It's all owned, one way or the other, by Marvel
Spoilers for X-Men: The Last Stand


"Stop that." Storm hissed at her companions fidgeting as the elevator made its way steadily upwards, "You could have stayed at the hotel."

Wolverine almost growled at her, but managed to restrain himself; he'd seen how effective her powers could be in a confined space, and he didn't feel the need to be on the receiving end of a lightning bolt. He felt uncomfortable in the suit he'd been forced to ware, annoyed that the he wasn't allowed to smoke in a public building, and more than a little on edge at being in a new city. He wasn't sure if he'd ever been to London before, certainly not since his memory had been wiped, and all the new smells and sounds were playing hell with his enhanced senses.

Unfortunately, their current mission was important enough to require two people, and he'd needed some time away from Marie after he'd discovered that she'd opted for the so-called 'mutant cure'. His relationship with the young woman had been odd at the best of times; she looked up to him as something between a father-figure and a surrogate big-brother, and he had to admit that having someone who accepted him as he was in his life filled a hole he hadn't even realised was there. But in taking the cure, she had crossed some kind of line, and he was unsure how to act around her now. He'd still rather die than hurt her, and had to be restrained from killing Bobby when he's dumped her to be with Kitty, but he was still coming to terms with everything. So he had agreed to accompany Storm on her trip to London in a bid to secure continued funding for the School. Xavier's will left everything to a trust fund set up to finance the school, but the lack of a body had caused some trouble with the IRS that even Hank had been unable to straiten out so far. In desperation they had decided to turn to a former student who's family had amassed a not inconsiderable fortune for temporary help.

The elevator doors opened onto a reception area at the very top of the office block, the only furniture an ornate wooden desk, behind witch sat a slender, red-headed woman a dark grey pant-suit. She looked up at the two new arrivals, her blue eyes examining them for a moment, then she stood.

"You must be Miss Munroe and Mr Logan." She had a cultured, well-educated English accent that sound almost like oil on silk, "My name is Elsa; I am Miss Braddock's personal assistant. She's expecting you, if you'd like to go in."

The two tall, polished oak doors directly across from the elevator opened without any apparent outside intervention, levering a large, vaulted chamber beyond. An elevated walkway seemed to stretch most of the way across the building, a few inches above a truly massive pool filled with an assortment of expensive looking Koi, a waterfall cascading down one wall. High above was a glass roof that let the early afternoon sunlight filter in, adding the finishing touches to the otherworldly scene. At the far end of the walkway was a round platform that housed a desk that looked at lost less cluttered and far more modern than the one outside, as well as two elegant but functional chairs. Behind the desk sat a woman with shoulder length platinum-blond hair and dressed in the kind of bespoke suit that probably cost as much as a small car. Wolverine caught a hint of jasmine in the air, but he couldn't tell if it was from the woman or somewhere else.

"Ororo." She looked up, her blue eyes sparking in the sunlight, "It's good to see you again."

"Betsy" Storm responded with a warm smile as the two women shook hands, "It's been too long."

"Yes, well, my life has gotten a lot more complicated over the last few years." The woman looked at Wolverine, "You must be Logan." She offered her hand, "Elizabeth Braddock."

Wolverine mumbled something that at least sounded polite, earning him a quick glair from Storm, who otherwise chose to ignore his rudeness. Wolverine wasn't sure just how, whether it was a smell or some other subliminal clue, but he'd always been able to tell if someone was a normal human or a mutant, and this woman was triggering that response.

"I hear that Brian got married." Storm sat in one of the vacant chairs, "He always seemed too caught up in his research for romance."

"Meggan's a positive influence on him." Betsy chuckled as she sat back down, "He sometimes goes an entire day now without vanishing into his lab." She leant back slightly, "But something tells me you didn't fly all this way to talk about my little brother's love life."

"No." Storm cleared her throat, "The school needs help; there are some, complications, with the Professors estate, and we're running low on funds..."

"Not a problem: the Braddock Foundation can more than afford to help out." Betsy shrugged, "I'll need to get Brian to counter-sign, but I can't see any trouble." a shadow seemed to fall across her face as her smile vanished, "Charles was more than helpful with Jamie, and I know my parents would have wanted to help, but doing so would have drawn attention at a time none of us could afford it. If it wasn't for the whole thing with the Hellfire Club..." she waved her hand, leaving the rest unsaid, "I shouldn't complain, really; every cloud has its silver lining, after all."

"Yes, how are the girls?" Storm nodded, glad the conversation had moved onto a happier topic, "They must be fourteen by now."

"Fifteen, and acting like typical teenagers." Betsy grabbed a framed photograph and handed it over. It showed her standing with her arm around two young women; one a raven haired Goth with too much eye-liner and a sullen expression, the other a red-head with a green and gold top and matching skirt. The second one at least looked happy to be having her photo taken, while her companion had a look of utter boredom about her. "They're also starting to ask some uncomfortable questions. I've never lied to them about the fact that they're adopted, and god only knows I couldn't love them any more than I do, but how on earth do I tell them where they came from?"

"Have they manifested any abilities?" Storm asked, knowing that she was crossing into potentially uncomfortable territory.

"Not that I've seen, and I don't want to pry." Betsy pulled a odd face, "I'm sure something has happened, but like most kids, they don't understand that their parents were young once, and may have gone through similar. They do spend a lot of time on the internet, logged into chat-rooms and forums for young mutants, so I think I'm going to have to sit them down and have a talk about that. Especially as some troublemaker over in America was able to steal my identity and get me into all sorts of trouble that I had to go to Peter to get sorted out."

"Oh, I bet he enjoyed that." Storm laughed, "He always has had an, odd, sence of humour."

"Do I even need to be here for this?" Wolverine asked, "Because I saw a pub on the corner..."

"I'm sorry; I assumed that you had been brought up to speed." Betsy apologised, "Sixteen years ago, a brilliant but insane scientist named Nathaniel Essex took control of of an secret organisation known as the Hellfire Club, and attempted to use it to further his plans of creating the 'ultimate mutant' through selecting breeding and genetic manipulation. My brother Brian and I found out and called Professor Xavier: our older brother, Jamie, was also a mutant, but his powers were wild, uncontrollable, until ultimately he..."

"It was one of my first missions." Storm took over the story from her friend, "It wasn't easy; people got hurt, but we were able to take down the Hellfire Club. In the wreckage we found two children, babies, really, that had been part of Essex's experiments."

"They had no family, no one to go to, so I adopted them and raised them as my own." Betsy continued, regaining her composure, "I've done everything I can to protect them, but I fear it's only a matter of time before they find out the truth."

"A person is what they make of themselves, not what they were born." Wolverine shook his head, a kaleidoscope of memories, not all of them pleasantest, flashing through his head, "Trust me on that."

"Indeed." Betsy nodded, her eyes narrow, as if there was something she wasn't saying.

"Well, we've taken up enough of your time." Storm stood, suddenly eager to leave, "Hopefully we can catch up again before we have to head back to the school."

"I'd like that." Betsy nodded with a warm smile, shaking her friends hand again, "Give my regards to Hank."

"I will." Storm nodded and started back along the walkway, leaving Wolverine to follow.

They passed the woman at the outer desk with a polite nod and stepped back into the waiting elevator just as the one next to it arrived. Wolverine stopped dead in his track's when a familiar scent struck him, and he turned just in time to see the young redhead from the photo walk past, a carefree smile on her face before the doors closed and the elevator started back down. He reached for the emergency stop, but Storm's hand shot out to block him.

"Yes, she's a clone. No, the Professor never told Jean." Her voice was calm and level, her eyes fixed front, "And now you know our darkest secret, I trust you to keep it."

The End

I've intentionally left the ending open in case I ever want to come back to it at a later date