A mission gone horribly wrong leads Scott Summers to make the ultimate sacrifice to save his friends. But is he really dead? Or something more sinsiter going on? Scott/Jean, Kurt/Kitty, minor hints...
Chapter 13: Passing Daze
In the depths of Sinister's secret secondary laboratory, he and his Nasty Boys continued to work around the clock as they had for nearly a month now. The backup data that Sinister had saved from his old lab along with the know-how and experience he still had from years of working on the same clear goal allowed them to accelerate the pace of the construction of a new machine. While the one before took years to develop, it had proven successful in its first test. But Sinister knew that the only way to make this one work without going through all the years of careful adjustments and tweaks again...He would have to get his test subject back.
"Gorgeous...Set those feed in tubes up CAREFULLY!" bellowed Sinister, sounding more irked than usual, "They're heavy, but they aren't dumb bells."
With a grunt, the strong bodied mutant slowed the pace of setup down a bit so as not to make his boss any angrier than he already had been for the past month. While the rest of the Nasty Boys had to take breaks and sleep ever now and then, Sinister function nearly completely without it...His ambitions driving him beyond the need for mere rest.
"Vertigo! Install those computer boards slowly! They're very advanced and they aren't as easy to come by as you may think!" he ordered again, "And where's Ruckus? I thought I told him to get me those programs an hour ago!"
"This kind of thing takes time boss," said Vertigo as she carefully installed the advanced computer board that Sinister had designed himself, "We can only work so fast."
"Well it's not fast enough," grunted the mad scientist as he activated the proprietary program for the console, "The longer Magneto has my creation in his possession, the more dangerous he is! Because he has Blaze, he represents the only threat to my lifelong goal. And if we're going to make this machine work just as well as the last one did, we're going to have to get him back."
Just then, Psylocke and Emma entered the lair via elevator from the building above and Sinister quickly turned to them for an update.
"Did you two find anything?" he asked intently, not sounding as though he would tolerate anything less than success.
"No more than usual..." said Emma, roller her eyes at Sinister's impatient attitude, "But we did get these."
She then handed him some Polaroid pictures, which he quickly took. As soon as he saw them, a mixture of anger and hope fell over him. In them, numerous images of Blake and the rest of the Brotherhood at school and around the outside of their loosely guarded home showed a rather mundane, day-to-day existence. In each picture, he was not far from the Maximoff twins and he stood with them as if he were a part of them. It wasn't as bad as it could have been...But it wasn't a way how he wanted to see the fruit of his genius being put to use.
"That ignorant, bucket-brained fool," scoffed Sinister, "He's trying to use MY creation too protect his kids. He knew I was planning to go after them."
"Great..." said Betsy in a sarcastic tone, "So how do you want to handle him now?"
Sinister responded by crumpling the pictures in his hand. His eyes were now glowing with a brighter, more intent looking red color than before as he considered his next move.
"They have no idea what they've got in their possession..." mused Sinister, "A mutant of his power was never meant to be a part of the primitive masses that he was destined to help replace. And given his powers, he represents a grave threat to my goals. If his memory experiences a total relapse...I'll be the first one he'll come after."
"What's the matter Essex...Scared?" taunted Emma with a grin.
That remark simply earned her a rather large scorn from Sinister as he clenched his fists in anger at the complicated situation he faced. If he was going to succeed in this goal that he had worked a lifetime to accomplish...He was going to have to work through these difficulties whether he liked it or not.
"Don't ever even joke about that Emma!" he bellowed, "I am in absolutely no mood for either of your attitudes! You have plenty to lose if this all fails!"
Neither Betsy nor Emma said anything in response...Not wanting to make this unstable man any worse than he already was. As hard as this last month had been working for the irritable, volatile man they still wanted what he promised them. But the longer this went on...The more likely it seemed that such hassle wasn't fully worth it. At this point, however, they could do nothing but sigh and stand before the angry mad scientist and await his decision.
"Fine...Sorry," said Emma, hiding her frustration, "What do you want us to do next?"
As Sinister calmed down a bit he looked back over at the growing array of machinery that would be the second, and hopefully last, version of 'The Final Step.'
"Blake still has his emotions and will," said Sinister, "As long as he's not under my control...He's a threat. Although I wiped his memory clean, his emotions could trigger something...Which is why I wanted to get rid of them in the first place. And you must make sure that does NOT happen! If he shows any signs of regaining his memories, then we'll have to switch to my emergency plan. And should push come to shove...We may have to terminate him. But hopefully it doesn't come to that. For now, just keep watching him. If I'm going to get him back...I'll have to think of a way to make him vulnerable again. This could involve the Maximoff twins, but if Xavier at all comes into play...That will make things harder."
"And why is that?" asked Betsy curiously.
"That is something you don't need to know..." quipped Sinister, still not trusting her with certain 'information' that may further complicate his plans, "For now...Focus on the Maximoff twins and the rest of the Brotherhood. They may be our only way to get him back without having to go through his powers. And need I remind you...Keep Magneto and the shape shifter off your trail as well. Those fools have already fucked things up enough."
"Hey...If we can avoid them for a month, we can avoid them for even longer," said Emma.
"That's what you two said last time..." said Sinister in response, still sounding noticeable bitter about it, "DON'T let it happen again...Do I make myself clear?"
"Crystal..." said the two women simultaneously, not choosing to comment any further on this matter.
"Good...Now why are you both still here then?! Get back out there and get the job done!"
As the days passed since Blake's first day at Bayville with the Brotherhood, things between them got more comfortable. Despite the rocky start, they actually began considering him as one of them now and he had done a lot to earn his keep. While he did constantly stay around Wanda and Pietro, at least when he wasn't being difficult, he also took the time to teach some of the fighting techniques that Mystique had taught him over the past month. Todd, who had been hounded by bullies his whole life, embraced these teachings and took to them with more effort than he usually put into most challenges he was given. Lance, Freddy, and Wanda also took some time to learn as well...But Pietro remained stubborn, saying that he didn't need to learn his simple excuse for karate moves to fight someone off with his speed. Pietro may have remained defiant...But thankfully, Wanda managed to keep him in line for the most part.
Blake also became better friends with certain members than others. He had come to see Wanda as the easiest person to have a conversation with...As long as the subject of her father didn't come up. She may have been largely introverted at school and in most other instances, but around him and the Brotherhood she was more open. Todd was also someone Blake had grown fond of. His funny, joking nature was a good way to help relieve some of the constant stresses that plagued Blake's mind about Sinister and his lost memories. Talking to him was always a rather comical experience, but he enjoyed it none the less and found that he did have a decent personality that few bothered to learn about. And while it was no secret that Todd had a major crush on Wanda...Blake was beginning to get the sense that she may feel the same way.
Lance had also become a good friend after a few early rough patches. He was still bitter over Kitty, mainly because he kept seeing her with Kurt in the halls of Bayville. But he was slowly learning to ignore it and focus on other things. If Kitty didn't want to work with him to fix past problems...Then that was her loss. Lance also found Blake to be a far better leader compared to Pietro. He wasn't a jerk and he wasn't overbearing...It was as if he was by nature a leader. Either way it was a nice way for him to talk to somebody who didn't always give overly generic responses.
"Okay Blake...Lift it," said Lance as he and Blake stood outside in the warm weather in the driveway with his jeep.
Blake then used his powers to gain the energy to give his arms the strength to life the front end of the vehicle with ease. Lance had been wanting to do some major detailing on his old, busted up jeep for a while now and as long as he had someone there to help, he might as well take advantage of it. Normally, he would have gotten Fred to do something like this, but he was too easily distracted and tended to get impatient with Lance's meticulous work.
"So what repairs are you going to try today?" asked Blake as Lance slipped under the front end of the car with some tools and went to work.
"Today it's the suspension...Tomorrow it will probably be the breaks," said Lance as he began working through the dirt and grim of his jeep to make he necessary adjustment.
Blake kept it steady, letting Lance do his thing. Work like this was somewhat relaxing to Blake because it helped him forget about the lack of sleep he had been getting for over a week now. While he never showed it visibly, his face more or less gave him away and Lance knew it along with pretty much the rest of the Brotherhood.
"Still having troubles sleeping?" he asked as he grunted from his efforts to tighten a few bolts.
"Being a full time guardian to Wanda and Pietro doesn't give you a lot of time for that..." justified Blake, "Especially since Pietro hasn't been making it any easier on me."
"Yeah, there's a shocker..." laughed Lance as he reached in deeper to clear out some mud that had gotten deep under his axles, "I'm surprised you still bother with Pietro. He's been pretty messed up by the past few years...Especially since Wanda came back."
"He'll come around, I'm sure," said Blake, trying to sound optimistic when he knew full well just how stubborn Pietro truly was.
"Yeah...But don't expect it to happen anytime soon," warned Lance, "I know the guy and I know Wanda. Pietro may be cocky, but he doesn't joke around when it comes to his father or his sister. He can be a jerk half the time, but he's serious when it comes to somebody who he considers a 'threat.'"
"Well I thought I've shown to him by now that I'm not one...I'm just here looking out for him and his sister."
"I don't doubt that Blake, but consider this..." continued Lance as he tightened a few bolts, "You still work for Magneto and Pietro hates him with a passion now...And he has ever since Apocalypse. It's one of the reasons why he's still not too friendly with Mystique even though the rest of us have come around."
As Blake thought about his situation, he couldn't help but sigh at the dilemma. Magneto had saved his life and he had come to respect him and Mystique for all that they did for him. He knew just as well as Pietro probably did that Apocalypse was a big turning point for them. It had forcefully imposed a new sense of clarity for the both of them, but it didn't erase the complications they had caused. Ever since Magneto had revealed to Wanda the truth about the insane asylum, both she and Pietro didn't want anything to do with him. And because he had gotten involved with the whole Sinister fiasco, it was taking away vital time he needed to make things right with his kids. He had tried to alleviate some of this himself by telling Wanda what Magneto did for him and what he learned about his choices...But she still found it hard to believe. The scars from the asylum and Pietro's scars from betrayal still hung strong and it didn't seem like there was an easy way to fix it.
"You think they'll ever forgive their father?" asked Blake, breaking the silence as Lance continued his work.
"I don't know..." replied the young man as he switched to a different tool, "But personally...I hope they do. They have no idea how lucky they are to at least have a father to begin with...One who's actually willing to say he's sorry."
"I know how that feels..." said Blake, "But maybe after all this is over, things will change."
"Either way doesn't bother me," said Lance as he made one final adjustment and got out from under the jeep, allowing Blake to casually set it down, "As long as Pietro is still in this asshole phase he's stuck in, I don't see how it can happen."
"I know, that's why I'm trying to break him out of it," said Blake, "But like you said...He's rather difficult to deal with."
"Maybe you should just stop worrying about him for now and focus more on someone who actually wants help," he suggested, "Wanda seems to like you okay."
"It's tempting...But I just can't do that," said Blake as he shook his head, "I promised Magneto I'd look after BOTH of them."
"Well Pietro's a big boy. He can take care of himself," said Lance as he wiped his hands on a rag.
"Not against this threat..." he muttered under his breath.
Knowing Blake probably wasn't going to tell him anything more, he decided simply pack his tools up and get some lunch.
"Whatever man," he said as he started to head back inside, "Just try not to lose too much sleep over it...Then again, it looks like you already have."
"Yeah...I guess so," said Blake with a laugh, although it was far more complicated than that.
As Lance went in, Blake chose to linger for a while longer in the calm, sunny outdoors. While his body was very strong and very adaptive, sleep remained one of his most troubling tasks. Every night...He kept having the same strange dreams. There were no variations...No misinterpretations...It was always the same dream. There were times when it was clearer and times when it was went on longer than usual...But it was still the same dream.
In his dreams, he still felt the choking confinement of being in stuck in a fiery building with no way out...While feeling in vivid detail the agonizing sting of a mysterious blast that sent him into this strange, green liquid that started glowing and making every cell in his body feel as though it was on fire. But the one thing that stood out more than anything else in his dreams...Were the screams. Whenever he let his mind simply wander...He remembered those screams...Those agonizing cries of pain that sounding strangely familiar to him. And whenever he heard them...He felt this strange sensation in the depths of his mind...As if something was there that he could not fully comprehend. It was almost as if he was...Connected to something outside his mind.
It got to the point where he pretty much gave up trying to get a decent night's sleep and merely rested his body before carefully watching over the others as they slept. Wanda had told him about her nightmares from the asylum...But many of those dreams didn't come with the same level of complexity that his did. As painful as Wanda's nightmares were...There was just something about Blake's dreams that set them apart in terms of feeling. He hoped that somehow it was linked to the memories that Sinister had taken away from him...And maybe as time went on, these dreams would reveal more. But the longer they lasted, the more painful they got...And part of him was uncertain if he even wanted to bother remembering something that was so painful to him.
It remained a constant inner struggle for him, but he tried to push it aside by focusing more on the task at hand and the job he had to do with protecting and leading the Brotherhood. Not wanting to let his dreams paralyzing him, he decided to head in and check on the others. Both Freddy and Todd were playing a video game and Wanda was already eating lunch with Pietro. Blake didn't feel hungry, but he did hope to keep things simple for this easy Saturday without the worries of watching over them at school.
But all his hopes were abruptly halted when the phone in the kitchen suddenly rang.
"I'll get it..." said Blake, as he went into the other room to take the call, "Hello?"
"Blake...It's me, Mystique," said the shape shifter over the other line.
"Mystique?" replied the young man, noticeably surprised, "What's going on? Did something happen?"
"No...Not yet," said Mystique, "I'm just calling to tell you that Eric, the Acolytes, and I have been tracking leads and I just found out that Sinister has a couple of his Nasty Boys out scouring Bayville for some reason."
"Are they out to steal equipment?" asked Blake.
"No...If they wanted to do that, they would be doing it at night...And I've been seeing them around the clock," said Mystique, "They're out for something else."
"Something else? What do you think it is?" said Blake.
"I'm not sure, but they're definitely planning something," said the shape shifter, "I can feel it. Eric and I have been trying our best to track down the source of all this trouble, but Sinister has definitely become more cautious since our last encounter."
"So what can I do to help?" asked Blake, feeling the bitterness over the personal stake he still had with Sinister coming on strong.
"For all we know, you could be the target," answered Mystique, "So just leave the major searching to us. Until then, step your guard up over the Brotherhood...Especially the Maximoff twins."
Blake let out a troubled sigh as he heard his task, for the issue over Pietro was still not getting any better for him. And the prospect of sitting out on a fight he felt so strongly connected to wasn't a very appealing notion to the young man whom Sinister had taken so much from.
"I'll do my best...But Pietro is still proving to be stubborn," said Blake after a brief pause, "But the rest of the Brotherhood seems to trust me to some extent now."
"I had a feeling Pietro would be trouble..." said Mystique over the line, knowing from personal experience how truly stubborn he could be, "But as long as you have the rest of the Brotherhood on your side, you should be able to compensate. Eric and I will try to make something happen or find more data, but don't expect too much. Just be ready for anything."
"Don't worry..." assured Blake, "I promise you I will."
"Thanks Blake...Oh, and tell Wanda I said hi."
And with that, Mystique hung up the phone and returned to her tireless search while Blake was left holding the phone in a momentary daze. He knew Sinister was still out there...That much he could be certain of. But his intentions remained as dark and mysterious as ever. Last time he was able to carry them out...He ended up with no memory and many unanswered questions. Part of him wanted to be out there so badly...Searching and tracking Sinister down himself to pay him back personally for all the pain he's caused...But he had a job to do here and a promise to keep.
"Was that Mystique?" asked Wanda as she saw the dazed look on Blake's face.
Feeling slightly startled Blake put the phone back on the hook and turned back towards the young woman he was going to have to watch even closer now that things with this conflict had taken a turn for the worse.
"Yeah...She just called to give me an update," replied Blake, not saying much more.
"And what did she say?" asked the Scarlet Witch, feeling just as curious as everybody else was over this strange conflict that they knew so little about.
"It's still on..." said Blake cryptically, "So that means I'm still out to guard you and your brother. That's all I can tell you though."
"Yeah...I figured," said Wanda, looking somewhat frustrated at the lack of details as she turned to leave the room over towards the living room.
Blake felt tempted to tell her and the rest of the Brotherhood the truth, for he felt they at least deserved to know the trouble they were in. But ever time he thought about that, he remembered what Magneto had specifically told him about that. Above all else, Eric didn't want his kids to get involved in this conflict that he had started many years earlier. And after what he did to his memories, Blake couldn't blame him. He only hoped that once this whole thing was over, he would have some answers. His dreams were still plagued by the same images and his mind was left with the same void. And even if he had to fight through ever obstacle Sinister had in his vast arsenal...He was determined to remember just who he was.
"Oh and Wanda..." said Blake, causing the young woman to turn back to face him, "Mystique says hi..."
Back at the Xavier Institute, the Professor had been busying himself with the seemingly simple task of finding all he could on the Brotherhood's latest member for nearly a week since it was first reported to him. While it wasn't something that normally would have required all that much effort, he had encountered some aspects of it that were...Strange. It wasn't simply the fact that he hadn't picked up this new member on Cerebro, knowing full well that if Mystique, Magneto, and the Acolytes could beat it than it certainly wasn't out of the realm of possibility that this new mutant could do just the same.
Not only that, but this new development offered a rather welcome distraction from some of the difficulties that still lingered as a result of Scott's death. He was still having to consider the grim possibility of sending Jean to a psychotherapist since she didn't appear to be getting much better. He had already called Moria McTaggart on Muir Island, who had experience in cases like this, and informed her on the grim situation. However, he wanted to do all he could to keep Jean away from doctors that would force her to talk about things she was still dealing with. She wasn't sick...She was just in pain over the loss of someone she truly loved. But while everybody else was steadily accepting Scott's death, something kept Jean from reaching this point...Almost as if her mind wouldn't let her believe that Scott was gone forever. He had tried his hardest, but it was still bringing little, if any, results.
For the most part Ororo, Logan, and Hank had watched over the students and kept things under control while Xavier kept himself occupied. Some students were still learning to cope, but the adults in charge gave them someone to talk to. It was by no means easy and the effects of Scott's death throughout the institute could still be observed, but the wounds were slowly beginning to mend themselves. Time was still needed for some, but the Professor was confident that the X-men would persevere despite the lingering effects of such a tragic loss.
"Still at it I see..." said Hank as he walked into the room housing Cerebro, holding a tray of sandwiches and tea.
Turning to face his friend, Xavier let out a tired sigh. He had lost track of time once again in the midst of his work. Distracting himself from the issues that were still at hand were taking a toll on his already mangled body and Hank could clearly see it.
"It's not as easy as I thought it would be Hank," said Xavier as he wheeled himself out of Cerebro and took a brief rest, "This new member of the Brotherhood that my students have been telling me about isn't showing up at all on Cerebro. I've been trying to work around it for hours but...I can't seem to get any more information than my students already know."
"Well considering that it is the Brotherhood," said Hank, "It is only logical not to assume anything as being too simple."
"I know...But the Brotherhood has been very quiet ever since the Apocalypse incident," mused Xavier, feeling that there was just something about this that didn't add up, "They haven't picked any fights with the X-men, they've actually returned to school thanks to Mystique, and they've been doing fairly well for the most part. But now something like this comes along and I truly don't know what to make of it."
"Have you tried contacting them?" asked Hank as he poured a cup of tea for the both of them.
"No, but I have sent Logan on several scouting runs of the Brotherhood boarding house and he says that they don't seem to be posing any kind of threat to anybody. They house has long since been fixed up and they don't seem to be preparing for any major action."
"And what of this new recruit of theirs?" inquired Hank, "Mr. Blake Hellstrom if memory serves me right."
"That's the curious part that's had me cooped up down here for so long old friend," said Xavier as he took a sip of his tea, "I've searched countless public archives, but I can find absolutely no information on him...No birth certificate, no records of parents or guardians, not even records of him at other schools. I'm not sure if it was erased or was never even there to begin with."
"So what do you think that could mean?" asked Hank, "If you can't detect him, then it's logical to assume that he could be hiding something. If there are no records of him, then it's also plausible that there may be a darker motive behind this...As if there's something about him that would not exactly be favorable knowledge to the rest of the curious masses."
"You have a knack for summarizing big issues into small packages old friend..." said Xavier as he let out another tired sigh, "But right now, I'm in the process of upgrading Cerebro. It's been too long since I last boosted its power and maybe once they're complete, I'll be able to find some answers about this rather perplexing mystery. And in the mean time, the students will just have to keep tabs on him."
"Do you think he could be a threat Charles?" asked Hank.
The Professor stopped and thought about that for a brief moment as he considered what he knew. Whoever this Blake Hellstrom was, he seemed rather unconcerned with the X-men and starting fights. In fact, Kitty and Kurt had already told him how he had managed to break up a fight between them and some of the many bullies that taunted them in the halls of Bayville. And if he wasn't there to fight, then why was he recruited? What was Mystique planning? Did Magneto have a hand in it at all?
Since Apocalypse, Mystique and Magneto hadn't caused any problems with them at all. They hadn't shown any level of malevolence towards them and they had nearly severed all contact with him so he had no way of knowing if this was even their doing. What made things stranger was how the students, namely Kurt, Kitty, and Rogue who kept an eye on the Brotherhood all the time for the most part, was the knowledge that this young man had so quickly become the Brotherhood's new leader and never seemed to leave the group. They told him how Blake wasn't enrolled in any of the classes and was simply said to be some sort of body guard for the Maximoff twins mainly. But if this was true...Then what exactly was he guarding them from?
"I honestly don't know Hank," said Xavier, feeling somewhat at a loss, "I've been at this off and on for a while now and the only information I have is the information that my students give me. Yet from what they've told me...Neither Blake nor the Brotherhood presents the real threat. But somehow...I get the feeling that Blake's sudden, mysterious presence is implying something and at the moment I am not sure what exactly it is, but I intend to find out."
"Do you think we should step up danger room sessions a bit?" inquired Hank, "After nearly a month of inactivity, it's safe to say that they may be a little rusty. And should push come to shove, it couldn't hurt to be ready."
"That's a good idea Hank," said Xavier, although he hoped that this development wouldn't lead to any such conflict, "It never hurts to be prepared and expect the unexpected. Because for all we know, this whole thing could be a mere distraction from something much more sinister."
Friday nigh had fallen over the institute after another hard week of school. The sudden appearance of a new member of the Brotherhood had caused quite a stir among the students and had sparked a new string of gossip around the institute. There were rumors that he was some old gang member that was brought in for protection or he was some body guard hired by Magneto to keep them all in check...But as with most rumors, these claims remained unsubstantiated.
The ones that remained most curious about this new Brotherhood member were the very ones who had first become aware of him at school. Kurt, Kitty, and Rogue had been watching him all week, almost completely setting aside their classes at some points just to learn more. It was a curious development since the Brotherhood had been so quiet for so many months. Then, out of nowhere, a new member of the Brotherhood comes and hangs around them like a hawk, keeping track of anybody who looks at them. They knew he wasn't a student since he didn't participate in the classes like the others did. Instead, he seemed like a body guard...Protecting them against something almost as though it could pop up at any moment and attack. But now that it was the weekend, the institute residents were left with nothing more than speculation about what this new development could mean.
For Jean Grey, the news from Bayville and the Brotherhood didn't spark her interests too much. She was still having a great deal of difficulty sleeping and paying attention what classes she managed to attend at college. But such actions seemed futile for her because no matter how hard she tried to return to a sense of normalcy, a part of her mind kept pestering her to no end about Scott's death. It was so bad at some points that it nearly reduced her to tears every time she thought about it. On top of that, she wasn't getting any sleep either. Nightmares still plagued her...Nightmares that went beyond simply reliving the tragedy and extended to something else that she struggled to ascertain. Whenever she fell asleep...She would see the horrible images of Scott being consumed by flame and imprisoned in this strange liquid cell with the leering, sinister red eyes looking over him and laughing with a sense of darkness that sent the coldest of shivers up and down her spine.
There were few variations in her dreams. Whenever she had them, they were more or less the same dreams. The only difference that ever really took place was the overall length of the dream. And the longer it lasted, the more painful it got. Jean had tried to find the strength to see the whole dream through...But ever time, she was jolted out of her state by the paralyzing pain and fear that came along with such horrible images. Jean was beginning to think that maybe she was going crazy...That Scott had truly taken a part of her sanity to the grave with him. But these dreams just felt so real...They felt as though they had a deeper meaning that she was trying so hard to decipher. But no matter how hard she tried, they only brought her pain and confusion instead of clarity.
It was getting late now and much of the institute was falling silent. It was past midnight on a Friday night and while others were beginning to succumb to the exhaustion of the stress this week had caused, Jean Grey stayed wide awake. She didn't want to go to sleep tonight, for she knew what it would bring. She no longer felt she had the strength to handle the vivid nightmares. They caused her too much pain and brought too much sorrow to her and her already shattered heart. She knew that the Professor and the rest of the adults were considering sending her to a psychotherapist...And she knew that it was very possible that she could indeed be crazy. But that little voice in the back of her mind that just wouldn't let her get over Scott's death kept giving off this feeling that there was a reason as to why she felt this way. This annoying, pestilent voice kept her mind in a state of confusion and sorrow...Never allowing her to move on and accept what everybody else already had.
As she sat in the darkness on her bed, hugging her knees for a sense of comfort. She was wide awake as she watched the minutes on the clock tick by at an ever slower pace. She had already been forced to keep herself from falling asleep on several occasions, but the longer she went on the worse it got and if she stayed like this in her room for much longer, she would surly pass out. Days of sleeplessness were catching up with her as she once again felt a sense of drowsiness come over her.
'No...' she thought, mentally slapping herself back to consciousness, 'Don't give in...Don't fall asleep.'
It was getting to be a losing battle for her. She was tired, but she didn't want to sleep. Her body and her mind were now in an epic struggle for dominance and either way, it seemed like a lose-lose situation for her. If she fell asleep, she would feel the pain of the nightmare and if she stayed awake, she would remain paralyzed by this sense of overwhelming physical and emotional exhaustion.
With a defeated sigh, Jean decided it would be best if she did something to distract herself from thinking about all her problems. Although still somewhat drowsy, she got up from her bed and threw on a change of clothes. She was careful to be as quiet as possible as she walked through the darkened mansion down towards the garage. Then...Upon entering, her eyes came across Scott's shining red car.
She then found her hands along the well maintained body of the car that Scott had so adamantly taken care of. There were quite a few memories with him that Jean associated with this car...Times like when they were stranded with in after the others tricked them so they could have a party, when they went out on their first date, and a few other more intimate moments that she always treasured. Although it was hard to think about them now, for some reason...Jean found herself driving away in Scott's car instead of hers. Logan had kept it looking clean, maintaining it almost compulsively just as Scott had. The sound of the engine and the smell of the interior brought forth more memories...Which in turn brought tears to her eyes that the brisk wind blew away as she drove out of the institute and on to the road.
She had no destination in mind and there was no traffic to deal with. For Jean...She just wanted to get away from it all...To find some time outside the gloom that had hung over her since Scott's death. Why couldn't she accept it? He was gone and never coming back...Yet part of her mind just wouldn't process that. Maybe by driving Scott's car around the scarcely populated roads, she would leave behind some of that turmoil...But no matter how fast she drove or where she went, it just seemed to follow her.
In a way, the young redhead managed to take some comfort in the night as the wind blew through her long red hair. It helped distract her and keep herself from asking the questions she knew she wouldn't be able to answer. In addition, the car seemed to encapsulate a part of Scott's spirit...And driving it was almost like reconnecting with that spirit in a way that went beyond traditional explanation. Jean found herself driving down all the old roads that she and Scott had come to know so well since joining the institute. She drove around the outskirts of the city, taking in the view of the eerie glow of the lights in the distance. She drove along the back roads past lookout point where she remembered her and Scott sharing a few tender moments that she always treasured. As time began to pass in a surreal daze, she found herself passing Bayville High where she and Scott walked the halls together with the others, living day to day balancing the life of a traditional high school student and the life of a team of super powered mutants. Now that she looked back on it, those times seemed so much more meaningful because they were the times that had helped her, Scott, and everybody else at the institute grow and evolve into their own person. They had learned many things about how to cope with their hectic lives back in the walls of that school and they had lived through quite a few tribulations. But now that Scott was gone...All she had left of him were these strong memories that had helped her grow into the person she was.
Driving past the school, Jean found herself seeking the cleaner air of the back roads and slowly made her way off of the city streets and back towards the quieter, more picturesque landscape that made upstate New York so beautiful. She had been out for a while now and she actually did feel a little better getting some fresh air into her system. However she knew she would have to eventually go back and contend with the hard day to day life without her soul mate by her side. Jean didn't want to face the issue of being sent to a psychotherapist...She didn't want to have to deal with the scrutiny of some of the students that had unsuccessfully tried to make her feel a little better. But even though she knew she would have to face this sooner or later, this meaningful little detour had helped her remember some of the better times before this horrible tragedy had happened. It was hard not thinking about how Scott had died, but Jean never wanted to stop thinking about how he had lived.
As Jean began to head back to the institute, she soon found herself passing the darkened Brotherhood boarding house. However, as she drove a little closer, she noticed that while the rest of the house seemed completely asleep...There remained one window where the lights were still on and the soft glow stood out over the seemingly ubiquitous darkness. Suddenly...Jean found herself stop the car and simply watched the flickering light in the window. She wasn't sure why she was drawn to it...Maybe because it seemed odd that someone else would be up like her at an hour like this.
The engine of the car still gently hummed as Jean stood in a trance at the image of the window in the darkened outcrop of the Brotherhood boarding house. The whole area looked different compared to the last time she had seen it nearly a year ago. It had definitely been fixed up a bit. While neither she nor the rest of the X-men had bothered them after the Apocalypse incident, they still existed and they were still a part of the mutant population that they all stood for. But Jean's mind didn't seem focused on such and issue as she remained stuck in a daze at the sight before her.
Suddenly, a figure passed in front of the window and his attention was equally drawn to the sight outside. It was Blake...Another troubled soul that had found no comfort in sleep. He looked to be the only one up and now stood before his window wearing a simple pair of sleeping pants and no shirt. Jean somewhat tensed as their gazes met, but she didn't stop looking...Something seemed to be keeping her from doing so. Blake opened his window to get a clearer view of the stranger that was now parked along the road...Simply staring motionlessly back at him. With the obstruction of the glass out of the way, Blake got a clearer view of the young redhead sitting nearly motionlessly in a very nice red convertible that he couldn't help but find appealing. She looked at him...And he just kept looking back. Neither of them said anything or thought anything for that matter...For neither of them knew what to think or say.
It was unclear how much time passed for the both of them as they stood stuck in a daze...Unclear of why this was happening. But they didn't sense anything threatening about this moment...If anything, it was strangely comforting. Not knowing what else to do...Blake soon found himself simply waving back at the young redhead. Jean didn't know how to respond...But she managed to give him a similar gesture, acknowledging that she had accepted his sentiment and was thankful for it.
Then suddenly...A strange feeling shot through Jean's mind. Out of nowhere...The images of her nightmare suddenly returned to her...This time more vivid and clear than ever. The image of Scott being hit by a powerful force and being stuck in a strange, liquid filled prison was supplemented by clearer, more vivid images she hadn't seen before. In them...Scott wasn't crushed by the building, some strange blinding light hit him. And this time...The haunting laughter was accompanied with a horrifying demonic face. Jean felt the strain of the images on her mind becoming greater than ever before.
She started hyperventilating and quickly tore her gaze away from the stranger, but Blake still kept looking back at her...Now fixated on her sudden change in demeanor. He felt strangely drawn to the sight of the girl in the car...Almost as if she was telling him something without even speaking to him. In seeing her, a strange feeling that Blake could not explain or even fully grasp for that matter came over him.
'Who is she?' he thought as he saw her look all the more troubled, 'Why is she here? Why is she looking at me? And moreover...Why am I looking back?'
He kept pondering those questions as Jean took deep breaths to collect herself. She still felt the young man's eyes upon him, but she couldn't even focus herself long enough anymore to look back. She hadn't even been asleep...Yet she had felt her nightmares as vividly as ever. And this time...There were even more details that she hadn't seen before. Blake Hellstrom kept looking back at her, but Jean didn't linger...For she wanted to get away from this pain, not make it worse. And while she still felt the lone stranger's eyes upon her...She managed to set aside her dreams and drive off back into the night.
AN: I'll leave it there for now! It's pretty messed up now don't you think? Jean doesn't know that Blake is Scott...And even Blake doesn't know that he's Scott! It's crazy! And it's clear now that Sinister hasn't given up and he's still out to get his precious test subject and now the only allies that seem to be predicated on stopping him are Magento, Mystique, and the Acolytes! I know it's a tangled web of events, but there's still more to come my friends! Thing are starting to heat up and you won't want to miss where I take it next! And I must remind you all...REVIEW! Send them to me via email or post them on the fanfiction website! Thank you all very much for reading and I wish you all the best!
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