Categories > Cartoons > X-Men: Evolution > Extermination

The Ties That Bind

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: 2006/07/14 - Updated: 2006/07/14 - 8900 words

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Extermination
Chapter 39: The Ties That Bind


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As the new Xavier Institute for Gifted Youngsters neared completion in the late days of August, the time to return to a normal life was fast approaching as the younger students awaited a new school year. Construction had gone very fast thanks to the use of mutant ingenuity and many new additions were made thanks to the generous money that the Federal Government had provided. More dormitories and more advanced security systems designed by Magneto and the Professor would make the school bigger, safer, and more comfortable to future students. And in wake of the horrible attacks that William Stryker had orchestrated, the Professor received numerous calls and applications from concerned parents or guardians about their mutant children. It was clear that in no time at all, the halls of the new institute would be flooded with new students, eager to find their place in the world.

For the new X-men that had helped take down Stryker, it was somewhat strange not living in the midst of a war for a change after two years of animosity...But the shadow of such horrors could never be forgotten. For the families of those that had died in the attacks, the monument erected on the grounds of the institute became somewhat of a pillar of hope. Families such as the Drakes, the Madrox's, and Jubiliee's foster family made their respective pilgrimages to the monument to pay their respects.

In addition to the prospect of new students, the team that had fought so hard together had chosen to stay together after all they had been through. Mystique, not wanting to leave her son and her new friends behind, agreed to become a teacher at the institute for things like self defense emotional support to mutants that have been traumatized by their powers and upbringing. Magneto had also decided to stay with his old friend like he knew he should have all those years ago. Both he and Xavier had now combined their resources both in terms of money and influence to make it so that tragedies such as the meaningless war that killed so many people would never happen again.

Other old friends had also chosen to come to the institute as a result of the impact Stryker's war had on them. Forge, after talking with Kurt, had decided to turn down a very nice job offer from the defense department decided to join the X-men at the institute. His talents for mechanics would help build a new danger room and more advanced facilities then ever before. Another old friend that Scott had contacted, Warren Worthington III, had also decided to move from New York and help out at the institute after Xavier had done so much to help him. In addition to him, Warren brought along with him his girlfriend, Besty Braddock, who was also a mutant and had decided to help out along with him.

It was a truly a new beginning for the X-men as the enemies of yesterday became the friends of today. For Eric Lensherr, seeing everything in a new way as a result of fighting for peace instead of war had been nothing short of therapeutic for him. He had made friends with many of the students such as Scott and Kitty, whom had helped him realized many things during the horrible ordeal. He was slowly working to regain the family he had lost and had made fairly decent strides with his children, Wanda and Pietro. Both had been adjusting quite nicely to the institute as the bonds they developed from the ordeal helped give them a sense of belonging. Pietro, who would always carry the scars of the bullet wounds he had suffered, had become good friends with Alex and Piotr. Wanda, who was still reeling from the truth she had learned about her past, found strength and comfort with people like Mystique, Jean, and especially Kurt. While Pietro was still somewhat weary about Kurt, he did manage to bring out the best in Wanda and was simply glad that he finally had his sister back after all these years. But as for their father...That was still up in the air.

With school looming over the horizon, the students at the Xavier Institute were still left to see if the war had impacted the rest of humanity and their views towards mutants. Already, the institute had received mountains of letters from charity groups, human rights organizations, and ordinary people expressing their sorrow for those that had died and thanking them for freeing the world from William Stryker's iron grip of fear. However, the road to recovery was a long one and it remained to be seen if this new peace would last. However, there remained a great deal of hope for everybody as the structure of the institute was primed to open its doors. There was no doubt that there were other men out there like William Stryker...And it would only be a matter of how they chose to fight such forces that would determine how the generations of the future would live.

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

It was around sunset after another busy day of preparing the institute for its grand opening to mutants everywhere. Much of the students and teachers had chosen to take a much needed breather after working so hard for the past two months. For the Professor and Magneto, they were in the process of welcoming new friends...A vital step on the long, hard road of reconstruction.

"Your students have done a fine job on this new institute Professor," said Warren Worthington III as he stood alongside his girlfriend, Betsy, on the balcony overlooking the back yard and out over the peaceful lake, "They really worked fast."

"Yes...It's remarkable how driven they can be when it comes to a single task," replied Xavier with pride, "They have all worked very hard to rebuild their home and their lives."

"And I guess I also owe you an apology for not being here to help you and your students in their time of need," said the winged mutant in a solemn tone as he thought about the friends he had known that had died in the attacks.

"It was not your fault Warren," said Magneto, whom had been doing a lot over the past hour to help gain the young man's trust after once having tried to forcefully recruit him nearly three years ago, "If you had tried to come here...Stryker would have hunted you down as well."

"I always knew that guy was slime..." said Warren with distain, "I remember meeting him a few times at parties that my family held...And somehow I think he knew I was a mutant because of the hate I saw in his eyes when he looked at me. Now that I look back on it...I wish I could have just stopped him right then and there...And maybe none of this would have ever happened."

"Nobody could have ever predicted that a man of such power could rise with such fury against innocent people...There really was nothing you could have done," said Xavier, seeing the distant look in the winged mutant's eyes.

"He's right luv," said Betsy as she looked out over the lake and towards the ridge where the stone monument resided, "Stryker was going to do what he did one way or another. He was just that sick a man I guess. If I could have been there...I can't say I wouldn't have tried as well, but what's done is done."

"I know..." said Warren as he held his girlfriend's hand tightly in his, "But that doesn't bring back any of the people he killed."

"That is one of the great tragedies of war," said Magneto, speaking from a long lifetime of experience, "Maybe I haven't known it myself after all these years, but I have always been aware of it. War brings death...And death in all forms is a tragedy in some ways. But no tragedy is greater when it is the innocent that fall victim to death in the crossfire of war."

A solemn silence soon came over the four mutants as the sky was bathed in an orange glow as a result of the setting sun.

"But at least for now, I'm glad we can help out like we should have been doing instead of being stuck back in England during this whole ordeal," said Warren.

"And we're very happy to have both you and Ms. Braddock here with us," smiled Xavier.

"So what do you suppose will happen next, now that the institute is almost completed?" asked Betsy.

"That...I don't know," answered Xavier, "In times of recovery, I have found it is best to live each day as it comes. Because there are many things about the world that we don't know...And can't know for that matter. It is all a matter of how we change today that will impact what our world will be tomorrow."

For Magneto, those words had a somewhat deeper meaning because it made him think about his kids. For him, it had been a real roller coaster in the pursuit of his children's trust after having broken it so many times before. But through doing things that he never would have dreamed himself to be doing a mere two years ago, he was slowly making progress. But still...he was an old man and he didn't know exactly how much longer he had left in this world. He had made a promise to Magda on that fateful night under the stars in his darkest hour and he wanted to carry it out.

So without saying a word, he quietly made his leave from the balcony and headed back inside.

"What's with him?" asked Warren, "I still find it hard to believe that this is the same Magneto that once tried to recruit me."

With a smile, Xavier simply shook his head at the young man and woman as they continued to take in this new Magneto that seemed so unlike the old one that the world knew so well.

"No...Not Magneto," said Xavier, "Just Eric..."

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

Wanda Maximoff was making the final touches of the layout in her new room. Pietro was with her, casually talking to her as she made subtle adjustments on this small place in the institute that she would call her own.

"I have to say...These rooms are a hell of a lot more tidy then the old Brotherhood house," said Pietro as Wanda began placing what little pictures she had on her dresser.

"Well to be fair, these rooms have just been built," replied Wanda, "They fresh, new, and clean now...But give them some time and I'll bet they'll be back to the dirty old dumps that I know you must have loved about the old boarding house."

"Hey to be fair...I was the cleanest one there," quipped the speed demon.

"Yeah...Sure you were," said Wanda with a skeptical laugh as she placed the final picture on her dresser.

However, when Pietro saw it...It quickly sparked it interest. Most of the pictures she had were with the others that had been taken throughout the long hard construction of the institute. There was one with Scott and Jean, there was one with her and the Professor, there was one with him, and there was one with her, Kitty, and Mystique...However the last one showed her and Kurt together in a rather close embrace that he saw as a bit disconcerting.

"Hey, I don't remember that picture," said Pietro in his usual rushed tone.

"I don't expect you to," answered Wanda as she looked at the photo with a smile, "Raven took it a few weeks ago."

Seeing Wanda look at the photo of her and Kurt with that strange smile on her face made look as thought the picture had a much deeper meaning than she was willing to let on. Pietro had noticed how Wanda had been growing rather close to Kurt since this whole thing began. Every time he saw her with him, she was usually happier and often smiled more. At first he shrugged it off, then he tried to tell himself that maybe it was because Kurt was Mystique's son and she had always been close with Mystique, but now it looked as though it may be a little bit more than that.

"Wanda...Is there something you're not telling me?" asked Pietro, snapping Wanda out of her momentary daze.

"What?" she said, seeing the rather questioning look on his face.

"Is there something going on between you and fuzzy? I've seen the way you act around him," said Pietro.

"Well of course I do, he's a really great friend," said Wanda, trying to sound more or less ambivalent, but not managing to hide her annoyance, "He helped me in so many ways through the tough times since the attacks that I..."

However, Pietro, being the impatient guy that he was, didn't let her finish.

"That's not what I meant," said Pietro, "I'm talking about whether or not you been...You know, involved with him...Romantically if that's the way you want to say it."

Wanda felt an immediate feeling of embarrassment come over her as her face began to flush red at the notion that her brother had implied. She could not deny that Kurt held a special place in her heart after he helped her overcome the revelation about her past and after he saved Pietro's life. But romantic feelings...Was she even capable of feeling them after the way she had been brought up? Had she been feeling them all this time and not known it? Either way, her response was quick and fairly predicable.

"What?! You don't mean...I," stuttered Wanda, which was a pretty clear sign to Pietro, "What gave you that idea? It's none of your business!"

"Wanda...You do realize that you didn't say no..." smirked Pietro.

"Well then, NO!" she said, but very unconvincingly.

She was beginning to get angry and certain small objects in the room began to shake.

"Hey calm down! I'm just asking..." said Pietro, quickly trying to placate his temperamental sister's anger.

"Well why would you ask me that? Why do you care?" scoffed Wanda.

"You are my sister last time I checked..." quipped Pietro.

"Yeah well that doesn't give you a right to interrogate me about the men in my life and it gives you no right to judge...Especially Kurt."

"Hey! What do you mean by that?" replied Pietro.

"Well he did save your life, didn't he?" reminded Wanda, "He brought you back to life, so doesn't he deserve the benefit of the doubt from you of all people?"

Now Wanda's denial seemed all the more unconvincing as she tried to justify Kurt even though she had claimed to not have romantic feelings for him. Pietro knew a thing or two about lies...And while he didn't have a very good way to respond, he felt he had angered Wanda enough for the day.

"You know what...Fine, I believe you," said Pietro, still in a somewhat skeptical tone, "If you say nothing's going on...Then nothing's going on."

Now Wanda's expression went from one of anger...To one of shock and surprise. Just like that, Pietro had dropped it. It was not a characteristic she would usually not associate with her brother since he was usually one to annoy until he heard what he wanted. But for some reason...He had dropped it. Maybe those ten bullets and a near death experience had knocked some sense into him...But it didn't make Wanda think any less of what he had implied about her and Kurt.

"Well I guess you have everything under control here," said Pietro as he prepared to leave, "As much as I'd like to watch the expression on your face now, I have shit to do in my new room as well."

But as soon as he turned to face the door, but he and Wanda were met with the gaze of their father as he stood in the door. Normally, they both would have frozen...But over the past few months, they had been able to get over that initial response. However, bitterness still lingered between them. But this time, Eric didn't look solemn or angry...He simply smiled at his children as he walked into the room.

"You've done a nice job here Wanda," said Eric as he looked over the layout of his daughter's room, "Raven told me you had a rather fond taste of gothic style."

"What do you want?" said Pietro, not sounding too enthusiastic about their father's presence, but not sounding as threatening as he had in previous times.

Wanda made her way over to him, but at least she had long gotten over the surge of anger she felt every time she saw him thanks to the efforts of both herself and her friends, particularly Kurt and Raven.

"I wanted to talk to you about something," said Eric as he closed the door behind them for more privacy, "It's rather important and I want you both to be a part of it."

Wanda and Pietro chose to stay silent, not responding until they heard what it is he had to say. Ever since the attacks, he had been asking for their forgiveness time and time again only to have them lash out. However, unlike the Magneto of two years ago...He did not let it anger him or dissuade him. He merely kept trying and showed time and time again that he was a different man than before. It had become clear to the Maximoff twins now...But it was still hard getting past what he had done to them. However, Eric hoped to address that very issue with what he had to say now.

"I know these past few months have been rough between us," he said with a sigh, hinting that what he was about to say was going to be rather difficult, "And I can't tell you how proud I am of you two. As much as I know you still resent me for what I've done in the past, I know now that everything takes time. I've done a lot to show you that I've changed and you two have done the same. I just want you to know that I still want to be a part of your lives here at the institute. You see...That night after I told you the truth about what I had done to Wanda, I made a promise under the stars to your mother that I would lay to rest the monster that gave rise to such actions. And you both know that whether I'm Magneto or Eric Lensherr, I am a man of my word. Now I know there's only so much I can do, but there's even more that I can give now that you both know the truth."

The old holocaust survivor that had come so far in just two years then reached into his pocket and pulled out a small array of old pictures and handed them to both of his children. At first they seemed weary, but when they saw them...The Maximoff twins let out a gasp.

"Father..." said Wanda as she looked at the picture with tears welling up in her eyes, "Is this..."

"That...Is your mother...Magda Lensherr," said Eric as he watched his children look over the pictures they should have seen so long ago, "I kept those pictures with me for over 20 years. No matter how angry and bitter I became...They always kept Eric Lensherrr alive in the otherwise hallow shell of a man that was Magneto. For years...Those pictures helped me remember how she died...But in the wake of the events of these past few months, they've helped me remember how she lived."

Pietro, even though he was never one to be emotional, felt himself recall his near death experience when he felt the presence of his mother for the first time. Now, he could have an image to match the heavenly voice that he had heard on that fateful moment. After having nearly died, the speed demon had been granted a new outlook on life. He had almost lost it all and died without ever doing the things he kept putting off like rebuilding his relationship with his sister and fixing the parts of himself that he didn't like. He remembered how in the shadow of death, he had felt blessed by a beautiful, comforting presence...Now as he held these pictures, he felt as though he was experiencing it all over again.

"But...Why are you showing these to us?" asked Pietro, his voice beginning too crack under the strain of his own emotions.

"Because I want you both to have them..." said Eric, "I want you both to know that your mother is still a part of you and is still with you in spirit."

Wanda's initial anger had given way to an overwhelming feeling of joy upon seeing these images of her mother, whom she had so often dreamed about. Her father was right about her looking somewhat like her mother...And it only made it feel more overwhelmed as the full view of her family was now finally before her and for the first time in her life, Wanda felt as though she was completed as a human being.

"But Mag...I mean Father...Why now? Why didn't you show these to us earlier?" asked Wanda with tears beginning to stream down her eyes.

"Because I wanted to wait until you both were ready to share this moment as a family," answered Eric, "I didn't want you to be completely angry or bitter with me when I showed this to you...I wanted you both to remember this experience. You see...I am an old man who has lived many years beyond what a normal being should. I don't know how much time I have left on this world...And I know it took me a long time to finally see things clearly and start making the right choices, but I want to make what time I have left meaningful...For both myself and my children. Even if you both continue to hate me until the day I die...Nothing will change the fact that I am still your father...And I will always love you."

The Maximoff twins never thought they would live to see the day when they would feel like a family again. Even though their mother was long dead...These pictures and the image of her presence almost made it feel as though she was there in the room with them...Smiling for joy at the family she had been taken away from all too soon.

"Those pictures are yours now..." said Eric as he watched both his children take in the moment on the same level as he had, "Maybe...By giving away a large piece of myself, I can show you that I have moved beyond the past. And maybe...It can help you do the same. But even if it doesn't...At least know that these pictures show that not a day goes by that I don't think about my love for Magda and my family. I let many things get in the way before...But not now...And never again. That...I promise to both Magda and you."

Few things could have ever made what this man did forgivable...But from what he had shown them and what he had expressed, the twins that had endured so much hardship together and as individuals finally began to believe that there was hope for them as a family. For Wanda, she remembered how Kurt's words on forgiveness had made her think constantly about her father and how being a part of her life would affect her world. For Pietro, the old promises that he had made many times before in the past to be a family again were finally coming to pass after so many years of betrayal and false hope.

Now, as they both held the pictures of their long dead mother in their hands...They felt her spirit give them strength to overcome anything life threw at them from this point forwards. They had lost a lot as a result from the attacks...But ironically, they also managed to get something back because of them. And to them, no value could ever fully describe its importance...Or its power.

While grasping the picture in her hand and feeling the tears in her eyes...Wanda suddenly came forward and embraced her estranged father. The surprise of this action nearly overwhelmed Eric, but he managed to return her embrace and soon found himself hugging her back...Taking in the feeling of having his daughter in his arms once again.

"Daddy...I'm so sorry..." said Wanda as she began to cry into his shoulder.

"Shh...It's okay...You have absolutely nothing to be sorry for Wanda," said Eric softly, "I'm just glad...To have my little girl back."

Pietro was still fixed on the picture he now held in his hand. The eyes of his mother stared back at him with their penetrating gaze and her warm smile was enough to make even the most apathetic of people break down in tears. Upon seeing how his sister had accepted their father's words...Pietro Maximoff finally felt himself give way to that which he had been holding in under the guise of a cocky, arrogant shell and let it all out as he soon embraced his father as well...Feeling as thought this time...He kept his promise.

"We're a family again..." Pietro mused as he took in the moment, knowing that somewhere his mother was smiling down upon them.

"Yes...Family...Now and forever," said Eric as he let his emotions take over him and smiled at what he had finally accomplished after so many years.

For Wanda, it was a feeling like no other. She had found the strength to forgive and so had her brother. She had nearly had it all taken away at one point...Now here she was, finally feeling whole again. And even though both her father and brother played a large role in that...There was one person, however, she owed the most to.

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Kurt Wagner proudly put the finishing touches on his new room as he lay back on his bed. It had been a long hard road up to this point...But now it was finally over. Here he was now lying on his bed...Wondering what the future had in store for him. Looking over at his dresser, he saw some of the pictures he had set up throughout his room. While most of his old photos had been destroyed, many of these new photos helped fill the void left by their loss. One of the pictures he had come to value most was his picture of him and his mother standing together...Smiling. He finally had a relationship with his mother that he could treasure. And even though Rogue was gone...It didn't mean that he had to lose what family he had left. Now, his mother was the only blood family he had left...And he looked forward to having the relationship with her that they had both missed.

As his eyes drifted over his pictures once more...His gaze soon came upon the one of him and Wanda that was taken a few weeks ago. He smiled at the recollection of what he had experienced with her through the horrible attacks that had done so much taint the world he lived in. She was someone who truly understood him and knew how it felt to live the kind of life he had. There were few people that could ever relate to him...And hew was grateful that he had Wanda in his life. Memories of the kisses that they had shared were still somewhat confusing and to this day, he still tried to understand their meaning. But as he was soon lot in his thoughts, he was suddenly brought out of his daze by a sudden knock at his door.

"Kurt?" said a familiar voice, "Are you there?"

"Vanda?" said Kurt as he sat up on the side of his bed, "Uh...Ja, come in."

Wanda then entered his room, carefully closing the door behind her as she made her way over to the side of his bed. She had just come from her room and was still reeling somewhat from the emotional conversation she had just had with her father. The stains of tears were still strewn along her face and Kurt soon picked up on them and quickly became concerned.

"Is something wrong?" he asked, "Did something happen?"

Wanda simply smiled at her fuzzy friend, assuring him that all was well as she took his hand in hers and gave it a gentle squeeze.

"Yes...Everything is fine," she said confidently as she felt Kurt's soft fur within her hand, "I just came to tell you that...I had a talk with my father."

Kurt was definitely surprised by this because he knew how Wanda and Pietro had been avoiding him since their return. But judging by the look on her face...It had not been harsh or trying like previous times. No...This time seemed different.

"Vell...Vhat happened?" asked Kurt intently.

Wanda simply gave his hand another squeeze as a warm smile spread across her face that made Kurt feel a sudden weakness in his stomach.

"He showed me...Not just in simple words...What I wish I could have seen a long time ago," she struggled, still reeling from the whole experience, "Both me and my brother...Finally saw what we had been ignoring. But like Pietro once said...Stubbornness kind of runs in the family. I...I found the strength to forgive him...And so did Pietro."

"Really? That's vonderful Wanda!" exclaimed Kurt, seeing the joy in her expression.

"I know...I think we may finally be a family again," said Wanda, even though uncertainty still hung strong, but hope remained stronger, "And for that...I have you to thank in many ways."

"Vhat? Me?" said Kurt in a shocked tone, "Vhy vould you think I had anything to do vith it? It vas all done by you..."

"No...It wasn't," said Wanda as she shook her head, "Since this whole thing began...You were the one that helped me keep it together even when things seemed to fall apart around me. You saved my brother...You helped me after I learned the truth about my past...And you taught me that it's possible to forgive. Because of you...I finally don't feel so alone in this world in dealing with the kind of things that I thought nobody else had to deal with. Around you...I'm not afraid. And now because of all the things you've taught me...I found the strength to forgive my father...And be a family again. And for that...I don't know how I'm ever going to thank you."

Kurt was rendered speechless by Wanda Maximoff's words. The subtle grip on his hand grew tighter as she moved in closer to him and began to run her hand down his fuzzy cheek. Kurt's heart was now racing. He could feel it beating as though it was trying to burst out of his chest. He tried to say something...But it was as if he had forgotten how to form words.

For Wanda, the warmth she felt in his presence was one that nobody else could match. Ever since that fateful night their paths crossed in wake of the attacks...She had found herself more and more drawn to this boy. He had done a lot for her and had asked for little in return other than someone who understood him. Now...They understood each other...And they had connected with each other. The young woman that had once spent time in an insane asylum now felt crazier than ever as all the struggles that had plagued her as a result of meeting Kurt finally came to ahead as she took a deep breath and prepared to say what she so deeply wanted to.

"Kurt...You were there for me when nobody else was," she began, "You told me how you felt that few people understood you...But you know now that I understand you. I know how it feels to live the life you've lived...Stuck in a prison that you can't escape from. And you understand me...Probably better than anybody else. And...I...I don't want to scare you or anything but...I think...I think I may be falling in love with you."

Wanda struggled through those final words...But now she had said them. Her heart rate was now beating uncontrollably and her mind was in a state of disbelief. She had finally come to see what it was about her connection with Kurt that had seemed so strong and so powerful. It was a true first...Her falling in love with someone. Her...The Scarlet Witch succumbing to the emotions that she once that had died within her long ago. But being in the presence of this boy...No, young man...Just made her feel things that she never thought possible. She didn't expect a response...But Kurt wouldn't let her words go unanswered.

"Wanda..." he said softly as he cupped her face with his soft hands.

Kurt was still finding it hard to put into words what he was feeling at the moment with her upon hearing what she had said. She said she was in LOVE with him...This beautiful young woman that had lived through so much hardship was in love with him...A young man who looked like a demon. Amanda had seen past that...But only Wanda truly understood it.

And if he couldn't find the words...Kurt would simply let his actions do all the talking for him. Slowly...His face drifted towards her and he captured her lips with his as they met in a soft kiss. Wanda's fears and anxiety were quickly overpowered by Kurt's actions as she felt him take her in his arms and hold her close in a deep, loving way. Her body now felt warm all over as she fell back onto the bed with him as they lay side by side, still kissing each other deeply and thoroughly. Wanda soon found herself lift one of her legs and wrap it around him, causing Kurt to respond by gently trailing his soft, flexible tail up her body.

As the passion of the moment subsided...Kurt finally managed to speak, finding the strength in her passionate eyes to overcome the paralyzing feeling of her powerful presence.

"You really are unlike any girl I have ever met before..." said Kurt, "You accept me...You understand me. I never thought that...That anybody could ever love a demon like me...Especially not somebody like you."

"Kurt..." she began, but he quickly cut her off.

"But you have proven me wrong..." he said softly as he gently ran his hands through her short hair, "You make me feel things that...I just can't describe vith words. Maybe I am just as confused at times as you are...But now I know that all this time I struggled to understand what it is you did for me...It was because I was falling in love with you too. I just...I vish...I vish I could..."

But Wanda soon silenced him as she gently placed two fingers on his lips. It was clear that neither of them was the best with words and actions spoke far more volumes. And because of this...They kissed again...This time without the confusion or uncertainty that they had felt the previous times. Instead...It was done out of true, honest affection.

Wanda was the daughter of Magneto...Kurt was the son of Mystique...And they had found a common bond with one another. Kurt had lost his sister and Wanda had learned the true horror of her past, but they had helped each other through each challenge and fought alongside one another. They were no longer enemies...And they were now more than friends. They had found connection with one another that many searched for, but few ever find. And as they lay on the bed kissing gently, yet not holding back their passion...Both Kurt Wagner and Wanda Maximoff finally felt as though they had found the peace and solstice with each other that they both so deeply yearned.

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

With the halls of the new institute falling quieter by the minute, Kitty Pryde appeared to be the last one not in her room. It had been a long day for her and the rest of her friends and she was looking forward to some much needed rest. Ever the war had ended, Kitty had been on and off the phone with her parents like Jean had constantly reassuring them that she was okay. It had been an emotional moment for her since there were many points when she thought that she would never get to see her parents again. At one point, they even believed her to be dead...But thankfully she had met up with them to help lay their fears to rest.

As she went down the hall to her room, she noticed that only one of the many rooms remained illuminated by lights. Most of the rooms may have been empty because they were reserved for new students, so it sparked the young valley girl's curiosity. As she drew near, the faint smell of paint filled the air and a slow smile spread across Kitty's face because she knew that there was only one person that could possibly be up this late painting.

"Peter?" asked Kitty as she gently opened the door, "Are you still up?"

"Ah...Katya," smiled the Russian as he turned away from his canvas, "I didn't know anybody was still up."

"Me neither," said Kitty, "Are you still working on that painting you won't let any of us see?"

"Actually...I've spent most of the night putting the finishing touches on it. It is why I have yet to go to sleep. For some reason, every time I get close to finishing a piece of art I forget entirely about the need to sleep."

"Well...If you're done, can I see it?" asked Kitty eagerly.

"Of course...But please don't be too critical," warned the Russian, "I may have to make more adjustments in the morning."

Kitty then walked over to the other side of his bed where his canvas was hidden from view and when she laid eyes on it...She let out a gasp of amazement at what she saw.

"Oh wow...Peter...Its beautiful!" she said as she took in the painting.

In a dynamic sea of color, Piotr had made a beautiful painting of the completed Xavier Institute in the light of a beautiful sunset. Kitty walked in closer only to see just how vivid and thorough Colossus had been. Every color, every stroke, and every conceivable detail was carefully and thoughtfully portrayed from the grand entrance doors to the small bushes that lay along the front walls of the institute. Kitty had always loved the art in school and seeing this was like seeing a painting one would view at an exclusive gallery. She looked back at Piotr and then back at the painting.

"I...Really don't know how to describe it," said Kitty as she looked at the work that this man had done, "You have real talent!"

"You really think so?" asked the Russian, surprised by the young girl's enthusiasm.

"I know so!" said Kitty, "I think the Professor will be really honored by this and he'll want to hang this in the grand hall for everybody to see."

"Well I definitely owe the man for all he's done for me. Because of him and, I hate to say, Magneto, my family is finally safe from my country's government. My mother is in fine health once more and my sister will finally get a chance to go to school."

"Do you plan on moving back to Russia with you family?" asked Kitty with somewhat of a longing look in her deep blue eyes that made the strong Russian feel somewhat funny inside.

"Well...I talked about that with my mother and father," said Piotr, "And they think...That I can do more good here in America with my new friends. And I guess I agree with them...So I'm going to stay here."

"That's great!" chirped Kitty, "I'll show you everything America has to offer. There's the mall, the restaurants, and a ton of art galleries that I'm sure you'll be interested in. Hey, maybe there's some stuff you can submit!"

"I...Uh..." stuttered the Russian, "I don't think I'm THAT good. Galleries have very high standards now a days."

"Oh come on!" urged Kitty with a smile as something caught her eye on his dresser, "You definitely have the talent for it. Hey! Maybe you can submit something in this sketchbook!"

"Katya wait!" said the Russian, but unfortunately Kitty didn't listen to him.

The young girl proceeded to grab the sketchbook and thumb through it. At first it seemed that there were many pictures of his family and of landscapes...Then she saw something completely unexpected...Something that caused her to freeze in her place.

"Peter..." she said softly as she looked at one of his sketches, "What...When did you do this?"

The strong Russian mutant that had the capability to bend solid steel beams with his bare hands felt as if all the blood in his body was rushing to his face. Normally, he wouldn't have minded showing his friends his sketches...But for Kitty, there was one sketch he didn't want her to see...And for good reason.

The picture that he had drawn was a fine, detailed sketch of Kitty's face...But unlike the sketches on the other pages, this one had many minute details and had shown greater levels of attention than the others. The effort that he put into this sketch was apparent and showed a level of heart in the piece unlike anything she had ever seen before. Her face, her eyes, her hair...It was beautiful. And at the lower right hand margin at the bottom of the picture...It simply read one word...Katya.

"I...I drew that not long after work began on the institute," said Piotr scratching the back of his head despite his embarrassment, "I'm sorry I didn't ask you but..."

"It's beautiful..." she said, cutting him off in mid sentence.

"What?" said the Russian in a surprised tone.

"It's beautiful..." repeated Kitty, "I love it. I...I'm honored that you drew it because it just...It looks like you put a lot into it."

"Well it's only as good as its inspiration," smiled the Russian as Kitty looked back up at the blushing man before her with a wide smile, showing just how touched she was that he had done this.

"Well...Thank you," said Kitty who was at a rare loss for words, "I don't know what else to say."

Kitty Pryde seldom ever found herself rendered speechless. But in seeing what this man had done with her face in a simple sketch struck a chord within her. Ever since their paths had crossed, he had shown that he had a truly wonderful heart. He was the tall, dark, shy man that protected everybody that was close to him. He was tightly bound by his word and by his duty whether it be as family or as an X-man. She had found herself always drawn to him, being as how he showed a level of kindness and thoughtfulness that she hadn't known existed. Now...In seeing how he had forever immortalized her face in a simple drawing...She honestly felt overwhelmed in every sense of the word.

"You may have it if you like," said Piotr as he managed to push aside his embarrassment and keep his cool around this girl that so often surprised him.

"You mean it?" said Kitty with her wide, light blue eyes staring back at him with all their luster.

"Of course...It is you that inspired it after all. It would be only fair that you would best enjoy it," said Piotr.

"Wow..." said Kitty as she ran her hands over the beautiful sketch, "Thank you...Nobody has ever done something like this for me...Ever."

A thought then ran through Piotr's head as he tried to maintain his composure...But not really doing a good job of it from Kitty's standpoint.

"Well if you want me to make others...I would be more than happy to draw you in a more deserving way," said Piotr as he walked up closer to her and gently ran his hands down the soft contours of her face, "There's so much detail and beauty that I would love to capture with you. I hardly think I can fully bring it all out in one sketch."

Now, Kitty was the one who was blushing. For such a strong man that could lift a fully loaded tank over his head...His touch was so soft on so caring. Kitty felt herself go weak in the knees and she tried to stop her heart from beating its way out of her chest. Looking up at this strong, powerful man...She felt safe, comforted, and many other things that she couldn't put into words.

"Do you really think I'm that beautiful?" asked Kitty, trying to manage what she could before her legs gave way.

"Of course I do...And you are beautiful. Don't let anybody else tell you otherwise," said Piotr as he gave her a warm, reassuring smile, "Because if they do...Then they have to answer to me."

"So I guess that makes you my knight in shining armor...Literally," smiled Kitty as she unknowingly found her face drifting closer and closer to his.

"Well I...Guess so," stammered Piotr as every muscle in his powerful body suddenly tensed.

Then, before either of them could say anything else...Their lips met in a soft kiss. The tall, strong Russian wrapped his powerful arms around the petite young woman...As if to hold and protect her from anything the world could possibly throw. Kitty felt so safe with him...So protected and loved. She had met this man two years ago...And only now as she came to see the true extent of his heart did she feel a wonderful new sensation that gave her mind comfort and assurance that she was safe. For Piotr, it was amazing how a single girl could have such an impact on him. Time and time again, she surprised him with her heart and forever captivated his imagination in a way almost too fantastic to explain. As Kitty Pryde and Piotr Rasputin continued to kiss, a wondrous feeling of contentment washed over them...And they felt assured in the future now, for they had experienced the great hope it had to offer through one act and one moment that promised to forever alter their lives. It was strange that one simple connection had led to one that was many times deeper. But if there was one thing that the events of the past few months had taught them...It was that sometimes, the most unexpected things could enter one's life and change it forever.

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

That night...The rest of the mansion slept soundly knowing that the time to open the doors of the institute to a new generation was fast approaching. After surviving such a devastating war and losing many good friends and family, many lessons had been learned by all of them about how they would fight for a better future. Before, they were divided and conflicted...Now, they were united and driven to make it so great tragedies like the horrible loss of life that they had experienced on that fateful night would never happen again. Some ideas would have to change while others would have to be upheld. But for Professor Charles Xavier...He went to sleep that night comforted in knowing that the future generations of both mutant and human alike would be in good hands. For Eric Lensherr...It was a new beginning and a new goal for him...A goal that was sealed by a promise to his late wife, whom he would miss every day until he hopefully joined her...Even if it were only briefly.

For the Maximoff twins, they had endured heartache and split for so long...But now they were a family again. Wanda and Pietro were brother and sister again...And Eric Lensherr was their father. And for the first time in a long while...They were proud to have it that way.

For Kurt Wagner and Raven Darkholm, the loss of Rogue would always hurt. But they were the only family they each had left now...And they were determined not to lose it. For Mystique, she had a new sense of being with new friends and a better relationship with her son. For Kurt, he had a piece of his heart back to help fill the void left by Rogue's death and he had the support of Wanda Maximoff...The one who finally gave him that which he had been seeking for so long now...Understanding.

For Alex Summers, life had always been met with unexpected turns. Thrills were a part of him and he lived life knowing that death could come at any instant. But to him...It only made him treasure that which he had survived and appreciate what he still had. As a new X-man...He would have a chance to be closer to his brother, to start anew, and to truly make a difference in the world.

For Logan and X23, they had found each other after being separated and drawn apart by many forces beyond their control. They both had the same blood coursing through their veins. Before, neither of them ever had any family that they could call their own...But now they finally had something. They finally had the family that they had so yearned for...Yet had never been able to find. As loners by nature...It would be a new world for them to experience. But as father and daughter...They finally found peace.

For Kitty Pryde, the innocence of the times before the attacks was now gone forever. As a young woman with many years ahead of her...The war had deeply affected her. But thanks to the help and care of her friends...And the caring heart of one Piotr Rasputin, William Stryker and his meaningless war would never taint her.

For Scott Summers and Jean Grey...Two people that shared a bond beyond description...The war would always remind them of what they truly lost that day. Since that fateful day they met at age twelve...They had survived many things...High school, Apocalypse, the Phoenix, and William Stryker. But in doing so it only further strengthened the bond they shared and no matter what happened...It would link their minds, hearts, and souls now and forever. Many new things awaited them now, both as a couple and as individuals. They knew that if they had kids after they got married, they'll be mutants and they would face the same kind of prejudice that they had faced. But together...They knew they could overcome it and build a better tomorrow.

For all the X-men, they had lost and gained something as a result of the war...But only time would tell just how great an impact the war would have on future generations. Every war left its mark in history and as everybody in the Xavier Institute slept, they couldn't help but wonder...What kind of mark on history would this war leave?

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

AN: Well, that's it! Only one chapter left now! 40 chapters...Man, what a story! I know how I said that this story would be long...But every story must come to an end at one point and this is no exception. One last note is left to be said...One last matter is left to be addressed before I close the book on this long, eventful story. The road has been long and hard and wrought with tragedy, action, drama, and suspense...But it's all about to end soon folks! Stay tuned...For the very last chapter of "Extermination!" You won't want to miss it! But don't forget...REVIEW! Send them to me via email or post them on the fanfiction website! There is only one chapter left, so review before it is too late! Thank you all very much for reading and I wish you all the best.
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