Disclaimer: All X-men characters and their world belong Marvel. No profit or copyright infringement is intended.


You make certain assumptions when you see someone survive being thrown through a windshield at 50 miles per hour. Or survive two punctured lungs and a battle with Sabertooth. When you know the man standing next to you might be a hundred years old - or two hundred. You believe he's always going to be there. You assume he's indestructible.

You should know better because in your world, nothing is guaranteed.

Your footsteps echo in the cold silver hallways as you slide the card through the lock and enter the tiny room you always hoped never to have to use. Its dark but you leave the lights off; the flourerscents in the hallway are enough to see by. Too much, really. There's nothing in this room but a silver table and a bunch of small doors.

Eric must have planned this room. He'd never been shy about the necessity of sacrifice. You can't imagine the professor admitting to anyone - especially himself - that people were going to die for the dream. It's not something you'd ever had to admit either.

God, it's cold. It makes your hands ache and the two missing toes on your left foot. You'd lost a bit of an earlobe too. Everyone swore it didn't show. God knows what he's feeling but - of course - that’s the point. He isn't feeling anything.

You don't want to spend all night down here so you go over to the center drawer. The metal is ice cold and when you pull it open condensation pours out to roll over your feet. It's cold enough to bring tears to your eyes.

You were holding your breath in a last moment of hope. No one was sure he was dead. No one was willing to say it. No one knew just what he could heal from and no one wanted to make a mistake. No one wanted to believe he was dead - really dead. Jean had waited until actual signs of decay before admitting he was gone.

You look in the metal drawer and nothing is changed. He's stiff and still, more like a waxwork than anything else. Or maybe it's just easier to think of him that way. You touch his face and it's hard and cold. His hair is the same though.

There's no injury, nothing to see. No terrible wound to horrify and to convince. He's just dead. The adamantium probably killed him - metal conducts temperature wonderfully well. You run your hand over his knuckles. There'd been no autopsy. You'd discovered a startling revulsion to the thought. It was the only violation you could spare him. He'd already spent enough time on tables like the one behind you.

You sigh and your breath smokes in the refrigerated air. You unfold the blanket you'd brought and drape it around him. Tuck it close. Because, dammit, it's cold down here. And it's all you can do.

END. (written 9/2002)