheeks instead of angular bones. Dull teeth where there should be fangs. Round ears where there should be pointed. Blond hair where there should be white.

And an arm where there should be nothing.

I'm... alive?

A/N: Well. Here we are. It's been a long, fun road to get to this last chapter, and I'm excited that even though this story is finished, Loki's still not down for the count.

So yes, there will be a sequel. It's going to be in the movie category, not the cartoon X-Men: Evolution. Why? Because that's where he ended up. Funny, that.

I'd just like to thank you all for the support and kind thoughts you left me. I know original characters aren't a fan favorite, but getting the emails after posting a chapter always brightened my day. I owe it to you guys for encouraging me to keep on writing.

Until next time, peace.