Expiation: Epilogue by paxnirvana Format for use with submitting fanfic. Expiation: Epilogue The Goddess No Longer by paxnirvana
Rating: PG-13 
Pairing: Storm/Gambit
Archive: Okay. Just ask!

Author's Note: The end of my little AU wandering. Really need to read the first five first. 6/14/01

Disclaimer: They all still belong to Marvel. But I like what I do with them better. Trial of Gambit? Dumb. Me make money? Even dumber.

* * * * *

	Just one step at a time
	And we're closer to destiny
	I knew at a glance
	There'd always be the chance for me

	With someone I could live for
	There's nowhere I would rather be

		- Brian Ferry

* * * * *

A year. Bright Lady, has it truly been so long? But, yes, the pansies I myself planted are flowering all over the grounds, the daffodils opening their bright trumpets to herald the new season, the early crocus already fading. It has truly been a year since he broke the icy shell I had imposed about my heart. Full of bickering and laughter and adjustment and joy, wrapped around the always uncertain life of the X-Men. A year of battle and tragedy and triumph and discovery. A complete revolution of our mother the Earth around her consort, the sun, bright and life-giving and constant, back to spring again.

Do I tell him today?

It is hard, so hard, to keep my hand away from my belly. Too soon. Far too soon to show, to even be absolutely certain. But I know my body as surely as I know the patterns of ebb and flow that make up the weather above us, the seasons themselves. There is a change in me - one I have longed for, and that we have so pleasurably striven for these last weeks. To grow round and large and ungainly. With his child. The child of our love. The child of our hope. And there must be a new generation, a reaching out to hope and the future, or why else do we fight for the Dream?

He bluffed me. Gambit. The gambler. On that one calm day between horrible battles a year ago. He asked me to marry him, claiming a license in hand. He didn't have one. Only blind hope and a beautiful ring I will never ask the provenance of. Circumstance has prevented our official union. But it is only a ceremony. In our hearts we are already irrevocably bound. All who see us together now know it.

The team was uncertain at first, wary. But we are adults and if some thought us foolish and doomed, most had the grace to keep it to themselves. We have assuaged their doubts. Rogue, sad child, left the team unable to bear our happiness, making the move to the Massachusetts Academy to concentrate on learning to control her powers. Emma Frost has reported she is making great strides. The loss of first Remy and then Joseph has apparently given Rogue new strength of purpose. I wish her well, but am glad she chose to leave. For her sake - and Remy's - as well as the team's.

Despite her departure, at first he was reluctant to move back into the mansion, but I insisted. Who would keep me from falling back into my aloof, remote ways if he was not there to constantly ward me against that folly? Truly, it did not take too much persuasion. And he fit into my attic, my life, my heart so easily I was ashamed it had taken us so long to find each other, and, for a brief while, was resentful of the time lost. That quickly passed, with his encouragement. Remy, more than anyone, knew the peril of drowning in regret.

He insisted on adding a few pieces of art to the walls, some furniture; an antique bureau, a lovely wooden trunk and an elegant rocking chair. Then there was the bed. An enormous canopied bed. Dark wood carved by the finest of artisans of several centuries ago and curtained in the sheerest of blue silks, decadent and luxurious. A thing flown up at great expense from New Orleans. A dynasty-founding bed. And a gift from his father. I smile to lie in it with him, and listen to the steady beat of his heart, my winds moving the silk around us like a waterfall.

There were also the scattered packs of cards he left on every flat surface, the thieves' tools stored with meticulous care in that wooden trunk, the boots he often left lying haphazardly in the center of the floor. He is not messy, but his presence in my attic, that bed, my heart changed everything. I was no longer alone.

Then, the cigarettes. I had not even had to ask. He gave them up cold. Snappish and irritable for a month or two, then grudgingly conscious of the marked increase in his stamina. Stamina I was gleefully determined to tax at every opportunity. Our teammates learned to call to us from the bottom of the stairs before entering our attic. Free of bodily inhibitions as we both are, we shocked several of them before they learned that caution.

I laugh and smile more now than I have my whole life before. Perhaps that alone brings me melancholy when I think of the time lost that can never be regained. Serious and responsible does not mean joyless. He has brought joy back into my life with his gentle teasing, his blatant affection, his steadfast love. The crimson eyes burn only for me. For him, there is the belonging, the connection, the absolute trust he has always craved. My heart has flowered for him.

Yet we make a fearsome team in battle. Our understanding of each other's abilities has grown with our understanding of each other. The fear that I would not be able to order him into hazard in battle has faded. I am leader still. He is a fighter, a thief, an X-Man. We both know and accept the risks; we both fight for the Dream. Our love binds us and frees us in ways we never expected.

The Windrider and the acrobat. The pickpocket and the Master Thief. Team leader and teammate. Woman and man.

Yes, just woman.

For with him beside me, I need be the Goddess no longer.

- - fin - -