The Evo world is forever turned upside down when a man named Dr. Nathanial Essex begins a project known as Shadow Cell from which the lives of Scott, Jean, Vincent, Wanda, and X23 are changed forev...
Chapter 49: New Surroundings
The ride back the Xavier Institute was marked by complete and utter silence the whole way. The five mutants of Shadow Cell had just left behind the only life they had ever known. They had destroyed their creator, their home, and their livelihood. Their entire way of life was now forever upside down. The man who had brought them together...Dr. Nathanial Essex...Had betrayed them, used them, and manipulated them on so many levels that it almost sickening to them. Yet in the end, they had destroyed him and his plans. They all came out alive, but at what cost?
Feeling so much at a loss, forever displaced from the only world they had come to know, the five mutant soldiers remained dead silent. Knowing that many of the X-men were still very suspicious of them given how they had fought them once before and practically mopped the floor with them, there was plenty of tension in the air. The only real activity they showed was when they used the onboard first aid kit to tend to their injuries, bandaging up and disinfecting their wounds with expert skill as if it was second nature to them. They were obviously very sore, very tired, and very spent...But for the most part, Scott, Jean, Vincent, Wanda, and X23 just kept to themselves...Simply sitting close to one another near the back and gazing off into space, reflecting on the new path they had just taken.
There were still so many uncertainties, so many unknowns. They were five of the deadliest soldiers to ever come into existence. They had killed hundreds, if not thousands of people in the course of the many missions they had gone on over the years. They were ghosts now...Complete unknowns. They didn't even exist in many ways, for they had always been but mere shadows in the world of conflict that the fought so hard to protect and maintain. Now here they were, a bunch of deadly soldiers about to join a school and live the life of civilians.
It had been so long ever since they had lived outside the military that their memories of everything else before it were unclear and sketchy at best. They had trained so hard over the years, living by the strict warrior code instilled on them by their superiors that they had almost forgotten the memories of their lives before the unit. But now that Shadow Cell was gone, they had a whole new life to build.
Their world was now a wreck. And in the minds of the five mutant soldiers, there was no telling where they went from here. All they could do now was rebuild.
In the seats furthest back in the X-jet, the five mutant soldiers stayed close to one another...If for anything, for the comfort and solidarity that their bond and kinship had always given them through the good times and the bad. Scott and Jean stayed somewhat closer as always with Jean resting her head against Scott's shoulder, her hands entwined with his. After helping one another patch up their surface injuries, they just held each other for the sake of comfort. Even though the world that had brought them together was over, the deep love they still shared had not waned or faltered in the slightest. And now more then ever, they would need that bond to help them through this difficult time. While they remained silent like the rest of the jet, their powerful mental link remained wide open, allowing them to send words of love and encouragement to one another in order to help keep them strong.
'Scott...' she said through her mind, not giving any hint or trace to the others that she was communicating with her lover, 'Where do we go from here? What kind of life can we build after everything we've been through?'
'I...I honestly don't know my love,' replied Scott in response with a hint of sorrow in his tone, 'But I guess we'll just have to find out together.'
In addition to Scott and Jean, Vincent and Wanda also stayed close...Even more so than usual. After having held in their feelings for so long, they all seemed to boil over through the stress of this fateful mission that left them all so displaced. After having learned the truth about the Prodigy Project and Sinister's involvement and after having come face to face with Magneto, Vincent Freeman and Wanda Maximoff now needed each other more than ever. And through the unspoken bond they shared, they managed to lend what comfort they could. Wanda's hand remained entwined with Vincent's, giving it a gentle, yet firm squeeze as they both reflected on how far they had come. So much had come to surface through this fateful night...So much had been revealed to them. Yet through it all, it did help put many things in perspective for the two young soldiers who had always been so introverted about their feelings. And now that Shadow Cell was done for, they could finally express them in the way they wanted. Even though they weren't quite on just how to do so, they still had plenty of time learn for themselves.
As for X23, the loner of the group, she kept to herself as usual. She didn't need a lot of first aid because of her healing, but she was still sore and worked to help her comrades as needed. But unlike her comrades, she didn't seek direct solstice, for that wasn't really her style. Instead, she merely locked her gaze in the empty space before her, thinking about where everything went from here. Unlike the others, she had no other life except for that of a fighter and a killer. From Hydra to Shadow Cell, she had absolutely no concept of any other way of living. And now here she was, about to go into civilian life with little or no concept of just how to do it.
Throughout the ride, her gaze kept shifting back towards Logan, who was in the cockpit along with a very sore, very bruised, and very tired Warren. Ever since she had crossed his path, he had never been far from her mind. She just couldn't stop thinking about him and the connection they shared in terms of their blood and their respective pasts. She wasn't sure why she was drawn to this man or even how he fit into her life. But now that she and her friends that she considered nothing short of family were about to begin a new life with them, she would have plenty of time to find out just where this would lead them.
Yet unknown to her, Logan had been thinking the same thing ever since he first fought her back at the mansion. He pretended to focus on the controls of the aircraft when in actuality, he kept stealing brief glimpses of the young, 14 year old girl that bore his blood and his past. A part of him was still wondering just how this girl would affect his life, for it was clear already that she had left her impact on him. Now there was no telling where it all could lead, but for the time being they just wanted to put this night behind them.
For the X-men, it was a naturally tense moment for them, riding in the same plane with a bunch of soldiers who had killed more people than they probably ever would have been able to even at their worst. In addition, everybody was reeling from the scars of battle. Kurt and Warren had been practically limping because of shrapnel shards in their legs, which had to be pulled out with tweezers. Kitty was reeling from massive headaches and soreness from phasing through everything. Warren's wings had sustained some punishment from shrapnel and his shoulder was killing him. Betsy's arms were bandaged up from trying to guard herself from stray frag grenades. Remy had a bandage across his head from a cut he got along his temple and a powerful round had grazed his shoulder, taking a good piece of his flesh with him. But he didn't seem to care much, for he was too worried about the unconscious Rogue, who had passed out from exhaustion as soon as she got back. Ororo's cape was now completely gone and she had a few bruises here and there, but nothing too serious. Both Bobby and Jubilee had encountered some pocket resistance on the way back and Bobby took some shrapnel to the back while Jubilee fell on her arm and twisted her ankle slightly. Hank had also sustained a few painful impacts, taking shrapnel and concussion grenades along the way that let his ears ringing. And while Logan's uniform had plenty of tears and scratches, he had healed from any surface injuries for the most part.
But aside from injuries, there was something just as discomforting...They were now going to be living with Shadow Cell from now on. Such a notion left plenty of uncertainties in their minds, particularly those like Warren, Betsy, and Jubilee, who still bore the bruises from their first fight.
Nevertheless, this was their decision. The Professor had offered them a place at the school and they took it. Yet despite this, it was still quite unnerving to have them aboard, looking so lost and dazed after having left their old lives behind forever.
"Hey Jubes, do you really think this is a good idea?" he whispered to his friend under his breath so that they hopefully wouldn't hear him.
"What do you mean?" she whispered back.
"I mean after what we just saw from them and how they killed all those GURSO soldiers and that Sinister guy, do you really think it's a good idea to let them live at our school?" asked Bobby, trying not to make eye contact with the five soldiers, who were still sitting motionlessly in the back.
"Well..." said Jubilee, taking a moment to consider his point of view, still remembering clearly how skilled and efficient they were when it came to mowing down the enemy, "I can see what you mean. But the Professor offered them a chance to join us and they have nowhere to go, so I guess it's really up to them."
"But do you think it'll really work?" he asked her, no sure how he and the rest of the mansion would handle living with a bunch of skilled killers.
"I don't know, Bobby..." she said with a sigh, "But I guess as long as they're here, we'll all have to learn to manage."
"Guys, will you two keep it down?!" said Betsy under her voice, who was sitting in the seat right in front of them, "Even I can bloody hear you and I'm not a soldier."
"Sorry, Betsy...I'm just saying, that's all," said Bobby, keeping his tone low as he finally zipped his lips, too tired to make any further comments.
After that, they once again fell silent, hoping that the five mutant soldiers hadn't picked up on that. But unknown to them, Scott, Jean, Vincent, Wanda, and X23 had heard every word. A lifetime of fine tuning their senses to that of a soldier, ready to fight and kill at any given moment, had given them more than enough capability to listen in on their conversation. But despite this, they didn't respond in any way, for it wasn't like they could blame them for thinking that way. And as much as they hated to admit it, Bobby did have a point.
However, the five mutant soldiers tried not to think about it for the most part as they remained silent and motionless as they always were during the plane rides after missions...Except this time it was for a multitude of different reasons other than sheer habit.
While the notion of Shadow Cell being with the X-men still left plenty of uncertainty on both ends, there were a few who weren't nearly as concerned with it, for Shadow Cell wasn't their only guest aboard the X-jet.
Mystique, the former leader of the Brotherhood and a once bitter enemy of the X-men, was also along for the ride. But unlike Shadow Cell, she was beaten, battered, bruised, and out cold. When Kurt and Rogue had showed up with her, even those who remained suspicious of Mystique like Logan and Warren were shocked at the punishment she had endured. She had numerous cuts all over her body, bruises the size of baseballs, and blood gushing out of several rather ugly looking wounds.
She may have still the enemy in the minds of some of the X-men, but they still did not hesitate to help her. Even though Mystique's shape shifting chemistry gave her a pretty strong healing factor, that wasn't enough to keep her out of a world of hurt. And after having survived Magneto's punishment, she passed out completely, leaving her fate in the hands of her two estranged children.
For both Kurt and Rogue, having her with them was a mixed feeling at best. In many ways, she was still the woman who had fought against them and lied to them so much. But after seeing how hard she fought to save Rogue and how much she was willing to endure for them, taking down Magnum and surviving Magneto, they got a real honest glimpse into just how much she cared for them. She had been willing to risk it all for them, enduring inhuman levels of punishment and danger. And through that, it left a profound mark on the two young mutants who had no idea of just where things went from here.
Even after Hank had patched her up a bit, wiping off some of the messy wounds and applying a few bandages to her tattered body, Kurt stayed with her the whole time, pushing aside his own bodily pain to be with her. Even though she was unconscious, she wanted to be by her side. After she helped save Rogue, she felt he owed her that much.
And through this difficult time, Kitty remained at his side, helping him through this emotional time while also aiding Beast in applying the medical treatment the shape shifter needed.
"Hey...You okay?" she asked him, placing her hand upon his as he sat by Mystique's unconscious body.
"I...Don't know," said Kurt with a sigh, taking comfort in her touch as he felt around some of the wounds on Mystique's body, "I...I really don't know vhat to make of all this, Kitty. I mean look at her. Look at vhat she vent through. After all the bitterness between us and the Brotherhood, she risked it all...And she nearly died for it."
"I think that means she must really care about you and Rogue," said Kitty with a smile.
"Ja...I know," nodded Kurt in response, "It's just that...I can't help but vonder...Vhere do ve go from here? I mean...As a family, vhere does this leave us? She's not vith the Brotherhood anymore and she's shown us that she's more than just some bitter old voman."
"You're thinking about whether or not she's going to stay, aren't you?" said Kitty in response, knowing full well where he was going with this.
Kurt couldn't help but laugh slightly at that, for he knew full well that he was never all that good at hiding things from Kitty Prdye.
"Ja...I guess I can't hide that," he said in response.
"Well...Not from me, at least," she said, giving his hand a firm squeeze, "You should know that by now, fuzzy."
"Ja...I should," he said sheepishly in response.
Having felt a little better upon hearing that, Kurt found himself looking back at the young woman before him with a warm smile that actually made her blush a bit.
"Thanks Kitty," he said to her, his tone wrought with gratefulness.
"For what?" she asked, still blushing profusely.
"For being there..." he said simply.
No further words needed to be spoken between them as they once again fell silent. Yet unknown to them, Remy Lebeau had seen it all and was trying very hard to keep himself from laughing. He knew that now was probably not the time to make any comments...Not with so many complications pervading over the team.
Looking over towards his side, he smiled at the beautiful sleeping Rogue who was resting comfortably against his body. She looked so beautiful and peaceful in Remy's eyes and seeing her like this brought a smile to his face even with all the complications they had just endured. Still reeling from the effects of being in Sinister's machine and fighting to save her estranged mother, Rogue had quickly succumbed to exhaustion once she arrived at the X-jet. With no more adrenaline running through her system, her and mind simply succumbed to the need for rest. And thankfully, Remy was there to support her.
"Sleep tight, cherÃ¨..." he told her silently as he wrapped his arm securely around her waist, "Remy promises everythin' is gonna be okay now."
Even though he knew she probably couldn't hear those words, it was something he wanted to convey to her even in her unconscious state. Beast had told them that he wanted Rogue to stay in the infirmary for a while in order to ensure that there were no serious risks to her heath after having been in Sinister's machine, but for now she just needed rest. And after everything they had just been through, they all needed rest.
Back up in the cockpit where Warren was flying the jet and Logan was keeping tabs on the systems, the silence continued. Everybody was so dazed, uncertain, and just so tired that many of them felt like just collapsing right then and there. Now that it was over, the need for rest seemed to catch up with them all. But thankfully, the ride back to the institute wasn't too long for them and like the rest of the team, uncertainty still dominated their minds.
"I don't know about these guys, Wolverine..." Warren found himself saying as he kept the high tech plane level at 34,000 feet, "It still feels a bit...Disconcerting letting them join the team like this."
"You sayin' that because you really mean it or are you sayin' that because they kicked your ass earlier?" quipped Logan in response.
"A little bit of both I guess..." said Warren with a sigh.
Logan could understand his feeling clearly and he honestly couldn't blame them for thinking that way. But looking back at the five mutant soldiers who were still sitting as still as statues, he had a different point of view.
"Well look at it this way, bub," he told the rich, winged mutant, "They got nowhere to go and the world they knew has been completely shattered. They're a bunch of lost souls and as long as we can help them, we're gonna try."
"But what if they become hostile?" Warren asked in response, thinking it was a very real threat.
"Try not to think of it in terms of hostility, my boy," said Hank, stepping in with his own opinions, "To merely judge these five soldiers only on their actions thus far is hardly a fair standard to go upon. Like any other mutant that the institute aids, they need to find their place in the world again. But unlike us, they're at a disadvantage. They had their place and now it is lost. And it is for that reason, I believe, that we owe it to them to lend our support."
"Couldn't have said it better myself, Hank," said Logan in response, which seemed to entail more than he ever could have articulated.
"But after everything they've been through...Everything they've endured...Do you really think we can help them?" asked Ororo, who couldn't help but feel bad for the five young soldiers who had lost so much.
There was a brief silence among them after that, for such a question had been going through their minds ever since they accepted Xavier's offer. But nevertheless, there was no going back now. It was a new beginning for all of them and after everything they had just been through, there was no telling where it would lead.
"I really don't know, Ro..." responded Logan in response as he found himself looking back at the five young soldiers once more, "Guess we'll just have to wait and see..."
The trip back to the Xavier Institute took a grand total of 30 minutes...Yet for many of those inside, it was one of the longest trips back in recent memory. And when the plane finally landed in the concealed hanger bay of the Xavier Institute, everybody seemed to let out a deep sigh of relief...Everybody except Shadow Cell, that is.
"Well guys...Welcome to your new home," said Logan as he got up from his seat in the cockpit while Warren powered down the engines and everybody began to file out.
However, despite his words, Scott, Jean, Vincent, Wanda, and X23 didn't say anything in response. They barely even acknowledged it. They still seemed so lost in their thoughts. They continued to stick together, letting all the X-men file out before they made their exit.
It was almost surreal to them since they were not just stepping out of a plane...They were stepping out into their new home. It was still going to be a clear and present challenge learning to call this place 'home' in a sense, but as they had learned time and time again from all their battle experience...Even the most difficult mission begins with the first task.
The X-men were practically sauntering out of the X-jet, almost too tired to stand in addition to their injuries. Hank, Logan, and Ororo were the few exceptions as they stayed alert enough to carry Mystique to the infirmary where she would undergo further medical treatment. Kurt, of course, stayed by her side and was allowed to remain with her through the night since it was clear to them that he wanted to be there when his mother woke up...If for anything, to let her know that she was in a friendly place now.
Rogue also went to the infirmary as well within the safe and secure arms of Remy, who also decided to stay with her for the night. She may have not had anywhere near the injuries that Mystique had, but after what they had all endured, it would probably be beneficial to her that she saw a friendly face when she first woke up.
For the others, however, they underwent a quick checkup to patch up their wounds before going straight to bed. Each one of them felt as though they could sleep for days on end. After what they had just been through, their bodies were in serious need of rest and Xavier wasn't about to stop them. But for the five mutant soldiers of Shadow Cell, sleep was the last thing on their minds even though they hadn't gotten much in over a week.
Professor Charles Xavier was there to greet his newest students of his school and he kept with a kind, welcoming demeanor, feeling as though the five mutant soldiers needed to know that they were in a safe and friendly place despite lingering concerns among the others. But concerns or not, they would have plenty of time to work that out later on. For now, they just had to take this one step at a time.
"Welcome to the Xavier Institute, Shadow Cell," said the Professor warmly as the five mutant soldiers stood before him.
"Thank you sir," said Scott in distant, yet respectful tone, standing with his comrades before the wheel chair bound man with poise and respect they so often bore when they were in the presence of superior officers.
"Were there any troubles during the ride back?" he asked, his balanced and casual, "Have any of you sustained any injuries that need attention?"
"No sir...We'll tend to our own wounds as needed. The first aid kit onboard was sufficient for the most part and if anything else comes up, I'm sure we'll manage," said Vincent in response, talking to him as if he was the General, mainly out of habit.
Such actions were not lost upon Xavier, but he set that aside for the moment, focusing only on that which was most pressing.
"I understand this is a very difficult time for all of you," he said, cutting right to the chase, "I know that this institute is nothing like the world you've known and life here is very different from that which you are used to. No doubt, there will be plenty of challenges ahead for all of us, but I just want you to know that as long as you're here at my institute, my students and I will be more than willing to help you. And that means that if you have any issues, there will always be someone to talk to. And if there's anything I can personally do in order to help you adjust, please don't hesitate to ask. Now granted, there will be plenty of challenges for all of us to face in the coming days, but for now...I feel it would be most beneficial if you all simply got some rest."
Xavier's poise and tone was a bit alien to Scott, Jean, Vincent, Wanda, and X23 since they were so used to drill sergeants yelling at them at almost every waking moment. The only real exception was Dr. Essex, Magnum, and the General. But with their two most trusted mentors gone and the General having turned himself over to the hands of SHIELD, they no longer had any such support.
While they didn't doubt Xavier's sincerity, it was still awkward for them. This wasn't the military...This wasn't Shadow Cell...And it would clearly take some getting used to.
"Thank you sir," said Jean respectfully, feeling as though she owed him as much after having fought so hard against him during their first encounter, "We'll be sure to adhere to your rules. It's the least we can do since you have so generously taken us into your school."
"Think nothing of it my friends," he said kindly in response, seeing that they were still in a military mindset, "That is part of what this school is for...Helping those who can't help themselves. Now we'll work out the minor details in the morning, but for now, try and get some rest. Logan and Ororo will show you to your rooms."
"Yes...Thank you sir. It is great honor to join your institute," said Scott, his tone still distant like the others, yet staying respectful since this man had so graciously given them a chance even after everything they had put them through.
"The honor is all mine," said the Professor with an approving smile as he began to wheel himself out, feeling as though there was definitely hope for these lost souls, "I'll see you all in the morning."
After that, the Professor made his leave to finally retire to his room after a long, stressful day. The rest of the X-men who hadn't chosen to hang around in the infirmary soon followed, leaving Shadow Cell the only ones left. They were all so tired in pretty much every conceivable way, yet sleep still didn't necessarily seem that appealing to them, for they knew that this night would resonate in their dreams for many years to come. None of them looked really looked forward to something like that, living with the knowledge and memories that they had been a part of so many lies for so long. But they would have to learn to live with it whether they liked it or not.
Once things settled down a bit and most of the institute residents collapsed in their beds for some much needed rest, Logan and Ororo handled the last remaining loose ends, showing the five mutant soldiers of Shadow Cell to their new rooms. Part of them remained stuck in a soldier's mentality, following the two older mutants as if they were superior officers that they were obligated to obey, but that didn't seem to bother them much, for this was who and what they were. And while Shadow Cell may have been no more, that didn't mean they weren't soldiers in every sense of the word.
"Well...Here we are," said Ororo as she and Logan stopped at the end of a hall, "Your rooms will be right down the hall from the library. The two of us will be just on the other end. So if you need anything, don't hesitate to ask."
"We'll manage," said Jean in a tired, monotone voice.
"Well, try to get some rest you guys," said Logan, noticing that their demeanor was still a great deal conflicted, "It looks like ya could really use it."
The five mutant soldiers remained silent, not commenting or remarking about anything that the two instructors had said or shown them. And for Logan and Ororo, two teachers used to dealing with renegade mutant teens, it was a rather awkward shift. But they managed to stay friendly, hoping that they would leave a good solid impression on their newest students.
"Well if ya don't have any more questions, I guess I'll see ya in the morning," said Logan, breaking the awkward silence that had fallen over them.
"Yeah...See you then," said Vincent as he, Wanda, X23, Scott, and Jean retired to their rooms.
Ororo cast them all a concerned glance. To her, they all seemed so lost...So troubled...So conflicted on so many levels. And after what she had learned about them, she couldn't help but feel bad for them. Part of her wanted to linger and at least try to reach out to them, but from what she could clearly see for herself, they just wanted to be left alone for now.
"You should get some rest too, Ro," said Logan, noticing that she was lingering a bit.
"I know..." she said with a tired sigh, "I could say the same for you, but something tells me you'll find an excuse to stay up even later."
"You know me too well, darlin'," he said in response, managing a wolfish grin, "Tell ya what...If you try and get some rest, then I promise I'll do the same as long as it'll make ya feel better."
Ororo managed to smile back at his words. Even in the late hours of the night with so much lingering stress upon the team as a whole, she still found the strength to smile through it all. And even with the lingering exhaustion between the two of them, that didn't mean they couldn't share hope.
"You have yourself a deal, Logan..." she told her friend, not needing to think too much about it as she began to walk back down the hall towards her room, "But you know I'm going to hold you to it."
"Can't say I would expect anything less," said Logan, still smiling somewhat as he lingered a bit before following suit.
Then suddenly, before he could get too far, a lone voice rang out and stopped him cold in his tracks.
"Logan?" said X23, still standing in her doorway, not quite ready to go to sleep just yet.
"Kid?" he said, sounding somewhat surprised that she was still up, "What's wrong? Ya need anything?"
X23 was silent for a moment as Logan walked back over towards her, once again feeling many strange sensations overwhelming her system as he drew near. While it hadn't been very long since their paths had crossed, X23 had definitely felt the effects that this man was having on her. She still had no idea why, but she knew it was something that she couldn't ignore. And from the looks of it, Logan seemed to sense it as well.
"Hey...What's wrong?" he asked her upon not getting an answer.
"It...It's nothing," she said, her tone once again becoming low and indifferent to it all, "I just..."
Once again, she paused, unable to get the right words out. She wasn't sure why she was doing this or even what she was trying to say...But there was just something inside her that she wanted to get out...Something she didn't want to hold in anymore.
"Kid..." said Logan, moving in a bit closer as he grew increasingly concerned.
What happened next almost completely blew his mind. In a sudden show of long suppressed emotion, X23 threw her arms around the man whose blood created her and pulled him into a deep embrace, letting out a wave of sobs that she had been keeping bottled up for so long.
Logan didn't know what to do. He didn't even know what to make of all this. But his instincts told him not to fight this. So instead, he embraced it...Hugging her back in a show of compassion that so few ever would have imagined from the big bad Wolverine.
"Thank you..." X23 sobbed, her voice highly strained, "Thank you, Logan."
Although Logan wasn't quite sure what she was thanking him for, he simply found himself smiling back at her as he just held her in her arms and let her vent the feelings she had kept bottled up for so long. Maybe she was thanking him for giving her life...Maybe she was thanking him for being there...Or maybe she was just thanking him for giving her something to hold onto. Either way, it was a gesture he willingly embraced...Taking in this profound moment, knowing that it definitely had a great deal of meaning to the both of them.
"It's okay, darlin'," he found himself telling her as he held her securely in his arms, "It's gonna be okay..."
Something like this had been a long time coming for X23. She had so often been forced to suppress her emotions as a product of Hydra and as a soldier of Shadow Cell. But now, none of that mattered anymore. For the first time, she found herself truly venting. She wasn't sure why she was doing it with this man, but as she felt his arms around her, she was given all the comfort and the certainty that he was there for her...And he every intention of keeping it that way as they both entered what was sure to be a new journey in life.
Yet, unknown to the both of them, their actions had not gone unnoticed. Ororo had also lingered a bit upon sensing that Logan had stopped. But by the time she turned back to see what was going on, Logan and X23 were already in a powerful embrace. It was a scene that both surprised and warmed the former weather goddess, for she could tell that there was definitely something between them. Such a sight made Ororo smile once more, for it was a scene that was sure to leave a lasting impression on the both of them.
She didn't stay to watch for long and soon left, leaving the two former living weapons to their privacy. But as she returned to her room, she couldn't help but think that maybe...Just maybe...Logan and X23 could help each other fill the void in their tormented souls.
As everything fell silent and the conflict finally ceased, the five mutant soldiers were left in an almost surreal mindset. For the first time in over half a decade, the endless war had stopped. After years of intense training, conditioning, and combat there was finally no more battle to worry about...No more mission to look forward to. Now, they were just a bunch of soldiers without any allegiance...Renegades who had no base to report to. They were ghosts in every sense of the word. They did not exist. They were never even born. They were soldiers of a world that was now destroyed, leaving them with so many unknowns to consider as they contemplated where this new life would lead them.
For Vincent Freeman, it was these very notions that kept him up even as he was finally allowed to rest after a seemingly endless battle. Sleep was the last thing on his mind as he went over everything that had happened to him and his comrades. A mere week ago, everything had been different. A mere week ago at this time, they had been training just as they always had, preparing for whatever mission came next.
Now, there was no mission left for them to train for...No daily rigor to mentally and physically prepare for. That alone was a difficult thing for the young man to process, for he had just grown so used to the life that he couldn't really imagine living any other way. But aside from that, there were still the fresh memories of what had happened with Sinister.
In his mind, he just couldn't stop thinking back to what he had learned about that insidious man. Not only had he been the one behind Prodigy, the horrific project that took so much away from him, but he had used him again in Shadow Cell. He lied to him...Used him...And betrayed him. And the sad thing was...As much as he took away from him as Sinister, he couldn't deny the things he had given him as Dr. Essex.
He and his comrades had placed so much trust in Dr. Essex and after having learned the truth about him...It hurt. It really truly hurt in more ways than any pain they had suffered on the battlefield. For Vincent, it was yet another hard aspect of his life that he was going to have to learn to live with. He had trusted and looked up to that man almost as if he were a father to him. But in the end, it had all been one big lie.
As he lay back in his bed, his uniform still on and his guns and knife safely stashed on the dresser of to the side, he found himself firmly grasping the sword he had taken from the base. Magnum had stolen it when she killed Mr. Kansuke...And he had gotten it back, saving it and the legacy it carried from destruction. He soon found himself thinking back to what this relic meant to him and how Mr. Kansuke had always preached about the way of the warrior when he was still his pupil.
The sword represented a symbol for Vincent in many ways...A symbol that conveyed the hope and legacy of the spirit that he bore within his body and soul. And now that he had it, he felt as though it was up to him to carry on this legacy...If for anything, for the memory of Mr. Kansuke, who taught him how to fight...And for Father Michaels, who taught him how to have faith.
Vincent kept the sword at his side, grasping it for strength. He wondered what he was going to do with it. He couldn't keep it...It belonged to Mr. Kansuke's family. Maybe he would later track down his surviving family or something and return it to them later on, but that was a concern for another day.
At the moment, he was just trying to fight off looming memories of what Sinister had done to him and his friends. Even though he was dead now, he had still left a major impact on his life. Part of Vincent was conflicted about it because if Sinister had been behind Prodigy, then that meant he could have possibly known his real name. But in his desire to avenge the horrors that he had endured and the lives he had destroyed, Sinister had taken that secret with him to hell...Where it was sure to remain for all eternity.
Sinister had taken a lot from him, but now that he was gone there were just so many questions left unanswered. What would happen now that Shadow Cell was no more? How would they fit into this world of lies that they now found themselves a part of? And how would they ever live with the deeds they had done?
Such thoughts kept Vincent wide awake into the night as he simply lay back on his bed, staring off into space. And he probably would have stayed that way all night if he hadn't been jolted out of his daze by the sound of a sudden knock on his door.
"Vincent?" said a voice on the other side that he recognized all too clearly, "Vincent, are you still awake?"
"Wanda?" he said, finding himself sitting up now as he heard the voice of the woman who had helped him through so much, "Um...Yeah, I'm awake. Come on in."
Wanda hesitated a bit before opening the door, for part of her was still stuck on the rules of Shadow Cell, namely the one about not being allowed to visit the others during rest hours. But despite this, she managed to work through such complications and entered the room of the young man that meant so much to her.
"Couldn't sleep either, huh?" she found herself saying as she closed the door behind her and took in his solemn demeanor.
"No..." he said in a deep tone, "I couldn't."
"Yeah...It's a lot harder than it seems," she said as she made her way over to his bed and sat beside him.
Upon feeling her warm presence at his side, Vincent found himself ease up a bit. He was glad she had shown up, for he doubted he would have gotten any peace on his own. Wanda seemed to understand this and could definitely relate, but that's not why she had come to see him. No...This was something much more significant in her mind...Something that she should have done long ago.
"Are you going to be okay?" she asked him, taking his hand within hers and giving it a firm squeeze.
"Can't say..." he found himself saying in response, "Are any of us really going to be okay?"
"Yeah, good point," muttered Wanda, now feeling a bit sheepish at her question, "I guess none of us can really say for certain."
"I know...It's a big adjustment for all of us. We just...Have to adapt, I guess."
"Yeah, but if we can adapt to living in jungles, deserts, and tundra, I think we can adapt to living in a school."
Vincent actually found himself laughing somewhat upon hearing that. When she put it like that, it did seem a bit less daunting given what they had endured in the past. Even though the circumstances were quite different...It still made a point.
"I hope you're right, Wanda," said Vincent as he let out a deep sigh, "But personally...The arctic seems less daunting than this."
"Tell me about it..." said Wanda in agreement, "But we'll learn to manage it...We have to believe that."
"Yeah...We just have to have faith I guess. We just have to believe that there's still something worth hanging onto even though our world is gone and everything is in pieces."
"Something to hold onto..." she found herself repeating, those words triggering a wave of emotions from within.
Upon hearing that, Wanda found herself moving in closer to the young man at her side...Taking such words to heart, for they just entailed so much to her. Thinking back to how they had all endured such hardship together, it was a true testament to their bond as a unit and their faith as a team. But even more than that, it evoked many of the feelings within Wanda that she had long since held back...Feelings that she never thought she'd get a chance to express. But after having fought and survived so many times together...She was through waiting any longer.
"Vincent..." she said, locking her gaze with his, quickly becoming taken by his enchanting, light blue eyes, "We're all ghosts in this world. You, me, Scott, Jean, and X...We're all practically non-existent in every way by physically. And after everything we've been through...Not just with what we went through tonight, but with everything we've endured in general...That...That really says a lot about us."
"What do you mean?" he asked her, quickly feeling drawn by her words and taken by her penetrating gaze.
"I mean...Just look at what we've been through," she said, going through all the memories of what they had experienced together in their mind, "Look at all the battles we won...All the lives we took...And all the things we learned. We were used, manipulated, and betrayed...But at the same time, everything we felt during each one of those challenges was real, honest, and true. Can you honestly say that just because Sinister and Shadow Cell are gone now means that none of that had any significance?"
Such words helped fill in some of the missing pieces that Vincent had yet to ascertain. Yet when he sifted through his photographic memory, recalling so many experiences he, Wanda, and their comrades had faced...He remembered the emotions they all carried into battle...Emotions that were not ordained by protocol, but from within. He could feel it so strongly with him...But he just hadn't been allowed to remember it because of all the pain he felt from Sinister's betrayal. And as he recalled all those old, negated feelings...He quickly found many more coming to the surface.
"I...I know our lives are ruined," she went on, her tone becoming increasingly strained, "Our families our gone...Our livelihood is destroyed...And we're all officially dead. But just because it's over, it doesn't mean I want to lose the things that mean the most to me...Things like my friends, my beliefs, and especially...My faith. And...And you...Vincent Freeman...You've always been my faith."
It was finally beginning to surface for the both of them...It was finally beginning to take hold. Years of holding back was finally coming to ahead like a dam that was about to burst. And under the strain, Wanda found herself pulling Vincent into a deep embrace as she lost control of her emotions. Tears were now welling up on her eyes and sobs began to echo through the still air around them...But that wouldn't stop them Wanda finally decided to let go of one thing and embrace something completely new.
"Wanda...Wha...What are you..." began Vincent, but Wanda wouldn't allow him to finish...Not until she let him know the truth.
"Vincent...I don't want to scare you or make things any more complicated for either of us, but...I...I'm in love with you. I'm seriously...Truly...In love with you."
That hit Vincent Freeman more than any bomb, bullet, or explosive mankind could ever create. After all this time...And after holding back for so long...She had told him the truth...She had told him how she really felt. It made Vincent's heart literally skip a beat, feeling as though time itself had just stopped and the universe itself had just come crashing down.
But as he looked back into her tear laden eyes, he found himself smiling warmly...Gently holding her in his arms and taking in the comfort of this powerful moment. She loved him...She really loved him. And as a man who had experienced so much loss in his live...That one feeling of truth gave him more than any lie or illusion in the vast sea of uncertainty that he and so many others lived in.
"Wanda..." he said, gently wiping away her tears with his hands, looking back into her loving gaze with so much warmth and hope, "I'm in love with you too."
"Wha...What?" she said, shocked and overjoyed by his words.
"I've always loved you. You were there for me when I discovered the truth about Sinister...You were there for me whenever the past got too hard to bear...You were there for me in ways I can't even put into words."
Vincent had to stop himself there as he too became choked up by his emotions. Looking back at Wanda, he could feel the depth of their connection. Only now, he was truly beginning to understand it. They were bound not just by camaraderie, friendship, and closeness. They were bound by something much deeper...Something that went beyond the bond that two people share through the struggles and challenges of life. It was more than that...It was love...An emotion neither of them ever thought they'd get a chance to experience...Yet here they were in each others' arms, embracing it in all it's glory.
"Vincent..." she said, choking his name out in a wave of emotion.
"Shh...It's okay, Wanda...It's okay."
And with those words, Vincent Freeman and Wanda Maximoff met in a deep kiss...One that seemed to express everything so clearly. It was a feeling they were sure to treasure now and through whatever challenges that this new life would bring them. At long last, they could finally come clean. At long last, they could finally embrace what they felt without fear, anxiety, or uncertainty.
After their lips finally parted, both Vincent and Wanda lay back upon the bed and slipped into a deep sleep in one another's arms, not knowing where the future was going to lead them, but taking a great deal of comfort in the knowledge and certainty that they would face it together through the love that they would no longer be afraid to share in all it's splendor.
In the dark room that now belonged to Scott Summers, the young mutant soldier remained as wide awake and conflicted as his comrades. The mission was over...Their jobs completed...Their enemy destroyed...Yet here they were, still living in a world where none of them officially existed. They had faced renegade militias, deadly dictators, and blood thirsty international crime syndicates...Yet they all paled in comparison to what they were facing now. Life...Civilian life...Life without the rigors of the military...Could they really do something like that? Was it even possible for them?
Such questions were one of many things that plagued the mind of Scott Summers, but it still wasn't the biggest issue for him...Not by a long shot. What seemed to stick out most now that it was all over was what he learned about Dr. Essex...Or Mr. Sinister as he would forever be known as from now on. For the longest time, he and the others looked up to him as a teacher and a guide only to learn many years later that he was just using them as his own little pawns. From day one, he was playing them. From day one, he was making them his puppets. And worst of all, this man had murdered his family. This man had been behind the plane crash that still haunted him to this day.
Having been the one who had killed Sinister, Scott was left with many conflicting feelings about that past, present, and future. His lost family still hung so clearly in his mind...Their faces and expressions still so vivid. Yet these were just memories...And he couldn't speak to memories. Sinister had taken so much from him...All because he wanted to control the one thing that could potentially destroy him. In the end, he failed...But as his final words entailed, in many ways he did succeed.
Sinister was no more...Shadow Cell was no more. Yet despite this, they were still Sinister's creations. He had brought them together, taught them to use their powers, and helped them establish a bond that carried them through so many battles. They could never escape the impact this monster had left on their lives...They could never deny the truth in many of the things he had said in his final moments. Now, it was all a matter of moving on from here...And for a team of non-existent soldiers who knew no other life, that was easier said than done.
This continued to run through Scott's head as he lay back on the soft mattress of his new bed, staring up at the featureless ceiling, still wide awake with inner conflict. Then suddenly, he felt a familiar presence in the depths of his mind draw near, which was then followed by a knock at the door.
'Scott...' he heard within his head, 'Scott...Can I come in?'
Knowing exactly who it was, Scott's mood shifted. Even when he was feeling so conflicted, he still managed to take comfort in the one thing that had remained so strong through it all...His love for Jean. They had been the centerpiece for Sinister's plan. They had been his first recruits. And since that fateful day, they had shared a bond that went beyond traditional understanding. And it was for that reason why they knew they needed each other now more than ever.
'Come in, Jean,' he sent her in response.
Without another word, Jean entered the darkened room, closing the door behind her and making her way over towards the bed. Wanting so desperately to feel his warmth, Jean slipped onto the soft mattress right next to him, allowing him to enrapture her with his arms and hold her close in this most difficult of times.
"I was hoping you'd come..." he told her as he held the woman he loved tightly in his strong arms.
"You know there's no place I'd rather be right now, Scott. After everything we've been through...Everything we've endured...Do you really think I could manage not being in your arms?"
That actually got Scott to smile somewhat as he looked down at the beautiful woman that he was so close to on so many levels. From day one, they established a powerful link...One that had grown so incredibly strong over the years. Memories of that moment in the mental hospital when their eyes first met hung strongly in both their minds now that they found themselves in a position like this...Lying in one another's arms.
Yet given what they now knew about Sinister and what had nearly happened to them with that monstrous machine of his, that closeness that bound them so strongly seemed to take on an even greater importance. And now more than ever, they would need the bond they shared to make it through this difficult time.
"So...Where do we go from here?" Jean found herself asking him as she lay atop his warm body, her head resting upon his chest.
"I've been asking myself that exact same question since we got here, Jean," replied Scott with a heavy sigh, "Everything that happened tonight...Everything we learned about Sinister...It just...It hurts...It really does hurt. And I don't know where this is all going to lead us...I don't even know if this is right for us. Sinister just took so many things away from us that..."
Scott found himself unable to finish. After having been trained to be a soldier, emotions were never easy for any of them. Only now, so many conflicting feelings were tormenting them...So much uncertainty was plaguing them. It was pretty much impossible for them not to be taken by what they now faced...For they were not just soldiers anymore...They were also human beings.
"He killed my family..." Jean found herself saying, finishing what she knew Scott had been unable to, "He killed your family. He took them away from us...He used us."
"I know...I know," said Scott as he gently ran his hands through her beautiful red hair, "But he's gone now."
"That doesn't change what he did to us. That doesn't change how he hurt us," said Jean, now struggling even more as feelings of loss and sorrow consumed her, "He was right, Scott...We can't escape what we are. We can't escape what he made us."
"That may be true, Jean...But it doesn't mean we can't take back some of the things he took from us," said Scott, feeling his heart ache as he heard her sobs, "And that doesn't change what we still have...Not just with the others as a unit, but with us as well."
Jean then felt Scott's gentle hands wipe away some of her tears. And from his touch, she remembered that there was still something worth hanging onto in this world...There was still something to live for even though their lives were forever shattered. And she was experiencing it right here at this very moment in the arms of the man she loved.
"Jean...We're going to get through this," said Scott, conveying all the strength he could muster in his strained words, "You, me, Vince, Wanda, and X...We're still a family...We're still a unit. We're going to build a new life here. And I just...I love you so god damn much that I don't want to lose what we have because of the past...I want to build upon it and let it grow so we can make our own future...Our own destiny."
Scott's words were highly strained, but they said more than enough for the both of them. And for Jean Grey, they were all she needed to find the strength...Not just to keep herself going...But to hold onto the one thing they would all need no matter what...Hope.
"Scott..." she managed through her emotionally distraught tone, "I love you too...I love you so much. And I couldn't think of a better way...Or a better life...Then the one we have right here...Together."
And with that one word...Together...Scott Summers and Jean Grey met in a deep kiss. It was tender, gentle, and passionate. This time there were no obstructions...No hindrances...No looming concerns about hiding it. Sinister had taken a lot of things from them, but there was no way in hell he was ever going to touch their love. And regardless of what they had been through, they wanted to hold onto that unbreakable bond they shared...If for anything, for the warmth and comfort it brought to their ever conflicted world.
It was still unclear what the future had in store for the five young mutants that knew no other life except Shadow Cell...But through the bonds that still bound them together and the strength that had carried them through so many battles...They had everything they needed to find their own path...And make their own future.
AN: Well, there you have it...Shadow Cell is now officially a part of the X-men. The longest night of their lives is finally over. But that's not to say that there aren't troubles ahead for them or for the X-men! There's still the issues with Mystique and that little detail with them not existing. There's still plenty to resolve, so stay tuned to see how it all comes together! In the meantime, don't forget to REVIEW! Send them to me via email or post them on the fanfiction website! Thanks for reading everybody and I wish you all the best!
THE X-MEN AND SHADOW CELL ARE FINALLY ONE! HALLELUJAH! LET US ALL CELEBRATE BY LEAVING A REVIEW!