While still struggling with the Phoenix, a mysterious force is plaguing Scott Summers and it's a force that's frighteningly similar. In addition, a powerful warrior becomes involved and the Xmen fa...
Chapter 10: Missing Pieces
They were falling through an endless void that seemed to lead nowhere in a vast breath of nothingness. Everything around Phoenix and the X-men was a dark, shadowy red. Whatever this mist was, it was taking them somewhere. And judging from the feel of things, it wasn't going to be anywhere pleasant.
"WHAT'S GOING ON?!" yelled Ororo as she struggled to get a grip on this sudden degradation reality.
"I DON'T KNOW! BUT I THINK I'M GOING TO BE SICK!" yelled Jubilee.
"HOLD ON X-MEN!" urged the Professor, who had Hank and Emma sticking close to him so his hover chair didn't fly off, "IF THIS IS WHAT I THINK IT IS, THEN IT'LL ALL BE OVER SOON!"
"Ugh...Not soon enough!" groaned Amanda as she struggled to hold her lunch down.
The only person who didn't seem affected by this was the Phoenix. She fell into a strange daze, just hovering there with a fiery look in her eyes. She looked neither enraged nor impassioned. She looked indifferent to it all, staring off into space as if she could see something the others couldn't.
"The power...The crystal...Everything that is missing. I...I feel it!"
This certainly did not go unnoticed by Scott, who was tightly hugging his little girl as she clung to him for dear life. He could sense something brewing within his wife through their link, but his mortal mind couldn't even begin to comprehend what it was.
"Daddy I'm scared," cried Rachel, keeping her eyes closed as they fell through the mist.
"I know, sweetheart...I know," he said softly, holding her close, "Daddy's scared too."
Then finally, a new surface formed beneath their feet, abruptly halting the feeling of falling through a void. It was a crude shock to the system, but as they felt solid ground again, the X-men let out a sigh of relief.
However, this relief didn't last as a new voice clued them in to where they were.
"Excellent job, Selene," said the well cultured voice of Sebastian Shaw as he stood besides Black Queen, "It appears your spell really did the trick."
"And you doubted my abilities," she scoffed, "But it looks like my summoning spell picked up a few rats."
"A minor inconvenience," said the Black King confidently, "Now we have the power to squash them like the insects they are."
With a mantra of groans, the X-men returned to their feet only to see that their surroundings were far from comfortable. They were in the depths of another Hellfire stronghold, probably deep within the core from the looks of it. The area was laid out like a cathedral of sorts, only instead of holy imagery everything was wrought with occult symbolism and depictions of the Phoenix.
And at the head of the room, a shrine-like structure stood where Selene and the M'krann crystal controlled it all.
"Shaw! Selene!" yelled Emma in a rage.
"Glad you could join us, my dear. You're just in time," said Shaw, a snide grin forming across his face.
"Spare me the sweet talk!" she spat as she took on her diamond form, "When I get through with you're..."
But the White Queen didn't get a chance to finish as Selene's eyes suddenly glowed in a fiery red glance and raised her hand over the M'krann crystal, causing it to shoot a bolt of energy that sent Emma flying with a force that would have left any other living thing a splattered mess.
"Emma!" exclaimed the Professor as he watched his former student take the harsh blow.
"Relax, Xavier. You're little bitch is fine," said Selene coldly, "Besides, I want all of you alive for what I'm about to accomplish."
"Ah don't think so, lady!" yelled Rogue as she and the others prepared to fight back.
"The only thing you'll be accomplishing today is a one way trip to the emergency room!" shouted Bobby as he took his ice form.
"More like the morgue!" growled Logan, his claws drawn and ready for blood.
"All together now, X-men!" yelled Scott, keeping Rachel safely by his side, "Attack!"
In a show of full force, Cyclops, Iceman, Jubilee, Gambit, Daytripper, and Storm concentrated their firepower on Selene and Shaw. In a hail of optic blasts, ice blasts, fireworks, charged cards, force bolts, and lighting, the X-men refused to hold back. The stakes were too high and their time was too short. This had to end.
While the others attacked from the distance, Wolverine, Rogue, Beast, Shadowcat, Colossus, and Nightcrawler all charged the shrine, bent on leaving nothing to chance. Yet despite all this force, neither Selene nor Shaw seemed threatened by it.
"Pathetic," scoffed the Black Queen.
None of the blasts got through. The ever resourceful Black Queen had prepared for as such, using the power of the M'krann crystal to protect her, Shaw, and her materials in an impenetrable shell of energy. Not a dent was made by their blasts and those who had charged them banged helplessly on the barrier.
"You sick bitch! Come on out and fight!" growled Logan as he tried to cut through the shell with his claws.
"Yeah, stop hiding and face us!" yelled Kitty as she tried to phase through the barrier, but to no avail.
"Honestly X-men, do you think you'll win like this?" laughed Shaw as he watched them struggle in vain.
Yet despite his words, they kept on pounding on the barrier. Even the super strength of Colossus and Beast couldn't do anything to stop this. Kurt and Amanda tried teleporting inside, but some unseen force was keeping them out.
"This...Isn't...Working!" grunted Colossus in frustration.
"Don't let up, team!" yelled Cyclop as he turned up the power of his optic blasts, "We can't let them finish the ritual!"
"Ah, but that's where you're wrong boy!" said Selene with an insidious grin, "You little shits are too late! The power is already ours!"
As if to prove her point, Selene took the M'krann crystal in her hands and held it up. Suddenly, it started glowing even brighter, causing the X-men to hold off on their attack. Then, in a show of immense force, a powerful shockwave was unleashed that sent them flying.
The only one who wasn't affected by this blast was the Phoenix, who remained in a strange trance as she hovered before the shrine, still fixated on the glowing crystal.
"Ugh...That attack definitely could have gone better," groaned Beast.
"Tell me somethin' Ah don't know," said Rogue as Remy helped her up, "What's happenin' now? What's goin' on with Jean?"
Scott, who had protected Rachel from the shockwave with his body, was still reeling as he set aside his pain and focused on his entranced wife. He could feel her mind slipping away and succumbing to this great power that had possessed her. Whatever Selene's spell was doing, it was erasing the presence of Jean Grey and asserting control over the Phoenix.
"No! Jean!" yelled Scott, trying to reach out to her through their link.
"Scott wait!" said Ororo as she and Logan held him and Rachel back.
"No! I won't!" he yelled in defiance as Logan maintained a strong grip, "They're doing something! I can feel Jean slipping away!"
"Mommy! The monster! It's hurting her!" yelled Rachel, who was being held by Ororo.
Whatever Scott was sensing was soon felt by Xavier. And much to his horror, it was doing exactly as Scott described. It was destroying Jean and every piece of her consciousness, leaving only a shell of immense power for the forces of Hellfire to wield.
"Good God...She's really going to do it," gasped the Professor, "They're really going to take the power of the Phoenix for themselves."
The X-men had faced some terrible foes, but none had been anything like this. Someone they all loved and cherished had become something so horrible that no mortal mind could ascertain it. But here they were, powerless to do anything. Hellfire was going to win. The Phoenix was going to destroy Jean Grey forever.
"We...We can't let them win!" struggled Emma, still fighting the sting from the blow she suffered.
"Too late my dear," said Shaw with a snide grin, "You of all people should know that Hellfire always wins."
It was almost over. Selene was ready to finish the final task. She was still in the safety of the energy shell as she approached the hovering Phoenix with the M'krann crystal in hand. Shaw was beside her in a ceremonial fashion, walking by his Black Queen in triumph.
"The time has come, Phoenix!" proclaimed Selene as she held the glowing crystal high, "After centuries of wandering, it is time to reclaim your proper place among great powers! Jean Grey has served her purpose! Now it is time to finish what we have started! And with the power of this holy relic, I order the mortal medium of this great power be extinguished and leave the completed power of the Phoenix to be free once more!"
"Extinguished?!" exclaimed Kurt, "Zhey're going to kill her!"
"I know, Nightcrawler," said Xavier, feeling at a total loss, "It's something that must be done in order for the Phoenix to become balanced again."
"NO!" yelled Scott, trying to fight Logan to let him go, "I WON'T LET THAT THING TAKE HER! JEAN! JEAN!!!"
"Scott please!" yelled Beast, who was forced to aid Logan in restraining their desperate leader.
"No...Please...My wife," he cried, not wanting to lose the woman he loved.
These scary words hit Rachel hard. Tears were streaming down her face as she clung to her Aunty Ororo. The monster was hurting mommy. It was making daddy cry. It was making everybody feel pain. She couldn't take this. She couldn't lose her mommy. And even as the two scary people with the glowing crystal stood in triumph, the little girl refused to let her mommy go.
"Mommy!" she yelled, finally managing to break free of Ororo's grasp.
"Rachel!" yelled Scott, also breaking free from Logan and Hank.
"No!" exclaimed Xavier, almost falling out of his hover chair, only to be caught by Emma Frost.
"YES!" said Selene victoriously as the intense glow of the crystal drew in flames from the Phoenix, "The power! The passion! The rage!"
There was nothing they could do now other than take cover. Rogue clung to Remy and pulled him back to take cover, Colossus instinctively shielded Kitty with his body, Kurt grabbed Amanda and teleported her back towards the Professor, Hank led the paralyzed Bobby and Jubilee away from the light, and Logan and Ororo fell to the ground, holding one another as the fires around the Phoenix swirled through the room in a whirlwind.
Yet through this intense maelstrom, little Rachel Summers remained unafraid as she ran to the light and called out to her mommy.
"Mommy! Mommy, please! Don't let the monster take you! Don't leave me and daddy!"
The sound of this voice seemed to strike the Phoenix in a way not even the M'krann crystal could. Yet still, its power was being sucked into the cosmic relic that now lay in the hands of the forces of Hellfire. But as the being known as Phoenix turned to see the crying little girl, something happened deep within her being.
"Mommy..." she cried as she looked back up at those fiery eyes.
"Rachel!" yelled Scott as he scooped her up in his arms, now standing with his daughter as he looked back up at his fiery wife.
The fiery flow of the Phoenix's power started to destabilize, but Selene held it steady, trying to maintain her dominance. However, even she couldn't have foreseen the impact that these two fateful souls would have. They were Scott and Rachel Summers...Jean Grey's family. And like it or not, Jean Grey was a part of the Phoenix.
"Jean..." said a desperate Scott Summers as he tightly hugged his little girl, "Please..."
And with those words, the fiery rage in the eyes of the Phoenix intensified as her fists clenched in a furious manner.
"My...My love. I must...FIGHT!"
Suddenly, the fires of the Phoenix redirected themselves and began retruning to their true source. The glow of the M'krann crystal was beginning to fade and Selene could feel the power slipping away.
"Selene! What in the bloody hell is going on?!" yelled Shaw as the energy shell that had been protecting them started to fade.
Selene let out a grunt of frustration, struggling to reassert her control over the Phoenix's power. But whatever was going on inside her, it was too stronger and the longer it went on, the weaker her grip on this power became.
"NO! It's not possible! The Phoenix, it's...It's rejecting the crystal!"
"Then fix it, damn it! You're the one with the crystal!" shot an angry Black King.
As Selene waged a losing battle against the Phoenix, the X-men regained their demeanor as they watched the cosmic fires collect inside the Phoenix. Her angry cries of rang out through the area. Nobody knew what was going to happen, but Jean Grey was not going quietly.
"Jeannie...Chuck, what the hell is going on?" said Logan as he turned to the dazed Professor.
"Honestly Logan...I don't know. I really, truly don't know."
"This...This can't be!" said Emma, not believing what she was seeing, "The crystal is the key! The Phoenix can't reject it!"
"You're right, Emma...It can't," said Xavier as his mind began to catch up with what was going on, "That is...Unless the crystal isn't a key at all."
This earned him a strange look from Emma and Hank, but they didn't have time to consider those words as the fires radiated with increasing brightness. And by the time they were all back in their proper place, a booming voice made itself known and showed Shaw and Selene the true power they were dealing with.
"I am nobody's tool! I am nobody's power! I am fire incarnate! I am passion in its greatest form! I am and shall forever be...PHOENIX!"
"No!" said Shaw in disbelief.
"You stupid bitch!" yelled Selene, still holding the crystal firmly, "You can't disobey me! You can't run away from your destiny! You WILL cede to my authority! YOU WILL FULFILL YOUR ROLE!"
Facing the two power hungry tyrants who had caused her so much pain, the Phoenix's rage erupted in a halo of fire, reverting back to her Dark Phoenix outfit that the others had come to so deeply dread. Only this time, her infinite rage was focused on Selene and Shaw.
"You...You used me!"
Then, with a flick of the wrist, the energy shell that had protected the Black King and Queen shattered, leaving them completely exposed and at the mercy of this raging entity.
"That's my queue!" said Shaw as he turned to make a break for it.
"Not so fast, coward!"
Suddenly, the Black King was lifted off the ground by an unseen force and before he could begin to struggle, his whole body erupted into flames.
"You think you can absorb any force? See if you can absorb the power of the cosmos!"
Every ounce of his flesh was charred as if it were timber. He screamed and wailed, until finally there was nothing left but ashes. And the Black King was no more.
"Shaw...You fool!" said Selene, taking a step back, her eyes locked upon the angry entity before her.
"He's not the only one, Black Queen! You may have lived many times beyond a mere mortal, but you are still mortal!"
Then, like Shaw, Selene was lifted off the ground, leaving her paralyzed to the infinite wrath of the Phoenix. This time, Scott covered the eyes of his daughter, shielding her from what he knew would happen next.
"You sought the power of the cosmos! You attempted to wield it on your own! Yet you of all people should have known that power like mine can only be wielded by those who are strong. And you, Selene, are as weak as the people whose souls you have stolen!"
The Black Queen erupted in a ball of holy flame, her body that had defied the ages burning away to ash and dust. After having stolen the life energy of others, her very being was annihilated by the very power she sought so desperately to control. And as her once proud form dissolved, all that was left in the Phoenix was rage.
"Oh boy, here we go again!" said Jubilee as she watched the fires of the Phoenix become more chaotic.
"Chuck! She's going nuclear again!" yelled Logan as flares shot out from her being and impacted anything unlucky enough to be in it's path.
"I take it dis means we hit de deck!" said Gambit as he and Rogue hit the floor to avoid the flares.
"Oh really? You think?!" exclaimed Bobby.
"Don't have to tell me twice!" said Kitty, who was forced to phase Piotr and Jubilee through a few stray flares.
All around her, the confusion was overtaking the Phoenix. Once more, she felt the emptiness of being in pieces, guided only by her craving for new sensations. The mortal presence of Jean Grey was too much for the immortal being to handle. It couldn't make sense of her mortal tendencies. And now that there was no Hellfire Club left to contain it's power, it was stuck on overdrive now and forever.
"This is bad, Charles! This is very bad!" said Emma as she used her diamond form as a shield for Xavier, "The Phoenix can't handle mortal feelings!"
"I know, Emma. But somehow, she rejected the crystal," he said, his powerful mind attempting to make sense of all this, "There must be something more to the puzzle...Something we have overlooked."
"What could we have possibly missed?!" exclaimed Hank, "Without a means to channel its power, the Phoenix will continue raging!"
"You're right, Hank...Which is why we must act fast!"
Everything in the room was being shaken and torn apart by the power of the Phoenix. Her angry cries more enraged as the power she had retaken descended into chaos, guided by nothing more than a mere whim.
"Power...Passion...Destruction...Creation! Now and forever...I AM PHOENIX!"
"Daddy what's happening? What's wrong with mommy?" cried Rachel as she looked up at all the scary flames erupting from her mommy's body.
"I don't know, baby. But I think mommy is confused. She...She can't control herself."
"But the monster! It's hurting her!"
"I know...But she's fighting it, Rachel," assured Scott as he tightly hugged his little girl, "Mommy is a strong fighter. And I know she's fighting it with all her might."
Rachel kept crying as she watched flares erupt from her mommy. She closed her eyes and clung to her daddy as he rushed her away from the hot flames, taking a few blows along the way.
Everything in the room that could burn was erupting into flames as Phoenix rose higher into the air until she reached the center of the chamber, clenching her fists as she relished in the destruction.
"So empty...So lost. If I can't find what's missing, I'll burn everything!"
"Jean! No!" yelled Scott as he took cover.
Everybody tried to stay low and shield themselves from the coming onslaught. Bobby, Piotr, and Emma were all doing their best to protect those who were vulnerable, but all this fighting was taking its toll as they began to succumb to their mortal limits.
It was truly a frightening fight, going up against something they knew they couldn't defeat. No matter what they did, it was clear that they were no match for this thing. The Phoenix was confused and there was nothing they could do to stop her from swallowing them along with every other soul on this little planet.
"Guess I won't be able to keep my promise to Laura," struggled Logan, lying helplessly next to Ororo.
"Logan please...Don't..." said Ororo, not wanting to hear such despair.
"It's okay, darlin'," he said as he held onto the woman who had given him so much, "I don't mind goin' out like this. I don't mind goin' down in the heat of battle. I just wish I...I had more time to tell you and Laura how much you mean to me."
Such words brought tears to the former weather goddess's eyes as she tightly gripped the feral man who had captured her heart. She didn't want to believe him, but even she couldn't deny that this battle was lost.
"Well guys...Looks like this is it," said Bobby with an exhausted grunt as another ice shield shattered.
"So much for our wedding," said Amanda as she clung to Kurt.
"Don't say that, liebe!" said Kurt as he kept his arms protectively around the woman he loved.
"Face it, Kurt...It's over," said Kitty in a defeated tone as she stood on the brink of collapse in Piotr's arms as a result from all her phasing, "As long as the Phoenix is angry, there's nothing we can..."
"Easy Katya...Easy," said Piotr tenderly as he held his girlfriend securely, "Whatever happens next is all on our friend."
"God help us," said Hank as he and Emma protected the vulnerable Professor.
Then suddenly, the chaotic power of the Phoenix unleashed the mother of all flares. This time, it was directed at her friends and family. There would be no escaping this blast. There was nothing left to do other than wait for the inevitable impact and hope that the almighty would judge them kindly for having failed to stop this creature.
But as the team braced themselves for their final moments, a single voice rang out to stop the coming onslaught.
Rachel Summers, a little girl with courage many times beyond her years, had not lost faith. Her daddy needed her, her family needed her, and most of all...Her mommy needed her. And through the intense anguish of the moment, a dormant force deep within the little girl rose to the surface and saved her family from annihilation.
Then, just as the flare was about to hit them, an invisible barrier sprang up out of nowhere and diverted the deadly power before it could harm to her family. It was just like a telekinetic shield that Jean made. But that was impossible. Rachel was just a little girl. She couldn't possibly be manifesting her powers now...Could she?
"Rachel...How did you..." began Scott as he saw his little girl with amazement.
But before Scott could further question his daughter, the Phoenix let out a frustrated cry. Her continued efforts to find her missing pieces just brought her more pain. Nothing she did made the chaos any better. Everything made it worse. Jean Grey was in pain. Phoenix was confused. And all it could hold onto now was her passion.
"ERRRRRRRR! NO! I...I CAN'T...I MUST FILL THIS EMPTINESS! I MUST RID MYSELF OF THESE PESTILENT FEELINGS! WHY?!? IT'S STILL MISSING! I CAN'T FIND IT! WHY?!"
"Missing..." said Xavier as he watched the Phoenix descend further into madness, "What could she possibly be missing?"
These anguished cries didn't ease Jean's family in the slightest as Rachel kept calling out for her mommy. She wanted to just run up and push the monster away, but the firm grip of her daddy's arms kept her from doing so.
"Please mommy! Fight the monster! Don't let it take you! I don't want to lose my mommy!"
"Nnn...No...Can't...Control it. Jean Grey...Passion...Family...Love."
"What the...Professor, what's going on?" said Storm as she and Logan helped everybody up.
Xavier stayed silent as he watched the Phoenix burst into tears as it looked back at Scott and Rachel, who were the only ones who dared to stand close. He couldn't make out just what it was he was seeing, but in his mind he felt something...Something profound.
"Charles? Charles!" yelled Beast, trying to snap him out of his daze, "We have to..."
"That's it!" he exclaimed, cutting off his friend, "Could it really be that simple?"
"Uh...Professor? If you've thought of something, now would be a hell of a time to tell us!" said Kitty as all eyes were now on Xavier.
As Emma came to as well, she felt it too. Looking back at the Phoenix, she picked up on what it was that her mentor was sensing. And like him, it struck her in a strange way. And for all her knowledge about the Phoenix, this was something that not even Hellfire could have predicted.
"Professor," she said, her eyes fixated on the chaotic Phoenix, "I...I feel it too."
"Then I think you know what we must do my dear," he said, a mysterious smile forming on her face, "And for this, I'll definitely need your help."
"Oh come now, Charles. You know I'm in this to the bitter end."
"What are you talking about, Professor?!" exclaimed Bobby, "What are you going to..."
Just then, Xavier sent a telepathic message to all of his students, including Scott and Rachel. Soon, they all felt the same eerie calm that had come over their mentor and soon they were all smiling as they looked back at the chaotic flames of the Phoenix, knowing now what had to be done.
"Oh..." said Bobby, almost laughing somewhat at this little revelation.
"Damn. Who knew?" said Logan, showing a rare smile.
"Will it really work?" questioned Jubilee as the Phoenix continued raging on.
"Only one way to find out," said Xavier as he readied his mind and took Emma's had for what was sure to be the most important psychic feat ever attempted, "Everybody gather around. We must do this together."
"Right behind ya, Professor!" said Rogue as she took her husband's hand.
"Ve all are," added Kurt, doing the same with his fiancÃ©.
Everybody was holding hands and staying close to their respective lovers. They all came together as a team...One that had always been united and strong in their fight against the forces of injustice. And now, they were out to save someone they loved and cared for.
And in order to do so, they would have to accomplish an act that went beyond even the most heroic of feats.
"Daddy," said Rachel as she looked back up at her father and smiled.
"It's okay, baby," he said softly, "It'll all be over soon. Just let Grandpa Xavier do what he has to and make sure you help him every step of the way."
"Don't worry, daddy. For mommy, I will," the little girl bravely affirmed, hugging him as she prepared to do her part in saving her mommy.
The Phoenix was still in a state chaos. Everything was out of control. Nothing was right anymore. So many parts of her were missing. So much of her being felt empty inside. She thought she could fill it with this mortal being, but in the end it just filled her with all these new experiences that she couldn't control.
Then, through the boggling maelstrom of confusion, chaos, and pain...She felt something surge through her being...Something that brought an experience that no act of creation or destruction could ever match.
'Everybody...Students young and old, near and far, past and present alike...Jean needs us. She needs all of us. So let us help her together. Let us show her how much we love her. She is our friend...Our family. Come, let us help her...All together now as one.'
With the help of Emma Frost and the power of the greatest telepath in the world, minds were linked all across vast distances. All the children back at the mansion along with Laura...All the New Mutants like Ray, Roberto, Tabitha, Amara, Sam, Rahne, Jamie, and Dani...All the friends they had met such as Warren Worthington, Betsy Braddock, Alex Summers, and Lorna Dane...All their allies including Evan and the Morlocks...And of course, her husband and baby girl who had given her so much love and hope...Together, they all opened their minds and sent their messages of love to their friend.
It was a feeling that even the greatest of celestial feats could not match. So much love...So much heart. It felt so strange...So wonderful. It was soft, calming, and gentle...Taking all the rage that had so deeply consumed her and turning it into something so much more...Love.
And through the chaos, the power of the Phoenix started to shift and in a brilliant glow of white fire, her missing pieces began to come together at long last.
"My...My friends...My family."
Tears of joy formed in her eyes as she descended to the floor. And once the brilliant flames cleared, she was no longer in her Dark Phoenix outfit. She wasn't even in her green outfit either. Instead, she bore an entirely new appearance, one that felt just right after experiencing the highs and lows of so much anguish.
She was now White Phoenix, bearing the gentle colors of clarity and truth. And at long last, she finally felt the peace she so desperately sought.
"Can you feel it Jean?" said Scott as their act of psychic love came to an end, "All the love we have for you...All the caring and compassion we feel for you?"
"Yes...Oh Scott. It's so...So..."
However, she couldn't even finish through her joy. She was still confused, but now all that chaos had been replaced by this new feeling of peace.
"That's what was missing, wasn't it?" said Xavier as he and the others stepped forth, "All the emptiness and rage that fueled the Phoenix..."
"I...I understand now. All this time I've been fighting Jean Grey. I've been struggling to hold her back as she reaches out to embrace her loved ones. Only now, they've reached out to embrace her. And I can't help but feel it...All the love and happiness it brings her. I just..."
The Phoenix kept on crying as she looked back at the people she loved so passionately. After all the pain she had caused them, they still loved her with all their heart. And as she felt this, the core of her being filled with a renewed sense of balance.
Now the forces of Jean Grey and the Phoenix were no longer struggling against one another. Now they were accepting one another. They could both feel it, the merge of their beings. Yet still, she couldn't stop crying.
"Jean..." said Scott as he took a step closer with his daughter still safely in his arms, "It's okay now. We're all here for you."
"No...It's not okay, Scott. After all this time...I'm not fighting it any longer. I'm accepting it. I'm becoming...Becoming..."
"You are Jean Grey," he said softly, his words speaking through the endless love he bore for this woman, "No matter what you become, you'll always be the same woman I love. Never forget that."
Everybody was smiling at her, giving her the support she needed. Everything she had been looking for was here. But she was still crying. She was crying and couldn't stop.
"I love you too, Scott. I love you so much. You...Rachel...Everybody. I can never express how much you mean to me. But still...Something is missing. And I know there's only one way to find my final pieces and become whole now and forever."
Suddenly, some of the smiles faded as they watched the expression on her face sink. Nobody seemed to feel this more than Scott, who had that sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach that he couldn't escape.
"Jean...What are you..."
"I'm sorry everybody. But this is the way it has to be. Please...Forgive me. "
"Jean wait!" exclaimed Kitty with tears in her eyes, "What are you..."
"No, the Jean Grey you knew is now something entirely different. I...I never thought that being a part of this woman would bring so much pain to so many wonderful souls. But now that we are one, I must find my final pieces so the cosmos can be at harmony."
Hearing this brought a new wave of tears to everybody as they looked back in disbelief. This couldn't be happening. They beat Dark Phoenix, didn't they? They helped her find balance. Yet still, there were pieces of her missing?
"You're...You're leaving?" said Rogue, choking on those words.
"Yes...I must. No words can express my sorrow for the pain I know this will cause you. But the paths of destiny must be fulfilled. I can only offer my greatest condolences in the knowledge that Jean Grey loves you all with her heart...And she'll miss each and every one of you."
"No! You...You can't just take her away from us!" yelled Amanda in a rage.
"She's OUR friend!" added Jubilee, "She's a human being! You can't just take her as your own little tool just so you can find your damn pieces!"
"And what about her family, huh?" shot Remy, looking back at the distraught Scott and Rachel, "Dey need her too! You just gonna leave them like dis?!"
"There's no other way. Now that we are the White Phoenix...We are one. We have become something beyond the mortal realm. Please understand, this is the way it must be. We must return to our proper place. That is the fate of the Phoenix."
Nobody wanted to accept it, but fate was against them. Jean Grey had become the Phoenix and because of that, she was already lost. She was ascending to a level of power that the mortal mind could only begin to comprehend. And a being like that simply cannot live in a mortal realm such as this.
Suddenly, the M'krann crystal came back to life and ascended into mid air just above the ruins of Selene's shrine. Its magnificent glow filled the room and as Jean approached it, a plume of light formed that resembled a doorway.
Once more, the pieces came together and the gravity of what was going on soon became apparent.
"The crystal..." said the Professor as he watched his student approach the light, "It...It was never a source of power. It was a gateway."
"Yes...A gateway to the White Hot Room, a place through which the ultimate powers of creation flow. It is the nexus of all realities...The place where the lights of creation burn brightest. It is here where I must find my final pieces. It is here where my power must reside...Now and forever."
Tears were flowing uncontrollably down Scott's face as he looked at his beautiful wife. After everything they had been through together, this was how it ended. He didn't want to say goodbye. He didn't want to lose the woman he loved. He wanted to stay with her, hold her, and grow old with her. And now they would never get that chance.
"I'm sorry everybody. But this is my destiny. I must fulfill it. And whether I'm Phoenix or Jean Grey...Just know that no matter who I am, I'll always love you with all my heart. Goodbye."
Nobody did anything as they watched her ascend into the light from which she would never return. Knowing this was the last time they would ever see their friend, the X-men who loved and cherished this woman could do nothing except bid her farewell.
"Jean...We'll all miss you," said the Professor, choking on his emotions.
"Goodbye, Jean," said Ororo, barely standing as she clung to Logan for support, "I hope you find whatever it is you're looking for."
"Yeah...Me too," said Kitty, on the verge of completely breaking down, "Goodbye."
One by one, everybody said goodbye to Jean Grey, each one more difficult than the last. Logan couldn't watch as he just turned and buried his face in Ororo's shoulder while couples like Rogue and Remy, Kitty and Piotr, and Kurt and Amanda all clung together in a strong embrace, seeking whatever strength they could find in this painful moment.
Then finally, Scott and Rachel were all that was left. Scott couldn't even speak, so he kept sending his words of love through their psychic bond, knowing it was going to disappear as soon as she left.
'I love you Jean. God I can't tell you how much I love you. Just don't ever forget. Please Jean...Don't ever forget how much I love you.'
He didn't get a response. He knew his mortal mind was too feeble to accept a return gesture. But he knew in his heart that the Jean Grey that was still inside this being knew full well how much she meant to him. He just wished it wasn't so painful.
Now all that was left was the little girl that Jean had brought into this world with so much love...Her daughter, Rachel Summers. She couldn't stop crying as she watched her mommy fade into the light. She may have been young, but she knew what was going on.
All the grown ups were crying. Mommy was saying goodbye. She didn't want to believe it. She just couldn't. She loved her mommy. She needed her.
"Goodbye everybody. I'll always be with you."
However, in hearing this, Rachel Anne Summers did something that nobody ever thought a child would be capable of doing. Everybody else was accepting it, but not Rachel. She refused to lose her mommy. And in the span of an instant, she made her stand.
Time seemed to stop completely as the little girl suddenly broke free from her father's grasp and ran up into the light that her mother had almost disappeared into.
Seeing this triggered an immediate reaction from Scott, who didn't stop to think as his parental instincts kicked in and overruled any and all thoughts of common sense.
"SCOTT! RACHEL!" yelled the Professor.
But it was too late. By the time Rachel reached the gateway, Scott was right beside her. And in a blinding flash of fiery white light...They were gone along with the Phoenix.
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