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Author's Notes
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20


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.
~(Shakespeare's MACBETH)~

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. Remy LeBeau.

"Evenin', Storm."

"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 forgotten prayers.

"I would like to be alone."

"Mais oui."

Of course.

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.

Silent tension.

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 an' dearest."

"I accepted Rogue into my life--and my heart--years ago."

"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 impatience.

"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.

"She--has agreed?"

A curt nod, and once again, a spark of hope stirs the holy ruins.


Continued in Chapter 2


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