The Erotic Phoenix Saga: Dark Passions

BY : marvelmaster616
Category: X-men Comics > General
Dragon prints: 3073
Disclaimer: I don’t own X-Men, Avengers, or any Marvel characters. I am making no money off of this. They are the property of Marvel and Disney. Please don’t sue.

The Erotic Phoenix Saga: Dark Passions
Chapter 9: Truth and Clarity

Washington, DC – Capitol

Hindsight was often the greatest source of clarity. It was also the most painful. Mistakes only seemed obvious after the consequences set in. By then, they couldn’t be undone. Intentions didn’t matter. Whether malicious or misguided, it was too late. Whatever damage had occurred was now painfully apparent.

Senator Robert Kelly had spent much of his political career with a clear vision. He believed that mutants were a looming threat. He attempted to exercise greater foresight by planning to confront it. That was why he funded Project Wideawake and teamed up with Bolivar Trask. He thought he was protecting innocent human life, both in the present and the future.

He turned out to be very wrong. It horrified him how wrong he’d been. It required a special kind of hindsight to obtain that clarity. When it sunk in, it sickened him, knowing he helped usher in a dark future in which neither humans nor mutants prospered. At that moment, he made a fateful choice that he hoped would forge a very different future.

“We’ve been given a powerful insight, Senator, ” Charles Xavier had told him just before he made that choice. “Not many get a chance to correct a mistake before it happens. I urge you to make the most of it. But me and my X-Men cannot do it for you. We can only offer our understanding and assistance.”

Those words hung strongly over Senator Kelly. They also gave greater urgency to the actions that followed.

It began the morning after he returned from Project Wideawake. He’d arrived at the Capitol, alongside Charles Xavier. With them were Banshee, Dazzler, and Sunfire, the same X-Men who’d attacked Project Wideawake. He’d originally planned to have Bolivar Trask by his side. Those plans changed considerably when he refused to make a similar choice.

After coordinating with the Secret Service and the Capitol Police, they made their way to a secure chamber where a podium and a video feed awaited. From here, Senator Kelly delivered a message that promised to change the course of history.

“My fellow Americans…and those beyond our borders. Thank you for joining me this morning. I know I had originally scheduled an important announcement. I’d planned to share it with Congress and the President in a joint session. But I had to change that plan at the last minute and for good reason.”

From the podium, Senator Kelly briefly turned to Charles Xavier. He stood by him in his wheelchair. He was right where Bolivar Trask would’ve been, had events played out differently. Knowing where those events led, he swallowed his pride and dismay as he faced the world he almost helped destroy.

“For years, I’ve been vocal about the threat posed by mutants,” the Senator continued. “I’ve called for strong, decisive action to counter that threat…which includes the use of force. I framed every argument in the context of safety. I described every mutant, including those not yet born, as ticking time bombs. And it would only take one to bring great harm and destruction. My rhetoric was extreme, but my convictions were strong. I believed every word I said. Even when my fellow congressmen refused to take action, I worked tirelessly to do what they would not…thinking I was doing the right thing.”

Senator Kelly paused and took a deep breath. He was about to do the one thing every politician hated doing. He was going to admit he was wrong. It sickened him even more, but an understanding glance from Charles Xavier helped ease his strain.

“You’re doing the right thing now, Senator. I know it,” Xavier told him under his breath.

That sentiment helped him regain his composure. With renewed strength, he faced the camera once more.

“Now, in light of recent revelations, I realize I was wrong,” the Senator said firmly. “I was so very wrong and misguided to see all mutants as threats. I didn’t see the people behind the mutations…or the ones who sought to do good with their abilities. That was a failure in judgment on my part. But I almost made a far worse decision. I thought confronting that potential danger required something that could match it. Again, I failed to see that I was creating something just as dangerous…something that threatened mutants and humans alike.”

With increasing resolve, he hit a button on the podium to activate a special graphic. That graphic included a video feed of Bolivar Trask being arrested by SHIELD and his facilities raided by the FBI.

“As many of you know, Sentinel technology has been the means of choice for confronting mutant threats,” Senator Kelly continued. “I was among those who favored their continued development. I even helped authorize plans to expand their use and deployment through an initiative called Project Wideawake. The man who helped further that initiative, Dr. Bolivar Trask, was once a key ally. Now, I’m here to announce that he’s a traitor. And he had help from several other traitors, including those within our government.”

Other news feeds played out on the screen. It included arrests by federal agents of personnel who’d assisted Trask, including men like Henry Peter Gyrich and Dr. Stephen Lang. It was powerful imagery that had started broadcasting on newsfeeds all over the world. It sent a clear message for the present and the future.

“Late yesterday, with help from Charles Xavier and SHIELD, we uncovered plans for Project Wideawake that Mr. Trask did not share with us. Those plans include utilizing illegal technology and exploiting a potential assassination plot to further his goals. Coming from someone I considered both an ally and a friend, this was a painful revelation. But the evidence presented to me was overwhelming.”

Senator Kelly had to pause again. He kept his composure, but the vivid images of the horrible future that he almost ushered in still haunted him. The scenes of charred landscapes, mutant prison camps, and Sentinels turning on humans played out in his mind. He must have been projecting his thoughts too harshly because Charles Xavier clearly noticed.

‘I haven’t forgotten those visions, either,’ he said to him via telepathy. ‘And we shouldn’t forget them. They remind us of the price we pay when we lose sight of humanity.’

The Senator was still getting used to the idea of agreeing with Charles Xavier. He’d spent so long opposing this man and mutants like him. His willingness to become an ally was surprising, as well as sobering. It revealed in him a humanity that Senator Kelly could respect.

“That same evidence also taught me a sobering lesson,” he continued the cameras focused back on him. “Those who seek war will often claim to champion peace. And those seeking peace often equip themselves for war. It requires a delicate balance, preserving peace and avoiding war. Sometimes, things get skewed. It’s often unintentional, but men like Trask do little to hide that intent. They’ll go out of their way to pursue conflict and drag others into it, not realizing that in the long run…war will always have casualties. And beyond a certain point, such casualties ensure no one wins in the end.”

Senator Kelly clung harder to the podium, the images of the war-ravaged future landscape lingering in his mind. In that same future, mutants and humans alike suffered. Regardless of who started the war, many on both sides died. He was supposed to be the first, according to Charles Xavier. His death would subsequently lead to millions more.

That couldn’t be his legacy. Trask might have been comfortable risking such a dark and dire future. Senator Kelly was not.

“Make no mistake. Mr. Trask and his cohorts will face justice for their crimes,” the Senator said firmly. “They’re going to attack me, their former supporter. They’ll attempt to tie me into their crimes. I assure you, they’ll fail. I’ve already enlisted the services of the Goodman, Lieber, Kurtzberg & Holliway law firm. They will prove beyond any doubt that they exploited me and the public’s fear of mutants for their own ends. And moving forward, I’ll see to it that others like them never succeed. This time, I’ll make sure I have the right allies…as well as the right perspective.”

That last statement evoked a smile from Charles Xavier. Through every word the Senator spoke, he was never smug or vindictive. Despite all the awful things Senator Kelly had said about mutants and the X-Men, Professor Xavier never wavered in his commitment to furthering peace. He never lost that critical perspective that allowed him to see what was true and right.

Senator Kelly nearly lost all of that and it nearly cost him his life. With greater confidence in his perspective, as well as the path forward, he gained a new confidence before concluding his remarks.

“Our past missteps cannot and should not define our future,” he said strongly. “A better world does not begin or end with fighting a war or defeating an enemy. There are dangers out there. There are dangerous people, mutant and human. We must be willing to confront them in the present. But we’ll only forge a better future for everyone if we confront them together. Thank you. And God bless America…now and for years to come.”

Xavier Institute for Higher Learning

A unique calm had come over the Xavier Institute. Since the battle against the Goblin Queen ended, the chaos finally settled. Her armies of ninjas, demons, goblins, and symbiotes disappeared or faded. The Celestial facility located near Stonehenge had collapsed. All remaining Celestial technology had been confiscated by SHIELD or taken to Asgard by Thor.

In addition, Project Wideawake and the plot by Bolivar Trask had been shut down. Senator Kelly had been saved from assassination and the dark future they’d seen was averted. Once their biggest critic, he was now an ally. His speech, along with the statements given by the Avengers, SHIELD, and the Fantastic Four, brought a conclusive end to the conflict. However, some questions remained.

“Wait! Back up again,” said an overwhelmed, but curious Kitty Pryde. “Wolverine has a son? A long-lost, half-Japanese son he never even knew about?”

“Ja. That appears to be zhe case, Kitten,” said Kurt, who had been answering some of those questions for the young X-woman. “Although, I’m surprised you’re more curious about zhat. You do remember zhat your body was momentarily taken over by your future self, right?”

“Oh, I’ve gotten over that,” she scoffed as she sat back on the couch. “My future self, sending her mind back in time to stop the end of the world? That’s crazy, but it’s also totally awesome! It reveals I really do become part of the X-Man. All this training and coddling actually pays off.”

“Indeed, it does,” said Kurt as he sat opposite of her in one of the chairs.

“But Wolverine having a son? That is way more crazy! On top of that, he and Storm did…well, you know.”

Kurt shook his head and laughed. Kitty was still overly giddy. She also hesitated to say out loud the more sordid details of the mission. Word had spread quickly that Storm and Wolverine hooked up during the battle against the Goblin Queen. They claimed it was a result of potent pheromones released by Daken, Wolverine’s estranged son. Nobody bought it. Kitty might have been young and inexperienced with such mature matters, but she was no fool.

She also took her part in the whole ordeal remarkably well. She’d even woke Kurt up early so they could watch Senator Kelly’s speech while he answered the questions that others didn’t have time to answer. As tired as he was, Kurt still obliged. It was hard to turn down Kitty when she was so excited and energetic.

They’d spent all morning in the living room, watching TV and talking about recent events. They just finished watching Senator Kelly’s speech. Professor Xavier was going to remain in Washington for the next two days with Banshee, Dazzler, and Sunfire. Together, they planned to dig into the workings of Project Wideawake, round up Bolivar Trask’s allies, and establish a new foundation for human/mutant relations. They also intended to help SHIELD and the Avengers resolve any loose ends with the Goblin Queen’s forces.

It was all so promising. However, that didn’t interest Kitty nearly as much. She remained far more intrigued by some other revelations the battle against the Goblin Queen had incurred.

“It’s probably best not to bring zhat up,” said Kurt, not eager to delve deeper into his teammates’ personal lives. “I don’t zhink Wolverine and Storm are ready to talk about it yet.”

“Tell me about it. They can’t even look at each other without getting awkward,” said Kitty. “It’s funny, but also kind of sad too. To experience that together and just ignore it…that’ll probably make it worse.”

“I know vhat you mean. I suspect zhey get around to talking about…eventually.”

“Hopefully, within my lifetime,” she joked. “I just hope Logan will talk to his son sooner. I tried to get to know him on the ride back from England. The guy was…quiet, to say the least.”

“I wouldn’t make friends vith Daken just yet, Kitty. If vhat zhe Professor told us is any indication, he has many issues.”

“He’s Wolverine’s son. Of course, he has issues.”

“Very true. But he vas also manipulated by zhe Goblin Queen. Ve all saw how damaging zhat can be. Even if he can heal like his father, it vill take time for him to recover…him and Mystique, for zhat matter.”

Kitty tensed at the thought. That was the one aspect of the conflict she had a difficult time grasping. What the Goblin Queen did to those she sought to control was beyond terrible. It was so twisted and perverse, but it was also distressingly effective. If it could work against someone as tenacious as Mystique, then it had to be bad.

Neither she nor Daken cared to talk about the details. Nobody probed them for those details, either. Everybody assumed it was too horrific to put into words.

That was a recurring theme with the Goblin Queen’s manipulations. The more they learned about what she’d done, the more disturbing her ambitions became. Her efforts to exploit and control others caused a lot of damage, some of which left lasting scars. Even long-time enemies like Mystique didn’t deserve that.

“Yeah, that’s another thing we’ll have to figure out at some point,” said Kitty. “What’s going to happen with her? I know she’s been a bad guy for us and the Avengers. But after what happened to her…what almost happened to Senator Kelly…how does that work itself out?”

“I vish I knew,” Kurt sighed. “I pray she figures something out. She committed plenty of crimes before she encountered the Goblin Queen. Zhat, ve cannot overlook.”

“But how much do those crimes matter at this point?” she questioned. “I mean, sure. She did bad things. But what that crazy woman did to her should be punishment enough.”

“Except justice does not vork zhat way, Kitty. Neither does punishment. Vhat zhat woman did to them was not justice. I don’t believe that for a second.”

“If only everyone was as forgiving as you, Kurt,” Kitty said with a half-grin.

“It’s not just about forgiveness,” Kurt said with another sigh. “Vhen peoples’ souls are scarred, it tends to change them. Sometimes, it’s for the better. Other times, it just makes everything worse.”

“So, which way will it go with Mystique? Or Daken, for that matter?”

Kurt paused again. He looked back at the TV briefly, which was already showing footage of clean-up efforts in England. It also showed recordings of Charles Xavier shaking hands with Senator Kelly, their new partnership becoming official. He was once a vocal adversary, but after the events of the past 24 hours, he might become their greatest ally.

It was a comforting, promising development. The X-Men had already forged strong connections with other superhero teams, such as the Avengers and the Fantastic Four. X-Corp helped a great deal in that effort, but this latest ordeal promised to further strengthen those connections. Compared to where the X-Men had been before, especially since Scott and Jean encountered the Phoenix Force, the future seemed so promising.

As his thoughts drifted back to Mystique, Daken, and the rest of the team, Kurt found himself smiling with newfound hope. Glancing back towards Kitty, he recalled the brief time in which she carried herself as the battle-hardened Kate. That woman came from a terrible future where Sentinels, goblins, and demons had destroyed everything. She told them that if they succeeded, neither she nor that future would exist.

At the moment, the Kitty Pryde sitting across from him was no Kate. She was just a teenage girl, wearing the same pink pajamas she’d worn three days ago. Seeing her, even as she nibbled on a half-frozen waffle for breakfast, further strengthened his faith that they had done what needed to be done to forge a better future.

“Only God knows for sure, Kitten,” Kurt said to her. “Zhey have choices to make moving forward. Ve all do. Ve just have to have faith zhat they’ll make the right ones.”

Jasmine Falls, Japan – Grave of Itsu

“This…shouldn’t be do damn hard,” said a solemn, but stoic Daken Akihro.

“I know. It hurts like hell,” replied Logan, who stood next to him, “but that’s usually how you know it’s right.”

“I still hate it. I wish I could stab it.”

“Yeah, that feeling runs in the family. And it hurts even more.”

Daken snarled under his breath, but didn’t argue his father’s words. It was difficult enough returning to Jasmine Falls, the site of his mother’s grave. Clashing with his estranged father again would only make it worse and he had enough of those wounds to last multiple lifetimes.

Things were still tense between them. Even after they reunited, they didn’t say much to one another. In the ruins of the Goblin Queen’s plans, surrounded by SHIELD and the Avengers, there were many distractions. They were content to hide behind them for a time. However, they couldn’t avoid each other forever. Too many harsh truths and dark secrets had come out. The longer they waited, the harder it would get.

The only thing they agreed to confront was this lone shrine on a quiet hill in Jasmine Falls, Japan. The shrine marked the grave of Itsu, Daken’s mother and Logan’s former wife. While Logan’s memory of her was lost, information gleaned from the Goblin Queen’s stronghold in Madripoor helped fill in some major gaps. Logan had been plagued by such gaps before, but never like this.

“So, I had a wife after the war,” Logan mused as he gazed at the shrine. “I tried to get away from all the fighting. And I found someone who gave me some badly needed peace.”

“Itsu. Her name was Itsu,” Daken said bitterly. “She wasn’t just a means to an end, father.”

“You’re right. She wasn’t. I don’t remember much about her, but I do remember this. She was a good soul. She had a good heart. Her only crime was falling in love with a runt like me.”

“A crime she paid for with her life,” Daken added.

“Right,” Logan said solemnly. “But it wasn’t my doing. Do you at least believe me on that? Even if you don’t believe I loved her as much as I remember?”

Daken fell silent again. He didn’t face his father. He remained fixated on the shrine, which contained a small, but faded picture of his mother within a headstone. He also didn’t remember her face, her warmth, or her heart. She died shortly after he drew his first breath. The circumstances surrounding her death, as well as his birth, had been a powerful driving force for much of his life.

Before he fell into the Goblin Queen’s clutches, he thought he knew the grim story. He also thought he knew his father’s role in it. Then, the truth came out. It left him and his father at a crossroads. Neither one of them seemed to know which way to go.

“I’d rather not answer such questions,” Daken said. “I’d just like to remind you how much easier this all could’ve been. If you just let me die in that facility…”

“You can quit reminding me,” Logan said, before he could finish. “That wasn’t gonna happen.”

“Well, it should’ve!” he scoffed. “That would’ve been preferable. Now, I learn I’ve been lied to and manipulated…even before the Goblin Queen found me.”

“So you do believe me?” Logan questioned, determined to get an answer.

“I believe what the Goblin Queen’s intel said. I also believe what SHIELD and Black Widow confirmed. You did not murder my mother in cold blood. My former mentor, Romulus, lied to me.”

“And trust me. I intend to have a word with that asshole,” Logan added angrily. “Being lied to and manipulated tends to piss us off. That’s another thing that runs in the family.”

“If you can find him, be my guess,” Daken said. “He disappeared shortly after the Goblin Queen took me. Everyone else believes she either killed him or sent him to a Hell so horrid that he’ll never escape.”

“But that ain’t what you believe, is it?”

“Of course, not. That assumes too much of Romulus and the Goblin Queen. I fully expect to confront him again at some point. I also expect to stab him several dozen times for his treachery. But that’s a challenge for the future. We have something equally daunting before us in the present.”

Logan muttered some curses under his beath. He wasn’t too eager to confront those challenges, either. However, he wouldn’t have joined Daken on this fateful trip if he weren’t willing to try.

He watched with mixed emotions as Daken bowed before his mother’s shrine and placed a cherry blossom under her picture. While he had visited in the past, he did so while clouded by lies and deceit. He refused to choose a new path for himself without honoring his late mother properly.

Daken didn’t demand that his father accompany him, but he none-the-less chose to. He even donned traditional Japanese funeral attire like his, which he hadn’t worn since the death of his former fiancé, Mariko Yashida. There were many details about his father’s life that he didn’t know, having been fed so many lies by Romulus. Like it or not, their lives were entwined with one another. The extent to which they affected one another remained to be seen.

Logan had made his sentiments known. He clearly wanted some continued connection with his son. Daken was still figuring out his recourse, but he had evolving feelings on the matter.

“Charles Xavier has extended an invitation to join the X-Men,” Daken said, breaking the silence as he placed his hand on his mother’s shrine. “He believes my sordid history does not preclude me from becoming a capable member of his team.”

“He invites a lot of people. Hell, he invited me and my history is pretty damn sordid,” Logan reminded him.

“That’s debatable,” Daken said, rolling his eyes. “I’m sure you have mixed feelings about me joining, but you need not resolve them. I’ve already turned the offer down.”

Logan tried and failed to hide his reaction. Daken could tell by his shifting demeanor that his feelings on the matter were mixed.

“If you’re expecting me to change your mind, you’re bettin’ on the wrong horse,” said the former living weapon. “I…ain’t sure how to handle my son being on the team.”

“You need not concern yourself with that, father. I wasn’t expecting an impassioned plea,” said Daken.

“Then, what the hell were you expecting? What do you want? What do you need? And how much do you want me to be part of it? Because, like it or not, your my son. You and I…we might be the only family we have left. I don’t know what kind of family we can be, but…”

Logan’s words trailed off. He struggled to articulate what lay before them, given their connection. Being family, they couldn’t escape it. After what transpired with the Goblin Queen, there was no going back to the way things were. That had taken a while to accept, but it finally sank in. Visiting Itsu’s shrine just made it official.

Having properly honored his mother, Daken looked back towards his beleaguered father. This was just as uncomfortable for him, but it didn’t have to stop them from doing what was necessary.

“I’m not prepared to answer those questions, father,” Daken told him, “and I suspect you’re not ready for the answers.”

“Damn,” Logan cursed. “Was it really that obvious?”

“For the sake of our shared comfort, I’ll refrain from answering that as well,” he replied with a half-grin. “I’ll only say that, prior to coming here, I had an extended conversation with Jean Grey-Summers. She helped put things into perspective for me.”

“Yeah, Jeannie’s good at that. Way better than I’ll ever be.”

“On this, we can also agree,” Daken said, his grin widening. “She sensed in me someone worth saving. To date, I honestly don’t know what she could’ve sensed. But she helped free my soul from the Goblin Queen’s clutches. She’s earned some credibility in that respect.”

Daken shook his head and glanced towards the rising sun. Such imagery carried great weight in Japan, but it gained even more meaning for him. It reminded him of that fateful moment when Jean, surrounded by the dazzling fires of the Phoenix Force, saved him from being buried in the rubble of the Goblin Queen’s facility. That moment stuck with him for many reasons. It also gave greater weight the words she later shared with him.

“Jean stopped short of giving me advice, ideas, and suggestions…three things I was not in the mood for, to say the least,” Daken continued. “She just offered me compassion, as well as guidance. To be honest, I wasn’t sure how to react.”

“She has that effect on people. Believe me, you ain’t the first,” Logan chuckled.

“But I gained enough insight to make some important decisions,” he said. “For the time being, I’ll remain in Japan. Jean even put me in touch with Kwannon. I agreed to accept a position with her company. She believes employing my talents in more honorable lines of work will be good for me.”

“I ain’t gonna disagree with that.”

“I even slept with Kwannon to gain a sizable signing bonus. That should help pay off some debts I incurred under Romulus.”

That, I didn’t need to know, bub,” said Logan, cringing at that detail.

“Too late, father. If you’re going to be involved in my life, you might as well know the intimate parts. Besides, I already know parts of yours. Or are we not going to talk about what happened with you and Ororo Munroe?”

The former living weapon cringed again. Daken was pushing a lot of buttons, as if to make him rethink his decision to join him on this trip. Logan was not comfortable with many things about their situation, but the mention of Storm only compounded that issue.

Logan wouldn’t say it out loud, but he didn’t have to. His demeanor and even his scent gave it away. Daken knew what happened between him and Storm during their first confrontation. He also knew the effects his pheromones would have the moment he stabbed himself. The only detail he didn’t expect was how impactful the effects on him and Storm would be.

It was clearly more than a pheromone-fueled romp. Daken had seen plenty of those to know the signs. The way they looked at each other afterwards made that obvious. Before they left for Japan, Daken noticed Ororo watching them depart. Something had happened between them and it was still evolving.

His father wasn’t ready to confront it, but that didn’t stop Daken from reminding him.

“We ain’t there yet. We’re not even close,” said Logan while shifting awkwardly.

“So, is it too soon to inquire about prospective stepmothers?” Daken teased.

Way too soon, bub,” he said, already overwhelmed by the notion. “Hell, I’d rather talk about everyone else you slept with before the Goblin Queen came along.”

“That might take a while. Unlike you, the scope of my sexual conquests are a great deal broader.”

Logan muttered another string of curses under his breath. That was something else he wasn’t quite ready to deal with. Not surprisingly, Daken was quite promiscuous when it came to his sex life. However, his sexual preferences were considerably broader.

He’d slept with men, women, and some who identified as transgender. In terms of who he seduced, he didn’t discriminate. His pheromone powers often aided in such pursuits. Having experienced the power of those pheromones first-hand, Logan could only imagine the extent of his son’s escapades. His discomfort with the details were somewhat humorous, but that didn’t stop Daken from making his point.

“While my home will be in Japan, I’m willing to maintain regular communication with you at the institute,” Daken continued. “It doesn’t have to be every day or every week, for that matter. It just has to be there.”

“I’m willing if you are, bub,” said Logan. “I ain’t much for small talk, but I’ll try my best.”

“As will I. We don’t have to talk about what we’re doing or who we’re sleeping with. We can just talk about the weather or what we’ve been stabbing lately. But – and this is Jean’s guidance at work – I’d like that communication to remain open.”

“Yeah. I’d like that too,” said Logan, managing a half-smile.

He hesitated less than Daken expected. He was still getting used to the idea that his father wasn’t the same callous monster that Daken had been conditioned to despise. Him wanting a relationship with a son he never knew about still surprised him. It made the prospect of having a relationship with his father not built on hate more feasible.

It even seemed desirable, to some extent. However, they still had a long way to go.

“Whatever comes of this arrangement, I cannot make many promises,” said Daken.

“I’m the best there is at what I do,” Logan said, “but what I do…ain’t parenting. So I can’t make promises, either.”

“Then, let’s not pretend we can undo several lifetimes of rage, manipulation, and scars. That’s not very conducive to a traditional father/son relationship.”

“Kid, I stab things for the X-Men. And you’re a tattooed bisexual deviant who also stabs things. Ain’t nothing traditional about us.”

“Point taken,” Daken said with a smirk. “Even so, don’t expect a shared future that involves fishing trips, baseball games, and bike rides.”

“I ain’t gonna expect anything we’re not up for,” said Logan. “Besides, that ain’t our style.”

“That same style will make things difficult,” he added, “even with proper guidance.”

“I know. And I’m up for it, so long as you are. It’s like I said before. If it seems real hard, that’s how you know it’s right.”

That finally earned Logan a bemused chuckle from his son. It wasn’t much, but it was a start. Even in the solemn shadow of Itsu’s grave, they found a way to come together.

The tension eased and the mood became less hostile. Logan offered Daken a supportive gesture. This time, he didn’t reject it. The reality was finally sinking in. They were father and son. They were a family. Lies and deceit had shaped their lives for so long. Now, they could build new lives around truth.

It still seemed so daunting, but that didn’t bother Daken. It didn’t bother Logan, either. They never ran from a challenge. That was another trait that ran in their family. It seemed so fitting, having that guide them as they moved forward.

Having paid their respects to Itsu, Daken offered one last bow to his late mother before following his father away from the shrine. A couple rented motorcycles awaited. While Logan was set to return to the Xavier Institute soon, they could part ways confident that they had forged a new foundation for a father/son relationship.

“Come on. I’ll buy you a beer before I head back home,” said Logan.

“You’d best buy several, old man. You’ll need it to keep up,” Daken said boastfully.

“Bold words from a guy who ain’t never been drinking with the Wolverine,” quipped the former living weapon.

“Oh, come now! Aren’t sons supposed to surpass their fathers?”

“Don’t get ahead of yourself, kid. We both got a long way to go. But when it comes to beer, we’re ahead of the curve.”

“Spoken like a man who thinks he can outdrink me.”

“Nope! Spoken like a man who loves a cold beer…and can definitely outdrink you.”

SHIELD Helicarrier – Brig

Not long ago, Rogue took the first step in a long road to redemption. For years, with the Brotherhood of Mutants, she hurt people. She used her powers to hurt, subdue, and drain the abilities and memories of others. She thought she was helping mutants like her. She believed in what she, the Brotherhood, and her adopted mother, Mystique, were fighting for.

That all changed when they encountered Carol “Ms. Marvel” Danvers. Now, they knew the role the Goblin Queen played in that change. Even after defeating her and preventing the assassination of Senator Kelly, the extent of those changes continued to unfold. Confronting them meant Rogue confronting her mother, which required a less-than-cordial visit to the brig within SHIELD’s main Hellicarrier

“Hey Momma. Ah’m here,” Rogue greeted upon entering the highly secure cell that contained Mystique.

She barely looked up. According to Maria Hill, Mystique hadn’t said a word since they arrested her at the site of Project Wideawake. The shapeshifter offered no resistance when agents cuffed her in vibranium shackles. She wouldn’t even make eye-contact with anyone as they escorted her to a transport jet.

The agents figured she was still hazy after being drained by Rogue and having the Goblin Queen’s hold on her broken. Hearing Agent Hill list her many crimes, which included attempted assassination of a Senator, probably didn’t help her mental state. However, Rogue knew her adopted mother all too well.

All the crimes she committed didn’t bother her, including the attempted assassination.

Being caught didn’t bother her, having been captured and imprisoned before.

Even having to face Carol Danvers, who personally escorted her to the brig, didn’t faze her in the slightest.

However, Mystique was still deeply wounded. Still shackled by her wrists and clad in an orange jumpsuit, she sat in her cell in a daze. She didn’t appear to be in pain, but Rogue could see the signs. She was not the same woman she’d been before her encounter with the Goblin Queen.

“Ah’m gonna assume you can hear me,” Rogue said after not getting a response. “Ah convinced Maria Hill to turn off the audio feeds. Whatever we say here ain’t gonna be heard by anyone. She ain’t turning off the video cameras, though. She knows how many prison cells you’ve escaped in your time. Heck, you’re just a few short of the record.”

That last remark helped lighten the mood, but not by much. Mystique remained distant, offering only a brief glance to her adopted daughter. It wasn’t much, but it was a start.

Still sitting behind an energy barrier within a heavy metallic cell, Rogue pulled up a chair and placed it in front of her. Only a few feet and a glowing wall of energy separated them. Upon sitting down, she offered Mystique a look of sympathy and comfort. It was not unlike the one she’d offered the day she took Rogue in. That finally got her attention.

“I failed you, Rogue. I failed everyone and everything I ever fought for,” Mystique said, her tone flat and solemn.

“Don’t say that, momma. You know it ain’t true,” Rogue told her.

“It’s true enough. Refusing to be controlled by others…I failed. Defeating those who would dare hurt our kind…I failed. Protecting you at all costs…failed.”

“There ain’t a whole lot you could’ve done about that. The Goblin Queen took us all by surprise.”

“It doesn’t matter. I still failed. That, I can hardly stomach. But what that woman did to me…breaking me in ways I’d never been broken before…that, I cannot accept.”

“But you’re free now,” Rogue said strongly. “The Goblin Queen is gone. We made dang sure of it.”

“It doesn’t matter. It’s too late, Rogue. She still broke me. That can never be undone.”

Her expression hardened. She turned away once more, burying her face in her knees. Rogue could hear her angrily cursing, the scars left by the Goblin Queen still festering immensely. Had there not been an energy barrier in front of her, she would’ve gladly embraced her mother, as she’d done with her in the past. It hurt to see her adopted mother like this, but Rogue never once considered leaving.

“It shouldn’t have happened like this!” Mystique exclaimed in frustration. “For you…for me…we were supposed to be stronger. I…should’ve been stronger.”

“You are strong, momma,” Rogue told her strongly.

“How can I be?” she cried. “I let that woman use me! She used my body, my skills, my powers…everything.”

“You ain’t the only one. The fact you survived shows just how strong ya are. You outta see what happened to Venom.”

“I almost wish I hadn’t,” said the shapeshifter. “Death would’ve been easier. That way, I wouldn’t be here right now…a broken shell of a woman. I couldn’t even get worked up when Carol called me a bitch.”

“After what happened to her and meh, Ah’d say you got off easy,” Rogue pointed out.

“That, I don’t care about,” Mystique scoffed. “I’ve never cared about what others thought of me. I’ve never cared how much they hated me. I spent a lifetime – multiple lifetimes, even – hardening myself to those feelings. It’s how I became strong. And that’s the strength I tried to instill in you.”

“Ah know. Ah haven’t forgotten.”

“To be that strong, I had to know who I was and what I stood for. I had to have no regrets about what, how, and why I did what I did. But after being under the Goblin Queen’s influence – trapped under someone else’s influence and desires – all that strength failed me. Thoughts I never dared thing…feelings I never dared felt…it’s so overwhelming.”

Rogue had never heard Mystique sound so weak and vulnerable. She hid her sobs, but she could not hide her tears. It marked the first time Rogue had ever seen her mother cry. It was strange, having only known Mystique as the tough mother figure who abhorred weakness and vulnerability. At the same time, it was powerful. It affirmed to Rogue that there was more to Mystique than the battle she fought.

She gave her adopted mother a moment to shed those tears. She gave her a few more to collect herself, if only to hide her weakness from the cameras. Rogue continued offering her the same compassion that was so important to her on that fateful day Mystique found her. It helped her regain some of the strength she’d thought she lost.

“Momma,” Rogue said in a caring tone, “there ain’t nothing Ah can say to undo what that woman did.”

“I’d settle for you draining me until I fall into an extended coma,” Mystique said bitterly. “At least that way, I’ll catch up on some lost sleep.”

“That ain’t gonna happen,” Rogue said strongly. “And Ah ain’t gonna let this destroy you. You’re stronger than that.”

“Perhaps, I used to be. But the Goblin Queen changed all that. She changed a lot of things.”

“Bullshit!” Rogue spat. “Someone else messin’ stuff up is one kind of change. Lettin’ it mess you up is another. You know which one you’re dealing with. And Ah know you’re tough enough to get through it.”

Her tone was harsh. It closely mirrored the tone Mystique often used when she trained Rogue. It helped turn a scared young woman who’d been kicked out of her house into a formidable force on the Brotherhood of Mutants. Mystique might have had misguided goals, but she helped Rogue through her darkest hour and she became stronger because of it.

Now, their roles had been reversed. The Goblin Queen broke Mystique in ways no one had ever attempted. It left her in a dark place. Without anyone to help her, she’d only slip deeper. Rogue refused to let that happen. This woman, who’d become her adopted mother at just the right time, needed someone to pull her from that darkness. She readily accepted that role.

“Look at meh, Momma,” Rogue said, her face inches from the energy barrier separating them. “Look at the woman Ah am now. And compare that to the woman you found that day, alone and weak in the Mississippi woods.”

Mystique still avoided her gaze for a moment, but Rogue wouldn’t let her ignore this. Eventually, Mystique wiped away what remained of her tears and faced her. Her spirit was so wounded and raw, but she still had resolve. That was all Rogue needed.

“Where you are now is bad. Ain’t no way around it,” she went on. “This cell…what the Goblin Queen did…it ain’t good. It hurts. And it’s gonna keep hurtin’, no matter how much try to ignore it.”

“If you’re trying to sound like me…the old me, that is…you’re doing a commendable job,” Mystique said.

“That ain’t gonna stop me. Because you don’t give up on family. You don’t give up on the people who saved your life, your heart, and your soul.”

“Did being in the X-Men teach you that?” the shapeshifter scoffed.

“They only built on what you made. They may have guided me in different ways, but they didn’t change who Ah was or what Ah was tryin’ to be. Even after what Ah did to Carol, they gave meh a chance. But more importantly, they gave meh insight…a way of seein’ the world in a new light.”

“That’s just a fancy way of saying the Brotherhood was wrong and the X-Men were right.”

“Being misguided ain’t the same as being wrong, Momma. If it were, then none of us would get a second chance,” Rogue retorted. “But none of that matters if you don’t use it. That’s what Ah’ve done in mah time with the X-Men. It’s helped meh take responsibility for the things Ah’ve done wrong. And it’s given meh the strength to do what Ah know is right.”

Mystique remained skeptical and bitter. She still saw Rogue embracing the X-Men as a failure on her part. As leader of the Brotherhood, they’d opposed the X-Men at many turns. Rogue didn’t doubt that would be a point of contention, but she was willing to work through it. Her adopted mother might have been stubborn, but she was also too proud to succumb to despair.

“You know what my track record is when it comes to the right thing,” Mystique pointed out. “The way I see it, staying in this cell keeps that from getting worse.”

“Except, that ain’t your style,” said Rogue with folded arms. “You’re too tough to just sit here like moss on a tree, leaving things as they are. That would only embolden your enemies and Ah know you hate that.”

“Now, you’re just trying to goad me.”

“Ah’ll do what I gotta do. That’s the kind of woman you raised. And that’s the kind of woman you’ll need to be if you’re gonna come out of this stronger.”

“I still don’t see how that’s possible,” said Mystique.

“Ah do. In fact, Ah can see it starting right now.”

Rogue’s demeanor shifted. She stood up from her chair, placed her hand on the energy barrier, and leaned forward in a gesture of strength. It took a moment for Mystique to follow, but she eventually arose from where she sat.

Her adopted daughter’s harsh words got her agitated just enough. She finally showed some resolve, something the Goblin Queen went out of her way to crush. The shapeshifter was still broken, but she had enough strength to place her hand on the barrier as well, Rogue’s sentiment penetrating the robust cell.

“You’ve done your share of bad things, Momma. More so than most,” Rogue told her. “But you ain’t the only one. A gal like meh can still join the X-Men. Hell, a guy like the Hulk can join the Avengers.”

“You really think I’d join either of them? Or any team of so-called superheroes?” Mystique scoffed.

“Heck no!” Rogue laughed. “But you’re a woman who can fight, survive, and shape-shift into anyone she goddamn wants. You can use that to mess things up for other folks and yourself. Or…”

Her words trailed off, leaving Mystique to fill in the blanks. Rogue dared her with her eyes to contemplate another use for those skills that once made her such a capable leader for the Brotherhood. Mystique remained skeptical and cynical, but the simple mention of another life path was enough. It got her contemplating ideas that once never crossed her mind.

Mystique had already seen what happened with the Brotherhood. Her efforts, as ambitious as they were, bore limited results at best. Before she crossed paths with the Goblin Queen, her recourse was to get bolder. Now, that approach no longer appealed to her.

At this point in her broken state, Mystique had no idea what she could do with herself. It wasn’t even clear if her when she would get a chance to do anything. The way Rogue was looking at her hinted the opportunity would be there.

“Is that a challenge, Rogue?” Mystique asked her. “Because you know how I feel about being challenged…especially by my own daughter.”

“Ah know. That’s exactly why Ah’m doing it,” Rogue said with a sassy grin. “Ah’ve put in the time, both with the X-Men and the Avengers. I’ve earned some favors. Heck, there are some folks here at SHIELD who would much rather have you as an ally than a prisoner.”

“You honestly think they’d trust me?” the shapeshifter scoffed.

“They trusted me to be here. They trusted me to talk to you. And guess what? Ah trust mah mama to come outta this stronger than ever.”

“But why do you believe that so strongly?”

“Because Ah’m gonna help her…just as she once helped meh.”

Mystique’s demeanor shifted again. This time, she showed strength rather than resignation. Her expression hardened, but this time out of resolve rather than despair. Seeing her daughter stand before her, having grown so much from that weak young woman who’d been kicked out of her home, gave the shapeshifter a newfound direction.

Her spirit was still broken, but she now had a chance to start putting it back together. Thanks to Rogue, she wouldn’t have to do it alone. The idea of Mystique being an agent for SHIELD, an ally of the X-Men, or even an associate of X-Corp still seemed so distant. However, the idea of her being more than the leader of the Brotherhood no longer seemed impossible.

Having her daughter by her side once more certainly helped. After being trapped in the Goblin Queen’s perverse desires, the prospect of pursuing new possibilities had plenty of appeal. As she contemplated some of them, Mystique finally cast her daughter a smile.

“I’d like that, Rogue. I’d like that a lot,” said the shapeshifter with a new strength.

“Great!” Rogue said, beaming with relief and delight. “Ah’m ready to get started if you are.”

“Believe me. I’m ready…even if it means being in this cell for a while.”

“We’ll get to that soon enough,” she assured her. “There’s so much more Ah wanna talk about. Heck, before all this went down, Ah had a mission in New Orleans that you’re gonna wanna hear about. It even involves a handsome fella Ah hope we get to meet again at some point!”

Mystique’s smiled widened as she settled in for an extended visit with her adopted daughter. It marked the start of a long, arduous road for her and Rogue. Where it led was not yet clear. She still wasn’t sure what she wanted. However, thanks to Rogue, she had every intention of finding that out.

Siberia – Rasputin Family Graves

“Mama…Papa…I’m so sorry,” said a solemn Illyana Rasputin.

“You do not need to apologize, Snowflake. What happened to them was not your fault,” said Piotr while embracing her lightly with his powerful arm.

“It may not be my fault completely, big brother. But we cannot ignore the truth. Our parents are dead because of me. They died because the Goblin Queen wanted me and they were in her way. Even after spending years in Limbo, this hurts me most.”

For the first time since she became the Darkchylde, Illyana shed tears. In the cold, Siberian evening, they burned her face with a special sorrow. The sight of two lone graves, each belonging to her mother and father, made this powerful loss so very real.

Being freed from the Goblin Queen’s influence was overwhelming. She’d been manipulated, conditioned, and tormented by her twisted desires. She fully expected to perish the moment that woman had no further use for her. She even begged her brother to end her before that time came. It never did. He and the rest of the X-Men’s allies defeated the Goblin Queen. However, being freed from that woman’s influence wasn’t the same as being free from the darkness now tied to her soul.

“I am still what that woman made me,” Illyana said, tears still streaming down her face. “I am free from her. But I can never be free from her torment.”

“You are still my sister, Illyana. And you still have the love of your family,” Piotr said. “That has never changed. And it never will. That, I promise you.”

He hugged her closer. Illyana, fighting more sobs, clung to his powerful arm. Standing beside her brother, who made it clear she would not face this alone, everything finally set in for Illyana. Beyond her parents’ death, other harsh realizations followed. She was still the Darkchylde. She’d been taken away from her rural home in Russia and trained in the pits of Limbo. Her mutant powers, combined with the dark magic of the Soul Sword, turned her into something her parents would’ve abhorred.

Illyana never had a choice in the matter.

Her parents never had a choice either.

Now, in wake of the Goblin Queen’s defeat, the young Russian had new choices before her. They marked the first real choices she’d been able to make since before she became the Darkchylde. Illyana had been contemplating them since the moment she awoke. She did so with greater urgency when she and Piotr arrived at their family’s former home aboard an X-Jet.

Looking back at her parents’ graves, her gaze drifted to the small puddles near their headstones. Formed from rain and snow, they threw her reflection back at her. She might not have been the same figure who’d slain monsters in Limbo and lost her virginity to a demon, but she was still a far cry from the sweet little girl her brother once protected.

“You’re all I have left, Piotr,” Illyana said. “We’re all that we have left of our family.”

“That is enough. Of this, I am certain,” Piotr said with his usual gentle strength.

“I wish I shared your strength and confidence. I really do. But the things I have done cannot be undone. I am still the Darkchylde. I am still responsible for all it entails.”

“But that does not have to be your fate, Illyana.”

“You’re right. It doesn’t. But I cannot go back to the way things once were. To try and run from what I’ve become…to try and become that sweet little girl I used to be…it is just not possible.”

Illyana broke briefly from her brother’s embrace. Hugging her shoulders, another gust of cold Siberian wind blowing over the area, she knelt at her mother and father’s grave. In one of the muddy puddles between them, she stared at her reflection. In it, she didn’t just see the face of the Darkchylde. She saw the face of and teenage girl whose life had just begun again.

“I am a mutant. I am the Darkchylde. I wield the Soul Sword,” Illyana went on. “These are all things I cannot change.”

“But you can control what you do with them,” Piotr pointed out as she knelt beside her. “Is that not also important?”

“It is,” she admitted, “but I am still learning what that means. Because, on top of being all these things, I am also not a little girl anymore. Only two years have passed for you. But for me, it was quite longer.”

“Yes, I have not forgotten. It means we have many birthdays to make up.”

That remark evoked a slight smile. Her world had been shrouded in darkness for so long. Even in her most vulnerable moments, Piotr had a talent for bringing light to her life. It eased some of the pain, but it did not change the challenge that laid before her.

“No matter how old I am, I cannot lament on what I have lost. Mama and Papa wouldn’t have wanted that,” Illyana said.

“They would’ve wanted you to be happy. That’s all they ever wanted for both of us,” Piotr told her.

“And being what I am…that is going to be difficult. But for them – as well as you, big brother – I am willing to make the effort. I will not let these things I cannot control break me.”

“They won’t,” he assured her. “You are my sister. I am sure of it.”

“Coming from a man with metal skin, I appreciate it.”

He cast her another smile of warmth and strength. Shedding more tears, Illayana embraced him again. Together, they shared another powerful moment as a family. It was a fitting way to honor their parents. They might be gone, but their family was still strong. It always had been. Piotr just couldn’t be the soul source of that strength anymore.

“Now that the Goblin Queen is not in control, I am ready to make choices again,” Illyana said as she rose back up. “I know you wish for me to join the Xavier Institute. And I have thought about it a lot. Charles Xavier even offered special training.”

“Da. It is certain my preference that you join, Snowflake,” Piotr told her as he returned to his feet, “but this is your decision to make. I trust you to do what you feel is best.”

“After having so few choices for so long, that means a lot to me, Piotr. More than you can ever know. And like Papa once said, we often know what the right choice is. The hardest part is doing it to the utmost. That is why I not joining the X-Men is so difficult for me.”

Piotr’s expression sank upon hearing her choice. However, he did not argue or question it. He just sighed and kept smiling, staying true to his word. He really did trust her to make her own choice. That both reassured and emboldened Illyana.

“You would have made a great addition to the team,” Piotr told her, “but I understand.”

“Thank you, big brother,” she replied warmly. “One day, I may be part of that team. But for now, I wish to take these burdens that I cannot change and make them my own. Doing so requires training…in mind, body, magic, and mutation.”

“That is ambitious, Illyana. Even for one as strong as you.”

“I do not disagree. That is why I have sought out tutelage from one who can help with all of them. And as it just so happens, he has a standing offer to train the Darkchylde in the ways of the light.”

Piotr was smart enough to make the connections from there. He had been at the battle to take down the Goblin Queen. He remembered who had been involved. As a result, he was not the least bit surprised when a familiar circular portal opened up behind them. From it, Dr. Strange emerged in a halo of mystical energy.

“Hello, Ms. Rasputin,” the Sorcerer Supreme. “Am I too early?”

“Nyet, Doctor. You are just in time,” said Illyana, still smiling at her brother. “I was just telling my brother what I decided.”

“Da. And she has my support,” Piotr said, smiling back. “I only ask that she not disappear on me again. I just got her back. I do not wish to lose her again.”

“I can’t promise much, Peter, even with magic,” said Dr. Strange. “But for someone with the power and potential of your sister, I think I can offer assurance.”

“As can I,” said Illyana strongly.

That was enough for Colossus. He cast Dr. Strange an approving glance. His gaze made clear that he was entrusting him with his sister’s care. That was a big deal for him. He expected the Sorcerer Supreme to use his considerable power to care for her properly.

He then turned back to Illyana and embraced her one more time. She embraced him back, throwing her arms around his broad shoulders and cherishing his loving warmth within the Siberian cold. She shed more tears, but this time they came from joy rather than sorrow.

Her body and soul had been darkened by the Goblin Queen, but she did not let it consume her. The fight to regain control of herself was over. Now, a much larger challenge awaited. However, she had the love and support of her brother again. No amount of darkness could stop that.

“You will not lose me again, Piotr,” Illyana said. “That is a promise. And I intend to keep it.”

“I trust that you will,” he told her. “I’ll continue to be as strong as I must for you.”

“You always are,” she said warmly, “and moving forward, we will be strong together. That will be our family legacy from this day forward.”

X-Corp Headquarters Medical Bay – Five Days Later

The hardest choices often invited the harshest recourse. That was a lesson best learned the hard way. However, when cosmic forces, unintended consequences, and a renegade clone were involved, the impact was far greater.

Scott and Jean Grey-Summers made a fateful choice the day they chose to embrace the Phoenix Force. That choice had been informed by insights into how their flawed perspective led to misguided desires. They’d worked so hard together, forging a new path with the Phoenix and expanding their understanding of the power within them. They were guided by the spirit of life, love, and connection. It did so much to enrich their lives while re-shaping their future.

However, that profound choice, and all the hard work that came with it, still came at a price. For all the good they did, they invited a powerful recourse in Madelyne Pryor. Fate, it seemed, challenged their new perspective with something antithetical to everything they cherished. It caused them great pain. It nearly broke them.

However, Scott and Jean Grey-Summers survived. Once again, they needed insight from a dark and dire future, but they did it. They paid the price for their choices and it was higher than expected. They weren’t done paying it, either.

“I’m almost done with the final scan. I should have the results in a moment,” said a tired Hank McCoy. “Are you sure you want to be here, my friends?”

“We’re sure,” said a restless Scott Summers without hesitation.

“This is where we should be, Hank,” Jean added. “This child is our responsibility. Regardless of how he came to be, we must do right by him.”

“Spoken like loving and concerned parents. I wish that didn’t sound so foreign to me,” Emma Frost commented, who watched from behind a barrier.

“We are his parents, Emma,” Scott said. “He exists because of us. He has our genes and our legacy. The other details don’t matter.”

His strong words carried plenty of baggage. Jean sensed it too. Standing by his side, watching from afar as Hank ran tests on a sleeping infant, she squeezed his hand in hers. Standing next to his wife, they gaze at the child that Madelyne Pyror bore from her perverse desires.

The Goblin Queen named him Nathan, after her own creator. She called him the link between the past and future for mutants. Her entire purpose was centered around conceiving him and turning him into the ultimate mutant. That obsession drove her to such perverse extremes, but she still ultimately achieved it. She birthed Nathan, but it still wasn’t enough. She had to infect him with the Legacy Virus to make him the ultimate mutant. That both sealed his fate, as well as the painful choice that awaited.

“I can definitely confirm the genetics,” said Hank as he read over the data from previous scans. “He is indeed your child, biologically and pragmatically.”

“And it didn’t require a single stretch mark,” Emma commented.

“I can also confirm the sheer tenacity of this Legacy Virus,” he said with growing concern. “It’s even more perverse than I thought.”

“As should be expected from the Goblin Queen,” Emma added.

“It’s part biological and part mechanical,” Hank continued, “a techno-organic orgasm with bio-molecular functions analogues to a virus. It infects cells, but it’s primary purpose is not to reproduce. It’s to activate and accelerate an X-Gene.”

“Is it causing him any pain?” Jean asked, casting the child a worried gaze.

Hank paused, his poise failing him as he read over more data. He could sense Jean’s concern for the child. The idea of him suffering at the hands of this virus was deeply troubling. While he did not appear to be in any distress within the small incubator, the appearance of silvery lesions on parts of his body left her and Scott deeply worried. Hank, despite his scientific brilliance, had to be diplomatic with his words.

“I can’t imagine it’s a pleasant process. That’s why I made sure to partially sedate little Nathan as best I could,” Hank continued. “But the process has already begun. As we speak, the Legacy Virus is infecting more and more cells…affecting his X-Gene at levels that are neither natural nor quantifiable.”

“Even if we can’t stop the infection, we need to make sure he’ll be okay,” Scott said strongly. “Just give us that, Hank. We need to know for sure whether our son can survive this.”

“That’s why I’m being exceedingly thorough,” Hank replied. “We’ll know soon if little Nathan can endure this nefarious virus.”

He worked quickly and diligently, but his expression gave away his suspicions. He did not look the least bit confident that they could stop the infection to save Nathan. Even Emma sensed it. She had that hardened look in her eyes, as if to pre-emptively harden herself from the painful truth.

Even if they made all the right decisions to this point, the Goblin Queen’s dark legacy still lingered. She had been defeated, but she left plenty of impacts in their wake. He and Jean just experienced the brunt of it. If they were to forge the better future they’d worked so hard to create, they had to endure, even if it meant making gut-wrenching decision.

“My friends, if it’s too soon to deal with such matters, I understand,” Beast said as he initiated the final scan. “I think the little one here would understand too.”

“Quit worrying about us, Hank. We’re fine,” Jean assured him.

“Having also experienced the wrath of the Goblin Queen, I know that’s bullshit,” said Emma with folded arms. “There’s no such thing as being fine anymore.”

“You’re not wrong,” Scott said, “but this is where we should be right now.”

Emma remained skeptical, casting him and Jean a skeptical glance. She wasn’t wrong for doing so.

Defeating the Goblin Queen, breaking free from her torment and channeling the full potential of the Phoenix, had been an arduous effort. It was also only the first step in many towards confronting the larger ramifications. After the battle ended and the Goblin Queen’s forces retreated, they were still physically and emotionally drained. Even with the aid of the Phoenix, they needed time to heal.

Jean had ensured a brutal gang bang, fueled by a mix of drugs and dark magic.

Scott had endured a similar ravaging, having been subject to the full force of Madelyne’s dark desires.

Aside from being tired and sore, they had to just step back and process everything that happened. Emma Frost and Tony Stark even assisted them. Emma arranged for them to stay an entire week at a private island in the Caribbean. It had once been owned by the Hellfire Club. Tony Stark made sure it was renovated and reorganized to be free of stress, distractions, and discomfort of any kind. Scott and Jean took them up on their offer, spending several days in a tropical paradise, allowing their minds and bodies to recover.

During their stay, they didn’t talk much about what happened. They didn’t even make love at any point during their recovery. They just rested, relaxed, and held each other like any married couple in need of a break. Hank McCoy, with help from Warren and Bobby, made sure little Nathan Summers was cared for the entire time. They had to run tests on him and the Legacy Virus still coursing through his little body. It was necessary and critical for all of them.

However, it didn’t change the difficult choice that lay before them.

‘We can’t keep putting it off, Scott. You know what Hank is going to tell us. It won’t change what we have to do.’

‘I know, Jean. I just…want to make the most of every second we have with him.’

The child began shifting in his little container. He started fussing, the lesions on his skin growing slightly before their eyes. Hearing him cry and seeing him endure was heartbreaking. Jean had to cling to her husband, just to keep herself from rushing over to hold him in her arms. Scott held onto her too, waiting for the final prognosis.

Every subtle sign pointed to the same outcome. From gut instinct to the cosmic awareness provided by the Phoenix, Scott and Jean sensed the larger implications. They felt them the moment they defeated the Goblin Queen. Destroying her the way they did, fixing what didn’t work rather than attacking it with cosmic fire, was still going to come at a price. It might not have been as dire as it could’ve been, but it still required all the strength and perspective they’d gained together.

“The scan is almost complete, but I’m afraid the data is already conclusive,” Hank said, sighing solemnly as he looked at his tablet computer. “The infection has progressed too far. There’s nothing we can do. We cannot treat, reverse, or even contain this virus.”

“Even with all X-Corp’s connections and resources? Don’t you have Reed Richards and Hank Pym on speed-dial?” said Emma, frustrated by the prospect of the Goblin Queen doing even more damage.

“I’m afraid they would reach the same conclusion,” Hank said as he set his materials aside. “The Legacy Virus is just too durable. There are no tools or know-how on this planet to stop it. Without radical intervention, little Nathan will perish.”

“So that demonic bitch did all this damage and doomed her own child?” spat Emma. “Just when I thought she couldn’t be more deplorable!”

The former White Queen’s anger was understandable. More cries from Nathan within his incubator only reinforced the sentiment. He could not survive what was happening to him. Even if the Goblin Queen had some mechanism for manipulating the virus, it had died with her. It left them with the prospect of watching this innocent child perish before he had a chance.

Scott and Jean, having gotten the confirmation they treaded, exchanged glances and shared a solemn embrace. With heavy hearts, they approached the incubator and opened the glass top. The weeping infant was still fidgeting, his little body dotted with lesions. With the utmost care, Jean removed the small IVs going into his arm and cradled him in his arms.

“Shhh. It’s okay, Nathan,” Jean said softly to the fussy baby. “We’re not gonna let this be the end for you.”

“That’s right, son,” said Scott, reaching in to caress his face. “Your life is just beginning. It just can’t begin with us, sadly.”

They each took turns hugging him, imparting as much parental love they could in his current state. The writhing infant settled somewhat. He even lightly clung to Jean’s shirt, his eye briefly flashing. It hinted at the mutant potential within him. It also convinced her and Scott that, even in his young state, he sensed their love.

Their words still left Hank and Emma somewhat confused. Hank, having already crunched the numbers, turned off all the scanners and just appreciated the sight before him. Seeing his two friends and former teammates hold a child together was a beautiful sight, despite the grim circumstances. Emma, who’d also recently found herself with new descendants in the form of the Stepford Cuckoos, chose to step out from the barrier and approach the couple.

“Wait. Am I missing something here?” Emma asked. “Do you have some other way of saving him?”

“Yes, Emma. We do,” Scott said, still caressing his son’s face.

“Like Hank said, it’s not on this planet. It’s not even in this time,” Jean said cryptically. “Despite how he was conceived…despite everything we went through…we’re going to save him. He deserves a future.”

Emma remained confused for a moment. Then, she made the necessary connections. She glanced over towards Hank, who just nodded. His brilliant mind had made those connections, as well.

“You already knew,” Emma said with folded arms, “and you knew how to save him.”

“The Phoenix knew before we did,” Jean affirmed. “There is one way to save him. We just had to be sure it was the only way.”

“We know it’ll work,” Scott added. “But it’ll also comes at a price…one that doesn’t involve us holding him, loving him, and raising him in this time.”

His voice cracked as he said those words. It conveyed how difficult this recourse would be. Emma might have been hardened from both the Hellfire Club and her ordeal with the Goblin Queen, but it still struck her. In another sign of how much recent events had changed her, she offered him and Jean a consoling gesture.

“I’m sorry,” she told them. “I’m…still getting used to sharing real love and empathy.”

“That’s okay, Emma. We understand,” said Jean with a light smile.

“I know I’ll have to get better at it,” Emma sighed, “now that I have a litter of clone daughters. I’m not the least bit qualified to care for them. You two definitely deserve it more.”

“We’ll get our chance one day,” Scott said confidently. “If holding Nathan has told me anything, it’s that I want to have kids of my own at some point. It just can’t be today.”

“That time will come, love,” said Jean. “For now, we have to do what’s best for Nathan…even if it breaks our hearts.”

Scott smiled back at her, kissing the side of her head before kissing Nathan. Jean then handed him over so that he could have his time to hold him. Like her, he committed every moment and feeling to memory.

Seeing such a scene affected Emma even more. She wasn’t usually one to gush over infants or loving parents, especially with her upbringing. However, seeing Scott – a man she’d connected with and had sex with – hold a child so lovingly was enough to soften her heart even more.

‘So that’s what loving parents look like,’ Emma mused. ‘And that’s what a kind, handsome man looks like holding a child. Just when I thought I had no desire for children, these people somehow nudge me in just the right direction.’

She tried to hide her smile and her reaction. She did a poor job, but neither they nor Hank seemed to mind. They’d done enough for her since their paths crossed. They hadn’t stopped helping her, even after the conflict ended. The Hellfire Club and the Goblin Queen were gone, leaving her with a chance at a fresh start.

Emma had every intention of embracing that opportunity. Scott and Jean were already a big part of it, having offered her a position at X-Corp. She accepted it on the spot, more than ready to lend her business savvy to their vision. However, she also had a chance to offer more than just money in return.

“As your new business partner, friend, and someone who avoids such decisions – I’ll just say this,” Emma said in a more sincere tone. “Don’t avoid the heartbreak. Endure it. Wear it on your sleeve, if you must. It’ll make you stronger in the long run.”

“Thank you, Emma,” said Scott as he held Nathan. “I’m glad you’re here with us now.”

“We’ll need your strength and so will your girls,” Jean added.

“That’s where your only half-right, I’m afraid,” Emma said.

The former White Queen hugged her shoulders, a lifetime of bitterness and callous greed still bearing down on her. Seeing Scott and Jean with their child, so ready to make the hardest decisions, reminded her of how far she’d come. It also reminded her what she had to sacrifice along the way.

“You see, when I escaped Limbo…getting out came at a price,” Emma continued, the memory of that ordeal still haunting her.

“Yeah, you mentioned that before,” Jean said. “You still don’t have to tell us.”

“But I want to. And I should,” Emma said strongly. “To escape the Goblin Queen, I had to confront the worst decision I ever made…the moment when I effectively became the White Queen of the Hellfire Club.”

Emma paused again, but Jean and Scott listened intently. Hank, sensing the personal nature of this discussion, excused himself from the room. It left Emma alone with them to share a secret that only a select few knew.

“When I first joined, I was no queen,” she continued. “I was just a stripper, selling my body and soul for power and pleasure. That part didn’t bother me much. And it helped there were two others…two women I became friends with. Their names…I’d rather not repeat them. I’ll just say we got close. We made connections. We had no one else, except each other. Coming from such a loveless family, that meant a lot to me.”

Her expression shifted. A bitter hate came over her as she recounted the fateful moment that changed everything. Before she encountered the Goblin Queen, it was the most important moment of her life.

“Then, one day Sebastian Shaw – the Black King – visited us,” Emma said. “He said there was an opening in the Inner Circle. But only one woman could take that role. He then asked a question that I suspect my friends thought was a joke. He asked if I would just stand by and watch her friends get beaten to death to join. Me being the cold-hearted bitch that I was, I said yes. I knew he wasn’t joking. I knew he was capable of doing something that bad and more. But I still said yes.”

“And did he?” Jean asked anxiously.

Emma closed her eyes and bowed her head in shame.

“Yes. He did,” Emma affirmed. “He didn’t even hesitate. As soon as I said it, he proceeded to beat both women to a bloody pulp. And I just stood there! I listened to them beg and scream. I watched them suffer, writhe, and choke…until the life was literally beaten out of them. And I had to be there, take all that in, and harden myself to it.”

Just putting those horrible memories into words filled Emma with regret and disgust. She’d spent years shutting out that memory, refusing to recall the sights, sounds, and smells of that moment. Now, it lingered in her mind like a constant reminder. Unlike before, she didn’t run from it.

“To escape Limbo, I had to face that memory again. I had to relieve that moment,” Emma said. “Because after all that happened, Shaw still gave me a choice to continue. He told me if I could experience such brutality, severing what few connections I had left, I could become the White Queen. He even promised me I could leave the Hellfire Club if it was too much. A part of me didn’t believe him, and yet…I still chose to stay. I chose to become the White Queen…even if it cost me my soul.”

Tears formed in her eyes. It wasn’t often that Emma Frost let herself cry. It was even rarer that she let others see her in such a vulnerable state. She made an exception for Scott and Jean Grey-Summers. She’d made many exceptions for them lately. This might have been her boldest to date.

“But you shut it out,” Jean surmised. “After that moment, you just…locked it all away so you could become what you wanted.”

“Yes,” Emma said bitterly, “and having confront it again…being reminded of that choice and what it cost me…I almost broke. My hatred of the Goblin Queen kept me going. But now that she’s gone, I never want to walk that path again. I never want to become that woman.”

“And you won’t,” Scott assured her. “I believe in you.”

“We both do,” Jean added.

“And you need to keep believing,” she said strongly. “That’s why I’m telling you this. Doing what you need to do for this child…and all the hard decisions that led up to this…do it for the right reasons. Make damn sure you can live with it. You’ll be stronger and better, more so than I ever was.”

Her tone was powerful, but sincere. For someone who claimed to be so cold and callous, it was striking. Scott and Jean, having experienced significant consequences for their choices, did not take Emma’s words lightly. She just shared an important insight with them. Looking down at little Nathan, they took it to heart.

Scott also conveyed an extra bit of gratitude towards her. Having connected with her earlier, he’d seen her harsh side. He’d also seen her vulnerabilities and insecurities. Through all that, he saw a woman worth connecting with. He didn’t doubt that Emma Frost would be an important connection for him, Jean, and the future they were trying to build.

“Thank you, Emma,” Scott told her. “We’ll what we have to, however hard it might be.”

“And we won’t forget that,” Jean added. “You have our word.”

“You better,” said Emma, smiling back with a rare show of affection, “because I’ll be there to remind you. And don’t expect me to be nice about it.”

Scott and Jean smiled back and laughed.

“We wouldn’t have any other way,” said Scott. “We’re building a better future…for us, for Nathan, and for you. After we do this, we’ll need all the harsh reminders we can get.”


Pursuing great change requires great effort. Anyone who’d spent time in the X-Men understood that. However, changing fate often required both effort and sacrifice. With sacrifice often came consequences. Those consequences also came with burdens that were not easy to bear, even with the aid of the Phoenix Force.

Scott and Jean Grey-Summers had put in the effort. They pursued change, as well as a better fate. Together, they achieved so much good through life, love, and connection. However, the consequences still caught up with them. The Goblin Queen wasn’t the only result, but she was the primary agent. From the people she hurt to the torment she inflicted on them, she made Scott and Jean feel the full weight of their choices.

They still endured those horrors.

They still did what they had to do, affirming their perspective and staying true to their new fate.

There was just one last burden to bear.

“I wish there was another way,” Jean said as she cradled baby Nathan in her arms.

“Me too,” said Scott as he caressed the young infant’s head.

“I wish we’d gotten there sooner,” she continued. “We have the power of the Phoenix Force brewing inside us. And yet we can’t save our son from the Legacy Virus?”

“I know. I don’t like it, either. But even if we could, we know why we shouldn’t. It would come at a price. And even if we’re willing to bear it…”

“Others might not,” Jean said solemnly.

As she held the sleeping infant closely, Jean bowed her head sadly to acknowledge the hard truth. Scott embraced them both. Even though they were doing the right thing, it was still heartbreaking.

They still cherished what would likely be their final moments with baby Nathan. After Hank confirmed what they already feared about his condition, Scott and Jean took it from there. They donned their Phoenix attire – the very same they’d worn the day they first embraced the Phoenix Force – flew into space. In her arms, Jean carried Nathan, who they’d wrapped in a soft blanket. They surrounded him with their protective fiery halo, sheltering him from the vacuum of space.

Even with their protection, his condition worsened. The Legacy Virus continued to spread. It had already covered nearly a third of his body, including one of his arms. He continued crying and fussing, settling only when Jean and Scott soothed him with their love, telepathically. That kept him comfortable for the duration of their journey, which took them to a certain area between the Earth and the sun.

In addition to Nathan, Scott brought with him the M’Krann Shard that they’d received during the battle against the Goblin Queen. It had helped them defeat her in a way that avoided a much worse fate. It also reminded them of the true purpose of the Phoenix Force. To carry out this painful decision, they had to embrace that purpose once more.

“Fixing what doesn’t work…destroying and creating when necessary,” Scott mused as he looked at the shard.

“Except, this isn’t about creating or destroying,” said Jean, still looking at the sleeping Nathan, “it’s about preserving what’s important. We made this – we made him – through our actions. And we’re responsible for fixing it. We just can’t do it in this time.”

“No. We can’t,” Scott said sadly. “Thankfully, we know he’ll be in good hands.”

She managed a weak smile, but still shed a tear. Even in the vacuum of space, it streaked down her face. Scott carefully wiped it away, keeping his arm around her shoulder as he held up the M’Krann Shard.

With a heavy heart, he began the process of fixing that final part of this new fate they’d chosen. He released the shard, allowing it to hover in the space in front of them. As it drifted slowly away from them, the light of the sun blaring in front of them, the shard ignited with cosmic flame. From there, Scott and Jean raised their hands and surrounded the shard in the fires of the Phoenix. That triggered a reaction within the crystal that opened a sizable rip in the fabric of space and time.

“I know you’ve been waiting,” Scott called out. “We’re here. We’re ready.”

His words intensified the reaction with the shard. The fire surrounding it morphed into a bright white bolt of energy that shot out in multiple directions. He and Jean shielded their eyes briefly. When the activity settled, a long fissure appeared in the space before them. It was shaped like a lightning bolt, but remained open amidst a halo of fire.

From this fiery tear in space, a figure emerged. Scott and Jean recognized her almost immediately. Her red hair, green eyes, marked face, and fiery halo were unmistakable.

“Rachel Anne Summers,” Jean said as she approached, “the one they call Mother Askani…or will call, one day.”

“It’s okay, Mom. You can just call me Rachel,” she said with a warm smile.

The couple was still taken aback. They knew her name. They knew where and when she came from. Both the M’Krann Shard and the memories of Kate Pryde revealed it. Even so, it still struck them. They were looking at their future daughter.

“You’re more beautiful than Kate’s memories described,” Scott said as he admired her.

“Thanks, Dad,” she said with a smile. “I just wish we had time to make new memories…better memories. But you know why I’m here. And so does the Phoenix.”

“To fix what isn’t working…to preserve the past and save the future,” Jean said.

“Just like you taught me,” Rachel said proudly. “And you taught me well.”

She cast them a beaming smile through the fissure. Scott and Jean smiled back, reaching out as if to touch her hand. However, the nature of the fissure made that impossible. They could not embrace one another as a family today, but they could ensure that future was within their grasp.

Knowing the time had come, Scott and Jean looked down at their sleeping infant one more time. Jean held him up and lightly kissed his forehead. She then handed him to Scott, who did the same.

“Be strong, son,” Scott said to him. “You’re going to do so many wonderful things. It won’t be easy, but you’ll be so much stronger because of them.”

“And no matter what happens…no matter what you do or where fate takes you,” Jean added, “never forget how much we love you.”

The sickly infant responded with a light yawn. It was such a precious sight, but one Scott and Jean would have to cherish in memories from that moment forward.

Having said their goodbyes, they carried out the last necessary step. Guided by both the Phoenix fires and Jean’s telekinesis, they guided the infant child through the time fissure and into Rachel’s waiting arms. She immediately took him in her grasp and held him closely, just as her parents had.

“Promise me you’ll love him extra for us,” Jean said.

“I will, Mom. I promise,” Rachel said.

“Do everything you can to stop that virus,” Scott added. “Don’t let him suffer more than he already has.”

“I’ll make sure of it. You have my word,” Rachel said. “And rest assured, he’ll know what his parents did to save him. He’ll know how much they love him. And most importantly…he’ll know how to honor on their legacy of life, love, and connection.”

She spoke with such certainty. It was the kind only possible from someone who shared their perspective. As such, Scott and Jean believed every word. Even so, they still shed a tear as they waved goodbye.

“Thank you, Rachel,” Jean said. “Thanks for everything.”

“Be careful. And be safe,” Scott added.

“I will, Dad,” Rachel said, as she waved back. “But don’t worry. This isn’t goodbye. With all the love you share – as well as all the love you make – you will see us again. Be sure of that!”

They all shared a joyous laugh. Scott and Jean kept smiling at their future daughter, holding hands and hovering together in a shared moment. They continued watching as the time fissure closed, the remnants of the M’Krann Shard burning away in the process. They held back their tears as Rachel and baby Nathan disappeared from view.

Their fate laid in the future. Scott and Jean had their place in the present. As hard as it was to see them go, they could already sense the larger impact of their choice. Once the time fissure closed and the M’Krann shard disappeared, the Phoenix’s purpose to fix what did not work was fulfilled.

It was a surreal moment, but it still felt incomplete. It left Scott and Jean in an uncertain state. They did the right thing. They’d saved their son, sending him to the future so that he could heal and survive. They still had plenty to do in the present. Where they went from here was still unclear.

“I miss them already,” Scott said.

“Me too,” Jean replied.

“Even if we see them again, we still have to make sure the world is a better place for them,” he added, “far better than the one they came from.”

“Or the one we nearly ended up in,” Jean added.

Scott turned to his wife and she turned towards him. Their eyes still stained with tears, Jean wrapped her arms around his neck while he slipped his around their waist. As they held each other, the fiery halo surrounding their bodies flared brighter in the vast depths of space.

“I want that world to be better, Jean. I want everything about our future to be better,” Scott said with his usual determination.

“So do I, Scott,” Jean said. “We’ve put in the effort. We’ve made our choices…and dealt with the consequences.”

“Yeah, we can’t forget about that,” he said solemnly, “but if that’s the price I have to be with you…to make that future with you, with our friends, and our future children…I pay it gladly.”

“So would I.”

Those heartfelt words evoked heartfelt emotions. Sorrow and uncertainty gave way to the warm love that Scott and Jean had come to treasure. With renewed hope and energy, they shared a passionate kiss. The light from the sun, combined with the fiery halo of the Phoenix, gave it a special warmth worthy of any cosmic force.

“I love you, Jean,” Scott said as they broke the kiss. “I don’t know what comes next. I don’t know where we go from here. I just know that after all this, I love you with all my heart.”

“I love you too, Scott,” said Jean. “No matter what we’ve been through…no matter what awaits us…that has never changed.”

“And I want that to be our greatest strength moving forward,” he said strongly. “I’m ready to start building that future. I just don’t know where to start.”

“Oh I can think of one way,” she said loving, yet playful tone.

In another display of warmth and love, Jean kissed her husband again. This time, it conveyed more than just affection.

As lips meshed and tongues twirled, her and Scott’s embrace became more intimate. She pressed her body up against his. Her breasts pressing up against his chest and the warmth of their bodies flowed between them, supplemented by the protective energy of the Phoenix Force. It helped the kiss escalate. She then trialed her hands down his neck and arms, feeling in him the strength that had protected her, their love, and their future child.

It sent a clear message to her lover.

Scott received that message loud and clear.

“Scott…make love to me,” Jean gasped, already breathless within their loving embrace.

“Right here? Right now? In the depths of space?” he questioned.

“Why? Is it too soon?” she asked.

It was not an unreasonable concern. Even though they healed quickly, thanks to the Phoenix Force, what the Goblin Queen put them through with her torment were still fresh in their memories. That still didn’t temper their love or their desire to express it.

“Not at all, Jean,” said Scott with a beaming grin. “Just making sure before we make love for all the cosmos to see.”

“Oh Scott,” Jean said lovingly, “even in the depths of space, you know how to set the mood.”

Another round of heated kissing followed. The affectionate touching within their embrace intensified, triggering that special arousal within them. It affirmed what they already sensed. The passion and desire between them had returned. The same feelings that Goblin Queen tried to corrupt were back and as strong as ever. Now, they were ready to embrace them once more.

The sun continued blaring brightly before them. The fiery halo of the Phoenix Force grew around them, its flames stoked by their passion. Together, Scott and Jean began twirling within lively flames. Their loving gestures quickly evolved into foreplay, building up the desire within.

Once the desire had sufficiently built up, their lips parted and their bodies stopped twirling. Neither Scott nor Jean said a word. They just gazed at each other lovingly, caressing one another’s faces with their caring touch. Then, within this impassioned daze, they took off their clothes.

That was much easier with the aid of the Phoenix Force. From their touch, light sparks shot out from their fingertips. These sparks turned into little balls of light, which they directed towards their clothes. Jean just had to loosen the top and pull it down slightly. The rest of her full-bodied attire dissolved into embers, rendering her completely naked. Scott did the same, showing more urgency as he pushed away the ashes of his attire to face his wife in their full glory.

“Life, love, and connection never looked so beautiful,” Scott said distantly as he admired her naked body.

“Speak for yourself, handsome,” Jean quipped with a joyous grin.

They came together again in a naked embrace. This time, their loving gestures were more targeted.

Scott placed one hand to her butt and another to her breasts, caressing her in just the way she liked. Jean was just as skilled with her touch, pawing her lover’s chest and caressing the side of his face. She also took full advantage of the lack of gravity, hitching her legs up around his waist and rubbing her inner thigh against his cock.

Such tender foreplay got their blood and passions flowing in the right direction. Jean felt her husband’s cock stiffen rapidly, becoming fully erect under her loving touch. It contrasted significantly from how the Goblin Queen had used him, her every gesture guided by love rather than some misguided desire.

That same sentiment showed in his touch, as well. Even when Scott fondled her breast or squeezed her butt, Jean felt the genuine affection. It was the complete antithesis of how the Goblin Queen’s monstrous creatures had touched her. It also helped further her arousal, getting her pussy wet and ready for a more intimate union.

“I’m ready, Scott,” Jean whispered into his ear.

“So am I,” Scott replied.

Their bodies and minds prepared, the Phoenix flared brighter. It then let out an elated screech for the cosmos to hear. Their respective halos of cosmic flame began to merge, entwining and intermingling in a way not unlike the act of lovemaking.

“And so is the Phoenix, apparently,” Scott said with a humored grin.

“Then, let’s not keep it waiting!” said Jean, mirroring his grin.

The kiss resumed as they guided their bodies through those familiar motions. Scott shifted both hands to her butt while Jean grasped onto his shoulders. Her legs still wrapped firmly around his waist, Jean skillfully aligned her pelvis with her husband’s erect member. Using his grip on her butt to their full advantage, he guided her moist folds down the rigid length of his manhood.

“Ooh Scott!” Jean gasped.

Both their bodies and the Phoenix Force reacted. That wondrous feeling, his hardened flesh penetrating into her moist vagina in an intimate union of passion, carried so much meaning. After what they’d been through and what laid before them, their love was still their guiding force and it had never been stronger.

That love manifested even more as the impassioned movements began. Scott got things going, using his strong arms to guide her body into a fluid succession of motions. Jean quickly took it from there, rocking her hips and working her pussy along the length of his cock. Their naked skin grazed and grinded every step of the way, his masculine sinews meshing with her feminine figure.

Gasps and grunts erupted within their heated kissing.

Hands, palms, and fingers roamed all over their naked skin.

Every action and reaction evoked passion and delight in a perfect manifestation of pure lovemaking.

It affirmed the power of the perspective that Scott and Jean Grey-Summers had gained. From the moment they met to the moment they fell in love to the moment they embraced the Phoenix Force together, it all came together in this basic act of shared intimacy. They understood its power and so did the Phoenix Force.

‘This love…this passion…this is it!’ they said through their telepathic link as their sex intensified. ‘This what we’ve created together. And this is what we celebrate!’

As the celebration played out, the movements and the gestures intensified. Jean bounced and gyrated faster and harder, his manhood slithering smoothly within her moist folds. Scott supplemented her every movement with his arms and hips. The hot confluence of flesh evoked a steady stream of sensations. They felt it along with the Phoenix Force.

Its embers even sparked brightly, as if to mirror their blissful elation. It was as though the Phoenix wanted the universe to know the beauty of this intimate act. It motivated Scott and Jean even more to make their lovemaking extra special. They certainly put in the passion and effort, guiding one another to a shared peak.

They still took their time, building towards that apex ecstasy together. With each touch and movement, the feeling escalated. Jean felt it building in her core, a tiny ball of heat growing with each sensual movement. Scott felt it too, his muscles tensing and his flesh burning in anticipation for his release. As it drew closer, their hands found each other. They held on tightly, their fingers becoming as intimately entwined as their bodies.

“Scott! Ohhh Scott!” Jean gasped. “I’m close! I’m so…so close!”

“Mmm…me too, Jean!” Scott grunted. “I feel it! I feel you!”

He squeezed her hand harder and she squeezed right back. He then buried his face in her neck as he made the final push, both with his body and his mind. Jean did the same, perching her head right on his shoulder and savoring the final leg of this impassioned journey.

Their bodies moved faster, each motion supplementing the other.

Their physical and mental connection deepened, every aspect of this feeling remaining perfectly in sync.

Together, they crossed that final threshold, achieving a near-perfect simultaneous release. The Phoenix Force even gave them an extra boost while letting out its own cry of ecstasy to the cosmos.

“Ooohhhh Scott!”

“Ooohhhh Jean!”

At that moment, having come so far to forge this new path, Scott and Jean Grey-Summers achieved orgasm together.

The physical aspects of it unfolded first. Jean curled her toes, raked her nails down her lover’s back, and closed her eyes as her inner muscles throbbed around her husband’s manhood. As waves of ecstasy pleasure washed over her, Scott firmly grasped her waist and held her closer as his manhood tensed inside her pussy. Muscles tensed and skin burned with pleasure as he released a stream of seminal fluid into her depths where it mixed perfectly with her juices.

Their euphoric moans echoed throughout the depths of space, the cries of the Phoenix echoing with them. Their naked bodies shuddered together, twirling once more within the fiery Phoenix-shaped halo that surrounded them. That same halo flared and sparked, its brilliance briefly rivaling the sun as the climax played out. However, the breadth of their shared climax didn’t stop with the physical aspects of sex.

“Fire…life incarnate…creation and destruction…now balanced with love realized!” they proclaimed together.

It was the ultimate culmination of their passion. The deeper connections, born from the love they shared and the perspective they had forged, felt stronger now than ever before. Thoughts, feelings, and sensations flowed freely through the bond Scott and Jean had forged. It perfectly complemented the pleasure, the intimacy, and the feelings that gave them so much meaning. This profound perspective finally converged in a feeling that did justice to their love.

“Life, love, and connection,” Jean gasped.

“For yesterday, today, and wherever tomorrow takes us,” Scott added, equally breathless.

Secure in that meaning, and still panting from such a powerful act of lovemaking, Scott and Jean shared a deep kiss to make that declaration final for the cosmos. A sense of calm and peace came over them. Their lower bodies parted, but they remained locked in a loving embrace.

Still hovering in the vast depths of space, the sun radiating its life-giving energy in the distance, the couple deepened their embrace. Holding one another, they admired the beauty of the cosmos and the renewed peace they’d forged.

“It’s finally over,” Scott said distantly. “What we started that fateful day aboard that shuttle…we finished it.”

“Yes, my love. We did what we had to do…for us and our future,” Jean said. “But I wouldn’t say it’s over. I say a new saga has begun!”

Epilogue – Years Later

“Bzzt! Bzzt! It’s 8:00 a.m. Ms. Pryde. And I’ve disabled the snooze button. Please get up. You have a busy day ahead of you.”

That strange buzzing noise, as well as the friendly robot voice that came with it, sounded nothing like a Sentinel or goblin. It didn’t sound like anything Kate Pryde might encounter in a mutant interment camp or a scorched battlefield, either. It almost sounded pleasant. That was not a feeling or mood she regularly experienced.

“Hnn…the hell?” she groaned.

Kate opened her eyes and emerged from what felt like an overly deep sleep. She was so groggy and dazed. Her vision was blurry, her mouth was dry, and her body ached more than usual. Everything was spinning around her. She wasn’t even sure what she was sleeping on. It felt more like a cloud than the dirty pile of rags she was used to.

As Kate became more coherent, she became more aware of her surroundings. She sat up in her bed and looked around. The last thing she remembered, she was charging through the walls of the Goblin Queen’s Celestial facility near Stonehenge. She was trying desperately to get the M’Krann Shard to Scott and Jean in time.

Then, her memories abruptly stopped. Everything faded, like computer screen that went dark in a power outage. She couldn’t recall what happened. As she took in where she was, certain details became clear.

“Is this my old room at the institute?” Kate wondered aloud. “Or an entirely new one?”

She couldn’t have been in the past. The décor didn’t match up. The alarm clock alone made that clear. It was too high tech, including a holographic display of the time. It also had what appeared to be a very advanced smartphone plugged into it.

The rest of the room looked like something out of a beautiful dream. It was neat and well-organized. It had all the amenities that the Sentinels and goblin armies once destroyed, such as light, heat, and clean bed sheets. Even the air smelled better, containing the distinct scent of homely comfort. It helped set her at ease, but it also raised some profound questions.

“Did I do it? Did I really change the future?” Kate asked anxiously.

Slipping out of bed, she made her way to the nearest window. Along the way, she got a glimpse of herself in the mirror. She still looked like that Kate Pryde she’d been before Rachel sent her mind into the past. However, she did not bear the disheveled grime, scars, and marks of someone who had survived multiple battles and years in an internment camp. She looked like an ordinary middle-aged woman in undersized pajamas.

Kate still had to be sure this wasn’t a dream. When she reached the window, she gazed out into a bright sunny morning over a familiar landscape. She recognized most of it as the central courtyard of the Xavier Institute for higher Learning. The layout was just as she remembered when she first joined the X-Men in her youth.

However, many years had definitely passed because that landscape had been upgraded. There were holographic images projecting all around the yard. Dozens of mutants, young and old, scurried about with little concern of attracting a Sentinel attack. She recognized some, like Shiro Yoshida, Lucas Bishop, Kurt Wagner, James Proudstar, Sean Cassidy, and Rogue. There were also plenty she didn’t recognize immediately, but then some unexpected memories came rushing back to her.

They revealed a life, a past, and a present that she vividly remembered, but did not recall living. It was like two different life stories had played out, both of which were equally real. It hurt her head, just thinking about it. She was almost afraid to accept it all on the off chance it was just a dream.

‘The world is intact. The Xavier Institute hasn’t been destroyed. No Sentinels. No goblins. No demons or alien monsters. And no Goblin Queen! Please let this be real. Please…I need to know that I did enough to change the future.’

Kate put her hand against the window, watching as a crowd of laughing mutant children ran by. They playfully chased Kurt and Shrio, who laughed with them. She even recognized a few human children in that crowd. It was such an amazing sight, a total reversal of a world in which humans waged war against mutants.

As her heart raced and her new memories caught up with old ones, her bedroom door opened and a restless Rachel Summers came barging in.

“There you are!” she said impatiently. “Why aren’t you getting dressed? I know you said you wanted to sleep in, but we’ve got a big day planned. Or did you already forget?”

The older woman was taken aback. Turning away from the window, she gazed towards Rachel with a mix of shock and relief. She was definitely Rachel. She would recognize that impassioned voice in any timeline. She just looked very different, compared to the Rachel she recalled.

This version was not permanently scarred with the marks of the Hound Program. She was the same age, but she lacked the many battle scars that years of struggle and strife had inflicted. By all accounts, she looked like a normal young woman in her late teens, wearing the kind of clothing many like her wore throughout the halls of the Xavier Institute.

Seeing her, hearing her, and approaching her made everything more than a dream. It finally started to sink in. This was all real. Kate had changed the future and she’d changed it for the better. At that moment, she dared to smile and shed tears of joy.

“Rachel,” Kate beamed as she reached out to touch her unscarred face, “you’re looking…great.”

“Um…thanks?” Rachel replied with confusion. “I’m sorry. Is everything okay, Ms. Pryde? Last night you told me that…”

The young redhead stopped herself as the truth dawned on her as well. Kate, still smiling, didn’t bother protecting her thoughts. She gladly let the young telepath read them, along with her memories.

In doing so, Rachel’s demeanor also shifted. She quickly pieced together what was going on. A sense of shock and amazement came over her. She covered her mouth as she processed the memories, the full weight of the moment hitting her all at once.

“Oh my…your thoughts and memories,” Rachel said.

“I know,” Kate said, still beaming as she wiped away her tears.

“I thought that…I mean, mom told me this would happen at some point,” she stammered. “I just…wow! This is…wow!”

It was all so overwhelming, but in the best possible way. They had crossed time and space to change the future. They had taken bold risks and endured heavy losses, not knowing if it would’ve made a difference in the long run.

Ultimately, they succeeded. They saved the past, the present, and the future. For Kate, it meant she had a new lifetime of experiences to catch up on.

As she and Rachel shared in this powerful moment, another figure entered the room. Kate didn’t immediately recognize him, but Rachel did. Kate also recognized enough to discern who he was.

“Hey Rache! You coming or what?” Nathan asked her. “Mom and Dad are already on their way. So are the step-parents, step-siblings, and half-siblings. It’s a big-time family affair. That means we’ve got a lot to prepare for.”

“Wait!” Kate said, taken aback once more. “Step-parents? Step-siblings? Half-siblings?”

“Ooh boy,” Rachel laughed. “Nathan, your timing is uncanny.”

“What do you mean? What’s going…”

He stopped mid-sentence once he made the necessary connections. A wry glance from Rachel indicated she had already shared the details telepathically. His reaction was both overwhelming and priceless. Apparently, Kate had even more to catch up on than she thought.

“I have so many questions,” Kate said, still smiling and laughing.

“I can only imagine,” Rachel said. “I’m sorry my brother, here, had to complicate them.”

“To be fair, we didn’t know for sure when your memories would catch up,” said Nathan awkwardly. “But don’t worry. Our parents prepared us for this conversation.”

“To answer a few…yes, they’re still happily married. And yes, they’re still the primary hosts for the Phoenix Force,” Rachel said. “As for all the life, love, and connections they’ve made over the years…well, that’s a long, but passionate story!”

The End

AN: Thank you for reading. To everyone who has supported this series, despite the many delays, I cannot thank you enough. I may still add onto this with spin-offs and tie-ins. For now, this is simply the end of the beginning. Thanks again and please remember to review or send feedback.


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