Categories > Cartoons > X-Men: Evolution > Extermination

Reunited At Last

by slickboy444 1 Reviews

Takes place 2 years after Apocalypse, 1 year after the Phoenix. The mutant problem has grown and a obscure general named William Stryker thinks he has a solution. Has Scott/Jean, Wanda/Kurt, Kitty/...

Category: X-Men: Evolution - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Action/Adventure, Drama - Characters: Cyclops - Warnings: [V] - Published: 2006/06/22 - Updated: 2006/06/22 - 7563 words

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Extermination
Chapter 36: Reunited At Last


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The charred remains of the helicopter that had contained the presence of William Stryker, Bolivar Trask, and Senator Edward Kelly now burned in a haunting scene of absolution in the calm waters of the Potomac River. What was once the driving force behind the heinous Operation Extermination had gone up in flames...Consumed by the fires that delivered final justice to those who had died by their hands. The bodies of the three men stood no chance in the fire. The founder, leader, and assistant to the Friends of Humanity were now gone. The X-men had accomplished what they had come here to do despite overwhelming odds. Their success didn't bring back the loved ones that they had lost, but it did bring comfort knowing that they could rest in peace.

Scott Summers, the leader of the X-men and first student of Professor Xavier, stood in a state of awe as he watched the end of the struggle unfold before his tinted eyes. He was frozen in a sense that now before his presence was the final outcome of the battle they had fought so hard. He had faced Magneto, Apocalypse, and the Phoenix...But this fight was against something so much more grand and ambiguous...Human hate. Emotions of fear, intolerance, and hatred had driven men like Stryker and Trask to commit the atrocities that took many innocent lives. Fighting against that was many times more complicated. It was an intangible, yet powerful drive. Power, greed, and ruthlessness were the enemies here...And they were far more difficult to fight against and far more deadly in the end.

Scott simply watched on as the wreckage burned in the river, taking the sinister masterminds behind the Friends of Humanity with it. He was on the verge of collapsing. He was exhausted beyond description. The fight had lasted so long and pushed him and his friends so hard. Now that it was over and the adrenaline was no longer flowing...He just wanted to rest. But there were still things to do.

"Scott!" came a voice from the trees as the young leader was broken out of his daze.

The familiar voice that filled his head only brought more emotion to his already reeling mind. But this time it wasn't confusion or bewilderment...It was a complete and utter feeling of relive as he heard the voice of someone that had given him the strength so many times in the past...Jean Grey.

"Jean..." he said as he saw her standing in the clearing.

Tears were now streaming down her face and the pain of the wound on her knee seemed completely irrelevant as she eagerly limped over to her soul mate and threw her arms around him and collapsed in his embrace. She soon couldn't fight off her emotions and began crying. But this time...It wasn't because of loss, despair, or sadness...It was out of sheer happiness because it was finally over...And they had survived.

"It's over..." said Scott as he felt her cry into his chest, "It's finally over Jean. We did it...We won."

Scott soon lost control of his emotions too and felt tears forming in his eyes as well. Here he was...In the warm, gentle embrace of the woman he loved before the end of the war that had nearly killed them so many times before. The sense of relief, happiness, and warmth that it brought the both of them just couldn't be described with words, so they let their actions speak for themselves as they met in a gentle kiss.

In the background over the Potomac and near the Washington monument, fireworks for the Forth of July began to go off as Scott and Jean remained in a tight embrace. The sky lit up in a beautiful, glorious display of lights. It was a celebration of freedom and liberty...One of the main things that they had been fighting for in this fateful battle. The freedom to live...To cherish...And to love...They were all things that they found worth fighting for. Death had nearly come so many times, yet they had survived the war and would live to see a new and glorious sunrise.

As Jean kept leaning on Scott for support, they both became drawn to the hypnotic view of the majestic lights in the sky. Then, for the first time, smiles formed on their faces and the feeling of being alive had never felt so wonderful before. It was in this picture perfect scene...Under the lights of the beautiful fireworks at the end of a horrible war...That Scott Summers felt the need to seize the moment.

Before all this began, Scott had been contemplating a way to ask Jean to marry him. After the Phoenix incident, he had been thinking about how he would do so...Because he knew she was the one. He had known for years, well before they became boyfriend and girlfriend. He known Jean since their early days at the institute and he had been in love with her for what seemed like forever. He had started this summer with a big, elaborate plan in mind to propose to her...But somewhere along having their home destroyed, their friends murdered, and their lives forever changed...That plan had been shattered. Now...Here in the lights of the beautiful scene before him...He knew it he had to say it now. This tragedy had almost torn them apart...And he didn't ever want that to happen. It was for these and many other reasons...That Scott finally decided to do what he had wanted to for so long now.

"Jean..." he said, sounding completely drained physically and mentally, "I know it's a bit of an odd time...Here in DC under the fireworks...But I have to ask you something...Something that I want to ask you before anything this terrible ever tries to pull us apart again."

"What...What is it Scott?" said Jean, her heart rate now racing once more as she looked into his tired expression under the glow of the fireworks.

As he swallowed hard, trying to process this moment as best he could despite the intense beating of his heart...He reached into his pocket and pulled out the diamond ring that he had kept with him ever since this whole thing started and held it up for Jean to see.

"Will you marry me?"

Jean froze at the sight of the beautiful ring. The lights of the fireworks made it glow in a way that made it seem so heavenly...As if it were something taken from the sky itself and delivered in a small tangible object. The emotion of the moment was once again overwhelming the young redhead whom had just fought so hard in a war for survival. The trials and tribulations had been so hard and had nearly killed her and everybody else she knew and cared about...Now here she was at the end of it all...This stunning scene before her as she smiled widely at the man she knew she was going to spend the rest of her life with.

"Oh Scott...Of course I will!" said Jean as she kissed him once again.

The overwhelming happiness of her acceptance brought the couple in another loving embrace as the fireworks continued to illuminate the skyline...Almost as if the heavens themselves were celebrating for them. They never wanted to let go of this moment because they were sure that they would both treasure it for the rest of their lives. The end of one thing...The beginning of another...And a new life awaited them. For better or for worse...For sickness or health...No matter what they faced, Scott and Jean now knew that they would face it together.

"I love you so much..." said Jean as the finally parted.

"I love you too..." he said softly as the lights of the fireworks continued to dance in the skies above them.

The long, hard road had been worth it. They had to go through many things to end this war and bring peace not just to their world, but to themselves as well. Now as the crystal clear night sky shined with fireworks...The knowledge that the war was over finally began to sink in.

Just then, a new voice came over through the woods.

"Hey Scott! Jeannie! Where are you?" said Logan as he and the others trekked through the mangled trees towards the shoreline of the river.

"Over here Logan," said Jean, smiling at the sound of her friends drawing closer.

As Logan, Raven, Kurt, Kitty, Piotr, Wanda, Alex, X23, and Pietro emerged from the trees...They too were met with the beautiful sight before them over the Potomac River.

"Mein Gott..." said Kurt as he they all stepped forward.

The fires of the downed helicopter that had contained the leaders and masterminds behind these horrible atrocities were still burning. The fireworks in the sky were lighting the night up in a way none of them had ever seen before. They were all here now...They had fought and survived in a truly horrific war that had taken many innocent lives. Some had lost family, innocence, and their livelihood...But everybody lost friends. Now their souls could finally be laid to rest after their lives were tragically cut short by the horrors of war. They had fought and triumphed together...Former enemies and new allies had come together and united for a common cause. They had learned much about each other in the short time that they had been forced together by this conflict. Some had truly connected while others finally saw things clearly for the first time in what seemed like forever. But now that they all stood together here at the end of the horrible ordeal...They all stood together united.

"Did we do it? Did we win?" asked Kitty as everybody watched the beautiful lights in the sky along with the flaming wreckage of the helicopter that symbolized so much.

"I don't know Katya...I'm honestly not sure," said Colossus as he placed a gentle hand on the young girl's shoulder.

"I don't think any of us can say for certain," said Logan, "If there's one thing I know...It's that wars never truly have winners no matter who is victorious."

Logan's words spoke from many long years of experience in facing both real and personal conflict. He knew better than anybody else the impact that war could leave. He had fought in World War II and he had seen atrocities driven by hate. But a conflict like this just went so much deeper for him because it affected so many people he cared about. Every war has a loser...But they didn't always have winners.

"None of this...Will bring back those that have already died," said Raven, her thoughts drifting towards her daughter, whom she had been killed in the crossfire and whose image still haunted her mind, "But at least their souls can finally rest in peace."

"And at least nobody else will have to face such suffering now that it's finally over," added Kurt.

"But still...Does it mean that nobody wins?" asked Alex.

"I don't think that it's up to us to decide," said Logan.

"Yeah...History tends to determine who the winner is," said Scott, wishing he had the answers just as much as his brother did, "I guess we'll just have to wait and see just who is deemed the winner in this war. Although technically, neither side truly won...We still lost in many ways. I think Stryker knew that...And maybe that's why he kept boasting how he had already won. I guess it was one of the few things he said that was really true."

The thought of those that had tragically died brought forth many feelings about what this moment meant and the knowledge that they had already lost so much didn't make it any easier. Many questions still remained for all of them. But under the lights of the fireworks on this fateful Forth of July evening...The importance of those unanswered questions seemed only miniscule as they stood together...Alive and united.

Smiles soon fell upon the faces that had seen so many horrors within the last few weeks. Wanda, whom had experience more than just loss, was among the most powerful as she looked back over at her twin brother as he looked back at her. This ordeal had almost taken them away from each other forever...Yet because of new friends and the power of family, they had survived. They were true siblings again...The feeling was truly one of to relish.

For Raven Darkholm...The former notorious mutant assassin and arch enemy of the X-men...The new beginning meant many things. These past few weeks had shown her how little she truly knew about those she once fought so hard against. Upon having her home blown up, her livelihood destroyed, and her daughter murdered...She had found friendship and solstice in those whom she had done so much to hurt in the past. In addition, she finally managed to connect with her son after so many complications. Looking back over at him...She couldn't help but smile in pride. Her son had grown into a man she was proud to be related to. He had managed to become what she couldn't and learn the things that she took so long to ascertain. Now she actually looked forward to the future in the first time in a very long while. Kurt couldn't help but smile back as his biological mother...His only remaining blood family...Took his hand and gave it a gentle squeeze, letting him know that she had no intention of leaving him again.

For X23, this conflict had been beyond anything she could ever hope to ascertain. These feelings inside of her...These emotions that she felt as she saw the fireworks in the sky and the expressions on the face of her new friends, were strange, yet very deep in a sense. They gave off the feeling of happiness, hope, and comfort even after fighting so hard against such enormous odds. She didn't understand it...Yet that didn't confuse her this time. Maybe she was not meant to understand it...Maybe she could only do so by experiencing it. There was no doubt that she had a lot to learn. Being part animal and part human was not an easy existence. But as her concerns dominated her thoughts, she felt a gentle hand on her shoulder. This time, her defensive instincts did not kick in...For the touch was not threatening...It was warm and comforting. She turned to face Logan...The man she had once tried to kill. The smile on his face, as if to tell her that she was not alone in her confusion, actually made her smile as well. There was no denying their connection because the same blood ran through their veins. It was...Comforting to know that there was someone out there that could help her. And maybe...In time...He could be her...Family. Alex seemed to pick up on this sentiment and smiled back at her with a knowing wink, which for some reason caused X23's face to flush a light red color...But she didn't want to make sense out of it now. Such pondering could wait as a one chapter in her difficult life came to a close and a new one began.

"So what do we do now?" asked Kitty as everybody simply stood before the lights in the sky, symbolizing the freedom that they had all fought for.

There was no easy answer to Kitty's question as a deep silence soon fell over them. The hardest part of the battle had already passed...And they had succeeded. But what now? How could they continue fighting for the dream after losing so much? The war had shed light on so many things that they once deemed obscure. The power of hatred and the power intolerance proved to be strong. Yet their drive to end the bloodshed and bring forth new peace had beaten that. So how would they take it from here?

"I...Really don't know Kitty," answered Jean, "There really is not a whole lot we can do to make the complicated uncomplicated. I guess we have to take each moment as it comes...Each new development as it arrives. I guess we'll all know what impact we've made tonight all in due time..."

And with that, the newly united X-men simply stood in silence as they watched the fireworks continue to light up the sky. And whatever moment came next...They would take as it unfolded. They had been to hell and back...They had experienced some of the highest highs and lowest lows that any one individual could experience. But now it was over...And a new beginning awaited them.

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Back at the Capitol, the news images of the battle continued to beam towards everybody present in the building. Politicians, leaders, and media personnel all watched as the X-men fought against the Friends of Humanity. Images from news helicopters showed the remains of the deadly sentinel X killing machines that Stryker had planned to release upon the world. Charred remains of the buildings where these machines of doom were being mass produced were shown in vivid detail for the whole world to see.

Professor Charles Xavier and his longtime friend Eric Lensherr watched the ominous images of what could have been had Stryker been allowed to continue his deadly plan. The sheer horror of what he planned to unleash was undreamt of even in the darkest of nightmares. A world run by fear, greed, and intolerance was what Stryker wanted for HIS peace. Yet because of the newly united X-men, they had stopped this horrible future from coming to pass. And for both men whom had helped teach them so much, a wonderful feeling of pride fell over them as they saw their opposing teams fight alongside one another instead of against each other. It seemed...Right to them. For Magneto, whom had been forced to do a lot of growing up in such a short period of time, he finally felt he knew his place. He had seen the world that he had once fought for...And was willing to go another path.

Then...One last image flashed upon the projection screen. It was the image of all the X-men standing together on the banks of the Potomac before the fireworks over the Washington DC skyline. X-men, Brotherhood, and Acolytes stood side by side...United as one group. They had fought together...They had succeeded together. They stood beside one another without fear or apprehension. This whole ordeal had brought them together in many ways...Shaping new friendships while mending old wounds. For both Xavier and Magneto...They couldn't help but smile at what they were seeing. Their students were now one group. They fought together and had succeeded together. The future still remained unclear...But for both men, they knew that they now had the power to shape it as it came. Stryker was gone...Now they were in control of their fate once more.

"Mr. Speaker..." said the President as he and the rest of his cabinet looked at the image on the screen, "Have you reached a decision?"

In the vast crowd of senators, representatives, and judges there were some that hung their heads in shame for working with Stryker while others let the images on the projection screen seal the decision on this most fateful of nights.

"Yes Mr. President...I think we have."

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Back along the banks of the Potomac River, the X-men watched as the grand finale of the Washington Fourth of July fireworks began to fill the sky. The calm waters of the river and the clear night sky only added to their majesty. Colors of every kind lit up the world around them as if it were a divine signal of the fates saying that they had done what they had to. To some...It was as if the souls of those that had been lost in this senseless war of friends and family were showing them their gratitude now that they could rest in peace. But perhaps...It was not what the spectacle said, but what it represented to them that made it such powerful and moving sight. The lights in the sky were like beacons...Not just for freedom, but for hope as well. The light they gave off was like a shining guide leading them down a new path for the future...One that would be built not by fighting each other, but working together. Whether or not they could put aside years of differences was still in question, but no matter what would draw them apart or bring them together...They would not soon forget their accomplishments on this fateful night as a team.

As the spectacle began to wane, a new surge of military activity began to develop over the horizon back near the Pentagon. New helicopters took off and new jeeps with fully equipped marines and army soldiers began to scour the vast city like a wave.

"What's happening now?" said X23, the defensive part of her mind beginning to kick in, "Are they coming for us again?"

"No wait..." said Scott as something caught his ear, "Listen..."

In the distance all throughout the city, loud speakers mounted on jeeps and helicopters broadcasted a deep voice all throughout the city for everyone to hear. At first it wasn't too clear, but as some of the vehicles and aircraft flew closer they heard the message that they were blaring to all of DC and most likely the world.

"Attention all Friends of Humanity personnel...Attention all Friends of Humanity personnel...This is a message for all who are continuing the fight of Operation Extermination. William Stryker is dead. His plans have been exposed. And by direct order of the President of the United States all military activity having to relate to any and all Friends of Humanity activity are to cease IMMEDIATELY. Anybody who continues to carry out the orders and protocols of William Stryker be they Friends of Humanity or not are henceforth engaged against mutants, but against the United States itself. Any soldier who doesn't surrender or lay down their arms will be tried for treason and war crimes. I repeat...Any soldier who doesn't surrender or lay down their arms will be tried for treason and war crimes. Surrender now...Or face very serious consequences. William Stryker is no longer in command. Operation Extermination is hereby...Terminated."

The operation was over...Gone...Terminated. Once again, a wave of relief swept over the team of mutants as they heard these magical words. They had done their part...And it looked as thought the Professor and Magneto had done theirs. They had come into this battle not expecting many to survive...But here they were...Alive and well.

The message continued blaring all throughout DC. Entrenched Friends of Humanity soldiers were forced to lay down their arms as they raised their hands in defeat rather than face charges of treason. Other die-hards forever loyal to Stryker tried to flee...But most all of them were caught by the military and arrested. Anybody wearing a uniform or emblem of the organization they once so highly lauded was now officially a symbol of hatred and fear. Luckily, there was no gunfire or exchange even among the loyalists. The news that William Stryker, the general that they praised so highly and thought to be an invincible force of knowledge, was now dead seemed to deeply affect their spirit and will to carry out the ideas that the Friends of Humanity so deeply entrenched in their mindset. Some soldiers cried uncontrollably upon hearing about the death of their great leader while others were simply faced with nothing more than defeat.

At long last...The message of peace was overcoming the cloud of war. Some of the X-men felt like collapsing right on the ground...For they finally could do so now that it was over. However, they managed to find the strength to stay up as they took in this fateful moment that they were all sure to remember now and for the rest of their lives. Then, as they turned back towards the docks, lights were seen in the distance through the trees. As they drew nearer, the sound of jeep engines and the footsteps of soldiers were heard as well. Under normal circumstances, it would have been a bad sign for them. But at this point...They felt no reason to be apprehensive.

X23 flinched at the smell of military personnel. She had been around them her whole life and they were partially responsible for her existence as a living weapon. Her rages threatened to once again take over, but before they could Logan gently dissuaded her...Knowing that it would probably take some time for her to get over her inner demons.

"Its okay kid...They're not here to fight," assured Logan.

Looking back at the man whose blood created her, she took several deep breaths in order to calm herself down. Logan remained close, resting a hand upon her shoulder letting her know that she was not alone anymore. But for others, there was still a subtle amount of weariness.

"But how do we know that these guys are friendly?" said Pietro, never one to easily trust the kind of men that had nearly killed him.

"If they wanted to attack us Pietro, they would have done so already," said Scott logically, "It's over now guys...And I don't want to fight anymore. Do you?"

Nobody had to answer that question, for the answer was pretty much already spoken and no punches were pulled. As the message still blared and more military personnel scoured the area, their presence was finally seen by one of the captains of the group and he soon brought his team over towards them, but not in traditional combat formation.

"Hello? Is anybody over here?" yelled the captain towards the river bank as he and his team neared the position of the X-men.

It was still somewhat tense for others as they drew near, but they would have to put their faith in what the Professor and Magneto had done if they were to set aside the grim effects of war and settle into a mindset of peace. Nobody moved or prepared to strike, as they came into view and the captain, who bore no Friends of Humanity emblems on his uniform, saw them through the trees and made his way over.

"You there...Are you folks the X-men?" asked the captain, not raising his M-16 or sounding at all hostile.

It was a seemingly simple question, but for those present it was more complicated. Those such as Mystique, Wanda, Pietro, and X23 were not by definition X-men...Yet they had fought along side them, bearing their symbols and fighting for their ideas. In the past three weeks since they had been forced together for the sake of survival, they had learned much about each other. Old views towards former enemies gave way to new views that showed everything in a new light. For Mystique, she had come to see those she had once hurt so much as true friends while also finally mending old wounds with her son. For Wanda, she had found solstice in those such as Kurt whom had helped her in her darkest hour from nearly seeing her brother die to having the truth about her past revealed to her. For Pietro, he was alive because of what his former enemies had done for him and now had his sister back because of their help. For X23, she had been living like an animal in the wilderness for two years dazed and confused only to have these people, including the man who was potentially her only true family, take her in and help her feel human again. For Piotr and Alex, who had fought along side the X-men against Apocalypse before, it was a good feeling to once again do some good for the world in spite of all the terrible things that had happened. For everybody...Old enemies and longtime friends...There was no denying that they had fought and won together. Old wounds would take time to heal and old ideas would not be easily forgotten...But it was a chance for a new beginning now...It was a chance to make right that which they had done wrong or negated. And as they looked back at one another, their answer became clear...They were the X-men...United at last.

"Well..." said the captain again upon not getting a response, "Are you guys the X-men?"

"Yes..." answered Scott finally, "We're the X-men."

The captain simply smiled as he signaled some of his men to head back to the jeeps and drive them over to the area.

"The President sends his regards..." said the captain, "We're also here with a message from some friends of yours...Charles Xavier and Eric Lensherr. We've been sent to retrieve you and bring you all back to the Capitol. They told us to tell you...Thanks for doing your part while they did theirs."

For Scott, Jean, Kurt, and Kitty...The surviving students of the institute...The chance to see the Professor again was a very much welcomed. They had been separated from their mentor for so long now and the need to see him only grew upon hearing his message of thanks. The ideas that the Professor had instilled within them of peace instead of war had helped to keep them going in the end. From the depths of despair to the triumph of this night...Time had been against them, but the X-men didn't die. And even though they had no home to go back to...They still had someone to see and thank for all the difference he made in the fight for peace.

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The military proceeded to escort the X-men in a secure convoy back to the Capitol where Professor Xavier and Magneto awaited them. The soldiers were surprisingly none-apprehensive...A strange, yet welcomed change for the X-men whom had been fighting against such forces since this whole thing began. Some of the soldiers also had medics with them and treated some of the wounds that had been sustained like the one on Jean's knee. Some, like Kurt and Wanda, Scott and Jean, and Kitty and Piotr stayed close as they took in this fateful moment. Logan and Mystique were working to console X23 while Alex and Pietro watched the new world left by Stryker's death pass by. There was finally no more fighting...The guns had fallen silent and the war cries were no longer heard. As simple as this was, it was still so hard to process after three weeks of intense fighting and loss.

As they convoy drove along the street, the X-men looked out to see dozens of dazed citizens out wandering the streets. Judging by the looks on their faces, they had seen the graphic broadcast from the Capitol. Some were out with children watching what was left of the fireworks while others simply watched the military drive by while they continued to broadcast their historic message that the war was over. Along the way, rows of Friends of Humanity soldiers that had surrendered or had been captured were escorted in rows to face justice for what they had done. Higher ranking officers were in handcuffs and chains. None of them raised their heads to make eye contact with the convoy carrying the X-men. Their hate was still present and it was doubtful that such feeling could ever be erased after fighting so hard for a cause they so deeply believed in.

Even though they had been victorious on this night the hate that drove men like Stryker remained. The effect his grip on the country and world could not be settled overnight. Even in the face of the horrific pictures that Xavier had showed the world, there would still be those who would relish in the deaths of those innocent people simply because they were mutants. Intolerance was still going to be a problem whether they liked it or not. There would be those who were changed by what had happened tonight while there would also be others who would remain or become hateful. Fighting off every bit of hate and intolerance among humanity may not be possible simply because of human nature. William Stryker understood humanity...And he used that knowledge to great effect with his genocidal plans. Yet such knowledge could be used the other way around as well. Humanity may have its weak points...But mutants are human and if they were to accept one another, they would have to understand one another. It was one of the basic, underlying principles that Professor Xavier had preached and it was one of the ideas that Magneto had come to learn through the understanding of new friends and the personal tragedy that he had struggled with.

It was unclear as to how they would go about this new beginning. Mistakes had been made on both sides...Mistakes that Stryker had exploited to great effect. But with the memory of those that had died as a result of these mistakes, the chance that they would learn from them grew and their loss would not be in vain.

As the convoy arrived at the imposing view of the Capitol, the X-men eagerly filed out and made their way up the steps. They had been told that the Professor and Magneto were waiting for them at the entrance. It was so near yet so far at the same time. But for those that wanted this whole ordeal over and this night forever done with, no distance would stand in the way. Finally, as they reached the top of the stairs...Two smiling men stood there before the doors of one of the centers for democracy. They had been separated by war, distance, and tragedy...Only to be standing before one another right here on this fateful night. And soon...Emotions took over as Scott, Jean, Kurt, and Kitty rushed to their mentor's side.

"Professor! You're alive!" yelled Kitty as she ran forth and gave him a big hug that surprised the wheelchair bound man, but he willfully accepted it none the less.

Even the bullet wound on her knee couldn't stop Jean as she limped over with her friends as they took turns embracing their teacher and mentor. It was an emotional moment for them...For it showed that their hope had not been in vain. Now they could safely say it was over for them. Their family...Or what was left of it...Had finally reunited.

"You have no idea how worried we were about you," said Jean with tears in her eyes.

"I could say the same for the rest of you," replied Xavier as he returned their sentiment, "I can't tell you how close I was to losing all hope. But I knew that you were strong enough...And I'm very proud of you."

It was a moment that had been three weeks coming since the devastating attacks began. The end of the road had led here...Back to Washington where it had all started. For the surviving students of the Xavier Institute for Gifted Youngsters, it was over. The Professor was back and the Friends of Humanity had been vanquished. Much of the old X-men were gone forever because of this fateful war...But new X-men had arisen from those who were once enemies...Now they had become friends.

For Magneto, it was a reawakening of what he had once believed in many years ago when his humanity was still intact. He had given Xavier's way a chance and fought for peace instead of war in the halls of the Capitol...And they had won. Peace had proved more preferable to war not just to the mutants left from the attacks, but for normal humans as well. All those years of fighting for war now seemed somewhat jaded now that he had lived it.

Through this war that he had once fought for, he had almost lost his son...And completely alienated his children. But at least they knew the truth now. The old holocaust survivor's thoughts soon drifted to the promise he made Magda under the stars that fateful night as a result of finally taking a good look at what he had become and what Apocalypse had helped him see. His gaze then drifted towards Wanda and Pietro, who refused to make eye contact with him. His actions now did not make up for the actions of the past...But if this was a time of new beginnings, then maybe his chance with them would come...Someday.

"I know you still hate me..." said Eric to his kids as they remained stubborn like he often was, "I know you still don't believe me. And I know I have no excuses...But the war is over now. It's the end of one thing...The beginning of another. I intend not to squander what time I have left on this world. Whether or not you ever choose to believe me is entirely up to you...But I made a promise to your mother that I intend to keep. Even though I cannot change the past, I will work for a new future now...One I hope where you will see me for what I am now...Not for what I was."

It was not much...Eric knew that. But these simple words did earn him a single look from both Wanda and Pietro...And it spoke volumes for what he had done to reach them. The anger over what this man had done to them in the past still hung strong...But with the end of this war, maybe there would be hope for them as a family after all.

"So what happens now Professor?" asked Kitty as everybody who had fought and triumphed over the Friends of Humanity now stood at a crossroads with many possible paths open to them.

For Xavier, the world of yesterday was in pieces. There was no going back now...The world was different. The dream that they all aspired to uphold was far from reality and only through the blood, sweat, and tears like those they had labored over to achieve victory against Stryker would future generations learn from ashes of this war and the fragile peace that now lay in its place. And with that thought in mind...Xavier finally answered with what he hoped would be foundation for a new tomorrow.

"For now...We rebuild."

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That night, as the new X-men stood in the ashes of their destroyed home...The President gave a historic speech that was broadcasted to ever television set in the country and all throughout the world. The destruction of their home had left a great deal of rebuilding for them to do. But that was only physical...The minds and perceptions of the people throughout the world would be much harder to reconstruct after all the lies and deceit that Stryker had fed them. But even as a new world of challenges awaited Xavier, Magneto, and the rest who had fought and won this devastating war...It was clear that this was a start and the future was now up to them.

"My fellow Americans...As you all may have seen broadcasted from the Capitol live and uncut all over the world, a historic and unprecedented development has shaken this country and the world as a whole. A dark, sad day has descended upon humanity...One that will forever change our history, not just as a country...But as a race. For the past three weeks...This government, the public, and the media have been praising our military and the Friends of Humanity for it's success in 'neutralizing' a threat that we believed to be looming over our entire civilization. Through military strikes, special operations, and covert tactics...We struck at what we were told were armies of mutants poised to attack and wipe out humanity. While both myself and every other citizen of this country and this world were told one thing...In reality, it was very different. We now know that there were no armies...There were no caches of weapons...And there were no plans. The facts, stories, and reports about mutants and their intentions were falsified, over exaggerated, and made for the sole purpose of making everybody afraid. And surprisingly...It took only one man to do this. William Stryker...A corrupt European businessman bribed, manipulated, and in some cases killed his way into the ranks of our great military and used his dirty money and resources to buy his way into influencing our very government. Anti-mutant spokesmen like our own Senator Edward Kelly...Broke many laws and tainted our very foundations of democracy in order to seize control and get the power they wanted so they could fight their war. And this war has had casualties...Many innocent casualties. Pictures that are now circulating all throughout the global media show the gruesome details of what William Stryker and his Friends of Humanity did. Many of these casualties were children...Not soldiers. Many of these casualties were law biding citizens...Not monsters. We were told that they were dangerous...And that seemed justification enough to have their lives taken away and their families forever torn apart. But murder of the innocent is never justified. The shameful actions of this government and this administration allowed this to happen...Simply because it looked the other way. Bribes, corruption, and hate drove a war to execute innocent people born different...And I know that this country is better than that. This is not a country of oppression, hate, and injustice. This is a country of freedom...The freedom to live, the freedom to exist, and the freedom to live without fear. And we must never let men like William Stryker or Bolivar Trask to taint that. And as a result of what we have uncovered thanks to Professor Charles Xavier and his commitment to peace, the following actions will be taken...The Friends of Humanity is hereby disbanded and recognized by both this country and the UN as an illegal organization, all high ranking officers are to face charges of treason and crimes against humanity before a military tribunal, all politicians and media personnel that assisted William Stryker are to face criminal charges of conspiracy and assisting an enemy of the United States, those in Congress and my cabinet who worked with Stryker are to henceforth resign their position or face criminal prosecution, all anti-mutant legislation that has been passed or is in the process of being passes is hereby void, and finally...A charity organization will be set up to aid the families who have lost their loved ones as a result of this horrible, unnecessary war. These actions are effective immediately and will remain valid under the authority of the federal government. We must be strong in getting through this time of great change in history. Men like Charles Xavier are not criminals...And those that died as a result of this meaningless war will not be in vain. While this bloody conflict will forever stain our nation for many years to come...We must all learn from it. Humanity isn't perfect. Sometimes we hate...Sometimes we hurt...Sometimes we fight. But as a race...We must accept the fact that things change...We change. Mutants are human no matter how we choose to see it...And for the innocent people that have died as a result of our attitudes, we owe it to ourselves to move beyond the impulses of hate...And work for a better future. So to the souls of those who have been lost and to the families that will deeply miss them...Our hearts will be forever with you. God bless humanity...And God bless America."

**************************************************

AN: Well, that's it for now. It's almost over folks! They won the day against Stryker, but like all wars it came with a price. There are still some loose ends left and I intend to lay them to rest before this long story finally ends. Will Magneto and Xavier finally be able to work together? Will the former enemies of he past remain allies now that the war is over? Stay tuned to find out as the story comes closer and closer to it's inevitable conclusion! So what do you all think? Now that the action is over for the most part, I'd love to know what you think! Please review by sending me your feedback via email or by posting it on the fanfiction website! Thanks a lot for reading everybody! I wish you all the best!
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