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 Nine: Don't Know Why
A few flakes began to spiral to the ground, signaling the arrival of the first snow of the season. Since it had yet to snow until that late afternoon, many of the farmers and other outdoor vendors had continued to sell their goods in the town square. As the flurries began to drift down, stands were being packed up and trucks and cars were being loaded at a quick pace. A few shoppers were still roaming the lumpy field full of tangled vines behind one of the farm stands to pick the remnants of the last pumpkin crop of the year. Meanwhile, children were scampering to gobble the last of roasted pumpkin seeds.
The frosted grass crunched underneath Logan's feet as he and Jubilee walked away from one of the farm stands. Cook had sent them out to buy some apple cider, pumpkins, and apples for dinner that night. Around this time of year, she always prepared her special tart apple and creamy pumpkin pies, meals of stews and roasts with robust red wines, and pots of chicken soup. Her most beloved specialty was her hot chocolate, which seemed to instantly disappear as soon as it was made. She made many servings of it for the students and the staff. Her secret was blending powdered cocoa, whole milk, sugar and a bit of salt and vanilla.
This was Logan's favorite time of year. It reminded him of past winters in his native Canada. He often spent the first few days of the season splitting oak logs with his old hammer and wedge, and sometimes, his claws. This winter was especially kind to the self-professed loner. Recently, he began to spend his evenings, visiting Jubilee at the Summers' house. He would bring hot drinks in a thermos and a wool blanket to spread in front of the fireplace. Sometimes, they would talk into the late hours of the night (or until Jean hinted for him to leave) about life at the mansion or his travels on the road; sometimes, they would simply curl up together to watch the flicker of the vibrant flames. Despite how much she had changed, she was still able to connect with him without using any words. Those were the nights he liked the most. They reminded him of the way things used to be.
He turned to his young companion, who looked especially beautiful that day. She almost looked ethereal as her long hair whipped behind her in the wind. Her cheeks were flushed pink from the cold wind and her blue eyes sparkled with excitement from their day out together. As they trudged towards his truck, he knew he did not have to worry about the native Californian being too cold. Jubilee appeared to be quite bundled in her khaki, wool toggle coat over a gray, turtleneck sweater and navy, boot-cut jeans with black suede clogs.
While they were browsing the various stands, Logan had become acutely aware of the stares he and Jubilee were garnering. Over the years, he had gotten used to them and immediately sensed what thoughts were racing through their minds. His rapid healing ability also made it impossible to tell how old he was by just looking at him. For the last twenty years, he never looked a day over thirty-five. Walking around with a teenaged girl who clearly did not look like his child easily gave people the wrong impression. Not that he ever cared what people thought. Still, it was irritating nonetheless.
Besides, he wasn't interested in any of that now. Logan had his share of one-night stands, brief encounters, and relationships. His past with women was extensive and often centered around lust rather than romance. There were many-Caley Blair, Elektra Natchios, Gahck, Kayla, Yuriko, Silver Fox, Stacey the waitress, Mary Walker (Typhoid Mary), Mystique, Viper, and those twins from California.
Despite his raucous past, he knew what real love was. The closest he had come to it, something pure was what he had with Mariko. As he reacquainted himself to the young girl he considered his family now, he was reminded of those emotions. When he was around her, he was no longer the animal who experienced violence fits of rage, who was deemed too dirty and tainted to be worth anything. He was redeemed; he was saved. Granted, his feelings were not the same for Jubilee as they were for Mariko, but they were just as intense and gratifying. There was the same devotion and affection, but channeled and directed in a different way-a way he was content with now.
"How's it going, kid?" Logan asked, balancing the two crates of produce in his arms. He could not wait to dump them in his truck. It wasn't that they were particularly heavy. It was just that the wooden crates were proving to be more awkward than he initially thought. Fortunately for him, his gray pick-up was only a few yards away.
She walked alongside him, carrying a paper bag of candied apples and a jug of apple cider she had purchased. "OK," she replied, shivering slightly. While the rest of her body was covered, her face was still exposed to the chilling wind and drifting snow. "I'd like to get home and warm up. I don't think I can feel my nose anymore. Or any other part of my body for that matter."
"We're almost there, kid. Anyway, it's not that cold." His tone was slightly teasing at the end of the second sentence.
"That's easy for you to say. You practically lived in this weather all- year round for the past few years. Well, that and you have tons of body hair."
"Care to repeat that last one?"
"What? I didn't say anything!" She laughed merrily as she watched him growl softly and then lapsed into silence. After a brief pause, she said, "Wolvie?"
"I had fun today."
"Yeah, me, too."
"We should do this every year. You know, make it a tradition-just you and me."
"Sure, kid, we can do that."
Her eyes were thoughtful as they approached closer to the truck. "Really?" she asked, voice filled with some wariness.
Logan frowned at her. He could tell from her tone she did not quite believe what he was saying to her. "What does that mean?"
"I don't know.I just didn't think shopping at the farmer's market was really your thing. Actually, anything not involving alcohol, cigars, or tearing apart stuff wouldn't be up your alley."
"That's a pretty shallow picture."
"Sorry. I'm working from what I remember. Most people can't picture angry Wolverine spending the day at the farmer's market."
"Shows what they know.And you."
She gave him a small, wistful smile. "Yes, you're always full of surprises, Wolvie."
Logan raised a brow at her, his ears detecting the teasing tone in her voice. It was exasperating, but still part of the charm that was all her own. He growled at her softly, trying to pretend she wasn't bothering him.
"Don't look so smug," he told her gruffly, shoving her gently with his shoulder. "You're not that funny, kid."
Jubilee's smile broadened as they reached the truck. She knew she had touched a nerve ever so slightly, just enough to evoke a reaction. There was a delicate balance between annoyance and rage with Wolverine. It was a difference between being on the receiving end of a stony glare and being threatened with sharp, adamantium claws. Fortunately for her, she was always able to sense how far she could go with him.
The young girl juggled the paper bag of candied apples to fish the car keys he had given her earlier out of her coat pocket. She opened the driver's side first for Logan. Then she circled around the truck to open the passenger's side door. "I may not be funny, but I'm really cold. Can we go home, Wolvie?"
Logan placed the crates in the backseat and hopped into the truck. He gently brushed her silky hair from her face. "Yeah, kid," he said quietly, "we're going home."
Many years had passed since an orphaned child had found a savage man crucified and near death in Australia. All that rage and violence had been frightening to a thirteen-year-old girl. Yet, she could sense his pain and isolation, which were very much like her own. Now, as they were heading back to the home they shared, the two found themselves sharing something else-peace.
The wintry afternoon found Ororo sitting in her bedroom. The area reflected her calm and feminine persona, as well as her taste in old world style and modern flair. Beeswax candles burned bright, giving the room a soft, yellow glow to the cream-colored walls. The lustrous natural brass of the hurricane lamps imparted a subtle radiance. A Renaissance-inspired, four-poster bed with twisted columns and a gently curved, padded, raffia headboard was situated against the back wall of the bedroom. The bed was outfitted in layers of polished poplin, cream crewel lace, luxurious suede, and a soft, cream-on-cream, floral piano shawl with silk trim. Beaded, cream pillows accented the bed. Meanwhile, a 17th-century Mediterranean- style armoire sat across from the bed. The large piece boasted a highly distressed and darkened cedar finish with rich details in its paneling. In front of the bay windows was a pair of butterfly chairs, complete with leather slings and saddle stitching and mahogany frames.
The weather goddess was seated on her bed with a small, neon-blue box with a white ribbon on her lap. Her face was pensive as she opened it slowly. It had been a ritual she performed repeatedly since receiving it so many months ago. No matter how many times she participated in this private ceremony, she was still awed with what was inside.
A two-carat solitaire diamond set in a four-prong setting of platinum.
She struggled to blink back the tears that welled up in her eyes. They always came whenever she thought about the person who had given her the ring. As much as she wanted to forget the pain associated with the person, her mind would never allow her to do so.
If only, Ororo mused sadly, slipping the ring out of the box. She held it between her fingers and fondly stared at the fiery, white gemstone. If only you had waited for me, I could have, I would have.Things would have been different. I know it.
"It's beautiful, chère."
She turned around to see Remy LeBeau leaning against the doorframe. His red eyes glittered mysteriously as they gazed upon the large diamond. She wasn't able to figure out how long he had been standing there, which was quite unnerving. Quickly, she placed the ring back in the box and snapped it closed.
"It is rude to sneak up on someone like that," she informed him stiffly.
"Your door was open, chèrie." He gave her a coy smile as he sauntered inside. The tall, lean Cajun thief appeared relaxed, his wavy auburn locks flopping over his red-on-black eyes. With cat-like grace, he seated himself on the bed with his old friend.
Her eyes peered up at him warily. "What can I do for you, Gambit?" Ororo knew that her friend had sworn off his thieving ways while he was living at the mansion. However, there was a part of that sensed he never really gave up that lifestyle at all. It was as if his old life was firmly ingrained into his personality, which made it difficult at times to know whether or not to trust him.
"Rest of de mansion is très froid. Gambit figure Stormy's room always warm." Part of it was true. Coming from the Bayou, winter was not his favorite time of year, something he shared with Ororo. He was always fiddling with the thermostat in his room to achieve the mild temperature he desired. Even now, he was wearing his trademark brown leather duster over his jeans, long-sleeved black T-shirt, and scuffed boots.
He had also sensed that something was wrong with her. Ever since they had arrived back from Bermuda, she seemed more distant. As a result of actively monitoring her emotions, Storm sometimes came off as distant and cold. However, Remy noticed this was more exaggerated. It was as if she were struggling to keep something locked inside her. After seeing the diamond solitaire and his friend's reaction, Remy was immediately aware of what was troubling his friend.
Ororo nodded, white hair spilling down her slim shoulders. "You are welcome to keep me company," she informed him, "as long as you do not call me Stormy."
He watched her lean over to her bedside table and slide the box inside the drawer. "Whatever you say, chère." He paused and then said, "You keep dat for long time."
"I don't know what you mean."
"Gambit talking about de ring. Gambit t'inks it might be troubling you, chère."
"Why would a piece jewelry be troubling me?" Ororo felt a strange surge of fear and confusion beginning to creep over her, feelings she was quite unfamiliar and uncomfortable with.
The wiry thief placed a hand on her arm. "Mebbe de person who gave it to you," he said softly, his red eyes very gentle.
He knows, she thought, biting on her lower lip furiously. Her eyes quickly averted from his intense, concerned gaze. "How?" She was shocked that she could even manage to speak that much.
"Gambit saw de way Forge fawn over you, Storm. Not surprising de old man ask you to marry him."
Despite his long absence from the mansion, the Cajun thief still remembered the Cheyenne contractor who swept Ororo off her feet. He had never seen the weather goddess so happy around another person. Fiercely private and almost constantly stoic, Ororo fought to keep her personal life under wraps. Joy, rage, and sadness were never expressed, but suppressed for fear of losing control of her powers. It had been a lonely and isolated existence for the weather goddess, but one she had accustomed herself to over the years.
That soon changed when she met Forge. After saving her life, he returned with her to the mansion. There, the two became closer eventually leading to a romance. During that time, it was obvious how Storm had changed. While she managed to keep her emotions in check for the most part, she also expressed how happy and carefree she was. Many around the mansion suspected it was no accident that there were many sunny and fair days while she and Forge were a couple.
Ororo's eyes were distant as they scanned the room. "That was a long time ago, my friend."
"Looks not so long to you, chère," Remy commented, placing an arm around her shoulders. He pulled her close to him and surprised how vulnerable she was at this moment. He was quickly reminded of the times he had comforted her when she was a small child.
To his amazement, she did not jerk away from him. Instead, she heaved another resigned sigh. "He left before I could say anything," Ororo told Remy, still refusing to look at him. "I never got a chance to give him an answer. He just assumed." Her voice trailed off.
"Assumed what, chère?"
"That I would say no."
"Why he t'ink dat? You were in love."
"You don't understand, Gambit."
"Den enlighten me."
Ororo stared at him. Never had she seen such sincerity in those red-on- black eyes as she did now. Without thinking or reasoning, she decided it was safe to confide in the man with a shaky past. "When Forge proposed, he wanted to know that he would have all of me."
"Dat makes sense, chère." Remy nodded.
"I suppose it was because he knew that I had devoted my entire life to Xavier's dream," she continued, "and he wanted to have something of a 'normal life' for a while. A life where we weren't fighting or looking over our shoulders to see who would be after us."
He gave her a quizzical look after he had processed her explanation. "What would you have said?" he finally asked.
She smiled at him bitterly, her eyes flat and emotionless. "The strange thing is that I actually considered it," she admitted and rested her head against Remy's chest. "I suppose Forge did not know me well enough to hear my answer."
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