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/...
Chapter 37: Rebuilding
It had been two weeks since the end of the war against Stryker and the Friends of Humanity. The fallout for the government and the military had been swift and immediate. Large scale protests, riots, and demonstrations outside bases and offices throughout the country had flared up among angry citizens that had been lied to by Stryker's perceptive manipulation. Images of the dead bodies dug out by Stryker's men were broadcasted all over the world and they became a symbol of greed, corruption, and atrocity even among so called 'civilized' nations. But the effects were irreversible now and both mutant and anti-mutant politicians knew that.
The President did not waste time and fulfilling his orders. Nearly a fourth of Congress was forced to resign their positions for helping Stryker and encouraging this blood bath. In addition, the many anti-mutant laws that were quietly passed such as revoking mutant citizenship, laws against mutant powers, and suspension of judicial rights were all revoked. Friends of Humanity officers that had worked with Stryker were set to go on trail for treason, conspiracy, mass murder, and a slew of other crimes against humanity. As for the soldiers, many were only imprisoned for a short while before being released under the guise of simply following orders, but many would have to undergo special programs to help undo the brainwashing that Stryker had done.
In terms of mutant/human relations, it did get better in some ways. The outpouring of shock and horror at what Stryker had done had demonized hate against mutants as if they were any other minority. The dead images showed the people, not the powers...And it was the first clear window to the public that they had ever seen even though it took such a horrible loss in order for everyone to see it. Charities helped raise money for the families of those that had died...At least those that still had them. Stories about each individual mutant that had died from the attacks was released by the Professor and Magneto to help put a face on the tragedy for all to see so that hopefully, lessons could be learned in order to avoid such terrible losses.
For Professor Charles Xavier, Eric Lensherr, and the rest of the surviving mutants that had helped take Stryker down...Work on a new institute had already begun. After fighting so hard with each other and developing many new bonds, they stuck together to help rebuild the world that Stryker had destroyed. Former enemies had become friends, families had been reunited, and at long last they were working together. It was by no means easy. The charred rubble was vast and sifting through the grizzly remains was a daunting task, but never-the-less it was a chance to create a new life and a new existence for everybody that had been personally affected by Stryker. And out of the ashes of the once devastated teams, the new friendships remained and a new breed of X-men was emerging.
Logan had been riding his new motorcycle for nearly two hours at this point. Since his old bike had been crushed in the attack, he had been breaking in a new one to help regain the feeling that riding through the wind always gave him. Even as a man that had lived as long as he had, Logan still knew how close he and everybody else he cared about had come to death. The losses that had been suffered were irreplaceable and the guilt from that remained with him for not being able to save those innocent kids when he should have. But he knew he had helped lay their souls to rest by fighting against Stryker and the others...And if he could see their faces again, he knew they would be smiling. In addition, he had many other reasons to be thankful. He had made a few new friends out of old enemies like Raven and Colossus. He also had finally convinced X23 to stay with them and learn how to be human like he once had to. Thinking about her gave him a new perspective on things ever since Alex had implied that they were technically family. And since he never had a blood family to his memory, it would be nice to finally have one...Both by blood and by meaning.
As Logan approached a small clearing not far from the institute on his bike, he slowed down and soon came to a stop near the trees as if he were waiting for something. In the distance, the devastated instituted could still be seen, but it was only a matter of time before a new facility emerged. And with everybody helping, he was confident that it would be very soon.
Then suddenly, Logan began to sniff the air as a familiar scent came to his awareness. While he didn't draw his claws, a feeling of bitterness did arise within him as a presence emerged from the trees and greeted him.
"Yer late Fury," grunted the Wolverine as he got off his bike and walked over to his old associate.
"I know...And I'm sorry," said Fury as he stayed in his place.
"So let's get this over with," said Logan, "Why did you call me here?"
With a deep sigh, Nick Fury prepared to justify his actions...Not just for today, but for these last few months as well.
"I came here because I guess I owe you and your students and apology," said the SHIELD leader.
"A little late...But better than nothing," scoffed Logan.
"I know it doesn't bring any of the students back...But I mean it Logan. If I could have helped...Believe me, I would have."
"Then just where the hell were you the whole time while some rich fuck murdered innocent people?!" demanded Logan, his anger still brimming.
"Stryker's reach was quite extensive Logan..." explained Fury, "Although SHIELD is known to be a super secret organization, Stryker did know about us."
"Why am I not surprised..." grumbled Logan, but Fury chose to ignore that comment.
"SHIELD does extensive work with one of his companies, so it was only natural he knew. And even though we should have done more, Stryker just had too great a hold on everything for us to oppose him."
"That still doesn't explain why you weren't there or why you didn't help," said Logan bitterly.
Fury was silent for a moment, a look of distain apparent on his old face...But not at Logan, at William Stryker.
"Stryker used his money and paid a few high ranking SHIELD officials to pretty much overpower me and keep me under his thumb during the whole operation. Many people know that I have pro-mutant feelings and there were some that were quite bitter about that. And since Stryker had influence throughout the government, he managed to keep me out of the picture by forcing my entire organization to focus on wild goose chases in the Middle East while he was free to do as he chose."
"But you knew what was happening back here," said Logan sternly.
"Yes...I did. And there was nothing I could do," replied Fury, "He had corrupted over half of my high ranking officers and turned them against me so that I couldn't do shit about it. They kept the organization busy while Stryker conducted mass murder. I know it's not a very good explanation...But it's true."
"Is that why you called me here? To cleanse your precious conscious?" scoffed Logan.
"No...I came here to tell you that SHIELD will not allow what happened that day to ever happen again. All those corrupt officers in my organization have been officially arrested and I doubt any of them will cause any problems for the next 30 to 40 years from where they're going."
"That's it?" said Logan, still not quite buying Nick Fury's words since he had been lied to by him and SHIELD so many times before.
"No...That's not it. I also came here to tell you that we know about the girl..."
"X23..." said Logan, a new feeling of apprehension coming over him at the mention of the girl SHIELD once worked to capture, "Listen bub! Haven't you done enough to that poor girl?! She ain't goin' back with you or any other prick that wants a living weapon! If you want her...You'll have to go through me!"
"We have no intention of taking her back Logan..." said Fury, not wanting to drive this unstable man any closer to the rage he personally knew was so dangerous, "We know she's not viable as a weapon. With Hydra gone...There really isn't much of a need for her in the world of espionage, but I know that now that she's with you...She might have a new purpose."
Then, Fury proceeded to reach into his coat pocket and pull out a small roll of paper. He then gave it to Logan, who quickly unrolled it in order to see what it was.
"What the hell is this?" he asked, not fully ascertaining it's meaning at first.
"It's a birth certificate..." answered Fury, "For X23. I had to pull quite a few strings to get this...But I felt you'd probably find some need for it, so it's yours."
Logan took a moment to look at the document before him. Most of it was blank, but it did give information about the young girl created from his blood. It had information such as her birthday, her initial weight, and physical description. But what really caught his eyes were the two blank boxes marked name and parents. He remembered how he and X23 had tried to think of a new name for her...A name that wouldn't classify her as a number or a project. They never did quite make a decision, but if they did...This would make it official. Not only that...The box marked parents also made him feel somewhat strange inside. X23 had his blood coursing through her veins...So did that make him her father? Was he actually ready to accept such a title being the man he was? What kind of father would he be? In the end, he knew that X23 deserved a lot more than the terrible hand she had been dealt in life. She had been robbed of practically everything. Now he had a chance to help her get it back...But could he do that for her?
Logan was so lost in thought at this point, he almost didn't register what Fury said next, but he did manage to break out of his current daze to once again regain his composure.
"Consider that a favor for now Logan...But don't expect me to be able to do others like them in the near future," said Fury, maintaining his stance before the feral mutant.
"Yeah...I know. It ain't you're style to help out others directly...Even those you've hurt," scoffed Logan as he turned back to his bike.
"Just remember Logan...The world is a big, complex maze of conflict. SHIELD works in many parts of that maze. We won't always be there to help...So don't expect not to have to do anything by yourself."
"I never do..." said Logan as he jumped on his bike, "Oh...And one last thing Fury...I'm not the one you should be apologizing to. But like always, you're lucky because the ones you should be talking to can't hear you now...Because they're dead. Later eye-patch."
And with that Logan sped off back to the mansion on his bike...Leaving Nick Fury to think about what he had said. He hadn't expected Logan to forgive him in any sense...But that wasn't truly his intention. Right now...Stryker was all the old colonel could think about. He had nearly muscled him out and turned his own organization against him. Now...Because of Logan and his friends he would never be able to make such threats ever again. This wasn't just for repentance...This was for vengeance. Stryker had done a lot to affect the world as a whole and many of those effects could not be easily reversed. Faith in the military and the government was at an all time low now in the aftermath of Stryker's reign...And that lack of faith affected SHEILD as well. But now that Stryker was gone thanks to the X-men...Things might finally be able to change within the vast web that Nick Fury worked in. In the end...He wasn't just apologizing to Logan and the X-men...He was saying thanks.
Back at the mansion, work continued into the hours of sunset. The hot summer air had made the job hard, but it did little to impede the new X-men in laying the foundation for their new home. Professor Charles Xavier had already brought construction crews to the area not long after they had returned from Washington. Work had gone by fast thanks to the assistance of mutant powers and the stamina of the students. Magneto had used his powers to construct a temporary underground dwelling for them while work was still being done. It wasn't that different then the last underground facility that they had stayed in, but it wasn't nearly as comfortable since it had been so hastily constructed. However, few complained...Knowing it was better than nothing and it was only temporary before the doors of the new institute opened to all.
At the moment, Xavier was relaxing at one of the few places that had not been destroyed in the attack...The gazebo looking over the lake. The stress of organizing a massive construction project while keeping track of a bunch of super powered youngsters was quite tiring to say the least, but after working with such children over the years he had grown accustomed to it. And this time...He had some good help.
"Penny for your thought Charles," said deep voice as the Professor was brought out of his daze by the presence of an old friend.
"Magnus..." greeted Xavier, "How goes the construction?"
"Ahead of schedule...Thanks to mutant ingenuity," answered the master of magnetism, "We shouldn't have to stay in that hole in the ground I dug for much longer."
"That's good news. I know that many of the students are already getting quite restless from such conditions," commented the Professor.
"Indeed...But after it's done, I have a feeling that it'll all be worth it. You've really pulled out all the stops in the construction of this new facility."
"Yes, I know," said Xavier as he looked at the progress of his new institute thus far, "But I want this new institute to work off of the flaws of the old one. I want this one to be better than before...A place of new ideas and a new beginning for the X-men."
"And I can see that you've spared no expense," commented Eric.
"Yes...Well the Federal Government has decided to foot the bill for the construction this time around. This gives us an opportunity to learn from the mistakes that were made leading up to the tragedy."
A brief silence soon fell over the two men as the sunset over the lake bathed the sky in a picturesque orange glow.
"Any luck with Wanda and Pietro?" asked Xavier, knowing by the look on his friend's face that they were still prevalent in his mind.
With a deep sigh, the once arch nemesis of the X-men shook his head.
"I'm afraid not...But I'm hoping they'll come around. Objects no longer shake when Wanda sees me and Pietro seems to have grown tired of that single angry look of his whenever I pass."
"I'm sure you'll reach them Magnus...Just give them time," assured Xavier.
"I know Charles..." conceded Magneto, "It's just frustrating sometimes to look at your children and have them simply ignore you. Even after all the things I've done...It still doesn't make it any easier."
"Nobody ever said that such tasks in life would be easy old friend. Some things are hard for a reason," said Xavier, speaking from his many years of experience in dealing with troubled children.
"I suppose so...But at least I am around them now," replied Eric, looking on the bright side for a change, "They seem to be doing a lot better. They have formed fairly close relationships with some of your students."
"And I am glad to see that...Given that some were once deemed enemies," said Xavier as he turned to see some of his students and the old Brotherhood members working together in the rubble.
"Like you and I?" suggested Eric.
"Yes...Unfortunately so," replied the Professor, "But I'm glad that we finally are able to work alongside one another old friend. I had hoped a day like this would come...Despite such tragic circumstances."
"I know...But I suppose that is my fault," admitted the master of magnetism with a sigh, "I guess I was just a little slow to see things clearly."
The two men stood in silence as their gaze drifted back over to the students as they continued to work with some of the masonry equipment on what would become the new walls of the institute. Wanda and Kurt were working alongside one another smiling and talking while Pietro shot funny, untrusting glances at Kurt. Raven was talking casually to Scott and Jean as they wheeled out some of the used supplies and prepared to set it aside for the night. Piotr and Kitty had also taken quite well to one another...Almost too well to some. However, that didn't stop them and nobody had the desire to do so. Alex and X23 were also smiling as they both took a break around what had once been the pool area...Showing that the former living weapon was doing a lot better around her new surroundings and Alex was being a big help.
"Look at them Charles...Working together as if they were never enemies to begin with," mused Magneto as he and his friend watched with pride.
"Yes...And we should cherish such a development. It means that we'll be able to fight the battles that we should fight rather than the battles against each other so that such an enormous tragedy like this will never happen again."
"And just how long will do you think this unofficial peace last?" asked Eric.
Xavier simply smiled, seeing there were some parts of his old friend that would never change, one of them being his reluctance. He was new to fighting for this concept that Xavier had preached his whole life. And it would definitely take time for him to accept it. But for now...Time was plentiful and the new world that they new lived in had much to offer the both of them as they laid the foundations for future generations of both humans and mutants.
"It will last only as long as we and humanity will allow it to," answered the Professor, "Don't think I have forgotten human nature despite all this old friend. Mutants are still human...And such nature is part of what drove Stryker. But using one man as the model for an entire species is not the right archetype to go about. We must accept that there are going to be those like Stryker and there are going to be those that are the exact opposite. And that is why we must stay vigilant...So the ones like Stryker can't wield such power to commit great atrocities ever again."
The two men continued to watch as their students continued to work on what would become their new home. There was no doubt that William Stryker had changed all of them. He had shown the sheer magnitude of what one single man with will and drive can do. Not only that, he showed humanity in a new light...One that made it both darker, yet lighter at the same time. In the end, the public was furious with a man of such greed...And it's not because they were stupid or ignorant, it's just because that's what they were told. Perception is everything in the world that the X-men lived in. How the human race would ultimately see them was all a matter of what they saw and how they interpreted it. The darker side of humanity such as that which Xavier and Magneto had faced for so long was unavoidable...But so was the lighter side as well. For Magneto, it had taken him some time to see that and after so many years of drifting apart and fighting against one another's ideas, they were finally here...Working together at last.
As Logan rode through the rebuild gates of the institute on his motorcycle, he was greeted by the same thing he had seen since early this morning...Everybody working on the new institute. From sunrise until sunset, they had been working with the construction crews to build their new home. To Logan, it was funny how he never realized just how much the institute meant to him until somebody blew it up...Just as he never realized how much all the students meant to him until they were senselessly killed. Even though he had never been too keen on emotions, it was for that reason why he never got a chance to relish in what he once had before it was taken away. From the children to Ororo...He let his own Wolverine persona take precedence over the human side to him.
Now, he had new reasons to learn from his mistakes of the past. He had met new friends like Raven, Piotr, and Wanda that helped him find purpose once again as he had when he first came to the institute. Then...There was X23. He had made many search attempts for her in the time leading up the institute's destruction, but he had never found a trace of her. In the end, she found him. Since he learned about her existence, it was somewhat strange knowing that another piece of himself was in this world. She had been created from his blood...That made her his responsibility. And in finally allowing her to experience the world she had been denied for so long, it was a nice feeling knowing that a part of him had the chances that he never did.
Over with X23 and Alex Summers, the boy whom she had grown particularly fond of since her arrival, they had been given the task of cleaning out some of the debris from the pool. While they worked for hours on end at this rather daunting task, they continued to talk. Alex had been doing a lot to teach her some of the common things in life that most people took for granted...Things that the former living weapon had been denied her whole life.
"I'm telling you 23...If you just gave it a chance, I'm sure you'll love it!" said Alex confidently as he threw another handful of burnt chunks into a pile beside the pool.
"But I still don't see the point of it..." said X23, still learning for the most part about things she had not yet experienced, "Riding a wave of water on a board doesn't seem very logical."
"That's just it!" said Alex with enthusiasm, "It's one of those things that doesn't have to make sense. It's just something you do for the thrill, the rush, and the adrenalin that just gets your heart racing like nothing else."
"Sounds like combat," commented X23 as she easily lifted a rather heavy piece of debris with ease, much to Alex's astonishment.
"Kind of...But there's one big difference between that and surfing," he argued.
"And what is that?"
"In combat...You're driven by things like anger, rage, and bloodlust," said Alex, hoping that the younger girl would understand it in this context, "But in surfing...You're driven by other, more exhilarating things like thrills, happiness, and euphoria. It's like riding against time itself...And nothing else matters other than that one moment. There're no worries...No concerns...Nothing. It's just raw, unabated thrills...It's the best feeling in the world."
"And what makes you think that I am suited to such activity?" she asked as they both stopped their work and took some time to sit on the side of the pool beside one another, "You know I'm not very keen on emotions in general."
"I think you're perfect for surfing!" said Alex confidently, "You're not afraid of anything...You're strong, tough, and rugged...More than almost anybody else I've met on the beach. You've got everything necessary to experience the full benefits of surfing the waves. And once you do...You'll wonder how you ever lived without it."
"I don't know..." said X23, still somewhat uncertain of all these new experiences that Alex was describing.
"Hey, don't worry about it," assured the younger Summers brother, "Trust me...I know a born thrill seeker when I see one! You've got the mindset...Not to mention the body to go along with it."
"What about my body?" asked X23, looking down at herself, not quite understanding what he meant by that.
"Well you're strong, fit, and well..." but Alex soon began to stammer in his words and he soon felt all the blood in his body rush to his face as he looked up and down the former living weapon's physique.
For X23, she couldn't quite understand what was going on with Alex. Something about what he was saying was causing this strange reaction within him. He seemed to lose the ability to form coherent words all of the sudden. While she may not have known, Alex was beginning to feel stupid for once again not thinking about what he was saying. It got to the point where X23 grew somewhat worried about him.
"Is...Something wrong?" asked X23, sounding concerned.
"Oh no...Nothing's wrong," said Alex quickly, trying to regain his composure.
"Are you sure? Why is your face so red?" she asked, only making Alex feel more awkward.
"Well...Uh," he tried to explain, but with little success, "It's nothing to worry about really. This just happens to people when they say things they don't think too much about beforehand."
"Oh..." said X23, still not getting it.
"But just remember...Anytime you want to give surfing a try, just let me know and I'll make it so you get the full experience you deserve!" said Alex, once again managing to pull himself together after saying something he hadn't intended to, "Trust me...You'll feel the rush of combat...But it will make you feel happy, alive, and full of energy!"
X23 was still not very clear on the concept of 'feeling,' but what Alex had just described sounded...Amazing, for lack of a better word. She had no idea emotions were capable of such feeling, yet in simply talking about it, Alex seemed to be getting a rush from it somewhat like he had described. It was...Enticing in a way because a part of her hungered for new experiences. And since her arrival, Alex had been a major help to awakening the human side of her. For some reason he had an uncanny knack for making her smile in a special way...Although she didn't quite know why. But she planned on asking Logan about it later on.
As the sun continued to set over the horizon, Logan made his way over towards the pool where X23 and Alex were. So far, Alex had been a positive influence on the former living weapon and managed to relate to her since he was closer to her age. But at the same time, Logan noticed how Alex looked at her. Even though he was the brother of one of the first students he had raised all those years ago, it still made him uneasy because X23 was just so new to this world. But he quickly pushed that thought to the back of his mind for now...For he had something very important that he wanted to discuss with her...One that could change her life forever.
"Hey kid," said Logan as he saw X23 look back up at him upon becoming aware of his presence.
X23 made a face at him upon hearing him call her 'kid' again, but that just made him grin. She knew that he didn't like calling her a by her number even if she didn't quite understand why, but never-the-less...She didn't get as angry as she used to. Logan had names for everybody at the institute. Kitty had told her that it was just a quirk of his. But that didn't stop it from annoying her.
"I need to talk to ya about something..." said Logan as X23 and Alex stood up, "In private..."
Alex looked back at Logan and quickly got the message.
"So I guess that means I should leave?" said Alex.
"You betcha beach boy," said Logan.
"Okay..." said Alex, "I'll talk to you later 23."
Alex then went off to see what his brother was up to and left Logan with X23. For the both of them, it was a difficult time. X23 was staring a new life while Logan was trying to rebuild one that had been destroyed. Fate had seemingly brought them together once again. They were still a part of one another...That much they could ascertain. But what such a connection truly meant was still a concept that eluded them in some ways. But for Logan...He hoped to make some sense out of that confusion with what he had in his hand.
"What's this about Logan?" asked X23, noticing the strange, serious expression on his face, almost as if he was nervous about something.
"I talked to Nick Fury today..." said Logan.
He saw X23 immediately tense upon hearing that name, but he was quick to reassure her.
"Don't worry...He's backed off. You don't have to worry about him, SHIELD, or any other prick trying to capture you and use you again."
"Just like that?" said the former living weapon somewhat confused by this development, "But why? They were pursuing me ever since we blew up Hydra."
"Well Fury had a change of heart and called off the search," said Logan, "With Hydra gone, you're free and they have no desire to try what they failed at. In addition...Fury kinda owed me a favor. And I guess that's why I'm here now."
X23 felt a strange sensation come over her when she heard that nobody was after her anymore. Ever since she had blown up Hydra, she had always lived with the fear that some organization that worked with them, such as SHIELD, would come after her and stick her back into the cage she so vehemently hated. A strange lump in her throat formed as the knowledge that she no longer had to worry about looking over her shoulder ever waking moment. But there was still more...Plenty more that Logan wanted to tell her and help her with in this time of great transition.
"So it's over?" said X23, "They're not going to try and use me again?"
"Nope..." assured Logan, "And even if they did, you still wouldn't have to worry...Because they would have to go through me to get you."
"But why?" said X23 as she felt a strange feeling in the pit of her stomach the closer this man stood to her, "Why would you do that for me after everything I've put you through? Why?"
Logan took a deep breath. He knew what he was about to say wasn't going to be easy...But he wanted to let it out while he still had the chance to. He had let time slip by him in the past and he was not going to let it happen again. He had lost many of the students that he had vowed to protect...And people close to him like Ororo. There were many things he wished he could have said to them...But now that they were dead, they'll never know. And he wasn't going to make that mistake again. He had a chance to do something now that would forever change both his life and X23's. Part of him was still holding back...But this time, he wouldn't let it get in his way from saying what he wanted to this young girl that had been created in his blood
"Kid...Do you remember what I said to you about family the first time we met and you tried to kill me?" asked Logan, hoping that he wouldn't screw this up.
"Yes..." said X23, still feeling somewhat conflicted about that word, "I remember...You said that you were the closest thing to family that I had."
"Well it's true...But what I didn't tell you is that it goes both ways," said Logan, as he prepared to say what he had rehearsed in his head for the better part of three hours, "I don't have any family that I know about. As far as I know...They're all long dead. Like you...I am pretty much alone in this world. Sure I have friends like the Prof and kids I take care of like Scott, Jeannie, and Kitty...And while they are like family, they aren't by blood. I guess what I'm sayin' is...We are both the only family that either of us knows about. My blood flows through your veins. I know you're still learning...Hell I'm still learning too. But I want you to know...That we can learn together. I can help you...And you can help me."
For some reason, X23 felt her eyes moisten as Logan continued to refer to them as family...Something she never thought she would have. Yet here she was...Standing in the presence of a man whom she had tried to kill...Twice. And he was still willing to accept her as family...But still, there were many things she didn't understand and the emotions she felt at this moment were almost too much to handle.
"But...How can I help you?" she managed to get out despite the strain in her voice, "If you help me...And call me family...Then how can I hope to do anything in return? I don't know how..."
Logan once again took a deep breath as he struggled to form the right words. But nothing would stop him from saying what he needed to as he looked into the watery eyes of the young girl that was born in his image.
"You can help me...You already are," he said as he gently placed a hand on her shoulder, "You see...Whenever people ask me about my family...I want to be able to say more than just a bunch of students. I want to be able to tell them that I have a family...I want to be able to tell them that I have a daughter...One who I'm very proud of because she's overcome so much and still manages to remain strong despite everything that's happened to her."
X23 could no longer control her tears as they began to flow gently down her face as she heard Logan refer to her as his daughter...Not just some clone. She remembered so vividly the feelings she got when she saw other families with their children growing up under Hydra's control. She had always been alone and isolated with nobody else other than heartless scientists to help her make sense out of things that she didn't understand. But in the span of a few weeks, Logan had taught her more than those Hydra thugs had her entire life. Maybe he could be a father to her...Maybe she could look at him as more than just genetic donor in the same way he looked at her as more than just some failed science experiment. It would mean she could have a life...With purpose, with friends, and with family.
Logan gently wiped away the tears that were forming in her eyes as she took in the words he had said. He couldn't help but smile at her, knowing she was finally going to be able to start over once again.
"Just know that whatever you're struggling with," continued Logan, "You don't have to go through it alone. I can help you...The Prof can help you...And your friends can help you. It's not going to be easy putting the past behind you, believe me...I know. But you're strong enough...You've shown me that. Just don't ever let anybody call you an animal...Because you're more than that."
X23 managed to look back up at Logan through her tear-stained eyes. She had faced death countless times, she had survived torture for the majority of her life, and she had fought against an entire army...Yet simply hearing these words that this man was saying brought out in her a wave of feeling that just paralyzed her. But Logan still wasn't done yet. From his pocket...He pulled out the document that Nick Fury had given him and prepared to say what he thought would be the hardest part of this moment.
"There's just one more thing you need to make it official..." said Logan as he unfolded the paper, "Here...Consider this the start of your new life."
He then handed the young girl the document and she quickly looked it over. For a moment, she froze as she soon understood its meaning. Another round of tears soon formed in her eyes and a small drop soon fell upon the page...Forever closing one chapter of her life and starting over once again...This time, with hope.
"This is a birth certificate..." she finally managed, "MY birth certificate."
The document had most everything a regular birth certificate had with only a few exceptions. It had her birthday, which was the day she came out of the bio tank. It had her birth weight, her physical description, and most everything else normal children have when they're born. The only blank parts were the lines that said 'name' and the line off to the side that said 'mother.' X23 knew that she didn't have a mother...But the line that said 'father' was filled. Logan had signed it...Forever making him her father.
"I had a feeling you might want this..." said Logan as he looked at how the young girl reacted to this most symbolic gesture, "Now nobody can ever say you're not human. That document makes it official. It makes us family both biologically and legally. You're not alone anymore kid..."
She had a family...She had a father...Over and over again she kept saying it to herself in her head. The way it made her feel...The emotions that it brought on...It was something she never wanted to let go of. She didn't have to be alone anymore.
Then...What she did next took Logan by complete surprise. With tears still streaming down her face...She threw her arms around him and began to cry into his shoulder tears of happiness.
"Thank you..." she managed as she gave up fighting her tears and simply let them flow.
Logan didn't know what to do or say...He had never been in a position like this before. But the feeling of the crying young girl, who was now officially his daughter, nearly choked him up just as much as he gently wrapped her arms around her as well and hugged her close. It was a strange feeling...Now having the responsibility of a child. Yet she had his blood...And she had been created in his image. Her eyes were like a mirror image of his own and they told countless stories of a darkened past. Now neither of them were alone anymore...They finally had each other.
"Logan..." she managed as her sobs began to subside, "Does...Does this mean that I can call you...Father?"
Logan froze for a moment...But he soon smiled back at her and helped wipe her tears away as he made it clear to her that he was there for her and had no intention of changing that.
"I'd be honored if ya did darlin'..."
Hearing someone call him that was a strange feeling to a man once made to do nothing more than kill. Yet when this young girl said it...He felt it's true meaning. The pain of not being able to save the children that had died in the institute was still there...But this new feeling...This new sensation of having a life that will forever be connected to him helped give the Wolverine something he always wanted to hold onto.
Soon afterwards, Logan and X23 sat down and finished what they had started back at the base in Canada. X23 now had a family...All she needed was a name. X23 was forever the designation she would be attached to and she knew it...But at the same time, she wanted to put the life that it reminded her of behind. It was somewhat difficult deciding a new name for a teenage girl that had gone by a mere number her whole life...But by the time the sun disappeared over the horizon, they finally decided on one to put on her birth certificate. Henceforth...She would now be known...As Sarah Logan.
In a small clearing overlooking the lake far from the main institute grounds, Scott, Jean, and Raven were working on what they hoped to be the link that would not only help them build a new future...But also to never forget the past. Many people had died. X-men, Brotherhood, Acolytes, and Morlocks had all been among those killed in William Stryker's attacks. Many of the remains had been seized by the military in the aftermath of the attacks, but since William Stryker's downfall many of the remains were shipped back to the families of the deceased. But for those that didn't have families...They were to be shipped to the institute and buried along a stretch of land that they had entitled 'Memorial Ridge.'
On this ridge, a stone statue stood in the center of a long row of stone with each name of one whom had lost their life as a result of Stryker's madness. Jean had been hard at work sculpting the statue of an angel while Scott had been meticulously engraving each name into the stone by hand and tailored to perfection. This was a monument to those that had died...And it would forever be a reminder to future generations of the power and horror of hate.
Raven was there along with them...Looking over the finished mark that would forever immortalize her daughter Rogue, whom had been in the institute when it was destroyed. The horrible image of her body on that fateful night was sure to haunt her dreams for all eternity. She had been there because she wanted to give Scott Rogue's birth name to engrave so that others would know who she had been not just with the X-men, but with her as well. Over and over again, Raven ran her hands along the perfectly carved text that read Marie Anna Darkholm. Underneath it...The word Rogue linked both the past and the present of the beautiful young woman that had been taken away all too soon.
"You did a wonderful job on this Scott..." said Raven as she kept running her hands over the text as if to somehow reach Rogue beyond the grave.
"Thank you..." said Scott, "And I'm glad we finally get to know Rogue's name as well. "Now a part of her will always live on."
Raven felt a slight tear form in her eye as she remembered all the failures she had with Rogue. She had tried to win her back for all the wrong reasons before. And once she finally had the desire to win her back for the right reasons...She was taken away from her...Killed heartlessly so she would never live to be a mother to her ever again.
"I still failed her you know..." mused Raven as Scott and Jean looked back over at the solemn woman, "I never got the chance to tell her how sorry I was. I'll never get the chance to be the mother to her that I should have been."
Both Scott and Jean stopped what they were doing and walked over to their former enemy. This woman had shown how much she had changed over the last month since their paths crossed in their darkest hour. She had undergone mental torture from Apocalypse, unending nightmares about everything she had done that she regretted, and the horrifying image of seeing her daughter's dead body. No matter how much she cried or how much she tried to repent for it...It still wouldn't bring her back and she still wouldn't get to tell her all the things she desperately wanted to.
"I'm sorry Raven..." said Jean as she placed a hand on the shape shifter's shoulder, "I know she meant a lot to you."
"That's just it..." continued Raven, "She died not knowing...She died thinking that I had wanted her just for her powers...And that's not true...Not entirely. I was a different person when I adopted her...But I fell in love with her. I see that now...And I just didn't realize it until I had pushed her away."
As bitter as Mystique had been as an enemy to the X-men, there was still a part of her that loved her children. She had let a lot of things stand in her way and only now standing before her daughter's grave could she finally see things clearly.
"Wherever Rogue is now...I'm sure she knows," said Scott, knowing all too well how hard it was to lose family.
"I hope you're right Scott...I really do," said Raven as she stood up, "Maybe one day...When my time finally comes...I'll get the chance to tell her. And until that day comes...I guess I owe it to her not to make the same mistakes. And it's a promise I intend to keep."
And with that, Scott and Jean left the old woman to herself. It was going to be hard for her to get over Rogue...But with the help of her new friends and her son, she had all the drive she needed to make sure that the memory of her daughter would forever live on.
As Jean saw the look of grave sorrow on Raven's face as she looked back at her daughter's name, she began to feel a deep sense of sadness over the sheer scale of this loss. Seeing a mother bury her daughter is one of the saddest things someone can witness. But for Jean Grey, she could sense the projections of her sadness and remorse for what she had done. The emotional pain this woman felt was far more intense than the physical pain from the wound on her knee that was still bandaged. She could feel how bad Raven felt because she never got to say goodbye. A part of her began to worry as she felt these emotions radiating off the shape shifter as she soon found herself reading over the names of other mutant children that had died in these horrible attacks.
Scott quickly sensed his fiancÃ©'s emotions through the psychic link they shared. She could feel her sadness, anxiety, and remorse as she read over the names of the dead that had been taken away so heartlessly. Scott soon found himself gently wrapping his arms around her body from behind as he held her close to him...Easing her pain with the deep love they sent each other through their link.
"What's wrong Jean?" asked Scott as she felt the young redhead take his hand and squeeze it tightly.
"All this death...All this pain," answered Jean, "And Raven...She just...I can never understand how horrible it must feel to bury a daughter."
"I know...Losing family is a pain that really can never be erased," said Scott, speaking from experience.
"It's just that..." continued Jean as she looked at the scale of death that such a war had brought, "Scott...If we have children...They'll be mutants. They'll be born into this world of conflict and they'll have no chance at living a 'normal' life."
Scott felt his heart rate go up as Jean talked about things like them having kids together one day and bringing new life into this world that they had seen so much darkness breed from. But with a gentle kiss, he was quick to reassure his future wife that they had survived this far through all the conflict that led up to this point...And they had the strength build a new future for both themselves...And their future children.
"I know..." said Scott as he carefully chose his words, "That they'll never have a normal life...Instead, they'll have an extraordinary life...One full of both hope and conflict...One where they'll be able to make a difference and one where they'll have two parents who will love them with ever fiber of their being."
Jean felt the warmth of Scott's gentle touch and his soothing presence in her mind. She then turned to face him while they were still in an embrace, completely forgetting about the lingering sting that was still present in the wound on her leg. The uncertainty of the future still hung strong...But the will to see it through remained just as strong for both Scott and Jean as they contemplated where their present path down the road of life would lead them. For however long they lived...They both had the strength to see it through and make a future for themselves...And whatever children they would have.
'I love you...' sent Jean as their lips met in a deep kiss.
'I love you too...My wife to be...'
AN: Well, that's it for now. A new institute is being built, new friendships are being forged, and a new era has dawned. This story is very close to ending and there are still some loose ends that I will address before all is said and done and the final page is closed on "Extermination." But fear not! I already have another story in the works planned and I still have many stories to tell! Oh, and by the way...X23's name, Sarah Logan, was borrowed with permission from Agent-G's story "Adjustments." Thanks a lot man! I always liked that name for her! It has been a long, harsh road for this story...But it will end soon enough. And before it does, I urge you all to review this story! Please tell me what you think by sending me reviews via email or by posting them on the fanfiction website! Thank you all very much for reading and I wish you all the best!