Down the Dark Path- by Victor Moore

DISCLAIMER: Marvel owns everyone. No money will be made from this. This is for enjoyment purposes only. Yada, Yada, Yada.

CHAPTER IX:

"... And cloak is active." Sean stated to his co-pilot.

"Copy that." Kitty said as she peered over the controls on her side. The modified SR-71 Blackbird control system was so intensive that it took two people to fully use the capabilities of it, something which she was happy to do. Seeing a small computer screen give her the numbers she wanted, she turned to Elisabeth who was standing behind them. "Fifteen minutes till target, Betsy."

She smiled at the young woman, and thanked her. Looking at her team seated in the cabin, a wave of apprehension washed over her. Quickly she pushed it away and took a deep breath. "Alright my friends, we have approximately fifteen minutes until we arrive at our destination. Remember that stealth is of the essence. Does everyone know his or her assignments?"

Everyone nodded. Gambit was running his fingers through his hair, slightly on edge because he could not smoke a cigarette. Sitting next to him was Jubilee, she had on her yellow jacket over her X-Men uniform and was in the process of blowing a pink bubble with her gum. Jean brushed her red hair out of her eyes. She was still not used to her new gold and blue costume. Handing her a small first aid kit, Ororo smiled and watched Jean out the pack in her leg pocket. Rogue looked at Gambit quickly then turned towards the window.

"Are you sure this is gonna' work? I mean it's a risky plan at best, right?" Jubilee asked after popping her bubble.

"I believe it has the most chance of success. It will work. We are not going in to cripple the Hand, though I wish we could. Our objective is to sneak in, capture Logan, and sneak back out. Since I can 'feel' where he is, it makes our job much easier."

"Okay, just checking." There was still concern in Jubilee's eyes, but it evaporated when Gambit leaned over and whispered something in her ear. The young girl smiled and hit him gently in the arm.

Sitting down next to Jean, Elisabeth let out a sigh. "I should have not involved her, Red. It's too dangerous. She could get hurt, and lord knows I don't want that."

"Betsy, she had to come. Nothing you or I could say would have prevented that. You know it and I know it. Besides, she needs to do this, just like you do."

"I know, I know. I just don't want to lose her, she... she means too much to me."

"Elisabeth?" Ororo asked with a small puzzled look.

"Yes?"

"I'm curious, why do you call Jean 'Red'?"

Jean chuckled, as Elisabeth looked perplexed. "I do?"

"Yes you do." The red haired woman stated. "It's okay, it's the same nickname Logan uses for me."

"Sorry, I wasn't aware I was using it."

"Don't worry about it. I rather like it, but don't tell Scott."

"Why?" Ororo asked.

Before Jean could answer, the cabin lights of the aircraft flickered and then turned red. Conversation and laughter halted. "Three minutes gang, said Kitty who had left her position as co-pilot and joined the group.

"Listen up everyone," Elisabeth stated as she got up and addressed her companions, "you know your assignments. Stick to that and everything will be fine. If something happens to me, Ororo is then in command." Gambit handed her a scabbard with the katana still sheathed. She put it on her back and tightened its strap across her chest. Then she pushed the control for the door and it slid open.

The wind whipped around inside the small craft bringing a chill with it. Slowing to a hover above their target, Elisabeth nodded to Ororo who leaped out the plane and commanded the air to keep her aloft. Jean was next. She used her telekinesis to anchor herself to the aircraft and floated out the doorway. Gambit then Katherine followed.

"Wish us luck, Irish." Jubilee yelled to the cockpit then leapt out with a frightened grin. Jean caught her with her power and brought her closer to the group.

* Remember, Sean if we do not return in twenty-five minutes, then you leave. Okay? * Elisabeth told the pilot.

"Aye. I do not like it, but I'll do as ye say. Good luck lass, to all of ye."

After she nodded, she dove out the plane. The others were already on their way down. Her hair trailed behind her as she descended. The rushing air played along her body, comforting her, caressing her. A smile shone across her face. Never in all her life has she felt so alive, so free, then in this single moment.

"It's a kick, ain't it?" Rogue said as she gently grabbed on to Elisabeth.

"Is it always like this?"

"Sure is sugah. If ya like, we can do this after we get back to the mansion. Ah'll let ya freefall longer."

"Thank you, I would love that."

"Where to?"

Closing her eyes and clearing her mind, Elisabeth concentrated upon the connection she shared with Logan. In the back of her mind, she found it. It looked like a rope pulled tight into a small patch of darkness. It was frayed, only the core remained intact. She touched the darkness and opened her eyes. Her hand pointed to the middle of the complex looming under them. As Rogue corrected their course, she telepathically contacted Jean and Ororo to follow them.

...

Something was nagging at him. It was small, almost inconsequential in nature, but in the back of his mind, it annoyed him. The man formally known as Wolverine got up out of bed, disturbing the young woman who was lying next to him. Groggily she wrapped the covers around herself and fell back to sleep. As he put his Hand uniform on, he ignored her and concentrated on the annoyance. Whatever it was, it seemed close.

Shaking his head, he opened the door and strode down the metal hallway. He walked into the central area of the complex, at the base of the anti-gravity platforms. He saw fellow ninjas training on the devices, but it did not interest him. He looked up towards the top, along a wall and with his enhanced senses he saw a pair of red eyes staring back at him from the shadows. Then they were gone. Leaping up the first platform, he stopped the assassins in their training. "Come with me, brothers. We have guests." Pointing to the youngest one of the group, he told him "Inform the Jonin and alert the others!" Then he made his way to the second platform and the others followed in one smooth motion. The presence in his mind was getting closer. Soon he would destroy it. The smile he allowed was sinister; he longed to obliterate it.

...

Elisabeth stopped and telepathically told the others to do the same. She could feel Logan approaching and she could feel his desire for destruction. It was almost overwhelming in its brutality.

* What is it? * Jubilee thought back.

* We have been discovered. * Seeing the platform below them was empty, she came up with a quick plan and relayed it to the others.

* Daring, but it has the best chance for success. We'll wait for your signal, Psylocke. * Thought Ororo.

She nodded and looked at Gambit, he smiled back and bowed for her to lead the way. Swiftly and silently, she leapt to the platform and he followed.

Minutes later they were surrounded by fourteen members of the Hand. The shortest one approached and stopped ten feet in front of her. "So it was you I felt." His voice was gruff and his eyes hard. "The prodigal daughter has returned from the dead, I see."

"I am only here to retrieve what I have lost. If you will allow me take it and leave, I promise that I'll spare these men."

"Brave words, traitor. There are only two of you and fourteen of us." One of the members spat out angrily.

...

"Two!?" The short man thought with a start, he saw and smelled four enemies. Psylocke the deserter was extruding the scent and stance of authority. The man with the red eyes he saw earlier was leaning nonchalantly on his metal bo staff. A blond woman wearing a green U.S. airforce jumpsuit had her hand resting casually on a pistol in her shoulder holster. Last was an older man wearing a patch over one eye along with his body suit that marked him as a S.H.E.I.L.D. agent holding a vicious looking sub-machine gun. "And what did you lose, frail?"

Pointing her sword at him, she smiled and said, "you."

His claws sprang forth and the other assassins leapt into action. He could not move, no matter how hard he tried. It was as if a giant hand held him in its grip. Helpless, he watched as his associates died quickly on the platform.

...

"Dat was strange, chere." Gambit stated with a puzzled expression.

"How so?"

"I saw six of 'dem fall, as if 'dey been shot."

"They were." She smiled at him, then telepathically contacted Jean, * He's yours Jean. Let us leave this place. * With that, she jumped to the next landing as Gambit followed, and Logan was telekinetically being lifted from their previous location. Upon reaching it, she looked down and saw a flurry of motion as hundreds of the Hand began to move up the shaft, leaping from platform to platform. "Storm, time to go."

"Gather around then," Ororo stated as she stretched her arms up towards the sky. A wind began to swirl around them, gradually increasing in speed.

* Sean, we are heading back up to you. * Elisabeth brodcasted to the plane.

* Aye lass, I'll be read... Uh lass, we have a problem. We're not the only ones here. *

* Elaborate. *

* It's the... *

Elisabeth suddenly ignored the thought as the wall just below them exploded into rock and metal fragments. Through the very large opening, a number of people in bright colorful costumes flew in depositing their comrades, who could not fly, on the platform with the X-Men. Before the dust could settle, an imposing figure of a man, with a red and white shield in a circular pattern and a white star in the middle, bellowed, "we have come here for him!" Pointing at Logan, he continued, "to bring him to justice as duly appointed representatives of the United Nations for his crimes against humanity."

"Holy shit! It's the Avengers." Jubilee spouted in shock. "All of them!"

Elisabeth eyed the newcomers, a total of fifteen of them. Members of both divisions were present plus some reserves. She recognized Captain America, Thor, the Vision, Black Widow, Sersi, Quasar, Hercules, Rage, Iron Man, the Wasp, Wonder Man, Scarlet Witch, Tigra, the Original Human Torch, and USAgent. Escape now was impossible against such a force. * All right then, a slight change in plans. Ororo, I need you to...*

...

Ororo swooped down and began to talk to Captain America who held his people back with a single gesture of his hand. "Captain, there are things here which should be brought to light. As you no doubt are aware of, Wolverine is no longer himself."

"Doesn't matter Storm, we'll take him and we can all discuss this when he is in custody."

Stealthily making her way to Jean, Elisabeth ignored the beginnings of an argument between the two. * Kitty! Jubilee! The Hand are almost upon us, keep them away from Jean. *

Both girls nodded and took protective stances around their red-haired teammate. "You ready Betsy? This will not be easy, especially in these circumstances."

Taking a deep breath, she answered, "with you as my anchor, how can we go wrong?" Blocking out all of the external noises and minds around her, Elisabeth began to form the image of a rose butterfly in her mind. The image grew until she left her body and entered their captive's mind.

He had his shields up, but she found the nooks and crannies in them and slipped through easily. Darkness surrounded her, a blackness so thick that one would not be able to tell up from down. Looking around, she felt a warm presence behind her. Jean's astral form floated there and waited for Elisabeth. Concentrating, she found the connection between her mind and Logan's. A golden rope stretching into the dark represented it. In one section, the line was frayed. Only a couple of threads remained to hold the connection.

Suddenly, one of the threads snapped. Jean quickly grabbed both sides of the rope. "Hurry, we don't have much time."

Elisabeth's aura attached a lifeline to the other woman, then sped into the darkness following the rope. It felt as though she traveled for hours, though she knew it was only a minute or two. The blackness seemed to go on forever. Screams would slowly drift out of it, and laughter. At times they were deafening, and at others they were just a whisper. Then when she exited the dark, she saw the line stretch over a jumbled landscape and into the horizon.

It was as if pieces of hundreds of different jigsaw puzzles had been forced to fit and complete a picture. In all of her years, Elisabeth had never seen anything like it. Though she wanted to help assemble these pieces correctly, she knew she had no time. She had expected defenses, especially with the Hand's involvement, but strangely she found none.

The rope led to a tiny opening in a small forest, where a single tree stood defiantly in the clearing. There was Logan with the rope attached around his neck and dangling from the tree above six metal blades jutting up from the ground. He was a shadow of his former self. Thin enough to see the skeleton framework underneath. Eyes that admitted defeat and a sad expression as he looked at her.

At the edge of the forest, she sensed movement, but could not see them. Flying into the clearing, nothing followed her. They were still there but left her alone. "Logan!" She yelled as she reached him. Coalescing into human form, she tried to undo the rope from his neck. It would not come undone. "Bloody hell, Logan! Work with me here!"

Sounds of rustling leaves behind her caught her attention. A form of darkness with snake-like tendrils burst forth from the forest all around her. It quickly closed the distance between them only to stop a few feet away. The only sounds it made were screams as the strands crept towards her. She moved to the left and stopped, it followed. The same thing happened when she went right. Slowly she backed up and stepped on something soft.

Chancing a look down she saw a battered doll with no head under her foot. Glancing around, she saw more of them. They had different shapes and colors but all but three had no heads. Jumping towards the dolls, the tendrils caught her ankle and began to pull. Her hands grasped the three dolls, and she felt the monster let go. It screamed and rushed back into the forest.

The dolls looked at her and smiled. Out of shock she dropped them and took a step back. Walking cautiously around them as their eyes followed her, Elisabeth focused on Logan. She searched herself for his essence and found it. Reaching up to him, she placed her hands on his temples. A pink aura began to form around her. It flowed from her and almost reached him, when a faint presence fled from her mind. Forcibly, the tether Jean shared with her yanked her out of his. She found herself back in her own body.

...

Jubilee was not with the X-men long, but she knew that Storm and Captain America were not going to agree. So, she would have to protect Jean and Betsy from them too. She was not going to let her partner down.

Seeing a quick glance from Kitty, she looked down towards the platforms just below them and saw the Hand jump on it. In just a few seconds, they would reach them. Turning towards Storm, she saw her leather cape billow slightly.

"I'm sorry, Captain." She said softly.

"Me too, Storm. Me too." He met her tone and silence hung between them. "Avengers! Take them!"

Hurricane winds forced the Avengers back from the X-Men, until Thor answered Storm in kind. The two walls of weather met and clashed, spewing bolts of lightning in dangerous arcs across the platform.

Iron Man rocketed through intent only on one target, Logan. His replusors charged with energy, but before he could release it, Shadowcat phased her hand though his armor as he flew by. His boot jets sputtered and died as his armor seized up. A loud metal clang sounded as he crashed on the platform many meters away from his intended target.

...

Rogue slammed into Hercules at near supersonic speed, sending him flying through the metal and rock wall until he hit the water a kilometer away. Pleased with herself, she was hit from behind by Rage. The force of the blow sent her the ground with the impact of a small meteor. Groggily she emerged from the hole, shaking the dust and debris off.

...

As if the fighting between the Avengers and the X-Men were not enough, the Hand joined the melee. Captain America delegated the 'West Coast' faction to handle the Hand, while the 'East Coast' tackled the X-Men. It seemed to be a chaotic mess of bodies and energies, swords and storms, powers and brute force.

In the middle of it, the Black Widow and Gambit circled each other testing the others responses looking for an opening. "Surely belle, dere be better ways for you to get to know me, eh? A little candlelight, some champagne, a stroll on de French Rivera in the moonlight, sounds good, ney?"

"Delightful, LeBeau. But didn't the last girl you dated in Paris end up murdered?" Natasha stated with a coy smile.

"How did you know dat!? And how did you know Gambit's name, chere?" Gambit asked in surprise as he dodge her circle kick and struck his staff into her side.

She landed, spun around and feinted with a snap kick. As Gambit attempted to block, she shot him with her widow's bite instead. He managed to throw playing cards charged with kinetic energy that exploded at her feet as he was hit. Both blasts separated them from the other. They picked themselves up only to fight some members of the Hand who escaped the 'West Coast' division.

...

Rogue flew faster than she ever had before at Thor. Her fists pointed for his chin. A sonic boom shattered the eardrums of some of the Hand as they made their way up the platforms. She did not see the hammer until it was much too late. He slammed it into her face. It stopped, but the momentum her body had acquired did not. It went past the hammer and the whiplash forcibly stopped her. Her neck groaned with a loud crack from the pressure it was under.

As she fell back to the ground, Thor turned at the sound of a primal scream from Storm. The largest bolt of electricity that he had ever seen shot forth from her eyes, mouth, and extremities and arced into him. Never in his whole life had he felt so much searing pain at one time. His flesh and hair burned and his uniform disintegrated as she kept pouring the white-hot energy into him. Fortunately, he lost consciousness before he hit the ground as well, electricity ebbing out of him and dancing along the floor below.

...

"I really have to hand it to Storm." Captain America stated, as he blocked a katana with his shield. The attacker received an uppercut to the jaw, knocking him out of the fight.

"How so?" Natasha asked while battling two opponents of her own.

"She knows she can't win, yet her team is performing a superb delaying tactic. Keeping us and the genin away from Logan."

A Hand member caught an elbow from the red haired woman in black form-fitting attire. "It won't last long, they lost their powerhouse."

"But they took out two of ours. I want to know... Excuse me," he dodged a sword and threw his shield at a ninja just arriving on the platform. It hit him square in the chest, careened and hit the back of a neck of another, ricocheted into the side of his attacker, then landed back in his hand.

"Showoff." She stated as she leapt into the air and split-kicked two opponents in the head and blasted a third behind her leader.

"Look who's talking. Natasha, find out what's going on. It looks as if Ms. Grey and Psylocke are doing something to Logan, and I want to know what it is."

"On it Cap." Turning she faced Gambit.

"Can't let you do that chere."

"You don't have a choice tovarisch." She stated, then blasted the ground in front of him. As she expected, he dodged to the side and she ran past him intent on her mission.

"De woman has style," Gambit said watching her go. "Ain't dat right, mon Capitaine?" He asked the leader of the Avengers without turning around.

"Yes she does. Shall we?"

Smiling Gambit replied, "age before beauty, mon ami."

They fought. Bo staff against shield. Youthful agility against years of experience. The outcome was never in doubt. "Sorry son," was the last thing Gambit heard as darkness embraced him.

...

Iron Man's systems came back on-line. Telltale displays of suit integrity, operating status, and life support blurred in front of Tony's eyes. All that mattered was the hatred, the vengeance. His life-support systems were slowly regaining their desired levels, but the shock from the crash re-opened his wounds and they were bleeding badly. Activating the charge for his chest repulsor, he let the energy build. The displays showed him that he was in the red, one hundred ten percent and rising quickly. Alarms sounded but he ignored it.

The image of Pepper's face as the light left her eyes superimposed over the image of Clint's lifeless form slumping into the ground. Both images centered on Logan in a haze of red. Two hundred forty percent. He screamed, "DIE YOU BASTARD!" and let loose the beam.

...

Captain America saw the massive glowing red energy building at Iron Man's chest. He could not let him kill, even if it was a murderer. It went against all the Avengers stand for. But the Hand, five of them, surrounded him. There was only one option. He threw his shield with all his might at the instant the energy disappeared for a brief second. Then he fought the assassins with every bit of his training and experience gained in the past fifty or so years.

A katana sliced his back, as he punched a genin. Ignoring the pain, he continued to fight, knowing his chances of surviving was slim with out his shield.

...

The energy blast hit Captain America's shield and ricocheted towards Jean. Instinctively, she raised her telekinetic shield as the blast hit her. The shields held until it was over, but the devastating impact forced her to lose consciousness. Her hold on Logan dropped, and he sprung forward with his claws trying to kill her but was stopped by Psylocke's sword.

"You! I'll kill you!" He growled with rage.

"You'll have to catch me first." Elisabeth ran towards and leapt down to the next platform. Logan followed her without missing a beat.

...

Iron Man's armor on his back bubbled, then exploded from the release of all that energy. His systems wailed then died as he blacked out. Blood leaked from of the still smoking opening, as he fell on his back. No one was around to hear his last breath leave him.

...

"Brothers, help us kill one of our most hated foes." One of the genin bellowed as he fought Captain America. He was the last one, and while his enemy was bleeding from numerous lacerations, he still felt the fist as it broke his jaw.

All of the Hand who heard his plea left their fights and bounded towards the World War II veteran.

...

The young blond Avenger, Quasar, used his cosmic energies to battle Storm, until Sersei wanted to do so alone. From his aerial position, he saw hordes of the Hand engaging Captain America. Creating a solid glowing yellow barrier, he separated his leader from them. Landing in the barrier, he rushed to him. His breath was ragged, and blood flowed freely from his body from numerous gashes.

"Hang in there, Cap." Using his powers, Wendell Vaughn, scanned the old soldier. His life signs were fading fast. Seeing Iron Man out of the corner of his eye, he ran a scan on him as well. "My god, no," he whispered when they came back negative.

Wrapping the Captain in a cocoon, he flew out the roof with his passenger, not stopping to tell his teammates what had happened. He only had a few precious minutes to save him. Reaching a very high altitude, he negated the flow of Earth's gravity and rotational forces around him and his passenger. The world spun by in a blink until he allowed himself to be affected again. Forty seconds later, he bursted into hospital in Manhattan.

...

In the middle of the chaos, a graceful and deadly dance was being preformed. The dancers waltzed around each other as steel met steel and occasionally sparks flew from the contact. Not a word was spoken between them. Neither screamed when the other drew blood.

Parry. Thrust. Block. Slash. Dodge.

For ten minutes the two combatants kept pace. Neither gained an advantage. They fought from platform to platform. Up. Down. Left. Right. Others unconsciously gave way to their dance, making room for the ballet of sword and claw, foot and hand.

Elisabeth could not use her telepathic powers on him, for it took all of her concentration to keep fighting. One katana against Logan's claws, she moved faster than she had ever remembered. Relying solely on intuition and skill, she allowed them to make her decisions. Her sword blocked the left claws, and then the right ones met her steel as well. Back-flipping out of the way of the next attack she landed and pressed her own assault.

He blocked hers as well as she did his. Kicking her feet out from under her, he lunged forward only to hit the ground as she rolled to the side and spun back with a kick to the jaw. She was back on her feet and he pressed her.

Both were sweating, her more than him, as they reached the original platform that this battle started on nine minutes later. Her limbs were getting tired, and the muscles felt as if they were on fire. They circled each other. He smiled. She frowned. Springing forward with both claws at her, she spun away at the last moment, only to be hit with an elbow to the small of her back as he passed her. Stumbling forward, she barely blocked the claws aimed for her head, but the others cut deeply into her side. Not letting up he rushed her in a frenzy. She managed to block, parry, or dodge most of his blows.

As they circled each other now, she was bleeding heavily from her side, right thigh, upper chest, and back. Suddenly a familiar sensation filled her mind.

That lack of concentration was all he needed. He sprang towards her with a wicked grin.

...

The Black Widow made her way to the now unconscious Jean. She lost sight of Logan and Psylocke's fight as they traveled to the next platform. It had been eight fierce minutes since Iron Man's blast. Now she faced Shadowcat and Jubilee. The girl in the blue leather jacket took a defensive position. "I suppose one of you girls want to tell me what's going on here." They watched her intently as she walked up to them and smiled.

"Don't come any closer, or you're going to be in a world of hurt." Jubilee stated.

"She was holding Logan, wasn't she little one?" Natasha stated. She took their silence as a confirmation. Brushing her hair behind one ear, she continued, "and Psylocke was what, in his mind. Why?"

"Ain't none of your beeswax. Why don't you take the rest of your geriatric team and leave us alone."

Ignoring Jubilee's comment, she went on, "... unless, he is no longer in control of his own mind. That's it. That's why he didn't recognize me."

"You knew him?" Kitty asked.

"He saved my life many years ago."

"Mine too."

"You were trying to restore his mind, right?"

"Yes."

"Kat!?" Jubilee stuttered. "What are doing? We can't trust her. She's an Avenger!"

"But she knows Logan by name. He only gives it out to people he trusts."

"I don't like it, not one bit! But I'll play along, for his sake."

Looking at the two girls, Natasha knew this man was important to them too. Pointing at Jean, she said, "If reviving her will help stop this needless fight, then that's what we have to do."

"Alright, Widow." Kitty and Jubilee flanked her as they hurried to Jean.

Checking her pulse, the older woman found that it was steady and strong. "Anyone got any smelling salts?"

Jubilee opened Jean's thigh pocket, took out the med-kit, and handed it to Natasha. "Here."

"Spaseeba." Opening the kit, she found the container she needed. Waving the strong smelling vial under Jean's nose, the woman began to convulse slightly then her green eyes shot open.

...

Jean looked into the young red-haired girl's face that consumed her vision. She heard the other say something but it was garbled and distant. Slowly her senses came back to her as the young girl visage faded and Natasha's one replaced it. "You!"

"Excuse me?"

"You're the third one, the one from Betsy's dream."

"You're not making any sense."

"They're back, Jubilee." Kitty stated as Psylocke and Logan circled each other.

"Ohmigod, Betsy." Re-establishing her mind-link with Elisabeth, Jean found that she was still a little groggy and could not get a hold of Logan with her telekinesis.

"NOOOOO!!!!" Jubilee screamed with all her might.

Jean turned to see what she screaming about only to see Logan withdraw his blades from Elisabeth's belly. Shock overcame her from the mind-link. Elisabeth fell to her knees.

Logan drew his claws back. "No one escapes the Hand, traitor." He rammed his claws into her eyes. But all he hit was air as they passed trough her. "Wha..!?"

Only at the last second was Kitty able to touch Betsy and make her intangible. An orange blast hit Logan in the chest, and he stumbled backwards. His snarl was ended when Jubilee momentarily blinded him with multiple bright colored plasma bursts.

Jean ran to Elisabeth and cradled her head against her breasts. Entering her mind, she pushed the shock away from it.

"I'll kill you all!" Logan yelled as his vision came back. He saw the three women in front of Psylocke, protecting her.

"If you want to get to Betsy, you're going to have to go through me." Kitty stated pleadingly looking him in the eyes.

"Me too." Jubilee echoed.

"Same here, little uncle." Natasha stated.

What the three women did next surprised him. As one, they sat on their knees and looked at him with those pleading eyes.

"You helped me fight my personal demon Logan, please allow us to help you fight yours." Kitty stated, eyes beginning to water.

He shook his head, "that's not me, I don't know you."

"You listened to me and my problems, Wolvie. We can do the same for you, pretty please? I've already lost everyone close to me, you and Betts are all I have left. Let us help you." Tears streamed down Jubilee's face.

He put his hands over his ears trying not to listen. "No! I don't know you, any of you!"

"You taught me how to be brave, little uncle. Now it's time for you to be brave as well. Come back to us, please." Natasha pleaded with her heart.

The faces haunted him, they told him to 'fight', 'listen', and 'be brave'. The voices overlapped and melded repeatedly. Closing his eyes, he willed them to go away. But they did not. "LEAVE ME ALONE!" He shouted. They became louder and louder.

* They can not Logan. * A smooth gentle voice stated. The other voices quieted as the new one spoke. * They love you, each in her own way. So many people love and admire you. *

"GO AWAY!" Screaming he turned to the source of the voice. A bright rose butterfly looked back at him.

* I admire you. * Elisabeth stated.

"Why are you doing this?"

* Because we love you. Because we believe in you. *

"I don't know you. I don't know them."

* Look at them, Logan. *

Closing his eyes, he said shaking his head, "No! I won't. I can't."

A sense of compassion emanated from Elisabeth and flowed into Logan. * Look at them. *

Slowly he opened his eyes.

* Do you see them, Logan. Does not their courage make you proud?"

"No."

* What about their trust? They are willing to die for you. *

"I don't know them." He repeated that phrase over and over.

* They have faith in you, Logan. I have faith in you. *

* Who is she? * Elisabeth motioned towards the brunette who had taken her mask of.

"I don't know."

* Look closer, who do you see? *

"No one." He answered weakly.

* You fought for her, Logan. You trained her to be a better person, when she had given up hope. You freed her from a terrible evil, one you knew from your own past. You are her mentor. Who is she? *

After a moment's hesitation, he said softly, "... Kitty."

* Good. Now what about her? * Elisabeth guided him to a young girl of Chinese descent, with tears flowing from her brown eyes.

"Don't know."

* You were hurting. She rescued and cared for you. You listened to her problems. You showed her that she was important, somebody with meaning. You gave her a need, a place where she could feel as if she belonged. You are like a father to her. Who is she? *

"... Jubilee."

* Excellent. What about this woman, do you remember her? *

His attention rested on the short red-haired woman next to Jubilee. "No."

* Try to remember. *

"I can't."

* It was long ago, Logan. You risked your life for her. You saved her from the Nazis, and again from the Hand. You told her to be brave. You were proud when she was. You are her hero. Who is she? *

"... 'Tasha."

* I'm proud of you Logan. Now who are you? *

"I'm a Hand assassin."

* Who are you? *

"... I'm Logan." He stated in a shaky voice.

* Are you sure? *

"... no."

* Would you like to know? I can show you, but you have to trust me?"

"... yes."

* Logan, it will not be pleasant and may hurt a bit. Do you still want me to show you? *

"Yes."

* Okay, open your mind to me. That's good. Ready? *

"I'm ready."

Without a word, Elisabeth returned the portion of Logan that was in a back corner of her mind into his own, were it belonged. He screamed in agony as he saw all of his past, good and bad fly though his core like a hawk diving through the clouds. When it was over, he ripped the Hand's personality from his mind until he was whole again. "Thank you darlin'." Was all he could say, then he passed out.

...

"I eased the pain from your mind, Betsy," Jean said quietly.

Jubilee heard this and rushed over to her partner. "Betts, you did it!"

"We did it, Jubilee." She stated between coughs. Jean wiped the blood from her lips.

The young girl looked at her. Jean sadly shook her head at Jubilee's silent question. "No." She whispered. "Betsy, you can't die. You have to live. I don't know what to do without you. Please, don't give up." Her tears landed on Elisabeth cheeks.

"It's my time. I've known for a while now."

"The nightmare?"

"Yes."

"It's just a silly dream, it ain't real. I... I need you." She pleaded.

"I'm sorry, Jubilee." Weakly Elisabeth touched her partner's wet cheek. "I have to... need to tell you..."

"What?" Grasping her hand, she could feel Betsy try to wipe a tear away on her face.

"All of the time that we were together, made me realise something." She smiled and it touched her eyes, which slowly turned from brown to blue. "I love you... daughter of my heart." Then the life slowly fled her eyes and her hand fell from Jubilee.

"I love you too... mother." Jubilee held Elisabeth close and rocked her gently as she cried.

...

In Elisabeth's mind, Jean noticed a darkness that gradually crept all around them until only the blackness remained. She was still holding Elisabeth, wanting to comfort her until the very end.

"Please... please go Jean."

"I'm staying until the last."

"Why? You know the dangers of being in someone's thoughts when they die, every telepath does."

"Because, you are a true hero Betsy, and my friend. I won't abandon you."

"Thank you 'Red'."

A bright light shone in front of them. It was like a single star in a field of blackness of space. Slowly, their eyes adjusted to it. A lone shadowy figure appeared and stepped up before them.

This was different than the other times Jean had witnessed a person passing. The first was with little Annie Richardson, her best friend at the age of ten. It was the catalyst, which triggered Jean's telepathy. She did not know how to control it, then. Next was when she was forced to endure Madelyne Pryor's death. Control was not hers. If not for Elisabeth, her consciousness would have perished as well. Now she knew when to let go.

"Elisabeth. It's time to go." The figure's open hand reached out towards them. The voice was hauntingly familiar to Jean. His youthful looks and blond hair struck a deep memory.

"Douglas? Is it really you?" Elisabeth asked with a shaky outstretched hand.

"Yes." She firmly grasped his hand and he helped her to his feet.

"Oh Doug," she cried as she hugged him. "I never got a chance to tell you..."

"I know, me too."

Jean watched in amazement as Elisabeth's body transformed back into her old self. Her long blond hair played in a slow breeze traveling through the light. Both of them had no clothes, no possessions as they walked towards the brightness.

"Goodbye, Jean. Tell Brian and Jubilee that I love them." She smiled and turned towards Doug.

Angelic white wings sprouted from their backs. Feathers fell and drifted towards Jean as they stretched their new limbs. They looked at Jean again, then flew into the light holding the other's hand. It disappeared in a contracting flash. The feathers began to glow and dissipate as well.

One landed in Jean's hands. She held on to it a watched it's light flicker across her palms. "Goodbye, Betsy. And Godspeed." Then she let the feather go and it blinked out as well.


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