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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


Ping. Clink-clink.

Ping. Clink.

Ping. Silence.

It's over now, ain't it, Storm? Ya got what ya wanted. Ya spent some time with Rochelle, just like a real mother and daughter. Got to see her laid to rest all proper like. Don't know where ah got the crazy idea -- yeah, you an' me gettin' all chummy. Riiiiight.

Rogue reloads the slingshot. Aims. Fires. Another tin can topples. Rogue walks over to the fence to set up another row of cans. She has never been a goddess. No one would ever worship her as the bringer of life. As much as Ororo has been the keeper of nature, Rogue has been the keeper of secrets. White lies. Half-truths. Not so innocent ommissions. It's how she learned to cope, especially with the psychic residue of vastly different personalities nudging the shadows of her mind.

Rogue submitted to the funeral as much for Gregory Buchanan's benefit as for Rochelle's. For now, she is the only one who will ever know. Just as she is the only one who truly understands what Gregory has been through. For an extra challenge, Rogue stacks the cans in a pyramid. She begins picking them off with the slingshot, one by one.

Gregory was a mutant. Like many mutants, his power manifested suddenly, with horrifying results. Much like Rogue. He never murdered Ororo's people; their deaths were never the result of cold-blooded calculation. Only the unfortunate combination of genetics and youthful frustration.

Rogue glances down at her bare hands, one of the few times she isn't wearing gloves. She remembers, through Gregory's eyes, secretly returning to the village to convince Raoua to come away with him. Remembers the moment his hand brushes Raoua's with the same painful clarity of her own lips kissing Cody's.

Welcome to the club, sugah.

She takes out two cans with one shot.

He never knew what happened. One moment Raoua's smile brightens his heart, the next, she's pulling away, screaming. It all happened so quickly. A rush of power he's never experienced courses through his body; an overwhelming sense of truly being alive. Before he can understand or accept this sudden change, the rest of the tribe attacks. He has no control. As soon as someone touches him, his mutation acts.

All around him, he sees the dead and dying bodies of the Baoule. Feels their blood on his hands. Perhaps, if he had not acted so rashly two nights ago, Ororo's arrival would have been less confrontational. Whatever words passed between them no longer matter. He could never explain to her what he does not understand himself. And his anger against Storm would never allow him to try.

Rogue brushes sudden tears from her eyes. She understands the confusion and isolation he experienced better than most. She crumbles to the ground. Here, alone, she finally allows herself to succumb to the pain she's kept tight inside. The sorrow of knowing that Gregory's loss was no less than Ororo's. His bitterness grew to consume him. Perhaps he took lives when his mutation made it necessary for him to survive. And, yes, even at times when there was no need.

Rogue sobs.

But ya nevah wanted to hurt Rochelle.

She could have been his daughter. Should have been his. Rogue's arms fold tight around her body as she gives in to the grief of a man who has never had a chance to express his loss. Gregory has passed into nothing, but this bit of him will always be with her. This part that again sees Rochelle's bright, shining eyes and white smile. Again reaches out to her. Again endures the agony of having his own body betray him by taking her life, her essence into his own. So complete is the absorption, that her body discorporates, feeding his.

Eventually, Rogue calms down, collects her slingshot, and heads back to the mansion. She walks slowly, a single thought turning in her mind.

E te o nou.

We stay together.


Concluded in Chapter 20


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