A/N: A little later than promised, but here it is. As always, I own nothing.
That night, for the first time in weeks, Storm dreamt of Mystra. Unlike her previous dreams however, there was no fog, no leading voice. Ororo simply laid her head down on the pillow, and then she was on that same bench. The trees, dressed in glorious gold and amber, stood with their leaves rustling softly. The moist air smelled of fall. Turning her head, she was somehow unsurprised that the blue gowned goddess was again seated beside her, regarding her with a warm smile.
"Hello again Ororo." She greeted. "How are things working out with your family so far?"
Storm regarded Mystra closely before answering. "We have begun to mend old wounds." She said at length. "But the scars haven't entirely faded."
"No," Mystra agreed. "That will take longer than the mere few weeks you have been given. And I will give you warning that some of those scars may never entirely fade, but they will grow less prominent. And perhaps the time will come where they have ceased to be painful and are simply a part of you, the same as your powers or your memories are."
"You didn't bring me here to ask question you already know the answers to." Ororo suddenly pressed, not really in the mood for idle conversation. "You want to convince me that I should go home with my family."
Mystra did not deny the charge. "Is one's home not usually also the location of one's family?" She asked.
"Unless that person hasn't been 'home' since her earliest days." Ororo shot back without missing a beat. She grew more agitated. "Unless that person has made a different life for herself elsewhere, a life separate from her family."
"You sound as if you are trying to convince yourself more than convincing me." Mystra pointed out calmly.
Storm didn't answer, but turned away, looking straight ahead and refusing to meet Mystra's eyes. Her thoughts were conflicted, as they had been since that morning when her parents had finally found the nerve to ask the dreaded question.
How could she leave? How could she not? How could she choose one family over the other? Both had been good to her, it was no fault of her birth family that she was stolen that fateful night. There was also, of course, the fact that she felt she was abandoning the X-Men. The world was in turmoil over the existence of mutants; there were so many people who suffered for simply being what they were. How could she abandon those people to live in relative safety in the world of her birth? What kind of coward did that make her?
"I'm doing so much good where I am." Ororo finally said. "It feels wrong to abandon that. Shouldn't I stay where I can make the most difference?"
"And how do you know that this world is where you would be making the most difference?" Mystra asked with some amusement. "Have you suddenly gained the ability to see into the future?"
Ororo looked sharply at the being beside her. "Why do you care?" She asked suddenly, exasperated. "You're the Goddess of Magic, why do you care about what happens to me and what I choose? You've gone to a lot of trouble for the sake of a whim."
Mystra said nothing.
"Zak says I should come back with them simply because you want me to." Storm continued. "He says that you wouldn't interfere like this without a really good reason."
Mystra considered the half-drow beside her. "I have plans for you." She finally admitted. "But I can't do anything about those plans if you're still on Earth. In any case, you belong with your family."
"Is that an order then?" Ororo asked sarcastically.
"You can take it as such if it gets you back to Fearun." Mystra said with a smile.
Storm was quiet for a long moment. "What if I don't want to go?" She almost whispered.
Mystra's expression was not unsympathetic. "Sometimes we must all do things that we would rather not. You were a thief in your earlier years, yes? You should know this better than most." Taking in the young woman's disconsolate expression, Mystra relented. "However, I do not believe that this is one of these times."
Ororo looked at the Goddess questioningly.
"Since the moment your mother asked you to come home, you have wondered whether you should stay or go." Mystra explained. "You have tormented yourself, wondering if you will be happy there, whether you will regret going if you do. These are the wrong questions I believe. Instead, I will ask you this, will you be happy if you stay? Will you be able to go back to the way things were Ororo Do'Urden? Will you be able to pass these few weeks off as some sort of pleasant dream, and go about life as if nothing has changed? Or will you always regret not going, and wonder what your life would be like had you returned at your family's side? Can you dismiss this opportunity Ororo Do'Urden?"
Ororo said nothing for a long moment. And when she spoke, her voice was little more than a whisper. "No."
Mystra smiled a gentle smile, but one that was filled with triumph all the same.
Jean found Storm packing the next morning. In the midst of folding a shirt and placing it in the open suitcase on her bed, Storm had turned around to see her friend standing in the doorway. With deliberate calmness, the half-drow finished packing the shirt before turning fully to face her friend.
"The rumours are true then." Jean stated calmly, although an underlying current of emotion could be clearly heard in her voice. "You're really leaving."
Storm just nodded. By all that was good in the world, this was difficult. She and Jean had known each other for years. They had been some of the Professor's first students. They had grown up together. In all ways that truly counted, Jean was Storm's sister.
"Does the Professor know?"
Storm nodded again. "He knew from the moment I woke up this morning." She answered. "I'll tell everyone else after breakfast."
The red haired mutant was silent.
"I have to do this Jean." Storm continued, her tone almost begging the red-head to understand. "You have been family to me; you, Scott and the Professor. You have been better family than you'll ever know, but I have to do this. I'll never be able to forgive myself if I don't." Ororo's voice nearly broke at the end and she turned to look out the window. In her mind, she remembered the first time she had seen this room, how the Professor had opened the door for her, how he had directed her attention to these very same windows. It seemed like a lifetime ago.
"This place." She whispered, not meeting Jean's eyes. "This house, will always be my first home. And you will always be my first family, even if now I have others as well." She finally worked up the nerve to meet her friend's eyes. "I...will miss you all very much." She admitted.
Jean immediately crossed the distance between them to envelop Storm in a warm embrace, which Ororo did not resist. "We'll miss you too." Jean whispered, than gave a shaky laugh. "This place won't be the same without you, you know."
"I'll come back to visit." Ororo promised.
Jean nodded, pushing Storm back to arm's reach. "You'll always be welcome here." She assured. "You're as much a part of this place as any of us."
Consciously clearing her throat and wiping her eyes, Jean backed away from her friend. "Anyways," She said, changing the subject. "I should probably let you get back to packing. Breakfast will be ready in about 20 minutes." With that, the telepath/telekinetic left the room, closing the door softly behind her.
Ororo sighed, then turned back to her suitcase, somewhat emotionally drained from what would be the first, but surely not the last tearful goodbye before her family left.
The impromptu meeting after breakfast between the X-Men and the group from Fearun was a bittersweet affair. The Do'Urdens were delighted by their daughter's decision, but were also well aware that Ororo's coming home meant tearful goodbyes for all those who had become her family here. For their part, the X-Men were decidedly less happy with the current turn of events. They were, of course, happy that Storm was happy, but also looked at the prospect of the Xavier Institute without the weather witch with decidedly less enthusiasm.
"When will you go?" Scott finally asked, the first words he had said since Ororo had revealed her decision. It was the Lady Alustriel who answered.
"As soon as possible." She said somewhat regretfully. ``There is no reason for us to delay any longer, and I personally have tarried here far too long. My city will not govern itself."
"Aye," Bruenor agreed. "Much as we'd like to be stayin', it's long past time we were gettin' home." The dwarven king looked to his granddaughter. "Tomorrow morning give ye enough time to get packed up girl?"
"Tomorrow morning it is." Bruenor decided, directing the answer towards Scott and the Professor. "An' speakin' of packing up, the rest of us should go do the same." With that, the group from Fearun got up and left, Wulfgar closing the door softly behind them.
Ororo looked at the X-Men remaining. "It is not forever." She promised after a long silence. "Lady Alustriel has promised me that transportation between worlds doesn't take so very much effort. I'll be back."
Somehow, her pleading assurance didn't exactly have the desired effect. If anything, Scott's scowl grew deeper and Rogue looked suspiciously like she was blinking back tears. Logan's expression didn't change. The clawed mutant simply stood in the corner behind the Professor with his arms crossed and unreadable expression on his face.
Of all the people in the room, only the Professor's expression displayed no emotion. "You're absolutely certain that this is what you want?" He asked at length.
Ororo looked at the man who had become like a father to her, the man whose cause she was about to abandon. "It is." She said almost apologetically.
A small smile made its way onto Xavier's face. He guided his chair forward and took one of Ororo's hands into his own. "As long as you are sure," He said equally softly. "Then I am happy for you. We all are." He gestured to the gathered mutants. He gave Storm's hand a squeeze before releasing it and his smile grew. "Go and pack Storm. Tomorrow morning will be here before you know it."
With that, the improvised meeting ended. The X-Men trickled out one by one, each stopping to give their soon to depart teammate with an embrace and a word of encouragement. Logan however, stomped out almost immediately, not bothering to stop to talk to anyone. Although no one in the room was really surprised at his actions, the Professor looked after his most troublesome student with a strange expression on his face.
While the Companions of the Hall had made some tentative friendships with the X-Men during their stay, Lady Alustriel had done something similar with the Professor. Each found the other to be a fascinating conversationalist and, at times, a stimulating debating partner. Alustriel was especially interested in mutants and their quest for acceptance, and she and the Professor had spent many hours discussing Xavier's ultimate dream, as well as the nature of mankind to resist change. The Professor, of course, was fascinated by this powerful and beautiful being who effortlessly commanded any room she walked into. The force of her presence alone was formidable, and her sharp mind and sharper wit gave their discussions life and challenge that he had not enjoyed since Eric had gone his own way. So, as had become their evening custom, the Professor and Lady met in his study after supper, each nursing a cup of hot tea.
"The weather is better than it's been in weeks." The Professor ventured, gazing out the window to the clear and cloudless sky. "Ororo must be in a much better mood."
The temperature was still somewhat below normal, but the day had been sunny for once, and the students had fully capitalized on the opportunity to be outside. Against the light of the setting sun, he could see several students getting in a late game of basketball, while many others were simply lying on the grass. He could see Scott watching from a short distance away, making sure that nothing got out of control.
"You shouldn't take that personally." The Lady pointed out from her position on the couch. "Storm is not more at ease because she is leaving, but simply because she has finally decided one way or the other. There is a peace that comes with making up one's mind, even if one knows that the decision they have made will cause great sorrow."
"I wasn't taking offense." The Professor objected mildly. "She has made her choice, and despite the fact that I might wish differently, I believe it is the right one. She has been separated from her natural family for far too long."
"We will take good care of her." Alustriel assured.
The Professor smiled and turned back to the silver haired woman on his couch. "Of that dear lady, I have no doubt." He tapped his forehead meaningfully. "I do not, as a habit, pry, but there are some things that I can't help overhearing, no more than anyone could ignore someone shouting in their ear. I know first-hand how much you care for Storm. It is one of the reasons I am so amiable to her choice."
Guiding his chair beside the reclining ruler of Silverymoon, the Professor took another sip of his rapidly cooling tea. "It is my hope." He began after a moment. "That Storm will find an easier life in the world of her birth than this one has offered her. I understand, from her father's testimony, that her heritage is frowned upon. But, as a mutant, she is used to being judged on things that she can't control, and I understand that her father's efforts have somewhat dulled that prejudice. Perhaps in the place of her birth, where different races are commonplace, she can find a wider acceptance than any of us can currently hope to find here."
"She will be accepted." The Lady assured. "She need only mention her father's name and many gates in the Northland will open. I can personally guarantee that she will always be welcomed in my city, and the dwarves of Mithril Hall will treat her as one of their own."
It was Alustriel's turn to gaze out the window. "So many talented youth." She murmured, looking at the basketball game, which had quickly degenerated into general free for all, with both sides cheating with their powers. "It's so strange to me that they are hated when they have so much potential. The drow are hated because they have done evil things, but these children have done nothing. In our own world, such children would be cherished."
Xavier gave her an odd look.
"I thought you didn't pry as a habit." Lady Alustriel commented dryly.
"I don't." The Professor responded. "I don't have to read your mind to tell what you're thinking, but running away isn't the answer. You think that mutants should abandon this world in favour of yours, but new mutants would still be born here, they would still be hated. This fight can't be won by running away."
"Your place is here." Alustriel agreed readily. "As is your team's, but what about them." The silver haired woman waved her hand expressively at the window. "They didn't ask for this. They don't want to be part of your fight. After all, isn't that why you made this place, for them to be safe and not live in fear?" Lady Alustriel's beautiful eyes were intense as she regarded her friend. "Let those who wish to fight for acceptance stay, but shouldn't the children at least be given the right to grow up in peace?"
The Professor rubbed his hand over his face and fell into thoughtful silence. This wasn't the first time that they had had this discussion, or one close to it, and the Lady made several excellent points. However, if the mutant population in general were given the option to leave, he knew what the majority of them would choose. Some would stay and fight, but most would go. Mutants would remain rare, and in their rarity, they would never gain acceptance. The only way for mutants to become accepted was for them to become common place, and that could never happen if most ran away to live in Fearun. Besides, there was always the unexpected side effects of what merging two worlds on such a grand scale would do to Ororo's home world. No one knew what such a sudden influx of 'gifted' individuals might have, even in a world where such gifts were more common. No, the Professor decided. The place for mutants was here.
However, the Lady raised an interesting point about the children. Many were traumatized and damaged from their harsh upbringing. Perhaps Fearun could instead be used as a sort of rehabilitation option, the Professor mused, where the most traumatized could be sent to recover before returning to Earth.
"There may be something to what you say." Xavier admitted. "But perhaps not on the scale which you're thinking of, and in any case, we will discuss the details later. In the meantime." He said, changing the subject to something a bit more light hearted. "I believe that last night you were recalling some of your sister, Dove's, adventures when Scott interrupted us. I would very much like to hear the rest of the story."
The two stayed up perhaps later than they should have talking. But after all, the Lady would be leaving in the morning, and neither knew when they would have another chance for such stimulating company.
They all gathered outside after breakfast the next morning, as Lady Alustriel would need more room for her spell than any space save maybe the Danger Room could offer. The Companions all had their bags packed and slung over their shoulders, but there were also a number of larger bags laid out on the lawn beside them, belonging to Ororo. Storm, likely due to her years in Cairo, had never really accumulated much in the way of possessions, but it still took several well-sized bags to fit all her things. Taking one last look over the grounds and mansion, the dark skinned woman once again felt tears filling her eyes. Blinking rapidly, she walked apart from her new family to say her goodbyes to the old. Her birth family, to their credit, simply watched and waited patiently.
Jean and Rogue both had streams of tears running down their faces as they embraced their friend. "You'll come back to visit, right?" The younger mutant almost pleaded. "I mean, the Lady over there said that you could."
Ororo forced a smile and gently brushed Rogue's hair from her face, being very careful not to come into contact with the younger mutant's skin. "I'll come back." She assured. "Maybe for Christmas, alright?"
Rogue nodded with a sniffle and stepped back, obviously trying to compose herself.
The Professor, meanwhile, had been waiting patiently in the background for his turn. Goodbyes said to everyone else, Ororo turned to her surrogate father and, after a moment's hesitation, threw her arms around him in a rare display of pure emotion. "I'm going to miss you all so very, very much." She murmured softly.
"I know you will." Xavier answered equally as softly. "And we'll miss you as well." He reached up to stroke her white hair. "This is the right thing to do Storm, the right decision...I'm so very proud of you."
Drawing back, Storm cleared her throat and looked around for the last time. Her teammates all had misty eyes, but there were more than a few smiles there as well. No further words could have possibly expressed their affection and support for her as well as those smiles. Looking around though, Ororo felt a frown find its way onto her face. There was a noticeable absence in the crowd. Raising a questioning eyebrow, she turned to the Professor.
"He's coming." The Professor assured before she could ask. "Logan said that there was something he had to do this morning before you left."
The words were hardly out of his mouth when they heard the front door slam and the burly Canadian mutant came stomping over the lawn towards them. To Ororo's surprise, however, he didn't stop at the teary eyed group, but walked right past them to where the Companions were waiting. Dropping the heavy bag he had been carrying beside Ororo's luggage, Wolverine turned to his gaping teammates. "So, we goin' or what?" He asked brusquely.
Ororo turned an astonished look at the Professor, who was smiling faintly. From the Companions, Drizzt broke the stunned silence. "You're coming with us?" He asked curiously.
Logan shrugged. "Someone's got to make sure you guys are on the level. This turns out to be some big hoax, I'll feel a lot better knowing that Storm'll have me around to help her at least. Besides..." He continued, looking vaguely uncomfortable. "...This Fearun sounds like my kind of place. These dwarves and me will get along just fine. And no one over there will get excited if I kill some dirtbag that had it comin' in the first place." An almost feral grin made its way onto his face. "In fact...from what I hear, that sort of justice is encouraged."
"Orcs and scoundrels beware." Wulfgar murmured quietly. "Logan is coming."
Bruenor snorted. "They won't know what hit 'em." He laughed.
Ororo lingered with the X-Men for several more minutes but, finally exhausting any reason to delay, she shared one last sorrowful gaze with her teammates, and walked over to join her family and Logan. Although she would never admit it out loud, she was secretly glad that Logan would be coming with her. Abrasive and aggressive he might be, but he was familiar. At the very least, she could keep this one slice of her adopted home. Even if all else around her was strange and foreign, there would be this.
Meeting gazes, Logan gave Storm a wild and excited smile and, despite herself, Storm couldn't help but feel that excitement as contagious. The sorrow was still there, but there was also the thrill of exhilaration that comes with willingly throwing oneself into the unknown. In the background, she could hear the Lady begin her spell, and Ororo broke Logan's gaze just in time to see the X-Men and the mansion disappear in a flash of light.
After many years, many hardships, and many lessons learned, Ororo Do'Urden was going home.
A/N: That's it! It's done! My very first multichapter fic is completed! Thank you to everyone that read and reviewed. I can't tell you how much I appreciated all the feedback.