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 Sixteen: Happy Christmas
Christmas morning finally arrived in Westchester. Fresh snow had fallen the night before, adding another layer of frozen white to the blanketed land around the mansion. The children who still remained peered out their windows excitedly, planning for many sled rides and snow fights after opening presents. Their squeals of delight echoed throughout the walls of the mansion.
The opening of the gifts was done in the living room of the mansion as the smell of cinnamon and apples hung in the air. Logan had carried wood from the shed outside to prepare warm, glowing fire. Jean and Ororo were serving cookies and punch, while Rogue and Kitty were handing out presents to open. The younger students were in one corner of the room, tearing through paper and showing each other their new prized possessions. Hank was at the new baby grand piano Warren had purchased for the mansion, taking requests. He was now attempting to coax the Professor into joining him in a duet of "White Christmas". The Professor, reluctant at first, but eventually broke down, revealing a smooth tenor voice he cultivated during his college days.
Jubilee was seated on one of the corduroy chairs in the room with a pile of wrapped gifts in her lap. She was in the midst of sorting through the many boxes and envelopes when Logan found her. He perched himself on the arm of the chair, wearing his most cynical expression and his usual blue jeans and flannel with a white T-shirt.
"Having fun, kid?" he said in greeting. He didn't need to hear her answer to know that she was. It was the happiest he had seen in her in sometime, which made him soften somewhat.
She peered up at him. "Yes," she replied, blue eyes questioning. "You're not?"
"This kind of thing ain't my style." He motioned to the crowded room around him, wincing at the shrieks of joy and laughter. Then he rolled his eyes in disdain.
She nodded. "I could see that." She paused and said, "Thanks for staying, though. I know you'd probably be somewhere up north by now."
"Yeah, well.." His voice trailed off, signaling his awkwardness. She was right even though he would be determined to deny it to the end. He hated the holidays and desperately wanted to be alone since the recent episode. However, he had made a vow to stay and stay he did. Besides, he felt he was making some progress during his individual sessions with Charles.
Her blue eyes were solemn. "No, really. It means a lot to me that you're here."
Clearing his throat abruptly, Logan asked, "Aren't you going to open your presents?"
Jubilee gave him a small smile, knowing that was his way of changing the subject. She held up the first box she could locate on her lap. From the widening grin on Logan's face, she instantly knew it was from him. Tearing into the paper quickly, she discovered it was a Palm Pilot. Her smile became broader as she circled her arms around him. "Thanks, Wolvie. How did you know?"
"I heard ya talk about it with Kitty," he admitted, not wanting to let go of her just yet. For a moment, it seemed like old times when she was the adoring little girl and he was her hero who could do no wrong. He had missed those days.
Meanwhile, Ororo, Kitty, and Rogue were sifting through their gifts and showing each other their new treasures. Even though she was Jewish, Kitty still partook in the holiday activities, exchanging presents with her friends. Rogue, eager for the distraction from her loneliness and conflicting feelings about Remy, was tearing through paper and boxes at a rapid rate.
"Ooh, looky here!" Kitty cried, as Rogue pulled out a pair of black pearl earrings. "You have to let me borrow those."
"Only after Ah wear them once," Rogue replied, turning the gift card over. As she suspected, the Professor had given them to her. He was known for her elegant taste in gifts for his students. She made a mental note to thank him later on.
Kitty tossed a crumpled ball of pink tissue paper over her shoulder. Her perky features crinkled in a look of confusion and irritation. "Why does Bobby buy the worst gifts ever?" she wondered aloud, rolling her eyes.
Ororo's eyes were amused. "Whatever do you mean, child?"
The younger woman held up a copy of a book, "1001 Things to Do on a Date: From the Romantic to the Silly and Weird". "I swear I'm unhappy enough about being single again," she groused, brown eyes flashing, "but does he have to rub it in?" Then she turned to a giggling Rogue and snapped, "You knew about this! I know because I saw you helping him wrap his presents!"
"Oh hush, sugah." Rogue waved a hand, trying to suppress her laughter. "If it makes ya feel any bettah, he got me a dancing Coke can. Ah heard he got Scott a pair of X-ray glasses, so you ain't the only one. Bobby does this every year. You know that, hon."
Ororo nodded, white ponytail swinging behind her. "Yes, I have to agree with Rogue. Bobby just doesn't have taste when it comes to gifts." To demonstrate her point, she showed her friends a pair of red polka-dotted gardening gloves she received from him. "I believe Jean said it is part of his charm."
Kitty rolled her eyes again, plopping the book down next to her on the floor. "Then this is going to be someone's gag gift, for sure."
"Fair enough," Rogue said, green eyes twinkling. She moved onto the next gift. Already she could tell it was an article of clothing from the shape and size of the box. The paper used was quite nice-handmade and in a lovely shade of sage. Immediately, she knew who it was from and took greater care in opening the gift. She gasped quietly when the contents were revealed-a black silk nightgown trimmed in lace.
Kitty peered over her friend's shoulder and then giggled. "Wow. Maybe you should put that away before one of the kids walks by."
Blushing, Rogue snapped the box closed. Joseph must have snuck it before he left, she thought. "Well, Ah won't be wearin' it any time soon. Gotta wait until my man comes back."
"Actually, I think you can wear it tonight," a voice announced.
She and the others stared up. Standing over them was Joseph, his face tanned from his time in Guatemala and his white hair cropped closely to his head. His steely blue eyes were a mixture of amusement and joy as the woman he loved suddenly rose from the floor and threw herself into his waiting arms.
Red-on-black eyes surveyed the scene unfolding on the other side of the room. He suddenly became consumed with rage, envy, and sadness. The air in the room was suddenly too suffocating for him to breathe. His only source of consolation was a walk around the grounds with his cigarettes. He was about to make his way out when he found himself face to face with Jean.
"Are you OK?" she inquired, green eyes reflecting the knowledge of his intentions.
"Course," he lied, trying to force a coy smile. "Didn't know you cared, chère. Mebbe you had too much eggnog."
"You're my friend," she replied matter-of-factly, crossing her arms over her chest. "Of course, I care."
"Den you know Gambit has to go."
"Storming off isn't going to help anything. Come and hang out with us."
"'Cause holidays time for sharin'? Gambit don' do dat, chère."
"So being alone in the cold is better?"
"For me? Oui."
"Remy, please. If Rogue sees you leave, then she'll feel responsible."
"In a way, she is, chère." As soon as the words left his mouth, he instantly regretted them. He shook his head regretfully. "Non.. Gambit didn't mean dat."
Jean nodded empathetically. "I know you didn't. But right now, you're in plain view." Her eyes traveled to the other side of the room.
Remy followed her gaze. With bitter resentment, he watched Joseph and Rogue kiss, holding each other close. Rogue's face was in sight and her eyes met his briefly. For a brief moment, she looked lost and very guilty. Then Joseph turned her around, her body disappearing behind his.
"I know it hurts," Jean whispered, touching his elbow lightly. "But being alone isn't going to help."
He exhaled, still craving a cigarette but realizing that the redhead had a point. "Suppose Gambit could sit wit' de Summers family for a moment," he said, shrugging. "You jus' need to make dis ol' t'ief a stiff drink."
"Wow," Scott said, watching Jubilee reveal the necklace Bobby had given her. He had joined her and Logan after talking his way out of joining Hank and the Professor in a round of 'Silent Night'. "Are you sure that's from Bobby?"
She nodded and handed him the tag, studying the delicate pink beads in fascination. "Yeah.. It's beautiful."
Logan snorted. "Maybe Icicle got one of the girls to go shopping with him," he observed, watching her put the necklace around her slender neck.
Jubilee shrugged, fingering the silver flower gently. She, like the rest of the mansion, was aware of Bobby's reputation as the worst person to receive gifts from. The fact that he had taken some careful thought into purchasing hers was surprising to her---in a good way.
Rogue, Joseph, and Kitty made their way over. As Kitty was handing Logan her gift to him, she bent down to inspect the piece of jewelry around Jubilee's neck. "Nice," she commented, straightening up to her full height. "Who's it from?"
"It's true," Scott piped up from the well-worn sofa he was sitting on. He greeted his wife with a smile as she and Remy settled down next to him. He handed Kitty the gift tag as evidence.
"So that's what was in that tiny box," Rogue said, smiling. "Y'all didn't see how nervous he was. Didn't want me to even know what it was when Ah was wrappin' it."
Before any speculations could be made about this anomaly, Jubilee raised an envelope from her pile. "From Scott," she read aloud, tearing into the flap. Before removing the contents, she pressed it against her forehead. "It's a blank check."
Scott snorted, reaching over to give her a light shove. "You wish."
She laughed and opened the envelope. Suddenly, she stopped giggling. Her sapphire eyes widened as she pulled out a plane ticket. "It's to Paris for one week," she whispered, gazing upon Scott's face. It was one of those rare occasions where she was desperately searching for words to express herself. "I'm going alone?"
Scott leaned towards her, a loving and kind smile creeping across his face. His cheeks were beginning to burn with a slight blush. He could feel everyone else's attention focused on him and the present through stares and whispers and gasps of awe. "No, sweetheart. I'll be with you." He squeezed Jean's hand before continuing. "You see, I thought it would be nice if you saw Paris for the first time with a man that will always love you."
She placed a hand over her mouth in the hopes of keeping a sob deep within her throat. She hated crying, but was helpless in forcing her tears back. Shaking, Jubilee placed the pile of presents that were sitting in her lap on the floor and raced to Scott's side, throwing her arms around Scott's neck. She sighed, shuddering against him. "Thank you," she whispered.
He squeezed her tightly and kissed her forehead. "You're welcome." Drawing back, his fingers brushed her saline tears from her cheeks. His heart began to expand in his chest from the euphoria that radiated from the young girl he now considered his daughter.
Meanwhile, Logan felt as if he could not keep his rage within long enough. His rugged features twisted themselves into an angry scowl. A soft growl could be heard emanating from his throat. Much to his ire, the others around him excitedly crowded Jubilee, firing suggestions as to where to go, where to shop, what to eat, what to pack. That just seemed to make things even more unbearable. Quickly, he rose to his feet and proceeded to slip out of the living room, but not before "accidentally" smacking Scott on the back of the head on his way to the door.
Scott was the only one who took notice, feeling his ruby-quartz sunglasses nearly slip off his face. Jean focused her telekinetic energy to keep them firmly in place. The couple exchanged a look, and then began to follow Logan outside into the foyer. They found him in the midst of making an exit through the front door.
"What the hell is the matter with you?" Scott demanded, knowing he was not within earshot of the people in the living room.
Jean held her husband's arm. "Scott.."
"It's OK, Red. I ain't afraid of the Boy Scout here." Logan snorted, backing away from the door somewhat. He made his way towards Scott and leaned towards him, sneering.
Scott glared at him. "You know what? I've taken enough from you. Who the hell do you think you are?"
"Should be asking you the same question." Logan made a face and feigned a syrupy sweet expression, knocking his voice higher by a few octaves. "Oh, Jubilee, you should go to Paris with a man who will always love you."
Scott jerked his arm out of Jean's grasp, obviously not amused with Logan's mocking impression. "Well, maybe I should have added 'who will always be there for you'."
Remy wandered out into the hallway, observing the confrontation. He stood next to Jean, who looked quite upset. It was only a matter of time before this happened, he thought to himself. He decided to stay in the event the two men had to be physically separated. Otherwise, he was going to remain neutral over the situation.
"What the hell is that supposed to mean?"
"Please, Logan. Don't try to act delusional over that one. You go running every time something doesn't go your way. Not exactly the model of a loving, stable parental figure, huh? You know what? I don't even think you even give a damn about her. Otherwise.."
Logan could hear and see Stryker in front at that moment, replacing Scott. Immediately, he lunged at Scott and pinned against the wall. "You wanna finish that sentence, bub?"
Scott's fingers began to lower his shades as if he were going to give the other man a taste of an optic blast. "With pleasure."
"Stop it!" Jean cried, watching Remy attempt to pry Logan off of Scott. When he did, he held onto his friend's arms to keep him from attacking Scott again. "The two of you are acting like children. It's Christmas for goodness sake. We're supposed to be.."
"United? Happy?" Logan spat bitterly. "Apparently, One-Eyed here thinks I can't do that."
Jean's green eyes met his. Then prove him wrong, Logan. I know you can. Jubilee knows you can. Isn't that enough?
Logan raised a brow at her. A long time ago, he would have relented. He would have swallowed down his feelings and returned to the living room. He would have pretended that nothing was bothering him. But things had changed. It was becoming increasingly clear that the kid didn't need him anymore. She had found what she needed in the man he could not stand the most. And it ate him up inside severely. It was like being betrayed by your closest friend. The worst thing was that there was nothing he could actively do to change any of it. To badmouth Scott or anything overt like that would make him look like the bad guy, which wasn't what he wanted at all.
He simply grunted at Jean. Then he glared at Scott, tempted to leave him with a verbal barb. He realized that wasn't going to accomplish much of anything. Finally, he shoved Remy aside---hard against the wall. "Outta my way, Gumbo."
The Cajun thief narrowed his red-on-black eyes as he withdrew a card from the pocket of his brown leather duster. He gave it a slight charge, watching Logan begin to exit the door. Not enough to injure him, but enough to provide a shock.
Scott stepped forward, placing a hand on his teammate's shoulder. "No, Gambit." Obviously, he had his fill of physical confrontations for one day.
Remy peered over at him, realizing Scott was right. He tossed the card on the floor, listening to it hiss as it discharged its energy. "Eh, you right," he said flatly, "He not wort' it."
Logan's keen sense of hearing picked up the Cajun's last words. He found his way into the garage and hopped onto his bike. As he sped away from the mansion in the bitter, icy cold, he began to discover that he could not agree with Gambit more.
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