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
"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.
"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
Continued in Chapter
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