Ah don't own the X-Folks, Marvel does! Nor do Ah own the idea of Alternate Universes or Elseworlds! Ah make NO such claim. Not a red cent is changing hands heah, money-wise! This is a work of moi's twisted imagination done for moi's own and, hopefully, ya'll's edification! Any resemblance to *anything*, *anywhere*, *anytime* is purely coincidental!
Rated PG-17 for some adult concepts and situations depicted herein. But anybody looking for anything graphic is SOL, Ah fear:):) Some *nice* mental images, though Ah've been told:):)
This story is a response to Ryan's "After The Bomb" Challenge on CFAN, so Ah guess Ah would have to call it an AU or an Elseworlds! Speaking of AU's ... Ah *know* that Ah have mixed up the ages of various characters heah! In any case, this is NOT ya'll's mama's X-Verse! Hee! Any and all discrepancies should be attributed to this fact:):) Lord knows, Ah never make mistakes! *snarf*
Many thanks to all moi's wonderful, talented beta's, Natalie D, Mary Trauten, Junkie, Michele Craighead, Y. B. Chong, Em_Spyder, Mickey and anyone Ah may have forgotten! Bless ya'll!
Special thanks to Father of Lies for many grand ideas and even a possible sequel from his pen! And also to 'rith for the idea of Stormy and Mags and the Dread Pirate Lee!
Life Among The Ruins
A Tale Of Reconciliation by Dannell Lites
Jean Logan-Summers shaded her eyes from the light of the harsh setting sun and straightened from her garden work, peering into the distance. The corn and potatoes would still be there after she allowed herself a small break. More's the pity, she thought with a small grimace. Still, much as she hated the work, she was assigned to the garden today and if they all planned to continue eating ...
From the corner of her eye she caught sight of one of her husbands. The small, compact man left off sharpening the blade of an ax and began watching the horizon, searching for its hidden secrets with narrowed eyes. A sharp brown gaze cut through the approaching twilight gloom much like the blade of one of his ever present knives. She smiled at the irony. Trust Logan to see them before she or anyone else.
"Riders comin' in, Jeannie darlin'," he said and she nodded.
"I see them, John," the tall redhead answered.
Setting aside her garden hoe, Jean watched the heavy muscles of Logan's shoulders and forearms ripple as he reached for the shotgun that was never far from his reach these days.
"Rachel," he called quietly, "take Nate and go on into the house, honey."
The skinny eleven year old girl, looked up in stubborn surprise with her mothers bright, emerald green eyes. Tossing one of her thick red braids aside she protested, "But Papa Logan! I want to see --"
"Me, too!" piped up the five year old boy at her side. Already almost as tall as his older sister, he, like his father, seemed destined to be a tall man indeed, with the same unruly ginger brown hair.
"Mind your Papa Logan," Jean prompted. "Go on, you two. Into the house."
"But Pappa Scott says --" began the small boy who disliked his given name of Nathan.
"*Now*," growled Logan firmly, "Git!" and the two scampered for the safety of the large house, all the while grumbling quietly to themselves in the way of children.
Jean turned to face Sam Guthrie. Blushing furiously at her welcoming smile, the gangly young man ran a hand through his mop of disheveled blond hair. "Ah saw the riders there and Ah thought Ah might ought to come see what's happenin'," he explained. "Should Ah fetch a gun, do ya'll think?"
Sam was a newcomer to the Xavier Compound and not quite sure just yet how such a situation as this was generally handled here. Silent Tuesday had seen the destruction of most of Sam's large family in the hills of Kentucky. Jean often wondered how he had gotten all the way here to upstate New York on foot, but he never spoke of it, and she had never asked. There were many things like that in the small community of the Xavier Compound, many stories like Sam's; horrors left in the wake of all the destruction of May 7, the year of Our Lord 2000 that were best left unsaid.
"Ma'am?" Sam asked again. "Ah can fetch a gun if'n ya'll think Ah should." The young southerner waited patiently for an answer. Like the land he understood so well, people like Sam were eternal, Jean reflected. They lived and carried on in any age, through any madness brought about by man.
Jean shook her fiery head in answer.
"Not just yet, Sam," she cautioned. "They might be friendly and we don't want to scare them off completely."
"Yes, ma'am," drawled Sam.
Wordless, Logan nodded to the approaching James Proudstar and gestured imperceptibly towards the nearby woods. With a small nod in affirmation, the big Apache horse wrangeler disappeared, melting into the landscape like a ghost. Jean shook her head ruefully.
How does he *do* that, she wondered, not for the first time. How can someone so large just ... vanish like that? But James Proudstar was out there somewhere, she knew, unseen, watching, waiting ... he and the deadly bow slung over his back. Like his mentor, Logan, no one would see Jimmy until he wanted them to. Until it was too late.
Like a well oiled, well trained machine, the members of the Xavier Compound prepared to receive visitors. Jean watched with approval as Warren Worthington and Charlotte Jones climb up onto the roof and secreted themselves there.
Count on Warren to seek the high ground, she chuckled to herself. Damn, I hope that ultra light glider he and Hank are trying to build works. Warren misses being a pilot and we desperately need contact with others. We've got to know what's going on out there beyond upstate New York here. Or what's *left* of upstate New York. Their careful excursions out into the unknown in search of supplies and survivors were becoming more and more dangerous all the time. Thoughts of the young girl who'd called herself Jublilee with such merry abandon, lost just the previous week, were still painful. Recon by air would be a blessing. But that was a worry for another day. Now there were the incoming riders.
When Hank McCoy trotted on his stocky legs out of his lab, housed in what was left of the West Wing of the reconstructed Xavier Mansion, his wife Moira and co-husband Bobby Drake followed swiftly on his heels. Moira was armed, of course. She was deadly with that magnum she carried, the Co-Leader of the Xavier Compound knew. She swung a mean claymore, too. Bobby Drake clutched his converted SuperSoaker 2000 under his arm and, as usual, it made the tall woman smile. Thanks to Hank's special "modifications" it wasn't a toy, even if it did still look like one. It was no child's game being hit with upwards of 500 pounds of water pressure all at once. Several former bandit-raiders could testify to that, to their eternal sorrow.
Hank McCoy wouldn't carry a weapon. He refused and that worried Jean quite a bit. But all their pleas, even Bobby's, had fallen on deaf ears. When confronted, Hank had merely adjusted his round, professorial glasses with the now cracked left lens and dug in his philosophical heels.
"The world may have slipped the bonds of civilization, my friends," he said in his deep, quiet voice, "but I fear that I cannot say the same for myself. No."
"Let him be," Scott Summers had advised. "Hank has a right to his beliefs, the same as the rest of us. It's all some of us have left."
"He's gonna get himself killed, Scotty," had been Logan's grim prophecy. His co-husband hadn't missed the sharp look of pain that passed briefly through Scott Summers blinded eyes at the thought.
"Then that's Hank's choice, isn't it?" He'd gusted a heavy sigh. "It just means we'll have to make sure we take special care to protect him."
With a tiny, crooked smile of rueful defeat, Logan had simply nodded after a moment and that was an end to the matter.
Scott hadn't seen Logan's smile, of course. But it was there nonetheless and Jean had treasured it.
Ready to face their approaching guests, the people of the Xavier compound waited and watched. In the distance, the riders slowed their advance, reigning in their tired horses to a cautious walking pace. Jean forced herself to relax, but when she spied Logan's sudden frown, saw the muscles of his shoulders tense rock-hard, she lost her battle with hope. Nothing pleasant was coming, that much was sure.
"Damn," spat Logan, his fierce eyes squinting for better sight. "Damn, damn, damn!" he cursed.
"Raiders, John?" Jean demanded. Logan denied it with a vigorous shake of his head.
"Ain't that simple darlin'," he assured her with an expressive curl of his thinned lips. "Wish it was. Be a hellava lot better. What the crap does *he* want here, anyway?" At his wife's mystified look of incomprehension Logan lowered his shotgun and spoke tersely.
"Magnus," was all he said.
It was more than enough. Jean's curses joined her husband's.
"Oh Christ ... " she breathed.
May 7, 2000. Silent Tuesday. More than fifteen years ago, now, but Jean Logan-Summes could remember it with such clarity it might well have been yesterday. She remembered clutching the still, cold body of Charles Xavier and weeping until there were no more tears to cry.
May 7, 2000. Dubbed Silent Tuesday because that was the day the world fell quiet in the wake of an array of devastating EMP pulses and atomic fire. The day the world ground to a halt with the eventual death of more than three quarters of her population if Hank McCoy's estimates were anywhere near as accurate as she suspected. No one ever knew how it started, of course, and in the end what did it matter? The bombs fell and, gear by gear, the machinery of civilization coughed, faltered and then failed utterly.
And, riding toward her at a steady, inexorable pace was one of the men who *might* be responsible.
Don't think like that Jean, she castigated herself. If Magnus had anything to do with the insanity of Silent Tuesday it was only at second hand. He just provided the gun, if that. Someone else pulled the trigger.
And besides, a smaller, less pleasant voice whispered in her mind, mocking her grief and fear, if he's guilty ... then so was Charles. And you don't want to think about that, do you? No, you don't. Just keep telling yourself that Charles' death was an accident. You don't know what the note he left behind said. You burned it, unread, remember? Before anyone else could see it. Not even Scott knows about that. Thank God. The truth might have destroyed him ... might have destroyed all of us. John understood though, didn't he? When you told him he only held you tightly until the demons of doubt fled. You did the right thing. Didn't you? We needed to be strong to survive. And *that* we have done, haven't we? It's a little late to count the price, I think.
And ... Charles loved Magnus, she reminded herself harshly. We owe it to his memory to at least give the man an audience. She found herself smiling in anticipation, to her great surprise.
And that's what it will be, you know, she chuckled. An 'audience'... as if he were royalty or a head of state. Who knows? These days he might be. She sighed. What is about that man, she wondered. What is it about him that let's him do that? That let's him take almost instant command and have others follow him?
Whatever it was, she'd rarely seen it fail.
The tall redhead warmed at the sound of that familiar baritone voice and turned to face her husband and co-Leader of the Xavier Compound, Scott Summers. Taking his arm from Betsy Braddock's guiding hand, she led him forward, watching the silent British woman take up a position on the Mansion's broad portico, deadly sword at the ready. How a woman with such an obvious Asian heritage had acquired so British a name and accent was still somewhat of a mystery for Jean. The truth, she suspected, lay lost in the labyrinthine twists and turns of a prominent English family's globe trotting machinations. Not that it mattered. Betsy's skill with the razor sharp katana cradled loosely in her hands was all that really mattered.
The soft spring wind ruffled Scott's unruly hair and Jean kissed him on the cheek in greeting. She heard him gently inhale the scent of her hair with pleasure before he braced himself to deal with harsh reality.
"It's Magnus, isn't it?" It wasn't really a question so Jean didn't bother to answer. She merely smiled, squeezing his elbow in affirmation. Jean shook her head. It never ceased to amaze her how intuitive her husband and co-Leader could be. Scott Summers might be blind but he was far from helpless. In the beginning it was his quiet strength that had knitted them all together and set them on the road to survival and then relative prosperity. He was the heart of the Xavier Compound.
"And you're *my* heart," he'd once told her, warming her in places she'd almost forgotten existed since Silent Tuesday.
"And John is our strong right arm," she'd laughed, playful in his arms.
"Very strong," he'd chuckled in return. "Thank God. Without him we'd probably all be dead. And you wouldn't be whole."
"Neither would you," she'd reminded him, head on his broad chest, listening to the steady, reassuring beat of his heart.
"No, I wouldn't," had come his happy admission.
"I've been expecting Magus," Scott's voice summoned her back to the present. Puzzled, his wife watched as the riders drew closer. She could make out six of them, now, leading two pack horses. Even in the twilight gloom she caught the flash of the dying sunlight glinting off the silver head of the lead rider. Damn.
There was absolutely no doubt now, was there? Magnus all right. Like a bird seeking the freedom of the sky, she released the forlorn hope that Logan had been wrong and watched it fade into the distance. Shading her eyes again, Jean frowned as Magnus drew away from the others, pursuing a slightly different course.
Sensing her unease, Scott asked, "What's happening?" in a curt voice. He was worried, she could tell, but doing his best to conceal it. Silent Tuesday hadn't changed *everything* ... Some thing's remainded, comfortingly almost, the same. With a pang of deep regret she wished that her husband could see the smile that played about her full lips. But she and John must be his eyes, now.
"Magnus is pulling away from the others," she supplied, quick to answer for his sake. When he felt her hold on his elbow loosen as she prepared to move off and investigate, he held her arm in tight denial.
"No," he told her, "let him be. It's all right. I know where's he's going."
One of these days, came Jean's unbidden, sardonic thought, I *will* figure out how he does that. It's almost as if he can read my mind at times.
It was comforting, somehow, to know that someone understood her that well. She smiled. Two someone's, in fact. Her eyes fell on the beloved figure of John Logan, still scanning the distance carefully as the riders drew nearer. His casual embrace of his shotgun didn't fool his wife, not for an instant. When Logan moved, he *moved*. He was by far the quickest man she had ever seen. And one of the deadliest. Logan's jaw set as he stepped swiftly to the side of his wife and his co-husband.
"The graveyard. He's headin' fer the graveyard."
Scott nodded in wordless affirmation.
"Give him a minute alone," he said. "He'll come to us when he's ready."
As the group came close enough for her to see them clearly, Jean wasn't sure whether to be relieved or even more uneasy. At once she recognized the slender figure of Pietro Lehnsherr, sitting tall in his saddle. That's a good sign, she tried to convince herself. Pietro may be devoted to his father, Jean thought, but he's fair. And he's young, rash ... Magnus wouldn't have brought him along if he were planning anything dangerous. He's not a fool. Surely he wouldn't risk the life of his son. Her frown deepened against her will.
Jean had no real answer to that question, she realized at once. Magnus was ... Magnus ... seldom predictable. Charles trusted him, she told herself again and again, watching the slow advance of the riders. They fought, they argued; the hurt they dealt one another was sharp and fierce. But for all the pain they never turned their backs on each other. Charles always trusted him and Magnus never broke that faith. Not once. When Charles died part of Magnus died, as well. Charles took small pieces of many hearts with him into his grave, Jean admitted, and some of us still haven't forgiven him for dying and abandoning us.
Silent, she watched the silver haired man dismount from the great black horse he rode. When he passed through the gates of the small cemetery attached to the Xavier Compound, he didn't pause. His destination was never in question. Jean sighed and looked away, allowing him the privacy he had always demanded.
It was only when Jean caught her first plain sight of the rider covering the small groups backtrail that she began to lose her hope; that she began to be afraid in spite of herself.
There was no possible mistake, not even at this distance. None. By Jean's experienced estimate the huge Palomino horse carrying the man must have stood eighteen hands or more at the shoulder. And still the great animal was almost too small for the massive man who bestrode it. And there was no mistaking that mane of golden blond hair. Tossed by the wind, it blew behind him like a banner, reaching halfway down his back.
Victor Creed had let his hair grow quite a bit since she'd last seen him.
End, Part one!