Categories > Cartoons > X-Men: Evolution > Sinister Soldiers

Friends or Enemies?

by slickboy444 0 Reviews

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...

Category: X-Men: Evolution - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Action/Adventure, Drama, Romance, Sci-fi - Characters: Avalanche, Berzerker, Blob, Boom Boom, Cannonball, Colossus, Cyclops, Gambit, Iceman, Jean, Magma, Magneto, Mr. Sinister, Multiple, Mystique, Nightcrawler, Professor Xavier, Quicksilver, Rogue, Scarlet Witch, Shadowcat, Storm, Sunspot, Toad - Warnings: [?] [V] [X] - Published: 2006/12/02 - Updated: 2006/12/03 - 8196 words

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Sinister Soldiers
Chapter 51: Friends or Enemies?


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As morning began to set in, many of the students who had been in the fight against Shadow Cell continued to sleep and recuperate while others managed to get up. Those that had suffered injuries during the first battle with Shadow Cell had recovered for the most part and were now up and about. But for some, they didn't even know nor care that it was morning.

For Kurt Wagner, he was still drifting in and out of sleep as he remained by his mother's bed side. Hank had been in earlier to give her a check up and overall, his prognosis was good. But despite this assurance, Kurt wanted to be there when she woke up. He had little doubt that she would need it and didn't want to give her any reasons to up and leave them again. And for that reason, he continued the ongoing battle between exhaustion and restlessness.

"Kurt?" came a familiar voice that finally jolted him out of his state.

"Kitty?" he groaned in response, immediately recognizing the new presence and attempting to rub the sleep out of his eyes, "Vhat...Vhat time is it?"

"Eight in the morning," she answered, making her way over towards him with a small tray of food in hand, "You've been down here all night."

Upon hearing that, Kurt tiredly rubbed his head in an attempt to get the sleep out of his eyes. He still felt very much exhausted with his mind groggy and his head a jumbled mess. His body was practically screaming for sleep and to Kitty, his face showed it. She couldn't help but cast him a sympathetic gaze as she looked back over towards his wounded mother, feeling so sad for him that he had to deal with this along with Rogue.

"I brought you some food," she said as she set the tray on a small table beside him.

"Thanks Kitty...But I'm not really hungry."

"Kurt Wagner not hungry? I don't believe it," she said with a grin, hoping to lighten the mood a bit.

"Ja, I know...I know. Call a doctor, the human garbage disposal doesn't vant to eat."

His tone was still very melancholy and he didn't even make eye contact with the tray of food. Normally, the smell of freshly made bacon, eggs, and pancakes sent him into an eating frenzy...But not this time. Kitty, and the rest of the mansion for that matter, knew all too well that it took a lot for Kurt to negate his usual intake of food. And given the circumstance, she could hardly blame him for this one.

He looked so lost...So distant. She remembered that moment on the plane when she confronted him about Mystique's actions and in her eyes, it was pretty clear that he had not quite resolved his lingering issues with it. And for that reason, Kitty wanted to do what she could for her friend.

"Are you going to be okay Kurt?"

"Ja...I'll be fine," he said, but it did little to convince Kitty.

"Want to talk about it?" she asked as she pulled up a chair and sat next to him.

Kurt let out a deep sigh as he once again took his mother's hand within his. He finally managed to shift his gaze towards Kitty's comforting blue eyes. She looked so worried for him...And rightfully so. With a heavy heart and a conflicted soul, he had honestly never felt this lousy before. And once again, he found himself opening up to the young woman who had a knack for reminding him of his faith

"I...I just can't stop thinking about it," he said, looking back towards his wounded mother, "I mean, now that she's here...Vhat going to happen to us? Nobody trusts her. Nobody here even believed her vhen she came here hoping to help Rogue."

"You're worried she's going to leave again, aren't you?"

Kurt managed a slight chuckle upon hearing that, for Kitty definitely had a knack for perception when it came to the core issues. It was just one of the many things that made her so easy to talk to...Especially on a subject like this.

"I'd be lying if I said I didn't, Kitty. But it's not just because she's my mother."

"Then why?" she asked him in a sincere tone, "Why are you beating yourself up so much with this?"

"Kitty...Look at her! She...She nearly died for me. She saved my life vhen Magnum had me at her mercy. She endured Magneto's torture her for betraying him. She risked everything for us. And...I just can't help but think that...That she knew vhat vas going to happen to her. She didn't stop and think for one second about the pain she vould inflict upon herself by helping us."

Kurt was forced to swallow the hard lump in his throat as Kitty gently ran a hand down the side of his fuzzy face. Her touch definitely helped to make him feel a little better, but he was still so dazed and confused about this whole thing. He honestly didn't know where things would go from here and that really hung strong over his weary mind.

"I just...Vhen I think about her leaving us again, I can't help but think that she'll never come back. I mean...Vhat if Magneto tries to come back and finish vhat he started? Vhat if another enemy from the past hears about her and tries to do the same?"

"Is that why you're down here?" she asked, "Is it because you're afraid she'll leave again and end up dead this time?"

"Ja...I suppose that's the main reason," he said with a deep sigh, his head hanging low from exhaustion and inner conflict, "But...Even if she does leave us again, I vant to at least say goodbye to her this time."

"But do you really want her to leave?"

Kurt found himself once again looking back towards his mother, trying hard to search for the answer to that same question he had been asking himself all night. He was no closer to finding it than he was when he first got here and he was beginning to wonder if he would eventually find it before it was too late.

"I guess that's another reason vhy I feel so lousy..." he conceded, "Because I honestly don't know, Kitty. I really don't know if I'm ready to accept her as family again."

"Hey, this is, like, a big issue Kurt. You can't expect to find all the answers right off the bat."

"But...Vhat if she leaves me again? Vhat if she leaves before I find the answer and it's too late to do anything about it?"

"Kurt...You can't keep dwelling on things like that," she said, once again running her hand down the side of his tired face, "The more you torture yourself about it, the harder it'll be to find what you're looking for."

"I know, but...I just...Part of me vants us to be a family. But another part of me doesn't vant to be abandoned again. I...I really don't think I can go through it again."

Kurt quickly became choked up by such words, prompting Kitty to pull him into a comforting embrace. It was the only gesture she could think of at the moment to help him in his time of need. Such an act spoke volumes as Kurt willingly embraced it. Knowing she could never truly understand how he felt about something like this, she simply found herself doing whatever she could to make her concern for him known. And maybe...There was more to it than either of them was willing to let on at this point.

"It's okay, Kurt...It's okay."

"But...Is it really possible?" he said, reluctantly easing the embrace, "Can ve really be a family again?"

Kitty thought for a moment about his dilemma, but there were just so many things that she couldn't empathize with. She would never know how it felt to deal with something like this. She would never know the kind of pain Kurt felt every time he thought about where he had come from. But if being an X-man had taught her one thing over the past few months...It's that the best thing to hold onto when the going got tough was hope.

"I really can't answer that for you, Kurt," she said, casting him a warm smile to help ease his inner turmoil, "It's not up to me really. I guess it really boils down to what Mystique chooses. But even though I can't give you an answer, I do know this...She is still your mother. And after what we saw her go through last night with all the animosity, mistrust, and danger...She really does love you. Whether or not she stays is one thing, but I know for certain that she really does love you. And that's something I don't think you should ever forget."

It took a moment for her words to run through Kurt's mind, but eventually he managed to smile back at her as a result. It was a smile that warmed Kitty's heart, for it signaled to her that she had said what needed to be said. And for Kurt, he was deeply grateful.

"Thanks Kitty. That really means a lot."

"Hey, anytime fuzzy," she said, giving his fur one last little tease before she got up from her seat and prepared to make her leave, "Just promise me you'll eat something and at least try and get some rest."

"Don't vorry...I'll try," he said, even though he knew sleep was going to be a challenge as long as his mother was still out cold.

"See that you do, Kurt...Because I'll be back down here to make sure of it."

Then, just before she left, she gave Kurt a slight kiss on the cheek. Almost immediately, half the blood in his body ran up to his face, but that only caused Kitty to smile more as she left Kurt with his mother, hoping things would work out with them in the end.

A smile didn't leave Kurt's face even as he sat back down in the chair next to his mother's bed and felt around the area where Kitty's lips had touched. It was just what he needed in a time such as this and he was deeply grateful that she was there to support him when he needed it. It was a testament to how close they were. And in many ways, they were a lot closer than either of them ever could have imagined.

Then suddenly, while Kurt's mind was still trying to process what had just happened, a raspy voice escaped from the injured body of Raven Darkholme.

"You really like her, don't you?" she said, nearly shocking Kurt to the point of a heart attack.

"Vhat the...Mother?!"

Kurt's eyes widened as he watched the bruised and battered body of the blue skinned shape shifter stir from an unconscious state. It was clear that she was still in a lot of pain and was still fairly groggy from the medications, but she was awake none the less.

"Oh my...Are...Are you okay? How...How much of that did you see?"

"I saw enough," she said, managing a smile despite the pain, "And I heard enough as well."

Kurt felt a bit strange upon hearing that, for it basically said everything he was hoping to tell her when she woke up. But since she had heard it, there was no need to go through it again. A part of him was still very weary about their future together as mother and son. He already had a foster family that loved him and that he loved back. So just what kind of relationship could develop from such circumstances?

It was an uncertain dilemma, but thankfully, the smile on Mystique's face said enough to set such anxieties at ease.

"You really stayed here with me all night?" she asked, her tone showing a level of emotion Kurt had never heard before.

"Ja...I...I vas afraid that if I didn't...You vould leave me again."

Looking back into the yellow shaded eyes of the boy she had once dropped in a river all those years ago, Raven Darkholme felt something at that moment that she couldn't quite put her finger on. Maybe it was all the old maternal instincts she had negated over the years. Maybe it was because of all the pain she had endured for him as well. But whatever the reason, they were here now...Mother and son...Together. It was a moment that was long overdue for the both of them, and it was definitely a moment neither of them wanted to squander.

"I'm not going anywhere, Kurt," she told him, managing to give his hand a gentle squeeze despite her weakness, "I promise you...And Rogue for that matter...I'm not going to leave you again. I've been running from this long enough. I think it's finally time I make up for all the time we missed."

Upon hearing that, a slight tear formed in Kurt's eye. And all he could do after that is draw the woman who gave him life into a gentle embrace. It was a gesture that surprised the heavily wounded shape shifter, but it was one she eagerly returned. It was still unclear how their lives would change from this day forward. But for a moment, she set such thoughts aside, simply sharing a moment with her son that she should have shared with him so long ago.

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Up in the kitchen, Ororo had already begun making breakfast. However, the amount she had to prepare this time was only half of what she usually made since so many of the others were still resting and recuperating from the mission. So far, the only students she had seen up besides Shadow Cell was Kitty, but with the New Mutants starting to stir and activity on the upper levels already starting to grow, she had a feeling they would all be hungry to say the least. Even after so many dramatic changes over the past few weeks, it was still necessary to maintain some sense of normalcy and part of that just happened to include the usual breakfast buffet.

With Hank checking on Rogue and Mystique and Logan and the Professor hard at work trying to create a paper trail for their new students, that left the ground level fairly inactive as Ororo tended to her usual cooking duties. Kitty was there to help her, but thankfully she didn't do too much actual cooking. And at the moment, she was downstairs with Kurt, so she didn't have to worry too much about her usual kitchen mishaps. But Ororo still couldn't help but find it remarkable that a girl as smart as Kitty just couldn't seem to develop decent culinary skills.

As Ororo finished another batch of bacon and prepared to tend to the eggs, she was suddenly greeted with a new presence in the kitchen. A smile then formed on her face as she turned to see that it was none other than the five mutants of Shadow Cell, still wearing their battle scared uniforms. And from the looks of it, the smells of her cooking seemed to have been the driving force for drawing them in.

"Ah, there you are," said the former weather goddess as she greeted the five young soldiers, "Are you five hungry? I've made plenty to go around."

"Well, it has been nearly a day since the last time we actually ate something," said Jean as she found herself immediately taken with the smells.

"A day? Well then I guess that means you'll just have to compensate," replied Ororo with a smile.

The five mutant soldiers took a moment to sample some of the stuff that Ororo was making. It was an unfamiliar sight to them, seeing so many different foods with such differing taste, smell, and texture. For over half a decade, they had been used to eating specially formulated gruel and rations. And to be in the presence of so many choices for a change was definitely a new feeling.

"Wow...Real bacon," said Scott, not believing his eyes as he took in the scent of a dish he had long since forgotten about.

"I know! I can't remember the last time I even saw stuff like this," said Wanda, picking up a couple of strips and eagerly biting into them.

"Yeah, me neither," said Vincent, who quickly joined them.

Ororo couldn't help but laugh a bit as she saw them eagerly sample that which they had missed out on so much over the years. In many ways, it made her feel sorry for them since it really showed just how much they had been denied in their short lives. And if this was how they acted around a simple breakfast, then it was abundantly clear that there was plenty that they had yet to experience.

"Wow...What's this?" asked X23 as she looked at what Ororo was making, "It smells really good."

"Scrambled eggs," she answered with a smile as she scooped them onto a plate, "Here, try some."

X23 looked at the strange concoction as if it were some alien goop, but when she put it in her mouth, her eyes quickly widened in surprise.

"Hey...That's really good!"

"Well feel free to have some. There's plenty to go around," said Ororo as she watched the former living weapon eagerly take the plate and dig into her first meal in over a day.

"Mmm...Thanks. This stuff is definitely a step up from the rats we had to eat at that warehouse."

"Tell me about it," said Jean as she put some pancakes onto a plate along with some eggs and bacon, "And this time, it's actually cooked."

"Yeah...Sure beats the hell out of the old gruel back at the base," said Scott, sampling some of the eggs as well since he hadn't tasted them in over a decade.

"No argument here, man," said Vincent, who quickly took a liking to the pancakes, "Even with my memory I guess I've kind of forgotten just how good this stuff is."

"And you're telling me that this is how civilians get to eat?" said X23, already halfway done with her eggs.

"Well you do here," said Ororo, who couldn't help but find some of their banter amusing, if not also a little disturbing with the mention of the rats.

"Damn! I could definitely get used to this!" said Wanda, using her hunting knife as a utensil since that's what she often did on the battlefield with her food.

Then, as the mutant soldiers continued to enjoy their first meal as civilians and students at the Xavier Institute for Gifted Youngsters, a few of the New Mutants, namely Ray, Roberto, Amara, and Jamie, finally made their presence known. But unfortunately for them, they were in for a rather rude awakening.

"Hey Ororo, so what's on the menu-oh my God!" yelled Ray as he literally jumped back at the sight of the five mutant soldiers that had stormed the institute earlier and kicked their collective asses.

"Holy shit! It's them!" yelled Roberto as he instinctively powered up, "Get the Professor! They're back!"

Almost immediately, Shadow Cell took a defensive stance as they had been trained to do so ardently over the years. While they didn't have their guns, that didn't mean they couldn't fight and so much of their soldier instinct integrated into their being, it really didn't take much thought for them to get into full defense mode. But thankfully, Ororo was there to stop the whole ordeal before things got too heated.

"No, wait! It's okay! They're okay! They're students now!"

That revelation was almost as shocking as seeing the five mutant soldiers again and naturally, they didn't want to believe it.

"What?! You can't be serious!" exclaimed Amara, backing off slightly and keeping her powers ready for use.

"Nope, she's serious Princess," said Jean in an indifferent tone, "We're you new house mates."

That left no further room for argument as the bewildered New Mutants remained vigilant towards the five soldiers. The tension in the air was thick, like the calm before a storm. And yet, that was all

"No...No way!" said Jamie, still reeling from the attack, "Ororo, these guys are killers! How can the Professor let them in?"

"Hey, we let you live, didn't we?" shot Scott in response, "There are over fifty ways we could off you guys right here and now that doesn't even involve using our powers, but we aren't going to and we have no intention to."

"Yeah, and besides, if we really wanted to kill you guys, don't you think we'd have done it already?" said Vincent logically.

His words were far from comforting. The thought of living under the same roof as these young soldiers was far from appealing in their minds since many of them were still reeling from the injuries of their first attack. Shadow Cell didn't want to fight them, but the longer this went on, the more likely that possibility seemed. But for Ororo, this was as far as she was going to allow it to get.

"Enough!" she said, using her powers to create a gust of wind between the two groups, "Both of you, stop this!'

Almost immediately, the five mutant soldiers eased their guard in accordance to their orders, a trait that they still harbored from their training. However, the New Mutants weren't as inclined to follow, but that didn't worry Shadow Cell too much. After all, it wasn't like they couldn't take them.

"Yes, they are students now. And yes, the will be living here from now on. And as such, there will be no fighting. Is that clear?"

"Ma'am yes ma'am!" said the five mutant soldiers in perfect unison.

The New Mutants remained reluctant to let their guard down, but with Storm's commanding tone, they finally eased up. But this did not lessen their concerns by any stretch of the imagination. They were still very weary about these five newbies that had already made no qualms about their aptitude to kill. But for now, they would not fight them. After all, it wasn't like they had a chance.

"Dude, that's it! I'm sleeping with my door locked from now on!" said Ray.

"We've blown up Russian missile silos and infiltrated Dr. Doom's palace in Latveria," quipped Wanda, "Do you really think a lousy door would stop us?"

"Wanda, I don't think that's helping," made Jean in response.

"Hey, I'm just saying, that's all."

"And you're doing a hell of a job," muttered Amara as she and the others turned to head back upstairs.

"Yeah, good morning to you too jerk off," shot X23 in response, her mood noticeably sour.

Once they were gone, the five mutant soldiers were left to finish their breakfast, although they were a bit less optimistic about this place now that they had seen the lingering animosity that still existed towards them. It wasn't like they could blame them, but that didn't mean they didn't deserve the benefit of the doubt. After all, it wasn't their fault one of their missions was to infiltrate this place. It's what they were ordered to do. And as soldiers, they always had to follow orders.

"Well this morning WAS going okay," muttered Wanda.

"Give them time, child," assured Ororo, "They'll come around. They just have to get used to the idea of not seeing you as enemies."

"Well from what we know about them, they are a little stubborn to say the least," said Scott, remembering some of the data they uncovered about everybody at the institute during their reconnaissance mission.

"I certainly wouldn't argue that, but it's up to the both of you to give one another a chance."

"Yeah, we know..." said Vincent with a sigh, "But I don't think the memory of the ass kicking we gave them earlier will go away anytime soon."

"And I wouldn't expect it to," made Ororo, "But that's because they don't have many other memories of you other than what they know. And it's up to you to make sure that they have better memories in the long run. It's all a matter of how you take each step."

Ororo's words were wise, showing that she was a remarkable woman of understanding when it came to both sides of a conflict. It was something their reconnaissance never could have picked up on, yet it seemed to tell more about her than anything else they had gathered. Her warm, welcoming aura was a nice change for the five mutant soldiers, who had been so used to cold, heartless officers for so many years. And if this was the woman they would adhere to from now on...Then so be it.

"We'll do our part, Ms. Munroe," affirmed Scott, "You have our word."

"Then that's all I need to hear," she said with a warm smile, "And please, call me Ororo."

"Sorry...Ororo," corrected Scott, still unable to break out of that respect mentality that he had always held for his elders.

They continued to eat their breakfast while Ororo finished up the last few batches of eggs and bacon. It was somewhat remarkable that despite their appetite, they didn't necessarily eat all that much. And furthermore, they didn't stuff it down their throats like certain students of the institute. They were still very much tied to their soldier-like demeanor and showed few inclinations to forget it.

For the former weather goddess, it was quite a change having five students that were so poised and obedient to their elders and so strict about adhering to virtue. In many ways, they reminded her of the noble warriors back in Africa she so often heard stories about. And looking back at them, they truly seemed to embody every one of those honorable traits that she so deeply respected.

"So...What else to people do around here?" asked X23 as she used her claws to pick up one of the last pieces of sausage, "What's our schedule?"

"Well except for danger room sessions and school, we don't necessarily have a schedule. Students around here are free to do as they please as long as they don't wreck anything...Which, mind you, tends to happen a lot around here."

That got the five soldiers to laugh a bit, but it was still so strange for them not having a schedule to adhere to or protocols to dictate the manner in which they went about their day. There were no officers, no drill sergeants, and no GURSO soldiers watching their every move. In some ways, they still acted as if their every move was being watched and monitored at every corner. That feeling was sure to stick with them for a good long while, but they would eventually work through that. After all, it wasn't like they didn't have the time and capability from now on.

"So then...What do we do? We're not exactly used to this," asked Vincent.

"Yes, I understand," said Ororo with a warm expression, "But give it time. You'll find your place here. I have all the confidence that you will. Just don't be afraid to take chances, explore new things, and meet new people."

"Um...Thanks Ms...I mean, Ororo," said Wanda, quickly correcting herself in mid sentence.

"Think nothing of it. That's what I'm here for," she said as she scooped the last batch of eggs on the buffet table for all those who managed to drag themselves out of bed, "Oh, and if you all are done, I was hoping that maybe we could get you into something a bit more comfortable than those uniforms of yours. And if you'd like, I'm sure you'd all like to have a shower and wash up as well."

"The shower sounds nice, but why our uniforms?" asked Jean, "I thought you said we'd have to go out and buy new clothes later on."

"Don't worry, we'll get around to that," she assured her, "But in the meantime, let's get you into something a little more...Appropriate for students."

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Naturally, selecting new clothing wasn't something that the five mutant soldiers of Shadow Cell were used to since they had always been told what to wear. They only thing they had left from their previous lives was their uniforms, which were already somewhat tattered and torn from the aftermath of their last mission. However, they would patch those up later on when they got a chance and Ororo also said that they would be allowed to use them as a template for their new X-men uniform. But that would come later. Now, it was just a matter of trying to adapt to this new civilian mentality.

Overall, the selection of clothing they had was somewhat limited. Scott and Vincent only had clothing from Remy and Warren to choose from, but many of Warren's shirts had holes in them for his wings and Remy's shirts tended to have unwanted decals on them that said things like 'chick magnet,' 'booty inspector,' and 'New Orleans Native' on it.

The girls didn't fare much better since the only woman who fit Jean and Wanda's size was Betsy and Rogue. And for Jean, many of Betsy's clothes were a bit too...Provocative for her tastes. Things like thong underwear, halter tops, and low riding jeans were not styles that she was familiar with. Rogue's gothic sense was also a bit of a turn off for them as well, but Wanda managed to find some stuff that worked.

For X23, however, her more petite stature didn't leave her with many options. The only one who really fit her was Kitty, and many of her clothes were just too bubbly for her tastes. Amara also had some things for her, but they were just too loose since she was so accustomed to wearing skin tight outfits.

Eventually, the five mutant soldiers managed to find a small combination of stuff they could wear up until they had a chance to buy new stuff suited for them, but that would have to wait until later when they had a paper trail that made it safe for them to go out in public. In the meantime, they would just have to make due with what they had...And since they had been trained so ardently to adapt over the years, they had all the necessary skills to make the best out of this new situation.

After selecting their clothes, the five mutants split up and began exploring the mansion for a while, but not without taking extra precaution not to run into anybody just yet since they didn't want a repeat of what happened in the kitchen. There were plenty of places within the institute to explore, almost enough to get lost in. But they managed to develop somewhat of a feel for the overall layout and format of the place, their old infiltration skills coming in handy with that.

But after a while of exploring, they eventually settled and a few of them took the time to wash up and clean out the dirt and grime that had accumulated on their bodies from nearly a week of non-stop activity. They were all noticeably enthusiastic about the prospect of private showers since they had been accustomed to having GURSO soldiers watch them every waking moment while they bathed in plain sight of one another and since most of the institute was still out cold from exhaustion, they used the time they had to clean themselves off a bit. But for some, this new freedom offered 'other' benefits.

In one of the bathrooms not far from the end hall where Shadow Cell was staying, Jean had decided to spend a bit more time than needed under the hot, steamy torrent of water, simply letting it relax her tense body and mind from all the stress she and her comrades had faced over the past few days. Her mind was wrought with thoughts of Sinister, Magnum, the Colonel, and the revelation about her family and the hot shower helped her simply relax a bit from it all despite how painful it had been.

At first it felt a little strange not having guns pointed at her while she showered. Back at Shadow Cell they were given a limited number of toiletries to wash themselves off with and had a limited amount of time for which they could spend bathing since they didn't want it waste any spare moments they could spend training.

Now, here in the Xavier Institute, she could spend as much time as she pleased under the warm torrent of water and she had more toiletries at her disposal than she knew what to do with. She didn't even know what the hell conditioner was or why it was necessary. Plus, some of this so called 'skin care' body lotion seemed a bit strange. But aside from the new features of showering that she was now free to take advantage of, Jean was really enjoying having a nice long shower. It felt good...Really good to finally get a chance to relax.

Then suddenly, while she was just letting the water cascade down her naked body, she sensed something through her link with Scott.

'Jean...Jean are you still showering?' he sent to her through their link.

'Yes...Where are you?'

'Right outside the door. You've been in there for a while and I was getting a little worried.'

'Everything's okay Scott...I'm fine,' she assured him.

'Okay...Just checking.'

Then, Jean suddenly got an idea. With no GURSO soldiers to worry about, no strict surveillance of their every move, and no strict guidelines prohibiting such things, they might as well take advantage of this new situation.

'Scott...' she sent, stopping him before he could leave.

'Yes Jean?'

'Have...Have you showered yet?'

'Um...No, I'm still waiting for Vincent to finish,' he told her.

That revelation got her to smile, a rare act for any of them, but something they looked forward to doing more often from now on.

'Well then why don't you join me? There's plenty of room.'

That thought got Scott's eyes to widen a bit, but the thought of standing naked in the shower with the woman he loved simply had too much appeal for him to turn down. He didn't know Xavier's policies towards things like this, but whatever they were, he wasn't about to let it stop him from sharing a little closeness with his lover.

'Are you sure Jean? What about...'

'Do I really need to answer that? I know my body. Come on, babe...Let's celebrate our new freedom.'

With a smile on his face, Scott entered the bathroom, which Jean had left unlocked mainly out of habit since there were never locks for them back at Shadow Cell. He then went on to remove his clothing, setting them in a neat, organized pile next to Jean's before making his way through the steam and into the nice, private shower that was just waiting for them.

Jean maneuvered herself to the side somewhat to give Scott some room. Then, she drew him into a quick embrace as he brought him under the hot torrent of water. Even though she had taken what Dr. Essex had described as 'specially' formulated birth control pills back at Shadow Cell, she felt as though she knew her body well enough to know when the right time was. She wasn't sure what he meant but 'specially' since she was also told that just because her cycle was regulated, that didn't mean she couldn't get pregnant.

But she didn't bother with that as she heard Scott let out a content moan as he felt the warm water wash over his naked form and quickly returned Jean's gesture, wrapping his powerful arms around her wet body and captured his lips in a deep, loving kiss.

'Mmm...I could get used to this,' sent Jean as she savored the sweet feeling of having her naked lover's arms around her, kiss her with all his love and passion.

'Yeah...So could I.'

And with a newfound sense of freedom, Scott Summers and Jean Grey began to make love right there in the shower, savoring the sweet bliss of their new lives here at the Institute.

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

Out on the balcony overlooking the pool, Vincent Freeman found himself taking a quiet moment to reflect on this new life of his. After having showered, he was left with a little alone time to let his thoughts simply wander as they so often did when he and his friends weren't on missions or training. And in many respects, It was all still very strange to him, living the life of a civilian again after having spent so many years pushing away those memories before Shadow Cell.

It was amazing how used to the military lifestyle he and his friends had become over the years and it still stuck with them even though they were free now. While some of it was simply out of habit, part of it simply stemmed from the sense of personal respect and virtue that had been instilled upon them by their superiors over the years and much of that couldn't be undone. And even though he wanted to distance himself from the control that Sinister and his old drill sergeants had taught him, a part of him still wanted to retain that sense of honor and spirit that made them all more warriors than soldiers.

Looking back on his life, he found himself thinking a lot about Father Michaels, Mr. Kansuke, and all the friends he had back at the orphanage that were now dead simply because Sinister wanted him. It bore a heavy weight on his already fragile soul, but there was nothing he could have done to stop it. Sinister wanted him and he had no way of knowing the truth. He had been a pawn and his friends and family had been the victims. If he hadn't been a part of their lives, then they wouldn't have had to die.

Such thoughts kept echoing in his mind again and again. He just couldn't stop blaming himself for their deaths. Had he simply died back with Prodigy, so many innocent lives could have been saved. He thought he had been avenging those lives by fighting with Shadow Cell when in reality he was just helping the monster who killed them. Sure, he and his friends had saved the lives of countless innocents over the years, but did that justify his existence? Did that justify his role in all those deaths?

What would Father Michaels say if he was here now? What would Mr. Kansuke say as well? Had he done the right thing? Was all the killing, struggle, and strife justified? He didn't know the answer and there was no way he possibly could. All he had left was his friends whom he had fought with so ardently to save this world from destruction. Sinister was gone. His old life was just a massive jumble of memories now. And he would have to deal with that until the end of his days.

Then, while he allowed himself to wallow in his own little world of uncertainty...Wanda made her presence know, looking all too eager to help lift his wounded spirit.

"Vincent?" she said, drawing his attention as she made her way over towards him, leaning up against the spot concrete railing that was right at his side, "Vincent, are you okay? You look troubled."

The young soldier simply sighed, knowing he wasn't getting anywhere on his own. So why not turn to the woman that made it all worth while?

"I was just thinking," he told her in a deep monotone.

"About what?" she asked, moving in a little closer to him, "Come on hotshot, you know you can tell me anything."

Upon hearing her little pet name for him, he managed to smile a bit. It wasn't much, but it did help him put things into perspective more.

"I guess that...Now we're free, we've all been giving a lot of extra time to think. And with everything that's happened, I guess it's caused a lot of things to resurface again...Things I've tried to let go of for a very long time."

"Yeah, I think we've all felt that way at some point since we got here," made Wanda, thinking back to how the memories of her estranged father had affected her.

"But for me, I feel as though it's even worse," said Vincent, now struggling with his words, "I mean...Sinister killed my mother! He destroyed the orphanage! He killed Father Michaels and Mr. Kansuke! He pretty much used me as a guinea pig all my life! From Prodigy to Shadow Cell, I helped that son of a bitch! I became a killer for him! I betrayed all the morals I was taught growing up for him only to learn that he was using me the whole time! And I...How can I ever forgive myself for what I've done?"

Vincent Freeman was forced to swallow the lump in his throat that had formed from saying those words. He hated himself so much for everything he had done. He hated himself for letting Sinister use him and allowing him to hurt everybody he ever grew close to. Did he even have a right to live after all this? Was it even possible to live on with this burden forever upon his soul?

He may not have known the answer, but Wanda sure did and she wasn't going to let him forget it.

"Vincent...Please don't do this to yourself," she said, placing her hand atop his and giving it a firm squeeze, "You can't allow yourself to think such things. You know they aren't true."

"How can they not be true?! Just look at what he did to us Wanda! Look at how he used us!"

"I know...I know...It hurts. But beyond how he used us, you can't let it stand in the way of what we stood for. Regardless of how much he made you suffer, you proved him wrong Vincent. You helped take him down...We all did. We just...None of us had any power over what he did to us. None of us could have seen it coming or done anything to prevent it. And it was never your fault, you hear? It was all Sinister. And don't you EVER let yourself think otherwise!"

"But...After everything I've done...All the lives I took..."

"Vincent..." said Wanda, her hand now running down his distraught face, "We can't change what we did. We can't change the fact that we're killers. But we can never forget that which we stood for. Don't just think about the lives we took...Think about the lives we've saved as well. Think about all the innocent people and all the innocent children that are still alive because of what we did. If we hadn't taken those lives, they would have inflicted more suffering than Sinister ever would have. All the conflict...All the complications...All the missions...How can you be ashamed of something like that? How can you be ashamed of being a proud, noble soldier who so willingly put his life on the line for the sake of so many others?"

Vincent didn't respond. Instead, he simply took the young woman that meant so much to him in his arms, gently pulling her into a warm embrace. Looking back at the warm expression on her face, he felt so much of his burden fade away. Even though they would always have to live with what Sinister had done, there was still those memories he had of all the people they saved. That was something nobody could ever touch. Wanda knew it...His comrades knew it...But it was just a matter of him remembering that which still resonated so strongly within his soul.

He was a soldier. He was a warrior. And nobody could ever take that away from him.

"But...What about the people who died because of me? What about..."

"Vincent...They didn't die because of you. They died because of Sinister. He's gone now, Vincent...Gone forever. And I'm sure that if your family and friends were still alive...They'd be so damn proud of you for everything you've done and all the lives you've saved that they'd probably smack you upside the head for thinking otherwise. We are soldiers Vincent...Honorable, proud, and loyal to the end. And don't you ever forget that...Otherwise I'll just keep hexing you until you remember."

A warm smile spread across Vincent Freeman's face as he took in those words. It was remarkable how far they had come. Yet through it all, they were still bound by the same creed...The same virtues...They same tenants of a soldier. And it was through those beliefs...That faith they had placed in their cause and one another...They would always remain true to themselves. And for the young man who had lost so much and would always remain so haunted by his past, it was a welcome feeling, having such an amazing young woman, stand by his side to remind him of that which truly mattered.

"Thanks Wanda," he said in a soft tone, "Really...I can't tell you how much that means to me."

"Hey, I love you Vince. Don't you ever forget that," she told him, placing both hands on the side of his face, "We never got a chance to share this because we were both so afraid...So scared of loving again and being hurt. But now that we have this, we don't have to be afraid anymore."

"And as long as I have you by my side...I never will be."

And from that, their lips met in a deep kiss. Vincent Freeman and Wanda Maximoff had come a long way. Yet now that they future lay open with so many possibilities. They could finally let go of the inhibitions that had held them back in the past. And through things like honor, compassion, friendship, and of course, love...They could make a new future together.

The young couple stayed lip locked for a good long while, savoring the sweet taste and sensations that this powerful act brought. Maybe it was because their bodies and minds were enhanced or maybe it was just because these feelings had been so pent up inside them all these years. But either way, it was something they wanted to savor and cherish together.

Then suddenly, while they were still engrossed in passion, a rather humored observer stepped in to cool things down.

"Interrupting something?" said X23 with a wolfish grin.

Almost immediately, Vince and Wanda separated in shock, needing a moment to catch their breath as they looked back at the smiling, humored X23.

"X..." said Wanda, scrambling for an explanation, "We were just..."

"Don't bother, Wanda. I saw enough of it to know what was going on."

"And you just stood back and watched us?" said Vincent with a wry expression.

"Hey...It seemed important, so I didn't interrupt," she shrugged.

Both Vincent and Wanda were now blushing feverishly since this was the first time they had been caught by anybody. It wasn't like they did a good job of hiding their feelings over the years, but still...It was awkward to say the least.

"So did you just come to embarrass us or has something come up?" asked Vincent, breaking the awkward silence that had fallen over them.

"A little of both actually," she said with a slight chuckle, "But humor aside, I came to tell you guys that Logan wants us to meet him out on the front lawn. Apparently, we have a visitor."

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

AN: Hell of a first day, isn't it? Well, the first day is always the hardest last I checked and Shadow Cell is no exception. But it's not over yet! There's still a few more things left for them to handle before this tumultuous day can come to a close and I'll give you a little hint...It has to do with the 'visitor' X23 mentioned. So what did you all think? Was this an interesting read? Do you think the reactions from the New Mutants were appropriate? Tell me! Send me your feedback via email or post it on the fanfiction website! Either way is fine as long as you REVIEW! Thanks a ton for reading everybody and I wish you all the best!

THE BUTTON IS JUST A LITTLE BIT FURTHER! PRESS IT! REVIEW!!!
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