Pamela "Hutch" Thalner
31 July 2000

Disclaimer: None of the characters belong to me; they're all the property of Marvel Comics and 20th Century Fox. I don't make any claim on them, and I am not making any profit from this. Please don't sue me. I'm a poor broke person.

Notes: Um, wow. I wrote something. This is an X-Men Movieverse fic; I had the idea the other day after seeing the movie for the second time. Let me note that I REALLY liked the movie. =) In other words, there are total spoilers for the movie, so if you haven't seen it yet and you don't want to be spoiled, well, you get the idea.

Rating: I'll say PG, since this references a somewhat grisly scene. No swearing.

Archiving: Kielle may have it, of course; anyone else, just ask. I won't say no.

Feedback: Lovingly slurped over at hutch @ jazmer.com.

His hand exploded in hers.

She'd felt it, felt the outrush of water pouring over her palm -- sudden and powerful, bursting all at once like a water balloon grown too big and full. But that wasn't even the worst part. The worst had to be the look on his face, the utter desperation in his voice as he'd stammered out his final words just prior to that terrible bleeding out--


Ororo Munroe blinked, shaking herself from her reverie at the sound of her code-name spoken aloud. Looking up, she saw Jean turned in the co-pilot's seat of the Blackbird. Jean Grey, the team's resident telekinetic/telepath, had undoubtedly sensed the turmoil of Ororo's own thoughts, if not her exact mental musings.

"I'm all right, Jean," Ororo said, attempting to forestall the worry in Jean's brown eyes.

"You were thinking about the Senator?"

Water rushing over her hands, spilling across the floor-- Ororo forced away the memory again. "It must not have been a pleasant way for him to die. For anyone to die."

"Would you rather have him continuing his work against us?" Scott pointed out, earning a reproving glance from Jean.

"Of course not," Ororo replied, rubbing her forehead with one hand. "But I do not wish death for any man, no matter what his opinions may be. And neither should you."

Scott, rebuked, returned his attention to flying the jet. Jean reached out one hand, offering comfort; Ororo took it gratefully, with a small smile. "Did he say anything?" the telepath asked softly, keeping her voice low out of deference to the two unconscious passengers in the back.

Ororo's eyes lowered again as she thought of that final, brief conversation. "He asked me if people like him scared me. I told him that yes, sometimes, they do. I -- I hope he understood why. I don't even know if that makes sense, but then he said that I had one less person to be scared of, and then..."

She trailed off, recognizing that she was babbling; Jean's hand squeezed hers. "I understand."

Tightening her hand around Jean's one more time, Ororo let go, returning her gaze to the window, looking out through the inch-thick reinforced glass at the night sky outside. The sooner she could be out there in it, the better, as far as she was concerned. Being in the Blackbird wasn't that much of a strain on her, but after the night's events -- especially after being trapped in that elevator shaft by Magneto's henchman, Toad -- she was beginning to feel the day's strains taking a toll.

Granted, electrocuting Toad while he'd been hanging by his tongue from a railing had done wonders to alleviate some of her tension. But she still felt the need to relax.

Before too long, the Blackbird returned to its underground hangar, secured beneath the concrete of the school's basketball court. Ororo aided the others in carrying in Rogue and Logan; she was more worried about Logan, as he appeared to be in exceedingly poor shape. Gashes covered most of his exposed skin, and dried blood edged the holes of the uniform where he'd actually cut through his own body to escape the bonds pressed upon him by Magneto. But he was breathing, and though his pulse was shallow, Jean's prognosis was optimistic.

Rogue began to recover from her more simple fatigue even as Ororo assisted her to the dormitory room she shared with several of the other girls; she could hear whispered remarks following them down the halls, and as she carefully pushed open the door with one hand, Rogue slumped on her other shoulder, Kitty and Jubilation appeared to help her with the girl.

"Where am ah?" she heard Rogue murmur, as she was being escorted to her bed.

"You're back at the mansion," Ororo replied in the most soothing tone she could muster under the circumstances. "Don't worry; everything's fine."

"What about--"

"He'll be all right." I hope. I *know*. "You just get your sleep." Ororo stood over the bed, watching Rogue snuggle down into the blankets; exhaustion was already dropping over her again, and it only took a few minutes for sleep to claim her again. She dismissed the others, pleased inwardly with their show of concern for the girl, and then left herself.

Stopping long enough in her room to pick up a clean robe, she went down to the infirmary to check on the Professor and Logan. Jean informed her that Professor Xavier was still in his comatose state, but that she would begin making efforts to bring him back as soon as she'd finished attending to Logan's various injuries. She brushed off Ororo's offer of help, noting that the worst of the gashes already seemed to be closing a little.

Ororo found herself smiling a little as she headed back outside. She wasn't blind to the chemistry that was developing between Jean and Logan; it had fueled the resultant tension between Logan and Scott, but she couldn't help but think that it might actually be a good thing. Jean and Scott's heretofore stable relationship could use a bit of shaking.

Her feet found the way down to the lake of their own accord. At this time of night, no one else would be there; not that she had a particular problem with others seeing her body, but after the long day she'd had, she was feeling a strong desire for solitude.

Shedding her uniform at the water's edge, she stepped into the gently rippling lake. Water sluiced around her toes, lapped her calves; she registered, but didn't truly feel, the chill of the evening waters. That was one of the enjoyable side effects of her powers: they kept her comfortable, no matter the temperature around her. Sinking further into the dark depths, Ororo rolled lightly to her back, letting weightlessness surround her body.

It was almost as good as flying. Flying would have been ideal, but she was too tired tonight to summon the winds necessary to carry her aloft. Instead, she floated in the embrace of the cool water, allowing it to lap over her; allowing her mind to drift now as her body did.

Almost immediately, her mind returned to the image of the Senator's death. Part of her gave a shudder, but she forced herself to relax, to think about it. She knew that she had to deal with it now; letting it fester under the surface would not be wise. Mentally, she knew that, but emotionally she still shied away from it.

She had seen death before, in her native Kenya. Animals, elders of her tribe; but no one she had been close to. A daughter of the tribe, she had been, like many others -- brought up by all after her parents died from an illness that decimated half of her tribe when she was still a baby. Death had not bothered her. Life was merely a state of being, death a transference from one life to another, and dying was not to be feared.

But this death... this death bothered her. Was it because she had been so up close, because she had been the only one there to hold the hand of the dying man? Was it because Robert Kelly had been such an ardent advocate of mutant registration, of everything the X-Men stood against?

No, she thought. Even an enemy is to be pitied when he stands so close to death's door. He was frightened of that threshold, she knew; his hand had been shaking violently in hers, and water -- she'd assumed it to be sweat -- had poured from the pores in his body, dripping onto the floor in streams and rivers of life essence.

Ororo stretched in the water, putting her hands behind her head briefly. Above her, the moon shone high and full in the sky, a harbinger of things magical; she felt a surge of gladness that the night had ended as well as it had. If one thing had gone wrong... but, despite all that had been thrown in their paths, they had fought back and won, and for that she was proud. They had passed the test, met it and won.

It was the way Kelly had died, she thought finally, feeling that water against her palms again, but this time without revulsion. A most unpleasant way to pass on, one that no human being -- mutant, human, or otherwise -- should have deserved; it was as if his newly-gifted powers had burnt out his body before he could learn to control them.

If nothing else, seeing Kelly's death first hand had definitely given her motivation to make sure that Magneto's machine be shut down, to prevent any further deaths from occurring in anything close to a similar manner. She smiled a little at that observation, and felt lighter in her heart, knowing that the Senator's death had, inadvertantly, managed to bring about Magneto's downfall.

In everything a lesson to be learned. She didn't remember who had taught her that, but it held true as ever. Feeling fully relaxed at last, she swam back to the lake shore; the evening air was pleasant, the breeze swirling against her skin to dry the drops of water still clinging there. Serenity restored, she slipped on her robe and headed back to her room, feeling, at last, prepared to face the next day and whatever it might bring.


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