X4: The Queen Of Hearts

BY : BlackWodin
Category: X-Men: (All Movies) > Het - Male/Female
Dragon prints: 2335
Disclaimer: X-Men is owned by Marvel Comics and 20th Century Fox. I do not own X-Men, nor am I making a profit from this work of fan-fiction.

WARNING: This story, X4: The Queen of Hearts, is the sequel to my other fic, X3: The Ace of Spades. This story will likely make absolutely zero sense unless you read the previous fic, so please go read that first. To those who’ve read the other fic, this begins about two months after the end of the last one, well into the summer for our characters, actually closer to the next school year than it is to the end of the previous one.

Disclaimer: X-Men is owned by Marvel Comics and 20th Century Fox. I do not own X-Men, nor am I making a profit from this work of fan-fiction. So don't sue me! Not that you'd get a whole lot from me anyway ;)

AN: Hey guys, back with the brand new chapter for the new Fic., hope y’all like it!


Chapter 1: Tempest

“Charles picks de best vacation spots,” Remy said sarcastically, his voice nearly drowned out by the roaring wind and loud pounding of rain even though he stood only a few feet from Rogue.

“Ah know, doesn’t he?” Rogue shouted back, gripping the door of the hotel lobby tightly as the wind tried to snatch it from her grasp while she held it open.

She bent closer to Jimmy and Sarah who moved quickly out the doorway behind Lorna. “Hurry up, make a run for the van,” she said, and they dashed off into the blinding rain, splashing water as they ran through nearly ankle-deep puddles covering the parking lot, toward the fifteen-passenger van waiting in the parking lot.

Nezhno came out after them, and ran for the vehicle as well, grabbing the door to the passenger compartment to keep it open for the two younger students to climb in.

Remy mentally ticked Nezhno’s name off the list in his mind. “Dat’s ev’ryone, Chére, let’s get de hell outta here,” he said, grabbing her hand.

They, too, ran across the parking lot, and Remy hissed out a low curse as something whirled through the air and hit the back of his head with a glancing blow.

“Yah alright?” Rogue shouted, concerned, as they neared the front passenger door.

Remy raised a hand to his head, wincing, but nodded, releasing her hand, and hurrying around the vehicle to the driver’s door.

He slammed the door shut behind him, the roaring of the weather dulling slightly in the protective confines of the vehicle. Remy glanced back at the passengers of the van. Sarah, Sally, Jimmy, and Carter – the youngest – had visible expressions of fear, and so did the others, although they were able to mask it better.

“Ev’ryone ready to get out of dis place?” Remy asked, water dripping down his face from his hair plastered to his head from the rain.

Sarah nodded, her arms wrapped protectively around her body. “Are we gonna be okay, Remy?” She asked quietly.

He nodded, giving the younger kids a reassuring grin. “We’re gonna be fine. Jus’ need to get to a safer place.”

The wind outside seemed to pick up speed, howling even louder, and rocking the van from side to side.

“Looks like de weather wants us t’get movin’,” Remy muttered, turning the ignition, bringing the engine of the van to life. He slid the shifter into gear, and stepped on the accelerator. The tires spun for a second before managing to find some purchase on the wet pavement, the van lurching into motion onto the road in front of the hotel.

He drove carefully – he always did with Sarah around, but with visibility at only a few hundred feet, and the roads covered in sheets of running water, the need to do so was magnified.

Rogue, next to him in the other front seat, reached into the glove box and pulled out a map, unfolding it across her lap. She examined it, glancing up every few moments at the street signs. “Alright, left turn here, only a few miles to the interstate,” she said, nodding to the next street.

Remy slowed as he neared the dead traffic lights, which were swaying dangerously in the wind, and carefully turned the corner.

They found themselves traveling down the road opposite a convoy of several police cars and fire trucks with lights flashing, their loudspeakers blaring a prerecorded message that Remy and the others had heard minutes ago – a mandatory evacuation was in effect for the city of Fredericksburg, Virginia.

Their vacation had started well enough, Xavier suggesting that the students that were staying over the summer would benefit from some time away from the mansion, some time that would be both fun for them, and educational. He’d talked Remy and Rogue, as well as Annie into basically being the chaperones for a trip to the Washington D.C. area.

The first week had been fun for everyone – they’d spent the majority of their time at the National Mall, touring the Capitol Building, Washington, Lincoln, and Jefferson Memorials, and a trip near the White House. The rest had been spent in the various Smithsonian Museums – the Museum of Natural History warranting two days on its own. Sarah and the other younger ones had been especially mesmerized by the fossils filling the large building.

The next week had begun just as well. They’d driven to the hotel in Fredericksburg and used it as a base of operations, each day going to a different site of a Civil War battle.

They’d planned to get a little wet these last few days of their vacation before they headed back to New York, with Hurricane Diane moving up along the Atlantic Coast nearby.

Hurricane Diane had pounded the Caribbean and later Miami as a Category 2 storm, but weakened – as most hurricanes did when they began a track up the East Coast – to a low Category 1.

Overnight, however, it had shocked meteorologists by altering its behavior completely. They were saying it hit a patch of warm water along the coast, allowing it to suddenly grow to a Category 3, and make an almost 90 degree turn toward Virginia and Washington D.C..

As it traveled almost straight up Chesapeake Bay, the storm had weakened slightly, but not enough for the citizens of the region. The outer storm bands caused flooding in every creek, river, even any low-lying depression. The City of Fredericksburg had, only an hour ago, decided a full evacuation was in order when the storm fully made land and was tracking straight toward town.

Now sustained winds over 100 miles an hour were ripping roofs off of homes and shattering windows as everyone tried to flee the coming storm to makeshift emergency shelters in the D.C. area to the north.

While D.C. was the next expected target, the storm would lose much of its power by the time it reached the city, making it the most prepared and safe place in the area.

There was a loud roaring noise and rumbling beneath the van as their left tires kicked up a spray of water when it hit an ankle-deep puddle of water sitting in the center of the road.

Remy gripped the wheel, keeping control of the van as they cleared it. He squinted out the windshield as the wind picked up even more, driving the rain in front of them almost completely sideways, the mist as it splattered and was blown making visibility even more difficult.

“Guess we’re gettin’ close,” Remy remarked dryly, his gaze slipping briefly over to Rogue as a green metal sign indicating the direction to the interstate flipped across the road, tumbling in front of the van and into the garage door of a nearby house.

“Remy, are you alright?” Annie suddenly asked, concerned, from the seat behind them – she had come along on the trip, bringing Carter, taking a break from the mansion, Hank there to make sure there was someone on-site in case of a medical emergency.

“Hm?” Remy asked absently, his eyes on the road.

She leaned forward in her seat, and pressed her fingers against the scalp of the back of his head, where the hair had slowly turned visibly darker than it had been just from being moist, as they drove along. He winced visibly as she touched his scalp.

She pulled her fingers back to find her fingertips coated with blood. “Remy, you’re bleeding,” she said, drawing Rogue’s immediate gaze to her red fingertips.

“S’alright, you two,” Remy said, reassuring them. “It’s nothin’ – somethin’ hit me when we were getting’ into de van. Jus’ a little cut.”

Annie rolled her eyes at the way he always downplayed his injuries – she’d not been pleased with him when he’d left the Med Lab while still recovering from his injuries at the hands of the Purifiers nearly two months before, and he’d been that way even when he’d first arrived at the mansion.

“I’m sure,” she said wryly. “I guess it would be bleeding more if it was bad,” she conceded – head wounds always looked a lot worse than they often turned out to be.

“Still, let me get a quick look – this will sting just a little,” she said, leaning forward to feel out the extent of the small cut.

He jerked his head away, looking back for a moment. “When we stop, okay, An- Shit!” He broke off, exclaiming, as the headlights cut through the downpour to reveal a large, downed tree across the road.

He slammed the brakes and gripped the wheel, already prepared for the skidding that would cause more inexperienced drivers to panic and end up flipping the car or at least crashing it.

The van slid to a sideways halt mere feet from the enormous oak tree that had fallen from a lawn on one side of the road, across and on top of the car in the driveway of the road on the other side. The oak itself was likely several hundred years old, the thick trunk nearly four feet across.

Remy saw a loose phone line hanging from a swaying telephone pole where the tree had severed the lines as it fell across the road, and then his gaze fell on a woman yanking frantically at the handle of the passenger doors of the car the tree had fallen on.

Mindee spoke up from the back seat as her other two sisters gasped. “There’s kids in the car. They’re alive, but really scared,” she said, the trio’s telepathy instantly picking up the frightened thoughts of the children and their struggling mother.

“Damn,” Remy muttered. “Chére, you up for a bit of weight liftin’? We gotta get dis outta de way anyway.”

Rogue nodded, and opened her door, the wind nearly ripping it from her grasp. “Let’s hurry, the worst of the storm’s gettin’ closer.”

Remy whirled in his seat, looking back at his passengers. “You guys stay put, dis’ll jus’ take a minute.”

Remy slammed the door shut behind him, and he and Rogue ran up to the woman. Remy touched her shoulder, and she seemed to snap out of her panicked state for a moment. “We’re here t’help you,” he said.

“My kids! Please, they’re stuck inside. I can’t open any of the doors!”

Remy nodded, and pulled her to the side. “It’s alrigh’, we’ll get dem out,” he said, looking at the car.

The tree had landed and crumpled the entire roof in at least several inches. The crumpling had bent the metal of the tops of the doors, jamming them shut.

He glanced to Rogue, who nodded, knowing what he wanted. She moved up to the large tree, and got the best grip she could of the largest branches resting on the top of the car, and then pulled up, straining slightly as her powers adjusted themselves to the weight. She slowly rose into the air, lifting the tree with her while moving slowly enough to make sure she had a decent grip and to be sure the branches didn’t break as she held them.

Remy moved up to the glass window of the back door, and peered in to see two sets of frightened eyes – a boy who could barely be five years old, and a young girl nearly Sarah’s age.

“You’re mutants!” The woman exclaimed.

Remy nodded absently. “Yeah.”

He placed his fingers against the glass and let his energy flow out into the material, causing it to glow with a bright magenta. He closed his eyes, focusing on the feel of his energy – something he was getting much better at with practice since he’d come to the mansion.

He slowly increased the energy, trying to match the vibrational frequency of the glass, and moments later he was rewarded when he matched it, causing the entire pane to shatter along its weak points, and slowly dissolve into a fine powder.

He ducked his head into the cramped empty windowspace, and smiled gently at the two children. “C’mon, let’s get you to your mom,” he said, reaching in.

The boy shrank back until his sister nudged him forward enough that Remy could grab him under the arms and carefully pull him out.

He turned, passing the child on to his mother, who sobbed in relief. “Timmy! Thank god, thank you, thank you,” she rambled, gripping her son tightly in her arms.

Remy turned, and smiled at the young girl. “Your turn,” he said.

She smiled shyly back, and clambered forward on the seat to let him get a grip on her.

Remy heard a sharp crack behind him, followed by a grunt and the sound of wood hitting flesh. He quickly pulled the girl the rest of the way out of the car, and whirled around.

The telephone pole he’d seen earlier had snapped and fallen toward the four of them, and he found himself staring at a very changed Nezhno, who slowly lowered the pole to the side of them, and let it drop.

Nezhno’s tattoos were glowing white, his entire upper body bulked out with bulging muscles that began to shrink back to their normal size even as Remy watched.

Dieu,” Remy said, setting down the girl, letting her run over to her shocked mother. “Thanks, Nez.”

Nezhno smiled slightly and nodded, before kneeling, and placing his hands on the ground in front of him. His body tensed for a moment, limbs trembling and shaking. He finally relaxed, and stood back up shakily enough that Remy grabbed his arm to steady him.

“Whoa dere, you alright?” Remy asked.

Nezhno nodded. “Yes, that wasn’t a bad one. My powers put a strain on me when I use them, and I have seizures afterwards. I didn’t use much this time so it was minor.”

“Well, thanks, mon ami.”

Rogue, who’d just finished maneuvering the tree back into the yard it had fallen from, well out of the roadway, hurried over to them. “Yeah,” she said breathlessly, having seen the pole fall, helpless to get over in time to stop it. “Thanks.”

The woman next to him looked up at the three mutants, a frightened look in her eyes as she held both her children tightly. “Thank you. We were – we were just about to leave for one of the shelters, and I was going back inside to get something, and the next thing I knew that was falling on the car,” she said, nodding toward the tree.

Remy smiled, his eyes running over her totaled car. “We got some room in our van – we’re goin’ north of D.C.. We could drop you off at one of de shelters if y’want.”

“Would you?” The woman asked, surprised.

Rogue nodded. “Of course – yah aren’ gettin’ very far in that car, an’ Ah don’ think it’s very safe ‘round here. Let’s get y’stuff, an’ get goin’.”

The woman hesitated, and then nodded, and Rogue moved over to the back of the car, and pushed up the dented trunk, grabbing several of the suitcases the woman had packed. She passed them to Remy and Nezhno, and grabbed the rest, before leading the woman over to the van. She put the suitcases on the floor between Remy’s seat and hers, and then climbed in as Nezhno followed the woman and her children inside.

Annie slid into the seat behind where she’d been sitting, allowing the woman and her children to sit in the front row, and she greeted them, running a practiced eye over them, looking for any obvious injuries.

“Hi, I’m Annie,” she said, smiling.

“Jane,” the woman said – her face wet with a mixture of the rain and her tears. “This is Timmy, and this is Taylor,” she said, her arms around each child’s shoulder.

Annie smiled, and pointed around the van, as Remy started up the engine, introducing the others. The woman seemed especially surprised to see several children her daughter’s age within the van.

“Y-you’re all…. Mutants?” Jane asked hesitantly.

Annie nodded. “Everyone but me.”

“I… why would you help someone like me? I’m just a human….” Jane said, looking at them with uncertainty written across her face.

Rogue turned in her seat, and smiled at the woman. “So are we, really. Jus’ a little diffren’ DNA in a few places. Yah and your kids needed help, an’ we helped.”

Jane slapped a hand to her mouth. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to offend you – I’ve just never met mutants before – just what I’ve heard on TV, and-“

Rogue shook her head. “Ah know. Despite what yah might’ve heard on TV, most of us aren’ bad people. We jus’ wanna live our lives like the rest of yah.”

Jane nodded slightly, tears returning to her eyes. “Thank you, for stopping to help us. If you hadn’t been there, and hadn’t been mutants…” she shook her head slightly. “Thanks – I’ll always remember this.”

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

Remy let the door interconnecting the two hotel rooms click shut quietly behind him. He’d just left the room the younger kids were sharing – Sarah and Sally on one bed, and Carter and Jimmy on the other – having finally gotten Sarah to fall to sleep and stop worrying about the storm.

He passed the first bed – Lorna and Annie were already sound asleep on it – and smiled at Rogue where she was sitting up, leaning against the headboard of the second small hotel bed, reading a D.C. guidebook they’d found invaluable on the trip thus far, only the flickering light of the television and the small lamp between the two beds providing illumination.

Of course, that was aside from the frequent lightning flashes outside, but the rain itself seemed to dull any outdoor lights.

He moved to the right side of the bed, and let himself flop backwards next to Rogue, who turned her head to roll her eyes at him for shaking the bed.

“Hey,” Rogue said quietly. “She asleep?”

Remy nodded, kicking off his shoes, then slipping in underneath the covers, the air underneath already warm from Rogue’s body heat. “She’s out of it. Adrenaline was still pumpin’ from de excitement of de day, but it was also a long day, so she’s crashed pretty good.”

Rogue set the book on her blanket-covered lap, and scooted over, closer to Remy, and he slid an arm around her.

“Sorry our vacation’s been ruined now,” she mumbled. “Evrythin’ we were gonna see is either flooded, or got miles of storm damage an’ downed trees ‘round it.”

Remy turned his head to the side, pressing a kiss to the corner of her mouth. “S’okay, wasn’ your fault. I’d only blame you if y’were Stormy.” He said with a grin.

Rogue chuckled softly. “Wish she could’ve come, she might’ve been able to do somethin’.”

Remy grunted, and pulled Rogue closer. “Yeah, but she’s getting’ pretty involved in dat thing wit’ Warren an’ Xavier. Think dey’re supposed to have de big first meetin’ tomorrow.”

Rogue ran a gloved hand up and down his chest, staring off toward the window thoughtfully. “Yah think there’s anythin’ else we can do ‘round here, or should we just cut it short an’ head back tomorrow?”

“Well, I mentioned somethin’ to Lorna, while y’were helpin’ dat woman get into de shelter before,” he said – they’d dropped off Diane and her children at a shelter to the north of the city, and continued on until they found an open hotel.

“Yeah?” Rogue asked softly.

“She thought maybe we could hang around for a few days in de south of de city where things got hit de worse, an’ offer our services to de police, or even jus’ find some place we c’n help. Thinks it might get on de news and get some positive press for Warren.”

Rogue chewed her lip thoughtfully, enjoying Remy’s arm around her, tickling her back with his hand. “She’s right. We should.” Rogue grinned. “Not surprised she thought of that to help him out – they’re so cute together.”

Remy chuckled. “I guess so. Don’ think Warren’d like bein’ called ‘cute’ though,” he said.

Rogue rolled her eyes. “Yah boys an’ your aversions t’words like ‘cute’.” She said exasperatedly.

Remy grinned, and kissed the tip of her nose. He pulled her closer, against his chest, and moved a leg forward, tangling it with both of hers. “Should get some sleep, if we’re doin’ dis tomorrow, Chére – ‘sgonna be a long day.”

She nodded, and looked up sleepily at his face, glad they were both well-covered, enough for them to lie together like this. “Alrigh’, Sugah. G’nite. Love yah.” She said – each time, even having been months since they’d first said it, seemed like brand new.

Remy kissed her forehead, and rubbed her back gently. “Love you too, ma Chére,” he murmured softly, the words sending tingles down her spine that kept her warm and contented as she drifted off to sleep

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

“Lorna? Lorna, can you hear me?” Warren asked, his cellphone pressed to his ear, trying to make out what she was saying. “Are you alright down there?”

“Yeah … reception…. good, most of the cell … damaged.” Came her voice over the other end, broken up by loud static.

“Are you coming back?” He asked his girlfriend – he’d wished he could have gone on the trip, but it had overlapped with the day he’d set up to meet with those who’d funded Mutants Without Borders: essentially the first Board meeting.

“No, ………. a few more days, help- …. cleanup. …look at the news…… you’ll like it,” she replied. “Gotta go. See…two days.”

“Alright, see you,” Warren said, and heard her end click suddenly, losing its signal.

He sighed with relief – he’d spent most of the morning trying to get in touch with Lorna, or even any of the people who’d gone on the trip with her, but the cell-phone towers had taken a beating during the sudden hurricane, and were just now being repaired. Most of the towers were being overloaded by the flurry of calls from people to their loved ones. Calls that did make it through, it seemed, were filled with bad reception.

He walked over to the television, and grabbed the remote and began flipping through channels, each showing variations of stories on the impact of Hurricane Diane on the Greater D.C. area, and its southern neighboring cities.

He dropped the remote in surprise when he happened upon a station, and realized why she’d wanted him to look at the news – the screen showed a grainy but still visible picture: Lorna, instantly recognizable due to her green hair, stood next to several firefighters, her hands held out toward a collapsed building.

Rogue flitted across the screen, flying to the building that Lorna was apparently helping keep stable. She grabbed a large chunk of the roof, and flew away with it before returning once more. Annie was visible in the background, kneeling next to a woman, treating a large gash on her arm, and Warren could make out several other figures he assumed were the others, helping out where they could.

“This is just one of a number of reports of this small group of mutants assisting local authorities in search and rescue operations and cleanup of the most serious damage to the areas hardest hit by Hurricane Diane,” the reporter said, images switching from the grainy feed of the video showing them to a stream of general images of the storm damage.

“We talked to the D.C. Police Department just moments ago, and they confirmed that this morning several groups of mutants offered their services on the cleanup, the largest of which you saw in the previous video. The larger group, our source said, gave invaluable assistance, especially in finding survivors. Several members of the group apparently have telepathy, and were able to direct rescue teams to the precise location of survivors within buildings, opening up more ground for searching by allowing the dogs normally suited for that task, to search in other places simultaneously.”

“Our news crew attempted to get an interview with the mutant group, but they were very secretive, only saying they were members of a mutant humanitarian group, and they would make clearer statements in the next few days.”

“Now, in other news, a series of wildfires in California….”


Warren smiled, and turned off the TV set. They’d kept their statement vague enough that when he went public in a few days with the now-operational Mutants Without Borders, they could feed off the positive publicity of this, especially the humanitarian side of his NGO.

Warren glanced around the room, at the small building he’d leased as the headquarters of Mutants Without Borders, just inside North Salem, close to the Mansion. He was in the back room, where a long table ran across the room, complete with plush chairs he’d found on sale – the television was hanging on the wall at one end of the room, hooked up to the computer system of the building which would allow him to display anything from his laptop or PC in the building on the screen.

He turned when the door opened, revealing a brown-haired woman with light-blue eyes, flanked by a taller man with reddish-blond hair.

Warren smiled, and moved forward to shake their hands. “You must be Moira and Sean,” he said. “It’s nice to finally meet you – Charles has told me so much about you. Thanks for making the trip over.”

“It’s nae any trouble,” Moira said, smiling. “We’re turnin’ this intae a wee holiday, anyway.”

Warren smiled. “Hopefully the weather from this hurricane doesn’t ruin it for you. Several people from the mansion are down by D.C., and they had to evacuate yesterday.”

Sean nodded. “Charles tol’ us. We’re thinkin’ of going to the West Coast, so it shouldn’ affect us.”

Warren gestured toward the table. “That’s good. Well, sit down wherever you like, we should start soon, just waiting on a few more. I’m going to check on Charles and Ororo,” he said.

He moved to the door of the room as Moira and Sean grabbed the two nearest seats. He slid through the partially open door, his folded wings brushing against the doorframe, and moved out into what was essentially the office area. Several desks were set up, each with a computer and its own phone line, and a small reception area took up the entranceway.

He’d already put out advertisements for positions within the organization, and had met a number of people that applied. He’d found two promising ones so far – one man that had worked with another NGO for several years who was looking for a new position with an up and coming group like MWB, the other a young woman whose entire branch within a large law firm had been downsized with the recent economic troubles, who had excellent recommendations.

It was all but official with those two – the man would be an advisor and in-office manager of projects, and the woman would work as the secretary of the organization. There was, however, a lot more to do, and many more to hire or intern.

Warren moved to the front reception area, where Xavier sat next to Ororo. “Hey,” he said. “I finally got a hold of Lorna.”

Ororo looked up, a smile crossing her face. “That’s great. Are they doing alright?”

Warren nodded. “The reception was pretty bad but it sounded like they were fine. They made the news – they’re out there helping the emergency services clean up and rescue people. They’re saying they’re part of a mutant humanitarian group,” he said, grinning slightly.

Charles chuckled. “Good idea. It will definitely create a bit of good will for when we go public here.”

The front door, solid glass – the building had once belonged to a small law firm, and Warren had left most of the building intact – swung open, and two men entered. The first was tall, well over six feet in height, his upper body clearly well muscled, short blond hair covering his head. The second was a shorter man with sharp features, and brown hair with graying around his temples.

“Charles, ‘Roro, good to see you,” the first man said with a strong British accent. He turned his gaze to Warren. “Brian Braddock,” he said, extending a hand.

“Warren Worthington. It’s nice to meet you.”

The second man grinned slightly, and extended his own hand, by lengthening his arm as if it was made of putty. “Reed Richards.”

“It’s great to finally meet you, Mr. Richards, I’ve been a big admirer of your scientific work,” Warren said.

Richards smiled. “Please, just Reed. I was sorry to hear about your father and his company – how’s he doing?”

Warren shrugged. “Alright, I guess. I talked to him last week. It was a really big blow to the company, going to be hard to recover from this, but at least he made sure to diversify. If he hadn’t…”

Reed nodded. “That’s what I figured.”

Over the summer, the rumors that had been swirling around the Cure failing in some mutants had exploded into the mainstream news as more and more mutants found their powers returning. First it was just the original test subjects, but more recently it was the first to take the cure as it became commercially available.

Several incidents with out-of-control powers had hit the news as well, most of them resulting in deaths or injuries, and the mutants involved claimed they had taken the Cure, and had never had a problem controlling the powers before they had.

Overall, it had been a disaster for Worthington Industries, eventually forcing his father to admit that the Cure, like Jimmy’s power, was for some reason only temporary. The original science had said that the Cure would bond to the genes of the recipient and remain there, nullifying the altered X-gene, but blood samples of the mutants whose powers had returned showed that the Cure was slowly detaching, and then being removed from the body.

Worthington Industries’ stock dropped by nearly 60% with the revelations, and had been hovering there ever since, and the company had been compelled by the FDA to refund the clinics that had bought the supplies of the Cure.

That wasn’t to say, however, they were out of business, or even that the Cure was now worthless. His father was working to change the message of the company, and while apologizing for the errors, also rebranding the Cure.

His father was certain that people would still be willing to pay for the opportunity to remove their powers for several months, and simply buy another dose when the first wore off. The new Cure would be treated almost like a prescription drug, doled out in doses taken over a certain time period. It would, however, take a long time to fully regain public trust in the company, and at the moment they were in danger of possible hostile takeovers by other companies in the same field.

And, of course, there was the chance of more incidents in which returning powers damaged property or injured people as those who had taken the Cure later on began to have it wear off in the coming months. Worthington Industries would be settling lawsuits for a long time to come.

The door to the front of the building opened again, revealing their final guest: a well-dressed man with long black hair held back into a ponytail, his skin pale, and his face adorned by a well-trimmed goatee. His eyes slid over the people of the room cooly. He nodded respectfully to Reed, who he clearly recognized, and then his eyes stopped on Warren, and it felt for a moment like he was looking right through him.

“Nathan, I’m glad you could make it,” Charles greeted.

“I wouldn’t miss it,” he said, the slightest hint of a British accent seeping through. “I am surprised you invited me, and asked for my contribution.”

Charles smiled. “Nathaniel, you know that while we have our disagreements, we’re all on the same side. I’ve come to realize that that sort of dissenting, alternative voice is actually a good thing.”

Charles turned his head toward Warren. “This is my colleague, Nathaniel Essex,” he said.

Essex inclined his head toward him. “You must be the young Mister Worthington. I’m acquaintances with your father – you’re the spitting image of him.”

Warren nodded. “Please, call me Warren. I didn’t realize you knew my father.”

Essex shrugged. “Like I said, we’re acquaintances. I’ve run into him a few times at scientific conferences and fundraisers. I believe we first met at a White House dinner, in fact.”

Warren smiled, and then looked amongst the others. “Well, the others are already in the conference room, and I don’t want to take up any more of your time than I have to, so why don’t we start?”

He led the way toward the conference room, the others falling in line behind him. He heard Essex toward the back, introducing himself to Ororo, who Warren had seen him look at with particular interest.

Once they had settled down, having greeted Sean and Moira, Warren moved up to the head of the table, a bit nervous, but also thrilled. He’d sat in on many a board meeting while his father was trying to groom him to succeed him as head of the company, and now he was heading up his own.

“Alright, Shiro Yoshido is our final member, and I believe some of you know him. He extended his apologies, as he wasn’t able to make it out here for this meeting.” Warren said. “Now, I sent each of you all the information on Mutants Without Borders – are there any questions I could answer now, before we get started?”

Braddock nodded, and raised a hand slightly. “I had a few. When are we going to go public, and how much do you want the rest of us to get involved in that?” He asked, gesturing to the others around the room.

Warren smiled slightly. “I’ve got a press conference set up three days from now – I’ll be announcing it then. I’ve been sort of hinting to some of the reporters I know that something big is coming up, and there’ve been hints of the organization in the news the last few days.”

He spread his hands. “You? It’s however involved you want to be. It’d be nice if you at least made some sort of press release I could share when I go in front of the cameras, just some sort of show of support, that sort of thing. Beyond that, it’s whatever you feel is appropriate.”

Brian nodded thoughtfully. “Well, I’m not worried about public reaction over in the UK, so I’ll go fully public expressing my support.”

Most of the others expressed similar sentiments, and when there weren’t any more questions, Warren passed out several folders, each filled with papers.

“Well then, let’s get down to business. The first thing I wanted to go over is the emphasis we should place on the different parts of the organization – at the moment I think the humanitarian section could be very valuable to get us started…”

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

Kitty jumped, nearly dropping the book she was reading, when her cell phone suddenly blared from the dresser next to her bed.

She sat up, rubbing her eyes slightly to try to focus back on the rest of the world, rather than the words in her book, and she groped around until she snagged the phone.

She glanced down at the caller-ID on the screen, and smiled slightly to herself when she saw it Piotr’s name above the number. Just the other day they’d spent the day together at the aquarium, and she wondered if he wanted to hang out again.

He’d been true to his word, and called her shortly after she’d returned home, and they had made it a priority to do something together at least once a week. It had been a welcome relief from her time being shuffled from her house to her father’s new place several times a week, and from the inevitable arguments between her parents that resulted.

Kitty tapped the ‘talk’ button on the cellphone and brought it up to her ear, her mood already brightening. “Heya Pete, what’s up?”

“Sorry, I sorta borrowed Pete’s phone,” Illyana’s voice came over the line.

“Oh, that’s cool,” she said, her excitement slightly dimmed. “What’s up?” Kitty said.

“Kitty, I need to talk to someone…. Sorta private, and I was wondering if I could come over and talk to you?”

“Sure,” Kitty said, frowning slightly – she could hear strain in the younger girl’s voice.

“Are you at your mom’s place?” Illyana asked.

“Yep.”

“Alright, I’ll port over in a minute,” she said.

“’Kay, see you then,” Kitty said, hanging up the phone, and setting it down.

Over the summer, a number of the little trips into the city had been spent with both Piotr and Illyana, and she’d spend some time over at Kitty’s house – or rather, just here at her mother’s house: Kitty hadn’t brought either of them to where her father and his girlfriend were living, as she felt awkward enough as it was when she was there.

She’d slowly become friends with the younger, spunky girl, and had even gone just with her when Piotr wasn’t around. She smiled slightly, remembering the girl’s love for shopping – once she came to school in the fall, she knew Illyana would have an instant friend in Jubilee.

Kitty frowned, the tone of Illyana’s voice coming back to her again. The thing she admired about her was her refreshingly positive attitude toward the world, and especially toward her future. Something serious must have happened for her to sound so…

She broke out of her thoughts when a yellowish pink speck of light appeared in the air near the ceiling of her room, and then expanded into a large disk, through which Illyana tumbled out, letting out an “oof”, when she dropped the several feet to the floor.

Kitty darted forward to help the blond-haired girl up, and Illyana smiled, looking somewhat embarrassed.

“First time porting somewhere is always the worst – I always end up aiming too high.”

Kitty laughed softly. “Glad you ported over there instead of above my bed.”

Illyana smiled again, but her heart didn’t seem to be in it.

Kitty placed a hand on her shoulder. “What’d you want to talk about? You look pretty down.”

Illyana sighed, and then sat down on the foot of Kitty’s bed, looking glumly down at her hands.

Kitty sat down next to her, an idea beginning to form in her mind of what the problem was. “What’s his name?”

Illyana looked up, momentary surprise in her eyes, and then sighed again. “Robert. We’ve been….. sorta dating since Christmas.”

“First boyfriend?” Kitty asked.

Illyana shook her head. “I’ve had a few, but nothing really serious, until Robert.”

“What happened – you guys break up?”

Illyana frowned, and a tear slid down her cheek. “I guess you could say that. He broke up with me.”

She looked up at Kitty. “We were having a little bit of trouble since school got out, arguments over college, that sort of thing. We were trying to figure out how to make it work long distance, since he was staying here and I was going to New York….”

“He didn’t like it, didn’t understand, he wanted me to stay here and go to school at one of the community colleges here. I tried to explain, but things were just getting worse. So, I… decided to tell him the truth, hoping he’d understand – I told him I was a mutant, and I was going to New York because there was a school for mutants there.”

Tears trickled down her face, her eyes full of pain, and Kitty grabbed her into a firm hug.

“He- he freaked, called me a liar, and a whore, a dirty mutie….. He sounded like one of those bigots you see on TV, or on street corners attacking mutants.” She sobbed softly. “I thought… I thought he’d understand – he was never like that when I was with him, I didn’t think he had any problems with mutants, I was just really nervous about telling him.”

Kitty tightened her hug and she felt her shirt become damp where Illyana’s face was resting.

“I – I really like him, before he blew up like that – I thought….” He voice lowered to a whisper. “I thought he was, y’know ‘The One’, everyone talks about…. I don’t understand how I never saw what he was really like.”

Kitty nodded, patting Illyana’s back. “I know, it hurts. Especially when it happens like that. I’ve been through a few breakups of my own – just had one a few months ago, actually. They really hurt, especially when you really do like the guy.”

She pulled back slightly, and placed her hands on Illyana’s shoulders. “But you can’t let him get you down. You were honest with him, and told him you were a mutant, and he couldn’t handle that, so that’s his loss, not yours. No one that acts like that deserves you.”

Illyana nodded slightly. “I guess you’re right. It was going to happen no matter when I told him…. And I don’t want to be with him if that’s how he thinks anyway – even if I wasn’t a mutant I wouldn’t.”

Kitty smiled. “Exactly. And look at the bright side – you don’t have to worry about working on a long distance relationship anymore.”

That brought a small smile to the younger teen’s face. “That’s true.”

She sighed slightly. “Thanks, Kitty, for listening. Usually I’d talk to Petey about relationship things, even if it gets him a bit uncomfortable, but I figured he’d beat the crap out of Robert if he knew about this….”

Kitty giggled. “Yeah, he probably would. He might deserve it, but we don’t want Pete to go to jail or somethin’.”

Illyana looked shyly up at Kitty. “Kitty – thanks again, I already feel a bit better.
You’re…. I’m glad we’re friends.”

Kitty smiled, before looking seriously at her friend. “It’s no problem. I know, all too well, how talking to someone helps. When my parents broke up, and then I broke up with my boyfriend a few days later….. Pete got me to talk to him, and I don’t know what I’d have done if I hadn’t had that as a sort of pressure-release valve. I’d have probably gone crazy. So I’m glad I could help his sister,” she said with a grin.

Illyana swiped the remaining tears off her cheeks, and in that moment Kitty saw a bit of the spark she usually saw in her eyes return. “Sorry I disappointed you when I called – my phone was dead so I 'borrowed' Petey’s. You sounded so excited to hear from him,” she said with a slight grin. “You guys going on another one of your little dates?”

Kitty blushed, her jaw dropping slightly. “I- I it’s not like that. We-we’re not dating. We’re just friends, and he’s helping me take my mind off of the divorce and all of this,” she said, gesturing around her room.

“Right,” Illyana said, although she didn’t sound entirely convinced – she knew for sure her brother definitely had a thing for Kitty, and just seeing them interact, it seemed like there was some sort of deeper chemistry going on than just ‘friends’.

Illyana stood up, winking at Kitty. “We should go shopping again sometime this week – I still need to get clothes for school, and we can spend the whole day mall-hopping if your parents are being a major pain.”

Kitty nodded. “Let’s. Maybe Wednesday? I’m headed for my dad’s later tonight and then I get back here Wednesday morning, and that tends to be when they really get into their arguments. And then I usually have to listen to mom complain about how he acted for the rest of the day.”

Illyana smiled. “Alright, give me a call and I’ll port over to rescue you. I should get back – Mama is probably looking for me, she was finishing up dinner when I left. I’ll tell Petey you want him to take you out somewhere again,” she called as she left through the same disk of light she’d arrived in, albeit with less flailing of limbs.

Kitty groaned, Illyana’s words bringing up her own inner conflict once again. She liked Pete – a lot – and that scared her, because she’d felt the same about Bobby. And it was different – Pete had been a great friend to her, supporting her through everything that was happening, and she was worried anything more might ruin the friendship that had begun to grow between them. On top of that she had no idea how he might feel about her.

She flopped back on her bed, and grabbed her book, leaving absently through it. ‘Leave it to me to comfort a friend and then get all flustered about my own problems because I did, ’ Kitty thought with a roll of her eyes as she tried to focus on the words on the pages of the book.

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

Kamaa baarakta 'alaa Ibraaheema wa 'alaa ali Ibraaheema, Innaka hameedun Majeed ,” a soft, melodic female voice drifted through the dungeon from a cell in the corner of the prison complex.

Sooraya Qadir took a breath at the end of her intonation, her head bowed toward her lap as she kneeled on the floor of the cell, her hands resting on her knees as she finished her dawn, or fajir, Salat – one of the daily prayers to Allah required for all Muslims.

She raised her head and then turned it to look over her right shoulder. “As Salaamu 'alaikum wa rahmatulaah,” she said softly before repeating the process over her left shoulder.

She closed her eyes, and then slowly rose from her kneeling position, and made her way back to one of the rickety benches that were the only two pieces of furniture in this dark, dingy cell she’d been living in for close to two months.

Her abaya, the robe covering her body, was covered with the dirt of this place, and tattered. The niqab she usually wore, covering her head, was long gone – they’d taken it from her on the day she’d arrived.

It had been strange to be without it, especially around males not related to her. While at one time the hijab dress had been forced upon her and those she knew, when she’d lived in Afghanistan, she hadn’t minded, and even once she’d taken refuge in America, she’d continued the practice.

It afforded her a sense of modesty, and it was comforting to her. It made men judge her on her words, actions, and thoughts, rather than her appearance unlike how they treated many of the women in the West here – and that was what she liked most about it.

Her captors didn’t care, though, and she’d had to quickly adapt, especially with her male cell-mate who’d been transported in the same truck as her that first day and remained with her since then.

She was lucky if they allowed her the fresh water to clean herself before each prayer, and she had been forced to listen to them denigrate her religion and her God.

They, the ‘Purifiers’ – what an ironically wrong name, she thought to herself – reminded her greatly of the years that she, her mother, and her older brother had spent under Taliban rule, before the Americans had driven them away from her small town.

She was thankful for her faith – it seemed the dual-impact of her being both a mutant and a Muslim was enough to deter the perverted men from her, something others in this prison weren’t fortunate enough to be able to do. She could still hear the cries and the begging of the girl in the cell next to hers as the guards had their way with her, echoing through her memory.

Sooraya reached up to touch the cold metal collar around her neck, wishing once again that it was gone, that she could simply turn to dust and travel somewhere safe. A bitter smile crossed her face at the thought of her mother’s nickname for her – ‘Turaab’, which simply mean ‘Dust’ – given to her so long ago.

It was odd – back home, in the years after the American invasion of her country, things had changed so much for the better, and when she’d discovered her mutant abilities, they were praised by everyone she knew. Everyone in her town, at least, felt they were a gift from Allah, given to those with the strength to handle them, to use them for the betterment of all.

Here in America, there were few that felt the same. People like the Purifiers saw them not as a gift, but some sort of abomination, a view that she could not wrap her mind around.

A tear leaked down her cheek, as she wondered if she would ever see her mother again. Sooraya flinched slightly at the sound of the door to the cell area opening, the boots of several Purifier guards audible as they entered the large room.

She didn’t know their names – didn’t wish to. The only man she knew, was one she’d remember for the rest of her life. He was the leader of the group, and the others called him ‘Reverend’ – he was the cruelest man she’d ever met.

Sooraya knew he was no ‘Reverend’, and despite the words these men paid lip service to, they were not really Christians. No one, least of all someone who claimed to be one of the People of the Book, could ever behave like these men behaved – they knew nothing of the teachings of Christianity or Islam. They just twisted their religion with their hatred, and fed on it to sustain their group, and bring in fellow ‘believers’.

The footsteps drew nearer, and she could hear a sound as if something was being dragged, and finally they appeared in front of her cell – two guards dragging a weak and beaten young man between them: her cell-mate.

One of the men pulled out his keys, and slid one of them into the lock. He shot a stern glare at Sooraya, warning her with his gaze not to even attempt to run, and she shrank back in the corner of the cell.

They got a firmer grip on the young man’s arms, and started to toss him into the cell. He struggled, lashing out a foot into the stomach of one of the guards, which earned him several kicks into his own.

“Do that again and we won’t be so gentle next time, freak,” the uninjured guard muttered, slamming the cell bars shut. He glared at Sooraya. “Oh quit staring, you towel headed freak, or you’ll be next.” he snarled, before grabbing the other guard’s arm and leading him away as he clutched his side where the kick had landed the hardest.

Sooraya waited until the door to the main room closed, and then she stood up and hurried over to the young man’s side. “Must you always do that?” She asked, pulling his arm around her shoulder and helping him stand and lean on her as she walked him over to his ‘bed’ – the other bench.

He let out a soft chuckle, and then winced, grabbing his ribs with his free arm. “They deserve it,” he said.

She helped him sit down, and then moved around in front of him. “I know, but it hurts you too,” she said.

She reached up to brush back his shaggy blond hair, and grimaced at the sight of the long cut on his forehead. She moved over to the small bowl of water they gave each morning for cleaning herself, and took a small rag she’d fashioned from the torn bottom of her abaya. She tipped the bowl, letting water drip down onto the black cloth, and then came back to his side.

She ran the wet cloth along the gash on his forehead, drawing a muffled curse and a wince from him as she cleaned it the best she could. While the cloth was still cool and wet, she gently dabbed it around his right eye, which was nearly swollen shut, the brown of his iris barely visible.

She shook her head sadly. “What did they do to you this time, Alex?”

He gave a painful shrug. “Not much different than the usual. Beating, loud sounds in that little torture cell of theirs, you know the drill.”

“The… drill?” She asked, confusion evident in her voice. She’d only been speaking English for two years, and still some of the phrases people used caught her off guard.

He smiled slightly. “Sorry, ‘you know the drill’ basically means that you know what it’s like. I think it comes from sports, they do exercises they call drills, over and over.”

She shook her head. “That is strange.”

He forced himself not to laugh, sighing slightly at the feeling of the cool cloth on his face, wiping away his blood, and soothing his bruises. “I know. And what’s worse is every region has their own phrases that they use for different things. It takes a lot of getting used to. Don’t feel bad though, there’s stuff I’d never understand if someone said it to me, even in English.”

He sighed as she removed the cloth, and then leaned back against the cement wall behind him, trying to get into a more comfortable sitting position. “Thanks,” he said.

“You are welcome, my friend” she said as she carried the cloth back over to the corner, and rinse it as best she could, hanging it on the hard wood frame of her tiny bench to dry.

Sooraya sat down on her own bed, folding her legs beneath her, and folded her hands on her lap, looking across the room at the man who had only months before been a complete stranger to her, and who was now her only companion, her only friend in this dark cesspit.

She ran a finger over the split bottom lip she’d received only the morning before, still sore to the touch – she knew all too well what they put him through, because she’d experienced the same at their hands.

She’d been frightened by him at first, his temper flaring constantly every time the guards came near, shouting, hurling curses at them until they were forced to shut him up. He’d eventually mellowed out with every beating, but that had never disappeared completely.

But that had only been part of it – he was, really, the first man, aside from her father or brother, who had ever seen her without her niqab. It was a strange experience, knowing he could see her like any other woman, without that barrier between them.

Sooraya hadn’t spoken to him the first several days, even when he tried to strike up conversations with her. It had led him, she found out later, to believe she couldn’t understand or speak English, until she finally dredged up the courage to speak to him.

She found that her fears were unfounded – he didn’t look at her as some sort of sex object, like she’d seen so many men do to other women, but rather as a companion, someone to talk to, and laugh with.

She found out his name was Alex Blanding. He’d just celebrated his twenty-fourth birthday – making him about four years older than her – several days before the Purifiers had attacked and subdued him with the same mechanical being that had surprised her in her home.

He was studying Geology and Volcanology in Honolulu, beginning what he called his ‘Master’s Degree’, one of the higher degrees here in the United States from what he’d told her. He’d been on a summer field camp with his class in the Appalachians, studying the geology of the area, when he had been abducted.

He’d been just as interested in hearing her own stories, especially her time in Afghanistan, although it had taken a while before she’d been willing to open up to him about the life she’d lived there.

Alex had also been interested in her faith, and asked her many questions about it: he’d apparently never known a Muslim before, and it was a novel experience for him, especially seeing her pray throughout each day.

He’d been very respectful, even asking her to teach him some Arabic – something he’d haltingly taken to, reminding her of her struggles with first learning English. She’d even taught him a few words in Dari, her native tongue, but it had been mainly Arabic, the language the Qur’an had been written in. He’d been even more fascinated with the Arabic writing system, and she’d shown him how to write his name, in the dust and dirt covering the floor of the cell.

His respect was a novel experience for her from people asking her about Islam. Most of the time it was rude, misinformed questions meant to mock her faith, when people even bothered to ask about it at all, but he’d been different.

The more she’d learned about him, and he about her, the closer their friendship had grown, and that was the only thing she was grateful for about the whole ordeal. She secretly wondered if this was Allah’s intent, to expose her to this young man, let her see how someone so different from her could still become her friend.

Sooraya laughed under her breath when she heard a loud snore come from his side of the room, and she stood from her seat, moving over to grab his arm and pull him into a more comfortable sleeping position. She pulled the ripped and tattered blanket – which had probably seen many a mutant in this dungeon before them – up over him, tucking it around his shoulders.

She didn’t blame him – they’d taken him away shortly after evening fell the previous night, and from what he’d said not let him sleep as they took their time torturing him.

She’d had much the same done to her three times already since she’d been taken, and was hardly able to keep her eyes open as they dragged her back.

Sooraya patted Alex’s shoulder comfortingly, and moved back to her side of the room, where she bowed her head, once again silently asking Allah, in his wisdom, to take them both from this place, set them free from these evil men. She wasn’t sure how much more either of them could endure, but could only trust that He would know the exact right time to free them.

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

“How are your robots coming, Lang?” A sour voice asked from behind him.

Lang turned away from his computer console, to look at the man behind him. Eli Bard was tall, with dark hair swept back away from his eyes, and high, aristocratic features that Lang thought belonged more on an actor playing some sort of Roman nobleman, than it did on the sadistic man in front of him.

Bard, he’d found, was even more ruthless, and filled with hate toward mutants than Maldrone ever was, and seemed far more ambitious. The one thing he liked was that Bard was willing to let him play with his own projects involving the S.E.N.T.I.N.E.L.s with minimal interference.

Part of that, it seemed, was because Bard had more than enough of his own little projects going on here at the Montana Purifier base – adapted from a base that had originally been operated by a rogue government group known as Weapon X.

Lang sighed. “Slowly, just like I told you last week. It’s going to take a lot of changes to make the adjustments to them that Graydon wants. They were designed mostly for combat with humans – mutants were only something I added afterward to the programming, so there are limitations we must overcome.”

Bard frowned. “I’m running low on my supply of mutants. Have to keep my experiments satiated, you know. Could I borrow a few of the originals for a supply run?”

Lang rubbed his forehead. “I can spare two, and only if you take them out of state for your run. I don’t want a pattern to develop, or it’ll be West Virginia all over again.”

Lang looked up curiously. “You’re going through them rather fast, aren’t you?”

Eli shrugged nonchalantly. “Perhaps. But it’s well worth it. With each one we get better refined.”

“Why not use the girl?”

Eli shook his head firmly. “No. She’s still adjusting to the pheromone treatment, and she was damn expensive to get this far. If I toss her in with the others…..” He shook his head once again. “Once our lead scientist gives her okay, we will, but not until then. She said it might even be months before the girl is ready.”

Lang glanced back at his computer terminal. “You’d know better than I would. I still think your little bioengineering experiments will be the end of us.” He waved a hand. “Go, take Units 11 and 12 – they’ve not been on an op for a while. Could use the ‘exercise’,” he said, chuckling slightly. “I’ve got work to do. Remember – wreck them, and you’ll be explaining it to Graydon, not me.”

Eli rolled his eyes and stalked away from Lang’s office.

“Happy hunting, Bard!” Lang called after him.

“Now,” he muttered to himself. “Let’s see what else could go wrong with this new code.”

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

A/N: Hey guys, finally out with the first chap of the new fic. I took a bit of a break so I didn’t burn out, but now I’m back (unfortunately also going back to school next week). Hope you liked this chapter, just a bit of something to get us started.

Sooraya is, of course, Dust from the new New Mutants (now New X-Men I think) – I’ve always liked her – it’s refreshing to see a strong female character, especially a Muslim character that isn’t used as a villain. And yes, this Alex is the Alex y’all are thinking of. ;)

Next chap will be out in a week or two, plenty more ROMY (of course) and we’ll see a bit of what else happened over the summer, via a few flashbacks throughout the chap. Right now we’re just finishing up the summer, but soon the school will start up again, and things will pick up pace.

Thanks for all the great reviews for X3 you guys are great, and I hope you’ll like this story just as much if not more than the first. See you next week!

Sidenote: lots of casting information for the upcoming X-Men: First Class movie is being released. I believe Havok is supposed to be in it (weird given he’s younger than Scott), as is Azazel and Mystique (perhaps we’ll see a baby Nightcrawler?). Interestingly, Morgan Lily, the young actress I mentioned in a previous chapter who I would cast to play Sarah if this fic was a movie, has been cast as a young Mystique, so she will get to play an X-men character on the big screen. :D


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