Ehn. Read it. LOL.
Categories: General Characters:
1. Phone calls and Revelations by windrider1
2. Bride Hunt by windrider1
3. Sad news by windrider1
4. Old Wounds, New Insights by windrider1
5. Decisions to be made by windrider1
6. The Wedding? by windrider1
7. Choices by windrider1
8. Divergence by windrider1
9. Tears and Rain by windrider1
10. Aftermath by windrider1
11. Friends in Need by windrider1
12. The End by windrider1
Phone calls and Revelations by windrider1
Logan fumbled one hand over the top of his nightstand, knocking the vibrating object of his sleepy quest onto the carpeted floor with a thud.
“Dammit.” A grunt and a shift and he rolled to his stomach, reaching under the bed to pick up the cell phone. He yawned, blinking bleary eyes at the incandescent blue shimmer and the unrecognized phone number on the ID display. It was the same number that had shown up twice the day before, but whoever it was had not left a message.
With an irritated flip of his hand he snapped the cell open. “This had better be fuckin’ good,“ he grouched, scratching one hand across his bare chest, stirring the thick hair there.
“My apologies, Logan. Did I wake you?”
Immediately Logan sat up in bed, recognizing the smooth, slightly accented voice on the other end. “Naw. ’Sides, I always got time for you, ‘Ro. Been too long.”
“Yes, it has been.” She agreed with a slight laugh. “How are you doing?”
The sound of a match striking followed by the light smack of Logan inhaling was heard by both through the phone, then “Same as ever, darlin’.”
He could almost hear her smile on the other end. “Yes, well that explains the pangs on unease in my gut,” she teased.
Logan chuckled. “How ‘bout yerself?”
A soft sigh and a pause. “I am well. Considering.”
Yeah, weren’t they all, he thought. Life as an X-Man had been at times unbearably difficult before, but lately it had become an outright nightmare. With most of the world’s mutant population depowered thanks to one Scarlet Witch, the struggle for coexistence had become a struggle for survival.
Logan exhaled a cloud of smoke, holding his cigar aloft. “Y’know, you could always come home.”
Another pause from Ororo’s end. “And where are you exactly, dear friend? Last I heard you were in Japan.”
“Still am.” Logan rolled his shoulders, his body still recouping from his fight with the Silver Samurai.
“Wanderers,” Ororo said quietly. “That’s what we are, Logan. Two wanderers; searching.”
Logan sat silent in the dark, hearing her words, and the faint sadness underneath them.
“But your journey is different now,” she continued. “Where once you were searching for a long lost past, you are now searching for different answers.”
Logan growled low in his throat. “All I want is the truth.”
“And what then?”
“And what then?” she repeated.
Logan set his cigar in the ashtray, running his now free hand through his wild hair. “I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.”
“Unless it is already burned.”
“’Ro, you ok, darlin’?”
A muted sort of laugh came across the line. “Same as ever,” she returned his answer.
“I know you, woman. What’s up?”
Logan could hear her faint breathing. “Do you ever…want more?”
“I ain’t following.”
“Than the answers to a long ago past. Do you ever think of the future? A wife? Children?”
Logan sat quiet for a long minute, his gut clenching and unclenching in time to an array of painful and joyous memories, memories that were his now. “In the whole scheme of things, I’ve been more unfortunate than most, and luckier than many with the life I’ve had since joinin’ the X-Men. I was blessed to find more than one woman I could love, but there’s only one that I’d want t’ share my life with. I lost her.”
Ororo’s sympathetic tone carried a wealth of understanding. “Mariko.”
Logan clenched a fist, guilt assailing him. He hefted a weighty sigh. “Much as I loved M’iko, in the long run it wouldn’t have worked between her and me. She was everythin’ good and pure I’d ever wanted, but thought I didn’t deserve. Now, with all my memories restored, I know I didn’t deserve her.”
Ororo was quiet, then in voice that Logan didn’t quite recognize, she whispered, “Jean.”
Logan closed his eyes on the beautiful red head’s name. “She came to me. The last time she rose. She came to me.”
“Logan, she came for Scott,” Ororo gently reminded him.
“Naw. The Phoenix came for Slim. Jean, she came to me.”
Ororo cleared her throat. “And you think she will return for you again?”
Logan shook his head in his room. “Don’t know.”
“But you’ll be waiting for her, if she does? Even if it takes forever?”
“I’ll always be here for her.”
“Why all the questions, ‘Ro?”
There was a faint rustling, like she had turned the phone into her shoulder, then she was back. “I didn’t mean to pry.”
“You ain’t and ya damn well know it.” Logan swung his legs over the edge of the bed. “You and me are close, darlin’. Closer than most. But you know this, I don’t gotta remind ya. What’s eatin’ ya?”
“I’m fine. Perhaps a little homesick and wanting to hear a loved one’s voice.”
“The…team…they miss you.”
“As I am sure they do you.”
“Touché.” He grunted, rising to stretch his free arm over his head. “You know, Cyke has his hands full with Emma.”
“I can well imagine.”
“He could use you.”
“Scott is most capable. Any word on Charles?”
Logan growled again. “None. Vanished. I swear if that bitch--”
“Hope. It is the gift and curse of being an X-Man, Logan. Don’t lose it now. Charles will be found.”
“See. This is why the team needs you.”
“I have faith in the X-Men. They will succeed, with or without me.”
“It’s always better with you,” Logan stated, and he meant it.
“We all have paths to follow, Logan. Perhaps this is just that point where they diverge.”
Logan stiffened. “What’re you sayin’, ‘Ro?”
“I’m saying…good night. It was good to hear your voice.”
“Yours too, darlin.” Again he meant it. He felt lighter than he’d felt since his memories had been restored.
“Take care of yourself, Mountain Man.”
“You-” click. “Too,” he finished, giving his phone a questioning look. As conversations went it wasn’t one of the most intense they’d shared, but Logan felt like he was missing something.
Probably just missing her. ‘Ro was an important person in his life, and they had been progressively growing distant over the past few months.
Since her return to Africa he discovered how much he missed their flirtatious outings, and heartfelt conversations. No one knew him like she did. She was his best friend. In a world where everyone was a liar and deceiver, it was comforting to have one person he could count on to always be there for him.
Yup, he thought laying back onto the bed. Ororo was the best friend he’s ever had.
Ororo gave the large man leaning in her doorway a distracted look. “You are persistent.”
“It’s my job.”
“Very well. Tell his majesty that I agree to meet with him.”
“He’ll be pleased.” Luke grinned.
Ororo tugged at the silk scarf around her neck absently. A gift from Logan. “Yes, I’m sure he will be. T’Challa does like to get his own way.”
“For you, I assure you, he’d compromise.”
Ororo closed her eyes. “Yes. After all, isn’t that what life is all about. Compromising one dream to achieve another.”
“Miss Munroe?” Luke’s brow furrowed, not following.
Ororo waved one hand. “Nothing.”
“I’ll have a car sent--”
“No need. I’ll make it there on my own.”
When the door to her small cottage closed she sat heavily on the couch, her phone still in hand. “Besides, I prefer to march myself to the hangman’s noose.”
Deciding an afternoon rain shower was in order, Ororo stripped herself of her flowing garments. Everything save the scarf around her neck and took to the sky.
Amidst the clouds the Goddess of the Desert let herself go, crying the tears of a love not known, relishing the torrential rain and pelting winds before pulling it all back inside and bottling it up in a familiar icy shell.
Do you ever want more
She did. She wanted a home and a family and a life of her own. Someone to share her dreams with and someone to stand beside her.
Someone willing to wait forever for her.
Ororo followed the two Wakandian sentry guards silently through a long dome covered corridor, her bare feet moving soundlessly across cool inlaid marble, but the beaded anklets she wore made soft clacking noises with each step. She watched the two lithe females in front of her, their movements graceful and controlled. The dark tattoos on their bald heads and backs testament of their high station in T’Challa’s circle of protectors. His Dora Milajae; his wives in waiting.
They rounded a corner, entering a wider, longer corridor that led directly to the Royal Gardens. Clever T’Challa, she thought. With each step Ororo took towards the oversized, mammoth gold doors at the end of the corridor, the closer the walls seemed to draw in on her. She tried to shake the feeling, but couldn’t entirely rid herself of the discomfort.
T’Challa’s palace was grand by any standards. It’s magnificence rivaled Khan’s celestial palace, however, like Khan’s palace, Ororo saw it for what it was. A cage. An opulent, gilded cage, but a cage none the less.
“You may enter.” One of the two Dora Milajae spoke.
Ororo blinked, realizing they had stopped. Lost in her own thoughts she had not noticed that they had reached their destination. “Thank you.” She adjusted the knot on her sarong before stepping forward. The carved doors swung inward with a great rush of wind, but no sound. T’Challa’s home was also a technological marvel, Ororo reminded herself.
The moment she was through, the doors swung shut behind her. In her mind she almost her the ominous ‘thwoom’ that accompanies such events in the movies. Relax, Ororo. She took a deep breath, inhaling the scents of several exotic and hybrid flowers native to Wakanda alone.
Not seeing anyone at the moment, Ororo moved along the cool grass, touching some budding flowers of species that she didn’t recognize. One in particular caught her attention, drawing her to it. Long, slender stark white petals lay almost closed over each other, but on closer inspection Ororo noticed that once the flower bloomed it’s hidden inside would be revealed. Midnight blues. purples and reds swirled inside the flower, mixing and touching, creating colors the like of which Ororo had never seen before. It was exquisite.
“It’s called the hidaya mvua” Beautiful storm.
Ororo turned to see T’Challa walking towards her. He wore a custom suit of dark blue with a sky blue shirt beneath. He certainly was easy on the eyes, she admitted to herself. At six feet he was a well muscled, athletic man. His dark skin reminded her of melted chocolate and was just as smooth. His deep eyes held an intelligent spark, but also more than a hint of arrogant mischief. But it was his smile that disarmed her every time they met. It was boyishly cocky and hard to resist. He was smiling now.
“I didn’t believe it when Luke told me you had finally agreed to meet with me.”
Ororo shrugged turning away from the flower. “As persistent as Mr. Cage was, it only seemed fair for me to see what it was you wished to speak with me about.”
“Remind me to give the man a raise.” He gestured towards a clear spot of grass on the ground. “Please, join me,” he reached for her hand.
“I am fine where I stand, King.”
T’Challa gave a small chuckle. “Very well.”
Ororo crossed her arms over her chest. “What is it you wished to speak with me about?”
He gave her a slanted look. “We both know the answer to that, Ororo.”
She frowned slightly. “Yes. You’re ‘Bride Hunt’ has become most legendary. So many to choose from.”
He gave her a heavy stare. “And yet there is only one I want.”
Ororo glanced away. “Why?”
“I beg your pardon?”
“Why? Why me?”
T’Challa took a step towards Ororo, intent on telling her exactly why he wanted her.
“Is that her?” A boisterous voice called from the door.
He rolled his eyes. Perfect. He gave Ororo a lopsided grin. “You remember my mother?”
Ororo nodded. “She’s difficult to forget.”
“T’Challa? Is that her?” N'Yami called again as she approached, her long robes fluttering behind her in her haste. “Is this your bride?” N’Yami was a small women, almost fragile in appearance, yet she radiated authority. Her persona was strong and forceful, catching most people off balance with her direct, forthright and often blunt approach.
T’Challa cleared his throat. “That has yet to be determined,” he murmured, kissing his mother’s cheek.
N’Yami gave Ororo a long once over. “You have not changed,” she commented.
“I’d like to think I have,” Ororo murmured, inclining her head in respect.
N’Yami circled her, clucking her tongue as she did. Ororo suddenly felt very much like a brood mare at auction. “Looks sturdy.” Ororo nearly yelped when she felt N’Yami swat her backside. “Firm.” She nodded at her son. “She’ll bear strong children. Good choice, son. A Goddess is a most excellent selection for your Queen. I approve wholeheartedly.”
Ororo turned faintly glowing eyes on the Queen. “I beg our pardon, Highness, but I have yet to agree to anything.”
N’Yami looked taken aback. “Why ever not? Do you have so many offers to weigh? A more substantial candidate for your affections than a king?” Her tone was incredulous, but beneath lay a genuine curiosity, Ororo could tell.
“I am without suitor,” Ororo answered vaguely.
T’Challa cleared his throat. “That is not entirely true.”
Ororo chose to ignore that. “I have no suitors,” she stated again.
N’Yai grinned. “Then it’s settled! I’ll have the cooks prepare a celebratory dinner. We can begin planning the wedding immediately.”
N’Yami rolled her eyes. “Very well, I shall leave you two to your ‘discussions’. Do not waste time T’Challa. I am not getting any younger and wish to be a grandmother before I am too old to enjoy it. In your Queen you will breed the future of Wakanda.” She returned her assertive gaze to Ororo. “Don’t be foolish, woman. My son adores you.”
“I’m going. I’m going.” She waved her hands, walking away.
“I apologize for her,” he said once they were alone, or as alone as they had been before with the sentry guards nearby.
Ororo shook her head. “Why? She obviously cares very much for the future of her country, and you.”
He smiled, once again boyishly charming. “Yes, she’s always been a good leader and a better mother.”
For the first time in a long time Ororo felt a sadness stir to life in her chest. “I envy you.”
Strong, warm hands cradled her shoulders. “I am sorry that you were so alone in your childhood. Would that I could I would have traveled with you when we were children.”
“You were but a child too, T’Challa. A child who needed to return to his kingdom.”
“A kingdom I would give up for a life with you.”
Ororo’s mouth parted in surprise. “You can’t mean that.”
“But I do.”
She searched his face for signs of deception. Seeing none, she murmured, “You’re even more crazed than I originally thought.”
“I--I need time…” She had thought this conversation would have gone differently. She expected him to approach her from a humanitarian angle. She was prepared for his “How their union could benefit Africa and Wakanda“ speech. She knew of all the good she could do for the country. These were things she was prepared to rebut, refute, and negotiate. What she hadn’t expected was his unabashed affection.
T’Challa brushed her hair from her shoulder, his fingers lingering. “Time is unfortunately a luxury I do not have.”
“I don’t expect you to wait for my answer, King. By all means continue your hunt.”
His brows furrowed. “Why is it you don’t see yourself as worth waiting for?” When she didn’t answer, too surprised by the accuracy of his statement to form a rebuttal anyway, he continued. “All I meant was that I must leave Wakanda soon. I have UN meetings to attend and many refugee encampments to see to.”
Ororo felt a flush on her face. “Oh.”
“Yes, ‘oh’.” T’Challa smiled down at her. “You are my choice, Ororo. If I can not have you, then I want no one.”
“That’s unreasonable considering your duties as King.”
“I never claimed to be a man of sound reason. You said yourself I was crazed.”
Ororo searched his eyes. “I do not know what to say.”
“Don’t say anything. I will have my UN schedule and itinerary delivered, along with all of my public and private phone numbers and internet accounts. I’ll make my personal jet and car service available to you. Whenever you need to reach me, Ororo, you will be able to. Twenty four hours a day.”
“That is not necessary.” Ororo couldn’t help but feel a momentary rush of flattered pleasure that he would go to such lengths so that she could reach him.
They stood staring at one another n the garden. “Ororo.”
“I’m going to kiss you now.” T’Challa lowered his head but his mouth met fingertips as opposed to silken lips.
“No.” Ororo said firmly. “I need a clear head to consider everything.”
Though he looked disappointed T’Challa’s grin widened. “So I make it hard for you to think?”
Ororo couldn’t help the frustrated sigh that escaped. “You are so obnoxiously arrogant at times.”
“And irresistibly charming?”
Ororo looked him dead in the eye. “No.”
“Hm. I’ll work on that.” He stepped away from her, encouraging her to walk with him. “At the risk of a lightning bolt curling my toes, what is there to think about? You’ve had one foot out the door of Xavier’s for awhile now. You and I both know the X-Men are not what they used to be. They made a debacle out of what I could have easily handled with Paine.”
Ororo’s steps faltered. “The X-Men have suffered substantially in the past few month’s T’Challa. The world’s mutant population has been drastically altered, the government is monitoring every move that we make, we do not even know whether or not Charles is alive…” she took a breath. “Do not insult my friends, King. They are struggling to find there way.”
“And you? Are you not also struggling?”
She remained silent.
Ororo stopped in her tracks. “And what is it you think you see, oh wise and mighty King?”
“I see a woman bent on trying to fix the entire world’s problems all by herself if need be, with no thought to herself. I see a dear friend struggling to find her way, and refusing to accept a light in the dark.”
She snorted. “I suppose you see yourself as that light? My hero?”
T’Challa let out a frustrated breath. “If you’d let me, then yes, Ororo. Yes, that is exactly what I’d be.”
She gave a short, bitter laced laugh. “I do not need to be saved.”
“No doubt. Most Goddesses are self sufficient.”
“Is that sarcasm?”
It was his turn to be silent.
“I should go.” Ororo moved towards the door, but the sentries stepped together blocking her way. She felt her chest tighten in anger. She glanced over her shoulder at T’Challa, her eyes softly glowing. “Is this how it would be?”
He came up beside her. “No.” He dismissed the guards. “Ororo, please stay.”
She shook her head. “You have given me much to think on, T’Challa.”
“But I am still enjoying you.” His tone was gentle and warm.
Ororo closed her eyes against the memories those simple words brought to the surface. Clever, T’Challa.
“Thank you, but I must be going.”
“Is it the Troll?”
Ororo winced, but evaded. “I will pray to the Bright Lady for your continued good fortune and for your people.”
“Our people, Ororo.”
As silent as she entered the corridor Ororo raced back through it. She could feel T’Challa’s heavy gaze on her back the entire way.
Westchester, New York***
Things were falling apart.
Scott Summers, better known as Cyclops ran his hands through his rust tinted brown hair, gripping the ends and tugging. He was at his wits end. With an exasperated mutter he shoved the financial ledgers in front of him off of the mahogany desk and onto the floor. With a muted curse he smacked his forehead against the now cleared desk, careful of is ruby glasses.
He did a mental inventory of the situations as they stood. His brother had left with a now depowered Lorna Dane to go find whatever it was that she saw floating in the deep recesses of space. Towering Sentinels circled the mansion, constantly monitoring, surveying, and terrifying the occupants of the school. Government action had begun on creating a list of ‘active’ mutants. Emma was making Laura’s life a living Hell and in doing so putting tremendous strain on his and her already tense relationship. Alien forces were trying to wipe out his daughter Rachel from an alternate reality and her family line, while she herself loathed him. Their recent capture by an unknown mutant hadn’t helped matters. Storm was still in Africa, her team in disarray. Gambit was becoming increasingly difficult to deal with as he and Rogue fell further and further into distrust. Bobby was much the same way.
And now this.
“Knock, knock, Slim.” Wolverine strode through the door, recently returned from doing whatever it was that he did when he left the team, most likely making several people and agencies very uncomfortable. He was followed by a morose looking Kurt.
Scott lifted his head wearily. “Please tell me you two have good news?”
Logan shook his head, his jaw clenched tight. “Wish we did.”
“Sean?” Scott felt every muscle tense.
Kurt whispered a soft prayer, before lifting his mournful golden eyes to Scott. “Nein. Our brother has fallen.”
Scott stood. “Christ.”
“We ain’t got much left to bury,” Logan said, his voice tight with repressed rage and pain. “But Banshee deserves a memorial.”
“Agreed.” Scott nodded.
Logan noted that Scott sagged like a deflated balloon.
Kurt’s mouth opened, then closed. He looked at Logan for support.
“The Blackbird.” Logan supplied. “Crashed into Sean’s plane.”
“He tried to save them.” Kurt’ voice broke. “He tried.”
Logan clasped Kurt on the shoulder, sharing his grief.
“He died like a hero,” Scott said quietly. “Like an X-Man.”
Kurt’s eyes glowed and his tail swished. “Sometimes I think the price of being what we are is far too high.” *BAMF*
“You know, I’m beginning to think he’s right,” Scott muttered.
“We’re X-Men. We make sacrifices. We lose loved ones. It hurts like hell, but it comes with the territory.” Logan pulled a cigar from his front pocket. “It’s the choice we all made following Chuck and that fuckin’ dream of his.”
Scott glanced at his desk where one picture remained undisturbed. His and Jean’s wedding photo in a gold frame. Emma hated the fact that he kept that picture on his desk, but there were some things that even he wouldn’t compromise on. “Yeah.” Scott nodded. “But it does fucking suck.” With that he strode past Logan and into the hall.
Logan lifted the picture from the desk, tracing one blunt finger along the lines of Jean’s jaw. “Slim could really use ya now, Red. Hell, I could really use ya. I miss ya, Jeannie. More each day.” He set the picture back on the desk. “I need a beer,” he mumbled chewing the end of his cigar.
Ororo slowly pressed the button of her halo-comm, sitting dazedly onto her small couch. She could feel a wail of sadness building within her breast, a piercing ache clawing for release. Sean, oh Blessed Goddess, no.
She could still see Scott’s deep sadness as he relayed the details of Sean’s death to her. Her brain numbly catalogued the information that he had given her. Sean. Dead. Funeral. Tomorrow. Estate.
Sean Cassidy had been one of the first people to fully and truly accept her when she joined the X-Men. His camaraderie and easy laughter had made many difficult times easier to bear. Times like this.
Thunder rumbled loudly in the still air, it’s threatening growl speaking what its mistress fought to contain. The sound of thousands of fat raindrops striking baked sand filled the silences between mournful rolls of thunder.
Ororo closed her eyes, curling onto her side, pressing her fist against her mouth as she sobbed in the privacy of her small cottage, the loss of a dear, dear friend weighing heavily on an already overburdened heart.
She longed for someone to hold now as grief wrapped itself around her, cocooning her in what felt like endless sadness. She felt a bitter stab of self loathing as that thought crossed her mind. Sean was gone and she was feeling self pity over not having someone to grieve with? She felt ashamed…and still alone. So very alone.
Westchester, New York
“How’d she take it?” Was the first question out of Logan’s mouth when Scott emerged from the conference room.
Scott lifted his shoulders. “Like Storm takes everything.”
Logan nodded. “She’s a strong woman.”
“She is that.” Scott agreed. “She’ll be arriving tonight.”
Logan felt a rush of warmth at that statement. “Good.”
“Yeah.” Scott leaned one shoulder against the open doorframe and after a period of silence he said, “It’s weird not having her here.”
Logan cocked his head. “Jeannie?”
Scott gave him a puzzled look. “Ororo.”
“She’ll be back.”
“I’m not certain of that.”
Logan crossed his arms and leaned back on the opposite wall. “’Ro lives for the X-Men.”
Scott nodded. “Yeah, she does. Don’t you ever wonder if maybe she gets tired of that? That she may want more for herself?”
Ororo’s soft voice filtered through Logan’s mind, a wistfulness embedded in her sultry tones as those very words passed between them only a few weeks ago.
“Of all of us she’s the most isolated. Aside from Forge I can’t think of one meaningful relationship that she has had.” Scott continued. “Maybe she’ll stay in Africa. It is her home.”
Logan tensed. “This is her home. We are her family.”
Scott sighed. “Maybe.”
“Ain’t no maybe about it. I know ‘Ro. She ain’t leaving us. She just needed some personal time to collect herself. She’s been through a helluva a lot.”
“Exactly my point. Who does she share that burden with, Logan? I have Emma, Kitty has Peter and Rachel. Kurt has his nurse. Everyone has someone.”
Logan cocked a brow.
Scott snorted. “Even you. Don’t tell me you and Yukio didn’t spend some ‘quality’ time together this last trip.”
Logan straightened. “What I do and with who ain’t yer concern, Cyke.”
Scott shrugged. He closed the conference room door and left Logan alone in the
Her code didn’t work.
Ororo frowned at the gate, pressing her nine digit code into the security box. Nothing happened. She gave an exasperated sigh, after her long flight and tiring day this was the last thing she needed. She leaned out the rental car’s window, pressing the intercom.
“Emma it’s Storm. For some reason my security code isn’t working. Open the gates.”
“How do I know it’s you and not one of our many enemies? I’m afraid I can’t take that risk.”
“Emma open the gates.”
“You must understand my hesitation given the current state of affairs. Perhaps a mind scan will clarify--”
“You’re no fun.”
“I’m not feeling jovial at the moment, Emma. Nor particularly patient.”
The heavy wrought iron gates swung open.
Ororo parked the small sports car in the garage, releasing the trunk latch as she did. She was pulling her single suitcase from the back of the car when two well muscled arms roped around her from behind.
“Good ta see ya, darlin’.” She looked good he noted. Her long white hair was piled loosely on her head with several long strands falling down to touch bare shoulders revealed by her sleeveless lavender top. Her black skirt swished about her long legs, revealing a slit along her right thigh.
Ororo quelled the momentary rush of heat and longing she felt at his touch. She turned in his arms, circling his neck and returning his affectionate squeeze. “You as well, my friend, though for all the world I wish it was under different circumstances.”
“Yeah.” Logan was reluctant to let her go. He pressed his face into her neck, inhaling her familiar scent.
Ororo closed her eyes, equally reluctant to break the embrace.
“Don’ be stingy, Wolverine. Gambit need love too.”
Ororo lifted her head and smiled gently at her brother. He looked so withdrawn; his normal spark of deviance gone from his red on black eyes. “Remy.” She stepped from Logan’s warm embrace into her brother’s.
“Ah, Stormy.” Gambit cradled the back of her head as she lay her cheek on his chest. “Dis Cajun boy misses you.”
“You were sorely missed as well,” she replied sincerely.
Gambit took a step back, still holding her shoulders. “You look good.” he said appreciatively.
She tousled his already disheveled hair. “You look…troubled.”
Gambit’s eyes flickered over Wolverine.
Sensing his reluctance to talk with an audience, Ororo murmured. “Walk me to my boathouse?”
Gambit nodded, lacing his gloved hand with hers. “G’night, homme,” he called to Logan.
Ororo cast Logan a lingering glance over her shoulder. “Good night, Logan.”
“Yeah. ‘Night, darlin’.” Logan closed her trunk watching her walk into the night with Gambit. He hadn’t realized how much he’d actually missed her until this moment. So busy with other things he hadn’t had time to really absorb her absence, but seeing her now, he felt it to his very core. He felt more centered just knowing she was back home…where she belonged.
“Tell me what’s troubling you, Remy?”
Gambit gave a frustrated huff. “Same as always, ‘Roro.”
“She still hasn’t forgiven you for Mystique?”
Gambit swore quietly. “Nothing happened.”
Ororo linked her arm through his. “I never said anything did. Why so defensive?”
“Sorry, chere. Just been apologizing for months for somet’in dat never ‘appened.”
“Mm.” She murmured, listening.
Gambit sighed. “Seems petty, t’ be so wrapped up in myself with Banshee’s funeral tomorrow.”
Ororo felt a compassionate twinge. “The world does not stop for anyone. Sean knew this. He would not mind you reflecting on yourself, even now.”
“And you, ‘Roro?”
“Are you all right?”
“As well as can be expected.”
They reached the boathouse.
“Tired?” Gambit asked her.
So very, she thought. “A bit.”
“Me too.” His tone suggested he was reflecting her true feelings and not her statement.
There was something just beneath the surface of Gambit’s calm exterior that seemed off to Ororo. There was something wrong, deeply with her brother. “Remy--”
“Bonsoir, Stormy.” He kissed her softly on the lips “Sweet dreams.” He turned and strode away from her, his trademark trench flapping in the night breeze.
Ororo entered her boathouse, setting her suitcase beside the door. She flicked the light switch. Everything looked exactly the way she had left it, but something was wrong. Slowly she walked the entire house, silently observing, when it struck her as to what was bothering her. She felt displaced. Out of sync…like she didn’t belong. Her house didn’t feel like home.
Pulling out one of the barstools at her kitchen counter Ororo sat. She tapped her fingers against the laminate countertop, drumming an absent rhythm. She sat there for a long while, internally reminiscing, fondly remembering Sean and his need to be chivalrous at all times. She chuckled a bit aloud, remembering how many times he offered her his coat, even after knowing full well that she did not get cold.
She hopped from the stool and climbed the stairs to her bedroom. “You will be missed,“ she whispered, crawling onto her bed, still fully clothed. Tomorrow would be a long day.
Old Wounds, New Insights by windrider1
Logan leaned one elbow on the black laminate of a small bar as his heavy gaze moved over the crowd of people in the main hall. He hadn’t been aware he was searching for anyone until his gaze found and rested on the singular form of Ororo as she entered the room. Dressed in a tailored black suit, with her long hair pulled high in a bun, she appeared more reserved than usual, but he assumed that was due to the circumstances.
He himself had shrugged off his suit jacket almost immediately following the funeral, but remained in his dress shirt and black trousers.
Sean Cassidy’s funeral had been simple yet deeply moving, like the man himself. In the time after, many of the mourners had taken to the hall in order to surround themselves with others who felt Sean’s loss. Sharing the burden so none would be crushed under the weight.
Logan took a drink from the bottle of beer in his hand, recalling Cyclops’s words from the other afternoon. Who did Ororo share her burdens with? At one time Logan could have said that she shared herself with him, but things had changed over the past year. Dramatically.
During the fiasco with Scarlet Witch, Ororo been removed from the only family she’d ever known and set to rule Kenya. He wondered now how much of that experience did she remember, and of what she remembered did she regret them turning things back the way they were now.
He never asked her, and she never asked him.
He took another drink, swirling the amber liquid in his mouth. In a world where nearly everyone was given everything they’d wanted, he had been shacked up with Mystique, hooked on booze and drugs, and still a government killer. The premiere agent of S.H.I.E.L.D’s Red Guard division. How fucked up was he?
Logan glanced away from Ororo who was currently speaking with Peter and Kitty, giving each a motherly embrace, holding them as they struggled with their grief. “Evn’in’, Emma.”
Emma Frost, Former White Queen of the Hellfire Club, current paramour of Scott Summers and Head Mistress of the Xavier Institute. A position, that as far as Logan was concerned, by right belonged to Jean or Ororo.
“Sean would be surprised by how many people came.” Emma murmured. She held a glass of champagne in one hand but from what Logan could see she had yet to drink any of it. Instead of her signature sexy white attire she donned a simple black dress with her hair pushed back by a dark headband.
Logan gave her a speculative look. “You all right, Em?”
“Em.” She gave a vague sort of smile. “Sean called me Em.” She lifted her eyes to Logan’s. “Do you think he knew?”
“How much…how…I…” Her champagne glass slipped from trembling fingers.
With uncanny reflexes Logan snatched the glass before it hit the floor. He straightened, setting the glass and his beer on the bar. “Looks like you could use some air,” he suggested.
Apparently, Emma was taking Sean’s death harder than she had been letting on. Logan knew of their brief romantic history, but not the details. She nodded at his suggestion, allowing him to lead her from the room.
Once outside Emma took several deep breaths. She removed her headband, running her red-tipped fingers through her ash blonde tresses. They walked slowly down the drive. “I didn’t mean to get all dramatic on you in there, Logan.”
He shrugged. “No one expects you to be made of ice.”
She smirked. “Just diamond.”
“Where’s Scott?” Logan asked. He hadn’t seen Slim since the service.
Emma’s mouth curved sardonically. “Where do you think?”
With Jeannie. He left the words unsaid, but Emma supplied them.
“With her.” She turned narrow eyes on Logan. “I’ll never measure up, will I? I’ll never be good enough? No matter what I do, I will never compare to the immortal perfection that is Jean Grey.”
“Whoa. I ain’t the guy to be talking to about this.”
She gave a small brittle laugh. “I think you are. After all, you’re just as obsessed with her as he is.”
“What is it? Huh? The red hair? The porcelain skin?” She was ranting now, her blue eyes as frosted as her namesake. “Because I’ve felt it, Logan. I channeled what each of you felt for her in the arctic. I know exactly how much you all loved her, and more than that I know how she felt about all of you. And let me just say little miss Grey was by no means a perfect little X-girl.”
Logan stiffened, his own ire coming to the surface. “This ain’t the time, Emma.”
She threw one hand in the air. “I think it’s the perfect time. You know, Sean was the only person to see me for what I was and he never judged. He never compared me to some epitome of perfection and found me lacking. He wanted me for me. No totem stacked against me.”
“You’re outta line, Emma. You’re with Scott now. That ought to be enough for you.”
“It isn’t.” She turned towards him. “Is it enough for you to be Jean’s consolation prize, Logan? Because that’s what you are, you know. You’re the runner up.” She was inches from him, her breath fanning his lips. “Is that enough, Logan? Or do you want more?”
He growled a warning in his throat.
“You want more…I can feel it.” Her hands slid along the front of his stark white shirt, over his chest until her arms circled his neck. “Go on, Logan. Take it…unless you’re a coward?”
There was superiority in her tone, a snide cockiness that pushed Logan’s buttons. Despite being obviously shaken by Sean’s passing, the woman was still making moves on him. Logically he knew she just wanted to be held, comforted in her time of sadness, but the animal in him was pissed that someone, anyone, would act superior to him. Taunting him.
With a snarl he crushed his mouth to hers, hefting her against his chest and plundering her mouth.
Emma moaned, closing her eyes, kissing him ardently, squeezing her arms around his neck, straining against him.
Jesus fuckin’ Christ, what was he doing? The same instant that thought went through his convoluted mind he heard an angry male voice demand the exact same thing.
Emma turned her head, stepping away from Logan. “Scott--”
Logan tumbled backwards along the ground, a high powered optic blast striking him dead center in his chest. His head collided with the base of the fountain in the courtyard. He rolled to his feet, the tattered remains of his smoldering shirt flapping in the breeze. “Just calm down, Cyke--”
“Calm down?” Scott scoffed. “First Jean, now Emma? You’re a real piece of work. Taking advantage--”
“Hold up there, Sparky. I took nothing’ that wasn’t blatantly offered. I ain’t the one that can’t keep my women!”
Logan ducked his head, stone and dust flying through the air as the fountain behind him exploded, raining down upon him.
-SNIKT- “Ya ain’t gonna like where this goes, Scooter.”
“What in the heck is going on out here?” Katherine Pryde raced down the front steps of the Institute towards the two combatants, kicking off her small pumps as she went. “Didn’t we already do this once?” She shouted, referring to an altercation between the two men, very similar, not too long ago.
“Apparently neither one has learned the error of their ways,” Hank McCoy, commented following Kitty down the steps in one acrobatic bound.
“What did you do?’ Kitty demanded of Emma.
In response Emma merely raised one perfectly plucked brow. “Do those two need incentive?”
“Stay outta this, Punkin. Been a long time brewin’.” Logan’s shoulders hunched forward, his attack pose, six claws extended and ready.
Scott smiled grimly, only too happy to oblige the unspoken battle cry.
“By the Goddess, what is the meaning of this?”
Logan flinched, Ororo’s incredulous tone holding a wealth of contempt for the two men below her hovering form.
“It would appear our two teammates are suffering from an excess of testosterone,” Beast supplied mildly.
Ororo landed between the two squared off men. “This is unacceptable. Today of all days.” Her blue eyes snapped with disbelief and accusation.
Scott lowered his hand from his visor, yet his jaw remained clenched tight. “Agreed.”
“He started it.” Logan muttered, retracting.
“I do believe it was your pawing me that started it, Logan,” Emma interjected, her cultured voice completely unruffled. Her composure seemingly fully restored.
He snarled at her.
“Whatever you’re implying, Emma, is disgusting. Logan has better taste,” Kitty’s nose curled. She glanced at Logan for confirmation. His stoic silence was answer enough.
Ororo’s stunned gaze traveled between Emma and a still steaming Logan. “You didn’t,” she asked dubiously.
Logan ran his hands through his hair. “Look, she was upset and all I was…” He stopped, realizing the utter stupidity and futility of what he was about to try and defend.
Ororo found her eyes drawn to self satisfied icy blue chips. Emma’s lips curved minimally, but Ororo saw it and knew that this little stunt was for her benefit and her benefit alone.
~He’s so passionate and possessive.~ Emma’s singsong voice entered Ororo’s mind. ~Not at all as seductive as Scott, but I can definitely see his appeal. Not that you‘d know of his passion, would you? That‘s reserved for anyone but you.~
Ororo lifted her chin, ignoring Emma’s well placed barb. Once, Ororo had confided in Logan her loathing of Emma.
A short time after Ororo had first joined the X-Men, the Hellfire Club had ambushed the team and Emma had bore herself into the very core of Ororo’s mind, switching bodies with her. Logan had commented that after that Emma probably knew Ororo better than most anyone, and probably knew the worst ways in which to hurt her.
Something Ororo hadn’t given much credit to, until this moment.
“I suggest you make yourself presentable, Wolverine.” Ororo began walking back towards the mansion, her spine ramrod straight. “Sean deserves more respect.”
Logan watched her go, tearing the remnants of his shirt from the waistband of his pants. No need for enhanced senses, he could almost see the waves of disapproval and disappointment radiating off of her.
Beast tried for levity as they climbed the steps. “The excitement ‘round here never ends.”
Kitty nodded. “You weren’t here for the last one,” she said to Storm. “It was a doozie.”
“I believe that one was over Jean,” Henry added.
Ororo turned and glanced over her shoulder towards Logan who was stalking into the shadows, away from the mansion. “When isn’t it.”
Logan sat in the familiar gloom of the forest, his head cradled between his palms, for a very long time.
“What the fuck were ya thinkin’, Canucklehead?” he cursed aloud. Kissing Emma Frost. Emma Frost for fuck’s sake. Not only Scott’s girl--again-- but Ororo’s worst enemy. Brilliant.
He growled, thinking of the look of disgusted disbelief that he was certain Ororo hadn’t even been aware that she was wearing. But he had seen it. It was a look that shook him to his core.
Ororo was disgusted with him.
That bothered him.
“Dammit.” He stabbed the tree stump he was seated on. There were very few people whose opinions of him mattered, and Ororo was damn near at the top of that list. Her respect was hard earned, but well worth it, and now he’d gone and made a complete ass of himself in front of her.
Thunder groaned in the distance.
With a disgruntled snort Logan rose to his feet. Rain splattered against the ground. Time to go see if he could make amends with a Goddess.
Ororo Munroe, Storm, the stoic goddess of the X-Men was sick to death of crying. She had tried her best to contain it, but the tears had emerged despite her best efforts, making her angry. She was the master of her emotions, and this weakness of late was unacceptable. Taking a ragged breath she lifted her head from its resting place on her forearms, wiping her hands across her damp blue eyes.
So what that Logan had kissed Emma? So what that the knowledge of Logan holding the former White Queen in his arms, in a way he’d never held her, hurt almost as much as the recent loss of her friend? What kind of person did that make her, she wondered. What purpose did it serve for her to sit here in the dark and mourn for a friend lost and a love never had?
Knowing that Logan had kissed Emma was disturbing, but not so much as the realization that act had caused her to face. Logan needed to be the hero. The protector. She saw that now. She’d never really analyzed it before, but looking back she noticed a definite pattern. Logan had a fundamental need to “play mutant in shinin’ armor” as he once put it. Mariko and Jean were both fine examples. Beautiful, intelligent, fragile, women. Women that needed him to be in control, to take care of them.
Mariko was the epitome of femininity and obedience. Her only thought was to be worthy of a warrior such as Logan. He was her fierce samurai and tender lover. Seeing to her needs above his own.
Then there was always Jean. Scott fulfilled Jean’s basic needs, but she needed Logan to be her possessive protector. The man that would slay her dragons for her if she but asked. The one willing to pick up her pieces time and time again.
Ororo knew she would never be that. She did not want or need Logan to protect, provide for or defend her in any way. She was more than self-reliant. She was a leader. His leader to be specific, and though he may find her attractive, she would never be the fragile creature that he longed to nurture. He could never play hero with her, because she didn’t want a hero. She wanted a partner.
She rose from her still made bed and made her way to the French style double doors of the remodeled boathouse balcony. Sitting in her room, crying over things that could not be changed, was helping absolutely nothing.
A night flight may settle her frayed nerves, and give her some semblance of peace.
Her hands came to rest against the brass handles, turning them slowly. The familiar soft thud of two booted feet dropping from her open skylight caught her attention. Damn. She closed her eyes. Not now, Gambit. Not now.
Taking a deep breath and plastering a fake smile on her face Ororo turned to greet the man she loved like a brother.
"Storm." It wasn't her handsome Cajun Charmer that strode towards her, instead it was the man who was at the root of her emotional distress. He moved like the graceful predator he was, running one hand absently through his damp ebony hair, shaking silver droplets onto his bare shoulders and the hardwood floor.
"Taking lessons from Gambit?" She asked quietly, gesturing towards the semi open skylight, Remy’s frequent means of entrance.
"Hardly." He smirked.
"What brings you here, Logan?" She asked in a deceptively light tone, ignoring the roll in her stomach at his smile. She crossed her arms over her chest, all at once self conscious of her frazzled appearance, waiting for his reply.
Logan gave her a penetrating look "The weather." As if to emphasize his point a clap of thunder echoed overhead.
Ororo shrugged one bare shoulder. "Mother nature can have her bad days too you know. Some things are beyond even my control."
Logan stood directly in front of her, his nearly black eyes searching her upturned face. He reached out with one rough hand, his fingers caressing the silken smoothness of her cheek.
She flinched almost imperceptibly.
Ororo sighed. "There is nothing for you to worry about, Wolverine. I am fine." She stepped away from him, pushing open the balcony doors, and stepping out into the night despite the torrential rain.
Stubborn and determined, as tenacious as his namesake, Wolverine followed her out. "Why won't you talk ta me. We've never had secrets before, 'Ro, don't start now. I know what happened with Emma is buggin’ ya.”
Instead of responding, Ororo stared across the expansive, well manicured yard of the Xavier Institute’s estate. Logan swore softly under his breath, wrapping his thick arms around her from behind. He rested his whiskered chin in her hair.
Clenching her teeth against the fresh wave of anguish that tore through her Ororo said, "I am very tired, Logan.”
He made no move or reply for a long minute, then with a weighty sigh, "All right, ‘Ro. I’ll tuck ya into bed." He moved as though to lead her back through the doors.
"No!" Her voice came out harsher than she had intended. At Logan’s narrow look she tried to smile reassuringly, but deep down she knew it looked forced. Her face felt ready to crack from the falseness she was trying so hard to maintain. But maintain it she would. "I would rather be alone tonight." Liar.
Storm knew he would be hurt by this, she had never turned him away before, always welcoming their late night conversations. Over the years he had become almost as regular midnight visitor as Gambit.
She hated hurting him. She hated the fact that she was hurting. She felt smothered, weighed down by suffocating sadness. Ororo closed her eyes, a single tear slipping past the thick veil of her dark lashes.
"’Ro.” Logan couldn't remember the last time he’d seen Ororo cry, she hadn’t even at Banshee’s funeral, and the vision disturbed him. He pulled her close, ignoring her stiffness, whispering into her sodden white tresses. "Sssh...Ororo, talk to me.”
A broken sob slipped past her full lips before she could stop it. "Leave," she whispered. "Please, Wolverine, just go..." The codename. The barrier.
Feeling helpless and confused Logan tilted her face up to look in her eyes. The pain he saw there tore at his heart. As he stared at her, her blue eyes clouded, becoming solid white orbs, glowing faintly the dark. She was running from him, he realized in awe. The bravest person he had ever known was suddenly hiding from him.
"Please, Wolverine. I ask so little of you. Can you not just go?"
He reluctantly stepped away from her, acknowledging the truth of her statement. She never asked anyone for anything. "If that’s what you want…”
She waved her hand and the thunder ceased, the rain halting. "Yes. I just need some time to collect myself, all right?” Lie! Lie! Lie! “It has been a long day and I wish for nothing more than it to be over.”
There was something terrible under her words, Logan could feel it, but she was closed off to him now. She was his best friend, the only person in the mansion he felt safe sharing himself with, the only person that understood him, really understood the forces that drove him, and he knew she felt the same was true about him. So, why was she suddenly pushing him away?
Things had been different between them since her return from Africa. Strained. At first he believed it was the grief over Sean. Now he wondered if it was something else, and he had no idea what it could be. He tried to reach for her again, wanting nothing more than to ease the tormented look on her exquisite face.
With more willpower than she believed she possessed, Ororo turned from him, her heart aching brutally within her breast. It was killing her inside, being so close to him, yet pushing him farther and farther away from her.
He was finally adjusting and coming to terms with all that he had done under the Hand’s control, finally piecing together his fractured prism of his recently remembered past. He too was grieving for a lost friend, and parts of him were still mourning Jean’s loss. He had his own issues and baggage to deal with.
The last thing she wanted to do was burden him with her… problems. He meant far too much to her for her to risk ruining what they had together. She knew him well enough to know that he would shelve his own needs to try and take care of her, he‘d done it before…but she couldn’t allow that, not knowing what she knew now. It was best this way. But, oh, Goddess, she hurt.
Logan’s fingers closed helplessly in on themselves, curling into his wide palm, his hand empty. Ororo was once again looking anywhere but at him. Frustrated, but not wanting to push her, he decided it best to let her have her space--for now. With a heavy sigh he grumbled, "Good night, Storm. Y‘know where ta find me." He leapt over the balcony railing, landing with animal grace, disappearing into the shadows of the night.
A wild thing and hunter through and through, Ororo thought with a tilt of her trembling lips. She pressed her fingertips to her mouth, then sent the invisible gesture towards him on a gust of gentle wind.
With purposeful strides Storm made her way to her closet, pulling out her still unpacked suitcase. Within minutes she was dressed in a pair of tan khakis and black pullover. Giving her room one last lingering look Ororo summoned the winds at her command and soared through her open skylight, her small case in tow.
She didn’t want to believe that she was leaving the team forever; she couldn't. In her heart of hearts she was an X-Man, and always would be, but she needed some time to clear her head and sort through her raw emotions.
The truth of the matter was, that since her injury at Viper‘s hands, and perhaps long before, she had begun falling in love with Logan. Having him take care of her, work her, push her, demand her to get better, and being there to catch her when she fell had meant the world to her. Slowly, through the months of therapy she had felt herself melting. The icy encasement around her heart collapsing.
She knew he cared a great deal for her. She also knew he found her attractive. And, once upon a time, that may have been enough for her, but not anymore. She wanted more for herself than to be someone’s consolation prize. For Logan there would always be Jean first and foremost. Always Jean. Forever Jean.
Despite her intention not to look, Ororo found her gaze drawn down as she passed over the lake. The silver light of the moon revealed a lone figure seated on the dock. He seemed so isolated, reminding her of how she felt. So very alone. For a moment she faltered in her flight, a pang of longing pierced her heart, so acute it nearly felled her from the sky. Logan…
No, leaving was the right thing to do.
Aside from the emotional reasons for her leave, there was the physical ones laying just beneath the surface. Her legs had given out on her twice last week, and she did not want anyone to know that, nor of the times at night she would wake and there would be no feeling from her waist down, or the times that she woke, a scream lodged in her throat as the pain shot from her spine through the rest of her body. Painful reminders of Viper’s attack, but also of her own mortality. Life was short. Life as an X-Man shorter. If she wanted a family, a future of her own, then she needed to act now.
With one last glance at the man on the dock, Storm increased her velocity, needing to leave before her resolve wavered.
From the lakeside dock Logan stared out across the black water, towards the opposite shoreline, his mind weighted by thoughts of Ororo. She had been so distant from him and he hated it. The gulf between them was growing larger every day and he didn't know how to stop it. Something was changing between them, and for awhile he had felt it was a good thing. His feelings for Storm had evolved over the years. He admired her, trusted her and respected her. Tonight she had been so vulnerable, so fragile. Not at all the commanding force he was used to seeing. It had troubled him, and he had wanted to comfort her as she had so often done him, but she had refused. Why? Why now?
"Are you a complete moron?”
Logan turned his head, glancing at Kitty who was approaching from behind. "Don't know."
She sat beside him. “Wanna talk about it?”
“Not about Emma, no.”
“Yeah, well, me either. That dye-job tramp needs a smack down. Maybe I should tell Storm that Emma wants to remove the greenhouse to make room for a second garage.”
"Storm. Something’s wrong with her.” He sniffed the air, the scent of rain still heavy. “She said anything to you?”
Kitty shook her head. "You know Storm. She's not the emotional type. If there’s something wrong with her she'll handle it."
Logan thought of the tear he had seen sliding down Ororo's cheek. He had wanted to cradle her face and kiss the pain away. The urge had been surprisingly compelling, but he had resisted. He was still unsure of his footing where Ororo was concerned. Had they been as they once were he doubted he'd have hesitated, but now, since her leaving the team and unexpected return, things were different.
"You gonna be ok?” Kitty nudged his shoulder.
“Who me? Right as rain.” Logan pulled a cigar from his pocket, his dark eyes contemplative. “Right as rain, darlin’.”
Decisions to be made by windrider1
The conference room was unusually quiet when Logan strode through the hydraulic doors, a cup of strong black coffee in hand. Assuming it was the result of Sean’s recent funeral he didn’t pay particular attention to the somber mood of the room’s fellow occupants, instead opting to take his seat at the far end of the table, propping his feet up and lowering his cowboy hat. It was too damn early for this shit, as far as he was concerned.
Scott was taking his head leader role far too seriously. Comings and goings were monitored continuously, by the sentinels and by Scott and Emma. It was damn intrusive. These morning briefings weren’t helping to raise spirits any either. Chores, duties, dos and don’ts all laid out each and every morning in meticulous and droning detail. Waste of fuckin’ time, if you asked Logan.
Feeling daggers being cast in his general direction Logan inclined his head, peering through semi open shadowed eyes towards the ash blonde woman at the head of the table, her blue tinted lips in a thin line. Feeling an unexpected wave of guilt wash over him, Logan scowled.
The guilt he felt had nothing to do with the former Hellfire member, and everything to do with Storm. She was his best friend and he had kissed one of her most loathed rivals. Well done, moron.
He glanced around the room, noting that the white haired beauty had not yet joined the rest of her team. Bishop and Kurt were sitting silent while Rachel and Betty were speaking telepathically, he could tell from the animated gestures Rachel was making with her hands.
Logan gave Kitty a look. She shrugged, reading his expression. She didn’t know where Storm was either.
“All right everyone, I think we can start.” Scott stood directly behind Emma’s chair, his hands on her bare shoulders, apparently the events of the previous evening not causing a rift between the two. Logan briefly wondered if Kitty may be onto something with her constant mumblings about Scott being mind-manipulated by Emma.
“With everything that is transpiring within these walls and on the outside, I thought it imperative to bring the teams and team leaders together so that we’re all on the same page. As Alex seems to have decided chasing space things wit Lorna more pressing than his duties as leader, Emma will be taking responsibility for his team until further notice. So, as I was saying-”
“Wait a sec. Where’s ‘Ro?” Logan demanded, realizing that Scott was going to continue the meeting even though she was absent.
“Gone.” Bishop answered.
“Say what?” “Come again?” Kitty and Logan spoke in unison.
Cyclops fielded. “She has left the X-Men. Storm is gone.”
“What do ya mean she’s gone?” Logan demanded.
“I mean just that, Logan. Storm has left.”
“Wait. Wait. Where’d she go?” His scowl was deepening by the second.
Cyclops sighed. “I don’t know. I didn’t talk to her.”
“Well someone must have a clue.” Kitty leaned forward, glaring at Emma. “Give her a little mental nudge, Emma? Not liking having a leader you couldn‘t seduce in the mansion?”
“My hands are clean,” Emma smiled icily. “Apparently Storm just wanted to scamper off and do her own thing. No worries, darling, she can fend for herself.”
“Yeah, I just bet your hands are clean.” Kitty muttered under her breath.
“That’s enough, Shadowcat. Storm, for reasons of her own, has decided it best to take an extended leave of absence from the team. Bishop and Kurt will be sharing her duties as leaders of her team.” Neither man looked thrilled with the promotion.
“You didn’t ask her what she was thinking?” Kitty asked incredulously.
“Like I said, “ Scott repeated. “I didn’t talk to her.”
“Well, who did?”
Kitty raised both eyebrows. “No way would Storm just up and leave without telling anyone.”
“Well, she did. Looks like she isn’t so wonderfully perfect after all,” Emma sneered.
“No one asked you…”
Logan was no longer listening to the bickering in the room, his thoughts turned inward. In his mind’s eye he saw Storm the way she had looked last night, so full of sorrow, her blue eyes deep pools of inner turmoil. What was she hiding from him? He felt a tick start in the base of his jaw. He rose to his feet, ignoring Emma’s reproachful look and the angry set of Scott’s chin. Without a word he turned and marched from the room.
With long, purposeful strides Wolverine made his way through the school’s long corridors, through the main lobby, down the stone steps and across the courtyard. With each step he took towards Storm’s boathouse he became angrier and angrier.
With a quick slip of one claw between the door jam and the knob the boathouse door swung open easily. Stepping inside, Logan sniffed the air, his teeth on edge as he surveilled the interior.
He took the stairs to the second floor, shouldering his way through Ororo’s locked bedroom door. The balcony doors were firmly closed, but the skylight, however, was fully open. Logan moved until he stood directly beneath it. He stared straight up into the bright blue sky, the color so much like her eyes and swore soundly. “What the fuck are ya runnin’ from, ‘Roro?”
Two weeks later
Ororo sipped her mocha latte slowly, careful not to burn her lips, contemplating what it was she was most afraid of. She was actually afraid of her feelings, she mused. It was a new and uncomfortable experience for her. She had always managed to keep them under tight rein. When the slightest shift in mood could cause lightening strikes and savage storms, one learned quickly to keep themselves in control.
She leaned back in her white lattice worked chair, watching the pedestrians stroll by the outdoor café, thinking back, trying to pinpoint the exact moment her feelings for Logan had become more than even she could handle.
There was no specific moment, she realized. If she was going to be completely honest with herself, then she’d have to acknowledge that her love for Logan ran far deeper than she had been willing to admit, and for far longer.
She shifted slightly, brushing her soft white hair from her shoulder, leaning forward, cupping her mug between her hands, blowing gently over the rim, cooling the still steaming drink. She missed him already. His devilishly wicked smile, his dark brooding eyes, the way his cheek dimpled when he smiled just so…Ororo closed her eyes behind dark sunglasses, wishing the feelings would just stop, but at the same time afraid to lose them now that she recognized them for what they really were.
It didn’t matter. He didn’t feel the same. As much as she wished otherwise, Logan was clearly not the one for her. His heart, his very soul it seemed, belonged to the memory of a flaming redhead. Ororo couldn’t resent him that. She herself loved Jean more than breath, and would gladly give herself in order to have her beloved sister returned to them.
That didn’t make his preference any easier to bear. Nor did it dim her desire for a family and home of her own. She was growing weary of living and fighting for someone else’s dream…what was so wrong with having one of her own? Did it make her less of a person to want more for herself? She grimaced. Did it? Was it selfish to wish for more than cold bed sheets to keep her company at night? To want someone to tell her she was valued for more than her ability to drop a house from the sky?
“Fine mess you’ve made of things, Windrider?” she said aloud, frustrated.
“Talking to yourself, Ororo?”
“T’Challa.” Ororo opened her eyes and smiled at the man taking the seat across from her. T’Challa, the legendary Black Panther. King of Wakanda and ladies man extraordinaire. Handsome, athletic, blessed in ways that other men would give their right leg for, and smarter than ninety-seven percent of the world’s population. Everything a woman could want…
“I was uncertain to whether or not you got my message,” she said, ignoring the small quiver of longing in her gut.
“I did. It was delivered by one of the UN consulates this morning. You look breathtaking as ever.” He took in her red silk top and black pants.
“So, have you decided to accept?””
Ororo‘s lips twitched in a reluctant smile. The man was tenacious. “Of course you‘d go right to that wouldn‘t you?”
T’Challa chuckled. “Why beat around the bush?”
Ororo raised one eyebrow. “I do suppose small talk would be of little consequence to a King of your stature.”
T’Challa tensed, his mouth thinning. “I do not consider anything you say to be of little consequence.”
Ororo gave a small sigh. “I did not mean to sound snide. I apologize.”
“No need.” T’Challa lifted one hand and immediately the waiter approached. Once his drink was ordered he turned back to Ororo. “So, how is the Troll these days?”
Ororo almost choked on her coffee. “Excuse me?”
“Wolverine. That is why you returned to Westchester, isn‘t it?”
“I went back because a dear, dear friend gave his life for our cause.”
“Did he, Ororo?”
Her mouth parted and an angry retort sprung to her tongue, but T’Challa was still speaking.
“Was it your cause he died for? Or the perfect ideals of a man far less perfect than you all want to believe?”
“Charles may not be perfect, but that doesn’t make the dream any less worth fighting for,” she defended.
“It is a worthy goal,” T’Challa conceded. “But I’m no fool, Ororo. There was another reason for your return to the X-Men.”
Instead of answering she busied herself by taking another sip from her mug.
T’Challa reached across the table, tucking a fallen strand of hair behind her ear, his knuckles grazing her cheek. “That man is a fool.”
Swallowing, Ororo looked away. “Wolverine is many things, but fool is not one of them. But I did not ask to meet with you to discuss Logan, or any of the X-Men.”
T’Challa said nothing, staring at the woman he desired more than all others with speculative eyes. “We could do that ‘small talk‘, if you wish,” he said with a disarming smile.
Ororo looked at him, pushing her sunglasses up into her hair, giving him a genuine smile in return. “That would be nice. How are you feeling?”
“Better for being with you.”
“Still smooth, I see. I‘d wager you could give Gambit a run for his money in charm.”
Dark eyebrows lifted in amusement. “I would not presume to be that smooth, but such lofty praise is not unappreciated. Why I can feel my head inflating as we speak.”
Ororo rolled her eyes. “Heavens forbid. There is barely enough room for your ego in Paris as it is.”
He laughed. “Yes, it does crowd a bit. Humility was never my strong suit. Comes from being friends with a Goddess.”
Ororo’s eyes dimmed a bit. “Just a woman, King.”
T’Challa reached for her hand, holding it in his. “Just a man, Ororo. A man whose ardent desire is to make you his Queen.”
“Yes, I remember exactly what it is you desire me for. ‘To breed the future of Wakanda.’ I believe was the phrase.”
“That was my mother speaking, Ororo. This is me. I want you, because I love you. No other reason.”
A pang of wistful longing reverberated through her heart. “You speak of love so freely.”
“Why not? Is it not something we should share? I am not offering you just my kingdom, Ororo. I am offering you my heart.”
He placed her fingertips to his lips. “I will make you no promises save one, Ororo. I will love you. You and no other. I do not expect the same pledge from you this day, only the chance to earn it from you. I have wealth beyond measure, a kingdom and powers far beyond normal men, and yet I am not whole. I wake in the night with your name on my lips, and visions of you in the rain clouding my head. So I ask you now, Ororo, will you honor me and accept my heart? Will you be my Queen?”
She hesitated, conflicting emotions swirling.
“Ororo? Will you?”
She swallowed the lump in her throat. “…Yes.”
Westchester, New York
Logan pressed the nine digit number that was Storm’s cell phone number.
~I am not available to take your call, please leave a message.~
Logan growled in frustration, this would be the third message he’d left in the past hour. “It’s me again, ‘Roro. Where the hell are you? Call me…Please.”
“Any luck?” Kitty asked entering the rec room, her pony tail swinging behind her head.
“No.” He swore in frustration. “Damn it.”
She shrugged, trying to sound more optimistic than she felt. “So, she’s taking some personal time. Everyone needs a break once in awhile. Even Storm. We‘ve all left the team before. You and I have done it more than once. She‘ll be back.”
Logan tossed his phone onto the green felt covered pool table with a flick of his wrist, his agitation clearly showing. “Storm’s been actin’ funny for awhile now, Sprite. Ya know that to be true.”
“I’m not saying she hasn’t been a little distant lately. I just don’t think you should read too much into it.” Kitty placed a comforting hand on his shoulder. “You need to relax.”
“I appreciate the pep talk, darlin’, but if you don’t mind, I’d rather be alone.”
“No problem. I’m around if you need me.”
Once Kitty left the room, Logan floomped himself onto the brown leather couch in front of the big screen television that sat in the center of the room. He closed his eyes, picturing Storm. She was just so damn beautiful. He had always admired her smooth skin, her endless legs and full breasts. Over the years he had found himself frequently admiring the well rounded curve of her backside, the way clothes hung on and hugged her slender, athletic frame. Then there was her face, that gorgeous exotic face of hers, with wide, plump lips, straight narrow, nose, wide vivid cerulean eyes, framed by ridiculously long black lashes, and topped with frost colored winged brows.
There had been nights that he had studied her while she slept, his hands itching to be buried in the silken mass of her hair, watching the even rise and fall of her chest as she lay on the other side of the glass separating them.
Nothing had come of his moments of admiration, mainly due to his feelings for a certain redhead, but he had felt stirrings for Ororo since her first day on the team. They were polar opposites at first glance, but beneath the surface they were kindred souls.
Wanderers, is what she called them that night on the phone. Searching. For what? He wondered. What are you looking for Ororo…?
Logan sat up, running one hand through his dark hair. He glanced over at the open window. The sun had set. Fuck. He must have dozed off. He slowly rose to his feet, stretching his arms over his head. Mid-stretch he heard the sporadic beeping of his phone, indicating he had a message. “Son of a-” He snatched the cell from the top of the pool table, immediately checking his voicemail.
He expelled a breath he hadn’t realized he was holding in a rush when he heard the familiar sexy velvet of Ororo‘s voice. “Logan, sorry I missed you. I apologize if I worried you by my sudden departure, but something has… come up.”
“The car is here, Miss Munroe.” A muffled, deep voice said in the background.
“Thank you.“ she replied to whoever was talking to her, then she was back to him, “Anyway, I wanted you to know that I am well, but I may be unreachable for a time, so don‘t worry. I‘m fine.” A long pause, where he could hear her gentle breathing, then, “Good bye, Logan.”
He leaned heavily against the pool table, feeling for some reason like he’d been kicked in the gut. Something was up with ’Ro. Maybe he was reading too much into it, he thought. “Goodbye, Logan.” echoed in his mind. And maybe he’d track her ass down and make her talk to him.
With a string of colorful curses Wolverine left the rec room, deciding he desperately needed a drink.
Ororo glanced up from her clenched hands to the man opening the limo door for her. “Huh?”
“I asked if you were all set, Ma’am.”
“Oh.” Ororo slid herself along the light leather. She tried to contain her wince as she felt painful twinges along her spine.
“Ororo?” T’Challa was beside her in an instant, concern on his handsome face. “Are you all right?”
“Fine. I must have become cramped in the limo. You know I prefer the open air.”
He smiled. “I know, but I’d hate for you to have to fly all the way to Wakanda when the jet is readily available.”
Ororo’s gaze traveled the run way to the large jumbo jet rolling towards them, it’s design smooth and sleek, a cozier, upgraded version of the Blackbird. “You boys and your toys,” she murmured teasingly.
T’Challa took her hand, lacing their fingers together as the plane approached. He felt the subtle tensing of her muscles. She was probably unaware that she was even doing it. He lifted her hand, placing a lingering kiss on her open palm. “Are you ready to go home?”
Home. That word brought forth images of the Sahara, pyramids, temples, open plains and warm gray eyes. Ororo shook the last image from her mind, turning towards T’Challa’s, uncertain as to what she was really getting herself into.
He hugged her. Strong, warm arms wrapped around her, supporting her.
Ororo felt her throat tighten. He said not one word, simply held her until the tension left her body and she stepped back. “I’m ready.”
The Wedding? by windrider1
The sun sank deep in the horizon, raining fire and pouring gold across the sand. Trees stood like black paper cutouts against the spectacular sky. Several forms of wildlife were stirring to life, able to move without the scorching heat of the desert sun baking them dry. Eerily beautiful bird calls filled the air.
“Goddess,” Ororo breathed, basking in the moment. “Nowhere in the world can you find such magnificent scenery.”
“I’m inclined to agree.” T’Challa’s silky murmur reached her ears. He was resting against a long lounge chair, silk pillows beneath his feet and a cool drink at hand. Only the best for the Wakandian King. But he wasn’t spoiled, Ororo reflected. Immediately upon their arrival from France he had gone to his state of the art children’s hospital to personally check on the patients. Two in particular; burn victims of abusive parents. When asked what happened to the parents, T’Challa’s normally playful smile had vanished and a cold look had entered his eyes. “Dealt with.” Was his only response.
From there he had gone to deal with several political matters, instructing his servants to see that Ororo was settled. He was polite, considerate and friendly with the staff, she had made mental note of. They appeared at ease in his presence, not for a moment lax in their duties, but instead seemingly honored to be performing them.
After hours of work on top of what was completed in France, T’Challa had joined Ororo in her room for a private dinner, much to his mother‘s grumbled annoyance. She had wanted a lavish celebratory fare to announce the upcoming nuptials. She had relented, appeased when Ororo suggested that perhaps she would like to help plan the wedding.
Ororo cast a veiled look over her shoulder, smiling indulgently when she noticed that T’Challa’s smoldering gaze rested on her and not the sunset. “Ever the suave playboy.”
“Soon to be married, reformed playboy,” he corrected with a grin.
“Mmm.” She returned her gaze to horizon, watching the last remnants of the sun flicker behind golden grass, feeling a weighty stirring in her chest.
“Are you certain about your decision, Ororo? It isn‘t too late to change your mind. Mother is fast and determined, but I doubt even she has made the announcements yet.”
“Excuse me?” She was surprised.
“You heard me.”
“Am I no longer wanted?” She asked softly, caressing one of the several hanging vines cloying to the balcony railings.
T’Challa rose from his reclined position. “That is a ridiculous question. Not only do I want you, Ororo, but I need you. Like the earth needs the rain. I fear that may not be the same for you.”
Ororo’s hand hovered in the air and her breath hitched. “T’Challa. You said you’d give me time.”
“And I shall. All the time you need.” He was beside her, his hands reaching around her defensive shoulders to cradle her face. “But I want you to want this. To want us.”
Storm lowered her eyes momentarily, then lifted them to his, her gaze steadfast and sure. “I do.”
“More than you want the Troll?”
Her eyes narrowed into dangerous slits. “Why must you constantly bring Wolverine into our conversations?”
“I said it before, Ororo. I could smell the man’s passion for you.”
“Then you were mistaken.”
“Doubtful.” His thumb brushed her lip. “I know I could not work beside you day in and day out and not go mad with wanting.”
Of their own accord her lips parted. “It matters not.”
“I know you have feelings for him. Why not let Wolverine be the one to decide whether or not it matters?”
T’Challa raised an eyebrow waiting for her to continue. Ororo grumbled under her breath, but he caught most of what she was saying and his lips twitched. Who knew Ororo had such a colorful vocabulary. “Well,” he prodded.
“Fine, you obstinate man.” She snapped. “The reason I can not and will not tell Wolverine my feelings for him are simple. He does not love me. He will never love me. He has loved Jean for so many years I don’t think he would know how not to. He is my friend. I can not risk that friendship for unrequited love. I would rather…I just can not be without…”
“Him.” T’Challa finished for her. He sighed heavily. “You love him so much then? That you would settle for me so that he can love a dead bird?”
Ororo gave him a startled glance. “Who is to say it is love?” she asked. “Perhaps it was just loneliness. Maybe any man would have done,” she argued.
T’Challa gave a short laugh. “That strokes the old ego.”
“I’m…sorry.” She didn’t know what else to say in light of her impromptu rant.
“Don’t be.” T’Challa said softly. “I need to know how much wooing is in order to keep you a happy wife.”
She blinked several times. “You…you still want to marry me?”
Without warning T’Challa caught her against him and kissed her, his mouth demanding and gentle at once. Ororo tensed momentarily, but then allowed herself to be thoroughly kissed by him. And boy, the man could kiss, she thought with a smile. She felt her self growing pliant as warm clay in his hands. Strong arms circled around her back, pulling her closer and she went willingly, feeling the stirrings of genuine desire for the man holding her.
T’Challa pulled back, smiling. “Well?”
“Umm…I do not know what you want me to say.” Ororo was mildly confused.
He caressed her cheek with his knuckles, his gaze warm and full. “Will you give us a chance? Will you be my wife?”
Ororo blushed. “T‘Challa, I already said yes--”
“Any man won’t do, Ororo. You love Wolverine. I am asking you, knowing that fact full well, to see if there is any chance you could grow to love me as well, perhaps even as I love you.”
Ororo was moved beyond measure. He wasn’t asking her to deny her feelings, or forcing her to say there were none, instead he was humbling himself and asking her for a simple chance.
“You are a wonderful man. I can think of no other as proud as you, and I would be honored, honored, to be your wife.”
His smile was brilliant.
“Most definitely yes.”
With a whoop, T’Challa swung her up in his arms, twirling them about the balcony. “I love you,” he whispered into her hair.
Ororo felt her throat tighten. Not with sadness, but with a small flare of hope. Maybe she would grow to love T’Challa. She certainly found him attractive enough, and he surprised her constantly with the depth of his character. Maybe there was hope for them after all.
six weeks later
Logan removed his hat, fanning his face. It was far too flamin’ hot for his taste, he thought, downing a portion of his canteened water. He kicked the toe of his boot against the wall of the building he stood alongside, trying to jostle some of the sand infesting his socks towards the tip of his boot.
Things were not progressing as smoothly as he would have liked, he mulled over. He’d been in Africa for over a week, trudging all over Ororo’s old stomping grounds, trying to locate the suddenly unreachable weather witch. He’d given her several weeks to come home or contact him before he set about tracking her ass down.
The longest damn weeks of his life.
Kitty had stopped him from storming out of the mansion more than once, reminding him that it really wasn’t his place to tell Storm what she could and couldn’t do and that Storm never tried to monitor his movements. Well, fuck that. Someone needed to settle that woman back down. She couldn’t just traipse off all haphazardly whenever the urge struck.
He still couldn’t quite believe that she had just up and left in the middle of the night. What the hell was she thinking? She’s lucky one of the damn sentry sentinels hadn’t swatted her down. Then again the men inside probably had a healthy sense of self preservation. Nothing like the threat of a few million volts of electricity to make one cautious.
Logan began walking through the crowds of people, lifting his head every so often when he thought he caught a familiar scent. He walked through the market square for over and hour before stopping at a small vendor stand. Logan pulled the picture of Ororo that he carried in his wallet out, his thumb absently caressing the worn folds.
Logan turned at the crackled voice behind him. A wizened, elderly man gazed at him with smoky eyes. “No thanks, Bub. Hey, you seen this woman?” He held the picture out for the vendor.
The vendor peered at the photo, rubbing his chin. “Goddess.”
A spark of hope lit within Logan. “Yes. Where is she?”
The vendor spread his arms. “All around us.”
Logan growled. “Thanks anyway, mac.”
He moved to return the photo to his wallet when a female hand caught his wrist. Logan turned.
A dark haired young woman smiled at him. “Wait. You must forgive my father. He is unfamiliar with mutants. May I see?”
He held out the picture again.
“She is very beautiful.”
“Yeah, she is.”
The young woman nodded, smiling. “She is a friend?”
Friend. She was so much more than that, and yet not. “Yup.”
“I believe you will have more luck in Wakanda.” The young woman smiled, returning the photo to Wolverine.
Logan grunted, feeling like an idiot. Why wouldn’t she be in Wakanda? Maybe because she told that pretty boy Panther that she wouldn’t stay with him?
“Maybe she would like a necklace?”
Logan nodded, perusing the contents of the cart. He lifted a gold chain with a deep sapphire center. “This one.”
The girl smiled, but hesitated. “It is very expensive.”
“She’s very worth it.” He held out a wad of cash.
Another, more radiant smile was bestowed upon him. “It will make a wondrous wedding present.”
Suddenly the world stopped spinning and Logan nearly grunted with the force that his breath left him. “Say what?”
Busy hands were boxing the jeweled necklace. “For your friend. Ororo Munroe, right?” She handed him the ribbon topped box.
“How do you know her?” He hadn’t meant to growl, but he had.
The girl took a hasty step back, pointing at the small television behind her. “It was on the news…earlier. I just figured it was the same woman. How m-many white haired women can there be?”
Logan handed the girl an extra twenty. “Thank you.”
As he progressed through the crowd back towards his hotel Logan felt himself growing angrier and angrier as questions tumbled through the red haze of his mind. What the fuck was she doing? What in the hell was she thinking? She couldn’t be serious? Storm? Married? He broke into a run.
Ororo fidgeted as the last seamstress tucked and snipped the white and gold material draping her form. “Well?” She turned to N’Yami. “What is the verdict?”
The Queen Mother rose from her settee, her eyes flickering up and down over Ororo. She circled, then circled again, her finger to her chin, appraising.
Ororo waited anxiously, surprised by the butterflies in her stomach.
“My son…chose exceedingly well.” N’Yami’s eyes glittered with warmth and approval. “You make a beautiful bride Ororo.”
Ororo felt a pleased flush color her cheeks. “Thank you.”
N’Yami stepped forward, tracing the elaborate henna design along Ororo’s bare back. A rising Phoenix. The unspoken question hung in the air.
“There is a friend, a sister,” Ororo murmured, “that I wanted to stand beside me on my wedding day.”
N’Yami’s strong fingers squeezed Ororo’s bare shoulder in an affectionate gesture. “It is a exquisite symbol, and a wonderful gesture. Your friend would be honored, I am certain.”
Ororo smiled. “I certainly hope so.”
“Come.” N’Yami clapped her hands. “Let us go see what trouble T’Challa has found himself in.”
Ororo chuckled. “Is he still sparring?”
N’Yami waved a hand dramatically. “If that is what you wish to call him beating those poor lads.”
“He trains them well.”
“That he does. Wakanda has an unbeatable fighting force.”
Ororo lifted her arms so the seamstresses could remove her robes. “I pray to the Bright Lady that their skill never has need to be put to the test.” She slipped a long flowered dress on.
“You and me both, child. But there is always someone, somewhere plotting. Never forget that, Ororo. As safe as we are in Wakanda, and in the palace, the world is a dangerous place.” The doors to the dressing room parted and two sentries flanked the women as they walked.
“Unfortunately, I know this fact to be all too true,” Ororo nodded at her guards.
“Yes, I imagine you do. Poor dear. Orphaned then forced to fight for years and years.”
“No one forced me, Majesty. I still believe in Xavier’s dream of peaceful mutant, human coexistence. It is a cause well worth fighting for.”
“Tell me, Ororo. Do you see marriage to my son as a victory in that area?” N’Yami’s tone was mild as the summer rain, yet Ororo sensed the edge beneath it, the thunder in the distance so to speak.
Ororo hesitated. “I hadn’t thought about that,” she answered honestly. “I suppose it could be viewed as such. But no, I do not wish to marry T’Challa for any such socio-political reasons.”
N‘Yami clucked softly, whether in approval or not Ororo could not tell. “Then why do you wish to marry my son?”
Ororo smiled slightly thinking of T‘Challa‘s romantic midnight intrusion to her room, inviting her on an aerial rain dance. “I think we will do very well together.”
“Mm.” N’Yami nodded. “And what of love? I have yet to hear you speak of love where T’Challa is concerned.”
“Love.” Ororo repeated.
“Yes, child. Love. Do you love my son?”
“I…” She reflected on each stolen kiss they’d had over the past several weeks, each gentle caress of his hand on her skin, each time he bared his soul for her to see. “I will.”
The older woman reached for Ororo’s hand. “It will not be easy to love him.”
Ororo sighed good naturedly. “Trust me, this I know. The man is infuriatingly arrogant and so smugly self satisfied.”
“So like his father,” N’Yami said wistfully.
It was Ororo’s turn to make a gesture of affection, squeezing the Queen Mother’s hand. “You loved him very much, I see.”
“Oh yes. T’Chaka was everything a woman could want. Strong, bold, regal, powerful, loyal, and dynamite in the bedroom.”
N’Yami patted her back. “There, there.”
At that moment two doors slid open and T’Challa emerged from behind them, bare-chested and still dripping from his shower, toweling his head. He grinned when he saw his mother and Ororo.
“For mercy’s sake, T’Challa. Where are your manners. You do not parade about half naked in front of your betrothed.” N’Yami scolded.
“Why not?” His grin was unabashed. “Tomorrow is our wedding. Tomorrow night all secrets will be revealed.”
Ororo cleared her throat, feeling a small swell of anticipation flutter in her stomach at his intense look.
“See,” N’Yami nudged Ororo. “Just like his father.” She kissed T’Challa on the cheek. “I’ll leave you two alone. Behave.” He chastising tone was gentle.
T’Challa waited until his mother was out of sight before tugging Ororo into his arms. “Hey, beautiful.”
She smiled into his eyes. “Hello, scoundrel.”
“One more day,” he said huskily. “Then no more separate bedrooms.”
Ororo laughed. “Your mother is very strict about propriety.”
T’Challa’s grin tilted further up. “The wait is killing me.” His lips traced her forehead, down the bridge of her nose until they teased hers.
“One more day is not so very long.”
“It feels like forever.”
Ororo laughed softly. “Then you had best make it worth the wait.”
T’Challa pulled her closer. “Tease.”
“Only for another day.” She kissed him gently. “Then I will be yours.”
T’Challa stared at her for a long minute. “Are you happy?”
She captured his face between her hands. “I am.”
“I love you, Ororo.”
She kissed him again. Slower, deeper, tasting him. “I know you do.” She only hoped she was worthy of that love. Somehow she doubted it.
“Let’s get dinner. The sooner we sleep, the sooner the dawn.” Dawn was the selected time of the ceremony. The starting of a new life in sync with the rising of a new day. Symbolic for both parties.
“Very well, my King.”
Lacing their fingers together the couple headed for their familiar knoll in the outdoor gardens.
As T’Challa playfully fed her ripe fruits and teased her toes with his fingers Ororo mentally vowed to be the best wife that she could be, and forget all about her feelings for a certain growly Canadian. Her life was with T’Challa now. No longer did she belong with the X-Men, and no longer would she pine for a man who clearly wanted something different than what she offered. If only it were that easy to shut it all off, she thought with a inner sigh.
She took a deep breath. Just one more day and she would be married, vows spoken, lives pledged. Nothing was going to change before the dawn.
Darkness had descended like a thick blanket over the lush plains of Wakanda, immersing the occupants in velvet blackness and soothing sounds.
Tables had been rolled out, seats set, flowers arranged, gifts organized and news coverage brought in to spend the night in the grand palace of the Wakandian Royal Family.
With far less fanfare than N’Yami would have liked, the final arrangements and preparations had been completed just past midnight. At which point the older woman had shooed Ororo off to bed, complaining of raccoon eyes and bags.
In her room Ororo had sat at her vanity brushing her hair in slow, methodical strokes, trying in vain to calm the rampaging fluttering of her heart and stomach. She was doing the right thing. T’Challa was a fine man, and would make a fine husband. He was strong, noble, brave, kind, generous, smart, handsome…everything a woman could want. She was lucky to be in the position she was in. Most women would kill for a shot at T’Challa.
Deciding that sleep was what she needed to calm her nerves, she had taken the herbal drink N’Yami had given her and crawled into her luxurious bed and promptly fell asleep, despite the whirring of her troubled mind.
“So yer getting married.”
Ororo bolted upright, startled by the rough timbre voice directly across from her. She saw a flare of orange in the darkness as her bedroom intruder took a drag from his cigar.
“Who else, ’Ro?” His voice was cold.
“How long have you been there?“ Ororo fought for coherence, yawning. She didn’t bother asking how he got past security. There was nowhere Logan couldn’t get into if he wanted to. “What on earth are you doing here? What time is it?”
“Late. Or early. Depends on yer point of view I guess.”
There was something in his tone that sent chills racing along her spine. He seemed almost hostile. She furrowed her brow, clicking on the bedside lamp, then immediately wished she hadn’t. He was leaning against her closed door, legs crossed in front of him, his lips twisted in a sardonic smile. His dark long sleeved shirt clung to his thick chest and broad shoulders, his brown pants fit snugly to his muscled thighs. His dark ebony hair was in disarray with several locks falling across his forehead while others stood out in familiar tufts, giving him an untamed air that made her heartbeat accelerate. Up until this moment she had been relatively certain that her months away from him had at the very least dulled her feelings for him, but she had been wrong. So very wrong.
She took a deep steadying breath. She had been over this with herself a hundred times. Logan was her friend and her team mate, nothing more. Could never be more. Her heart jerked. Ignore that, she told herself. Think about T’Challa.
Logan straightened from the door, his feral eyes raking over her in an abrasive manner that he had never done before, making Ororo acutely aware of the thin, see through nightdress she wore. Reflexively she pulled the blankets to her chest, causing one of his dark eyebrows to raise, his gaze mocking. Lifting her chin, Ororo let the blankets drop, pushing her mane of snow colored hair over her shoulder, glaring at him defiantly.
Wolverine smiled at that. Storm was many things, but meek was not one of them. He strode towards her, moving with his natural grace, and Ororo was riveted. He was beautiful to behold and she turned away, pretending to fluff her pillows.
“To what do I owe the visit, Logan?”
“Heard ya was getting’ hitched. Thought I’d come sniff it out. Got worried when ya dropped off the face of the fuckin’ planet.”
“Only a few months, Logan. We have been apart for far longer periods.”
He scowled. “Never by choice, ‘Roro.” He crushed his cigar in his fist as he made his way towards her. “You just up and fuckin’ left.”
Storm shrugged, feigning nonchalance. “I had some things to deal with. I wanted to take some time for myself. It‘s not unheard of among the X-men. Besides, I was well taken care of.”
“Panther.” Logan ground out.
Ororo raised one eyebrow, if she didn’t know better she would have sworn that was jealousy tinting his rough drawl. “Yes. He has been a wonderful companion.”
“I just bet.”
Ororo thought of the man she was pledged to and smiled.
Logan had stopped walking towards her when they started speaking of T’Challa but he moved towards her again. “Why’d you really leave, Storm?”
“I just told you--”
“Stop lying to me.” His voice was whisper soft and lethal.
Ororo swung her legs from the bed, standing her full five feet eleven inches, and glowered at him. “Do not take that tone with me, Wolverine.”
His eyes were hooded as he stepped close. “What tone would ya like me ta take, Your Highness.” His voice was like uneven silk, his knuckles skimming her cheek.
Ororo shoved past him, her breathing labored. “What is it I can help you with Wolverine? Trouble with Emma? To speak of Jean? What?” She yanked a red silk robe from the foot of her bed, tying it about her slender waist with a fierce tug. She threw the name between them, more for herself than for him. She needed to remember that he was emotionally already taken.
Logan opened his mouth to respond but faltered as he took in the exotic robe she was wearing. The deep red complimented her creamy skin and it moved against her like it was made specifically for her. “Nice robe, darlin‘.”
Ororo blinked. “Thank you. It was a gift.”
His eyes narrowed. “T’Challa again?”
Storm nodded. “Yes.”
Logan slammed his fist into her wall, startling her.
“So the team means nothing to you then? Yer just gonna walk away, wipe yer hands of the X-Men?” Of me, went unsaid. “And marry yerself a genuine King.”
His tone was contemptuous and Ororo winced. Who was he to question her choice of husband, anyway? Oh, that‘s right, her friend. Storm gave him a disgruntled look, not bothering to respond to his overbearing questions. “Who are you to speak so ill of marriage. If life had not been so cruel, you would be married today,” she reminded him.
Logan ran a hand through his hair in agitation. “M’iko was different.”
She stifled a unladylike curse. “I fail to see how.”
“Do you love him?” Logan demanded angrily. “Because I loved M’iko. So tell me, Ororo. Do you love him? Because I don‘t think ya do. If ya loved him so fuckin‘ much, why not invite yer family to yer wedding?”
“I tried to come home to tell everyone, Bishop told me not to. He said that the sentinels made it impossible for safe coming and goings. And, not that it is any of your business, Logan but yes, I do love T‘Challa.”
He whirled on her, his movements fluid and swift, hands grabbing her arms as he slammed her against the wall with jarring force. “I. told you. To stop. Lyin’!” He ground out between clenched teeth, his fingers pressing into the muscles on her arms through red silk.
Though she tried to repress it, Logan saw a look of pain pass fleetingly across her beautiful face, whether from the force he was exerting on her or his harsh words he didn’t know.
“I am not lying,” she said, voice raw.
Logan swore violently, then less vehemently, “I didn’t think nothing could change the feelings we share.”
To say she was surprised was a gross understatement. “What?” Her cerulean blue eyes searched his black ones intensely.
He removed his hands from her arms only to slam them against the wall on either side of her head, slapping against the wood. “You just don’t get it do you?” He hissed, leaning in so their faces were scant inches apart, his hot breath fanning her lips. Her blue eyes widened and her breath quickened, but Storm made no response. She really did not know how to handle this side of him. She licked her suddenly dry lips and Logan groaned. He pressed closer, his mouth claiming hers heatedly, his tongue coaxing her lips apart, teasing the dark cinnamon recesses of her mouth. He could feel her surprise and it angered him that this should surprise her. How could she not see what was right in front of her?
He pulled back and growled “I can’t be any clearer.” He ground his hips against hers, rubbing his heavy arousal on her, letting her feel the effect she had on him, had always had on him.
“…Logan?” her gaze was questioning.
“’Ro.” He groaned, kissing her again, pulling her away from the wall and into his embrace, holding her like he was a dying man and she was his salvation. Which of course, she was.
At first she was stiff, uncertain, but after a moment Logan felt her body relax, her arms slide up his chest, circling his neck, her tongue tentatively responding to his. She moaned, pressing closer.
Sweet Jesus, he shook with the force of the emotions racing through him. All of the blood raced from his brain and made a swift decent to his groin.
“I do not understand,” Ororo said breathlessly as he trailed kisses along her chin and neck, his moist mouth leaving her shaken.
“I want you, what’s ta understand?” He said gruffly, nipping her ear, his hot breath making her tingle.
“We can’t.” She whispered.
Logan took a step away from her, but kept her in the circle of his arms. “Don’t you wanna know, ‘Roro?”
Ororo turned her face from his intense gaze. More than anything she wanted this, but why did he? She couldn’t be one night to him, she wouldn’t risk their friendship or her growing love with T’Challa for a fleeting night of passion. No matter how hot it blazed.
“What about Jean?”
Logan paused mid-nuzzle of her throat. “What about her?”
“You still love her,” Ororo said softly.
He pressed his lips to the hollow of her throat. “Jeannie ain’t here.”
And there it was.
“Logan. Logan, stop. I can not…” she moaned as his tongue swirled against her skin.
“Yes, ’Ro. You can.”
“No.” Storm shoved against him. “I will not be a temporary replacement or a one night stand or… or…or whatever else this may be!”
He took a step away from her. “This,” he stroked her face, cradling her jaw, kissing her softly. “Is you and me. Nothin’ else.”
“No.” Ororo shook her head.
Logan chuckled, dark and sinful. He placed her open palm to his thundering heart. “Feel how much I want you.” He kissed her again, slower this time. “It‘ll be good,” he whispered against her mouth. “Promise.”
Ororo drew in a rough breath, closing her eyes, but she didn’t push him away. “This is just a way for you to keep from losing something you considered stable,” she said knowingly. She knew him better than anyone. She knew that he secretly feared one day waking up and finding everything that he had believed in being a lie. He had told her once that she was his constant; the one thing he could always count on no matter what. “I will always be your friend, Wolverine. Nothing will ever change that.” Her eyes misted.
“Always, hnh?” Before she could answer he brought his mouth to hers once again.
God, she tasted good, as rich and mysterious as the finest liquor. Need slammed through him, blotting out reality. With sheer will he kept the kiss slow and cajoling. He whispered into her hair. “I’ll give you pleasure ya never even dreamed of.”
“Stop.” Ororo moved forcibly away from him. “I can not, will not, do this.”
Ororo was shaking, fighting tears. “Look me in the eye, Logan, and tell me that if Jean were here this would still happen?”
He huffed a long breath. “What’s Jeannie got to do with any of this?”
“Just tell me.” Ororo pleaded. “Just look me in the eye and tell me that if Jean were alive that you would still be here.”
He couldn’t. “’Ro--”
“I will not betray T’Challa.” she replied, eyes watering. “He loves me.”
Logan took a ragged breath, reaching for her again. “How could he not?”
Ororo’s lips trembled. “Please go, Logan.” She turned away from him, her head bent. “We shall pretend this never happened.”
“It’s happening, ‘Ro. I won’t let ya pretend it ain’t. You want me.”
She didn’t deny it. “Logan, I am getting married in the morning.”
“That’s it then? Yer really marrying that guy? You‘re leaving the X-Men?”
His features hardened until they looked carved in granite. “Then tonight, yer mine.” He hauled her back into his arms, his mouth crushing hers. The kiss was hard and savage, filled with all the bitter longing and things left unsaid between them.
She should fight it, she rationalized, but instead she kissed him back the same way he was kissing her, with all the pain she was feeling and the regret.
She loved him. She always would. She loved him, but he was not hers. He never would be.
She felt his hands on the sash of her robe, jerking angrily at the ties, tearing it open. His mouth found her breast through the diaphanous material of her nightdress and he suckled her there, dampening the material with laves of his tongue. He took the tip and bit the end, making her moan. The robe slid away as he shoved it down her shoulders, slipping to form a scarlet pool at her feet. Then he was lifting her, cupping her ass in his hands, growling her name.
Ororo trembled as he lay her onto her bed and turned to divest himself of his clothes in hurried jerky movements. He returned to the bed before the warmth from his initial contact had time to dissipate. He explored every inch of her flesh with his mouth an tongue, making her burn.
“I want ya ta remember this, ‘Roro,” he growled. “Never forget this night.” He parted her thighs and found her center with his mouth, making her wetter. Then he was over her, entering her in one deep, rough plunge. He thrust again, and again, each time harder and deeper than the last, filling her completely. “Remember,” he rasped against her neck.
Ororo swallowed back a mournful sob. She’d never forget, she knew. With each thrust and grunt Logan was imprinting himself on her. She knew he felt it too, a shared pleasure and pain that went beyond words.
He shifted position, his sculpted body rippling as he surged ever deeper, ever faster. He lifted her in his arms, holding her so tight she couldn’t move, as if he could somehow change their fate by consuming her.
Her climax hit her hard and she cried out his name brokenly. He followed suit, his own release leaving him shaken and more confused than ever. He leaned above her, his muscles taut. “Say you’ll come back.” There was a longing in his tone that he couldn’t suppress.
Ororo bit her lip, turning her face away.
Logan stared down at her for a long drawn out moment, then as if nothing had happened, all the emotion left his face. With carefully controlled movement he redressed himself, walked from the room to her terrace and disappeared into the night without so much as a backwards glance.
Gentle wind stirred the flowing tendrils of Ororo’s hair as she stood beside T’Challa. The ceremony was a blend of faiths, and of Wakandian custom. They were to make pledges to one another, vowing loyalty, devotion and their life for the other. and commemorating that pledge with a blood exchange from their wrists and the donning of rings.
The first rays of morning stretched upwards, kissing the fading night sky and bringing the dawn. Thunder rumbled in the distance.
“Ororo?” T’Challa was staring at her strangely.
Ororo blinked. “Oh.” She flushed.
“Nervous?” he asked with a gentle smile.
“A bit.” She gazed into his dark molasses eyes and reached for his hands. “I’ll be a good wife to you, T’Challa.”
He gave her hands a surprised, comforting squeeze. “I have no doubts.”
N’Yami stepped forward, mounting the small pedestal between Ororo and T’Challa. “Friends, citizens, all of our extended Wakandian family. Today is a joyous day. A day of celebration, and of renewal. Today we add a Queen to our ranks. And not just any Queen, but a Goddess amongst mortals. A woman of strong character, impeccable virtue and unwavering loyalty.”
Tight. Her dress was too tight. Ororo took a calming breath. Relax. No one knows.
“A woman that my son, T’Challa, your King, has chosen for his wife. To share his life with. To bear his children. My grandbabies.” A gentle smile. “I say we rejoice as they unite under the earth’s morning canopy and begin their new life together.”
T’Challa placed Ororo’s hand to his heart and for a moment time skittered backwards and Ororo felt the thundering beat of another man entirely. She closed her eyes, exhaling a shaky breath.
“Ororo. I make this vow to you now and forever. I will be loyal, steadfast, honorable and work every day to be worthy of your love. I will give you all that I am. My breath will be your breath. Each beat of my heart will be for you and only you. I pledge my life to you.”
Tears slipped through dark lashes and her voice shook when she spoke. “There is a pace to nature, elemental and pure. In time the earth cultivates and destroys a thousand times over, sands wear away at rivers and streams, creating and destroying without feeling or remorse in a beautiful symphony of life. I vow this to you, T’Challa. I will weather each and every change life can throw at us, by your side. I belong to you and no other from this moment forth. You are in my heart, which I now pledge to you for eternity.”
N’Yami grasped their joined hands, nicking a small cut at the base of each wrist. She then clasped her hands over theirs, pressing the wounds together. “The deed is done.” She kissed Ororo on the forehead. “Welcome to the family,” she whispered, then in a loud boisterous voice she raised their unified hands. “The King and Queen of Wakanda!”
The crowd’s cheers echoed loudly, the deafening sound carrying on the wind to where a lone figure stood in the shadows, watching with dark eyes as the newly joined King and Queen embraced as husband and wife.
Without a sound Logan set his ribbon covered box on top of the other wedding gifts, silently melting into the shadows as stealthily as he had arrived. As he trudged across the still cool desert he tried to convince himself it was sand in his eyes making them overflow.
The heady scent of fragrant oils hung in the air creating an abundant perfume that both soothed and invigorated. Ororo stood slowly, rivulets of violet and rose scented water sliding down her silky skin. Two female servants rose from their kneeled position beside the oversized tub, moving forward to help her descend the steps and towel her dry.
Although having received treatment similar in Khan’s palace it was still a slightly unnerving position for Ororo to be in, having people seeing to her every single need. A third servant knelt on bended knee in front of her, a long purple dressing gown laid across her extended arms.
The garment was lifted by the first two women and they set about slipping the soft material over her head. Once donned in the light negligee Ororo was led from the bath to her bridal chamber, where she was to wait for her husband’s arrival.
As inlaid golden doors parted, revealing a candle lit room, Ororo faltered in her stride. The room was exquisitely beautiful, decorated luxuriously with candles and flowers, but Ororo’s eyes were drawn to the room’s sole furnishing. A large, opulent bed in the center of the room. It was clear the room was designed for one purpose and one purpose only. The consummation of marriage.
Forcing air into her weighted lungs she stepped across the threshold determinedly. Her handmaidens followed her in, lighting incense and making certain everything was just so. “Please,” Ororo turned to them. “I am fine. Thank you. You may go.” With several bows the servants backed from the room, closing the doors quietly behind them.
As soon as she was completely alone Ororo moved towards the bed, a lump forming at the base of her throat. Tonight T’Challa would make her his wife in every sense of the word. She should be feeling nervous, which she was, but on top of that lay the grave burden of guilt.
Ororo closed her eyes, trying not to think of the previous night, but unable to prevent the memory from surfacing in the turbulent waters of her mind. I want ya ta remember this, ‘Roro. Never forget this night. She could still hear his gruff rasp in her ear, could almost feel him inside of her. Her stomach tightened to the point of pain and she doubled over. Goddess, Logan…How could she have done that to him? To T’Challa? What kind of woman was she?
How was she going to face T’Challa tonight? It had been hard enough to stand beside him and listen to everyone praise him for his choice of bride, telling her what a wonderful person she was. She was so wonderful that she betrayed her husband the night before their wedding. She cringed.
She was married now, and she had meant every vow she had spoken. She was T’Challa’s wife and she would be loyal and faithful and bound to him for as long as she lived, but deep inside of herself there lived a part of her that she feared would never be completely free of Wolverine.
She whirled, her hand flying to her chest. “T’Challa. You startled me,” she whispered, watching him emerge from the flickering shadows. He was clad only in black silk bottoms, his upper body bared and she couldn‘t help but admire the way the candlelight played off of his smooth chest and contracting muscles. Unbidden an image of Logan’s broad, hair covered chest came to mind but she forcefully shoved it back down.
His mouth lifted. “Then we’re even.”
Ororo stepped away from the bed, towards him. “How so?”
“You…take my breath away.” His dark eyes were full of hungry male appreciation as he took in her slender silhouette. He reached for her, pulling her into his arms. “I’ve waited for you my whole life,” he murmured as he lay his mouth to hers.
The kiss was slow and sweet and dark with sensual promises. His mouth moved over hers languidly, silkily, as if they had all the time in the world to savor this one moment. It was an artful kiss, layered with love and tenderness and infinite patience.
Ororo broke away. She couldn’t do it. She couldn’t stand in his tender embrace and let him love her after what she had done to him. “T’Challa…” she began brokenly. “I can’t…I…” She looked at him and felt tears stinging her eyes.
T’Challa rested his forehead to hers, his large, warm hands cradling her jaw. “What is the matter, my love?”
“Don’t…” She tried to pull away but he was having none of that, holding her fast.
“Please, Ororo. Tell me what troubles you.”
The gentle concern in his voice was her undoing. With a heartfelt cry she whispered, “I’ve betrayed you.”
Aside from the subtle tensing of muscles beneath her hand he made no outward reaction to her declaration. His silence was condemnation in her mind. “I’m sorry.” She said closing her eyes. “So sorry.”
T’Challa took a deep steadying breath. “Continue.” He still didn’t release her.
Ororo shook her head. “The details don’t matter, but the fact remains I took your faith in me and I abused it. I am unworthy to be your queen. I am irredeemable.”
He let out a slow breath. “Irredeemable? For giving into the feelings you have for Wolverine? That’s a bit excessive.”
There was a sad humor in his voice. “T’Challa?” She opened her eyes, staring questioningly up into his. A horrifying realization came over her. “You knew,” she gasped.
“I suspected.” He confirmed. “Your feral friend is stealthy, but not even he can go undetected in my home.”
“What?” Ororo was baffled. “But…but then why?”
“Why what?” His gaze was deeply intense.
Her mind was in turmoil, scattered on the winds and chaotic. “Why marry me?” she asked finally.
He cocked his head. “I could ask you that very question.” He searched her face. “In fact, I think I will. Why did you marry me, Ororo?”
He deserved the truth, no matter how harsh it sounded. “Because you love me, and he doesn‘t.”
He closed his eyes, an imperceptible wince crossing his handsome features. “That I do.” His thumb caressed her cheek. “And what of you, Ororo. What of your love?”
She captured his wrists in her hands. “My heart is now yours, T’Challa. I made those vows sincerely. Whatever happens from this day forth, I am bound to you. Given the circumstances, I would understand if you did not believe that, but I speak the truth.”
He nodded slowly, his face drawn. “I believe you.”
They stood in the candle lit silence of the room, neither one knowing exactly what to say to the other. “So,” Ororo whispered, breaking the silence. “Where do we go from here?”
The underground club was dimly lit and smelled of smoke and sex, but Logan didn’t care. All he cared about was the shot of tequila in his hand and the warm fog of forgetfulness that was slowly surrounding him. He grit his teeth as the woman fondling his cock took him deep in her mouth. “Not like that,” he growled. “Slower.”
The dark skinned beauty smiled, flicking her tongue along his tip. “Like this?”
“Better,” he grunted, swallowing his shot and slamming it onto the table. He closed his eyes, trying to lose himself in the wet recesses of his paid companion’s mouth. With his eyes closed tight he could almost imagine it was Ororo’s sweet mouth that he was in. “Fuck.” He grunted, his fingers tangling in the woman’s hair as his hips surged off of his chair. “’Ro.” He groaned. “Deeper,” he demanded, not opening his eyes.
The whore made a small noise of acquiesce, bobbing her head up and down voraciously.
Logan groaned long and low, picturing Storm’s mouth on his cock, her soft pink tongue rubbing his engorged head. He could almost see her cerulean eyes hazy with passion as they had been the other night, could almost hear her frantic cries as she rode her orgasm. With the memories of Ororo calling his name echoing in his head, Logan spilled his seed into the waiting whore’s mouth with a shudder. It was an empty release, devoid of any real passion, despite his best efforts. Blindly he reached for the tequila bottle, pouring the fiery liquid down his throat.
“Here,” he grunted, handing the woman extra cash as she rose from her kneeled position on the satin pillow at his feet.
“Thank you,” she smiled politely, placing the bills in her skimpy top. “Will you be needing further services tonight?”
Logan downed the last of the bottle, dropping it onto the floor beside the four others. “Ya never know, darlin’. Ya never know.”
His bitter laugh sent chills of unease up the woman’s spine. When he had entered the establishment a few hours earlier she had been thrilled that he had selected her for his pleasure, even more pleased when she realized his wallet was as thick as his crotch. Within minutes of his company, however, she sensed a dark ferocity in him that made her uneasy. Like she was small game animal in a lion’s den.
She cleared her throat. “What is it you would like?”
Another short bark of laughter that was borderline growl. “Ya know of anything that can make a man forget the woman he loves--” He stopped. No.
No, no, no.
He shook his head, trying for the first time in the past several hours to think with a semblance of clarity. Did he just say what he thought he said? Did he just admit to a prostitute that he was in love with Ororo?
His rather expensive companion was staring at him questioningly. “Do you speak of drugs?” she asked not following his rather random train of thought.
“Huh?” He blinked bloodshot eyes. “No.” He scowled. “Look. We’re set.” He stood, buckling his jeans.
“But, you have paid for the entire evening,” she protested mildly, but Logan could sense her relief.
“Keep the money.” He grabbed his hat from the table. He needed some air.
Once outside Logan leaned heavily against the building‘s back wall. His heart thudded dully within his chest, his jumbled drunken thoughts trying to fixate on Ororo. Just the thought of her eased and inflamed him. He saw her in his mind clear as day despite the alcohol induced fog. Do you ever want more? He wanted her, he realized with a jolt. He wanted her so much he ached with it.
Jesus Fuckin’ Christ. He was in love with Ororo. He loved another man’s wife--again. He would have laughed if it didn’t hurt so damn much.
Where do we go from here?
Ororo waited with pent breath for T’Challa to speak.
Slowly he released her from his gentle but firm hold and stepped away from her. “Life is a series of choices, Ororo, and I made mine, but I can not make yours. I am going to my chambers now, where I will remain. From there the choice will be yours. Join me and begin our life together as husband and wife, or leave.”
She bit her lip, watching the planes of his face. “Leave?”
He nodded grimly. “Our marriage has not been consummated. By Wakandian law it is still non-existent. If I am not the man you wish to be with, then please, go. I asked for a chance to earn your love, Ororo. I will not beg for it.”
“No. Don’t speak. Think about what it is you truly want, Ororo, and decide. Once and for all, decide.” He touched her damp cheek. “Even knowing that you were with another changes naught about my feelings for you.” Without another word he turned and strode from the room, his back straight and head high.
Reeling from the days events Ororo sank to the carpet, pressing her palm to her forehead. Goddess, what now?
Did she leave? Return to the X-Men? Chase one man’s dream and another man’s heart? Or did she take what was so generously laid out in front of her?
She raised her legs, curling her arms across her calves and resting her chin atop her knees. She loved Logan, this she knew. Had loved him forever it seemed. But then there was T’Challa. With his warm smile and laughing eyes, his kind heart and easy charm. Always making time for her. Always telling her how he cared for her. There were so many things about him that were unexpected. Like the way his mouth tilted when he was wryly amused, and the way he said her name when they were alone, or the way he made her feel so loved and cherished.
She sighed. His arrogance and self assurance bordered on cocky consistently, but as Gambit once told her, it wasn’t bragging if you could back it up, and T’Challa most assuredly could back up anything he said--or was rumored.
Over the past several weeks she had become immersed in Palace life, included in political meetings and her council sought whenever T’Challa had a difficult decision to make. T’Challa not only treated her like he treasured her, but he treated her as his equal.
But then there was Logan. A feral with a heart of gold. A prickly, gruff man with a soft center and unwavering loyalty and honor. His dedication was beyond measure and Ororo knew this first hand. She watched him make trips to Japan for Amiko. Watched him take on the Hand with Elektra. She herself had faced his claws on more than one occasion when she threatened something he held dear, such as Charles or Jean.
It was that same honor and dedication that he devoted to Mariko, and to an even greater extent Jean. He loved completely. It was who he was. Logan was incapable of half way measures and partial passion. It was all or nothing with him.
Ororo smiled ruefully. All or nothing--and she knew she didn’t have all.
She rubbed her temples wearily, T’Challa’s words coming to her. “And what of your love Ororo?” What of her love? she mulled.
She’d spent so much time trying to rationalize the choices she was making she hadn’t stopped to listen to what her heart was saying anymore. She couldn’t remember the last time she truly listened to her inner self and made a decision solely for her own happiness.
Logan slowly sank to the ground, leaning his head back against the bricks, a litany of swears pouring from his mouth. He wiped his hand across his mouth, wincing as he did, the smell of sex still strong on his hands.
He had come to this place in hopes of wiping Ororo and their one night from his mind, and instead he had come to the realization that he was in love with his snow haired best friend. Ironic.
They had been friends for far too long not to love her to some degree but he had been blissfully unaware as to the true extent of those feelings until she was no longer his. His hands fisted on the ground beside him as he thought of her now, with her husband. Unsolicited images rose up in his mind’s eye of Ororo with T’Challa and his claws exploded into the sand.
“’Ro.” His voice was ragged and worn from the smoky room and from the emotions he was fighting so hard to keep in check.
The door opened easily beneath her hand.
Ororo hesitated only for a moment. This was the right decision. It was the one her heart had told her to make. With resolution and a lighter heart Ororo stepped through the doorway.
“T’Challa?” The room was completely dark. “Are you here?”
From the darkest corner of the room his smooth voice came to her. “You know, I really didn’t expect you to come here.”
She turned towards the shadows, walking decisively forward. “I know.”
There was a ripple of motion as he stepped forward, his face revealed by the filtering moonlight through his domed ceiling.
“T’Challa!” Ororo whispered, startled, reaching for his tear streaked face.
He caught her hand before she touched him. “I need to know why you are here, Ororo.”
She smiled tenderly up at him, laying her hand against his cheek despite his restraining hold. “Because I want to be.”
“You are certain? Because I do not think I can take another round of this--”
“Shut up, husband, and kiss me.” Despite her bold façade she was shaking, wanting him, no needing him, to see the truth in her eyes. The truth she herself had just discovered. She loved him. In ways she had never before realized until forced to confront her inner self.
He was not Logan, nor did he need to be. T’Challa was his own man. The man that made her weak in the knees with heated looks, but also the man that she could rely on to be there whenever she needed him to be. The man that saw her worth waiting for, worth fighting for, worth marrying, but more than that, he was the man that she saw worth fighting for, worth being with, worth building a life with.
She almost wept in relief when his arms circled her and he lowered his head. “As my wife commands,” he whispered. His lips were heated silk on hers, sinfully erotic and smooth. At the gentle nudge of his tongue she parted her lips, sighing as he delved deep, curling his fingers into her hair and suckling her tongue.
“You taste so good,” he murmured against her mouth. “Feel so good.” His warm hands grazed the stiffening peaks of her breasts through her shimmering nightdress. He traced a path from her lips to her neck, slowly as though savoring her taste and texture.
Ororo closed her eyes, shivering as he gently nipped her shoulder, sliding thin straps down her arm. “T’Challa,” she breathed, cradling his head as he drooped the bodice, his hot mouth capturing one sensitive nipple and sucking. Her breath left in a rush. Goddess, he made her tremble and he’d barely touched her.
“Come, wife.” T’Challa stood, swinging her up into his arms.
“Where are we going?” She curled against him, kissing his cheek, chin, neck and ear.
He groaned softly, turning his face to once again devour her mouth in a scorching kiss. “To the place I’ve dreamed of making you mine.” He kicked open the bedroom door, dismissing the guards that approached. “We’re going to the garden,” he told them. “See that we are not disturbed for anything.”
Logan rolled along the ground, sinking his claws deep to stop his momentum. He grunted, rising to his feet. Goddamn Wakandian guards were tough fuckers.
“Look, I don’t wanna fight you. I just want to see my friend. Tell Ororo that Logan is here.” He held up his hands, retracting his claws.
“Come back tomorrow.” One of the guards spoke, holding his small sword out, pointing away from the Palace. “Tonight there will be no visitors.”
“I ain’t a visitor,” Logan growled. “I’m an X-Man.”
The tall guard cocked a brow as though to say, “Yeah, and?”
“I just want a few minutes with ‘Ro.”
“You will address our Queen properly.” The soldiers began to close ranks.
A low growl escaped. “I didn’t mean no disrespect. Just tell her I’m here.”
“The King gave strict orders that he and his bride were not to be disturbed.”
Logan grunted under the force of that emotional blow. “I’ll only take a minute.”
“No, you will not. You are leaving.”
Sensing another attack Logan shifted position, readying himself. “I ain’t leaving.”
Flesh met flesh eagerly.
Ororo moaned her husband’s name as he moved along her body, touching, kissing, caressing every inch of her exposed flesh.
“You are so magnificent,” T’Challa told her, his thick voice laced with reverence and desire.
Ororo gasped, feeling his hand between her thighs, stroking her pooling center.
“Spread your legs, my love.” T’Challa crooned. “A little wider. Perfect.” He rubbed his thumb in a smooth circle over her sensitive nub while her slowly sank two fingers deep inside.
“Oh.” Ororo arched into his hand, her eyes going white. He was supremely skilled, making her body sing and beg at the same time. “Please,” she rasped.
“Not yet.” her husband’s wicked smile made her stomach contract deliciously. “We have all night, Ororo. I intend to use it.”
He circled his thumb faster and Ororo quivered, drenching his hand as she came. Thunder boomed in the garden and T’Challa grinned. So much for a controlled environment, he mused as the first drops of rain hit his fevered skin.
Flesh met flesh eagerly.
Logan slammed his fist into yet another guard’s face, smashing bone and spilling blood. He didn’t care. At the first crack of thunder he had lost his composure.
Ororo was in that Palace. He was getting in there.
He had just finished with one man when another was on him. He lunged, his volatile emotions taking some of the practiced beauty of his samurai training away, making him more vulnerable than he usually was.
This fact was made evident as the long tip of a spear tore open his jugular.
As he dropped to the ground, holding the spouting wound Logan cursed himself. He should have seen it coming.
“What shall be done with him?” A female voice asked. A Dora Milajae.
Logan grimaced. Taken down by a flamin’ chick.
“He claims to be a friend of the Queen.”
“Claims he’s an X-Man.”
The Dora said something that Logan didn’t catch, followed by, “See that he gets immediate medical attention. In the soldier’s quarters.”
Logan growled, feeling hands on his shoulders.
“He smells like a whorehouse.”
He flinched. Jesus. What the fuck was he thinking? How could he face Ororo with the smell of booze and another woman on him?
Thunder crashed over head.
One of the guards spoke with admiration. “Looks like T’Challa is fulfilling his duties to our Weather Goddess.”
The Dora smiled. “He is certainly gifted in the arts of pleasure. Our Queen will be a happy Queen.”
Logan lashed out with his foot, dropping the Dora. “Okay, I’ve heard about enough of that shit.”
She glared at him. “You vile trickster.”
“Naw, just a real quick fix.” He placed a claw to her throat. “How about you?”
The tattooed woman met his gaze unflinchingly. “Go ahead. To die is no fear of the Milajae.”
“Take me to Ororo.” At this point he didn’t give a fuck if a whore was riding on his back. He needed to see ‘Ro. To tell her that he loved her. He needed her to know.
“Our Queen is not to be disturbed.”
“I ain’t askin’.”
“Friend or no friend, you overstep your bounds.” Quicker than anyone he’d seen in a long time the Dora whipped open a small powder packet and tossed it into his face.
Logan sputtered, wiping at the burning substance. His face felt like it was being peeled away and his nose burned painfully, blood began trickling in thin rivers into his mouth.
“Contact the X-Men. Have them send someone to pick him up in the city.” The Dora said. To Logan she commented, “A special Wakandian blend. You probably feel like you are deaf, blind and mute. In fact you are. Your senses will be effectively shut down for an extended period of time. It will not kill you, though before it is over you will wish it had.”
“No!” Logan tried to fight the pain lancing through his body. “No!”
“Yes!” Ororo’s head was thrown back, her mouth open on a gasp of utter pleasure as T’Challa lanced her body again and again. “Goddess, yes!” She clutched his shoulders, her nails raking his back as she clenched around his thick shaft, her orgasm hitting her violently for the fourth time.
T’Challa ground his hips into hers, his mouth latched onto one of her jiggling breasts. “Beautiful,” he groaned, lifting his head. “So perfect.”
Sweat slicked with his face contorted in pleasure T’Challa was quite possibly the most breathtaking specimen of man Ororo had ever seen. She cried out as he surged, filling her to bursting, his full eleven inches inside bordering on pain.
“I love you,” he rasped, spreading her legs wide and pressing against her slick clit. “So much.”
“T’Challa!” She was splintering.
“Ororo.” He kissed her, holding her close as he found fulfillment in the tight embrace of his wife.
Tears blended with rain as husband and wife basked in the afterglow of their lovemaking.
He couldn’t remember the last time he’d vomited. He wasn’t even aware that he could. Logan clutched his gut, tequila and JD spewing forth as his body purged itself of whatever toxin he’d been doused with.
Could be worse, he thought. He could’ve gotten passed the guards and found Ororo--and seen the cause of all the thunder.
Unsolicited an image of her with T’Challa rose up in his mind.
“Stop it,” he growled at himself, to absolutely no avail.
She had every right to be happy and married. It wasn’t her fault that he was too fucking thickheaded to realize that he loved her. Fuck, even knowing that, he wouldn’t have married her. Not now at any rate. He had too much of a score to settle with the fuckers that ruined his past. He couldn’t drag Storm, or anyone else into his shit pile.
He wiped the back of his hand across his mouth, feeling better almost immediately. Good ole healing factor.
Where was he again? Oh, yeah. Storm was better off with T’Challa. Even if the man grated on every goddamn nerve he had.
Yeah, just keep telling yourself that, Bub.
He tried to focus on his still blurry surroundings. Where was he? The space was sparse, but comfortable. Was he still at the Palace?
“You going to make it?”
Logan jerked. “Panther.”
“Evening, Wolverine.” T’Challa leaned in the doorway, bare-chested clad in black silk pants. “This is the second unexpected visit you’ve paid to my home.” T’Challa’s voice was silk over steel. Smooth yet unyielding. “I think we both know the reason why you’re here.”
Logan groaned. Perfect. So the Black Panther knew of his previous visit? Had Ororo told him what happened?
“I know about you and my wife.” Panther stated as if reading his mind, adding emphasis on the wife.
He should feel a twinge of regret, Logan mused, but he didn’t. Not one iota. He stared at T’Challa, waiting.
“Cyclops is sending Shadowcat and Beast to get you. They would have come sooner, but they needed clearance from Val Cooper.”
“She doesn’t know you’re here, if you’re curious.”
He tried to feign indifference but he couldn’t. “Why not? Afraid of what will happen if she knew?”
T’Challa shook his head. “No. Ororo made her choice. I just didn’t think it needed to be rubbed in your face.”
Logan growled. “She wasn’t aware she had a choice.”
“You don’t give her enough credit, Wolverine.” T’Challa nudged a small basket on the floor with his foot. “Fresh clothes. You wreak of booze and women.” Distaste colored the Wakandian King’s voice. “How you could touch her and then another is beyond me,” he stated. “You are an even bigger fool than I gave you credit for.”
An angry snarl formed on Logan’s face. Like he didn’t already know that. “Anything else?”
T’Challa stepped forward. “Yes. She is my wife now, Wolverine. I will not make the mistake Scott Summers did and allow you to disillusion yourself with hopes of what will never be. I understand you and Ororo share a history and a family, but that is all you share.”
Logan glowered. “You done?”
“Yes.” T’Challa stepped into the faint rising morning light. “I must return to my bed, and to my wife before I am missed.” He turned slowly, intentionally allowing Logan to see the still crimson scratches marking his back. “Safe journey, Wolverine.”
Logan was thankful that the door slammed shut, lest the Black Panther see the look of utter anguish that crossed the world’s deadliest mutant’s face.
14 Months after the Wedding***
The shower was welcome and helped ease her aching muscles. Ororo leaned against the ivory wall of her specially designed bathroom and let the water pour over her. She was tired, but satisfied. She and T’Challa had prevented a small village from being wiped out by a neighboring tribe and, although prepared to fight, the battle had been fiercer than expected, especially with a couple of mutants on the side of the opposition.
Unfortunately there had been a casualty in the fighting. A young mother who was brutally stabbed then beheaded as an example for the others. Ororo’s attention had immediately gone to the children and husband of the slain woman.
She never, ever wanted to witness another expression of anguish like she saw on the faces of that family. It was heart breaking and she had wanted to cry with them and rage for them. Deciding on the latter, she had created a small contained tornado, snatching up the perpetrators of the viscous assault and spinning them with such velocity that their brains had turned to mush within their skulls. It was an out of character act for her, but one that she was surprised to find that she felt no regret for.
Ororo closed her eyes, tilting her head back. Life in Africa was so different than the life she’d had at Xavier’s, and even the life she had in Wakanda. She’d believed herself strong, tough, prepared to deal with anything life threw at her, and, to an extent that, was true, but years of mansion life and advanced technology had dulled her perception of many of the real world troubles surrounding her.
Something T’Challa had tried to warn her about on their first night of patrol. She had brushed his concern off with a faint frown and a snappy retort. Two hours later having seen more than a dozen starving children and impoverished families Ororo had succumbed to her tears. She had cursed herself for not coming sooner, and cursed the X-Men for their blindness, and even T’Challa for his country’s policies of non interference. He had held her as she wept, kissing away her tears and trying to soothe her.
“Are you planning on living in there?” A loud thump at the door made her start. She swept back her hair, calling a halt to her self generated rain shower.
She caught a towel on her way to the door and wrapped it about her middle before opening the door. “Sorry.”
T’Challa’s eyes raked over her form, a concerned frown marring his handsome face. “I just wanted to make certain you were all right.”
Ororo nodded. “I am well.”
He caught her chin between his thumb and forefinger, lifting her gaze to his. “Do you hurt?”
She ducked her head. “Not physically, no.”
His eyes roamed her face, darkening with emotion. She stroked his smooth jaw. “I will be fine, my love.”
He caught her hand, pressing a lingering kiss on her palm. “I don’t know if my heart can take seeing you suffer so.”
No one had ever looked at her like he was now and Ororo wondered if her heart could take such intensity. Her chest ached for him. “I am a lot stronger than you give me credit for,” she said.
“You are amazing.” He drew her into his arms. “Come.”
He wrapped one arm casually about her toweled waist, leading her into their room. Candles and incense burned, casting soft shadows against the walls.
“You did all of this?” She asked him.
“For you,” he confirmed. He brought her to the bed. “Lie down.”
Ororo lay back against the pillows and T’Challa smiled. He sat at the foot of the bed, lifting one of her feet in his hands, working the tender soles with strong, agile fingers. “Mmmmm…” Ororo closed her eyes. “That feels lovely. You spoil me so,” she said, a touch of sadness in her voice.
“You deserve it,” he said working her tendons.
Ororo remained silent.
“No one can fix all of the world’s problems, Ororo. Not even a woman such as yourself.” T’Challa murmured watching her face.
She sighed. “So I have been told.” She recalled a time not all that long ago when Logan had told her the very same thing. Just that momentary thought of him made her heart clench with sadness and with practiced efficiency she pushed those thoughts of him out of her mind.
“It has been a long time since you’ve seen Wolverine,” T’Challa said idly.
Ororo gave a small smile. He knew her far too well, she mused. “It has,” she confirmed.
“It has been a long time since you have seen your friends at all.”
“We’ve been busy.” She reminded him.
T’Challa switched feet, rubbing her heel with his thumb. “One can never be too busy for those they love, Ororo.”
“Mmm.” She tilted her head, regarding his handsome profile. “And what mischief are you up to, beloved?”
He flashed her a white smile. “No mischief, as of yet,” he teased. “It is just that I have important meetings in Washington D.C. next week, and thought, perhaps you’d care to come with me. A stop in New York would be no trouble.”
Her smile was brilliant. “T’Challa! What a wonderful idea,” she pushed herself forward, hugging him.
T’Challa laughed easily, his arms circling her tightly. “Then it’s settled,” he stated.
“You really are the most wonderful husband,” Ororo said softly, leaning back to stare into his eyes.
“I try.” He said with mock humility.
“Hm.” She inclined her head, amused.
“You are so beautiful with the candlelight on your face.” His murmur was huskier than a moment ago.
Ororo leaned further away from him, watching the hunger pool in his eyes. She loved when he looked at her as he was now, with love and desire. His features drawn tighter with stark need. “Thank you,” she said, striving for nonchalance. She stretched her arms over her head, the action thrusting her breasts against the towel. He groaned. She smiled. She did love to tease him.
“You are incredible.” He pressed her back, easing her onto their silk sheets. His body was hard, lean muscle and ebony steel, and she appreciated every inch of it. He slowly pushed his loose bottoms over his narrow hips so that his thick erection sprang free.
Ororo licked dry lips, her eyes glazing in familiar white heated passion. It was always this way between them. There was of course their raw lust for one another, but more than that, there was love. Real and deep and abiding. He mesmerized her. With his broad shoulders, smooth skin, beautiful male body, the flash of white teeth when he smiled his boyish smile, and of course, his eyes. The way he looked at her like she was the only woman ever created, and created just for him.
He drew her against him, feeling the softness of her skin. “I want to make you feel good,” he whispered. “To forget the pain you saw, to know only love, Ororo.” He slanted his mouth over hers, stealing her breath. His kisses were always erotic and playful, with a sinful edge that made her feverish with wanting.
“You amaze me so,” he whispered. “Tonight is all about you, my love.”
Ororo laughed huskily. “You never fail to deliver,” she reminded him.
“Ah, but tonight is different. Tonight is all about slow and easy.” His fingers massaged her thighs. “Close your eyes. Relax. Let me take care of you.”
Ororo did as she was told, her breath delayed every now and again as his hands lingered over certain spots. A long while later, as she arched beneath his demanding body, screaming his name to her Goddess, Ororo wondered if it was possible to love someone so much you could die from it.
“Storm!” Logan bolted upright in bed, his hand reaching forward in a futile attempt to grasp the misty vestige of his dream.
A deep shudder ran through his body. “Fuck,” he growled, one hand ruffling his sweat dampened hair. Night after night he dreamt of her, each dream more vivid than the last, and each one darker than the one before.
Logan reached out blindly, snatching the half empty can of piss warm beer from his nightstand and downing it in one swift chug. With a belch he tossed the tin across his room where it clattered against the small pyramid of cans he’d built after the previous night’s nightmares.
His teeth worked against each other, grinding his frustration. It had been months since he’s even see her, why he was still dreaming of her was beyond him. Well, no, it wasn’t, but he didn’t really feel like reliving the horrible day that his realization that he loved her had hit him, only too late to do anything about it.
For possibly the hundredth time that week alone he wondered if Ororo was happy with her choice of husband. Do you ever want more? Her haunting words ate at him, every hour of every day. If only he’d said something to her that fateful night on the phone, perhaps their paths would not have diverged so drastically.
Perhaps instead of an old blanket and a worn magazine in his bed, a long limbed, sable Goddess would be reclined beside him. Her soft touch soothing his brow. Her honey and velvet voice in his ear, panting his name as he took her to places only he could.
“Fuck.” His claws extended. One night. One all too brief night was all they’d shared, but it was imprinted on his psyche in a way nothing in his life ever had been. He knew this to be true. With his memories fully restored, Logan could honestly and sincerely say, no one ever effected him like Ororo had.
She deserved to be happy, he told himself, and if the all-mighty king of Wakanda did that for her, then who was he to say shit about it. It wasn’t like she’d asked for his opinion. Hell, she hadn’t even told him she was getting married. He grimaced. Had he been at the mansion instead of traipsing about Africa he would have received the same phone call the others got, announcing the impending nuptials, but that was beside the point. What he would have done had he been at the Institute, if anything, was still a mystery, and rethinking of shit he couldn’t change was futile.
Ororo was married. That was fact; no amount of what ifs, should haves or wanted to’s was going to change that. He grumbled, swinging his bare legs over the edge of the bed. With a snarl and a vengeful kick at the scattered beer cans on the floor Logan made his way to his closet, pulling on a pair of worn jeans and black tee, he snagged his leather jacket and small ready packed duffle.
The stillness of the dark was broken by the loud purr of a well tuned motorcycle engine and the squealing of rubber on asphalt. As the night wind howled in his ears and the trees whizzed by in a blur of hunter greens and shadows Logan could almost feel slender arms curled around his middle and hear a sultry laugh coupled with “Faster!” in his mind. Ororo had been one of few people he’d taken out on his bike, and the only one not deathly afraid of it and him when the ride was over. She was as much an adrenaline junkie as he was, and it was a past time they’d often shared. Back when she was an X-Man. Back when she was yours, his inner voice taunted.
Teeth bared he gunned the engine, trying to drown out memories best left forgotten. The irony of him of all people wishing to forget was not lost on him, he just didn't care, just didn’t want to feel the painful knot in his chest anymore.
It had been more than a year since he’d seen her, talked to her, touched her, yet she was in his mind, ever present, every hour of every day. He hated her for that. He really did.
Four days later
“You all right?”
Ororo glanced up distractedly. “Hmm?”
T’Challa leaned forward, taking her hand in his. “I asked if you were all right?”
She cast him a sidelong glance. “Why on earth would I be nervous?”
“Ororo. You’re about to see your family for the first time since we’ve been married. And there’s always the chance you’ll see Wol--”
“He won’t be there.” She interrupted.
T’Challa raised his brows. “Really?”
Ororo cleared her throat. “Well, in all likely hood, he won‘t. Logan rarely stays anywhere for an extended period of time. Chances are he’s off on some self assigned mission.”
T‘Challa studied her face carefully. “Are you hoping he’s not there?”
She shrugged. “What would it matter one way or the other?”
“If you’d rather not see him--”
Ororo sighed. “No, it’s not that.” She twisted her wedding band around her finger. “It’s just, that , well, you’re right. I’m nervous. Logan was one of my dearest friends, and I don’t know where we stand with one another anymore. It is a situation that troubles me.”
Her husband nodded, his warm eyes sympathetic and hard at once. “If the man has any sense he will value the friendship you have and be satisfied with that.”
Ororo’s mouth tilted. “You have no reason to be jealous, my love. It is you I chose, and it is you I would choose for all eternity. I love you.”
He gave her his most devilish smile. “Perhaps I could get that in writing?”
With an playful smile of her own Ororo pressed the small button beside her window, raising the divider between their driver and the two of them. “Who needs writing when I’ve pledged myself to you, body and soul.” She scooted from her seat, kneeling at his feet, working the fastening of his trousers.
“Ororo,” T’Challa groaned.
“Hush, my love.” She smiled up into his eyes. “This is all about you.”
“Do you see her?” Kitty asked, stepping onto the porch beside Peter.
“Not yet.” He took the glass of lemonade she extended towards him. “You are certain she is coming today?”
Kitty nodded, her brown hair glinting with amber highlights in the sun. “That’s what she said.” Of all the X-Men Kitty was the one Ororo made an extended effort to keep in touch with.
Peter glanced down at his watch. “What time did she say she was arriving?”
“Afterno--oooh my.” Kitty exclaimed, watching as the iron gates of the Institute parted allowing a small motorcade up the winding drive. Two black motorbikes flanked a long white limo, the Wakandia crest and flag marking the side. Behind the car tow more armed motorcycles followed.
As the limo halted Kitty descended the front steps hesitantly.
The driver of the limo rounded the car, opening the doors and assisting Ororo and bowing to T’Challa.
Kitty’s steps faltered further, taking in the sight of the woman who stood before her. For some reason, a foolish one now that she reflected upon it, Kitty had assumed Ororo would be in uniform. Instead, a form fitting gown of ivory and gold hugged Ororo’s lithe frame, her long hair braided atop her head, adorned with gold jewels and a subtly crafted headdress. She looked stunning and unapproachable; she looked like a Queen. Kitty felt a small stirring of uncertainty.
She needn‘t have worried. “Kitten!” Ororo spread her arms wide, a smile lighting her face as she strode forward, ignoring the fact that the train of her dress fell along the ground.
T’Challa shook his head, waving away the driver that had bent to lift the expensive fabric from the pavement. He smiled at Ororo’s back. His wife was many things, but materialistic was not one of them.
“Ororo!” Kitty felt all of her hesitation and doubt melt away in Ororo’s warm embrace.
Ororo stepped back, holding Kitty’s arms. “You look lovely, Kitten.” She turned her head. “Hello, little brother.”
Peter grinned, swinging Ororo up into his arms, holding her high as he had often done when they had first joined the X-Men together. “It is good to see you.” He set her back onto her feet.
Ororo reached her hand behind her, knowing T’Challa would be there. “You both know my husband.”
Kitty nodded, smiling. Peter stepped forward, holding out his hand. “Welcome.”
“Thanks.” T’Challa shook his hand. “Ororo speaks very highly and fondly of you both.”
“Lies,” Kitty laughed. “All lies.” She linked her arm through Ororo’s. “Please tell me you’re staying for awhile.”
Ororo nodded. “For a bit, yes.”
“Then you have got to see what Peter has done with your garden,” Kitty said.
The quartet began walking towards the back of the Institute, trailed by two armed sentries. Kitty glanced back over her shoulder furtively.
“They are a bit unnerving,” Ororo commented. “But one gets used to them.”
“How did you get armed guards past the Sentinels?” Peter asked.
“Diplomatic Immunity,” T’Challa said. He lifted his gaze directly towards one of the towering manned robots. “They can’t touch me. Or any of you so long as Ororo is here.”
Kitty’s eyebrows perked. “Really?”
He nodded. “Really.”
Ororo inclined her head. “They watch constantly?”
Peter spoke, his voice thick with repressed anger. “Constantly.”
Ororo turned to T’Challa. “And they can not touch the X-Men, or retaliate for any actions you or I take?”
T’Challa’s eyes narrowed, speculating what his lovely wife was up to. “That is correct.”
“Well then.” Ororo smiled, her eyes glowing white. “I’d like a little privacy for my visit.” Thunder rumbled, lightning searing the sky.
“They’re manned now,” Kitty said as warning.
“Oh, I know.” Ororo said. “I have no intention of striking them down.” Her white eyes flickered. “There.”
Kitty watched as the sentinels glowing red eyes dimmed to black, a loud whirring sound filling the air as a half a dozen large robots powered down. “What did you do?”
“A small electromagnetic pulse through the neural nets of each monstrosity.” She shrugged. “Harmless to the men inside.”
“Brilliant.” Kitty grinned.
“Storm!” Valerie Cooper was stomping towards them, soldiers trailing her, all scowling.
The Wakandian sentry guards stepped forward, ready to defend. With a word T’Challa had them stand down, placing his arm around Ororo’s waist, facing the approaching government agents stoically.
“What is the meaning of this?” Val demanded.
Ororo glared right back. “I could ask you the very same question, Val.” She waved one hand towards the motionless machines. “Sentinels at the X-Men’s front door? Have you forgotten what those things represent for us?”
Val placed her hands on her hips, her glasses reflecting a glint of sunlight. “They are a necessary precaution given the circumstances.”
“What circumstances? M day? The X-men saved this world--again, and this is how you repay them?”
“The world is in chaos right now, Storm. We all must make sacrifices in order to see that it is put to rights once more.”
“Put right?” Thunder rumbled. “Forced containment of mutants. Freedoms revoked. Constant surveillance. None of that is right!” Ororo disputed. “Not everyone is making sacrifices, Val. Mutants, and mutants only are being made to suffer the indignities of mistrust and pointed fingers.”
“It was a mutant that caused this!” Val shouted.
“And what of World War I? World war II? Vietnam? Internment camps? Auschwitz? The everyday atrocities that run rampant in this world? Mutants are not the cause of all of it. It’s selective blame, and hypocritical.” Ororo stepped forward, her eyes glowing white fire. “Your kind disgust me.”
The soldiers behind Val lifted their weapons.
“You will stand down, and stand down now!” T’Challa stepped in front of Ororo, his face a mask of fury. “Remove yourselves from this property immediately.”
“You are not in Wakanda now,” Valerie pointed out.
“No.” He agreed. “I am not. In Wakanda my people are significantly smarter than the idiocy displayed here today. I am however a UN diplomat and unless you’d like to be sweeping floors in the Pentagon basement, Miss Cooper, I suggest you take leave of my line of sight. Immediately. You’ve insulted my wife. It is a slight I will not let pass.”
“She damaged United States government property.” Val argued, weaker this time, knowing that if push came to shove T’Challa could run rough shot through her in political circles.
T’Challa’s teeth flashed in a dangerous smile. “Bill me.”
Valerie glowered, but turned and walked away taking the soldiers with her.
“Oh my God.” Kitty breathed. “They’re really going to walk away.”
“If they know what’s good for them,” T’Challa said softly, his hard gaze watching the retreating figures.
Ororo’s fingers squeezed his. “Thank you, my love,” she said quietly.
He glanced at her, his features immediately softening. “Now, how about this garden you were speaking of, Katherine?” he asked.
“Oh, it’s this way. And call me Kitty.” She grinned at him, approval radiating from her. She leaned into Ororo, whispering, “You did good.”
“The best.” Ororo whispered back.
T’Challa smiled having heard every word.
Later that Evening
The general rustle and mumble of multiple conversations filled the air, each a bit more excited than usual, knowing that for one night at least the Sentinels weren’t listening. To ensure that, Ororo kept an electromagnetic shield around the perimeter of the Institute. It was a tiring exercise, but one well worth the relief she felt in the students and in her former fellow X-Men.
After a walk about the garden and a tour of the newly renovated wings of the mansion Ororo had spent time with several of the younger students.
The day passed quickly with Kitty and Peter who took turns in relaying stories to T’Challa of some fonder memories, and funny anecdotes. Twice he had pulled her in his arms, kissing her and staring at her in awe as a result.
She cast him an affectionate look down the table, where he was at present listening to Bishop and Nightcrawler. Sensing her eyes on him he lifted his head, returning the warm smile.
Seeing it, Ororo was reminded of another whose smile was known to melt hearts. “Where is Gambit?” Ororo looked around the room, a frown on her face. “I’d very much like to see him.” She glanced at Rogue, who in turn gazed at her plate.
“What?” Ororo asked. “Where is he?”
“Wherever Apocalypse is, I’d imagine.” Emma strode into the dining room, her cloak flapping about her bare thighs.
“What?” Ororo blinked, her mouth parted in surprise. “Rogue?”
The brunette beauty lifted watery eyes. “It’s true.”
“No.” Ororo breathed. “Gambit would never--”
“Always so quick to defend the murderous Cajun, aren’t you?” Emma pointed out.
“When?” Ororo demanded.
“About six months ago.” Cyclops answered cautiously.
Ororo shook her head. “Why wasn’t I told?”
Emma smiled, lifting her glass of wine. “It was X-Men business.” The jab was purposeful and effective, reminding Ororo that despite all she gave to the team, she was no longer an X-man. An outsider now.
T’Challa made his way to her, resting his warm hand on her shoulder comfortingly, sensing her inner distress where she remained outwardly passive. His strength was reassuring, immediately lifting some of the weight settling on her heart.
“You know, I don’t believe I’ve yet to congratulate you on your nuptials, Storm. You two make a striking couple,” Emma stated, her mouth curved mockingly. “To think, I thought your tastes ran more…undomesticated than that, but apparently I was mistaken. How fortunate for you that you managed to nail yourself a genuine king.” The intonation that Ororo was somehow unworthy was missed by no one.
T’Challa’s deep easy voice filled the uncomfortable silence following Emma’s statement. “Your congratulations are thoughtful indeed, Miss Frost, it is Miss correct? However, it is I who am fortunate enough to be married to such a woman. The title is unimportant, for Ororo is far more than a queen, she is a goddess amongst women and as far removed from domesticated, as a pseudo-mock queen of an elitist little club is to a genuine Queen.”
Emma spluttered, her blue eyes narrowing. “Why you arrogant--”
“Hush now, Emma.” Ororo’s eyes glowed in the dimly lit dining room. “You’ve said all I’m willing to hear this evening.”
Beast’s warm rumbling laugh broke the tension. “Ah, Ororo, it is good to see palace life has not made you soft.”
T’Challa joined in the lighthearted attempt Beast was making. “Try as I might she refuses to be spoiled.”
“Yeah, she’s like that.”
All eyes turned to the doorway, a dark shadow stepping forward, eyes glinting like burnished silver.
“Logan.“ Ororo breathed. She met his heavy gaze, memories of the last time they were together filling the space between them.
“You’re just in time for dinner, Wolverine.” Peter called.
“Yeah,” Kitty added with a chuckle. “We’re apparently having humble pie.”
Emma shot her a haughty glare.
“Not hungry.” With that he turned away from the door and disappeared back into the shadows, never once looking anywhere but at Ororo.
“Well, now that everything has calmed down, maybe we can eat,” Cyclops said, taking his seat.
Emma lifted her glass to her lips. “Au contraire, my love. I think things just got a lot more interesting.”
Tears and Rain by windrider1
The Danger Room was unnaturally quiet. Ororo stood just inside the silver hydraulic doors, momentarily thrown off kilter by the room‘s tomb like silence. The Danger Room had always been, for as far back as Ororo could remember, an integral part in the training and development of the X-Men. A room that had been alive with holographic opponents and simulations, helping to forge the teams into the responsive and capable units they were.10
Alive, as it happened, turned out to be the operative word. Ororo gave a sad sigh, thinking of all the changes the X-Men had been forced to endure over the past months. Even before Wanda and the fiasco she caused, there had been the revelation that Charles had known the Danger Room had become sentient, aware of itself, and yet he had done nothing, had intentionally used the program regardless to it’s AI, and knowing that fact had changed the X-Men irrevocably. They were fractured. A shattered reflection of what they had once been.
Now, after M day, with Xavier gone, and the world as they once knew it changed in ways unimaginable, they all needed each other more than ever. Which was why she was in the danger room, swallowing her pride and self doubt, watching the strong feral across the room as he hung a large heavy bag from the ceiling. Fluorescent light gleamed over slick muscles that expanded and contracted with each move he made. He was as primal and masculine and beautiful as she remembered him to be.
Laying across her husband’s chest last night, with his heart thudding comfortingly beneath her ear, Ororo had felt a bone deep sadness. Seeing Logan at dinner and having him just walk away from her had hurt. She knew things could never be as they once were between them, but she wanted to try and repair their splintered friendship.
From across the room Logan’s gray eyes peered at her from behind the heavy bag, narrowing slightly.
Ororo gave him a cautious smile by way of greeting. Without so much as a return acknowledgement he set about his business once more, pulling a long chain over his shoulders and adjusting it so that the bag hung in the right spot. Given the room’s vastness, it had been decided that it would be a shame to let it go to waste, so it was given to Logan so that he could continue to use it for his combat classes-- minus the fancy gadgets. That suited Logan just fine. He liked things the old fashioned way. A little bare knuckle education never hurt anyone.
Taking a deep, steadying breath Ororo squared her shoulders, crossing the room in long, even strides, the heels of her shoes clacking against the linoleum. Once she stood beside the ladder, she cleared her throat.
After several moments it became obvious that he wasn’t going to acknowledge her. “Are you planning on ignoring me forever, Logan?”
He grunted, dropping from the step that he was perched on and began picking his scattered tools up off the floor.
Ororo frowned at the bent over Canadian. “Logan.”
He closed his tool box with a slap of his hand, ignoring her.
He stood, lifting the box and his discarded tee, shouldering past her and marching towards the exit.
“Wolverine!” The lights flickered.
Logan stopped but didn’t turn.
Ororo felt her throat tighten, uncertainty creeping into her mind. This was Logan. The person that at one time had been closer to her than anyone she’d ever known, and now there was this immeasurable gulf separating them. A distance that she had no idea how to breech, but wanted to desperately. She stared at his back, wanting so very badly to reach for him.
“Don’t do that.” His voice was low and gruff, so low that she almost hadn’t heard him.
“Do what?” she asked softly, confused.
He inhaled a shuddering breath, closing his eyes, ignoring her question. “What is it ya want, Storm?” His voice was harsh, as though forced from constricted lungs.
He still hadn’t turned, but at least he was speaking to her. “I want my friend back.” She answered simply.
He grunted, a small growl of a sound that made her heart hitch with aching familiarity.
Taking any response from him as a sign of improvement Ororo continued. “It has been far too long, old friend. I have missed you terribly. Our friendship--”
“Stop.” Logan said flatly. “You don’t need me. You’ve got Panther. Yer married.”
Ororo nodded. “Yes, I am, and I do, but that does not mean I do not wish for things between us to be as they were…before.”
He tilted his head, giving her a view of his whiskered profile. “Before what? Your marriage? Or before we fucked?”
She flinched slightly but answered firmly. “Both.”
He snorted. “Ain’t gonna happen.”
Still staring at the broad expanse of his back Ororo fought the urge to jerk him around to face her. “Why not?”
“It just ain’t.”
She sighed heavily, clearly frustrated. “This I do not understand. I know you didn’t approve of T’Challa, but you did not want Jean to wed Scott either, yet you remained friends with her after they were married.”
“That was different.”
Old hurt caught her by surprise, its biting sting stealing her breath. “Of course,” she said with a trace of bitterness. “Everything is different for Jean. How could I have forgotten.”
“Hnh.” He adjusted his grip on the tool box handle, shifting from one foot to the other, an obvious indication that he’d rather be moving on.
She opened her mouth, intending to tell him that although she didn’t understand his refusal to speak with her that she would be his friend when he was ready, and instead she blurted, “You could swallow your pride for Jean, but not for me, right? I’m just not worth that much effort, is that it?”
Logan visibly stiffened. “It ain’t like that.”
Her voice shook with barely contained anger and sadness. “Then explain it, Logan, because from where I’m standing that is exactly what it’s like.”
He shook his head. “Don’t matter. It won’t change nothin’.”
“Explain it!” she demanded, her eyes flashing. “Explain to me why you made the effort to remain friends with Jean but not with me! Tell me why every letter I wrote was returned unopened. Why every phone call I made was ignored!” She was being overly dramatic, she knew, but she was too hurt to care. She’d been nothing but a loyal and true friend to Logan for years, watching as he loved her best friend, grieving for each of his lost loves, and always, always being the shoulder he could lean on. And how did he treat her? Like a throwaway; she’d lost her usefulness and now she was expendable. Once again the lights overhead flickered in response to her emotional turmoil, the sound of filaments burning out hissed in the room. “Why?” Her voice cracked. “Just tell me why.”
The tool box crashed to the floor with a thunderous clatter, wrenches and drivers scattering. “You wanna know why!?” Before Ororo could blink Logan whirled on her, his teeth gleaming in the now shadowed room, his dark eyes glinting with animal ferocity as his fingers bit into her elbows. “Because I never loved Jean like I love you!”
Taken aback by the vehemence of his response, as well as the raw pain that she saw reflected in his eyes, Ororo could only stare at him mutely.
Her stillness broke a moment later and she reached for him. “Oh, Logan.” Her instinctive reaction was to hold him, to soothe him as she had so often done in the past, her heart aching for his hurting.
“Don’t.” He stepped away from her, his chest rising and falling heavily. He looked down at the floor, holding his hand up as though to ward her off. “Just don’t, Storm.”
Her hands dropped limply to her sides. The silence in the room was deafening.
Logan breathed a weighty huff, rubbing his temples. He could feel her sadness beating at him like a moth against a light.
Ororo tilted her head, regarding him. “So, you think you love me?”
“I know I do.” He lifted his steadfast gaze to hers. “More than life I love you, Ororo, and it‘s killing me.”
Oh, Goddess, Jean, was this what it was like for you? To see that look on his face? To love Scott so completely, yet want to soothe Logan’s hurt? Dear sister, how did you do it? “Log--”
“Ya don’t gotta say it, Storm. I can see it all over yer face. You love yer husband.” He sounded deflated.
“How come you never told me?” she whispered.
He gave her a long look, his expression grim and vulnerable all at once. “I went back for you.”
She nodded, her eyes swimming. “I know. T’Challa told me.”
That surprised Logan. “He did?”
“Hnh. That’s just my luck, I guess. Always a day late and a dollar short,” he muttered running his hand through his wild hair.
Ororo clenched her hands together to keep from touching him. “Logan.”
His lips twisted. She looked so completely staggered by his admission that he almost wished he could take it back.
Seeing her, being with her again, however briefly, was pleasurable torture to his heart. When he had strode through the front doors of the Institute last night he had fully intended on stomping straight to his room and ignoring the dining room occupants, but halfway up the staircase he caught a whiff of sandalwood and rain.
He hadn’t been able to suppress the flare of hope that ignited. Had she left her husband? Come home to her family? But those flames were doused coldly and effectively the moment he had seen T’Challa’s hand on Ororo’s shoulder, and the protective way the other man stood behind her; guarding her.
Then she had spoken. Just his name on a whispered breath of air. So soft and full that he doubted anyone else had heard it, but he had, and he had nearly dropped to his knees right then and there.
“I sometimes think about that night on the phone.” he said almost absently. “Ya remember, when ya called me from Africa?”
“I just gotta know, if I’d asked ya that night to come be with me in Japan, wouldya have?”
She answered without hesitation. “Yes. I would have.”
“Hnh.” He looked away, a slow tick in the base of his jaw telling her all she needed to know of his reaction to that statement.
“And what of you, Logan ? Had I asked you to come to me in Africa, would you have?”
He wanted to answer in the affirmative, but knew he‘d be lying. “No. I woulda told ya no.”
Ororo smiled sadly. “Always a wanderer.”
Logan understood in that moment what T’Challa gave to Ororo that he hadn’t been able to. The man made her his priority. She didn’t chase T’Challa, and he didn’t chase her. They were there for one another, constants for and with each other. He loathed the man a little more for that.
“He make ya happy?” Logan asked after a time.
“He does.” Ororo couldn’t help the warmth that seeped into her voice.
He swallowed. “You love him?”
“I do.” She nodded.
Ororo closed her eyes, trying to control the frantic tattoo of her heart. “I…did once. More than I can say.” She confessed. It was the first time she had ever really told him of her feelings.
Logan watched her face carefully, his own darkening. “I know this is the part where I’m supposed ta be the bigger man and say that I’m happy fer ya, and that I’m glad you found someone to love, but I can’t--I won’t lie to ya. I fuckin’ hate that yer married. I can’t stand knowing that ya loved me once and I was too stupid ta see it, and I really hate the way I ache,” he touched his chest, “So bad I wanna die from it. It’s all I can do ta be this close to ya, and not hold you. Touch you. Make you mine.” His husky timbre rumbled with a possessive lilt.
Ororo opened her eyes slowly, her breath catching at the feral glimmer in his eyes. Everything about him spoke of passion. The way his nostrils flared just so, like he was catching her scent. The way his upper lip curled slightly, revealing white canines. His demeanor screamed possession, domination, mate.
He leaned toward her…she moved away, a single tear slipping along her cheek.
Shaking himself Logan stepped back. “I should go.”
“Logan, wait.” Ororo tried to catch his hand.
He growled over his shoulder. “I can’t, ‘Roro. As much as it kills me not ta have you in my life, it hurts less than being this close to ya and not havin’ ya.”
It hurt to breathe. Of all the things that she had meant to say, and to hear, Logan confessing that he loved her had not even crossed her mind. “I don’t know what to say.”
“I already toldya, ya don’t need to say anything.”
Ororo’s gaze wavered, tears shimmering. “Why does this feel like goodbye?”
Logan turned his face away. “’Cuz it has to be.”
Outside the doors Logan leaned against the wall, his fist clenched over his head, his head resting against his forearm. Heartache was nothing new for him, and he knew he wouldn’t die from it, though he certainly felt like he would. He needed her like the air he breathed, but the real question was did he lover her enough to be willing to let her go so that she could have what she needed.
With monumental effort he straightened and walked the long corridor away from the Danger Room, away from the woman he loved, fighting the desire to run back to her every step of the way.
A few hours later
“Do you really have to leave so soon?” Kitty asked with a plea. She, along with Peter, Kurt, Cyclops and Emma were seeing Ororo and T’Challa off.
“I’m afraid so, Kitten.” Ororo hugged the petit brunette close. “We must get to Washington in time for tomorrows conferences.”
Cyclops stepped forward, shaking T’Challa’s hand. “Busy days ahead of you.”
T’Challa nodded. “Yes. The turmoil over mutant rights is growing exponentially by the day. I hope to quell some of the misinformation and help put a stop to the political madness that seems to be rampant over here.” He cast the sentinels a pointed look.
“Good luck with that,” Kitty said dryly.
“He doesn’t need luck, darling, he’s got his own little mutant trophy wife.” Emma’s cultured tones dripped acid sweet.
Ignoring the woman’s spiteful tongue T’Challa shook Peter’s hand. “Very nice to meet you. I hope to see you and Katherine in Wakanda soon.”
“Most definitely.” Peter nodded. “I’d love to paint some of the scenery you were telling me about. It sounds like a beautiful place.”
T’Challa smiled. “Wakanda is indeed magnificent, although I must admit that I am a bit biased.”
“Just a bit?” Ororo laughed up at him.
“A lot,” he amended, brushing her lips with a soft kiss. “Thank you for your hospitality.” He said to Cyclops.
“Anytime.” Scott hugged Ororo. “I mean that,” he told her.
“Thank you.” Ororo stepped back into T’Challa’s arms. “I guess that’s everyone.”
“Not quite everyone,” Logan’s gruff voice caught them all by surprise. He descended the front steps, his familiar cocky swagger and trademark cigar firmly in place, making Ororo‘s lips twitch.
“Hey, darlin’,” he said when he stood in front of her and T’Challa.
“Logan,” she said quietly.
“Panther.” Logan glared at the taller man.
“Kitty. Peter.” Kitty mouthed, rolling her eyes in good humor.
Logan extended his hand.
T’Challa blinked, but then grasped it firmly.
“Ya hurt her and no one will find yer body.” Logan growled.
Instead of being offended T’Challa gave Logan a long studious look then smiled slightly. “I’d expect no less.”
Logan looked at Ororo again, forcibly silencing the howling voice in his mind at the idea of letting her go. “Couldn’t leave it like it was. If ya ever need me, ‘Roro, I’ll be there. Take care of yerself, Windrider.”
“Always. Same goes for you too, Mountain Man.” She stepped forward, wrapping her arms around him.
Logan closed his eyes, burying his face in her cloud of hair, hugging her tight. Don’t let go…don’t let go… “G’bye.” He let go.
“Bye.” She held on a moment longer, then she too let go.
“Ready?” T’Challa asked gently, seeing her chin quiver as Logan strode away from them.
Ororo placed her hand in his, meshing their fingers together. Though her heart ached for a love that could have been, it sang with the love that was. “Yes.”
T’Challa lay propped on his elbow as he watched Ororo sleep, his knuckles running absently along the silky skin of her arm. He didn’t think he’d ever get used to loving her, or having her love him. It resonated in his blood, alive and pulsating, so intense at times it blinded him. She was a miracle, and the idea of her in any danger made him insane with fear. It was that fear that kept him awake this night.
Ororo stirred, lifting sleep heavy eyelids. “Mmmm. Hello, my love.”
“Hello, beautiful.” T’Challa said softly, caressing her cheek.
Catching the strained note in her husband’s voice Ororo sat up, unmindful of her nakedness. “What troubles you, T’Challa?”
He inclined his head, combing her slightly curling hair off of her shoulders, the tips of his fingers brushing the curve of her collar bone. “Always so observant,” he murmured.
“You are a part of me. When you are troubled, I am troubled.” She lifted his hands and kissed his fingertips. “What keeps you from sleeping beside your loving wife?” she tried to add a note of humor to her concern.
“Don’t come with me tomorrow,” he said gravely.
“To the UN meetings. I would prefer you not to attend.”
“What? Why?” Ororo asked, her brows furrowing.
T’Challa sighed. He had known she wouldn’t like taking a proverbial backseat. “The anti-mutant protests are getting more and more violent in an already unstable atmosphere, Ororo. I do not want you to put yourself in any unnecessary danger.”
She smiled at him reassuringly. “I am fully capable of handling myself,” she reminded him. “I am your wife, Queen of Wakanda, and my place is beside you.”
“Hush, love. You will not win this argument and you well know it.”
“Hm.” He lifted his hands, cradling her face. “Perhaps then I should put my mouth to better use.”
Ororo smiled lovingly, twining her arms around his neck. “What a marvelous idea, King. You are such a wise, wise ruler.”
“Troublesome woman,” T’Challa chided playfully, taking her fully in his arms. He knew he would never talk her out of partaking in the meetings. It went against her very nature to sit idle.
“Irksome man.” She countered.
He laughed, a low deep chuckle that sent waves of warmth through her. “Then we are quite the pair,” he said.
“We are,” she agreed.
“You are the greatest gift ever bestowed upon my life, Ororo. I love you now, and I will love you forever.”
“And I you.” Ororo pulled him to her, kissing away the lines around his mouth, easing the worry from his brow with her loving.
Hours later, sedate and lethargic from their lovemaking Ororo placed her hand over her abdomen. She’d tell him later…
“The gross negligence the world has displayed in response to the suffering of an entire race of people is appalling.” T’Challa’s voice resonated with clear conviction and disapproval over the crowd. He stood center stage of the packed auditorium, his broad shoulders cloaked in his Royal robes, pacing the floor, speaking with authority and purpose. “Mutantcy is not a criminal offense and yet several countries are policing mutants as if it were.”
“Perhaps it should be,” The representative from Japan countered.
“And perhaps being black should be, or Asian or blond. I have an idea, let’s monitor every left handed person in the world.” T’Challa suggested with clear exasperation. The debates had been going on for two days and still no progress in the stalemate regarding the rights of mutants. In the wake of M Day many countries had reverted back to the old philosophy of mutants being a danger to society.
“Now you are just being ridiculous, T’Challa.” The representative of France chided. “If not for the acts of mutants that dreadful M day would never have occurred.”
“And if not for those very same people, our world would never have been restored. You can not punish a whole for the acts of a few.”
“Mutants are dangerous.”
“No more so than anyone else,” T’Challa argued.
From her seat behind T’Challa Ororo watched him, feeling her ire rise with each passing comment that T’Challa had to defend himself against. He stood tall and firm, his broad shoulders squared beneath his dark robe, his chin held high, refusing to be cowed by the overwhelming opposition he faced. Fierce pride swept through her as she watched him.
“Tell me, T’Challa, would you be so staunchly opposed to these regulations if your wife wasn’t a filthy mutant?” A new voice called out from the back of the assembly.
T’Challa’s head snapped up, his eyes narrowing on the figure in the rear of the auditorium. “It would be ill advised to continue speaking of my wife in that tone.”
“That isn’t an answer, oh mighty T‘Challa.”
Ororo twisted in her seat, straining to see who was speaking. From the look on her husband’s face he recognized the speaker.
“It is not an answer you seek, but a conflict. I will not give you the satisfaction.”
The man laughed. “You are mistaken. I seek no conflict, King. I seek a resolution.”
T’Challa turned away from the podium microphone, whispering to the slight man standing beside him. The man nodded, making his way to the upper decks of the assembly room. Probably to call an adjournment, Ororo speculated.
“Your queen is an abomination to the royal line of Wakanda. A once great lineage forever tainted by the likes of this infidel.” The mysterious figure pointed an accusatory finger towards Ororo as he walked down the center aisle towards the podium.
A rustle of anticipation swept over the attendance, an uneasy wave making several people rise to their feet.
“What is the meaning of this?” One of the delegates demanded, mopping his bald head with a kerchief.
“The meaning? Why it is no more than setting wrong things right.” As he came under the lights Ororo blinked, recognizing the markings on the man’s clothing. He was Wakandian.
“T’Shan,” T’Challa greeted coldly.
“Your Highness.” The man answered with mocking civility. “How does that old saying go? As you can see the rumors of my death were greatly exaggerated.”
T’Challa ignored that comment. “You have no place here, T’Shan.”
“No, you took that place from me,” the other man said bitterly. “Took away the one dream I’d ever had.”
T’Challa narrowed his eyes. “The throne was never yours. You were never worthy. Now leave. This is not the place for your petty rivalry.”
T’Shan laughed. “Petty rivalry? So arrogant, King.”
Something about the other man made Ororo’s blood run cold.
“Always so unbelievably arrogant,” T’Shan continued scathingly. “So completely sure you can handle anything.”
T’Challa lifted an eyebrow, crossing his arms over his chest and tapping his fingers against his bicep. There was a subtle shift of weight that Ororo noted. Her husband was readying to defend himself. “I can handle you,” T’Challa said. “I have before.”
T’Shan scowled, his hand rising automatically to the scar marring his otherwise handsome face. The mark of a traitor.
“I see you remember,” T’Challa said smoothly, giving the impression of being completely unflappable. “I remind you again, T’Shan, you are not welcome here.”
“Afraid my words will sway those you hope to influence?”
“You are no threat to me,” T’Challa stated impassively. “But your presence in these proceedings is unwelcome.”
“How so? Am I not the voice of the people? The common man?”The other man glowered. “And as the voice of your people, I feel it my duty to express deep concern about the sad state of political affairs when a prominent ruler such as yourself thinks with his groin as opposed to with his head. Is rutting with your mutant worth your kingdom, T’Challa?”
“Enough!” T’Challa moved forward, but Ororo’s hand on his shoulder and her whispered voice stopped him.
“It is what he wishes, love. To incite you to violence, to show you as irrational. Do not feed into his propaganda.”
T’Challa’s stance relaxed, but his eyes snapped fire at the man in the aisle. “You have overstepped yourself, T’Shan, and insulted the Queen of Wakanda. It is not a slight I will forget.” The Dora stepped forward, flanked by her counterpart, seemingly appearing from nowhere.
T’Shan smiled sadistically. “I imagine you won’t, as I am certain you will remember this day for the rest of your life.” With that he gave a mock bow, treading back up the aisle, away from the podium.
One of the regulatory Ambassadors stood, sounding his gavel. “It would appear as though nothing more productive will be happening today, so I suggest we recess.”
Several mutters and wary looks were cast at the stage where Ororo and T’Challa stood.
They remained on the platform until they were alone, save for the two female sentry guards behind them.
“One step forward,” Ororo muttered with a heavy sigh. It never seemed to end, the hatred of mutants. Growing exponentially by the day.
T’Challa turned towards her, opening his arms and enfolding her. “I am sorry you had to be subjugated to such idiocy.”
Ororo sighed, content in his embrace. “It is unfortunately nothing new. I have heard the same tired tirade for most of my life.”
He tilted her face up. “How I wish I had been there for you.”
She laughed slightly. “And what would you have done? Trounced everyone that said a bad thing to me?”
“Yes.” He answered vehemently.
She studied the set of his jaw and the determined gleam in his eyes. “You would have, wouldn’t you?” she asked, a bit awestruck at that.
“Of course.” He said it so simply, as though it was the most natural thing in the world.
Ororo lifted her lips, pressing hers against his gently. “T’Challa…”
“Mmmm?” His mouth moved languidly over hers.
“There’s..” she sighed, tasting him. “Something I want…”
“Me too,” he said huskily, nipping her lower lip.
Ororo laughed breathlessly. “Not that.”
“No?” T’Challa murmured, tugging her towards the stage stairs, grinning mischievously.
“Well, not right now,” she amended.
“Perhaps I can sway your position on that matter, you Highness,” he teased against her ear, making her shiver.
“You can be…very persuasive.” She smiled. “But I want to bring you some joy on this troubled day.”
“You are my joy,” T’Challa said, burying his fingers in her hair, kissing her slowly.
Ororo closed her eyes, basking in his love, feeling a familiar shimmer of awareness go through her.
T’Challa broke away unhurriedly, lingering over her pouty bottom lip. “I love you.”
Ororo reached up and caressed his smooth cheek. “And I you.”
“That alone will see us through the long days ahead,” he promised.
“Yes.” She agreed. Everything was more bearable with T’Challa sharing the weight with her, and the same held true for him she knew.
“You did not have to take up the mantle for mutants, T’Challa.” She spoke softly. “It only adds to your burden as King and is above your scope of duties”
He pressed his cheek against the crown of her head. “Being King is my duty. Being your husband is my privilege. It would be remiss of me to let you face this battle alone.”
“You are such a good King, a great man, a loving husband, and soon…devoted father.” Ororo said nonchalantly.
T’Challa’s mouth fell agape. “Ororo?”
She smiled. “Yes.”
T’Challa laughed boisterously, swinging Ororo up into his arms.
Ororo threw her head back, her throaty laugh filled with love and happiness. “We are finally going to give your mother those grandchildren she’s been nagging about.”
T’Challa grinned. “She’ll be thrilled. Almost as much as I--” the rest of that sentence remained unfinished as the walls of the building shook, a thunderous roar deafening the two of them. “Ororo!”
Ororo tried to turn her head but suddenly the ground was rushing up at her, dust and chunks of wall falling about her head. Blessed Goddess, the building was collapsing!! Every nightmare she’d suffered her entire life rose to the surface.
“Bomb!” T’Challa pulled her against his chest, burying her face in his neck, covering her with his broad frame.
Another rumble went through the building, screams coming from all around as the walls tumbled down…
Blackness. Followed by running water? Something was trickling…
“Hold on…” Ororo heard T’Challa’s voice in her ear, his solid weight shielding her. “I’m here.”
There was something wrong with his voice. Ororo tilted her face towards his. He was crying she realized. “…T’Challa…” She reached up to wipe his tears, surprised to see her fingers stained crimson.
She tried to move but couldn’t. T’Challa’s body was still covering hers. She struggled to move her legs, nearly crying out when she couldn’t.
“Easy, my love” T’Challa said, his calm voice soothing her. His trembling hand stroked her matted hair.
It was then that Ororo heard the sirens, and heard muffled voices that seemed miles away. They were buried under a ton of rubble.
Okay, breathe. Just breathe. She began to hyperventilate.
“I’ll never forget the first time I laid eyes on you.” T’Challa murmured, continuing to stroke her hair and face. “You were the most exquisite creature I had ever seen.” He smiled, a tear dripping from his chin to her lips. “A vision in the desert. So perfect I thought I’d dreamed you into being.”
Ororo hiccupped, tasting blood. She watched his eyes, focusing on the soothing timbre of his voice. He was lulling her into calm, helping her through her fear.
T’Challa’s stoic face cracked, a grimace of sorrow robbing him of his handsomeness. “I never loved anyone as much as I love you. I knew that moment that I saw you that you were my destiny.”
Ororo gave a broken sob and a choked smile. “Always…the suave…playboy.”
“Married, reformed playboy,” he corrected. He lowered his head so that their foreheads rested against one another.
“How…uhhhh… long have we been in here?” Ororo asked trying to focus, finding it increasingly difficult to do so. The lure of blissful oblivion was a strong one, but not nearly as compelling as her husband’s deep molasses eyes.
“A few hours.” T’Challa answered.
Ororo tried to digest that, but instead felt her panic rising again. “I can’t feel my legs,” she told him. Another thought stole her breath completely, fresh tears cascading along soot covered cheeks. “The baby! T’Challa, our baby!”
“Shh, love.” He kissed her gently, sweetly. “All that matter is you now. Stay with me, my heart. I need you. I need you to survive, Ororo.”
“I’m sorry…” Ororo whispered, the feeling was now leaving her hands.
T’Challa cradled her head. “Hold on, Ororo. Ororo! Damn it, wife, look at me! Ororo!”
Was she dead?
“We found two more!” A deep voice bellowed.
Ororo winced, barely conscious. The feeling T’Challa’s weight lifting from her body drew her back temporarily from the black. She squeezed his hand as he rose.
“…Love..” The dark was calling again.
Why was she under water?
Ororo flailed, her eyes snapping open but seeing nothing.
Panic was making her delusional, she rationalized. How else would she explain why she heard Logan under water with her? She needed to get to the surface. T’Challa was waiting for her. She lashed out against the icy current holding her down.
“Hank, Goddamnit get in here!”
A small prick in her arm and then the seas were calming.
Ororo turned her head, a large blue blur taking up her vision. Her breath echoed shallowly in her ears.
Ororo’s throat protested her weak attempt to speak.
She turned her head, flinching at the blinding pain shooting through her temples. “Logan?”
A blurred Wolverine crouched beside her. “Hey, darlin’.” He said quietly.
Ororo’s brows furrowed. What was Logan doing in Wakanda? She opened her mouth to ask him that very question when she felt the tubes in her arms. She gave her bandaged hands and arms a furtive glance. She then looked around the room she was in. The Med Lab at Xavier’s.
“Why am I here?” Her voice was raw, hoarse and unused.
Logan ran a hand over his face before lifting one of her limp hands from the bed. “There was a bombing, ‘Roro. At the Embassy.” He cradled her hand against his whiskered chin, yet she couldn’t feel it. “You were brought here for treatment.”
Fractured images entered Ororo’s mind, making her head ache terribly. She barely remembered what had happened, but she remembered being afraid and T’Challa soothing her, talking her through it.
Sudden fear clawed at her insides. “Where is T’Challa?”
Logan swallowed. “Rest now, ‘Ro.”
Fear was quickly escalating. “Where is T’Challa?” Oh, Goddess how bad was he hurt?
“Where is my husband, Logan? Where is he?!” She struggled to sit up. “I have to see him. He needs me. If he’s hurt, he needs me!”
Logan grasped her shoulders gently. “Shh, easy, darlin’. Please, yer gonna hurt yourself.”
“I’m going to hurt something if you don’t tell me where he is!” Why couldn’t she move her legs? “Logan, I can take it. How bad is he hurt?” She pleaded. “Please…I need to be with him.” She gazed into his eyes. Steel gray was molten silver with turmoil. Time stuttered to a halt, the room narrowing to only those eyes that said so much. “No,” Ororo shook her head, a scream building in her chest. “No. No. No. Logan, NO!”
“’Ro, I’m so sorry--”
“No!!” She tried to yank her hand away but was too weak to move it. “No! Not T’Challa! He was right there! I saw him!” Tears ran reckless and free, her throat constricting to the point of pain. She closed her eyes. This was a dream. She was dreaming. It was a horrible nightmare and any minute she would wake up and see T’Challa’s laughing face above hers. “Please…” she begged. “Please let me wake up.”
Logan felt his own throat tighten, a ball forming as he watched Ororo struggle with what he was telling her.
Ororo opened her eyes, their pooled depths meeting silver and not molasses. The truth made evident by the tears in Logan‘s eyes. Ororo‘s teeth began to chatter. “Logan…please…please kill me.”
In that moment Logan would have sold his soul to the devil to bring T’Challa back to her. “’Ro…I’m so sorry.”
Ororo’s scream echoed throughout the small room, only slightly louder than the shattering of her heart.
The room was cold. But she supposed that’s how morgues were supposed to be.~~~
Ororo hovered just inside the door to the Mansion’s mortuary. It was a room not often seen, but unfortunately had become a necessity over the years. She exhaled a slow breath, the small puff of air visible in the slate and steel room.
Just a few feet away, on an examination slab lay a body draped with a white sheet. Logically she knew it was T’Challa, after all Henry had told her that it was, but her heart, her foolish heart, refused to believe. He couldn’t be gone, he just couldn’t.
Hesitation burned through her. If she didn’t look, then it wasn’t true. If she didn’t see…then he wouldn’t be gone…
Slowly, buoyed by gentle wind she floated towards the table. Her spine had been re-injured in the collapse, but that was the least of the troubles in her mind. Her hand hung in the air over the cotton cover, her fingers twitching. With a deep breath she closed her eyes and pulled the sheet back. One…two…three. She opened her eyes.
Ororo couldn’t breathe. Her chest rose and fell but no air saturated her constricted lungs. “Oh, my love…” Her hands shook as she cradled his eternally handsome, placid face. “T’Challa.” Her voice broke, too heavy with sorrow to form words.
He looked so peaceful. His smooth brow and chiseled cheeks in quiet repose. It was as though he was simply resting, and like so many dawns in Wakanda she was watching him sleep.
Ororo leaned forward, tucking her head against his chest, holding him as she did when they slept. A low keening came from her, an intense lament of profound grief as no familiar, strong heartbeat thudded in her ear.
It hit her then, in the silence of that moment, that he was really gone.
Her entire body shook with rough weeping, her fingers clutched at his shoulders. “No,” she moaned. “T’Challa.” She sobbed brokenly, openly. She didn’t know how long she lay there, holding him, soaking him with her tears, time held no meaning for her.
She lifted her head. “I‘m sorry,” she whispered. She dropped her head again, a shudder running through her. “I married you for all the wrong reasons,” she confessed quietly. “I married you because you loved me. And I wanted that. It was selfish to want that from you and not offer it in return, but you…you made me fall in love with you. And I did, my love. I love you more than I have ever loved in my life. Your patience, and understanding and -and lo-loving…Oh Goddess! How-How am I supposed to live without you?” She choked, unable to continue. “I can’t. I won’t! Come back.” It was stupid and irrational to rant for such a thing, she knew he couldn’t come back, but she begged him regardless. “Don’t leave me, T’Challa. Please…please…” She pressed her lips to his cold ones, wishing with every fiber of her being that she could breathe life into his still form. “I love you so much.” She shook him. “Please!”
On the other side of the door Logan stood, leaned against the wall, his chest heaving with ragged breaths. It broke his heart to bear witness to her pain. He could hear the emptiness in her voice, the terrible heartache echoing in each harsh cry she made, and he knew that nothing he said or did would make a damn bit of difference for her right now.
He ran one hand over his face, inhaling a nasal sigh, straightening. He had known immediately that she was down in the morgue when he entered her room and found it vacant.
She had seemed so distant and withdrawn when speaking with Henry. It was as though the familiar spark that was Ororo was no longer ignited within her. Her normally warm cerulean eyes were flat and lifeless, watching but not seeing.
Her first question upon waking from her sedative induced sleep was where her husband was. Logan had swallowed hard, not wanting to remind her that T’Challa was dead, but then Henry had spoken in his clipped, efficient doctor voice, telling her that her husbands body was below in the morgue.
The look of renewed anguish on her face made Logan want to gut his longtime teammate. It really did. She had simply nodded and said nothing, quietly asking to be alone. He hadn’t wanted to leave her, but knew from experience that she needed her time and space.
Hearing her now Logan wished he had stayed with her, despite his knowing firsthand how she needed this moment. This time to say goodbye. He knew from Mariko’s death how hard it was to accept the loss of the person you loved. With Jean it was different, there never really was accepting it, because she never really stayed dead. Like her namesake, from the ashes she would rise. “Wish you were here now, Red,” Logan muttered. “’Ro could really use you.”
Take care of her… Logan’s gut clenched at the words in his head. He began pacing the floor restlessly, thinking back over the past several hours that felt like a lifetime.
The buildings were ablaze, sirens wailing, crashing glass and screams resounded all around. The air was thick with smoke, clouds of it billowing into the once clear sky. However, despite the chaos going on around it was the silence of the rescue workers that was most damning.
He moved forward trying to see past the workers, claws itching to get out. When Cyclops had entered his bedroom twenty minutes prior and said simply. “Let’s go.” He had known something terrible had happened. It wasn’t until they were in the Blackbird that Cyclops explained that a bombing had taken place in DC. Speculation was an anti-mutant activist, and therefore the X-men had been kept in the dark of the situation until deemed necessary not wanting further conflict and complications during the rescue.
Time had slowed to a snails pace, each second a small eternity as they soared towards DC, one question plaguing Logan the entire way. Was Ororo all right? She had to be. She had to be!
“Sir, get back. We need room.” One of the firemen said, his voice practiced and calm despite the growling feral in front of him.
“We’ve found two more!” The cry went up and workers ran, eager to find a survivor among the dead. “Easy. Easy. He’s hurt bad.”
A battered and torn, bloody faced King was raised from beneath the rubble and laid onto a stretcher. His breathing was shallow and rattled with death.
“Can’t get the other one. She’s impaled.”
“Ororo…” T’Challa’s voice rasped.
Logan’s heart stopped. He had feared she might be in the bombing, but having it confirmed was staggering. “Let me through,” he growled, shoving aside several people. The full sight of T’Challa’s broken form stopped him dead in his tracks.
“That…that bad, huh?” T’Challa asked, his face contorting in pain.
Logan shook himself, crouching beside the stretcher. “Nothin’ ya can’t walk away from,” he said straight faced.
T’Challa’s mouth ticked. “Ororo always… said you were… a horrible liar.” He tried to turn his head. “Where…?”
Logan glanced at the workers, wanting to go help get Ororo. “They’re getting her.”
T’Challa grunted, his back arching as a spasm of pain lanced through him.. “Don’t…don’t let her lose herself.” His voice was fading. “She needs…needs to be loved.”
Logan swallowed. “Yeah, and you’ll be there to make damn sure she gets loved.”
T’Challa grimaced, a mixture of pain and sorrow. “She’ll need you.”
Logan shook his head. “She needs her husband. Don’t you leave her now.”
“Promise me, Wolverine,” T’Challa groaned, the pain escalating. “Promise me… you’ll take care…of her.” His hand shot out, gripping Logan’s forearm, leaving bloody fingerprints. “Swear it.”
Hearing the fading heartbeat and lungs drowning in blood Logan nodded once, knowing this was the last request T’Challa would ever make, his eyes never wavering. “I swear.”
“Tell her…I loved her…She is my soul…My body dies, but she is my soul…” Dark eyes closed, a gurgle coming from a wounded throat, blood bubbling from parted lips. “Ororo…”
Logan returned to the door, listening and hearing nothing. No crying, no words, just the hum of the air conditioners and generators. Not wanting to disturb her Logan slowly, silently opened the door, then promptly swore out loud.
Ororo lay crumpled on the tile beside the table.
“’Ro!” He rushed forward, lifting her gently off the ground, wincing as he noticed the wound in her side must have reopened, soaking her dressing gown. “Don’t worry, I’ve got you.” He said, cradling her. “Hank!” He bellowed, striding through the corridor.
“No,” she moaned. “Let me go.”
“Can’t, darlin’.” He said gruffly. “You fight, ya hear me, Ororo. You fight.”
She gave a sad, bitter hiccup. “For what? What do I fight for? Hm, Logan? Tell me. What do I fight for?”
For me. He pushed that wayward thought aside. “Because yer a fighter. Ya don’t quit.”
She shook her head, her hands falling limply to her sides. “Just let me die.”
“Damn it, ‘Ro,” he cursed her angrily. “Hank!”
Ororo’s head lulled on his arm.
“No!” Logan felt panic rising. He strode through the automatic doors that led to Henry’s lab.
“Logan!” Henry exclaimed looking up from the file in his hand.
“Fix her.” Logan demanded. “Now!”
“Relax, my friend,” Henry said placating. He motioned to the cot that he frequently slept on in the corner. “Lay her down.”
Logan did as he was told, hovering as Henry bent over her.
“What happened?” Henry asked, fingers pressed to Ororo’s wrist.
Blue eyebrows raised as if saying “well, duh,” but Henry was noncommittal. He lifted Ororo’s dressing, examining the reopened wound. “Grab me my medical bag, would you, Logan. This needs to be re-stitched.”
Henry stroked a large paw shaped hand over Ororo’s hair. “What were you thinking, Windrider?”
“I needed to see,” she whispered. Her lip trembled. “He’s gone, Henry. He’s really gone.”
“You have my most profound sympathies, dearest Ororo.”
She nodded. “Has anyone…” She had to clear her throat. “Has anyone told his mother?”
“Yeah.” Logan returned with the medical bag. “But the airports and shit are all on lockdown. She can’t get here.”
Henry pulled out a curved needle. “This will sting,” he cautioned.
She wouldn’t feel it. No physical hurt could match the pain in her heart.
When Henry was finished Logan swung Ororo up against his chest, supporting her.
“It never stops, does it?” She asked when they arrived back in her room. “The pain.”
Logan ached for her, wanting more than anything to wipe the despair from her eyes, but knew he couldn’t. Not now. “No.” He answered honestly. “But neither does the love. There are some things, some gifts in our lives that never fade.”
“Oh, Logan. I miss him so much already.” Ororo buried her face in his neck. “It hurts.”
He cradled her head, issuing soothing sounds into her hair. “I know, darlin’. I know.” He sank slowly onto the mattress, rocking her.
“He was so good. It should have been me. I wish it had been me.”
“No!” Logan denied vehemently. “Never think that, ‘Ro. He loved you too much to want that for you. You were his soul”
Surprised by that statement she wiped her eyes. “I think I’ll be all right now, Logan.” She scooted from his lap onto the bed.
Logan nodded, standing. “If you need anything, anything at all, ‘Ro. You just ask.”
She glanced up at him. “There is one thing…”
Just over Forty-Eight Hours Later
Ororo exhaled a pent up breath, her hands clenching the fabric of the blanket across her lap. It had taken several phone calls from Scott and some serious favor cashing from Logan but they had pulled it off. Ororo had been able to take her husband home.
Considering how the X-Men had been put on lockdown and all flights had been cancelled, it was no small feat on their part and Ororo was grateful for their effort.
“Are you ready, Highness?”
Ororo turned her head, regarding the tall man donned in ceremonial mourning robes. No, she thought. I will never be ready for this… She inclined her head, the only acknowledgement she could give at the moment.
The streets were crowded with people, weeping and shouting and mourning the death of their beloved King. They had been lining up since the day of the bombing, delivering flowers and cards to the palace gates, an outpouring of grief and support for the Queen Mother and Ororo.
The palace was echoed with sad dissonance, morose and silent as they entered. Ororo swallowed, her heavy gaze on the woman standing just inside the doors.
“N’Yami…” Ororo breathed.
“Daughter.” N’Yami greeted, her voice subdued. Where normally there was an overpowering personality and robust demeanor there was a frailty that tore at Ororo.
“Leave us,” The Queen Mother told the servants, all of whom bowed and found elsewhere to be. “The Mourning period begins tomorrow.” N’Yami murmured to Ororo. “As the King’s widow you are exempt from your duties as Queen for two full months, at which point you will once again take over primary rule. In the interim those duties will be handled by the council and myself. It is Wakandan custom that you wear a black band alongside your wedding ring for at least six months after death, and wait at least one year before marrying again--”
Ororo swallowed. “N’Yami.”
“And during the mourning period you shall receive no suitors for at least the same six months you wear the bereavement band.”
“N’Yami.” Ororo struggled to her feet, taking a wobbly step towards the slight woman whose words were abundant yet devoid of feeling, as if reciting a rehearsed speech.
The older woman glanced up at Ororo, a sheen of tears swimming in eyes so like T’Challa’s that for a moment Ororo couldn’t breathe.
Their gazes met and locked.
“I’m sorry,” Ororo whispered, choked.
N’Yami’s lips quivered but she lifted her chin nobly. “Did he suffer?”
“I do not know.” Ororo answered truthfully. “I pray every hour to the Bright Lady that his passing was painless.” But she doubted it. She had seen the black marks marring T’Challa’s perfect chest, signs of deep tissue damage and internal bleeding. She kept that pain to herself.
“Your grief is evident.” She said, reaching up and cupping Ororo’s damp cheek.
“Yes. It can not be helped. I loved him. More than anything.”
Suddenly, as though that simple confession broke something in the older woman N’Yami pitched forward, a wail of grief emitting from her. “My son! My son is gone!”
Ororo caught her under her arms, crumbling with her to the floor, hugging N’Yami as she ululated.
“My son! My child!” N’Yami cried.
Ororo closed her eyes tight, not wanting to add to the other woman’s despair with the knowledge that she had also lost a grandchild.
They sat that way for a long time in the corridor, with Ororo cradling N’Yami’s head on her shoulder. Finally, when the tears had dried and only the faint whispers of their breathing echoed in the dim hallway, did N’Yami speak again, quietly, but with conviction.
“You were the only woman he ever wanted.”
Guilt and heartache assailed Ororo, knowing that she could not have made the same statement of herself.
“He loved you. So very much.”
“I know,” Ororo replied. “More than I deserved.”
N’Yami clucked a soft sound. “No, my dear daughter, T’Challa loved you only as you deserved to be loved. And you him.”
“I fear I did not love him as he deserved.” Ororo confessed quietly.
“I see your eyes, child. You loved him. With everything that you are, you loved him.”
“Love him,” Ororo whispered. “Love him still.”
N’Yami nodded her understanding. “Come. We have preparations to make.” She rose to her feet, helping Ororo to her weakened ones. “Your injuries, they are severe?”
Ororo shrugged, her blue eyes once again flat and dull. “They are inconsequential.”
N’Yami sent Ororo a sidelong look. “No, child, they are not.”
Deciding not to argue, Ororo settled back into her wheelchair. “I shall survive these injuries. I have before.”
“It is often not the physical injuries that are the most terminal.”
The door closed silently behind him.
Logan glanced around the room, taking in the subtle changes that marked Ororo’s presence; a toothbrush in the bathroom, a hairbrush on the vanity, complete with silver strands of moonlight trapped in the bristles. Small things really, but he noticed them.
Kitty had been about to clean the room when Logan had interrupted her. “I’ll do it,” he had said.
“You?” Kitty had laughed.
“Figured ya could use more time to chase Petey around.” He had shrugged. “But, hell, you wanna do it--”
“No. You go ahead,” Kitty had smiled, a little too knowing for Logan’s liking, and left.
He strode to the bed now, running his hand over the comforter. White and lavender, two of ‘Ro’s favorite colors. He lifted the pillow, inhaling her lingering scent, familiar yet exotic all at once.
“Damn.” He muttered. She’d just lost her husband and here he was pining for her like some love-sick chump. “Fuck.” He tossed the pillow back onto the bed.
Take care of her…
“Yeah, okay, pal. How the fuck do you suggest I do that?” He asked the empty air. “She’s back in Africa.”
She’ll need you…
“Not half as much as I need her.” Logan growled. “Why the fuckdya have ta go and be so goddamn good to her? Huh? Ya couldn’t be a piece of shit womanizer?” Logan ran a hand over his face. “Fuck, I didn’t even like ya, and I’m hurting. She loved ya that goddamn much.”
Don’t let her lose herself…
“Shit.” Logan sighed. “She needs ta find herself again, Bub. Ya don’t just lose that kinda love and roll over all set for the next day and the real world. She needs time and space. Not me. She doesn’t need someone hovering over her, especially not the guy that wants her so bad he can taste it.”
“Talking to yourself is a sign of insanity,” Kitty said, phasing through the doorway.
Logan grunted. “Thought you’d gone.”
She shrugged. “Ehn, Peter is working on a Muriel for the kids.” She took a seat at the vanity, picking up the hairbrush laying there. “It’s okay, you know.”
“Hnh?” He barely glanced at her.
“To still be in love with her.”
He shot her a sharp glance.
“I didn‘t notice at first either,” Kitty said with a gentle smile. “I was so used to you sparring with Scott for Jean’s affections, I guess I didn’t notice the way you looked at Storm until recently.”
Logan ran an agitated hand through his hair. “’Ro doesn’t need that baggage right now.”
“No,” Kitty agreed. “She doesn’t. But it’s still okay for you to love her. Love should never be a burden, Logan. I think that’s been your problem all along.” She stood. “I remember after I thought Peter died thinking that I would never love again, but it happened. It will happen for Ororo too. I just think that maybe this time around, I shouldn’t be the only one that sees the way you look at her. And maybe, just maybe, you might want to be available when it happens.”
He remembered all to clearly the look on Ororo’s face when she realized T’Challa was dead. “I don’t think that’ll be anytime soon.”
“You’ve got a crazy healing factor that keeps you from being a withered old scrooge. You got time.” She was halfway through the floorboards when she said. “And this time, don’t waste it.”
Wakanda three weeks later
Ororo lay on her side, hugging T’Challa’s pillow tight. His scent was fading, but it lingered faintly, enough for her to refuse the palace staff’s requests to wash it.
Since the funeral Ororo had begun a slow but steady downward spiral into depression. She didn’t eat, didn’t sleep, refused physical therapy and stayed locked in her and T’Challa’s chamber.
She sighed, rolling onto her back, hearing the faint roll of thunder in the distance. She squashed the desire to unleash nature’s fury, instead reigning it in as she had been doing for the past few weeks.
Ororo heard the door to her room open. She closed her eyes, feigning sleep, hoping that whichever maid, servant, guard, nurse or whomever N’Yami had sent to check on her would report her as resting and leave.
“Please, child. Give a mother some credit. Open your eyes.”
Ororo grumbled, peeking at a glowering N’Yami through thick lashes. “I was trying to rest.”
“If for one moment I believed that to be true I would march my royal arse from this room and leave you to it. However, seeing as how I can spot a liar from a hundred meters, I would suggest you amend that to ‘Welcome, Mother, to what do I owe the visit?’”
Ororo sighed. “To what do I owe this visit?”
N’Yami clapped her hands. “Better.” She paraded to the bed, sitting at the foot. “Unfortunately, my darling, Ororo. I can not say I am here for anything pleasant.”
Ororo arched a brow.
N’Yami frowned, her eyes darkening. “I have done my best to prevent this news from darkening your already saddened state, but it is something you must hear.”
“My saddened state? What of you, N’Yami? You are still grieving.”
“Yes, I am. Unfortunately given the positions we find ourselves in, prolonged grief is a luxury I do not--and you do not--have any longer.”
“What is the matter?”
In spite of her show of good humor and bravado N’Yami’s eyes reflected troubled emotions. “I am afraid that Wakanda finds itself on the verge of Civil War.”
“What?” Ororo gasped.
The Queen Mother nodded. “A rebel faction is seeking to overthrow the monarchy.”
N’Yami shifted uncomfortably. “They claim impurities to the lineage due to your mutant genome.”
“And unfortunately, what started out as a small rebel group has evolved, escalating into a rather sizeable army.”
Ororo shook her head, unable to believe what she was hearing.
“The citizens of Wakanda are confused, and distraught, Ororo.”
“Of course they are,” Ororo said angrily. “They just lost their king.”
N’Yami inhaled a sharp breath. “True, but it is more than that. They have nothing to guide them, nothing to help them. Nothing for them to believe in.”
Ororo tensed a bit. “I am not playing Goddess of the Desert,” she said flatly.
“No.” N’Yami agreed. “They do not need another higher than thou deity. The people, the ones fighting for this kingdom, for me and for you, and for T’Challa need something tangible to believe in.”
Ororo raised wary eyes. “What are you saying?”
“I’m saying they need someone to fight for them as they fight for us.”
“I have nothing left to give,” Ororo said softly, looking away.
N’Yami’s voice was hard when she spoke next. “Do you think you honor my son like this? Do you think you do his people justice by laying about, wallowing in your own grief. We all lost him, Ororo. That loss is not solely yours. It is shared amongst his people and his family! You have no right to it all.”
Ororo’s mouth parted and her eyes flashed.
“Ah, so there is some spirit in there after all.” N’Yami clapped her hands twice and the bedroom door swung open, a dinner cart pushed ahead of one of the Dora.
N’Yami turned back to Ororo, grasping one of her slender hands in her own. “Life is a series of choices, Ororo. Only you can make your own path.”
The aching familiarity of those words rang through Ororo’s heart and mind. “What would you have me do?” she asked finally.
“Eat.” N’Yami said.
“Eat?” Ororo echoed.
“Yes. Eat.” With that the Queen Mother stood, motioning for the Dora to follow. With a quick parting look over her shoulder N’Yami closed the doors behind her.
After a few moments Ororo scooted to the edge of the bed, reaching for the dinner cart and the silver dome covered entrée. She lifted the lid, her breath catching in her throat. On the plate in front of her sat a spiraling green and red herb shaped like a heart. The root of the Black Panther. A Wakandian warrior King’s right of passage. The symbol of all that Wakanda stood for.
Slowly, almost reverently Ororo picked up her fork and knife, slicing into the thick vegetation. She chewed slowly, surprised by the sweet taste, and even more startled by the feelings shooting through her legs.
Through the small crack she left in the door N’Yami watched Ororo chew, each bite more determined than the last until Ororo was outright devouring the plant. N’Yami turned away with a smile, her hand on her heart. “You chose well, my son.”
Friends in Need by windrider1
Logan carefully folded the newspaper on his lap and set it down on the tabletop. He shook his head, drumming his blunt fingertips against the glass. The woman was out of her damn mind, he concluded, reflecting on the article he had just read.
The proud nation of Wakanda was on the brink of civil war, and already numerous attempts on the lives of the Queen and Queen Mother had been made, and Ororo was throwing a party. A fuckin’ party. She may as well slap a bull’s-eye dead center of her forehead and call it good.
A low growl escaped the confines of Logan’s too tight throat. “Damn her.” He knew what she was doing, knew her too well not to see it. She was drawing the would be assassins to her. Luring them by making herself a wide open, hard to resist target. Hell, he thought picking up the paper again, she was even wearing a red dress in the photo.
Unconsciously his thumb moved across the paper, following the line of her proud jaw. Stubborn woman. She wouldn’t rest until T’Challa was avenged. He knew this. Knew it the second he heard the rumors of the Black Panther’s ‘ghost’ being spotted in the night.
After several slave trade rings and a drug runners had been mysteriously brought to an abrupt halt by an unexplainable snowstorm in the desert, Logan had known Ororo was responsible. He had called her several times to no avail. Each time he was asked to leave a message he simply hung up.
Eight months had passed since T’Challa’s death and from what he could tell, Ororo was out for out for blood and didn’t care if she spilled her own in the process.
“Fuck.” He stood abruptly. “Damn it.” He clenched his fist. It wasn’t his business. She was a grown woman. She could take care of herself. It wasn’t his business.
“Whoa. Where you off to in such a hurry?” Kitty asked, phasing to avoid a broken nose as the kitchen door slammed open and Logan barreled through.
“Wakanda,” he snarled.
Kitty watched his back until he rounded the corner. “About time,” she smirked.
Ororo’s breath hissed from between clenched teeth as her handmaiden laid a pack of ice against her ribs. Vibranium or not there was little help for the bruising she got from the multiple rounds of bullets fired at her.
“There you are.” The inlaid doors parted and the servants bowed.
Ororo grimaced. “Hello, N’Yami. Come to lecture me yet again?”
“Would it do any good?” The older woman asked, waving away the other occupants of the steam room.
One snowy brow rose.
“I didn’t think so.” N’Yami settled herself beside Ororo, adjusting her long golden sash as she did. “Why do you do keep doing this to yourself?” she asked mildly but with an underlying concern.
Ororo gave the older woman a surprised look. “You above everyone should understand why I fight.”
N’Yami sighed. “Revenge.”
“Ororo, you must stop this.” N’Yami lifted a lock of Ororo’s damp hair. “When I gave you the Heart of Wakanda I did so for selfish reasons. I wanted his legacy to live on, but more than that I wanted to see my son avenged. I wanted blood for blood.” Her voice shook slightly. “I wanted it so much that the desire for it blinded me to what is truly important in life.”
Ororo tilted her face away from N’Yami’s penetrating gaze. “N’Yami, please, let’s not do this yet again.”
N‘Yami was undaunted, reaching out to turn Ororo‘s face back to her. “Life is meant to be lived, Ororo, and you are not living.”
“I live.” Ororo denied.
“No,” N’Yami argued. “You exist. You do not live. To live is to love, my child, and you do neither.”
“I lost all the love I had.”
N’Yami’s gentle fingers caressed her cheek. “You lost your husband, my darling, not your ability to love. T’Challa was a great man,” N’Yami said with pride. “A man that loved you, so much so that I know he would not want this for you. He would want you happy.”
“What would you have me do? Forget he was killed? Let his murder go on unpunished? Plaster a fake smile on my face and pretend that my heart isn’t a pile of dust in my chest?” Ororo demanded, her voice catching. “He has been gone months now and yet I still ache for him as acutely as the day he died.” Ororo rose swiftly to her feet. “I will not rest until T’Challa’s killers are brought to justice. Vengeance will be mine, N’Yami.”
N’Yami watched with sad eyes as Ororo stormed from the steam room, her shoulders stiff and her stride purposeful. She would be going out again soon, N’Yami knew. She shook her head. “What have I done?”
Ororo rolled across the dusty ground moving with practiced skill, narrowly avoiding the bullets whizzing past her head. She flipped to her feet, her natural aerobatic ability enhanced by the root of the Black Panther. Each motion was fluid and graceful, and entirely lethal. Ororo bent and twisted, rehearsing moves she had watched T’Challa do over and over, her fists and feet connecting with solid thuds in her enemies faces.
The one man left standing grabbed a wrench, swinging it and connected with her arm. She grit her teeth, anger rising and on the spur of the moment she crouched, the claws of her suit extending with a sharp snap and she swung out, pure aggression and emotion. An attack the only other man she had ever loved had taught her years ago.
The larger man fell back, his chest bloodied by long claw marks. “Please,” he whimpered. “Mercy.”
“I have none.” Her voice was like ice. Clouds rolled over her head, writhing in a furious frenzy. She lifted her hand to the heavens, fully intending on striking the man at her feet down when a deep, graveled voice cut through the night and pierced through her armor more effective than any bullet.
“Yer getting sloppy.”
Ororo started, whirling towards the darker shadows. “Wolverine?”
The shadows rippled and there he was. Same old Logan, with his dark flannel, worn jeans, beaten hat and faded satchel. “Howdy, ‘Roro.”
Ororo blinked twice before she fully believed her eyes. “What are you doing here?” she demanded.
“Came to see if ya were being properly medicated.” He shrugged.
“Medicated?” she echoed.
“Seeing as how you’ve gone completely ‘round the bend.” He tossed the man attempting to crawl away from them a cursory glance.
Ororo snapped her fingers and thunder boomed effectively freezing the would be escapee in his tracks.
“What the hell are ya tryin’ to accomplish?” Logan asked. “Aside from getting killed.”
She barely heard his words, drinking in the sight of him. Until that moment she hadn’t realized how much she had missed him. “I am more than adept at taking care of myself. You know this.”
“I used to think so.” He agreed. “But I’m beginning to wonder.”
She glanced at the groaning men on the ground. “This is not the time.”
Logan shrugged. “As good a time as any.”
“I am in the middle of something,” she stated, gesturing to the fallen slavers.
“I can wait.”
“Storm. Or is it Panther?”
She inhaled sharply. “I am neither.”
“Hnh. I guess I assumed as much. My Storm wouldn’t be out killing in the wee hours of the morning.” His gray eyes glittered in the shadows, reminding her of a wolf.
“I was never your Storm, now was I?” Where the hell did that come from?
He flinched imperceptibly, that barb cutting far deeper than she would ever know. “If yer done playing vigilante, is there somewhere we could go talk?”
Ororo placed her hands on her hips. “Playing vigilante?” she repeated in a slow monotone. “Of all the people to say--I mean--For you to make such a…a “ she tossed her hands up. “Unbelievable.”
“It’s a little pot and kettle,” he admitted.
He crossed his arms over his chest, rocking back on his heels. “Yer bad guys are making a break for it,” he pointed out.
Ororo didn’t even look. A whirlwind of sand surged to life, surrounding the four men and dropping them abruptly, leaving them unconscious…or worse. She seemed completely unconcerned with either option.
Seeing Ororo so callous disturbed Logan. It wasn’t her. The black suit, the uncaring attitude, the complete lack of Ororoness in her. It ate at his very being. He stepped towards her. “Is there somewhere we can go?” he asked again.
Seeing the glint of determination in his eyes Ororo relented. “Yes.” She pressed the small button on her wrist band, sending a signal to her soldiers. “Make certain these men are taken care of,” she ordered when they arrived. She turned to Logan. “Follow me.”
Twenty minutes later Logan followed Ororo into what appeared to be a conference room of the palace.
“Can I have anything brought for you?” she asked him.
She nodded. “Same old Logan.”
He chuffed. “Old dog’s like me rarely change.”
Ororo felt a flutter in her stomach. “I would hope not, my friend.”
“’Ro. You wanna do me a favor?”
“Take off the damn mask.”
Ororo paused in her pacing. She hadn’t realized it was still on. She wasn’t certain she wanted to remove it. It was the only barrier keeping Logan from seeing her face. For some reason that unnerved her. She turned from him, contemplating that thought.
He was beside her before she turned around, his adept hands pulling the flexible material from her face.
“There you are,” he whispered, almost to himself, his fingers brushing her jaw as he had in the photograph.
“Logan,” she whispered back, her own gloved hands reaching up to touch his face. It had been so long it seemed, since she had seen him. His face was scruffier than she remembered and his eyes more shadowed. She wanted to kiss the brackets of worry from his mouth.
Wait, what? Her heart skittered. No! She stepped away from him, her eyes heavy with guilt. Had that been her heart thundering in her ears? Had that been her wanting to kiss Logan?
Logan cleared his throat, also stepping back so there was distance between them, much as he was loathe to.
“So, what do I owe this unexpected visit? Aside from concern over my mental health?”
“I just wanted to see you.”
“It’s been months since we’ve spoken, Logan, and you hadn’t shown a desire to visit before.” She leaned back against the wall.
“You weren’t making yerself a walkin’ target before either.” he grumbled.
“Ah.” She shrugged. “I appreciate the concern, Wolverine, but I do know what I am doing.”
He grunted. “Really? Because I don’t think ya do.”
“I think yer letting’ yer grief cloud your good judgment. You’re bein’ irrational.”
“You are calling me irrational?”
Ororo shook her head, causing her braid to sway back and forth. “Unbelievable.”
Logan’s eyes narrowed. “So ya keep saying.”
“Well, forgive me for saying, but of the two of us I am not the irrational one.”
“You lost yer husband, ‘Ro. The man you loved,” he ground out the last word. “No one expects ya to be rational. I just don’t wanna see ya get yerself killed.”
She straightened away from the wall and held out one arm. “Vibranium,” she said rotating her limb back and forth. “Bulletproof, energy absorbing, stronger than adamantium. Even you can’t cut me.” She pulled a dagger from her belt. “This blade has an acid that breaks down metal on an atomic scale. Just imagine what damage I could inflict on you with it,” she said idly. “You would be eaten alive from the inside out. No more adamantium. No more Wolverine.” She tilted the glowing blade towards him. “Projectile too. I could hit you from here.” She placed the knife back in her belt. “My senses are almost as good as yours,” she stated. “I’m twice as fast as I once was and four times as strong. I am capable of handling myself--and anyone who gets in my way.”
Logan lifted one brow. “Ya done?”
She cocked her head. “Excuse me?”
“Yer little resume. Ya done?”
Ororo opened her mouth to retort but before she could she was slammed into the wall, two claws on either side of her neck, the third partly extended. “It don’t matter, ‘Roro. Ya can have all the fancy gadgets in the world, all the enhancements and it won’t mean shit. You are not a killer. Ya don’t have the heart of a killer or the instincts.”
She lifted her chin defiantly. “I am not the woman you once knew.”
“No,” he agreed. “But you could be. T’Challa died, Ororo. You didn’t. You don’t need to. It wasn’t yer fault.”
Logan stared into her swirling eyes, realization dawning. “My God, ‘Ro, you blame yerself.”
She stared straight ahead, not replying.
“It wasn’t your fault. You couldn’t have saved him…or your parents.”
Her lip trembled. “Shut up.”
“Ororo, it wasn’t yer fault.” He retracted. “You did nothing wrong.”
“I did nothing!” she shouted back. “I did nothing. I could have done something!”
“No, ya couldn’t have. You were six when your parents died. You didn’t even have your powers.” Logan reminded her. “And no one saw the bombing coming at the summit.”
Ororo shook her head. “It was a mutant rights summit. Violence should have been expected! He wouldn’t have even been there if not for me! He was there because of me! Because of what I am.” Tears shimmered in her eyes.
“No.” Logan cradled her face. “T’Challa was there because he was the King of Wakanda and it was his duty to be there.”
“He did it for me,” she cried. “He wanted to fix it for me…for our child.” A tear slid down her cheek. “Our child…”
Logan felt his heart clench. “Oh, God, ‘Ro. I didn’t know. You were pregnant?”
She nodded mutely. “I-I told him…right before…before--”
Logan pulled her into his arms. “Jesus.”
Feeling the warmth of Logan’s arms around her melted the last vestige of icy reserve packed around the wounds of her heart and Ororo let out a choked sob. “Oh, Goddess, Logan, I wanted that baby so much.” Her knees gave way and she sank to the floor with Logan holding her. Her fingers bunched in his shirt. “I want them to pay! Don’t you see? I want them to hurt!”
“I know,” he soothed. “I know.”
“I need them to hurt,” she cried brokenly, pressing herself into his chest.
Logan rested his cheek on the crown of her head. They will. He vowed silently. They will.
Sunlight, bright and blinding greeted Ororo as she opened bleary eyes. “Goddess,” she groaned, reaching for her pillow to smother herself with. What time was it? The sun was far higher in the sky than it normally was when she usually awoke. She removed the red satin pillow covering her face and blinked a few times. The Royal Family of Wakanda is proud to announce the impending arrival of the future heir to the Throne. The pregnancy of Queen Ororo Munroe is a happy and joyous time for all of Wakanda. Come rejoice and celebrate with us in the Palace Gardens tonight at dusk.
Ororo started, nearly falling from the bed. “N’Yami!”
“Your late rising wouldn’t have anything to do with the short, sweaty man currently beating our warriors senseless would it?”
Ororo barely contained her surprise. Logan was at the palace? Not that he hadn’t been a frequent visitor for the past several nights, because he had, only it was normally in the darkest hours of night. After their initial meeting and her breakdown Logan had decided to help her on her quest for vengeance.
Night after night they went out and took down factions of T’Shan’s army. Each night she was one step closer to justice. And one step farther away from herself. She brushed that errant thought aside and sat up in the bed.
The older woman sipped her lemon flavored water, her deep set eyes regarding Ororo thoughtfully. “Well?”
“No. Yes.” Ororo rubbed the spot between her eyebrows aggresively. “I don’t know. What was the question?”
N’Yami set her glass aside. “I will take that as a yes. I can‘t say that I blame you. He did look quite virile in the sparring room.”
Ororo quickly shook her head. “Wolverine is an old friend--”
“I know very well who he is.” N’Yami said matter-of-factly but Ororo got the distinct impression that the matriarch knew far more than simply the name of their palace guest. “And I for one think it’s about time. One could do much worse than that fine specimen of male. If I was 20 years younger I‘d give you some competition.”
Ororo gaped for a moment. “First of all, Wolverine is probably at least 80 years older than you.”
N’Yami cocked her head. “Really?”
“Really.” Ororo said. “And second, he is an old friend. Nothing more.”
“Mmhm.” N’Yami reached for her drink again, hiding her smirk behind a sip. “There is no better friend than the one with benefits, no?”
Ororo suppressed the urge to hurl her pillow at the Queen Mother. “I am telling you, Logan and I are just friends.”
“’Roro, you up yet?” The double doors to the adjacent room swung inward before N‘Yami could respond to Ororo‘s steadfast claim.
“Speak of the devil,” N’Yami murmured around her straw.
“Logan-” Ororo cast him a sharp look, intent on telling him to leave until she was dressed and N’Yami gone, but her breath caught at the sight of his bare chest and glistening biceps. He must have come straight from the sparring room, she mused. His normally spiked hair was dangling in damp tendrils over his forehead, which he wiped with a small towel. He looked rugged, athletic and very, very sexy.
“Close your mouth, dearest. It’s not polite to drool in front of your guests,” N’Yami cut in when it became apparent that Ororo was a bit distracted.
Heat crept into Ororo’s cheeks. “Isn’t there somewhere else you should be, Majesty?” The last word was drawn out.
“Not anywhere more interesting, no.” N’Yami let her eyes wander Logan’s muscled frame.
Logan cleared his throat, but made no attempt to cover himself with his towel. “Sorry. I can come back later.”
“Yes.” Ororo shot out.
“Nonsense.” N’Yami insisted. “You are a most welcome in our home. Before I forget, which chamber are you staying in, Mr. Logan? I will see to it that it is freshened.”
“It’s just Logan.” He smiled at the Queen Mother. “And I’m not staying here. I got a nice hotel roo-”
“Unacceptable.” N’Yami cut in. “You are a friend of Ororo’s and as such, I must insist that you stay in the Palace.”
Logan glanced at Ororo who suddenly seemed to have found her counterpane undeniably fascinating. He wondered how she would take him at the Palace, in her home. Her and T’Challa’s home. Logan sighed inwardly. He probably shouldn’t crowd her. He sure as hell wanted to crowd her, desperately. And seeing her in her thin white top and bed-mussed hair only augmented that desire, but he was uncertain as to his standing with her, even after spending several evening fighting alongside her. Like before. Before it had all gone so awry and life had dealt them both another shit hand. “Thanks fer the offer, but I’m good where I’m at.”
N’Yami’s eyes narrowed.
“But a room here does sound nice,” Logan added quickly.
“Brilliant.” N’Yami clapped her hands. “Then it’s settled. Isn’t that lovely, Ororo?”
“Lovely.” Ororo replied woodenly. She purposely decided not to pay attention to the sudden acceleration of her heartbeat.
“Whoa, whoa,” Logan held up his hands. “I didn’t say I would stay.”
“Do we offend you?” N’Yami asked pleasantly.
“Do we offend you, Mr. Logan?”
“Of course not.”
“Well then, I see no reason for you to be elsewhere. You are Ororo’s friend, an invited guest and I am assuming astute enough to know when to relent.”
N’Yami’s mouth twitched, catching the “not likely” buried within the chuff.
“Come, Mr. Logan. Walk with me.” N’Yami rose smoothly. “Let us let Ororo have a few minutes to freshen up. Heaven knows the child looks a fright.”
Logan thought she looked damn appealing, but refrained from comment. “It’d be a pleasure.” He held out an arm for N’Yami.
“Yes, it will be.” N’Yami smiled brilliantly.
Ororo gaped as the Queen Mother of Wakanda giggled like a school girl as she strolled arm and arm with the most dangerous man on the planet. With a grumble she rolled to her stomach and buried her face in her pillow. It was going to be a long day.
“Do you still want Ororo for your own?”
Logan cast the woman beside him a sharp look. Masking his surprise was futile, so he didn’t try. “What?”
N’Yami inclined her head, studying the view from the balcony that she and Logan stood on. “I know you heard me. I also know the answer.”
“Do ya now?”
Logan crossed his arms. “Then why even ask the question?”
“What better way to introduce a topic of conversation than to ask a direct question.”
Logan shifted his weight so that he leaned against the rail. “No offense, lady, but this ain’t a conversation I want to have with you.”
N’Yami laughed easily. “What you want is of little concern to me.”
Logan couldn’t help but admire the woman’s straightforwardness.
“I only speak of this because I believe that deep down, Ororo wants you as well.”
That got his attention.
“And it is her happiness and wants that concern me. T’Challa spoke of you, you know.” She added, turning to face him.
“I’m sure he did.” Logan was also sure it wasn’t a glowing review of oozing praise.
“He said you were dangerous, ruthless and uncontrollable.”
Logan shrugged. “All true.”
“He also said you were the only other man that loved Ororo as much as he did.”
Logan lowered his head and sighed.
“Is this also true?” N’Yami persisted.
“It doesn’t matter.”
“I believe it does.”
“She’s not ready to move on.”
“Perhaps that is because she has nothing to move on to?” N’Yami murmured quietly. “Lost in the sea of grief, one must see land before swimming towards the shore.”
Logan shook his head with a wry chuckle. “You should put those in cookies.”
N’Yami smirked. “Wrong culture.”
“Hnh. You wouldn’t be so interested in me with Ororo if you knew me better. I ain’t like Panther.”
“My son was a good man. A good king and a wonderful husband. He was also only human, Mr. Logan. As is Ororo, despite her best efforts. T’Challa had faults and flaws as we all do. Do not compare yourself to his memory. We tend to gloss over the reality of a person after death, in order to preserve the good. I prefer to remember the whole. Flaws are far more interesting than perfection.” Logan was startled when he felt a soft hand settle on his shoulder. “Give her something to swim for.” With that N’Yami left him on the balcony. Logan set his jaw, his gaze moving across the blue sky.
Ororo chewed her food absently, her mind drifting once again to the image of Logan covered in sweat just inside her bedroom door. She stabbed her fork into her sausage. “Blasted man.”
“That me, darlin’?”
Ororo jumped a bit at the rumble directly behind her. She slowly lowered her fork to her plate. “Yes.” She didn’t bother to lie. She was thankful he was fully dressed, however. She was uncertain how much more of a distraction she could take.
“Hnh.” Logan pulled out the chair on her right. “Sorry if I put ya in an awkward position, ‘Ro.”
She sighed. “No. You did not. In truth I should have invited you to stay at the palace myself.”
He cocked a brow, waiting. When she didn’t continue he asked. “Why didn’t ya?”
Ororo lifted her troubled eyes to his. “You know very well why.”
“’Cause of Panther.”
“Yes.” That and with Logan under the Palace roof again she couldn’t help but remember their night together. Fast, hard, rough, and full of all the things left unspoken between them, it had been a night she would never forget.
“We need to talk,” he said finally.
“No. We don’t.”
“’Ro.” He reached a hand out, tilting her chin. “I can’t do this anymore.”
“Do what?” She questioned.
“Watch you destroy yerself.”
“I can’t do that either.”
“Of course you can, Logan. I have seen you do it time and again over the years.”
He flinched. “That ain’t fair.”
“Life isn’t.” She stood, pulling away from him. “I didn’t ask you to come, and I won’t ask you to stay.”
“I ain’t leaving.” His voice was firm and determined.
Ororo took a shaky breath. “I don’t want you to.” She confessed.
Logan stood, his dark eyes intense. “’Ro…”
She took a step back. “I-I can’t.”
“Wait.” He reached for her.
“I’m sorry.” She shook her head before turning away and walking away.
“Good job, canknucklehead.” Logan swore at himself. He exhaled a pent breath, running both hands over his face. Giver her something to swim for. “’Roro! Wait up!” Beep Beep Beep. Damn it. Logan pulled his cell phone from his belt loop. “Wolverine.” He answered. “Yer sure. When? I’ll be there.” He snapped the phone shut, his lips curling into a savage snarl. “Payback.”
13 Hours later
Wolverine crouched low, his stance predatory and ready to strike. His informant had come through, right on the money. He lifted his head slightly, taking in the scents on the wind, mentally cataloguing and placing all of them in less time than it took most people to process the concept. Fourteen men, all armed. Two trucks. Four women, probably slaves. Explosives. Lots of them. And one primary target.
Wolverine perked, hearing voices.
“This is everything?”
“These are completely undetectable?”
“Completely. Nothing comes close to their contained explosive power or stealth. Compact and light, they are easy to transport and even easier to use. A child could do it.”
“Yes, but what about a woman?”
There was a round of laughter following that statement.
“There is no way that Palace security will pick up on these?”
“No. They are undetectable.”
There was a rustling as if boxes were being moved.
“Wait. T’Shan, where is my money?”
“Ah, money.” Two shots rang out and Wolverine heard the distinctive sound of a body thumping to the ground and the sharp tang of blood to his nostrils. “Why are people so stupid?”
“Good question.” Wolverine snarled, leaping from his hiding spot and slicing open two of the armed men beside the trucks as he did. Immediately the other men opened fire and Wolverine hissed as several bullets found their marks in his flesh.
“Protect me!” T’Shan ordered, his face a contemptuous sneer. “Kill the mutant!”
Logan grinned as another pair of men came at him. They were dispatched before they blinked, their heads rolling across the sand seconds before their lifeless bodies hit the blood spattered earth. Standing straight, his teeth bared and sliver claws dripping blood, Logan looked fierce and terrible in the moonlight. “You!” He pointed at T’Shan. “I want yer head!”
“Filthy animal!” T’Shan shrieked. He flipped open the small box in his hands. “For Wakanda!!” He pressed a small red button.
Streaks of electric blue formed a dome grid over Logan’s head. “What the--?”
“Jesus!” Logan had been burned before. Countless times. More than he could remember. Hell, he and Jeannie had gone into the fuckin’ sun, so he knew pain and heat, but nothing could have prepared him for the raw excruciation that T’Shan’s little box provided. “Yeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrgh!” He felt like his bones were melting…
“Take these to the Palace.” He heard T’Shan over his own screams. “Liberation begins now!”
“Yes, Majesty,” a young woman bowed and Logan jerked, placing the voice and scent. She was a servant in Ororo’s home! No! No, no, no! “Stoooooooooorm!!!”
“Logan!” Ororo’s hand flew to her chest.
“Did you say something, my dear?” N’Yami asked, looking up from her stitching. The two were seated in the lounge in front of the fire, comfortable in an old routine that they hadn’t shared in awhile. It had been N’Yami’s idea, and wanting to avoid Logan at the moment, Ororo had agreed.
“I-I don’t know. I thought I heard…” She cocked her head, her herb enhanced senses on high alert.
She rose, walking to the window. “Something terrible.”
“Ah, god, ‘Ro…” Wolverine would have blinked his eyes if he’d had eyelids. How much time had passed? He didn't know.
Logan tried to focus on the blurry figure standing over him.
Spit splattered against his cheek.
“…Dead. Yer…dead.” Logan vowed. “Kill…you.”
T’Shan laughed. “Doubtful. You're one of those stupid blaze forth and to hell with the odds kinds of fellows. I'm a calculator. I know the odds, weigh it out and plan. I hadn't planned on you tonight, but as you see, I am not unprepared for any eventuality.” He held up another small box. “One more ought to do the trick.”
How many had they gone through? Logan briefly wondered. Two? Three? More? He shook with wounds and his body was growing weary from constant healing. He turned his head towards his arm. All of the flesh was melted off and he could see muscle and sinew. Raw. He was so raw. And T'Shan's uber ego was grating on his already raw nerves.
T’Shan grinned, flipping open the box. “Die!”
Logan screamed as a body slammed into him just seconds before the blue net formed overhead. White hair floated over his face and blue eyes filled his vision. Ororo. No! He tried to throw her off of him, hoping to clear her from the blast, but she held firm.
Ororo clamored to cover all of Logan, pulling his arms and head beneath her chest. She hated that she was hurting him, but she had no choice. Light sizzled and popped, flashing and scorching the earth and slamming into the entangled duo on the ground.
T’Shan’s evil laughter echoed in the stillness that followed.
Logan was frantic, his heart pounding. Ororo lay so still atop him and he couldn’t see. He couldn’t hear anything except the clamoring of his own heart. Oh, God, Ororo. Not Ororo. Please, God, not Ororo.
A fat drop of cool rain struck Logan’s exposed thigh, then another, and another until he was blanketed in the soothing water. “…’Ro…?”
Ororo lifted her head from it’s protective droop over Logan’s. “Easy, Mountain Man. I’ve got this.” He thought he felt her lips fleetingly on his temple, but he couldn’t be certain.
T’Shan fell back, his mouth dropped open in disbelief. “What? How?” He looked at the crate of explosives, his mind working frantically.
“Ball lightning.” Storm said, her voice like ice. “T’Challa’s invention. A way to harness the power of a lightning bolt as a defensive, controlled weapon. Quite brilliant actually.” She lifted her glowing white eyes to T’Shan’s. “But completely ineffective against me.” She took slow, measured steps forward. “I command the winds,” The winds picked up, whipping sand and rain, causing her tattered skirt to swirl around her legs and stinging T’Shan’s eyes and skin. “The rain.” The droplets became driving, sharp and stinging. “All the primal forces of nature. You have no weapon that can compare to the fury I will unleash upon you.” Thunder shook the ground and lightning snapped from the ends of her billowing hair. The clouds rolled, darkening the already dark night to pitch black, the only relief two stark glowing eyes.
“You don’t scare me, witch!”
“Yes, I do.” Ororo corrected. “And I should. Because I am going to shred the flesh from your bones.” Hail, the size of half dollars spun from the clouds, striking hard, gouging flesh.
“Auuuugh!” T’Shan dropped to his knees as several chucks tore the skin from his cheeks and nose.
“You robbed this country of their king!" Ororo continued her slow, methodical stalking. Lightning flashed and thunder groaned. Wind lifted and tossed T’Shan against the truck, then up and against the ground. “You took my husband from me!” T’Shan was pinned to the ground, the clouds swirling faster and faster over his head. “You murdered him!” Larger chunks of hail rained down. “You stole his life!” Lightning arced from cloud to cloud.
“You murdered my unborn child.” Her voice caught and broke. “You deserve death.”
She lifted her face skywards, tears streaming down her cheeks. “T’Challa, guide my hand.” She closed her eyes, and let the fury raging inside out.
On the ground Logan rolled to his stomach, watching in awe and sadness as T’Shan was torn limb from limb by the raging winds and massive chucks of hail. “Ororo,” he whispered her name.
She opened her eyes. Surprisingly, upon seeing T’Shan’s torn and bloody remains there was no immediate relief, only a deep ache and a familiar emptiness. She sank to her knees and cried as the rain washed the blood from the sands.
“”Ro…” Logan rose shakily to his feet, his healing factor finding a second wind and kicking it into overdrive. “We have to get to the palace. Splatter boy has people on their way there with explosives. We have to warn N‘Yami.”
Ororo wiped her eyes. She stood slowly. “They’ll be fine.”
“Who do you think is wearing the Panther suit?”
Logan laughed picturing that. It hurt like a son of a bitch, but felt good too. “You okay?”
She lifted her gaze to his. “No.”
He nodded. “Killin’ is never easy--”
“It’s not that.”
He gave her a questioning look.
“I almost lost you tonight, Logan.” She swallowed. “I was so scared when I saw you. I thought I was too late.” Her face crumpled and fresh tears coursed down her cheeks. “I can’t lose you too,” she stumbled towards him.
“Ain’t gonna happen, darlin’.” Logan grunted, meeting her halfway and pulling her into his arms. He cradled her close as she cried, his heart aching for her loss, and for T’Challa, and with the weight of understanding. He was still uncertain as to where he and Ororo stood, but in that moment, nothing else mattered but the feel of her in his arms. Where she belonged. Where she had always belonged.
Seven Months Later
“N’Yami!” Ororo flung open her bedroom window, leaning out towards the gardens. “N’Yami!”
N’Yami walked serenely up the cobbled path, instructing several servants as she did , pointing and suggesting. She paused in her instructions long enough to lift her eyes towards a clearly frazzled Ororo. “Yes, darling?”
“Don’t you ‘yes, darling’ me.” Ororo waved the rolled paper clutched in her hands accusatorily. “I swear, if I hadn’t sworn to T’Challa I wouldn’t fry you--” she let the threat hang in the air.
N’Yami clucked. “I just want the best for you, love.”
“Why not let me decide what’s best for me?”
“Because you are so terrible at it.” N’Yami replied sweetly.
“Ugh!” Ororo slammed the windows shut, her face contorted in anger and grudging amusement.
Okay, calm down, Ororo. Chances are he isn’t anywhere that he could see the notices…
“’Roro!!” A loud roar echoed throughout the halls.
Her door swung open and Logan stood in her doorway, his face a mask of confusion and an unidentified emotion.
Ororo quickly tucked the paper behind her back. “Hello, Logan.”
“Hello, Logan?” His lip curled. “Hello, Logan?”
“All right, goodbye, Logan?”
“Not funny, ‘Ro.” He held up his fist, dangling from which was a familiar poster. “Is this true?”
Swallowing hard, Ororo nodded. “Yes. But, I can explain--!” She shrieked as Logan lunged at her. He pinned her against the wall, his face mere inches from hers. “And this is how I find out?” He slapped the poster against the wall.
She flushed, her hands gripping his broad shoulders. “Well, that was not my intentions, or plan, no.”
“I can’t believe it.”
“Believe it.” Ororo peered at him through veiled eyes. “Well?”
“I’m still in shock here, ‘Roro, gimme a sec.” He shook his head as though to clear it. He reread the announcement in his hand.
“Yes.” Ororo touched Logan’s face, her fingers caressing his whiskered jaw.
“I don’t know what to say.” Logan admitted, looking dazed.
Ororo felt a flare of unease. “I know we never spoke of children-”
“’Ro, shush.” Logan placed his finger over her lips. “It’s not that. It’s just…I have no words.” He grinned. “Wait.” He pushed away from the wall, once again flinging open the bedroom windows and hanging over the sill. “I’m gonna be a faaaaaather!” he shouted. “Whoohooooo!”
Ororo, assailed by laughter, pulled on his shoulders. “Get back in here.”
Logan turned, pulling her into his arms. “A family.” His eyes darkened and Ororo knew he was as happy as she was.
“Yes,” she whispered, pulling his head to hers for a slow kiss.
As always the world melted away and there was only the two of them, lost in each other. Life had led them on a perilous journey, fraught with danger, hurts, loss, friendships, and great loves, but it wasn’t until it was almost gone had Ororo realized how much she needed Logan, and he her.
Without breaking contact they stumbled onto the bed, quickly divesting each other of the cloth barriers separating them.
“Love you,” Logan whispered into her mouth.
“Love you,” she returned.
Downstairs in the inner sanctum of the garden, N’Yami stroked a white petals of a budding hidaya mvua. She came to this place on nights she wanted to feel close to her son. She smiled, humming a family lullaby quietly. “She is happy now, my warrior prince.” She spoke softly. “She still wears your memorial band on her finger. Behind her wedding ring. Logan treats her exceedingly well, as you know. A bit gruff around the edges, that man is. Not the polished perfection you were, but he suffices.” She chuckled a bit. “They are expecting their first child, as I am sure you know. Tonight we celebrate and I know you will be with us in spirit, my son. Watching over her. She loved you so much, T’Challa. She loves you still. That is the miracle of love. It is never ending and never in short supply.” She smiled, her eyes misty. “Tell your father I love him. I will be with you both again someday. But not any day soon. I have a grandbaby to play with soon. Goodnight, T’Challa.”
With her back turned N’Yami didn’t see the hidaya mvua bloom to it’s full splendor, nor the solitary drop of dew that rolled from the petal and kissed the soil.
Up in her room, with the windows once again shut Ororo felt a warm breeze stir over her shoulders like a gentle caress. She lifted her head from the pillow, listening to the water running in the shower. She smiled, running her fingertips over the dual bands on her left hand. One for the memory of the man that taught her how to open her heart, and the other for the man that was her heart.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters and settings are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.