Author's Note: The plot of this X-Men/Sekirei crossover piece will be a companion to and eventually run concurrent with Starry Starry Nights. The intent, however, is to also make them readable and enjoyable as their own stand alone stories. X-Men and Avengers are owned by Marvell LLC. Sekirei owned by Sakurako Gokurakuin.

The House of L

Prologue – Miya Asama – Tears of Irony

A dark female figure, wearing a simple, rope belted and deeply hooded robe to look a lot like a medieval nun, stood in the long evening shadows of the Tokyo graveyard. Partially hidden behind a large stone mausoleum, the strange looking woman simply watched silently as Miya Asama knelt before her dead husband's grave and began praying, then soon pitifully weeping. The hooded onlooker brooded over the irony of the kneeling alien female, without question the most powerful female on Earth, mourning her still greatly beloved and greatly missed spouse.

The irony was because when it had really mattered, Miya's incredible powers, stronger than any of the 108 young Sekirei who had crashed on this planet with her, hadn't been able to prevent Miya's young human husband's untimely death in M.B.I.'s secret labs. Nor would Miya's unearthly powers help her save all she loved and cared about from the future deadly troubles that M.B.I. would surely bring upon them and this planet in only a few short years from now. The new troubles would be far beyond the battles that Miya had already fought and won, so would their potential for even deeper mourning.

Long moments passed as Miya's heartbroken sobs continued to sound softly throughout the lonely graveyard. The sun suddenly dipped below Tokyo's western skyline and caused a sudden, chilly, and very gloomy darkening of all the shadows cast by the various grave markers. Finally, after lovingly arranging a few fresh and homegrown flowers against her dead husband's gravestone, Miya Asama stood up and slowly made her way out of the graveyard, back towards her home at Izumo Inn. Still unseen and unnoticed by the deeply grieving alien widow, the strangely robed and hooded female, partially hidden by the large stone mausoleum, turned away. She seemed to simply melt back into the graveyard's darkest shadows as if she had never been, nor belonged there.

Chapter One – Mystique and Emma Frost – Tears of Irony II

Irony is such a funny sounding word, Raven Darkholme mused silently as the other immobilized and power constrained mutant prisoners were floated past her and locked into position around the perimeter of the Inter-Dimensional Protectorate's judgment chamber. She half smiled to herself in watching the varied expressions on the female captives' faces that she could see from shifting her eyes but not her rigidly held head. Some like Lady Deathstrike were still naturally defiant, angry, and evaluating non-existent escape possibilities. Others like Titania were pathetically resigned, dull eyed, and beaten. Many were simply La La Land insane and/or drugged with absolutely no light of understanding of who or what they were, let alone their rapidly approaching demise. A few like Emma Frost wore rigid poker faces determined not to give their captors one shred of satisfaction that any loss of control over their ultimate fates mattered one tiny whit. Raven saw none half amused as she was, but wasn't it absolutely ironical that some of her fellow female mutant inmates' expressions actually shared tiny gleams of hope that somehow they would be spared their imminent executions?

After all, irony, at least situational irony, by definition was an incongruity between the actual result of a sequence of events and the normal or expected result. Every prisoner present in I.D.P.'s judgment chamber had totally EARNED their capture and designation as a terminal threat to inter-dimensional peace, so why look for even the tiniest shred of hope for last minute mercy from I.D.P.'s judges? The simple fact was that The Raft prison was being crassly emptied of its too expensive to keep, too dangerous to live, and too wealthy without heirs inmates, and the I.D.P. needed money. Besides, all appeals had already been exhausted, otherwise none of the death row inmates would be here now. These final hearings were nothing more than a summary review to snooker the public news media into reporting that all the correct protocols had been followed before such a large number of death sentences were all carried out on the same day.

The great situational irony here was any of these already condemned mutant prisoners expecting a last minute reprieve from an I.D.P. summary review panel that included one James "Logan" Howlett, aka Wolverine, THE universally decorated and designated Hero of Earth 616. Logan was also now one of five High Councilors of the new Inter-Dimensional Protectorate that had been formed after his heroic final victory in the Annexation Wars on the Shadow Box Empire's home planet. Since the Fantastic Four had admitted to largely only being spectators, Logan was THE gritty hero of the vast battle that had also now made him one of the greatest serial killers and mass murderers in inter-dimensional history. There would be no sissy pants mercy for any condemned to death mutant criminals and unwanted troublemakers from him this day.

"And if looking to Logan for mercy isn't the definition of ironic," Raven murmured to herself in sneering amusement as she thought it over, "then what is?"

Raven scanned the small group of interested onlookers at the far end of chamber, idly eying a hooded and robed woman whose rope belted, dark green garb look like it belonged in some Dark Ages nunnery. Now who was she, and what was she doing here?

"Care to entertain the rest of us with a plebeian jest or two, darling?" Emma Frost, parked directly across and facing Raven, spoke softly with one patrician eyebrow raised. Frost's usually luxurious bottle blonde hair was lank, streaked with dark and gray roots, unwashed, and tangled. She was also dressed in the same depressing drab olive jumpsuit that the rest of the condemned prisoners wore. Emma then gave Raven a further look and soft sigh of mild distaste.

"Or could you possibly just reveal the source of your amusement in our current and soon to be terminated situation where quite frankly I see none?"

"Just viewing the total irony of it all, Emma dear," Raven chuckled quietly in return. "I doubt a naive youngster like you would appreciate the humor in much of it. Especially since you are almost the biggest joke here next to that block headed prick Logan sitting out there."

"Laughing in the face of imminent death seems rather gauche to me, not ironic, but, it seems I still have a few free moments left for furthering my already extensive education, so enlighten me, grandmother," Emma smirked at Mystique's snarky jibe as the panel of judges began their case by case reviews starting with the mutant male prisoners arranged on the other end of the large, lofty, tear drop shaped, glass enclosed chamber. "What is so ironic?"

"Oh my," Raven again laughed softly. "Where to start? Okay, historical. I was born and grew up when there were no electric power grids, appliances, lights, or electronic communication other than rudimentary telegraph. There were no means of travel faster than walking, horses, horse drawn carriages and wagons, ungainly steamships, and small locomotives. Few had the means for indoor plumbing, let alone ready access to clean running water that was mainly heated on wood stoves and open fireplaces.

"Look outside. Solar powered cars flying about the city on a worldwide anti-gravity grid. Every person on the planet fitted with their own totally integrated holistic communicator and computer access headbands. The entire planet living in levels of luxury, cleanliness, health, travel, and supply vast magnitudes above when I was born, and yet, the fears about and attitudes towards mutants are still exactly the same, chase, capture, and kill. Even the methods of execution are the same with heads chopped and bodies burned. Now isn't that a tad ironic?

"Or perhaps more personal, Emma dear. Here you are the self acknowledged maven of haute coture fashion and sexy revealing outfits, but you're going to die in a cheap and drab olive green jumpsuit. There will be no rescue for you from the world's most powerful males and past lovers like Namor or Tony Stark who would have become High Councilors if they had survived that final battle. You should have been screwing Logan instead of bloody Scott Summers who tried to kill you for your Phoenix power and then later dumped your enhanced white butt for Frenzy. Then he dies in such an ignominious way with nary a last word or thought for his telepathic ex-darling. All that right there is rather ironic isn't it?"

"Logan smells like a wart hog," Emma sighed dismissively. "Besides, other than a kinky thought or two, Logan has never given me a second look of sexual interest even when blind drunk. What small tolerance of me in his world and as a team member has never translated to any kind of trust, nor would some casual sex make him any fonder of me than he isn't now. Logan has never forgiven me for my enmity of Jean Grey, my activities when the Phoenix returned, nor my connections with the Hellfire Club. You are much more likely to get a reprieve from him than me."

"Me?" Raven chuckled slightly harder before her features turned into a half snarl of hatred. "Even if I've been in his bed, and that was a long time ago, he has already killed me twice by jamming those damn claws into me."

"So, you're still the charter member of Logan's exclusive claw stabbed and dick jabbed club," Emma smirked again at being able to get an emotional rise out of Mystique. "Let's see. Mariko Yashida, Carol Danvers, maybe Yukio, and now even Psylocke and Poison if current rumors are true. Pretty select company with you, don't you think, darling? Even Jean the poor dear isn't a member. That ought to count for something for you in his mind. Besides, all these years of your woman scorned, tit for tat revenge routines with Logan, aren't they getting a tad tiresome? Perhaps you two old geezers just need to call it all even and make a small restart."

"Way too late for that," Raven snorted derisively as her eyes slid sideways to watch a mass exodus towards a far exit.

It definitely looked like the I.D.P. had simply emptied Earth 616's The Raft prison to kill all of its most troublesome and wealthiest inmates. The new government must be EXTREMELY hungry for money to pay its Annexer War debts. She watched as one by one the heavily drugged Romulus, Kade Kilgore, "Bentley Newton" Rottwell, Sabertooth, Arcade, Norman Osborn, Lord Deathstrike, Sebastian Shaw, all twelve remaining male members of the vampire Mystikos and Forgiven Sects, three Mister Sinister clones from other dimensional Earths, and nine assorted mutant outlaws and bandits from across the Protectorate worlds went through the far executioner's exit. Next for all of them would come a plasma cutter beheading and/or wooden staking before their entire remains were summarily dumped down into the building's fusion generator in the basement. How convenient. Like taking out the trash every Tuesday to become fuel for the maglev power grids. No marker, no ashes, and no one to claim their huge estates except for sharp eyed I.D.P. accountants and lawyers.

Raven let out a heavy sigh. It wouldn't be long now before she and Emma shared the same fate along with the other females prisoners from The Raft. Well, they'd get no huge estate from her, damn their eyes! Time enough for one last well deserved dig into Miss Emma Frost's outsized ego though.

"By the way, Emma dear," Raven murmured as if it was an off hand aside. "Logan was a hell of a lot bigger, sweeter, inventive, and better in bed than Scott Summers, Tony Stark, Sebastian Shaw, and Namor. Much more tender in kissing and then pleasing a woman's sweetest AND wildest bestial fantasies, as well as going all night long with those regeneration powers of his. Isn't it ironic that both you AND Jean Grey missed out on all that multiple orgasmic hotness? But then, you would have come in a very poor second place in his mind there too, right darling?"

The instant jealous fury at being compared to Jean Grey silently flashed across Emma's facial features and made Raven chuckle again. Heh, she thought to herself, now that WAS amusing too. Well, you had a good run at life Raven old girl, with only a few regrets, the main ones being failed relationships with Marie and Kurt and final betrayal by Destiny. A long, deeply romantic love and a loving family just hadn't been there for one Raven Darkholme, nor triumph over humankind's anti mutant bigotry, let alone any kind of life of peace and acceptance amongst those humans and fellow mutants. On the other hand, she had experienced adventures only a few females throughout history had matched and survived. She would still be free today except for the advanced science and technology now making completely anonymous personal freedom a thing of the past, and face it, Raven Darkholme and her shape shifting mutant gifts were essentially an outdated anachronism now. Still, it was satisfying that she could break Emma Frost's icy reserve and piss her off. Heh, take your small victory, Raven mused darkly. It will probably be the last one.

At least it had been a nice sunny day to die, Raven thought, and an even prettier evening. She let her eyes focus on the brightly lit and colorful view of Shanghai and its harbor outside the Protectorate capital headquarters' massive glass walls. Entire sides of nearby skyscrapers were essentially video billboards hawking everything available in this ancient but now modern port city, some even projecting their wares in multicolored three dimensional holograms. Now that she thought about it, the impressive backdrop of the evening sky, the incredibly beautiful city skyline, and the panoramic metropolis/harbor view with its ever shifting array of fascinating colored lights filling the horizon beyond her final prison cell were actually beyond mind boggling; especially to a mutant female born by the weak light coming from a single whale oil lantern and a wood burning fireplace in a smoke filled, bug infested, dirty, and dank, one room log cabin.

How many years? How many memories? How many hopes and dreams, few achieved, many shattered, and/or not even half realized before crumbling away to nothing? How many battles that now felt so pointless and futile? How many failed love affairs and way too many meaningless one night romps? How many schemes for revenge against her enemies, most dead now anyway? What had it all mattered? What had she accomplished? She was going to die very soon with none to mourn her passing and no grave marker to acknowledge she had ever existed. Her only legacy was going to be a few uncomplimentary and definitely unflattering lines in the history of human/mutant conflicts. She had abandoned her own baby son Kurt to save her own life! For that alone she deserved the plasma decapitation and fusion immolation she was facing! Let alone trying to assassinate Logan the Hero again.

A loud commotion broke into Raven's mixed, progressively gloomier, and now self damning thoughts. Naturally, it was centered around Logan. Raven strained to hear and make sense of what the cacophony of arguing voices were saying. Something about a new experimental procedure developed by the Shi'ar for replacing damaged/dead tissues on the molecular level and regrowing them into exact healthy copies. Ahhh, it was the other four High Councilors reminding Logan the Hero that the new Protectorate laws demanded all vampires to be permanently eliminated, even Jubilation Lee. Now wasn't THAT ironic, Raven smiled grimly while watching Logan get progressively angrier and even beginning to snarl. That's the way, you mindless little baboon, Raven urged in silent glee. Cut loose and get your head chopped too! Wouldn't that be even more sweetly ironic!

A sudden silence gripped the cavernous chamber. Raven came out of her quick daydream of picturing Logan's violent demise to see a small frown of concentration on Emma Frost's features.

"What happened?" Raven finally whispered to Emma as the long silence continued.

"Logan asked to have most of the death sentences for the terminally ill and insane mutant females here to be commuted. Other than Remus, none of us have any money anyway, and he thinks the I.D.P needs to show itself as being better, more just, and more merciful to the people AND mutants on all its worlds rather than just be a marginally better substitute of the ruthless Shadow Box Empire. He wants the prisoners released into his care and also have Jubilee participate in the new Shi'ar regrowth/healing experiments. The other Councilors said no because of the potential for great destruction and loss of life upon any escape, unless he could reimburse the I.D.P. if and when something went wrong. Logan reminded everyone that he is the sole heir of Tony Stark Industries, the Worthington Conglomerate, and Charles Xavier's private estate. They immediately reversed themselves after demanding that he build an ultra secure facility to house the entire enterprise. The other four Councilors also demanded that he post at least half of the remainder of his fortune into the I.D.P. general fund as bond for all the inmates good behavior and Jubilee's during her Shi'ar treatments as well. The other half of Logan's fortune will be put into an escrow account for operational expenses because the I.D.P. demands zero financial responsibility for this strictly private enterprise. If he wants her to live, Remus will also have to sign over her entire fortune to the I.D.P. and undergo psychotherapy for permanent institutionalization with the other females spared. They also insisted that Logan resign the High Council and then pick which female mutants would be in the new facility so that the I.D.P. would not be liable for any public and financial backlash. Logan agreed and then resigned. In short, he basically just gave away everything he has to save Jubilee."

Raven silently digested this for a few moments and then mentally shrugged. All that only meant Logan was still going to kill her tonight without getting his freaking long claws bloody. On the other hand, Emma Frost might be able to appeal to any residual loyalty Logan may have for her as a once X-teammate.

"Well, there you go, Emma. You can easily qualify for Logan's insanity reprieve. I mean, look how long you tried to hang onto Scott Summers and never got anything near the loyalty Logan gives to those he really cares about. Especially after Scott tried to kill you for your share of the Phoenix Force. I'd definitely call that insane on your part. Hell, Logan still visits and lays flowers on the graves of Mariko, Silverfox, and Jean Grey every spring after all these years. After you guys escaped and before you were recaptured the last time, did Scott even send you a birthday card after he dumped you and started banging Frenzy again?"

"Scott is dead. What we had together was far beyond anything you ever managed to experience, you ancient hag," Emma replied in a flat, bitchy, fed up tone. "And I had more loyalty and love from him than you ever did from your last "true lover" Sabertooth while using each other as convenient bedroom toys. After his assassination empire was broken, Victor ran, and you were captured, right? He simply abandoned you to cover his escape and then made a beeline to Remus and her money, blackmailing her to help him elude the I.D.P. That failed when she turned him, but he snitched about her trying to hide all of her and Romulus' old financial empire so that it wouldn't be taxed and bled dry by the I.D.P.'s war machine. What did all that scheming and double crossing get you three? They both wound up in here with you today. Remus had a real shot at happiness with Logan and blew it to chase after a bigger fortune that was always going to be taken away sooner or later. She blew it just like you did ages ago. And you boast about your sagacity from your lofty old age? I'm really beginning to doubt your claims of romantic superiority too, darling. Tell me. Why didn't YOU hold onto Logan all those years ago when you had him? After all, he was your admitted best lover, right?"

Raven had no answer. That last had struck much too close to old heart scars. A long silence ensued between the two female mutants as they both licked their mutual emotionally inflicted wounds. Emma began thinking about how ironic it had been for her to first publicly declare her love for Scott Summers while being held in a brotherly and comforting fashion by Logan. That was as physically and emotionally close to Logan as she had ever been, but ever colder since. Why hadn't she worked harder to be much better friends with essentially the only completely honest and caring male she had ever known? Now she was pretty sure Logan would let her die rather than save her. Raven was reliving her ultimately stupid rage of betrayal when she had kicked Logan off a moving freight car outside 1921 Kansas City. She had known before the botched bank robbery that Logan was way too honest at heart to go through with the heist and wouldn't allow his actions to hurt innocent humans if he could help it. If she had just curbed her temper then, apologized, and been more understanding of his feelings, would they have still become ongoing enemies ever since or much closer lovers?

Cutting through both females' thoughts, there came a sudden loud scream of rage followed by a separate long wail of despair from somewhere to their far left. A loud physical commotion broke out also. Since they couldn't turn their heads, both Raven and Emma had to wait before seeing a few uniformed guards holding down the chair-like module of Lady Deathstrike. Then facially scarred Sapphire Styx, the Madam Hydra named Contessa Valentina Allegra de la Fontaine, both of Earth 616, and three mind wiped and drooling Madelyn Prior clones from some failed Sinister other world takeover plot came into view. The group of mutant females were all being led/wrestled towards the executioner's exit amidst more wails of despair and angry screams of insane rage. Obviously Logan had declined to allow them into his new Shi'ar enhanced institution for life imprisonment.

As Raven and Emma strained to look sideways to see what else was happening, immobilized female mutants in their seated restraining modules began anti-gravity floating past them towards their original entrance. Those understanding that somehow they had been reprieved, most notably Martinique Wyngarde, her sister Regan, and the new pauper Remus had tears of relief flowing down their cheeks. Titania, Typhoid Mary, Chimera, Ophelia Sarkissian, and Red She Hulk just stared insanely at nothing, and Jubilation Lee looked too drugged to even know where or who she was. Suddenly, Logan was standing in front of Raven and Emma.

Raven's eyes flicked down and up over Logan who was carrying something flat in his right hand down by his thigh. He was wearing his skin tight, red and black I.D.P. uniform that outlined every line on his massively muscled frame. Overall he looked his usual confident self. However, his face, for once shaved smooth except for narrow sideburns, seemed thinner, care worn, and grave. He looked much the same as when she had first met him in front of that Mexican firing squad more than a century earlier, although he was now much cleaner and smelling faintly of an interesting yet mild, musk scented leather. Then he had been emotionally wrestling with the bloody trench fighting horrors of WW I and his participation and survival of them. The main difference now was in the new and very bleak frigidity within his normally expressive deep blue eyes. It was as if a large piece of his soul had been irrevocably lost somewhere. He turned to look dead eyed at Emma.

"You want to live, Frost?" Logan asked bluntly. "If you do, you'll be in a prison with that power suppression ring always around your neck until you die, no telepathy, no diamond form. Try to leave the prison boundaries, and it will explode and blow your head off."

"Sounds tedious," Emma returned coolly with no facial expression. "You're actually going to take the responsibility and care for I.D.P.'s headaches just to get a very slim chance to save Jubilee?"

"Yeah," Logan shrugged with a slightly pained expression. "It was a setup. They already had the damn plans drawn up for a place called the Hospice Overseeing Uncommon Security Enterprises. Then they blackmailed me into building and running it, or they'd have staked Jubes and then burnt her. I don't like it, but there wasn't any other way."

"Is that what we are now? Not stinking muties but just uncommon security enterprises?" Emma raised her right eyebrow in long weary disdain. "No shrinks, no brain wiping, drooling, and rebuilding? No in depth probing for why we committed such nefarious crimes deserving capital punishment in this oh so cozy dimensional new order? No Shi'ar personality modifications?"

"Might happen, who knows? I only know they've already lined up a crack medical staff that includes Hank McCoy and Cecelia Reyes, along with several alien regeneration and psychotherapy geniuses from S.W.O.R.D. and eggheads from Nick Fury's secret clinic. That's all because I.D.P. now has female Avengers that need confined care too. Danvers, She Hulk, Wasp, Wanda, and Jessica all went nuts when Rogers, Stark, Hawkeye, Hulk, and Pym were killed, but the I.D.P. can't just imprison those Avenger gals, let alone just kill 'em. Public wouldn't stand for it. Can't let 'em run loose either, so they've made me their patsy while Thor and Falcon try to rebuild the Avengers. When this HOUSE gig gets up and running, I got no idea what other nut jobs and serious problems they'll send at me later. I don't really care since my designated killer days for everybody and their damn uncles are over.

"The big stink below all this is that these current greedy I.D.P. bastards really just wanted to get their mitts on as much of Stark, Xavier, and Warren's money as they could. They also knew I was dead set against outright killing most of you female inmates and especially Jubilee. So, it looks like I'm gonna need a financial whiz to operate the whole mess once it gets built. Emma, you can live, have the job, watch some soap operas, wash your hair, dye it, do your nails, wear your underwear as clothes, maybe even finish your naughty, sexy, bitchy memoirs and your textbook on ethics as well, but it's always gonna be a prison. You got one chance to live here this evening. It's up to you."

"How did Scott and all the others die, Logan?" Emma finally asked softly after a few moments of silence. "And only you, a bunch of Avenger females and kids, and the Fantastic Four survive?"

"There were two planetary targets. Steve Rogers divided us up, and sent the gals and kids to attack the weaker second fortress. It was also Cap who gave Scott a parole to fight along with the other Avengers and X-Men at the bigger Annexer complex. During that last battle after we had breached the fortress force field and walls, they were all with Stark and Rogers on the west side of the Annexers' main command and launch center. They were trying to kill the Sentinels standing among all the women and children that had been brought out of the planet's breeding pens and were being used for human shields against our assault. I was on the east side with Hulk, Fantastic Four, and some X-Men from Earth 47's Protectorate Council. Reed Richard's instruments indicated the Annexers were all set to launch another 100 megaton bomb through their last Shadow Box into Earth 47. Cap ordered me to take it out. Hulk threw me at the launch center, over the Sentinels and civilians, but I went clear through the damn place and out the other side. The big dummy had thrown me way too hard, and then he followed up with Earth 47's X-Men.

"The Annexers must have panicked after I sailed through, and they saw Hulk and the boys coming too. Some one must have backed into or accidentally hit a destruct button or just screwed up somehow because in less than a minute their damn bomb exploded before it launched. It totally wiped out everything and everyone for a seventy five mile radius. Shock wave caught me in the air, but since I was out a ways and already going very fast in the same direction, I must have surfed it long enough not to get totally immolated in the fireball. As it was, healing factor kicked in, and I woke up almost a hundred miles out four days later, but I was still in very bad shape.

"Sue Storm was able to shield protect her guys on the east side. Everyone else was ashes; Scott, Peter, Remy, Bobby, Eric, Arthur, Alex, some of my academy kids, guys from Earth 47, Cap and his Avengers, Hulk, and four million plus innocent women and children. Danvers and the other Avenger gals and the new Avenger kids were on the other side of the planet and mopping up the Annexer's secondary base that was trying to wipe out Earth 616. Their infrared scanners found me after they neutralized that second site and started searching for survivors, and then they brought me home. Hank finished patching me up. I didn't touch one damn Annexer commander in that last battle. Some hero, huh? Scott died being Scott, still trying to do right, giving it all he had, but just fighting on the wrong damn side of the whole mess with the others. His luck wasn't any better than Longshot and Gambit's in the end, nor Rogers or Stark's and all the others. That's how they all died."

Logan, after taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly as a small sign of his own ongoing grief, cocked his head and eyed Emma. Slow tears went unchecked down her cheeks since her wrists and elbows were locked onto the arms of her floating, chair-like immobilization module. Inanely, he tried to remember the last time he'd seen her cry, but couldn't. It had been a year and a half since that damned screwed up battle, lots of time to cry for all the dead. Problem was he still needed her answer right now for those still living. He gave her several long moments before asking again.

"You want to live, Emma?"

"You call imprisoned in your HOUSE for the rest of my life while dyeing my gray hair, living? Cut off from everyone and everything?"

"No, not really," Logan sighed while shaking his head slowly and then wearily rubbing his forehead with his empty left hand, "but then there's different kinds of prisons for life, Emma. You know that. Don't need solid walls to be totally miserable in 'em either, and no way out except dying. Besides, where would you go even if you were free? No school would touch you to teach, no money and little ability to make any, no Hellfire Club to take you in. You could at least live pretty cushy in the HOUSE. Think about it."

Logan turned to look at Raven Darkholme. She didn't look any older than the night when she had first kissed him and then tried to use him to steal a fortune the next day more than a century ago. Her inscrutable yellow eyes were simply staring back at him. There was no expression on her face until he raised his right hand. He was holding a small mirror which he shoved close to her face.

"What do you see here, Old Timer?" Logan's low voice had a very gruff tone, not encouraging at all.

The shock of suddenly and unexpectedly seeing her own facial image rattled Raven and brought quick tears to her eyes. Damn him! He was using the same trick Forge had used to upset her once! Looking at her true self was something she had passionately avoided ever since waking one morning during her first menstrual period as a budding adolescent to find she had changed over night. When her wild mutation had revealed itself, the shock of suddenly having blue skin and yellow eyes had instantly marked her as a devil spawned, possessed, and suddenly outcast freak to everyone she had loved and known. Their immediate vicious and inflamed intolerance had made her run for her life. She had been running away from that image ever since. Still, she was NOT going to give Logan the satisfaction of seeing her upset in any way. She wouldn't cry. Not now. Not after all he had done to her.

"I see Mystique," Raven returned evenly. Curiously, she caught herself wondering if he had felt any fondness for her at all when they had first met. "What do you see, Logan? The same blue skinned, red haired, yellow eyed, mysterious female freak you back stabbed in Kansas City? Want to kill me again, you prick?"

"My killing days are over, Raven. You want to die, do it yourself. Anyway, you ain't ever been a mystery to me," Logan gave a small mirthless chuckle, "just a totally self centered, scheming, and amoral bitch trying to use me for her own gain from the get go. Been trying to screw me over and kill me ever since. That's all past now, maybe not totally square for either of us, but it's a much different world we live in now, Old Timer, one where personal vendettas ain't gonna be tolerated much by these money hungry I.D.P. guys. Things change whether we want 'em or not. To answer your question though, what I see now is the head Administrator of I.D.P.'s new HOUSE."

"Yeah, right, and why would I want to be?" Raven scowled at the thought of being cooped up for a long, long time anywhere near this cold, arrogant, and insufferable Logan. There was just too much bad history between them, way too bad, way too much.

There was a sudden slight movement against the lighted city's skyline far behind him that caught Raven's eye. Curiously, she noticed that the mysterious hooded and green robed woman standing across the glass walled I.D.P. chamber now seemed to be looking in Raven and Emma's direction. The hood of her green garb still completely shrouded the strange woman's face though. Raven frowned. Now who in the hell was that? What was she interested in and doing here? Raven looked back at Logan as he began answering her spoken question.

"One, you'd be alive, Old Timer. Two, since I'm technically still an Avenger, I probably won't be around much to do any head administrative job justice. Three, you can't be trusted for anything other than maybe trying to protect helpless mutants and females like you have a lot of times in the past, but you can be trusted to save your own skin while living in as much luxury as you can get. Four, you're one of the toughest old dames I know, behind Natasha and Elektra maybe, and I suspect running the HOUSE is gonna take someone like you to do it. Five, it'll keep you from getting bored and causing more trouble than you're worth, which quite frankly would get your head chopped pretty damn quick now days. Six, you owe Kurt a LOT of love for others, big time. And seven, you'll get a freaky kick out of being the warden of your own damn prison."

Logan stared deadpan at Raven for a few seconds before looking again at Emma. Another long silence went by until Logan finally broke it.

"So which way you two want to go? Over to the executioner's exit, or out the door you came in to become the administrative and financial staff of the new HOUSE?"

"I'll work with you, Logan, despite your low recruitment charm skills," Emma Frost finally sighed in resignation, her eyes still bright with her tears for Scott Summers. "But I want better clothes and a giant hot tub in my quarters."

Logan nodded slightly in acceptance before looking back into Raven's yellow eyes. He raised his eyebrows in silent question.

"Me? Running the HOUSE of Logan, with Logan?" Raven chuckled somewhat self mockingly while oddly noticing the hooded woman had suddenly and simply disappeared from the judgment chamber. "Well, what the hell, why not? Beats getting chopped and fried, for now, but Logan, you and me working together in anything after all these damn years sure puts a whole new meaning into the word irony. By the way, I don't believe you about not killing any more, and before you ever get the chance to stab me again, screw you, you hypocritical asshole."

More regular updates to this story and Starry Starry Nights will begin after the last chapters of the Game Changer are posted. Thanks for reading and let me know what you all think.