She watched Logan's lips move as he murmured the name on the heels of a quick breath. His hooded eyes darkened; seemed lost somewhere in that vast wasteland between loathing and brotherhood. Jean had no idea where Logan had first met Victor Creed or what lay so violently between them. Not even to her had he told that story. But it was deep and punishing, like a freshly bleeding wound, she knew that. It had long ceased to bother her, though, that John was so secretive about his past. He must have his reasons, she suspected.
And she wasn't entirely sure she wanted to know them.
She longed to reach out to her husband, to offer him comfort. But that would have to wait.
Jean wasn't surprised that she recognized none of the other young riders who soon stood before her on nervous, plunging horses. The dark woman with skin the color of milk chocolate, the shockingly white hair and the wide crystal blue eyes was startlingly beautiful, and somehow familiar. But from where? The silver haired child who clung to the saddle in front of her could only belong to one father, though, that was clear. But what was the boy doing here? It was unlike Magnus, so fiercely protective of his family, to risk the child with such a journey as this. With a frown, Jean realized that all the five people before her were young.
With the exception of Creed, of course. Like most things about the massive mercenary killer, his true age was anyone's guess. The only thing certain about Victor Creed was the deadliness of the polished, bladed cestus hanging from his wide belt.
The girl with the prematurely white stripe in her nut brown hair was surely still in her teens, though. Hovering protectively at her side, the boy whose nimble fingers played agilely with a thin (there were surely some cards missing there), much worn deck of playing cards couldn't be much older in Jean's estimation. She doubted very much if he'd seen his twentieth birthday yet. Who were they and what were they doing with Magnus, she wondered?
The graceful African American woman in the lead alighted from her saddle, lithe as a gazelle, and the earth seemed to welcome her caress as she stood upon it. It was only when she reached for the child that Jean finally recognized her. She was almost ashamed of herself. She'd only seen and admired that face from the pages of countless fashion magazines; half a hundred commercials of all kinds. Ororo Munroe. "Princess Ororo" to the masses.
Whether or not her mother had been a real African Princess was a matter for debate. Certainly, the supermodel had never made such a claim herself. But there was no doubt of her right to a royal title. Her marriage to Prince T'Challa of Wakanda came to an end with the advent of Silent Tuesday, and the destruction of the technological paradise of Wakanda, but there was little doubt of her right to the unofficial title of "Queen" of the fashion demense. She'd been one of the most beautiful, most photographed women in the world.
Unconsciously, Jean smoothed her rough cotton blouse and tucked an errant strand of scarlet hair behind her ear. Suddenly, such things as clothing magazines seemed impossibly remote to her, as if they belonged to another world.
And so they did.
I haven't seen a glamour magazine in more than twelve years, the beautiful woman mourned. No one could have been more surprised than she when her eyes began to sting with the memory of the tattered, faded issue of Paris Vogue that was her last glimpse of the world she had known before it came tumbling down like a house of cards. She'd wanted to be a model like Ororo Munroe, once upon a time, she recalled. She had even found an agency to represent her. So long ago ... it was all so long ago.
What a thing to get misty eyed over, she admonished herself with a stern inner voice. Damn. Pull yourself together, woman!
Logan stepped casually closer to Jean, grinding out his cigarette beneath his booted foot. Jean wrinkled her nose. Lord only knew where he was getting tobacco these days. What little they grew in this unfavorable climate was harsh and used mostly for trade with the nearby Salem Center townspeople.
With that slight movement tension seemed to creep like a miasma into the air. With a start the young girl at Ororo Munroe's side cringed away from Logan, her eyes gone wide with fear. The youth with the playing cards swiftly interposed his horse between the small man and the girl.
"Dat be close enough, homme!" he hissed. "Rogue, she don't like men to get too near, n'est pas?" Logan's eyes narrowed but he said nothing.
"Mind your manners, LeBeau!" snapped the softly accented voice of Pietro Lehnsherr. "Remember what my father told you. No one here will hurt Rogue."
"No," said Scott Summers, "she's safe here, I promise you."
If the young man named LeBeau found reassurance in those calm words he gave no sign of it, but he did maintain his silence for the moment. Ignoring Scott's reassurance, he turned his attention instead to Pietro, scowling at the others abrasive remark. Trouble lay between these two; that much was plain. Glancing at the girl named Rogue, the Compound co-Leader thought she might know the reason for it.
Jean took the opportunity to study the young woman called Rogue. The long scar on her cheek spoke eloquently of past travail, but it was the fear in her darting brown eyes as they flickered tensely between Logan and Scott that captured her attention. With a sinking heart and roiling stomach, she recalled where she'd seen eyes like that before.
They stared back at her from the cracked bathroom mirror. With no effort at all she could recall the feel of brutal hands on her naked body. She'd been a fool to wander away from Logan on that scouting trip and he hadn't been shy about telling her so.
"You damn fool, Jeannie!" he'd shouted in her face, shaking her as if his fear for her could communicate itself through that violent act. Then he'd cradled her in the shelter of strong arms. "Don't ever do that again, ya hear me?! Not ever!" Even covered with blood as he'd been, she'd clutched at him, nodding, ignoring the bodies of the slaughtered marauders lying about them like broken toys.
If it hadn't been for Logan she might very well be dead at the hands of that marauding rape gang. It was weeks before she got the smell of the one they'd called "Harpoon" off her skin, no matter how often she rubbed herself raw with harsh lye soap from Hank's lab. She shivered at the memory. For days afterward she'd lain between the comfort of Scott's and Logan's bodies, unspeaking, basking in the safety of their presence. All that pain ... and she'd escaped the gang vitually unharmed, all things told.
The sickening feeling washed over her that this girl, Rogue, hadn't been so lucky.
The LeBeau boy glared at Pietro, a dark scowl twisting his stubbled cheeks. "T'inking you ought to be keeping your distance, too, Lehnsherr! Cher Rogue don' be liking *you* overmuch, either, non?" Pietro flushed, his pale features burning with shame, and began to dismount.
"Enough!" commanded a strong, melodic voice that they all recognized on the instant.
Pietro froze, momentarily torn between anger and filial piety, then obediently remounted his fretting horse. Into the tense circle of uneasy allies stepped the tall figure of Erik Magnus Lehnsherr. Jean drew a sharp breath.
In idle moments, long ago when such things were common, the young Jean Grey had sometimes amused herself with trying to place Magnus' accent. If it was German it was the softest, least guttural German accent she had ever heard. Finally, defeated, she had surrendered, admitting to herself that, despite her finely tuned ear, she couldn't define it. In the end, she had to be content with merely noting that Magnus' voice carried the stamp of many places, many times. Like the man himself, it was ageless.
Jean had no idea how old Magnus was. She suspected that no one left alive could answer that particular question. There were the beginnings of tiny frown lines about his mouth these days, and almost imperceptible lines at the corners of his bright blue gray eyes. But other than those small flaws his face might have belonged to a man in his thirties or thereabouts. She knew him to be much older than that, of course. But not even the neatly trimmed silver beard could age him. It merely made him look distinguished. The long, shining silver hair, held in place with a sculptured red quartz hair tie cast in the shape of a large letter M, had always been his most arresting feature. Dressed in supple, crimson dyed leather he was a striking vision, impossible to overlook.
But, then, he always had been, hadn't he?
Jean watched as, like electrons darting about, orbiting an atomic nucleus, his followers drew subtly closer around the tall, vital figure of their leader.
It's amazing, Jean thought, awed at the steadfast loyalty, almost worship, she glimpsed reflected in those youthful eyes. Look at them. They'd die for him if he asked it. Without question. They trust him that much.
But can we, she worried, can *we* trust him?
So many memories ...
To her certain knowledge, the very last person on earth Charles Francis Xavier had ever spoken to was Magnus. She hadn't meant to ease drop, of course, but ... worry for Charles had gotten the best of her. Or so she told herself. Across the gulf of years and pain she could yet recall the horror in his voice.
<"My God, Erik! My God! What have we *done*?">
And the pain in Magnus' simple reply.
<"*God* had nothing to do with it, my old friend. Nothing at all.">
There were other memories, of course; even harsher ones.
She went cold, as though in the teeth of a strong north wind, at the recollection of finding Scott Summers in the devastated ruins of their cozy boathouse home. There hadn't been much of it left by the blast wave from the NY bomb. Despite Hank's help and her own frantic efforts, it had taken more than three hours to dig him out. And when she'd seen the burns around his eyes ... those horrid burns ... she'd screamed herself hoarse. He must have been gazing into the peaceful blue sky at just the wrong time, she'd realized later. Scott had always enjoyed cloud watching. Not any longer, of course ... But they still spent the odd, lazy afternoon enjoying the sun. She smiled to remember some of those days. "Now that cloud," she remembered saying, once, "looks *exactly like Cain's nose!" Charles' step-brother Cain Marko was dead now, of course. Along with Charles. But Scott always knew just what she meant. He didn't need his eyes to see the beauty she'd described for him so lovingly. The sound of it in her voice was enough.
Her husband was still shy about the scars left in the wake of his fearsome injuries. In public, he still wore those battered, old sunglasses with the rose tinted lenses she'd found for him, somehow still intact among the rubble. God only knew to whom they had once belonged. To the casual eye, they covered all his scars. The ones that showed, at least. The ones on the outside. But they were all hiding scars in one fashion or another, Jean decided. Herself not least of all.
Just how Xavier's School For Gifted Youngsters had evolved into the Xavier Compound after the events of Silent Tuesday, she wasn't certain. She and Scott had both enjoyed teaching at their former alma mater. Along with their fellow teachers the small, quiet, private academy had suited them well. Hank McCoy might have been a Nobel laureate but he still enjoyed simple teaching. Along with his wife Moira, he had also managed to find ample time for his research in the well equipped lab that Charles Xavier provided for his most honored student. Nor could it be denied that Warren Worthington had been an excellent teacher of mathematics and the intricacies of aerodynamics. It wasn't the money that kept the independently wealthy playboy at Xavier's side. Bobby Drake had simply not known what to do with his life. So he had taught physical education at his old alma mater, pleasantly surrounded by his friends. Comfortable and familiar, Jean and Scott had gone joyously, almost directly from being graduate students to being teachers at Xavier's School. Her heart still ached at the toll Silent Tuesday had taken among their students.
Beautiful Xian Coy Mahn and her playful younger siblings Leong and Nga.
Shy little Rahne Sinclair, Moira's beloved goddaughter ...
Danielle Moonstar who loved the horses and the Proudstar brothers...
Moira's small son Kevin ...
The Madrox quintuplets ... all five of them, dead within scant minutes of one another; as if they were a single person ...
Jono Starsmore ...
Kitty Pryde and Doug Ramsey, the young computer geniuses sent to them by S.H.I.E.L.D for training ...
Argumentative Alex Summers ... Scott's younger brother ...
The list was virtually endless, it sometimes seemed.
In the end they had all lost someone. Some small part of themselves gone into the earth. and fading memory.
The painful lingering death of radiation poisoning ...
Sharp quick death at the hands of terrified mobs or wandering raiders ...
So much *death* ...
They might all be dead, she knew, if it hadn't been for John Logan. Wandering down from Canada admidst the chaos of the days and weeks ensuing from Silent Tuesday, the solid, capable man had taken on the job of protecting the people of the Xavier Compound with dogged fierceness.
"You jaspers don't know the first thing 'bout fightin', do ya?" he'd said, after a few days of close, unobtrusive observation. "Well, yer in luck. Ya found yerselves an expert."
And so they had.
And a woman named Jean Grey-Summers found a missing part of herself. It frightened her to think that were it not for Silent Tuesday she might never have meet John.
Magnus, on the other hand, she had known from the beginning.
She never knew just what it was that had driven Magnus and Charles Xavier apart. When she had first come to Xavier's School For Gifted Youngsters as a teen aged girl, Charles and Magnus had already dissolved their partnership in their "Institute For Theoretical Studies" and gone their separate ways; Charles to found his school, while Magnus remained head of the government backed Institute. Charles and Moira had quarreled when Moira invited Magnus to the School as a guest lecturer in physics, she remembered that vividly. Charles had been furious. Over the years she had eventually come to understand the philosophical differences that drove the two men to snipe and tear at one another so in public. But not the personal ones that lead them to keep reconciling and reaching out to one another. Of those, they never spoke.
But when Charles Xavier had politely declined the International Committee's award of the Nobel Prize for Medicine ... so had Magnus, his co-winner.
"It's not as if either of us needs the money," Xavier had remarked, dryly.
When Magnus returned to his government funded research, Xavier had said nothing. But the sadness in his eyes had haunted Jean's dreams for quite some time afterwards.
Enough reminiscing, woman! she told herself. Pay attention to what's happening *now*, if you please. Scott's depending on you. Beside her, she felt Scott Summers stir.
"I've been expecting you, Magnus," he said to the man making his way slowly to the forefront of the other group with quick strides of his long legs.
Perhaps because she was intimate with such things, Jean noticed Magnus' small half smile when he passed briefly by Ororo Munroe's side. Like John, Magnus was not a demonstrative man, although his feelings ran deep, if she were any judge. Neither, she suspected, was Ororo Munroe. The camera had always captured a certain icy reserve in her manner. But the quick brown hand that reached out and took the hand of the young boy Magnus led in his wake lingered a bit longer, perhaps, than it might have.
"Have you indeed?" Magnus said, watching Scott Summers. There was little mirth in his grim chuckle. "What made you think I was even still alive, Summers?"
"I knew you were still alive, Magnus," was the other man's quick answer. "Not even Silent Tuesday could kill *you*."
Jean watched as Magnus' fingers, the long elegant fingers of a musician or fine craftsman curled themselves into fists at Scott's biting, acerbic words. Unless she was mistaken, she was the only one in a position to see Ororo Munroe clearly when the exotically lovely woman reached out and gently but firmly uncurled them.
"No," Magnus finally replied, his face expressionless, with the shadows of remembered pain dancing in his pale eyes, "I am not easy to kill. I have a talent for survival, just as you say. Call it a talent, if you like ... Or a curse. But surely there was more to your belief than that."
"Oh," said Scott, a certain dryness invading his voice, "when I started hearing stories about 'The Engineer', the man who lit the halls of Washington DC once more, who brought fresh water from Lake Superior to what's left of Chicago, I suspected it was you. Fighting off Lee Forester's pirate fleet to get to the Lake must have been difficult. But you always were a determined tinkerer, Magnus. Did you know that some people are beginning to call you 'The Creator'?" Magnus had the good grace not to blush or pretend modesty.
"Nor have I come to *you* empty handed," he informed Jean's husband. He snapped his fingers, held out his hand in expectation. Swiftly, Pietro handed him a full saddle bag, then led the two pack horses forward and pushed one of several heavy looking chests off the first animal's broad back, to spill it's contents on the ground.
"Ammo!" whispered Logan in his co-husbands ear. "Hot damn, Scotty!" He eyed the other chests greedily. "Lot's of it! That's gonna come in damned handy." He looked at Magnus with grudging respect and gratitude.
Hoisting the saddle bags in his hands, Magnus smiled at Hank McCoy and proffered them to his fellow scientist.
"I thought you might find these useful, Dr. McCoy," he said.
Moira watched with deep suspicion as her husband opened the saddles bags and perused their contents eagerly. Her distrust of Magnus was evident, but the tall man ignored her scathing looks.
"Oh my stars and garters!" the bespectacled physician breathed, reverently holding up several crudely stoppered vials of thick, bright blue liquid. "Penicillin! How did you make --?" This time Magnus' tight smile was quite genuine.
"It's only a derivative of ordinary blue-green bread mold, after all," he said mildly.
"Damn ye, mon!" cried Moira, her fierce Scots heart aroused. "Where were ye last month with yair treasures? When influenza killed so many?" She shook a fist at Magnus, clutching one of the precious vials. "Ken ye not how many *this* could have saved?" Before Jean rose the specter of Moira's children; her son Kevin and her adopted daughter Rahne, burning with fever until they were both consumed by it. Henry McCoy took his wife's shaking hand tenderly in his much larger one. He looked into Magnus' eyes, dark now with some hidden passion, then looked swiftly away.
"He knows, dearest," Hank said. "He knows ... "
"And there's more!" Jean watched Hank's broad face light with joy.
The large vacuum tube that Hank held in his hand, examining it carefully, was crude by the standards that might once have prevailed for such things. But, today, in this time and place, it's existence was little short of a miracle. Blinking, Hank realized that he was looking at the solution to the problem surrounding the makeshift glider he and Warren Worthington labored so hard to construct.
"I can't imagine how you did this! Without the proper resources ... !" he exclaimed, cradling the fragile tube in his hand. Magnus seemed pleased with the implied praise.
"It helps if you have access to a good source of tungsten filament," he supplied.
Running agilely for his lab with his wife Moira and co-husband Bobby Drake in hot pursuit, his prize clutched closely to his deep chest, Henry P. McCoy was a happy man. Through the hand she held lightly Jean could feel Scott's mistrust, his fear of these gifts, so freely given.
Perhaps not free, at all, Jean's reminder to herself was harsh. Everything had a price. She wondered what Magnus' could be. And it was as if, once more, Scott read her thoughts.
"And what do you want in exchange for these riches, Magnus?" he wondered. Magnus' grim smile flashed forth like the blade of a scythe, keen and cutting.
"Why, I want to introduce you to someone," he replied. Holding out his hand, he gestured two boys forward. The younger one, about five Jean guessed, ran into his arms and demanded to be held.
"Pappa, Pappa!" the little boy with the silver hair cried. Magnus reached to pick him up and the child laughed with delight. The hard lines of Magnus' aristocratic face softened for an instant as he brushed the boy's hair from his wide blue gray eyes.
"This is my son Charles," Magnus said with pride. "And he's a very special little boy, aren't you, young man?"
"Special!" chimed Charles, nodding his head in vigorous agreement. "I'm special! Me and David!"
The older boy, who must have been around fifteen, stepped forward with a toss of his long black hair, regarding the others before him with alert, mismatched eyes.
"And this is David Haller," Magnus introduced the quiet youth, " ... Charles Xavier's son."
Jean's eyes went wide with shock and she felt Scott's hand tighten in hers in astonishment. Good Lord, she thought, we thought he must be dead. How in the name of all that's holy did he get here? He was in Israel! And Gabby! What's happened to Gabby? Is she - ?
With great care Magnus sat the little boy down. Handing him the contents of a small leather pouch hanging at his side, the tall man smiled at the child. In the twilight, the rays of the dying sun sparkled off the painted surface of several pieces of oddly shaped metal lying on the ground. Delighted, the five year old reached for his toys. Gently, Magnus spoke to the child.
"No, Charles," he instructed, "not with your *hands*."
Uncertain, the little boy peered up at his father from out of trusting but confused eyes. He frowned and bit at his lip in anxiety.
"But Papa," he confided, "it's supposed to be a big secret! You tol' me not to -" All at once nervous, he glanced at the strangers of the Xavier Compound.
"It's all right, Charles," Magnus caressed the little boy's silver hair in brief affection. Looking to the others waiting in silence, he regarded then carefully, then came to a decision.
"These are our friends," he told his small son. He knelt and smiled at the child. "You may play with your toys without touching them. No one will harm you."
Almost at once the bright pieces of metal flew into the air and began to dance about, whirling in a kaleidoscope of motion and color. At her side, John wrinkled his nose and Jean's own senses brought the brief tang of sharp ozone to invade her nostrils. After a few moments the small toys fell gently to earth and the boy made a face.
"I'm sorry, Pappa!" he lamented. "I did better this time! Longer."
Jean could her John's harsh whisper as he described for his co-husband, Scott, what had happened. Beneath the heavy glasses he wore, Jean could sense her husband's astonishment. Very much like her own she suspected. Good God! It must be a trick of the light ... or a trick of some sort ...
"Nor is Charles alone in his ... uniqueness," Magnus pressed his advantage with ruthless skill. He turned to the older boy, who was calmly watching the younger child, busy now arranging the metal bits into complex patterns known only to him. Firmly, Magnus handed the youth a small piece of wood.
"David, it's a rather chill evening, don't you agree? Perhaps a nice fire to warm us might be in order ... "
Nodding, David accepted the bit of wood and cradled it in his palm. The teenager's face furrowed in concentration, his eyes narrowing with strenuous effort. Several moments passed before he was rewarded and the wood fragment burst into flame.
"Lord God, Almighty!" gasped Sam Guthrie.
David Haller dropped the still burning ember and Magnus extinguished it beneath the toe of his boot. Politely he waited until John Logan once again described the events just passed to Scott Summers. Grim faced, the man known as 'The Engineer' watched startled wonder blossom on the haggard face of the Xavier Compound's co-Leader. Anxious now, Magnus' face grew tight with concern. Jean's green eyes widened and she was certain she shook her head to clear it. How was all this possible ... how ... ?
"I'm afraid that Charles Xavier and I had much more to do with this than any God, young man," Magnus addressed himself to the young ex-Kentuckian. He closed his eyes, awash with guilt and unexpressed pain. When he opened them again her turned them on Jean and her co-Leader. Although she was greatly tempted, the fiery red head forced herself not to look away. She meet that gaze with steady calm and was quite proud of herself for that.
"They're mutants," Magnus explained softly. "All that radiation ... Humanity is growing ... changing ... *evolving* ..." His blue gray eyes swept over the two boys, protectively. "There will be others like them. Many others. They are the future." In her bones, Jean could fell the truth of that. "But what will become of them?" Magnus' voice rang out strongly. "What will become of these 'Children of the Atom'?" he demanded. "Humanity will not be kind to them I think!"
"No," Scott Summers agreed, slowly. "You're probably right about that. What do you suggest?"
"We can seek them out," cried Magnus. "We can find them and gather as many of them as we may together. We can offer them sanctuary, a place to live and grow. And we can teach them! Charles made a school here. Then let us teach, my friends, let us teach!" He pointed at the two boys. "We have our start right there. If we join forces, work together, there is much that we may accomplish." A moment passed and Magnus slowly held out his hand to Scott Summers. Around her Jean Logan-Summers saw many faint nods of agreement.
But there were looks of reservation, too.
She watched as Warren and Charlotte climbed down off the roof. James Proudstar rose seemingly from the earth at the rear of Magnus' small group, startling Victor Creed, who growled menacingly. Jean looked at the small boy playing so innocently at Magnus' feet and thought of her own children again. But, in the end, it was the sense of purpose beyond mere survival she glimpsed in Erik Lensherr's eyes that made her decision for her. She felt Scott Summers' fingers tighten questioningly around hers. His own path was clear, she felt sure, but he waited for her to reach her own decision. Slowly, but with resolution, she guided Scott's hand until it encountered Magnus'. The many callouses that come with hard labor and grievous toil were plain to his touch as he shook the older man's hand.
"You'd better come inside," he said. "We've got a lot to talk about."
End, Part Two