X-Men Evolution NEXT

Surface

Jean wasted no time after arriving home from her training session with Allan as she immediately started to get cleaned up. Taking full advantage of her powers, she takes a quick hands free shower and drying herself off using her pyro-kinetic fire. After picking out something to wear, she sits in front of her mirror prepping her makeup. She finds doing this manually is a bit more satisfying than using her powers, so she slowly applies her chosen color to her fair complexion. Despite the new nature of her abilities, Jean feels contently human as she carefully applies her makeup. She lets out a slight breath staring at her reflection. Settling into her content mood, Jean notices something odd about her reflection. She straightens her posture placing her make up down and stares at her reflection even more intently. Jean suddenly realizes her reflection is slowly starting to grin at her. It is a devious grin that widens Jean's eyes in shock. But to surprise her even further, her reflection speaks out, "Don't look so surprised, you know exactly what you are."

Jean hesitates at first, and then manages to reply back, "What?"

Her reflection continues grinning as she answers, "You're me."

Nearly stunned, Jean slightly shakes her head saying, "No, I don't know what you are. But I'm not you."

"Spare me the innocent good girl routine," her reflection sarcastically remarks, "this is who you are. Stop denying it."

Jean tries to go about her business picking up her lipstick and leaning in closer to the mirror to apply it. The reflection naturally follows her motions while speaking to her, "You're so pathetic. You can't ignore me."

Sitting up right, Jean glares at her reflection and demands, "What do you want?"

"That's a good question, isn't it?" her reflection remarks with a wide grin, "What do YOU want?"

Jean remains silent as her reflection continues, "Look at yourself, you've suppressed everything you've wanted, trying to be the good girl all the time, denying yourself all the pleasures of life, always trying to be accepted with your fake plastered smile. When deep down you've yearned to be free of the burdens of being responsible and setting good examples. You've always been curious about what it's like to be the bad girl for once. Well, here's your chance, and so far, it's been liberating."

"What are you?" Jean asks with a fearful expression.

Rolling her eyes, the reflection sarcastically replies, "Oh geez, like you can't feel it. Fine, what I am is everything you put away, the regrets you desired, and the ride you were always afraid to go on. You locked them all away playing the safe good little girl. But things have changed now. You can feel it coursing through you at every moment. It unlike anything you've felt before and it's unlimited. You no longer have to be afraid, and that's what scares you. The fact you're even acknowledging me says you're starting to accept this, so why continue suppressing it?"

Jean takes a breath trying to look away from her reflection. "It's silly trying to ignore this. You did nothing wrong. Just admit it, everything seems smaller now." the reflection adds.

Turning her eyes back to the mirror, Jean sees that her reflection is seemingly back to normal. She blinks her eyes trying to clear her thoughts, but is again caught by surprise by the appearance of Seth leaning down looking in the mirror with her. Jean's gasps as he says, "I thought of a name for you."

Jean quickly spins around swinging her right fist outward to where Seth would be standing behind, but hits nothing. She realizes she is alone in her room, breathing heavily, searing with anger. As she looks straight ahead, Jean stares at her far wall where she had leaned a few of her paintings. It was as though was meant to turn and look as she gazes upon the image of brightly glowing bird of fire. Jean steps back trying to calm herself. Then Seth's voice breathlessly echoes, "See you around." leaving Jean standing in silence staring at her elaborate painting.

Rogue fumbles through Allan's room searching an article of clothing. She bounces across his bed, still wearing her X-man uniform digging through the bed sheets and covers searching tediously. Rogue finally reach over to the other side of the bed on the floor and finds her bra muttering out, "Ha! Found it." as she holds up her slinky black bra victoriously.

She suddenly realizes someone is standing in the doorway. Rogue quickly hops off Allan's bed to look and sees Logan staring back at her with a baffled expression. She quickly hides her bra behind her with an embarrassed expression. Letting out a light sigh, Logan says, "I was hopin' to catch up with Allan. We could use his strength with the repairs in the Danger Room."

Rogue swallows and mentions, "He's cleanin' up a field we were usin' to train on."

Taking slow glance into Allan's room, Logan slightly grins and looks back at Rogue asking, "So, this is how it's gonna be now, with you and Allan?"

The question almost catches Rogue off guard as she replies, "What do ya mean?"

Logan answers while gesturing slightly all around the room, "Relax, Rogue. I'm not comin' down on ya. I just, wanna make sure you two know what you're gettin' into."

Rogue takes a breath and responds, "If this is about our powers, it's no big deal. Ah mean, Allan is obviously immune to mine, and Ah kinda like the idea of him bein' one of the most power things in existence. It took some getting' use to, but Ah think Ah can live with it."

Slightly grinning, Logan returns, "That's not what I meant. I'm talkin' about you two in general."

Falling silent, Rogue stares at Logan innocently as he continues, "You two have gotten really close, and I'm happy for ya, believe me. I just wanna make certain this is what you both want. You and Allan have been through the ringer this year, and things have been happening pretty fast…"

But before he can continue on, Rogue speaks up with a smile, "Logan, Ah haven't been more certain of anything before in my entire life."

Logan stands silently for a few seconds, contemplating what Rogue had said. Then with a content grin, he nods at her saying, "Just makin' sure."

Rogue chuckles, "Ah appreciate your concern, Logan. But Allan and Ah know what we're doin'."

Nodding again silently, Logan smiles and starts to walk away. Rogue then speaks up, "Logan, Ah really do appreciate your concern."

Logan grins back at her saying, "No prob. If you see Allan, let him know we could use his help down below."

Rogue watches with a smile as Logan casually walks out. She then closes the door and begins to change out of her uniform quickly. As she pulls her uniform top off she glances out the window and notices Remy trotting into the wooded area of the property with four of the younger students following him closely, heading towards Allan's direction. She mutters to herself with a slight sneer, "What's that slime ball up to now?"

Singing out the lyrics to Bob Marley's One Love, Allan tediously repairs the damaged terrain from his exercise session with Jean. The ground is scorched and riddled with blast dug up rock and dirt. Allan re-manipulates the destructive energies, closing the many crater like potholes and allowing the natural earth to reclaim the exposed underground sediments. It as though he is conducting a symphonic orchestra as large rocks, streams of water and grains of fine dirty float about finding their way back to their original place. Allan stands casually with a content smile among the near anti-gravity atmosphere, continuing to sing the classic reggae tune while gesturing his arms directing every object to its' final location. Piece by piece, grain by grain, the grounds around him return to its' natural state and settle. Allan takes a soft breathe glancing around him with smile. The grassy field around him now appears as it did before the mock battle exercise. He then playfully bows as though to a crowd saying, "Thank you, thank you."

As Allan straightens his posture back up from his bow, his expression slowly turns cold. He takes another deep breath looking down with a bit of disappointment. Glancing over his shoulder, he speaks out, "I know, that you know, that I know you're there. So save yourself the embarrassment and come out where I can see you."

The air around him goes silent and cold. Allan slowly turns around holding out his right hand towards his seamless blood red helmet that sits on the ground a few feet from his position. A slight gesture of his fingers floats his head piece into his ready grip. The air gathers almost like a funnel before him forming a somewhat humanoid figure. Traces of dirt and grass mix into the form as it becomes more tangible. The form solidifies revealing a familiar guise in full covering seamless armor with a billowing dramatic cloak draped over his shoulders. With sarcastic yet parent like tone, Allan says, "N, how many times do I have to tell you not bother me while I'm working?"

Folding his arms with stern posture, N replies, "Your simple approach to our level existence baffles me, mighty one."

Shaking his head in frustration, Allan returns, "Stop calling me that."

"As you wish, Allan Paran." N returns as he elegantly starts to move about.

Slowly glancing around at the newly restored green field, N's voice resonates from behind his cold stare, "My foresight is clouded, yet I can sense the impending doom that looms over this world."

With a slight grin on his face, Allan rolls his eyes at N replying, "Don't let it bother you, N. That's my responsibility."

"Indeed," N returns, "however, the solution that echoes in your mind has me questioning your motives."

Allan pauses for a moment glancing over at N and asks in a plain tone, "You here to stop me?"

Landing quietly among the trees from a long vaulted leap, Gambit takes a quick glance around him with a sarcastic smirk. He rolls up his left sleeve to look at his watch then looks behind him speaking out, "Take ya time kiddies. Not like it's life or death." He then mutters in a lower tone to himself, "Only my free time."

Havok stumbles through a nearby bush loosing his footing and rolls forward a few yards behind Gambit. He grunts out as he finally comes to a rest, "Yo dude, I thought you said this was like 'Follow the Leader'?"

Gambit dusts off his stylized outfit while staring back at the young blonde mutant and says, "Findin' it tough ta follow my lead, surfer boy?"

Havok frowns up at Gambit as another grunt is heard from behind. Stumbling through the same bush, Psylocke loses her footing and tumbles onto Havok's lap. They both yelp out from the collision. Psylocke quickly sits up with wide eyes. She begins to quickly pull out small twigs and leaves from her purple hair complaining, "Grand, I bet that looked graceful."

She looks down at Havok, whose lap she snow sits on and smiles saying, "Oh, thanks for breaking my fall."

Raising his eyebrows nervously, Havok smiles back innocently and returns, "No prob, my pleasure."

Gambit chuckles as he holds his hand out to Psylocke helping her up onto her feet. He does the same for Havok telling the young mutant with a grin, "I bet it was."

Both Havok and Psylocke dust themselves off as Gambit looks back hearing more stumbling through the brush. Trotting around the thick bush like a jogger, Paige nods to acknowledge Gambit and asks, "Are we takin' a break already?"

Havok and Psylocke slightly roll there eyes at Paige's question as Gambit asks, "Where's Multiple, I thought he was right b'hind ya?"

Paige glances behind her and shrugs her shoulders in response to Gambits inquiry. Sighing out in frustration, Gambit starts to head back to look for him. Just then, Multiple comes limping round the brush being supported on both sides by two of his identical duplicates. He looks up at Gambit saying, "Sorry, Mr. Gambit sir, I sprained my ankle, I think."

"Great," Gambit says under his breath, "Hank'll be pretty teed off wit' me if I broke one of his students. And I'm supposed to be doin' him a favor."

Examining Multiple's sore right ankle, Gambit sighs out, "Guess that's the end of today's session, kiddos." as he looks at the injured boy, "Head back home and get that ankle wrapped."

Multiple's duplicates both nod and help him hobble back through the wooded property. Paige sighs out, "Guess I'll get cleaned up." as she reach around her the back of neck.

Much to the other's surprise, they watch as the young blonde begins to rip various layers of her skin off right in front of them. Paige tears away the sweaty and dirt smudged skin like thin soft vinyl revealing clean and refreshed skin beneath. She works her hands around her upper body pulling out her discarded skin from under her uniform top, then simply tosses the husk like remains to the ground. She takes a breath with a smile now appearing as though she had just taken a bath, and glances over at Gambit, Psylocke and Havok. She notices their disturbed expressions and asks, "What? It's my mutant power."

With his expression steady and frozen, Havok simply says, "Gross."

Rolling her eyes, Paige replies, "Whatever, it saves me time."

Psylocke remains silent as Havok looks down at the discarded skin saying, "You don't just leave these lying around, do you?"

Gesturing to the dry husk like skin on the ground, Paige answers, "Relax Alex, it dissolves after an hour or so."

Psylocke covers her mouth and starts to walk away muttering to herself, "I think I'm going to be sick."

Havok continues to ask Paige, "So, is that all you do, shed off old skin?"

"No," Paige quickly responds, "not really. I mean, I can alter the molecular state of my new skin to fit any situation I see fit. Like maybe, turn into metal, like Piotr."

"Oh," Havok returns, "then that's not so gross."

Psylocke glances down at the husk like skin and mutters again, "I'm still going to be sick."

Gambit chuckles out, "Alright, quit grillin' de girl'n let's head back, I'm missin' my game show."

But just as they are all about to walk back, a bright flash of light catches their attention suddenly. The flash is followed by an echoing white washing sound. The sound seems to bounce off the trees all around them. Havok looks around asking, "Was that lightning?"

Gambit looks up and sees a clear blue sky above the tree canopy and replies, "Doubt dat."

Another flash followed by another white washing sound turns their heads to the far end of the tree line. Sighing out, Gambit slightly grins and mentions, "That's probably Allan, workin' out. Don' fret."

Nodding with a big grin on his face, Havok remarks, "Cool, let's check it out."

"Are you daft, Alex?" Psylocke asks with a surprised tone, "If that is Allan, I really do not think it's a good idea to bother him."

"It's no sweat, Liz," Havok remarks, "Allan is a pro, come on." as he starts to quickly walk towards the brilliantly lit direction.

Psylocke glances back at Gambit nervously and starts to follow Havok. Gambit sighs out as he says, "Paige, make sure Jamie gets home in one piece."

With out hesitation, Paige replies, "Yes sir."

The young blonde quickly turns and runs off to catch up with Jamie and his helpful duplicates. Gambit then quickly catches up with Havok and Psylocke as they carefully make their way towards the light. Various streams of light and sound dance about the closer they get and begins to overwhelm the area around them. As they approach what they believe is the end of the tree line, the three are faced with an abundance of sparkling energy flashing brightly in a near dome like manner. All three, Havok, Psylocke, and Gambit squint their eyes and partially cover their faces. It almost seems like the pulsating dome of light is push them back slightly. The light washes over them echoing out a near vibrating hum into the sky. They flinch at the sudden sensation but remain on their feet. Allowing their eyes to adjust to the brightness, all three begin to look forward, but with their eyes still squinted. Standing a few yards from them, they see two distinct humanoid figures, both radiating the dancing lights that now overwhelm the immediate area. Despite the dramatic and visually stunning display of angelic light, the two glowing beings remain still, standing somewhat squared off from each other. Echoing sounds of energy waves flow and seemingly splash by and around Gambit, Havok, and Psylocke. So overwhelming the sound is, when Havok turns to his friends to ask a question, they cannot hear his voice. Another sudden flash of pulsating light radiates from the two statuesque beings forcing the three mutant onlookers to stagger back a bit. Then in one quick halo like burst, the surrounding light dissipates. Gambit takes quick glances around and notice trees swaying back into place, rubbing branches against one another as they settle. The sound of cracking and slight thudding from trees in the area now echo off in the distance. Psylocke catches her fearful breathe as she realizes nobody is hurt. But even much more surprising was that the area that seemed enveloped in the pulsating light also appears unharmed. All three turn to look back towards the two beings before them and see Vanguard standing squared off in front of the ominous figure, N. Both cosmic beings remain silent staring at each other with stoic expressions. Gambit takes a slight step forward and mutters out, "Allan?"

N slowly turns his stone cold glare at the three on looking mutants. The emotionless expression on his face catches Psylocke off guard as she gasps. Havok takes a defensive posture as he powers up his red glowing hands. Gambit extends out his composite quarter staff and asks out again, "Allan?"

N speaks out, "Impressive display of control, Allan Paran. You have managed to re-divert the destructive natures of our titanic forces, thus keeping harm from befalling all that we survey. But at what cost?"

Allan remains silent turning his stoic expression into a somewhat glare. N continues, "I cannot stop you, nor should I attempt to do so again. Therefore, at your request, I will truly remain neutral in this matter, and only bear witness to the events to come."

Right before their eyes, N, slowly fades out of their sight, leaving only a wisp of fresh air. Allan remains still as Psylocke asks, "Allan, are you alright?"

Gesturing with his right hand for them to be quiet, Allan glances around slowly, then breathes out saying, "He is finally, gone."

Allan then drops to his knees suddenly as though out of exhaustion. Alex and Elizabeth rush to his side. "Allan, dude, you having another burn out?" Alex asks urgently.

Both Alex and Elizabeth brace Allan propping him up under his arms as he replies with a smile, "I'm good, you guys." as he catches his breath, "It's never easy when trying to get your point across to another cosmic weirdo."

Gambit continues to look around defensively as he asks, "What's his deal, Allan? What he want wit ya?"

With a somewhat content grin on his face, Allan stands back up and replies simply, "Just to talk."

Alex, Elizabeth and Gambit looks back at Allan with baffled expressions. Allan smiles at them and chuckles out, "What? We cosmic folk do talk to one another on occasion."

Elizabeth speaks up, "You call that a conversation? It bloody looked like the end of the world."

Allan chuckles again while gently patting her on the shoulder, "Come on, don't exaggerate. We were just trying to prove a point to each other, and I won. Nothing to worry about, trust me. Everything is cool, alright? I'll see you all back home."

All three watch as Allan darts into the clear sky and arches in the direction of the mansion. Alex grins and remarks, "Well, whatever it was, it sure looked awesome. I mean what a rush."

Gambit retracts his composite quarter staff and adds, "Even by weird standards, I'd say that was strange. That N fellow been nothin' but trouble, and Allan just blows him off."

"He's lying." Elizabeth speaks up as looks up at the sky.

Alex and Gambit both turn their faces to her as she continues, "It was a brief instant, I didn't mean to read him. I wasn't expecting to honestly. He usually has psychic guards up. It must be exhaustion or something, but he dropped them for a few seconds."

Gambit inquires, "And?"

Elizabeth rubs her temples gently and says, "His words contradict his thoughts."

"And that means what, Liz?" Alex asks with a grin.

Taking a breath, Elizabeth returns, "That maybe, I wasn't exaggerating, and maybe, everything is not cool."

Lost in his own thoughts, Scott sits alone in the mall food court staring silently at his newly purchased double bacon cheese burger meal. He carefully reaches into her back pocket and pulls out the photograph Nick Fury had handed to him. He stares at it intently trying to understand the image. He sees Jean in her X-man uniform standing atop hill next to a pile of smoldering debris. To her right, gesturing to the surrounding damage, stands Seth. Scott gently shakes his head, unsure of what he is looking at. He tries to examine the image even closer, hoping to find any trace of it being a fake. But then he thinks, Nick Fury has helped them out in the past, and has had no real reason to lie to him. But then again, Jean has never lied to him before either. He pockets the photo and rubs his forehead as his thoughts start to feel torn. Scott takes a quick sip of his soda and starts to reach for his warm burger. Then a familiar voice calls out to him, "Hi Scott."

Looking towards the voice, Scott spots Taryn standing a few feet away holding a couple of shopping bags in both hands. Smiling, Scott returns, "Um… hi Taryn."

Scott notices Taryn's timid approach as she takes quick glances around. With curious tone, Scott asks her, "Is everything alright?"

Taryn is quick with a response and smile, "Hmm? Oh, yeah, everything is fine. Um… are you alone?"

Shrugging his shoulders, Scott replies, "Yeah, but I'm meeting up with Jean later. She had a training session earlier with Allan."

Taryn nods remarking, "So, how is this whole X-men thing going for you guys?"

"So far so good, I guess." Scott answers and adds, "How about you? What are you up to?"

Sighing out, Taryn grins with a somewhat embarrassed expression and chuckles out, "Actually, I just finished up a little shopping and was about to leave, but my car won't start. Um… do you know anything about car engines?"

Scott glances at his watch and nods a bit saying, "You know, I have some time. Let me take a look." as he carefully bags up his lunch and stands.

Clicking on her left signal light, Jean checks her blind spot before maneuvering her SUV into the next lane that will lead her to the Bayville Galleria. She glances into her mirrors to double check her vehicle's position. Looking into her rear view mirror, she expects to see the car she had just over took, but instead sees Seth sitting in the back seat, dressed simply in a black turtleneck and blue jeans. This normally would startle her, but Jean simply turns her eyes back out front, trying to ignore him. "Why are trying so hard to deny who you are?" he asks with a sarcastic smile.

At first Jean refuses to answer, continuing to pay attention to her driving as she turns the corner. But she can feel Seth staring at her with a cocky smile. Jean huffs out in slight frustration, "I'm denying nothing, I am who I am, not defined by you."

"Fair enough." Seth replies with smirk, "So you don't deny your actions last night?"

His question nearly silences Jean for a moment. But she responds plainly, "I don't know what you're talking about."

With another sarcastic grin, Seth remarks, "Oh right, sure, that wasn't you who summarily executed those baby killing butchers."

Jean huffs out again as she glances up at the rear view mirror, "You set me up, Seth. I didn't want to kill them."

"But you did." Seth returns, "And as much as I would love to take credit for the torture and death of those cowards, I had very little to do with it."

Seth's conniving grin seems to infuriate Jean. She grips her steering wheel out of frustration, sneering at Seth through the rear view mirror. Despite her anger, Jean is speechless. She turns her eyes away and out front trying to ignore him once more. Seth begins to whistle a classical tune. His whistling only seems to agitate Jean some more as she sighs out. Taking a breath, Jean begins to tune out Seth's annoying presence. Then a voice echoes in her thoughts, "Pathetic."

Jean's eyes widen as she looks up at the rear view mirror to see her own reflection sneering back at her. Her reflection speaks, "I don't like him any more than you do, but he has a point. You're not denying anything, you're just not acknowledging it. And why not take credit for it, you put fear in those worms. You felt it just before dusting them. It was like icing on a cake."

Starting to breathe a bit heavier, Jean mutters out, "Shut up."

Seth grins up into the rearview mirror chuckling out, "Personal problems?"

Jean tries to glare at him through the mirror as she drives, but is instead staring into her own sneering reflection that speaks to her, "He is annoying, but he's not wrong. Stop hiding."

"I said shut up." Jean demands out gritting her teeth.

With light laughter, Seth smiles at her saying, "I don't know what's worse, having your hair pulled out one strand at a time, or having detailed internal conflict with you self. Must be like having an itch you can't scratch."

Jean quickly returns with an angered and sarcastic tone, "You would be the expert in that, wouldn't you Seth?"

Her reflection speaks out again, "Stop fighting this, you're not the underdog anymore. You don't have to like him, just listen."

"Why are you so afraid to face the truth, Jean?" Seth asks with a curious like grin, "Everything I've showed you has been nothing but facts."

"He's right," her reflection adds, "he hasn't lied to you once. He never once tried to paint a pretty picture of things, masking the truths with metaphors and false confidence. Listen to him."

Seth remarks, "You're better than this, Jean. Stop holding yourself back. Last night proves you have what it takes to really make difference."

"Listen to him." Her reflection continues top add.

Jean shuts her eyes tightly while gripping her steering wheel tight. Her titanic grip squeezes the wheel frame underneath her grip bending it out of shape as she screams out, "SHUT UP… BOTH OF YOU!"

She suddenly jolts forward nearly hitting her face against her steering wheel. A loud metal pounding thud echoes throughout the cab of her SUV just as the emergency air bags suddenly inflate before her. Jean's seatbelt locks up holding her in place as her car slams into the rear end of a minivan. The front end of Jean's SUV smashes up like an accordion while the minivan suffers a near puncture like dent that tears off the rear bumper like paper. The minivan is pushed a few feet ahead then comes to a rest as it slides off to the side of the street. Jean's SUV is halted by the impact. Oil and other engine liquids leak onto the street as other drivers stop to check on the situation. Regaining her bearings, Jean takes a breath and looks out her now heavily crack windshield. Realizing she had just rear ended a family in a minivan at a speed of 45 mile per hour, she gets a bit angry glancing back at her back seat yelling out, "Now you see what you've made me do!"

Not much to her surprise however, the back seat is empty. Jean sighs out in frustration and turns back around watching the other driver stagger out of his driver's side door. Checking herself for injury, Jean remembers her body is now impervious to conventional harm. She tries to open her door, but finds it to be jammed. Jean gives it a slight nudge using her newly acquired strength bending the door open. She steps out with a plain expression staring at the damage on both vehicles. By standers rush to her offering aide. Jean nods them off assuring them she is fine. The other driver is not so calm or caring towards her as he yells out, "The hell is wrong with you! Didn't you see me stopped at the stop sign!"

Taking a breath to calm down, Jean replies, "I'm very sorry sir. I don't have an excuse, I guess I just spaced out for a moment."

"Spaced out!" the man remarks, "I have a six year old son and a two month old daughter in the back seat of my van. My wife bumped her head, all because you 'spaced out'."

In a calm manner, Jean asks, "Are they injured, sir?"

The tall man huffs out, "I don't know. Do I look like a doctor to you?"

Jean holds out her right hand at the damaged van and concentrates. The mans asks, "Hey, what're you doing?"

A quick flash of white light sparks out of the van as Jean blinks and says, "Your family is fine sir. I mended their injuries."

Stepping back with a baffled expression, the man asks, "You what?"

Turning her attention to both damaged vehicles, Jean focuses her pyro-kinetic and telekinetic forces, pulling out the mangled dents. The sounds of unfolding and bending metal echoes out as she repairs both the minivan and her SUV right before the gathered crowd. Jean takes a breath as she steps back staring at result of her deed. Both vehicles settle on their wheels, appear as though there had not been an accident at all. She looks over at the man and says with a smile, "There, no harm done. Again, I am sorry if I inconvenienced you and your family sir."

Stepping back again, the man remarks, "Wait a minute, you're a mutant? I mean… you can't just, cause trouble and fix things just because you can. I've got nothing against you people, but you have to follow the same laws as we do."

Jean sighs out calmly, "Sir, everything is fine now. I fixed it, and I won't let it happen again."

"You're damn right it won't happen again. I'm calling police and getting you off the roads, young lady. And there are plenty of witness here." as he pulls out his cell phone while gesturing to the gathered crowd.

Jean tries to politely object by saying, "Sir, please don't."

The man ignores her plea and starts to dial. Jean sighs out a deep breath and closes her eyes. Her thoughts reach out all around her as she pushes against the gathered minds of the on looking crowd. Her thought speak out subliminally, "Nothing is wrong, go about you day, and enjoy the weather."

Almost as though a switch changed the crowd's demeanor, they all slowly disperse in different directions, forgetting what had just transpired before them. The angry man, suddenly calms himself and casually walks back to his newly repaired minivan, oblivious to his previous situation. Jean looks around watching the people walk away, then climbs back into her SUV. She takes another breath nervously as she gently places her hands on the steering wheel. Seth's voice catches her attention, "Nicely done. As I said, you are better than this. These people don't know what's good for them. That's why we need to show them."

Jean glares at him through the rear view mirror and mutters out, "Get out of my car, Seth."

Lightly laughing, Seth returns, "What ever you want." as he slowly fades out of her sight.

Jean watches Seth disappear, then sighs out closing her eyes when she feels his presence leave. Her attention is caught again by the honking of another driver behind her, urging her to move her SUV along. Jean swallows and complies shifting her car into drive and rolling ahead to the Bayville Galleria parking deck. Carefully maneuvering her SUV through maze like parking deck, Jean searches for an open spot. As she turns the corner heading to the upper levels, she spots several mall patrons walking to their cars with an assortment of shopping bags in their grasps. Quite a diverse crowd that puts a slight smile on Jean's face. The sight bring a sense of normalcy in her heart as she takes a refreshing breath. Turning another corner to another row of occupied parking spaces, Jean catches sight of familiar face tediously working under the hood of a small green economy car. She rolls her SUV a bit closer then brings it to a halt realizing it's Scott. Jean quickly shifts her gear into 'park' and steps out of her vehicle speaking out, "Scott?"

Looking up quickly, Scott is a bit surprised and manages to slightly smile replying, "Oh, hi Jean."

Just as Scott greets her, Taryn comes into view walking around her green car with nervous expression. Jean takes a breath while staring at both of them and asks, "So, what's going here?"

Gesturing to Taryn's car engine, Scott answers plainly, "Taryn is having engine trouble, she asked for my help. I think her battery might be dead."

Jean turns her eyes to Taryn, who reluctantly stares back innocently. With a smirking grin, Jean sarcastically chuckles out, "Wow… you really don't know when to quit, do you?"

Taryn takes a short step back nervously as Scott straightens his posture from the car the car engine. He wipes his hand with a nearby rag and asks, "What are you talking about Jean?"

"She wants you back, Scott." Jean states boldly, "Isn't it obvious? And she'll try anything."

Taryn speaks up in her defense, "That's not true!"

"You're so pathetic." Jean blatantly spurts out, "I can hear your thoughts, Taryn. I can feel them. Right now if you could, you would kiss Scott, and that would just make your year."

With a baffled expression on his face, Scott steps up remarking, "Jean, chill out. What's gotten into you? Taryn is a friend of ours who need our help."

"Friend?" Jean brings up, "Scott, she and our other 'friends' from high school turned their backs on us when word got out were mutants. We don't need friends like her, we're better than that."

Her words shock Scott for a moment as he falls silent. He glances back at Taryn and notices her slight hurt expression. He turns back to Jean and sighs out, "I think you should head back home and calm down, Jean. I'm going call a tow truck for Taryn's car and give her ride home."

Scott walks up to Jean and gently takes her hand to guide her back to her SUV. Jean's expression turns sour as she becomes enraged. She quick snatches her hand away from Scott's gentle hold. The sudden force of Jean's action knocks Scott back. He grunts out feeling the push of her enhanced strength as he fall onto his back against the hard pavement. Taryn screams out, "Scott!" as she quickly kneels down to him.

Jean suddenly realizes the result of her quick outburst and gasps out covering her mouth out of surprise. She stares down at Scott and Taryn with a somewhat fearful expression. Without a word and with a stunned face, Jean turns around and gets into her SUV. Scott and Taryn watch silently as she drives away turning the corner leading toward the parking deck exit. Helping Scott sit up, Taryn looks around at the other mall patrons who caught sight of this short scuffle. One man chuckles out from across the parking deck, "Ha ha! Busted!"

He is joined by other chuckling bystanders and those who take quick embarrassing glances. Taryn helps Scott to his feet and asks, "Are you alright, Scott?"

Taking a breath, Scott replies with saddened tone, "I don't know."

Taryn adds with sincerity, "I'm really sorry. I swear I didn't mean for this to happen."

"It's not your fault." Scott quickly replies, "I don't know what just happened now. But I better get you home."

Evening draws near, slowly blanketing the skies of Bayville with a serene back drop of twinkling stars. All seems calm all around the Xavier estate, with exception of the recreational room, where a handful of the guys sit around one of the many wide screen TV's cheering over a televised basketball game. A mixture of cheers, rants, and laughter fill the room, almost rivaling the cheering crowd seen on the broadcast. Sitting across the room with baffled grins, Rogue, Allison, Tabitha, Elizabeth, and Ororo watch the guys cheer out in typical guy fashion, high fiving each other and downing back sodas and treats. To the girls, it is a laughable display of testosterone, watching the guys grunt out like animals whenever their favorite player scores.

As the broadcasted game comes to an end, the guys catch their breaths and one by one casually disperse for the night. Only Allan, Logan and Sean are left to clean up the mess. The three men sift through the gathered mess of balled up paper towels, half crushed soda cans and empty pizza boxes. After stuffing three trash bags full, Allan carefully takes the garbage out of the room heading towards the back door of the mansion. Crossing the long halls, he spots Scott walking the other direction to his room. "Hey Scott," Allan calls out, "where've you been, buddy? You missed the game."

Allan notices Scott's slightly moping posture as he turns and replies, "I uh… I got caught up with something, and lost track of time."

Deciding to save time instead of dropping off the garbage in the outside disposal, Alan focuses his energy manipulating forces and disintegrates the three bags of trash right before Scott's eyes. Scott slightly smiles at the sight as Allan dusts off his hands and asks, "Is everything alright?"

In a slight sarcastic manner, Scott inquires, "Why do you even ask, Allan? You can just read out thoughts and get the answer yourself. You probably don't even have to try."

Sighing out, Allan returns in a plain manner, "Because I choose to ask. Reading minds is not something I like to do on a regular basis. It's get loud after a while, especially when you can hear this world and the other neighboring worlds in nearby solar systems. So I just don't do it."

Scott falls silent swallowing his breath. Allan asks, "Did something happen today? May be I can help."

Thoughts of his brief confrontation with Jean's temper flood Scott's mind hearing Allan's offer to help. His heart pounds with a sense of fear as he breathes out, "No, its' cool Allan. I just had a bad day, that's all. We all have those." shrugging his shoulders.

Chuckling, Allan adds, "Some more than others, believe me."

Scott also chuckles and turns to continue on his way. Allan than asks out, "So how's the narrow beam coming along?"

Scott glances back and replies, "Kind of got the hang of it. But it's good."

Nodding, Allan remarks, "It's a handy skill, Scott. Trust me."

Scott grins and continues on his way. Allan watches with a content expression, then slowly saddens a bit. With a slight sigh, Allan quietly mutters to himself, "Some thoughts are just too loud to ignore than others."

Allan pulls up one of the breakfast stools in the kitchen and gently leans up against the center counter resting both elbows down and rubbing his face slowly. He takes a deep breath as he sits quietly in the dark room staring out the window. A few minutes pass while Allan gazes out the window at the starry filled night sky. An almost elegant silence that is broken the sound the sound of Rogue's voice, "Allan, what're ya doin' sittin' in the dark?"

Glancing back at her, Allan smiles and replies, "Just doing a little thinking, you know, Vanguard stuff."

"Oh," Rogue adds innocently, "do ya want to be alone?"

Allan smiles at her and holds out his left hand to her saying, "No."

Rogue steps forward taking his hand gently as he pulls her close. Sitting on the stool, Allan wraps his arms around her waist and rubs the right side of his face against her chest. Rogue returns the affection, caressing Allan's head as they hug lovingly in the silent darkness of the kitchen. Allan holds her tight and gently as he inhales her scent.

Dressing down to a simple t-shirt and pajama pants, Scott prepares for bed. Before he hangs his jeans on the nearby desk chair, he empties the content in the pockets, placing them on his desk. The last object he pulls from his blue jean pockets is the photo Nick Fury had given him. Scott drapes his jeans over the desk chair and holds up the partially warped photo. He stares at the image of Jean standing among the wreckage of burning tanks. His eyes then drift over to where Seth stands in the photo. Scott's expression becomes slightly agitated as he breathes out with uncertainty. Glancing at his clock, Scott sees the late hour. But he swallows a breath and decides to head to Jean's room. He clutches the photo in his right hand with a stern expression on his face as he quietly crosses the hallway. Taking quick looks around, Scott watches and hears his fellow house mates prepare for the night. A sense of relief settles within him seeing the halls are empty, allowing him a straight uninterrupted walk to Jean's bedroom door. Taking another glance down at the photo in his left hand, Scott takes a deep breath and raises his right hand to knock on the door. But just before he does, Scott feel a slight breeze blowing through the bottom of Jean's door. A cool breeze that tingles his feet, Scott comes to the notion that it was an outside breeze. He quickly moves his right down over the door knob and quietly opens the door. Stepping into Jean's room, Scott notices several articles of clothes sprawled across the floor. Her closet doors appear swung open with other articles of clothing jus laying halfway in and out. He steps around her sporadically placed art pieces and walks up to her open window. And breeze of nightly air blows through gently moving object in Jean's room in a ghostly manner. With his expression turning a bit stone cold, Scott turns and walks to Jean's closest. He sifts and pushes though an assortment of blouses and outfits until realizing her X-man uniform is missing. Scott's heart begins to beat heavily as a sense of fear and nervousness overwhelms his heart. A sense of denial also runs through his mind as he carelessly drops the photo and quickly walks out of her room, closing the door behind him. Almost systematically, Scott briskly walks back to his room. An expression of unsure determination molds his face under his ruby quartz sunglasses as he opens his own closet staring at his X-man uniform.

A blanketing breeze blows through Jean's red hair as she stands atop one of Bayville's tall office buildings. She overlooks the light blinking city with a blank stare. Jean closes her eyes pointing her face up at the stars. She reaches out with her mind, trying to listen for any nearby thought in distress. She suddenly grabs her head frantically as an unknown number of echoing voices flood her thoughts. The sensation is almost deafening. She not only hears the thoughts, she can also feel the emotions behind them. Jean tries to gather her concentration and push the psychic noise out of her head, but one set on thoughts and emotions overwhelms her being. Tears roll down her face as she struggles against the morbid thoughts. A great sense of self pity, sadness, despair, and unworthiness flood Jean's as she starts looking around her. She steps and turns looking in earnest to where the thoughts originate from. But as she somewhat staggers and steps atop the tall building, she only sees Seth, float a few feet above her with back drop of the starry night sky behind him. With an angered expression, Jean asks out, "Seth, are you doing this to me?"

Seth pulls off his stylized face covering helmet and grins at her replying, "What makes you think it's me?"

"Because you're demented!" Jean yells out while focusing a column of pyro-kinetic fire at him.

Seth quickly puts his helmet back on and back flips away from the assault in mid air. He allows gravity to pull him down as he lands into a crouched posture a few yards from Jean. Peering through the eye holes of his helmet, Seth remarks, "Look inside yourself, Jean, it was you who wanted to hear those pathetic voices. You wanted to listen to them whine and cry about their short lives. But it's not enough is it? You have to feel it to believe it, because all your life you never thought your world could be this sad."

Jean grabs her head again, trying to fight back against all the thoughts. She grunts out, "Shut up, Seth. Stop it!"

Seth continues, "It's just like the other night, remember? How do you sift through who's thoughts and voices are genuine? How do you help them? Can you answer that?"

Jean struggles gripping her head, having little choice but to listen to Seth's cold lecture. But just as she falls to her knees, the voices and overwhelming emotional sensations cease. Jean opens her eyes and hears nothing. All, accept for one crying voice. It sobs with a great weight sadness behind it and longing to die. Jean catches her breath as she looks over at Seth. "Is that better?" he asks her.

Looking off to her side in surprise, Jean returns, "Who's… who's voice is crying? There is so much pain."

Seth holds out his right hand and says, "Let me show you."

Jean at first is reluctant, but then reaches out with her own left hand allowing Seth to lead. With weightless elegance, the two float off the roof top and descend to the street below. The sobbing in Jean's mind grows sharper as well as the sadness within. However this voice echoes almost angelic like. It's thought patterns are of only complete sadness and self loathing. Both Jean and Seth touch down in an empty back alley riddled with litter from wall to wall. Jean can now hear and feel the despair all around her. She looks back at Seth with a baffled expression asking, "What's here? Why does it feel so…"

Seth quickly adds for her, "… familiar? See and feel for yourself, Jean."

Jean slowly glances around the alley and takes a small step forward. Her mind suddenly echoes with words, "Too much death. Cannot bear. No more pain. Bring about demise. End existence. Allow to die as children did."

Jean turns her wide eyed expression back to Seth as he speaks out, "I'm here, Nung. Like I promised. It's time."

The ground all around them suddenly comes alive. Trash and asphalt begin to mold right before them into a large heap. It slowly takes shape forming a some what tall and bulky male figure. Jean steps back in shock realizing who it is. But instead of feeling fear and anger from when she last encountered Nung, all she feels is great sense of sadness and pity for the morbid entity. Seth speaks to Nung again, "You no longer have to wait. Your day rest has come." he says as he gestures to Jean, "Behold, the Phoenix, your deliverance."


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