Chapter 12: Plan B
The plane darted through the misty, dull clouds, a magnificent Golden Eagle swooping and swaying, its heavy thick wings cutting through the air with delicate, masterful precision. Yet it wasn't enough, the speed too slow, wind currents moving like a languid woodcock out for an early morning flight.
"ETA, Shuri," T'Challa asked impatiently, hovering over her instead of sitting in the co-pilot seat.
"Subtract five minutes from the last time you asked and you'll have the answer." It was an annoyed snap of a response. She didn't even bother to hide her own impatience. Shuri was doing the best she could, going as fast as the plane would allow, breaking all rules of flying safety and a few physics ones as well. His sister was as anxious to reach Wakanda as T'Challa. He knew that, but that didn't stop T'Challa from nagging her every five minutes.
He needed to be home now, before the twins were born. T'Challa prayed he wasn't already too late. And the weather wasn't helping.
T'Challa peered out the window to his right and saw nothing but black sky. But the cool, calm night sky was deceptive. But it was the alarming high winds, murderous thunder claps, and intermittent sparks of lightning that told the true tale. All was not well, and the closer the plane got to Wakanda, the more intense the weather disturbances became.
Small tornadoes were deftly avoided, but the hailstorm they now approached was ominous, unforgiving. Unable to avoid the glacial ice drops, Shuri powered the plane through, T'Challa activating defensive shields before they entered the heart of the storm.
Worried, Shuri turned to him. "Have you been able to get through to the palace?"
T'Challa shook his head. He'd contacted his mother as soon as they boarded the plane. Giving him no details about his wife, she'd only urged him to get home as quickly as possible, like she needed to tell him that. But there was something in Ramonda's voice, a fear she couldn't completely mask with her brisk command.
But that was over an hour ago, before the weather turned from tepid to traitorous. Communications to Wakanda were down, T'Challa unable to contact anyone that could let him know the status of his family.
Angry, T'Challa swung around to face the woman responsible for all of this. The witch, Aluna, lay tied up in one of the black, leather seats, passed out. Her breathing was labored, rough, T'Challa assumed from a broken rib or two.
He moved closer, inspecting the petite woman. And she was petite, her weight negligible when T'Challa carried her to the plane. The woman probably couldn't boast more than five feet, but her desire for revenge was as large and lethal as any Goliath. Yet another reminder that one's enemies came in all shapes and sizes.
T'Challa stared at Aluna, wanting to hate her, needing to cast his ravenous anger, dimly checked fear, and building impotence on the woman before him. Yet the more he watched and listened to each ragged breath, eyes swollen shut, nose and mouth dotted with dried blood, the sadder T'Challa became.
Here he was feeling totally helpless, useless to his wife and children, praying to reach Ororo in time, be there for her in her time of need—protect them. And wasn't that exactly what Aluna Otieno wanted for herself, to protect her children, to keep them safe, to see them born healthy, to marvel in their innocent life, their brilliant shining light.
Yet she was denied. And, no, T'Challa wouldn't accept the blame Aluna so caustically placed at his feet. That honor went to her husband, Barasa, the unscrupulous Desturi leader, who would see T'Challa's own wife executed if he'd had his way. And Aluna supported the coup, aided her husband, T'Challa remembered reading the reports. All the Desturi Councilmen's wives were willing supporters. They were no innocents, dragged into the fire by overpowering husbands. No, they believed in the cause, whispered discontent in the ears of weak-minded, disloyal Wakandans, planted the seed, watered it, and watched it take root.
No, Aluna Otieno was as guilty as the dead and imprisoned Desturi. But her children . . . well, they were a different story. And to that end, T'Challa could understand Aluna's need for revenge, desire to spread her pain, her toxicity. But she would not be allowed to assuage her pain, fill her emotional maternal void by creating it within Ororo. That, T'Challa simply would not allow.
T'Challa could forgive many things. And if he'd learned Aluna and the other wives had fled to Niganda, he would've placed them under surveillance, but nothing more, the empty beach homes now taking on a different light to T'Challa. They were probably intended as a safe house for the Desturi Council if things went wrong for them in Wakanda. Things had gone wrong, terribly wrong, and their wives had fled the country. Yet, Aluna Otieno was the only one of the wives who, apparently, stayed on after the beach was shut down, the other women clearly having moved away to places unknown. And now T'Challa couldn't help but wonder about those other women, wonder if they too posed a threat to him and his family.
And then there was Shuri and what happened to her with the demon. Shuri could be a hothead, even brutal at times, but she'd grown a lot over the past year. Yet she'd nearly killed Aluna Otieno, a woman who, physically, was no match for her.
T'Challa turned back to his sister, watching as she meticulously avoided a tornado funnel, her lovely brown face scrunched up in intense concentration. He wouldn't ask now, recalling how effectively the demon had invaded his heart, pulling out T'Challa's greatest fears, most debilitating insecurities. For hours, T'Challa was forced to watch his children die over and over and over again. And when the bodies of his unborn weren't melting and screeching their baby tears, Ororo was mocking him with vulgar laughter as she took one man after another to her bed—Logan, Scott, Forge, Kurt, even the doctor he caught her kissing by the lake.
The images were revolting and wholly improbable. Yet the demon persisted, T'Challa unable to block the emotional assault. But worst was the fact that T'Challa had ever been that insecure in his relationship with his wife. And when he would stumble back to his dark, lonely apartment after fighting some low-life Hell's Kitchen scum, T'Challa would ache for his wife's soft, soothing embrace, afraid she would one day give up on him, and seek comfort from another.
And if the demon had so effectively tortured T'Challa, he couldn't help but wonder what the other demon had done to Shuri for all those hours. Whatever it was, it had made her so angry with the witch that she'd almost killed her.
"Get ready, T'Challa," she said, the plane taking a sudden dip, "I'm almost over the palace now."
T'Challa understood, she wouldn't waste time by landing, he would have to jump.
He made his way to the trap door in the bottom of the plane and waited for Shuri to give him the signal. Five minutes later, the door swung opened and T'Challa was airborne, his air flyer sailing over the palace's helipad.
Landing with a smooth thud, T'Challa jumped from the flyer, and darted to the roof elevator. Impatiently, he vaulted inside, quickly ascertaining the location of his wife from the guard's stationed on the roof.
T'Challa took the elevator down to subbasement one, removing boots and habit during the seemingly endless ride. With the first ding of arrival, T'Challa bolted through the doors, running at a breakneck speed down the hall and to the decontamination chamber.
"Open the doors!" he yelled to the stunned guards. They did as their king ordered, the doors to the chamber quietly sliding to each side, a dim green light sparkling overhead.
Once inside, T'Challa hit the CLOSE button and the vibranium doors slid back into place. Two more buttons later, T'Challa stood in a fog covered room, homeopathic decontaminates raining down on his near naked muscled form, the stench of blood, sulfur, and sweat chemically removed from his body.
Roof to the chamber had taken ten minutes. He'd estimated twelve. Not bad but he still hadn't reached his destination.
One minute later, T'Challa was back on the elevator, naked except for a pair of skintight black, knee length under armor trunks—perfect for the task ahead.
Two more minutes and T'Challa was rounding the corner of the maternity wing, barreling to the room at the end of the hall. Again, guards gawked, but not at his near naked state, no, they were smiling, some even cheering, the exuberant applause making him move faster, encouraging hope that he wasn't too late.
Thirty seconds later he swung the heavy metal doors open, the room awash in effervescent light, his wife sweaty, agitated, and thankfully, still pregnant.
"Lialah, angel of conception, I have waited so long to have a child of my own. I have cleared the way to call into my life healthy and loving children of my own. I promise I will nurture, respect, and protect these children just as God nurtures, loves, and protects me. In advance, I am forever grateful for having you assist me in this co-creation with God. I understand this is truly a blessed event that will take place in my life and I will be the best mother for these children, as loving and true as my own."
Ororo finished the prayer and opened her eyes. And like an angel descending the heavens, T'Challa entered the birthing room, his masculine, warrior glory no less than Archangel Gabriel himself. But T'Challa was better than any angel created in heaven, he was her prayer, the answering reply to all Ororo's dreams and hopes.
"Thank the Panther God," Ramonda sighed with relief, her prayers having been fulfilled as well.
But Ororo only had eyes for him, his hypnotically dark form cast against too bright lights, the bulge of each hard earned muscle glowing from the magical symbols placed on his body by Zawavari.
And then he was by her side, wrapping Ororo in strong, sure arms, warm tears falling from her eyes and onto his supportive shoulders. He was home and she was whole again. And their children were ready, having waited as long as they could for their father to arrive.
Ororo felt herself floating, cool air finding exposed skin, the sheet covering her now flapping around her. Then clammy skin met warm, refreshing water, slowly pulling Ororo back to the here and now.
T'Challa was with her now, holding her, both immersed in the birthing tub, grateful her husband left her with a shred of modesty, her sports bra was all that remained of Ororo's covering, a white sheet replacing panties and dress once her water broke.
But none of that mattered now, Ororo could relax, let go, and simply focus on having the twins, knowing T'Challa would take care of the rest. He'd promised to never leave her, to always be there for her and their children. He'd promised and Ororo had staked her future on her husband's words of honor, his integrity, his love for her. He'd promised. And he was here.
"How?" she whispered.
T'Challa kissed the hand she'd placed on his cheek, needing to confirm his presence, his solid, dependable form.
His answer was to stroke her cramping belly, his words spoken softly in her ear. "You waited for me, beloved, and I thank you. Recall the tempest now. Let me put an end to this Lilith business so we can usher our children into the world."
Before she could reply, T'Challa was gone, his warmth, his power, his solid force suddenly absent. Bereft, Ororo focused, and gasped when she saw T'Challa going toward the balcony doors.
"No!" she yelled, but it was too late. T'Challa had swung the doors open and a beam of unearthly light crackled, an angry hiss punctuated the darkness, the blue moon a feral backdrop for the hovering demon.
Lilith. Ororo felt the demon's presence, knew she lurked just beyond, angry she'd been tricked, her thirst for blood unquenched.
"Please come back inside, T'Challa," Ororo pleaded, slowly moving from one end of the tub to the other, trying to get as close to the balcony as possible. But two sets of strong hands held her back and down. Ramonda. Dr. Somide.
"Let him," Ramonda warned.
"You don't understand; she'll kill him."
"You had Zawavari place the name of the angel Lialah around the entire palace, Lilith can come no further."
Ramonda pointed to the balcony and where T'Challa stood. Indeed, Lilith wasn't on the balcony. In fact, the balcony contained Lailah's name inscribed in glowing, magical Wakandan runes, as did five strategic points around the palace, creating a pentagram.
Several feet from the balcony, floated a contemptuous Lilith, shiny yellow hair coiled around her pale frame, icky black, soulless eyes taking in the unafraid man before her.
According to Jewish myth, there is an angel of conception, Lailah, who brings the soul and the seed together and then sees to it that the seed is planted in the womb. In doing so, Lailah serves as a midwife of souls. While the infant grows in the womb, Lailah places a lighted candle at the head of the unborn infant, so he or she can see from one end of the world to the other. So too does the angel teach the unborn child the entire Torah, as well as the history of his or her soul. Then, when the time comes for the child to be born, the angel extinguishes the light in the womb and brings forth the child into the world. And the instant the child emerges, the angel lightly strikes its finger to the child's lip, as if to say "Shh," and this causes the child to forget everything learned in the womb.
The myth goes on to say that Lailah watches over the child all of his days, serving as a guardian angel. And when the time comes for a person to take leave of this world, Lailah leads him from this world to the next.
And while Ororo's faith was one of a different sort, she understood that it wasn't her belief, her own faith that gave the angels inscription power, but the belief and faith of Lilith. She believed God's angels had power over her, and it was that belief, more so than the inscription themselves that held the ancient demon at bay. The power of her faith was the magical shield Ororo now relied on to not only keep her children safe but her husband from harm as well.
That had been Ororo's secondary plan, Lilith revealing her own Achilles heel during the mystical dreaming.
I was created only to cause sickness to infants. If the infant is male, I have dominion over him for eight days after his birth, and if female, for twenty days. When the angels heard my words, they insisted I go back. But I swore to them by the name of the living and eternal God: Whenever I see you or your names or your forms in an amulet, I will have no power over that infant.' I also agreed to have one hundred of my children die every day. Accordingly, every day one hundred demons perish, and for the same reason, they write the angels names on the amulets of young children. When I see their names, I remember my oath, and the child recovers.
Those were her words and Ororo had remembered them well. But what in the world did T'Challa think he was doing? Why was he confronting Adam's first wife? The woman who wanted nothing more than to kill him in a way she hadn't been able to do to Adam, or God, for that matter.
With sickening dread, all Ororo could do was watch.
T'Challa turned to her, smiled, and said, "I must do this, Ororo, before the babies are born. I will not allow their births to be marred by the blackened heart of another grieving mother. I've seen all too well what such heartache brings, the evil it breeds, the pain it spreads."
Then he stepped to the edge of the balcony, bringing both arms up to his side, and Lilith moved closer, as close as the protective field would allow. "Take your fill," T'Challa offered, extending a hand across the protective border and to Lilith.
Ororo nearly screamed, the ear-splitting thunderclap an uncontrollable manifestation of her fear, her labor pains increasing but ignored.
The snake that had been twined around Lilith's shoulder, now slinked down her body, over her outstretched arm and to T'Challa's, an unspeakable bridge of horror. Another thunderclap, and then the sinking of fangs into flesh.
Ramonda and Dr. Somide's grips tightened, but they needn't have bothered. Ororo had no energy, no power to prevent the inevitable. Lilith would claim T'Challa, the way she'd wanted to since being summoned.
The snake bit and sucked, Lilith's eyes black, hard, and deadly, her mouth forming a most grotesque smile. And then she swallowed as if she could taste the blood the snake drew from T'Challa. Perhaps she could.
Ororo's vision blurred and she held onto the rim of the rub, taking deep breaths, forcing herself not to pass out. Her right arm hurt, like twin needles sticking into her, and then the sucking sensation came, the pulling of skin, blood, memories, but not her memories. Not this time, no, the memories belonged to T'Challa, and she was being drawn into his mind, his heart, pulled by a metaphysical string, the one that connected her, T'Challa, and Lilith.
Once I was a king. I wielded the power of an ancient god to protect my people. No more. I walked away from all I was to find out who I truly am.
The throne of Wakanda must be earned through combat, and I defeated many champions to prove my worth. Now I am without the riches and powers that come with the title . . . But I still know a thing or two.
My pride, honor, and determination—these are not bound to a crown or position.
Once I was a king, now I will be something very different. I arranged for every part of my life to bring me into contact with the people of this city. I choose an apartment where I thought it would be easy to meet my neighbors, to learn of their fears and concerns.
After so many years, it was strange to be alone . . . truly alone. No servants. No politicians. No bodyguards. Not even my wife.
Images of T'Challa's time in Hell's Kitchen started out as a leaking faucet of images, then poured forth in heavy, cold waves, bombarding Ororo's mind and heart.
He had been so lonely and utterly determined to prove his self-worth—to himself. And seeing her husband in a light Ororo had never glimpsed before, struggling to walk after the plane crash, living with the knowledge of her nanite contamination and his inability to protect her from Doom, fearing she would never forgive him for choosing Wakanda and its people over her, giving up his identity of king, Black Panther, husband, brother, and son, in exchange for a much simpler one—T'Challa. Simply T'Challa.
The images raced through her mind, reminding Ororo of a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. statement she'd read in his 1963 work, Strength to Love. Each of us is something of a schizophrenic personality, tragically divided against ourselves. And that described T'Challa, or how he'd been before he'd come to terms with himself, accepting all, including his family and friends.
T'Challa spoke, his words wafting through the air between them, encircling her, including Lilith in his revelation. The words of Robert Brault slipped from his lips. "'Looking back, you realize that a very special person passed briefly through your life, and that person was you. It is not too late to become that person again.' "
Then the emotional tidal wave began again, the snake digging deeper, twining its wretched tongue around T'Challa's arm, holding on fiercely. But the memory was unforced, came freely, given willingly. Ororo could feel T'Challa's energy and knew he wasn't fighting Lilith or her devilish snake. No, quite the contrary, he wanted them to see, to know.
Before she could solve the puzzle that was her husband's contingency plan, Ororo was sucked into another one of T'Challa's memories.
This time I fly alone. As a king, it's hard to have a moment alone. You're leading a country, commanding an army, with all the servants and councils and security guards and other people who come with it. And even while constantly surrounded by people, it's easy to feel lonely. No one to trust, or even empathize with your position. The last time I was this alone, I was traveling in this same direction on my walkabout.
I was excited by the prospect, a chance to test my survival skills. And a chance to be my own man, unburdened by title or expectation. But of all things I saw on my journey . . . nothing can compare to the first sight of her.
If this journey goes well, I will never be alone again, a prospect that thrills and terrifies me. A wise woman once told said: "There is no greater challenge to a warrior than to open his heart to love." Why is my mother always right?
I hate being in this situation. This is going to be very painful. Why should I endure a minute of pain? I am a warrior, but why choose a fight when you can walk away?
There is a woman in each of those houses. I've flown over thousands of houses in my journey here. With all those women to choose from, why am I doing all this for her?
"Son, romantic love is a great luxury. So many people stay in unhappy relationships for their children, because they can't afford to live on their own. Even wealthy people marry to join fortunes or empires."
"Father, are you saying that romantic love is not achievable?"
"Just the opposite. Romantic love is the highest ideal. The family is the foundation of the nation. Without love in your heart, the weight of responsibility will crush you, turn you into a tyrant. I love your mother. Always have. Yes, she is from a family full of intelligent, strong, good-looking people, making her genetically appealing as a mother of my children . . . but all of that would mean nothing is she weren't a woman whose presence still intoxicates me years after we first met.
What's wrong? Does it all seem like an impossible goal?"
"Don't worry about it, son. You've got years of fun ahead of you. Enjoy the life of a young prince to the fullest. Because when you meet the one, you don't want to ever look back."
And that was the problem. I met the one. But I was just a boy on my journey to manhood.
Once we met, the attraction was instant, undeniable, all-consuming. She was beautiful, smart, tough, courageous, principled, even while being a thief.
Once we met, we were pretty much inseparable. We had many adventures together. Only one thing could come between us.
Me. And my need for revenge, to punish the man who had killed my father, changed my life, and took me from her, placing us on similar but divergent paths.
Ororo found herself gasping for air, Ramonda patting her hand in sympathy. Ramonda nor Dr. Somide knew exactly what was transpiring with her or the scene playing out on the balcony. They too were stunned, afraid to venture closer to T'Challa but too protective of Ororo and the twins to leave her for a minute, even to call for the guards waiting on the other side of the heavy metal doors. Not that the Wakandan warriors would be of use, traditional weapons had no place in the realm of magic and mysticism.
And just when understanding started to dawn on Ororo, T'Challa's back, arms, and legs burst into flames of white and gold. Symbols Ororo had never seen on his expansive body suddenly appeared. But she knew them—Adrinka symbols.
On the rippled calf of T'Challa's left leg was an Ohene Aniwa, the eyes of the king. It was a symbol of vigilance, protection, security, and excellence.
The opposite calf contained an emblazoned picture of an Mpatapow, a knot of reconciliation and peace.
In the center of his glistening back was a Nkyimkyim, twisting lines, a symbol of toughness, adaptability, devotion to service, and ability to withstand hardships.
Finally, at the base of his neck, stretching from his hairline to his broad shoulders was an exquisitely crafted Sankofa bird, the symbol of the wisdom from learning from the past in building the future.
Ororo's eyes began to water and it wasn't from the intensifying pain in her abdomen and lower back. When had T'Challa had Zawavari include those additional symbols? And why hadn't he told her about them?
The magical protective symbols were invisible to the eye, T'Challa's skin appearing flawless under normal circumstances. But like opening a third eye, T'Challa could tap into the power of the symbols at will, evoking their will, spreading their light, their glory. And they were glorious, as splendid as the bearer.
Arms still outstretched, T'Challa balled his fists, muscles rippling in the glowing light, and he revealed another memory. And as the memory, their shared memory, crashed into her, Ororo recognized the balance of power. Unlike when Lilith had possessed her, Ororo had no control over the memories Lilith wheedled from her. But in this battle, T'Challa had given of himself freely, meaning he was in the power position, determining the terms of agreement, taking Lilith and her pet snake along for the ride.
"Your visit has been a great comfort to me."
"I've accomplished little, king. Your friends who summoned me are very worried about you. As am I."
"I assure you, Ororo, I am well."
"Then why is the world on the brink of war?"
"There will be no war. This is all so much howling at the wind."
"There was once a great man of sound mind and temperament who had great dreams of protecting his people from evil. And building a great society that would enrich and enlighten all mankind. His fatal flaw was his crippling inability to admit he didn't know everything . . . that he was afraid. That man name was Magnus. One of the most tortured souls I have ever encountered. You, my friend, are in grave danger of becoming just like him."
"Please don't leave."
"But I am still enjoying you."
"It is time, my king."
"Needs me as your people need you. As Monica neds you."
"And you? Do you need me as well . . .?"
"For everything there is both a time and a season. Perhaps someday you will speak my name and I will never again leave your side. But for now, we must follow our own paths."
"And mine leads to me becoming Magneto . . .?"
"I have faith in your spirit, T'Challa. I will be with you always."
"Am I to kiss you now?"
"If that is your way . . ."
And they kiss, a long, soft full of promise, full of regret kiss.
And then he spoke the words, the ones she barely heard back then, so low was the admission.
"I—I—I don't know everything, Ororo . . . I . . . I'm afraid."
Then he turned, slowly and with purpose, the snake forced to release him or succumb to the power emanating from the King of Wakanda.
Kneeling, Ororo leaned forward, her eyes riveted on the symbol on the left side of his chest, directly over his heart. The Osram Ne Nsromma, the moon and the star shone the brightest of them all. It was symbolic for faithfulness, love, harmony, loyalty, and benevolence.
Then he raised his left hand to her, an Odo Nyera Fie Kwan decorated T'Challa's palm: love, devotion, faithfulness. T'Challa spoke, and as the words left his lips, the symbol twisted, turned, and began to extend its divine light.
"Odo nyera ne fie kwan, love lights its own path; it never gets lost on its way home."
And when the last word was uttered a gossamer strand of light echoed between them like a beam from a flashlight, the Odo Nyera Fie Kwan now on Ororo's belly, the labor pains ebbing to a dull, manageable throb.
Without turning back to Lilith, T'Challa's eyes remained on Ororo's tear-filled ones and he spoke, strong, determined, and with sympathy. "I cannot return what you have lost, or undo what you have taken from others. These children, my children, our children have an 'astonishing destiny,' before them and you may not have them. Not today, not tomorrow, not ever."
As those words began to sink in, reverberate in Ororo's mind, she saw him, total recall summoned by his arrival.
The ultimate nullifier destroys its target, but it also destroys its wielder utterly. Pull that trigger and you will be wiped from reality. We will never have existed. That would be a pity, he'd said, large smile and yellow glowing eyes peering down at T'Challa, considering the astonishing destiny of the children you and Ororo will someday have.
"You've come to witness the birth of our children," T'Challa said.
"I have. You knew I would come, foresaw this day."
T'Challa nodded, his eyes still locked on Ororo, whose eyes couldn't help but stray to the mountain size Watcher floating in the sky outside of the balcony, his white and blue toga swaying quietly in the wind.
"Uatu," she whispered.
The Watcher made himself smaller, so small his entire form was visible. And that smaller form was now perched on the balcony and in front of a shocked Lilith.
And for the first time, those coal black eyes were no more, replaced by a color so blue Ororo knew the hue didn't exist in the natural environment.
"You saw what they did to me?"
"You saw what they made me do, what they turned me into?"
"Do you know where my children are?" The third question was spoken on a frightened sob, the kind that comes with the expectation of a negative response.
And Lilith's eyes became even bluer, hope manifesting after so many lost years.
"Can you take me to them? Is it too late for redemption, too late to save my soul?"
"I only watch, see, expect. I do not intervene, judge, or forgive. But I can point, and if you chose to follow the path, you will see and know, and set yourself free. But if you want redemption, Lilith, it must begin now, with them," he pointed to Ororo and T'Challa, "with their children."
Ororo felt T'Challa's hands on her, then his face, lips kissing the spot on her belly, the symbol he'd placed there, a symbol of his love, his devotion. And she knew it was time, there would be no better time to deliver their children than now.
She settled her back against T'Challa's strong chest, followed the smooth cadence of his breathing, and Ororo pushed when told to by Dr. Somide, and they came. Their son first, followed by a screaming baby girl, lightning ushering their safe arrival.
It was done, and when Ororo found the night sky once again, they were gone, Lilith and Uatu, and Ororo said a prayer, for Lilith's soul and that of her children.
The smell of lavender scented water clung to her as heavily as fatigue. Ororo was so tired, but not so exhausted she failed to enjoy the lovingly cautious way her husband washed her after she'd given birth to their children. He held her, stroking her hair, thanking her for making him a father, for trusting and believing in him.
And when her eyes could stay open no longer, they settled on the image of T'Challa, standing near the balcony doors, a blue and pink bundle in each large arm, showing his children Wakanda, the legacy he would keep and hold for them.
T'Challa turned then, smiled, and walked to her side, his movements graceful and full of a father's pride. He turned their children to her, and Ororo smiled, a set of bright brown and blue eyes peered down at her. And then T'Challa spoke, low and tender, eyes and voice wilting from unshed tears.
"T'Chaka. N'Dare. This is your mother, my wife, Ororo Iqadi T'Challa. Her love and forgiveness made this day possible. You will love, honor, and respect her, as I do, and as she does me. You will learn this poem by Marcus Garvey. I will teach it to you, starting today, and every year, on this most sacred of days, your birthday, you will honor her through its recitation.
'Where can I find love that never changes
Smiles that are true and always just the same,
Caring not how the fierce tempest rages,
Willing ever to shield my honored name?
This I find at home, only with Mother,
Who cares for me with patient tenderness;
She from every human pain would rather
Save me, and drink the dregs of bitterness.
If on life's way I happen to flounder,
My true thoughts should be of Mother dear,
She is the rock that ne'er rifts asunder,
The cry of her child, be it far or near.
This is love wonderful beyond compare;
It is God's choicest gift to mortal man;
You, who know Mother, in this thought must share,
For, she, of all, is Angel of your Clan.
My Mother is black, loveliest of all;
Yes, she is as pure as the new made morn;
Her song of glee is a clear rhythmic call
To these arms of love to which I was born.
I shall never forget you, sweet Mother,
Where'er in life I may happen to roam;
Thou shalt always be the Fairy Charmer
To turn my dearest thoughts to things at home.' "
T'Challa, her husband, King of Wakanda, former Black Panther and protector of Hell's Kitchen, kissed her then, his lips warm on her cheek.
"Sleep now, my love. We'll be here when you awake."
Author's Note: Where appropriate, I tried to weave in the various, and often conflicting, Storm/BP origin stories. It wasn't seamless but I think each piece emphasized the point I wanted to get across. Die hard BP fans (Priest or Hudlin) will recognize the flashbacks/memories. And we can thank the late great, Dwayne McDuffie for his contribution to the royal couples future children. Both he and Hudlin used Uatu in their stories. Hudlin during the "Wedding of the Century," and McDuffie during the FF crossover that followed the events of Civil War. Thanks for reading.