saga/title/fandom: Homecomings

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.

Chapter Six: One of These Things First

Winter came rather slowly to Westchester that year. By now, first snow would have fallen on the grounds of the mansion. Only crisp winds and cooler temperatures signaled the beginning of the season. This was rather disappointing to the children and some of the adults who wanted to partake in snow-related games. More disturbed was Ororo, who was tired of fielding questions about the strange weather patterns.

On a bitterly cold afternoon, Professor Charles Xavier found himself in his study, catching up on correspondence to various senators in Washington, DC. He was writing to them about the impending Mutant Registration Act, which was going to be voted upon following the winter recess. The Professor was hoping that his eloquent words would be sufficient to sway these individuals to vote against the proposed legislation.

The décor of the famous study was reminiscent of a converted carriage house in London, which had been a childhood vacation home. The walls were a glossy midnight blue, which were accented by lush, red velvet curtains, ancestral tartans and jacquards, and gold-framed sketches of horses, jockeys, and handwritten poems. Hurricane vases with brass trim sat on the coffee table next to textbooks and notebooks. Throughout the study, clean- lined chairs were upholstered in carriage-blanket plaids, while quilted velvet and suede pillows and drapes appeared to recall padded horse blankets. Navy pillows edged in gold trim inspired by cavalry epaulets, and gold buttons and leather buckles evoked crisp, tailored riding jackets. Beautifully appointed campaign furniture crafted from honey-hued mahogany and detailed with brass trim and mounts added to the English theme. There was a handkerchief-top game table that opened to reveal a leather-bound playing surface, while the traditional cane-sided sofa with sleek black leather cushions commanded the attention of the room. On the sofa, silk scarves featuring belted equestrian motifs were made into luxurious oversized throw pillows backed in navy suede.

Despite the classic feel of the space, there were contemporary touches. These touches could be traced to the tartan chairs with nail head trim and aged walnut trim, a red ostrich-leather ottoman with the same type of trim and recessed casters, and the Secretariat chest of drawers with its clean lines, honey-hued finish, and brass corner brackets. While the walls were dark, there was plenty of lighting from the floor-length windows and the numerous brass floor lamps.

He was in the midst of signing another letter when he noticed that he was not alone. He had not heard the door open. Instead, he felt familiar presence in the study with him. Without looking up from the piece of paper in front of him, he said, "Come in, Jean."

The statuesque redhead smiled, closing the door behind her gently. "I hope I'm not bothering you."

"No, not at all." He put down his pen.

Jean had accompanied him to many of his trips to Washington, DC, where he had testified in front of the Senate. She knew the kind of work that was entailed outside of these visits. Eyeing the stack of envelopes with completed letter inside, she asked, "How's it going?"

He motioned for her to sit down. "I've gotten quite a bit done, but there is always more to do." Without probing her mind, he could sense something was troubling her. "Is there something you would like to discuss?"

She stared into the aged, but kindly features of the man she considered a second father. While he could appear frail at times, he conveyed a quiet, but powerful strength about him. It was that strength she admired most about her beloved mentor.

"I could never hide anything from you." Jean sighed, green eyes weary. "Have you noticed the tension that has come over the house recently?"

The Professor folded his hands together thoughtfully. "I have," he acknowledged, nodding. While he had an idea as to the source of the tension, he wanted to hear Jean's thoughts. He raised his brows expectantly for her answer.

She immediately took his cue. "I suppose the tension could be traced to the recent homecomings," she began, remembering Scott's heated reaction when he found out that Remy LeBeau had returned. It was similar to when he had discovered Logan had returned, but with more reservation. He was outraged that Ororo and Kitty had invited him back without consulting the others. He was unsure as to how safe it was to have him in their midst given his past.

"I'm certain not everyone shares Scott's hesitation about Gambit."

"True. People like Ororo and Jubilee are very happy that he's returned. Then there are people like Warren and Bobby who are sympathetic to Scott's concerns."

"It is true that he has done some things that not a lot of us would be especially proud of. However, the circumstances were quite different. You and I understand that he did what he did under extreme duress, Jean."

"Yes, Professor, I do. It's just that some people are more focused on the act, rather than the situation. The deaths of many mutants, unintentional or not, has a sobering effect on people. There are times when I do empathize with Scott. He is simply looking out for the safety and welfare of the others here. I can't really blame him for that, can I?"

"No, you can't. At the same time, Gambit proven to us that he is worthy of our trust again. During the missions he has been on since his return, he has always been steadfast in the fight. He has also expressed his remorse for his part in the massacre. I know he is genuine and sincere about attaining atonement."

The Professor's mind drifted to a conversation with the Cajun thief days before. He had accompanied the Professor on a stroll around the grounds, now empty of the fallen leaves and blooming shrubbery. Despite using his humor and bravado, Gambit had seemed deeply troubled over what he had done. He had also expressed some unease about being constantly scrutinized by other members since his return. The Professor listened for some time, acknowledging his concerns. He then challenged the young man as to what he was going to do to address these issues. Initially, Gambit was taken aback, but then nodded in understanding. He had realized what he would have to do.

Jean's voice broke into his thoughts abruptly. "I agree with you. He is a good man, in spite of the front he tries to display to us." She likened him to the scoundrel in old stories, who was constantly trying to show his worth to the others. He seemed to take pride in being the sly, bad-boy thief rather than as a hero.

"The same could be said of another colleague and friend." The Professor popped one of his peppermints into his mouth.

Logan, Jean mused inwardly. A smile came to Jean's lips as she recalled Scott's initial impressions of the Canadian who flaunted the rules and made a point to go his own way.

"Yes, and as you recall, he was not exactly embraced with open arms."

"True. It took time for him and the others to trust one another."

The Professor nodded. "I would daresay that the same would apply to our friend, Gambit. As you said with Logan, these things take time."

"I know you're right," Jean replied, tucking a lock of red hair behind her ear anxiously. "People like Scott and Warren will come around."

The Professor could hear the hesitation in her voice. He knew there was some other aspect relating to Gambit's return that was troubling Jean. "But?" he inquired, hoping she would elaborate further.

"You remember how close he and Rogue were before Antarctica?"

"Yes, I seem to recall that."

"I sense the other origin of the tension may stem from their fractured relationship. I have felt his frustration during his time here, trying to adjust to the idea that she has found someone else. She, on the other hand, has been experiencing a myriad of feelings."

"I have sensed that as well. Some guilt and confusion." The Professor turned around in his wheelchair. He was facing the window of his study. Unless Gambit and Rogue are able to discuss openly their unresolved issues, I do not see an end to this tension.

Rogue pulled her quilted, silver down jacket closely to her. Despite the frigid temperatures outside, she decided to take a walk on the grounds. Fortunately, she had dressed in anticipation of the wintry air. Underneath her heavy coat, she was wearing a long-sleeved, thermal white T-shirt, a thick, zip-up black sweatshirt and matching pants with her black-and-white sneakers. A white, cashmere scarf around her neck and chin and black leather gloves completed the bundled-up look.

She needed to clear her head. Outside of the mansion seemed like the only place she could find solitude. The grass was crisp under her feet as she made strides toward the dock and the lake. There was too much going inside her to share with anyone else, even with those she considered closest to her.

When she reached her destination, she seated herself on the edge. Her legs dangled over the nearly frozen lake. She couldn't feel the wind beating at her back any longer. However, she was able to see her ragged breath in the air.

It had been several weeks since Remy returned to the mansion. Rogue had viewed that time as the most miserable and torturous of her life. She did not share Ororo and Jubilee's delight that he had come back. Both were comfortable enough to talk with him, to enjoy his company again. Even Logan, the man who claimed to not need friends, seemed pleased that his old friend had come home.

Meanwhile, Rogue found herself unable to face him. For several weeks, she had done everything she could to avoid speaking to him. Her own guilt was too much to bear. Whenever she looked at his beautiful face, she was reminded of how she had left him to die. She could still hear his pleas for help ringing in her ears. Their last moments replayed in her mind over and over again since his return.

She was hovering above him. The arctic wind stinging her cheeks as tears streamed down. However, these tears did not change her resolve. She had to do this.

"Chère, what you doin'?" he cried, struggling to stand up. He was still weak from the trial and the trip.

"Ah have to go, Remy," she replied bitterly.

"No, wait! Don' leave me!" he yelled, reaching for her. His fingers brushed against the heel of her boot as she ducked away from him. "Gambit won' make it here!"

Rogue sneered at him. "Ah don't care. Should have thought of that before ya killed all those people!"

His eyes looked wounded as his lips turned an unsightly shade of blue. "Chère, you don' understand."

"Ah understand perfectly. Ah understand you're a cold-blooded murderer!"

"No, chère, it's not like dat!"

"Save it, swamp rat. If ya ask me, you're gettin' off easy compared to those Morlocks ya helped kill."

"Rogue, Gambit didn't want to kill anyone." He exhaled heavily. Even carrying this conversation with her was draining him. It took all his strength to rise to his feet and continue talking. "Please, chère. Gambit loves you. You love Gambit, too."

She had turned away her face from him, wanting to hide the tears. What he said had been true. But that was a long time ago. That was before she kissed him and found out the truth; about what kind of person Remy LeBeau truly was. Now, all she was left with was lies.

Rogue's head quickly turned to look down at the man she had considered her soul mate. "Love? How could Ah evah love a liar and a murderer? Ya really don't know me at all, do ya?" she snapped. She winced, feeling the sting of the words coming from her mouth.

Red on black eyes widened in disbelief and sadness. "You don' mean dat, chère. Not after what we've been t'rough. We mean too much to each other."

She cut him off, soaring higher in the air. "You're wrong, swamp rat. Ya mean nothin' to me. Nevah have, nevah will."

"Rogue, wait! Please don' leave me here! I love you!" He collapsed and sank to his knees. The cold was beginning to weaken him again. "Please tink about what you're doin'."

Her lovely features twisted themselves into an angry scowl. "Ah have. First time Ah've seen clearly in years, sugah," she purred sweetly, her eyes cold. "Ya where ya belong, now and forevah!"

With that, she turned around and disappeared in the clouds.

Not a single day after that did she not feel some remorse for what she had done. There were so many times she had tried to convince herself what she had done was right. After she was only providing justice where justice was needed. While the others at the mansion had seemed somewhat understanding of her actions, she still continued to be her own harshest critic.

That and she loved the man. Despite what she had told him in Antarctica, Rogue still loved him with every fiber of her being. Granted, their relationship had some problems. He had been a notorious womanizer and flirt with a long list of broken hearts in his dust. She had problems getting close to others because of her abilities. Needless to say, theirs was an intense, tempestuous romance. However, it worked on many levels. They were as devoted to one another as any other couple, even without physical contact.

Then everything changed when she kissed him.

Yet, she was able to find love again after abandoning Remy. His name was Joseph and was far different than Monsieur LeBeau. A younger version of the Professor's archrival, Magneto, but with amnesia, he was wide-eyed, kind, and honest. He considered her the only woman central in his life. His eyes never strayed far from her. Most importantly, he had found a way for them to touch one another without getting hurt. For the first time since she kissed her childhood sweetheart, Cody, she could demonstrate her affection for another person physically.

When she told him of her former lover's return, he was understandably concerned. They had not been together for very long when the Cajun thief came back to the mansion. He wondered what she was feeling at that moment. In response, she swore she no longer had feelings for him.

"There's no one for me, 'cept you, sugah," she whispered, resting her head against his shoulder. They were in their bedroom, secluded from the excitement downstairs.

His mouth was set into a grim line. He did not seem assuaged by her words easily. "You and Gambit have had a long history together. It would not be surprising if some residual feelings surfaced after seeing him again."

"The only feelings Ah'm feelin' right now are for ya," Rogue insisted, planting a kiss on his mouth and silencing him for the rest of the night.

As she sat on the dock, she drew her legs to her chest and wrapped her arms around them. Looking back on that night, she was not certain she was being all that honest with Joseph. Something deep inside her was different as they made love that night. Her mind was not on the man she was with at that moment. Instead, she found herself thinking about Remy and what he was thinking about after he had seen her that night.

Reaching into the deep pockets of her coat, she pulled out her CD Walkman. Rogue slipped on her headphones. She pressed play, waiting for the music to start flowing into her ears. As the CD played, tears began to sting her eyes. The CD was one that Remy had purchased for her while they were dating. It contained an assortment of jazz songs, performed by artists such as Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, and Charlie Parker. He had said their music reminded him of her-sometimes sad, but beautiful nonetheless.

What is wrong with me? I'm happy now-more than I've ever been in my life. Why am I thinking about someone else?

There, on the dock by the lake of the mansion, a woman with brown hair and white streaks was sobbing over an uncertain present.

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