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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


Storm squares her shoulders, turns and faces Professor Xavier. He waits as he as often waited, patiently. And as he waits for Ororo to compose her thoughts, his mind wanders back to the day they first met. She was a creature of the elements. Magnificent to behold, dangerous to anger. And when he explained his purpose, she dismissed him as insignificant. She was a goddess, beyond the concerns of any except the daily needs of her people, the Baoule.

Or so she believed until her tribe was murdered. She had approached him then, confused, humbled, respectfully conceding that, perhaps, she could learn from his wisdom. She had made one request: that he provide safe passage to his country for the two women and one man who remained of her people.

The request was made politely, but the message was clear. Either he welcomed all of them, or none. Ororo might accept that she was not invulnerable, but she would not relinquish her responsibility as guardian of the Baoule. He agreed. He remembers now, that one of the women had been Rochelle's mother.

"Yes, Charles, in my grief, my anger, I destroyed a neighboring village."

"Was it the village of the man who murdered your tribe?"


"This man--was Gregory Buchanan?"

She nods. In the clearing below, the other X-men finish putting away the baseball equipment and gather around the beginnings of an evening campfire. Ororo considers returning to them, joining the laughter and gentle teasing of friends. Considers and rejects the idea.

"I fear I have kept you from the others far too long."

"How did it happen?"

She sees the questioning look in his eyes, the intense concern that Storm used her abilities to callously take the lives of innocents. She was so much younger then. So self-absorbed. So consumed by self-righteous fury at the deaths of her worshippers.

Lightning to burn the huts to ashes. Bitter cold to destroy the crops. Searing heat to create the drought that would end their petty lives in the anguish of unrequited thirst. None of which was necessary. Nature, it seems, has a way of avenging its own.

"There was a smallpox epidemic."

His sigh of relief is unmistakeable.

"Ororo, certainly you cannot blame yourself--"

"Understand me, Charles, the tribe perished by my hand. I was journeying to the village with medicine when I heard the drums announcing death in my own tribe. It was my decision. My choice. I could continue on, or return. I returned. I discovered Gregory Buchanan--"

Her voice chokes with the memory of this man who has twice taken the lives of her loved ones.

"I discovered Gregory Buchanan, covered in the blood of my people."

"Surely there must have been a reason behind his actions?"

"His actions were not based on reason. Neither were mine. I emptied the vials of medication at his feet, with the full knowledge that his people would never survive the epidemic."

Charles Xavier strokes his brow, considering this information. Certainly it enlightens Ororo Munroe's relationship with Gregory Buchanan as well has her desperation concerning Rochelle. Still, he senses an incompleteness to the puzzle. Missing pieces that Storm may not even be aware of.

"In spite of everything, you let him live."

"He lives only because Raoua, Rochelle's mother, distracted me with her cries. When I discovered she still lived, I went to her side. Gregory disappeared."

"I'm concerned about you, Ororo."

She graces him with a benevolent smile. Her lips brush his cheek even as her hand reaches to cover his.

"I appreciate all you have done for me, Charles. Now go, enjoy this evening with the others."

He hesitates until Storm, in her typical manner of dismissal, merely turns her back to him. She loses herself in the contemplation of the sunset. Professor Xavier leaves her then, letting the graying shades of evening and her own thoughts keep her company.


Continued in Chapter 8


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