Down the Dark Path by Victor Moore

DISCLAIMER: Marvel owns everyone, except Sakura, Agent Li, and the old woman, they're mine. No money will be made from this. This is for enjoyment purposes only. Yada, Yada, Yada.

Epilogue:

Braddock Manor basked in the spring afternoon sun. It was in the middle of the Braddock Estate which consisted of kilometers of pastures and forests. On the patio, looking out over lawn and watching Brian lift a large dead oak tree from the ground with his bare hands, stood Jubilee. The feat of strength really did not interest her. Her thoughts were about her former partner.

"That was so unreal." Absorbing the memory of Elisabeth's passing Jean had just given her and Katherine. "But why wait 'til know to share it with us? It's been over a year!"

"Because I felt you were finally ready." Jean answered, then hugged the young woman. "I'll leave you alone for a bit."

As Jean telekinetically lowered herself near Brian, Kitty came out and put an arm around Jubilee's shoulder. The two hugged and cried for a couple of minutes. "So Miss Lee, let's join the others, it's almost time for his visit."

"Okay Miss Pryde." They walked back into the house, went downstairs, and met the others outside.

Jean had her hands on Brian's temples, then released him. Meggan held him as tears streamed from his face. She left them alone, and went to Jubilee and Kitty. Remy LeBeau strolled out of the house and joined the others as well.

"Hello chere, I thought recognized your perfume." He put a cigarette in his mouth and started to light it with his power, until a polite cough sounded from Jubilee. "Merde." He stated quietly putting the object back.

"It's good to see you again Remy." Jean stated kissing him on the cheek. "You didn't have to dress up for me," she said with a small laugh.

"Only the best for a red haired belle." He spun around in his tuxedo. Turning to Jubilee, "Gambit look good, no?"

"Wow. Remy, she is going to love it. Where you taking her tonight, London?"

"Ney. Just a romantic dinner at de Eiffel Tower, a little wine, some moonlight, and a quiet stroll."

"Paris!!" Kitty exclaimed.

"Anyone I know?" Jean asked.

"Oui. Well I have to see de 'Elf' about borrowing a plane for de evening."

"Have fun, Gumbo!" Jubilee shouted after him. He waved and headed back to the house.

"Is it just me or has he changed?" Jean asked with an arched eyebrow.

"Nah, not really. He's just a man in love, Red." Jubilee smiled.

"That bad?"

"They been seeing each other for four months now. Him and 'Tasha." Kitty replied.

"Wait till the X-Men hear about this. Excalibur has been good to him, and you Jubilee."

"It's been a blast. How are thing's stateside?" She asked.

"Well you'll be happy to now that Scott finally took off that yellow brief he was always wearing, and at your suggestion added the leather Jacket you sent him to his work uniform."

"Too cool."

"We have a new member, named Bishop. He's from the future.

"Oh god, not another one. Rachel's or Cable's?" Kitty asked.

"Neither, a new one."

"How's Rogue?"

Sighing, she looked at them sadly. "The doctors say that she'll won't make a complete recovery. She surprised them yesterday, though. She moved her fingers. It wasn't much, but it's an improvement. Dr. Richards is helping devise methods of treatment that circumvent her invulnerable state. And Thor brings her flowers every week. At first, she was upset, but she forgave him, which caused him to rejoin the Avengers again. The incident changed him, for the better, according to Wanda, he doesn't lose his temper as fast. But the scarring is real bad."

"Scarring?"

"From Ororo's blast. Half of his hair and beard are white and his whole left side has a massive amount of scar tissue. It's not pretty."

An engine roar could be heard over the forest to the west of them. "He's here." Kitty stated as an Avengers' Quinjet slowed to a hover and landed a few hundred feet from them.

The ramp opened and two Guardsmen stepped out. A blond man in a three-piece suit and a cane, Thor whose half-white and gold hair played in the breeze, Natasha in a stunning black evening gown and expensive jewelry, The Vision, and Logan, followed them. He was in a prison uniform and had large metal gauntlets. In turn, two more guardsmen in their two-tone green armor brought up the rear.

At a signal from the man in the suit, the armored guards stopped. "Hello Jean. Nice too see you again."

"You too Captain. Congratulations on the election."

"Thank you." He nodded to the girls who smiled back. "You have no idea how many strings I had to pull to get Logan out, even for a day."

"We appreciate it Senator." Jean smiled and kissed him on the cheek.

"Hello Jubilee, Kitty." Natasha said and hugged them both in turn.

"Hi'ya 'Tasha. Lookin' good. Ready for your big date?" Jubilee asked with a smile.

"I would've never figured that the two of you would hit it off so well." Stated Kitty as she brushed her hair out of her eyes.

"Thanks, Jubilee. What can I say Kitty, I like younger men." Natasha shrugged. "Where is my little thief?"

"He's in the hanger with Kurt."

"Hey next time, why don't the three of us go out and have some fun." The Avenger said. "Dosvedanya."

"Don't do anything I wouldn't do!" Jubilee told her, receiving a mischievous grin in return.

Turning her attention towards Logan, she approached him hesitantly. His eyes were unsteady and tried not to meet her gaze.

"Hello darlin'." His face hung low.

"Hi Wolvie." She sighed and ran her fingers through her black hair. It was a couple of inches longer since the last time they met. "I meant to send you a letter, but I didn't know what to say. I still don't."

"Ya don't gotta' say anything. I understand."

"The hell you do!" Jubilee could hear people shuffling around them. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Kitty stop Thor with a wave of her hand. "You killed her!" She shouted. "How am I suppose to forgive you for that?"

Logan looked around and nodded to someone. Then he turned to her, his eyes sad. "If there was only a way I could undo what was done I would, in a heartbeat. But I can't. I'm..."

"Sorry!? Is that suppose to make me feel better?" Tears began to form in her eyes. "Damn you! I loved her! In all the ways that mattered, she was my mother. And you took her away from me." She balled up her fist and hit him in the chest. "Damn you!" Another hit. "You of all people should know what that meant to me. Damn you." She kept punching him until her arms had no strength left.

Falling to her knees, crying, he bent down with her. "There isn't a day that goes by where I wish I could have done something, anything to save her. The last thing I wanted was for you to get hurt. But, I couldn't."

"I know, Wolvie. You weren't yourself. That's the truth, but it doesn't make it any easier."

"The truth never is, darlin'."

"No I suppose not."

He looked away and asked someone with his eyes.

"Don't look at your ghosts, Logan. Look at me." She strongly stated as she turned his head towards hers with small delicate hands. "I have a problem here ya know. I look at you and I see then man I risked my life to save, but at the same time, I see the man who killed Betsy. It's so confusing."

"So what do we do about it?" He asked.

"How do you feel about me? I need to know. If there's one thing I learned from Betsy's death, it's that we can't wait until it's convenient to admit our feelings. By then it's too late. So, how do you feel about me?"

He tried too look around, but as strong as he was, he could not break from her hold. "I... I think of you as one of my own, darlin'."

"Then you love me?"

"Yes, and I never wanna' see you get hurt again."

She threw her hands around him and hugged for all she was worth. Tentatively, he did the same. "I forgive you... father."

...

Jean had optioned to give Logan some privacy, as much as one can get under guard. She engaged Steve Rogers in a small conversation. "I never thanked you for showing up at Elisabeth's funeral. You didn't have to you know."

"I had to, Jean. It was partially my fault, that she and Tony died that night." He put a hand on her shoulder.

"Things happened the way the had to Steve. And you know that."

"I know. If only..."

Jean interrupted him with a sad smile. " 'If only'. That is the worst phrase in the English language. 'If only I'd done this, or done that'. 'If only I had more time.' Don't you see, those words don't help us, they only hinder us. They dwell on the past, and as you are fully aware of, you can't change the past."

"True enough." He nodded with understanding. "You can't change it, but you can learn from it."

"Exactly."

"Some people can't you know." He said sadly.

"Is it that bad?"

"Some of the Avengers, especially Mockingbird want Logan dead. All they feel is the hate. Others understand what happened to him because at one point in time they too had been controlled."

Jean saw Logan break his hug with Jubilee, and smiled. Then she watched Brian Braddock shake with rage.

"MURDERER!!" He pointed an accusing finger at Logan. "You killed my sister! Leave, before I decide to avenge her death." He took some menacing steps towards Logan, ignoring Meggan who tried to hold him back.

The guardsmen and Avengers started to protect their prisoner, but at Steve's gesture, they stayed their ground. He told Jean, "Let them play this out." She nodded. Jubilee blocked Brian. "Brian stop."

"Out of the way girl, this is none of your business!"

"Half this place belongs to me, so I'm making it my business." She stood her ground. Elisabeth had left her everything that she owned in her will.

"That doesn't matter, child! He killed her! He killed my sister!"

"And he killed my surrogate mother! But it wasn't this man, not him. It may have been his body, but he wasn't in control!"

"But..."

"Brian, Betsy sacrificed her life to save him. Are you willing to throw away everything she worked so hard for, just for you're hatred, your revenge?"

"... no." His arms fell and his massive shoulders sagged.

"I know it hurts, Brian. I hurt too. But you have to go beyond that. For her, for me, for yourself."

Putting a hand on her shoulder, he smiled slightly. "You sound just like her. She would be proud of you." Then, he allowed Meggan to drag him away.

...

Watching Jubilee finish her talk with Brian, Katherine heard Logan say something. "Yes, she has changed, for the better."

"Is she happy here?" He asked.

"Jean says that her joining Excalibur had done a world of good for her. We all look out for her, even Brian." Turning to him, she asked, "and how about you? Are you okay?"

"It's tough Pum'kin. I fought for a long time to be free, and now I live in a cage, by my own choice."

"Why?"

"Penance maybe, for a crime I committed."

"That's bull and you know it! When are you going to see that it wasn't you who killed her!"

"Doesn't make my hands less bloody, Pryde."

"No, but this attitude, it's not you. Not the Logan I remember."

"He's gone, now it's just me and my shame."

She turned around and lowered her head. Her words were but a whisper, but she knew he would hear. "Then, Betsy died for nothing."

"That's not true, she rescued me from the Hand's programming."

"It's funny, y'know. We all went to help you and paid the price for our folly. If we had only known that you would be like this, we would have stayed home and watched TV."

"That's cold, Pryde."

"Is it? Will you continue to sulk in your little corner? Rogue is paralyzed because of you. Elisabeth is dead because of you. And that's only on our family's side. What about Thor? Or She-Hulk, or Iron Man, or Hawkeye?"

"If I could change what happened I would, but I can't. All I can do is remember them and pray it never happens again."

"Then they fought, bleed, and died for a man who is nothing but a coward."

A low growl sounded from his throat. "Now listen here, Pryde! I am not..."

"No you listen, old man, cause I'm only gonna say this once!" She interrupted him with an accusing finger. "The way I see it, you have two choices. One, you can go back to that hole you've dug for yourself and be safe. Or two, you can do right by them. You owe them, Logan. Not for what happened, but for what their sacrifices meant."

"How?"

"By honoring what they stood for, believed in. The choice is yours, Logan. What will it be?"

"But the cost is too high, the giri too great."

"Then the Hand have won, and the whole point of the battle was meaningless. I had hoped you would walk the path of honor again, I see now that it wasn't meant to be." She kissed him gently on the forehead. "Goodbye Logan." Without another word, Kitty turned and walked away.

"Wait!" She stopped, not looking back at him. "I will try."

"Do or do not. There is no try." She said in a straight voice.

"I... I will honor them."

She did not turn around, instead he watched her take a step away from him.

"I give you my word."

Turning she smiled at him. "Thank you, Logan." She pulled out a letter and handed it to him. It had a presidential seal on it.

Puzzled, he took it in a metal encased hand.

"It's a way for you to honor them."

"How did you know the right things to say, pum'kin?"

"I was taught by the best. I was taught by you."

At a nod from Logan, the Vision disappeared into the Quinjet only to reappear with a bundle in his arms. "I want you to keep these, Kitty."

"What is it?" She asked as the Vision handed her the object.

"The cost of obligation. As you just told me, I need to re-earn it. Now I am no longer worthy of them. I want you to hold them until I am worthy again."

Kitty unwrapped it. There, was an elegant katana and wakazashi, both still in their scabbard. "These are the honor swords of the clan Yashida!? I know what this means too you. I will do ask you ask."

"Thank you, pum'kin."

...

The others had left him alone, even his keepers held back out of hearing, but not out of sight. Looking up into the sky, he strained to feel the sun's warmth of his face. With no success, he turned his attention at the headstone in front of him. It read: Elisabeth Braddock, April 23, 1956 - September 16, 1991, "Beloved Sister, Mother and Friend. An inspiration to us all."

"I was never any flamin' good at these things." After a few calming breaths he said, "Hello Elisabeth. I just wanted to say that I'm sorry. You did alright by this ol' canucklehead. Better even."

The next few minutes were in silence. "I... I don't know what to say. I don't know how to tell you how sorry I am. All I can say is thank you. You've been a good parent to Jubilee. She obviously loved you very much, darlin'. I don't know if I could be that good to her."

"Why not?" Carol asked him, sitting in a tree nearby.

"I'm not a 'good parent' type of person, Ace."

"What's dat got do with it, short stuff." Nick asked.

"Everything."

"Bull!"

"Nick's right, partner. Go with your instincts, let them guide you."

"And what, she becomes a killer like me?" Logan asked harshly. Lately his 'ghosts' have been more and more talkative.

"You know that's not true, Logan." A new voice said from behind him.

"How so?"

"You know the dark ways of the world. You've been down that path. Now it's time for you to walk in the light. She's at precarious time in her life. Those paths lay before her now. You can not tell her which to take, but you can inform her about her choices. Teach her the about the dangers in the world, and about the joy."

"You ask a lot of me, Betts." He said looking into her eyes.

"I have faith in you chum." Elisabeth Braddock, in her oriental body, smiled back at him. She was his new 'ghost'. "Don't be afraid to love her Logan. Whatever happens, never be afraid of that."

"I won't darlin', I promise." Logan took one last look at the headstone, and then headed back to the others. They said their good-byes, and then he was on the Quinjet with his guardians and the Avengers.

"Change of plans, Cap." He said handing the opened letter to Steve.

The other man just smiled without taking the paper. Nodding to a guardsman, the manacles were removed. "Vision, take us Washington D.C., X-Factor Headquarters."

"How did you know?" Logan asked with a slight puzzled expression.

"Kitty asked Jean. She flew up to see me. I talked it over with Valerie Cooper. And here we are. Since you willingly went to prison for these crimes not truly committed by you, we had to wait for you to be ready. It was agreed that only Kitty could say when that could be."

"Well I'll be."

"Logan, she's had the letter for a year now."

"A year!" He exclaimed. "All this time, she's known. I tell you Cap, she is a remarkable young woman."

"They all are, Logan. After all, they fought for you with all their hearts." He offered out his hand. "Welcome back."

Logan took it. "It's good to be back."

- END


Author's Note: I hoped you enjoyed this little journey down a different road, becuase I had a blast writing it. Much mahalos to those who sent feedback (Bernard B., Jeff Sorenson). I would like to also give Luba a special mahalo for archiving this story at her site: http://home.att.net/~lubakmetyk/

Any comments, gripes, etc. that you might have in making this page better, can be forwarded to bic@bicworks.com Please do so if you spot any errors in grammer - Mahalo