First Night cont...
Melissa Flores

~ Chapter Ten ~

Never thought I'd be in this place 
It's someone else's life I'm living 
Wish I were living a lie 
The hardest part is when the bough breaks 
Falling down and then forgiving 
You didn't kiss me good-bye

I'm choking on the words 
I didn't get to say 
I'm praying I get the chance one day

I still run, I still swing open the door 
I still think you'll be there like before 
Doesn't everybody out there know 
they never come 'round 
Somethings a heart won't listen to 
I'm still holdin' out for you.



Cordelia Chase had long battled with her sanity - but she knew the
distinction between a vision and reality. Lately, the line had become
increasingly blurred, and ever fearful, Cordelia always wondered when
the time would come when she would wake up from a vision and
find there was no difference, that she could no longer distinguish
which feelings were hers and which belonged to others. When she
came to with a start, a fleeting moment of panic washed over her when
she came to one, very important decision: It wasn't better. It
was almost tangible, the alien feelings - doubt, fear, worry, love,
panic, and it wasn't hers and it wasn't better, and she feared that she
had lost all comprehension as it slid over her.

Moistness hit her cheek where the tears slipped down, marking that
place with cold, salty fluid.

She trembled, whimpering even as her body came back to her, and the
weight of reality came with it, beyond the splintering pain of her
arm, along with the emotions that never escaped her.

Touch alleviated it somewhat, she was able to discern the soft hands
that slid up her forearms, gentle over something covering her right
forearm, and she heard a soothing, firm voice that must have belonged
to Jean, "Cordelia, breathe. I need you to breathe and just
concentrate on the sound of my voice. Block everything else out."

She swallowed, her eyes shut tight, as her voice was hoarse with
emotion, "I… can't-"

"Yes you can. You can make it stop, Cordelia. Breathe in and out for
me. Concentrate only on the breathing, and only on me."

There was no room for argument, and Cordelia, who most likely would
have argued her head off at the absurdity of the whole yoga
wannabe ritual, was beyond desperate. She wanted it to stop, she
wanted it to go away because it was worse than the pain - it was
unfiltered raw...

Her eyes never opened, but the emotions were still there, and it
wasn't getting better, even as she took the breath that caught in her

"Everyone out – NOW. Get downstairs and stay downstairs until I say
you can come up again."

She heard a growl, wasn't sure who it came from, but the door
slammed, and suddenly everything was easier.

Cordelia took in a breath, harder this time, deeper, and all there
was was Jean – and there was nervousness and fear but it was all
coming from her own body. There was nothing alien – nothing at least
that was overwhelming, and she felt a sigh of relief jolt through

She opened her eyes. Jean Grey was settled in beside her, on the bed,
regarding her with eyes that were tinged with moisture behind
the glasses, but her expression was unreadable, as she gently
massaged at Cordelia's palms.

"Welcome back," she said gently. Cordelia felt a slip of a smile
slide over her face in thankfulness, and Jean gave one back, moving down
and completing her task of dressing the wound on her arm.

"That'll leave a scar, and you lost some blood - a lot of it. But I
think you'll be fine with some rest."

Rest? What rest? There was no time for rest-

"NO, Cordelia. You're NOT Superwoman, okay?" Jean's grip was
surprisingly firm, as she pushed her back, keeping the palms on her
shoulders as she gave Cordelia a firm glare. "You need to rest. You
lost blood - and whatever happened back there took a lot out of

Cordelia felt a sigh of frustration bubble up from within her, but
she didn't have the strength to argue, as she closed her eyes again,
breathing in, breathing out – boy that really seemed to work, and she
swallowed, and opened her eyes and tried again.

She looked at Jean, who wasn't looking at her, instead inspecting the
arm that ached, hands expertly cleaning around it.

Cordelia breathed yet again, and concentrated on the beautiful
doctor. Jean Grey was stock still, and it was faint, but she felt it -

Immediately Cordelia flinched, moving away.

"What's happening to me?"

It was more than a question; it was a demand. Jean's hand stilled for
a second, before she let her breath out and placed her hand back
next to her body, straightening and looking directly into her hazel

"You've gained a new mutation, Cordelia. Empathy."


The word washed over her, and Cordelia licked her lips, processing
it, taking another deep breath, and shaking her head, wiping the
bangs out of her face.

"Empathy." She said it again, rolling the words on her tongue, as if
just by saying it, it could become more real, because it sure seemed
surreal as hell.

"Looks like it. You don't read thoughts – but the feelings… "

"The mutation made me empathic?"

Jean nodded. "Something about how we increased – the mutation… the
visions are no longer the only things coming through the PTB

"But I didn't feel it before-"

"Mutations manifest themselves usually during puberty. I know you're
well past that, but – perhaps some sexual activity-"

Uh huh. Like being ravished against a wall, for instance? Geez.

Sex was just plain evil.

Cordelia was never one to beat around the bush, and she took no time
in parlaying the question that really mattered.

"Okay, so how do I get rid of it?"

"You don't."

Cordelia tried to calm the panic that was so easily summoned within
her. What the hell did she mean `you don't'? Why the hell not?!


"You made your choice, Cordelia. I told I didn't know what would
happen if we went through with the operation." There was no sympathy
in her voice, and Cordelia cocked her head slightly, eyes narrowing
as she studied the older doctor. Jean Grey's features, however fine,
were set in a grim, determined, frown. Her hand squeezed hers and she
continued with, "You have a gift, Cordelia."

Oh yeah. This was a gift. Yay her.

"So I'm empathic? That's it?"

"'Fraid so."

She sighed, leaning against the backboard of the bed. "There's an odd
sense of irony in that."

This time a smile graced Jean Grey's face. "There usually is." The
long-haired brunette studied her before continuing, in a more serious
tone, "You learn to control it, filter it. Eventually you can block
things out and it almost becomes unconscious."

Cordelia looked away, down at the bandage on her forearm. "It
happened to you didn't it?"

"Yes. I learned. You'll catch on eventually." There was so much
acceptance in that, and Cordelia didn't want to take it. She never
believed that things were unchangeable, she never did. That's part of
what made her a damn Chase.

But there was no time.

"How can I keep it from overwhelming me now?"

Jean didn't say anything, and when the door clicked open, and the
denim clad Logan slipped into the room, leaning against the door, she
looked almost relieved. Immediately she leaned forward, speaking low
and fiercely into Cordelia's ear.

"Take the new emotions, filter them. Put them aside, set them in
their own special place and make sure yours are dominant."

Cordelia narrowed her eyes, studying Logan - the emotions came
unfiltered from him, but as she watched him, the beast man with the
intensely feral eyes, as they bore into hers, they were alien,
different - Logan.

She breathed a sigh of relief.


"He's coming," Logan said, and when Jean nodded, he tapped the door.
Immediately it opened, and before Cordelia quite knew what was
happening, she was pulled into a rock hard embrace - one that put her
aching forearm in direct contact with Angel's body, and making
her wince - hard.


"Angel, her arm."

"Oh, right." He pulled away, and Cordelia smiled, her eyes shining
brightly at the look of complete relief on his face. Angel rarely let
a show emotion on his handsome face, and if it hadn't been for the
pain and the serious trauma Cordelia had just gone through, she
would have teased him about it.



He looked unsure, and Cordelia merely smiled, sliding her palm down
his cheek before pulling away, sitting on the edge of the bed and
gripping the sides.

Rogue slipped in, and Cordelia caught her own peculiar sense of
emotions - Weird.

The woman with the streak in her hair was out of sorts, and what
Cordelia was filtering was ... Cordelia's eyes flew to Angel, but he
squeezed her hand.

"How are you?"

She swallowed, blinked, and shook her head. There wasn't time for
that. "What the hell happened down there?"

Rogue shifted, and Logan frowned, while Angel licked his lips
slightly, but Jean simply answered,

"We were attacked by a group of mutants and demons - from what I can
gather from Professor Xavier, Magneto sent them."

That didn't make sense.

"Why would Buffy work for that guy?"

Again the glances were passed around and Cordelia felt her own
irritation overwhelm the other emotions. "Can we STOP with the let's be
delicate around Cordelia looks? I need to know."

"That wasn't Buffy," Angel said, his voice slightly hoarse. "That
was... someone else."

"A shapeshifter," Rogue said. "Mystique. Bad-Ass and dangerous as

Great. Just... peachy.


Gunn wasn't by nature a neat man. But he liked things ordered, and
uncomplicated. He wasn't a simple man, but he liked things to have
their place. Being thrown out on his ass about certain situations
wasn't something he appreciated, and if there was something that
REALLY pissed him off it was end of the world situations. Especially
when he had NO idea what the HELL WAS GOING ON.

He sat on the chair, watching as Fred and Wesley poured over the
books at the counter, feeling helpless as hell and not knowing a damn
thing to do about it.

"Maybe I should check outside," he suggested. "See if maybe those
mutant guys have given up yet?"

"Storm created the winds," Wesley said without looking up. "That will
keep them occupied for the time beings."

He sighed. "Check on Cordy?"

"She's fine," Jean said, coming down the stairs, running fingers
through her bangs. "A little disoriented."

Okay - scratch that.

"Maybe I can help Angel-"

"I got it," Rogue said, following Angel down the stairs and to the
weapons closet, both vampire and mutant disappearing as the door


Fred glanced up, gave him a half smile, and he sighed, leaning back
against the chair as he waited.

Damn apocalypse was coming around and he was useless.

The ringing of the phone brought him out of his self pity, and he
jumped to get it, answering it with a hurried hello before even
remembering about the whole stupid slogan.

"Hello- Uh... I mean - Angel -"


Immediately his tone changed, straightening and recognizing the voice


His old friend sounded worried, in the background was the sounds of
crying, shouting... chaos.

"You busy?"

Fred looked up, and Gunn's eyes immediately met with hers. The
concern in the brown orbs was evident, as she listened intently to his
side of the conversation.

"I'm... what's going on?"

"Oh you know... END OF THE FUCKING WORLD! We could use some help
here, dog!"

Shit. The lump in his throat quelched the automatic words, "I'll be
right there," as once again his eyes caught Fred's. "I... dude I.."

Fred's eyes widened, and before he could say another word she plucked
the phone from his hands and began speaking into it.

"Where are you?"

"FRED!" She was really damn good at keeping him away from the phone.
Even with his flexibility, she still managed to keep away from his
searching hands.

"He'll be there in five minutes." She hung up, and he found they had
ended up in the darkened corner of Wesley's office, as she put the
phone in its cradle, looking up at him as he kept her against the wall.

His hands had slipped to her waist involuntarily, but he swallowed,
and smiled, and kept them there, letting the irritation only go so far
he pulled the phone out of her hands, bringing her closer to him in
the process.

"I can't leave you, Fred," he whispered, his voice low, making sure
the group on the other side of the room couldn't hear. "It ain't an
option so just get used to it."

"Why not?" she answered back, her dark eyes searching his. "You've
had no problem with it before."

"That was different."


"I don't know."

"They need you. They're on Wilshire and 6th."

They did need him. Gunn closed his eyes, sighing, and his body froze
when a gentle hand caressed his cheek, a soft pad of a thumb
lining his lips as a warm mouth pressed against his neck and he heard
in a breathy whisper, "I'll be fine. They need you."

His eyes opened, hands keeping her close in an embrace as he studied
her face.

"And what about you, Fred?"

She wasn't sure how to answer that, he could see it in her eyes, the
way she hesitated, and he almost cursed the way his heart gave
him away with it's loud, audible, skip of a beat.

"I know you'll be back."

Her answer wasn't nearly good enough, but there was a faith there
that hadn't been there before, and he still smiled, still traced the
of her lips with a finger before nodding.

"I'm coming right back, Fred. I don't have a choice."


Leave it to crazy old Fred to want to know the reason behind it all.
"Destiny and some other shit."

His answer wasn't nearly good enough, and Gunn felt they were oddly
even. She just smiled and shrugged, not comprehending.

But her mouth tilted up, meeting his with a breathy sigh as he gently
kissed her, pulling her closer to him in a seal of a promise.

When he released her, her eyes were shining, and he strongly
suspected his own weren't exactly dull.

"I'll be back," he promised.

She pushed her glasses back up the bridge of her nose, looking mousy
and cute and so completely Fred.

"I know you will."

He stepped backwards, picked up the ax, and went to let Wesley know
exactly where he was going.

He didn't look at Fred again.

He knew he didn't have to.


Research was often underrated, this Wesley knew well. Not many people
quite understood the tedium, the strain on your eyes and your
back, the paper cuts that hurt awfully, the long hours of sitting
staring at texts that were barely even legible, and often in a language
you barely understood.

It took a person of infinite patience to be able to unravel the
clues, to think in a way that caused the `eureka' that he knew they all
waited for.

But even he was stumped.

A prophecy that began with something called First Night was
incredibly vague, and the only factors he had to go on : an eclipse, and
chaos roaming free, weren't exactly particular to one thing.

Jean had long ago fallen asleep, curled onto the sofa that remained
in the lobby.

Fred, who was agitated about Gunn's whereabouts, had called him yet
again, from the other line where she felt she could have some

Wesley wondered about that. He knew that when cut off from their
family, two people were bound to get a trifle closer, but Wesley was
unsure exactly how close Fred and Gunn got.

It was something to consider, and at the thought, Wesley felt a
slight pang in his chest. He and Cordelia had been friends, close
on the brink of something more when a very bad kiss and yet another
coming apocalypse had put an end to that relationship.

When he had met up with again, this time in Los Angeles, she had
already become great friends with Angel, bonded by the loss of their
mutual friend, Doyle.

When Angel left them, Wesley had been the rock that Cordelia and Gunn
had both clung to, and he had found a friendship with the
renegade leader that had been both surprising and rewarding.

Gunn was his closest friend, his confidante, and although he knew he
carried a special place in Cordelia's heart, it was Angel she turned
to, Angel she loved.

The inclusion of Fred in their group had shaken, stirred the group
slightly, but he hadn't minded. They were very good friends, like minded
when it came to academic pursuits, and he knew that Cordelia had
often expected something to pop up between the two of them.

On the subject, Gunn had always been remarkably quiet, and now,
viewing Fred's obvious agitation for Gunn, something he felt as well,
he wasn't quite sure why he felt the jealousy – or who it was
directed toward.

Footsteps on the staircase made him look up, and he breathed a sigh
of relief when Ororo Munroe descended the stairs, looking tired,
and weary.

Immediately he stood, walking over to her and helping her, as she
offered her thanks with a gracious smile, utterly exhausted as she
leaned on him, wincing slightly from a wound on her shoulder.

"I take it wasn't exactly a picnic?"

"Oh it was marvelous fun," she quipped back, quiet when she saw
Jean's still form. "Any luck on the research?"

"None whatsoever. And Scott?"

"With the plane." He nodded, sat beside her as she gently moved her
wounded shoulder, looking down at it with a grimace. "That will hurt

He nodded, and immediately reached for her sweater, helping her shrug
it off, before grabbing the first aid kit he kept handy behind the

"Jean has been awake for some time," she remarked with a nod in the
sleeping telepath's direction. "I doubt she has had a good night's
sleep since last week."

Wesley nodded, taking in a breath at the bloody wound marring the
graceful shoulder, before shaking his head, moving his fingers over it,
frowning when she gave an indrawn hiss.

He cocked an eyebrow. "You hold off mutants and vampires for the
better part of two hours and this is painful?"

Her eyes shot to his and they twinkled slightly in challenge when she
responded evenly, "Perhaps you could do better?"

He conceded, holding his gaze until he realized his hand was still
stroking her shoulder, long after it had been bandaged, and perhaps
that was not altogether appropriate.

"Any luck on the research?" Fred asked, coming in, settling beside
them as Wesley jerked his hand away and moved to his side of the

"Unfortunately no. Blasted bloody chaos out there that we should be
stopping and Angel is holed up in the weapons closet with Rogue,
Cordelia is under empathic attack, and we haven't the first clue what
is bloody going on!" He finished the emphatic exclamation with a
thump on the counter, the dust rising and settling back down, coming
close to their surprised faces.

"Perhaps this might help," Ororo said, holding up a book she had
carried in with her.

"Wait… is that the…" Jean gently moved off the couch, coming forward,
rubbing at her arms in a sleepy manner. She took the book
thoughtfully, staring at the cover. "This is the book that got
delivered by accident."

"I thought so too," Storm said, "But after the recent turn of events
I took a second look." Gently, she took the book back and turned to
the middle of the pages, opening them and finding a highlighted
passage. "Look familiar?"

Words written in a scrawl that was neat and small – easily missed in
the black pen on the faded yellow pages.

Wesley took it, pushing his glasses further up the bridge of his nose
as he stood.

"I've never seen this book before. It's rather… old." Carefully, he
turned the pages over and skimmed. "Written in Sanskrit."

Jean gave Ororo a glance, as Fred stood with him, moving to behind
his shoulder to gaze at the pages.

"Apparently your friend left you a present," she said, after
glancing, "And a note written in German."

"Anyone here know German?"

"I do." Storm gave Wesley a smile as he began to read immediately,
one that faded into her face as he continued to read, and translate.
"Contrary to what you might think, I have always believed in fair
play, and I do have a heart. I believe strongly in destiny, old
friend, and
I believe, consequently so do you, so with that mentality I give you
your only chance to stop what is by now most likely completely in
motion. It is not much to go on, that is true, but if you can stop it
– then perhaps you were right all along.

"I trust to see you soon, Charles, and the children you have deluded
into believing the world will completely accept them. There is far
less danger in this world – than what is capable with hate. Perhaps,
in their meandering to save a planet that will never be their's, they
will learn that. Erik."

Jean looked away, Ororo showed no expression at all, but Wesley did
not dare speak after reading the obviously personal notes.

Only Fred, who pried the book from him, deigned to break the silence,
eyes squinted in concentration as she read over the passage next
to what he had written.

"First Night, right here guys," she chirped, leaning over the text,
making Ororo and Jean come over, almost grateful for her intrusion.

It took a second, and her words were halting as she struggled to make
it out, her Sanskrit passable at best, but Wesley helped her, and
they pieced it out.

Chaos Reigns on the First Night 
As the demon engulfs 
And the watchful become blind

Night will be as day 
Day will last forever 
Until the demon consumes many 
And the animals are tamed 
May the soul reign forever

And may the pain engulf all 
As all becomes equal 
And the demon reigns free


Cordelia stood next to the window, leaning against the frame, letting
the lights of the fires that burned in Los Angeles sparkle their
reflection in her eyes.

Behind her, Logan was processing what she had said, and she could
feel his uneasiness, the utter denial, before the acceptance that
almost bordered on panic.

But his voice, gruff and rough and every bit abrasive as she expected
it to be, told nothing of the panic she knew he was enduring.

"Are you afraid?"

"Of what? Angel going killer again? Mystique knowing personal stuff
she couldn't have possibly known? The end of the world?"

"Take your pick."

"I'm a lot of things," she said finally, never looking at him as she
answered. "But being scared shitless is definitely in the top ten." She
kept her eyes on the window, on the dark, black chaos, on the mass
that was floating around, the evil so tangible, and it was seeping
into her soul. It made her want to run, to fly outside and do
whatever it took to stop the chaos, stop the fear, stop the panic
before it
drove her nuts.

But there was nothing she could do, because although the impending
doom was written in her heart, there was no action, no plan. There
was nothing because all they knew was the end result – not the map or
how to get there.

Logan, the feral man with the claws, and the pain that never seemed
to quite go away in his heart, was silent behind her.

She took the silence as an invitation to talk, and finally did,
letting the emotions speak for her, guiding her words. "I've been
living a life
like a nun because I've been afraid of Angel's demon. I've seen
Angelus, he's touched me, and it's nothing like Angel. It's dark and
sinister and there's evil in the eyes , and he scares the hell out of
me. My whole life it seems, I've been scared of a bastard that lives in
the body of my best friend and I'm TIRED of being afraid, Logan. I'm
tired of waiting and hoping and wanting, and sacrificing, because no
matter WHAT THE FUCK I DO, it's never enough. He's gonna lose it

Her body was trembling as her words finished, and the tears slipped
before she had a chance to reign them in, and once one started the
multitude followed and Cordelia Chase sobbed, falling against the
wall as her arms wrapped around herself, barring herself from the world.

Hands pulled her away from the window, and suddenly she was leaning
against something warm, soft, and firm, and there was an
embrace that was curiously human in the form of a mutant.

She closed her eyes, buried her face in his neck and clung to him,
shuddering as she wept, keeping him close to her as he stroked her
back, and the warmth she received, the very real comfort, extended to
her in waves.

He didn't say anything, he didn't have to, it was in his touch and in
his eyes, as she pulled back, and he, almost reluctantly, let her, as
her heart beat slightly harder, and her breathing was a little raspy,
and when his dark, intense eyes met hers, she forced herself to

Suddenly the hug wasn't safe anymore, and she pulled back, the blush
tingeing her cheeks as she crossed her arms, stepping back, out
of his embrace.

He didn't say anything, and the silence was beginning to unnerve her,
before he adjusted the denim jacket and took her hand, pulling her
toward the door.

"Let's go find Angel and Rogue."

Damn, she couldn't think of a better idea.


Rogue had been more than her share of trouble at the mansion. Even
before she developed her first mutation, she had been known as
sassy, witty, clever.

Her mother often called her trouble in the form of a Southern Belle,
and for the longest time, little Marie had believed her.

Years later, the Southern Belle had taken on the role with gusto, but
she wasn't quite sure if she believed that was who she was

Rogue knew that she possessed talents to weave men around her finger,
she had done it often enough, for all the wrong reasons.

And now, thinking of life's bitter irony, all she could understand
and think about was that there was a man in the room with her that she
was achingly aware of, a man who had pressed fingers against her body
and it wasn't Logan.

There was an odd sense of irony in it.

She was silent, mind processing his movements, the hauntingly
handsome vampire methodically choosing the weapons, bringing them
down, handing them to her to polish.

She held the rag in her hand, giving them a good wipe, but they
hadn't said a word and she knew it would probably be better if she
never said anything at all - there was too many complications
surrounding this.

But he touched her.

"Why?" she finally asked, her drawl thicker, raspier when she saw him
freeze, his back turned to her as she watched him with the dark
eyes that were so focused on him.

He knew what question she was asking, she didn't have to elaborate.

"I'm... dead. Technically." He turned, and her heart caught in her
throat when suddenly a demonic face that was hideously disfigured
presented itself on Angel's previously angelic face. "I may look
human. But I'm not."

She wasn't sure what exactly he was trying to do with that.
Intimidate her, perhaps? Maybe he knew what she was thinking, maybe he
was trying to second guess something that was incredibly tempting,
even while their prospective lovers were on the next floor.

Contact... no strings attached.

She pushed away the traitorous thoughts, shuddering slightly before
breaking the gaze and looking down at her weapons. "You may not
act human, sugar," she drawled, finally regaining her composure,
meeting his eyes again with sparkling brilliance in her own orbs. "But
act more like one than a lot of 'em Ah've met."

He paused, the demonic face faded away and he leaned forward, placing
an ax in her hands, her face inches from his as he studied her.

"Humanizing influence can do that to you."

She grinned. "Touché."

He nodded, stepping away, and she continued to watch the tall,
hulking form.

Different from Logan... Different from her...


"You ache for that contact, don't you?" she whispered, and he froze
again. "In your mind, your body, just an animal instinct that cries
out inside of you... the need to touch, to be touched-"

He growled slightly and jerked his head, a warning sign.

"I'm not hitting on you, sugar," she said, but she wasn't sure if
that was a lie and neither was he, as she slipped off the desk,
letting the
weapons fall to the grounds. "I know how you feel. When I touched
you... You reacted-"

He growled again, louder, harder, on the edge of his patience, and he
startled her when he gripped her elbows, pushing her back against
the weapons with loud thud, making her wince slightly.


It was almost a plead. He was almost begging her, and her eyes closed
and the moisture came. "Dammit, Angel. I wish I could stop. Ah
wish I could stop..." but her hands still fumbled, the gloves still
came off.

He wasn't Logan. She wasn't Cordelia.

But it was touch. It was the basest of instincts and she could have
it with him.

And he wanted it, even as her bare hand floated to his face, even as
the growling grew louder and more violent, he didn't stop her, just
gripped her body tighter and closed his eyes.

Her breath was so constricted as she placed her fingers gently on the
cold skin, and her body reacted with warmth when he let out a
low moan.

He jerked, and his hand caught hers and held it away from the
sensitized fleshed, and her attention was now on the digits, the rough
fingers that felt so different without the gloves.

Her fingers tangled in his, and it was SKIN and it was TOUCH and God
how had she lived for so long without feeling the satin smoothness
of it, the warmth and life pulsing beneath and it wasn't Logan and GOD-

She swallowed, hard, looking up at him, and his face was agonized and
there was no perfect happiness there-

But there was contact.

There was attraction.

There was need.

The fingers fell and her hand slipped about his neck, pulling his
face forward, closer to hers.

She should have heard the door, he should have heard the door.

The blood pounding furiously in her ears must have been the reason,
when the door opened and they didn't pull away fast enough -

And Cordelia and Logan walked into the room.


The punch came out of nowhere. Gunn winced, stumbling back, landing
on his ass as immediately trying to backpedal from the cop and
the baton and his swinging hand.

"Let's GO!"

He felt a pull on the collar of his jacket and it gave him the help
he needed to get on his feet and turn, following his fellow fighters
from the blue uniformed officers, into the dark alley.

Joel was bleeding from a cut on his face. Little Tommy was holding
his hand, and he was limping.

"Let's go," he ordered, and they continued to move.

They walked hastily, and Gunn was thankful the bulk of the rioters
had kept the panicked officers from following them further into the
alleys of downtown.

Of course that was leading them RIGHT into more mutants and demons
and wasn't THAT a hell of a lot of fun?

He turned the corner, helping Tommy as they jogged to the place that
they had all considered a refuge at one time or another.

He swallowed and faltered to a stop as soon as he saw it.


Anne, the blonde who ran the runaway shelter, looked close to tears.
Immediately her head whipped around, away from the destruction
that had once been her home.


The blonde young woman flew into his arms, sobbing into his chest as
he tried to get out exactly WHAT his normally sane friend was
trying to say.

"I... they just came in... they... it's all GONE, GUNN."

He pursed his lips, embracing her as he looked up at the shelter, the
kids that were watching the flames with astounded expressions of

"All right Anne," he whispered. "It's gonna be all right."

"It's NOT, Gunn. Where will these kids go?"

Police sirens in the darkness. Cries and echoes of pain. Kids crying.

He thought, and took a breath, and prayed Angel would agree.

"With me. Come on." Anne looked surprised but he only moved with her,
pushing her and Joel to the front. 'LET'S GO!" he yelled to the
teenagers, waving toward them.

A few looked suspicious, but the majority followed, walking with him
as he urged them on, looking up at the darkened night and Dammit
this night was getting long.

He needed to get back to his friends.

He closed his eyes and took a breath and grabbed Anne by the
shoulders. "You go to Angel's hotel, you got it? Go to the Hyperion and
tell them that I sent you."

Anne looked ready to argue, but when Gunn shook his head, she finally

He knew she knew there was no other choice.

"The other kids-"

"I'll get them. Just go. Get outta the streets. Take the kids with
you, and Joel," he turned, eyeing his friend. "Make sure they get

"Hey, man. We're not abandoning our crib like you did."

He whirled, and Joel was rightly surprised when a flying fist made
him land sprawled back on the hard concrete.

"You get your ass over there, and protect these kids and the team, or
there ain't gonna BE a crib to come back to."

It was what Joel needed. He didn't look happy, but he obeyed, taking
Anne by the elbow and calling out to the other kids.

Gunn watched them go, and grabbed his ax, taking a breath and running
the other direction, away from home, away from his family,
away from Fred.

He'd go back soon enough.


The incessant singing was going to drive him mad.

Being in the damned plastic bowl was almost better than listening to
the half mad vampiress who sung to herself and swung the blasted
doll around and around.


He waited, in his chair, feeling curiously out of control as he
watched the blonde interact with Mystique, now in her token form.

Darla was not to be trusted. She was a means to an end.

Mystique apparently had not been there for the memo.

They spoke in low whispers, and he watched, with clenched fists,
until finally the patience got the better of him, and a finger twitched
and the metal snapped, making them turn their attention to him.

"If it wouldn't be too much trouble," he began through hissed tones.
"Perhaps you might want to fill ME in?"

Mystique smiled, and he was only slightly appeased when she settled
in his lap, fingers sliding idly through the white strands of his hair,
tickling his scalp.

Darla grinned, but she looked more amused than anything as she leaned
against the machine.

"Nothing you would know about, my darling mutant," she said, tilting
her head with fluid grace. "Magic isn't exactly your department."

He stiffened underneath Mystique's body, but she held him down, her
fingers continuing their constant stroking.

"It's a means to an end," she whispered, slow, almost a purr in his

"I have my qualms," he announced.

Drusilla laughed, and came forward, leaning forward almost like a
panther, pointing two fingers in his direction while Darla watched in

"Metal man has qualms," she whispered. "Mrrowrrr. Bad Metal Man.
Doesn't like to play."

He glared at her, hands on Mystique's hips to get her off his lap,
but she stayed, tongue flicking out to lick his earlobe as she watched
Drusilla with a smile on her face.

"Amusing. Danger in the form of a kitten."

Danger in the form of a kitten? Erik turned, eyeing Mystique, but her
eyes were on Darla, who finally turned away.

His eyes floated to the machine that was waiting. Dormant,
glistening, waiting to be brought to life, to change the course of

"I do not take death lightly."

That earned him another chuckled from Drusilla, as Darla froze
slightly, and whipped around a pleased smile on her face.

"Good. Neither do we. Death means life to us."

He pushed up, getting Mystique off his lap finally and walking toward
the Blonde Shedevil. "You and I are not the same. We are doing this
plan my way."

Darla's face froze, and the deadliness of her countenance was never
more apparent than in the cold stare.

"My dear Eric. How deluded you are."

"Pretty seer's blood - like a poem..." Drusilla held a flask of
blood, and she sniffed it, tilting it back.

Darla's eyes widened, and she strode forward. "Give me THAT!" She
snatched it away, sloshing some of the red liquid onto her hand.
With a roll of her eyes she proclaimed, "Can't take her anywhere
these days."

Magneto crossed his arms, regarding her. "And this machine. You've
made the modifications? It will not kill everyone?"

Darla's eyes widened slightly, and she paused. "Now I never said
that." When he opened his mouth again she just sighed, slapping him on
the arm. "Relax, Metal Boy. They no longer matter."

"Those who carry the gene-"

"Will be mutated. Those who don't... It doesn't matter, does it?"

They didn't. Erik knew that.

But mass murder still did not sit well.

The time in jail had not helped, because Charles and his stupid
visits had managed to drill something in Erik's thick head.

Was he any better than the men who killed his family?

But he didn't a word as Mystique moved past him, watching in
fascination as Darla licked the seer's blood off of her hand, saying a
words in a language he didn't quite understand, before dropping the
remaining blood into the chute - their own modification - the magic
he was so weary of.

And Mystique smiled, when Drusilla wrapped her arms around her blue
body and danced around her, when Darla clasped her hand and
kissed the scaly cheek.

He was losing control.

He knew it.

The loyalty was failing. He didn't care.

Darla and Drusilla would outlive their usefulness soon enough. Then
he would have his control back.

It was a means to an end.

And he would see it through.

~ Chapter Eleven ~

I'm so scared that the way that I feel 
is written all over my face
When you walk into the room
I wanna find a hiding place

We used to laugh, we used to hug
the way that old friends do
But now a smile, a touch of your hand
just makes me come unglued

It's such a contradiction
Do I lie or tell the truth? 
Is it fact or fiction?
Oh, the way I feel for you

Is so complicated
I'm so frustrated
I wanna hold you close, I wanna push you away
I wanna make you go, I wanna make you stay

Should I say it? Should I tell you how I feel? 
Oh, I want you to know, But then again I don't 
It's so complicated


It took one second to process everything that was in front of him.

It took another second to come to the decisiont hat Angel was a dead

It took one more second to find a stake.

He heard the whisper next to him, a small "No," that he would have
barely glanced at, had he not smelled the whiff of panic that
accompanied the trembling voice.

Angel had moved immediately, but Logan was quicker, moving under and
letting Cordelia's quaking body fall into his waiting arms,
gathering her up as she thrashed, waiting and growling slightly as
Rogue and Angel moved forward.

The smell of arousal, of physical desire was leaving Rogue, but it
had done it's damage.

His mind was flashing with dark anger, with anger and blood and hate
and it was all directed at the vampire.

Rogue knew it, as he gathered Cordelia to him, eyes narrowed at her,
as her face constricted and there was the guilt and the pain
before the Rogue in her stifled it out of her face, locking it away,
hiding her true personality from even him.

Shit. He fucking hated that she did that. Barred herself from him and
she never did that unless there was something really wrong, and it
made the anger and hate that much harder.


"Leave her the fuck alone," Logan hissed, coming to his haunches as
he kept her to him like a wounded animal fighting for a last bite.

He focused completely on her, fingers padding her cheeks. She took a
breath as whatever hit her went away, and he was glad when her
fingers tightened around his, when her forehead leaned against his

It was something to focus on, something to distract him from what he
had just seen.

"Oh, God," she whispered raggedly, fingers tightening on his lapels
as her eyes opened and focused brilliantly on him.

In Logan's world, a desperate universe formed to help his anger, the
helplessness that filtered through him, there was only him and her,
and so he did not appreciate it very much when she whispered with
that soft lilting voice, "Angel?"

"I'm right here, Cordy." In came the voice of the vampire, and the
low growl nearly matched his own as Angel attempted to get to the

Her hazel eyes pinned him, and for some reason Angel faltered, his
hands suddenly pausing in thin air before he swallowed, pulling back.

"Help me," she whispered to Logan, and he immediately nodded, not
watching, but feeling Rogue's presence. He could almost see her
form, the arms wrapped around her body like a little girl who knew
she did something wrong but wasn't quite ready to take punishment
for her actions.

She had developed the tendency to lash out from him, he suspected,
but did not comment, did not say anything to the woman in all
black who was watching him with the old eyes so full of pain.

He didn't concentrate on the raw and bitter pain at what he could not
have - the way the vampire had touched Rogue - something he
had been dreaming about for months.

He held Cordelia and kept a bare hand on her light blonde strands,
stroking softly as she took in a breath, and he knew she felt it, and
saw her wince slightly when she looked at him. He pushed it down, and
she smiled gratefully after a minute, before turning to THEM.

She regarded them for one minute, saw Angel's hunched form, looking
at her for any indication she was okay, then to Rogue, who was
leaning against the wall, with that look on her face, the half smirk
that made everyone who didn't know better think she was a heartless
bitch and made her real friends ache inside. He blithely wondered
which perception Cordelia would feel.

The two woman exchanged long glares.

But the hazel eyes softened, before they closed, and the woman in his
arms took a long, haggard breath before she answered the
unspoken question with, "You're not fooling anyone, Streaks."

Rogue's uncaring face faded. She blinked as Cordelia's grip tightened
on Logan's arm, and she broke the silence with an even, civil,
"Come on. We need to meet with the others."

With Logan supporting her, she turned, and the two left behind
followed into the lobby.


Remy LeBeau was not by nature a patient man.

He was never the type to take orders, come to think of it, so it was
not a secret that this particular mission, the 'sit on your ass and
wait' mission, was not sitting particularly well with him.

He waited, however unwillingly, on the wall, the cigarette dangling
from his fingers before he lifted them to his mouth and took a long
drag, letting the nicotine work it's way through his system.

After a moment he studied the burning edge, before letting it fall
into the snow, hearing the satisfying hiss as it burnt itself out. Storm
hated smoking. The little nimble goddess was ever the advocate of
anti smoking commercials, and Gambit had been the subject of more
than one lecture on his penchant for it, despite the fact that Jean
and Rogue both never minded taking an occasional smoking break with
him, provided Storm wasn't looking.

Even Logan was known for snuffing out the damn smelly cigar of his
when Storm walked into the room, and it had become a rather fun
game Gambit had learned to play, teasing Logan about his fear of the
anti-smoking Storm.

For some reason, it wasn't quite funny anymore.

Remy was a self professed bastard, he had learned not to take
anything seriously, his life on the streets had branded him a
different way
than it had branded the delicate soul of the Wind Goddess. It had
seemed natural to start a friendship with her, something not based on
sex, but on past experience, because she knew what it was like, she
had been there, where he had -they had shared secrets of
thievery, tricks of the trade that would make the student's jaw drop
if they knew.

It was precious, his friendship with his Goddess.

Sex was not something he should have done with her - because sex
always changed things.

He had never seen her as perfect, there were small, insignificant
things that made her human, things no one else saw because no one
took the time to look.

Her intense claustrophobia. Her fear of humans. Her outrageous
temper. The way she bit her nails.

How she cried at the end of the silly dog movie Jubilation made them

The silver lining that he saw, appreciated, and never considered as a
complete turn on until she turned up at his door, sad and alone and
longing for a connection.

He had given it to her, and when her face, blissful and full of
rapture, had leaned up and the fingers grazed his lips and the white
focused on him, she had whispered three words that had gone through

"I love you."

He could still hear it, could still feel the way it had gone through
his body, making it shake, and it had been the best damn orgasm of his

It had been in the morning, when he had woken up and pulled her close
that the fear had started.

She had seen the doubt, and he saw the way she had pushed the
feelings away before they had settled on it being a mistake - one
night of sex that was just that - words said in the moment.

But Gambit had never been haunted by a one night stand the way his
night with the Goddess haunted him now, and he never felt so
helplessly out of control as when the wimpy Englishman with the
stupid accent that was even more annoying than everyone said his was
strode in with his stupid sensitivity and book knowledge and wrapped
his little Goddess around his little finger.

Gambit was never a coward. He was never a man to run away from things
and for this he was pissed even more than usual.

Because he couldn't even tell her that he loved her.

Because his part of the plan was 'sit on his ass and wait' while
Professor X came up with anything to help the team on this side.

He reached into his pocket for another cigarette, mind whirling as he
knew that nine thousand miles away, Storm was smiling at another
man, and there was nothing he could fucking do.


Charles Gunn was a man of action.

He was not a coward.

He was a leader, but it had been so damn long since he had so many
people trusting on HIM, not Wesley or Angel, but HIM, and he was
plagued with doubts.

His mind whirled as he longed for the concentration, for the complete
faith that he had in himself before he had handed the reigns of
leadership to the older and the not so wiser, before he gave his
faith to a group of do-gooders that were sometimes worse off than he

The boys with him trusted him completely, and it cut him like a knife
when he saw them scramble from the vampires, look to him for any
inkling what to do.

And Fred whispered in his thoughts.

"I know you'll come back."

"GUNN!" He took in a breath and the ax swung and the vampire was
beheaded, before he ducked, feeling the pain when another swung
into his kidneys. He stumbled back, the wall blocking his fall quite

"Come ON!" he yelled, struggling with the minion, moving his head
emphatically to the direction of his truck, and the remnants who
weren't trying their damnedest not to get eaten began to help those
who were. He kicked up and hard, pushing the vampire back and
swinging with his now not-so-shiny ax onto the vampire's neck,
blinding him slightly when the dust that followed flew into his face.

He brushed it away frantically, and brought up the rear, as the crew
began to pile into the truck. He heard it start, and jumped onto the
side, hanging on as the darkness seemed to overwhelm him, and more
creatures came at him, pulling at his legs.


His eyes caught the tower to his right, and his eyes looked up and up
and up.

What he saw made him gasp.

Before something jerked at his legs and he lost his grip, flailing
back and landing on the cement with a hard thud.

The last thing he saw before his eyes closed was the building.


Storm's fingers gently rolled the white cigarette, her dark eyes
watched as it gently came apart in her hands. The freed tobacco floated
down to the ground, and the moment seemed to have special meaning
only to her.

It made her heart ache, the way the cigarette crumbled away, so
fragile in it's own sense but so powerful in it's complete domination
over people in general.

In a way, she understood people's reliance on something so small, so
seemingly trivial. The way it seeped into one's soul, the simple act
of taking a white innocent stick and lighting it, watching it burn,
the intoxicating scent, and the way the drug flowed through.

One almost always forgot how disgusting the first whiff really was,
how the first drag made one choke and snort and cough.

She smiled lightly, dropping it on the ground. Remy loved them.

It had always been a point of contention between them, and for the
most part, she had learned to ignore it.

Lately she had wondered why on earth she did. Los Angeles would have
been a much needed vacation from the heartache that was
Remy LeBeau.

Everyone had a choice, and love was blind - but if this truly was
love, then why was she feeling...

"You look like you're having deep thoughts."

Storm smiled at the voice behind her, turning her head and looking to
Jean, who looked tired and weary, but in her ever perceptive
state, managed to see the cigarette destroyed on the ground.

"Damn. I would have asked for that."

Storm chuckled, turning back to find her laughter fading at the city
before them. "Finding yourself as useless as me?"

Jean nodded, coming forward and sitting next to her. "Those two are
pouring through those pages so quickly *I* feel like an idiot. And
I'm worried about Scott."

"He's fine," she answered automatically. "I made sure before I came
back here."

"I know you would have. Thank you."

"I should have gone with that Gunn fellow."

"I think there's not much you could have done out there."

There was silence, and then Jean, never one to beat around the bush,
remarked casually, "I notice you're getting along quite well with
the Englishman."

Storm shrugged. "He's human."


Storm turned, eyeing her friend. "You must have noticed my lack of
trust for that kind in general."

Jean returned her gaze with a frank look in the beautiful brown eyes.
"Yes, I have. And I think that he might work wonders for restoring
your ebbing faith in humanity. We can't fight for what we don't
believe in, Ororo." She slid her hand in the crook of Ororo's elbow,
her head against her friend's shoulder before adding, "The indecision
is coming off of you in waves, Storm."

"I know."

Jean didn't have to say anything else, and Ororo was glad. She moved,
leaning her head against Jean's, thankful for the companionship,
only to be interrupted with Rogue's raspy voice behind them.


Both ladies lifted their heads, looking back to regard their young

Rogue looked odd, not her usual confident self as she stepped forward
hesitantly. "Ah think you should come down here."

Hmm. Another clue. Rogue's accent was unusually thick.

"It's about time we suited up," Jean agreed, getting up as Storm
proceeded to do the same.

"Well... yeah that. And umm... Cordelia's saying something about us
having to HELP Magneto."


Fred was never quite good at keeping her mouth shut. Call it a rehash
from Pylea, where she had spent so much time alone that she had
been left starved for a kind human voice, but she always felt the
need to interject her own opinion, even if they directly conflicted with
the norm.

Cordelia had often been driven crazy with this somewhat more
innocence taste of her own medicine, but she had learned to take it.

The others just would keep their mouths shut and not comment.

At this point, Fred was feeling dreadfully out of her element.

And for once, she kept her mouth shut. Her chest was tightened, so
taught that she forgot to breathe once or twice, as her eyes kept
flickering toward the closed doors, almost as if by looking at them
long enough she could will Gunn coming through them.

Her attention was divided, as she waited for Gunn and watched as her
old friends and her new friends all banded together in doubting
Cordelia, which aggravated her slightly. Cordelia was never fickle,
and if it was one thing she took seriously, it was the visions of hers.
There was simply no other way of looking at them. And if Cordelia
said they had to help the big old psycho Magneto, then Fred was more
than willing to back her up.

Just as soon as Gunn got back.

So she kept her mind trained on the conversation, and her eyes
trained at the door, and she waited and listened.

"Look, I know you guys think I'm nuts - but the damn vision-"

"Cordelia, we're just saying that maybe you interpreted it wrong."

Fred turned her attention back to watch as Cordelia glared at Angel
with such animosity, he shut up immediately.

The guy who kept smoking that stupid cigar - Logan - just stuck the
big brown thing in his mouth and chewed on it, shooting as much
venom in his glare at Angel as Cordelia, and Fred blatantly wondered
if she had missed something.

"I know what I saw."

"What did you see, Cordelia?" The voice that broke through was Rogue,
coming forward and sitting across from her as the others cast
fitful glances at each other.

Again, Fred was a trifle bit confused, but Cordelia only stared at
her evenly and said in an oddly even tone, "You want the truth? Fine."

Cordelia slammed her hand on the table, grabbing the book that they
had all been pouring over and jerking it open, hands shaking slightly
as she flipped through the pages.

"This damn First Night that we're all talking about? This First Night
that's happening RIGHT NOW and we're doing SHIT to stop? We ARE
causing it. We're gonna bring it down. Me, you, Angel and Logan.
We're the cause. There's a reason you're in the damn vision Rogue, and
frankly I'm starting to wonder if I didn't misinterpret the first
time and maybe YOU'RE the one I had to stop."

Fred's jaw dropped slightly. OUCH. Rogue immediately launched up, but
Jean and Wesley had gotten there first, coming between the two

"Woah, wait. Cordelia you didn't mean that."

Cordelia sighed, and her eyes locked with Fred, and when her friend
gave her a black expression she only sighed, burying her fingers in
her bangs. "I don't know what I mean anymore. Look. It doesn't even
matter, because you guys don't believe me."

Rogue closed her eyes, clamping down at the table, looking just as
tired and just as frustrated.

"That's not true, Cordelia." It was Logan that spoke up, from his
side of the room, and Fred blithely wondered why Angel didn't do more
to reassure Cordelia. He acted like he was almost afraid of her, and
that wasn't what Cordy needed right now.

With a sigh, she came forward, sliding down next to Cordelia and
pressing a hand on her back, squeezing her shoulder.

"I believe you," she whispered.

One hazel eye opened and studied her, and suddenly Cordelia smiled,
and leaned forward, and rested her head on Fred's shoulder.

"That's cause you rock above all else, Fred," she answered, winking
slightly. With that, she turned to the rest of the group, and was
quiet for one minute, her eyes resting on Angel. Fred's eyes
followed, and again Angel watched her with that beseeching look, but
no move to come forward.

Cordelia closed her eyes and trembled slightly and Fred caught her
before she slipped into her seat, as the guy in denim came up on the
other side of her and kept her elbow firmly in his side.

"Are you okay?" Jean asked.

"Fine... just... it's... too much... the people..." Cordelia looked
toward the doors, where the crowd was growing more and more
rambunctious and loud. "Look, believe me or don't believe me, I know
what's coming, and it's not good." She took in a breath, and finally,
looked toward the stairs. "I gotta get away from here. I'm going up.
Wesley, tell them."

She pushed away Fred and pushed away the guy in denim and again Fred
shot Angel a look that clearly meant to push him to go after

But he STILL didn't move.

What was he? Glued to the seat?

She stood with a frustrated sigh, moving away as Wesley told the
fateful words of the prophecy she had already heard from Cordelia,
turning toward the stairs when the pounding on the door distracted
all of them.


Immediately, she rushed to the door, ignoring Wesley's shout of
warning, and Dammit if Angel didn't have any trouble getting out of the
seat then, and when she heard the familiar voice tinged with fear,
her heart gave and she swung it open, watching as the flood of
teenagers filled the room.

There was chaos for a moment, as the teenagers huddled together and
Jean looked almost scared and then maternal as she started
checking for injuries, asking Wesley and Storm to help her, while
Angel and Logan swung the door closed.

Fred whirled, and her eyes spotted Anne and immediately she caught
her, shaking her shoulders slightly, trying to get the girl to look at

"Anne," she demanded. "Where's Gunn?"

Anne swallowed and looked at her and her gaze gave her the answer
before the words did.

"I don't know."


Well, apparently the chaos wasn't just outside anymore.

Rogue would never admit it to anyone, but she largely suspected that
Ororo and Scott and Jean and especially Logan knew, that humans
scared her to death. Mutants rarely, if ever forgot what would happen
if she touched their skin. There had been too many away
missions, too many deaths and if that hadn't been reminder enough,
the incident that had left her with two new mutations was more
than enough to keep everyone at arms length.

Human's never understood. There was always one in the bunch who
thought they would be the exception, that one person who would
think it was 'cool' and then they'd slip and Rogue would have new
memories to sort out and new bad habits to pick up and there was
NOTHING about some humans she wanted inside of her.

Her mind was too full of shit as it was.

So she stayed away, her mind still reeling with pain and guilt and
fear - the words of Cordelia and the look in Logan's eyes, and Wesley's
prophetic ramblings sticking into her head as the teenagers camped
out in the lobby.

She felt caged, not only in the prison of her own skin, but in the
room, with the humans who were lost and scared, knowing she had
betrayed Logan and had betrayed Cordelia and in a way, had betrayed
Angel and herself, for one lost moment of pleasure.

Perhaps the most damning of it all was the ache she still felt
inside, from the exhilarating touch of skin - and DAMN if Cordelia
gone all out of her element and been UNDERSTANDING about the whole
damn thing.

And she KNEW she had no right to feel the pang inside of her at the
way Logan looked at the Seer, she KNEW she had NO DAMN right to
feel the way she did, but it didn't stop her from sliding off the
bookcase, hopping down and walking to him, stopping his journey to the
steps where Cordelia resided in an upstairs room, with a gloved hand
on his elbow.

"Don't," she said immediately.

He paused, and the look in his eyes made her flinch, pull away,
putting her hands back inside of her pockets where they belonged.

"Someone needs to be with her."

"Then let Angel go."

Logan chuckled, a low, angered chuckle that told Rogue he didn't
think that was the least bit funny, but a rather stupid suggestion and
made her feel damn stupid for suggesting it.

"In case you haven't noticed, ROGUE," he said, enunciating the words
with enough edge to make her swallow. Dammit she hated when
he said her name like that. Like he was throwing back in her face
everything she was and everything she wanted to be and made it all
seem to petty and trivial and stupid. "He hasn't been much help."

She regretted the question almost as soon as she asked it, "This
isn't about what happened is it? Cause, Christ Logan we can talk about
it and I can explain-"

"There's not anything to explain, Rogue." His words were a rough
growl, and she felt her eyes tear and her heart splinter slightly. Shit.
This wasn't what she wanted. She had promised nothing would change,
HE had promised nothing would change and yet here they were,
conversing like strangers, like enemies, with stupid wordplay.

She felt seventeen again, but at seventeen there was more confidence,
even when she first jumped into his camper with frost bitten
fingers and tattered clothes.

Her head cocked, and she knew he could see the emotion in her face,
but he made no comment on it, as she began with the half
whispered, "Logan."

"Don't." The word was edged in hurt, in painful anger, and it clamped
her mouth shut automatically. He shook his head and backed away
from her and immediately just said, "He can touch you, I can't.
That's all you needed to know, right Rogue? Fuck relationships and fuck

"You don't understand."

"Yeah, I do. I'm not a fucking idiot, Rogue."

*God, Stop it. Stop saying my name like it's something vile. Please.
I can't take it from you.*

But he didn't let up, and she knew she deserved it as he spit out her
words right back at him.

"We're just friends, remember Rogue? Nothing changes."

Her chest heaved up and down as she looked around the room, found
everyone involved in some task or another, no one experiencing
the heartbreak she was feeling.

"Logan, that's not true. Everything's changed."

And her brown eyes looked up and locked with his and he stared at
her. He was waiting for something, as her chest heaved, and she
prayed that the look would be enough, that he wouldn't demand the
words even though he deserved them.

"Yeah, it has," he answered, and her heart sunk deep within her as he
moved away from her. "He can touch you, I can't. End of story."

And he jogged up the stairs and away from her, and her eyes watered
and she turned away.

*Asshole. Fuck you Logan. You're the ONLY one who can touch me.*


Angel was severely starting to piss him off, and if Wesley had
exactly one second to spare between assuring Fred ( and in the process
assuring himself) that Gunn was all right despite the dead cell phone
and no one actually knowing where he was, and researching the
prophecy, and worrying about Cordelia and setting up Anne's groups in
a wing of the hotel, then he might have actually TALKED about
what he had just said.

He knew Angel should have been worried about the prophecy that would
have worried him less.

What was pissing him off and, consequently, scaring the hell out of
him, was that Angel didn't seem to care.

Even when the rioters tried to get too close and Jean and Storm had
to fend them off with lightning and telekinetic prowess, once again
on the rooftop, Angel didn't bat an eyelash.

And not once had he ventured anywhere toward Cordelia's room.

All in all, Wesley was quietly thinking that if they happened to live
through all of this, he would give his friend a very complete

Before Angel lost patience and beat him up, that was.

Rioters were openly attacking the hotel. The mutants, now dressed in
the black standard that was their uniform, were instructing the
teenagers that belonged to Anne to help them set up barriers.

Gunn was still nowhere to be found.

Fred, stoic as she was, would have been bordering on hysterics if he
hadn't had her working on the deconstructing the prophecy.

And they were no closer to figuring out a means to stopping the
ending that now seemed inevitable, like a ticking time bomb looming all
over their heads.

Bloody Passions or Days of Our Lives or some other stupid American
Soap Opera, that's what this was.

Hadn't these people see Monty Python?

And now, in Cordelia's vision of all visions, they were NOW being
told they had to HELP the very man that had almost killed Rogue and all
mankind in the process.

Wesley felt lost, angry, conflicted, and stretched far too thin.

A human who was suddenly leading mutants and vampires, and it was
quickly becoming too much.

Because Wesley knew the end was coming, and coming fast.


Jean Grey could tell the news had startled Xavier. She could almost
hear the sigh that she knew must have come out of his mouth as
she held the phone to her ear, the way he was silent told her he was
thinking it through.

Jean knew that no matter what Erik had done, he would always be that
friend to Charles. Blithely she wondered how long it would take
before Charles lost hope in the old friend. It was almost frightening
to see her old mentor, father, friend, take so much hope in a man
who was capable of so much destruction. Magneto had been the chink in
Charles' armor, and she was secretly glad that Charles had
opted not to make himself part of the mission.

Things were fragile enough as it was, and Jean did not want to see
the anger, the sorrow in Charles' eyes the moment he let go. Charles
still wanted to believe in Erik, and this news... as fragile as it
was, could have been the key, another notch in Charles' hope that
Magneto could be saved.

"Professor?" she asked, prompting him to speak, voice his thoughts.
Charles could hold entire conversations with himself if he was
allowed to. His mind was almost unfathomably strong and she knew that
occasionally he needed to be gently brought back to their
plane, reminded of where they stood.

"The Seer is sure?"

"She seems sure enough. But she's endured so much trauma and
naturally everyone has their doubts."

He breathed a heavy sigh, and she closed her mouth, licking her lips
as she waited.

"The seer has been right before this, Jean. Trust her instincts, to a

The statement did nothing to assuage her confliction, but she nodded
dutifully. "Yes, Charles."

He waited, and finally he said something that made her heart skip a
beat slightly. "Jean, the moment he hurts any one of you, take him
out. You have the power to do it. Do not hesitate."

Her throat went dry and she coughed, almost dropping the phone in

Did Charles just put a HIT out on Magneto?

"Jean do you understand?" His voice was harsh, insistent, almost angry.


"Good." There was a pause, and then, with the slightest hint of tired
warmth, "God speed."

The line clicked, and the dial tone came on, indicating the
connection had been severed.

Jean was left with nothing but a mind full of confused thoughts and a
furiously beating heart.


It took all of her concentration and a hell of a lot of breathing to
keep everything in it's place.

It was hard as hell, and Cordelia, who had pushed back so much, was
tired. It would have been so easy to just let it all go, let it seep
into her mind. But that was something she couldn't afford, not when
she no longer saw everything in black and white.

She saw Logan and she saw Rogue. She felt the anxiety and the guilt
and the doubt and she should have hated Rogue for what she had

Except she understood.

Didn't make her any less pissed off, but it didn't matter.

Nothing seemed to matter anymore.

When the door clicked open and Logan stepped into the room, eyes
searching the room and finding her huddled on the bed, she wasn't

She wasn't sure why there was no surprise, but she just looked at
him, taking in the darkly handsome features, the long hair and the
beard, so Canadian and gruff, intense and feral.

He was dangerous and safe.

Her eyes closed and she waited until he closed the door behind her.

"Are we any closer?"

"Almost. Everyone's mostly suited up. Jean's getting the okay from
the proff. We still don't know how to stop it."

She nodded, barely acknowledging his answer.

"I don't know if I can handle it," she finally whispered, breaking
the silence that followed. "All the fear... all the emotions. It's
inside of me."

There was a pause, and the bed creaked with his weight as he sat
down, a hand on her forehead.

"How come you haven't told anyone?"

She shrugged. "Why didn't Rogue tell anyone she could touch Angel?
Fear. And there's enough going on that if anyone admits something
else it'll be the straw that breaks it."


"Me." He didn't say a word, when her eyes opened, and the moist hazel
bore into his eyes. "Where's Angel?"

He didn't answer for a minute, but when he did, the tone was
strained, tired. "I don't know."

Her eyes closed and she trembled, and then, in a voice that seemed so
very small, she asked, "Logan. I know it's not all big bad and
manly of you, but... can you do me a favor?"

"Yeah. What?"

"Just hold me, please."

The request could have shocked him, but he didn't seem surprised. He
only took a breath, and moved around, sliding in beside her, fitting
his body close to hers and pulling her in with a hand on her waist,
burying his nose in her hair.

She closed her eyes, and took in the warmth, the comfort.

"I'm sorry," she said after a moment.

He stiffened, but she felt a nod and he pushed in closer and that was
all they could do.

He knew what she meant.


Rogue didn't quite get why everyone was taking orders from Wesley, of
all people. She had asked Storm, and she had answered that it
seemed, that in the chaos that was happening everywhere, he was the
only one holding it all together.

The answer was good enough for her.

Her task, to find Angel and bring him back down to get ready, for
what she still didn't know, wasn't exactly her idea of a good job, but
she followed it, following her intuition, and finding it right.

She found the vampire on the roof, eyes roving over the city of chaos
that they still hadn't been able to save.

She swallowed, cursing her own damn selfish behavior as she moved
next to him, looking over the city of hurt and suffering, his city, his

"I'm not going to be a part of this," he said suddenly, never looking
at her. "I'm not hurting her like that again. I'm not letting this demon
out. All I've ever done is hurt her."

"That's not true, Angel."

"Everything I am is the reason why she's in pain. Why she is the way
she is."

Rogue cocked her head, finally turning to regard him, and upon seeing
the despair, felt a flash of anger.

"HEY, that's NOT true, Angel." She grabbed his hand, pulling him
around, forcing him to face her. "Everyone has their own damn destiny,
and she chose it. If it hadn't been for you she'd be dead. What kinda
way to live is that?"

His eyes were hollow, so hollow, empty inside, and for a moment, they
seemed a direct reflection into her own heart.

"I'm death incarnate," he whispered. "So maybe she's better off."

The feelings welled up inside of her, and the eyes teared, blurring
her vision, but she knew it was her first that struck him in the jaw,
sent him stumbling back. He looked surprised, the demonic face
emerging as he growled at her.

"Fuck you," she responded, pushing him. "And fuck that. I'm damn
tired of living in fear of what MIGHT happen, Angel. It's a hell of a
to live but if we're gonna get ANYTHING outta this life we gotta face
it! If we can face death and come outta this alive then-"

"Then what?" he growled, grabbing her by the elbows, the fangs
glistening as he cut her off. "I've BEEN to hell, Rogue. I know what's
there. It's eternal suffering and I'll be DAMNED before I make her
life anything like that."

"You already HAVE."

He let her go, and she closed her eyes, taking a breath and looking
around at the city, and spreading her arms wide. "Where the HELL do
you think we are right now, Angel? Paradise?"

"Oh you're one to fucking talk, Rogue," he snapped.

She almost flinched, but held her ground, jaw tightening and
shoulders snapping back as she regarded him.

"I know I screwed up, Angel. I confused touch with something else and
that was my problem. But it's yours too. And you felt it, and you
ached for it, and that means something. That means you want something
and you've got the damn hope. So STOP acting like a damned
baby and fight for it. Cause there sure isn't any other way we're
getting the hell outta here alive."

The night was pitch black around them, and the self professed death
incarnate stared down the Angel of Death as the challenge was

A second later, there was a nod, and a growl, his lips crushed on
hers for a split second before he pulled her into his arms and embraced
her like an long lost friend.

And the challenge was accepted.

~ Chapter Twelve ~

The day is my enemy 
The night is my friend 
For I'm always so alone 
Till the day draws to an end 
But when the sun goes down 
And the moon comes through, 
To the monotone of the evening's drone 
I'm all alone with you

All Through the Night – Cole Porter


The crashing of the streets was music to her ears.

Cliché, but true.

She smiled, closing her eyes and spreading her hands wide, as if
embracing the world.

The wind slid through her blonde hair, and Darla smiled, feeling it
coast under her neck, lifting the blonde strands up and away from it,
cooling the already chilled skin as it caressed her, like an old
friend coming to dinner.

She had often wondered what humans thought, why on earth they
believed they knew so much when in fact all they knew whittled
down to one, simple word : nothing.

Mutants and humans, all alike, all contingent on one, major folly :
they assumed too much, and in reality, knew nothing.

The feelings that flooded through them, feelings that still haunted
her at night, had been her curse, as rampant in her body as Angel's
soul clung to his.

It was not normal for a vampire to feel, and there had been times she
would have done anything to make the feelings stop.

It had crippled her, just as it had crippled Spike, just as it had
crippled Angel, the remnants of the Scourge of Europe amounting to

But she fought it, she pushed it down, and envied Drusilla, in her
happy world of insanity, free from the interaction with humans, free

Blue skin that was surprisingly smooth despite the outward scaly
appearance rested on hers, and Darla found herself turning to eye

Another remnant of the human months. Genuine affection.

Darla wondered when she ever truly liked a human - but Mystique, had
the potential for so much more. There had been more than one
passing moment when she wondered exactly what kind of vampire the
shapeshifter would make, but considering Mystique's lack of morals
as it was, and not knowing exactly how being dead would affect the
mutation, Darla had chosen to keep the woman alive.

It was a means to an end, but the affection had definitely clouded
her thoughts.

And for once, she didn't quite mind.

The darkness of the night was so tangible, and again the feelings
that had lingered twisted her chest slightly, at the loss.

Angelus should have been beside her.

Angelus should have led this.

She swallowed, clenching the railings, cursing herself for her
sentimentality as she looked around the roof and down at the streets of
chaos, where rioters and police were looking up in awe and panic.

Drusilla, dark and dangerous as midnight, her pale skin almost
glowing like a dark fairy, continued to dance, never losing her energy
for it
as she smiled at Mystique.

"Little sister, our triumph shall soon be yours."

Darla smiled at that, saw the way Mystique's yellow eyes lit up and
leaning forward, she placed a kiss on the shape shifter's cheek.

"Is this what you want, Mystique?" she whispered in her ear.

"It's more," she breathed, and her eyes turned, and she asked, almost
demanded, "Show me more."

Darla smiled, content with her loyalty.

She turned, looked at her insane seer, and clasped her hand, bringing
the vampiress close to her as the dark head rested against her

"Shall we?"

"This is not what we discussed."

The swell of hatred and disgust came almost immediately, and she
growled involuntarily, looking at the fool human who still seemed to
think he had any say.

"Shut up, Magneto, and do your part." She straightened and walked to
the machine, idle hands smoothing across the metal surface. "The
First Night has begun, and it will be up to us to make sure tomorrow
never comes." She turned, her eyes glittering at him, as Mystique,
smiling nimbly from her precarious perch on the railing. "For the
good of mutants. Of course."

He looked furious, the foolish old man, but he said nothing.

And Darla knew he finally understood who had the real power, when she
saw the fear in his eyes, smelled it.

Worthless whore her ass.


It was subtle, the little differences as she held him.

Her face was buried in his neck, and unconsciously, she inhaled, and
he smelled of dark danger, of cinnamon, oddly, and of Old Spice.

The only other man she really held in his close embrace had been
Logan. Logan smelled of liquor and cigar smoke, of the woods. Of
hairspray – the frilly kind that she had once bought on a dare and
made him use – hairspray that he had liked so much he still used,
however in secret.

Her hands, curious, roamed over the smooth skin, and again, there
were differences. Angel was rock hard, almost chiseled, with a
smoothness that seemed almost alien. Colder than human.

Logan's skin, when she felt it under her leather padded fingertips,
had been warm, and soft… which was not surprising, considering his
healing factor. Logan, for all his rough and hairy exterior, always
had the smoothest, most beautiful hands.

The silk of this shirt was so different under her fingers, different
from the flannel.

Angel was watching her, with haunting dark eyes, and Rogue just
smiled sheepishly, and continued her exploration of his body, unsure of
why she needed it, why her fingers were doing her thinking for her.

But he smiled slightly, and let her, fingers gently holding her at
her elbows.

There was no rise and fall of his chest, no soft sigh that came when
her palm spread against his pectorals.

It was so devastatingly easy, a spell and a realization that suddenly
came, broken and done, and filling her with such incredible sadness,
and clarity.

He wasn't Logan.

Death and Death were standing in each others arms and it was an
oxymoron, as she waiting with him. Death couldn't have death, it
craved life.

Life was vitality, life was laughter, and friendship.

Life was love and never constant.

She let out a shaky breath, her dark eyes looking up to meet Angels
and she smiled, even as her eyes watered.

"Thank you."

He nodded, and she leaned up, floating gently to press her lips
against his, once, chastely, before she smiled, and let her palms fall.

She stepped away from him, and the gloves went on, like they always
were, and she turned, about to say something else when the
building rattled and a big boom filled the air.

Angel looked alarmed, and she immediately followed him to the corner
of the roof, looking down.

Her eyes widened, and they met his, and suddenly they both turned,
charging down the stairs.


"We need to figure this thing out NOW."

Fred looked up, the weariness in her eyes apparent as she pulled off
her glasses, and let them settle on the table.

"Doesn't it look like we're working as fast as we can?"

Jean didn't stop until she had sat down at the table, eyes crossing
from Fred to Wesley to Storm.

"It's getting worse."

"We need more time."

"We no longer have it," Storm said, standing up, as the door began to

Anne came forward, harried and tired, but with a stoic determinism
that made Storm's steps falter, eyeing her with a peculiar smile.

"What do you want us to do?"

Storm looked to Wesley, but he only ventured a shrug, getting up and
moving to where the discarded weapons lay on the table,
choosing a broad ax.

"Tell your children to get up into the rooms. We'll handle this."

The long, broad wooden doors shook again, and the cries and shouts
from outside grew more chaotic, angrier.

Storm moved around Anne, as Fred stood, immediately gathering
together the books in her hand.

Things were very quickly getting out of control.

Jean immediately sprinted for the stairs, saying something about
getting the others while the remaining trio looked at the door with
impending dread.

"It's not going to hold much longer," Anne whispered, brushing her
blond hair out of her face and immediately turning, ushering her kids
up the stairs, Wesley helping, barking out orders for them to keep

Fred stood still, her breath coming out in pants as she watched, the
sacred book with their only clues clutched against her chest, while
Storm stood guard in the center of the now empty room.

"Gunn, now would be a REAL good time to show up," she whispered.


In the small little room that Cordelia had claimed as hers in the
hotel, there was a quiet haven of peace.

Logan was quiet, as he ran fingers through the silken tumble of
strands, ranging in hue from light blond, to copper, to dark brown. His
eyes roved over the room, and it surprised him in its plainness.

A nice bedspread, a nice dresser, but that was it. No ruffles, or
fur… not anything that would announce that it's inhabitant was a queen.

But, he remembered one conversation that had taken place between
Ororo and Jean, while he and Marie were watching television, her
leg sprawled over his, a beer in her hands. It had been interesting,
as they discussed if one was born with class, or if one could aquire it.
All cerebral crap, and he normally tuned it out, but for some reason
it was almost interesting, as he had exchanged glances with Rogue
and cocked an eyebrow, making faces that made her smile.

But she had ended it, when she finally spoke up, saying it didn't
matter someone was born with it or just aquired it, if one had to
say it, then it was never true to begin with.

Her body shifted slightly, and he pulled back, hands still on her
waist as she snuggled deeper into his embrace, so that his chin was now
resting against her cheek, dangerously close to her mouth.

He could sense her awareness, as her fingers slid up, letting her
breath out, the warmth of her body comforting, perfectly aligned with

Her hand brushed against his cheek, fingering the whiskers, and he
closed his eyes, lowering his head so that his lips pressed against her
shoulder, lost in a desperate embrace.


He stilled, found his lips quirking into an involuntary smile as she
angled her head back to catch his eyes.


"You're hairy," she repeated, the tired hazel eyes shining
brilliantly. "It's different. But in a nice way. I never dated hairy

He was amused, propping his head up with his elbow and smiling down
at her. "Darlin', you don't know what you were missing."

Her smile faded, as her eyes became pensive and she half whispered,
"I'm not sure I thought I was missing anything until a few hours

The words brought back a flash, a vision of a girl in the arms of a
vampire, and he closed his eyes, shuddering against it.

"Hey." Her palm flattened against his chin, and his eyes opened to
find her smiling, her eyes a sad reflection of his state. "I feel stuff,
remember? I know who's in her heart. It's you."

He shrugged, disbelieving. "Rogue likes to think she's old. All grown
up and really inside she's got this scared little girl in her core."

"Mm. She's not the only one who's afraid. But Logan… she's not afraid
for herself."

He drifted away from the thoughts, no longer wanting to think about
the mutant who held his heart, and had wrenched it from him more
than once. Instead he shifted, sighing, burying his head into
Cordelia's shoulder, settling into a comfortable embrace as her arms
around him, pulling him closer, until he could hear her heart beating
against his own, careful to be gentle with the tired Seer.

Lips brushed against his cheek, and he pulled back, not startled, but
slightly surprised, as her eyes locked with his.

They were frank, open, honest.

For once, there were no lies in the gaze.

It was an invitation he appreciated.

And he smiled, brushing his lips against her mouth once, testing them
for firmness, and then, when she responded favorably, settling into
her lips, arm wrapped around her shoulders to pull her closer.

It was nice, and an altogether different kiss that Logan experienced.
He had never before experience `nice'. Usually his kisses were
masked with lust, or given with complete passion, and he had never
once kissed Rogue, but he knew what that would have been like.

An explosion of mind and matter, primal taken with a heart bursting
with emotion.

Nice was never the issue.

But this, was nice, with a tinge of passion, perhaps it would have
been more had he not already, in mind at least, been mated to a
Rogue, and her to an Angel.

They pulled apart, and she smiled, and he smiled back, pressing his
lips against her forehead.

He smelled them before they opened the door, but didn't move, just
shifted her so she could see, as Logan and Rogue faltered at the

"Ah, hell." The drawl was from Marie, as she slumped against the
doorway. "Please don't tell me we're gonna be screwing around with this
`Flirting with Disaster' bullshit."

Angel didn't say anything, but immediately he came forward, pulling
Cordelia out of Logan's arms with a jerk and cradling her in his own,
pressing her against him, almost as if he was trying to drown out
Logan's scent on his property with his own.

"How are you?" he whispered, smoothing hands down Cordelia's face.

She regarded him, as Logan scooted off the bed, barely hearing her
"Took you long enough to ask," as he watched Rogue.

She looked tired, sad, and almost completely in despair.

"What?" he asked, eyes narrowing as he came forward, gently pulling a
white streaked bang from her face.

She swallowed, trying to find her words, he heard her beating heart
rapidly pounding against her chest.

"GUYS." Jean skidded into the doorway, forcing them all to look up.
"Downstairs. NOW."


The door was going to splinter any second, and Fred stood, waiting,
her bow and arrow in her hand, and her heart hammering rapidly.

When it happened, her insides jolted, but she didn't move, instead
raising the bow and arrow and methodically aiming for the mutant or
demon or whatever it was that heading straight toward her.

She waited, like Angel taught her, until she was five feet away, and
then, Angel, Logan, Cordelia and Rogue following Jean down the
stairs in the corner of her eye, she let go.

And missed.

Fred's eyes widened, and she never realized how much she was truly
shaking until the bow and arrow was wrenched out of her hand and
the demon/mutant whatever it was raised it's hand high.

She screamed, kicking at it's abdomen, and she heard Angel cry out,
and closed her eyes, covering her head, when suddenly the beast
was yanked backwards, and a dirty ax came out of nowhere and embedded
itself in his chest.

Fred paused, not quite able to believe she was still alive, until
Angel came forward, shaking Gunn's hand.

"Gunn. Good to have you back."

Gunn, dirty, clothes torn, and wearing his trademark smirk, just
smiled back, before turning and, and reaching out, taking Fred's hand in
his own and pulling her up.

"Don't need a protector my ass."

Fred blinked, and when he smiled, barely turning as he backfisted
another intruder in the face, bringing him down, she felt her heart
suddenly flood with relief.

With a half mixed whimper and sob, she threw her arms around him,
making him stumble back.

It took her a full five minutes to get herself to let him go, and
poor Gunn, who was still trying to defend her from the various demons
mutants that were getting away from the other group, resorted to
kicking and half hearted punching as her pliant body trembled in his

"Fred, I'm enjoying this, but-"

"How are you still alive?!"

He cocked an eyebrow. "You don't think I could have survived with my
manly man skills?"

She rolled her eyes, and when she shook her head no, he half glared,
before nodding his head to Scott Summers, who had apparently
come in with him.

"Dude gave me a ride on his plane. Pretty slick thing, Fred."

She was breathing heavily, panting even, and if it was from her
furiously beating heart, or the pounding of the blood in her veins, or
pure exultation of having him back, safe and sound, she wasn't sure,
but she was absolutely sure of one thing.

She was completely in love with Gunn.

Oh, crap.

And with a sigh, she finally just lifted herself onto her tiptoes and
kissed him soundly, wrapping her arms around his neck and bringing him

She wasn't even aware that they had managed to push out the rioters
and fight off the rest until she heard, in the haze of her mind,
Cordelia's placid, "When did THAT happen?"

"While we were gone, it seems."

Gunn pulled away, and she looked up, noticing with some embarrassment
that all of Angel Investigations, the entire X-Men away team,
and some of the kids of Anne's place, were all staring at their very
public display of affection.

Fred caught Cordelia's smile, and just flushed with embarrassment.
"Yes, I love him, okay?" she said defensively. "I'll have you know it is
a very natural and beautiful thing!"

Gunn just blinked, and shook his head, but he kept his hand in hers
as he moved toward Angel and Wesley.

"We're outta time guys."

Scott Summers nodded, crossing his arms, and taking a breath.

"Gunn and I saw it. In downtown. Magneto's machine."


There was an aura of apprehension in the air, filtering through her
mind, despite the control she had fostered against the invasion of
other beings, feelings, and thoughts.

She took in a deep breath, the headache getting worse, shuddering
slightly. Almost without warning a hand slipped in hers, soft, but
rough with calluses that came from working with visors and
motorcycles, and she clamped it gratefully, leaning to the side,
finding herself gathered closer against a strong, lean body that she
knew every inch of.

People often wondered about her and Scott, she knew that. They
wondered for years, when she first fell in love with some one who was
barely more than a boy. Wondered why, she, a college student, could
fall for a young man barely out of his teens, wondered if it was a
fling, remnants of the wilder Jean everyone suspected resided under
her skin.

They never understood how she needed him. Perhaps a bit more than he
needed her. He had pursued her with every intention of bedding
her, Scott, although he was a nice guy, had always known he was good
looking. It was their friendship that suffered. They had been
friends, close companions, since the moment he had been brought into
the school, aching and dead inside from his trauma, voluntarily
blind, eyes closed to keep the lasers that burned from coming out and
searing everyone.

She had stayed with him, comforted him, talked to him, and she had
never laughed so much as when he saw her yearbook pictures of
high school, junior high, a gangly, tall, stick thin girl with limp
brown hair and glasses and braces, the very picture of an ugly duckling.

Perhaps if people had known about the time she cried herself to sleep
in his bed, the headaches hurting so badly that he, the ever
platonic friend, held her and soothed her and shushed her, stayed
with her, holding her until she finally fell asleep, then they might
wondering. Or perhaps if they had known about the time, long before
they fell into bed together, still platonic, she had come to him,
scared to death because she had been careful and it didn't matter
because she thought she just might be pregnant and had only been
twenty – how he had held her and then gone with Ororo, also young and
far more mature for her age, to go buy her a pregnancy test.

The way he and Storm had waited in her bedroom, quiet and full of
wonder and fear as she took care of things in the bathroom, and
when she came out almost crying from relief. The way he had held her
and the way the tears slipped under the visor, staining his cheek.

She hadn't been aware he could cry until then.

Maybe then people would stop wondering why Jean fell in love with a
man younger than herself, and why it was never a question.

There would never be anyone else.

She settled her head on his shoulder, and he pressed his lips on the
top of her head. It made her smile slightly, dressed and suited and
ready to go while she watched the others take action around the hall,
gathering, preparing.

Storm sat beside Wesley, and she began to lend her hand, her gift for
languages finally put to good use as she translated with them, and
finally things seemed to be going somewhere.

"Okay…" Fred took a breath, and finally held up the paper with the
ink scratches on it. "So… we have exactly 12 hours to stop the First
Night. Counting the time we've wasted here, that's… two."

"I thought the First Night would last for as long as possible," Storm
interjected, clearly confused.

"It will, if we don't stop it in two hours," Wesley answered, pulling
off his glasses and wiping them, sighing audibly. "According to this, if
we don't stop First Night before the end of the natural day cycle, in
other words, the time dawn would normally approach, then we will
be plunged into… `eternal darkness and chaos'. Lovely."

"Okay, now that we're on a time clock, how do we stop it?" Angel asked.

Fred let out a long breath, shoulders slumping as she exchanged looks
with Wesley. "We're not sure."

"Well, I got the phone calls from Giles in London and Buffy in
Sunnydale – they say `hi' by the way-" Cordelia said, coming into the
and sitting on the bench next to Fred. "Said the same thing's
happening over there. Not as… harsh, but pure darkness. Looks like it's

"A `yay' vote from Charles too," Rogue added, coming in after her.

"So two hours and no idea how to stop it." Jean sighed. "Great."

"Guys," Cordelia's voice was almost a whisper. "We have to stop it.
We have to. If not, half of us in this room are dead. And Magneto…"
she trailed off, burying her head in her hands in a huff, knowing no
one knew what to make of her vision.

"Well you know, this may be a long shot, but I have a feeling that
damn MACHINE has something to do with it," Gunn put in dryly.
"Maybe we should try taking that out first? Being as how we know
where it is and all?"

"That's almost definite," Scott said nodding. "If they haven't
changed the agenda, and knowing Magneto he is most likely not going to…"

"Then they might be using the machine very soon – and everyone
becomes mutant or mush."

"Well it's a start," Logan said, his voice gruff, ready to snuff out
his cigar on the countertop until Cordelia and Rogue both gave him a
very similar glare. "We've been hiding in here long enough. Let's
kick some ass."

"What he said."

Immediately the men and women got to their feet, and the muttering
began, as they began to converse, some heading to the stairs to
change, others going to the weapons closet.

Storm watched as Wesley stayed, looking pensive and dark. She got up,
watching him, and finally sighed, settled back down across from

"What is it?"

He looked startled, but his face was dark. "Mystique knew quite a bit
of personal information about Buffy Summers and Cordelia. And if
these prophecies indicate, as well as Cordelia… we might just be
doing what they want."

"Do you think we have a choice?" she asked gently. "We cannot let
them use that machine. Especially now that they have a sample of
Cordelia's blood."

"Because they might actually make it work, yes I know." He rubbed at
his face, looking tired, snapping the book closed. "But I don't know
if that's what they even want anymore. Whoever is behind this…
whoever is helping Mystique… they aren't after just humans. They're
after Angel's soul."


She was quiet. Too quiet.

Rogue was unsure, something that wasn't new for her, but for the
first time in a long time, she had no idea what the hell to do about it.

What the hell was up with this whole bizarre love quadrangle, anyway?

She stole glances at Cordelia, who was not saying a word, and thought
up about a hundred ways to start the conversation they had to
have eventually.

Finally, taking in Cordelia's haggard face she settled for the most
glaringly obvious.

"You sure you're up for this?"

Cordelia rolled her eyes, grabbing the duffel bag and pulling out the
heavy uniform. "I'm empathic, Streaks, not incompetent."



"My name," she said, voice low, every word enunciated. "Is Rogue."

Cordelia paused, turning. "No. What's your REAL name?"

"That is my real name."

"I'm not talking to Rogue right now. I want to know YOUR real name."

Shit. There it was again, that damn insecurity that this girl with
the hazel eyes was just seeping through her.

"Mah real name is Marie."

"Marie, huh?" Cordelia studied her, and finally shrugged. "Yeah. I
can see it." She sat on the bed, pulling off her boots. "Well, Marie,
do you want to know? How he kissed? If we fucked like weasels?"

Rogue cocked an eyebrow, pulling at the short gloves she wore,
grabbing the short brown leather jacket that had become her trademark
and pulling it over the tight black leather.

"Look if you're gonna be pissed at me, that's cool. Ah just need to
know, so I can keep the hell away from you."

Cordelia gave her a glance, before turning her back to her and
stripping off her shirt, hands going to the belt of her pants.

"Why would I be mad Rogue?"

Rogue gave her an incredulous look, shaking her head slightly.
"Forget it."

"No, I'd really like to know. Are you sorry you kissed him?"

Hazel eyes turned and bore into hers, and Rogue swallowed, felt
curiously as if she was shot under the spotlight. Cordelia's eyes were
frank, open, honest. She told things as she saw them, and Rogue
suspected she saw a lot of horrible things.

She was without tact, and expected the same from Rogue.

"No," she finally answered. "It helped me figure things out."

Cordelia looked at her once, and finally nodded, stepping into
uniform, shimmying it up her hips. "He's a good kisser."

Rogue almost smiled. "Yeah." She paused, waiting by the door while
the Seer finished pulling on the uniform. "Uh… here." She grabbed a
pair of her own gloves, tossing them to Cordelia. "The gloves help."

"Nice," Cordelia commented, voice placid and civil. She slipped them
on, running a hand through her hair and regarding herself in the

"Black leather huh?"


"I could get used to it."

Rogue felt laughter bubbling up in her throat, and when Cordelia
turned and caught the mutant laughing, suddenly she began to smile,
and the tension, the anger and betrayal was released when both
mutants began to crack up.

"Okay. Here I am. Cordelia : X-Girl, ready to kick serious ass."

She did look good. The leather was a perfect fit, Cordelia being of
the same build as Jean, if not a little curvier, and the empathic Seer
looked as if she belonged in it.

Just like she had belonged in Logan's arms.

The smile faltered, and Rogue found the question slipping through.
"Is Logan a good kisser?"

Cordelia froze, and once again, regarded Rogue. But there was no
anger, no malice, and with a sadly resigned tone, she finally just
responded with, "Damn good."

Rogue nodded, and knew she must have looked like a child, arms
wrapped around her body, before the personalities inside her snapped
their whip and Marie was pushed away and Rogue came to the surface,
with a wicked smile and a hand on her hips and a perfect
Southern drawl.

"Come on, Sugar. Let's go meet destiny."


In the darkness just before dawn, Mystique was invisible even in her
own true form.

Dark midnight.

One day, a long time ago, she wondered idly what would have happened
if she had been found by Charles, instead of Magneto. If she
had been brought up as a comrade, if she had been at the mansion when
Logan had come, been treated as herself, and not as the
assassin who was there with no other purpose to kill.

Odd, how people treated her as a leader, when all she really was
searching for was the right mentor.

Mystique was smart, she was cunning, she was clever.

She wasn't sure exactly when she had become evil – when it had
festered her heart. When she had woken up from the scared little child
who had to run home from school and morph into walls, too afraid to
be seen, to become what she was. Proud. Cunning.


Was there such a thing as good and evil? She hadn't thought so. Under
Erik's tutelage there was no evil – she had been good, Fighting
for what was right, fighting against the discrimination, hoping to
make the world a better place, and it did not matter that she had to
a few people to do it.

It was when she twisted the neck of an individual she did not know,
had turned to see Erik's sad face, that she realized how different
they were. Erik saw death as an unfortunate necessity, a means to an

She relished it.

It had been a curious revelation, and she remained by his side, ever
watchful as her lover and father grew old, tired, and full of doubts.

She was young, strong, clever, and never knew how akin she was to the
vampires she had only heard of in lore until she had been
brought into the fold.

In her heart, she felt the beating, on her skin, the dryness that
never seemed to go away, curiously didn't seem to itch, and every piece
of her, from her loins to her chest, seemed so ALIVE.

Fingers gently slid along her dark, coarse hair, cold lips pressed
against her naked shoulder blade, and she sighed, smiling.

"It's a wonderful feeling."

"It gets better," her protector promised.

The whir of the jet, quiet and still, broke the stillness, as they
both turned, looked up to see the black jet that was barely visible.


Darla nodded, leaving Mystique and turning back into the building.

"Less then an hour and a half to go. They're cutting it awfully
short, aren't they?"


There was a jolt as the plant bumped into the corner of the roof,
settling down.

From the back, there was a muffled curse that belonged to Logan. From
the front, there was what a muffled word that sounded like a
`sorry' from Cyclops, and smirks exchanged between Storm and Jean.

Cordelia had her mind on an altogether different question, as the
seat belts were unlocked, and they quickly headed out of the plane.

"I don't get it."

Rogue, walking down beside her, gave her a confused look. "Don't get

"Flirting With Disaster."


"That Flirting with Disaster comment. I don't get it."

A loud shhhh came from behind them, Wesley probably.

"Oh." Rogue hopped down the stairs, walking backward to talk to
Cordelia. "You know. The movie?"


"Ben Stiller and Tea Leoni. Really cute, but anyways, it's about this

"GUYS!" Jean clamped her hand down on Cordelia's shoulder, making her
jump slightly. "Can we maybe talk about this a little later?"

"Oh." Cordelia gave Rogue a look, and she only shrugged, turning her
palm from side to side. The two women gave each other a smile,
one that quickly faltered when Scott took a breath, pausing.

"They know we're coming." His hand rose, meeting the tiny but deadly
switch on his visor, and with his free hand, he gave two quick

Immediately the X-Men complied, breaking off into pairs.

"Vision Girl, with me," Rogue whispered, grabbing her hand and
pulling her around the plane, leading them in a different direction.

Cordelia shook off the hand holding, but complied, watching as Angel
stood with Logan, the two man-beasts sniffing the air, at that
moment, so alike, that it almost stunned her.

They reached the roof door, and Rogue leaned down, pulling the hatch
open effortlessly.

As the darkness emerged, Cordelia felt a slight tremble in the back
of her mind, and ever mindful of the warning, she grabbed the railing,
shouting a warning to Rogue before the vision hit and she lost
control, tumbling forward.

Rogue cried out, her hand whipping out to catch her, but it was too
late, Cordelia slipped by her, crashing down the staircase, into the


The vision was jolting, the pain coming from the inside and out as
she tried so hard to see past the vision, to orientate herself and still
stop her fall down the concrete stairs.

She jolted down, a corner hitting her ribs, as the insides of her
brains pounded, and the images came flashing, coming so quickly – a
stomach seeping blood, a howling in the darkness, bright flash of
light and Magneto crying – searing pain, and the coughing of blood, and
laughing, devilish laughing as Gunn cried out, holding Fred to him as
they sank to the ground – warped bodies and Jean crying out
Rogue's name and a vampire sinking fangs into her throat, whispering
in her ear, "Is it good for you baby?" – Angelus and Darla and Dru-

The vision slipped and her head pounded, and the insides of it
splintered when she felt it slam against the concrete, landing in a
pile, surrounded by complete darkness.

And it came in waves, the pain and nausea and it was too much.

Rogue's crying out for her was farther than it ever was before, and
Cordelia Chase could only hold her bruised body.

"Crap," she whispered.



Rogue kicked open the door, almost stumbling down the stairs in the

"What's wrong?!"

She turned, looking up at the two men in the doorway. "Cordelia! She
fell down! I don't know… I can't see her-"

Angel came down the stairs, immediately followed by Logan.

"Can't see a damn thing…"

Rogue didn't care.

"Let me go first," Angel said, somewhere up ahead of her. "I can see…

"How the hell can you see?"

"Night vision."

Dimly, in the darkness, there were blasts and fighting and muffled
sounds of screaming.

Rogue blocked it out.


"Bloody Hell," Wesley whispered, stepping back, as the roof became
flooded with people coming it seemed out of all corners surrounding
the group still on the roof.

"Break it up, now!" Scott barked, and Wesley kept his grip tight on
his ax, as the group split and he waited tensely to engage in the

"Inside," he clipped, grabbing Storm by the elbow, trying to move her
when he saw an opening as the others fought.

"I can't."

"We need to get inside."

"I can't," she said again.

He paused, and finally looked at her. Ororo Munroe looked tense,
nervous, scared.

Forget scared. She looked completely terrified.

A beast came at him and before he had a chance to blink, she
immediately turned, pointing a finger and zapping him back.

She was breathless when she turned back to him. "It's dark and small

"Dark and small… " Wesley sucked in his breath as he gasped in
realization. "You're claustrophobic?"


There was a story behind that, but he didn't have time to go into it.
They needed to be inside. Already Scott and Jean had managed to
get in, driving the mutants back, and Fred and Gunn were following
closely behind.

The others were nowhere to be found.

With a swallow, he turned, gently taking her arms. "Ororo, you
realize we have to go inside."

"I know." She took in a breath. "But-"

"Ororo." Gently he came forward, caressing her cheek lightly with his
thumb. "Fear is a natural thing, but please, don't let it paralyze

She blinked once, and then turned, jetting her leg back and catching
another approaching mutant in the stomach, bringing him to his
knees. "Are you saying I am chicken?"

He smiled at the slight anger.

"I'm saying I don't think you back out from a challenge. And I'm
saying I believe in you."

He quirked an eyebrow, and he knew there was something in the unsaid
words that hit her because she took a breath, nodded and then
leaned forward, pressing her lips to his in a quick, too short, kiss.

"Let's go, English," she remarked, keeping his hand in hers as they
walked toward the roof access port.


Angel felt for the wall, keeping his walk calm, eyeing the corners,
the eery darkness.


There was nothing, and he continued to move.



"Right here, Rogue." She reached blindly for his hand and he caught
it, tangling their fingers together as they crept along.

"We lost Angel, didn't we?"

"Uh huh."

"Okay." She took in a breath. "So we do this the old fashioned way?"

He nodded shortly. "Sniff our way out."

A low growl right behind them made them both freeze, and Rogue
widened, and Logan whirled, sniffing and the claws extending, but it
was too late.

Suddenly he stiffened. "Rogue, get the hell out."


"Get the hell OUT!"


"I can't fucking move!"

And he jolted, and suddenly the scene was all too familiar as light
flooded the dark room , and she watched in utter horror as an unseen
force threw Logan out, into the hallway, the metal door spping shut,
closing her in.

Her heart was hammering, and she was quiet, closing her eyes, trying
to still the rapid heartbeat, before turning.

"Child," Magneto said, smiling as he came forward, dressed in all
black, landing softly a few feet away. "So nice to see you again."

Oh, God. Oh, God. OhGODOHGOD-

She couldn't be afraid. She wasn't the little girl any more. She
wasn't afraid.

"Marie?" he smiled, and still she didn't move, as he touched her
cheek, caressing it lightly. She shuddered as the old, soft fingers
bit into
her, making her come alive with memories that she had worked so hard
to push away – reawakening the Magneto inside of her that she
hated with ever fiber of her being.

"Don't," she whispered, the tears blurring her vision, as she jerked
away, suddenly the scared child again.

He just smiled grimly. "I'm sorry. I have to."


"ROGUE!" Logan pounded against the metal, could hear her muffled
words to Magneto on the other side, and was wholly absorbed at
doing whatever he could to get in, that the smell caught him at the
last minute.

Metal jingled in his ears, and he paused, growled unexpectedly and
whirled, claws swinging out.

Sabretooth's eyes narrowed, and he sniffed, the growl matching Logans
as he shook the tags in his fists again.

"I'm not done with you," Victor snarled.

Logan stood, the claws out and the eyes dark with rage. "Those. Are.

When Sabretooth launched forward and dug his claws into his flesh,
drawing blood, Logan barely felt it.

His mind had already been given to the primitive nature inside of
him, nostrils flaring at the prospect of the kill.

His eyes snapped back to the room that held Marie, but the tags
jingled and another claw swiped at him and Logan had no choice.

The Wolverine fought to kill.


The arm was fractured. Maybe.

She staggered to her feet, stumbling down the stairs, catching
herself at the last minute as she peered into the barely lit maze of
thankful that the leather of the uniforms had kept her more of less
protected from the burns that would have come with the fall.

Her mind was tired, and she was dangerously close to panicking, but
she didn't. She was a Chase and she was better than that. So
Cordelia sucked in her breath, and continued to walk, trying to find
her way to the room where she knew it would all begin, and all end.

Something she still had no idea how to stop- but it all made so much
damn sense now.

Heels clicked, breaking the silence, and Cordelia froze, back pressed
against the wall, holding even her breath in an attempt to keep from
being discovered.

"Pretty Seer wants to play," came the sing song voice.

SHIT. Great. Just Great. Peachy. She didn't just get a vampire – oh
no. She had to get the PSYCHOTIC INSANE Vampire. Dammit. Where
was cuddly, impotent Spike when she needed him?

Immediately, she began to move, trying to double back where she had
come from.

"I can smell the blood. Pure as the driven snow. Pretty Sister, do
come out and play. Daddy's precious, deserves to be met."

Cordelia closed her eyes, sunk down in the corner, fumbling around
for anything that could be used as a weapon.

She wasn't strong enough to fight off a vampire. Not in her
condition. Not with this empathic crap running through her, and her body
bruised and weak as it was.

God. This SUCKED.

And her mind flashed back to the first time they had encountered
Spike, when she had whispered to Willow, "What do we do?"


And Cordelia closed her eyes and did so. Fervently.


He smelled lust.

Blood. Fear. Hate. Anger.

They called to him, sifting through him, straight to the demon, who
prickled in interest, lusting for those feelings, wanting them, needing

Angel had long ago learned to manipulate Angelus, because as
dangerous as the demon was, he was still the lesser power.

The soul still had control, and that was what he counted on.

He once asked himself if that was wise, because Angelus wasn't
stupid. He was deceptive and wily and he knew how to get a job done.

But there was no choice, Angel needed Angelus, and he used him now,
taking a breath, letting the face of Angelus slide onto his own,
and suddenly he was no longer a man.

He was a beast, and he smelled like one, sniffing the air, yellowed
eyes glowing in the night, bright to him as day.

He moved quickly, silently, the growl coming from his throat, as the
fingernails scraped across the wall, as he swung around, and the
smell was so familiar -

His hand shot out and pinned Darla to the wall, seething as he kept
her trapped, hand crushing at her windpipe, knowing she didn't need
the air, also knowing it was damn painful.

"Where is she?"

"With a friend." Darla smiled, even as the grip tightened. She always
did like it rough. "Angelus. Welcome back."

His eyes narrowed and he reached back, loosening his grip only to
slam her against the wall again, making her groan. "Where. Is. She?"
he responded again.

Her foot shot out, catching him just under his ribs, and he lost his
grip, shaking slightly, the growl from his former lover matching his own
as her hand shot out, snapping his head back.

"Angel. What an inconvenience. The pitiful, abomination. Welcome to
my chaos."

And he shook his head, gained his bearings, and paused, looking into
the eyes of the woman inside the demon he had tried so hard to

It had torn him from his friends, torn him from his redemption.

Torn him from everything he held dear - when it hadn't mattered.

Nothing had mattered.

And the beast in him smiled, as he cracked his neck, stretching, the
chaos infesting his brain, Angelus perfectly in sync.

"Darla, I told you I would kill you."

And she smiled, gave a low, sexy laugh. "Just try it lover boy."

His hand twitched, and again the soul felt the guilt. This was Darla.
This was his past.

But it wasn't his future.

And his hand shot out, backhanding her, making her sprawl back.

He came forward, but she had improved, because she moved at the last
minute and it was something he hadn't anticipated, a finesse
when there should have been brutality and it was barely a splinter,
but he saw the needle as it came out, and he growled, roaring as he
reached for her.

But the legs were sluggish and the mind was whirling and he tried to
shook it away but the fog only became heavier.

He fell to his knees, and suddenly the balance was not so balanced

"Absolutely amazing what you find out when you have a shapeshifter
who can do interview," he heard whispered into his ear. "A drug,
Angel? That's all it took? One drug to bring my lover back?"

He groaned, itching in his chest, burning in his soul.

~ Chapter Thirteen ~

Chaos Reigns on the First Night 
As the demon engulfs
And the watchful become blind

Night will be as day 
Day will last forever 
Until the demon consumes many 
And the animals are tamed 
May the soul reign forever

And may the pain engulf all 
As all becomes equal 
And the demon reigns free


There was a soft, gentle whir, a slight jolt, and then the elevator
started. Fred kept silent, eyes crossing from taller Gunn to even taller
Scott, both of whom stood side by side, watching as the numbers
ticked down, slowly.

Odd. It was as if they were meeting to go to a business meeting, not
caught up in trying to stop the end of the world.


Again and again and again.

Fred bit her lip, resting her body on the back wall of the moving
cube, feeling her heart pound, knowing Gunn could see her very acute
fear as he turned and offered her quick, meaningful smile.

Funny. Fred thought they should have been used to it by now. They
should have been brought to a numb understanding that each time
they embarked on this particular type of mission they had no idea if
they could come out alive. They had played Russian Roulette with
this too many times.

But even now, on another countless escapade to save the world, there
was still fear, the will to live, the desire to come out of this
alive. A feeling of vividness came with the victory, and Fred
supposed, that if one day the numbness really did come, then there would
be no point to fighting at all.

Because the feeling, the true blast of what it was inside of them
that made them NEED this pathetic existence, this complete will to live,
would be dead.

So she swallowed down the knot of fear, and stood her ground, her
hand clenched tightly on her bow and arrow as the elevator jerked,
as Scott cursed and Jean looked up, and Gunn reached for her free
hand and held tightly.

When the doors slid open, almost of their own violation, and they
were met with ten adversaries, she never blinked.

The fear was natural.

The fear was good.

The fear made all the difference.


It was dark. The fluorescent lights were flickering on and off,
providing barely any fodder to see, and Storm crept carefully, as Wesley
counted steps.

"Ten," he whispered finally. He paused, fumbled forward, along the
wall, with his hand, until he found the knob, turning with a silent

His eyes met Storm's in silent relief, and after a short breath, they
both peered into the darkened staircase, waiting as Ororo switched
on the flashlight, the orb blinking on, one bright flash of light in
utter darkness.

"Down, to the twentieth floor," she whispered back, and he nodded,
taking the rear as they began to walk down the stairs hesitating.

Glancing at his watch, he pressed a button, illuminating it.

Less than an hour left.



Charles ignored the expletive that came from the Cajun, watching the
television with the group of children, all tense and quiet.

"The governor of California has officially called a state of
emergency, and ordered that all mutants be quarantined until further
Similar announcements are expected to be made in New York, Nevada and
Kansas. Spain has sent out it's troops and the Prime Minister
of London has ordered all mutants out on the streets to be arrested
at first notice."

He closed his eyes, breathing in, breathing out.

At first glance, he and the furious Remy LeBeau who was pacing behind
him looked completely different, but Jubilation Lee knew they
were both experiencing very similar feelings.

She swallowed down the nausea that came with the announcements, her
mouth never moving, eyes guarded behind the dark glasses as
she watched the reaction of the mutant children around them.

"They won't do that here, will they professor?" one of them asked,
turning to Charles Xavier.

Charles waited a moment, turned and found the child looking at him
with wide-eyed panicked innocence, and Jubilee held her breath as
she watched the exchange, knowing that any word here would be
critical to the peace of mind.

She also knew that Charles did not promise things he could not give.

"Damn you, Erik," she heard whispered under his breath, and he
turned, wheeling out of the room, leaving the children.

Remy's hands folded into fists as she glanced at Kitty, before moving
around the older team members, settling down and wrapping the
child in her arms.

"How's about we watch something more fun" she suggested, her voice
calm and chipper. "Somethin' like... George of the Jungle?"

Kitty immediately nodded, and grabbed the DVD off the shelf.

When no one was watching, the smile slid off of Jubilee's face and
she took a shuddering breath.

She was scared shitless.


She had been scared when she had seen him.

She had no idea how much power he had over her until she saw the

Tall, dark, foreboding, it filled the room, and it terrified her
completely. The tears came to her eyes, and she was shaking so terribly,
backing away, always backing away.

"Please," she whispered. "Please, no."

Magneto had no mercy in his face, but there was grim regret. He
flicked a finger as a metal cuff flew through the air and attached
to her hand, making her wince, jerking her forward, toward him.

"There is no other option, young Rogue," he answered. The finger
flicked back, and she struggled against it, with all her strength. The
metal force was too strong for her body, and coupled with the fear
that close to paralyzed her, she had no choice but to move forward.
"It is the future."

"It's not mine," she whispered, voice almost frantic. "Not mine."

"My child," he said, cocking his head as he waved his hand over the
large room with the balcony overlooking the streets of downtown.
"You have no future."


Okay, I know you're hurt. I know your head is ready to splinter. I
know you're scared.

But Dammit Cordy, pull yourself together. Psycho vampire Bitch wants
to kill you and eat you, and most likely not in that order - what do
you do?"

A quirk of a smile slipped across her face.

What do you do?

Ohhhhhh Keanu what the hell I wouldn't give for you right now.

Crap - what a day to have a headache.

Fear surged through her, and it made her gasp for breath in an effort
to retain her sanity. Loudly. She froze, holding it in, when she
heard the vampire stop, giggle, and come closer.

It was a dead end, she had no idea where she was going, and she was
stuck. Sitting duck. Crap.

Desperation turned to concentration, as Cordelia moved her palm along
the stuccod walls, pausing when her fingers fumbled over
something hard and knobby.

A switch.

A light switch?

"Cordelia? Pretty sister, come and play."


She took a deep breath, sucking it in and closing her eyes, and
finally she opened them again, bright aware and pissed off.

Okay, you can get out of this. Think, Dammit.

She was running out of time, less than an hour to go, and she had no
idea what to do to stop it.

She was so tired of this. So tired of running and hiding and waiting
and fearing. She was tired of every day of living in fear of what she
couldn't control and it was so over her head that nothing she did

It didn't matter anymore.

Her bit her lip, gritted her teeth as she kept her injured arm close
to her body, and finally took in a breath.

Fine. If I'm gonna die, I'm gonna do it on my damned feet.

She flicked on the light, bathing the room with it's illuminance.

"FINE, dammit. Come on, Dru! I'm here you psycho bitch."

The vampire was less than five feet away, and Cordelia watched with
barely contained impatience as she paused, and then bounced,
clapping her hands delightfully.

"You'll play?"

"Not for long, Drusilla." Gritting her teeth, she pushed with her
legs, using her back to get herself to the feet, all the time keeping
eyes on the crazy vision wracked vampire.

"Mmmm... I smelled the blood. Seer's blood. Rare and yummy."

"Yeah. I'm a regular gourmet," she answered, watching every move
carefully, heart pounding so loudly she wondered why she didn't just
up and have a heart attack right then and there.

"First Night brings chaos. The Seer can feel it, the Seer can taste
it - she is my sister. But there is fear? Why is there fear, sister?"

"Oh Gee, I don't know. The fact that you're a vampire and I'm food?"

"It's like a poem."

"You know listening to you ramble on is worse than watching Batman
and Robin," Cordelia said, as Drusilla circled her slowly, almost
relieved - and a BIG almost at that- when Drusilla grabbed her and
pulled her in tight against her body. "And I'm guessing you haven't
killed me yet for a reason?" she whispered breathless, as Drusilla
sniffed her, purring.

"Like a cat."

"Oh ewwwww..." Cordelia shuddered, and struggled as Drusilla's tongue
slid out, licking at her skin where a cut had left a few red drops.

A whisper, breathless in her ear, but still sending jolts of
disgusted shivers through her body, "Seer's blood is precious. We must
with the Seer, until it's over. We might need her."

"Who's we?"

A shriek came from Cordelia's muffled mouth, when another body
pressed against her back, and a dark rasp came, in a tone that clearly
belonged to Buffy, "Welcome back, bitch."

A splinter of pain in her head, and the world went dark.


Scott ducked, hand lifting to his visor and flicking.

The red shot was close, too close, and Fred jumped away, feeling the
searing heat as it passed her.

There was no chance to thank him for taking out the mutant she was
grappling with before a vampire distracted her by turning on Jean.

She lifted up her bow, shouting a warning to Jean and let if fly.

Immediately Jean turned, taking only a second to process the scene
and the hand was out, manipulating the arrow to slice directly into
the vampire's heart.

There was a second of disbelief on the creature's face, before it
exploded, making Fred cough, wheezing. Covering her nose with her
hand, she brushed it off with the other, thankful for the interlude.

Noise and crashes made her head swivel and she ran to the balcony,
hands on the railings as she craned her head up.

Lights and bolts and cries from two floors up. The beams of light
were sweeping out of the windows, over the city, like some sort of bat

"We gotta go!" she shouted, ducking back in.

They were SERIOUSLY running out of time.


He crashed through the glass pain, landing outside of the building,
feeling the slivers of glass embed themselves into his skin. It was
painful. Damn painful.

He growled, claws flailing out to jam into the cracks of the
building, jerking him like a gutted fish, as Sabretooth came closer.


He gritted his teeth against the pain, swinging, arching his feet,
feeling the metal twist, all the way down to his spine in painful
Using all the force he could, he took the momentum, slamming booted
feet into Victor Creed's chest, making him reel back.

"Bastard," he growled, swinging back inside like a pendulum, landing
on Victor's chest, the claws now at the beast man's throat. "Give me
back those damn tags."

A low sound of pure evil existed in the laughter that followed, and
Logan rolled his eyes, his own growl bubbling up in his throat.

This guy was pure animal, no morals or ethics - pure instinct.

Not that Logan didn't appreciate those traits - but there were
factors that made him human.

It was what set him apart from Victor Creed.

It was what made him smarter.

It was what was gonna make him win.

That and the pure rage, the unfiltered anger, to put away this
bastard once and for all.

He barely batted an eyelash when Creed bucked him off and got a claw
in his side. He grunted in pain, knowing it would hurt like hell for
about two seconds, but all Victor got in return was a growl and a

Logan rolled under and away from the swinging arm, crouching,
watching and waiting, eyes narrowed, as Creed growled yet again and
purred and damn near had an orgasm as he waited.

When Creed attacked, he was ready. He didn't charge or use his claws
or growl or spit.

Logan stood, like a man, and when the beast attacked he sidestepped
him, fingers brushing the large chest as he passed, grabbing the
tags, and then a roll and a push and the momentum was used against
the Big Cat Man, as he stumbled and went through the window.

Logan put his hands to his face, barring the shards from getting into
his eyes.

Only when Victor Creed hit the ground some hundred feet down did he
allow the animalistic snort to come out of him, before dismissing
him and turning to the metal door.

Cocking his head, he regarded it, feeling his heart thump, the panic
surging through him once more that pushed every ounce of reason
from his body.

Marie was in there. Alone. With Magneto. And the Machine that had
once branded her with those streaks that defined her even now.

He had to get in there.

And there was only one way to do it.

It was going to fucking hurt.

Steeling himself, he took a breath and then yelled, surging forward.
The adamantium slid from his knuckles, into the metal of the door,
and he wrenched his hand down.

It fucking hurt, making himself a human can opener, and he felt the
flood of agony on his hands and a yell came from his lips, but he did
it again, and again, and when it was enough he pushed forward, and
the splintered door gave way, landing him into a heap on the

There was no chance to move, to regain his sense of orientation,
because he tried and was frozen solid, an unseen force keeping his
bones pinned, the metal inching upwards.

"Logan. Welcome."

And he tried to move, but a hand flicked in his face and the metal in
his ribs moved, and things in his body were giving way, bones
bending and moving and SHIT.

He heard Rogue's gasp, and she cried out, but his eyes were wide
open, as the torture continued and Magneto continued to smile.

Even as Logan began to pass out.



Ororo paused, and Wesley motioned quickly with his hand. "Come here,
shine the light, here."

She obeyed, and he leaned forward, lips moving as he read the marks
on the wall of the room they had entered.

"This is full of magic," he whispered.

Ororo swallowed, nodded. "I can feel it. Which is why I would prefer
not to be here."

He didn't listen, coming closer. "Shine the light there, please."

She did so, and he began to read.

"Bloody hell," he said after a minute.

"What?" she leaned forward, squinting. "Oh."

"The Machine isn't just triggered to mutate humans... it's triggered -
the spell here - Angelus will reign." His hands pressed against the
wall with the writings, and his eyes widened, hitching his breath.

"What? What's wrong?"

A low, angered curse came out of the worn Englishman. "Angelus will
reign free," he began heavily, tone almost sound as if he were being
tortured. "It will release the demon and he will lead the chaos."

Storm was gentle, as she placed a tentative hand on his shoulder. "We
will stop it."

"That's just it. The only way to stop it is to kill Angelus." Their
eyes met as he continued. "We must kill Angel. That will end the First
Night. It's the only way."


She had been treated as the bravest of the X-Men. Remy had once
accused her of having a deathwish, the way she plunged into
situations with no fear, no caution or regard.

She was never known for being a coward, and yet here she was, frozen
in place, voices inside telling her MOVE, to do something about
it, but Rogue, who was born on the day she had been strapped in that
machine, had been filled with memories of hate and violence and
fear -could NOT MOVE.

It was a nightmare, a living nightmare that had played in her
thoughts ever since she was seventeen, watching as her strong, fearless
protector was toyed with, tortured by an old man with old thoughts
and an even older agenda.

And he was killing him. He was fucking killing him.

"STOP." It was barely a whisper, her hands clenched as she watched,
tears making her vision blurry. She was shaking, badly.

Her would be lover was jerking on the floor. The face was strained
with an agonized expression. She could see the bones moving
underneath his skin, and she had to shut her eyes against the vision,
only to open them a second later, unable to take not knowing.

Logan gave a choked cough, lurching forward, blood spitting from his
lips, but he refused to say a word, as he glared at Magneto in open

And then his eyes flickered to her, met and held for one long second
and the world slid out from under her.

"Stop," she whispered again, barely giving the word breath, repeating
it, "Stop."

Magneto stood, his back to her, and the machine was there, and she
was scared, she was so scared and oddly enough, that was just
enough to get Marie pissed.

The voices were clamoring inside of her head, shouting and moaning
and Rogue just let them shout, but it was the whisper that slid into
her veins from the original part of her mind - the part that made her
love, the part that made her hope- that finally got control.

Not the Logan inside of her, or Carol or Magneto, or any of the other
personalities that rested in her brain and memories. It wasn't Rogue
who was pissed beyond all recognition - but the little Marie, the
young girl who had cried in her protector's arm.

And she was pissed at Rogue.

Her body shook as her fingers clenched, the words exploding behind
her eyes.

What the FUCK are you doing? You gonna let your lover die? Magneto is
NOTHING. Show him what the hell you're made of! He's NOT
YOU. YOU'RE NOT that scared little GIRL. USE HIM.

Use him.

Her eyes opened, her heart hammering, and with the words, the fear
ebbed away, only to be replaced with blinding rage.

FUCK Magneto.

FUCK him.

Before him she had been Marie. Before him she had BELIEVED. Before
him she had HOPED.

Rogue swallowed, trembling, and suddenly Marie slapped her, the whip
snapping on the inside, and Rogue's eyes glinted, and with a burst
she flew forward, swinging her hand back and knocking the metal man
to the side.

It was so sudden, so unexpected, that he did nothing, landing with a
jolt, taking by complete surprise, eyes moving and locking with
hers. But it was Rogue who stood before him, battled toughened, and
hard, always there to guard a soft heart. The brown eyes that
sometimes went green on Carol's days were green now, as she borrowed
Carol's rage, with Carol's open approval, and he saw it, heard it,
when she whispered in an even deadly tone, "You wanna see mutants,
brother? Then take a damn good look. I want ya to meet
someone you helped create, Erik. Take a good fucking look at Rogue."

To his credit, he tried to fight back. The old man was smug in his
powers, but the touch had reawakened something in her, long buried
memories and powers that Magneto himself had planted, and the
bracelet that had held her prisoner was swung off, tossed to the side.
A flick of her finger as a chair came forward, knocking him in the
back and sprawling him forward.

She skipped down from the railing, watching as his face filled with
confusion and enough fear to make her smile.

"You came me a damn good brain fuck, Eric," she whispered. "Took me
years to finally stop shocking people. I was a literal magnet for
months. You think your penchant for metal left? Not when those
fucking memories came right back?" And her hand moved and the chair
shook, and Eric shook his head, tried to move it, but she overpowered
him as she continued to advance, a young girl of twenty three
keeping the much older mutant in his place by using his own power
against him.

When she reached him, he was trembling, and Rogue relished it,
reaching for his throat and hoisting him high in the air.

"Guess what Eric? You created a monster."

He struggled, gurgling slightly, and she would have squeezed, as the
rage came to her in pure form, hate pouring from her, the killers
nestled inside of her body rejoicing, whispering in her ears to snap
it, to finish it-

But Marie wouldn't allow it.

And Marie was still in charge.

Rogue took a breath, reluctantly letting him go, watching him fall in
a pile on the floor.

"You're not the only one who doesn't forget," she whispered, looking
down at him as he coughed.

With a disgusted snort that must have come from Logan's contribution
to her split personality, she backed away, left him to his own

"Logan," she whispered, as the mutant groaned. The body was still
twisted, and she could hear the snaps, the painful process of healing
taking effect, but it wasn't fast enough to suit her.

She bit her lip, sliding a hand under him, helping him up, wincing as
he hissed in, inhaling sharply.

"Remind me not to get you pissed at me," he muttered through gritted

"Come on, sugar. Let's get the hell outta here."


It was over before it had even begun.

Eric had never felt true fear, true regret, until the young child had
looked on him with furiously old eyes.

His throat was sore, he knew there would be bruises. Spots were
rampant in his vision, and blood was bitter on his tongue.

There was no reason to move, and he was exhausted, too stunned to
move, alone in the room that should have been a culmination of
his destiny.

A palm fisted up and he slammed it against the floor in frustration,
the ache settling in his heart and his mind as he took the time to
process what had just happened.

The fear, the rage, the anger at the deadly mutant that fought for
GOOD - was aimed at him.

He had created her.

The agony and trauma borne into her - had been his.

And she hated him.

And knowing the remnants that lived within her, that led to only one
inevitable conclusion.

He hated himself.

The door on the other side flung open, when Darla walked in and
Drusilla came in after, and young Mystique carried a body that looked
suspiciously like the Seer's.

Boots clipped on the floor, slowly, firmly, one after the other,
until they were in his direct line of vision.

"Pathetic," he heard whispered. "Where the hell is she?" Darla's
voice was angry, dark, full of venom, as the Seer was dumped on the
ground and stepped over.

He inhaled, gathering his strength, pushing up and purposely putting
a mask of indifference on his frail face. He stood, wiping the blood
from his mouth, gathering his composure. "Where do you think? Gone."

"Gone." Darla's eyes bore into his, and to his credit, Magneto stood
his ground.

"That's correct."

There was a tick in the blonde's jaw, as she said with a hiss
attached to the deadly tone, "You realize that we have exactly forty
minutes left in which they can actually DO something about this?"

He raised an eyebrow. "You are losing my patience, Darla."

"You lost mine a long time ago, old man." With reflexes so quick he
could only jolt, her hand lurched forward, grabbing his in a tight,
deadly grip. "Looks like you'll have to power this little contraption
on your own."

Everything went deadly still, silent in Erik's head, and all the
delusion and lies gave way to simple clarity.

He had been a fool.

"Come now, Metal Man," Drusilla said, grabbing him, dragging a long
fingernail down his forearm, making him bleed.

"It's a means to an end, Erik," Mystique said, smiling, and his eyes
widened at the look of calm assurance on his former lover's face.


"Your time is past, old man," Darla said flippantly, dragging him in
his weakened step, closer and closer to the machine that would mean

"You gave us what we wanted. For that we are thankful."

"NO." He began to struggle, but so weakened he was reduced to
flailing and Drusilla laughed, a tinny metallic sound.

"Never make a deal with a devil," she kissed his cheek, sliding her
tongue up to his ear. "You always get burned."

His heart was pounding furiously, and he looked beseechingly to
Mystique, his mentee, his lover, his child, as both vampires strapped
to the machine. "You will allow this?"

She was quiet, and she leaned forward, eyes on his. "A means to an
end Erik. This will be for the good of mutants everywhere. Do not
worry. I shall lead. You have taught me well."

The metal snapped and he tried to snap it off, knowing it would have
been effortless if he hadn't been in pain, weakened by touching
Rogue, by the fight, the pain.

By age.

He closed his eyes and this time the metal seemed to heed, but
Mystique's foot snapping across his face ended any resistance at all, as
he fell back, unconscious.


She held him steady as they walked at a quick pace, and when she
deemed them far enough away from the dreaded room, she let him
rest, sliding down the wall, legs sprawled out.

Immediately she nestled between them, flipping one white streak back
as the tenderness that was almost alien took over, brown eyes
moving over his body, making sure he was intact.

"Logan, Logan honey, come on. Let's heal up."

A deep breath that made the great chest heave was what she got in
answer, as his body trembled and something else snapped into
place, making him shudder.

She let him breath, fingers rubbing at his, until his eyes opened,
and his mind was foggy, but alert, vivid in the dark brown feral eyes.

The look he gave her tugged at her heart, as an involuntary smile
graced her features.

He closed his eyes as his hands gripped hers almost painfully, and
she held on as he continued to breathe through the agonizing
re-healing process of his mutation.

Pain was always a factor in his life, so much that he had come to
disregard it as something common.

She had never taken his pain for granted, even when it seemed
everyone else had. Every time the claws slid out she winced, the inner
Logan jumping in time with Marie as her own fingers drifted to her
knuckles, recalling the pain as the knives sliced through the skin -
and over and over. The same sharp agony that never diminished sliding
through her in the form of alien memories.

An aching heart and a still dominant Marie made every emotion run
rampant, and at that moment, there was none more apparent than
the love she had always carried for this gruff, sensitive, haunting

He had no past, but he had still managed to give her a future.

Her palms slid across his cheeks desperately, touching him the only
way she knew how.

"Rogue," he began thickly, shaking his head like a wet dog, trying to
fling away the confusion and disorientation. "FUCK. That hurts."

"Well what the hell were ya doin' going in there all Rambo-ish and
shit? You can't do a THING against that man! You're MADE OF METAL,
Logan." It was an automatic snap that was pure Rogue, and it felt
good to say it, as if this was the old Logan and the Old Rogue, who
could talk without having that uncomfortable sense of pretense
between them, of knowing that they both wanted more - and could
never have it.

His eyes narrowed in response, as he lifted a hand, covering her
palms with his own as he squeezed. "I wasn't exactly thinking, Marie. I
rarely do when it comes to you." The last part was edged out in a
grumble, and she smiled against her will.

"You and me both, sugar."

Pounding and shouts made their heads swivel in reaction, both
immediately reacting to the cries of their teammates.



For one moment, just one, they were completely alone. She turned back
to him, and his intense, focused gaze caught her, seared into
her. She could hear him breathing, could feel its soft tufts on the
open collar of her leather uniform, warming it, sending spirals of heat
throughout her body, making her muscles clench. His hands continued
to stroke hers. She was gasping openly for breath now, she knew
he could see it, smell it, as his gaze drifted down to the obvious
sight of her chest heaving up and down.

It was that exact look that got her into so much damn trouble before.

She swallowed, suddenly unsure, as his hands continued to stroke her
gloves, and everything inside of her stopped completely, like a
coiled spring, when his head turned, and so reverently her hands
might have been made of china, his lips pressed into the gloves.

There was no skin contact, but the way he kept his lips on the
leather, the way his tongue flicked out and traced the spot gently, sent
such a jolt through her that she didn't care. For the first time in
her life, she didn't care.

It was an interesting revelation, to say the least.

"Logan." The voice came out rough and desperate and different than
she had ever said it, edged in need, and her heart really WAS
beating so quickly, and she really was forgetting to breathe, and oh
God, Logan -

"I love you."

The words were gentle, soft, gruff, and they came from his lips,
almost muffled because her mouth was still buried in her glove, and it
made her whimper, tremble and everything inside of her was alive as
he looked at her, and their gazes held.

His stare burned her, deep down inside, filling her with warmth and
emotion that shook her so much it scared her.

Rogue licked her lips again, her throat so dry, but as her mouth
opened to respond she heard a familiar click, a whir, and her attention
was jerked to the hallway that led to the room they had just come from.

The thoughts came a mile a minute, and she froze, processing them all.

The machine. Someone started the machine.

Someone started the machine and no one on earth could power that
machine but her and Magneto - which meant-

Magneto was on the damn machine - powering the machine.

Her eyes closed as the flashback jolted through her, Cordelia's voice
ringing clear through her head.

"We have to HELP Magneto."

Her eyes opened and everything clicked into place.

"Awww, shit."

She jerked out of Logan's grasp and ran back in the direction that
she came, ignoring the calls of the X-Men who had made their way to
Logan's side, sprinting back to the hallway, as she heard the
Machine's whir, growing louder and faster.


He was drowning, and any grasp was impossible to get a hold of.

Two viable options, two ways to be set free.

With one came sanity, with the other came death.

The voices were searing into his head, and Angel groaned, as the
battle waged inside of him became more rampant, less defined.

The edges were beginning to blur, and he swallowed, stumbling into
the room, falling on the ground.

In the background, he heard a distinct whir, but he couldn't care,
not when the claws of the demon shifted inside of him, clawing at the

It was painful, it was so painful.

He wasn't going to let HIM win - he wasn't going to let him win-

Soft hands, hands that felt familiar but with a scent that was... off
somehow... gently cradled him. Angel shuddered, reaching out blindly
in relief, feeling his soul jolt, grabbing a hold of his Seer,
pulling her in close, aching desperately for his humanizing influence.
She would
be his buoy, she was always his anchor.


"Shh, Angel." Lips pressed against his temple and he sobbed at the
pain, clinging, too afraid to let go.

"Don't let me go, Cordy," he begged. "Don't let me go. I can't be him

"Angel, you're stronger than this. You can't fight him until you
become him. I'll be here. I'll watch. I'll take care of you."

He froze, bewilderment at the words, and finally he shook his head
blindly. "I can't."

"The Machine will help you, Angel," came Cordelia's soothing voice.
"It'll set the line, it will define it. Please Angel."

"I won't let him."

"Angel..." The soft hands stroked him, and his eyes opened, looking
beseechingly into Cordelia's yellow eyes. It crossed his feverish mind
to wonder why Cordelia had yellow eyes, but it was pushed away when
the Seer leaned forward, kissing him gently.

He smiled a blissful smile of relief.

And that was when the blue wave of the machine hit him.


She thanked God yet again for her gift of strength as she barreled
into the door, already mangled thanks to Logan the human can
opener, faltering when her wide eyes processed the scene laid so
neatly before her.

Cordelia in an unconscious heap on the floor, already engulfed in the
slow blue wave. Magneto, crying out, unable to stop the Machine,
completely powerless, for all his magnetic strength.

Two other women she didn't recognize, one a pale dark beauty, another
blonde, with a domineering presence that gave her the
immediate association with 'leader'.

And on their right, standing - was... Cordelia.

Rogue's eyes flickered from the still Cordelia to the Cordelia with
the yellow eyes, and she sucked in her breath.


Mystique blinked, cocking her head. "Now that's not exactly
complimentary, is it Rogue?"

"So this is Rogue?" The blonde one mused openly, finger on her chin.
"What fun. We've heard so much about you. You are an interesting
character. All those creatures in your head, must get slightly

The dark haired one giggled, as the blue wave continued to seep,
touching their feet.

And they didn't feel a thing.

Hmm. Not human.

"There is darkness with this one. She is a killer."

Okay. Certifiably insane to boot. Great.

"Get the hell outta here and I might not kill ya."

Apparently that was incredibly funny, although Rogue didn't see the
humor. The blonde laughed, throwing her head back in the process,
and the haughty smile that came from Cordelia/Mystique might have
pissed Rogue off, had she not suddenly had her hand yanked behind
her, wrenching it up, painfully, pulled back against a hard body she
knew only too well.

"What fun would that be?" came the whisper. "When we're already dead?"

It was the same voice, the same tone, but Rogue knew it wasn't the
same man.

It wasn't a man at all.

She swallowed, counted to ten in an attempt to still her beating heart.


"Hello, baby. Welcome to my party. You're a guest of honor."


The strength was coming back fast, and Logan kept up easily, every
step becoming more assured, as the anger and worry and fear
coursed through him, giving him more speed.

There was no time to think, no time to remember the humans, as they
paused at the door, unsure of what to do, or say.

Logan could only watch, processing.

The whirring was loud, biting into his ears and making the over
sensitized ear drum beat loudly.

Scott winced, and he grabbed onto Jean's hand, pulling her behind him.

Feral eyes narrowed, when suddenly Rogue screamed out in pain and he
had had enough.

Behind him, he heard Scott mentioning the humans, but there was no
time to care, as he dove forward.

Rogue kicked up, a booted foot snapping into Angel's face, making him
lose his grip as the fangs grazed her neck.

"Logan NO!"

He didn't care, the claws were out as he stepped into the blue wave.

"FUCK Logan!"

He came forward, as Angel glared and smiled and greeted, "Animal boy!
Come to play?"

He growled, but a figure stopped him, making him hesitate.

"What's the matter lover?" Cordelia whispered to him.

He blinked, and he sniffed and there was a low growl.

She winked and a foot met his chin, making him reel back.

The battle for their souls had begun.


"Whatever you do, stay the HELL away from the blue wave."

Fred barely registered the comment, watching helplessly as the X-Men
stepped inside, and the chaos continued.

Her mind was reeling, and she blinked, swaying slightly as she
attempted to peer into the blue wave that was distorting everything.

"What the bloody-"

The words of Wesley rang through her, but she just couldn't seem to
make them come true.

Angelus couldn't beat out Angel.

Angel was stronger. Angel was always stronger.

But there he was, the demonic face, snapping Rogue back, catching
her, holding her arms and catching her in a brutal kiss, biting on her
lip and making her bleed.

That wasn't Angel.

Oh, God.

Her mouth began to chant, again and again the words of the prophecy
rang through her.

Chaos reins on the First Night.

And the blue wave came forward, and the three human members of Angel
Investigation were helpless, stepping back, away and away
from the fight.

Jean and Storm were desperately trying to get to the machine - HELP

But even if they stopped the Machine the First Night would continue,
because Angelus had taken control.

In the corner, a body was stirring, moving to life.

Her mind kept processing, moving, eyes mentally scanning over and
over the texts.

Chaos Reigns on the First Night As the demon engulfs

Angelus kicking Rogue, making her fall back into a rolling stumble.

Cordelia's words, sliding through her.

"Something we do triggers it ... I'm leading it."

A figure looking suspiciously like Cordelia fighting Logan with a
brutality that made Fred's throat ache.

"Bloody hell." Wesley moved past her, toward the scene.

"Wesley! What the hell are you doing?" It was Gunn holding him back.

"I can't stand by and watch!"

"You go in there you're toast!"

"We have to stop Angel!"

"You can't!"

"Get out of my way, Gunn."

Fred bit her lip.

And the watchful become blind

Wesley pushing Gunn away, and Gunn returning with a forceful snap of
his own, catching Wesley across the jaw.

"No way in HELL you're going in there, Wes."

She sucked in her breath, turning back to the scene.

No... Wes wasn't going in there.

Her mind continued to work, and something jolted through her, and
suddenly Fred knew, she knew it so well.

She had to stop it before -

Rogue was next.

With a breath, she walked, silently, Gunn never noticing until she
was just outside the rapidly advancing wave.


She looked back, bit her lip, and closed her eyes.

He sprinted, he ran, but she was too close, he as too far. When he
dove, he was caught in it, hands around her waist as they fell.

The blue wave engulfed them, and her eyes jolted open.


Until the demon consumes many

Gunn and Fred had gotten hit by the wave.


Rogue ducked under, kicking up, catching him in the ribs before
shouting a warning to Jean.

"Stop the machine!"

It was enough to lose her guard, and the heavy hand caught her across
the mouth, drawing blood.

She reeled, slightly dazed, but flipped over him, keeping him
occupied, the demon that had taken over the sensitive vampire.

"Fuck you Angel, for giving up," she whispered, crouching.

"What a sick little fuck you are," she got in response, as the
vampire regarded her, hands out to the chaos in the room, where the
others were fighting his vampires, his shapeshifter. "You landed on
the wrong side, sister."

"Like I really wanted to end up on the psycho team."

"Oh baby you'll get there." He came forward, and she blocked three
blows before the fourth caught her in her temple, giving her such a
blinding pain that she was literally stunned into place, falling
back, landing on the hard floor.

It was all he needed, as he caught her in his arms, pulling her
closer to his hard, cold body. 'Let's see, hmmm... Biting is so damn
Let's try this a different way, huh?"

When the knife slit through her abdomen, the blood spurted out, and
the dizziness came as she crumpled, even as Logan's howl filled the


And may the pain engulf all As all becomes equal And the demon reigns


Jean's head snapped to the scene, distracted from the blonde, her
heart jumping in fear.

"Oh Lord, he got Rogue," she whispered, and she swallowed, jerking
her mind and the blonde flew back, landing against the wall with an
audible thump.

Logan flew forward, away from Mystique, diving into Angel, and Rogue
fell limply to the side.

The claws dug into the vampire, again and again and again-

But it did nothing.

Jean swallowed, turning her attention way, head aching with
concentration as she looked at the rings that were whirring and

She couldn't get in there. She couldn't stop it without -



"Fucking bastard." His voice were hoarse, his heart was beating so
hard, and his hands continued as if they had a life of their own,
digging into the cold flesh again and again.

"LOGAN! We Need you!"

He didn't listen, he wouldn't move, not even when he saw Mystique
coming forward, not when he saw Ororo grab the dark haired bitch
by the hair, not when Jean pleaded from the machine.

He was gonna finish this bastard off, and then get to Rogue.

Who was gonna be alive.

She had to be alive.


"NO! DAMMIT!" Wesley paced, prowled, ignoring the ache in his jaw, as
his heart cried out in process.



He watched, a helpless spectator.

Gunn and Fred locked in a tumultuous embrace, jerking and writhing
and changing.

"You know, I HATE when people claw me."

There was a stunned expression on Logan's face when Angel launched
up, caught him by the throat, slammed him against the wall,
dangling the feral man like a puppet.

"I can't stop it!" He watched with tear filled eyes the scene by the
machine, edging closer and closer and he was tempted to just let it
wash over him.

Scott couldn't get a clear shot, not when he had been knocked out by
Mystique, the glasses knocked off, and him lying in a heap on the

Ororo was kicked, by Drusilla.

And the heap in the corner was shifting slightly.

"I've got to go in there."

"NO!" Ororo seemed to have heard, and her head whipped toward him and
she almost growled, anger in her voice, "Whatever you DO,
Wesley. STAY HUMAN."

He couldn't move, and he watched, with growing uncertainty.

He had to kill Angel.

He had to kill Angel.

Oh, Lord.

He gave a shuddering sob, pacing back and forth, until the figure in
the corner caught his eye, sitting up and rubbing her head.

Immediately his eyes lit up, "CORDELIA!"


And the animals are tamed May the soul reign forever

There was a thin line between reality and consciousness, and Cordelia
knew it immediately, when she groaned, shifting, suddenly aware.

When her eyes blinked open, it was there, her vision, and she shook,
her heart began to hammer, and she scrambled to her feet.

Rogue in a bloody mess on the floor. The young girl was coughing
blood, jerking and spasming and OH GOD.

Her foot edged in that direction, until her eyes jerked to the Machine.

Eric - Jean, fighting of Darla and Ororo fighting off... HER.

Her foot edged in that direction, until her eyes jerked to Logan.


Angelus. Angelus.

Her chest began to heave, and she swallowed.


Her eyes jerked, and she squinted and outside of the blue fog and the
loud chaos, she saw one lone person.

"Wesley," she breathed.

He began to mimic, pantomiming with his hands, and she just continued
to squint, unsure of what he meant, what he was saying.

And finally he just groaned, and his arm lobbed back and in a perfect
throw, sent something through to her, dropping it in it a clattering
jolt at her feet.

A wooden stake.

The feelings rushed over her - panic - sorrow - PAIN - ANGER - HATE -

Oh, GOD.

She was brought to her knees, but she resisted the urge to cover it
up, to feel anything but her, and she tried to block but it seemed so

Her hand groped for the stake, and she held it unsteadily.

Her eyes flickered over the three scenes, and when she saw Angelus'
fangs sink into Logan's neck, it spurred her into action.

No time to think, no time to think - go with the instincts. Go with
what you know.

Doubts. Fears and doubts and insecurity had plagued her for so many

It was all gone in a second, as everything inside her stilled and she
looked at the stake and knew immediately what it was for.

It was for Angelus.

With a deep intake of air, she moved, holding the stake firmly in her
good hand, walking past the chaos, past the bleeding Rogue, and
with a burst of strength that surprised even her, pulled Logan away
from Angel, sending the mutant sprawling over Rogue's body.

And there it was. All that was left.

Cordelia Chase looking into Angelus' eyes, trying to see past him,
into Angel.

"Cordy!" His arm lashed out and grabbed the fractured arm, twisting it.


She didn't move, didn't flinch. "Tear the damn thing off, Angelus.
I've been through worse. Every vision, every heartbreak, is worse than
what you can do to me."

A slow, dangerous smile slid over his face. "Care to play the odds,

She smiled back, nodding, and the wooden stake was held up.

"Take it Angel. It's a present. For you."


The punctures in his neck were healing, closing immediately, and
Logan barely glanced at them as he looked at Rogue, her face draining
of any color.

"Rogue, baby. Rogue."

She shuddered as blinked, blood dripping slightly from her parted
lips as she took in a gasp that sounded wet.

FUCK. Blood in her longs.

"Logan," she closed her eyes, not able to say anything else.

"No, come on baby." He immediately reached for his gloves, in his
panic and trembling almost unable to get the damn things off.

"You touch me I'll shoot you," she answered automatically, her hand
covering her wound, trying to keep it closed. It was a weak
complaint, but the tone was firm, even as her fading voice seemed to
be losing it's strength. Her eyes were dull, but they pinned him.

"Marie I have to."

"Stop the machine."


"FUCK LOGAN!" She coughed, and suddenly winced in pain and a sob came
from her, making her jerk and making his heart jump, as he
gathered her closer, the blood on his hands that smeared from her
body now on her face. She took a moment to breath, wet gasping
breaths, and her eyes opened, and she looked at him again, sliding
down his lips as her head fell back. "STOP THE FUCKING MACHINE



There was no room for argument, and Marie was asking what Logan
didn't know if he could do. Choose life or love - save the life of a
fuckwhit that branded her in the first place or save her and maybe
die in the process.

And she was ordering him.

"Logan, we need you now!" He was almost numb as he turned, watching
as Magneto looked nearly dead, and Rogue, her eyes closed,
was breathing erratically.

Jean slid in next to him, pushing Rogue off of him and pulling him
onto her thighs. "Now, Logan."

He stumbled to his feet, the knot in his throat, toward the metal
rings that were going faster and faster.

With a growl and a yell the claws slid from his body and he let them


The metal splintered into fragments, but she never even blinked, eyes
focused completely on the man in front of her.

"You are one crazy bitch, you know that?" he said, fangs dripping, a
truly grotesque sight in the form of her lover.

She nodded, her throat tight. "I know."

She was caught from behind, her neck jerked back.

"Angelus may I taste her?"

His eyes narrowed, as if in annoyance, and with a jerk he pulled
Darla back from behind her, forward, into him, into the point of the

She exploded with a burst of dust, and Cordelia barely blinked.

"Fucking annoying bitch. Go around for a few hundred years and she
thinks we're married or some thing."

"The nerve," she responded dryly.

Her eyes flickered to the clock on the wall.

Twenty minutes.

He sniffed, leaning forward, putting her neck dangerously close to
his fangs. "You're not scared of me." Strong fingers wrapped around
her wrist and she was hauled against him. "That's fucking stupid,
Cor," he breathed into her ear.

She smiled, and her fingers slid up, tangling into his silky dark
hair, "That's not stupid, Angel."

He pushed her away, snapping a hand across her face. "Angelus."




The room had gone deadly quiet. She didn't have to look to know
everyone was silent. She had no idea how Gunn and Fred had faired, if
Rogue was still alive, or if Magneto was still breathing.

She had no time.

Fifteen minutes.

"You're fucking annoying Cordelia."

She had intrigued him, she knew. No one played with death incarnate.

"I'm tired of being afraid of you. It doesn't do me any good. And
it's pointless."

"Pointless." His hand gripped her shirt and she was slammed against
the wall, a jarring slam that made her body ache and her mind
splinter with pain, but her focus was on him.

"Angel will always control you. Actually not always. In about five
minutes you're going to be officially dead."

He smiled, a genuine, diabolical grin. "Going for that Oscar again,

"I'm not going to do shit. Angel's going to kill you."

"Angel. Angel's dead."

"No he's not."

"And how are you so damn sure?" he responded, his body pressed
against her, arousal at her so clear, pressing against her hip.

Sick bastard.


"Stay away!" she barked at Wesley, never moving her eyes from
Angelus'. "All of you. This is between me and him."

"Damn right." The demon kept her against the wall, hands at her hips,
the wooden stake digging into her side. "As I remember you kinda
like this position."

"You wanna know how I'm so sure?" she responded, voice even. "Because
I can feel every damn emotion coming from your body."

It was enough to make him stop, freeze, features finally unsure, and
he almost let her go, before he shook it away and grabbed her
cheek, jerking her face to the side in a movement that could have
easily snapped her neck.

"Vampires are immune to empathics, you dumb shit."

And her eyes glittered with something close to tears as she
whispered, "I know."

Someone gasped audibly behind her, and Angelus saw it, he felt it,
and she knew the Angel that still existed jumped in response,
because suddenly there was the impossible.

There was hope.

Angelus jerked back, and she fell to the floor, but her voice kept
going, spurring on her lover.

"Come ON, Angel! Do it! You've been wanting to do it for the longest
time! Kill the bastard. He's NOT YOU!."

"No," Angelus whispered, the words making him shake.

"He's not you, Angel. You can feel. You can emit feelings. Think
about what that means! Think about what that's made you become."

Her chest was heaving as Angelus fell to the ground, and his eye went
in horror to the stake in his hand.


"You control him, Angel. Put the bastard away."


It happened so quickly she almost missed it, and the hardest thing
she ever had to see made her heart splinter as she PRAYED she was
right - she had to be right.

For all their sakes she had to be right.

She was spurring him on.

And Fred cried out as Angel staked himself.

Cordelia barely had time to process it as lightning filled the room,
and everyone ducked, and her hand covered her eyes to shield herself
from the impossibly bright light, as the wind whipped into the room
and a loud crash was heard and a howl.

It was utter chaos and when it ended everything was strewn around the
room, daylight was peaking into the building, and Angel lay in a
heap in the floor.

She crawled forward, her injured arm gathered close to her body as
others began to move, stir.

Her heart was in her throat as she turned over the unconscious Angel,
placing a palm on a warm chest.

A heartbeat.

Oh God.

She burst into tears, the relief suddenly released in a torrent as
she fell across her lover, holding him as closely as she could.

Fingers rubbed through her hair, the caresses gentle, almost

Her eyes opened, and tear streaked hazel eyes gazed into impossibly
deep dark brown orbs.


She swallowed down, hard. "Hey."

He gathered her into his arms, his body weakened from the fight but
he was warm and alive and ANGEL WAS ALIVE.


She turned, her head whipping around and her heart came into her
throat when she realized one thing.

Rogue, still bleeding, face still pale, was no longer breathing.

~ Chapter Fourteen ~

"Okay, you're going to have to brace yourself. This is going to hurt."

"Oh, Gee. What else is new?" she answered in her most dry, sarcastic

Cordelia sucked in her breath, and her hand reached out. Immediately
warm, strong fingers entangled them, squeezing in support, and
she smiled gratefully.


Jean jerked and she winced, whimpering slightly.

"Okay, it's over."

She gave a sigh of relief, as her arm was put in the sling. She
cradled it close to her body.

Wesley gave a sigh from across the room. "Bloody, hell."

Angel looked over, moving forward and settling into the chair next to
him. "Any luck?"

"Well the bloody thing makes sense now," Wesley said, squinting his
eyes as he poured over the scroll. "It definitely is the Shanshu."

The Shanshu. Angel's shanshu had finally come to pass. The
ramifications of even THINKING it made Cordelia's heart tremble
slightly, as
she deliberately avoided Angel's heated gaze. "So what caused it?"

"Apparently – Angel staking himself. Only in sacrificing his soul was
he able to retain it. I'm not quite... Angel's shanshu - the battle is
never going to be won."

"We knew that."

Cordelia gazed at Angel and he took a breath, looking away. "Yes
but... that's not all. Angel's... cross, so to speak, has been taken by
someone else."

Immediately both heads swiveled to Wesley.

"Someone else? See that's where I'm not getting it. I'm still Vision
Girl. I have… Visions. Not that I'm complaining – more than usual-" she
quickly amended when everyone gave her a look. "But if Angel reached
his Shanshu , shouldn't they.. you know… be … gone?"

Wesley took in a shaky breath, hands burying into his hair, creating
spiky tufts, and it amused Cordelia to watch Ororo smirk, placing a
gentle hand on his back, stroking his back in an intimate, definite
'more than friends' kinda way.

"I'll keep looking."

Jean smiled. "Do that." She got to her feet, letting out a tired
sigh. "Let me go check on Rogue."

Yeah, that was probably a much better idea than to sit around and
freak out about why she was still vision bound when Angel was

Angel was human.

She gave a ragged gasp, and found herself smiling slightly as she got
to her feet. "I'll go with."

Scott nodded, crossing his arms, before turning to Angel. "Any luck
on finding Drusilla and Mystique?"

Angel shook his head, looking almost guilty. "But then again... I
haven't exactly been - things have been... distracting."

A slow smile spread across Scott's face. "Understandable."

Angel smiled, a smile that faltered as he watched Cordelia and Jean
go up the stairs.


She made sure she was quiet as she drifted into the room, closing the
door gently behind her once Cordelia followed her in.

Logan looked up, the hair falling flat around his face, and Jean only
nodded, and he nodded back, before turning back, keeping Rogue's
hand in his own.

Jean took a moment to steel herself, as Cordelia took a seat next to
Logan, placing a gentle hand on his shoulder.

Rogue was quiet, and Jean pulled the latex harder up her arms,
leaning over the sleeping mutant, gently lifting up the borrowed t-shirt
and making sure the bandage was not yet soaked through.

"It's a miracle she survived."

Jean gave a slight smile. "Rogue always does have a knack of
surprising us." Logan gave a short snort, and she continued, her tone
conversational. "Apparently Logan hasn't faded quite so much as we
thought. She retained some of his healing factor. Not a lot, but
enough to stop the wound from becoming worse. It kept her alive. The
blood loss is a factor, I'm still not sure about."

Logan took in a shuddering breath.

"Fucking knives stuck in my fucking body like it's a damn cutting
board or something."

The muttering made everyone jump, and Jean jerked her face to Rogue's.

The woman's eyes were still close, but she grimaced, a very
discernable expression on her young face. "Ah swear. One more person
to gut me like a trout I put my boot so far up his ass-"

"Fuck Rogue. Save your strength." Logan's voice was hoarse,
desperate, with emotion tingeing at the edge of it, different than
Jean had
ever heard it, and even she had to smile at the look of complete and
utter relief in his eyes.

The man sounded… choked up.

His hand gripped hers hard, as fingers stroked her face. Under his
caresses, her eyes opened, wincing at the light in the room, and then,
when adjusted, opening again. The brown pupils dilated at Jean's warm
expression as she leaned over.

"Hello, Rogue. How are you doing?"

Rogue grimaced, swallowing, and said in a rasp, "Water."

Damned if Logan didn't almost knock over the chair to get it from the
pitcher on the desk.

Gently, he placed his knee on the bed, helping her sit up, carefully
tipping the water into her mouth.

She took a drink, grimaced, leaning against him. "Okay. Now comes the
age old 'What the hell happened while Rogue was being gutted
like a catfish' part."

Jean turned to Cordelia who shrugged. "Nutshell version?"

"I'll kick your ass if you give me anything else."

"What is with the potty mouth, Streaks?"

"Logan remnants."

Logan smiled, fingers running through the soft strands of her hair.

Cordelia rolled her eyes, settling on the bed.

"Cliffs Notes version: Angel staked Angelus, and he's human. We
stopped the First Night, thanks to some metal shredding from Logan.
Magneto is in jail. Mystique and Dru escaped in the whole 'we think
Rogue is dead' sitch, and Gunn and Fred ... are mutants."

Apparently it was a lot to take, because all Rogue had to answer was
the very intelligent, "Huh?"

"Rogue, rest. We'll explain it in detail when we figure it all out
ourselves. For now, Sleep."

"Yeah. Cause you look like crap."

Cordelia's addition was most definitely not needed but Jean only
rolled her eyes, flicking with her finger as she rose.

Rogue always was a bad patient, but when Logan stripped off his
jacket and moved his large frame beside her smaller one, carefully
gathering her into his side, Rogue had no real grounds for an

Cordelia stood, following Jean as they walked to the door.

Jean Grey was tired. Her body was tired, her legs felt almost numb,
and she had a headache. It made things flicker, emotions that she
was usually able to keep filtered out crept in. Usually she would
retire with a couple of aspirin and a sleeping pill to knock herself out
from the thoughts.

But as she slowly closed the door on the scene of Logan holding Rogue
gently, felt the love flooding from him for the young mutant, she
only smiled.

It was one emotion she didn't mind receiving.


"All right. Question. Why the hell do WE get stuck with the
dismantling bullshit?"

Fred looked up from her book, giving Gunn a disapproving stare. "Do
you really want me to answer that?"

He glared at the contraption, mangled and crippled and not nearly as
scary as it had been two days ago.

"Naw. I felt the need to bitch. Thanks for hearing me out. Leftover
'I'm a mutant' trauma."

There was a small bit of quiet after that, as if he was reflecting on
that last sentence, and she herself felt a slight bump in her heart as
the mention of the word.

Mutants. She and Gunn were mutants. Taking in a shaky breath, she
looked back down at the book, but her eyes weren't reading the

After being thoroughly examined by Jean, that had been the official
announcement. Apparently, that bottle of blood that had been taken
from Cordelia had served a very unique purpose. It had changed the
machine; at least that's what Jean concluded. Erik had used it,
analyzed it, and changed the machine and it worked now.

It had been two days and they were fine. Better than fine.

No danger of dying.

Even now Fred wondered what had possessed her to jump into the blue
wave - had she known? Had something or someone knowing?

It was all very peculiar.

She rolled her eyes, looking toward the book and gently turning the
page, losing her concentration for a bit and jumping when sparks
flew from her fingertips, incinerating it immediately.

"Oh my."

Gunn turned, and suddenly a smile bloomed across his handsome face,
as he settled in beside her, placing an arm around her shoulder as
she looked forlornly at Magneto's charred notebook.

"It coulda been worse. Storm told me about some dude that has those
things shooting from his feet."

It made her smile, as she leaned into him, fingers gently, CAREFULLY,
caressing his cheek.

He didn't care about the mutation, trusted her implicitly. Stupid,
considering that she hadn't quite learned how to master the sparks, but

He gazed at her, into her eyes, and his expression softened. Gently,
he leaned forward, brushing his lips over hers. She sighed, arm
creeping around his neck, bringing him in closer, and when his mouth
opened and it became hot, the degree of passion increased, and
suddenly her heart was racing, as his hands gently slid over her
body, holding her waist, caressing, pushing her into him, and then
up firmly, until fingers brushed the tip of one breast.

She broke off the kiss with a gasp, her flushed face looking at him
in surprise. He looked a little breathless himself, but dutifully let
hand slide away, leaning in to kiss her once more.

"Too fast?"

She blinked, blushed, and pushed her glasses up, in an effort to hide
the smile on her face. "No. But... work. Public place."

"Destroy Machine. Got it."

She got to her feet, breathing in, legs quite wobbly, come to think
of it, and crossed her arms, joining him in looking at the machine.
"So... Theoretically, we could readjust the parameters to a sequence
that could render it harmless. It would take a bit of time and I
would need some calculations but-"

"Or we could use Gunn's new manly man muscles." She raised an
eyebrow, and her mouth fell open slightly as he jumped onto the
machine effortlessly, a definite feat, and used HIS mutation,
strength, to rip it all apart in less than a minute.

Her shoulder sunk down. Caveman. A smirk drifted across her lips.
"That works too, I guess."

He winked, and when she smiled, he paused from his work, saying
calmly, "Girl, you ever throw yourself into a blue wave thingy again I
swear I will spank your ass so hard it ain't even funny."

Her eyes widened and he pointed a finger at her, continuing before
she even had a chance to huff.

"I kinda love you, you know. So don't pull that shit with me. I just
about had a heart attack."

And with that, he went back to his job, dismantling, leaving Fred to
watch, shake her head, and smile, a delicious faster-than-normal
thumping in her chest.


He wasn't sure how to say good-bye.

He wasn't quite sure if there WAS a good-bye.

Storm had dragged him into this room, stating he had been pouring
over his books and scrolls for too long and needed to rest.

He had agreed, his eyes were beginning to cross themselves.

But he had not expected her to slide in with him, place her chocolate
brown palms directly over her heart, align her body perfectly with
his, the snow colored strands of silken hair spilling across his chest.

They had lain there for hours; quiet, unsure, as his hand stole to
her spine, gently sliding up and down.

"You are worried."

It was the first word she had spoken since she had lain with him, and
he sighed, tired.


"It is understandable."

He swallowed, nodding. "Well... Angel's Shanshu - as remarkable as it
is... so much is left unanswered. And the prophecy is still
unfulfilled, and Gunn and Fred are mutants. It doesn't feel like the

"Hmm. You are right. It does not feel like the end," she agreed, her
voice sending vibrations through his chest. "But that is not what I
think you are worried about."

He was quiet, the finality in her voice making him wonder. "Exactly
what do you think I'm worried about?"

"Being human. Everyone in your group has achieved some sort of
transformation and you have stayed the same."

He was quiet, but felt her fingers as they reached up, tracing a
pattern on his chest.

It was neither a confirmation nor a denial, but she knew the answer.

"Has it occurred to you that you did not change simply because you
did not need to?"

He took in a breath, closing his eyes.

After a minute, they blinked open. She tilted her head, resting her
chin on him as she reached up, and slid off his glasses.

"I highly doubt I have met anyone quite like you, Ororo," he
responded, his voice rough.

She was quiet, her eyes frank, open, as if she was processing
something, before she spoke. Somehow he got the impression that nothing
she ever said hadn't been carefully analyzed and replayed in her mind

He admired that. There was discipline in that trait that was almost
unheard of in this time and place.

"I would like you to realize something, Wesley," she began,
carefully. "You are a truly glorious exception, to a rule I had long
ago given to


"There is no but." She gave a conflicted smile. "But there is a maybe."


She sighed, resting her cheek against him. "It is complicated. With
him. And with you?"


She smiled slightly. "It is not so complicated. But when I return.
Things will be complicated again."

"Is that what this has been about?" His hands gently slid up her
arms, light caresses that barely touched her skin, but her heart beat
against his chest, and the flush in her cheek made him wonder if she
was at the very least affected by it.

"This has been about you. I will miss you Wesley. You make me proud."

It wasn't quite love, but it was enough. There was an aching
tenderness within him, a curse that made him wonder why he always had
to fall for women who seemed meant for someone else, but her brown
eyes were edged in warmth, and it made him wonder, with how
perfectly she fit against him, if perhaps this was something slightly

A perfect, lean body rested against his, a small, beautiful, sad
smile flitted across her features, and she leaned forward, her knee
between his thighs as she slid up his body.

The kiss was slow, languid, but incredibly sexy. It seeped through
him, as she sighed, long eyelashes fluttering against his cheek, as her
fingers stole to his cheek, gently tracing circles there, keeping his
lips on hers as her mouth tilted, opened.

Increasing passion filled the next embrace, intimacy that deepened,
as his arms slid around her waist, until her body fit against his,
completely on top of him, and he was able to gently scoop her,
turning, until she was gently sandwiched between the soft bed and his
firm chest.

When her fingers slid down in between his pectorals, to smooth under
his shirt, long nails raking gently at his abdomen, he pulled away,
mouth inches from hers as her eyes twinkled at him.

He smiled.

"I hope you figure things out, Ororo."

She blinked slightly, moisture tingeing her eyelids. "Same to you,


"Are you sure you're going to be okay?"

Goodness. Cordelia loved Jean and all, but if the lady asked if she
was going to be okay one more time, Doctor or not doctor, she was
just gonna thump her. Hard.

"I'll be fine. We've kinda got some things to take care of."

Jean took in a breath, looking concerned and conflicted and all Jeany
like, and finally just sighed, looking over the rooftop, the wind
brushing her beautiful red hair into her face.

With one graceful move, she brushed it away.

"All right. But I will back as soon as I can. And I'll bring Charles
with me. I don't feel comfortable leaving you, and Gunn and Fred here
with out full control of your powers."

"Yeah I know, mother. But we'll be fine. We've got some other things
to worry about. Figuring out this whole prophecy thingy, for

Jean nodded, leaning down to pick up her back.

"Yes. I think it might work, having an X-MEN contingent in Los

Cordelia gave a cocked eyebrow, a glimmer of hope in her eyes. "The
uniform? I get to keep the uniform?"

"Of course you do, if you want the responsibility that comes with it.
And Gunn and Fred, with some training." Jean's face softened, and
she nodded. "Good luck, Cordelia. To all of you. And again, my
congratulations to Angel on his… Sushi."

"Shanshu. No problem." Jean sucked in her breath, looking back toward
the plane.


Cordelia paused, cocking her head. "Hey Jean?"


Jean was quickly engulfed in a huge hug, making her jump slightly, as
Cordelia leaned back, moisture making the hazel orbs glitter with
unspoken affection. "Thank you. For saving my life. And my sanity."

The words were edged in warmth, and Jean smiled, her throat curiously
full as she nodded, patting Cordelia and turning, walking to the



"Fuck, Logan. I'm not an invalid."

"Uh. Yeah you are." Rogue stuck her tongue out at him, but he only
rolled his eyes, leaning down and scooping her up, carrying her the
rest of the way up the stairs.

The rest of the group was waiting, watching as Logan carefully set
her down, taking her duffel bag and walking to the plane, where
Angel was waiting.

The sun looked good on him. Bastard could use it. Logan had never
realized exactly how incredibly pale the vampire was until he was in
the sunlight.

The ex-vampire was silent, eyes drifting over the setting sun, a
quiet serene air about him, as he leaned against the jet.

When he spotted Logan, he took a breath, nodding.

They said nothing, as they looked at each other, looking away.

"So. Human, huh?"

"More or less. I've still got the strength. We're not sure... Wes is
still figuring stuff out."

"Ah." An uncomfortable silence. "Still growl?"


"Good." Angel quirked a smile, and Logan nodded. "Chicks dig it."

The smile became a large one. "Yeah."

Another silence, and Logan set the bags down, taking out a cigar from
his pocket and looking at it. "Things got a little confusing there."

"Yeah they did."

Logan nodded, turning back to view Rogue and Cordelia, who were
speaking, an aura of familiarity and friendship surrounding them.

"Worked themselves out."

"Sort of."

He nodded.

"Shit still needs to be talked about."


He nodded again. The cigar was rolled around in his hands, and taking
a breath, he looked down at it, before offering it to him.

Angel blinked, and then gave him a questioning look.

"For old times sake." A long look, and Angel took it.


"Just don't smoke it. I can get away with that shit. Now that you're
human, you won't. Shit will kill you."


Angel was the last one to descend after the jet took off.

He stood, hands in his pockets, watching the skies long after the jet
had disappeared.

Rogue had not said good-bye, and he knew that it was very on purpose.
She smiled, as she walked up the stairs to the plane, had
turned, and when their eyes caught, there was an understanding –
forgiveness and acceptance.

Wind ruffled in his hair, as the sun set and he took a breath, a
long, luxurious breath, and walked to the edge of the roof, swinging a
foot over and leaning back, watching the city turn to night.

"Don't tell me you're still gonna do this."

Cordelia stood in the doorway, an amused smile on her face.

He shrugged. "Old habits die hard."

"Yeah I bet."

She came forward, carefully resting her good elbow on the wall,
overlooking the city.

"It is a pretty view."

He turned, watching as the sunlight caught the highlights in her
hair, making her whole body seem to glow. "Yeah. Amazing."

She was quiet, hands clasped together. "It's almost surreal, isn't
it? What happened?"

He smiled, nodding. "Wesley's probably wondering why we haven't
locked ourselves away."

"Yeah. Why is that?"

Her eyes locked with his, and she blushed, looking away.

There was a moment of silence, uncomfortable quietness that said more
than any words could have. It was written in stone, the
insecurity on Cordelia's face, as she traced the ledge with one

His heart was in his throat, almost literally, and he took a breath,
once again reminding himself that he actually HAD to, before breaking
the quiet.

"I guess I don't believe it yet." She looked up quizzically, and he
shrugged, eyes roving over the city that they had protected for years.
It's... weird. I'm actually... cold. And ... little things like... I
forgot what it was like to have the hiccups. And... have I always had
thing with my hair?"

"Yeah. Never went away. But it looks good."

A small warmth settled in his stomach, warmth and contentment and
just a little bit of apprehension. "Cordelia. I ... I don't know much
about being human. Now that we're here. I don't know what to do."

"Yeah." She let out her breath, slowly, and ever so quietly, she
reached out with her good arm, taking his outstretched fingers in hers.

He allowed her to look, and once again he had to remind himself to
breathe, every tingly nerve on edge as she carefully held his large
fingers in her small one, turning the palm over, studying it, every
curve, every line, in a curious recreation of the way he had studied her
digits, long ago, on a day he would never forget.

Quietly, she brought the fingers to her lips. He was completely
still, and his heart was POUNDING, literally POUNDING, and it brought an
almost terrified smile to his lips, as her lips neatly took the tip
of his index finger, sucking gently, before letting it go, entwining

"We have time, Angel," she said finally. "I hate to break it to you,
but I'm not exactly the greatest at being human either. But we have
time. We have forever. We'll learn, and we'll make mistakes - but ...
it's the future. And we have one. Together. That's... enough for

She smiled, shrugging slightly, and tears came unbidden to his eyes
as he slid off the ledge and gathered her into his arms, keeping her
close to him.

She felt his breath on her ear, her heartbeat steadily bumping from
her chest, and in the stillness of the night fall, his own heartbeat,
loud and promising and strong, beat steadily against hers.

There was a whimper, and he grazed his cheek against hers, feeling
the moistness on her cheeks, and her pliant body was trembling.

"We're here, Angel," she whispered. "We're here."

It was amazing to think about, he knew, and he smiled, joy
unspeakable in his heart, knowing it was nowhere near over, but they had
been granted this moment. They had been granted a lifetime of moments.

"I know," he whispered.

"What are we going to do?"

"I don't know," he whispered, pressing his lips against his best
friend's temple. "I don't know."


She had expected some sort of confrontation when she arrived.

She had not expected him to pull her into his arms and hold her so
tightly she nearly choked, nor had she expected to be pulled out of
the cargo room without even having time to change and being damn near
dragged into his bedroom.

"Remy, I-"

Hands slid around her waist, and she was pulled into a searing kiss,
a hot mouth ravaging her before she was able to gather her gumption
and her senses and pull away.


"Tell me I am not too late," he said thickly, dark, fiery red eyes so
intensely focusing on her, palms cradling her as if he was holding
something infinitely precious. "Tell Remy you love only him, Mon Ami."

Oh... My.

The words hardly had time to process, and she must have looked silly,
with her mouth open that way, but Remy didn't seem to notice as
he immediately continued in a whisper, heatedly, sincerely, "I love
you, Goddess."

Oh... My.


Perhaps this would have been a good time to speak. She licked her
lips, swallowed when her throat went dry and tried to say something,

She could think of nothing.


Carefully, she pulled the searing hot hands from her body, plucking
them off and giving them back to him, stepping back to a less
disorienting distance.

He looked so much in pain, and this was Remy - her best friend. For
one night, he had been a lover.

And was it too late?

And he was here and he loved her, and he was serious, no games or

But Wesley was halfway across the country and -

A breath, and Ororo brushed her hair away from her face, moving
toward the door.

"Remy... I... need time."

"There is someone else."

It was not a question, and therefore she did not answer, waiting
until she paused at the open door. "It is... complicated." Not an easy
question to answer. Not one to be taken lightly.

Not one that would be solved any time soon.

She hesitated at the door, pulling back, smiling slightly. "It is
good to see you, Remy. Perhaps we can have dinner."

Friendship. She was offering friendship, for now.

She waited, holding her breath, body a little tenser than she would
have liked, until he swallowed, running a hand through the wild, crazy
hair she loved and nodded.

She smiled, and walked calmly out of the door.

When it closed, she found her strength giving out on her, as she
leaned against it, taking deep, heaving breaths, her eyesight blurry and
her world complicated.


And not likely to be answered any time soon.

She took a breath, and the Goddess just licked her lips,
straightening and turning, moving away from the doorway.

She would decide.

But not today.


"Governor Johnson has issued a public apology to the mutants arrested
during what has now been known as the crisis of Downtown.
Thanks largely to the efforts of mutant rights activist Jean Grey,
the mutants were freed and given a monetary compensation-"

Cordelia switched the set off. "Hello? Where's our monetary
compensation? Mutant! Right here!"

Fred rolled her eyes, shoulders shaking in silent mirth. "It never
ceases to amaze me the way Mutants are tread upon. I suppose - we
have that to look forward to."

Wow. Now THERE was a somber thought that just plunged them into

Gee. Thanks Fred.

Cordelia gave Fred a long look, looking away, finding an acceptable
source in Wesley, who was still buried in his elbows in books.

"You know what Wesley? Give it up. You're not going to figure that
thing out anytime soon."

"Amen to that," Gunn said, raising a toast to Cordelia's statement
with a glass tipping in her direction.

Wesley gave them both a half glare, taking the coffee in his hand and
gulping it down. "As the remaining HUMAN, I would like to say -
stuff it."

"I take offense to that," Angel said, coming in, putting down the ax,
and placing it into Gunn's hand.

"That's right. Angel is very human, if not a little supernatural."
Cordelia winked and Angel smiled.

Gunn just stared at the new ax. "Yo? What's this?"

"Uh.... replacement. Your old one was looking pretty... old."

Wesley blinked, once, twice.


Both Fred and Cordelia jumped at the sound of his loud voice.

"Geez. I hate when he does that," Cordy remarked, but obediently
moved toward the table, as their English Watcher began to scramble
through the scrolls, finally finding what he was looking for with a
feverish sigh.

"THERE!" he said, pounding at the paper. "The battle will never be
won, but the cross shall be passed on - the new champions will
emerge! HERE!"

Cordelia blinked. "Kay. Huh? Wesley, as weird as things are right
now, I still would require an explana-OWWW! "

"Oh shit – Vision."

Angel caught her as soon as her legs gave out.

She shuddered, burying her head into his shoulder, whimpering
slightly as she swallowed away the tears.

"Crap, that never does get better does it?" she whispered
breathlessly, looking into Angel's tortured eyes.

"You okay, girl?"

"No," she whispered, her voice choked, as she sunk into a chair.
"It's not better."

"Oh, God."

Hands were stroking her palms, as Angel kneeled before her, her
friends – her family – gathered around her as they stared in open

"What'd you see?"

"Icky demon - the usual - but... Angel.... it's..." she blinked, her
hand holding onto her head. "Umm... " Her head swiveled over to Gunn,
then to Fred, and her eyes widened.

"The vision – was for Fred."

Cordelia swallowed, carefully gauging Angel's reaction, the stunned
expressions on everyone's face as they swiveled to look at the young

"Are you sure?"

She nodded, her heart hammering breathlessly, gulping down the air in
an effort to clear her head.

Angel stood, still holding onto Cordelia's hand as he looked to the


The Englishmen was standing, almost numb with shock before he shook
himself out of it, coughing once or twice before clearing his
throat, nodding.

"That was… what I was about to say. " Wesley once again began
reading, paraphrasing as he brought the scroll up. '"The battle will
never be one. Angel would never be free unless… The only way Angel
could Shanshu was if someone took the burden - helping the
helpless and fighting the good fight and so forth - FROM HIM. Fred...
she was brought from Pylea and has been with us for this exact
reason. An apprentice, so to speak."

Cordelia's eyes moistened with tears, and she closed her eyes, felt
them dripping down her cheek and wiped them hastily away. "Of
course they'd do this. Of course there had to be a catch."

"It's not a catch. I chose this."

The quiet voice that had interjected came from the seated Fred, who
shrugged, gave a small smile.

"I... chose it. That night. It's hard to explain... but I think I
knew. That's why I..." she raised a hand, jiggling it slightly. "The

"Oh wow." Cordelia sank into a chair, rubbing at her head with her
hands. She closed her eyes and shuddered slightly.


"Well... the PTB really does like to keep it in the family."

"I just..." Angel looked incredibly uncomfortable. "Fred and...

"Ah. The fighting. I guess that would be me." Gunn stood, and his
gaze caught Fred's as he slowly began, "Lorne told me. I'm... her

Cordelia noted the intense stare between the two new chosen, but she
said nothing.

"So… I guess I'm still Vision Girl."

"You shouldn't have to be." Fred ran her hands through her hair,
standing up, her voice unsteady.

"You and Angel… and even Wesley. You – We took your space. You can
leave. You can leave the fight to us."

In the silence that followed, Cordelia could perceive a certain
amount of dread.

In everyone.


There was a certain amount of quiet in the mansion, as if the
inhabitants were stepping on eggshells, afraid to speak about what had

Everyone was trying to find their ground.

No one knew exactly where that ground was.

More than once, Logan had considered calling the hotel in Los
Angeles, asking for the Seer, and in a roundabout way – find out exactly
what the hell was going on.

Nothing was easy, mutants civil rights activists were likening the
quarantine of the mutants as bad as when the Japanese-American
citizens were quarantined during World War II.

It was a heated argument, and the world was on edge.

And in the mansion, with the mounting tension outside, and the
quietness that happened inside, he wondered when things would go back
to the way they were.

Until he realized they never would.

Rogue was healing, good for her.

On the outside.

But Jean, still tired and still not sleeping, told him that she would
not talk about what she saw, or how she had managed to defeat

And she was not talking to him.

Logan was never good at the talking thing.

He was getting better, but when he tried usually every other word as
an expletive and he doubted Rogue have appreciated that or
thought it the least romantic.

He fully intended to pry whatever it was that was going on through
her out of her. She knew he loved her. He had told her, laid it all out
on the line, and he wondered if perhaps that had been part of it.

Too much to lay on a woman barely out of being a child.

Even now, he wondered if the Logan inside of her was just so
completely disgusted with his turn of suitor and in a fatherly way,
her off of Logan.

After all, Logan was no fucking saint.

He should have gone after her, have cornered her and made her talk,
because that was the only way she would.

Instead he waited and brooded – and shit, he wondered if he had spent
too much time with the damned vampire – sorry – ex-vampire.

Apparently she got tired of it, because in the end, she cornered him.

In his room, on his bed.

She slipped in, closing the door behind her, carefully gentle with
her rapidly healing body, as she lowered herself down in his desk chair.

"Don't move," she said, when he swung his feet over the bed.

Okay. So he didn't move.

She waited, sitting, wringing her hands together, and with her
streaked hair tied back in a braid, face still void of makeup thanks
to a
shower that had just been taken, she looked almost like a child, had
it not been for the incredibly old eyes.

But she was hauntingly beautiful, and it was one of many observations
he had, as he waited for her to speak.

Finally she licked her lips, took her breath, and began.

"I love you," she said, a trifle shaky. "I... love you. Don't move-"
she said again, when he looked ready to jump off the bed. "Stay the hell
put, sugar."

He growled, grumbled, but she narrowed her eyes and he stayed put.

"I... want to be with you, Logan. And ... I know I've been a shitty
person in the last few days but... I love you. That's it. That's... all
that matters. I love you and I can't be afraid of... me anymore.
Because you... you make me not afraid. You ... touch me, Logan. In a
way no one else does."

He stayed quiet a long minute, and she swallowed, shifting her feet,
before finally her impatience got the better of her and she
demanded, "Well?!"

"What the hell do you want me to say?"

It was gruff, and to the point, and she swallowed, looking insecure
as she looked away, unsure how to take the stern tone.

But true to her fiery nature, she finally just told him, "Ah want you
to tell me… that it's not impossible. That there's hope."

Her voice trembled, there was an odd, choked sound, and she looked so
vulnerable, and suddenly he was there again, that fateful day,
so many years ago, when he had held her in his arms and promised to
never be afraid of her, to always be her friend.

He sighed, running his hands through the coarse hair and standing,
pulling out the dresser drawer and pulling on a long sleeved shirt,
leaning against the wood.

His back was to her as he said, "I can't do that."

There was deadly silence, and he heard the chair scrape on the wood,
and he took a breath, and continued shakily, "Not if you don't
believe it, Rogue."

He turned, and something jingled in his hands. Her mouth was parted
slightly, eyes turning wide at the side of the tags dangling from his


He could hear the rapidly increasing heartbeat, could see the way she
processed the gloves, the long sleeved shirt, the stance, and the
intensely feral stare he was so good at giving. Rogue was always a
quick girl, clever.

But he never expected the primal urge that went through him she
licked her lips, and said in a husky voice dripping with hope, and
and…. Love, "And why the hell don't you make me believe it, sugar?"

He didn't need a second invitation. In two strides he was there, with
her, and shit he had to be careful because she was still hurt and
she was strong but-

"Logan," she whispered, and it was quickly followed by a gasp as he
held her, rocked her, showed her exactly what he meant by hope,
by love.

Gloved hands threaded fingers, and she held on to him, straddling his
waist, as he held her, forehead beating with such sweat as he
touched her, gentle, always gentle.

He could be rough later.

Her body was hot, sweaty, and her small and impossibly strong fingers
held tight to him, as she leaned her forehead against his shoulder.
Her body was pliant, warm, trembling.

"You've always touched me Logan. You're the only one," she whispered,
mouth pressed against the flannel, blurring the words.

And it was there, in those words, what Rogue couldn't bring herself
to say, not yet, but it branded him, searing into his soul, and he
shuttered, almost forgetting about the skin as he pulled back so he
could stare into her eyes, into her soul.

Depth and sincerity met him in those glistening orbs, and suddenly it
was him who's chest was heaving, as she slid gloved fingers up his
chest, eyes wet with unshed tears.

"I hate this. I hate not being able to touch you."

"Shut up, Rogue," he snarled. "You can."

Their eyes locked, but again words weren't part of the conversation,
and he made her believe, he MADE HER believe.

There was hope.


Fingers rubbing absently on his bare chest were soothing, but a tad
bit distracting, and Gunn only responded by pulling her closer,
thankful that his body, sated, finally, truly, for the first time in
what seemed like years.

The intimacy in the air was palpable, and Gunn felt it, as he ran a
finger up the skin of her back, tracing the silkiness up her spine, a
contrast under his dark fingers.

Gunn had only made love on a few occasions. Sex was something he took
seriously, and almost never did it – because having it meant
something. It was a distraction, from the much more horrid evils that
homeless life had to offer.

He wondered what exactly had caused this, why this was different, why
this was special. Why did he need to hold her, keep her close to
him? Why did he wish not to fall asleep or roll away and instead
fought the sleep, if only to see the flutters of her eyelashes where her
cheek rested against his left pectoral?


He brushed his lips against her forehead absently. "Yeah, baby."

"Are you scared?"

"A little."

She was quiet for a moment, and when shifted, now chest to chest as
she crossed her arms across his, regarding him.

"Did you think they'd really stay?"

He sighed, shrugging. "I hoped they would. We could use their help."

She cocked an eyebrow and he carefully combed through the wild dark
dresses of her hair with his fingers, moving them away from her
face. "I would have missed them," he admitted.

"I'm glad they stayed too."

He let out a sigh, thinking back to the answer that Cordelia and
Angel and Wesley had given them.

It wasn't over. It wasn't ever going to be over. And they would stay,
for as long as it took.

There was no light at the end of the tunnel, but there was hope, and
friendship… and love.

It was what they were fighting for, after all.

That hope.


"Are you seriously gonna eat that, sugar?"

Rogue looked positively disgusted as she cocked an eyebrow, hand
tickling the nape of her neck as she looked on in perfect horror.

Logan gave her a blank look. "What? What's wrong with it?"

"It's... that's Bambi!"

He rolled his eyes, taking another rib and pulling off the meat with
his teeth. "One of these days we're gonna have to wean you off of
Disney, baby."

"Hey guys, enjoying lunch?"

Rogue looked up, smiling up at Jean, a smile that faltered when she
saw her friend's face.

"Jesus Jean you look Fried! What the hell are you doin' up? Get some

"I will, I just..." The telepathic doctor sat across from them,
licking her lips before taking a breath. "I... wanted to tell you

Logan passed Rogue another look, but clearly concerned, she only
nodded, leaning forward. "Sure, sugar. What's up?"

"I... I was going over Cordelia's charts. The procedure that we did
was ground breaking. But..." Jean gave a tight smile, fingers twitching
over her free hand excitedly. "Cordelia gave us a key to... unlocking
genetic... we were able to filter her mutation. That's huge. And if
Magneto could figure it out to turn ordinary humans into mutants,
then the possibilities-"

"Jean, honey what are you getting at."

Jean took a breath, calming herself, and began again, looking
directly into Rogue's eyes. "What I'm saying is, we might be able to
find a
way, using Cordelia's charts and genetic samples... to find your

Something jolted through Logan's heart, as he turned, saw the way
Rogue seemed to be struck dumb.

"Now, I don't want... I'm not sure, but... there's hope."

Rogue was quiet for a moment, and finally, she managed a tight smile,
reaching over and pressing Jean's hand tightly.


There was more emotion in that one word than Logan had ever seen.

Jean smiled, shrugged, and then pushed her exhausted frame away from
the table.

Logan waited, putting down the rib, wiping at his hands with a napkin.

She was incredibly quiet, shoulders hunched over, face hidden by the
hair, the streaks in her face.

He barely heard the word she whispered.


He waited, and finally, he reached for her hand, pulling it away from
her lap and moving it onto his.

She looked up, incredibly misty eyes as he looked at her.

Carefully, eyes locked on her so that the meaning was clear, Logan
pressed his lips against the glove, cherishing the touch.

And there it was, tangible and reachable and yet incredibly far away.
But it existed, and it warmed her heart as his mouth pressed
against her palm. She smiled, and continued her task of finishing her
food, because the future was a bit brighter, the first night was a
little bit over.

Because there was hope.


He was seated on the computer, alone.

Wesley Wyndham Price took the glasses off, reaching up to gently
massage at the crook of his nose, blinking away the exhaustion.

Gunn and Fred, now bound together not only by choice, but by destiny
were holed up together, no doubt doing what new couples in love

Cordelia and Angel most likely consummating what had to have been the
longest courtship in history.

And Wesley, was alone, in the hotel, piles of books and scrolls
surrounding him, eyes red from rubbing and body tight with tension, with
no destiny, no future, desperately human and unsure.

Everything was changing.

Joy and uncertainty mixed together into one not altogether stable

Wesley never asked for much. And truly, his heart burst with
happiness for Angel, a centuries long struggle that never seemed to end,
finally coming to a lighter, happier place, with one of the most
amazing women he had the pleasure to meet.

But there were feelings inside of him that betrayed him, made him
wonder, exactly where he fit in the puzzle.

It was a sobering thought.

"You've got Mail!" the computer said.

Wesley looked up, sighing, reaching for his glasses and sliding them
on. With the mouse he clicked on the icon, stilling when he realized
exactly who it was from.

"Perhaps it was immature of me, but I felt the need to reach out to
you, even if it was through the joys of the Internet. I am here, and
things are no less complicated, and I gather they are not exactly
uncomplicated for you as well. But the thought of you brings a smile to
my lips.

I hope thoughts of me do the same for you.

All my love,

Ororo Munroe."

It took a minute of rereading for his heart to finally work again, as
the small smile drifted upon his face.

"Whatcha doing?" The hand clamped on his shoulder startled him, and
he gave a small yelp when he turned, finding Cordelia looking over
his shoulder.

"Bloody hell, Cordelia!"

"Weirdo," she responded, grabbing his hand and pulling him up. "Where
the hell were you? We were looking for you everywhere!"


"There he is!" Gunn smiled, coming forward as he entered the lobby,
tossing him his coat. "What the hell dude? Holed up in there like
some sort of hermit and crap! Let's go?"

Fred smiled, pulling on her coat, Angel helping her before holding
his hand out to Cordelia.

Wesley just looked confused.

"Is there... has Cordelia had a vision?"

"No. Thank God." Smiling, she slid her arm into the crook of his
neck, pulling him along. "Darts. At the bar. You better come. We chose
`cause you like to do it."

Gunn thumped him on the back of his head, and Wesley's glasses nearly
dislodged, but the smile that his best friend threw at him was
one of warmth, of love.

Of family.

Wesley sighed, taking in a breath, as he let them drag him out,
muttering about bars and bets and forthcoming apocalypses.

But he smiled, because there was one thing that was certain, even as
he doubted so many other things in his life.

There was hope.


"With mutant/human conflicts as tense as ever, White House officials
are urging that citizens stay as close to home as possible, until
further notice. Rep. Dan Fisher said in open conference he does not
regret the quarantines."

The reporter cut to an elderly looking gray haired man, with a stern
expression and even sterner glasses.

"We cannot allow what happened in Downtown Los Angeles to happen in
any other part of the country. I believe that it has been
established with this that mutants are dangerous, and I will continue
to take on the late Senator Kelly's work in pursuing the Mutant
Registration Law. It is now a matter of life and death."

With a muffled curse, Scott Summer flipped off the television, giving
Storm a tired look before shaking a sad, grim smile.

It was something he had to worry about, but now, so many other things
took precedence in their own little universe of a school. He took
a long look at the pad that was handed to him, reading over the
scribbled notes quickly, making mental notes that were filed away in the
back of his brain for later perusal.

"Mr. Summers?" He let the pad fall away from his gaze, instead
finding them locked on a young boy with spiky green hair and a badly
skinned knee.

"Wow. That looks like it hurts."

The child looked almost teary, and Scott smiled, reaching out with
his hand. "Jean?"

"Um... Scott." He turned, and Ororo motioned with her head.

His fiancee was lying on the couch, sound asleep.

On her face was a gentle, peaceful smile.

Scott paused, watching the serenity on Jean's face.

"Storm can you take him to see Hank?"

"Of course. Come along, Ned."

Carefully he kneeled in front of his sleeping wife, studying her. The
lines of worry on her face had diminished slightly, and sleep, the sleep
that had avoided her for weeks now taken over her still form.

Gently, he gathered her into his arms, as she readjusted herself
automatically, resting her head on his shoulder and sighing.

It wasn't far to their room, and settling her on the bed without
jostling her took some effort. As he pulled off her shoes, he heard a
sleepy murmur, "Scott?"

"Yeah, Jean?"

"Are we okay?"

He smiled, moving up to regard her sleepy eyes. "Yeah. We're gonna be

A gentle kiss pressed against her lips, and she smiled sleepily, eyes
drifting closed again.

Carefully, he pulled the blanket over her, walking out the room,
closing it behind him.


"Hey Bobby."

"Is Jean around? Her class is starting and the kids are wondering
where she is."

Scott just shook his head. "She's sleeping. I'll take over."

"It's biology."

"We'll play on that CD-Rom. I'm not disturbing her."

Bobby just shrugged and nodded, and Scott followed him to the
classrooms, looking back to the closed door.

He wouldn't disturb her for the damn world.


His world was plastic.

Clear and transparent, and so terribly sturdy.

Erik leaned back, watching as Charles was wheeled in.

"Old friend," he said, nodding as Charles wheeled himself in, and not
a smile crossed the handsome face.

"Erik," he responded easily.

They sat, across each other as they had sat for countless times,
chess pieces in perfect order, score card ready and waiting.

But it was different.

Magneto had a curious lump in his throat, an irregular beating in his
heart as he waited for Charles' familiar greeting.

"What?" he said finally. "No sermon, old friend?"

A shake of his head was all he got.

He waited, watched, as Charles bored into him with those eyes of his,
making no secret of what he was doing.

It was unnerving, to see not a hint of warmth in the kind, old face.

"Whatever are you looking for, Charles?"

"I am looking for a trace of my old friend, Erik," he responded,
voice clipped. "And I found him lacking."

Magneto's smile faltered, eyes drifted down to the plastic frosted
pieces, strategically placed on the checker board.

"You think me dead?"

"I think you dead, Erik."

He swallowed, unwilling to believe he was trembling. "What makes you
better than me, Charles? You and your ideals."

"I do not make deals with devils. I do not endanger the lives of the
innocents-" Charles cut himself off, looking away, before looking
back, taking a breath, voice calmer, more controlled. "The difference
between you and I, Erik, is that you have lost hope in all things."

"Ah. And you have not?"

"On the contrary, I have. But only in you."

A plummet of his stomach, a lump in his throat, and all he could
produce was, "I was trying to change the world!"

"You did. You've gotten mutants quarantined and riots started. You've
gotten innocents killed. That is the world you have changed,

Magneto's body was rigid, his eyes were flashing, and he said
vehemently, "You think you are any better, Charles? Having those
doing your work for you?"

"No, I do not. Because like you, Erik, I have chosen not to forget."

And with that, Charles Xavier motioned, and Magneto watched with red,
angry eyes, as his age old friend moved away from him, and left
him in the hard, plastic bubble that he loathed.

Erik sighed, his hands knotting into angry fists.

Charles was right.

He would never forget.