Bayville, New York. 2034.
The sky threatened of rain in the fall afternoon. The air was thick with moisture and waning heat as clouds roiled and gathered in the sky above. In the warm light of the sun, which still pierced the cloud cover far in the distance, Xavier's School for the Gifted was aglow with tones of ochre and red as the sunlight shone on it's aged, ivy-covered brick edifice.
The grass laid flat in the humidity as Kathryn Pryde walked, the short heels of her shoes occasionally sinking into the soft earth. She came to a stop at two modest stone landmarks. Each was carved of black marble, hewn with machine precision and set deep into the earth. Between them, Dr. Hank McCoy had installed a small gas torch had been planted into the ground where a flame burned continuously, even in rain. As an added touch, Hank had arranged for the flame to occasionally change colors from a soft orange to a charming blue. Kathryn stood for a moment and regarded each of the stones on their own merit.
"Hello, Professor," she said to one after a long while.
"Hello, Mr. Lehnsherr," she greeted the other.
For a moment, Kathryn did not know what to say, much the way she often never knew what to say for the first few minutes when she visited their markers. Despite herself, despite her resolution not to at least this once, she choked back a sob. Grimacing, she reached into the inside pocket of her blazer and retrieved a handkerchief.
"God damn it," she sighed, almost laughing as she pressed the folded silk to the corners of her eyes, "Every time I promise myself I won't do this. I'm going to ruin my makeup."
Feeling the swell of emotion pass, she replaced the handkerchief in her jacket and took a long, deep breath.
"I miss you both so much. I wish more than anything you could have been here today."
Looking down at herself, she smoothed a crease in her skirt, straightened her jacket, and spread her arms slightly at her sides, presenting herself to the two men's markers.
"Introducing Congresswoman Kathryn Pryde," she said, managing to hold a straight face only for a moment before letting a girlish laugh bubble out of her. With many other women in her situation, pushing forty, hair tied into a severe bun behind her head, wearing a padded blazer and skirt and heels, such an act would have seemed unbecoming and even strange. Not the case with Kathryn Pryde, who had always retained a charming girlish quality, even after she had managed to shed her valley girl accent.
"I know," she said, putting a hand up to cover her grin, "I still can't believe it either."
In the emotion of the moment, she felt her sadness return with a vengeance, and her grin became crooked, then strained, then finally broke into a frown as Kathryn choked back another sob, this one stronger than the last, and it had brought friends.
"I just..." she said, tears coming unbidden and streaking down her face, smearing her makeup just as she had feared when she tried to wipe them with her hands, forgetting her handkerchief, "I wanted you to see this so much. We're doing it, you guys. Just like you said we could."
Mr. Lehnsherr had passed nearly two years ago, the Professor followed several months after, both well into their nineties when they had gone. Like all great friends and lifetime confidants, one could seemingly not sustain long without the counterweight of the other. They had even died in the same upstairs master bedroom, with the best view of the grounds. Kitty remembered with vivid detail how much it had broken her heart, and at the same time filled her with unimaginable joy that the two men, who for so long had forsaken the bonds of their friendship, had both come to shed their mortality under the roof that they both had a hand in building, in one way or another.
She had been there when Mr. Lehnsherr had gone. Xavier, crooked with age and learning heavily into his chair, but with eyes still bright and wise and clear, had stayed with him nearly every day as his health had deteriorated, holding the other man's equally bony and paper-like hand whenever he was awake.
She had come to visit with Kurt, her own hand curled in the tri-dactyl fingers of her blue-furred husband as they sat and talked with the Professor, and Mr. Lehnsherr when he woke. Every now and then, she would squeeze Kurt's hand three times in succession. To them, such a gesture was code.
Squeeze. Squeeze. Squeeze.
I. Love. You.
He returned her grip with his own.
Squeeze. Squeeze. Squeeze. Squeeze.
I. Love. You. Too.
She had looked and seen tears streaming down Kurt's face, turning the indigo of his fur-covered face a deep navy.
"Charles," Mr. Lehnsherr said, his words frail and airy.
"Magnus," Xavier replied, holding the dying man's hand in his.
"I fought for my dream," he gasped, "But... But I preferred yours. Always."
He closed his eyes and slept for the final time. He had died later that night.
Kathryn kneeled down and touched each stone in turn, moving her palm across the smooth surface, her fingertips following the engraved names on each.
"I love you," she said to each, "I know you'd be proud. Of all of us."
She heard soft footfalls behind her and turned to meet the visitor.
Logan chewed on an unlit cigar as he came to a stop next to her beside the stones. No matter how long she had known him, his mutant ability to retard his aging had never ceased to amaze her. And as she grew older, it had even inspired a small bit of jealousy. Probably over one-hundred years old by anyone's guess, he remained lean and strong and seemingly immune to the touch of time. Besides the gradual greying of the blue-black whiskers on his face and the hair on the sides of his head, he looked much the same as he had the day she had met him. Well, perhaps with a few new wrinkles here and there.
"Kitty," he said, her name serving as both greeting and acknowledgement.
Kathryn rolled her eyes and smiled, "Not even Kurt calls me that anymore, Logan."
Logan raised an eyebrow, "Oh yeah, I forgot. It's Congresswoman Kitty now, right?"
Kitty laughed, despite herself, and drew the stout, muscular man into a hug, breathing in the scents of sweat and denim and machine oil that seemed to follow him everywhere he went.
"How ya been, kid?" he asked, returning the embrace, patting her lightly on the shoulder.
She stepped back and straightened her coat, "Oh, same old same old. Saving the world one day at a time."
"Bet it doesn't have the same spark of adventure as it did when you were here," Logan said smiling, jerking a thumb to point at the mansion.
"Yeah, well," Kathryn replied, "I don't fit into those spandex suits anymore. And now I get to go to bed at night without worrying about saving your ass in the morning."
Logan stared at her for a moment, then roared with laughter, dropping his cigar from between his teeth. He bend over to pick it up from the grass, dusting it off as he fought off the last chuckle.
"There's always new recruits that'll take that job on," he said with a wry grin.
Kathryn smiled and turned back to the markers. Logan did the same. A long moment of comfortable silence passed between them as they contemplated the stones in their own way.
"I miss them," Kathryn repeated her sentiment from earlier, but now it felt better to share them with somebody.
Logan nodded, "We all do."
Looking up, Logan took a long breath in through his nostrils and regarded the sky.
"Best get inside," he said, "It's gonna rain."
As though on cue, a heavy droplet of moisture hit Kathryn square in the head. She dabbed it with her hand and frowned.
"Storm can't just call it off?"
Logan extended an arm to her, and Kathryn took it. They began to walk back to the mansion, now growing paler in color as the bright light of the afternoon gave way to the softness of the clouds and the evening.
"She doesn't like to conjure and control the storms like she used to," he explained, "Somethin' about the balance of nature and abuse of power."
Logan raised an eyebrow to her, "I think she's just gettin' old and cranky. Heavy sits the Headmistress' crown"
"We're all getting old, Logan." Kathryn laughed and brushed at the grey streaks in his hair, "Even you."
"Yeah," Logan admitted, chewing on his cigar to the point that it would soon be unsmokable, "But I make it look damn good."
The walked the rest of the way in silence. Just before they came to the massive wooden door, Kathryn stopped and looked back at the small, glowing fire resting between the distant markers of the two men.
"What's up?" Logan asked.
"It's just..." Kathryn looked back at Logan and smiled, "I'm glad we're still here to get old at all."
"Me too, Kitty," Logan said, "Which reminds me, when are you and that fuzzy husband of yours gonna bring around some kids for us to meet? You're not gettin' any younger."
Kathryn elbowed him playfully in the ribs, "None of your business, gramps."
Manhattan, New York. 2046.
"Kitty, I'm here. Don't try to talk."
Kathryn started to laugh, but pain stopped her. She coughed, winced, and blood bubbled from between her lips.
"For the last time," she said, forcing a grin through red-stained teeth, "No one calls me that anymore."
"Can you phase it out?"
Kathryn looked down at the three inches of twisted, black, metal shrapnel that had lodged into her ribs, just below her left breast. Every beat of her heart forced a small trickle of blood from the ruined armor and flesh. She looked at Logan and frowned, tears forming in the corners of her eyes. She shook her head.
"It's in the lung," she said, beginning to calm now, her breath coming in slow gasps as shock started to take hold, "I'd just bleed out faster."
There was a rattle of gun fire and Logan planted himself between the noise and Kathryn's twisted, bloody form. He grunted as a stray bullet entered his shoulder and bounced right back out again, rattling his adamantium ribcage. He tried to get a bearing on their surroundings, but a thick wash of acrid smoke and tear gas blocked both his sight and smell. Somewhere nearby there was a small explosion, and small chunks of dirt and pavement rained down on them, Logan using his body to shield Kathryn's wound from the debris.
Logan pressed the communicator at his throat and barked, "This is Logan. I'm at twenty-third and Lexington, I have a man down. I need a healer!"
He took his finger off of the communicator and looked around frantically.
"Healer!" he shouted into the fog of battle, "Healer!"
It was no good. His team had been scattered in the ambush, losing each other in the gunfire and explosions and smoke. Somewhere, he heard the long whine of Cannonball as he streaked through the sky at nearly the speed of sound. There was a crash and a distant explosion, and Logan wondered if Sam had hit his mark.
He felt a hand touch his cheek and his looked down. Kathryn stroked his stubble and smiled sadly, on the verge of unconsciousness.
"No," she said softly, "I don't need another life on my conscience."
"But, Kitty-" he started.
"Shh..." she said, closing her eyes, "Just do me one last favor, Logan."
Logan grabbed her gloved hand in his own, "Anything, kid."
Her voice came in nearly a whisper, "I want to see my husband."
Logan's ears pricked as he heard the tell-tale whistle of a rocket-propelled grenade. Leaping to his feet, he turned and popped his claws. Seeing the oncoming glow of the tiny missile, he leapt forward into a roll came up underneath the grenade, raking it with his claws as it passed overhead, faster than any normal man could have tracked. The round exploded around his extended arm, ripping armor and flesh from the limb and turning muscle into ribbons of red gore. If Logan noticed, he neglected to show it on his face. Already the ruined flesh began to coil and snake over the exposed metal skeleton of his hand and forearm, connecting and healing and repairing itself.
"Let's go, kid," Logan grunted as he lifted the woman to his chest with the ease of carrying a child, even with one arm a bloody ruin. He could still hear her heart beating, and he locked his ears onto that sound. Nothing else mattered.
Last he had seen Kurt, he had been evacuating kids from the Xavier School Manhattan building, three blocks to the west. He broke at a flat run, holding his teammate, his partner, his friend, close to his body to protect her from any further hurt.
The dust, white and thick, stung his eyes and throat as his legs pumped beneath him. He weaved and jumped through the ruined street, passing shattered storefronts, burning cars, and disabled military vehicles. Bodies, burned and bloody and dismembered, littered the ground in front of him. Some mutant, some not, and some wearing the armament of the X-Men. He tried his best to ignore it all as he hear Kathryn's heartbeat grow weaker and slower with every passing second.
Out of the smoke, he suddenly found himself upon a group of three soldiers, each as blinded and crippled by the dust and debris as the last. They were firing their weapons sporadically in all directions, fending off some attacker that Logan could not see.
Too late, one turned to spot Logan. His helmet and balaclava covered most of his face, but Logan could see his eyes, wide and frantic and afraid as he charged at them.
The soldier began to raise his weapon to train it on Logan, began to shout something to his comrades, but too late. Hoisting Kathryn into one arm in a smooth motion, Logan popped the claws on his free hand and raked it through all three of their bodies in one stroke, tearing open stomachs and spines, slicing through weapons and armor, severing limbs. He did not even turn to see them fall.
"Hang on, kid," he growled, "Just hang on."
He came to the building, or, at least, the spot where the building had been, and skidded to a halt, not believing what he saw. It had been leveled to the ground, nothing more now than a pile of twisted steel and brick and smoke and fire. Logan looked down at his feet and saw the bronze marker that had once sat proudly for all to see above the building's main doorway.
Xavier's School for the Gifted, Manhattan Campus, Est 2038.
Logan had been there for the opening ceremony of the building. It seemed so long ago now, another world away when Ororo, still strong and proud in her age, had stood before the gathered crowd and addressed them, leaning slightly on a wooden cane as she spoke.
"It gives me great pleasure," she had said, "To open the first of our Institute's expansions here in the heart of Manhattan, one of the greatest cities the world has ever known. It is our hope, in an age of such beautiful progress in human and mutant relations, that many more such schools will open across the nation and, in time, across the world, so that mutants everywhere may learn to utilize their unique and powerful gifts towards the betterment of mankind."
"No..." Logan snarled as he looked upon the ruin.
Logan's head jerked in the direction of the sound. A sound that he had come to know so well over the years.
"Kurt!" he shouted, "Kurt where are you?"
The noise again as Kurt teleported somewhere nearby, closer than the first. The dust was impossible to see through, and though Logan's eyes stung and watered, he made no effort to clear the debris from them. He could still feel Kitty's heart, and that was all that mattered.
Logan turned to the source of the voice and could make out a shadow in the distance through the haze.
"Kurt!" he called.
In a curl of black smoke and a flash of light, he was there. He was covered in the same white dust and ash that coated Logan at Kathryn, but the blue indigo fur and red sash across his black body armor made him more visible than they. Down one arm and across his face, blood had congealed and mixed with dirt and dust to create a thick crimson crust. Standing face to face with him, Logan noticed for the first time that Kurt had cut his hair down the the scalp, more suitable for combat than the long style he usually wore. It made him look years older, or perhaps that was just how he looked now, and Logan had not really seen.
"Kathryn," Kurt choked as he beheld his wife's ravaged body, "Oh, Mein Katzchen."
Kathryn opened her eyes and looked at Logan, smiling weakly, "Okay... So maybe he still calls me Kitty."
Without another word, Kurt reached for them, placing one hand on Logan's shoulder and one on Kathryn.
Logan nearly fell backwards. It had been a long time since Kurt had teleported him, and the experience was just a jarring and disorienting as he remembered. He looked around and breathed somewhat-fresh air for the first time in hours. They were on a nearby rooftop. From this vantage he could hear the rattle of gunfire and the booming of energy blasts as they echoed through the concrete canyons in all directions.
He lowered Kathryn's body to the gravel that covered the building's roof. In an instant, Kurt was at her side, holding her hand in his, making a point not to stare at the chunk of metal protruding from his wife's chest with his glowing eyes.
"Oh, Katzchen," he said, choking on the words even as he tried to smile, "Vhat have you done to yourself?"
"Oh, you know," she replied, forcing a smile, tears streaking through the smudges of dirt and blood on her face, "Just an old broad saving the world."
Kurt tried to laugh, but it left his throat as a sob, and tears began to fall from his inhuman eyes.
"A healer!" Kurt snapped his head up and looked at Logan through his tears, "Vhere are ze healers? Vhy did you bring her here, Logan?"
Kathryn reach up and cupped his cheek in her hand, bidding him to look at her.
"It's okay," she said, "I wanted him to bring me to you... So I could say..."
"Nein!" Kurt shook his head furiously, pressing her ever-whiter hand to his face, "Nein, nein, nein!"
"...Goodbye," Kathryn finished, "And I wanted to tell you I'm sorry... I wanted to be the mother... of your children, my love... I wanted to grow old with you, elf. I guess... that wasn't in the cards after all."
"Zhat vasn't your fault!" Kurt hissed, "It vas them! You've done nothing! You vere the best thing that ever happened to me!"
"Please," he cried, "Please don't go!"
There was a long moment and Kurt bent over the body of his wife, sobbing with all the abandon of a child. He pressed his face to hers, touching every feature with his delicate tri-dactyl fingers, as though trying to memorize them. Which, Logan realized, he might be.
"Promise me something," Kathryn said, nearly all of the strength now gone from her voice.
"Anything, mein liebe."
"No," Kathryn pointed at Logan, "You. Promise me something."
"Name it, kid," Logan whispered, leaning in closely next to Kurt.
Kathryn reached up and grabbed the collar of Logan's armor, pulling him down with surprising vigor so that her mouth, hot and red with blood, was beside his ear.
"They took... everything from us," she hissed. Logan cold hear the effort weakening her heart down to it's last beats. He chewed on his lip as fury began to build in his stomach. She was going to die here, on a rooftop, in the middle of a battlefield. This woman he had watched grow up from a child. This was not right.
"Make them... pay," she finished, and released him, lowering her head back down to the gravel.
Logan was stunned. In all the years that he had known Kathryn Pryde, never once had she uttered words of vengeance. But then again, no one had stolen the fertility of her entire species and murdered her friends and attacked her on the streets like a stray animal before.
"Promise me..." she said, gasping for the air to form the words, "On... your life."
Without thinking about it, Logan popped the claws of his right hand and raised them in from of his eyes, a gesture of solemnity that seemed appropriate, if unplanned.
"I swear it," he said, "I'll make them all pay, Kitty."
Kitty Pryde nodded and turned back to Kurt, and for just an instant, Logan could see them as they were so many years ago; Two teenagers in love again, youth and hope and promise on their side.
He saw Kathryn close her hand on Kurt's and squeeze three separate times in succession. Kurt let out a cry and closed both hands around hers, new tears falling onto his wife's body.
"I love you too," he sobbed.
Logan heard Kathryn Pryde's heart slow...