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Picking Up The Reins

Title: Picking Up The Reins
Author: Kat Lee
Fandom: X-Men
Character/Pairing: Wolverine/Storm, mild Beast/Storm, Shadowcat
Rating: PG/K+
Challenge/Prompt: 1_million_words Say What Friday: "Courage is not having the strength to go on; it is going on when you don't have the strength." - Teddy Roosevelt
Warning(s): Spoilers, Cannon Character Deaths
Word Count: 1,340
Date Written: 30 June 2017
Summary:
Disclaimer: All characters within belong to Marvel Comics and Disney, not the author, and are used without permission.






His heart is still breaking when he expertly lands their spacecraft. She has not spoken a word since she told him to carry them back home before slipping into unconscious. He knows she's awake -- he can feel her beautiful, sad, blue eyes on the fur on his back --, but she still has not spoken another word to him. He slides their spaceship to a stop, turns off her controls, and waits patiently.

Ororo clearly wants him to disembark first, but he is loathe to leave her. Part of him wishes they could have stayed in outerspace, just the two of them grieving for their friend and her lover, but another part knows that they must carry on. Logan would understand and perhaps even expect some grieving, but in the end, he would want them to carry on as he always did. He would want them to keep the Dream that they brought them all together alive. He had been willing to do anything to make sure the Dream survived, even surrender his wild, roaming ways and lead an entire school of youngsters, something neither Hank or himself could have seen him doing in the early days.

But then, there's so much that's happened that they could never have foreseen. Never, in a million years, would they have believed that things would work out so tragically, that Scott would kill Charles, that he himself would play "Master of Time", or that Logan would have assumed Charles' role because no one else was brave enough to do so. The man had never backed away from a challenge when he was needed, and the Jean Grey School For Higher Learning was just the latest, prime example of that fact.

"Thank you, Henry," Ororo speaks at last, her quiet voice shattering the empty, almost painful silence. "I . . . am sorry you had to bear witness to my weakness."

"Weakness?!" Hank swivels around in the pilot's chair to face her. "Oh, dear lady, no! There is nothing weak about you!"

Tears still shine in her blue eyes as she looks at him, her head cocked slightly to one side. She tries to speak but can not find the words.

He shakes his furry head. "Ororo . . . " he breathes her name. Dear Lord, he doesn't know how the woman keeps it together! If he had the kind of power she wields, neither Scott or Wolverine's murderer would still be alive, -- and Scott was one of his best friends for years! He would tear up the world if he had her power and her grief!

"You are anything but weak!" he exclaims, searching his own mind for what he truly wants to impress upon her. Finally choosing one quote, he tells her, "I believe our dear, former President, Theodore Roosevelt said it best when he said, 'Courage is not having the strength to go on; it is going on when you don't have the strength.' I will never understand how you do everything you do, my sweet friend, or how you withstand the temptation to right all the wrongs we witness every day."

"Because," Ororo says simply, softly, still sadly, "two wrongs do not make a right." Despite her vows to never again take a life when it is not absolutely necessary, she would gladly kill the Professor who knowingly caused her beloved Logan's death, but Logan was a man of honor. He would not want her to bloody her hands again for him. He would understand if she did, but he would not want her to do so. Besides, there is an entire school of children now looking to her for guidance. She closes her eyes against that unbearable thought. She can barely guide her own moves these days, let alone theirs!

Reopening her eyes, Ororo catches sight of some one walking toward their ship in the hanger. "Kitten," she breathes shakily. She quickly undoes her restraints and goes to meet her best, still living friend. Hank watches her leave and slowly, sadly shakes his head. The woman truly does not know that she is a paragon of goodness and beauty. He wishes he could help her see what he sees in her -- what so many of them who best know her see in her --, but now is not the time. He watches as Kitty and Ororo embrace outside the ship before preparing his own exit.

"You knew?" Ororo asks in surprise, still holding to Kitty but far enough away from her that she can look down into her sorrowful, brown eyes.

Kitty shrugs and kind of gives a little, half-nod. "I figured it out. You wouldn't take the risk of letting yourself grief here, because you don't want your powers to get out of control and hurt somebody." Ororo nods her agreement. "Wolvy would be proud," Kitty says and hugs her tightly again.

"Perhaps," Ororo says slowly, her arms still around Kitty after they have finished squeezing each other, "but where do we go now?"

Kitty remembers watching Piotr paint dark scenes after his parents were killed and Illyana contracted the Legacy Virus, for which, back then, there was no cure. She remembers Rachel grief for her parents. She remembers the pain they all felt when the Professor was killed, and again when Wolverine gave his life to save others. She wipes tears from her eyes, gazes up into Ororo's eyes, and wipes more tears from her own.

She knows what she has to do even before she hears Logan's voice in her head, Yeah, I want you for my assistant, Kitty, my second-in-command. 'Ro . . . She's been through too much, suffered too much. She needs a break, pumpkin, and I know I can count on you to be a strong soldier no matter what happens in the future. Yer'll always pick up my pieces, darlin'.

And hers, Kitty understands, watching the bottomless pit of grief reflected in Ororo's once-bright, blue eyes. She wanted to ask Piotr and Rachel both before how they kept going. She often asked Logan the same question. They suffered time and again in this world. Their loved ones were taken, were killed, were slaughtered, and still, they had to go on not for themselves but for the next generation of mutants, for the children of which this school is already full and who need them so desperately.

"Don't worry, Ororo," she says, although she hears the aching hollow and impossibility of her advice even as she speaks the words. She hugs her again, even more tightly this time, and holds her head on her shoulder which, for now, is stronger than hers. "We'll do what has to be done. We'll do what they would want. I promise."

Ororo looks to her with the gaze of a broken soul, and Kitty understands. She can't fight any more than she's already fighting. She needs somebody else to take control, somebody else to lead them into a better future than any she can see right now. And that person, Kitty knows, is going to have to be herself. She holds her chin high, proud, and determined, but beyond Ororo's shoulder, she sees Hank descending from the spaceship. Their eyes meet, lock. He nods; she nods. She's going to have to lead them, and she will. Together, they'll carve a better place out of this miserable world for their kind, or they'll die trying. And if they do die trying . . . Well, there will be others still to pick up their pieces and try to keep moving along.

Mutatis Mutandis, whispers through her head. Everything changes. It's my turn to lead, but I won't let you, Professor, . . . Logan. We'll fight, and we'll leave. They will always miss them and ache for them, but they will move on. For what's left of her friends, for what remains of her family, there is no other choice. Guiding Ororo gently back into the school, Kitty picks up the pieces and moves on.

The End

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