by QMan

Title: Loss By: QMan Rated: PG-13 Summary: The X-Men have a mission and something goes terribly wrong and Logan is seriously hurt.

Jubilee wrung her hands for the third time in as many minutes. She fidgeted nervously and stood anxiously. After a few quick paces she returned to her seat. She tapped her foot rapidly as uncertainty began to give way to fear. She looked across the wide underground hallway. Sitting in one of the other chairs in this crude and makeshift waiting area outside the Medlab was Katherine Pryde also known by her friends as Kitty and to the world at large as Shadowcat.

They had been here for nearly two hours, ever since they・d returned from the last mission. Jubilee tiredly examined Kitty・s appearance. Her hair a mess, uniform torn and ripped, in desperate need of a shower and a change of clothing. Jubilee sighed as she realized she didn・t look much better, dirt caked on her face streaked with sweat and splattered with blood, just as Kitty was. Splattered with HIS blood.

As Jubilee thought of the blood spattered on both young women her fear grew and she stood up with a sudden burst of nervous energy. She had to get her mind off of that couldn・t think about what had happened. It was too painful, the outcome too uncertain. She couldn・t handle it right now.

Ororo, otherwise known as Storm to the outside world, came out of the elevator and walked regally to where the two women were. Her long silvery white hair shimmered as she moved, contrasting starkly to the black skin of the exotic beauty. Jubilee wasn・t concerned with Ororo・s appearance at the moment and met her halfway down the hall, where they hugged. Clinging to each other, Jubilee・s head buried in Ororo・s shoulder and she rubbing Jubilee・s back in consolation, they gathered strength from their embrace. Emotions passed unvoiced between the two. After three long minutes Ororo stepped back sniffling and wiping tears from her eyes with a delicate finger. Jubilee scrubbed at her own face with the back of her hand, smearing the dust with her tears and wiping her nose with her sleeve as she too sniffled.

・He・ll be all right.・ Ororo whispered, unable to speak any louder.

Jubilee smiled hopefully, the tears in her eyes shining in the light and making her eyes dance with emotion. Squeezing her shoulder once in a show of support, Ororo stepped past Jubilee to sit next to Kitty. She put her arm around the other young woman and said something too low for Jubilee to make out. Kitty, who・d been catatonic since sitting down, leaned against the Weather Goddess with a sob. Turning her head into Ororo・s shoulder, Shadowcat began to weep.

That・s when Jubilee heard the elevator doors open. Turning she saw Rogue and Gambit exit the portal and walk toward her. Each looked clean and showered. Gambit, also known as Remy, had shaved and his red hair was pulled back into a ponytail. Rogue looked fresh-scrubbed, her brown hair with the white stripe matted down with moisture. Despite this they still looked haggard. Rogue・s head was bandaged around her forehead. She had received a nasty cut earlier today, an almost impossible feat. Remy was doing his best to stand straight, but was unable to. A vicious gash on his side kept him bent to one side as he limped down the hallway. He had a twisted ankle and a hyper extended knee. Hank had fixed Remy up with a Shi・Ar knee brace, it allowed him to walk while his knee healed.

The two older X-Men reached their younger teammate. Rogue let go of Gambit・s hand to encircle Jubilee with a hug. The southern woman crushed the SoCal mall rat to her, lifting her off the ground in the process. After a long minute, the southern belle put Jubilee down. After looking into Jubilee・s eyes with her own saddened ones, Rogue stepped back to join Ororo in consoling Kitty.

Gambit reached out with his right hand, suppressing a wince, and cupped the side of Jubilee・s face. He smiled tenderly and she returned it with timidity. Then her face fell and her lips quivered. She snuffled and was on the brink of tears as Remy pulled her close with his right arm. She buried her face in his chest and joined Kitty in sobbing.

Remy gritted his teeth in pain as Jubilee wrapped her small arms around him tightly. Gambit looked at Rogue and she smiled at him with hopeful sadness. He raised his shoulders slightly in a resigned shrug. No matter what, he was here for the girl.

・Sh. Sh. Petite, evert・ing be alright.・ He murmured into the top of her hair, ・Logan be tough. He gone make it.・

・You think so?・ Jubilee・s muffled voice said against his chest.

・Oui. Gambit tink so.・ He said as he patted her back, his heart breaking for her, ・Der ain・t not・ing on dis planet dat can keep Logan down.・ What he didn・t say was that maybe that ・nothing・ had finally happened.

* Yesterday ・12:00 noon *

Jean and Scott Summers were enjoying a little time off. Ever since Scott had come back from the dead they had planned on it. Now was their chance. Telling everyone that they were headed for Cancun, the two instead holed up in the New York Hilton・s honeymoon suite. This had been their first time emerging from that suite in three days. After such a long time getting reacquainted with each other, they needed some fresh air.

They had just walked outside the lobby into the brightly-lit day when it happened. Long ago Jean had learned to push psychic babbled to the background. This amounted to a constant buzz where she could ・hear・ people・s thoughts. It also allowed her to feel any harmful thoughts which years of training and fighting had evolved into an automatic defense mechanism; she only latched onto the harmful thoughts directed at her or the people she was with.

She had just felt spitefully wicked thoughts being directed at Scott in the near vicinity when a clawed hand raked her back. The blow sent her crashing to the ground and tore long shallow gouges in her skin. Jean hit the sidewalk with a scream that cut off as the breath was knocked out of her body. Just before she fell unconscious she saw Sabertooth clock her husband and disappear with him in flash of light.


Kitty couldn・t believe what was happening. It was impossible. No matter what the odds, no one had considered this to even be remotely conceivable. There was no way.

Logan is dying.

Those three words and the reality behind them shook Kitty to the core. Those three words rooted he to the chair she・d been in when Hank had come by. He・d been tending the rest of the X-Men while Dr. Cecilia Reyes was attempting to save Logan. When Hank had finished with his other teammates, he came to join Dr. Reyes. On his way in he had answered what questions he could. He told them both there was hope, but his eyes betrayed him. The trauma Logan had experienced was never meant to be lived through. It was a miracle he・d survived this long.

Logan is dying.

Kitty stared into space, unseeing, as she remembered Hank・s tired sigh as he admitted his doubts. Jubilee had seen the look in his eyes and had prodded him until he told them. Logan had been through a lot and his healing factor had compensated for most of it, but it wasn・t going to be enough. Hank was going to work with Dr. Reyes to stabilize him.

Logan is dying.

The fact that the rest of Hank・s statement had been heard by Kitty was amazing. Those three words, which had begun his explanation, had shut her down. Hank was always optimistic. He was always hopeful. His knowledge and skill enabled him to work miracles. With Dr. Reye・s skill added to his they could accomplish anything. Combined with the most sophisticated medical equipment in the galaxy, there was nothing they couldn・t do. And this was Logan here, the man who never quit, never said die, who would never lie down for anyone. He must be in a bad way to elicit such a grave response.

Logan is dying.

So Kitty retreated inward. Her worry became despair as each minute went by. Time wasn・t even being registered in her mind, but the longer she sat in shock the more certain she became of Logan・s imminent demise. The more she thought of his death the more she drew into herself, not wanting to face the grim reality but unable to avoid it.

Logan is dying.

Distantly she became aware of an arm around her shoulder and soothing words of comfort reaching her ears. Slowly she pulled herself back from the void, focusing her eyes. She saw the lower level hallway wall lined with chairs. Then she remembered where she was. There was no waiting room for the Medlab so these chairs had been placed here for those who needed to stay near its patients. Just as she and Jubilee needed to stay now.

Kitty had no idea how long she had been catatonic, nor did she care. Logan meant the world to her. Losing him would be ・ She couldn・t even finish the thought, it was so unfathomable.

She looked over and saw Ororo・s smooth cocoa skin framed by silky white hair. Her lips were moving slowly as Kitty・s hearing returned.

・It・s all right, child.・ Ororo whispered in a hoarse voice, ・I・m scared too.・

Something broke within Kitty and she hugged Ororo close as the tears spilled out. Ororo joined her in crying out her fear and apprehension.

* Yesterday ・12:02 PM *

The man known as Wolverine had needed to get away for quite awhile. Jean and Scott・s happy reunion had driven him close to the edge. Their going away for a second honeymoon had merely been confirmation that Jean was once again and forever inaccessible. Logan had to get away from the mansion before he killed someone.

As he loaded his pack onto the back of his motorcycle Kitty and Jubilee approached him. He almost smiled as their scents reached his hypersensitive nose. The two people who meant the most to him in the world were standing next to each other and by their scents, were not at each other・s throats. That in itself was worth a smile. On any other day but today.

・No.・ He said before they could say anything.

・No what?・ Jubilee asked sweetly.

・No you can・t come along and no I ain・t stayin・ here.・ Logan answered.

・We wouldn・t want you to stay.・ Kitty responded, ・You・re liable to hurt someone in the mood you・re in.・

・Yeah, and who・d want to go with you?・ Jubilee chimed in, ・You・re being such a grouch.・

・Then why are you here?・

・To see you off.・ Kitty replied.

・That・s new.・ Logan stated.

・Yeah, well we decided it was about time someone show some feeling toward you.・ Jubilee explained, ・Even if you aren・t the most cuddly guy around.・

・Lord knows someone has to care for you.・ Kitty continued for her, ・We do. And now we decided to show it.・

Logan looked from one to the other, his expression unreadable. Without taking his eyes from them he tightened the last strap on his pack and stepped around his bike.

・I don・t do good-byes.・ He managed to say in a voice more gruff than usual.

・This isn・t a goodbye.・ Kitty explained, ・It・s a see-you-off.・

・Ain・t much of a difference.・ Logan retorted.

・Sure there is.・ Jubilee said seriously, ・A goodbye is where you don・t expect to see each other again. A see-you-off means we know you・ll be back.・

・And since we saw you off, we・ll see you back.・ Kitty supplied, ・Just so you know we・ll be here.・

Before they could react Logan had closed the distance between them. Gathering them close, one in each arm, he hugged them tightly. The quickly got over their shock and returned his hug.

・That is the nicest thing ever said ta me.・ Logan said, ・Thank you darlin・s.・

With that said he squeezed them tightly once more and let go. Turning on his heel he straddled his hog and kicked it into life. He looked back over his shoulder and smiled crookedly.

・I・ll come back.・ He said over the roar of the engine.

・We know.・ Both women said simultaneously.

Then he revved the Harley and was gone down the road.


Slowly the lower hallway filled with teammates and friends. All were worried about the man in the Medlab to one extent or another. Everyone in the hallway had an acute concern for the two young women beyond consolation.

Emma Frost, known in the superhero business as the White Queen, arrived and was drawn to Jubilee・s side. Gone was the cool imperial gaze she usually wore. Instead her face was soft with sympathy and her eyes were bloodshot.

The grief and despair emanating from the two young women was overpowering every telepath on the grounds. Xavier was composing himself because he didn・t want to face the two grief stricken women without preparation. He had to be strong for them, seeing him a mess would only worsen the problem. Cable was irritable, being swept up in such powerful emotions was making him weepy. A weepy Cable was not a good thing since he instantly became murderous toward anyone who witnessed it. Jean had to take nearly a dozen aspirin to counter the massive migraine she had gotten from shielding herself from the girls・ pain.

Emma couldn・t afford the luxury of composing herself. Jubilee needed her right now, not in an hour. Despite their differences, the two women had a bond and a very close relationship. So without properly shielding herself from the thoughts and emotions coming off Jubilee in waves Emma came down to the lower level hallway to console her.

・Hello Jubilation.・ She said in a tiny voice. With all the people down here, she was surprised the diminutive Asian American heard her. Of course the loudest sound anyone else was making was either nose sniffing or crying. There was no other conversation.

Jubilee turned slowly, her eyes red-rimmed from crying so much, something she never did. Emma・s heart jumped into her throat at the sight. So much pain so far and Emma knew there would be more coming. Hank had filled the team in on Logan・s condition. He also said that Dr. Reyes was not optimistic. He told them this while he frantically bound wounds and patched up cuts for the team.

The White Queen・s icy fa・de melted as she looked at Jubilee. Fear, anger, confusion, and refusal to accept what was happening hit Emma・s psychic receptors like a lead pipe between the eyes. She staggered back and nearly fell. She regained her balance and stepped forward, holding out her arms in front of her to invite Jubilee into a hug.

・Oh, Jubilation, I・m so sorry!・ Emma said as she wrapped the younger woman up in a hug. Emma knew that Logan and Jubilee were close, but she never imagined she felt this deeply for him. Losing him would be like losing her parents all over again, only worse. For that Emma was truly sorry for Jubilee.

* Yesterday ・7:00 PM *

Everyone was tense as they sat in the War Room. Scott had been abducted seven hours ago. Five minutes after he had been taken Jubilee had been spirited off as well. Due to the speed with which two of his X-Men had been taken Xavier called all of them back. Logan had bucked until Xavier informed him that Jubilee had been taken. Now they sat with nervous anticipation while Cerebro was being used to locate either of them.

Xavier came in looking exhausted. He drove his hoverchair to his place at the head of the table. His face was drawn and his eyes empty as he set the chair down.

Growling with impatience Logan asked, ・Well, anything Chuck?・

・I could detect neither Scott nor Jubilee.・ He replied, ・It・s almost as if they・ve disappeared from the astral plane.・

・So what yer sayin・ is that Sabertooth has ・em an・ we can・t find ・em.・ Logan ground out, ・Creed ain・t exactly the brightest. He couldn・t be able ta figure out a way to shield yer probing.・

・Victor Creed is merely the muscle.・ A voice said from the doorway, ・The problem is who he・s working for.・

Everyone turned to see Nathan Daysprings Summers, known to his enemies as Cable, filling the War Room Doorway. His eyes flashed yellow as he spoke, ・And what his employer wants to do with them.・

・Who is his employer?・ Ororo asked.

・I believe it is Mr. Sinister.・ Cable replied.

・What is he planning?・ Jean asked with fear in her voice.

Cable moved into the room to the foot of the table. ・I believe he will attempt to resurrect Apocalypse.・ Seeing the looks of incredulity he continued, ・Scott came back, presumably from the dead. Actually he had been in a type of stasis. When he was brought back to this plane of existence the essence of Apocalypse came with him.・

・So you・re saying that both exist in Scott・s body?・ Bobby asked.

・In a way.・ Cable responded, ・Apocalypse was holding onto ・life・ in the stasis by latching onto Scott. This is also what kept Scott from fading away.・

・Kinda symbiotic.・ Rogue piped in.

・In a twisted sense.・ Cable agreed, ・Now they are within the same body. Because it was Scott・s body they came back into existence in and because he has such a strong personality, Apocalypse could not break free. The only way he will get out is if Scott fades away.・

・You mean dies.・ Ororo clarified in a tiny voice.

・Yes, but only naturally.・ Cable answered, ・If Scott were killed suddenly, Apocalypse would share his fate, having no way to come to the forefront, as it were. I believe that Sinister has found a way to separate them prematurely.・

・So Sinister, if that・s who has him, hasn・t killed him yet.・ Jean said hopefully as realization dawned.

・It is Sinister.・ Cabled affirmed, ・And I don・t think he・d kill Scott to destroy Apocalypse. Otherwise why take him? He is going to try to separate them.・

・Good point.・ Bishop said, ・With your hatred of Apocalypse I・m surprised you haven・t killed Scott to rid the world of him.・

The two tall men glared at each other as Cable replied, ・I honestly considered the option.・

・Why didn・t you den?・ Gambit asked with iron in his voice.

・Because I would not sacrifice my father in such a manner. And because when Scott dies a natural death Apocalypse will emerge as a mere shadow of himself. It will take some time, how much I don・t know, for him to reach his fully realized self. I can wait and kill him then.・

・So what does he want with Jubilee?・ Logan asked as he stared at his hands splayed on the table in front of him.

・I don・t know.・ Cable admitted, ・But I do know how to find them.・ He looked around the room, ・I・ll need all the psychics to come with me. We・ll psi-link and use Cerebro to maximize it. Then I・ll search for Sinister・s psi-signature.・

・How?・ Emma asked, ・He・s impossible to track.・

・By one person, yes.・ Cable stated, ・But not by four powerful telepaths linked and using Cerebro.・

As the four telepaths (Jean, Emma, Xavier and Cable) were leaving Bobby asked, ・What would be the point of bringing Apocalypse back? What could Sinister possibly gain?・

・Once he is no longer weak Apocalypse shall be near omnipotent.・ Cable shrugged, ・Other than that, I don・t see what could be gained. Other than killing Cyclops in the process.・


Hank sighed as he stood up, easing the dull ache in his spine. He rolled his neck back and forth to work out the kinks. Stepping back he put out a large gloved hand and drew Dr. Cecilia Reyes back as well. She looked up at him, the surgical mask hiding most of her face but her eyes flashing daggers.

・There・s nothing more we can do.・ Hand said tiredly, ・He・s stable Cece. Now we have to wait.・

・He・s barely stable.・ Cecilia corrected.

・We can・t do any more for him.・ Hank hated saying it, but it was the truth.

・It・s just so・・ Cecilia trailed off.

・I know.・ Hank said.

The two doctors were at their wits・ end. Cecilia had been working on Logan for an hour before Hank joined to help save his friend・s life. They had been working for five hours since. Tirelessly they applied every technique they knew, used all the sophisticated equipment they could. It was to no avail. The damage done was irreparable; his wounds refused to heal. His body rejected all attempts to stymie the loss of blood and close the wounds. Now he was being held together by bandages and stitching.

Finally after five hours Logan had stopped bleeding. Hank theorized that it was only because he had no more blood to bleed. His life signs were weak but steady. They had stabilized him, now all they could do was wait.

Standing in the Medlab・s anti-chamber Hank sighed. He stripped of his scrubs and pulled off his cap. Listlessly he threw them away. His friend was dying. All his medical know-how, all the fancy equipment, none of it mattered. Logan・s body had refused to heal. Now it would take a miracle for him to pull through. Hank was having a hard time dealing with this and now he had to break the news to those waiting in the hallway. He just didn・t think he could do it, the emotional strain was too much.

Suddenly he felt a small hand with delicately long fingers take his. He looked down and saw Cecilia・s hand in his own. Following the line of her arm, he reached her face. When their eyes met, Cecilia gave him a comforting smile. It was sad, it was tired, but it was genuine.

・I can tell them Hank, if you can・t.・

・No.・ Hank stopped as his baritone voice cracked. He swallowed down the lump in his throat, ・This is something I must do.・

Nodding, tears swimming in her eyes, Cecilia said, ・I・ll be right here for you.・

Squeezing her hand in thanks Hank pulled back the door. This would be excruciating.

* Today ・2:15 am *

It had taken the four psychics two and a half hours of searching to find Sinister. By that time all residents of the mansion were waiting in the War Room with battle dress on. When Emma, Jean, Cable and Xavier joined everyone else they looked drained. It took another two hours to discuss and decide on a strategy.

Three teams would be deployed. Each team would take their own transport; one team in the Blackbird and the other teams in mini-jets. Each team would insert from different points of a triangle and make their way to the stronghold. It was fairly straightforward and simple, so much so in fact that Logan was near a berserker rage at the time lost for such a simple plan. Ororo had to calm him down with a soothing hand on his shoulder.

In fifteen minutes the Blackbird was airborne. It was agreed by all that Storm・s four-person team would be aboard it. Her team consisted of Logan, Jean, Remy and herself. Since it was Jean・s husband and Logan and Remy were the closest thing to family Jubilee had, no one disputed their right for being the first on the scene. Xavier was along to monitor all psychic readings and to pilot the Blackbird in case the need for a rapid extraction.

Fifteen minutes after they left the first mini-jet took off. This team consisted of Bishop, Shadowcat, the White Queen and was led by Rogue. Fifteen minutes after them the last team took off. This team was made up by Beast, Ice Man, Nightcrawler and was led by Cable. The idea was not just to come in the compound from different points, but to hit it in three separate waves. Hopefully this three-pronged delayed force attack would be enough to take Sinister by surprise and overwhelm any forces in his command.

It had been eleven forty-five when the Blackbird had taken off. After two hours twelve minutes of flying on stealth mode as fast as possible they touched down. Logan was out the jet before the hatch had even touched the ground. He sniffed the air and circled their position silently. Finding no hostiles in the immediate vicinity he began to lead the group towards Sinister's liar as Xavier silently lifted the Blackbird into the air.

Within half an hour they・d traversed to the building. It took Gambit thirty seconds to find a window he could open without setting off any alarms. Another minute and a half and they were all in the building. Which is where they were now.

Logan sniffed the air, ・Anything Jeannie?・

She closed her eyes and concentrated, using the technique Cable had shown them earlier to search the astral plane. ・There・s a large concentration of sleeping psyches two floors up.・

・Probably da dorms.・ Gambit offered.

・Most likely.・ Jean agreed with a far off look in her eyes. She murmured to herself, ・I can・t pick up Scott, he・d probably out cold. Same for Jubilee.・ She stopped mumbling and concentrated a little more.

Sinister had a very hard psychic signature to find. Added to that was the fact he could somehow detect any psi-scan immediately if it was too concentrated. He was nearly impossible to pin down. Cable had shown them how to recognize Sinister・s though patterns and find his location without detection. It was delicate work, but Jean was rewarded with his location after only a few minutes.

・Follow me.・ She said.


・Can we see him Hank?・ Kitty asked in a tiny voice, ・At least tell him・・ Her voice caught in her throat as she burst into tears again.

Hank looked around the hallway lined with so many of his friends. No one had spoken for five minutes, not until Kitty tried. The only sound in the expansive hallway was the soft sobbing of Jubilee and then Ororo. Now Kitty had joined them and it looked as though Rogue would too.

Letting go of Cecilia・s hand, Hank put an assuring paw on Kitty・s shoulder, ・If you feel that you would be able to. Logan is in critical condition.・

Her eyes met his then and Hank felt his heart break for her. Logan was her best friend, confidant, protector and teacher. He almost told her no, refused her admittance even if he had just said she could go in. Seeing Wolverine the way he was now would be devastating.

Instead he swallowed his rescission and beckoned her to follow. To his surprise Kitty looked over her shoulder and said, ・Jubilee, did you want to come?・

Hank gaped openly. He recovered quickly and simply waited. To say Jubilee and Kitty didn・t get along was an understatement. They had been rivals for Logan・s affections for years. It had only gotten worse, especially when both young ladies were under the same roof after both Excalibur and Generation X were disbanded. Hank had thought it would continue, obviously this had changed everything.

Perhaps it was the fact that Logan was so close to death. Tragedy has a binding affect on people, Hank thought. It was sad that only when their reason for animosity was in serious trouble could they put their differences aside.

Jubilee stood from where Emma and Ororo had sat with her. She wiped the tears from her eyes and moved to join Kitty.

At the sight of Jubilee, so small and fragile Hank・s broken heart shattered. The millions of pieces cut into his soul, where they melted, searing him to the core of his being. As Jubilee stepped up to Kitty and the two young women stood shoulder to shoulder Hank had an irresistible urge to gather them to him and hold them tight. He wanted to share their grief, show them he too was losing an irreplaceable friend. He couldn・t though, he had to be strong, he was the doctor. Ignoring the twitch in his hands, he turned and beckoned them to follow.

Being the doctor for your friends is hell, He thought.

* Today ・2:38 am *

・Is all ready?・ Asked the chilling voice that sounded from the grave.

・Yes sir.・ Came the lab assistant・s reply.

・All safety protocols accounted for?・

・Yes sir.・

・Where is Creed?・ The voice asked once more.

At the mention of his name, Victor Creed, also known as Sabertooth, stood up. The massive blonde towered over the scientists in the room. He cracked his neck and said, ・I・m here Sinister.・

The purple skinned man nodded, ・And Mystique?・

・Here as well.・ The lithe blue-skinned woman with crimson hair and yellow eyes said as she stepped from behind Sabertooth.

・Good. Now we can begin.・ Sinister said as his scientists began to exit, ・We must make haste.・

・Why are ya in such a hurry?・ Sabertooth asked, ・That we gotta be up ・fore three o・clock?・

・I pay you to do my bidding, not whine pathetically and ask stupid questions.・ Sinister said, ・Since you must know, I want to be done with this before the X-Men find us. It is only a matter of time before they do. They are incompetent, not stupid.・

・So why don・t we wait fer ・em, kill ・em and then do this?・ Sabertooth asked.

・Because you fool, with Apocalypse brought back he will grant whoever was strong enough to achieve that goal a gift.・ Sinister stopped and smiled evilly, ・I・m sure each of you has a gift you would like from Apocalypse.・ He nodded at their inward looks, ・I thought so. I didn・t think a reminder necessary That is why you two are the ones I chose to help me with this.・

He turned around and approached the large machine that stood against the far wall. Apocalypse had given this to Sinister long ago, saying that if the need ever arose, he・d know what to do. It was for bringing a stasis encased Apocalypse out of his host. Somehow he had foreseen the possible need and designed a machine that could do it.

The machine itself was enormous. The center was a huge containment chamber, in which Scott Summers was strapped to the floor. The space above and around him was empty, room for Apocalypse. Mounted on the ceiling of the chamber was what looked like a particle ray gun. There were banks of circuitry surrounding the chamber. The electronics all fed into the large ray gun.

There was another holding chamber, this one much smaller, to the left of the one with Scott. In it the circuits had been rearranged to coalesce on one container. Within this container was Jubilation Lee. She was strapped standing up, completely naked. Hundreds of thousands of tiny wires protruded from her skin and ran to the sides of the container. From there large cables connected t he container to the circuitry banks.

Originally this set up had been one large cable for each of the seventeen separate holding tanks within the small chamber. The tanks were to hold one person each and while Sinister operated the machine their life force would power it. Sinister had altered the design though, when he realized that Jubilee had more than enough power to run the machine. Her mutation made her a veritable power pack battery. The trick was harnessing her mutant power first. Sinister had devised a way to draw on her power first, then drain her life force. Sucking out her mutant energy this way would kill her.

Sinister stepped onto the dais in front of the machine. His feet sank into the smooth surface until just the tops of his feet were visible. Two handles shot up from the dais and wires began to wind their way, snake-like, from the handles to Sinister. His skin rippled and a female connection port appeared on his forearm. A wire found it・s way to this port and the jack end clicked in. On the other arm this process was repeated as soon as the first arm was done.

The wires hooking into Sinister made the machine a living extension of him. He could control the workings with a thought. When his forearms were done, he set his hands on the handles, palms down. His hands sank in much like his feet had in the dais. Next to be connected with wires were his legs. After that his torso, then Sinister would use the machine to extract Apocalypse from Scott Summers. When he was done, there would be nothing left of the X-Men・s field leader.


Jubilee and Kitty stood silently beside Logan・s bed. Each had thought they had shed enough tears. Each thought there was an end to the grief they felt. Each thought that they couldn・t feel worse. They were both wrong.

Seeing Logan had re-opened the floodgates and torn afresh the wounds. Seeing him with tubes in his nose to help him breath and IV・s in his arms to keep him alive brought the reality of the situation crashing down on them once again. Seeing Logan lying comatose with wounds shut by stitching instead of mutant healing factor un-nerved both women. They gripped each other and cried; heart wrenching sobs that wracked their bodies. If they had not leaned into each other, they would have fallen over.

They remained that way for ten minutes, unashamedly letting their emotions run out of them. When one would stop crying, she・d look over to Logan and the tears would begin again. After all their tears were spent, they hugged each other tight. Then they separated and stood looking at Logan.

Which is exactly how Hank found them when he re-entered the Medlab. When they had broken down he had crept out to grab a quick shower. Now silence greeted him.

・Hank,・ Jubilee said in low hoarse whisper, ・What・ll happen if he goes into cardiac shock?・

Hank closed his eyes and wished he didn・t have to answer that question. He willed the moment to never exist. When that didn・t work he opened his eyes and sighed.

・Hank?・ Kitty asked, ・What will happen?・

・He will die.・ Hank stated sadly, ・The adrenaline won・t have any affect due to his unique metabolism. We can・t perform cardiac pulmonary recesitation because his ribcage won・t move.・

・And you can・t shock him.・ Jubilee murmured as new tears shone in her eyes.

・Because of the adamantium lacing his skeleton.・ Hank finished.

・Omigod!・ Kitty said as she covered her mouth, ・So if his body doesn・t pull through on it・s own・・

The sentiment was left unvoiced. All three of them stood uspeaking, letting their thoughts stay to themselves. Finally Kitty looked up and broke the silence.

・Jubilee, do you mind stepping out for a few minutes? I know you don・t want to, but I・d like to say my good-byes in private. I・ll get out for you.・

Jubilee gazed at Kitty for what seemed an eternity. Hank thought an argument was going to break out. He opened his mouth to suggest a compromise when Jubilee replied.

・Sure. Take as long as you need. I know I will.・

She then turned on her heel and strode out.

* Today ・2:43 am *

Jean, Remy, Ororo and Logan crouched at the entrance to the expansive room that Sinister was in. They watched as he stepped onto the dais. Logan had complained that he couldn・t smell anything. He had extended his claws and drawn them across his arm. When the cuts had closed right away he knew his lose of his sense of smell was from the ventilation, not from the loss of his mutant powers.

Jean had kept them linked telepathically, letting them communicate without making any noise. So they crouched waiting for the right moment to strike. Mystique had her back to them, rapt by what was taking place on the dais. Sabertooth was still looking around, scanning for threats. Logan guessed that he couldn・t be comfortable with not using his sense of smell no matter how long he・d been in here.

It had taken all of Logan・s restraint not to go charging in when Sinister had finished whatever it was he was doing on the dais. That・s when the machine began humming into life. That was also when Jubilee began screaming. They couldn・t hear her, but her mouth opened and her face contorted in agony as she tried to writhe in misery. Ororo put one hand on Logan・s shoulder to calm him down, even as she became furious.

Sabertooth caught Jubilee・s agony and turned fully to watch what was happening. As one, the four X-Men stood.

Jean, you and Gambit attempt to dismantle that machine. Ororo sent telepathically, I shall deal with Mystique. Logan, you engage Sabertooth. Logan let out a mental growl in protest. Ororo understood his reasoning and reassured him, We will get Jubilee out, but we have to deal with Sabertooth first.

When Logan agreed they crept into the room. Ten feet from the two oblivious mutants the X-Men struck.


After Hank and Jubilee left, Kitty pulled a chair to the bed. She gently took Logan・s hand in hers. With both hands she was able to encompass his one within, just barely. She took a deep breath to calm herself. She wiped her eyes and berated herself for breaking down so much. You know better Pryde! She kept telling herself, but it did no good. This was Logan, how could she not break down? He・d helped her through some pretty tough times. He had trained her to fight, helped her get past that whole Ogen incident and even helped her reclaim her humanity back from Viper.

He had given and given. He never asked for anything in return, just her friendship. Loyalty was big with Logan. He gave it only to those he thought deserved it. When he did, he hoped for it back, but never really expected it. Loyalty was all he・d ever asked for and all Kitty had ever given him. Looking back she realized that she could have given so much more.

・Oh Logan!・ She cried out, ・I・m so sorry! Sorry for not being there for you more! Sorry for not keeping in touch better! I・m so sorry for all the time I wasted!・ She stopped her hysterical rant to cry softly.

Regaining her composure she sniffled. Then she used her top hand to pat his.

・I have a confession to make.・ She said, ・When I went to Excalibur, I was so proud of myself. Mostly because when you came out of hiding you were so proud of me. Then Jubilee showed up. I couldn・t really be mad at her ・cause she did save your life. But I was jealous because it was her that did it and not me.・

She stopped to take a breath.

・I guess I was also jealous because deep down I knew that I wouldn・t have been able to do what she did. When I heard she・d saved your life I was happy that you were alive but I was jealous that she could do something I couldn・t. And with you too!

・Then she became your new prot・・ No big deal. No one could be as good as the original, Kitty Pryde! At least that・s what I thought. But then you began to take her with you every where you went. She became your side-kick, then your partner. I tried to be perfect, let my exploits and feats of perfection entice you back to me, but I couldn・t. It seemed the harder I tried the farther you got from me.・

She stopped to wipe a tear from her eye. Then she started up again.

・Then Excalibur disbanded. And although I should have been bummed, I was happy. I was coming back to the X-Men and my Wolverine! And that bitch Jubilee was off with Gen X. All was right with the world. But then Apocalypse got a hold of you and we went to rescue you, ended up fighting with you. No one, not even me, thought you・d be that powerful. Well, no one except Jubilee. I realized that even in your beserker rages you held back. Only when you didn・t have a conscience were you truly unstoppable.

・And that・s when Jubilee did the only thing I don・t think I・ll ever forgive her for. She stopped you. She stood there without fighting, without fear and made you back down. She made you find your humanity. And while that was great because we had you back and no one got killed, it galled me. She brought you back when no one else could. She reached you when all else failed. She knew you wouldn・t hurt her, she had that much confidence and faith in you.

・I guess what I・m saying is that I feel like I failed you. I was cowering, trying to figure out how I was going to fight you because I didn・t believe in you enough. Jubilee never even considered that option, she knew you so well, she knew what to do. For all my supposed perfection and my vaunted self-confidence I wasn・t good enough. When the chips were down I deserted you. When you needed me most I wasn・t there.

・Oh Logan, I felt so small and insignificant after that. I looked for any excuse to spend time with you. I became selfish. I used my break up with Pete as a way to keep you near me. I thought that you could be strong enough for the both of us.・

She leaned in closer and continued, ・But seeing you here, I realized that I have to find my own strength. I can・t keep relying on you. Logan, if this is goodbye, I want you to realize that I・m stronger now. I can・t use you as a crutch anymore. I made that decision a long time ago but never had the courage to follow through. I didn・t want to lose you and was afraid that if I tried it on my own and failed, you wouldn・t take me back.

・Logan I love you.・ She said as she lifted his hand and clutched it as a lifeline, ・Please don・t leave me!・

* Today ・2:57 am *

Logan swiped at Sabertooth and when the taller man stepped back, lunged in for the kill. He plunged one set of claws into his enemy・s chest and used the way they were imbedded in Creed・s thick chest muscles to lever himself up. He took a slash at Sabertooth・s neck. At the last moment the taller man got his arm up and blocked the attack.

Around them a battle raged. A minute after Ororo・s team had attacked, Cable・s team had triggered an alarm. Several Marauders met them and a battle ensued near the entrance of the fortress. Rogue・s team entered the room as Marauders and members of the Brotherhood poured into the room.

Jean held her head, fighting an internal battle with Malice as she tried to take over the red-head・s mind. Gambit had been throwing cards at the machine, the kinetically charged cardboard having little affect on the machine. What little damage that was done was repaired almost instantly, the machine regenerated itself almost as if it were alive.

When Rogue, Bishop, Shadowcat and the White Queen burst into the room, Gambit turned to enlist their help. When he did, he noticed the arrival of Toad, Blob, Pyro and Avalanche of the Brotherhood. Along with them were Malice, Vertigo and Harpoon from the Marauders. Leaving the machine for the later when the more immediate threat of enemies was taken care of, Remy joined the fray.

It was a fairly even match, so far as numbers were concerned. Bishop quickly downed Toad as Storm still exchanged blows with Mystique. Malice and Jean were locked in a heated psi-war, vying for control of Jean・s body. Vertigo was trying to tip the odds in her favor by disorienting every X-Man. Emma was combating her efforts, not allowing the other woman・s mind warping abilities to lash out.

Shadowcat was trying to engage Pyro in a fight. Every time she got close he would lash out with flames. When the flames got to her, she would phase, letting them pass through her. They were at a stalemate and going nowhere fast. Gambit charged a few cards and threw them at Pyro・s back. They exploded without touching him, the heat he was radiating made sure of that, but the concussion of the blast knocked him off balance. Kitty took the opportunity to lay him out with a vicious kick to the jaw.

Now the battle was pitched in favor of the X-Men. Logan was pushing Sabertooth・s limits, the berserker rage he usually kept in check unleashed. The only other enemies left standing were Mystique, Blob, Avalanche and Harpoon. As Logan・s deadly slash at Sabertooth・s neck was blocked, Cable・s four man team came on the scene. Ice Man and Beast helped subdue Avalanche, knocking him out. Nightcrawler teleported himself to his mother・s side and proceeded to fight her. Cable snuck up on Harpoon as he and Bishop exchanged energy blasts and quickly took him from the fight. The two tall time traveling mutants nodded to each other. Bishop joined Gambit, Rogue, Ice Man and Beast in taking on Blob. The massively obese man was taking on all comers and was showing no strain. Cable thought of joining them, but decided not to. One look at the huge machine made up his mind for him.

Jubilee had stopped screaming and stood slumped against her restraints. The chamber Scott was lying in had filled with a bluish gray mist from the particle gun. As Cable watched a hand emerged from Scott・s body. It was transparent and shimmered. The hand began to solidify, absorbing some of the mist as it did.

In the time it took Cable and Bishop to subdue Harpoon, and Cable to notice the hand emerging from Scott, Logan finished his fight with Sabertooth. As he hung from Sabertooth・s chest, being held up by Creed・s grip on his wrist, the bigger man taunted Logan.

・Give it up, Runt. Ya can・t take me.・

As the words reached him, Logan came back from the edge. The red receded from his vision as the rage died. It was replaced by a deadly calm. He hadn・t felt this type of emotional void since his stint as Death. Then he had fought it, now he embraced it. It was the only way to save Jubilee.

・Ya know what yer problem is Creed?・ Logan asked with a sneer.

・What・s that?・ Sabertooth asked with a sneer of his own.

・I・m the best there is, which makes you second string.・ He twisted his imbedded claws, shredding a part of Sabertooth・s lungs, ・An・ in this biz, second best don・t cut it.・

With that said Logan forced his claws deeper into Creed・s right lung. The bigger man gasped, which turned into a gurgle as he let go of Logan・s wrist to dislodge the deadly claws from his chest. As soon as his hand was free, Wolverine slashed at Sabertooth. His claws cut into his neck, severing his jugular in three places.

Sabertooth fell to the floor with a thud. The light in his eyes faded as the life left his body. Logan didn・t take any chances and poised both sets of claws over Creed・s chest. He plunged both sets of claws into Sabertooth・s heart. It exploded as Logan worked all six claws around. Logan pulled out his claws and turned toward the machine. His calm demeanor never wavered as he stepped over the corpse of his deadliest enemy and slowly walked toward the chamber holding Jubilee, his claws dripping a bloody trail across the room.


Jubilee stood looking at Logan・s unconscious form for a long while. How long, she couldn・t say. The unthinkable was happening, Logan was dying from battle wounds. Wounds he received while rescuing her. Wounds that for some reason weren・t healing. She sat down heavily on the chair Kitty had occupied earlier.

・Wolvie I always knew you・d die for me, but this is pushing it.・ Her light tone faltered and her voice cracked at the final words. She choked back tears and regained her composure.

・You saved me so many times I・ve lost count. And I・ve pulled your bacon out of the fire too. Remember when we first met an・ I saved you from the Reavers? Of course you do. And how ・bout that time out in SoCal, when I finally found those guys that killed my parents? You really saved me that time, saved me from a huge mistake, an・ you did it in your own special way.

・When my parents died I never thought I・d ever be able to love anyone again. I felt this hole inside of me, ya know? Living in the mall was no picnic and I was always hungry. But the aching need I felt was different from hunger, get it?

・But then I found you and you brought me to the X-Men. I felt like ・sure no problem, I・ll see what they got to offer.・ But then you started to grow on me and the next thing I knew I loved you. First it was a crush and then like hero worship. Now I love you deeply. I・m not sure what kind it is now, but I do know I don・t want to lose you.・

Her voice broke as a sob escaped her. She covered her face as the last of what she thought were her uncontrollable tears fell. After only a minute she had regained her composure completely.

・And that・s why I・ve been able to forgive you for letting me down. I know, I know, you・re asking when? How ・bout when I was dumped in Gen X, huh? You hardly ever called, rarely visited. If I was so important to you, why was I neglected? An・ what about after my ordeal with Bastion? Sure, you found me in the desert, but what took you so long?

・An・ sure, you cared about me afterwards, but I was shipped back to Gen X. Then you helped Kitty get over her small problems while you ignored mine. I got big problems, much bigger than that cow Kitty has.・ She swiped at her eyes but refused to cry.

・But while I was sitting out there as Kitty was in here I realized something. I realized that Kitty just needs you more than me. I mean, I need you, I don・t think I could imagine life without you. I guess I・m going to have to, huh? But even though I need you, I・m stronger than her. I・m stronger than everyone thinks, even you and that・s saying a lot. I can take more and more shit until I・m bogged down then I take more. I had that trait before I met you, you just strengthened it.

・I know you taught Kitty how to be tough and survive, too. But I guess there was something missing there, huh? I figured out that you saw I needed you but could hold it together enough until you could get to me. You also figured Kitty couldn・t.

・So I guess what I・ve learned from you is that I am strong. I am resilient. You saw me as someone who could help myself. Wolvie, you gave me strength that I never thought I had, or you brought it out in me, either way. You made me a survivor, someone who can make it without a crutch. Thank you.・

She leaned over and kissed his forehead gently.

・I promise I・ll make you proud.・

She choked back more tears that filled her eyes and swallowed the emotions that threatened to spill over.

・Everyone always thought that you rushed into danger because you・re so indestructible But I know better. I know that even if you didn・t have your healing factor you・d jump in harm・s way for me. You wouldn・t survive, but you・d do it.・ She stopped as the full realization of what she was saying hit her. She pushed on though, ・What they don・t realize is that a lot of those guys you・ve gone up against are very nasty. There are no guarantees in life and there was no way you・d know if you・d come out alive. So screw them! They don・t know what we・ve been through! They don・t know shit about us!・ She leaned back into her chair.

・They don・t know you and they don・t know me. But you do and I know you. It・s taken me all this time to get to know you, really know you. In fact, the last piece fell into place when I was out in the hall. I realized that you always gave me my independence while watching me and making me tough enough to face the world. You let me work things out on my own so I could grow up strong, while you were there for support.・

She stopped as tears leaked from her eyes.

・This is so hard! I am not going to cry!・ Her actions betrayed her words as she gave in to tears. After a moment she controlled herself.

・I am tough enough for the world. I just don・t want to face it alone.・ She stopped again, her emotions getting out of control once more. She continued in a small voice, ・Please don・t leave me. I know I could cope, I just don・t know how. And I don・t want to find out. Come on, Wolvie pull through this. Come back to me, come back to Kitty, come back to us. We need you. I need you.・

She sat in silence for a few minutes, hoping and praying that her words would reach Logan. She hoped that he would then will himself to heal. After two minutes of no improvement she stood up.

・Well, Wolvie I・m supposed to say my good-byes, but I can・t. As bad as you are with them, I・m just about there too. And as much as you hate them, I hate them more. I・ve had to say goodbye to so many people in my life, I don・t want to say it to you. Never really thought I・d have to either. So if you don・t mind, I won・t say goodbye. I・ll just stay here with you. I can・t leave you now, so you・re stuck with me, even if I can・t pull myself to say・・ Her control broke as sobs wracked her tiny body.

* Today ・3:00 am *

Logan ignored Sinister and walked up to the thick glass separating him from Jubilee. The calm demeanor remained as he lashed out with his claws. They merely glanced off the surface, barely scratching it, and those disappeared instantly.

Letting out a roar of frustration, Logan attacked the glass, futilely slashing at it as his calm shattered. As more and more of his blows did nothing to mark the glass a familiar rage began to fill his soul. A red haze clouded his vision and all thoughts stopped except to free Jubilee.

Logan! Cable・s mental voice cut through the rage, You can not get through that way!

The urgency of the mental voice and the command it held stopped Logan・s bestial attack. He turned panting to regard the tall white-haired man. The two warriors considered each other. When Cable was satisfied Logan would not attack him, he advanced.

・The machine is an extension of Sinister. As long as he・s hooked up to those wires on the dais you can・t get into the machine.・

・So why haven・t ya unhooked him?・ Logan bit out through clenched teeth. Jubilee was at risk here!

・That・s why.・ Cable said as he pointed to the large chamber that held Scott.

Logan looked to see a full arm solidifying as another hand emerged from Scott・s chest. Soon Apocalypse・s head and shoulders would be free.

・So let・s unhook him now so that monster can・t get out.・ Logan ground out as he stepped toward the dais. Cable stopped him and nearly lost the hand he・d put on Logan・s shoulder.

・We must wait for Apocalypse・s head to emerge, then we can kill him.・ When Logan let out a growl Cable added, ・For good this time.・

・Will Jubilee survive? She looks like she・s dying.・

・She・s being used to power the machine.・ He had to stop Logan physically from launching himself at Sinister. ・Don・t worry, she・ll live if we kill Apocalypse soon.・


Cable peered over Logan・s head to see the face of Apocalypse looking back at him. The ancient menace sneered at him as his head solidified.

・You unhook Sinister and kill him in his weakened state. I will go through the glass when I can. Using this,・ He brandished his psimitar, ・I・ll finish this.・

・Then we can get Jubilee out.・

・Yes we can get Jubilee out.・ Cable agreed.

・When?・ Logan asked, never taking his eyes from Sinister.

・Now!・ Cable shouted.

Logan leapt at Sinister, knocking the purple skinned man off the dais and disconnecting him from the machine. Logan plunged and slashed and stabbed, never letting up and giving Sinister a chance to retaliate. Cable shattered the glass in front of him with his teke and lunged into the chamber.

The rest of the X-Men had fled back into the hallway via Cable・s mental commands to them. Jean had secured the entrance to the room with her telekinesis, creating an invisible shield that all could see through. So they all saw what happened next.

Cable gagged on the particle beam mist before the noxious gas was pulled up and out into the ventilation system. Logan succeeded in dismembering Sinister. He then beheaded him. Letting out a feral roar of triumph, he held up Sinister・s head by the dead man・s short hair. He threw down the useless skull and began to turn to the machine.

At that same moment, Cable stabbed his psimitar deep into Apocalypse・s forehead. There was a deafening boom followed by a dark wave of energy that blasted the room and nearly destroyed Jean・s telekinetic shield. A blinding white flash of energy and another incredibly loud boom followed this. When the smoke cleared and the X-Men could see more than spots, they quickly rushed into the room, which was totally destroyed.

Every person the X-Men had fought had been lying on the floor, unconscious or dead. Where each had lain was a dark smear and some ashes, nothing of their bodies left. Even Sinister whose body was incredibly durable was gone, only ash and blackened floor where he had fallen. The flash of dark energy had been Apocalypse・s demise. The second flash had been caused by the machine exploding from the force of that first blast. Scott, Cable and Jubilee were quite all right, the force of each blast being directed outward from their position. They had been knocked out from the concussion of the energy, but otherwise were fine. Logan was not.

He had received the full brunt of both explosions. He had also gotten shrapnel like pieces of the machine imbedded in his body. The metal and wires had cut him and lodged themselves deep within his muscles and skin. The energy blasts had knocked him into a corner and burned him beyond recognition. Jean did a quick mental scan of him and realized he was in shock and in desperate need of medical attention.

Hank carried Cable, Remy grabbed Scott and Bishop picked up Jubilee as Emma sent out a mental request for Xavier to pick them up. Rogue went to carry Logan and was relieved to see the burns he・d received were healing, albeit slowly for his normal healing rate. Kitty was stroking his scorched hair and murmuring a prayer or words of encouragement.

・Jean, Ah think ya ought ta remove all this metal an・ junk so・s his healing factor kin kick in.・ Rogue said.

・Good idea.・ Jean said.

Jean quickly grabbed all the offending metal and ripped it out of Logan・s body with her telekinesis. The wounds began to bleed profusely as Jean realized Logan・s healing factor was not up to closing those wounds yet.

The hike to the Blackbird and the ensuing flight back to the mansion was tense and nerve-wracking. Rogue was distraut at having carried out a Logan who・d bled on her non-stop. Jubilee had woken up and rushed to Logan・s side. Hank had bandaged him up as well as he could, but the wounds were so numerous and the trauma inflicted so great that he said he・d need the equipment at the mansion to have any chance. They radioed ahead and had Dr. Reyes prep the Medlab. Hank thought that it was the energy blasts, particularly the first one, which had done the most damage. Who knew what kind of damage Apocalypse・s life force could do to someone?

They got to the mansion and rushed Logan down to the Medlab. Kitty and Jubilee sat outside in the hall while the rest of the team went to the War Room to patch up and debrief. Hank helped the team repair itself before joining Dr. Reyes in the surgery to save Logan. Neither doctor was optimistic.


Dr. Cecilia Reyes had watched both girls with Logan. She was unable to hear them and judging by their body language, was just as glad she couldn・t. She had done her best, all she knew how, but it wasn・t enough. Whatever had happened to Logan was bad. His cells were toxified and his healing factor was over worked. The feral man everyone regarded as invincible was going to die. And there wasn・t anything any one person could do about it.

Seeing Jubilee hunched over Logan・s inert form crying made Cecilia want to cry as well. The X-Men were going to lose one of their own today. That loss would hit them hard. That loss could make or break this team.

Loss is the hardest part of life, Cecilia thought as she turned and exited the small observation room, But life is all about loss and how we deal with it.