DISCLAIMER: Marvel's is Marvel's and mine is non-existent, that's why I'm writing this, you know - so's I can use characters with clearly - in some cases - defined backgrounds and histories and I don't have to make up that much on my own - 'cept for plot. That's enough to devise, don't you think? Oh, yeah, and I ain't making a dime off of this.
WARNING: Um... Just to let you know... This part isn't going to be all that humorous. It's time for what I think is the obligatory 'serous part' - it can't be all laughs, ya know. If you want to turn back now - DON'T! What's up wit' dat, huh?! You stay! Stay where you are! Sit! Dang... The NERVE of some people... *g*
THANKS: Much thanks goes to Mel for beta- ing for me. You's mah girl! Thanks so much!

The Flip Side
Chapter 4: Communion

She was now in the safety of her room, but as to the comfort part?

There was very little.

She felt like a stranger on her own lands. She was no longer Ororo Munroe in body. Inside, she could hear her own voice and her own thoughts - and then, she looked down upon herself and found herself trapped within someone else's fleshly confines.

She was not yet used to this body. Walking and moving took more care than usual. She weighed more and was taller than before. More than that, she was stronger as well, easily able to overpower herself by brute force alone were her female self present - which it was not.

Everything seemed alien now - how things felt to the touch, for example. It was as if she were there in her room for the first time, never having felt the texture of her bed sheets before, the smoothness of the oak that made up its frame and the chest at the foot of it. Even the feel of her own body was strange to her now - not that she'd spent more time than necessary touching herself...

Usually so very composed, she felt close the edge.

She felt as though she could slip this time, slip right into the abyss.

She had never faced an adversity such as this. Imprisonment, yes. Enslavement, yes. Massive and overpowering fear, yes. Great injury, yes. And powerlessness, too.

But this was different - new.

It wasn't something she could just get used, either, and she feared that it would never cease to be new - that she would always feel off-balanced, and never 'used to it.'

Her senses were all feeding her information differently - the feel of her own hair to her own fingertips was as exotic to her as that of a woman's she'd never met before. She even thought the smell of her indoor garden was different, that the sights she took in weren't the same as they were two days ago, and even her sense of taste would tell her that what she had once thought was the taste of a peach was actually something completely conflicting.

And of all the things that were made new once more was the touch of mother earth upon her.

Remy had reminded her that she hadn't felt that touch in too long a while - no matter how short of a while it was. It was always supposed to be there - incessantly so, even.

But it wasn't now.

She felt oddly ... alleviated, freed - yet simultaneously ... alone.

Did not the earth recognize her in spirit if not in body?

No, she decided. She was no longer the daughter of the Earth - she was now its son.

But she would not be denied her birthright!

She closed her eyes as she stood in the middle of her room, and reached out for the familiar grasp that always demanded attention lest it rage out of her control, the reins be snatched from her hands until however much time it took before she could reclaim them.

Her life - her body - had been irrevocably changed, but she would be damned if she would lose the only thing that was tangibly left of Ororo Munroe - the gift to manipulate the weather, to glide upon the winds, to command thunder and lightening, and be caressed by cleansing rains.

Where are you? she called out inwardly. I know that you are still there - you could not have left me, as well! Please, do not have gone. Please...

It was exhilarating, too, though - the loss. She felt as if she could rage to her heart's content and not a cloud would flicker with an electrical charge, not a droplet of rain would fall, and not a gust of wind would ruffle a lock of hair.

But another part of her would EXPLODE if she did not have that burden to bear, that blessing to uphold, that honor as an X-Man to carry.

It was all she had now.

She would not be denied.

"Hear me," she whispered softly, reaching out with all that was inside her that would be remembered by her mother, the Earth, arms lifting from her sides and into the air. "Feel my spirit. Know that it is I, child of the Earth that calls you. Do not reject me now."

She did not order so much as plead - plead - for her rightful place.

Such an irony.

She had asked for change and she had it - and unhappily. Then, she was petitioning for something that she should already have, should never have lost - and all for a half-formed wish that should never have been caught to breath and made real by voice.

The connection must be there - it has to be. I cannot live like this - not alone!

"Please. Come back to me - welcome me into your arms again," she breathed as if she were desirous of a former lover that was hesitant at accepting her back. "Touch me... Fill me..."

Just when she felt nothing riposting her call, when it seemed that the connection lie dead and lifeless on the floor before her - that Mother Earth had indeed rejected her new body as the sum aggregate of what Ororo Munroe was and would ever be in body and spirit, when the skies seemed to ignore her as nothing more than a simple human that would breathe and return to dust in a blink of its existence -

She felt it.


A powerful and roaring wind threw open the shutters and flooded in from the skyward entrance above her head as it coursed to her, enwrapping her - embracing her. Between her legs, around her waist, and through her hair, it caressed and stroked her skin - the hesitant lover had welcomed her return at long last - and lifted her in the air amongst a delicious cyclone as she threw back her head and laughed and sobbed in the greatest relief she could recall, her deep voice lost to the howling windstorm.

A touch.

She felt it deep inside - down deep, could just barely feel it, could scarcely discern the spark as her powers were ignited, jumpstarted by her fervent devotion after her conversion had apparently buried it.

Buried it alive.

And now it pulsed and thumped and grew within as well as without. The blazing and beautiful colors and hues that were the weather patterns were lain out before her like so many paints on a palette, there to be shaped and remade by her and her alone.

Her new appearance had not left her no longer qualified for the job - it was the within that mattered far more than the without, a simple truth she had always been aware of, but had had no greater crisis with until now. She could see it, despite how she'd felt that her sight had altered somehow, she could see it, and it just as it'd always been.

"I feel you," she laughed. "I can!" she shouted in her strong male tones as she was drawn out of her room and into the skies above, too enrapt to care for her new voice. "I CAN!"

And then it was only her and the storm, beating rain, sleet and snow, swirling winds and clouds, thunder, lightening - and all at her command once again, reclaimed.

"You are mine once more!"

And, indeed, it was.

As it had always been.

And she rejoiced for however long she was able.

A loud boom - more like a KAKRATHOOM! shook the windows of the boathouse.

"What was that?"

"Lightening, I think. Rain, sleet-"

"I know that, Jean. I was wondering why. Sort of sudden, wasn't it? It was sunny just a minute ago." Scott Summers, also known as Cyclops of the X-Men, and perhaps more importantly, husband of Jean Grey-Summers, edged open a slat in the blinds to peer outside at the sudden thunderclap that had lit up the late dusk outside the window of their bedroom.

"A bit, but you know we have a resident weather controller on the premises," she reminded him.

"Do we?" he asked after a short pause.

"Of course. Just because her sex has been changed, it doesn't mean that's changed, too."

Hearing the words 'sex' and 'changed' in such close proximity and in reference to Ororo Munroe made his left eyebrow twitch. It didn't take much to drop the 'ed' off the end of 'changed' and slap the two words together...

Shaking his head to loose himself of the thought, he said, "We don't really know that. And Remy did mention that 'Ro wasn't exactly in touch with her powers."

"Well, we'll see soon enough," his wife told him, as she organized the last of her items.

Scott sighed and nodded. "I guess." The idea of Ororo being a man was indeed an odd thing to accept. What would it mean to their relationship if it were permanent? Would they have a true alpha- male struggle between them, then? And why was he thinking of that now? It wasn't important - Ororo's recovery from this was, which had to be especially difficult for one such as herself.

"Not really, I'm not sure, probably, I have no idea - you're just weird, yes it is, and again, yes it is."

Scott blinked at her. "Wha'?" So confounded was he, the 't' at the end of the word never made it to his statement.

She grinned and shook her head. "You'll catch on in a minute - you usually, do," she told him, confidence of his ability to do so dancing in her clear voice. "I, on the other hand, have got to get this up to Ororo. Thanks for the clothes."

"Um ... no problem."

"Actually, you should probably be upset. This just means I'll have to drag you out shopping with me when I go to the mall to pick up something for her tomorrow."

He nearly paled. "B-but, why?"

"You wear close to her size, and besides - I like to show you off." She swatted him on the behind as she passed him, the borrowed clothing in telekinetic tow. "See you in a bit, okay?"

"What about unstable molecules?"

"Forget the unstable molecules. I haven't been shopping in a while and you're going. Period."

He sighed. "Fine." When she was gone, that changed to a whispered "Damn!"

~I heard that, husband.~

He sighed and rolled his eyes. "Sucks being married to a telepath."

~That's not what you were gasping last night.~

Proud leader of the X-Men that he was, he blushed. Furiously.

A telepathic chuckle drifted to him in parting, trailing off to leave him alone in his abashment.

When she finally lowered herself back to the grounds, her feet touched solidarity beneath them once more. And she was reminded.

Feet that were hers and not hers sent the sensation to her mind, the feel of the wind whirling beneath them, and then the woodenness of the floor of her room.


It still was all different.

Only the touch of the elements remained unchanged, the feel of it inside where all was normal - or at least, she could believe that it was.

With a sigh that seemed to drain away all the comfort she'd found, she again looked around the attic that was her bedroom with her man's eyes.

A woman's bedroom.

And she was no longer that, now was she?

She looked down at herself.

No, I most certainly am not.

And she caught sight of the clothing she still wore from the medlab, now sodden from her reclamation of her mutant abilities and clinging to her male form, delineating greater muscle mass and masculine curves as well as other noticeable attributes that caused her to look away.

I cannot wear this forever, can I?

But what else was there? Everything she had, naturally, fit her as a woman and nothing else. She had not the size nor type of clothing to fit one as she was now.

Trying to keep the memory of her most likely having been first noted as a man in her uniform, of all things - her particularly womanly uniform, cape and heeled boots, and all - and wondered what would she wear.

The answer came in the form of knocking at the door.


It was Jean.

Jean, who was still a woman after all she'd been through.

Ororo did not answer - she could not. Suddenly, she felt shame - as if she'd done something wrong when she had not.

"Ororo, it's Jean."

As if I did not know, bubbled up within her too quickly to be cut off.

"I figured you did," came from the other side of the door.

Ororo immediately flushed as red as one such as she could.

"You remember what happens when you project like that, right?" There was no anger in her voice, only understanding.

Yes, she sighed. I do. Even still ... she did not raise the formidable shielding around her mind that she'd been taught to erect.

"Good. Now, are you going to let me in?"

Not yet fully formed, her next thought was in the negative. She wanted no one else to see her - not as she was.

"You can't hide forever, Ororo. You have to let someone in. No recluses allowed on campus, you know."

She makes jokes now? Now?!

"Sorry. You're right." She sighed. "Ororo, I have food and clothing here. Now, unless you want to go hungry - I know you haven't eaten in more than a day - and wear those clothes you got from the lab for however long they'll last, you'll open the door."

Coercion? Now?! Ororo thought more to herself so that Jean would not hear. But then she looked down at herself again and was presented with an impasse on a similar level to the one she faced when she was in dire need of the restroom.

All right, she ceded. But this will be...short.

"Promise," Jean replied with nothing to hint that she felt put off by Ororo's brusqueness.

Ororo hesitated before she made her way to the door - then forced herself to continue. Resting her hand on the knob, noting just how much it wasn't her hand save for skin tone, how the feel of the brass didn't seem as committed to memory as it'd once been, she turned it with yet another sigh for her lost femininity.

She pulled it open an inch - then a bit more.

Jean tilted her head to one side to see in and found little more than a shadow staring back. "Ororo?"

Yes, she psi-whispered as she stepped back into the shadows and let the door slide open.

Jean entered slowly, not wanting to make Ororo anymore uneasy than she already was, which she knew was escalated merely by her presence. Side stepping the door, she closed it behind her with a sweep of her foot before focusing on her friend who was presently trying not to shrink into the shadows as a mutual friend of theirs was now able to do.

In her hands she carried a tray of food, something light that wouldn't be too much of a problem in getting down: a small tuna salad, bread, soup, water and juice, and a side of fruit. Beneath the tray was clothing. All of it she held up with the aid of her TK, of course, for otherwise, she would have dropped it on the way up the stairs.

The first thing Jean was able to discern was the hint of that familiar mane of snow-white hair that sat higher than it had before and was tied back, then those piercing blue eyes - which also now maintained a higher station than before - and then the depth of the shadows gathered around her welcomed by the chocolate coating that was her skin.

But that was about all she recognized.

It was like looking at a long-lost brother of the Munroe family that had unexpectedly turned up out of the blue without word or mention of where he'd been or even how it was that he could exist.

And a very cute brother, too, she had to admit. Very cute if the shadows weren't playing tricks with her eyes.

"Ororo?" she called softly. "You don't have to hide from me."

Don't I? she asked herself without thinking to suppress the question, though she tried with all her might to keep her struggling emotions to herself.

"No, you don't. We're friends, 'Ro - whatever happens, that'll never change."

Even if I have?

"Yeah," Jean nodded. "Even still." She lowered her emerald eyes to the contents in her arms. "You want to give me a hand with this?"

Ororo knew that that was a ploy to draw her out - whatever may have happened to her, she still retained the keen mind she was born with ... even if it had nearly escaped her not too long ago.

"Please don't be afraid, Ororo. I know this is hard for you and I would never try to make it any harder. I also know you don't want pity and that's not what I'm here to give you - only my help. We are friends."

Even still... She could not help the dread that filled her eyes and heart at the thought of Jean's fully seeing her ... even if she also knew that it was unnecessary.

"I ... I understand, Ororo, but if anyone else under this roof knows about change, it's me, don't you think?"

She couldn't help but admit to the truthfulness of that, even if Betsy most likely beat out Jean, period, in that category - she was now inhabiting an entirely different body than the one she'd been born with. Phoenix had been through a transformation or two in her day, though, hadn't she? Even if she'd retained the shape of a woman, she'd still be through much - much that had to have been quite arduous for her, to put it mildly.

Using her TK, Jean easily set the tray and clothing off to the side on the floor. Then, looking imploringly into the combination of shadow, blue eyes, and pale hair, Jean slowly outstretched her hand, palm up. She said nothing, but let the question lie in her eyes.

Ororo's heart began to pound as she gazed down upon that hand. Part of her noted the new vantage point - she had to have gained five inches in height. Another part noted the look in her best female friend's - her sister's - eyes. So trusting and trustworthy. Understanding, and - vulnerable? How could that be?

Whatever the reason was, whether Ororo knew that she understood or not ... it was enough.

Slowly, tentatively, she lifted her hand - and though the sight of it more than just unnerved her - all but appalled her ... she reached out of the darkness and gently took hold of something light.

Jean watched, expression unchanging for Ororo's sake, as her hand fit into Ororo's. Still of slender and graceful digits and smooth dark skin, it was also a man's, hinting at great strength even though Ororo made no attempt to demonstrate that. Of course it was a bit fantastic that that was Ororo's hand now, but she did not shy away or gasp on sight of it.

On the contrary, she wrapped her smaller hand around it and covered it with her other one, smiling comfortingly. And when Ororo's worried eyes fell to their clasping of hands and made the effort of softly squeezing back, of needing and asking for, and just scantly taking it from she who had just given her the gift of touch that she needed so much, Jean took advantage.

Stepping forward and pulling on the hand caught between her own, before Ororo might be able to reel back in surprise and dismay, Jean wrapped her arms around the startled new-man, embracing him.

Ororo's heart beat so hard and so fast, she felt as if it would propel itself through her chest and slam into Jean, thereby doing them both harm. Arms held away from the redheaded woman clinging to her as if radioactive material lined her now very muscled arms, she began to tremble, feeling almost betrayed by the large leap Jean had taken without warning.

~In case you need me to say it, Ororo, I accept you. Please believe that,~ she psi-murmured, sending that to her friend in words and all the necessary - and a few extra - accompanying emotions. ~There simply is no reason for you to ever doubt that. None.~

Ororo blinked once, then twice ... and slowly, slowly, her arms fell, encompassed, then closed around Jean, whose head could now only reach up to her shoulder. She returned the embrace, but it was bittersweet. Her longer arms wrapped around Jean and then some, far more than her original arms could, and Jean felt so small to her, now - far shorter to her than before. She probably outweighed her friend by at least seventy pounds now.

Even still, it was contact and it was acceptance. Jean Grey-Summers would not lie to her about that and would not have come to her offering solace if she did not truly mean to give it.

Jean stroked her back, sending gentle waves of consolation.

Ororo rested her chin in red hair that was almost supernaturally lustrous by the pale beams of moonlight that reached her head. She sighed heavily, a blossoming something rising her chest, though dimmer in comparison to that which had overwhelmed her in the medlab on her discovery of her new self.

"I..." she whispered so softly, she herself could barely hear it, and if that alone had to be proof that she'd even spoken - evidence found by her own ears - then she would scarcely have known she'd said anything at all. "I ... am so afraid," she finished.

~I know. I know.~ And, of course she did.

They held each other for some time, then slowly pulled apart. Jean stayed a while. They sat, they talked - and they didn't, using telepathy where Ororo could not stand to hear her new voice. What she needed to know most was that at least one person beneath that roof would not look at her as if she were some oddity to be stared at, no longer regarded as an equal or as normal went beneath that roof, which could be done without the spoken word.

And it was.

Jean had brought her several days worth of clothing and Scott was only so glad to help - though mention of the X-Men's leader need not have been brought up, for it would only serve to remind Ororo of her duties as co-leader and what her latest trial would mean to her position on the team.

She didn't need to think of that just yet - only herself and how she would go on now that it was found that her transformation was permanent without that girl there to reverse it.

Ororo sipped at her soup, a bit awkward with the spoon at first, but quickly catching on. Jean picked at her bread and the tuna salad Ororo appeared to have no interest in, knowing that eating alone - like drinking - wasn't always such a good idea.

A measure of comfort could be found with her friend, Ororo now knew, and was greatly relieved that this was one X-Man - an X-Woman actually - that she need not hide herself away from ... which was something she had already specifically known she was in need of. And while she was at it, Jean tried as best as she could to reassure the new-man that despite what she thought, there was really no need to fear ostracism by her teammates even if at that time - to Ororo - it seemed like the only way they could react.

She was still one of them, whatever her shape. She had a place there in that house and she always would, even if she were now a 'he'. She would have the aid and consideration she needed and deserved ... but at the same time, Jean knew that it was nearly impossible for her to believe otherwise.

Ororo was a tightly bound person -- her powers gave her little other choice. She valued her dignity more so than nearly anything else, and such a thing as her transformation happening to her - HER, to whom control was an absolute necessity..? It was an outrage, pure and simple, and with no way to fight her predicament, she was made to feel powerless.

Ororo and 'powerless' just did not go together.

And it would take time, Jean knew, before Ororo and 'acceptance' finally did.

After Jean had left her, Ororo's mind wandered aimlessly, futilely over everything and nothing - but mostly on her current situation and her inability to do anything about it. During that time, she reached no conclusions, came to no astounding discovery. Glancing at the door Jean had just left through, she had a small wish to call her friend back, to reach out with her mind to reclaim her reassurances, if only for a little more time... But deciding she really ought to learn to be alone this way, as she was most likely going to be just that - alone this way - she turned her eyes elsewhere.

The bowl of soup.

That bowl of soup - that thing ... When trying to use her spoon to eat her soup - while ignoring the tuna that she wasn't in the mood for despite her hunger - she'd fumbled more than once. Yes, she'd caught on rather quickly, but not to the same extent of 'expertise' she could claim to have with her other hands.

She'd felt like a child as she held that spoon, like a bumbling child--

Out in the wild, as she'd felt when she tried to walk for the first time.

It occurred to her again how much she might have to relearn if she were to maintain the level of grace and conduct that she had always had before ... her change. Things she'd taken for granted, things that children were taught and had pretty much mastered well before the time they were half her age.

She'd have to start over, in a sense.

The routines that had been so ... routine ... to her before would now take actual thought to accomplish. Her hands were not only larger - they were stronger, the fingers longer. As she turned them over before her, noting the same exact skin tones as she'd had before, she was hit again with how different they were to her - strange, even - despite that similarity.

And then she noticed, as if for the first time the cracked nail polish on her nails - her broader, manlier-shaped nails that had stretched her neatly applied double coat of dark red that had matched her lips.

Goddess... She blinked down at those nails, eyes widening ... Nail polish. On a man's hands. HER hands...

And then, she was hit with something else for the first time...

Yes, nail polish on a man's hands was startling - to someone who wasn't used to seeing it - but, nail polish on her nails...?

Ororo was a man - or physically, at least, where only eyes and ears and probing hands were the solicitor of proof. Inside, however, she was anything but. She was very much a woman - with all the consummate emotions intact - and still very much attracted to men. That was one of the few things that hadn't changed - along with her hair, which she didn't even want to get into right then...

What is to become of me, then? she wondered, her face slowly contorting in frustration and confusion ... and dread. Who am I now, really? What place do I hold?

No one answered. It was perfectly silent. She was totally alone - even the voice within had nothing to respond with.

Suddenly, she felt abandoned, lost and adrift with no one to help her. And no one could, could they? How many times had she found herself in a similar position? Clueless as how to free herself of one dilemma or another that trapped her like a small confining cage? At another time, she might consider a trip to Africa to clear her mind, but her problem would only follow her there, clinging closer her to than her shadow. And she'd rather not go back to her homeland in the body she inhabited now.

Who would recognize her then? Understand her quandary? She'd rather not have to answer that at the moment. She had more pressing things to attend to, namely common, ordinary, mundane things whose simplicity eluded her new hands.

Glaring at the soup and the spoon resting in it, she felt a rising antagonism heating her from within. It was irrational, yes, but oddly, it felt right just then as it never had before.

That damnable utensil was what she focused most on, however - not the soup, or anything else that was thus far being ignored in her concentration. The soup could be sipped, didn't need the spoon, and therefore, was independent of the soup. Yes. Independent of the soup ... but it had arrived with the spoon, which made the broth guilty by association. Yes...

Outside thunder sounded almost eagerly, as if awaiting something to happen or wondering whether or not to cheer on a horrendously stupid tangent that could lead up to an outburst of meteorological proportions.

Meanwhile, Ororo was consumed with images of the broth bubbling malcontentedly as the glass of the bowl increased in temperature by her own hands - no, by her own eyes, yes... That would be even better - heat straight from her eyes ... Then the offending object would explode in a madly delirious cacophony of flying, flower-patterned debris, soup erupting into the air, the spoon dribbling away in a melted, misshapen puddle of silver.


She wasn't sure how long, exactly, it took before she realized she was grinning like a beast, teeth revealed in an entranced snarl so deep that she most like would not have recognized herself were she female again.

Wh-what... What is the matter with me?! Besides the obvious, anyway... It is only SOUP, Ororo! Soup! It canNOT mean you any disrespect! And so what if it did?! It was still only soup!!

She was being irrational - entertaining thoughts of destroying her food and its accompany flatware. Was she going mad, too? Floundering under the pressure of it all or was this also a symptom of what had happened to her, but was only showing up now? She should report this to Henry?

Her eyes flickered to her salad - she had to stop herself before she began envisioning detonating tuna and molten fork as garnish.

What was going on?!

What could make her do this? What could make her this ... this ... this stupid all of a sudden as to think to use her abilities against side dishes?! What?!

Her still-sharp mind whirled through the possibilities, making sure to keep her present situation high in her thoughts, lest it be discounted. The one thing that was different about her was her male body. That was all. Her mind was still intact. She thought the same, or so she believed, and felt the same ... Or so she thought ... She'd dealt with stress before and never had she ever conceived of terrorizing her sustenance.

She ran long, slender yet manly fingers over her hair ... lightly scratched, eyes narrowed ... What could it be..? Was she cracking up? Was that it?

No, no. She shook her head. I do not feel panicked - not exactly. Jean did much to calm me and the reclamation of my abilities has heartened me so. It ... It is not that. Just this ... mindless irritation - rage, even - coming from nowhere when there is no reason for it, even though it is painfully obvious that it has no place and would serve little purpose beyond a brief and childish satisfaction - and the creation of a mess ... A mess which has only now entered my mind. Why did she just realize, at that moment, that there would be a mess? Just another thing for her to rant at later, that would most likely further pique this strange anger that had risen itself up out of her temperament in what seemed to be a declaration of its permanent presence as it had decided to become - a prevalent change in her behavior that would do her nothing but harm and unbecomingness?

And just what the hell did that last sentence mean?

As she let loose a barely inaudible growl of frustration, she glanced back down at the bowl - that chafing came back in an instant and she found herself glaring - An oozing puddle - let us see how you would like that. Unformed and unrecognizable by anyone! Her eyes shot up and away from the bowl in near panic, breaking the dangerous stare she'd had building and was now cooling into a light simmer.

She blinked. She could hear her heart pounding in her ears as alarm sought to claim her faculties.

Oh, no, she breathed in her head. Oh, no, no, no, no...

Could it be? Could it...?

With a shuddering sigh, she slowly nodded yes before she could even truly form the thought.

It is, she confirmed to herself. There was no time for denial, here - not now. It is. She'd caught the comparison -- Unformed and recognizable by anyone!' she'd thought. She'd caught it indeed. She would do onto it and it as had been done onto her - would cease its tormenting of her by condemning it to her own fate: transformation. Irrevocable transmutation.

And she had nearly missed that, too.

"Sweet Goddess," she breathed in an odd, detached, yet very real awe. Eyes widened ever so slightly, fingertips lifting to her lips. Backing way from the soup - the taunting, aggravating, and belittling soup and spoon and everything else on the tray before her that once again inspired her vengeance and reconfirmed her suspicion.

She gulped. Took another breath ... And softly breathed past her splayed fingers the four syllables that she knew were responsible for her present petulant plight in an eerily soft tone that chilled her bones:


Outside, lightening crackled in the distance as if to say, 'Ding, ding, ding! Tell her what - I mean, tell him - him - I knew it was a 'him' - what he's won!'

to be continued >>

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