by Alexandra Nigro

The sequel to Exodus


Jean Grey Summers downshifted the Ford Explorer to let the eighteen wheeler
pass her by. "Now there's a switch," she mused. Scott had been insistent
that the X-Men take a streach of interstate without anybody riding tail.
The sun had just set and Storm was exhausted from a full day of flying. Not
that Ororo would admit it, but it was hard to hide such things from your
best friend, much less the remaining premier telepath on earth. Jean caught
sight of the sign by the edge of the freeway and breathed a sigh of relief.
*Honey, wake up. We're here.*

Scott shifted restlessly in the passenger's seat. "Whuzit? Huh?"

"Welcome to Iowa, my love"

"Wow. And I thought Kentucky was backcountry." Robert Drake peered out the
window at the unending streach of flatness. "Kentucky is *not*
backcountry." muttered Sam darkly. He used to be fond of cartrips. Back
home, they meant a chance to get out and see the larger world. After
joining X-Force and now the X-Men, Samuel Guthrie had seen a fair piece of
the world in all its glories and tradgedies. But after spending the better
part of the week next to Bobby in the backseat of Logan's jeep, the only
part of the world Sam wanted to see was a Motel 6.
With his own room.

"What you're viewing, Robert, is the very beginning of the Great Plains of
North America. A pivitol part of America history." Henry McCoy was a doctor
and a scholar - for him the world was an endless fascination.

"Well, hurrah for corn."

Logan clenched the steering wheel a little tighter. This "vacation" from
New York was starting to wear thin on everybody. Luckily, Storm claimed
that the Iowa countryside held a possibility for a more permanent

They entered the Denny's at the rest stop seperately. As far as the other
patrons were concerned the three married couples, the men on a road trip,
and the two seedy-looking bikers had nothing to do with one another. Even
the black woman with her hair bundled into a hat who later passed through
the door caused no comment. In reality, a brisk interlinked conversation
was taking place.

*I am *not* sleeping outdoors again*

*Quit yer whining, Warren. The outdoor's is good fer people.*

*Not if they die of hypothermia*

*That is highly unlikely in the middle of September, my friend.*

*Yea, well, if I had a coat of blue fur, I'd be pretty smug too.*

*Quiet, please. Storm has something to say.*

*Thank you, Jean. I have found somewhere that might suit our needs.
However, it will not be obtainable tonight. The clouds are thick with rain
and I wish to conserve my strength. Therefore, I have found us temporary
shelter to pass the night.*

*Dat's fine Stormy. As long as it ain't another gas station mini-mart.*

*Hey, man. I'll take free Dr. Pepper any day of the week. Even if it *does*
mean sleeping on linoleum.*

*Speak fer yourself, sugah. I ah wasn't invunerable, mah back would nevah
forgive me.*

*Do not worry, Rogue. This may have more options.*


Rogue picked at her chicken salad absently. It wasn't the food, although
she was plenty tired of diner cuisine. Rather, the long caravan from
Westchester had given her time to process all the events since she and
Joseph had returned to the X-Men. She was greatful for his company. Of all
her friends, he knew the least about her, asked the fewest questions. And
if she feared he might return to the man she had to abandon in the Savage
Land, well, Rogue had been taking it one-day-at-a-time since she hit

"A penny for your thoughts?" Joseph stared at his eating partner with
concern. She had started the trip with more energy than a normal human
being could maintain, but slowly grew quieter as the week progressed.

"Don't bother. If we're gonna keep you fed, you'll hafta save all the money
ya can." Joseph blused slightly. He did not truly remember being any older
than a man in his mid-twenties. Certaintly, he ate like a man in the prime
of his life. Even the time-weary waitress had raised an eyebrow at his

"Please, I asked a question. I don't ask many." Now it was Rogue's turn to

"Well, ahm a little worried about Bishop.....and Remy. Bobby was right, it
*has* been getting colder and they're the only two whose been driving
without any cover."

A twinge of the talents of a far older, far more insightful man rose in
Joseph. Rogue was worried about LeBeau - it was that simple. Even with her
tough exterior, he himself had borne witness to the strange emotional pull
the Cajun influenced on her. *Now ask yourself, you foolish old man,* the
voice inside him taunted, *is that cause for concern.....or jealousy?* "I
wouldn't worry about it, they are both experinced riders. Besides, the
weather-witch indicated that this ordeal would soon be over."


"Um, somebody want ta explain this to me? It's a little after hours for a
shopping trip." Sam Guthrie stared at the hulking Wal-Mart situated in the
middle of the endless parking lot.

"This is the only unpatroled shopping establishment in this suburban area,
Robert. Gambit - I may require your assistance."

Remy realized what she had in mind. "Sheesh, Stormy - ain't you never heard
of Best Western?"

Scott sighed. Their choice of sleeping arrangements had been a little
unique of late. "I don't want any paper trail, no matter how faked, for
Bastion to trace us."

Remy unraveled the electronic security in a matter of minutes. "T'ought you
didn't want dis Cajun doing the B&E anymore, Stormy."

She smiled at him seductively. "You don't miss those warm days and nights
we spent together in New Orleans, Gambit?"

"Oooh. So much so dat my heart breaks."

Scott coughed loudly. "Um guys? Can we speed this up? Last thing we need is
for a patrol car to drive by."

Remy LeBeau whipped open the glass door with a dramatic flourish. "Your
kingdom awaits, oh fearless leader."

Scott did his best not to smile. This was, after all, a situation rife with
unpleasant possibilities. "Use whatever you need, but remember - nothing
leaves this store without getting paid for." He said the last with a
pointed look towards Gambit. Turnabout was fair play.

Remy layed his head on Storm's shoulder theatrically. "Homme take all de
fun outta Gambit's life."


Rogue wandered through the store absently mindedly. Running her gloved hand
over a fur trimmed jacket she mused,

"Weather's gonna get worse 'fore it gets bettah."

Framed by the moonlight, the shadows seemed to shift abruptly and Rogue
spun around, fists high.

As if poured from the darkness, Betsy Braddock steeped out beside her. "I
did not mean to startle you."

"Um.....ya didn't. That's just going to take some gettin' used to."

Psylocke arched an eyebrow and pulled back into the shadows silently.

Rogue exhaled loudly. How did Warren cope with that? Did that woman bear
any aspect of the woman who had been her friend in Australia?


Bobby Drake let his eyes roam over the shelves packed with beauty supplies.
"This would have been alot more fun if we'd shacked up in a Toy's R Us."

"Robert, I fear you are not seeing this evening in all its myriad

Bobby looked up to his best friend, swinging upside down from the lighting
rack. "Which would be?"

"Electronics. Wide-screen TV's. VCR's. Stereos.............Ninetendo. Nouns
will suffice, it is up to the adventurous to supply the appropriate verbs."

Sam and Logan joined the pair oggling a beautiful 50-inch screen. Bobby was
reduced to a single thought - "Football season."

"Ain't no way that thing's gonna fit in my Jeep. Ain't no way we could pay
for it." Logan fished for a cigar in his pocket before he realized he had
quit the damn things. "Would be sweet to watch the Series, though."

Sam Guthrie had located the remote and was off and surfing.

"..........see amazing results in just 2 short weeks.........."
"..........now! Psychics standing by to give you a............"
"..........will go down in history as the first candidate from an
Independent political party to take the lead in national polls. At a press
conference yesterday, Graydon Creed........"

"Turn that crap off, Sammy. I'm getting tired of seeing his ugly mug."

The sentiment seemed to go for everyone.


Scott Summers stared out the glass doors into an empty parking lot.

"Hon, there's no one around for miles. Excuse me, there's a night janitor
at the Dunkin' Donuts down the street stealing a few of the leftovers."
Jean Grey slid her arm around her husband's shoulders.

"Did Bobby tell you about Creed's surge in the polls?"

"Did you really expect anything different?

"No, I guess not. It's just.......maybe I thought they'd understand what we
were trying to do in New York."

"People believe what they want to believe."

"And now they believe in Graydon Creed."

Joseph's reflection apeared in the glass pane. "That man must be taken care

Scott turned to face him and tried to keep his voice civil. "I'm always
open to suggestions."

"Graydon Creed must not be allowed to stay in the race until November. His
political agenda will doom mutants everywhere."

"It's not our style." He closed his eyes behind his glasses, concentrating
on the gentle heat of his wife's body.

"Then you are not truly open to suggestions."

"Not if they involve taking away any man's - or woman's right to speak and
think as they believe."

Joseph snorted derisivly, reminding Scott of a man he knew not so long ago.
"I hope it's comfortable in your pretty heaven."


Rogue wandered down the aisle of home decorations, hunting for a pillow.

"Need somet'ing chere?" Remy LeBeau had layed out a strange assortment of
pillows, blankets, and patio cushions in the middle of the aisle into a
makeshift harem-bed.

"Wow. That looks real comfortable."

His mask of slick charm was up. "P'haps you like Remy to make one for you.
Or meybe you care to share?"

"No thanks. Ah snagged the hammock in the Backyard display." She sat down
on the edge of Remy's creation gingerly. "How ya feeling? Was getting
pretty cold out on the road."

"Gambit traveled colder miles dan dat. 'Sides, I like seeing Bish' take to
dat hog."

Rogue studied the seam of her blue-jeans intently. "Ya seem to be real
close to Bishop now."

The mask slid a little. "Not real close.....but, oui."

"Ah'm.....ah'm glad. 'Cause in the beginning you two were always fighting.
Remember that picnic?"

"Oui. Didn't t'ink you did."

She ignored that. "And you must be so happy."

Remy leaned back on his elbows and stared at her. "Why's dat, chere?"

"Well, Bishop thought you were the traitor - and now he knows you're not.
We all know."

"Wish I was."

Rogue looked up in shock. "How can ya say something like that, Remy?"

"T'ink girl. I would've been alot easier t' take on. Lot easier t' take
out. Would 'a been a lot less missed den de Prof."

Rogue forced a smile. "Don't think like that. We're all together -
everything will be fine now."

Gambit gave a short, grim laugh, ignoring Rogue's hurt expression. "You
somet'ing chere. Now you be a better liar den Gambit."


".......and over here we have the living room - that door goes down to the
storm cellar, but I wouldn't worry. Not too many tornadoes out this far
east." The plump old woman gestured grandly around the run-down farmhouse.

"We can handle storms. I guess my wife and I were looking for a little

"Oh, I wouldn't worry about that. Felton may be a small community, but we
respect privacy."

*What do you think, Scott?*

*I think I'm glad she won't remember our faces tommorow. There's no such
thing as a small community that respects privacy.*


Mirriam Winters smiled at the young couple. So sweet to see kids starting
out in life. "You'll love it here. There's a greenhouse out back, good soil
for corn. There's even a workhouse, case you want to hire any of the
townies to help bring your crops in."

"Oh, I don't think that will be necessary. You say there's only three

"Yes, sweetie, three bedrooms including the master downstairs. You planning
on a big family?"

Scott interceded, the theme from 'The Brady Bunch' spinning inanely in his
head. "Not just yet. My wife and I run a chapter of a social program in New
York. We give young adults a chance to do honest work in exchange for room
and board. I think the workhouse will do just find for now."


"My goodness! That's wonderful, I can't wait to tell the minister that
we've got two new angels in Felton."

*Two and one Archangel.*



"Please tell me this is joke." Bobby Drake looked around in dismay at the
peeling paint.

"Ya were expecting another mansion?" Rogue shot back.

Scott waved his hand sharply. The team barely fit into the living room.
"Enough. This suits our needs for now. Everyone should be grateful to
Storm. She's requested the greenhouse for living quarters, since she gets
first pick. Jean and I get the master bedroom." Scott looked around for any
dissent - he got none. "Hank gets the storm cellar, since he'll be setting
up a temporary lab. Rogue and Betsy get the remaining two bedrooms."

"Ah love chivalry."

"Dat's fine, mon amie - but you forgot the other seven."

Jean stepped in. "There's a workhouse with bunks........."

Warren went a paler shade of blue. "Oh God, Jean. Tell me you're kidding."


Remy threw his sleeping bag on top of an ancient wooden bunk bed. "Dis
Cajun sacked in some sorry places, but dis is definitely a contender for

Bishop rolled into the bottom half of the bunk. "It's fine. You're too used
to luxury."

Warren brushed miserably at a cobweb and climbed over Bobby. "I'd settle
for sanitary."

"Relax, Warren," replied Bobby cheerfully, "get back in favor with Psylocke
and you'll be back at the big house. Me, I'm seriously starting to consider
dating Beast."

"Both you two, quiet. I'm looking for a decent night's sleep. Sam, you like
top or bottom?"

"Top, Mr. Logan."

The workhouse grew silent as Joseph entered and tossed his sleeping roll on
the last empty bunk. "I guess I'm odd man out."

"Got dat right, mon amie," hissed Gambit softly. Bobby looked up from his
bunk and smiled in agreement.


Rogue took a flying leap onto the ancient mattress and said a prayer of
thanks when the bed didn't break. They had managed to pick up some
second-hand furniture, but Scott said it might be a while before things got
comfortable. For her part, she liked the homey little room - somehow the
peeling paint and creaky stairs gave the farmhouse more spirit than the
mansion ever had. She slid under the covers and slept, happy for the first
time in weeks.

Jean found her husband on the porch. "Bedtime?"

"In a while. I was just thinking, we're going to have to plant next spring.
This farm needs to look legitimate."

"They're going to looooove that."

"I think they will. We've got a house to fix and fields to plant. That's
something we can *do* - or at least try. I get tired of fighting a losing
battle sometimes."

"I know." She wrapped her arms around him. "I like it here."

"So do I. There's a barn out by the greenhouse."

"I saw. That'll be useful next fall."

"It will be useful now."

"Excuse me?"

"Mrs. Summers, would you care for an old-fashioned roll in the hay?"

Their laughter rang out as he chased her and got lost in the wind.


A house without curtains had it's disadvantages. Rogue was up with the
dawn. She slid open the window and floated out into the brisk dawn air. No
one was up except Wolverine, as usual doing his morning tai-chi.

"Rogue, get down from there."

She flew down beside him. "Can't a gal have a morning's spin around the

"Not when she's in hostile territory, she can't. Never know who might see
us. We got to be simple folks for awhile."

"Can't say ah mind. I love it here."

Logan smiled slightly. "Ya, darlin', I can tell. I think this place will do
us all good."

"Not all of us." Warren emerged from the workhouse, rubbing his back. "The
only thing that will salvage this morning is a decent breakfast."

Rogue smiled at Warren's hobbling figure. "He's sure havin' a bad time of

"So says de femme dat slept in a bed." Remy appeared with Sam and Bishop
trailing behind. "You cooking, chere?"

She had to smile. Perversly, Remy never look better than when he woke,
unshaven and rumpled. "Only if ya got a death wish."

Joseph woke to the sound of laughter. Groggily, he rolled out of bed, only
to find Robert Drake staring at him.

"Have a problem?"

Bobby leaned his back up against the bunk. "That's what I'm trying to
figure out. Do I?"

Joseph grabbed his boots and walked by. "Only if you make it one."


"Okay, gang. We've got one hell of a shopping list. Groceries, paint
supplies, furniture, bedding, cookware - and that's just the tip of the
iceberg. Scott rolled his eyes as Bobby made a rather large visual aid.
"And second. No Powers. Not ever, not unless you're with Beast in the
basement." Scott doled out the chores over a protest of moans.

"C'mon guys, time to do some honest work for a change."

"Dammit Jim, I'm an accountant, not a farmer."

Scott actually cracked a smile at that one. He and Bobby had their
problems, but Iceman could lighten mood in a way that Scott never could.

Jean later remarked to her rather suprised husband that things were going
well. The farmhouse had acquired a coat of paint and almost looked like a
real home. Even Betsy managed to pitch in - sanding wood with a
concentration that was kind of eerie. Scott even noticed (with immense
relief) that the trio of Gambit, Rogue, and Joseph, if not necessarily
friendly, was at least getting along. But Gambit wasn't Joseph's only

"Why is he here with us, Scott?" Bobby Drake stood at the door of the
bedroom with his arms crossed.

"He's not the same person he was, Bobby."

"That's crap and you know it."

Scott fished for some patience. "I *don't* know it. He deserves the benefit
of the doubt. However, if you had a maniacal amensiac - would you let him
fall under bad influences, or would you keep him under your wing?"

Bobby relented. "Got ya, big guy."

"Yeah, well, I'm not as stupid as I look."

Dodging a thrown pillow, Bobby yelled, "thank god."


Rogue drove the Explorer up to the hardware store along the strip that
passed for downtown Felton. Pulling open the door, she called out to the
pimply-faced teenager behind the counter. "Varnish?"

The kid looked pale and stuttered. "Um.....uh.....Aisle 3, ma'am."

Eddie Kowalski watched the girl walk down the aisle and raced into the
backroom. "Oh man, oh man. You should see the babe that just walked in."

Kevin Parker was Eddie's best friend. They had both been kept back to
repeat the 12th grade and were together by a bind of bitterness as much as
anything else.

"Better than that cheerleader from Patton High?"

"Waaaaaay better."

This he had to see. Kevin started for the door when Eddie grabbed him.
"Stupid! What if she sees us? We'll look like a couple of dumb rednecks.
C'mom, Dad's got that new security camera in his office. We'll watch her
from there."

Kevin and Eddie watched Rogue on the grainy black and white monitor.
"Jesus, man, you were so right. What a sweet ass."

"She ain't from around here."

"Oh, no shit sherlock. I think she's one of those folks from the old Turner

"One of those charity cases? Even better, she won't have fine airs."


Rogue grabbed three bottles of varnish off the shelf. "This outta finish
the kitchen table." She looked up to the top shelf and smiled. Sam and Hank
had gotten into a rather nasty pushing match.....well, Hank definitely
needed some paint thinner. She grabbed for the can and just missed. "Damn
it." Two more tries had her hissing in frustration. "Where's too-tall
LeBeau when you need him?" She changed the bottles over to one arm and
carefully looked around. The kid wasn't around - must be in back. Gently,
Rogue lifted herself a foot off the ground and grabbed the can of paint

The office was so quiet that even Kevin whisper caused Eddie to jump.

"Holeeeee shit. A mutie."

Rogue stood by the register and drummed her fingers on the counter. "Um,
'scuse me? Anybody here?" Shrugging her shoulders, she pulled a twenty out
of her purse and layed it on the counter. She allowed herself a secret
smile. That gawky kid had looked at her like she was Miss America. Rogue
gunned the engine of the Explorer, feeling inexplicably happy.

Sometimes it was nice to be noticed.


"Oh man, oh man, what are we gonna do?" gasped Eddie.

Kevin sat and thought for a minute. "That mutie is our ticket out of this
pit. We're gonna nail her hide to the wall."

"Do we have to? I thought she was kinda cute."

Kevin screwed his face up in digust. "Are you some kind of sicko? Screwing
a mutie is worse 'n screwing your sister. Want your kids to end up with a
third eyeball or something?"

"Yeah man, I guess you're right." Eddie was a little uncomfortable. Kevin
had that look on his face, the one he had before his set fire to Patton
High's mascot. Not a big deal really, but the goat had been alive at the
time. "So, we gonna join the Friends of Humanity or something? Gonna go
political, you know, save Felton or something?"

Kevin clenched his teeth. Sometimes Eddie just had no sense of *scope*.
"And let them take all the credit? No man, FoH is for jerkoffs who don't
really take any action. You and me - we're gonna assemble an elite mutant
hunting team. I bet Marty and Kyle will want in."

"Jesus Kevin, shooting rats at the dump is one thing, but......"

"Where are your balls, Eds? After this, the whole town will be grateful -
they'll have to let us graduate, maybe you'll even get that baseball

"Man, I don't know........"

"Did you *see* what those muties did to New York? Do you want the whole
town to go down? If we take 'em out, the girls will go wild."

Now that was a convincing arguement. However, there were details......."So
like, I'm assuming we ain't using 22's?"

That look was back, the one before the goat. "I got a better idea."


"The booze has arrived."

Sam shot Logan a broad Southern grin. "Mah hero."

The farmhouse was finished, with exceptions of two drying tables and one
drying Beast. The house itself was painted a light yellow, causing Bobby to
moan that they had gone from Westchester to the Little House on the Prarie.

"Logan, all you got was beer!" cried Warren.

"Only stuff a man should drink."

Jean walked in with her own shopping bag. "I've gone some coolers for those
of us who don't want to smell like a field hand."

Logan popped a can with one bony claw. "Hate to break it to ya, Jeanie, but
you *are* a field hand."

Remy joined Bishop out on the porch. "Pretty unfair, non? De femmes got a
picture pretty house and we still in Boy Scout Camp."

"It's not so bad. I've slept in worse."

"Well, now, so has Gambit - but dat don' mean a body can't get used to
something better."

Bishop turned and gave his friend a puzzled look. "Do you like it here?"

"Kinda. Prefer de city, but f'now I could get used to some piece and
quiet." He took a long slug of his beer.

"That's what worries me. We don't have any defenses here, anything could

"Evil mutant cows?"

"I'm serious." He waved distractedly at the front door. They're all
partying like fixing this place up was some triumph, making plans into next
year - but we may have to leave tomorrow."

Remy set his beer down on the rail and looked seriously at Bishop. "But dis
is what we have now."

"CHUG! CHUG!" Rogue and Sam were locked eye to eye, each with a wide mouth
Bud in the full-tilt position.

"My God, Scott. We've built a frat house." Jean leaned against the wall and
watched the two southern X-Men go at it.

"I have to be the one to remind you of the power of diversion? Besides,
when the clock strikes midnight, they are *all* out the door."


The victor struggled to his feet unsteadily. "The queen is dead. Long live
the king."

"Carefull, Samuel. If you get alchohol poisoning, you'll have to come down
to my *lab*," grumbled a still-damp mutant from the corner.

Sam swayed over to Hank and crouched down. "You are fine. The fur is fine.
Get over it."

"Ya gonna join the party?" Rogue, slower on the drink, but much steadier on
the feet, caught Joseph staring out the kitchen window.

"You appear to be having enough fun for everyone."

"Damn straight. Ah deserve it. What's wrong with you, tonight?"

Joseph frowned and placed his hands against the sink. "I......I don't know.
I'm so grateful to you, to everyone. But, this place - it seems like we're
just hiding."

"Ah thought it was called living. Ah nevah signed a contract that said ah
had to be scared mah whole life jus' cause ah was born a mutant."

"We are still under attack."

"*We* are having a party. And if ya can't learn to tell the difference,
than getting you're second chance don' mean a thing."

"Problem chere?" Remy entered the kitchen with a curious glance at Rogue's
angry face.

"Not tonight there ain't. Ya got a pack of cards on ya, Cajun?"

"Does Bishop sleep wit' a gun?"

"Than ah got one word for ya - poker."


Rogue waltzed past him, hips swaying. "In your dreams, swamp-rat."

"Every night, chere." He turned to Joseph. "You play, homme?"


Remy nodded sincerley. "Dat's too bad."


Storm knocked gently on the door. "Betsy?"

The door slowly creaked open, revealing a darkened room. "Come in."

"Are you coming down to the party, child?" Storm raised her eyebrows in
suprise to see Psylocke wearing her colors. "I thought we had agreed that
colors were not appropriate here."

The chill demeanor the Psylocke had worn since her encounter with the
Crimson Dawn faltered slightly. "I'm afraid I no longer understand what's
appropriate or not."

Storm sat down on the edge of the bed. "Tell me."

"I look at myself in the mirror and I'm not sure who I am. It's not like
I've never experienced that phenomenon before - but this is different." She
touched her eye tatto self-consciously. "Warren is so worried, but I don't
know what to tell him. I don't know what to tell myself."

"Hey - knock, knock. Everything Ok in here?" Warren Worthington III peeked
his blond head around the corner.

"Hey, Betts - coming down?"

"I will help you pick out something to wear." Ororo warmed at Betsy's
grateful smile.

"As Gambit now owes me a little over three thousand dollars. I shall retire
for the evening." Storm rose and grabbed her sweater.

"Ya, petite. You just try and collect."

"I think it's time for *everyone* to retire," commanded Scott.

"No fair, Scott!" wailed Sam.

"Hey, us old folks have to get their beauty sleep. Besides, tomorrow we
start on the barn."

"Sure thing, after my hangover wears off. That should be sometime around
next June."

Eventually, the disgruntled group of men were ushered out the door. Remy
paused as he felt a light touch on his shoulder.

It was Rogue. "Hey. I just......sweet dreams."

"You too chere."


"Man, really. I don't think this is cool. We could get in serious trouble
for this." Eddie looked at Kevin pleadingly.

"Jesus Eddie, I can't believe you're actually varsity." Kyle rolled his

Kevin looked different in the moonlight, older. "I haven't got time for
this. Are you in or out?"

Eddie figeted. "Oh God, I'm sorry man - I'm out."

"What a peckerwood," snorted Marty.

Storm rolled restlessly in her sleep. Do not worry, she told herself, the
perimeter defenses will attend to it. The faint sound of voices on the wind
brought her to consciousness. There are no peremiter defenses. Storm rushed
from the greenhouse to see three boys approaching the farmhouse, each
carrying what appeared to be tanks of.....
"Bright Goddess!" Storm raised her hands, ready to call upon the heavens to
aid her.

Eddie faced a moment of hideous decision. He really didn't want to be a
part of what was going to go down here tonight. He had been ready to leave,
but some weird lady ran out of the greenhouse and raised her hands.

"Oh God, she's some kind of mutie."

He couldn't really hurt a woman. But they were his *friends*, weren't they?
He reached down to scoop up a rock and chucked his best fastball.

Ororo Munroe never new what hit her. She fell bodily to the ground, blood
streaming from her temple.

Kevin turned at the sound and stared at the body in shock. Suddenly he
grinned and shot Eddie the thumbs up sign. "Way to go."

Jean rolled over in bed and nugded her husband. "Hon, you left the kettle
on," she grumbled.


"Hon....." Jean woke up abruptly. There was a smell that lit every alert in
her body. It wasn't just the smell of burning, it was the sickly sour smell
of kerosene.

"Oh God."

Kevin raised his hands in benediction to the moon as the fire grew from a
small blaze to a raging circle of flame. "Whoo! Watch 'em burn!"

Scott Summers lept out of bed in alarm. "The kitchen?"

Jean reached out her senses, "no, no, somebody did this. We have to get out
of here, now!"

Scott grabbed for the door handle, ignoring his wife's shout and was
rewarded by the sensation of molten metal in his hand. Screaming in pain,
he let Jean drag him back.

She was no longer known as the Phoenix, but power had always been her
right. Holding her husband close, Jean focused her telekinetic energies on
the back wall and blew the entire structure outward. The fire raged high as
she dove through, crashing into the dirt and rolling. She had one last
thought before attending to Scott.


Jean's telepathic cry woke Rogue, already choking on the thick smoke.
Instinctively, she barrel rolled though the wall into Betsy's room.
Quickly, she whipped the quilt off the bed and around Psylocke to protect
her friend from the fumes and her bare skin. Together they flew straight
through the roof into the cold night air.

Logan came running out of the workhouse at full tilt. "Jeanie!" he
screamed, watching the woman he once loved try and beat the flames out of
her nightdress. There were other casualities - Sam rocketed over to Storm
and looked at the blood caking her hair in dismay. "Dr. McCoy!"

His cry caught Bobby's attention. "You guys! Hank's still in there!" Gambit
yanked Bishop away as Robert Drake practically erupted in his ice form.

Joseph stumbled out of the workhouse and stared at the burning building. A
young voice screamed in his brain.

*Father, help me!*

The house was in flames, he couldn't get to her. There were men in the way,
oh god, his daughter. He heard the shouts of the other X-Men but there was
only his daughter's screams.

And the flood of memories.

Eddie tried to grab Kevin's attention. Kyle and Marty had split as soon as
the mutants came pouring out of the workhouse. "Let's go man, let's go."

But Kevin was dancing around in maniacal glee. "I got two man, gonna be a
hero, a f-ass hero."

Iceman's powers were amazing to watch on a regular day, but since his
training with Storm, they had become mind shattering. The air around the
house froze as ice replaced flame licking up the wood. Rogue handed Betsy
off to Warren mid-air and drove into the now-frozen structure. Gambit held
his breath painfully until that same flash appeared again, holding a
choking Beast. She landed hard, tears already streaming down her face as
she looked back at her destroyed home.

Eddie looked up to see a tall young man with long white hair staring at
them expressionlessly.

He felt on the verge of tears, trying to ignore Kevin's laughter. "I'm so

The man's expression did not change. "Yes. You are."

Both boys felt and odd sensation as the iron in their blood raced up
through their system into their brains. That sensation abruptly ended in a
super-nova burst of pain as every blood vessel exploded simultaneously.

Warren landed beside Joseph, his face pale with horror. "You killed them."

"They tried to kill us." He turned and walked away from the bodies towards
the rest of the team. Beast and Sam were lifting Storm gingerly into the

Logan had his arms crossed tightly across his chest. "You slaughtered those

Hank spoke firmly, his throat still tight. "We have to go, NOW. The
authorities will be here any minute."

"He won't be coming with us." Still leaning on his wife, Scott glared at
Joseph hatefully.

Joseph stared back in amazement. "Don't you people see? They would have
killed us for sport! I was merely dealing out their justice!"

"And who made you God, homme?"

Joseph turned on Gambit fiercely. "You're a fool."

Scott turned away as his wife lead him to the cars. "We all were."

One by one, the X-Men followed their leader. Only Rogue was left standing
with him. She looked at him with infinite sadness.

"Goodbye, Eric."

Eric Lensherr watched the cars peel onto the road. He looked over the
broken bodies of the two teenagers with anger, frustration, and an all too
familiar grief.