It is a rare moment in the lives of Warren Wortington III and Jean Grey. A moment of unbridled joy and recaptured innocence. As he is lifting them high up above the clouds into the air, Warren threatens that if she doesn’t agree to marry him he really is going to have to drop her. Hmm, marriage to her best friend or death … She has to consider this for a minute.
More seriously, she asks him how many corners of the globe they have seen. No matter where they’ve been, she’s never known anyplace as gorgeous as his home in the Colorado Rockies. It does put things into perspective, he agrees. If you ignore the razor-tipped wings and the blue skin, he sometimes forgets that he’s been given the greatest mutant power of all - flight. The only real drawback is that sometimes he gets tired… His wings have stopped flapping, Jean points out. He knows what that means, doesn’t he? ‘Free fall!’ both of them shout, as they begin to fall. They joke around and Warren asks, seeing as how they are going to die anyway, if she’d object to giving him a good-bye kiss. If she kissed every guy every time she almost died, her lips would have fallen off by now, Jean wryly retorts before slowing their fall telekinetically.
Slowly, they float down to Warren’s Colorado home, as Archangel announces he knew there was a reason he was always in love with her. He even told her that reason, she reminds him. The night of the school prom: while Scott was busy learning how to take Cerebro apart and put it together. What was the term he used? She was “anatomically correct.” Sure it was a sexist, objectifying thing to say, but he got points for sincerity.
He’s an idiot, he suddenly announces. Scott? Jean asks. If he was the guy she was in love with, he’d have asked her to marry him the day they graduated Xavier’s. And if he were the man she was in love with, Jean replies, she would have said ‘yes.’ Life has a way of working out for the best, she tells him. Warren scoffs and reminds her that a year ago today he lost Candy, the only woman he ever … the only woman who ever loved him … to some mutant-hating madman who once was his best friend. Was that “for the best?”
Jean tells him to remember the time before she died. Wasn’t that wonderful? Yes, Warren agrees, but there isn’t a day when he doesn’t regret all the things he didn’t get to tell her. How much light she brought to his heart… he never told her how much he loved her. A moment later, he shouts ‘no’ in disbelief, as a very alive Candy Southern stands in the doorway saying, “Hello, Warren.”
Hundreds of miles away, in Xavier’s Danger Room, Beast wonders if this is wise and Quicksilver agrees, telling Xavier that, while nobody doubts his abilities as a master strategist, he has precious little experience in combat. He does not feel the Danger Room is the safest place for… Xavier coolly reminds him that he designed every detail of this training facility, while Pietro and his sister were still wandering the back roads of Europe. How is everyone is doing?
Beast switches on the Deathbot scenario as Xavier ordered and, suddenly, Quicksilver and Xavier find themselves in a holographic scenario of space, where they are weightless. They have just under two minutes to beat the living tar out of each other, Beast announces cheerfully. This particular holo-reality leaves them evenly matched, Xavier announces, but finds he has trouble mentally grabbing onto a man whose perceptions are far faster than others.
Quicksilver manages to get the first hit. As Xavier floats backwards, Hank announces that Kid X has taken a shot to the jaw and it doesn’t look good. Xavier asks him not to underestimate him, as he manages to change course by touching an asteroid. First blood goes to Quicksilver, Xavier grimly admits, while Hank states it’s one minute and counting. After that, the game shuts down automatically. Bishop silently joins Beast in the observation booth, expressing concern about the Professor enjoying this. Hank agrees.
There’s no shame in a man admitting his weakness, Quicksilver states, as he comes closer to Xavier. Xavier agrees; shame comes in overestimating those of his opponent’s at the cost of victory. With that, Xavier throws a handful of dirt in Quicksilver’s face and presses home his advantage by brutally hitting him. He’s made the same mistake as his father has over the years. Rather than look at an adversary and see his strength, he concentrated on his weakness instead.
Quicksilver complains that he was expecting a modicum of fair play from Xavier. Does he think his father will play fair, when he begins his plans for world domination, Xavier asks. Does he believe Magneto will extend the same courtesy to them that he extended to Magneto by merely hurling him from Earth, instead of defeating him once and for all? He isn’t his father, Quicksilver reminds him, as they now brutally hit each other, nor does Xavier have to become him in order to defeat him. Years ago, Magneto tried his way, Xavier reminisces, maybe it is time he now met him on Magneto’s own ground.
Beast humorously closes down the program. Quicksilver is still concerned. Is Xavier willing to risk everything, his morals, his dream, in order to defeat his father? And if he did, what of it, Xavier spits back. Would it bring back the dead? Would it raise the Hydra agents Magneto murdered when first they met or resurrect the sailors of the Leningrad or any of the others who have died during this long, long war? Pietro offers Xavier a hand. Or would he rather he bring him the wheelchair. Xavier coolly tells him he’d rather Piero concern himself with other matters. He can manage on his own. He used to think the same thing about himself, Pietro announces, as he leaves. And he was wrong.
Back in Colorado, Warren is throwing a fit. What possible reason could he have to be reasonable? he shouts. They don’t have all the answers, Jean reminds him calmly. Candy’s been dead for months, tells her. For all they know this might be another construct like those that ambushed Iceman. Jean reminds him that Rogue absorbed one of them. They were little more than programmed blank slates. That clearly isn’t the case here. Candy apologizes. She didn’t want to cause Warren any more pain, but didn’t know where else to go. The last thing she wants to do is hurt him, that much even death couldn’t change She asks Jean to read her mind and tell him she is Candy. Jean states that she believes who she says she is. It’s all there. Her memories. Her undying love for him. Warren finally hugs Candy, asking if it really her. She hopes so, she exclaims.
An evening in the West Village, where an excited Storm is heading after her ex, Forge, asked her to come. She enters the restaurant, unsure of what exactly is going on. It’s called a date, he tells her wryly. And she’s probably confused, since the last time they spent more than five minutes together it was because they were trapped in another dimension. Handing her a glass of champagne, he tells her she looks fantastic.
Ororo starts small talk about their teams, but Forge interrupts her, telling her he didn’t asks her here to discuss work. He wanted to tell her he regretted with happened that night. He said a lot of hurtful things and had no right to. Ororo admits that everything he said was true. She was just not prepared to hear it at the time. She could have… Forge interrupts. He didn’t ask her here to point fingers, but because he missed his best friend and wanted to ask her back into his life. They can discuss the terms later. Ororo replies that there’s nothing she’d like more and they celebrate with a dance.
Back in Colorado, Jean warns Candy about what they are going to do, but Candy insists. Unlike Jean and Warren, she has no power. Her only weapon is the truth. Jean uses her telepathic powers to have her and Warren enter Candy’s mind.
They arrive at Candy’s most vivid memory… the moment of her death. Candy was hooked up to a device by Cameron Hodge and Jean realizes that, despite her being tranquilized, she was cognizant of her surroundings. On some level, she knew that she’d been kidnapped and that Hodge had been experimenting on her for some time. She also knew that they were too late, Warren says, breaking off as words fail him, as he relives the horror as Hodge quite literally ripped the life out of Candy Southern.
But this close inside her mind, Archangel learns something else. He discovers that, in her last instant of her life, Candy looked towards him. Until that moment, he’d always believed she’d died in relative peace, enveloped in the catatonic cocoon, which occasionally precedes death. Now, as he watches his former self attack Hodge, he realizes she was aware and that she knew he couldn’t save her.
The mindscape shifts, as he silently tells Jean that Candy was everything to him, the only person believing there was a soul buried within the spoiled kid from Long Island. She believed in him. And he failed her. No, he didn’t, Jean replies, because it didn’t end there.
New memories. A dark place. Weeks, months later, awareness began again. Candy lies somewhere. Faceless men discuss her similarity to someone. Warren asks Jean to make out the faces.
How is she different from the prototypes, one of the man asks. …own work… intimately familiar with . are the words Jean can make out. It’s difficult as Candy was unconscious most of the time.
Another moment: First of many… even Xavier won’t…, one man says.
Suddenly, Jean and Warren are hurtled from Candy’s mind. A psionic failsafe in Candy’s mind set to detonate if they got too close, Jean explains. Bravo, Ms. Grey, mucho bravo, a new voice announces, as techno-organic tentacles come sifting into the house. Horrified, Jean recognizes the psi-signature of the being behind them. Warren just recognizes the voice of Cameron Hodge.
The tentacles solidify into the horrifying techno-organic likeness of Hodge. Cameron mocks Warren, reminding him of all he’s done to him and hints at a mysterious sponsor that reconstructed him from almost nothing. Archangel shouts at him not to call him Warren. That was his name when they were friends. Before Hodge had his original wings amputated. Before he sold his body and soul to purge the world of what he perceived was a threat to humanity. Before he became Archangel, the harbinger of death, he shouts, as his wings tear into Hodge.
Undeterred, Hodge tells him they came up through the ranks of atrocities together.
They had the same roots. Boarding school buddies with visions of changing the world and making a difference. Ok, so Warren wanted to save the world for mutants and Cameron wanted to purge the world from them, but no roommate situation is ever perfect.
He is not a monster, Warren insists. Candy suddenly screams, as she becomes techno-organic. Hodge is “stripping her for spare parts.” As Candy is tearing herself apart from inside, she asks if it wasn’t enough he killed her? Did he have to turn her into this? He’s not the one who fell in love with genetrash, is he? Hodge retorts.
Jean desperately uses her telepathy to spare Candy the tremendous pain she is feeling.
As he cannot use Candy, Hodge instead transforms the couch, telling the X-Men this is the face of their future enemy. There are scores of them, he boasts, created with a technology far more developed than even that of their precious Shi’ar. They can pass for human, they can feed upon the environment around them and they will not rest until mankind is free of the horror that are mutants.
Suddenly, he screams, finding that, due to their link, as Candy is destroying herself, his own failsafes are overridden as well. Candy chooses death, rather than endanger her lover. Her sacrifice is wasted, Hodge shouts. This won’t stop them! His final words are lost in a techno-organic maelstrom.
When it’s over, Candy rasps that Warren misunderstood her last look. It wasn’t anger, it was gratitude. Telling him she loves him, she dies again. Jean hugs Warren, assuring him it’s over. Is it, he wonders. Hodge said there were others… Is it really over?