Leader's Lesson:
A Week in the Life of Sam Guthrie

by Leary



But before we begin, I want to show what really happened in between X-Men #53 and #54, (right after Chuck rips Sam's pride up into wee bits and pieces when he went for that pep talk) a page that seems to have been blown out the Marvel window or something (and all the way down to Atlanta -- weird.<g>) Anyway, it looked interesting and here's what it says...

(NOTE: The Cable/Storm talk is in reference to X-Man)


Sam: (under breath) "Stupid... <grumble> arrogant, stuck-up, <rassumfrassum> two-faced, back-stabbing

X-Men. You say I'm a kid just one more time Xavier, and you'll see just how..."

Coming from around hall corner...

Ororo: "Yes Cable, he is very brave, but he is also very young, which makes him very dangerous."

Nathan: "That may be true, but...."

Sam: "ARRRRRRRRRGH!!!!!!!!"


DISCLAIMER: All the characters featured in this work are the exclusive intellectual property of Marvel Comics, with the exception of Dr. Kimber Lee, who is the wonderful product of Darqstar's psyche.

Continuity Notice: The events in this story take place after the Onslaught debacle and before the X-Men's missions in Shi'ar space and Hong Kong. Wolverine has already moved into his apartment. Iceman is off the X-Men with his father in the hospital. Since I could not bring myself to read the Magneto LS, disregard it from this continuity, if needed.

'--' marks denote thought; '><' marks denote telepathy.

Sunday afternoon; the Boathouse...

Cannonball is sitting alone on the dock. It's the place he and his old friends, the New Mutants, used to come to when they needed to think. And right now, Samuel Zachary Guthrie is thinking long and hard about the past, where he's been and why he's been there. He holds a classic photo of the original New Mutants in one hand, just the five of them. Berto, Rahne, Dani, X'ian and himself. Young, foolish and full of life. This is what Sam thinks about this Sunday afternoon, roughly 5 years since the picture itself had been taken.

--Look at us. Ah had only been here less than a day when this was taken. Ah was still in mah Daddy's best... only... suit while everybody else was in their uniforms. It's funny, ah can remember it as if it was yesterday, but I just can't feel it anymore. Maybe it's just 'cause ah ain't a New Mutant anymore, but even when ah was a member of X-Force, ah could take this picture out and make mahself feel good about what ah was doin' again. But now? Now, it's like a phantom pain. Bein' on the X-Men ain't like it was with the New Mutants or even X-Force, there at least ah had a friend, there we were like a family. Here? It's like ah'm all alone...--

"Hello, Sam." Scott Summers walks out of his boathouse home, shutting the sliding glass door behind him quietly.

"Wha!! Sir, ah...." Sam turns around quickly, startled by Cyclops' sudden arrival. He had forgotten that both of the Summers' lived at the boathouse these days.

"It's okay Sam, I don't mind you being here. I just came out to say hello." He points to the picture in Sam's hands and tries to look over his shoulder. "What do you have there?"

"Oh, this? It's nothing." He tries to find a place to put it quickly.

"Really, what is it?" Scott sits down next to the troubled X-Man.

"It's just a picture a' me an' the old gang." Sam continues to stare blankly across the water.


Sam shakes his head. "No, the New Mutants." He hands the photo to Scott reluctantly.

"Oh. You want to tell me what's on your mind?" He looks at it, smiling with a bit of nostalgia at the memory of his own first day as an X-Man with his wife-to-be and their friends.

"Ah was just thinkin' about the past and all that. Kinda why I came out here in the first place, me and the other New Mutants used ta' come out here a lot, ta' think in private." Sam continues looking out over the water.

"You're welcome here anytime you feel like it, you know." He hands the photo back to Sam, who doesn't notice for a couple seconds, but eventually takes it.

"Thanks sir, but..." He replies, sticking the photo in his jacket pocket.

"Call me Scott. It makes me feel old when you call me 'sir'. You're only about 4 or 5 years younger than me."

"Sorry sir... ah mean Scott." Sam turns back to the water staring blankly again.

"There's something else on your mind than just the past. Come on, talk to me here."

"Well, that's kinda the problem. When ah was in the New Mutants so long ago, an' with X-Force, I was with mah best friends in the whole world and ah could talk to 'em about anythin'."

"And here?"

"Well, ya'll've been mah idols for a long time. Around the other X-Men, ah just can't act like mahself, much less be comfortable talkin' to ya' about personal things." He finally turns and looks Scott in the face, his own features coloring slightly.

"I know how you feel." A faint smile creeps at Scott's face.

"Frankly, sir, I don't think you could." Scott raises a single eyebrow above his ruby glasses. "Ah mean Scott."

"I know it's hard to believe, but I went through a similar situation when I was about your age."

"And what was that?" The answer comes out distracted.

"Me and the other original X-Men had just been rescued by the second team, you know, Logan, Storm, Ban..." Sam rolls his eyes.

"Ah know who they were, Scott."

"Sorry. Anyway, the other originals had just been freed by us, and stopped Krakoa, sending him off into deep space. But afterwards, all the others left on their own adventures and I was left by myself to lead this entirely new team of people, all older and mostly more experienced than me. Colossus was about my age, but everyone else was at least a year or two ahead. Banshee already had a daughter who was only three years younger than me and I don't even want to get into how old Logan is. Either way you look at it, not only was I in your position, but I had to actually lead them all. It wasn't easy getting them to listen to me, but they did." He smiles again slightly, "Well, Logan didn't really, but you get the idea."

"So how does this relate to me again? Ah ain't exactly been given a lotta responsibility here." The irritation in his voice was obvious.

"And that's the problem." Scott pauses to think a bit, "Look, I have an idea. It's something I've been thinking about since... Onslaught happened." Scott frowns noticeably, but moves on anyway. "It's Joseph." Sam nearly growls.

"Yeah, what about him?"

"As you know, he's got amnesia and has been reduced to a novice in both the use of his powers and his fighting ability." Scott noticed Sam shift uncomfortably on the dock. "So he needs to be retrained and I want you to do it." He says bluntly.

If Sam had been drinking something at the time, its contents would currently be polluting the lake in front of them. "What!!" He stands up quickly in shock.

"You heard me." Scott motioned for him to sit again, but stood up himself when he saw Sam still pacing back and forth in frustration. "He needs help and I can't exactly send him down to the Academy along with Paige, your sister." He responds pointedly.

"Look Scott, ah know ya' mean well an' all, but honestly, yer makin' a serious mistake here." Sam looks at Scott pleadingly, as if begging to be pardoned from death row.

"I know your feelings about..." Scott glances around quickly for listeners, Jean in particular, "...Magneto, but he is staying here and no matter my personal feelings about him, I can't throw someone with his reputation to people like Bastion or the FOH."

"Why me?" Sam locks eyes with Scott, or at least his ruby glasses. "Why not Rogue? She seems ta be quite taken with him."

"Because of your past with him. Because you know him personally. Because..."

"...he betrayed me -- us, all'a the New Mutants. Tried ta' turn us inta' his pet soldiers in the Hellfire Club. Ah can stand ta' live in the same house with him, but ah draw the line at bein' his friend."

"I'm not asking you to do that. I'm asking you to be his teacher, and after being taught by him, I'm sure you know the difference."

"Surely there are people a lot more qualified for this. Ah mean, ah'm the junior X-Man here, ah should be the last choice." Sam turns towards the mansion, staring at Joseph's room window.

"You're still an X-Man, Sam, and as qualified as any other, or else you wouldn't have gotten the position." Scott walks up behind Sam, "But you want to know the real reason I picked you?"

"Ah can't come up with a good enough reason mahself." Sam looks at the man he has looked up to for years, but can't help but feel offended by what's happening, then turns away again.

"Poetic justice, Sam." Scott grins knowingly. "He lorded it over you and the New Mutants when he was your teacher, now the tables are turned. It's quite... fitting, don't you think?"

"Ah can't say he ever 'lorded it over us' like ya' say, he was pretty strict, but fair. Even... nice in his own way." Sam looks up at Scott, "No matter what he's done in the past, ah wouldn't treat him unfairly, it wouldn't be right. Especially if he ain't foolin' the lot of us, which ah ain't ready to dismiss right yet."

"And neither am I, Sam. That's another reason I wanted you to train him. I want a second opinion on him, by someone who's known him and his private quirks personally. That's you. Rogue, while I trust her intentions, is at least partially blinded by her romantic feelings for him. I can't deny that she might 'gloss over' troubling areas in his attitude to protect him, even without realizing it." Sam pauses briefly before answering.

"Is this an order, sir?" Sam asks the question pointedly.

"I'd rather it not be." He starts to walk away. "I think this would benefit the both of you, give Magneto a chance, however undeserved, and we might be surprised."

"Ah'll do it. Ah don't like it, but ah'll do it." He looks back out on the water, not angry, just... annoyed.

Early Monday Morning; Sam's room...

The young mutant called Sam Guthrie awakens bright and early, as usual, well before the rest of the residents in his new home; discounting Beast, of course, for whom sleep was an activity to be scheduled on a Dayrunner, and often forgotten about altogether. Sam did not sleep well, however, having had a rather fierce confrontation with his estranged girlfriend, Tabitha "Meltdown" Smith, the night before. He had already been stressed enough about his recent 'mission' to retrain Joseph, a man who he was seriously uncomfortable being around. The result, he predicted, would be a rotten Monday for himself and all those who had the unpleasant experience of meeting him over the next 24 hours.

"Ah hate Mondays." He rises from his restless slumber and rubs the sleep from his eyes, then looks out at the sunrise just barely breaking over the horizon. "But at least it looks like a good day for flyin'." He stops briefly to throw on a pair of shredded jeans and a plain t-shirt, then roars out his open window in a blast of kinetic fury.

"The wind in mah hair, the roar in mah ears -- it gets the cobwebs outta mah head, that's for sure. And with what's been goin' on recently, there're a lotta webs up there."

He pulls a 90 degree turn straight up into the clouds, racing against the pull of gravity.

--Ah just can't believe that the Professor's been taken prisoner, much less that he accepted it willingly. Ah mean, at the very least he shoulda been given a trial, a hearin' of some sort. There's no evidence ta' convict him, even if he was charged with somthin', which ah don't think they've done yet. Ah mean, what jury, no matter how anti-mutant they might all be, would convict a wheelchair bound scientist/philosopher who's promoted peace all his life a' doin' what Onslaught did?--

Sam rolls into a downward plunge straight towards the lake beneath him, pulling out of the dive mere inches from contact, scaring the few remaining ducks at the lake half to death.

--Ah guess he regrets what he's done, or at least caused to happen, and wants ta' make up for it the best he can, but ah just don't like it. It smells fishy somehow, like someone's stackin' the deck, gettin' ready ta' cut us down while we're all scramblin' like a chicken with its head cut off. And now we got Magneto back, clueless and as young as the rest of us. Ah don't even wanna try an' figure that one out. Things are just not like they used ta' be and as bad as it looks, ah think it's gonna get worse. Well, ah didn't come up here ta' worry about things, ah just need ta' relax and keep mah hopes up.-- He finishes his thoughts and zooms off into the distance.

Sam eventually manages to lose himself in the breeze, flying around and relaxing in the weightlessness of free, unaided flight. He loses track of time completely and doesn't notice when he is sucker punched by his best friend, Roberto daCosta, Sunspot, in full uniform.

"Being on the X-Men's hurtin' you something awful, Sam. The X-Forcer I knew would've seen that coming a mile away." Berto playfully slaps Sam on the back as he falls in next to him in flight. "What's up?"

"Oh, nothin' much, Berto. Just felt like it was a great day ta' fly, ya' know."

"Yeah, I know." The two of them fly side-by-side, speeding all around the immense campus grounds. "Sam, this flight thing is exhilarating. It's so hard for me to imagine living without it now, it's so... natural -- primal. Is this what it's felt like for you all these years?"

"Yeah, I always loved bein' able ta' get up in the air and lose mahself in the clouds." He thinks for a bit, then smiles brightly. "Care for a race?" Berto smiles equally wide.

"10 bucks says I can beat you to the far side of the lake and back."

"Yer on!" Sam says joyfully, his earlier mood forgotten.

"On 3." Berto pauses a bit. "THREE!" He jets off quickly, getting a large head start on the Kentucky native.

"Ah shoulda expected somthin' like that outta you!!" He yells at the speeding streak of ebony.

"Yes, you should have, but you didn't. The X-Forcer Cannonball would've seen that coming as well." He says tauntingly. "Catch me if you can!"

"Boy, are you askin' for it!" With that, he roars up to neck and neck with Berto. They race towards the far end and then back towards the Mansion.

"Looks like I'm getting an extra ten bucks to pad my wallet today. Father would be proud." Berto says, pulling a half body length in front of Sam.

"Hey Berto, I wouldn't be countin' your eggs before they're hatched. Let me show ya' somthin' ah've been workin' on since mah move ta' the X-Men. Multiple blasts!" With that, Sam uses his powers to ignite one launching blast after another, effectively doubling his current speed and leaving a slightly poorer Brazilian in wide eyed astonishment.

They both land on the front lawn, slightly winded, but energized at the same time from the adrenaline rush.

"So what's this I've heard about Magneto being brain dead?" Berto says, stretching out his bones. "I haven't been able to get all the details myself, and I figured you'd be the person to talk to about it."

"Well, ah don't know the full story, no one does, but he showed up durin' the Onslaught mess with Rogue an' has been stayin' with us ever since. Apparently he lost his memory when the Professor wiped his mind about a year or so back on Avalon. Then he fell to Earth when the place got trashed and it somehow made him a twenty-somethin' newbie with his powers and no memory of who he was. Ah don't understand it, or even try to anymore, ah just don't like it much. And now ah've been ordered ta' be his tutor by Cyclops."

Berto, who had been walking side-by-side with him, suddenly stops dead in his tracks with a shocked expression. "Y... you... you're HIS teacher!?! Stop, rewind, play back the last couple of seconds for me here. Explain."

"It's just like it sounds. Mags ain't up ta' speed with the rest of us at the moment an' he needs ta' learn about usin' his powers the right way again. And ah can't exactly disobey one a' Cyclops's orders now can ah?"

"I suppose not, but it... it just feels weird. Something about it just doesn't feel right." His brows furrow in thought.

"Care ta' join me on our trainin' session later today?" He says, jerking his thumb at the mansion.

"Sorry pal, but me and the rest of X-Force just came off a midnight mission and I'm beat. You think I would have been up at a time like this if I didn't have to be? In full uniform, no less? Try Ric and James, they still seem pretty awake. And you know Star's always up for a Danger Room session no matter what."

"Ah suppose." He looks at his watch, noticing that it's barely 6 o'clock yet. "Yeah, you go ta' sleep. Ah got breakfast duty anyway, so ah better get started before anyone else wakes up."

"Right. See you later, Sam." Berto then flies off and enters his bedroom window.

Monday afternoon; The Danger Room...

Within the confines of the holographic domain, six combatants are waging their own separate battles, occasionally switching opponents whenever the operator called for it. In this case, the operator in question is Sam Guthrie, presiding over the X-Men Gambit, Bishop and Joseph and the X-Force members Shatterstar, Rictor and Warpath. The emphasis of this session is to get more familiar with close-quarters combat with select weaponry. No powers are allowed. As it is, the leader of the pack is Shatterstar who has been constantly trading the position points-wise with Bishop. Gambit is in the definite third spot, holding his own against the various makeshift Hand assassins they all had to battle, while Warpath brings up the forth slot. Normally, in powerless sessions such as these, it was Rictor who went down easily, but today he walks with pride knowing that it is Joseph who soundly got his butt beat in every round.

"Joe, you and Bishop switch targets." With that Bishop quickly spins his firearm around and blasts three leaping assassins in mid-air, then back-kicks another in the throat as it sneaks up behind him. "Behind you, Joseph!" Though he spins quickly enough, his reactions are too slow to prevent a sword from slashing through his head. Thankfully, the Danger Room's safety protocols phased the deadly implement into a simple light projection, but the simple fact remained, if it was real, Joseph would be dead. Another 250 points deducted. He was clearly losing this game.

"Come on out Joe, even we can only die so many times." This gets a subtle laugh from the less serious members of the war party.

"Pardon?" Joseph says as he walks for the exit.

"Inside joke, don't worry your platinum head about it. If ya' run into anyone in the hall, ask 'em ta' join us." He then dismisses him casually with a wave of his hand, then shifts his attention to the others. "C'mon slackers, ya'll actin' like ya' never thrown a punch before." He then ups the opponent skill level by two and quantity level by one. Sam leaves the view-window and sits down in a chair to calm down a bit.

"Man, how am ah gonna deal with this for the rest of the week? Ah mean, ah KNEW Joe was unfamiliar with his powers an' fightin' in general, but he just kept gettin' whacked ta' bits in there. Even if he didn't have his powers, Mags could always hold his own in a fight. He wasn't a fighter on the level a' Logan or 'Star, but he was better than me." He glances at the performance chart. It's half of Rictor's score, which was at least a third below the next one in line. "Ah hate Mondays."

Tuesday afternoon; the Pool...

Joseph is sitting on the porch with Rogue and several of the other X-Men, X-Force is sitting on the far left side of the pool, well away from the others with Sam in their number.

"Joseph, sugah, while ya' up, get me a glass a' sweet tea, please?" She winks at him, more to aggravate the Cajun sitting across the table than anything else. Joseph gets out of his chair and goes to get it for her.

Sunspot, who had been returning from getting a case of drinks from inside, bumps into Joseph while talking over his shoulder to Warpath, who is bringing out an armful of food.

"Forgive me young man, I was clearly not watching where I was going. Now if you'll excuse me, I must get Ms. Rogue another glass of tea."

Berto is able to hold his composure for all of five seconds before bursting into fits of laughter.

"Droga, Sam, you were right! <snort> If I... <wheeze> ...I hadn't seen it with my own eyes, I'd... <snicker> I'd never have believed it!" He manages to say eventually, pausing to laugh intermittently.

"I beg your pardon?" Joseph raises an eyebrow at the young man now sitting in a chair and laughing uncontrollably. Sunspot eventually manages to compose himself, at least a little.

"You. Like this. I never thought I'd see the day that Magneto, self-proclaimed Master of Magnetism, destined savior of mutants everywhere and all-around ego-stuffed maniac would become Rogue's personal butler! HAH!! 'You will be the first to follow in my footsteps' my ass! This is hilarious! I gotta get outta here before I burst." The rest of X-Force comes over, many of them laughing at the display, to get Berto. Sam, however, finds no humor in the situation.

"Come on Berto, don't laugh at the man's failin's. There ain't nothin' funny about this." He says, trying to calm his best friend down, but only succeeds at increasing the decibel level of his laughter.

"Sam, I can't see how you're keeping a straight face through all this. I mean, I haven't had this good a laugh in God knows how long!"

"Ya' rotten little brat! Come on Joseph, let's get away from these immature little... children." Rogue gets up, grabs a frustrated looking Joseph by the arm and walks off in a snit towards the mansion, past Warpath, who also begins laughing hysterically at the scene and drops the food he's carrying. Gambit, who had been trying to hold in his own laughter, waits until the both of them had disappeared inside to begin his own loud chuckling. Starting there, it begins to infect the entire group, even the regal Storm, who is happy to see that her close friend is finally getting over his long depression. Scott even smiles a little and Jean elbows him in the ribs gently, something about a private joke though their psionic rapport, then smiles herself.

Wednesday; The Day Off...

"So dere be nothin' on de lesson plan for today, eh Sammy?" The Cajun X-Man known as Remy LeBeau to few and Gambit to many walks through Sam Guthrie's open door. The Kentuckian himself is busy writing a letter to his family back home and another to Paige in Generation X.

"Nope. All ah planned for him was that little trainin' session earlier today, then he had the rest of the day off." He continues writing his letters.

"Mebbe it jus' be Gambit's eyes foolin' him, mon ami, but I be t'inkin' dat you give 'im de hard line whenever you get de chance. Why de break in stride?"

"Ah play fair Remy, and he's earned himself some time off." Sam puts his pen down.

"Now dis 'ere cajun tol' you once before Sammy, you got de bluffin' down good, but you can't con a con-man an' you can't pull a fast one on a t'ief. Gambit know you got an ace up your sleeve, but he wanna see de full hand."

"Hush yerself or ah'll have ya' give him French lessons." Sam smiles devilishly.

"You wouldn' dare..." Gambit nearly lets his cigarette fall out his mouth.

"Ya' should know better than ta dare a country boy, cajun." His smile widens. Remy is about to challenge it, but then smiles knowingly and then blows some smoke out of his nose.

"Nice dodge, Sammy. Almost worked, too. But like I said, you can't pull a fast one on de cajun. Spill it."

"Nah, ah wouldn't wanna spoil the surprise." Sam smiles briefly, but then returns to work. Remy looks over at the 21 year old curiously.

"Tell me somt'in, Sammy." He takes a drag of his cigarette. "Gambit curious 'bout what you got against ole Joe. I know he be your teacher once, but a few bad grades ain't much of a reason to dis cajun."

"You don't know much 'bout the New Mutants do ya'?"

"Hardly a t'ing before Cable came along, mon ami. Gambit not be readin' his stuff like Stormy want 'im to. Some o' de t'ings you guys done before I came along be pretty twisted and Gambit don' need more headaches dan he already got." Remy smiles wryly.

"Then ah'll spare ya' the bothersome details." Sam pauses for a moment to pull up the old memories. "Up until a few months before you showed up, Magneto was in charge a' the New Mutants. He'd been our teacher for about a year and a half and towards the end, he started regressin' to his past self. Gettin' more and more obsessed with protectin' us and all mutants." Sam pauses a bit, hitting a harsh memory, "After one of mah teammates, Doug Ramsey, died when Magnus wasn't there ta' help, he started gettin' over-protective on us, groundin' us for hardly no reason at all and sometimes usin' his powers ta' hold us down. Put most of us in a pretty foul mood, even Rahne an' me were gettin' fed up with it. Ah know he meant well and he was tryin' ta' keep us from gettin' killed like Doug, but... well... let's just say we had our growin' pains an' it drove the wedge 'tween us an' him."

"Dere gotta be more dan dat, Sammy." The tall cajun shifts, brows furrowing as he tries to sort out the information.

"Yeah, there is." Sam looks up at the ceiling as he lays down with his back on his bed. "As ah was sayin', Magneto was gettin' over-protective and it put us at odds with him after a while. Then we found out he was tryin' ta' use us as his personal mutant army in the Hellfire Club, and it just broke the camel's back. We weren't about to take anymore, so we left him."

"And he let you leave?" He asks, a little stunned.

"Yeah, ah imagine if he thought about it a little more, he'd've kept us anyway. But he let us go, after givin' us a choice that is. Follow him into the Hellfire Club or leave him and the school. So we packed up what little we could salvage from the wrecked school an' got the heck outta Dodge."

"So what happened den?"

"We hooked up with X-Factor and their kids, the X-Terminators, then kinda wandered around for a bit 'til Cable showed up. It was around that time when you came along, so the rest ya' already know."

"Doesn't sound like a reason ta' hate de man ta' me. Mebbe you don' trust 'im much, but dis don' seem like a little paranoia." He says, slightly confused. Sam breathes a long sigh.

"If ah tell ya' this one last thing, will ya' let it drop?" He looks to the cajun leaning on the door frame. Remy nods. "It's not Magneto ah got a problem with, it's Joseph." Remy looks at him oddly, trying to decipher the cryptic phrase. Remy is about to respond, but Sam catches him with a wave of his hand. "Ya' said ya'd let it drop. If ya' figure it out, keep it to yerself."

With that, Remy nods again and leaves Sam to finish his letter.

Thursday night; The Poker Game...

"The name o' de game be 5 card stud. No wilds, Jacks or better to open; two bucks minimum opening bet, a buck to raise; deal changes every third hand." Remy LeBeau shuffles the cards quickly and with a skill to make top-flight casino dealers sit in awe, deals them out to the gathered competitors. On his left sits Henry McCoy and Beast's longtime friend Bobby Drake, taking a brief night of relaxation off while his ailing father recuperates in the nearby hospital. Next to him is the youngest of them all, but Remy's only true competition in this sport of Kings and Queens, Sam Guthrie. And to Remy's obvious distaste, the former New Mutant brought along his unwanted charge, Joseph. The last player in the game is Logan, who's apartment in the East Village they now are using to enjoy the traditional Thursday night poker game as a sort of mutated housewarming party.

"And before we begin, I must thank our 2nd hairiest X-Man for allowing us to use his cozy abode for this fine evening, as well as to the newcomer to our game, the amnesiac lad we affectionately refer to as Joseph." Beast looks across the table at Joseph. "I trust you have been adequately instructed in the basic formalities of what this game entails by your reluctant tutor?" He then nods to Sam. Logan raises an eyebrow, but says nothing, hearing for the first time about Sam being Joseph's teacher.

"I have been told the basics, yes." Joseph sits in an iron posture. He just doesn't feel comfortable around the others without Rogue at his side.

"Den let de games begin!" Remy says loudly, then proceeds to deal the cards with lightning speed. "So Sammy, what ya' t'ink odds of winnin' dis game are?"

"Not too good, but ah don't expect your chances ta' be too high, either." He says cryptically, offering a small, lopsided curl of his lip before laying down his discards.

A few hours later...

"So Remy, what were ya' sayin' yesterday about helpin' Joe with his French?" Gambit, who had been holding the perfect poker face all night, glares at Sam angrily. Sam himself holds his own amusement down to a small grin. Remy is speechless.

"I do not think that would be an... agreeable position for either of us, though I appreciate the offer." Joseph nods to Remy and then to Sam.

"We'll have ta' talk about it later, then." Sam says with a perfected poker face, but Remy looks obviously flustered. The hands go around several more times for the night, with Remy's own game apparently on the down swing.


"Well, that's it for me!" Bobby chimes in, folding his rotten hand. "I gotta go and check back on my Dad before they knock him out for the night. It's been nice to see you all again, and thanks for inviting me Logan!" He walks out the door putting his jacket on.

"Sure, anytime kid." Logan lays his own hand down, a simple two-pair. "What ya' got Hank?"

"I fear my intellectual skills, though quite formidable, have not endeared me to the skill that is becoming of a grand card shark. Therefore, I must assume it is pure luck and blessed chance that I have found myself in the possession of a Full House." He grins, baring his extended canines. "Samuel?"

"Straight a' Clubs. Remy?" He lays his cards down.

"Double Femmes." Remy does the same, slightly frowning. "What you got, Joe?" The quiet man says nothing, but simply lays down his cards, a Royal Flush, and wins the hand.

"You sure Sammy only taught you de basics o' dis game, Joe? You seem ta' be pickin' up on dis pretty quick."

"It is only a simple matter of prediction, memorization of the cards already dealt and the calculation of odds on the remaining cards. Nothing extraordinary." He replies coolly. He then gets up and excuses himself, going to the back to use the restroom.

"I guess we all be callin' it a night den, and Logan be needin' ta get his beauty rest." He starts gathering up all the played cards and returns them to his trenchcoat pocket, a slight smile twitching up around his lit cigarette. "And a lot of it."

"Watch yer mouth, Cajun! Ya' just don't like gettin' yer tail handed to ya' by Amnesia Lad over there." He grins ferally, "Looks like he's cuttin' in on all yer territory." Remy glares at him, but says nothing. Logan then gets up, stretches and walks over to the fridge to grab everyone another beer, but Beast waves him to stop.

"Thank you, my friend, but I must decline, as I would rather not be dealing with a hangover in the midst of my Legacy Virus research." Beast says and Logan puts the beer back in the fridge. Hank then looks to the clock on the wall. "Speaking of which, I should be leaving post haste if I am to replenish my corporeal energy supply adequately to even pursue such a task with the proper clarity of mind." Just then Joseph returns from the back room. "I am taking my leave, Joseph, will you be accompanying me or will you find locomotion with Samuel or Remy?"

"Thank you, I accept. There is something I'd like to discuss with you during our return." Joseph throws Sam a brief, unnoticed glance, then grabs his own jacket, hat and mirrored sunglasses to keep himself from being identified in public.

"Then I will meet the two of you back at mansion." Remy and Sam nod back at him as the furry scientist leaves Logan's apartment with Joseph in tow.

"Suit yerself, Furball." He takes a long pull off is bottle as the door closes behind them. "So Sam, what's this I hear 'bout you becomin' Joe's teach?" He turns his seat around and sits on it backwards.

"Ya' heard right." He drinks a little from his own beer. "Ah don't appreciate the position, but Cyke was pretty clear that he wasn't takin' 'no' for an answer. So ah do mah best."

"Dat reminds me." Remy takes a drag off his cigarette. "What de hell you t'ink you doin' by suggestin' I become Joey's French teacher!? I thought dat you was jus' jokin'!" He says hurriedly.

"Ah toldja ya' shoulda known better than ta' dare a country boy." Sam smiles ruefully, "And besides, ah seem ta think it sabotaged your game better than anythin' else ah coulda pulled on ya'." Remy glares at Sam, but Logan lets out a coarse laugh, nearly choking on his beer.

"HA! Man, do I ever miss nights like this!" He manages to get the rest of his beer down between laughs, "Looks like yer teachin' him how ta' play poker too well, gumbo." Remy grins at himself slightly.

"You know, Sammy, dis means war." He looks at Sam in a menacing, yet playful manner.

"Bring it on." Sam replies, with an equally devious smile. "Ah dare ya'."

Beast's car...

"What topic of discussion did you wish to bring to my attention, my memory-challenged companion?" As if you needed telling, that was Beast.

"I was curious..." Joseph tilts his head down slightly. "What kind of past do I share with Cannonball?"

"Please elaborate, there is quite a bit of history between the two of you. I would not know where to begin."

"I have been told that I once replaced Charles as the headmaster at his School for Gifted Youngsters -- the New Mutants -- for some period of time. But since I do not have access to the school's computer records..." He glances icily over at Beast, who doesn't notice. "...I cannot find out for myself what transpired." Beast scratches his chin in thought, and then clears his throat.

"I cannot say for certain what the conditions were between you and the New Mutants, as I was then a member of X-Factor along with the other original X-Men, but apparently you and Sam did not part ways on... friendly terms. After your... falling out with each other, the New Mutants found their way to our base, Ship, and stayed with us for a brief period of time, becoming 'joined-at-the-hip' to our own resident youngsters. The sentiments expressed upon their arrival were not exceedingly favorable to you."

"Then perhaps that explains the lingering hostility I've been feeling from him these past few days."

"Perhaps, Joseph, but I would ask that you speak with him about it. I suspect that is what Scott had in mind when he assigned the two of you together. To bridge those hostilities or, at the very least, bring them to the forefront and out of the shadows."

"We shall see." He then looks out the window, pondering his newfound knowledge. "We shall see."

Friday evening; At the movies...

"C'mon fellas, we're gonna miss the movie!" Rogue, the X-Man who refuses to give her true name, yells from the bottom of the steps, Joseph loyally at her side like a lost puppy.

"There is no need to rush, we still have approximately one hour and 45 minutes before the designated time." Bishop walks down the steps, and though he is in casual attire, one can't stand next to him and see anything but a hardened soldier. Behind him is Remy, with his usual trenchcoat. Beast and his colleague, Dr. Kimber Lee, follow closely behind them, fussing at each other.

"Yes, I am aware that you would like to attend another performance, but we were out-voted and are now forcefully required to view the chosen visual past-time with our friends. I am sorry my dear doctor, but it is out of my hands." Hank throws his hands up in the air emphatically, in mock-drama.

"Yeah Fuzzy, but I didn't exactly see you being too opposed to the idea." She gives him a little shove.

"Urm... yes, that is... uh... how should I say... urrr... true." Hank hangs his head shamefully.

"Leave de boy alone, chere. We bot' know dat ole' Hank here is a sci-fi geek at heart. Gettin' to see Star Wars in de t'eaters again on openin' night jus' be too good a chance to pass up, non?" The cajun looks back and smiles.

"Okay, I'll give." She leans close and whispers in his ear. "But remember Fuzzy, you owe me one." Then she kisses him on the cheek, causing him to get a severe case of embarrassment.

Shortly thereafter, Sam walks in the front door.

"C'mon ya'll, if we don't get there early, there ain't gonna be any seats left, much less together. Logan called earlier and said he wouldn't be able to make it, so ah went ahead and invited a friend, if'n ya' don't mind, Hank?"

"It is regretful, but I am curious, which of your various comrades did you invite along for our friendly escapade?"

"Ah tried ta' get Tab ta' come with me, but she's busy checkin' up on her Dad tonight, or so she says, so ah went ahead and asked Shatterstar to come along with us. Ah figured a movie like this woulda made him feel right at home." He winks and smiles.

"I don't get it?" Says Kimber, unaware of Shatterstar's confusing background.

"We'll explain in the car." She looks at him confused, but follows him out to the awaiting assemblage of automobiles, where Shatterstar is waiting for them.

20 minutes and 7 botched attempts at an explanation later...

"Okay, let me see if I got it right this time. You are an inter-dimensional, time-traveling, hybrid alien member of a warrior race that was created by a man named Arize from a distant planet ruled by a despotic tyrant named Mojo that..." She takes a deep breath.

"Mojo V." Shatterstar adds.

"...Mojo V, that uses television ratings to rule?"

"That is correct." He says.

"And, to the rest of you, this is... commonplace?" She looks at the other people on the car, her shoulders shrugging and her hands turned palm-side-up.

"'Welcome to Xavier's School -- Be sure to check your disbelief at the door, you won't be needing it', I believe that's what it said on the application." Says Beast, who has been attentively listening to the explanation next to Kimber. Remy and Bishop took a separate car. Joseph is in the front seat of the van with Rogue, who is driving.

"We're here, let's go grab our seats." Says Rogue as she pulls into the parking lot. "We'll let Remy and Bish get the food."

A couple hours later, after the movie...

"Stupendous! Exhilarating! Magnificent!" Beast says, bouncing out of the theater happily and into the mall gates.

"CALM DOWN, HANK!!" The gathered company says in unison, but it does little to stop him for more than a second. Sam and Shatterstar walk out of the theater themselves a minute later, having been forced to sit in another aisle due to crowding.

"I, for one, must agree with the doctor. I was fascinated by the film." Shatterstar steps in stride with Beast and Kimber, "If I was on my homeworld, I could probably dethrone Mojo V by simply airing that production on the Cadre's pirate network. The ratings blitz would be of an enormous magnitude." The two of them, Beast and 'Star, start their own conversation about the intricate details of true space flight, the possible existence of some of the aliens featured and the uncanny likeness that Jabba the Hutt has to Mojo and the Spineless Ones, Kimber getting dragged away along with them unwittingly.

"So how did the rest of ya' enjoy the movie?" Sam says, having seen the movie for the first time in theaters.

"Loved it, Sammy. I like Han Solo de best..." Remy smiles slyly.

"YOU would ya' slimy swamp rat." Rogue says sarcastically. "Leia's mah fave, though ah think Beast had a leanin' towards Chewbacca mahself. Them big hairy guys stick together, y'know." She takes Joseph by the arm and walks away from the rest of the group towards the clothing department. "See ya'll at 5!"

"I will be in the bookstore, looking for what will become classics in my time." Bishop says, attempting humor, but failing miserably. When he gets nothing but odd stares, he walks off quietly.

"I t'ink I should go rescue Kimber from de space boys, you gonna be okay on ya' own, Sam?"

"Sure Remy, ah need ta' go get some stuff on mah own anyway. Christmas is comin' up an' ah thought ah might get Tab a new CD or somethin'." He turns and heads towards the music store.

"You can' be serious, Sammy!" He stops Sam by grabbing his arm. "Take it from de cajun, you don' just get de woman you love a CD for Christmas, mon ami. Not unless you wanna be sleepin' on de couch, dat is."

"We aren't... ah mean, we don't..." He says, blushing at what Remy was suggesting.

"Remy jus' playin' wit' you, Sammy. Here, I gonna help you pick out de best Christmas present she ever get. Jus' leave it all to me."

"What about Kimber? Ah thought you said you..."

"Kimber who? She a big girl, she want out, she can do it on her own. But dis, DIS be important, Sammy. DIS is romance!" Remy promptly turns on his heel and walks off to the nearest jewelry retailer.

--What am ah gettin' mahself into?-- Sam thinks before obediently following in after him.

30 minutes later...

"Ya' think she'll like 'em, Remy?" Sam and Remy are staring into a display case together.

"Sammy, she be screamin' when she see dese. When you been at dis game as long as I have, you learn a few t'ings."

"Ah'll take your word for it, Remy. But how am ah gonna pay for this? Mosta mah money goes home to mah family, so ah don't got a lot saved up, and certainly not enough for somethin' like this." He looks again at the pair of small silver and gold earrings in the case.

"Dat's why dis cajun come prepared." He whips out a credit card and gives it to Sam. He looks it over for a bit, then notices the name.

"Ya' stole Warren's credit card?" He whispers quietly to the 'former' master thief.

"Non, Remy jus' borrow it for a bit. Don' worry, dat boy so tight in de rear dat he wouldn't even notice it bein' gone. After all, it not be dis cajun's fault he left it behind when he went away wit' Betsy."

"Ah don't know about this..."

"Let me put it dis way. Would you rather be seein' de look on Tab's face when you get her dose..." He points to the display case. "Or would you rather see de look on her face when you get her a plain ole CD?"

"Use the card."

"Dat's what I thought." He smiles slightly and winks. "Now let dis 'ere cajun do what he do best." He walks over and tells the saleswoman what they've decided on and asks for it to be wrapped, if possible.

"That is an excellent choice, sir. And how will you be paying?" She says as she pulls the item out of the display and relocks the cabinet door.

"Call me Warren." He produces the credit card, "and we'll be chargin' dese. De poor boy over dere wants to impress his lady friend and I'm eager-to-please. What can I say, I'm a sucker for young love."

"Here you go, sir... I mean Warren. I'm sure she'll be impressed."

"T'anks, chere." Remy picks up the bag and they leave the store. Sam pulls the case out of the bag and sticks it in his pocket, then notices a little piece of paper at the bottom. A phone number.

"Ah reckon you made quite an impression." He hands Remy the paper slip. Gambit laughs softly.

"I guess dis ole' cajun still de best dere is at what he do, non?" He puts the paper in his pocket, "Let's go meet up wit' de others in de Food Court. Hope Kimber's not freakin' out by now, 'cause I bet dose space boys are STILL talkin' 'bout dat movie!"

Saturday morning; Christmas Eve...

"Amazing." Sam mumbles to himself, looking out across the lake once again from his perch on the boathouse dock. --Amazing that after all these years, and especially with Scott and Jean livin' here, this is still the only place ah feel comfortable thinkin' about things.-- He leans back on the dock and gazes up at the dusk hues of the morning sunrise. --Jean took Scott over ta' her parents house last night, so ah don't even have ta' worry about another... interruption.--

"I am Magneto's teacher." Sam says aloud, shakes his head a little wearily at the idea, thinking to himself. --Berto was right, that does sound strange, even now. Who'd've ever thought it could happen? Ah still have trouble believin' it. Then again, Cable used ta' get his rear wiped by Tab when he was still a baby in X-Factor, so ah guess ah ain't alone in this sorta thing.-- He laughs to himself softly.

--Was it really so long ago that Mags was mah teacher? What, maybe two and a half... three years ago? Ah've been watchin' him real closely this past week, lookin' for just a little tell-tale somethin' that'll expose his master plan... but the closest ah ever came ta' seein' Joe act like Magneto was the poker game, and that don't exactly prove nothin'. There's so much to this Joseph thing that just doesn't fit in with the Magneto image. Magnus never took orders well when ah knew him, even when he was on the side a' the angels, he could never lose that ego a' his. Now? Now he can't handle himself without Rogue ta' hold his hand. Magneto would never accept that, being dependent on anyone. Heh. Reminds me a' Cable when ah think about it."

Sam sits up on the dock and pulls his knees to his chest, his brows furrow in thought.

--Ya' know, ah never thought about it that way before. Cable and Magneto. So alike, but so different, too. What was it about Cable's way that was so much more appealin' than Magneto's back then? Ah mean, they both felt that 'might made right', so where was the difference? Maybe it was 'cause Moira backed him up, trusted him enough ta' look after Rahne that made me think twice about him, but it feels like ah was kinda... pushed inta' it somehow. Ah still can't make rhyme or reason 'bout it, but ah guess ah was just a different person by the time he showed up. An' ah know Nathan didn't have his telepathy back then, or else ah might expect that had somethin' ta' do with it. Well, whatever the reason, it's all said and done now, not much ah can do about it.-- Sam gets up and starts pacing back and forth on the dock.

--So ah guess the only thing left to do is figure out what ah'm gonna do about Joe.-- Sam runs his hand through his hair, --That's not an easy question ta' answer.--

--Okay, so ah know that this ain't Magneto pullin' some grand scheme, 'cause there ain't no way he'd be able ta' act like he is now. Berto made that pretty clear last Tuesday. Sure he played poker well, like ah knew he would, but just 'cause he ain't got any memories doesn't mean he can't run odds better than a calculator like he used ta' be able to. Nothin' against him there.--

Sam paces a little faster, his thoughts becoming voice without realizing it.

"And his performance in the Danger Room on Monday was total garbage, but that coulda been an act. The thing that proved to me that it wasn't an act was how he didn't put up a fight when ah got rid a' him. Magneto'd never accept gettin' dismissed like that. Never. Ah just gotta fact it -- Joseph ain't Magneto. So what am ah gonna do about it?"

"Excuse me, Sam? Are you busy?" Jean walks out of her boathouse.

"Jean!? Ah thought you an' Scott were at your folks' house?" Sam looks at her, a little surprised as well as embarrassed. --Now doesn't this seem familiar?-- He thinks to himself as Jean closes the door behind her.

"We were, but Scott was getting ancy and Dad was tired, so we came home early. What's up?"

"Oh nothin', ah was just thinkin'. Tryin' ta' figure out what ah'm gonna do about Joseph, that's all." Sam sits back down on the dock.

"How's it going, then? Scott told me about it, about his assigning Joseph to you." Jean sits down next to him, "I didn't think it was a good idea, but since someone had to do it, we agreed that you were the best choice."

"Ah know ya' meant well, 'bout teachin' him and all, but ah just don't think Joe should be gettin' off the hook so easy, y'know."

"How do you mean?" Jean furrows her brow in concentration, trying to understand his reasoning.

"For what he's done as Magneto. Ah've been seein' ya'll, even Gambit, dance around tellin' him about who he is. Ah don't think he should be able ta' be forgiven for what he's done just 'cause he can't remember it."

"Remember who you're talking to." Jean smiles to soften her words, "I have more reason to hate Magneto and for far longer than you. I don't think he should be able to forget what he's done either, but so long as he's amnesiac, he isn't a threat, and that's what really matters. We don't want to tell him about who he is because we don't want him reverting to the norm."

"Ah know who ah'm talkin' to, but..." Sam pauses, collecting his thoughts, "It's like this, when ya' first met Magneto, and several times after that, he was a villain and ya' fought him all the time. But when me and the other New Mutants met him, we never saw that. The first impression we got outta Mags was a good one, and we came to trust him pretty deeply, in a way the rest a' ya'll never could. When he turned back ta' a villain almost 3 years ago, for you guys it was just him revertin' back ta' form, but for us... it was an out n' out betrayal. There's a difference in that -- a strong difference."

"I guess that would make this kind of hard for you, wouldn't it?" Jean says, propping her chin on her palm, looking at Sam with a tilted head.

"Yeah, it's tough, but ah guess it was either this or keep duckin' outta the room with lame excuses every time he showed up." Jean smiles inwardly, remembering some of those lame excuses.

"Yes, I always wondered why you suddenly got dead tired after Joseph walked in, especially when you had been telling everyone how awake you were minutes before." Jean smiles, but Sam just reddens slightly, then Jean gets serious again, "I can have Scott assign Joseph to someone else, if it'll make things easier for you."

"Nah, ya' don't have ta' do that. Ah've dealt with him all week, so unless he really rubs me the wrong way, then ah'll be fine. Even ah can only be pushed so far, but ah'd like ta' think ah got a ways ta' go before he gets there." Sam says, trying to politely cover the fact that Joseph has been wearing on his nerves far more than he's willing to admit.

"If you're sure, then I guess I'll be going. Have a good Christmas, Sam." With that, Jean gets up and walks back into the boathouse.

"You too, Jean. An' tell Scott ah said hi!" Sam then ignites his blast field and roars off into the sky.

Saturday afternoon; The Danger Room...

Sam is once again in the Control Booth, looking down over Joseph, who is fending off a small barrage of Sentinels and other mechanical attackers. A cake walk for Magneto, but Joseph's unfamiliarity with his powers' many uses has seriously hampers his performance.

"Look, that ain't the way it's done. Ya' need ta' bring the energy closer to ya', and denser all around, not loose in back or else a blast'll eventually bust through." Sam looks down on the mutant inside from the control booth, then sends a battery of high-speed missiles at him, breaking through his shield from behind while he deflected the one in front of him, making his point all the more clear.

"Tag, yer it." Sam doesn't smile, he doesn't take any joy in what he's doing to Joseph, despite Jean's earlier... encouragement. "That's the third point on ya' in less than 30 minutes, Magnus. Ya' need ta'..."

"That is not my name." Joseph turns to the booth indignantly. "I'm no longer that man. I have changed. I thought all of the X-Men, save Gambit, understood this."

"Maybe the others can swallow that line Joseph, but ah already choked on it. As far as ah'm concerned, yer still Magneto, memories or no memories." Sam says, cursing himself slightly for slipping on his name for the first time all week. Joseph fumes for a few moments, then moves to speak.

"I... realize that we have a past together... and that you have good reasons for distrusting Magneto, but I assure you, that man no longer exists, he died on Avalon. You can trust me, I am not the man who betrayed you."

"Ah don't care if'n ya' can't remember what ya' done, yer still accountable. Ya' still went through all a' that with the New Mutants and ya' still did a whole lotta mean things to a whole lotta people. Your past did not start on the night ya' fell from Avalon, on the night mah friend Rusty got murdered, it started over half a century ago. Look on your arm, Mags." Magnus rolls back his sleeve to reveal his numbered tattoo from the Holocaust Camps. "That's who ya' are! Ya' once told me years ago that ya' had that thing put back on after your time as a kid, so ya'd never forget what monsters like Hitler did ta' helpless people! Ya' didn't wanna forget about your past... who ya' are an' where ya' come from! Just 'cause somethin's in the past don't mean it can be forgotten."

"I have been told much the same thing by Gambit." He glares up at the booth, "Tell me, what is there in your past that makes you jealous of my second chance?" He says, crossing Cannonball's last line of patience. Sam opens the control booth's window and flies towards Magneto, grabbing him at the collar, then slams him against the Danger Room's far wall, holding him there. Fuming.

One thing about Sam which makes him different, aside from his mutant talents, is the fact that he is one of those rare breed of men that aren't easy to anger. Normally, he's very polite, eager-to-please and respectful to his elders -- a good person. Willing to let things settle themselves and not make a lot of fuss about the little things. Still, the past week has been stressful, frustrating in some cases, near infuriating in others, though Cannonball never let it get to him before. But there exists a line of patience in every man, and in Samuel Guthrie's case, when you cross it, you had better watch out.

"That ain't mah problem with ya'!" Sam screams at the man in his hands, "Ah stood up for ya' before, along with the other New Mutants. We put our trust in ya', and then that trust got betrayed. But ya' know what, that still ain't mah problem. What ah got a problem with is ya' gettin' away with what ya' done... and liking it. Ah believe that anyone lookin' for a way ta' pay for what they done in the past deserves another chance at life. A chance at redemption..."

"That is what..." Joseph tries to explain weakly.

"Ah ain't finished!" Sam tightens his grip, "Yer not workin' for redemption at all. If ya' were, ya'd accept what ya' done and try ta' fix it. What yer doin' now is just leavin' your whole mess for other people ta' clean up while ya' take it easy. Ah can't accept that. Ah can't accept that a man ah once respected and looked up ta' as much as ah once did you is willin' ta' lay back and take this. Ah can't accept that the man who taught me how to respect power and experience like ya' did would allow himself ta' shirk all the responsibility at his feet onta someone else's. That, Magnus, is what ah can't stand about this whole Joseph thing." Sam lets Joseph down to the Danger Room floor unceremoniously.

"Ya' say yer happy not bein' Magneto anymore, that he was all evil an' sin and now without him, yer all good n' pure. Well, let me tell ya' somethin' Joe, the Magneto ah knew was worthy of the highest respect any mortal man can ever hope ta have. Ah may not like what he became, or what he done in the past, but ah still respect the man for who he was. He was willin' to sacrifice EVERYTHING he ever had for what he wanted to accomplish, the safety and protection of his people. He was devoted and loyal to his friends and he never, and ah mean never, would break his word. He was a man of honor who ah could look up to. You Joseph? You don't have the SLIGHTEST part of the man who taught me, the man ah respect, in ya'. Yer just a pale imitation." And with that, Sam storms out of the room furiously. Joseph stares back at him, stunned beyond words.

Later that night in the Mansion's Main Dining Room... the Christmas dinner.

"I propose a toast!" says Cyclops, who is sitting at the head of the table with Jean. On either side of the table are the gathered members of both the X-Men on the left and X-Force on the right. All are in attendance, even those who are not currently in residence. Warren and Betsy are stopping over briefly before heading back to Colorado after the dinner. Iceman, who will be spending the next day with his parents, allowed himself to be away from them for the occasion. Cable and Domino are seated at the other end of the table. Cannonball sits next to Cable and across from Tabitha, who is next to Domino. Next to Sam is Remy, who is beside Rogue and it continues down the line with Joseph, then Bishop, then Warren and Betsy, then Beast and Kimber, then Logan and Storm and finally Iceman who is next to Jean.

Next to Cyclops is Skids, who had wanted to spend the holidays with friends, if not family, rather than by herself, without even Rusty Collins by her side. Next to her are Sunspot and Caliban, who are sided by Shatterstar and Rictor, with Warpath next to them. Next to the large Apache sits Siryn, who has invited the mercenary Deadpool along with her, in an attempt at showing that she really meant what she had said about their friendship. Needless to say, his presence is not altogether comforting, which is not helped by his unmasked face, but all gathered understand the need for companionship at a time such as Christmas. The two of them would be heading to the Mass. Academy in the morning to be with her father, Sean Cassidy. Beside them is the time-lost youth known as Nate Grey, invited by Cable to the gathering in an attempt to make peace between himself and the X-Men. There is a tension present, but it has been relaxing as the night goes on. Cyclops continues after everyone's attention is eventually turned to him.

"Though it is to our eternal regret that the Professor cannot be in attendance for the holidays, we must hold in our hearts what he has always taught us, and what we have learned from those who were his friends." His view shifts around the table as his speech continues, now resting on Cable. "We have been taught to fight, how to win against impossible odds and how to control powers that would seem to place us above the rest of humanity." His view lands on Joseph. "But what the Professor also taught us was that we must not accept that role, that we are not better than those who are unblessed with our extraordinary abilities, that it is not our right of might to abuse that which we have been given, but that they give us the enormous responsibility of protecting those who cannot defend themselves." On Iceman, then Psylocke.

"This year we have faced many challenges, many harsh burdens that cannot be lifted from us. We have lost much to death and destruction." On Skids. "More have faced doubt and frustration." Shatterstar, and then Gambit. "Others have lost their homes and all they have ever cared for." On X-Man.

"But we have also found what it takes to push through these hardships. One has once again found a home with people that care for him after a lifetime of pain and loss." Caliban. "Some of us have found great friendship in the space of loneliness." On Deadpool and Siryn. "Others are just now finding the beginnings of that bond." Beast and Kimber, then Warren and Psylocke. "Myself, I have had the strength and support of my wife to help me through the past year, without which I fear I would have been pushed past the brink of depression with the loss of both the Professor and most of the heroes. It is my hope that each and every one of us can find someone that they can cling to, if not out of love, then at least for the firm support of a close and dear friend." Logan and Storm, then Sam and Tab. "Some have even been allowed a second chance at life." Joseph with Rogue.

"The lives of those who support Xavier's ideals are marred with tremendous hardship, yes, but they and all who fight alongside them are also blessed with the support of family and friends." Excalibur on Muir Isle, enjoying their own Christmas dinner. "It is the hope we cling to, that one day, that for at least one fleeting moment, peace between all people, regardless of race, gender, nationality or genetics, can be accomplished. That is what we all strive for, ladies and gentlemen, the hope for a better tomorrow, even if we must face the darkest of nights to reach the dawn of that new day."

"This year we have been doubly blessed by the presence of a new generation of mutants who can carry on Xavier's Dream of peace." Generation X, sitting at a large circled table before a fireplace. "It is my hope that by the time those young mutants grow up, there will be a new era of sense and reason in the world, that they will not have to struggle as we have, that they will not have to suffer the hardships. I know that it is not an easy task, that some say it is an impossible task." Stryfe as a ghost image.

"But we must never give up that hope. For without that, there is nothing left to fill our hearts but despair and hopelessness." Havok, sitting alone, in a sewer, eating a TV-dinner. "The moment we give up the fight for the impossible is the moment that we all may as well sit down and die, for a life without hope is not a life worth living. I urge you all to think about what I have said and take what you have learned into tomorrow and help to make the world a better place. To the Professor; to mutants all over the world; to second chances and new beginnings; to the end of the darkest of nights; to peace that comes at the dawn of a new day. To all those gathered here and in homes across the world that sit with their families. To the Dream." All of the people gathered around the table raise their glasses in the air and hit each other's, the words echo around the room as the group softly repeats 'The Dream', the same occurring both at Muir Isle and the Mass Academy.

"Amen!" Says Sam from the other end of the table, while holding Tabitha's hand.

"Now if we're done with the prelims, hand me the grub, I'm starvin'!" Says Logan, who instantly gets a slap in the back of the head by both Storm and Kimber simultaneously.

After a few minutes, Sam gets up and pulls Warren aside while he's getting something from the kitchen.

"Uh... Warren, there's somethin' ah've been meanin' ta' tell ya'." Sam rubs his hands together nervously.

"Sam, you look like you've been caught with your hand in the cookie jar. What is it?"

"Well... it's like this... ah had been meanin' ta' get Tab a gift for Christmas, but Remy had a better idea... an'... um... ta' make a long story short, ah kinda used your credit card ta' buy it. Ah hope ya' don't mind, ah'll find some way ta' pay ya' back, ah swear." Rather than the anger that Sam expects to receive, what he gets for his trouble is one of the only laughs he has ever heard the pale-blue-skinned angel of death let loose.

"Is that what this is about, Sam? Betsy's been telling me that you've had nervous thoughts directed towards me all evening, but I told her to leave it be. I don't mind Sam, I'm still a very wealthy man, despite what Hodge did to me, so what do I care if my money helps a friend? I'm glad you came to tell me about it though, I might not have been so... accepting of this if I had to find out through a bill." Warren gives Sam a predatory look.

"Yer... Yer welcome, Warren." Sam gets slightly embarrassed.

"Think nothing of it." Warren pats him on the back, then goes to have a seat with Betsy, who starts laughing quietly with him, occasionally shooting glances at Sam.

After the food is passed around and eaten, after the two teams have left the cramped space of the dining room for the more capable spaciousness of the rec-room and after a thankfully averted food fight -- two certain lovebirds find themselves alone in the hallway for the first time all night.

"Tab, ah know we've had our problems these past few months, but ah want ya' to know that ah still care about ya', that ah ain't givin' up on the two of us yet. Ah want us ta' just take the past as it is and let what's been done be forgivin', no matter who's ta' blame. Ah want ya' ta' know that ah still care." He then hands her the case of earrings. "Merry Christmas, Tab." She takes the case and opens it.

"Thank you Sam, they're beautiful." She hugs him around the neck. "I've been meaning to apologize for what's happened for so long, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it before. I..." She is interrupted when Sam puts an index finger her lips.

"Shhhh, girl. Remember what ah said. Everything's forgiven, all of it. Nothin' more needs ta' be said. No more broken promises, no more regrets and no more guilt, just you and me together again. That's all that matters." He looks into her eyes lovingly.

"Oh, just shut up and kiss me, Mason-Dixon, before I pop you one."

"Yes, ma'am!" And the night ends for these two in a loving embrace, for all the rest of the mansion is quiet to them, nothing else matters to one than the other in their arms.

Sunday; Christmas Morning...

"Joseph, get up, we're gonna be late." Sam calls from outside his door at approximately 5:30 in the morning.

"Late for what exactly?" Joseph says, walking out of his room. He had apparently not slept well, or at all.

"I'm goin' home, Joe. To mah farm in Kentucky. You're comin' with me. So's Tab. Hurry up and get dressed, we're only gonna be there for the night, so ya' don't haveta pack much a' anythin'."

"I have better things to do." He starts to close the door, but is stopped when Sam grabs his hand.

"It wasn't a request, Joe. Get dressed, throw together an overnight bag and meet me out in the hanger with Tab. You have 10 minutes." Sam then turns abruptly on his heel and heads downstairs, picking up his bag, and heads outside.

10 minutes later...

"Could you at least tell me why we're leaving at such an ungodly hour?" Joseph lands on the deck with his suitcase landing behind him shortly afterwards.

"Cause ah want ta' surprise mah family. They don't know ah'm comin' back today." He looks to Tab, who's sleeping peacefully in the Blackbird's co-pilot chair. "And don't worry 'bout sleepin', ya' can rest up on the way there." He then takes the fuel pump out of the Blackbird and finished the preparations for departure.

"And are you certain that you have clearance for using the Blackbird?" Joseph says reluctantly placing his case in the cargo hold.

"Yeah, ah told Cyke last night. Besides, they got another one and the PACRAT if they need it for somethin'. Ya' ain't gettin' outta this one, Joe. Just hop in so ah can get this thing in the air. Either sit next ta' me up front or find a place next ta' Terry and Deadpool in the back."

"They are also coming with us on this venture? I did not think that..." he almost says, but is interrupted by Terry herself.

"Nae, Joseph. Sam's just droppin' the two o' us at the Massachusetts Academy while he picks up Paige."

Joseph shrugs and piles himself into the rear compartment. Sam walks in himself carrying a large red bag of presents and other things behind him a few minutes later.

"Are all those gifts for your family?" Joseph says, making himself comfortable.

"Yep, an' a few friends ah ain't seen in a long time." Sam takes his seat at the cockpit after securing the bag in a storage bay. "Up, up and away!" With that, the Blackbird goes into a vertical lift and takes off in a southern direction.

The Mass. Academy...

The Blackbird makes a quick descent and lands on the driveway leading up to the school. Paige is out there waiting for them with Jono at her side.

"Thanks for the lift, Sam. Are ye goin' tae be pickin' us up t'night or t'morrow?"

"Ah was thinkin' that ah'd sleep the night over with mah folks, but ah suppose..."

"Think nothing of it, Sam. We'll be fine stayin' here for the night. Have a Merry Christmas!" She and Deadpool walk off towards her father's cabin. Wade had been amazingly silent during the entire trip, and considering his reputation, that was quite a feat to behold.

"Thanks Terry, ah'll see ya' tomorrow." He looks to his sister and her companion. "Ya' comin' Paige?" She doesn't say anything, but simply gets in with Jono behind her.

"Ya'll sit down and make yourselves comfortable, it'll take awhile ta' get back home from here." Sam lifts the Blackbird off the ground and flies off, again, in a southern direction, this time towards Kentucky.

"So what's your name, kid?" He says, looking over his shoulder at the bandaged youth sulking in the corner.

><Jonathan Starsmore><, he says, as softly as his raw telepathy will allow. ><Most people call me Jono.><

"Ya' ever been to Kentucky before?" Sam says gingerly, making small talk. Jono doesn't say anything, he just turns away quietly while Paige blushes red and looks at her feet.

"Ah -- I brought him to the farm for Thanksgiving, Sam." She wants to say more, but doesn't want to deal with her 'big brother' trying to fix her relationship problems for her.

"Ah see..." He replies, sensing her nervousness. "Well, ah hope you two enjoy yerselves." He then turns his attention away from them, concentrating on flying for the rest of the journey.

The Guthrie Family Farm...

"Be vewwy, vewwy quiet." Whispers Tab, in her best Elmer Fudd impression. The five mutants silently creep their way into the farm's main building, or at least Sam and Tab do. Joseph and the other two youngsters still have a thing or two learn about how to be sneaky.

"Paige, take 'em over to the kitchen and wait until ah'm done settin' out these gifts. An' keep it quiet. You know that the slightest noise down here'll wake the twins up in a flash."

"Yessuh." Paige says sarcastically, then leads the three of their guests away as Sam slips quietly into the den and plants the full bag of gifts next to the tree. He meets up with the rest of them in the kitchen where they're all waiting for him.

"All right, now it's time ta' get breakfast all set. Now, Paige, ah'll need ya' ta' help me find some a' the stuff that we'll need. It seems like every time ah come back home, Momma decides ta' move things around." The duo sets to work, finding the appropriate materials with hardly the slightest noise. About an hour later, an old-fashioned Southern breakfast is served. Just in time to hear the rooster crow in the back yard. Sam motions the others to gather round.

"We got about 30 seconds before we're swamped with kids, ya'll. I suggest you find the best hidin' spot ya' can get and do it QUICK!" Sam says, then proceeds to jump behind the couch. The others race frantically around, trying to hide, while Jono and Joseph stand perfectly still watching the fumbling youths.

><To the porch, Joe?>< Jono 'says' without shifting his view.

"Let's." Both of them then turn an abrupt 180 degrees and quietly stroll out of the Christmas tree area and onto the nearby porch.

"Spoil sports." Paige mutters to herself, then ducks behind a desk. Tab is hiding in a indented side wall behind a tall potted plant.

"C'mon kids, up and at'em." Mrs. Guthrie yells from the end of the hall. A call unneeded save to alert the children gathered behind their respective doors that it's safe to leave.

"Ah wonder how many..." "Ah hope Santa brought that us that..." "Do ya' think he forgot ta' get..." The various children rampage into the den and are greeted by the large red bag of gifts.

"Santa left his bag!" "Does that mean nobody else gets nothin'?" "That wouldn't be nice."

Mrs. Guthrie herself walks around and is shocked by the bag herself.

"Ah... ah don't know, honey. Ah suppose he..." She stumbles, trying to understand the meaning of the mysterious bag when Sam jumps out from behind the couch, signaling the others to do so as well.

"Merry Christmas!" Mrs. Guthrie rushes up and hugs Sam tightly, then turns and does the same to Paige.

"Merry Christmas to ya'll, too!" She then leans in to whisper in his ear, "That bag is yours, ain't it?" More of a statement than a question.

"Yeah Momma." He then walks over to a small wooden stool, sits down and begins handing out presents, "And here's one for you Joelle..."

"Hey there, Mrs. Guthrie." Tab walks out from her hiding spot.

"Oh!" She jumps, slightly startled, not realizing they had company besides family, "Hello, Tabitha." She looks down at herself, in an old bathrobe and slippers, "If ah knew ah was gonna have company over, ah'd've dressed a bit more formal."

"Don't knock it, Mrs. Guthrie. It was meant to be a surprise." She then tilts her head slightly, "Look at what Sam got me fer Christmas. Aren't they beautiful?" Mrs. Guthrie looks at the earrings appraisingly.

"That they are." She then smiles and hugs Tab. "It's great havin' ya'll back. Last time ah saw ya', you had just finished talkin' with that fella named Gideon. Ah think that's what his name was..." She looks Tab up and down. "...and ah must say ya've changed quite a' bit."

"I had some tough times for a while, but I'm feeling better about a lot of things now. Sam's been a big help with that."

"Ah'm glad ta' hear it. Now let's go see what Sam's gotten for everybody." The two of them walk over to the swamped mutant, trying to hand out the gifts as fast as his hands can move.


After the presents are doled out, the entire family gathers in the kitchen to eat their respective breakfasts, minus Jono and Paige, who went into another room while the others ate.

"Ah really appreciate ya' comin' all the way down here from Westchester, hon." Mrs. Guthrie says to Sam, who's leaning on the counter, watching his younger siblings.

"It's nothin' really. Ah just wanted ta' be with ya'll today, is all. Ah miss ya'." He says, then his mother and kisses her on the cheek. "Ah still love ya'll, even if ah can't be here as often as ah like. Ah'm sure Paige feels the same way."

"Ah wouldn't be so sure a' that." Her head drops slightly. "She was itchin' ta' get outta here as fast as her legs could take her." Sensing a personal moment coming on, Tab quickly motions for the others to follow her out of the room.

"Aw Momma, ya' know she didn't mean nothin' by it. She had ta' stretch her legs, get off the farm and do somethin' excitin' fer a change. Ya' always said she was the one who got so ancy when mah letters came home, she even snuck up to the attic and read the ones ya' wouldn't read to 'em." His mother looks up at him, surprised. "She told me, Momma. But the point is, ah felt the same way when ah was her age. Ah wanted to get somewhere, do somthin' with mah life. But now?" His mother looks at him expectantly. "There ain't a thing in the world ah miss more than the safe, comfortable and secure home ah left behind. Ah'm sure Paige knows it too, in her heart, that she misses this place and everyone in it terribly."

"Thank you, Sam. You don't know how much that means ta' me." She hugs him tightly. "Ah've been feelin' so alone these past few years. I just keep waitin' for the day Josh decides ta' head up ta' Nashville. Or Joelle ta' find herself a man and leave me, too. It... it feels good ta' know that ya' don't hate this place, that ah ain't been messin' things up since your Pa died." Sam continues to console his mother, just now realizing how it must have felt like for her these past 5 years. Her life breaking up and falling apart one piece at a time. First when Sam's father died, then when he left soon afterwards. Then Josh trying to leave, Joelle joining that Last Stand cult and finally Paige going to Massachusetts. He can understand her fears, fears of losing everything you care for while you continue on. Being immortal has that effect on people.

"Now ya' go ahead an' spend time with your friends. Show 'em around, make 'em feel at home. Let your momma be alone for a while." His mother says, leaning away from his embrace and wiping the beginnings of tears away from her eyes.

"Ya' sure? Ya' want me ta'..." He starts, but is interrupted by a swift wave of her hand.

"Listen ta' your mother. Go out, have a little fun, ah'll be fine." She then starts to forcefully push him out of the room.

"Okay, okay! Ah'm goin'!" He then gives his mother a brief hug then leaves the room. He catches up with the others who are sitting out on the porch with Paige and Jono.

"Is Momma gonna be all right?" Paige asks, worried.

"Yeah, she was just holdin' a lot in, is all. A lotta fear an' pain. It's tough handlin' this place on her own." He then hugs Paige around the shoulder. "Don't worry though, she'll pull through. She's a fighter, just like Pa was." He looks at his younger sister curiously. "Have ya' been sendin' home letters, Paige? Like ah used ta?" Paige looks away guiltily.

"Ah... ah mean ta'. Honestly, ah do. It's just that... ah ain't as good at writin' as you are, Sam. Whenever ah try ta' write home, ah can't figure out what ta' say, then somethin' comes up an' ah forget about it altogether." She says, her accent coming back in full only after half a day back home.

"Just write what ya' feel. Ah had the same problem at first, but once ya' get inta the habit, it starts ta' come by ya' real easy. Ah'm sure Momma misses hearin' from ya'."

"Ah'll try, Sam. Ah'll try." Paige stands up and looks to Jono.

"C'mon Jono, ah want ya' ta' meet mah Momma." She grabs him by the arm and drags him into the house.

><Ye know Paige, yer accent gets really strong when yer...><

"Shut UP about mah accent!" she says in frustration, then realizes she slipped again, "GRRRAH!" The two of them walk into the kitchen together.

"Could I have a moment alone with you, Sam? To talk about what you said to me yesterday?" Joseph eyes Sam carefully, leaning on the porch banister.

"Sure, ah guess." Sam glances to Tab. "Do ya' mind?"

"Nah, go on, I'll be fine." With that, she quickly turns and heads to the Blackbird, where she starts listening to her music as soon as she is seated in the co-pilot's seat again.

Sam and Joseph start walking silently onto the grounds, not saying a word to each other for about 5 minutes.

"I... I do not know how to say this, but... could you tell me more about who I am? About the man you knew as Magneto?"

"So that's what this is all about?" Sam nonchalantly glances at Joseph, but continues walking, and kicking a small stone along the dirt path.

"Yes. What you said to me yesterday... it's something I haven't heard before. In all my time here, all I have heard of the man I was is how evil he was. How twisted his schemes were and where he had wronged so many people. What you said yesterday was the first positive thing I had heard of who he was... and I want to hear more. Please?" Sam shakes his head slightly and sighs, then continues walking.

"Magneto was a man of many faults, but he had his good side, too. When ya' first came ta' be mah teacher, and the rest a' the New Mutants, we didn't trust ya' very much. We were goin' along with it because the Professor had wanted it that way, but we were still pretty ancy about ya'. Shan even thought about leavin' the team ta' help her little bro and sis."

"What changed your minds?"

"After a night at Harry's, when we were all gettin' nice and annoyed about ya', Dani went home by herself and got mugged by some fratboys. Her Pegasus, Brightwind, saved her, but after it was all said and done, you tracked down the fratboys who did it and busted their house up real good. It put us in the mind ta' give ya' a chance, at least." Sam gives the stone a final kick, sending it into the nearby creek.

"Tell me more, please." Joseph continues walking alongside Sam.

"Well, the memories are a bit foggy now, it feels like an eternity ago. There was once a time when we found out that you were a member of the Hellfire Club, as the White King. Ah remember it pretty well. We had been havin' a little 'social event' with the Hellions, Frost's original students, when Shan had tried ta' hack into the Hellfire Club's computers ta' find her kid siblings. As it turned out, you had already done that. Ya' earned some respect from me for that, goin' outta your way ta' help her, 'cause we all knew that the Hellfire Club didn't give info away without a price."

"If I was as you say, then what changed me so? What caused me to revert to... my other self?"

"Ah can't say for sure, seein' as ya' were keepin' ta' yourself all the time, but ah think it was Doug's death that broke ya', that broke all a' us." Sam paused, regretting his own failure that day. "Ah had taken the New Mutants after Bird-Brain ta' the Ani-mates' island, against your orders ta' stay on the campus, even though ah thought it was for the best. There was a big fight, then the Right came in and started throwin' down with us as well. Eventually, Animus tried ta' take a shot at Rahne, but Doug took it for her. He died savin' her life." Sam tightens his jaw, wincing at the memory, "After everything settled down, we... we just fell ta' pieces. Rahne was goin' hysterical and Illyana was pissed as Hell, literally. She had already transported Animus ta' Limbo, then she sent the Right there, too. Ah can't say ah reacted any better. Ah still haven't gotten over that day, the first time a decision ah made as leader cost someone else their life." Sam turns to look at Joseph, his face a mask of pain.

"When we got back ta' the school and ya' heard about what happened, you freaked out. Ah don't blame ya' for gettin' angry, but what ya' did was more than that. Ya' started blamin' humans again, sayin' it was their fault that Doug died, that the world had ta' be forced inta' doin' what was right. Us... we didn't go that far. We just tried ta' pick up the pieces and move on as best we could, still holdin' onta' what the Professor had taught us, about the right way ta' do things. Onta' his Dream a' peace." Sam moves closer, now looking Joseph right in the eye, "Ah believe that's where ya' started slippin' away from us. Ah didn't know that then, or even for a long time later."

"Ah still blame mahself for what happened ta' Doug. And after what became a' you as a result, ah can't help but think about how much pain ah coulda prevented by simply followin' your orders. Doug would be alive and you probably wouldn't've regressed... a lot of things would be different." Sam looks away from Joseph, regaining as sense of composure. Without knowing it, they had made their way to Tom Guthrie's graveside at the top of a cliff on the Guthrie farm.

"How... how can you blame yourself for my wrongs? You said yourself that you did what you thought was right, so how can you blame yourself for what happened?" Joseph looks at Sam from the other side of the elder Guthrie's grave, an almost shocked look on his face.

"'Cause it was ultimately mah decision, an' everythin' after that was blood on mah hands. Ah don't make excuses for what ah done, Joseph, ah just try ta' make it up the best ah can and learn from mah mistakes. We all haveta do that. Each and every one of us." Sam looks down at his father's gravestone, then up at Joseph, whose head is hung in concentration. "It's the leader's lesson, Joseph, to make the hard decisions and accept the consequences of what's happened, no matter what they are."

"I... I understand." Joseph turns to look Sam straight in the eye once more. "I promise you, Sam, that I will do everything within my power to make up for what I have done and more. You have shown me hope today, a chance that I can be the person I once was without fear of what I may become after that. I thank you for your patience with me. Knowing what I know now, I can understand how difficult this week has been for you." Joseph puts his hand on Sam's shoulder. "I release you of your burden, Samuel. I cannot allow for you to hold yourself responsible for my actions, that is now and forever my concern. My responsibility."

"If ya' mean what ya' say, and ah in your eyes that ya' do, then ah'll everything in mah power ta' help ya' make up for what ya' done. But remember, redemption don't come easy, Magnus, and just 'cause ah've agreed ta' help ya' make yourself a better person don't mean ah've already forgotten what ya' done. Ya' still got a long way to go before yer in the clear."

"And as long as you are willing to give me that chance, I am equally willing to accept what awaits me on that path." Joseph turns ands heads back to the farm.

A week later, New Year's Eve...

"Another year." Sam whispers quietly, leaning back into the snow-covered roof, shutting his eyes and listening to the night air.

"Pardon?" whispers Gambit, who is sitting next to him, looking out at the fireworks display getting ready to be set off on the front lawn.

"We made it through another year a' life, Remy. Gettin' through everythin' life throws at us and comin' out okay. Another year." Sam adjusts himself and sits up next to his cajun friend.

"And if t'ings go as well as dey did dis year, Gambit might not be lookin' forward to de next twelve mont's." He makes a bitter face, remembering all the things that had gone wrong with him since this time last year.

"That ain't no way ta' act on New Year's Eve, Remy." Sam smiles faintly, to soften his words, then continues. "Yer supposed ta' be happy with what's good in your life, not lookin' down on the bad things. Name one thing that went right for you this year, Remy."

"Not a t'ing, Sammy. Not a damn t'ing." Remy scowls in disgust, not liking where the conversation is leading.

"Wrong." Remy looks at Sam with an annoyed look, then settles back down in the snow. "Ya' got cleared a' bein' thought of as a traitor. We all know now that it was the Professor, as Onslaught, that done it. Not you. That's a major cloud that's been lifted from ya', and ya' should be thankful for it." Sam stands up and stretches out his body, then yawns. "Things aren't as bad as they seem a lotta the time, we just forget ta' cherish the bits a' good that come our way. An' they do, don't deny it. No man is ever tested beyond that which he is able, remember that."

"Yeah... I suppose. Sometimes it just don't look like de scales be balancin' out, non? Sure, we get a couple o' good t'ings our way, but for what we put up wit', it don' seem rightly fair." Remy still scowls, but less so then before. --Sammy's right though...-- he thinks, --Even Bishop be startin' to give dis cajun a pinch o' trust now, and I s'pose dat means somet'in.--

Sam is about to respond when they hear voices come out onto to balcony beneath them. They both instinctively quiet themselves and listen in.

"So Joseph, what was it ya' were so anxious ta' talk ta' me about? Ya' been avoidin' me all week. Ah wanna knows what's botherin' ya'." Remy glances at Sam with a look that says 'I told you so.'

"It is about who I am, and my future here with the X-Men. I have discovered things about myself this past week that have made me reconsider everything about the person I am... and was." Rogue starts to tense worriedly.

"Shugah, what are ya' sayin?" She tries to look him in the eyes, but he avoids her attempts.

"I'm saying that I am no longer Joseph. I cannot permit that charade to go on any longer."

"Ya'... ya' WERE foolin' this whole time, weren'cha?" She steps away from him, bringing herself into a fighting posture instinctively, her face still sad, however.

"No. I have not been deceiving you, I have been deceiving myself into accepting a life that was never meant to be mine. No matter how much I may wish it otherwise, I can no longer avoid my past transgressions. Someone I now consider a friend taught me that I cannot avoid my past, that it must accepted for what it's worth and then move on afterwards, not before. Before I can accept your kindness, before I can accept my new life here in the X-Men, I must first accept myself for who I really am."


"I am no longer that naive man. But I am no longer Magneto, either. I am Erik Magnus Lehnsherr, and that will never change for so long as I shall live." Magnus takes Rogue's gloved hand in his. "You have helped me to forget my past before, but I ask you now to help me remember, and repent, all that I have done before. It has to be done before I can accept any measure of forgiveness."

"Ah... ah... ah don't know what ta' say. Ah..." She stammers slowly, confused and bewildered by his sudden change.

"Say 'yes', Rogue. Help me do what I must do. Can you do that for me?" He looks at her calmly, sincerely and with somewhat pleading eyes.

"Ah..." She stutters once more, then looks into his eyes to judge the truth for himself. "Yes. Ah'll help ya', in whatever ways ah can. Ya' have mah word on that... Erik." She turns and brings him into the mansion.

On the roof, Remy is once again speechless, his mouth hanging wide open in shock, then he turns to Sam, who is smiling contentedly.

"You have somet'in ta' do wit' dat, Sammy?"

"Ah just showed him the door, Remy. He walked through it all on his own. Ah can't take any a' his credit."

"But... but how you do it, Sammy? What de hell kinna door you show 'im, de friggin' pearly gates?!" Remy is standing now.

"Ah just showed him the truth, about who he really was and how he had ta' face up to it. Remember how ah toldja earlier this week how mah problem was with Joseph, but not Magneto?" Sam looks at the calming cajun. Remy nods after some hesitation.

"Ah showed him why. That Magneto was a better man in mah eyes than Joseph was." Sam rubs his hands together rapidly, generating some warmth. "Ah showed him that he didn't have ta' be afraid a' bein' who he was, that he could accept it all and move on with his life. The past can be forgiven, as long as whoever it is is willin' ta' accept it and the consequences. Ah've ain't yet forgiven him for what he did ta' me and mah best friends, but he took a big step towards it right there, by facin' up ta' who he is."

"Dat go for everyone, mon ami? Or jus' de Amnesia Lad?" Remy's jest was anything but, as his icy words could be felt even in the winter weather. Sam pauses, but then decides to just answer the question.

"Mah Pa raised me ta' accept people for who they were, faults and all, but not ta' judge 'em by it. He taught me that justice is very important, that all people should be held accountable, ultimately, for what they done." Remy shifts uncomfortably, "But he also taught me that mercy was just as important as justice. People'll make mistakes, Remy, and that ain't never gonna change. Without mercy, there ain't a chance in hell for anyone ta' learn from their mistakes. An' ah've decided ta' give Magnus another chance. Ah know that he betrayed me once before, but ah believe he's really willin' ta' give it his all and pay off all a' his debts, and by God, I won't stand in his way a' givin' it. It ain't right."

"T'anks, Sammy. Dat mean a lot to dis cajun, more dan you'll ever know." Remy then quickly escapes into the shadows before Sam can question him on it.

"What did he mean by that?" Sam looks at the shadows, then shrugs, and goes inside the mansion window and down to the den where Tab is waiting for him.

Eventually, the two lovebirds find themselves outside with the others, waiting while the countdown begins and the fireworks are set.

"To another year, Firecracker." Sam says, his arms around his girlfriend.

"To another year, Mason-Dixon." Tab leans up and they kiss as the explosions burst around them and the new year is welcomed in with happiness in their hearts.

The End

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