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Ashes in the Wind
An Elseworld's Style X-men Story
J. A. C. Delaney, 1996
"Penny for your thoughts, big guy?" Rachel asked the brooding Colossus as he stared into the cold Atlanic Ocean. He turned and smiled at the tall, red head as she nudged him over on the boulder which he was sitting on.
"I was just looking at the setting sun. Tell me, Rachel, how do you tell a setting sun from a rising sun." Rachel looked at him strangely. He smiled. "I know that we consider a setting sun one that leads into night and a rising sun is one that leads into day. But if we were just created this instant and looked at the dim redness in the distance, how would we know?"
"If that is what you are thinking about, Peter, then maybe you have been staring at the sky too long." Rachel grinned at the big Russian.
"No, I don't think so. I think maybe we have looked at it too little, lost in our everyday lives. Sometimes we forget that the sky has seen countless years of pain it yet it still looks down on us. No matter how dark it grows, it always comes back to the light. I think maybe there is a lesson in that, somehow."
"And the darkness, Peter, never forget that it comes back that as well." Rachel said in a small, sad voice.
"I'm Russian, how could I possibly forget!" They both chiuckled at his comment. "The lesson of our history is that suffering is a part of life, and yet we endure. That is the beauty of my people, they have suffered endlessly but they still cling on to what they are. That is something we could learn from them, I think."
"You sound like Magneto." Rachel replied.
"Magneto? I hardly think so."
"Not this Magneto. The one from my world. The one who was crippled by the Sentinels and still managed to survive in the death camps. There he was, crippled and starving yet he never gave up. He sounded a lot like you do now. The difference was that he could never see hope, only survival. I don't think he ever saw the light that would follow the darkness, he just wanted to keep the night at bay no matter how much it hurt. Poor Erik, he never realized that he was only a man."
"Magneto's first name. He used it as a child and he used to let those who were really close to him call him by it. In the camps we all became very close."
"That must have been rough. I can't imagine what it would be like to grow up in a concentration camp."
"It was heaven on earth compared to being a hound. We were starving and we weren't free, but we didn't have to murder just to stay alive, like I did." Rachel began to cry and Colossus hugged her.
"You did what you had to. Nobody blames you for it."
"I could have fought it. I could have broken free and run for the hills. Logan did it. Alone among all the X-men he was the only one that they could never capture and that they could never stop. Even Magneto wasn't able to do that. He was the symbol of our ability to win free, and now he is dead. Peter, if my future ever comes to pass then he is already dead. He won't be that symbol here. You don't know how much hope he generated in us, and now he isn't there to inspire us." Colossus made his hug firmer.
"Then we will have to make sure that there is hope and inspiration waiting. Because he is dead doesn't mean that hope has left us. No, I think we can create our own hope and our own symbols to inspire us."
"Do you think so, Peter?"
"I know so. This isn't your world. Here we can forge our own future in the shape of our dreams."
"But what about the Shadow King? He is waiting to destroy all of that."
"Listen to me, Rachel." Peter spoke and looked into her green eyes. He watched the mask fall from her face and stared at her as she was, scarred and damaged. "It is now, when things are tough, that what we do matters the most. It is not when it is easy to do the right thing that a person's character matters, it is when it is the worst of times and hope is dim flicker. That is when we learn what we are really made of."
"But I broke before. What if I do it again?"
"They broke the child. But I would trust the woman to lead me into the inferno of hell."
"Do you really mean that?"
"More than you can imagine." The two X-men watched the sun set together, knowing that in the end it must rise again.