Categories > Cartoons > X-Men: Evolution > Extermination

Saying Goodbye

by slickboy444 0 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: 2006/07/07 - Updated: 2006/07/07 - 7777 words

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Extermination
Chapter 38: Saying Goodbye


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In the weeks that followed through the long, hot days of the summer months the work on the new Xavier Institute for Gifted Youngsters continued. Every day, the mutants that had survived the ordeal worked practically all day with construction crews and each other to create a new home for them and a new generation of mutants. For Professor Xavier, it was rebuilding from scratch once again and learning from past mistakes so the terrible tragedies of war wouldn't happen again. He had only a small part of the student body he had before all this happened...But he also had help from new friends that he once believed to be lost forever. Former enemies were now friends in wake of such horrible loss and a new sense of unity upon fighting together and succeeding together had helped give this next generation of X-men a new purpose and hope for a better future.

Day by day, the structure of the new institute began to take shape as it rose from the ashes of destruction. Much of the lower levels had been repaired thanks to Magneto's help and the battle scars of the surrounding landscape were slowly beginning to fade away as new cover overtook the grim reminders of the bloody tragedy that had passed. After over a month of hard work, the X-men were able to move out of the bunkers that Magneto had made for them underground and into the new dormitories of the institute. While much of the facility was still unfinished, it was a welcome step up from their old dwellings and it was a good feeling to be able to sleep in a nice, comfortable bed under the roof of their new home.

The institute was fast nearing completion. With Xavier's planning, Magneto's help, and the support of everybody else that had come together in the war for their freedom, it was clear that this was going to be the most advanced institute ever conceived. Soon, it would once again open its doors to mutants everywhere. This time, there would be less animosity between the school and the government. The public also would be more understanding with the memory of the dead bodies of the innocent people that had been slaughtered by hate. And while this bright new future for mutants gave hope to the survivors of Stryker's senseless and brutal war...They could never forget the past. Many of the graven images of their dead friends and family would stick with them for the rest of their lives. It was not an easy memory to have...But it was one that was never to be forgotten. They couldn't know where they were going...Unless they remembered where they had come from. The past and the future would always be linked now whether they liked it or not. It was one of the many effects that Stryker had bestowed upon the fragile world he had done so much to corrupt. But all the lessons learned from that war could never bring any of their friends or loved ones back. Now...As a new beginning was set into place...One final goodbye remained...One that would keep the past alive, while at the same time finally laying parts of it to rest.

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Scott Summers and Jean Grey, the first two students of the Xavier Institute, had worked long and hard on a fitting monument to their fallen friends. Now, on a quiet ridge overlooking the lake in the background...A large, stone angel stood in the center of a long row of polished granite. Along this stretch of rock...The names of each mutant that had died as a result of Stryker's atrocities was finely engraved to perfection. There were names from all sides like Rogue, Bobby, Lance, Todd, Remy, John, Caliban, and Callisto. Some were old enemies, some were close friends, some were family, and some were neither...Yet they were all casualties of this heinous war. They did not deserve to die. They were simply born different...And for that, they had been murdered without remorse. But the man responsible for ending their lives all too soon was now dead and his war had long ended...Thanks to those that had survived and had lived to remember the faces and lives that lived behind the mutant powers that so many focused on. Now...As the cloudless, crystal clear night hung over the sky, a small gathering had assembled at the completed monument. From the heavens above...Perhaps those that had been lost were seeing this event unfold and maybe...They were finally able to take comfort in the world that they were no longer a part of was in good hands.

"Are you ready for this Charles?" asked Eric as they both prepared for what was sure to be a very emotional ceremony.

Xavier took a deep breath as he remembered all the students that he had lost as a result of such a horrible war. This ceremony would be hard on him especially because it would remind him of how he was unable to keep a promise to those children. He had long assured them that they were safe in his institute...But Stryker had proven him wrong. For most, this ceremony was to say goodbye to those that had been lost...But for Xavier, it was a way for him to say...He was sorry.

"I'm ready..."

The two men then met with the rest of the new students and teachers outside at the monument on the quiet ridge. Everybody was there to say goodbye to somebody...A friend, an enemy, or a part of their family. They were also there to say goodbye to something more...Their past. For those that had been profoundly changed by this experience like Mystique and Magneto, it was a way of laying to rest the demons that had haunted them for many years. And through this ceremony, it would help them start over...Not just with their family, but with themselves as well.

Everybody stood silently before the stone monument in the shadow of the graves of the dead victims of Stryker's war. It was a hard, emotional time for all of them...Yet their souls deserved to be allowed to rest in peace...Knowing that they were never going to be forgotten. As they all thought of somebody that they had lost...Professor Charles Xavier began to speak what he hoped would be heard both here and beyond the realm of the living.

"We all...Lost someone on that fateful night of the attacks," began Xavier with a solemn tone and a careful poise, hinting that he had been working on this speech for some time, "We lost good friends, we lost homes, and some of us even lost family."

Mystique, who was standing by her son began to tear up as she heard his initial words and fixed her gaze upon Rogue's name in the monument. But Kurt gently took his mother's hand...Equally saddened at the reminder of his lost sister that had been taken away from him all too soon.

"That day...We were attacked by someone that we neither knew about, nor expected," continued Xavier, "We...Didn't allow ourselves to believe in the power of one, hate-driven man. We let ourselves become disillusioned by both peace and war. I believe...That Stryker knew we were ignorant. But we must never allow ourselves to be naïve. I, myself, have learned that...There are some battles that one should fight and there are some battles that are not even necessary. And I think we all misjudged which was which in the past."

Upon hearing that, Magneto immediately thought of his life and how he had chosen to fight the battles against Xavier rather than men like Stryker and Trask. He remembered how he put the importance of his own selfish goals above that of his family and his life. Looking over at Wanda and Pietro as they glanced in sorrow towards the names of the fallen members of the Brotherhood, he swallowed the lump and his throat and vowed before their tears that he would not allow such things to happen again. He was still their father...They were still his children. That...He could never forget.

"I promised the students of my institute...That they would be safe," said the Professor as he felt his emotions get the better of him as he mentioned those that had died in the rubble of his school, "And unfortunately...It was a promise that I was unable to keep. As strong as we are...We must never forget that we are only human. The gifts that we have been blessed with, whether you choose to seem them as gifts or not, don't erase who and what we truly are at heart. We all feel...We grow...We learn from our mistakes even if some learn slower than others. And hopefully...We can learn from this experience as well. We can all do what we can to make the lives that were lost mean as much as they should. As a Professor and a teacher...I have come to learn that we must value ever second that comes...For every one that passes will never come again. Those that died...Did not deserve to. But the time that they had spent in this world must not be in vain and we must never take the moments that passed for granted. It only takes one fateful moment for everything to change for better or for worse. But in living through all this...We must not allow ourselves to think of time as an enemy, stalking us and waiting to end everything. Instead, we must remember that time is an ally...One that helps us treasure that which we still have...And that which we have yet to experience. The world is different now...That much we can all agree on. But how this new world will take shape is up to us. It can just as easily go in either direction...Which is why, we do all we can to make the world a better place for future generations. We must bestow upon others the ideals, the principles, the beliefs that we hold dear and teach them the dreams and possibilities of the future...While reminding them of the follies and tragedies of the past."

Few could hold their tears back as they continued to listen to the Professor speak. The monument and all the names of the dead seemed to make the air itself grow cold with remembrance of that fateful moment when everything changed. Yet at the same time, it seemed fitting to the lost souls that they were hoping to lay to rest.

"It is my wish..." continued Xavier as he closed his eyes in an attempt to restrict the flow of tears, "That the students, teachers, and friends that are not here to share this moment...Will forever watch over us and look down with pride at the world they helped influence. I know not all of you are church goers or very spiritual in general...But I would like to pray for those that died on that fateful night...I wish to bid them goodbye...And grant them my eternal apologies that they had to leave this world before they even got a chance to experience it's splendor. I ask God to bestow his grace upon those who were taken away from us all too soon...And to watch over them while we watch over the world that they left behind."

Even for those whom had struggled with their faith in God in the past...Everyone silently prayed for their lost friends. The silence of the peaceful ridge hung strong as nothing more could be heard other than the gentle winds rustling the trees. It was a fitting end to a fitting ceremony. Now hopefully, the souls of the dead could rest in peace...Knowing that they would never be forgotten and that they had left their mark.

As everybody walked the rows of names, the sheer size of the tragedy was forever symbolized by these graves. For the most part, the bodies of the dead were shipped back to their respective homes wherever they may be. Gambit's body was shipped back to New Orleans, Amara's body was shipped back to Nova Roma, John's body was shipped back to Australia, and Bobby's body was shipped back to his parents. Yet for some who didn't have homes to go to...Like many of the Morlocks and those without parents such as Todd, Lance, and Tabitha, their bodies were brought back to the institute and each was buried on this ridge where they would rest eternally. For Rogue, Mystique and Kurt had agreed to bury her remains on this ridge so that they could be close to her in some ways.

As the others gathered around certain names that meant something to them...Kurt and Mystique stood over Rogue's final resting place. There were many things that they both wanted to say to her...Especially Mystique, who would never get the chance to be the mother she wanted to be for her. But even though it was a little late now...The old woman that had been through so much, was determined to say her peace.

"Hello Rogue...It's me...You're mother," said Raven as she touched the engraving with her hands with Kurt by her side, "I know I'm the last person you probably want to hear from...And I don't know if you'll want to listen to what I have to say so I'll just go ahead and say it."

Kurt gently placed a hand on his mother's shoulder as she took a deep breath and tried to control her emotions.

"I know I did many horrible things to you and your brother..." she went on with tears in her eyes, "I know I hurt you...And I know I can never understand how bad it truly felt. But please accept my pleas...When I say that I'm sorry. It took a long time for me to see things clearly. It took a long time for me to realize what I had become. I know I was a monster...But I see that now...And whether you choose to believe it or not, I am not that monster anymore. I don't want you to remember me as your enemy, your manipulator, or your tormentor...I want you to remember me as your mother. I know saying that I'm sorry doesn't make up for what I did but...Please Rogue...I just..."

Raven couldn't hold it in anymore as she broke down before the body of her dead child. Her tears mixed with the dirt that she was buried in and Kurt was there to help support his mother. Every word she said...She said with raw emotion. It was something she never thought she would ever find herself doing...Yet with Mystique as good as dead, it left hope for Raven Darkholm.

"I know I have no right to say it...But I am very proud of you Rogue," said Raven as her sobs died down, "Even though you may never know it...The time I spent with you as your friend, Risty, was among the happiest times of my life. Please don't forget me or your brother. Maybe one day when my time in this world is up...I will be able to see your face again and tell you how much you meant to me...But until then, I promise you that I will spend what time I have left here atoning for the mistakes I have made and making up for the time that I have lost. I will miss you...My daughter. And I will always pray for you...May you rest in peace."

Upon saying her last words, Raven Darkholm gently placed a white rose under her name. For Kurt, being one who had always believed in God's love and forgiveness...He was heartened to see his mother finally make peace. He knew that this would grant her strength in the trying times to come and he wanted to be there as any family should. But for him...The memory of the brief time he had spent with Rogue as brother and sister would always be special to him. And as he gently embraced his mother in a comforting hug...He decided to make his peace as well.

"Goodbye...Mien sister," said Kurt, knowing that somehow Rogue would hear his prayers, "I know ve never got to spend a lot of time together and it all ended so soon...But you vill always have a special place in my heart. And no matter vhere you may be now...Just know that I am proud to be your brother...Even if it isn't by blood, it is in every other vay that matters. I vill miss you...And so vill our mother. I promise that I vill vatch over her and I vill always think about you...Vhen I think of my family..."

Upon saying his peace, Kurt then reached into his pocket and took out a small picture. When Raven saw it, she couldn't help but smile. It was one of Kurt and Rogue, smiling together during the times when she still walked this earth. In one photo...Both of her children were alive and full of life. It was one of Kurt's prized pictures...And he chose to let Rogue have it as he set it down with the rose against her grave.

Kurt could no longer hold his tears back as he let himself cry for the family that he had lost as a result of this horrible tragedy. But as he wept, he felt a hand on his shoulder...And looked up to see Wanda standing beside him with a look of understanding and sympathy.

"She knows Kurt..." whispered Wanda, "Don't worry...She knows."

Upon hearing that, Kurt pulled her into a hug as she let him cry for his loss. And being one whom had lost many things before...Wanda could relate and her understanding made it all the more meaningful for Kurt as the were certain that somewhere out there...Rogue was smiling down upon them from heaven.

For Pietro, he had stayed transfixed on the solemn graves of the Brotherhood...The friends that he had trusted and betrayed. Being the arrogant fool that he was...He never took the time to say that he was sorry for everything that he had done. He never gave him his thanks for putting up with him and his foolishness and considering him a friend. Now that they were dead...Pietro felt that they had died still thinking of him as a jerk that took them for granted. Yet taking ten bullets and coming so close to death had made him think about just how foolish he had been. His renegade fearlessness and attitude were some of the reasons why he felt alone, betrayed, and able to throw anything away without remorse until it came back later to eat at his soul. There may not have been a Brotherhood anymore...But it had been the first place where he felt he had belonged. And while he grew to fit in with his new friends...He could not forget his old ones.

"Hey guys...Yeah, it's me..." said Pietro to the three graves of Todd, Freddy, and Lance, "I know you probably don't want to hear from me...Hell, you probably liked watching me get shot ten times...But I guess I kind of deserved that. And I guess...I guess I really didn't know what we had until...Until somebody took it all away. We were all really something...No doubt about it. We were like outlaws, a posse, a group that stuck together in a world where everyone rejected us...And I betrayed you, I know. But I guess...Saying I'm sorry isn't going to automatically make you forgive me. I know I'm cocky and arrogant...And I know that I was jerk. But we were still the Brotherhood...That much I'll never forget. I wish I could have done more...Both as a leader and as a friend. But I guess I was too slow. I just hope that wherever you guys are now...You're better off there than you were here. And no matter how long it takes for me to come up and join you guys...I promise I'll be there and make the best of the new chances I get. Because no matter what...We are, and forever will be, the Brotherhood...I'll miss you guys...Rest in peace."

While Pietro knew that he wouldn't get a response from the three friends that he had once betrayed, he hoped to at least lay to rest what he didn't like about himself while forever remembering what the Brotherhood had taught him. He would always have one bullet lodged within him as a reminder of the sacrifices he was willing to make and to the extent that he was willing to go in order to make good on his promises. As the fast and speedy mutant he was by nature, he had finally managed to catch up with himself after so long. And while he stood lost in his daze, Magneto walked up beside him and placed a gentle hand on his shoulder.

"I see you've finally learned..." said Eric as he looked back at his son with pride.

"Yeah...Some speedster I am though...Took me long enough," replied Pietro, not fighting his father this time and actually taking comfort in his presence for a change.

"Well...Don't feel bad," assured Eric, "What took me decades only took you years. I know it was slow in learning what mattered...But I guess that kind of runs in the family."

"Yeah...I guess it does," said Pietro, as part of him found solstice in his father's words.

While the bitter past still hung over the speedster...In remembering what his father had done these past few months to be Eric Lensherr and not Magneto, part of him still hung on to the hope that maybe...Just maybe...They could be a family again.

For Alex, he stayed close to his brother and his fiancé. Having not known the victims as they had, it was a lot harder on Scott than it was for him. But not long after his return, Alex had discovered that Stryker's assassins had used his foster parents to get to him. While he hoped to see them again, he was saddened when he had come to learn that they had been mercilessly killed like the rest of Stryker's victims. It had been a harsh blow to the young man to lose his foster parents, whom he had always been close to. But Stryker's reach had just been too great and his ruthlessness all too apparent.

But in losing his home back in Hawaii, Alex had been welcomed into the team as a new member of the X-men. He had fought alongside them against Apocalypse and against Stryker and in doing so, proved to himself that he could make a difference with his powers as his brother had always told him. In losing his home just as his brother had, he had been brought into this new world left from the ashes of a truly devastating war. In fighting for his right to live along with many of his new friends like Pietro, Colossus, and X23...Or Sarah as she was now called...He had experienced a feeling that no wave on the beach could give him. Now, as an X-man, he was being taken on a new thrill ride...One with many new possibilities and many dangers. But being the fearless surfer that he was at heart...Alex Summers was not afraid.

While Alex watched Scott and Jean solemnly walk past each name of the fallen X-men that they had once so passionately led, Sarah watched on beside him while taking in all the wave of sad emotions that seemed to overcome her new friends.

"They all look so sad..." said Sarah as she turned to Alex, "Why are they doing this if it makes them sad?"

Sarah had not been human in a sense for very long and emotions were still a mystery to her. While she had grown better at experiencing and handling them...She still struggled to understand them. She couldn't determine the reason why everybody would want to have this strange 'ceremony' as they called it if it made everybody so sad. She could smell the tears coming from the eyes of her friends. Even Logan, her new 'father,' had been struggling with such sadness. Alex swallowed the lump in his throat as the memories of those he never got a chance to know and the foster parents that he had come to love continued to hang heavy on his psyche. He knew he didn't have all the answers that this young girl that had grown up in a laboratory wanted...But as someone he had grown close to, he felt he owed her as much.

"Death is always sad..." said Alex, speaking from truth and experience.

"Then...Why are they doing something like this?" asked Sarah as her eyes fell on an emotionally distraught Logan as he stood over the graves of the children he had vowed to protect, "Why would they want to purposely do something that makes them feel so sad?"

"Well..." said Alex, struggling to find he right words, a task he was not very good at, "It doesn't really have anything to do with wanting to feel something. Ceremonies like this...Are ways in which people try to say goodbye to those they've lost. And it's hard because...All this death was just so unexpected and sudden. And many of those that died were friends, family, and teammates. Nobody once got a chance to say goodbye...And that's what they're doing now."

Sarah tried to understand the logic behind what Alex was saying, but it wasn't very definitive in any sense. Only part of her question was answered and she was used to being in a world where everything was definitive. It was confusing, yet it made her feel so much more human...Mainly because humans by nature are not meant to fully understand everything.

"But if everybody's dead, then why say goodbye? I thought the dead couldn't hear?" she said, still confused by it all.

Alex, never being a real religious person, didn't know a whole lot about the spiritual. And since this girl had been raised in a lab, it was not surprising that she had no concept of it either. But she still desired answers...She wanted to find meaning behind all this sadness that seemed to surround her. While Alex felt such a question was best left for somebody like Kurt, he once again tried his best to say what he had to in order to give this girl the answers she so sorely sought.

"Just because they're dead...Doesn't mean that part of them is still not alive," replied Alex, only further sparking X23's curiosity.

"What do you mean?" she responded, not seeing how that was logical.

"There are certain...Things that go beyond logic and the physical in this world," continued Alex, choosing his words carefully, "Personally, I really don't know a whole lot about it...But I guess I could say that, we believe there is a spark within all of us that lives on even after our bodies are long dead. We call it a soul...A part of us that never dies. And for everybody that had died in this meaningless war...Everybody that we never got the chance to say goodbye to...We have this ceremony and build for them this little monument so that we can make our peace. You see sadness...But this isn't necessarily an event of sadness."

"Then what is it for?" asked Sarah, as she took in everything that the young man was saying.

"Hope..." answered Alex, "By saying goodbye to the people we've lost...It helps us to always remember them. And in holding onto these precious memories...We take comfort knowing that we've made our peace with them. In the end, it's not something that brings sadness...In the end, it brings hope."

"Hope..." said Sarah as she watched the tears of her new family fill their eyes, "I think I understand."

Alex then wrapped his arm around her waist and hugged her close to him as she struggled with so many things during this very trying time. She didn't get defensive or angry...Instead she took comfort in knowing she had people here that cared about her. Sarah Logan may have been new to this world that she had been brought into...But she sure as hell wasn't alone in learning new things about the mysteries of emotions and the true aspects of life.

As the time slowly passed for the mourning team of mutants, the time soon came for everybody to say one last goodbye and retire to their beds for the night. It had been a very hard time for everybody because it put into perspective just how great a loss they had suffered as a result of this meaningless war. Every person that had died had his or her own personal story to tell. And one thing that they all had in common was that their story was tragically cut short.

As Magneto helped Xavier in, he was soon followed by his son, Pietro. This ceremony along with the past few weeks had put into perspective the change that their world had experienced. For Pietro, he would be the one survivor that would always carry a relic of this war within his body in the form of bullet lodged between his heart and spine. In addition...Facing death had also given him a second chance...The possibility of making good on what he had learned and using that to grow in a way that it had taken his father much longer to. While both he and Wanda still hadn't had a real conversation with Magneto since they were back at the base in Canada, the speed demon managed to smile somewhat at his father's change. He had finally taken a path that he had veered from long ago and he had acted as a father, not an employer or a tyrant, for the first time in his life. While part of Pietro wanted to have a father...He still had to mend his old feelings of bitterness beforehand. But with Wanda by his side and new friends to help him, the possibility of having a family was not at all improbable.

Kitty and Piotr were the next to leave. The Russian Colossus that had once fought against the X-men had grown quite close to his new friends...Kitty in particular. She had been one of the most fascinating girls he had ever come across. Even in their darkest hours, she didn't late herself get completely sucked into the depths of despair. And in showing him that bitterness and anger over the past are not at all ways to move forward, the young valley girl had captivated his mind and heart. While having to go through this difficult time, Kitty often leaned on Piotr for support and smiled at him for being there. Saying goodbye to so many of her friends had been very hard, but knowing that she wasn't alone in her grief helped her cope in a way she couldn't ever have done on her own. And as she began to walk away from the monument...Young Kitty Pryde turned back one more time and whispered one more solemn message for everyone to hear.

"Goodbye..."

Scott, Jean, and Alex were the next to depart. Having lead the team and having watched it grow since they had been a part of it, the goodbye was quite difficult for Scott and Jean. They had been with the X-men since they were 12 years old and it had become a major part of their lives. Seeing the team that had developed immortalized in a stone monument to forever preserve their memories seemed a fitting tribute for those that had died. But it would be hard with so many memories of the good times when they were all still together as a team. However, the meaningless war that they could not control had simply gotten in the way. The tragedy that they had faced was beyond measure, but little could be done to undo such an event. The young, soon to be married couple leaned on each other for support as they said their final goodbyes and made their way back to the mansion with Alex not far behind along with Sarah. However, she stopped halfway when she looked back to see Logan still standing motionlessly over the graves at the monument.

After saying goodbye to Rogue and the rest of their friends, Kurt and Raven also began to leave. But for Logan...He was still standing there, not showing any inclination that he intended to leave. While Kurt returned to the mansion, Mystique had decided to stay and see why Logan was staying. But in seeing his disposition and knowing what she had learned about him in the short time since they had become friends, she decided that it would probably be best to keep her distance for the time being. His new daughter, Sarah, was about to go up to him, but Raven stopped her before she could.

"Give him some time..." she said, "This is something he needs to do on his own."

X23 didn't fight her as she merely stood still and watched Logan as he stood over the sight where Ororo Munroe's body was buried. Originally, the Professor considered shipping her remains back to Africa...But many of the surviving students as well as Evan's parents had argued against that. Ororo's life had been with the X-men. She was in many ways the heart of the teams. Her gentleness and kindness was the living embodiment of the X-men's ideals. And for that, her final resting place would be upon the grounds which she had lived many important years of her life and influenced so many others from the children to her fellow teachers...And Logan was one of them.

For Wolverine, Ororo Munroe had been much more than a teacher and a friend that helped him grow into the man he had become. She had helped him tame the animal that brewed within him and put behind his tortured past as a weapon and a killer. In her homeland, she was a goddess...And to Logan, he never had any doubts about that. He had waited for everybody to leave before he said his peace to the woman that had been such a powerful influence on his life. It still hurt...For he never would get a chance to say what he wanted to in her presence and around her gentle warmth. But even though she was gone, he still wanted to say his peace...He owed her that much.

"Hey Ro...It's me," began Logan, his voice already straining, "I know I'm late. I know I should have been there instead of you. I should be the one in that grave...Not you. If I hadn't convinced you to let me go to Washington in your place...Then maybe you would still be here. The kids need you...You could always give them things that I could never give them. Everyone that ever walked through the doors of the institute...You treated them with a kind of love and gentleness that I always admired. After all the things you did...I don't see how it was possible for anybody NOT to love you. You showed me a lot in all the years I knew you...You showed me so many things that I never..."

Logan had to stop himself as he tried to keep himself from completely breaking down because of this. He never would have imagined this being so hard. Having faced Apocalypse, the Phoenix, and William Stryker...None so much as paled in comparison. Nothing had ever been this painful. As old a man as he was...This was by far the hardest thing he had ever done. He never thought that Ororo would be taken away so soon...So suddenly. He had so many chances to tell her what he wanted to tell her...Yet he foolishly squandered them all. Now...He would never get that chance to let her know while she was still alive. But even if she wasn't alive...He had to let her know somehow. And wherever the weather goddess was right now...Logan hoped that he would hear her before forever returning to the winds and clouds.

"I'm sorry that...I never got a chance to tell you how much you meant to me, Ro..." continued Logan as he pulled himself together, determined to finish saying what he had come here to say, "You know that I ain't all that good with emotions and stuff. But what I felt for you was real...I always knew that, but I never said anything. I had to be Wolverine...Not Logan. But now that you're gone...I realized that it wasn't because I was too tough or cold hearted to come out and say it...It was because I was scared. Yeah...I know...The big bad Wolverine actually scared of something...But it's the truth. You did a lot of things for me Ro...And I guess it was kind of scary for me because I wasn't use to feeling the kinds of things that you made me feel. You see...Everybody that I've ever gotten close to had always ended up disappearing or dying...And I never wanted that to happen to you. But even though I didn't tell you...You were still taken away from this world...Taken away way too soon."

Logan then took a deep breath as he prepared to say what he knew would be the hardest part of his final goodbye to Ororo Munroe.

"I guess...What I'm tryin' to say is...I love you Ororo..." struggled Logan, feeling a strange wave of emotions come over him as he said those words, "I know it sounds corny and you may find it downright laughable...But it's the truth. I was in love with you...And in many ways, I guess I still am. You made me feel things that I had never felt before...Things that I don't think anybody else will ever make me feel again. You'll always be an important part of my life Ro. You helped take the angry, misguided animal that I was...And turn it into a man. My life has meaning and purpose now...And you helped give that to me. And in all the years you helped me with everything that I had been struggling with...Never ONCE did I ever so much as thank you for doing everything you did. I guess...That's what hurts the most now that you're gone. You died not knowing...How grateful I truly am to have met you. A part of me died with you Ro...There's no question about it. But I guess...I can't do anything to change that. All I can do is...Is ask for your forgiveness. I should have told you...I should have let you know. I should have done so many things. Please Ro...Please forgive me. I'm sorry....I'm so sorry..."

Logan then felt tears stream down his eyes like never before. He knew this was going to be hard...But even he couldn't have imagined being so painful to his soul. Always a fragile man when it came to matters of the heart, Logan didn't know how he would ever recover from losing someone that meant so much to him. Ororo, the kids, the mansion...They all meant more to him then he ever could have imagined. Only when somebody took it all away from him did he realize just how much a part of him it was. He was not an animal...He was a man...He was an X-man. And no matter what happened, that's what he would always be at heart. And for that...He owed a very special woman an awful lot.

"Goodbye...Ororo," said Logan as he gently placed a rare, African rose at the base of her grave, "I don't care how long I live...You will always be...My goddess."

He felt a weight lifted from his soul as he finally said what he should have a long time ago. It would always hurt...Not knowing what he and Ororo could have had if he had just opened his heart. But what's done is done...And he could not change that no matter how much it hurt. Logan still had a lot to do here in this world...He had the surviving kids to take care of and protect, he had new friendships to develop, and he had a new daughter to raise after going through the same nightmares he had. There were many reasons for him to live on...But that would always be hard without her guidance and care. Her memory would always be a treasured and her influence would always be a part of him. Dead or alive...Ororo Munroe was a part of his soul now. From that part...He would find his strength when he was weak....He would find his humanity when he lost control...And he would find his heart when he felt alone. Now...He had said goodbye. He didn't know if she had heard him...But if she truly was he goddess that he knew she was...Then she heard every word.

As Logan's tears gradually ceased...He prepared to head back with the others. Then suddenly...He felt a gentle wind sweep across the ridge and gently cool his body from the humid summer heat. It was gentle and peaceful...Cool, yet calm. It caused small ripples upon the lake and gently rustled Logan's hair and the surrounding grass around the graves. Then...Logan turned his gaze to the sky as he felt the gentle wind...And smiled. For in his heart...He knew she had heard him. And maybe this wind was her way of saying goodbye as well.

The deep sense of sorrow and loss seemed somewhat lighter now as Logan began walking back to the institute. Over the ridge, X23 and Mystique were standing there waiting for him. X23 seemed somewhat worried about him...But Mystique was just smiling at him.

"Are you okay Father?" asked X23.

Upon hearing her call him her father...Logan's heart skipped a beat. It was the first time she had called him that...And it felt good...It felt right.

"Yeah...I'm okay darlin'," said Logan as he walked back towards the mansion with Sarah close by his side, "Just had to do something I should have done a long time ago."

Losing so many of the kids he held dear had been a harsh blow to Logan, but now having a kid of his own blood seemed to help fill that empty hole in his heart that he would always carry with him. X23...No, Sarah...Wasn't just some clone. She was in every way that mattered...His daughter. There were many things in this world he wanted to show her...Many things that he wanted to teach her. And for that, this new beginning had for the former living weapons a new hope for the future.

As Sarah went to meet up with the others, Logan just stood back and smiled. Mystique was still beside him and she couldn't help but grin at her friend's expression.

"What's so funny Misty?" asked Logan, noticing her slightly humored look.

"Nothing...It's just that you have gone from angry, steadfast loner to the father of a teenage girl in the span of a month," said Mystique, unable to hold back her laugh.

"And what's your point?"

"God...Help you..." she laughed as she and Logan watched both of their children return to their friends.

Raven Darkholm never thought in a million years that she would find such a compainion in Logan. But here they were...In a new world with many new things. They had both found a connection with each other on that fateful night at the lake. Now they were no longer enemies and they could help each other in ways nobody else could. Raven still had her son while Logan had a new daughter. They both had good reasons to put their past behind them and build a new future for their children to inherit. They were tough, strong, and willing...And whatever came, they would take it on directly.

Logan and Mystique were the last ones to retire to their beds that night. The ceremony was now officially over and the souls of the dead were now left to their eternal rest. Goodbyes had been said...Tears had been shed...And a new world awaited those that would forever use those innocent dead as a source of inspiration in their fight against injustice and ignorance. And as the stars shined brilliantly overhead...The X-men of the new world knew that the spirits of their lost loved ones were smiling down...Thanking them and bestowing upon them their blessings for whatever challenges lay ahead.

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

AN: I know this chapter was a little sad...But I felt it had to be done for the sake of the characters that had died earlier. I know the death was a rather hard part of this story, but it was a vital part. Now that goodbyes have been said, there only remains a few more things to do for the last two chapters of this story! Stay tuned...Parings and relationships will soon come to ahead! It's almost over! This long tale is nearing its end! And in the mean time, I urge you all to review! Please send your comments to me via email or post them on the fanfiction website! Thank you all so much for reading thus far! I wish you all the best!
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