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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


After Storm and Jean finish wrapping Rogue's body in loose strips of cotton, Forge, Remy and Hank carefully lift her and place her on the bier. Remy's fingers slip to her wrist. He relaxes after feeling her steady pulse. When he glances up, Remy's eyes meet Hank's compassionate gaze and Forge's wry smile. For someone who supposedly doesn't have much faith in anything, the Cajun finds he is surprisingly close to becoming seriously affected by this ceremony.

Following Baoule tradition, the X-men surround the bier with symbols of their wealth and valued possessions. The items are not meant to be buried with the dead, merely presented as a way of honoring her position as a member of the tribe.

Formality gives way to nervous small talk as the various tributes are noted and commented on. Ororo notices that Remy slips a small pouch to Rogue's side, and never lets it leave his sight. She smiles. The pouch contains the courtship rings of Rogue's grandparents. While the others may wonder about the seemingly simple object, Ororo understands and appreciates the significance of Rogue's contribution.

Ororo moves to the cooking fires, inviting the others to join her. The rich aroma of spiced, stewed yams contrasts to the lighter, fruity scent of a cold yam and currant relish. Logan sips an amber colored liquid. His face sours as he chokes it down.

"Baoule don't eat nothin' except yams?"

Remy nudges him. Logan gives him a dark look, until he sees the can of beer. The Cajun flashes a knowing grin as he slips the brew to his friend and pops another for himself. Seeing the exchange, Jean makes a point of giving both Remy and Logan generous servings of the stew. Logan tries, in vain, to protest.

"Aw, Jeanie--"

"You wouldn't want to offend Ororo, would you?"

She smiles, a bit too warmly.

"Or me either, for that matter. Eat up. There's plenty more when you're finished."

She chuckles as she walks away to join Scott.

"Don' be turnin' you back on dat one, mon ami."

Remy glances at the orange mush in his bowl, half-tempted to throw it into a nearby bush. He changes his mind when he sees Ororo. Unnoticed by most of the others, she has moved from their close gathering back to the funeral bier. Something in her eyes, in the way her hands adjust and smooth the cotton strips across Rogue's body, provides the incentive he needs to make a bit more effort to follow her customs.

As for Ororo, the distinct voices of her friends become nothing more than soft conversation blending into the background. Her thoughts wander back to the early hours of the morning, when she arranged for her own, private ceremony to bid farewell to Rochelle.


Continued in Chapter 17


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