Author's Note: This Epilogue is an extended version of the original included as part of Ororo's chapter. Because I'm a self-indulgent writer and still had a few silly ideas running around in my head, I decided to entertain myself by writing them down and adding a more complete conclusion. Again, thanks for reading and sticking with me in this endeavor.
Dr. Kweku looked from Ramonda to Shuri, both strong-willed women with the indomitable spirit of Bast. And they looked back at him, brown eyes conspiratorial.
"So, how long do you think I'll have to wait until it's safe to venture outside and home? I would hate to be late for dinner with my wife."
Simultaneously, they turned, security windows lining the back of the private dining room. Lightning flashed once, twice, three times. Thunderclaps crackled. Again. Again. Again.
Ramonda smiled her devilish smile. "Perhaps you should call your wife, doctor, I don't expect this storm to pass anytime soon."
He smiled, too.
Shuri didn't. With much disgruntlement, the queen said, "Isn't this just perfect. Now I'll have to put up with the cock-sure, lovestruck version of my brother instead of the dark, brooding one. T'Challa's absolutely no fun when he's happy and sated. Damn them both." She rounded on Dr. Kweku. "I blame you for this, doc. Not only have you ruined my fun," she glanced out the windows when more lightning skidded across the sky, "I'm stuck in the palace until they finish. Which," she huffed out in exaggerated annoyance, "could be damn well forever considering how long they've gone without."
"Shuri," Ramonda said, but there was no true censure in her tone, just pleased, knowing agreement.
The queen shrugged and took her place at the table.
Dr. Kweku and Ramonda joined her.
And two vacant seats remained. But that was okay, as far as the marriage counselor was concerned. At least Ororo and T'Challa had finally taken his advice. Now, if he could only get them to work on a few other things, they would be well on their way to a happy reconciliation. But that was future sessions. He would take the win today, lightning and thunder included.
Dr. Kweku took a deep breath and let out an exhausted sigh. Counseling the Royals wasn't for the faint of heart. Thank God they finally had sex, or he would've had to throttle them both. And damn the consequences, an old man could only take so much.
By the time Ororo and T'Challa made it down to the private dining room for breakfast the next morning, Ramonda and Shuri had already eaten and were simply talking and sipping from their coffee cups.
Pleased at the familiar sight of her mother and sister-in-law, Ororo breezed into the room, T'Challa following indecently close. Ignoring him, Ororo went to the woman who was as close to a mother as she'd had in a very long time.
Standing, Ramonda smiled and opened her arms. The women hugged, Ororo not too grown not to feel like a wayward child returned to the fold in the Queen Mother's embrace. She smelled of lilac, Wakanda, and love.
Ramonda leaned back; pulled Ororo's face down to hers and kissed her forehead, a motherly gesture many would claim the fierce woman incapable of exhibiting. And just like that, Ororo felt guilty for spending so much time away from home.
But that guilt was short-lived, as was Ramonda's uncharacteristic sweetness when the Queen Mother said, "It's nice to know you haven't forgotten where you live, Ororo. I had to check the atlas just to make sure Wakanda was still on the map. And you know what, my dear," the woman had the nerve to smile pleasantly as she so clearly mocked Ororo, "Wakanda's still there, even Wikipedia got it right. And you know no one with half a brain trust that site. But there our little nation was, right where it's always been, bordering Lake Turkana and Niganda."
Shuri, who'd been watching the interplay with rapt attention, laughed and said, "Finally, someone else for Mother to harass other than me."
Ororo gave Shuri a sympathetic look but couldn't keep the acknowledging smile from her lips, or the words of, "I'll try not to be gone so long next time, Ramonda."
"Or so often," the bullish woman pushed.
Ororo stepped away from her mother-in-law and walked around the table, throwing over her shoulder before she sat, "When I next leave, I'll be sure to leave bread crumbs to help me find my way home."
Shuri laughed again, so did Ororo and Ramonda. Everyone laughed except T'Challa, whose face had become stone hard, not exactly the part of his anatomy that had been in that state for most of the night and morning.
Okay, maybe it was too soon for Ororo to make jokes about an issue they were still grappling with. But honestly, he hadn't been the only one engaged in solo therapy sessions with Dr. Kweku these last three weeks. Apparently, the man knew precisely how to use Skype. And when did the elderly marriage counselor decide to trade in his legal pads for a computer? Ororo suspected T'Challa had something to do with it, as well as providing the doctor with her Skype address. Considering she carried her cell phone with her everywhere, at T'Challa's nagging behest, Ororo hadn't missed not one session.
A moment later, T'Challa relaxed, a visible effort on his part. But an effort all the same. That was progress. Small steps Ororo reminded herself, small steps.
T'Challa went to the sideboard and filled her plate with seasonal fruit and a small helping of low-fat strawberry yogurt. His contained substantially more food—two bananas, six links of turkey sausage, four boiled eggs, two Belgian waffles, one whole grain pancake, and a bowl of something that smelled like cinnamon oatmeal.
"Ah, worked up a hearty appetite, did you, big brother?"
Not taking the bait, T'Challa dug in. One hand held his fork while the other slipped under the table.
And while T'Challa easily devoured his mountain of a meal, Ororo could barely consume a bite of her own. So wonderfully distracting was his hand, sliding under and up her skirt, squeezing and massaging her thigh, tempting and teasing, making her want him to go higher. All the while knowing she should push him away but feeling no inclination to do so.
Then his hand went higher, thumb enticingly close to her throbbing need. A need that shouldn't exist. Not after what they'd done the night before. And damn, why was he eating his hot cereal that way? Slowly licking the moist oats off the spoon, twirling his tongue around the sparkling silver, eyes heavy and hot and staring right at Ororo.
Oh, dear god, her body hummed everywhere. Everyplace her husband had kissed, stroked, licked, and hell, even spanked her last night. And while Ororo ached in the most intimately wonderful of places, requiring a nice soak in steaming hot water, right now Ororo wanted nothing more than to—
"Dammit, T'Challa, I have plans today, so whatever in the hell you're doing to Ororo under the table to cause the rainclouds I see forming, just stop it."
T'Challa did stop. But he also pushed himself from the table and stood.
Following suit, Ororo did the same, feeling somewhat embarrassed but not really. Hell, after last night and her total lack of control, everyone in the palace had to know exactly what she and T'Challa had been doing until the wee hours of the morning. Time for modesty had long since passed.
"Come on you two," Shuri pleaded. "I have off-site meetings and inspections today, and I have no interest in risking my neck dodging lightning bolts of lust."
"You're Black Panther," T'Challa said with a grin that managed to be both sexy and taunting, "if nothing else, you're nimble. You'll be fine."
Ramonda got up and made her way past the feuding siblings, shaking her head as she so often did when T'Challa and Shuri acted more like children than the capable sovereigns they were. Her, "I'm glad you're home, dear," Ramonda's only parting words.
"As long as you two were cloistered in your bedchamber last night, one would think you would be done with it already." Shuri focused her gaze on Ororo. "And really, sister, I expected more from you. I thought you prided yourself on having so much control over your mutant powers. Where was that vaulted control last night . . . and this morning?"
T'Challa tried to pull Ororo out the door but she resisted, just a bit, smiling at the young queen with a happiness she hadn't felt in far too long. This sexual bliss and ceasefire wouldn't last. Such things never did, but Ororo and T'Challa were learning . . . slowly, and they would persevere.
"You know Shuri," Ororo's smile sarcastic, "you really should stick to black because green really isn't your color. And," Ororo said, finally permitting T'Challa to pull her along behind him, their bedchamber their destination, "Because I love you, I'll give you something I never give my enemies."
"What is that?" Shuri yelled after them, her steps agitated and fast as she moved from the dining room, down the long hallway, and to the front door.
Ororo looked down the staircase and out the window next to the front door Shuri was now standing in front of, the rainclouds darkening, Ororo melting when T'Challa laved a particularly sensitive spot on her neck.
"Just tell me already before my brother forgets you're not the only two people who live in the palace and decides to make love to you on the damn marble steps."
Goddess, Shuri was right, and if T'Challa kept pursuing the throbbing vein in her neck with his masterful tongue, Ororo just might allow him.
Shuri's tone was laced with sisterly venom when she asked, "What are you going to give me, weather witch?"
"A head start, Black Panther. A head start."
Shuri shot daggers at Ororo but hurriedly reached for the door. "I'm so going to kick your lightning-wielding ass when I get back. This is no way to treat the Queen of Wakanda."
The door slammed behind the furious queen, and Ororo and T'Challa proceeded up the stairs.
"You know," T'Challa said after closing their bedroom door behind them and pinning her to it, his aroused body holding Ororo in place, "she's going to blame me and not you."
Ororo wrapped her arms around T'Challa's neck, rubbing her own aroused body against his, pleased to hear a low growl of approval from him. "In a way," she whispered, her lips grazing his lips, "what's about to happen to Shuri out there, the storm that's about to be set free," one hand moved to the back of his head, urging his mouth even closer, "is most definitely, without a doubt, all your fault, King T'Challa," she finished.
They kissed, tongues twining in an unrushed dance that resumed last night but began so many years ago.
They stayed just like that, pressed against the solid bedroom door, undressing each other but never venturing beyond that point, always touching, always kissing.
And five minutes later when T'Challa hoisted her in his arms, legs finding purchase around his firm hips, back braced against the door, Ororo knew Shuri's head start would end in four . . . three . . . two . . . one . . . .
And if Ororo had enhanced panther hearing, she would've heard Shuri curse her in both Wakandan and English. But she didn't, all her senses riveted on the man making her rain for him—from the inside-out.