author: Alex L
rating/genre: (R) - Drama/Angst
warnings: Het, language, adult situations, attempted rape
summary: Not all homecomings are happy ones. R for language, disturbing imagery, and references to attempted rape. Featuring Iceman, Wolverine, Gambit, Jubilee, Rogue, and Storm, as well as other favorites.
comments/disclaimers: While I don't own any of the characters (Marvel), this story is mine, mine.
It had been two years since Bobby Drake had been back to the sprawling mansion in Westchester. Two years since he had left his friends-the people he had considered to be his second family-to care for his ailing father in Long Island, a man he had stopped talking to when he was only sixteen years old. While he was able to close the distance between them, his mind always went back to this place.
He stared at the familiar wrought iron gates that separated his black Volkswagen Jetta from his former home. Suddenly, he felt apprehensive. What kind of reaction was his homecoming going to elicit? Welcoming arms or hostile stares? He almost thought about turning his car around and driving away. Then he stopped himself, snorting.
This is ridiculous. I was an adult when I left with things to care of. Anyone would understand why I had to go and why I couldn't come back. Well, at least, not right away. He pulled out the remote control for the gates from his glove compartment. As they drew open, he felt as if they were somehow greeting him back from a long absence.
He parked his car in front of the garage. Throwing his duffel bag over his shoulder, he peered around the manicured grounds. In spite of how large the property was, he instantly felt at home. He smiled to himself as he made his way to the front door. Much to his surprise, his key still opened the foreboding oak door with brass lion's head knocker.
As he entered the foyer, a mixture of familiar scents greeted his nostrils. They were faint, but he knew them all too well. The fragrance from Ororo's rose garden, the spicy musk from Cuban cigars Bishop favored, motor oil from Scott's second loves in the garage, the sweetness of the peppermints the Professor kept in his study for the younger students. Thinking about the latter made Bobby realize he was quite hungry after his road trip. Apparently, a bag of Combos and black coffee from the local convenience store didn't go as far as he thought they would.
The kitchen was still warm from Cook's famous ginger snaps, which she would bake daily before dinner. While the portly Englishwoman was nowhere in sight, her cookies sat atop wire racks on the counters for cooling. He glanced sideways to see if anyone was around. Many times, he had experienced slaps in the back of the head from Jean, Ororo, or Betsy for his attempted thievery. When he noticed no one was around to stop him, he pounced on the sweets, devouring two in his watering mouth.
Ahh.This is what I really missed, he thought, popping another cookie into his mouth. I wonder what's for dinner?
Bobby turned around, swallowing. His eyes took in the girl he had first met when she was thirteen. She was seventeen now, but somehow she appeared older than that. There were no lines to her face, just a certain wariness that emanated. The short, spiky black hair now tumbled down her shoulders, streaked with midnight blue. As she sauntered towards him, he noticed she was taller and slimmer. Even her once child-like face had matured as well. However, this did not diminish the exquisiteness of her features. Instead, the years had only served to enhance them, particularly her eyes. Despite the time that had passed, those eyes remained that striking shade of sapphire blue. Her clothes also reflected her sense of maturity. Gone were the pink sunglasses and bright yellow raincoat with matching gloves. Instead, she wore a pair of faded jeans, a white T-shirt, and a navy, zip- up cardigan. Her trademark roller blades were now replaced with quieter sandals.
Bobby quickly cracked a smile to greet her. "Hey there, Jubes," he drawled, leaning against the kitchen counter. "Long time, no see. You look.Great." He was about to say beautiful, but recovered. Still, he could feel the beginnings of a blush creep across his cheeks. Confused, he briefly turned away from her. For some reason, it felt strange and wrong to say something like that to her.
Jubilee smiled, not noticing his discomfort. "Thanks," she replied, "School's kept me tied up. Since the academy closed, everyone here's determined to make sure I don't fall behind. Especially, Dr. McCoy." She shuddered at the thought of the chemistry homework that still awaited her attention.
"Yeah, Hank never loses his enthusiasm for passing on knowledge," Bobby mused with a laugh. He could almost picture his old friend pontificating about the finer points of learning for the sake of learning.
"Tell me about it. He's already put together my summer reading list, and it's only November!" She held up a copy of 'The Stranger' by Albert Camus to emphasize her point.
Then her grin faded as she asked, "So, what have you been up to?" From the serious tone she used, he could tell that someone had told her why he had left. At the time, she had been in Massachusetts with Emma and Sean, and was not around to see him leave.
Bobby simply shrugged, his eyes lowered. He did not want to see what he thought was pity from those old-soul eyes. "Just went home to take care of my dad," he replied nonchalantly. "Started working as an accountant again with this firm in Manhattan, but the pressure of being a big-shot got to me so I'm here." He tried to laugh, but the sound came out as a rough bark.
She watched his attempt to cover his feelings with empathy. Hank often said that Bobby's great defense mechanism was his use of humor. This was no exception. Clearly, the two years he had spent with his father, a man he had been estranged from for some time, had some effect on him. However, he seemed reluctant to say how much.
Instead of prodding him for more information as Jean or Ororo would, Jubilee decided to respect his need for privacy-at least for a little while. "Well, I'm glad you're back. Things were really boring without you. I mean, nobody here has a sense of humor," she told him, reaching into the refrigerator for some milk. She then retrieved two glasses from the cupboard and proceeded to serve. "You're here to stay, right?"
Bobby was taken aback from the soft, almost imploring tone in the young girl's voice. He could see years of pain and abandonment in those blue eyes. He knew she had experienced her own share of loss during her brief lifetime. There was the death of her parents. Then Logan, the man she had considered her surrogate father, left the mansion to conduct some soul- searching and severing all contact with everyone, including the Professor. Those two losses combined had been rough on her. He remembered overhearing Scott comforting the young girl right after Logan left. Her tears and her unanswered pleas for him to come back were heartbreaking to anyone who heard them.
He was surprised to find that his absence was almost comparable. It wasn't that they did not get along-quite the contrary. When he was living at the mansion, they were partners in crime as far as pranks and wisecracks were concerned. But since he was older than her (by seven years), they really did not spend all that much time together. While she was at the academy, he was often involved in saving the world. Then there was Logan. When he was still living at the house, he kept a tight rein on his little protégé, evidently wary of other men and their possible influence on her.
Suddenly, he felt strange about the rush of feelings he was experiencing. It was a mix of affection, protectiveness, and something else he could not quite put his finger on. He knew they were intense, which made him quite uncomfortable at that moment. What is the matter with me?
Bobby managed a weak smile, trying not to meet the sapphire gaze of the young girl. "Are you saying you missed me, Jubes?" he asked, his tone rather teasing. "If you did, I can put you on the mailing list for my fan club. I'm sure you could easily be president."
Her solemn expression became light. She grinned and retorted, "Then that would make me the only member."
"That was harsh," he commented, running a hand through his sandy hair. He was relieved that there was some levity between them now. It was almost the way things used to be.
"Sorry, but the truth hurts." She peered down at her watch and finished her glass of milk. "I should get going. I'm supposed to help Jean with dinner tonight." After they got married, Scott and Jean asked the Professor to construct a house on the grounds so that they could be close by, but have their privacy. Just before Bobby left to care for his father, Jubilee moved in with them, to get away from the memories of Logan.
"What's for dinner?" Bobby inquired; still hungry even after the cookies he had inhaled. He was half-hoping for an invitation.
"Not cookies," a familiar voice informed him.
He turned around to see the smiling face of his good friend, Jean Grey, who was standing in the doorway. She was as striking as ever. Her thick, red hair was pulled into a sensible ponytail, which brought attention to her swan-like neck. Her green eyes sparkled while she took him in. Always a conservative but stylish dresser, she wore a light pink blouse and a black, A-line, wool skirt with black heels. As she walked across the room toward him, he noticed that she was graceful as ever. It was no wonder the males around the mansion vied for her attention.
She pulled him into a friendly hug, the scent of her lilac perfume tickling his nose. "Welcome home," she whispered. Then she drew back to get a better look at him. She could sense something was bothering from the fact that he wasn't wearing his trademark grin. Even without doing a scan of his mind, she knew he had been through a great deal during his time with his father. While no one in the mansion had any idea how sick the elder Mr. Drake was, Jean could tell that the thought of almost losing his father was too much for Bobby. Peering into his face now, she wasn't sure if that was what was the only thing troubling him.
"Hey, Jeannie," he greeted. "It's great to see you. You look beautiful as ever."
She laughed. "Always laying the charm." To Jubilee, she said, "You should watch out for that."
Jubilee smiled, then shrugged. "Please, it's Bobby," she replied jokingly, rinsing her glass and placing it in the dishwasher. "Do you want me to start dinner? I think I can handle the lasagna."
"Why don't we have dinner here? Bobby's home and we can ask Cook to do something special. Do you want to ask her?"
"Sure." As she began to walk out of the kitchen, she paused at the doorway, turning to Bobby. "I'll see you around," she said, her voice soft. The younger, brash Jubilee would never have used that tone of voice.
Jean followed his stare to the now empty doorframe. "She grew up."
"Yeah. She turned out alright." Alright was an understatement.
"She certainly did. It's a miracle, especially after what she's been through," Jean mused, referring to the many losses in the young girl's life, as well as her brief imprisonment at the hands of Bastion. "Some people have this inner resiliency."
"It also helps to have supportive people around her, like you and Scott." Bobby pointed out quietly. He witnessed first-hand the couple's efforts to help her after she had returned from those months with Bastion. It had been Scott and Jean, not Logan, who made sure the girl received the medical and psychological care necessary for her recovery. While Logan wanted to seek retribution and immediately set out to find Bastion and the others, Scott and Jean created a safe home with them for the girl. They were the ones to realize that she needed to feel protected and loved, rather than revenge for what had been done.
Jean smiled, leaning against the counter. "We did what we could. She was the one who did most of the work to get herself back together." She then changed the subject. "So, how are you, Bobby Drake?"
"Me? I was hoping that you would have me over at the house for dinner."
"That could be arranged. But you didn't really answer my question."
"Are you reading my mind?" He was suddenly defensive and surprised. Usually, Jean did not like probing without the other person's consent unless it was absolutely necessary.
She shook her head emphatically. "No, I didn't have to do that. It's just that I can tell from the way you're acting. You seem tense."
Inwardly, he sighed with relief. "I have been on the road for several hours. It's been a long day for me."
"Is that all?" After growing up together, Jean knew when Bobby was trying to be evasive. Weak humor and lame excuses were the usual defenses he used to avoid talking. It was trademark Drake. "Bobby."
He watched her face become drawn with concern for him. She had always played the role of the dutiful, older sister when they were growing up, making sure he was he was fine and that he was adjusting to his gifts. Whenever Scott or Warren would attempt to leave him out of their activities (they were older and found his sense of humor immature), she would make an extra effort to include him. Staring back into the face of his loyal friend, he knew he could no longer keep up his façade of normalcy.
Bobby walked over to the kitchen table, motioning for Jean to join him and take a seat. When she did so, he said, "My dad's doing better."
"Bobby, that's wonderful news." Jean paused, noticing that her friend did not share her enthusiasm. "But?"
"We were getting along well, but the whole mutant thing was always in the way. He was always so scared at first, thinking that Creed and his goons were going to come back to finish him. It seemed worse when I was home. He didn't want anyone we knew to know that I was home with him and my mom. He was afraid that they were aware of what I am. With strangers, he was more than happy to introduce me as his son, provided I didn't show off my powers."
His gray eyes became bitter as he continued to speak. "It was as if I didn't belong at home, with my family. I went to the city and got a job, tried to be as normal as I could for him. I even stopped calling here to give Scott and the Professor updates. Somehow, it wasn't enough. I was miserable. There were many times I wanted to say, 'Screw it' and leave. But I couldn't leave my mom completely alone. It would have been too much for her, so I stayed and endured being the shame of the family for the next two years.
"The only thing that kept me sane was thinking about this place. You know, eventually coming back here." He swallowed hard, his boyish features edgier than they had ever been. "I didn't realize until I was gone that this was and still is home for me. I guess I never appreciated the family I had here until I left."
Jean put a sympathetic hand on his arm. "I think we all feel that way sometimes about things in life," she told him quietly.
He nodded. "It's just that when I was with my folks, I felt guilty about wanting to come back here. I should have focused mentally on my dad, but I kept thinking about you guys here and what I was missing. When he had finally recovered, it was as if I could not get away fast enough."
As she listened to him, she could understand his ambivalence about saying anything. He was clearly torn about what had happened. It also sounded as if he was disappointed about not healing his strained relationship with his father. She knew when Bobby was getting ready to leave the mansion, he was looking forward to making up for lost time and getting close to him again.
He shrugged. "Well, at least I got an invite for Christmas dinner from my dad. Maybe he's coming around."
Jean bit her lower lip, wanting to take some of the pain her friend was experiencing away. Unfortunately, that was not one of her gifts. "I'm sorry things didn't work out the way you wanted them to," she said finally, voice filled with empathy. "But I can say for all of us that we're happy to have you back. You were missed, Bobby Drake." She offered an encouraging smile.
"Thanks, Jeannie." That wasn't so bad, he thought, feeling a weight lift from his shoulders slightly. He had forgotten how talking to Jean always had made him feel better, no matter the situation. Had she not chosen to remain at the mansion, she could have been a successful therapist.
Bobby peered around. "Who else is here?" he asked, changing the subject.
Jean followed his lead, forgetting about her suspicions about something else being on his mind. "Scott's at the house with Jubilee. The Professor is in Washington, DC, presenting at a conference on mutant rights. I think Hank and Bishop are probably in the lab, working on something for the Professor. Ororo and Warren went into town with some of the children to shop for school supplies. Kitty, Neal, and Kurt took another group of the children on the grounds for a nature hike. Betsy is England, visiting her brother. Rogue is probably around here with Joseph."
Bobby whistled. "Full house. Just like the old days."
"Yeah, but I like it." Coming from a close family, Jean always loved having the mansion full. Like Bobby, she considered many of the occupants to members of her second family.
He noticed there were two notable omissions from her list of current occupants. "No word from Logan or Remy?" he asked in a low voice.
"No," Jean replied sadly, clasping her hands together. "The Professor and I have tried searching for them. Logan's in Canada, but he hasn't contacted any of us, except for Jubilee. He'll send the occasional postcard, wishing her well and nothing else. She used to think they were indicative of him coming back soon. Now, she doesn't get her hopes up anymore."
Bobby could tell from the way Jean was talking that unlike her husband, she wanted to gruff Canadian back at the mansion. While their attraction to one another was limited to light flirtation (at least from Jean's end), there was still a bond between them. Aside from Jubilee, Logan considered Jean to be someone he could trust and confide in. For her part, she admired his sense of honor despite his violent streak. She was also able to find a tender side to him, one that would protect all he loved at any cost. Bobby found the latter hard to believe since he found himself threatened by those adamantium claws more than once.
Jean continued, sighing heavily. "And Remy.I don't know. We tried to look, but nothing. It's been five years and either he's gone forever or he simply does not want to be found. Ororo and Jubilee wanted to continue the search, but Scott and the Professor decided it would be best not to bother. Their sources weren't able to come up with anything, so they did not see why Ororo and Jubilee should risk their own lives to look."
"I'm sorry to hear that," Bobby said. He himself did not care for the sweet-talking Cajun, but no one deserved the fate he endured-being left in the middle of Antarctica to fend for himself for a crime he had committed unknowingly and in the past. What made it worse was that the person he had loved for some time was the one who dispensed with that punishment. However, since Bobby and Rogue were close friends, he felt obligated initially to side with her.
She nodded. "People come and go. That's a fact of life." Her green eyes were affectionate as they peered at Bobby. "Sometimes, if you're lucky enough, they come back."
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