STORY SUMMARY: Secret military programs, the discovery of admantium, mutant terrorism, and the development of the Cure all have far-reaching effects that will eventually span the globe and change the face of evolution.

DISCLAIMERS: All characters and organizations (with the exception of small, mostly unnamed minor characters) throughout the series are the product of Marvel.

CANONICAL NOTES: This story arc utilizes movieverse canon for events, characters, and relationships: X1, X2, X3, and XO (Wolverine: Origins). Powers for major characters follow movieverse, with the exception of Remy LeBeau/Gambit who is based on comicverse. Characters granted minor roles in the films or that do not appear in the films are pulled from comicverse. Organizations and progams will follow comicverse. Weapon X will follow movieverse: as a project of the United States military instead of Canada's.

LANGUAGE AND ACCENTS: Cajun French is courtesy of Heavenmetal (many thanks). I will attempt to reproduce accents in this story arc.


- 3.3 -

Story Summary: Who ever thought we'd come to this? Shadowcat and Pyro find refuge in a post-Cure world.

Canonical Notes: About 5 years after X3.

Author's Note: For arliddian, who asked for a ficlet 5 years after "Waiting for Light," chapter 2 of "Ashes."

- Who -

Shadowcat never feels her name more than when she traverses the midnight streets of New Orleans. Where once they were well-lit and full of parties and laughter, now the night belongs to the mutants and to the Guilds. She should be thankful she can melt safely into shadows, knowing her mutation is safe, they cannot cure her, cannot kill her because Assassins crouch in watchful guard on the rooftops and Thieves quietly dispatch those who would try.

She feels no comfort until she reaches her own shadowed door under an eave, puts her hand to the lock, thinks better of it, and phases inside.

Her husband is kneeling before the fireplace, face aglow with the flickering flame. Shadowcat peels off her jacket and hangs it on the coatrack. She has no doubt the fire is his own creation or that he knows she has come in safe again.

- Ever -

She kneels down beside him. For a long moment, they do not speak, just sit together, staring into the fire. Finally, a small smile quirks her lips. she turns to him, traces his jawline with her finger. His eyes close, and she knows he is enjoying the simple blessing that she is alive.

"Did you ever think this would be happily ever after?" she asks, voice soft, still smiling.

He shifts slightly, unfurls from his crouch, and draws her into his arms. She has come to love the touch of this man, once known as the dangerous Pyro, now the Guild operative known as Burn. She loves knowing that he is hers now. He does not belong to a cause or to pain, any more than she.

"I love you," he whispers roughly against her hair.

She wonders, did he ever imagine this.

- Thought -

Thought becomes action. She kisses him. He kisses her. They move together as one, remembering all the reasons why everything they have together is so infinitely precious.

- We'd -

For awhile afterward, they simply lay together, tangled in front of the fire. Its light soothes and comforts them both, knowing this, they both still have their powers. They can face the world outside if ever they must. They are together.

- Come -

She hadn't wanted to come to New Orleans. News of the new mandate still seemed so unlikely. Who would have known that within months, every mutant stronghold in the world would be raided, every human child inoculated, every mutant cured? Only in the city of the Guilds was there enough power to forbid its enforcement.

Gambit had invited them to come, though "invite" was perhaps too nice a word for informing John that they would fake his death and then promptly evacuating the both of them before joining them later. Shadowcat is thankful for Gambit. He saved her husband more than once when she could not. She just can't bring herself to love this city or the Guilds or anything they stand for.

But where else could she go?

- To -

"John," she whispers.

He lifts his head, catches her in his smoldering gaze. "Kitten?"

He always had called her that. She blushes, then is amazed at herself that she still can.

"If there was anywhere in the world you could go—and it was safe"—she emphasizes this last—"where would it be?"

He chuckles, low in his throat. Her own body feels the sound. Then he kisses her softly and holds her tight enough to hurt.

"Right here."

- This -