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

Loose Ends

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: 2006/12/09 - Updated: 2006/12/10 - 9930 words

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Sinister Soldiers
Chapter 52: Loose Ends


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

Out on the front lawn of the Xavier Institute, a large unmarked Black Hawk helicopter had landed in a clearing not far from the fountain. It was the exact same aircraft that had landed at the institute a few days ago and just like last time it bore the same occupant...Nick Fury.

Logan and the five mutant soldiers of Shadow Cell were all out there to meet the legendary cold warrior, keeping the level of involvement to a bear minimum since Fury was never one to keep too many people in the loop. He had already gone way beyond traditional protocols by giving the X-men data on Shadow Cell and he didn't need to complicate things any further. But just like last time, he still owed a few friends some favors and this was simply his way of making good on his word.

"Back so soon, Fury?" grunted Logan as he greeted his old friend/acquaintance.

"What can I say? I love the Westchester scenery," quipped Fury in response as he took one last puff of a cigar he had been smoking and tossed it aside.

"Yeah right, bub...I'm sure you were just in the neighborhood, so let's get this over with. Why did ya call us?"

"To give you all an update on the situation," replied Fury as he turned his attention to the five mutant soldiers, "You five left quite a mess back at the base and pretty much every secret branch of the defense department is scrambling to clean it up, SHIELD included."

"What part of that is supposed to shock you, Fury?" said Scott, his tone somewhat distasteful since this man and the organization he ran had been a key rival of Shadow Cell.

"I never said it did. After all, a battle scorched no mans land is kind of your calling card last I checked."

"Then does that mean you're just here to rail us for making you and your boys do a little overtime?" made Wanda, who seemed to share the teams overall mentality towards this man.

"I could do that, but I'm not. I came here for one reason and one reason only...To tie up loose ends."

"Loose ends?" said Vincent curiously, "I take it you mean us."

"Well you all are still government property last time I checked. And you're still ghosts. All your files, records, and personal data were wiped out the second you all joined. So in a sense, none of you ever even existed. You weren't even born."

As strange as that may have sounded for some people, Scott, Jean, Vincent, Wanda, and X23 didn't look all that affected from that. They were somewhat used to it anyways. But Nick Fury wasn't here to take them on a trip down memory lane. He was here to make things right. He had his orders, but he also had his obligations as well. And as a soldier, he intended to carry them out to the fullest.

"So I guess that means you're not officially talking to us at the moment," reasoned X23, knowing just as well as her comrades how things worked in the world of black ops.

"Smart girl...You definitely have your father's eye."

That earned him a low grunt from Logan, but Fury didn't flinch. He simply reached into his pocket and lit another cigar.

"You're right, though...My orders are clear. The higher ups don't want the most powerful team of soldiers ever assembled out in the real world assimilating with the masses that they spent so much taxpayer money to break them away from. The protocols as of now are to either confirm your demise, or find, capture, and detain you for an indefinite period of time."

"So is that why you're here? Just to pick us up and throw us in Leavenworth until the sun explodes?" asked Jean, not sounding afraid even though this man was clearly not one to be taken lightly.

"Lady, if I wanted to do that, do you think I would have come here alone?" asked Fury in an overtly obvious tone, "I've read your files. I've seen what you five can do. And something tells me that even if I had brought an entire platoon of my elite SHIELD units, the only thing I'd get out of it was an excessively high body count and another bloody mess to clean up."

The five mutant soldiers had no reason to deny Fury's words. He was certainly not one to dick around and this was no exception. Yet despite standing before some of the deadliest incarnations that the government had ever created, he kept his poise. He had been around long enough to know what true horror was and this instance could hardly be classified as such.

"So if you're not here to take us back then why the hell are you here?" asked Scott, wanting to get this over with.

"Like I said...Loose ends," said Fury as he exhaled a puff of smoke, "I have two ways of doing it...One of which is to offer the five of you elite positions in SHIELD special forces since we're now going to be the ones taking on the shit you five have been handling these past three years. Now this is something I could definitely pull a few strings with in order to make happen. You'd be back in the military serving your country, but not under the same authoritarian atmosphere of Shadow Cell. And I'd be completely willing to work with this...But after learning about what you five went through, I had a feeling that maybe you had enough of the military for a while."

"Good call, Fury," said Vincent, who couldn't see himself going back to that life ever again, "So what's the second way?"

With his cigar still in hand, Fury reached into his trench coat and pulled out a slightly thick folder of papers. He then went on to hand it to Logan, who quickly opened it for the five young soldiers to see and what they took in definitely came as a shock.

"Hey...These are..." began Jean, but Fury cut her off.

"Identification papers...The kind that will allow you to operate in the civilian world again without having to deal with the higher ups bearing down on you. Now I can't tell you how many strings I had to pull to get this, but let's just say someone other than me has the right kind of influence to make something like this possible."

"The General..." said Wanda, knowing it could only be him.

"You guessed it," grinned Fury as he took one last puff of his cigar and tossed it aside, "The man may have his faults, but he's not the kind of guy to abandon his troops. He credits you for bringing honor back to his career and if there's one thing that defines that man above all else, it's his loyalty to the people he trusts."

The unit formally known as Shadow Cell couldn't help but grin somewhat at that. It definitely summed up the General in a nutshell. Of all the people that had been closely involved with their development, the only one who hadn't turned on them was the General. And after spending so many years coming through for him, he was finally there to return the favor.

"Use these papers to make yourselves civilians again. Just fill them out, get them into public databases, and let my people do the rest."

"But what about the higher ups?" asked X23 as her eyes fell on what looked like an adoption document, "You said it yourself, they don't want us out here in the real world."

"Kid, as omnipotent as they are, they're still subject to influence and I promise I'll make sure they leave you alone. Just leave it to me. Oh, and there's one more thing that comes along with this packet that I think should help you guys as well."

Fury once again reached into his pocket and pulled out another smaller folder. This one didn't have nearly the volume of information that the first one did, but it's contents were every bit as important.

"What is this?" asked Scott as he opened it up.

"A little something my boys came across in the rubble. They're bank statements from Magnum and her accounts in Switzerland, Grand Caiman, and the Caribbean. As the daughter of a Russian Mob Kingpin and an internationally renowned mercenary, she amassed quite a bit of wealth over the years...A hefty eight figure sum to be precise. But now that she's dead and gone, I figured that wealth would naturally go to her closet relatives. And since you were her prized students, I guess that means it's all yours."

Upon seeing some of the statements in the documents, the eyes of the five young soldiers widened at some of the figures. They knew Magnum got around, but the numbers they were seeing were huge. Hell, they could probably live a life of great luxury off the interest alone from this kind of money...And every last cent of it was now theirs.

"Wow..." said Jean as she went over their new Swiss accounts, "All this money? This is ours?"

"Consider it a long overdue payment for all the shit you guys had to go through," said Fury with a grin, "I already took care of the details. There are 10 accounts in all, each of which is now in your names. Some of Dr. Essex's old wealth is probably in there somewhere as well and you all have unlimited access to them. With this and the papers, you five should have everything you need to make a new life for yourselves."

Scott Summers, Jean Grey, Vincent Freeman, Wanda Maximoff, and X23 were speechless. They were so used to not having anything to their name other than their spirits as soldiers that it was definitely somewhat of a shock to have all this at their disposal now. Now they would actually have names. They would actually have resources. They would actually have lives. No longer would they be mere shadows of the government...Now, they could truly be themselves. It was an odd feeling to all of them since they were still soldiers at heart, but it was something they would have to adapt to in the long run.

"You really know how to go all out, Fury," commented Logan, his eyes widening at the sight of the wealth that these former soldiers had inherited.

"Well...Let's just say, I was due."

Everything seemed to be in place. They had the papers they would need in order to officially be alive again. They had all the money they would ever need for the rest of their natural lives to build upon. It was only a matter of moving forward from here, building a new future and starting a new life.

"So that's it?" said Scott as he finally diverted his gaze from the papers back to the famous cold warrior, "That's all you came here for."

"Pretty much, kid," he replied, looking back towards the pilot in his chopper and signaling him to start the engines, "I don't think I need to tell you guys that I'm not here at the moment and never was in the first place."

"Yeah, yeah...We know the drill eye patch," grunted Logan.

Then, as he prepared to make his leave, Jean stopped him with one last issue that was still lingering in her mind.

"Colonel, wait!" she said, stopping him cold in his tracks, "What about the General? What's going to happen to him?"

The influential head of SHIELD let out a deep sigh, for that was an issue that he was still not sure about. He had already made a mistake with this man once before and that's part of what led him to Shadow Cell. But past mistakes aside, he was determined to make things right this time.

"He'll most likely undergo a trial since he's the only surviving head of Shadow Cell. They'll move for a court marshal and there's still a chance that he may face some serious penalties."

"But he had nothing to do with the liquidation of Shadow Cell!" exclaimed Wanda, "How can they convict him for something like that?"

"They're just looking for a scapegoat," muttered Fury in response, "But believe me, I won't let this stand. I'll do what I can to stop them from reprimanding him...You have my word."

"Good enough for me," said Scott, knowing that Fury may have been many things, but he was always a man of his word, "And if you see him again...Send him our thanks."

"I'll do that," assured Fury as he began to make his way back towards the helicopter, which was now already primed for take off, "But remember one thing Shadow Cell...The moment I leave this place, your link with the government will be forever severed. As far as I'm concerned, the five of you died back in that base explosion and your bodies are nothing more than charred remains."

"Yeah, I guess that works," said Vincent, thinking it was probably appropriate for them given how things had turned out, "So then I guess this is goodbye, Colonel."

"Yeah...I guess so," said the old Cold Warrior, "What you five do from this point on is all up to you. But take it from a guy who's been a soldier long enough to know how the world works...Don't ever forget who you are...Don't ever be afraid. You are and will forever be true soldiers. And NOBODY can ever take that away from you."

They were words that the five young soldiers took to heart, for they had come to see the truth all too clearly when it came to their sense of being. There was no way they could escape who and what they were and in many ways, it was something they didn't want to escape from. They were, and always would be soldiers. And no matter what Dr. Essex tried to do to them, they would always be proud of their heritage and their honor.

"Thank you, sir. It's been an honor," said Scott as he and his comrades gave their formal rival a respectful salute.

Their actions actually brought a smile to Nick Fury's face, which was rare for anybody who even remotely knew him. But the former cold warrior didn't care. He had made his peace and he had taken care of that which had to be done. And for that reason, he would have no regrets.

"Take care Shadow Cell," he told them as he stepped into the helicopter, "And Logan...Stay out of trouble."

"Yeah, nice seein' you too, eye patch," said former Weapon X with a wolfish grin.

"Just put some of those papers to good use and we'll call it even. After all, I have a feeling that a few of them might do you some good as well."

With no more loose ends to tie up, Nick Fury of SHIELD made his final departure from the Xavier Institute, leaving the five mutant soldiers of Shadow Cell poised to begin anew.

It was official now. They were no longer bound by the shadows that had been forced to live in for so long. And from this day forward, they would have new lives to build.

"Logan..." said X23 as she turned towards the man who's blood created her, "What do you think he meant by that?"

"What? You mean putting some of those papers to good use?" asked Logan, "I have no idea."

Then, as he looked back down at the adoption documents that had been in the folder Fury had given them, he began to get a strange feeling that maybe there was something to this after all. Last night when X23 had thrown his arms around him and pulled him into an embrace, he was left paralyzed in so many ways, for it had given him a lot to think about. And now that they had these papers, there were plenty of new possibilities for all of them.

This girl shared his blood and it was already clear that there was a special bond between them, but could it possibly go further? Could something like that possibly make the family? It was a hard thing to consider, but it was definitely something worth thinking about in the future.

"Come on guys...Let's go get this stuff to the Professor," said Scott, taking Jean's hand and giving it an affectionate squeeze as they all began to make their way back inside.

"Yeah, I don't know about you guys, but I think I'm ready to be classified as living again," said Wanda as she interlocked her arms with Vincent.

"Amen to that..." said Vincent as he and his comrades let out a collective smile, for this was truly a new beginning for all of them...A beginning so full of possibilities and hope.

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

Down in the infirmary, Kurt remained by Mystique's bed side, keeping her company as she healed from the extensive injuries she had suffered during the big fight at Shadow Cell HQ. It gave them both some time to do some long overdue catching up with Kurt filling her in on everything that was going on about the current state of the mansion now that the five mutant soldiers were a part of it.

In addition, Kitty made regular visits to check up on Kurt and more often then not, she would leave him with a smile. Such interaction did not go unnoticed by Mystique...Who couldn't help but smile somewhat at the sight of her son flirting with a girl. It left her with plenty of questions concerning her son's love life...Questions that had a knack for making the young mutant blush profusely. But as long as they had this kind of time together, they were sure as hell going to make the best of it.

And while Kurt and his estranged mother continued to play catch up with lost time, Rogue had finished her recovery and checkup in the room across the hall. Having not suffered nearly the level of injuries as Mystique, her recovery was quite fast...Almost too fast in some ways. It was definitely a concern for Hank and the Professor, who gave the young woman a thorough examination after she had regained consciousness.

Naturally, Remy stayed with her the whole time to keep her company, but the tests didn't take long and the results seemed every bit as mysterious as the conflict that had caused them.

"So what's the verdict doc?" she said as she put her shirt back on after having undergone the last few tests with Hank, "How much longer do Ah have to live?"

Both Hank and Xavier looked at the results with equal fascination, finding them to be rather unexpected, yet very intriguing at the same time. Rogue's mutation had always been a tad unusual to say the least, but the stats they were seeing now just took it to a whole different level and despite their expertise, it was a lot to make sense of.

"Hank, are you sure these readings are right?" asked the Professor as he went over them one last time to be sure.

"But of course, Charles. I double checked them just to be certain."

"Certain?" said Rogue, getting a little anxious about this, "Certain about what? Is something wrong with meh? Did Sinister pump me full of some paralyzin' virus? Am I gonna die or something?!"

"Hey, hey...Calm down cherè," coaxed Remy, who was sitting right beside her, holding her covered hand, "You ain't gonna die, ya hear? Don't let yourself think things like dat."

"He's right, Rogue," said Hank as he set the stats aside, now certain that what he was seeing wasn't a fluke, "You're not going to die. In fact, I can safely say that the exact opposite applies in this instance."

"Exact opposite?" said the southern goth in confusion, "What do ya mean?"

"Rogue...The test results from your work up show you to be in excellent health. You're body is as strong and fit as it ever was, if not more so."

"More so?"

"Yes, as unusual as it seems, you're physical health is well above that which I would have expected for someone who had been in your situation. Compared to your last check up, your stats increased nearly ten fold."

"So Ah'm healthy...So what?" said Rogue, not seeing what the big deal was, "Isn't that good news?"

"It most certainly is, my dear...But it's not the fact that your body is in superb health that intrigues us," said Xavier, still holding one of the charts, "It's more so the matter that you're readings made such enormous jumps to begin with. Bear in mind, you were under Sinister's control for a good long while before we got you out. And we only rescued you after he had prepared everything for use in that machine of his."

"Wait...So yo' sayin' dat Sinister's wacked out gizmo had some kind o' affect on her?" concluded Remy, becoming intrigued as well since anything that involved Rogue usually was cause for concern in his mind.

"It would appear so..." said the Professor, "It is the only explanation for such a dramatic change in her physical health."

"So then...Sinister did something to meh," stated Rogue, feeling her skin crawl at the feeling of that psycho using her body for his own sick plan, "Should Ah be worried?"

"Well, as surprising as this may sound, Rogue...I think you should be ecstatic," said Hank with a reassuring smile, "Whatever Sinister did to you, it actually had some pretty significant benefits."

"Benefits? What kind of benefits?" she asked, growing all the more curious.

"Well aside from your health, it appears that whatever you went through in that machine of his affected your mutation as well," said the Professor as he showed her a couple of charts that looked like DNA fingerprinting slides, "Now according to your first checkup, your mutation was somewhat scrambled in a sense. Your body lacked many of the vital control mechanisms to manage your abilities, which would explain your inability to turn off your absorption powers as well as your difficulty managing your memories. But now it seems, your DNA has been altered slightly."

"Altered? Altered how?" asked Remy, feeling just as curious as Rogue.

"Well...Altered may not be the best word in this instance," explained Hank as he took over since he was the one who had done the blood work, "In more logical terms, her mutation as been...Completed."

"Completed?"

"Yes, completed in a sense that your X-gene made your powers uncontrollable simply because it lacked the proper DNA coding for a control mechanism. Now I'm not sure of the exact methods Sinister used, but whatever it was, it seems to have completed your mutation and given you the proper coding necessary for these mechanisms. Moreover, this code has been activated and manifested. And near as I can tell, it's all functioning in perfect harmony."

While Rogue may not have had the best knowledge when it came to science, she was beginning to understand what they were both talking about. And when she thought about it, it did make sense. It explained why her memory was no longer in pieces, why her head wasn't swimming in the bits and chunks of other memories she had absorbed in the past, and why she felt so much stronger all of the sudden. But aside from her overall state of being, there was one other matter that seemed to overshadow them all...One she had long since given up on, but now actually had some hope for after all this time.

"So...If mah X-gene is complete now...Does that mean I can touch?" she asked anxiously, her tone brimming with hope.

Both Xavier and Hank exchanged a conflicted look. As they went over the data sheets from their tests again, there was little evidence if this had indeed affected her powers to that extent. They only knew what the computers told them, but in looking at the data, it seemed logical enough to assume that with the control mechanisms in place, she should be able to.

Then again, Rogue's mutation was an unusual one and there was no telling what such a change could incur.

"I...Can't say for certain, Rogue," answered the Professor, "But given the changes to your mutation, it most certainly is possible."

Looking down at her hands, which were still covered by gloves, the young woman who thought she had been doomed to a life of isolation suddenly felt a new sense of excitement. If she could touch, then that could mean she could actually let people get close to her without putting them into a coma. It means she could go out, wear normal clothing, and be in normal relationships.

Remy seemed to pick up on this state fairly quickly upon seeing the look on her face. He knew what she was thinking...It didn't take telepathy to understand that. After all, this was a girl who had often faced major emotional issues because of her isolation. And with this news, there was a chance to break free from that. And it was for this reasons, she wanted to know for sure.

"Rogue...What are you..." began Hank, but Rogue wasn't about to let anything stop her at this point.

"Ah have to know for sure," she said as she took off her gloves and turned towards Remy.

"Rogue, wait!" urged the Professor, "We don't know for certain if..."

"Ah don't care!" she said, cutting him off in mid sentence, "Ah can't remember the last time I touched another person without hurting them...Ah've practically forgotten what it feels like."

Turning towards Gambit, there was a pleading look in her eyes...One that seemed to say, 'Please...Let me do this.' Remy had seen the affects of Rogue's powers before and he knew just as well as the others that they could send anybody into a world of hurt. But in seeing how desperate she was for this, even the threat of being knocked into a coma didn't affect Remy in the slightest. Because if Rogue could truly touch again, then he wanted to be the first one to feel it.

"Remy..." she began as she raised her shaking hand up to his face.

"It's okay, cherè," he told her with a smile, "Remy knows what ya want. And don't worry...Remy trusts ya."

"But...What if," she began, hesitating a bit at the halfway point.

"It's okay Rogue...Remy can take de pain."

Swallowing hard, Rogue's weary hands continued on their wayward path as everybody in the room held their breath. It was clear that nothing was going to stop her at this point. They would know whether or not these 'modifications' were sufficient soon enough. And through such tension, nobody seemed more anxious than Rogue. She didn't want to hurt anybody...Especially Remy. This had always been her curse...Her burden to bear.

But now, there was reason to believe that she wasn't doomed to never know what it was like to touch another. It was only a matter of taking the first step. Her hand was now only within inches of Remy Lebeau's face. She was still shaking with nervousness and anxiety, not knowing what to expect. Then, taking a deep breath, she knew that it was now or never.

Finally, she felt it...The feeling of his skin against hers. Only this time, there was no sudden rush of energy...No fury of images...Not even the slightest tingle of shock. There was just full, unhindered contact...No powers, no pain, no coma...Nothing. She had finally touched another human being without hurting them. She had finally felt something she never thought she'd get a chance to feel again. She was really touching someone...And after all the isolation she had endured, it was truly a wonderful feeling.

"Well, I'll be..." said Hank with a pleasantly surprised look on his face, "I suppose this means there's no need for further tests."

Rogue couldn't help but smile as she kept running her hands along Remy's rugged face, feeling the warm skin with her hand. It was a sensation that Remy definitely enjoyed, for this would definitely open up many possibilities for them. Maybe now, she wouldn't be afraid to grow close anymore. Maybe now, thing between them could truly blossom. But that was thinking ahead a bit too much. For now, he just wanted to savor this feeling.

"Oh mah God..." said Rogue as tears of joy began to form in her eyes, "Ah...Ah can touch. Ah can actually touch!"

"It would seem so, Rogue," said the Professor with a warm smile, happy to see the once deeply distraught woman finally freed from her burden, "This proves that you do indeed have control over your powers. And that also means we'll have to learn how to manage them. But rest assured I will help you with it every step of the way."

"And so will I," said Remy, flashing her his best smile as he reached forth and wiped away some of the tears of joy that had formed in her eyes.

Rogue felt as though she was going to break down right then and there. She was just so happy. She could finally touch again. She was no longer doomed...No longer cursed. The feeling of Remy's hand on her face seemed to say it all...For she was finally free.

"Ah...Ah can't believe it," she said, swallowing her sobs, "Ah...It's like a dream come true."

"Well believe it, cherè...This ain't some dream," assured Remy as he took her hand within his and gave it a gentle squeeze, "You ain't gotta worry about hurtin' people no more."

With those words echoing in her mind, Rogue couldn't take it anymore. She broke down...Throwing her arms around Remy and crying her heart out into his shoulder. She was just so happy...So complete.

Her actions definitely surprised the Cajun born mutant, but he was quick to embrace her, simply letting her cry her heart out in his arms. It was a sight that made both Hank and the Professor smile. To see a student who had been suffering so much because of her burden let out tears of joy was a rewarding feeling that few others could match. While neither of them were certain where they would go from here, one thing was definitely clear...Things would never be the same.

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

Back in the room where Mystique was still recovering, Kurt was sharing his lunch with her while they caught up on a lot of lost time. Since she was awake now and not going anywhere, she used this opportunity to catch up with the son she had missed so much over the years. She hadn't been there for him on so many occasions. He was almost a full grown man. But that didn't mean they couldn't start anew.

There was certainly a lot to talk about. Kurt went into many details about his foster family back in Germany and how he had grown up on a farm, stuck in isolation because of his appearance, but comforted by the love and support they gave him. In many ways, it was somewhat of a relief to Raven, for it definitely seemed as though the Wagners raised Kurt better than she ever could have. After all, what kind of mother would an internationally wanted mercenary make?

Kurt spared no detail, going into aspects like his home schooling experience, his first days at the Xavier Institute, and even a few of the girls he had been involved with ever so briefly...Namely a girl named Amanda and another student at the institute named Tabitha. But from what she could tell, Kurt's eyes were already set on another young woman...Which was certainly a nice little tidbit to know if she was going to stick around.

But aside from her son's love life, he also told her about Rogue as well and how she had been since she found out about their connection. It was still very disheartening to hear how devastated she had been when she had revealed herself to be her adopted mother. It was not something she was proud of to say the least, but it was something she would have to live with whether she liked it or not.

But the one detail about Rogue's life that seemed to stand out above all others was Kurt's repeated mention of her attraction to Remy Lebeau. That was definitely something that intrigued her to say the least since she had seen the attraction and concern during the mission, but didn't know the specifics of their 'relationship' as it was called. While she knew Rogue had been attracted to the winged boy, Warren, from her experience as Risty, she didn't really get a chance to learn too much about her burgeoning attraction to Remy, since she had always kept it to herself. But according to Kurt, the attraction was painfully obvious and even laughed a couple of times when he went through some of the memories he had of them growing so close. It was something Mystique wasn't exactly sure about since she knew a few details about the Cajun that didn't exactly make him the kind of guy one would bring home to their parents. Then again, it wasn't like she had the right to intrude on her daughter's love life.

There would definitely be plenty of time to catch up with Rogue later on...If she wanted to that is. But for now, Mystique still had plenty of injuries to recover from and a lot of things to catch up on with her son.

"So this Magnum voman...You knew her?" asked Kurt as he took a bite of his sandwich while Mystique took weak sips of some Ramen noodles that he had made for her.

"Yes...To some extent at least," she said bitterly, the wounds from their fight still stinging, "She was a cold hearted killer...One of the best in the business. And I guess I can't blame her for wanting me dead. After all, I was the one who killed her father."

Kurt's eyes widened upon hearing that, for that was definitely something he had not expected.

"Her father?"

"Yes...But trust me, her father was no better than her if not worse," she said, remembering all the old horror stories she had heard about him during her mercenary days, "He was a butcher and a monster...A trait that definitely rubbed off on her to some extent. And I just happened to be the only mercenary capable of taking him down. I just...I had no idea that something like that would later come back to haunt me."

Kurt was silent for a moment as he allowed himself to digest that. It was clear that Mystique was not exactly proud of the things she had done, but he had no idea that she had been a mercenary of such prowess. While part of that didn't shock him, it was still a bit much to take in...Knowing that his mother was a killer and a former murder for hire. She made no qualms about it, for it had been a matter of survival to her. But that didn't make it any easier when it came to telling her son the cold hard truth.

"I was a killer, Kurt...And I guess I still am at heart," she said in a low tone, not wanting to look her son in the eye after that, "I did what I could with the power I had. It was selfish of me...I admit that. But not being able to live my own life...Forever doomed to live in a world of lies, it just...It really does have an impact. Being a shape shifter, I can never be myself. I can only steal parts of others' lives because the world just won't accept a freak."

"Ja...I know how that feels," said Kurt, simply staring down at his food tray, "I remember how some of the villagers back home used to form lynch mobs and riot outside my house. They kept saying things like 'kill the freak!' or 'die demons die!'"

"Just give me their names, and I'll hunt them down like dogs," she told him, placing her hand upon his.

Kurt couldn't help but laugh at that somewhat, although a part of him knew she was probably serious to some extent. But it just went on to show him that she really, truly cared for him.

"That's okay...It's something I've learned to live with," he told her with a smile.

"Guess that's more than I can say for me," she muttered in a morose tone, "But how do you do it, Kurt? How do you live through something like that and not feel so bitter and angry about the world?"

"Oh believe me, mother...It hurts...It really hurts," conceded Kurt, giving her hand a gentle squeeze, "There are times vhen I do feel angry about it. There are times vhen I do feel sad, bitter, and enraged that I cannot go outside vithout putting on an image inducer to hide my true self from the rest of the vorld. It's like vhen you change your shape...You know you're living a lie. And no matter what you do, you can't change how the rest of the vorld feels about you."

"So then...What makes you go with Xavier's dream? What makes you believe that humanity will ever accept us?"

"Faith..." he answered without hesitation, casting his wayward mother a warm smile.

"Faith?"

"Yes...Faith. You see...Growing up, my vorld vas always so complicated. I never really did have anything to hold onto and it was hard finding a reason to believe that humanity vould ever accept me for who I vas. But thankfully, my adopted parents never let me fall into despair. They always taught me that things vould never get better if you didn't believe that they vould. And so, they helped me turn to God for answers...And since then, I've taken comfort in knowing that there's something out there vorth hanging onto...Something out there vorth fighting for. My appearance may be difficult for me to escape, but that doesn't mean my I can't keep fighting. And even if I'm never able to go out in public vithout my inducer...Even if humanity never does accept me for vhat I am...I still have faith that ve can make things better. If not for us, then for the next generation and the many generations afterwards. And in the end, that's vhat keeps me going...That's vhy I believe. It's not so much a matter of ideas...It's matter of faith."

It was a strange concept for the bitter old woman...Something as abstract and complicated as faith. But in hearing how much it affected her son, it truly did resonate with her in a profound manner. In all her years of strife and struggle, she never really developed a sense of faith. She had always simply gone by her drive to survive, fighting to see another day.

But that was never enough for her. No matter how much she fought or how much she suffered, she could never really find something to have faith in. The world as a whole just didn't accept her, so she had little reason to accept them. Such beliefs turned her into a cold, apathetic woman...Yet despite the similar circumstances, her son had gone another path. And the more she thought about it, the more she wished she could bear that kind of strength as well.

"Faith..." she found herself saying, "So you really believe that humans will accept us?"

"Yes...I believe that it truly is possible. It's not something that can happen overnight and it's certainly not something that would be without it's challenges...But it's a cause vorth fighting for."

"And what if they never do accept us?" she asked, still very much attached to her old mentality against humanity, "What if all this toil and strife is for nothing?"

"Then ve just have to keep fighting," he told her, confident in these ideas which had always been so close to his heart, "I know it seems impossible. And in some regards, it is. But no matter how hard it may be, ve can never stop fighting."

They were brave words...The kind that struck directly at the heart. And for the shape shifting woman who had been down so many dark paths in her life, it was comforting to hear such things from the young man that she was so proud to call her son. It was a strange feeling...The son teaching the mother like this. But it was a something Mystique managed to embrace. It was a new way of looking at the world...A way she had never been all that opened to because of the complications that had so often plagued her life. It definitely gave her a lot to think about, but aside from that, it also gave her something else to believe in.

"Ve must always have faith, mother," he said to her, smiling down at her as he saw the conflicted look on her face, "It's only a matter of finding something to have faith in to keep you going in your darkest hour."

"Yeah...That part I understand," she muttered as she felt a few particular wounds sting from that, "Working for Magneto left plenty of room for times like that."

"So then...Vhat kept you goin?"

The shape shifter let out another sigh, for she just wasn't that good at things like this. Instances where she bore her emotions were never easy for her. But given how close she had come to death and how close she had come to losing her children, she could care less at this point.

"It was you...You and Rogue, believe it or not," she answered, diverting her gaze from his, "I thought that...By working with Magneto, I could make a better world for the both of you...A world where you wouldn't have to hide who you are. But I quickly found out that Magneto had different plans...Plans I never would have agreed to if I had known. He expected me to be willing to fight against my own children and if necessary, kill them if push came to shove and I...I just couldn't do that. Regardless of what you or anybody else thinks of me, that's something I'll never be capable of."

"Mother..." began Kurt, hearing the strain in her voice.

"I thought I was doing what was best for you," she went on, not stopping as she continued to pour her tortured heart and soul, "I thought I was doing the right thing fighting against the very people who had made my life such a living hell and who were threatening to do the same to you and Rogue. I was a mercenary and a killer, but I didn't want to stay that way. I wanted a better life...A family...Something to be proud of that I can pass on to future generations. But the world just kept getting in the way. No matter what I did...No matter how hard I fought...All I ever ended up doing was hurting myself and my family."

Kurt tightened his grip on her hand as tears began to fill her eyes, but she refused to show them. As a shape shifter, she was always one to hide her emotions for deceptive purposes, but in the presence of her son, that was nothing short of an impossibility. Kurt never thought he'd live to see the day when he would see his mother like this...Bearing her soul to him after all the horrible acts she had committed. But here she was, unable to escape the past and unable to atone.

Yet in Kurt's mind, she had already bore enough to get her message across.

"Mother...Nobody is blaming you for what you did," he told her softly, "It vasn't your fault."

"That doesn't excuse me for what I did, Kurt. I hurt you, I hurt Rogue, I hurt everybody I've ever come across! I don't deserve to call you my son! I don't even deserve to be a mother!"

"Don't say that!" shouted Kurt in response, which stopped the shape shifter cold in her tracks, "You must stop torturing yourself like this. I know you regret vhat you've done, but I forgive you."

"I don't deserve forgiveness."

"No...Everybody deserves forgiveness. Vhether you believe that or not, forgiveness is not something you can dictate...It's just something you either accept or reject."

"But why?!" cried the pained shape shifter, not seeing how anybody could forgive her for what she had done, "Why would you forgive me?! Why would anybody forgive me?! I'm a killer! I'm a liar!"

"You're still my mother...And you cannot change that any more than I can. You gave me life...You fought with your heart and soul to make a better world for me and Rogue. Vhether or not it vas right isn't relevant. Vhat matters is that you had faith that it vas all for us. You vere beaten, tortured, and nearly killed...But that thought never even crossed your mind vhen you helped us save Rogue. That alone says it all. And that's all the reason I need to forgive you."

Such words helped the tired and pained shape shifter calm down somewhat. She was still very much distraught and dazed about everything that had happened. Truth was, she never expected to survive the fight to save Rogue. She knew Magneto was going to kill her. She knew she was going to die. But if it took her life to save her kids, then that was a price she was willing to pay.

But now that she was here...Beaten and bruised, lying in a hospital bed with her son by her side...She wasn't sure where to go from here. She should have died, but she didn't. What could this mean? Could she really make amends with them all the complications that had come between them? Could she really be the mother to them that she never had a chance to be? It was something she had always dreamed of, but now it didn't seem so impossible anymore.

"Kurt..." she began.

Then suddenly, a new presence entered the room, quickly drawing Mystique's attention and surprise.

"Rogue? Erahhh!" she said as she tried to sit up, but was forced back down by the stabbing pain of her rips.

"Mother, please...Take it easy," coaxed Kurt as he saw the look of pain on her face.

"He's right mama...Ya shouldn't strain yourself like that," said Rogue as she made her way over towards her estranged foster mother.

It took a minute for the shape shifter to work through the pain, but with both her kids now at her side...She was quick to set it aside.

"Rogue...Are you okay?" she managed to ask, still waiting for the sting in her ribs to die down.

"Yeah...Never better," she answered, managing a slight smile at that, "But you should talk...Hank told me how bad a shape you were in."

"I've survived worse," she groaned, resting her head back against the soft pillows of the hospital bed in order to stop her head from spinning.

"I don't think either of us could argue that," said Kurt with a slight smile, trying to lighten the mood a bit, although it didn't really work in the way he had hoped.

There was a brief silence between them. Mystique once again kept her gaze away from that of her kids, feeling as though she didn't deserve this...Not after what she put them through. Even if they did forgive her, that didn't mean she deserved it. But regardless of how she felt about her misdeeds, that wouldn't stop Rogue from saying what she needed to say.

"Ya really took a beatin' for us back there," said Rogue as she looked over some of the heavy injuries she had sustained, "First GURSO, then Sinister, then Magnum, and, of course, Magneto."

"Yeah...I know," she sighed, "But I can heal. And believe it or not, that wasn't the first time Magneto nearly killed me."

"Ah definitely believe that." said Rogue, trying hard to get the woman that had lied to her so much to look her in the eye again, "But...Ah also believe that ya had you're reasons."

This finally got the wounded shape shifter to look back towards the young woman whom had once hated her with ever fiber of her being. She had been rather confused ever since she and Kurt showed up when Magnum was about to finish her off. She didn't even know why she was here now. If anything, she would have expected her to come in and yell at her. But then again, if that's what she wanted, she would have done that already. After all, this was Rogue she was dealing with.

But aside from that, there was also something else...Something that she couldn't explain that had caused Rogue to seek her out and help her when she needed it. Even after everything she had done, something within her had caused her to make that choice...Something powerful and profound that had left a strong impact on her. While she didn't know what it was, Rogue had already long since accepted it...And it was time she finally share it with her.

"Ya really went through a lot tryin' to save me, mama. Hell, ya nearly died twice in the process," said Rogue, as she looked back with a gentle expression, "Nobody here believed ya...Nobody here even wanted ya with us. But that didn't matter in the slightest to you, did it?"

"Of course not...You think I gave a damn what the others thought?" she responded, "You were in trouble and Magneto sure as hell didn't care."

"And yet ya risked it all to save meh..." reminded Rogue, managing a smile, "And Ah guess it's somethin' Ah should be grateful for. Ah mean, how many mothers would go through that for a renegade kid?"

"You'd be surprised, Rogue."

Mystique managed to smile back with such words in mind, but Rogue wasn't done yet. There was definitely more behind her reason for being there and now that she was thinking so clearly for the first time in a good long while, it was time she took advantage of it.

"But...Ah didn't just come here to thank ya for that, mama," she said as she began to struggle with her words a bit, "While Ah was in Sinister's machine...He did somethin' to mah mutation. Ah don't exactly know what it was, but whatever it was, it really did a number on meh. Now Ah can actually control mah powers...Ah can actually touch again...And Ah can finally piece together mah memories of the past."

Upon hearing that last part, Mystique's demeanor shifted slightly. Then, to her surprise, Rogue placed her bear hand on hers...This time, without her powers getting in the way. It was a strange feeling...Holding the hand of her adopted daughter. But it was a feeling she was quick to savor, for regardless of what had come between them, this moment was theirs.

"Ah...Ah remember," she said, the once fuzzy memories of her past coming back to her, "Ah remember the old, run down orphanage Ah used to live in as a little girl. Ah remember how everybody else was afraid of meh and how nobody wanted meh. Ah...Ah didn't even know who mah own parents were. Then, one day...A woman came and took meh in when nobody else would. Ah remember how she...How she told me that she knew what it was like to be different...To be scared...To be lonely. She loved me when nobody else would. She gave meh the simple, quiet life Ah never though Ah'd have. And Ah remember how...How she ended up leavin' meh in the end."

That last part was the hardest for her to recall, for it was every bit as hard for Mystique as it was for her. It caused her to tighten her grip on her weak hand, but thankfully this was not something that she was going to let go unanswered. Ever since Rogue's powers manifested, she knew that her memory had been in pieces and it practically broke her heart every time she tried to help her recover the lost memories of those simpler times instead of just the mistakes she made. She never thought she'd get a chance to experience this, but here she was...Right her with her children. And injuries aside, that's all that really mattered to her.

"So you finally remembered," she said, watching the tears form in Rogue's eyes, "I had always hoped that you would remember those days...The simpler times before the past caught up with me and I was forced to leave you with my friend, Irene, to protect you. I just...I guess I let my anger get the best of me because every time I tried to find peace with a family of any kind, the world would turn against me."

"So it's true, isn't it?" said Rogue, needing confirmation that this wasn't just another lie.

"Drain me if you want, my daughter...Believe me, it's the truth," affirmed the shape shifter, "All I ever wanted...From the day you both came into my life...Was what I thought was best for you. But...I guess I was wrong to think that I knew when I didn't even know what was best for myself."

"But you still came back for us in the end, mother," reminded Kurt, "You were still there for us vhen ve needed it most."

"That doesn't make up for everything I've done, Kurt."

"Maybe so, but that doesn't mean things can't change," argued Rogue, "Ah mean, come on...Ah won't say what ya did was justified, but Ah will say that Ah can understand why ya did it. And if ya really regret it like Ah know ya do, then why not start makin' up for it?"

"Make up for it?" said Mystique curiously, "How can I ever make up for what I did to you?"

"Simple...Stay with us," said Rogue, giving her hand a firm squeeze.

"Come again?"

"She said stay, mother," said Kurt, smiling in agreement, "Vith the time ve've lost...All the complications that have gotten in the vay...Vhy not start making up for it now?"

"I understand that, but...Here? At the institute? I don't belong here! Nobody even wants me here! Pretty much everybody here hates my guts!"

"But that's because they only know Mystique...Leader of the Brotherhood," quipped Rogue, "They don't know the woman Ah know from mah memories. They don't know the woman who nearly died tryin' to save us."

Mystique had always known that she wasn't X-men material. Her decision to go with Magneto pretty much put a damper on that from the beginning. Even though she quickly came to question Magneto's ideas, she never really considered Xavier's side after all the hatred she had seen from humanity throughout her life. But with Kurt's words about faith still hanging strongly in her mind, there was definitely a lot more to think about now.

If she joined the institute, she doubted she would be liked much by the others. But then again, she'd be close to her kids. She could actually be a part of their lives for once. The thought of actually having a real relationship with them certainly had its appeal and after everything she had put them through, she definitely owed them as much. But could it really work?

"I...I don't know if I can fit in here after everything I've put you and your friends through," she said, still very conflicted.

"Please, mama...Let us worry about the others," said Rogue, casting her a reassuring smile, "After seein' everythin' you went through for meh, Ah want ya in mah life again."

"Ja...So do I," said Kurt in agreement, "I just...I just don't vant to see you leave us again."

"Yeah...Neither do Ah," she said, the now clear memory of the first time she left still hanging strongly in her mind, "Ah want ya to say mama. We both do. You were there for us when we needed it most...Now let us be there for you. Just...Please, don't leave meh again."

The pleading look in the eyes of her children caused a hard lump to form in the shape shifter's throat. They wanted her to stay...They actually wanted her to be a part of their lives. She couldn't believe it...She actually had a chance to have something that she never thought she'd have...A family. All her anger, bitterness, and sorrow towards the world seemed to melt away as she looked into those eyes...The beautiful, innocent eyes of her children.

She had gone through an entire army, faced Mr. Sinister, fought Magnum, and survived Magneto...So why not face another challenge as well? After all, what else did she have to lose?

"So how about it, mother...Vill you stay vith us?" asked Kurt, the pleading look in his eyes not waning.

Seeing this, Mystique couldn't help but smile...For it made her decision all the more clearer. And even despite the lingering pain of her injuries and the vast uncertainty that continued to cloud her mind, this was not an opportunity she was going to squander.

"Kurt...Rogue...It's alright, my children...I'm not going anywhere this time. This, I promise you."

Upon hearing those words, both Kurt and Rogue drew the injured shape shifter into a gentle hug...For this truly signified a new beginning for all of them. Now, they could finally make up for lost time. And at long last, they could be a family.

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

AN: Well, a new beginning has dawned yet again my friend! Shadow Cell now has everything they need to start anew and Kurt, Rogue, and Mystique can finally start making up for lost time. They have all taken that first step, but they all have a long way to go from here, as the reaction of the New Mutants can attest. There's still more to come, so stay tuned to see how things evolve from here! You won't want to miss it! So what do you think so far? Like it? Hate it? Pease tell me! Send me your reviews via email or post them on the fanfiction website! Thanks a ton for reading everybody and I wish you all the best!

IT'S TIME TO BEGIN ANEW! SO IN TURN, PLEASE REVIEW!!!
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