The Evo world is forever turned upside down when a man named Dr. Nathanial Essex begins a project known as Shadow Cell from which the lives of Scott, Jean, Vincent, Wanda, and X23 are changed forev...
Chapter 58: Trust and Growth
As the days passed, things continued to stabilize for the five mutants of Shadow Cell for the most part. After word got out about what Jean did to Duncan Matthews, people began to looking at them a bit differently and with a little less apprehension. And after having spent some real time with them, Kurt and Rogue helped their image a bit by sharing with everybody some of the stories they had heard from them during their little card game earlier. It was definitely a step up in many ways, although some still flinched when they walked into a room. But that too was beginning to wane as the idea of living with Shadow Cell slowly became more accepted amongst the students.
Even Mystique seemed to be adjusting well despite the circumstances. Spending so much time with Kurt and Rogue had been nothing short of therapeutic for her and despite some lingering bitterness, she developed a fairly decent friendship with the young mutants of Shadow Cell...Although she still didn't look too kindly on Jean. Gradually, one could clearly see a shift in her mood thanks to all the time she spent around her kids and some of the friends she had made. Xavier even talked about her teaching a few courses, but for the most part, it was just a period of adaptation for her. And so far, they were making some genuine progress and while she probably never would have openly admitted it, she was happier now than she ever had been in.
Overall, it seemed as though the tense atmosphere that had lingered about the institute since Shadow Cell's arrival was finally lifting. X23 now had a name, Logan now had some family, Mystique was reunited with her kids, Jean and Wanda were slowly gaining an insight into the world of civilian women thanks to friends like Tabitha, and Scott and Vincent were opening up as well. It was by no means easy by any stretch of the imagination, but they were doing their best to make new lives for themselves. While they still retained many of their soldier-like tendencies, they were finally beginning to come into their own and thanks to the help of so many, the future definitely seemed bright for the once staunch soldiers.
It was high noon as Wanda Maximoff made her way up along the top levels of the institute looking for Ororo or Beast. For a while now, she had been trying to organize a little outing for just her and Vincent so they could have some private time together. Others called this thing a 'date' and while she wasn't too familiar with the concept, if that's what it was then so be it. Ever since she and Vincent took that step, they were finally beginning to truly come out of their seemingly unbreakable shells. Whenever they kissed, touched, or made love...It was just something that they couldn't help but smile at. Scott, Jean, and Laura had been very supportive of them thus far, but they were still getting the feel for many things. Nevertheless, it was truly an exciting time for them...One they hoped to build upon for a long time to come.
"Ms. Munroe...Ororo are you in here?" asked Wanda as she entered the upstairs garden area around the roof that the institute's resident weather goddess was so often seen enjoying her favorite pastime.
"Over here child..." said Ororo from outside the main doorway as she hovered in mid air, creating a gentle downpour with her powers to help nourish her beloved plants.
"There you are...I've been looking for you, Hank, or pretty much anybody for that matter since breakfast," she said, sounding half frustrated.
"Sorry Wanda," she said in a warm tone as she landed next to her, "People do tend to lose themselves around the institute with great ease."
"Yeah, I've noticed that," she muttered, "Look, I just wanted to talk to you or anybody about maybe lending us a car for tonight. Vincent and I want to go out and well...We still haven't really gotten past that whole deal with Warren when we hot wired his car."
"Oh yes, I remember. My ears are still ringing," said Ororo with a humored grin, remembering her nuts Warren went when he heard about his car, "And don't worry, we'll arrange something. I know you've been trying to get a car of your own for a while now, but just give us some time to work out the logistics. I promise you, we'll work it out."
"Thanks..." she said with a sigh, sounding exasperated, "But still, I don't see why we have to go through all this paperwork for insurance and shit just to buy a car. I mean, it's not like we don't have the money to buy a new one if we total the first one."
"I know, but just keep in mind, the more paperwork you have, the less suspicions you'll arise in the civilian world. I know it's a bit of a hassle...Bureaucracy always is."
"Ooh, don't get me started on that. Remember, I came from the military," reminded Wanda.
"Then you know it requires patience," said Ororo, unable to stop herself from laughing at that somewhat, "It'll work out...You'll see."
"I wish I had your optimism, Ms. Munroe..." said Wanda with a sigh, "But I guess it just comes with this whole adjustment deal."
"Indeed it does, but you and the others have made a great deal of progress since you arrived...Don't think you haven't. You just need to keep moving forward that's all."
While Wanda took a moment to digest those words, she watched as Ororo returned to some of her garden duties, tending to a few pots and plants that she had strewn all throughout the area. To the former soldier, it was almost as if she took a chunk of the African and South American rain forest and transplanted it right here in the institute. It was an act Wanda didn't see in practical use for, but as she watched her do it, she really did seem to get a lot of pleasure out of it somehow.
"I guess you're better at managing these matters than I am," she said as she looked over some of the exotic plants, some of which she actually recognized from her travels as a soldier, "I wish I had your composure. I don't see how you do it sometimes."
"Oh it's not as hard as you may think, Wanda..." said Ororo with a smile as she created a little rain cloud over a few of her more exotic plants, "Everybody has their own way of holding themselves together. It's all a matter of finding your niche in this crazy world. For some, they find solstice in the life of a soldier and a warrior. And for others, they find peace in managing a little garden and enjoying the simple pleasures of nature to help ease the ever present tension that life always seems to bring."
"Well I doubt I could do it..." said Wanda, taking a slight whiff of a unique African daisy that she recognized from a trip to Sudan, "Peace was never emphasized back at Shadow Cell. It was always training and missions."
"But you mustn't forget Wanda...You're not bound by their world anymore," reminded Ororo, as she went about watering more of her plants, "You and your friends are free now. You don't have to be bound by the tense world of the military. You can finally relax and find some sanctity in the civilian world."
"I'm...Not much for relaxing, really," she said, tensing up a bit for some reason, "After spending my childhood in an insane asylum believing that I was crazy and becoming a soldier for Shadow Cell, I honestly don't think I've ever really had the capacity to just take it easy."
"Well we can help you with that here," said Ororo, casting the somewhat distraught young woman a comforting gaze, "I know you still grasp the tenants of a soldier, but that doesn't mean you're doomed to live a life of omnipresent stress."
"But I don't know any other life," reasoned Wanda.
"Oh I disagree...Otherwise I don't think you would have been able to adjust here the way you have. I can tell you have it in you...You just need to set it free."
"Set it free?" she said, sounding quite skeptical at the older woman's words.
"Yes, it's clearly inside you...It's just been suppressed all these years by the complications of being a soldier," said Ororo, setting a few pots aside as she turned back towards the somewhat confused young woman, "You just have to remember all the positive things...The lives you've saved, the friends you have, and the love you share with them."
"I don't know, Ms Munroe," she said with a slight sigh, "As nice as those things sound, I've never been much for those kinds of feelings. I mean, sure I have them. I love my friends, I love Vincent, and I love being a proud soldier. It's just that, my powers are tied to emotion...Namely anger and hate. And growing up in an insane asylum, I was always angry at my father and the world as a whole for throwing me away. And growing up in Shadow Cell, I was always trained to hate my enemy in the utmost so I could overcome them."
Ororo couldn't help but feel sorry for the young woman as she cast her a sympathetic gaze. It was hard to imagine that the only real things she ever got out of her past was the capacity to feel anger and the capacity to hate her enemy. It was as if things like love, happiness, and joy were considered only secondary, if not a source of weakness in some areas.
It really seemed to affect her. Hell, it seemed to affect all of Shadow Cell. But now that she was a student here, she had more in her life other than anger and hate. And as a teacher, Ororo wasn't about to let her feel bound by such things any longer.
"Well that unending cycle ends here, Wanda," she said in a confident, affirmative tone, "Now that you're a student here, we're not going to emphasize anger, hate, or war...We're going to embrace love, happiness, and peace. And I'm going to help you."
"And how do you intend to do that?" said Wanda, still not convinced.
"Oh, I'll find a way, child," she said with a smile, "Believe me, I'll find a way. But for now, why don't you help me around the garden a bit? Maybe that will help relax you."
"Whatever Ms. Munroe," she replied, not expecting much, but remaining obedient and respectful to her elder as was her duty as a soldier, "Honestly though...I don't see how something like plants can make you feel so relaxed."
"Oh you'd be surprised, Wanda. Come, let me show you around."
Wanda Maximoff wasn't expecting much from this. Hell, she didn't even know why she decided to stick around. After all, she got what she came here for. She talked to Ororo about the car issue and that was that. So then why was she staying? Why was she even bothering?
Under normal circumstances, Wanda wouldn't give matters such as these a second glance. But somehow, Ororo made her look at things a bit differently. She had no idea plants could have so many dimensions to them. Back at Shadow Cell, plants to her were just a source of food or cover in the combat zone. But to this woman, they were so much more. They were a medium for peace...A medium for relaxation. When she was around her plants, she was happy. She felt joy, love, and euphoria...Feelings Wanda was quite alien to given her past. And much to her surprise, she actually found herself enjoying this.
In the sanctity of the garden, everything seemed so much simpler. There was nothing to hate, nothing to be angry at, and nothing to overcome. It was a world within a world...A small piece of simplicity in a world so wrought with complications. Here, things like her hatred for her father and her hatred for her enemies didn't dominate her mind. No...Here, her mind was more attuned to things like peace, love, and happiness. She began thinking more about her love for her comrades...Her love for Vincent Freeman...And the peace of a world outside the combat zone.
As a stubborn young woman and a staunch soldier, Wanda Maximoff wasn't easily dissuaded...But in this rare instance, she wasn't afraid to admit that she was wrong in many ways. This thing she called gardening really did put a lot of things into perspective...Things she probably couldn't have uncovered otherwise. It was just one of the many things she had learned as a civilian to rebuild something that had been in ruin for so long. And for that, she was thankful.
"Okay, Wanda...Give it a try," said a smiling Ororo, thinking this was definitely going to be one of her greatest successes as a teacher for the foreseeable future.
"Yes ma'am," she said with a smile, sounding like both a soldier and a regular, happy young woman.
With her eyes closed, she focused on her hexing powers and cast a small haze of glowing energy over a lone plant. And right before her eyes, it bloomed a brilliant violet color. It was a beautiful sight...A true testament to nature. Such a sight probably wouldn't have resonated with Wanda a mere couple of hours ago...But now, everything seemed to be so much more...Significant.
"Wow..." said the young soldier as she took in the sight of the beautiful flower, "A Saharan violet...It's beautiful."
"And rare I might add," said Ororo with a smile as she took a deep whiff, savoring the sweet scent, "Thank you very much for your help, Wanda. I can't tell you how long I've been trying to get this little marvel to show its beauty."
"You're welcome," she replied, smiling back at her, "I honestly didn't know I could do that with my powers."
"Well it just goes to show you that there's more than just the power of destruction within your hands...There's also the capacity to create as well," she said as she set the rare flower alongside the rest of her little mosaic of rare plants, "It's like the weather in many ways...Hurricanes, tornadoes, and lightning can be so destructive...Yet at the same time, forces such as rain, sun, and wind have the power to create life, beauty, and peace."
"Kind of like yin and yang? The opposition of forces?" asked Wanda, more familiar with that term since it was often used to explain military principles back at Shadow Cell.
"Exactly..." affirmed the former weather goddess with a smile, "It's all about finding that sense of balance that oftentimes seems so elusive because of conflict. Whether it's control over your abilities, the everyday toil of a soldier, or simply matters of the heart...There are always two sides of a single phenomenon. It's just a matter of managing them."
"Yes...I think I understand that now."
It was a nice feeling, finally managing to balance out the hatred and anger with love and peace. Ororo sure seemed to know a lot about this stuff. She really helped her put a few things into perspective...Things like her past, her emotions, and of course the burgeoning love between her and Vincent that she was still adjusting to. It was a welcome release for her...Something she had never truly experienced.
It made Ororo smile, seeing someone who had such a complicated life find some honest peace. She had managed to actually open up about matters such as her father, her life, and her feelings for Vincent which were just beginning to truly come out after years of holding it in. Although in some instances, such issues reminded her of the dilemma's she was currently facing with her feelings towards Logan.
But that was for another time. This was Wanda's moment. And thanks to what she learned here, it was sure to have a great effect on things to come.
"Thank you so much for showing me this stuff, Ms. Munroe," said Wanda gratefully, taking a deep whiff of the newly bloomed flower, "I can't tell you how much it means to me."
"Think nothing of it child. That's what I'm here for," said Ororo with a smile, "And if you want, we can do it again sometimes."
"Yeah, I'd like that."
Just then, another presence suddenly entered the garden.
"Hey Wanda, there you are!" said Laura, the young soldier formally known as X23.
"Oh, hey X...I mean Laura," she said, still trying to get used to that.
"I've been looking all over for you. Come on, Hank needs our help with the new computer system in the danger room and I want it get it done early so I can go biking with Logan."
"Still breaking in that new Harley, I see," said Wanda with a grin.
"You know it bub!" said Laura as she took her friend's hand and led her back down the hall.
Upon hearing that, Ororo was forced to suppress her laughter. It was just remarkable how much like Logan young Laura was at times. Ever since she had picked out a name and Logan became her official 'father' in a sense, she had noticed a major shift in the both of them. She saw that Logan was actually smiling a bit more and Laura wasn't so reserved. Such a change was a welcome sight, for they both deserved a little happiness after everything that they had been through. That...And seeing Logan becoming all parental over her was just something that brought a smile to her face.
Times were getting better and things were stabilizing. Ororo still remained adamant about keeping her developing feelings for Logan inside. But after hearing how Wanda managed to succeed in starting a relationship with Vincent, she definitely had reason to be hopeful that maybe...Just maybe...There was hope for her and the deep feelings she harbored after all.
"So what's with you and Ororo?" asked Laura as she and Wanda continued down the hall, Wanda's mood not waning in the slightest, "You seem a bit...Lighter now."
"Well, I am to tell you the truth," she said with a smile, "That Ororo sure knows her stuff. She really knows how to stay balanced and give good advice. I swear, if we had her at Shadow Cell, there would be a Starbucks in North Korea this very moment!"
"Yeah, she really is a remarkable woman...Very remarkable in fact," said Laura, her thoughts drifting towards how she seemed to have such a big affect on Logan since he often talked about her.
"Yeah, she really is a big help," said Wanda with warm smile, "I don't know how she knows how to say the right thing all the time. But hey, when dealing with people as fucked up as we are, I guess you've gotta take what you can get."
Back down in the living room, Warren, Betsy, and Remy were lounging lazily on the couch watching a movie. Scott and Jean had joined them later on when they saw that it was a war movie called "Enemy at the Gates," they naturally got into it. While they had been allowed to view certain movies back at Shadow Cell, they had usually been censored in order to single out only the important, war related material. This time, however, it was nice to get the full message for a change.
At first, the three other mutants had been a bit weary about letting the two young soldiers join them, but with tensions between them having eased somewhat since their arrival, they didn't push them away this time and in some ways, they actually got into it. Plus the fact that Jean had made Duncan Matthews cry like a little girl definitely helped.
"Okay...So what do you call that one?" asked Betsy as she pointed to a formation of soldiers at one of the scenes in the movie.
"That's easy, it's a standard delta configuration," said Scott, who easily recognized the movement of the soldiers within the movie, "It was one of the favorite positions of the Red Army throughout the war. Since they had so much manpower, they could afford to use it a lot more than the Germans and it proved decisive in many key instances, namely street fighting."
"Show off," muttered Warren.
"Can't stand de competition, can you homme?" grinned Remy, noticing Warren's jealous look.
"Shut up, Remy."
Betsy rolled her eyes somewhat at her boyfriend's attitude. Sure, it seemed a bit arrogant of him to be jealous of Scott's military knowledge since it made his leadership skill seem so much more refined than his, but at the same time she knew that this was just something guys tended to do when faced with competition.
'Honestly Betsy, does he have to be this cynical?' sent Jean via telepathy to the purple haired woman, 'I mean, Scott's just answering your questions. Why does he have to act so smug about it?'
'It's a guy thing, luv' replied Betsy, 'Warren just feels a bit...Threatened that Scott's leadership skills might outshine his.'
'Well to be fair, Scott has a lot of experience when it comes to combat. I know...I've been there.'
'After that danger room session you guys ran, I can't say that would surprise me,' replied Betsy, 'But it has less to do with the facts and simply more to do with male ego.'
'Oh yes. Trust me on this one. When one man threatens the skill and masculinity of another man, they instinctively butt heads. It's the bloody laws of nature.'
Jean could sense a certain degree of exasperation upon hearing such thoughts. For Betsy, it was a rather vivid reminder of how things had been with Warren and Duncan before she hooked up with them. She remembered things like that party when they went overboard with a ping pong match and how they immediately went for one another during that fight that broke out on that PTA meeting where the Brotherhood tried to crush their chances of being readmitted to the school.
She never liked to recall such incidents, but she had come to simply accept the fact that this is just the way men were. Sure, it was annoying at times, but given the relationship that eventually manifested with her and Warren, it was well worth it.
"You know, for a movie, they got a lot of things accurate with this," commented Scott as he took in the ambience of the environment conveyed in the film, "Sure, some of the backgrounds are a bit unrealistic and people don't exactly look like the era being portrayed, but it's definitely a step up from some of the other war movies I've seen."
"But Remy bets it hardly lives up to de real t'ing," commented the young Cajun.
"Trust me, Remy...Nothing lives up to the real thing," said Jean, "Combat may be glorified in movies like this, but it really does pale in comparison to the feeling of picking up a gun and heading into a combat zone where pretty much everybody you see wants you dead. And I would know...I have five bullet wounds and six stab wounds to prove it."
"Yeesh, and I thought high school sucked," muttered Warren.
"Oh I don't know, luv. I can see some similarities," grinned Betsy in a somewhat playful manner to help lighten her boyfriend's mood a bit.
"Oh I'm sure you would little miss ninja," he said in response, managing to force a smile.
This little show of flirtation made Remy roll his eyes, but Scott and Jean didn't seem to mind. After all, it wasn't like they didn't exchange romantic banter with one another as well every now and then. Maybe it had something to do with his ongoing conflict with his feelings for Rogue, but that was another matter all together in their eyes...One the both of them seemed quite stubborn about.
"So you think I'd have done well in the war zone?" asked Betsy to the two former soldiers, "Or anybody else here in the institute for that matter?"
"Well..." said Jean, giving that a little thought, "To be honest, you have the skills, Betsy. But I doubt you have the mentality. You're a rich gal from Great Britain and sure, you can handle roughing up a couple of mindless drones, but when it comes to really getting your hands dirty in places like the jungle, the desert, or the arctic tundra, you need both skill and mindset if you're going to do anything."
"Yeah, one of the many tenants we learned back at Shadow Cell was that there was a difference between knowing how to kill and actually being able to kill," added Scott, who quickly picked up on Jean's stream of thought.
"Sounds like you two got quite a hold on both," commented Remy, the memory of the history Fury gave them still fresh in his mind.
"I guess you could say that," replied Jean, "It's a sad fact of humanity really. But it's like we said before...Sometimes you have to kill one guilty man to stop the death of ten innocents. Sometimes you have to use a bullet to stop a bomb and a bomb to stop a war. But whatever you may believe about us one way or another, don't ever think for a second that we actually enjoy killing. Taking a human life is never easy or fully justified no matter how you warp it."
"So then how do you do it?" asked Warren.
"Simple...By never forgetting the cause that you're fighting for. That's what being a soldier is...Picking a cause and fighting for it with all your heart and soul. There really is no sense of right or wrong, it's more a matter of faith."
"Faith?" said Betsy, sounding both intrigued and skeptical.
"Yes...Faith," said Scott, once again finding himself going over that which had so often driven both him and the rest of the team for so long in the heat of combat, "Regardless of what you may think of why we do what we do, we have a cause and we have faith in that cause. Magnum always taught us that skills will get you by from day to day, but faith will guide you into the future. It's what helped us through the rough times when the odds were stacked against us and it's something we still hold onto to this very day."
It was the first truly deep insight the minds of these enigmatic soldiers. It was so easy to assume that they were just these gun toting psycho killers without any moral center, but now it seemed as though they truly did have something noble within them that had guided them through such difficult times. And in a sense, they had more of a center than half the people who claimed one. They were not just killers...They were soldiers. And that's a point they clearly wanted everybody to remember about them whether it be from friend or foe.
"I guess that makes sense," said Warren.
"Yeah, but I don't think I can ever truly accurately describe the chaos of combat, with or without telepathy," said Jean.
"And something tells me we'd rather not see it," shrugged Betsy as she snuggled up to Warren, "There's enough shit in this world to worry about and things like youth, school, and love are a battlefield in and of itself."
"Yeah, no kidding," said Warren with a grin.
Once again, Remy rolled his eyes and tried not to look at Betsy and Warren as they snuggled up close. Being around two couples was not easy for him. It was just a reminder of the issues he was still trying to work out...Namely those concerning Rogue. And seeing Betsy and Warren be so sickeningly sweet to one another while also watching Scott and Jean stay so close, exchanging far more unspoken gestures of love through their link, was just more than he could handle at times as he tried to focus back on the movie.
However, his shift in attitude did not go unnoticed by the two couples, who had been seeing this incessantly ever since Shadow Cell's arrival. And for the most part, it was getting pretty annoying.
"Something wrong Remy?" asked Scott, although from what he knew about this guy, the chances of him coming clean were about the same as a Starbucks in Cuba.
"Nah, why would there be anythin' wrong?" he shrugged, still keeping his sights on the movie, "Y'all just keep making kissy faces towards one another."
"Yeesh, you have been hanging around Rogue WAY too much, luv," said Betsy with a grin, "That's the kind of cynicism only she's capable of."
"What can I say? De cherÃ¨ rubs off on me," he said, showing few regrets about it, "And besides, it ain't like ya don't give her enough reasons to be that way."
"Oh please," scoffed Jean, "Are you just defending her or are you just defending yourself in a sense that you and that goth girl just can't seem to get your damn act together?"
"Don't go there, Jean," warned Remy, making it clear that he was not in the mood for this argument again.
"She's got a point, Remy," said Warren, surprised that he was actually taking Shadow Cell's side for once, "I mean, come on it's been what? Almost three weeks? And you still haven't asked her out?"
"Yeah, she can touch now," reminded Betsy, "Seriously Remy, what's holding you back with her? I know you really do like her."
Remy let out a grumble of discontent. No matter who he hung around, they just wouldn't stop pestering him about his private life. They just wouldn't take a hint. Everybody made it out to be so easy just because Rogue could touch now. Well if they knew Rogue half as much as he did, then they'd know full well just how difficult it was. Sure, he had feelings for the girl...But that didn't mean it was easy getting them out in the open.
"Y'all's need a new hobby other den pickin' on dis here Cajun," he muttered, keeping his gaze on the movie, which he was hardly paying attention to at this point.
"Remy, it was an honest question...Not a criticism," said Scott in a more serious tone, "Really...What's holding you back? If you really do like this girl you should talk to her about it. Trust me, it's not a good idea to hold things in."
Scott's more serious take on this matter got Remy to calm down a bit. It was a nice change from all the teasing he had endured. But the more he thought about it, the more justified such comments seemed to be for the most part. After all, it wasn't like he hid his attraction to Rogue and his feelings for her were common knowledge for the most part. But still, there was more to it than that...A lot more.
"It's complicated, homme," answered Remy honestly, "Me and Rogue...We've both been down some rough roads before...Roads many of y'all don't really understand. And when it comes to somethin' like this...Well, it's just hard. It ain't somethin' ya wanna rush."
"Hmm...I can see your logic with that," said Jean, remaining serious since she had seen first hand how strong their interaction was during the reconnaissance mission, "But you should still talk to her. At least let her know she really means something to you. You don't have to come clean, but that doesn't mean you can't take the first steps."
That had probably been the first well rounded comment about this whole issue Remy Lebeau had heard ever since this whole mess came about. It actually sounded logical for once...Something he could truly do. It was strange that such advice was coming from Shadow Cell of all people. They were still so new here, but they still knew how to analyze an issue and go about it logically rather than just teasing him about it, making it sound so easy. And the notion of taking at least some steps with Rogue definitely seemed doable...If for anything, to at least let her know that he was serious about them as a couple.
"I'll...T'ink about dat," said Remy, now sounding less irritated about this complicated matter, "Remy probably should talk to her about it. I just hope dat her mother don't get too hostile."
"That...Is another issue altogether," said Scott, laughing somewhat since he had come to know Mystique a little more and was well aware of her protective nature towards her kids.
"Oh God help you with that bit Remy," made Betsy, her tone remaining less serious and more cynical, "In my opinion, Mystique's presence should give you all the more reason to just come clean. Otherwise, she may butcher you in your sleep before you get a chance."
"Yeah, that'll solve all his problems," said Jean, her words dripping with sarcasm, "And in no time at all, she'll be calling him things like winged stud hunk in bed."
Upon hearing that, both Betsy and Warren froze, all the blood in their body now rushing to their faces. It was a sight that once again brought a smile to Remy's face, for he had a pretty good idea of what was implied with that.
"Winged stud hunk?" he commented, "Nice touch you two."
"What the...How did you..." stammered a noticeably embarrassed Betsy.
"Come on Betsy, need I remind you that we're soldiers?" said Jean, a humored grin dominating her face, "We've been trained to observe and do reconnaissance on pretty much anybody at anytime in anyplace. And training or not, there are just some details that are far more memorable than others."
It was a fairly warm, sunny day outside as a few of the regulars and some of the New Mutants got out and enjoyed some of the fine weather. Kitty, Rogue, Sam, Tabitha, Jamie, and Rahne were all in a clearing just off to the west side of the institute where Vincent Freeman, one of the enigmatic young soldiers of Shadow Cell, was showing them a few things about CQC.
Originally, he had just come outside for an afternoon flight, but the sudden enthusiastic calls of Tabitha and Kitty grounded him as they urged him to come over and show them a few moves while also entertaining them with some war stories. Tabitha had already been trying to learn a few techniques from Jean and remarkably, she had been quite enthusiastic about further training even though she tended to be very sloppy at it. But a little interaction with the usually reclusive young man seemed to do him good. Ever since he and Wanda started getting serious, he found himself smiling more and even opening up from time to time.
Mystique was also there as well, who had mainly just been watching Rogue and showing her a few moves as well, but Vincent's presence seemed to help with this since she had been a bit more accepting of him and the others despite the earlier unpleasantness...Which still remained strong towards Jean. But aside from Shadow Cell, the shape shifter was also beginning to win the hearts of some of the X-men as well...At least, after plenty of heavy coaxing.
"Come on, Rogue...Try it again," said Mystique as she saw Rogue lose her balance again from yet another attempt at the move she was trying to teach her.
"Dang it, mama! This is hard!" she groaned, rubbing her neck a bit in a show of frustration, "Why in the hell do ya want me to learn this anyhow?"
"Because Rogue...If some other crazy gun toting killer ever breaks into the institute again, I want you to be ready," she answered bluntly.
"Ugh...Don't remind me."
"Sorry, but I don't want any daughter of mine to be vulnerable," she said strongly, showing both parental and logical concern, "Last time was just too close for comfort and I don't want to have to go through that kind of panic ever again."
"You're, like, all heart Mystique," commented Kitty with a slight laugh, earning her an unamused glare from the shape shifter.
"Oh lighten up, mama," said Rogue, unable to keep herself from laughing a bit at Kitty's comment, "We got enough grouchy folk around here with Logan."
That did get her to ease up a bit and even crack a smile. But still, she wasn't used to this whole notion of being so...Xavierish.
"Well comments aside, I think she has a point, Kitty," said Vincent, who had been working with Kitty, Sam, Tabitha, Jamie, and Rahne, "It's important for you to learn from the attacks you faced and the defeat you suffered. It's something we always had to contend with on the battlefield, learning from mistakes and not letting them hold us back."
"Easy for you to say. I doubt you ever got your ass kicked like we did," muttered Amara.
"Oh you'd be surprised," said Vincent in response, "Trust me, I've had my share of mishaps. Hell, in my early days at Shadow Cell, it was all pretty much one prolonged beating from Magnum. You all may complain how rough Logan is, but trust me...He can't hold a candle to Magnum."
"Yeah...I know what you mean," muttered Mystique, remembering all too vividly the bloody history she had with that deranged woman.
As unsettling as such details were, the young mutants of the X-men managed to set them aside and continue practicing. Already, they were getting a feel for just how difficult CQC was compared to the other fighting styles they had learned. It was not just a mode of combat...It was a whole other plane of thought. And for the most part, that was difficult for them to grasp since they didn't undergo the same routines as Shadow Cell.
"Okay guys...Let's try this again," said Vincent, watching as everybody lined up in a row.
"Oh boy, here we go again," said Sam, showing serious doubts as to whether or not they would ever get something like this.
"Hey, come on Sammy boy! Show some optimism," said Tabitha with an encouraging grin.
"Hey, I thought you were being optimistic enough for all of us," said Jamie, causing him, Rahne, and Kitty to laugh.
"Hey...Somebody's gotta do it," she shrugged.
Vince found himself smiling at such exchanges. It was still a difficult transition, going from Shadow Cell to the Xavier Institute. There were still many things he was dealing with concerning the betrayal from Dr. Essex and the principles from him and Magnum that he and the others still held onto. But he found that by working with some of these kids and giving them a chance to see beyond the mere soldier on the surface, it really did give him a good feeling inside...Almost as if he was back at the orphanage helping the kids who so often turned to him.
"Okay you guys, come on...Let's get this straight," said Vincent, although he didn't know if they would ever get the tenants of CQC at this rate.
Once again, he ran them through some of the moves and motions that had been so rigorously drilled into his mind and body over the years. He still did them flawlessly from his years of training, but for the less experienced X-men, they quickly lost their balance and after a while, it fell apart in a rather humorous display that Mystique was clearly trying hard not to laugh at.
Eventually, Tabitha, Sam, and Kitty fell flat on their butts again, the others soon following. And in a playful show of youth and carefree spirit, it once again devolved into relative chaos.
"DOGPILE!" yelled Jamie, several duplicates forming as he pounced upon Kitty, Sam, and Tabitha.
"My favorite!" said Rahne with a grin as she followed suit.
"Oh no...You ain't draggin' me in this time!" said Rogue as she tried to back away.
"Oh come on Rogue, have a little fun!" said Amara, getting into the spirit as she reached forth and pulled her in.
At this point, Mystique and Vincent were just watching and laughing. There was no stopping them now. They would probably stay like this until they ran out of energy. And by that time, they wouldn't be suited for any more training. They were a bit tempted to step in at some points...But for the most part, they just didn't have the heart to break it up.
"How long do you think they'll keep at this?" asked Mystique, trying hard not to erupt in laughter.
"Can't say..." shrugged Vincent in amusement, "I guess until they wear themselves out."
"And how long do you think that will take them?"
"Raven...I doubt even the CIA could figure that one out."
As the scene continued and Vincent and Mystique continued to watch in amusement, they noticed some activity over towards the garage area. Such a sight was not uncommon, but when they saw the two figures behind the activity, even they were a bit surprised.
"You sure you wanna do this kid?" said Logan as he and Laura wheeled out a couple of motorcycles into the driveway, "The back roads around this place ain't for the faint of heart."
"Oh come on, Wolverine!" scoffed Laura with a wolfish grin, "I've ridden shitty Chinese made four by fours along the mountains of the Hindu Kush in the middle of winter. I think I can handle this."
"I'm no sayin' that ya can't," he said in response, "I'm just sayin' you may not be able to keep up."
"Oh? Are you challenging me?" she said playfully as they both mounted the bikes.
"If that's the way ya want it, Laura..." he said as they both started the motors on their bikes, "But I'm warnin' ya...You may be my blood, but I've been ridin' stuff like this for decades."
"Oh we'll see, Logan...We'll see," said Laura, flashing her new 'father' one last grin as they both kicked their bikes into gear and sped off down the driveway.
Such a sight did not go unnoticed by the still rowdy students. Eventually, they halted their dogpile fun and got up to watch the two former living weapons ride off into the wind.
"Man...Those two really are alike," commented Kitty, noticing how they both drove somewhat recklessly.
"Like father like daughter I guess," said Mystique with a shrug.
"Yeah...I guess," said Vincent, sounding a bit more distant, noticing the look on his comrade's face while she rode alongside the man whose blood she bore.
Everybody else seemed happy for them. It seemed as though they both really did help one another. And now that they were technically and legally family, they could honestly see some real good coming out of such a relationship. They both had so much in common and clearly understood one another on a level they couldn't yet fathom.
But for Vincent, who had known X23 for years and looked at her as if she were a little sister, seeing her like that brought out some mixed feelings within him. Sure, he was happy to see her smile...But at the same time, it was also a reminder that neither he, nor the rest of the team really had any family left. And at least for now, one of them seemed to finally regain that joy.
"Okay guys, fall in..." said Vincent, helping to divert their attention back to the matter at hand, "Let's try this again."
While the training continued below, up above both Professor Charles Xavier and Hank McCoy watched the scene below. They both couldn't help but smile at how far Shadow Cell and Mystique had come since their arrival. Despite earlier complications, they had truly made some genuine progress. Mystique was now growing closer to her kids and actually smiling now, a great feat for anybody who knew her. And the five mutant soldiers were finally beginning to come out of their shells.
The two elders watched as the group of youngsters below once again tried to follow Vincent's lead, only to end up in another dogpile. It was a sight that truly did evoke a sense of hope, for it showed just how far they had come and how far they had yet to go.
"So what do you think, Charles?" asked Hank, who couldn't help but laugh at the all too familiar sight, "Do you think Shadow Cell and Mystique have finally managed to find a place here at the institute?"
"I'm afraid it's still too early to say, old friend," answered Xavier, his words still so full of hope, "But they're definitely making progress...That much is clear. I suppose only time will tell just what kind of role they'll find for themselves...But for now, I think we're on the right track and it's up to us to stay the course."
AN: Well, I guess it's safe to say that things are improving somewhat for the five mutant soldiers. They're starting to have some real honest interaction with the rest of the team and they're even making a few new friends. Logan and Laura seem to be hitting it off real well and even Mystique seems to be coming around. Things are definitely looking up, but there's still a few things to work out. Rogue and Remy are still coming together and there are a few other little matters that need to be resolved before this fic can finally draw to a close. Stay tuned to see how it all turns out keep reviewing every step of the way! Send me your feedback via email or post it on the fanfiction website. Either way is fine as long as you REVIEW! Thanks you all very much for reading and I wish each and every one of you the best!
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