Will all great Neptune's ocean
wash this blood from my hand?
No, this my hand will rather the multitudinous seas incarnidine
making the green one red.
Once, it was a place of worship, where hope shone as brightly
as votives bordering the altar. A holy place sustained by
the strength of its faithful. At eleven, Rochelle Munroe received
her first communion here. Family and friends, even her godmother,
Ororo Munroe, watched her bright eyes and flushed cheeks as
she knelt to accept the sacraments. Six hours later, the pastor
discovered Gregory Buchanan in the sanctuary-- stroking Rochelle's
bloodied dress. Her body was never found.
Bright Lady, what madness summons me here, again, on the
anniversary of Rochelle's death?
Ororo Munroe, the mutant X-man known as Storm, sighs. There
are times, she thinks, as now, when she has lived too long,
endured too much for one lifetime. From the sullied alleys
of Cairo to the parched savannahs of Africa, she has been
the griever of death and the sustainer of life. Worshipped
as a goddess. Wounded as a mortal. She blinks back tears from
eyes that have beheld the wonders of the farthest stars.
I summon the winds and the rains, the mightiest forces
of nature, yet I cannot send this child to her final rest.
Night darkens the fragments of stained glass to black.
No, Ororo, that is not the truth. The truth is that to
find Rochelle you would need to go against the wishes of Professor
Xavier. To find her, would be to put your team, your friends,
in danger. Yet, how can I endure not knowing what has
become of my goddaughter?
A card flares suddenly in the darkness. The flame-colored
light does little to ease the sharply set jaw of her visitor.
"Gambit. I was not expecting company."
"Life jus' full of unexpected pleasures, neh?"
He flashes a wicked grin, then languidly settles against
one of the few remaining arches. Flash of the hand. Snap of
a match. In less than a second, Remy LeBeau has the cigarette
lit and to his lips. He slowly draws, then exhales, feining
interest in the wisp of smoke that curls into the dust of
"I would like to be alone."
A moment passes. Then another. Still, the Cajun remains as
before, body relaxed against stone, eyes keen and gleaming
in the filtered moonlight. Finally, reluctantly, Ororo slowly
turns to face Remy. Concern for her welfare softens his face,
but the glint of wariness flashes crimson in his eyes.
Not. Ah, Windrider, take care with this one. Did you truly
believe he would not object?
The cigarette drops to the ground, glowing embers fade to
nothingness. Another light extinguished.
Deceivin' you friends, padnat? Even an assassin got more
honor den that.
Until the plaintive wail of an injured child pierces the
air, shattering Ororo's composure.
A jagged flash of lightning escapes before Storm remembers
herself and regains control of her mutant ability to control
the weather. In an instant, she is at Remy's side, peering
anxiously into the sparsely lit playground beyond.
The sound of someone running. A mother's voice. Through the
shadows, Ororo watches as mother runs to child, uttering soft
reassurances that "--it's only a little scrape--".
The crying stills. She watches, touched by small hands that
so tightly clasp his mother's neck, cradled in her protective
embrace. As Storm once protected her own little one.
She folds her arms tighter about her waist, fighting the
suffocating knot of pain. Grief. It has been one of the few
constants in her ever-changing life. From behind, another
pair of hands slips over hers, easing her grip.
"Gambit knows what dis night mean to you, chere. Ain't
nothin' more important den family. Nothin' dat eats at your
soul like knowin' one a your own ain't at rest. De X-men your
family, too. An' Rogue, she t'inks a you like her own nearest
"I accepted Rogue into my life--and my heart--years
"Den why you settin' her up?"
"His appeal has been denied. Gregory Buchanan will die
by lethal injection in forty-one hours. Any hope of discovering
Rochelle's body will perish with his final breath. I cannot
allow that to occur."
"Spite a de risk to Rogue?"
Ororo shoves Remy's hands away. Her eyes glow with mounting
"The very nature of our existence as mutants places
us at risk. Whether we perish in battle, succumb to disease
or expire naturally, as long as there is breath in the body,
each of us has the right to choose the path we walk."
"You got strange ways a treatin' your loved ones, Stormy."
"Rogue has the right to choose how she lives her life."
"T'ing bein', padnat, if Rogue still got Belle's mem'ries,
she maybe ain't de one makin' decisions. You gon' let Rogue,
wit' an Assassin's mem'ries an' skills, absorb dis
murderer? Y'ain't t'inkin' straight, 'Ro. Be like givin' M'sieur
'Tooth de run a de city."
The sense of loss again threatens to overwhelm Storm.
"You have convinced Rogue to refuse my request."
"Rogue make up her own mind--spite a de good Cajun sense
Gambit try to offer."
The heavy resignation in his voice thickens the air, momentarily
distracting her from the meaning of his words. Then, the sudden
clarity of realization.
A curt nod, and once again, a spark of hope stirs the holy
Continued in Chapter
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