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Volume 4 -- Issue 89 -- Disheartening Discord

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Disheartening Discord
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Born with extraordinary powers, Professor Charles Xavier and the X-men try to use their mutant abilities for the benefit of mankind. Over the years they have been able to save many lives and spare the world from untold destruction. But even in the face of triumph, a world that hates and fears them continues to grow more complicated.

The world once again came close to total destruction when Magneto, the ruler of Genosha, unleashed an ancient creature known as the Cambrian. This creature unwittingly merged with him and tried to integrate mutants everywhere into a single collective, causing massive chaos and destruction all over the world. The X-men along with remnants of the Brotherhood of Mutants were able to stop the creature and free those who had been under the Cambrian’s control. The rebuilding process, however, promises to be much more difficult this time.

Magneto’s brazen actions violated the treaty that had kept Genosha an all-mutant island. In wake of the incident peacekeeping soldiers from many different nations have occupied Genosha once more. This does not sit well with many mutant communities and now that the newly created Mutant Security Agency has been emboldened, tensions are on the rise once more. Many continue to place their hopes in Charles Xavier, but he and his X-men are struggling with their own personal issues. Even Xavier himself continues to hide a secret that could threaten to unravel everything he’s worked for.

Princeton Oncology Research Center – Two Weeks Earlier

Professor Xavier took deep breaths as he rose up from the examination table of Dr. Cecilia Reyes. He had just finished a new round of tests on his continually deteriorating condition. He had been through this process so many times that he was hardened to the inevitable discomfort and grim news that often came with it. Surviving cancer was one of the humbling experiences any human being could go through. Having to survive it again was completely different. It was surreal in a sense that all the borrowed time he had been living on was finally catching up to him.

“The computer is still compiling your latest blood work, but I was able to put together a report of all your latest tests,” said Dr. Reyes as she flipped through a thick folder of papers.

“What’s the prognosis, Doctor? Bearing in mind I’m the world’s most powerful telepath and can see through any false optimism,” said Xavier as he buttoned up his shirt.

Dr. Reyes was taken aback. She was used to cancer patients being a bit cynical, but not Charles Xavier. Despite his distressing demeanor, she read over the file.

“Our earlier predictions were more generous than we thought. It seems the cancer is more aggressive this time around,” she told him plainly.

“You’re the fourth Oncologist to tell me this. I understand this is worse than before. My main concern is how aggressive it is and what I can expect.”

“That’s where it gets complicated,” said Dr. Reyes, “Since we renewed the treatments, the cancer cells are no longer attacking your nervous system. While that means your paralysis won’t get any worse, it also means those same cells are attacking other parts of your body. We’ve found evidence of your liver, pancreas, kidneys, and lungs all suffering their share of damage.”

“So…it’s spreading,” Xavier surmised.

“That appears to be the case,” she said sadly, “It’s sporadic, but the damage appears to be piling up. I suspect the cancer is agitated by the undue stress you’ve been putting on your body lately. Based on what you told me about the Phoenix affair and the incident with Rogue, you’ve been giving your condition many opportunities to resurface. Now it seems to be taking advantage of them.”

Professor Xavier’s stoic demeanor fell. Even he could not maintain a look of strength in the face of these revelations. There was no avoiding the truth. He did this to himself. He knew the strain would catch up with him, but he had no idea it would be this bad.

“Charles…” said Dr. Reyes, offering a comforting gesture, “I don’t like being the one to tell you this. I owe you so much after you and Moira MacTaggart helped me all those years ago.”

“You were top of your class in med school and your later research put mine to shame. You would have succeeded with or without your mutant powers.”

“You’re wrong,” she said strongly, “My whole career would not have been possible without you. If you hadn’t help me control my force shield powers I probably would have lost it a long time ago. Then I never would have been able to start my own research company. You did so much good for me and you’ve done so much more with your X-men. Can you honestly tell me you don’t want to do more?”

“Of course I want to do more. There is so much I’ve yet to accomplish, but I would be deluding myself if I thought cancer would grant me the strength,” said Professor Xavier distantly, “That’s why I need to make sure I can still function for what little time I have left. That’s where these pills you gave me come in.”

“Yes…about that, Charles,” she began.

“Just tell me whether or not they’ll keep the symptoms at bay,” he went on, “I don’t need to be reminded of the long list of risks. I’m willing to deal with them and whatever side-effects they may bring.”

Dr. Reyes fell silent as she reached into her pocket and pulled out an unmarked bottle of pills. They were not FDA approved and were highly experimental, consisting of a complex cocktail of chemicals, many of which had no fewer than a dozen syllables. She had been giving small samples to Charles since he first came to her seeking treatment for his resurfacing cancer. The next logical step was to do a full dose, which entailed risks that wouldn’t sit well with any ethically minded doctor.

“I can see no reason why they wouldn’t work,” she told him, “My concern is the high level of opioids I’ve had to include in the cocktail. There is a serious risk of addiction. Even more so than Oxycontin.”

“If I have as little time as you suspect then I can’t afford to worry about that,” said Professor Xavier as he took the pills, “Just make sure they’re shipped to my mansion discretely and I’ll take care of the rest.”

“Of course,” said Dr. Reyes somewhat bitterly, “May I also assume you’re going to tell your friends and students at some point? If you’re going to be putting yourself at this level of risk I think they have a right to know.”

Professor Xavier clutched the pills as his demeanor hardened once more. That was an issue that had been weighing heavily on his mind. His X-men already had so much on their mind with Magneto showing signs of activity and the Mutant Security Agency coming into the picture. News that his cancer was back would only add to an already unbearable burden. He couldn’t put his beloved students through something like that.

“I still need time to make the necessary arrangements,” he said in a low tone.

“You know for the world’s most powerful psychic, you’re a lousy liar,” said Dr. Reyes with folded arms.

“The X-men are a vital part of mutant affairs. Between Genosha and President Kelly, they need to remain focused and I need to remain functional for as long as I can manage.”

“So what happens when you push yourself too hard? How will everything you’ve worked for manage if the cancer wins out and you’ve left too much to chance?”

“I received that same lecture from Lilandra and she hasn’t spoken to me since,” said Professor Xavier as he slipped back into his wheelchair, “My X-men are strong. I’ve spent all this borrowed time I’ve been living on to ensure they’ll be strong enough to carry on my dream when I’m gone. That responsibility may fall on their shoulders sooner rather than later, which is why I must make good use of what little time I have left.”

Dr. Reyes wanted to argue with him further, but he didn’t give her the chance. He had his pills and his test results. There was no more reason for him to be here. Since he was dying of cancer, he couldn't afford the luxury of patience anymore.

Cecilia Reyes watched as he wheeled himself out, noting how he struggled with each movement. A tear formed in her eye because this was a man who helped her just as he had helped so many mutants. Now he was dying and unlike his first bout with cancer, he was accepting his fate. It was hard enough for her. She couldn’t imagine how much harder it would be on the X-men.

Xavier Institute Infirmary – Present Time

The battle with the Cambrian and the aftermath that followed had taken its toll on the X-men. After spending a day on Genosha to oversee the reoccupation of the island, they left the situation in the hands of General Grimshaw and Wanda Maximoff. The team had many in need of healing. Those affected by the Cambrian went through a rough adjustment period. The transformation took a toll on their bodies and they needed treatment to ensure they would make a full recovery. Most of the medical necessities were handled on Genosha. At this point the victims of the Cambrian only needed rest.

To get back to the mansion they, hitched a ride on Magneto’s transport spheres since the X-jet was destroyed. Logan, Scott, Bobby, and Rogue spent some brief time in the infirmary before heading to their rooms. Ororo escorted Logan to his room where she would look after him. Jean did the same with Scott. Kurt and Remy helped Rogue while Kitty and Betsy did helped Bobby as well. Piotr also came over to help, but spent most of his time at the Sefton’s catching up with Illyana. He mentioned that he wanted to discuss his future plans with Professor Xavier, but the world’s most powerful psychic was in no condition to do business.

While Professor Xavier wasn’t affected by the Cambrian, he was still quite drained. He put a lot of stress on his already frail body. If anyone knew he did this while fighting cancer, they would have called him crazy. Luckily, he was able to keep his condition under wraps. He was further consoled by the presence of Hank McCoy, who also happened to be recovering.

“You’re looking better, Hank. Those injuries of yours seem too have gone away faster than expected,” said Xavier as he lay on one of the beds.

“Yes, it may be the only positive outcome from this Cambrian affair,” sighed a very tired Hank McCoy, who was sitting in the bed next to him, “When that creature took over my body, it had to heal my injuries in order to function. I would say it’s a good thing, but considering the unpleasant side-effects it is not a treatment I would recommend.”

“I doubt there would be a market for it anyways,” Xavier joked, “At least you’re in good company. It seems every mutant who was affected is going through their own recovery period.”

“Have there been any concerns about long-term effects?” asked Hank.

“Based on reports from General Grimshaw and your lady love, we have no such worries. The Cambrian did quite a number on its victims. Recovery has been described as waking up from a terrible nightmare with an equally terrible hangover. Those are Logan’s words. Not mine.”

“I’m not much of a drinker, but I would say that’s an accurate analogy.”

“In either case the best medicine is rest. Ororo has kept in touch with District X, Genosha, and the Morlocks. As far as we can tell, everybody is healing as well as we could hope.”

“And what of the lasting political effects? Can I assume that rest will not remedy that situation?” said Hank.

“If only it could,” Xavier sighed, “There is sure be more reason for everyone to be suspicious of mutant activity. The Mutant Security Agency will definitely be empowered and so will President Kelly.”

“Genosha being occupied won’t go over well either,” added Hank, “Once the population recovers, we’ll see the same tensions we saw during the uprising.”

“Only this time we’ll have General Grimshaw lending his support. As cautious as I am about this man, he did come through for us. He was able to present a cover story for the Cambrian that the public could consume without turning on mutants. It shows that he’s dedicated to preserving peace and not inclined to incite a war.”

“Be that as it may, I doubt Grimshaw’s intentions were wholly altruistic,” quipped Hank, “Had the Cambrian gone worse, his Mutant Security Agency would have been a laughingstock and he would most likely be out of favor with the President among many others.”

“Regardless of his reasons, he succeeded in containing this situation. There will still be some new challenges, but I’m confident the X-men will have stronger allies now.”

Hank shook his head and smiled. It was amazing how much he missed out on. While it was nice to have his injuries healed, it appeared the team was in for yet another transition phase. The politics and social pressures of the Cambrian were sure to be far reaching and the X-men were sure to be on the front lines as always.

“On that note I think I’ll cease contemplating the consequences of our latest crusade. I don’t think I’m healed enough to handle politics at the moment,” said Hank as he slipped off the bed, stretching out some soreness in the process.

“That makes two of us,” said the Professor, “I’m sure you’ll be better off recovering in the comfort of your own room.”

“Considering how much time I’ve spent cooped up in the infirmary, anywhere would be better,” he added, “I also need to call Tessa. She’s probably as overwhelmed as I am with her duties in District X. It could be therapeutic for us to hear each other’s voices.”

“I’m sure she’ll appreciate that, old friend.”

“Perhaps you should think about doing the same with Lilandra?” Hank suggested.

Xavier shifted slightly. Even though things had been strained between them, he certainly missed her loving presence and soothing comfort. At the same time, it would be very difficult for the both of them because of his condition.

“I’ll…think about that,” said Professor Xavier.

“You should. Jean told me all about how hard you pushed yourself. It must have been too much because she had to use the Phoenix to finish the job,” said Hank.

“I suppose I lacked the necessary cosmic touch,” said Xavier, choosing his words carefully, “My mind has been under its share of strain lately. We’re lucky that Phoenix was able to pick up the slack.”

“I certainly hope you’re not slipping in your advancing age, Charles. Heavens knows we don’t need that,” commented Hank as he stammered out the infirmary, “I reason this is all the more reason to seek out Lilandra. There are very few things on that the love of a beautiful woman cannot sooth.”

“Yes…few indeed.”

Professor Xavier had to hide some bitterness in his tone. Among those very few things Hank was referring to included his cancer. All the love in the world couldn’t heal that. Lilandra understood that as well and it remained to be seen whether she would be willing to share that love that was so desperately needed.

He waited until Hank had left before letting out a pained groan. His head was still killing him and his body wasn’t helping. Hank unwittingly reminded him of an increasingly dire concern. His telepathic abilities seemed to be suffering as a result of his cancer. Jean shouldn’t have had to do what she did in the first place. They were lucky, but he couldn’t depend on that luck in the future.

‘I can’t continue like this. My health can’t become a liability. I can deal with the cancer crippling my body, but not my mind. I’m the world’s most powerful telepath. I can’t afford to lose that title at a time like this. I must push harder for the sake of my students! They deserve as such.’

With these thoughts looming heavily over his mind, Charles Xavier reached into the front pocket of his pants and took out a bottle of pills that rarely left his side. They were the pills Dr. Reyes prescribed to him. They were supposed to hold back his symptoms, but even at a full dose it wasn’t enough. Gritting his teeth, Xavier popped open the bottle and dumped two pills into his mouth. Within seconds he felt the effects of the pills. The discomfort waned and the pain subsided. His body was still weak, but he could function again. That’s all he needed for now.

Outside The Infirmary

Elizabeth Braddock couldn’t believe what she just telepathically heard. She came down to the infirmary to check on Professor Xavier and vent some of her lingering feelings about her first official X-men mission. She passed Mr. McCoy along the way, who seemed to be doing a lot better. She fully expected Professor Xavier to be better as well. Then she heard it.

Then she heard it. A brief thought slipped from the mind of the world’s most powerful telepath. The words health and cancer were seldom used together in a positive way. Did this mean his cancer was back? Those pills he was popping couldn’t have been a good sign. Betsy hadn’t been with the team long, but she knew Professor Xavier’s health history. Nobody on the team liked to be reminded that the man they so relied on was so frail. For a telepath like her to pick up thoughts from a telepath like him, something had to be very wrong.

‘So much for a nice pep talk after my first mission. I think I just heard something I wasn’t supposed to hear. Why do I get the feeling I just put myself in a very awkward position?’

Betsy briefly debated whether she should go into the infirmary and confront the Professor. For all she knew, he was picking up on her thoughts. She made sure her shields were up. She didn’t need to be put on the spot at a time like this. For nearly five minutes, she stood outside the infirmary door wrestling with this choice. Eventually, she chose to simply walk away.

“Bloody hell…” she groaned.

Betsy Braddock had already been through many life-altering affairs in the past few months. It looked as though she was in for plenty more. The trust and faith of her fellow X-men was now at stake and so was the life of their mentor.

Xavier Institute Dormitories – Guest Room

Piotr Rasputin returned to the institute late after his extended visit with Illyana at the Seftons. They had a lot to discuss. They had nowhere to go and Genosha was no longer an option. Their life back in Russia was too closely tied to his work with the Omega family. He really didn’t have a place to call home right now so he decided to stay at the Xavier Institute until he figured out what he would do next. However, there was another reason he was sticking around and it had nothing to do with the Seftons having no extra beds.

“So your sister wants to start taking magic lessons with Shaman, huh? Sounds like she’s got some exotic new interests,” said Kitty Pryde as she led Piotr to his guest room.

“Da, she has taken quite a liking to mysticism. She is not content with just being a mutant struggling to control her powers,” sighed Piotr, “I swear my sister gets some strange thrill out of making me worry.”

“Aren’t sibling supposed to do that?” joked Kitty, “I may be an only child, but it sounds like Illyana is just being your typical curious teenager.”

“Curious or not, it appears I will not be able to convince her otherwise. She wants to stay with Shaman and the Seftons. Even with my strength, I doubt I could pull her away at this point.”

“That might be for the better,” she shrugged, “It might be just the change you need because based on what you told me, what you were doing before wasn’t working in somany ways.”

Piotr cast the younger girl a bemused look. Kitty blushed at her comments and shifted awkwardly.

“Wait…that didn’t come out right,” she said.

“No, it was plenty right,” said the Russian distantly, “I’ve gone to so many extremes since the death of my parents. I’ve worked for monsters and madmen, all in the name of protecting my sister. I let it go for too long. It nearly cost me everything.”

“Well it didn’t land you a gig with the Brotherhood so I guess that’s something to be thankful for,” smiled Kitty.

“Even so, I’ve had to learn one too many harsh lessons being an overprotecting brother. I now know I cannot protect my sister from everything. She is who she is…a teenage girl with mutant powers and mystical connection. If she seeks to understand this, who am I to stop her?”

“That alone may make you the most understanding overprotective brother in history.”

Piotr smiled again. Kitty Pryde was quite blunt with her words. It was somewhat refreshing after working in a criminal underworld where nobody could just say what they meant. For the crimes he committed, that was something he sorely needed.

“So…if you’re sister is going to stick around, what does that mean for you?” asked Kitty, “Are you thinking about channeling your inner Harry Potter as well?”

“I do not know much about this Harry Potter, but I do not think magic is for me,” said Piotr, “I still want to be close to my sister, but for once her survival won’t depend on my work. It leaves me in an unfamiliar position.”

“Well you know…the Xavier Institute is an option,” said Kitty, shifting awkwardly under his presence, “You’re big, you’re strong, and you’re a mutant. Plus, you held your own against the Cambrian. That sort of resume has X-men written all over it!”

Kitty never had to pitch the Xavier Institute to anybody. That was usually the Professor or Jean’s specialty. Her talent for saying the wrong things and being too blunt usually wasn’t a good recruitment tool. Yet somehow it seemed to resonate with this conflicted man.

She still got the message across. Having helped the X-men fight the Cambrian, Piotr was instilled with a new drove. It wasn’t like the feeling he got when he did a good job for the Russian mafia or Magneto. This actually felt right…like he did something positive with his strength. He had so many sins from his past life that still haunted him. Maybe this was the best way for him to atone.

“I’ll give it some thought. I will sleep on it as you say,” said Piotr with a warm smile, “Thank you for your American hospitality. After some of the terrible things I’ve done, I feel I am undeserving.”

“First rule of being an X-man…no one is undeserving,” grinned Kitty, “If you do choose to stay, that’s a lesson you should totally learn!”

“I’m sure you’ll find ways to teach me,” he quipped, “Thanks again, Katya. I will see you in the morning, yes?”

“Most definitely, Peter. Sleep tight!”

Piotr kept on smiling as he slipped into the guest room and closed the door behind him. Kitty Pryde couldn’t stop smiling either. Piotr Rasputin was as intriguing as he was strong. That boded well if he joined the team. As Kitty started making her way back to her room, she found herself liking the idea of having Colossus in the X-men and it wasn’t just because he had the resolve to take on threats like the Cambrian.

‘Hmm…Katya. I like the sound of that!’

Logan’s Dormitory

“Care for another one, darlin’?” said Logan as he offered Ororo another shot of vodka.

“You know my policy on alcohol consumption. I’ll share the first few shots, but after that I’m cutting my losses,” said Ororo in somewhat stoic tone.

“I ain’t forgetting, Ro. Just thought you might make an exception after the shit we’ve been through the past few days.”

It was sound logic from a man not famous for using it. Ororo was tempted to take him up on his offer. If ever there was a time to numb her problems with alcohol, this was it. She needed only a brief moment to contemplate her so-called policy. With little reservation, she took the bottle of vodka and gulped down a healthy shot.

Logan was a bit surprised by how callous she was about it. He had been around enough alcoholism to know when someone drank just to get drunk and when someone drank because they had a problem. Even with alcohol coursing through his system, he was able to surmise what that problem was.

“So we gonna talk about it or what? I’d like to get past this awkwardness shit and get to the making up part,” said Logan.

“If it were that easy, we wouldn’t need the vodka now, would we?” Ororo reasoned, her tone shifting under renewed emotion.

“Can’t see how it would hurt our chances,” he retorted.

“I don’t think we have the luxury of chance at this point, Logan,” said Ororo strongly, “When two people who love each other make it through an issue the first time, it’s a sign of strength. When that same issue comes up with the same complications, it’s a sign of something more serious.”

“Who says it’s the same issue? I was a freaking meat puppet for crying out loud! I barely remember even seeing her in that extended mindfuck!”

“The fact you’re reluctant to even say her name shows that similarity doesn’t matter. The issue remains. You and Mystique…have something.”

“She’s the freakin’ enemy! We ain’t got shit!” he scoffed as he slammed down more alcohol, “I don’t know what happened the first time. Maybe we knew each other before my memory went blank. Maybe we had a one night stand and she’s blocked it out or something. Or maybe I saved her life back in the day and she won’t fess up. Whatever it is, it’s in the past! You’re the one I love, Ro.”

“I wish I could believe that as much as you clearly do. I want to believe it because I love you too, Logan. I just…can’t get past what I saw.”

Logan reached over to comfort his lover, but Ororo pulled away. She rose up from his bed, hiding a solemn expression and emerging tears. The memory of the battle on Genosha replayed again in her mind. The details were vast, but they all told the same story.

“When the Cambrian had you in its grasp, I fought desperately to reach you. I knew you were there. I could see it in your eyes. I yelled at the top of my lungs, trying to get you to listen to me because I believed your heart would overwhelm whatever horrors the Cambrian did to you.”

“Guess my heart ain’t as tough as we thought. Maybe I should cut back on the bacon,” Logan muttered.

“It’s not as naïve as it sounds. I saw Jean get through to Scott. She was able to reach her lover when he had no control.”

“So now you’re comparing you and me to Cyke and Jeannie?”

“Call it a proof of concept. They show that everybody was capable of fighting through the Cambrian. It just meant reaching them on a deeper level. I did everything I could possibly do. Then Mystique just stood in front of you and somehow that was all it took. She wasn’t even trying and yet she succeeded. She…reached you in a way I clearly couldn’t.”

Logan didn’t have a worthy response this time. His gaze drifted down to the nearly empty vodka bottle in his hand. He thought back to that moment. It was hard because the whole Cambrian experience was like a surreal nightmare of sorts. But there was a point where something happened he couldn’t explain.

“I saw the look in your eyes. You saw something in her that was powerful enough to overwrite everything the Cambrian was doing to you. She saw something in you too. When she reached out to you, it was almost as if she wasn’t the same Mystique.”

“She’s a shape shifter, Ro. You can never trust what you see,” Logan pointed out.

“I saw what I saw. Maybe I deluded myself or maybe I’m jealous. But it was there, Logan. The way she looked at you could not be faked. There was passion in her eyes. Something inside her and something inside you just took over. It was so strong. It was almost like…”

Ororo had to stop at this point. She was still looking away, but Logan could tell she had tears in her eyes. He was tempted to reach out and try to embrace her again. He ended up just clutching his vodka bottle even harder.

Ororo Munroe took a deep breath, having to swallow some very painful emotions as she started making her way to the door. She couldn’t stay with her lover tonight. It was just too hard.

“I…need to sleep alone tonight,” she said, still looking away as she stood by the door.

“Yeah…I figured,” muttered Logan.

“We’re not over, Logan. I don’t want us to be over. But this…we’ll talk about it later when we’re ready.”


Wiping her eyes of more tears, Ororo left Logan to his solitude. It was going to be a long night. She was in a state that was always soothed by curling up to her lover in bed since she had been with Logan, she could always rely on that comforting passion. Now she wasn’t so sure anymore. It left her wondering where they could possibly go from here.

For Logan, being left in the cold dark of night was the worst way to cope. He needed Ororo now more than ever, but he didn’t deserve her. He was doing to her the same thing he had done to all the women he had been involved with. He was hurting her. Worst of all, he was hurting her in a way he had no control over. He could not get Mystique out of his mind. Whatever that something was that drew them together, he could not escape it.

In a fit of frustration, he squeezed his vodka bottle so hard that it shattered in his hands. Vodka and broken glass stained his hands and bed. It opened up wounds that were quickly sealed and triggered unparalleled rage. Only this time the rage wasn’t directed towards his enemies. This time it was rage focused solely on himself.

“Damn…damn it all to freakin’ hell!”

Bobby’s Dormitory

“Night mommy,” cooed a joking and lightly medicated Bobby Drake.

“Remy don’t care how sick you are. You call me mommy one more time and I’ll make your entire playboy collection explode,” said an exasperated Remy Lebeau.

“You’re no fun! You dare call yourself a Gambit?”

“Do you even know what the word Gambit means?”

“It has something to do with video games, right?”

Remy rolled his eyes as he helped Bobby into his bed. The recovery from the Cambrian was no long-term rehab, but it did take a few days to get back to full strength. Bobby seemed to take full advantage of being confined to bed rest and medication. He was enjoying himself a bit too much at Remy’s expense. Once he was in his bed, Remy looked to make a quick exit.

“Good night, homme,” he said as he started heading toward the door.

“What? You’re not going to tuck me in?” joked Bobby.

“Don’t be playing. Remy ain’t in the mood for jokes.”

“Wow, you almost sound bitter. Is that because you would rather be tucking Rogue in? I’ll bet you wouldn’t mind if she called you mommy or daddy or whatever gets under your skin.”

Remy stopped in mid stride. Bobby’s words were said in a joking manner, but they got him thinking hard about certain personal issues.

During this whole Cambrian affair he had been more worried about her than he realized. He remembered how hard it was to fight her when she was under the creature’s influence. He also remembered how many looks he got from Betsy every time his thoughts drifted to her. It was a kind of torment he so deserved. He and Rogue had been growing so close. Then Betsy came into the picture and things were further complicated. In his dazed state the Cajun mutant turned back to the bed-ridden Bobby Drake.

“Let Remy ask you a question, Drake. Back when you had that thing going on with Kitty…at any point did it start feeling wrong?”

“What do you mean? Is this your alternative to a bedtime story?” scoffed Bobby, “Because honestly, I prefer the Wizard of Oz.”

“I’m serious. Was there some sign that maybe you two weren’t gonna be right? Let Remy know if you’re gonna respond with a joke this time so I know how many of your stuff I need to blow up.”

“Whoa, take it easy with the pyrotechnics, buddy! I’ll be serious,” assured Bobby.

The younger mutant took a moment to think about it. He was not in the clearest state of mind because of the medications. He also didn’t have the energy he needed to recall every detail of what happened between him and Kitty Pryde. He still had the energy to remember the important points, but he couldn’t imagine why Remy would care.

“If you must know…yeah, I guess there were signs. I mean, we had something going for a while. Made for some nice memories…some of which are right here in this bed,” he grinned, “Like this time we…”

“Spare Remy the raunchy stuff. Stick to the question.”

“Wait…did you just ask me to spare you the lurid details of your favorite subject?” joked Bobby.

“You want to make something of it? Or you wanna get to a point?” quipped the Cajun, placing his hand on his dresser for a moment and causing it to flash briefly.

Bobby got the message and continued his train of thought.

“Okay! Okay! Jeez…I’ll finish,” he said, “Like I said, there were signs. At some point, I guess we stopped trying. We had something fun and stable. Didn’t exactly leave much room to get deeper, you know? I guess that’s why we started growing apart. Probably why I started looking elsewhere too, even if that was pretty pig-headed of me.”

“Pig-headed…right,” said Remy, seeing some clear parallels with Betsy, “So for you and Kitty, it just faded, non?”

“Well to be fair, and this may be the drugs talking, we didn’t have that extra passion. You’ve seen Scott and Jean or Logan and Miss Munroe. They got something real going! Kitty and I had that, but not nearly enough of it. When I was with her it just felt a little…I don’t know, convenient. We were both at a point where we needed each other. When that point passed, I guess our little fling passed with it.”

Remy took his hand off Bobby’s dresser. They weren’t exactly coherent, but they did resonate. He debated with himself where he stood with Betsy and Rogue. Were he and Rogue like Bobby and Kitty? They just had this brief thing together, but never put in enough effort into it? Or did his relationship with Betsy fit that mold better? It was in many ways a relationship of convenience. Betsy came into the X-men in need of support and he had been going through some recent dramas with Rogue, so it was only natural that he embraced it.

It was a lot to think about. On many levels, he still had a special passion for Rogue. She was the one who saved him that day in New Orleans when his family abducted him. She was the one who brought him into this new life with the X-men. That kind of passion was hard to get over. The question remained. Was he making a mistake by being with Betsy and not pursuing Rogue? Or was he doing the right thing by keeping her as a close friend? It was a lot to think about.

“Guess Remy should say thanks,” said the Cajun distantly, “Turns out you to do say some worthwhile stuff from time to time.”

“The Iceman can be as insightful as he is cool!” said Bobby with a grin.

“Whatever,” sighed Remy, rolling his eyes again, “Good night, Drake.”

“What? I answer your question and you still won’t tuck me in?”

“Don’t push it.”

Rogue’s Dormitory

Kurt hadn’t left Rogue’s bedside since they returned from Genosha. Even though his sister was more resilient than most people, he found himself taking responsibility for her recovery. It wasn’t just because she needed it. Right now, they both needed to be around each other.

While Rogue’s problems with Remy were well-known, his problems with Amanda were more elaborate so to speak. The Cambrian brought to light some very difficult revelations. Amanda’s situation was getting worse. The distance between them was growing. She was actually having doubts and so was he. Since Selene set this curse of hers into motion, he kept reassuring Amanda that everything would work out. He had faith in that. Now that faith was being tested in a big way and for once he wasn’t sure he was up to it.

Rogue did a lot of sleeping during her recovery. She was more tired than she let on. It could have just been an extension of the problems she faced beforehand with her powers and with Remy. At least one of them was getting some rest. He hadn’t slept much in two days. He couldn’t stop himself from thinking about what he was going to do. He often found himself talking it out with Rogue when she was asleep, just to get it off his chest.

“I called Amanda earlier today. She actually picked up zhis time and ve actually talked more zhan five minutes,” he said to a sleeping Rogue while sitting in a chair next to her bed, “She’s still obsessing over her burden. I tried to get her to talk about zhe World Cup or Pirates of The Caribbean. Zhat used to vork, but now I feel like I’m just annoying her.”

Kurt held his head low. His spirit had never been so conflicted. His father once taught him that the greatest weakness anyone could show was to allow the wounds he did not inflict fester as if they were his own. He never understood the importance of that lesson until recently.

“I suppose I can’t blame her,” he went on, “All zhose ancient markings on her body are pretty hard to ignore. I actually made a joke about thinking of them as some full-bodied tattoos. She didn’t find it very funny.”

Kurt smiled somewhat as he rested his head on his arms. Rogue was still fast asleep, curled up on her bed. It was a far cry from the monstrous figure she bore with the Cambrian. He sincerely wished he could touch her just to give her the comfort a brother could give.

“She says she’s been having nightmares. She dreams about all zhe horrors she’s going to bring. She talks about zhese four monsters who surround her and take her away from everyone she loves. Zhen she’s in zhis dark room vith zhis even bigger monster. Or maybe it vas a man? I don’t know. She broke down while she was describing it.”

Kurt cringed at the memories of how that conversation turned out. Amanda’s sobs still rang heavily in his mind. It pained him in a way few things could.

“I can’t tell you how much I just vanted to hold her. She vas on her bed, alone in her room, curled up under her sheets vith no one to comfort her. Zhe vorst part of it is I don’t zhink she vants someone zhere. She’s getting to a point vhere she’s pushing me away. I don’t vant zhat to happen, but it is happening.”

He started getting more emotional. Kurt turned away from his sleeping sister, hiding his own tears as he lamented over this dark fate that had overrun his and Amanda’s relationship.

“I just can’t do vhat she needs me to do for her,” he sighed, “It’s ironic because I once told Jean zhat sometimes you have to push yourself and your lover to do zhings neither of you vant to do. Vhen you really love somebody, it’s important to make zhat effort…to put in zhat vork. I’ve been thinking about how I can vork harder. I know zhere is a way. Zhe problem is…none of zhem involves zhings I can do vhile I’m here vith zhe X-men.”

With those strained words, Kurt’s expression sunk and he fell silent. This was where he got stuck. He understood the implications. He just didn’t want to say them out loud. It meant making some hard decisions he wasn’t ready to make.

As he struggled with these thoughts, his eyes grew heavy and he started to nod off. He was then abruptly awoken by an unexpected voice.

“Ah understand, Kurt…more than you think.”

“Huh?! Rogue…you’re awake?!” exclaimed Kurt, almost falling out of his chair in the process.

“Just because mah eyes are closed doesn’t mean Ah’m asleep,” said Rogue with a yawn as she opened her eyes and rose up in her bed.

Kurt was now in a very awkward position. He had been talking endlessly about things he wasn’t looking to reveal to anybody. He wasn’t expecting or even hoping for a response. Now he may be getting one whether he liked it or not.

“Uh…how much did you hear?” asked Kurt warily.

“Since the infirmary? Plenty,” Rogue replied.

“I…didn’t expect you to listen.”

“That makes two of us,” she said with a lighthearted smile.

“Vhy didn’t you stop me? It could have saved me some embarrassment. Especially vhen I vas talking about how much I missed being in bed with Amanda.”

“Ah’m your sister, Kurt. Ain’t Ah obligated to embarrass you at some point?”

“Rogue…” said Kurt, trying to remain serious.

“Ah’m sorry. It just sounded like you needed to get a lot of stuff off your chest. Ah didn’t want to stop you.”

Embarrassment aside, her heart was in the right place like it always was. She offered him a reassuring smile, which helped somewhat. Kurt was still at a loss, not sure of what more he could say at this point since he already told her pretty much everything when he thought she was sleeping. He ended up smiling back while Rogue scooted closer and got serious as well.

“Ah meant what Ah said though. Ah understand what you’re going through,” she told him, “You’re heart’s pulling you one way and your brain is pulling you the other. Somewhere in between, your soul is getting ripped apart and you just wanna block it all out.”

“So…vhat should I do? If you’ve been listening, zhen you know vhat I’m considering. I don’t know if I should even be zhinking such zhings, but I…”

“Kurt, don’t ever kick yourself just for thinking. The day we start fightin’ our own thoughts is the day we kiss our sanity goodbye.”

“Zhen is vhat I’m zhinking wrong? How do I know vhat my decision should be?”

With caring eyes, Rogue reached over and placed her hand on her brother’s lap. It was covered so there was no danger of draining him. It was the only touch she could manage for him, but it got her message across. She didn’t blame him for contemplating these hard decisions when it came to his relationship. She could relate in many different ways.

“Actually…that’s sort of what Ah wanted to talk about,” she told him, “You see, Ah’ve been wondering a lot of the same things you’ve been wondering lately.”

“You have? But vhy?” said Kurt in a surprised tone.

“For a lot of reasons,” Rogue sighed, “Between mah powers and Mystique and…you know.”

“Remy?” Kurt finished.

“Yeah, him too,” she conceded, “It’s got meh wondering if Ah can really deal with it while Ah’m doing all the things an X-man is supposed to do. Ah don’t wanna think about it either, but we both gotta make a decision here. And if you have the strength, Ah wanna us to make it together.”

Kurt saw in her saddened eyes so much of the same conflict. It was not the kind of conflict that could be addressed alone, nor should it. Even though they weren’t related by blood, they still had their struggles as a family and it was only fitting that they would deal with it together. It would be a lot easier on both of them because this definitely wasn’t a decision that should be made with a lonely mind.

“Okay, mien sister,” he said to her, “Vhat do you have in mind?”

Scott and Jean’s Dormitory

Scott Summers was never one to lie in bed all day. Even when he was injured or exhausted, he fought through it. He rarely missed a class, never skimped on his training, and always stayed on top of things as field leader. The Cambrian did quite a number on him just as it did to everybody it affected. He was weakened by the ordeal and told that he needed to heal. Naturally, he resisted. Even when he wasn’t at full strength, Scott Summers was determined to get back to work and help with the clean-up that was unfolding on Genosha. So for the sake of his health, Jean Grey made sure he listened to doctor’s orders.

“Take it easy, handsome. Keep squirming and I’ll have to resort to more forceful measures,” said Jean in a deep, seductive tone.

“If you’re trying to sound threatening, Jean, you’re doing a very poor job,” said Scott with a half-grin.

“Oh you don’t want to risk my wrath, Mr. Summers! You know you don’t stand a chance!” she purred as she sensually hovered over his body.

Scott was in an awkward yet comfortable position. He had been cleared from the infirmary and taken back up to his and Jean’s bedroom. He made an effort to avoid sleep so he could keep up with news reports coming from Genosha, but Jean wouldn’t have it. She telekinetically unplugged the TV and directed him to the bed. Somewhere along the way, he was stripped down to his underwear. He wasn’t exactly sure how that happened. The medications the Professor gave him left him a little dazed, but he certainly wasn’t complaining.

She really went all out to make sure he was taken care of. As soon as she coaxed him into bed, she laid him on his back and gave him a nice massage with both her hands and her telekinesis. She even used her telepathy to make sure he was too relaxed to contemplate getting up again. While he was getting settled, she slipped into their bathroom and put on something more appropriate. However, appropriate in this context meant a piece of very revealing red lingerie that consisted of a silk camisole and a matching thong. Armed with this sexy assortment, she pinned him on the bed and hovered over him in a very sensual display.

While straddling his waist, Jean lovingly ran her hands over her lover’s prone body. He looked so drained even though he tried not to show it. The Cambrian had done a lot to him and he was in need of healing that only a dedicated lover could provide.

“So…are you going to stop resisting?” she purred softly.

“I’m not going anywhere, Jean. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else right now,” said Scott, reaching up and caressing her beautiful face.

“Good, because I need this as much as you do,” said Jean, her tone becoming more serious, “I was really scared. As soon as the Cambrian took you, I felt that special bond we have being pulled away with it. I had to fight to hold onto it. I was worried that if I faltered for even a second…I would lose you.”

“You’ll never lose me, Jean. It takes a lot more than some 500 million year old creature to keep me from you.”

“So you remember fighting back?”

“It’s hard to remember much of anything. It was all one long nightmare. But there were times when I felt this warmth reaching out to me. That’s all I had to go on. It gave me strength through the whole ordeal. I knew if I just held on it would lead me back to you.”

“I think I know what you’re talking about. I remember what happened when we were fighting the Cambrian. I was trying everything I could to avoid attacking you. I kept reaching out to you in every possible way. Then at one point, I felt it. You broke through for just a brief moment. I saw you and you saw me.”

“Yeah…that part I remember,” said Scott softly.

“And I could still feel your presence…and your love,” said Jean, caressing his face, “It kept me from even contemplating the notion of letting you go. In the end it gave me extra incentive when I had to tap the Phoenix Force to finally defeat that monstrosity.”

Her eyes flashed a fiery orange briefly to show the power that still resided within her. Scott cupped her chin as he took in this warmth that he was still linked to on some levels as well. It was even more profound than he remembered.

“That’s quite a feat,” he told her, “Does that mean the Phoenix Force is growing again?”

“Only as much as it needs to. It’s moving forward just like you and me,” said Jean, showing a small ember in her hands to demonstrate she was still in control.

“Does surviving a transformation into a B-rated horror monster count as progress in a relationship?” said Scott with a humored grin.

“I’m not sure, but it should. And now that we’ve made it through in one piece, our sole focus should be on recovery. I know you like to play tough-guy, but you need to rest, Scott Summers. So for the rest of the night, I’m going to make sure you’re the most relaxed man on the face of this planet.”

Jean followed up her bold proclamation with another deep kiss. This time she was more focused in her passions, allowing her scantily clad body to sink into his. Scott was completely at her mercy, slipping his arms around her and kissing back as she sensually slithered around his tired form. At one point she broke the kiss and sensually slipped out of her camisole, exposing her upper body to the dazed X-leader. With a warm smile, she pulled him back into embrace and continued with her loving gestures.

“God I love you, Jean,” gasped Scott with deep contentment.

“Love you too, babe,” purred Jean, “Now lie back and let the healing begin!”

Genosha Capital City

‘So this is how the world reacts to a giant mud monster…Genosha occupation round two. I’m not sure if I should be overwhelmed or underwhelmed. Nobody is happy to see armed troops in their homes again. Hell, the troops themselves don’t look happy being here either. Guess the Cambrian took away everybody’s desire to start a fight. But the hangover is going to wear off. Sooner or later, someone is going to make a move.’

Alex Summers mused over this latest debacle as he looked over the landscape of Genosha. He had a good view of the capital city from atop the tallest building in the downtown area that had been turned into a makeshift government center. This was where the Brotherhood was setting up shop to govern this devastated island. He turned one of the top floor offices into his own bedroom. The rest of the Brotherhood had their own rooms as well. Magneto was also present, but he stayed in a secure area lower in the building and was still not all there after his encounter with the Cambrian.

Looking down towards the base of the building, Alex watched dozens of wary soldiers patrol the area. This was probably the most secure building on the island now since Magneto was in it. Lorna and Wanda did not take any chances and used their powers to erect a tall metal barrier made out of rubble from the citadel with special secure entrances. They also borrowed some security gear from the military and installed it to give some added layers of protection. It was nowhere near the protection they once had in the citadel, but it would have to do.

‘How can this end in anything but disaster? As soon as the population recovers, they’re going to want these troops gone. It’s not like they can protest. The world already hates us because they think Magneto conducted some illegal experiment. It may not be that far from the truth, but we aren’t winning any sympathy that’s for sure. They’re rigging the fight so we can only go with two hands tied behind our back. Something’s gotta give and I happen to be the leader of the Brotherhood. I’m starting to wonder if there’s anything worth leading at this point.’

Alex sighed as he looked back towards the ruins of the Citadel. Cleanup was already underway. The globs of the Cambrian that had fallen all over the world had pretty much withered to dust. The rest of the world had the luxury of just dusting off their cars and buildings and returning to a normal life. Here on Genosha, it was different.

Not far from the citadel, a series of camps were set up. These were medical depots where mutants who were affected by the Cambrian could go for medical treatment, courtesy of the occupying soldiers. Some were reluctant to get that treatment and he had already dealt with incidents of abuse from bigoted soldiers. By and large, they still did a decent job. They gave the mutant citizens of Genosha the resources they needed to recover. It would be a wonderful act of charity if the armies of the world didn’t spend most of the time stripping Genosha of the resources that made it strong.

Alex Summers could only shake his head and turn away. He obviously wasn’t going to solve Genosha’s problems today. When he turned towards the door, he was greeted with an unexpected presence.

“Uh…hey Alex. Do you have a moment?” said Lorna in an awkward tone.

“Um…sure,” he said, “What’s wrong? Is Blob whining for his third snack since lunch?”

“He’s already on his forth by my count. But I was hoping to talk to you about something and I’d like to address it before we’re overwhelmed again.”

She almost sounded nervous. That was rare for any daughter of Magneto. Alex remained concerned as he watched Lorna pace throughout his room, gazing out through the same window he had been staring from the past half-hour.

“I heard from Wanda that you’re officially the head of security. Some in the Brotherhood area already calling you General Summers,” she said.

“I thought they were calling me a much more vulgar title,” made Alex as he walked up beside her.

“Everybody calls everybody something vulgar on this island. You have any idea what some people call me behind my back?”

“Is it something I should consider grounds for treason? Because with my new authority, I can do that,” he said with a half-grin.

“Thanks, but I don’t think we can afford to be petty at this point,” she replied with a grin of her own, “I bring it up because even though you think everybody undermines you, I believe that a good share of Genosha has come to respect you. Now that Wanda is in charge, we have so many uncertainties. This new occupation is going to change things and it may not be for the better.”

“That seems to be the consensus,” Alex conceded, “Nobody thinks much good will come of this shit. You put too many fighters in a confined area and they’ll find a reason to fight.”

“I don’t doubt that. It has a lot of people scared. Even some in the Brotherhood are scared with my father being so distant and Toad being in jail,” said Lorna as she turned to face Alex, “But you know what? I’m not afraid. I honestly believe Genosha will get through this. I honestly believe it’ll become a homeland for mutants again one day.”

“That’s a pretty bold statement, Lorna. Some may call that wishful thinking,” warned Alex.

“I wouldn’t put it past them,” she conceded, “But I have a very good reason for believing in this.”

“Oh? And what might that be?” he asked curiously.

“It’s standing here right beside me.”

Alex’s attention shifted away from the window and towards the eyes of this enigmatic yet alluring young woman. His confusion quickly gave way to new feelings entirely. The usually poised Alex Summers found himself faltering under her gaze.

Lorna managed a slight smile despite her awkwardness and moved in closer to the bewildered young man. More feelings continued to surface for her. Since there was no telling when they would get another chance like this, she might as well let them flow freely.

“You showed me something special, Alex. Throughout this Cambrian affair, you never stopped fighting. You never lost focus. When so many others were looking for a way out, you stood your ground. That makes you more than just a fighter. It makes you a genuine leader.”

Alex shifted awkwardly, trying not to look as foolish as he felt.

“I…do what I can,” he managed to get out.

“I know you do. That’s exactly why I still have hope,” said Lorna strongly, “I know that no matter what this new occupation brings, you’ll keep fighting for our cause. You’ll stand up when everybody else falls down. I…I can’t tell you how much that means to my family…and to me.”

Another awkward silence followed. Lorna was blushing bright red now while Alex could not fathom a worthy response. They just stood together in silence, gazing into one another’s eyes. Eventually, instincts beyond their control took over. They started drifting closer to one another until they met in a soft kiss.

Soon the awkwardness melted away. Words were no longer necessary. Since Alex was brought in, there was a subtle attraction between him and Lorna. It was hard to explore since Magneto kept them so busy. Now in the ruins of the Cambrian, they could skip all those unnecessary steps and just embrace this feeling. It was intoxicating, tender, and full of a love they both sorely needed.

“Lorna…” gasped Alex as they kissed.

“I…is something wrong?” she said anxiously, abruptly stopping.

“No…nothing’s wrong,” he said with a warm smile as he snaked his arms around her waist, “I uh…don’t have to go on patrol for a few hours. Care to stay?”

Lorna smiled at the manly undertone of his voice.

“Sure…I’d love to,” she replied softly.

They quickly renewed their kissing, allowing it to grow more passionate. While in this heat of passion, they started making their way towards Alex’s bed. Along the way Lorna slid off her shirt and helped Alex remove his. From there, they slipped onto the bed and began thoroughly exploring these powerful feelings in a tender act of lovemaking.

Genosha was in a state of uncertainty. The Cambrian gave humanity more reasons to fear mutants than ever. It was sure to be a difficult fight, but through the chaos emerged some good. Alex and Lorna found a special passion together and it was a passion sure to drive them as this new fight for the future of their kind continued to unfold.

The Next Morning

A long night of rest did the team good. By the time morning rolled around, nearly everybody was at full strength again. Some were doing better than others. Scott and Bobby certainly seemed to shake off the effects of the Cambrian. Hank was also coming around despite some lingering injuries from the incident at Worthington Industries. Logan and Rogue were a bit more restless despite having physically recovered. Even some who hadn’t been affected by the Cambrian were a bit out of it. Kurt, Remy, and Ororo looked as though they hadn’t gotten much sleep. Clearly, everybody had their share of issues to deal with and that was part of why Professor Xavier called a team meeting.

The whole team gathered in his office. Scott, Jean, Bobby, Hank, Ororo, Logan, Rogue, Remy, Kitty, Kurt, Betsy, and Piotr all stood before Professor Xavier’s desk to hear what he had to say. There was little doubt that the effects of the Cambrian were going to bring major changes. They could only speculate just how severe those changes would be.

“Thank you all for joining me this morning. You’re all looking much better now,” the Professor began.

“A full night’s rest after a God-awful nightmare like the Cambrian does wonders,” grinned Bobby.

“Yeah, we needed it…amongst other things,” affirmed Scott, giving Jean’s hand a slight squeeze to add some extra subtext, “Now that we’re rested, we’re ready to get back to work.”

“Speak for yourself,” muttered Logan, still fairly grumpy after last night.

Ororo cast him a glance. She was not by his side this time. The memories of last night were still pretty painful. It was a personal matter they would have to clear up later, but for now they were both content to distract themselves with more pressing issues.

“I’m glad to hear that because as much as I want to give you all an extended break, the Cambrian has left a significant impact and mutants are at the center of it,” he said.

“Big surprise there,” said Betsy dryly, “A giant blob comes out of nowhere pretty much guarantees some bad press.”

“That’s a fair assessment, Betsy. I don’t think I need to tell any of you that this has sparked some public outrage. The media is already reporting of anti-mutant protests in major cities all over the world.”

The Professor offered some visual aid by tossing the days paper onto his desk. The headlines were pretty ominous. There were lead lines such as “Cambrian Onslaught Leaves World in Terror” and “Magneto’s Secret Weapon Gone Wrong” and “Massive Outcry in Wake of Cambrian Terror.” These lines were accompanied by pictures of massive public protests, all of whom looked pretty upset with Magneto and the entire mutant race.

“I’m not even going to begin to point out how unfair this is,” groaned Kitty, “It only takes a few days and already they’re holding every mutant responsible for Magneto’s screw up!”

“Should we even bother being surprised?” said Bobby.

“What’s the point?” she sighed, “It’s not like we haven’t been through this before.”

“An attack by a 500 million year old creature hardly deserves that kind of sarcasm,” Jean pointed out, showing a bit more seriousness.

“Just how concerned should we be about the backlash?” asked Ororo.

“I would say our concern should be reasonable at the very least. However, the backlash may not be as bad as it could be,” Xavier explained.

“Define bad in the context of a Magneto caliber catastrophe,” quipped Scott.

“Magneto’s ploys are bad in any context. Except this time, we have other forces in play that could add some much needed balance to the situation.”

“I’ll take balance over the usual blood feud,” said Kitty.

“Less than an hour ago I had an in depth conversation with General Grimshaw,” Xavier went on, “He appears to have mitigated the public outcry. His cover story for the Cambrian appears to be resonating. By labeling it as a failed experiment, he’s been able to paint it as an accident and not an attack.”

“Remy still can’t see that sittin’ well with the average Joe,” made Remy.

“I never said it absolved mutants in the court of public opinion. It isn’t the full truth, but it isn’t an outright lie either. The General went onto say that this cover has allowed peacekeeping forces to occupy Genosha again. Since Magneto’s actions were a breach of the peace treaty, they were able to enter the country without conflict.”

“No conflict?” scoffed Logan, “You remember what happened the last time a bunch of armies occupied Genosha? They’re just begging for a blood bath! Magneto ain’t gonna let it stand.”

“That’s where it gets iffy, my friend,” said Xavier, his tone shifting somewhat, “Magneto is no longer in charge of Genosha. Wanda Maximoff has taken over.”

“Again? And here I thought she would be utterly repulsed with the job after what happened last time,” said Bobby.

“She didn’t have much choice in the matter. Grimshaw went onto forward me a personal report from Wanda that hasn’t been released to the public yet. Apparently, Magneto’s encounter with the Cambrian has resulted in some very serious after-effects. He’s showing signs of mental instability, psychosis, and overall disorientation.”

“With all due respect, Professor, that sounds like your typical Magneto,” Jean pointed out.

“It’s no joke, Jean. Say what you will about Erik, he never acted without some semblance of sanity and reason. I fear that fragile stability has been shaken and there’s no telling what this will do to him in the long term.”

That certainly wasn’t a pleasant thought. Magneto was already crazy. Adding in some additional instability to the mix was a recipe for disaster and a re-occupied Genosha certainly wasn’t going to help matters.

“Great…as if Magneto wasn’t crazy enough,” said Kitty.

“Sounds like the guy needs a strait jacket and a shitload of meds,” commented Logan.

“Does this mean he’ll be put on trial again, Professor?” asked Ororo warily.

“There is some serious talk of prosecuting Magneto as a war criminal, but General Grimshaw assured me that those proceedings will be lost in red tape because this affair is officially labeled an accident. That doesn’t mean Magneto won’t pay a price for his crime. He’s officially been stripped of his political power and confined to his capital city. He isn’t to make any public appearances or carry out any major policy decisions for Genosha.”

“I can’t imagine that will go over well with the citizens,” said Scott, “One of the reasons they embraced Magneto was because he ended the occupation the first time.”

“Yes, and on an international level I would call this occupation quite humiliating,” added Hank.

“That hasn’t been lost on anybody, my X-men. We should fully expect the mutants of Genosha to resist this move. That’s why the naval forces have thrown so much manpower onto the island. Right now, the key is to ensure continued security while the world recovers.”

“And just how long is that gonna take?” scoffed Remy.

Professor Xavier let out a sigh as he looked down at the papers. He didn’t blame his students for being skeptical. He was equally uncertain of how the world was going to emerge from the Cambrian affair. It was another one of those fragile times in mutant relations and that made their role as X-men more important than ever.

“How long should not be our primary concern,” said Xavier strongly, “What’s done is done. Even General Grimshaw concedes this will shake things up. The public is going to be a lot more skeptical with respect to leaving mutants to their own devices. The Mutant Security Agency is already being given extra powers by President Kelly to maintain stricter oversight of mutant affairs.”

“Since when is giving a mutant-policing organization extra authority a good thing?” said Jean skeptically, “Isn’t that how all these government programs get out of control?”

“President Kelly is merely responding to political pressure and General Grimshaw has assured me that he’s working diligently to make sure that this extra authority doesn’t get abused in his new organization.”

“As if assurance from a guy in a military uniform has ever been enough,” muttered Logan.

“While I understand your skepticism, I ask that you look at the bigger picture,” said Professor Xavier in a more reasonable tone, “Let’s not forget that this could be much worse without Grimshaw and his Mutant Security Agency in place. Were it not for their influence, President Kelly would have had no problem passing mutant registration bills that would have left mutants much worse off. With this we have a mitigating force that will allow us room to continue our duties. The public may be wary now, but that only makes the role of the X-men all the more vital. We still have authority both as heroes and as part of the MSA initiative.”

“Great…guess that means we’ll have to go back to breaking up anti-mutant riots again,” Bobby.

“I’m really hoping that attitude is just some lingering side-effects from the meds,” said Scott, shooting Bobby a dirty look.

Professor Xavier made a quick gesture to break up the argument before he began. This next part was important and he needed everyone’s attention.

“This brings me to the second purpose of this meeting,” he went on, “As we adapt to this new status quo, our team will undergo some changes. One such change involves some added muscle. And I can say with great confidence that this is an addition that will serve as well.”

With a welcoming smile, Professor Xavier turned to Piotr Rasputin. He had been quiet for most of the discussion and for good reason. It didn’t seem right to be part of this discussion without being formally introduced.

“Mr. Rasputin, would you like to do the honors?” offered Professor Xavier.

“Da, it would be an honor, Professor,” said Piotr proudly as he turned to address the X-men, “As you all know, I have been going through some family affairs as you say. My sister, Illyana, has finally found a place where she can get the help she needs with Shaman and Miss Sefton. As a result, I would like to stay close by and the Xavier Institute is the perfect place for me to do so.”

“Does this mean what I think it means?” said Kitty Pryde, who couldn’t stop smiling.

“Da,” he smiled, “It means I have decided to join the X-men. I owe it to myself and to all of you for helping me after I’ve made so many mistakes. Consider my strength and skills completely at your disposal.”

“That’s music to our ears, Peter,” smiled Jean.

“Yes, I think I speak for everybody when I say you showed your worth against the Cambrian,” said Scott as he extended his hand, “The X-men are more than happy to welcome you.”

“Thank you,” said Piotr with a humble nod, “I cannot tell you how much this means to me. I should have made this decision long ago.”

“Hey, better late than never!” grinned Bobby.

Everybody took a moment to welcome their newest member. Piotr Rasputin was one of those rare figures who proved himself before they even asked him to. His dedication to his sister and his strength as a mutant was undeniable. Nobody had any reason to believe he lacked the skills and heart to be an X-man. His decision earned him a special welcoming from Kitty Pryde, who looked forward to getting to know him. Her demeanor and her thoughts for that matter did not go unnoticed.

‘Keep looking at him like that and you’ll scare him off, luv.’

‘Knock it off, Betsy. I can admire our newest member all I want.’

‘That’s some admiration. You hoping a big strong lad like him likes his women a bit undersized?’

‘Hey! I’m not undersized! I can stand tall if I have to…especially for a guy like him.’

Betsy rolled her eyes as she took her turn in greeting the newest X-man. While this news seemed to lighten the mood somewhat, there were two figures who did not greet Piotr. Kurt and Rogue remained off to the side next to Professor Xavier’s desk. Like Piotr, they had been withdrawn through much of the discussion, but they had very different reasons for doing so.

“You gonna greet the new guy, cherè? You usually like to be first when welcoming big strong hommes to the team,” joked Remy.

“Ah…probably shouldn’t,” she said distantly.

“Aw why not? Is something wrong?” asked the Cajun with renewed concern, “You ain’t said a word all morning. Remy’s startin’ to worry.”

Rogue shifted as she looked over towards Kurt, who had been just as silent. He offered only a subtle nod before turning back to the Professor. His demeanor quickly grew solemn as well. While it was always good news to welcome someone to the team, there was other news they had to address that wasn’t so cheerful.

“Go ahead, Herr Professor. Let’s get zhis over vith,” said Kurt.

“Get what over with?” asked Remy intently, “Now Remy knows he should worry.”

“Hold the worry for a bit longer, Remy. We’ll explain everything,” said Rogue in a flat tone.

Remy was liking this less and less. A sick feeling formed in the pit of his stomach. He was one of the few who could read Rogue’s subtleties and what he saw in her eyes was anything but promising. As soon as everyone finished greeting Piotr, Professor Xavier directed their attention back towards him.

“Thank you for all making Peter feel welcome. I look forward to acclimating him into the team,” said the Professor, “Unfortunately, I must couple this news with a solemn announcement.”

“Damn, I knew it was too good to be true,” sighed Bobby.

“Is this something we should all sit down for, Professor?” asked Jean anxiously.

“I’ll leave that up to Kurt since this involves him,” he said as he turned towards the German mutant, “Kurt, are you ready?”

“I suppose so, Professor,” sighed Kurt.

All eyes were now on Kurt, who was sitting perched on the side of Professor Xavier’s desk. If the look on his face was any indication, this was not going to be very uplifting.

“Zhere’s so much to explain right now. I vish I had zhe strength to go over every detail. But at zhe risk of out speaking myself, I’ll just come out and say it,” he began, “I’m stepping down from the X-men.”

“Stepping down?!” exclaimed Kitty.

“So much for expanding our ranks,” muttered Betsy.

“You’re leaving? Why?” said Ororo with a saddened look.

“It’s Amanda. She’s zhe reason I must leave,” said Kurt with a strained voice, “As you all saw, Amanda has been dealing vith her share of problems. Zhe power zhat she’s been trying to suppress is getting stronger. It’s taking a toll on her spirit and I’ve tried everything possible to help her as an X-man. Zhere is only so much zhat can be done vhen I’m fighting our battles and hers as vell.”

“So you’re just going to make it easier and focus on one?” quipped Logan.

“Ja…zhat’s exactly vhat I’m doing,” Kurt affirmed, “Amanda needs me. I…I have to be zhere for her…more zhen I need to be here for zhe X-men. You’ve seen vhat her family is capable of. Zhat is vhy I need to be zhere for her. I’m going to do vhatever it takes for her, even if it means leaving zhis home I’ve come to love.”

They were heartfelt words full of heartfelt reason. Kurt was probably the nicest and most likable person in the world. He didn’t have a single gripe with anybody in the X-men so him leaving was a hard pill to swallow. But after seeing what was going on with Amanda, nobody could blame him for doing so.

“I don’t know what to say, Kurt,” said Scott, breaking the awkward silence, “You’ve been a great teammate and an even greater friend. I’ll be sad to see you go.”

“Me too. We all will,” said Jean, stepping forth and offering Kurt a friendly hug.

“Indeed, it certainly won’t be the same without another blue furred fellow around here,” said Hank.

The rest of the team took a moment to offer Kurt their condolences and their gratitude, but he was not done yet.

“Danke, mien friends. But zhere is one other announcement zhat goes along vith zhis decision…one zhat even I have reservations about,” said Kurt, his voice still strained.

“You ain’t dying your fur, are you?” commented Logan.

“Nein, it’s not zhat extreme, Herr Logan,” he said as he turned to his sister, “Rogue, vould you like to do zhe honors?”

“Might as well,” she sighed.

The room tensed up again. Remy was especially anxious. Betsy found herself drifting closer, having a strong feeling she was going to need to hold him back after this.

“Ah’m leaving too,” Rogue announced, “Ah’m gonna go with Kurt to the Seftons.”

“What?!” exclaimed Remy.

“You too, Rogue? Why?” asked Scott, who was also more stunned than the others to hear his ex-girlfriend was leaving.

“For a number of reasons…some of which Ah can’t put into a neat little list,” she said as she struggled to hold back her emotions, “After what’s been goin’ on with mah powers, Ah need some time to get mah head together. Ah’ve been such a mess and Ah ain’t been doing the team any favors by being such a basket case.”

“You talk as though there ain’t plenty of basket cases here to begin with,” made Logan.

“Yeah, don’t you think this is a little…I don’t know, impulsive?” said Kitty, not shying away from the cold hard truth.

“Maybe it is. But Ah’ve been known to be plenty impulsive in mah days,” she conceded, “But Ah feel this is right. It’ll give meh time to work on mah long list of issues and spend some quality time with mah brother. If he’s gonna be dealin’ with an emo Amanda, he’ll need all the help he can get.”

That last part earned her a look from Kurt. She replied with a half-grin and a shrug. It may not have been one of the many details they discussed when they worked this out, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t valid. It still got the point across. Rogue was leaving with him and her decision was final.

It left the rest of the X-men stunned once more. Kurt leaving was understandable since he had Amanda to deal with. Rogue was more of a surprise. Her reasons weren’t as clear. Remy, however, had a feeling that he was one of them. Ororo and Betsy were still by his sides, looking at him anxiously as if he was going to explode or something. He kept looking towards Rogue with hurt in his eyes. For a moment she looked back and a slight tear formed in her eyes. It was like an involuntary way of saying she was sorry.

“Cherè…” began Remy.

“Don’t Remy,” said Ororo under her breath, “This is Rogue’s decision.”

“She’s right, Remy. Try not to get worked up,” said Betsy.

“A bit late for that,” he muttered.

The rest of the team approached Rogue with the same sorrow as they had with Kurt. It didn’t seem fair that they were losing two members like this.

“Are you sure you want to do this Rogue? It doesn’t have to be like this,” said Scott, who was the first to approach her.

“Oh Scott, always the gent,” said Rogue with a smile, “Don’t get meh wrong. Ah ain’t taking this lightly. Ah don’t just want this. Ah need this.”

“Even so, it does really blow that we’re losing you guys at a time like this,” said Bobby.

“You’ve von’t be losing us, mien friend,” assured Kurt, “Ve may not be living at zhe mansion anymore, but ve’ll still be X-men. Ve talked it over vith zhe Professor. Ve’ll still take our classes online and ve’ll be on reserve in case something big comes up.”

“It’s true. I’ve already made the arrangements with the Seftons,” said Professor Xavier.

“That won’t make the mansion feel any less empty,” said Jean, “We gain one while we lose two? The math isn’t exactly on our side.”

“When is anything on our side these days?” muttered Logan.

The air was ripe with uncertainty and sorrow. Professor Xavier sensed it as Scott, Jean, Bobby, Kitty, Hank, Ororo, and Logan took their time offering handshakes, hugs, and support for Kurt and Rogue. Remy had to stay back. It was just too hard for him to look Rogue in the eye right now. Piotr and Betsy stayed with him and attempted to console him.

Remy’s attitude seemed symbolic of so many frustrations. Xavier understood more than he let on. A lot of change was coming all at once. It seemed more was on the way and they had a long road ahead of them. What made it even harder for him was that he may not be around while his X-men pushed forward.

“I’m sorry everybody. I don’t mean to add to our losses as a team,” said Kurt.

“Do not be sorry, Kurt. These are more than just gains and losses. These are adjustments,” explained Xavier, “Conflict like the Cambrian has a way of bringing certain issues to light…important issues that need to be confronted. We may not like how they’re dealt with. What’s important is that we keep moving forward.”

“Forward…right,” said Remy dryly, “Like it’s ever gonna end.”

“If you’re gonna be such a downer why don’t you leave too, Gumbo?” said Logan.

“Don’t be playing me, Logan. Remy ain’t in the mood,” said the Cajun.

Without saying goodbye to Rogue or Kurt the Cajun stormed out, leaving a visibly upset Rogue along with a team that was already shaken. Betsy went after him while Ororo stayed back and lingered. Given her situation with Logan, she wasn’t in too good a position to offer much comfort.

“Dang, Ah should talk to him,” said Rogue.

“Give him some space,” said Ororo, “You know how Remy is when he’s bitter. You can say your goodbyes when the time is right.”

“Ah ain’t sure if there’s ever a right time for goodbyes.”

“Then don’t make it a goodbye, Rogue. At least leave a door open or something. You never know when you’ll need to return,” said Hank.

It looked as though Remy Lebeau would remain an issue for her. Rogue kept hugging her shoulders as she continued with her farewells. Ororo and Scott offered their consolation. It helped, but Rogue found herself wondering if this was a point of no return. She wasn’t going to let this be a complete departure. Maybe there was still a chance for her and for the X-men. Like so many other issues at the moment, only time would tell.

Next Issue: Subversive Secrets

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