Thank you to everyone who's been following and/or commenting on this fiction. I didn't realise quite how long this last chapter was going to be but that's what happens when you've got an awful lot of characters needing farewell scenes. Considered cutting it in two but it felt like it all belonged here.
Warren Worthington III opened his eyes. He hadn't been sure that he was going to do that again. When he had lost consciousness after being exposed to Sinister's virus, part of him had thought he was never going to wake up. He took in his surroundings. He was lying on top of some sort of examination bed in a large white room. And standing in front of him was Moira McTaggert. Next to her was Sean Cassidy, formerly the X-Man known as Banshee.
"Where am I?"he asked them.
"Muir Island,"Moira answered simply.
"You gave us quite a scare, lad,"Banshee noted. "I see being an X-Man still means taking stupid risks."
A memory flooded back to Warren and he felt a cold fear. "Kitty, she was hit with a spear! Is she all right?"
"I'm fine,"replied a familiar voice. Moira stepped aside to reveal Kitty standing behind her. Kitty pulled up her top to reveal a scar near her waist. "Moira patched me up. Lucky it didn't hit anything vital."
"You should have phased,"Warren scolded her.
"Well, if I had it would have hit you."
Warren had to smile at that. He thought harder, trying to remember what he needed to know. "The virus?"
"Burnt off the face of the earth,"Banshee replied. "Took some doing, we had to wait until Kitty was strong enough to phase you out of there."
"What about Harpoon? He was in there with me."
"Harpoon's dead,"Moira told him.
"So's Sinister,"Kitty added. "Cable came through for us."
"Seems he never programmed the virus not to affect Harpoon,"Moira continued. "Either he didn't get around to it or he didn't fancy having him in his new world."
Warren struggled with the information. "But why didn't the virus kill me? I mean, if I was immune, I wouldn't have been affected at all, right?"
"Well, that's the most interesting effect of all. It seems the virus attacked the genetic modifications Apocalypse made to you…and eradicated them."
Warren froze at the news, not daring to believe it. He looked down at his hands. They were no longer blue. They were a normal flesh tone. Smiling, Kitty showed him a mirror and he looked on the face he'd never expected to see again, touching it to make sure it was real. "Wow,"he whispered.
"So can we call you Angel again now?"Kitty asked.
"I'm glad. Archangel was always a bit of a mouthful."
Angel smiled at her. "Do you think you can still love me looking like this?"
"I don't think that will be a problem." Kitty kissed him softly and clambered onto the bed with him.
Banshee nudged Moira and they left the room, giving the young couple their privacy.
Henry Peter Guyrich walked as fast as he could without losing his composure. A summon to the Oval Office was not something he wanted to be tardy about answering. He had received X-Factor's report about their encounter with Sinister and, while it hadn't quite gone the way he'd hoped, he was confident that his strategy would be judged a success. That confidence diminished slightly when he entered the office to find two other people with the President: Charles Xavier and Henry McCoy. "Mr. President?"he enquired.
"I have just been listening to an account of X-Factor's first operations,"the President explained. "An account confirmed as accurate up by your own operatives. It would seem that under your direction, they twice engaged in combat with the X-Men despite the fact that the two groups were pursuing the same goal. It seems they made no progress against the true threat, Nathaniel Essex, until they allied themselves with the X-Men in defiance of your instructions."
"Mr. President, may I remind you that X-Factor was founded because the X-Men had been judged unreliable?"Guyrich asked. "They are vigilantes, a rogue element who operate entirely without respect for law and order. They had no right interfering in this case."
"Their intervention saved the lives of nearly everyone on this planet,"the President snapped back at him. "X-Factor was set up to provide us with an effective, government-run means of combatting mutant menaces alongside trusted freelancers like the X-Men. It was not set up to give you an opportunity to pursue personal vendettas! For that reason, I am removing you as the co-ordinator of X-Factor and replacing you with Henry McCoy."
Guyrich looked stricken. "Mr. President…"
"I suggest you leave this office now, Mr. Guyrich, while you still have any sort of position at all."
Guyrich gave a curious choking sound before quickly making his exit.
Xavier gave a grateful nod. "Thank you, Mr. President." He turned to Beast. "Well, we'll miss you in the X-Men, Henry. But I think you've finally found your calling."
Beast smiled in return. "Thank you, Professor."
Storm stood looking at the two graves. Jean Gray and Scott Summers. One restored, the other completed. At least they could thank Sinister for finally giving them Scott's body to bury. And after his nocturnal visit to the memorial, the X-Men had made a point of installing some extra intruder alert systems.
Havok stood by her side, looking at the grave of the brother he'd never known. "Was he a good man?" he asked.
Storm nodded. "Next to the professor, I don't think I've ever met anyone more committed to making a world where humans and mutants are equal. It's a goal the rest of us X-Men are determined to continue striving for."
"I'm sorry if I did anything to damage that."
"You're a part of that struggle now. X-Factor just as much as the X-Men. And with Hank guiding you rather than Guyrich, I think you'll do a good job."
"I'm certainly going to do my best." Havok glanced up at the mansion roof and saw Cable standing there. "Is he really my nephew?"
Storm smiled. "That's the other thing you have to get used to with the X-Men. Weirdness happens."
"See anything you like?"Wolverine asked.
Cable glanced back at him. "I see a lot."
"Well, it's all yours for the taking. I come up here a lot to think too." Wolverine went to stand by him. "I kind of wanted to kill you when I first found out who you were. Sorry about that."
"I was willing to help Sinister kill everyone. I can't really judge." Cable shot him a curious look. "Why did you want to kill me?"
"Your parents or whatever you want to call them…" Wolverine sighed. Time to be honest. "Your mum was a very special lady. I thought you existing was an insult to her memory. But maybe it's good that a part of her's still fighting for what she believed in."
"What about my father?"
"He was a twit,"Wolverine replied bluntly. Then his features softened. "But he was also a father you could have been proud of. So…you want to take their place?"
Cable looked at him in surprise. "You want me to join the X-Men?"
"Just because Xavier's back here doesn't mean I've lost my right to hand out invites."
Cable thought for a long moment. "No,"he said at last. "The world out there is where I need to go. To explore it, to try and find my place in it." He turned and walked towards the steps leading off the roof. Then he turned and looked back at Wolverine. "But I might come back some day."
Jubilee tried to quicken her pace as she walked past the living room but Gambit saw her all the same. He stepped out into the corridor. "Jubilee?"
Jubilee winced, then turned and walked back to him. "Remy. Hi. Haven't seen much of you these past few days."
"I suspect one of us has been avoiding the other. Not quite sure who. You tackling Sinister the way you did was both very brave and very stupid. And since I'd probably be dead if you hadn't, I'm very grateful."
Jubilee nodded. "No problem."
"You said certain things. I suppose you might have only said them because you thought they were what I wanted to hear…"
Jubilee considered lying. But instead she took a deep breath and told the truth. "No, I meant them. I love you. I'm sorry if that means I've messed things up."
Gambit cut her off with a kiss. She looked shocked but smiled. "There are many things in my past that aren't very lovable,"he noted. "But if you can love me despite them, I think it would be very easy for me to love you."
He kissed her again and she wrapped her arms around him.
Xavier and Wolverine watched from the doorway of the office. "Isn't that kinda, like, manhandling a student?"Wolverine asked.
Xavier smiled. "I think they've both made their choice whilst fully informed."
Siryn sat up in her bed in the medical wing. It hurt to do so and she winced at the pain in her chest. Even though the wounds she suffered from Riptide's spikes were mostly healed, she was still covered in sores.
Colossus sat next to her bed, his head bandaged as a momento of his fight with Sinister. "You shouldn't do that,"he said.
"You can talk,"she replied.
"For a while there, I wasn't sure if you'd make it. It was a frightening experience."
"For me too."
"Both of us knew there would be risks when we joined the X-Men. But that was the first time I've had to go into battle alongside someone I slept with." He hesitated. "Someone I love."
Siryn saw his hand resting alongside hers on the bed, invitingly. She grasped it. "Me too."
"Being that afraid for you, I'm not sure I could go through it again."
Siryn wished she could think of something to say to console him. But staring into his big innocent eyes, she thought of nothing. "So what do we do about it?"
He sighed. "I don't know."
Xavier stood in front of his desk in the office, Wolverine, Rogue and Iceman arrayed in front of him. "All in all, I think this has been a rather successful venture,"he noted. "Another mutant threat to humanity defeated by the mutant friends of humanity, some new allies gained and bonus points with the administration. All without any serious casualties."
"You've heard from Warren?"Bobby asked.
Xavier glanced round as Storm entered. "Well, I think this is the news now."
"Warren's regained consciousness and he's going to be fine,"Storm confirmed. "And I've run full medical checks on everyone and they've got all got a clean bill of health. But the checks on Rogue turned up something unexpected." She looked at the girl. "I think I know why Sinister chose you to be among those spared by his virus."
"Because of my dormant mutant genes,"Rogue replied.
Storm shook her head. "No. I don't know how he knew, maybe he made some sort of genetic scan of us all when he was first here. But I think he spared you because of what you were carrying. You're pregnant."
Wolverine slammed his claws into the bed with a roar of fury and swept the surface of the dressing table clean. Storm stood by the bedroom door, her hands held up placatingly. "Logan, calm down."
"Either I take it out on the furniture,"Wolverine snapped,"or I cut out Drake's liver."
"I know Rogue's important to you but if she needs your help, she'll say so. Killing her boyfriend or smashing up a chest of drawers isn't going to help."
"Does he have any idea what she's going through?"
"I suspect they're both going through a lot." Storm placed her hands on Logan's arms consolingly. "And we'll see them through it. But we need to calm down and let them come to terms with this themselves first."
"We could calm down,"Wolverine agreed. "Or we could figure out another way of dealing."
"Wha..?" Storm's question was silenced as Wolverine's lips crashed down on hers, the two of them holding each other in a passionate embrace. He lifted her up so she was sitting on the now empty dressing table surface as they continued to carress each other passionately. The kiss broke and she raised an eyebrow. "Making babies ourselves?"
"Sounds like a plan,"he agreed, kissing her again and pulling her so they both fell onto the bed.
Rogue sat alone on a bench outside the mansion. Since she'd first come there, she had faced Magneto, Stryker, Apocalypse, the Sentinels and now Sinister. And she'd never felt as scared as she did at that moment.
Rogue looked round at the familiar voice and saw Bobby standing there. She wasn't sure if he'd ever called her by that name before. But it kind of felt apt now. She was going to be a mother. Mothers weren't called things like Rogue. They were called things like Marie.
Bobby sat down next to her. "You know I'll be with you through all this, right?"
Rogue sighed. "I really wish we were just an ordinary young couple scared to death about being parents. But we're not. You heard what Warren said, I've still got mutant genes, same as you. Which means we'll pass them on. Our baby will be a mutant."
"There are worse things to be."
"But what if he or she has sucky powers like mine? Even if they don't, they're going to have to deal with all the abuse from people who don't understand. And what are they going to be when they grow up? A second generation X-Man, raised to carry on the fight?"
"Maybe by the time Baby's our age, things will be different."
Rogue didn't feel particularly confident. "Maybe,"she conceeded.
Bobby put an arm round her shoulder. "Either way, I don't think there's a better place for a mutant baby to be born than here."
Rogue looked around the grounds. Their home. Their friends. Their family. In more ways than one. And for the first time since she'd heard the news, she smiled. "No. I don't suppose there is."