Storm gazed over the massed rank of students with an uneasy sense of familiarity. Her gaze rested for a moment on Rogue, Bobby, Kitty, Warren, Colossus, Jubilee and Siryn. They had all well and truly come of age since she'd last spoken to them like this, proving themselves worthy to be considered X-Men.
She looked at the two newly erected memorial stones, the names of Kurt Wagner and Forge standing alongside Scott Summers and Jean Gray. Forge had not been an X-Man in life but he would be one in death, dying for the same things they all stood for.
"Two good men have died recently,"she told the students. "Like us, they were mutants. Like us, they believed that they were still part of the world of men. They died because of fear and hatred, because there are some people who will always judge a section of society by the actions of a criminal minority. They died trying to protect those that hated and feared them."
She locked eyes with Wolverine, sitting at the front of the group with Beast and Gambit, and he gave her a nod of encouragement.
"It would be very easy for us to succumb to that same hate and fear, to feel that since ordinary humans killed our friends, then all non-mutants are our enemies. But if we do that, then we betray their memories. The only way to honour them is to continue to abide by the ideals they died for."
Her gaze drifted over to Professor X, standing with Banshee and Moira next to his disinterred gravestone, the memorial that was no longer needed now he was back with them.
"And still we have hope, that sometimes this world can surprise us. That that which seemed to be lost can be found again. That hope will continue, even in the darkest hour."
Guyrich slid a succession of photographs across the desk towards the President. "A full security team examined the remains of the base. The wreckage of the Sentinels who were scattered along the cost has also been recovered. We are confident that they were all destroyed."
"And Colonel Trask?"
"The autopsy confirms that he was killed by a blow in excess of normal human strength. All the evidence suggests he was killed by the mutant criminals."
"All the evidence also suggests he was responsible for the murder of Forge."
Guyrich nodded, conceeding the point. "Nevertheless, he is dead. And his own murderers remain at large. The criminals the X-Men were assigned to apprehend, only to form an alliance with them."
"The Sentinels were a greater threat,"the President pointed out. "And the X-Men stated they made every effort to secure their capture."
"Even if that is so, they remain dangerous and they remain at large. What are we to do? Wait for the X-Men to find them? Despite the failure of the Sentinel project, the need for a government-controlled means of combatting mutant threats remains paramount."
The President was silent for a long time, then he nodded. "Mr. Guyrich, you are hereby commissioned to investigate possibilities for the apprehension and neutralisation of these and other mutant criminals."
Banshee shook hands with Xavier, giving him an amused look. "That's a firm grip you've got there, Professor."
Xavier smiled ruefully. "Yes, I need to get used to knowing just how much pressure to exert."
"I guess I'll see next time I come here. It's been too long between visits."
"You're sure I can't persuade you to stick around?"
"Rejoin the X-Men? Pulling on the old costume and helping you out was fun while it lasted but this is a young man's game."
"You do yourself a disservice, Sean,"Beast replied. "Your assistance was invaluable."
"Maybe so." Banshee put his arm round Moira's waist. "But I've got other things to focus my attention on now."
"Sean's coming back to Muir Island with me,"Moira explained. "We have a lot of unfinished business."
"Well, say no more,"Xavier replied. He noticed Siryn, who had been standing silently throughout their exchange. "Hank, I think we may be needed elsewhere."
Moira kissed Banshee on the cheek. "I'll wait for you in the car."
The others departed, leaving father and daughter alone.
"I hear you took down a Sentinel,"Banshee noted.
Siryn shrugged. "Jubilee helped."
"Hey, learn to take praise where it's due. You won't get offered it too often." He placed a hand on her shoulder. "You've got that urge to help people that marks out X-Men. I reckon that, much as I'd rather see you at some safe and expensive finishing school, you're where you belong."
Siryn hugged him. "Thanks, Dad."
Storm was on her way to her classroom when she saw Logan coming the other way. She began trying to formulate something to say to him but before she had a chance he quickened his pace, obviously intending to carry on walking. She stepped in front of him and held up her hands. "Logan, wait." He drew to a stop with a show of reluctance. "I'm sorry, all right? I don't want us two to fall out."
"Look, it's not really that important that we get on…"
"It is, though. Just because the Professor's back, it doesn't mean things have to change. We've been like the heads of this family for the past year and I've liked having you by my side. More than I expected to. I think this place would have fallen apart without you."
Logan shrugged. "Well, you're the one that really held it all together. I just made sure I got the good office."
"Maybe it needed both of us. The whole mismatched styles thing. I think we made a good team."
Logan nodded. "I'm beginning to think that too."
Then he pulled her towards him and kissed her.
Storm pulled away and stared at him in shock for a moment. Then she flung her arms around him and kissed him back.
They were interrupted by the sound of cheers and applause. They looked round to find a group of students had come out of one of the classrooms to witness the display. Rogue and Kitty stood at the front of the group, both of them smiling broadly.
Storm smiled, pleased and embarrassed. Wolverine extended his claws in the students' direction. "Anyone still in this corridor in ten seconds gets sliced." Without even bothering to see if his instructions were obeyed, he pulled Storm back into the kiss.
Professor X stood in the sunlight. He couldn't feel it but he could see it. It was a pleasure that he hadn't expected, perhaps hadn't deserved. But in time he would become used to his new existence, strange as it was. There was much still to be done.
He heard a noise and looked round to find Beast and Gambit coming out onto the veranda. "I've spoken to Washington,"Beast noted. "Guyrich is making capital of the Brotherhood's escape."
"You get rid of one hatemonger and another crops up,"Gambit sighed.
Xavier looked at them both in silence for a long time. "You know, I don't take the time to stop and look at how beautiful this place is often enough."
The others exchanged confused glances. "Professor?"Gambit asked.
"Did you not hear what we just said?"Beast pressed.
"Yes,"Professor X replied. "There may be dark clouds on the horizon. Or we may have just taken an important step forwards on the path to peace. Which it is will become clear in time and there's little at present we can do to affect it. But at the moment, the sun is shining. So I suggest we enjoy it."
Thanks to everyone that's followed and supported this fiction! I'd be pleased to hear what you thought of the conclusion and of the story as a whole.