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Volume 2 -- Issue 43 -- War and Peace

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War and Peace
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Professor Charles Xavier and his mutant team the X-men have reached a major turning point in their fight for peace and understanding between humans and mutants. In one of their greatest challenges to date, they stood against Magneto, the Brotherhood, and the sentinels as the world stood on the brink of destruction.

Magneto was prepared to wipe out humanity. Using a machine created by a mutant named Forge, he redirected and asteroid onto a collision course with Earth. With that same machine, he amplified his powers to give him full control over the Earth’s magnetic field and wield near limitless power. But humanity was prepared to wipe mutants out as well, using the mutant hunting sentinels and poison gas developed by Worthington Industries to strike back. The two sides were ready to destroy each other, but the X-men stepped in and stopped them.

Now that the world is safe, an arduous rebuilding process has begun. In wake of Magneto’s failed plan, he was reluctantly convinced by his daughter Lorna to stop waging war and strike a deal with the President and the UN. With Xavier’s help, that deal has been accepted. Now as the world recovers, a new host of challenges await humans and mutants alike.

Genosha – Magneto’s Citadel

It had been a week since the confrontation between Magneto and humanity nearly destroyed the world. For many, it was the longest week in their collective lives. Civilization itself was on the cusp of total breakdown. But at the last moment, the two bitter sides came together and worked out a deal. It was neither a victory nor was it a defeat for either side. It was simply the end of a conflict and the beginning of a new status quo.

For Erik Lensherr, he wasn’t sure what to make of it. Much of the details were still sinking in. His powers were back and a new status quo was emerging with each passing day. Standing atop his citadel, looking out over the emerging skyline of Genosha, he had his reservations. The frantic cheering and fanatical loyalty that once dominated his followers had been shaken. There was no cheering or rallying. There was only a silent, solemn acceptance as his people picked up the pieces and started building new lives. He didn’t necessarily agree with the direction they were going. But as a man of his word, he would rightfully uphold his end.

“The new capital is coming along nicely,” said calm tone of Charles Xavier as he wheeled up next to his friend, “I’ve never seen so many mutants working together to build a new home for themselves.”

“Amazing, isn’t it?” said Magneto flatly, “Give them a chance to build a new home for themselves and they don’t waste a moments time. If only there were fewer bitter faces. They’re all disappointed I could not give them what they promised.”

“They’ll come around,” said the Professor confidently, “It’s still sinking in. In time they’ll see this is all for the better.”

“Is it, Charles? Or did we just delay the inevitable with this little deal of yours?”

“I’d rather not speculate, old friend. For now, these mutants have a chance to begin new lives. The best we can do is ensure these lives are safe and secure.”

Erik was still skeptical, ignoring his friend’s hopeful smile as he gazed out over the capital city. The foundations of this new life of theirs was still being laid. It was all contingent on the deal Magneto made with the President and the UN. The deal wasn’t without its sacrifices, but as Lorna had told him it was the only way that felt right.

“I’m still amazed the President agreed to all this,” said Magneto, “He gave me the full pardon he promised, accepted Genosha as a sovereign nation, and agreed to protect our mutant brethren as the world rebuilds.”

“He didn’t do it for free, Erik. You still had to do your part.”

“I know,” he said in a low tone, “But I’ve done what he asked. I released every soldier from the prison camp and allowed them to leave, I allowed every remaining human on the island to leave, and I provided compensation for the families of the humans I hurt during both affairs.”

“You also agreed to surrender every weapon still on Genosha and allow the island to be monitored by an international military force,” added Charles.

“Don’t remind me,” said the master of magnetism bitterly, “You know they probably have any number of missiles, guns, and aircraft pointed at us ready to strike the moment I step out of line. And no matter how much I hate it, I have to accept it. So even if this nation is to become a sanctuary and a haven for mutants, it will still be under the thumb of human authorities.”

“Try not to think of it as being submissive to humanity. Think of it as being legitimate,” coaxed the Professor, “The fact remains, you caused a lot of fear and resentment all over the world. And mutants are sure to suffer because of it. There are so many people who do not trust you or what you have planned for this island. The only way the world can have any notion of safety is to ensure checks and balances.”

“By checks and balances I assume you mean mutually assured destruction, Charles. MAD, if you will. A perfect acronym if ever there was one.”

“Indeed, old friend,” said Xavier distantly, “But that is the price you pay for peace. Both sides will have to make sacrifices. It has it’s flaws, but it is better than any alternative.”

Magneto was tempted to argue such a position. But he decided not to. For so long he had been pushing for conflict between humans and mutants. Each time he tried, it led only to more problems. This was the first time he was trying something different. It wasn’t quite what he wanted. He still believed mutants should be dominant. It isn’t quite what Charles wanted either. He didn’t believe mutants should separate themselves from humanity. But this is the situation they were stuck with. They had to make the best of it.

Sighing to himself, Charles looked up at his old friend. He still saw a great deal of conflict in him, but the hate and anger that drove him through this endeavor seemed to have waned. He had a pretty good idea of why that was.

“How are things with Lorna?” he asked him, “I heard you’ve been spending more time with her.”

“We have a lot to catch up on. It is still a work-in-progress, but she has been opening up to me. She’s going to need her father now that her mother has passed away.”

“Yes, I heard about that this morning,” said Charles solemnly, “Has she decided what she is going to do now?”

“No and I don’t expect her to decide right away. Allow her to mourn,” said Magneto, showing his share of sorrow as well, “I have offered her a place by my side. She has been a…sobering influence for me. She’s helped me remember that I have much more to offer our people than destruction.”

“And that is quite a feat,” said Xavier with a smile, “I’m glad she was able to reach you in ways that I couldn’t.”

“To be fair, she had an advantage you could never match, Charles. You see, you’re a man of reason. You seek to separate your emotions from your pursuit of the truth. But I cannot do that. Lorna understands that I am driven by a powerful desire to make the world more just. It isn’t just for me. It’s for my children and the loved ones I have lost.”

Magneto’s expression shifted as he remembered all those he lost. From his parents and wife to Lorna’s mother, it was all so painful. It was part of what fueled his resentment for humanity. But at the same time, it fueled his desire to do what was right.

“It isn’t always about what’s reasonable,” he went on, “It’s about what’s fair. You may give me the old mantra that life is not fair. And I agree. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t fight it. Maybe in a sense we are both idealists in our respective endeavors. But you have your fight and I have mine. And I will never stop.”

“I wouldn’t expect you to, Erik,” said Xavier, “I just hope this new path you’re on leads you to a better way of achieving your goals.”

“That remains to be seen,” he said distantly, “There are still many conflicts for mutants to face. The humans still have the sentinels and have shown they are not afraid to use them. They also have that gas that could one day threaten us all.”

“I know. I haven’t forgotten. And rest assured, my X-men will continue working to resolve those conflicts.”

“I would expect nothing less, Charles. But don’t expect the rules of the game to change too drastically. I still ask that you do what I have always asked you to do…don’t get in my way.”

They were fitting words for a difficult situation. Charles Xavier remained hopeful, but still very concerned as he watched his old friend walk off into the depths of his citadel. Lorna may have gotten through to Magneto enough to stop his rampage, but she didn’t change his intent. He still despised humanity and would continue working against them. They seemed destined to clash again.

But Charles Xavier still had hope. One day they may share a common dream again. For now, it was a time of recovery and rebuilding. Many challenges awaited for humans and mutants alike. How they would handle those challenges remained to be seen.

Washington DC – White House

Being President of the United States was a challenging job to say the least. It involved being a leader not just to a nation, but to the world at large. Few jobs carried so many rewards or responsibilities. The president could shape the course of history with the decisions he made. Some decisions made a president famous while some made a president infamous. But it was always the hardest decisions that left the greatest impact.

Sitting in the Oval Office, gazing out the window, the President couldn’t help but wonder how history would judge the decisions he made during this crisis. They had been by far the hardest decisions he ever made as a president and a man. As every leader before him had done, he made the decision he thought was best. Against the advice of many advisors and the sentiment of his own people, he accepted the deal Magneto proposed.

It was a decision that drew the ire of a lot of people. The public didn’t like it. Many in Congress hated it. Even his own wife didn’t agree with it. He found himself second guessing himself all week. But there was no going back. The decision had been made. The deal with Magneto was official. Now the aftermath could begin.

“Congratulations Mr. President, your approval rating is lower than any sitting president in history,” said Senator Robert Kelly, who stood across from his desk, “Even Richard Nixon’s numbers weren’t this bad when he was getting impeached.”

“Spare me the historical precedent, Robert. I know how bad it is.”

“With all due respect, sir, I don’t think you do,” said the senator strongly, “You capitulated to a madman! You let Magneto off the hook!”

“It’s not like I cut him loose, Senator. I pardoned him with the understanding that he would cease his hostile acts and negotiate a stable peace. And so far, he has done what he said he would do.”

“That’s not how I see it. That’s now how the rest of the world sees it either. By and large, this act conveys the sense that you are willing to give into the whims of a madman. Even if he upholds every part of this deal, you’re still leaving him free to plan his next assault on humanity! You just didn’t have the stomach to do what has to be done.”

The President tensed bitterly. Senator Kelly wasn’t the first one to point this out. He probably wouldn’t be the last. He could take being criticized for any number of flaws. Being weak wasn’t one of them.

“Senator, look at me!” said the President sternly as he turned around in his chair, “Every hair on my body has turned gray since this began. I’ve had the same damn headache for five days now. And I haven’t gotten a wink of sleep. Don’t even begin to criticize me when you have no idea what I’ve been through!”

“Sir, you don’t understand,” said Senator Kelly, lowering his tone.

“No, I do understand! I knew the second I decided to hear Magneto out I would be going against the will of so many people! Believe me, nothing would make me happier than to see Magneto face justice! But this isn’t a just world! We have to adapt as best we can to these situations. Sometimes we have to make sacrifices. But most importantly, we have to do what is right. It isn’t always popular. At times it’s downright counterintuitive. But given the choice between pursuing peace or conflict, I choose peace.”

“I’m not saying I’m against peace sir. But the question remains…at what price?”

“If you can think of a better way to handle a situation with an out-of-control mutant like Magneto, I’d love to hear it.”

“Is that a rhetorical question, sir?”

“Do I look like I’m in the mood for an answer either way?” retorted the President.

Senator Kelly fell silent. There were so many ways for him to argue his words. He disagreed with nearly every part of it as he had disagreed from the beginning. He hated how the President was handling this. The American people deserved better. The human race deserved better. He had been a voice on human/mutant affairs before, but this proved to him more than ever that mutants were the greatest danger this world faced. By letting Magneto go like this, he was putting everyone at risk.

The President turned back to the window and rubbed his throbbing temples. He was tired, feeling at a total loss for what was going on. He spent his entire adult life wanted to be president. Now it felt like a burden, one he wouldn’t wish on anybody. His tenure in the White House was almost up. Like it or not, this would define his legacy. At this point, he was content to move on and let someone else bear these overwhelming challenges.

“I’m through with this, Robert. Give it a rest for now,” said the President distantly, “The world is still recovering. Let’s give ourselves time to rebuild before we start considering our next move.”

“Very well,” said Senator Kelly bitterly, “But this issue isn’t going away. Magneto has made it clearer than ever that the biggest challenge facing us is the human/mutant conflict. We can’t keep doing what we’ve been doing or some day Magneto or some other mutant will strike again. And when that day comes, peace might not be an option.”

“I don’t disagree, but let’s save policy for another day. I’ve done enough to make myself infamous for one presidency. Let’s leave the next step for a new administration.”

“A new administration…right,” said the senator.

Senator Kelly left the President to his solitude. He still had a lot to work through. Being the most unpopular president in history was probably going to take some time to sink in. But that was his burden to bear. He brought it upon himself when he decided to trust Magneto. He was right about one thing though. Time was the best medicine for everybody at this point.

But the conflict remained. The human/mutant issue was still a threat everybody. Magneto was still at large as the de-facto ruler of Genosha. Mutants would no doubt be empowered by this dramatic shift in global affairs. If the President wasn’t going to handle it, then the human race deserved someone who could.

Magneto’s Citadel – Infirmary

It was a dark day in Lorna’s life. On a week where the world had come so close to complete destruction, she endured hardship on a level that went beyond the conflict. It was the kind of conflict she avoided her whole life, the conflict her mother tried to protect her from. But she was unable to avoid it. It may have been fate or just her being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Whatever the case, she was now fully immersed in this conflict and suffered great losses because of it.

Late last night, her mother passed away. She finally lost her battle with cancer. For days she had been deteriorating, getting weaker and weaker. She continued to reject treatment from Magneto’s healers. She made it clear that she had accepted her fate. She was ready to move on. But before she left this world, she spent her final moments holding her hand. She kept telling her how proud she was that she got through to her father. She seemed completely confident that she could go on without her. But Lorna wasn’t so sure.

Her eyes were still stained with tears as she sat on the floor outside the infirmary, hugging her knees with her back against the wall. She watched as two mutants, Lance and Rusty, moved her mother’s body out on a gurney. She was covered with a white sheet, but Lorna still felt her presence. It was still sinking in, the idea that she was going to have to live her life without her mother. She cried and mourned, but she did not let her sorrow consume her. She had to be strong. She had to be ready to make some very difficult decisions.

As she watched her mother disappear down the hall, Bobby emerged from behind and saw her in her distraught state. He had been staying close to her through this whole ordeal. But she remained distant, having her dying mother on one end and her deranged father on the other. Now was not a time to give her space. Lorna needed her boyfriend.

“Hey,” he greeted in a low tone.

“Hey,” replied Lorna, still gazing off into space.

Normally, Bobby would have tried to make a joke or say something to lighten the mood. But this was not the time for his sense of humor. Shifting awkwardly he sat down next to her on the floor and scooted in close, trying to comfort her in any way he could.

“I’m so sorry, Lorna,” he said, “I…I don’t know what to say.”

“My mom is dead, Bobby. There’s nothing to say,” said Lorna, holding back her sobs, “She went peacefully. She held my hand until she took her last breath. She even smiled at me and I was doing everything I possibly could to keep myself from bawling.”

“When you’re saying goodbye to a parent, I think you’re legally entitled to.”

“But I didn’t,” she said, “I stayed strong for her. And now she’s gone.”

More tears formed in her eyes, but she didn’t cry. Bobby scooted in closer to wipe them away. He then slipped his arm around her, holding her close. She accepted the gesture, but didn’t embrace it for some reason.

“Is there anything at all I can do for you, Lorna?” he asked desperately, “Please talk to me. You’ve been giving me the cold shoulder all week. Not that I blame you, but it’s really starting to worry me.”

“I’m sorry, Bobby. I don’t mean to be cold. I know that’s a challenge in my family, but I’ve had a lot to deal with.”

“Yeah, that I can understand,” said Bobby empathically, “I get it. It hurts to have to watch your mother suffer like this.”

“It wasn’t just my mother, Bobby. There were other issues. And these are issues you can’t understand.”

“You mean, Magneto? I thought we laid that to rest already. You went along with him again to keep an eye on him. It was the right thing to do. It saved all our butts along with everyone else’s. That makes you the big hero here.”

“I appreciate the sentiment, Bobby. But I’m no hero. Heroes go above and beyond to save other people from harm. I wasn’t focused on saving other people. The first time with the uprising I was focused on saving my mother. The second time I was focused on saving my father. I wasn’t being heroic. I was being a daughter.”

Bobby groaned awkwardly. He still couldn’t wrap his head around Lorna’s reasoning. She was a dedicated daughter and all, but going out of her way for Magneto like this just didn’t make sense to him.

“Ever since I heard my father speak at his trial, I’ve been thinking. And now that my mom is gone, I can’t afford to think about it any longer. I have to start making decisions.”

“What do you mean by decisions?” asked Bobby anxiously, “I’m assuming this isn’t something as simple as what shade of green goes with your hair.”

“Please don’t make jokes. I need to be serious here,” she said strongly, “Before my mother died, she gave me one last piece of advice. People like my father who commit these deplorable acts are still people. The world may call him a monster. You and the X-men may call him a villain. But he is still a man. And it’s men like him that need someone to love him…someone to show him more than just hate.”

“That sounds like good advice and all, but I’m not sure where you’re going with this.”

Lorna paused for a moment, collecting herself as she turned to her lover. What she was about to say was going to be hard for him to take. But she knew it was right.

“I’m not going back home, Bobby,” she said, “I’ve decided to stay on Genosha with my family.”

“What?!” exclaimed Bobby, his eyes widening with shock, “You can’t be…you’re joking, right?! In the name of everything holy and unholy, please tell me you’re joking!”

“It’s no joke, Bobby. You heard me,” affirmed Lorna, “I’m staying on Genosha.”

Bobby was speechless. He was shocked he couldn’t think straight. He found himself clinging to Lorna even harder, not wanting to believe what he was hearing. It was his worst fear realized. His girlfriend chose Magneto over him.

Lorna saw the hurt in his eyes and solemnly turned away. She then pulled away from his grip and rose back up to her feet. She remained distant, hugging her shoulders as she let Bobby take this in. She still felt his eyes on her and found herself holding back more tears. He eventually rose up as well and approached her.

“Lorna, don’t do this!” he urged, “I know Magneto is your father and all, but he’ll drag you into a world that will destroy you! You’ve seen what he’s capable of! I don’t want you to be a part of that!”

“It’s not your choice, Bobby. I’ve made up my mind,” she said strongly.

“But you’re too good for him! I know you want to save him, but this isn’t a guy you can save! You can’t just give him that look you give me and expect him to be any less a tyrant!”

“I was still able to reach him when nobody else could! He’s my father…and like my mother said, someone needs to be there to love him. Otherwise he’ll just keep hating!”

“But what about being the hero you told me you wanted to be? What about joining the X-men? What about…us?”

Lorna held back another sob as she turned around to face the bewildered young man. She found herself taking his hand in hers and squeezing it firmly. This man had given her so much. He held a very special place in her heart, but this was not something they could work around. This was something they had to accept.

“I love you, Bobby. I really do. But…you just don’t understand. You can never understand,” she said with tears in her eyes, “Like my father once said, you always fear what you don’t understand. And no relationship can succeed on fear.”

“So…you’re dumping me? For your father of all people?!” said Bobby in a daze.

“It’s better for both of us. It’s…it’s the right thing to do. You have your place with the X-men. I have my place here. That’s how it has to be.”

Bobby was speechless. He still didn’t understand. Once again this black and white notion of right and wrong baffled him. He kept gazing into Lorna’s eyes, looking for any hope that their relationship could be salvaged. But there was nothing more than honest sorrow.

“I’m sorry, Bobby,” she told him, “Thank you for everything.”

With nothing left to say, she gave him a gentle kiss on the lips and walked away. Bobby could only watch as she walked down the metal halls. He found himself falling back against the wall and sinking to the floor. The young mutant was truly at a total loss. He and Lorna had overcome so many challenges from their beginning on the internet to her mother being diagnosed with cancer. But in the end her family ties to Magneto were just too much.

He thought she could avoid her father’s influence. He thought she would one day fight with the X-men against him. Bobby truly fell for this girl. She had with her a strength and innocence that was remarkable given her situation in life. But she chose another path, leaving him behind to pick up the pieces.

‘Dumped by Magneto’s daughter. This has got to be a new kind of low. That madman doesn’t deserve a daughter like her. Guess I don’t either.’

While Bobby languished in light of this new revelation, Lorna stayed silent as she disappeared into the citadel to follow the body of her mother. Along the way she passed Wanda and Pietro, who picked up on her conversation with Bobby just as it was ending. Wanda cast her half-sister a look of sympathy while Pietro looked irritatingly smug about it. But with the threat of a painful hex from his twin sister, he stayed silent.

Watching Lorna pass by, Wanda took comfort in her presence. Lorna had been able to do what she was didn’t have the guts to do. She stood up to their father and got him to see things differently. It was sort of ironic. All this time she and Pietro had been trying to convince her that they knew what was best for her. But she ended up convincing them instead. Now she would be a part of their team and their family.

“About time she broke up with him,” commented Pietro, “Saves us all the trouble of having to castrate the ice punk.”

“Some half-brother you are, making light of someone else’s heartache,” muttered Wanda.

“I make a joke while she practically derails father’s plan? How does that make me the worse sibling?”

“Because if she hadn’t, we would all probably be dead by now,” Wanda reminded him, “This isn’t like the uprising. Even you have to admit father went too far this time.”

“Maybe so, but that doesn’t mean we should stoop to making deals with the humans,” said Pietro bitterly, “The rest of the Brotherhood doesn’t like it anymore than I do. Hell, half the island is against it.”

“That doesn’t mean that it’s wrong either. It may not be the ideal we all hoped for, but it’s not like we’re left with nothing. We have a fresh start here on Genosha. With father’s leadership, we can finish what we started and create a genuine sanctuary for mutants. We’ll be our own nation, free from constraints of human societies. With all our collective power, there’s no limit to the greatness we can achieve.”

“Wow, that is so sickeningly ideal you should get it copyrighted.”

“Keep giving me that attitude and I’ll give you something really sickening. And I’ll make sure it hurts,” threatened Wanda, her eyes flashing with hex energy to push her point.

Pietro scoffed and rolled his eyes. Rather than arguing this issue again, which could only result in him getting hexed, he ran off to catch up with the others. He still hated how his sister was becoming so Xavier-ish in her ambitions. Father raised them to seek dominance over humans, not compromise. Having their own nation was all well and good, but father wouldn’t be satisfied until mutants took their rightful place in the world. Wanda may no longer have the stomach for such action, but he had no doubt that father would one day make his move. When that day came, the humans and the X-men wouldn’t stand a chance.

Genosha Harbor – Main Docks

The final troop transport was loaded and ready to go. The remnants of the military forces that had been on Genosha since the uprising were set to head home. All week UN peacekeepers worked feverishly to get every soldier, civilian, contractor, and official off the island. It was a tenuous operation because Magneto made it clear that he would not tolerate any brash military moves. There would be no residual force, no embassy, no human presence whatsoever on his island. But there would be a significant military force in the area keeping an eye on things. It would ensure security at least tenuously.

The X-men worked closely with the peacekeepers, helping to ready the transports and load up the troops. They also acted as patrols, keeping an eye on the mutant population of the island and making sure they didn’t strike the leaving soldiers out of spite. Hank, Ororo, Remy, Rogue, Kurt, Kitty, and Logan helped the last transport disembark. Rogue and Kurt helped get the necessary materials on the boat, Kitty and Logan acted as security patrols, and Remy worked with Hank and a few UN technicians to make sure the boat could make the trip.

Ororo helped in whatever way she could as well, but at the moment she was tasked with simply keeping the seas calm for the transports. A few storms had rolled in and the peacekeepers couldn’t get off the island fast enough. It had been a tense week and nobody needed the weather making it any worse. There were still a lot of bitter spirits and worried faces. Nobody seemed to have much confidence in this compromise struck between Magneto and the rest of the world. But Ororo tried to stay optimistic. The outcome could have been much worse.

Once the transport was on its way, she stood at the end of the dock and watched it venture off. Hank soon joined her, wiping his hands clean with a rag after having worked on the transport’s engine.

“That’s the last one,” said Hank, “This island is officially mutant exclusive.”

“Just as both sides promised,” said Ororo distantly, “But I’m not sure it’s going to lead to a more peaceful world for humans and mutants. I understand why some would want a sanctuary and all, but it feels like mutants are going to be more isolated from humans than ever. Won’t that make our struggle even harder?”

“I wouldn’t go so far to call it difficult. It simply leaves us with a different set of challenges. We’ll have to undoubtedly adapt. But as evidenced by this conflict, that is something the X-men can do quite well.”

Ororo smiled at his reassuring words. Hank still had a keen talent for putting a better perspective on things. Even though they weren’t a couple anymore, she still had a special fondness for his spirit.

As they watched the transport sail off, an awkward silence fell over them. Ororo had been avoiding tying up these loose ends to their failed relationship for some time now. She had been busy contemplating everything that happened between them. It was hard getting over the revelation that he had been having some intimate exchanges online with this Tessa woman. It had been equally difficult getting over the revelation that he had been engaged. But now was not the time for dwelling on the past.

“So are you ready to talk about it, Hank?” she asked him, “Because I promise this time I won’t run away from it.”

“Are you sure? Given the gravity of what we have endured this past week, it may be better if we wait to regain our strength,” said Hank, shifting awkwardly.

“We’ve been putting this off long enough. We owe it to each other to lay this to rest.”

Hank could not argue with her reasoning. This lingering issue had been causing a lot of stress for both of them. After everything that happened with Magneto, any chance at reducing that stress had to be taken.

“So…where do we begin?” she asked him.

“Well I’ve always found it helpful to address the simplest questions first,” said Hank, “I suppose in this instance that would be…are you’re still mad at me?”

“After having this much time to think about it…no, I’m not mad. But I am still upset. I really treasured what we had, Hank. I never wanted it to come apart like it did.”

“Nor did I, but I take responsibility for what I did,” he said with a compassionate gesture, “I was at fault here. I got involved with a woman I shouldn’t have.”

“You’re right. You shouldn’t have,” said Ororo, shifting to a more serious tone, “But I suppose we were both at fault. We weren’t honest with each other. I didn’t tell you about Remy and you didn’t tell me about that woman you were engaged to.”

“Carley,” said Hank with a touch of sadness.

“Yes…I figured it was a touchy issue if you never brought it up,” said Ororo more empathically, “Just as touchy as my relationship with Remy was.”

“It’s different when you’re engaged to someone. When we were together, we were not certain how long-term our relationship was going to be. It was an ongoing process of discovery if you will. But with Carley…I sincerely believed that she and I were going to be together. There was a time when she was set to join the X-men as a teacher and doctor like me. When I had to break it off, it was the most difficult task I ever carried out.”

“I’m sure it was. But if only you had told me about her we could have brought it out in the open. It would have made everything easier if you just trusted me. Maybe then I would have trusted you enough to tell you about Remy.”

Hank turned away briefly. There were so many could-have-beens with their relationship. In hindsight, it was clear they both made their share of mistakes and didn’t take the right steps to correct them. But Hank was a strong believer in the notion that everything happened for a reason.

“These matters are never that simple, Ororo. I did want to tell you, but then Tessa entered the picture and you know what happened there,” he said distantly, “But beyond Tessa, I’m not entirely convinced trust was the issue. I’m not convinced honesty was the issue either.”

“Then what was it? What happened to us, Hank?” asked Ororo, sounding almost desperate for answers.

Hank moved in closer and gently cupped her chin with his powerful hands.

“We just aren’t meant to be. It’s as simple as that. I know that sounds like a gross oversimplification from a man who knows how to complicate any explanation. But if being with Carley taught me anything, it’s that matters of the heart are often beyond our control. It is frustrating if not painful at times. But when it does not work out, there’s a good reason for it. You may not understand it now, but it becomes clearer with time.”

“I guess I must be slow then,” she sighed.

“Only as slow as you allow yourself to be,” he said with a reassuring smile, “You’re a wonderful woman, Ororo. I treasured every moment we were together. But you were right when you said it wasn’t something we could reason. We just did not have the intangibles as they say. I’m willing to accept that now. Are you?”

Ororo looked away for a moment, still very conflicted. But it made more sense now. They just weren’t meant to be. That was all there was to it. Turning back towards her former lover, she managed a smile as well.

“If it will help us move on, yes. I can,” she told him.

“Wonderful,” said Hank warmly, “And in time, I hope you can accept my apology for what happened with Tessa.”

“I already have.”

They shared another comforting smile. Then Ororo pulled him into a friendly embrace. It seemed the most fitting way to lay this matter to rest. Their breakup had been muddled with complications. It felt so liberating to finally get this out of the way.

“So…what now?” asked Ororo as they parted.

“I don’t know. I’ll have to contemplate that further,” said Hank, “I suppose we’ll have to be content with building a friendship instead of a relationship. We were able to do it before when we were chatted online. It seems reasonable we can do it again.”

“As if I can ever argue your uncanny logic,” grinned Ororo.

The former lovers shared a good laugh. It seemed like a fitting way to move on from this incredible crisis they just endured. The world almost came to an end without them working this out once and for all. It would have been a tragedy for both of them. But they pulled through. Now they were ready to rebuild. They may not be able to move on as lovers, but they could still give strength to one another as friends.

Genosha – West Beaches

Jean Grey had always loved watching sunsets. When she was a little girl, it offered so much comfort. Given how messed up her life had been before the X-men, it was something she really needed. At times it was the only thing keeping her sane. As she got older she found other sources of comfort in her friends and lovers. But there were still times when she turned to the setting sun to console her when she was enduring great hardship.

For half the week she had been bedridden, recovering from the strain she endured while using Magneto’s machine. She was able to deflect the asteroid with it, but she had to go beyond all her limits to do so. It was something that went against those vital lessons in control that Professor Xavier had preached for years. But it had to be done. And in doing so, it awakened something she didn’t expect.

As she stood gazing out over the soft glow of the setting sun as it set over the horizon, Scott approached bearing a look of concern.

“You’ve been awfully quiet, Jean. Is everything okay?” he asked her.

Jean turned briefly to see her lover approach her. She smiled slightly, taking added comfort as he placed his hand on her shoulder. But she quickly turned back to the sun.

“I’m still working my way to ‘okay’ again. It’s been…harder than I hoped,” she replied.

“That’s sort of been par for the course with this whole ordeal since the beginning,” said Scott, “So you’re in good company.”

“It just feels like I should be helping more. Everyone else is doing something to clean up Magneto’s mess.”

“You were stuck in bed for three days. I don’t think anyone would blame you for needing extra time to recover.”

“But I have recovered…for the most part at least. There are still things I’m trying to wrap my mind around. No pun intended.”

“Like what?” asked Scott curiously.

Jean fell silent again, hugging her shoulders as she kept watching the setting sun. She felt Scott’s worried eyes on her. He had been concerned for her ever since this ordeal ended. He stayed by her bedside for most of her recovery. She drew strength from his love and support. But at this point she needed clarity more than strength.

“It’s strange you know. When I was growing up, I was so confused about who I was, what I was becoming, and how I was going to deal with it. I had parents who failed miserably at helping me. I had no friends who understood. And I had other family members who did everything in their power to make things worse. I had no control. There was no certainty in my life. At times it seemed the only consistency I had was moments like this, watching the sun set after a long day.”

“Sounds fitting. It matches your fiery personality,” said Scott lightheartedly.

“Yeah, you’re not the first one to point that out,” said Jean, smiling lightly at his comment, “But beyond the subconscious symbolism, it sort of reminds me of everything I’ve dealt with. Like the sun, I have so much power burning inside me. At times it’s so strong I feel like it’s going to just erupt on me. It wasn’t until the Professor came along that I learned to control it. And since then I’ve worked hard to maintain that control. But when I stepped into that machine and pushed my powers to stop that asteroid, I felt that same burning power again.”

A touch of fear entered her tone and she leaned in closer to her lover, who instinctively took her in his comforting embrace.

“It was scary. For the first time in years, I experienced that feeling again. I was going to lose control. My powers were going to consume me like they almost did years ago. I thought I had moved beyond it, but…”

Jean found herself unable to continue. Instead she clung desperately to her lover, breathing deeply and trying to calm herself down from these racing thoughts.

Scott wasn’t sure what to make of this. He had seen Jean distraught like this before. In the early days of the institute, she struggled with these same issues. He remembered vividly how hard it was for her. He thought she had risen above it as well. But whatever happened to her in that machine gave her a harsh reminder.

“You’re going to be fine, Jean,” said Scott softly, “You dealt with this before. I watched you rise above it. Whatever your dealing with now, I know you can get through it.”

“I want to believe that. But this time feels…different,” said Jean, struggling to find the right words, “I can’t fight this terrible feeling that it’s a sign of something much worse.”

“That’s just the fear talking. And you’re one of the bravest human beings on the face of this planet. You stepped up to stop that asteroid. Whatever happens from here on out, I know you’ll step up and fight it like you have with every challenge you’ve faced. I don’t just believe it. I know it, Jean. Because I know you.”

“Better than anyone has or ever will?” added Jean, remembering those fateful words of his.

“Without a doubt,” said Scott, glad to hear she remembered.

They were powerful words that touched Jean Grey on many levels. She turned away from the sunset and gazed into the shrouded eyes of her lover, smiling warmly as she remained in his embrace. He smiled back and pulled her into a soft kiss. It was a gesture Jean eagerly returned. Even if it didn’t give her the answers she wanted, it gave hope that she was strong enough to find them.

“Tell me it’s going to be okay, Scott,” said Jean as the kiss parted.

“It’s going to be okay, Jean,” he told her.

“Promise me,” she said strongly, “Promise me I can get through this.”

“I promise. I’ll be there for you every step of the way.”

Jean smiled warmly, turning back to the sight of the sunset with him. They remained in a close embrace with her leaning on him for support.

“Tell me you love me.”

“I love you,” he said with a tender gesture.

“Tell me that when we get back to the mansion we’ll curl up in bed together, make love, and sleep this mess off for the next two days.”

“Are you trying to condition me or something?” joked Scott as he looked out over the sunset with her.

“It’s working isn’t it?” she grinned.

“A little too well,” he laughed, “But if that’s what I have to do to be your lover, condition to your heart’s content.”

The two lovers shared a good laugh as they continued watching the sunset together. It was just the kind of reassurance she needed. Their love was a strength she didn’t have the first time she dealt with this. It seemed as though she was going to need it in order to get through these new feelings of uncertainty.

Later – Airstrip

With the last troop transports shipping off and some semblance of order returning to the island, the X-men were ready to leave. After a tumultuous couple of weeks, they were eager to get home and unwind from it all. Magneto and the Professor helped clear things up with the President, making sure they weren’t fugitives anymore. Magneto made it clear he lied to get the government to occupy the X-men while he carried out his plan. It probably made the President feel pretty foolish, but he had more important concerns as did the rest of the world.

After a somewhat tenuous goodbye with Magneto and the Brotherhood, Charles Xavier and his exhausted X-men boarded the X-jet which they retrieved from Guantanamo Bay. They were all eager to get back to the institute. They faced a challenging new world back home. With Genosha now a mutant nation and a public more wary of mutants than ever, the X-men had their work cut out for them. They were going to need their strength if they were to face it.

While the X-jet engines were powering up, Kurt Wagner was outside on the airstrip to make one final goodbye. He had caught up with Mystique, who had been avoiding them ever since their fight in the throne room. Her actions were indeed egregious, supporting Magneto even as he was prepared to destroy the world. Neither he nor Rogue was ready to accept her in their lives again, but that didn’t mean they had to part on a bitter note.

“So vhat vill you do now, mother?” asked Kurt as he stood facing her with mixed emotions.

“I don’t know,” she said distantly, “I have some loose ends in Europe I need to resolve. So you don’t need to worry about me. I’ll find some way to stay busy.”

“I’ll still vorry,” said Kurt, “Zhis isn’t zhe first time you got involved in shady dealings vith a madman. I’m tempted to assume it von’t be zhe last.”

“Believe what you want, son. I may be stubborn, but I do learn from my mistakes. Working for Magneto has been a bust. I’m officially through doing his bidding.”

“It’s a good first step,” said Kurt more lightheartedly, “But you still have a vays to go, ja? You vere villing to help Magneto destroy zhe vorld. I know you said you vere doing vhat vas best for us, but I don’t see how total destruction qualifies.”

“That wasn’t supposed to happen!” said Mystique strongly, cursing Magneto under her breath, “Magneto told me he was going to destroy that asteroid. The plan was to get mutants all under a single roof while humanity ripped itself apart!”

“And vhat of all zhose innocent lives? Did zhat not concern you in zhe slightest?” said Kurt critically.

“My only concern was you and Rogue. I could care less about humanity. But believe me, I never would have helped if I knew he was going to take it that far!”

“I do believe you, mother,” said Kurt in a more sincere tone, “You don’t have to convince me zhat you still love me and Rogue. Zhat I never doubt. You don’t have to convince me zhat you vant a better life for us. I never doubt zhat either. But just like Magneto, you let your anger drive you. And if you continue down zhis path, zhen you vill only drive us further apart. I don’t vant zhat. And I know you don’t vant zhat either.”

The shape shifter fell silent, hiding a bitter expression from her son. She didn’t like him drawing parallels with her and Magneto. She hadn’t been the one that tried to destroy the world. But she couldn’t deny some similarities. Mystique was an angry, bitter woman and it led her to make a lot of mistakes. After so driving him and Rogue apart so much, she could no longer afford to keep making such mistakes.

Turning towards the X-jet, she saw Rogue sitting near a window seat on the jet. She looked towards her briefly, but there was still a lot of hostility. She had yet to forgive her for her earlier tricks. She hadn’t forgiven her for running out on her years ago. She had a lot to make up for and given Rogue’s personality it may be a while before they could patch things up.

“I get the feeling it’s too late,” said Mystique in a low tone, “Rogue still hates my guts. If only she wasn’t so damn stubborn.”

“Like mother like daughter indeed,” said Kurt, “Luckily, I am more forgiving.”

“Any chance you could impart some of that to her?”

“I’ll try. But just give her time. And more importantly, give her fewer reasons to be angry at you.”

“I’m trying,” she muttered, “But I still hate that the two of you are with the X-men. Charles Xavier is going to keep you locked in a battle you can never win. And that’s not the kind of life I want for either of you.”

“It’s zhe life ve have chosen. I have no regrets and neither does Rogue.”

“I know that! But I know that life! I know where it leads! In time, it’ll destroy you. You may not see it now, but eventually you will. So don’t expect me to stop meddling. You may even hate me for it. But that’s the price I’m willing to pay to protect you.”

It was a twisted logic. But Mystique was a twisted woman. Kurt wasn’t sure what to make of it. No one would ever accuse her of not being dedicated. It was admirable and disturbing at the same time. It wasn’t going to bring them any closer, but it was going to keep their lives entwined for the foreseeable future. It was yet another challenge all three of them were going to have to overcome.

“I’m sorry it has to be zhis vay, mother,” said Kurt solemnly, “I hope zhat one day zhings vill change.”

“Take it from a shape shifter, Kurt. People don’t change,” she said distantly, “Keep fighting it all you want. It’s a losing battle at best.”

“Maybe, but it’s still a battle vorth fighting. You and father taught me to fight from zhe day I vas born. You taught Rogue as vell. Ve’ll keep fighting for as long as ve have to. Maybe one day, ve can fight alongside one another instead of against each other.”

“Maybe…” sighed Mystique, “I suppose we’ll have to wait and see.”

Another silence fell over them. Kurt wasn’t expecting a hug or a kiss from his mother. She didn’t seem in a position to give one. She locked eyes with his, conveying that motherly concern that he knew so well. It was one of the rare times Mystique didn’t show the same bitterness or anger. She couldn’t convey everything she wanted to feel, but for Kurt it was enough.

“Take care, mother,” he said.

“You too, son,” she said, “And for what it’s worth, tell Rogue I’m sorry.”

Kurt nodded, giving her one last solemn look before turning back towards the jet. Even as he disappeared into the jet, Mystique kept watching. She could tell he was disappointed in her. She was disappointed in herself. But there was no use having regrets. She was confident that she and her children would one day be together again. X-men or no X-men, nothing was going to keep her from them.

Inside the jet, Rogue pondering her situation with Mystique. When she saw Kurt enter, he had that look on his face that indicated she had a lot to say to them. But she was in no condition to listen. She was still so mad at her for doing what she did. Even if she wanted what was best for them, she did a lousy job of carrying it out. Rogue wasn’t sure if she could ever get around Mystique’s many transgressions. It tore at her heart because she was still her mother. But Mystique chose her path and Rogue wanted no part of it.

Her distant state didn’t go unnoticed. Remy, who was sitting next to her, saw the conflicted look in her eyes. As if she didn’t have enough conflict with not being able to touch, she had to open this old wound again. It didn’t help they still had their share of issues. He hadn’t spoken to her since she pushed him away. Now seemed as good a time as any to get over his own bitterness.

“You gonna be okay, cherè?” he asked her.

“With mah mama, it’s never gonna be okay,” she sighed, “She just keeps finding new ways to disappoint meh. And if it’s all the same to you, Ah’d rather not talk about it.”

“Fair enough,” shrugged the Cajun.

There was a brief silence between them. But Remy’s gaze never parted from hers.

“So long as you got this on your plate with your powers and all, how about we take care of us why we at it.”

“Guess that would make things a little easier,” said Rogue, shifting awkwardly, “Ain’t like we’ve touched on it though. You ain’t so much as looked at meh since…you know.”

“Remy was angry. That happens when you push away someone who cares about you,” said Remy more seriously, “But Remy don’t hold no grudges. It was wrong for Remy to approach you like that. With you powers and all, I put you in a hell of a position.”

“Don’t start blaming yourself, Remy. Ah’m the jerk here. Mah powers ain’t an excuse for doing what Ah did. Ah shouldn’t have gotten upset at you for trying to get a little closer to meh. Hell, you deserve some credit for getting close to a gal who can put you in a coma with a simple touch.”

“What can Remy say? He’s a brave homme,” he said jokingly.

Rogue couldn’t help but smile somewhat. Remy still hadn’t lost that charming personality of his. Even when he was trying to be serious it crept through, but this was something that required seriousness on both their parts. So long as they were facing new challenges, they should put old ones to rest.

“Remy, let’s be honest here. Ah like you. Ah like you a lot. And Ah know you like meh. There might even be more there than just liking. But for now, we can’t do much with that. We’re pretty much at the mercy of mah powers.”

“That don’t mean it’ll always be that way,” said Remy hopefully.

“Maybe so, but for now we gotta play the cards we’re dealt. Ah don’t wanna push you away. But Ah don’t wanna get too close either. So for now let’s keep it simple.”

“You mean we just be friends?”

“Ah was trying avoid that old cliché, but yeah,” she said distantly, “It may not be everything we want it to be. But it would make all the crap we’re gonna have to go through from here on out a lot easier. Ah just wanna be able to rely on you. And Ah’ll make sure you’ll always be able to rely on meh.”

It wasn’t the kind of resolution Remy hoped for. There was still so much left to be desired. The feelings between them couldn’t just be thrown out. They had already made that abundantly clear to one another. But looking at her and contemplating the new challenges they were sure to face, it was the best they could hope for.

“You promise this be no bluff?” said Remy.

“Is makin’ card puns your way of saying yes?” said Rogue with a slight smile, “Besides, you know Ah can’t bluff around you. You know meh too well.”

“Just making sure, cherè,” grinned Remy, “If this be how we gotta cope, so be it.”

“Does that mean we can be on speaking terms again?” said Rogue, grinning back.

“As if Remy can ever ignore a pretty femme.”

That was all the assurance Rogue needed. They shared a warm smile and Remy reached over and took her gloved hand in his. It was a fitting way to move on from this issue. But at the same time they couldn’t help but be disappointed. Rogue still couldn’t touch and that desire between them was still strong. But like the compromise that Magneto had to accept, they had to make sacrifices as well. Only time would tell whether or not it would lead to something more.

Now that the engines were all powered up, the jet began to move. Scott, who was sitting in the pilot’s seat in the cockpit, activated the vertical take-off thrusters. The team held on through the turbulence, ready to begin the long trip home.

Mystique was still outside watching on the airstrip. She hadn’t moved an inch since her conversation with Kurt. By now Kurt and Rogue were content to leave her to her business. Whatever she did now was up to her. Hopefully next time their paths would cross under better circumstances. But Kurt and Rogue weren’t the only ones thinking about Mystique as they prepared to head home.

Before they flew away, Logan found himself looking back at the shape shifter through the side window. Mystique was a messed up woman. The way she handled her kids was proof enough of that. She was also a hell of a fighter. He faced her before and she was as intense as they came. It was one of her defining traits. But it was because of that trait he couldn’t stop dwelling on their last fight.

‘Why did she hesitate? Crazy psycho bitches like her don’t hesitate when they got a guy on the ropes. They go for the kill. So what the hell happened? What the hell stopped her?’

It was something Logan continued to contemplate as the jet soared away from Genosha. He was nowhere close to an answer. He could only speculate at this point. It was a puzzling issue. It shouldn’t have bothered him this much, but it did. He wasn’t sure why, but something told him it was an issue that was going to come up again down the line.

“Goodbye Genosha. And good riddance,” commented Kitty, who was sitting across from Logan, “I hope we don’t have to come back here anytime soon.”

“Don’t hope too much half-pint,” mused Logan, “Take it from me. Whenever you leave a battle incomplete, it’s gonna catch up to you. Only next time, we better make damn sure we finish it before some idiot tries to destroy the whole freakin’ world.”

Worthington Manufacturing Plant

Warren Worthington III always had mixed feelings about his family. Ever since his father tried to take his wings from him, he had a love/hate relationship with the Worthington name. At times he was ashamed. His father had done a lot of anti-mutant research over the years. Even though he stopped, some of that research was still out there and may be used against mutants in the future. At the same time, the Worthington name offered valuable resources. Without his father’s help, they never would have stopped Magneto.

While the others were cleaning up the mess on Genosha, Warren did some cleanup of his own. For much of the week, he had been traveling to various Worthington facilities tracking, cataloguing, and if necessary destroying the remnants of anti-mutant research. His father may have stopped pursuing it, but the archives still had it on record and some of that information had been used on the sentinels. It was how they were able to deploy them so quickly. Now with fear over mutants at a fevered level, they couldn’t afford to let this research fall into the wrong hands.

It was an arduous process. Warren barely got any sleep all week. He had so much jetlag he wasn’t sure he was ever going to have a normal sleep pattern again. For a man who could fly that was really saying something. But he couldn’t rest until this job was done. And to his credit, his father helped out a great deal. He still resented him for doing this research in the first place. It sure took him long enough to get around to destroying it. But he came to his senses at the right time. The last thing they needed was Worthington Industries throwing more fuel on the fire that was human/mutant affairs.

‘There may be hope for the Worthington legacy yet. That old motto of progress and peace is finally starting to show. Hope dear old dad can finally stick to his guns this time.’

Letting out a tired sigh, Warren exited the last archive of the last Worthington building. He just spent the last four hours combing over files and computer disks, shredding documents and destroying data. It was somewhat relieving to know that his family company had finally purged itself of this research. But it wasn’t completely clean. His father still had the sentinels in his possession and those were commodities he was not willing to give up as easily. It left Warren plenty bitter, but when it came to his father he had come to expect as such.

But as he exited the archive he was met with an unexpected presence. Waiting outside was Candy Southerner, the woman he almost married. A week ago he would have been ecstatic to see her again. But after the revelations about her family company and how they developed that poisonous gas for mutants, he was heartbroken.

“Your father said you would be here,” she told him as she casually leaned against the wall, “I’m glad I caught you before you left. I’ve been meaning to talk to you.”

“Not to be rude, Candy, but I’m not in a very talkative mood,” said Warren bitterly.

“After a week like this I don’t blame you,” she said, “But there are a few things I need to say to you. And I don’t want to wait so long this time to get them out.”

Warren still had his reservations, but he didn’t back away when she approached. There was a lot they had to work through. They might as well get it over with.

“First, I want to let you know that my company is destroying the gas,” she told him, “I had to call in a few favors. But the mutant cure program has been officially shut down.”

“That’s good I guess,” he muttered, still sounding very bitter.

“You guess? You sure don’t sound too thrilled.”

“It’s hard to get excited when I’m still pissed at you for developing it in the first place.”

“Warren, that wasn’t me. That was my company!”

“Don’t pretend you didn’t know about it! You’re last name is the same as the company for crying out loud!”

“That didn’t mean I agreed with it!”

“Then why didn’t you stop it?”

Candy’s expression tensed with a mix of anger and frustration. She didn’t blame Warren for being mad at her. But this wasn’t a clear-cut issue. It was complicated, going back to the relationship they once shared.

“Look Warren, I know a lot has happened since we broke up. We’ve been struggling with it in our own way ever since,” said Candy in a deeper, more emotional tone.

“Struggling isn’t the right word,” said Warren, lowering his voice, “We almost got married, Candy. I was ready to take the next step with you. To break it off at that point wasn’t a struggle. It was downright painful.”

“I know it was. And I still feel that pain. I really did love you Warren and I still do. But you being a mutant was just too much for our families. I thought if your father wasn’t going to do anything about it, I might as well try my luck. I figured if my company could perfect the cure we could…”

But Warren didn’t let her finish.

“You still don’t get it do you!” he exclaimed, scolding her with resentment once reserved for his father, “I am what I am! Being a mutant isn’t a disease! It’s not something you can cure! It’s not something I want cured!”

“But if one day it became too much for you, I wanted to at least have the option!” cried Candy with tears now forming in her eyes, “I didn’t do it to force it on you! I did it because I love you!”

“Oh please! You just wanted a reason to believe we could still be together! It wasn’t an act of love! It was selfish!”

“So you wouldn’t have done the same?” she sobbed, “You wouldn’t have done whatever it took to find a way for us to be together?”

“Not if it involved doing the wrong thing for all the wrong reasons!”

His words were harsh. There was a hurt in his tone as well. Sorrow mixed with anger as he kept scolding her for what she had done. Candy couldn’t look at him anymore. She turned away to contain her sobs. She knew she was going against his wishes when she began this endeavor with the cure. She had no idea it would hurt him like this.

Warren let her sob for a moment while he collected himself. He tried not to let his anger get the better of him. A part of him still had a soft spot for this woman. For so long, he lamented over their breakup. He never blamed her for it. It was their families that forced it upon them. But after this he couldn’t look at her the same again. She wasn’t the same sweet woman he fell in love with. She had bore her true colors.

“You have no idea how much this hurts me, Candy,” he said in an emotional tone, “You saw how much it upset me when my father started doing anti-mutant research. You saw how much it upset me when our families demanded I cut off my wings in order to be with you. You always said you accepted my powers. You even said you loved them.”

“I did. I loved you and accepted you for who you are.”

“Did you?” Warren questioned, “Or did you just accept when it was convenient? Because as soon as it became an obstacle, you brushed it off the same way my father did. I expect that pig-headedness from him, but not from you.”

“I didn’t take it lightly, Warren! I was careful with it every step of the way!”

“But to actually go this far, continuing his work even when it bore things like this poison gas…it just shows you don’t understand. And you never did.”

Warren placed a tense hand on her shoulder, turning her around so she could face him. Tears were streaming down her face while he bore a stoic yet hurt look.

“I believe you when you say you love me, Candy. But you didn’t love me enough to accept all the challenges that comes with being a mutant. You were willing to leave our relationship behind so you could stay in the rich comfort of your family. If that’s what you’re going to do when the going gets tough, then obviously our love wasn’t as strong as I thought.”

“It…it was complicated, Warren,” she sobbed, choking on more tears.

“No it wasn’t. It was as clear as could be. You just chose what was easiest, not what was right. And if you can’t love me enough to do the right thing, then you can’t love me enough period. And I can’t love you.”

Candy let out more sobs. Warren’s expression fell, having to hold back sobs of his own. His anger kept him from showing too much sorrow. This was Candy’s fault. Not his. He used to believe she loved him with all her heart, mutant or no mutant. Now he saw that it wasn’t true. The love he once thought was so strong was just a farce. It was heartbreaking enough when their relationship first ended. This was just as bad if not worse.

With nothing else to say, Warren cast one last solemn look before pulling back. Candy wiped the tears from her eyes, gazing at her former lover with sadness and guilt.

“Goodbye Candy,” said the winged mutant as he turned and walked away, “I hope you understand one day.”

“Warren…I’m so sorry,” she said with desperate sobs.

“I know. And I’ll forgive you eventually. I just need time. We both do.”

Swallowing his remaining emotions, Warren Worthington III walked away from Candy Southerner. He left with a heavy heart. He really did love this girl. But it was truly over now. There was no unmaking her decisions. They both had to live with the aftermath. For so long Warren thought Candy Southerner was the only woman he could love with all his heart. It seemed as though he was going to have to learn to love again. It was yet another daunting challenge in a world already filled with daunting new challenges.

Xavier Institute – Xavier’s Office

Upon returning to the mansion, everybody had turned in for some much needed sleep. After a week like this, nobody was in the mood for anything other than sleep for the foreseeable future. The only one too restless to sleep was Professor Charles Xavier. He found himself sitting in his office in the late hours of the night, contemplating what was next for him and his dream.

The world was sure to be a very different place now. Magneto global plot impacted all corners of the globe. People had more reason to fear mutation than ever. It took only one mutant with an insane goal to destroy the world and everyone in it. In many ways it was worse than the uprising. Now mutants didn’t just threaten the global order. They threatened all life as they knew it. And with the mutant population growing every day, many dreaded what the future may bring.

To pass the time Charles Xavier casually flipped through the channels on his TV. He saw how public sentiment had turned against them. Images of anti-mutant protests sprang up in the midst of the rebuilding process. Anger soared with the knowledge that Magneto was pardoned and would now rule over Genosha as a mutant sanctuary. He could already foresee the rift growing. Mutants and humans were being driven apart even further. With growing isolation there would come growing uncertainty. With growing uncertainty, there would be more fear. And in a world consumed by fear, his goals of peace and understanding between humans and mutants seemed all the more distant.

‘I’ve reached out to my friends. I’ve reached out to my enemies even. I’ve worked tirelessly to prevent crisis like this and yet they still happen. I try to make peace, but end up having to fight more wars. Am I failing my students? Am I failing myself? Now life for mutants is going to be harder than ever. Even if I did do the right thing, are the X-men equipped to deal with the consequences?’

As he pondered this question, he came across a particular news story. It was a recording of a speech from a press conference held earlier today. It caught the Professor’s attention because the man involved was Senator Robert Kelly, a man with strong anti-mutant feelings who always seemed to have an agenda.

“I understand this is a time for rebuilding, not politics. But this affair with Magneto has only proven what I’ve been saying all along. Mutants pose a serious threat to the world. It’s no longer a matter of protecting our society from them. It’s a matter of protecting our world. Now the President is willing to concede to men like Magneto in hopes of fostering peace. But it’s not enough! This country and this world need bolder leadership. We need someone who is willing to face these issues and not back down! That is why today I, Robert Kelly, am announcing my candidacy for President of the United States. We have a long list of challenges ahead of us. And if it be the will of the people and the will of God, I am ready to lead us through them!”

A fury of cheers and questions followed the senator’s profound announcement. Some even started cheering anti-mutant slogans like “Save us from the monster!” and “Go get those freaks!” It was the first signs of a new struggle between humans and mutants. The backlash to Magneto’s doomsday plot and the deal that settled it had officially begun.

For Professor Charles Xavier, it was the first step towards an uncertain if not frightening future. It seemed as though he wasn’t going to have time to second guess his decisions. He wasn’t going to have time to doubt himself either. With men like Robert Kelly seeking power, the world needed him and the X-men more than ever.

‘I suppose we don’t have a choice. The X-men must keep fighting and so must I. If Robert Kelly is ready to lead the world against mutants, I must be ready to lead the world against him. If only I had the slightest clue on where to begin. Because if that man becomes president, God help us all.’

End of Volume 2

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