A/N:I would just like to thank all of you, the readers, for continuing to read NSD and give me feedback. I would also like to apologize for how long it took me to upload the story in its entirety. It's been completely finished (minus editing) since I first started posting. And now, almost five months later, it's finally posted in all of its entirety. I do hope that you've all enjoyed the journey, the moments of laughter and tears, the moments of love and hope, and the gripping moments that helped to shape Mackenzie Benton - who will live on as one of my favorite Original Character creations ever. Unfortunately, all stories do eventually come a close, and we've now approached Mac's. She's had a good run, a long happy run. Thank you to all of the Reviewers that were kind enough to review, leaving me feeling good about something that others might see as a waste of time. I hope you've all enjoyed the ride. - Samantha

"What can I say I've never felt this way

Girl you're like a dream come true

After all the love we've made

It sure would be a shame

If we let this moment end so soon."

— James Otto, Just Got Started Loving you


-Epilogue-

FIVE YEARS LATER

"Cookie."

"No."

Those familiar blue eyes narrowed in annoyance as I used a spatula to flip a pancake on the griddle. With the smell of sausage frying in the air and pancakes sizzling on the griddle, the kitchen seemed both warm and homey.

"Cookie?"

"No, Madison, you cannot have a cookie."

Her lips puckered into a familiar pout as she stared up at me, her blonde curly hair bobbing as she shook her head angrily. She wore her favorite green and yellow nightgown and her bare feet twinkled with bright pink nail polish – Rachel was always painting Madison's nails for her.

"I want a cookie!"

"And I want you to pick up your toys." I pointed the spatula at her and tried to ignore that quivering lip. Her angelic face made me sigh, especially when coupled with her ridiculously charming eyes. "One."

Her lips curled into a broad smile as she bounded over to the pantry and raced inside, returning with an oversized chocolate chip cookie in her hand. I watched, bemused, as she clambered up onto one of the bar stools, cookie crumbs littering the counter.

"Are you looking forward to your play date today, honey?"

"Yes," she managed between bites. "I hungry."

I smiled in spite of myself as I pulled the last of the pancakes off of the griddle and quickly turned it off. The last sausage was placed on the paper towel-covered plate by the time she'd finished her single cookie. "Madi, go tell your father that breakfast is ready."

She leapt off of the stool and scurried out of the kitchen. I heard her thumping up the stairs as I quickly set the table and got out the syrup, the butter, and the orange juice and milk. The table looked homey and welcoming by the time the laughter of my family drifted down the stairs.

"It smells absolutely delicious, pet."

He kissed the back of my neck before he wrangled a giggling Madison onto her booster seat. I watched, bemused, as he sat down next to her and put a pancake and sausage onto her plate. While I poured a small amount of orange juice into her cup, he quickly cut her pancake into small bites and doused it with a liberal amount of syrup.

"How's the speech coming along?"

"Slowly," he sighed as he settled back in his chair. His hackles were a little mussed and his eyes were glazed over with sleep, but he still looked as handsome as ever. "To be perfectly honest, I'm far more nervous about my guest slot on the Jay Leno Show."

Which was perfectly understandable.

The five years since our marriage had passed, for the most part, blissfully. While the world had continued to change, we'd grown closer and more and more in love. Madison had come along roughly two years after our nuptials, and she'd had a playmate in Jean and Scott's daughter, Rachel.

It wasn't a perfect existence, but it was as close as I thought we'd ever get.

Jean had been taken back as the Institute's primary care doctor, leaving me to invest the majority of my time in re-establishing the traveling care center, DNA. I'd taken on a supervisory position and worked three days a week at a free clinic in the city. The work was often demanding and tiring, but it gave me a purpose that I'd sorely been lacking. And, more often than not, Jean was scheduled to speak to crowds of citizens and Congressmen alike about the mutant phenomena, along with Hank, Xavier, and even Moira MacTaggert.

It was a hectic life, one that we relished in.

The MRA, passed a year before Madison's birth, had been amended and was on the table yet again. Hank had made it his personal mission in life to see it permanently discarded, though the recently elected President Graydon Creed and his Vice President Malcolm Concord made it more and more difficult.

The world was changing, but we remained the same.

A knock sounded at the kitchen door and the three of us looked over expectantly. I sensed her before she pushed open the door and entered the warm kitchen, her cheeks flushed and the bundle in her arms wiggling.

"Morning. Little Nate and I were just taking a walk. He's been quite fussy this morning."

I grinned broadly as she wiped off her feet and hurried over to the table to sit down in her customary seat.

While she, Scott, and their two children occupied the remodeled Lake House, Hank and I called the large tudor on the opposite end of the Xavier Estate home. It had been designed and built for us, and was perfect in my mind. Though we had dozens of other homes to choose from, thanks to my grandmother's kindness, we preferred our home near the Institute. After all, the Institute would always be a home away from home.

"Rogue dealt with Braxton-Hicks most of the night," she murmured as she unwrapped the bundle in her arms slowly, revealing a sleeping eight month old Nathaniel. Her eyes were alight with warmth and love as she reached over and snagged a sausage off of the platter. "Logan was pacing and it took the Professor's intervening to settle him down."

She paused for a long moment and glanced over at me, eyes darkening slightly. Her thoughts brushed against mine for the faintest of moments as her eyes lowered to my swollen abdomen. "And how are you doing this morning?"

"They're kicking," I murmured, dropping my hand down and pressing gently. "I want to do another ultrasound, and soon. My grandmother's been asking for more images of her great-grandchildren."

"Babies!" Madison crooned as she slung a piece of syrupy pancake across the room.

The warm laughter that bubbled out of me was both familiar and relaxing. I was nearing the last few weeks of my second pregnancy, and the twins I carried were anxious to meet the world. And, although the world still had certain negative feelings toward mutants, I was not worried.

They, much like Madison, would be welcomed into the world lovingly and held dear. They would know of their father's poet's heart, his kind and jovial laughter and his brilliant mind. They would know of their grandmother's gentle squeezes, her warm eyes. They would know the love and protectiveness of the others around them; their Aunt Jubilee, their Auntie Rogue and grumpy Uncle Logan, their eclectic aunt Aubrey who visited often with her smooth-talking longtime fiancé, Remy.

No matter how dangerous or frightful the world could be, my children, my legacy, would be kept safe.

As I glanced up at Jean and then over to Hank, I whispered a promised guarantee to the life inside of me.

One day, things would be different.

"Cookie?" Madison asked gleefully even as Nathaniel woke and began to squall. "Cookie!"

"No!" three adults yelled at once as the cookie jar levitated across the room, courtesy of my prodigal daughter's lack of control. Madison caught the cookie jar and shoved her hand inside, smiling gleefully as she crushed cookies into her pancakes. "I just make them better."

When she scooped up a fork full of the concoction and offered it up for my approval, I couldn't help but smile.

We're so lucky, Jean. So lucky.

Her thoughts brushed against mine, warm and supportive and understanding. Madison continued to eat, making roaring dinosaur noises as she chewed with her mouth partially agape. We are.

We had our families, our careers, our parallel lives.

As always, it surprised me to realize that I looked forward to comparing the rest of my life to hers.

She would always be perfect, regal – something I could never have lived up to. I would always be the confident one, the one that would step into the line of battle for her friends and loved ones without thought. And she would always be the one to watch my back.

We couldn't be more different, nor could we be more alike.

- - - - - T H E E N D - - - - -