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 Twenty-Four: Learning to Smile

Early spring not summoned thoughts of warmer weather and less clothing to wear outside, but the annual spring brunch party at the mansion. This was an opportunity to bring together the instructors, team members, students and staff for a relaxing gathering. The morning of the brunch found Jean, Ororo, and Rogue decorating the mansion and organizing the logistics (securing enough seats, plates, and silverware). Meanwhile, Cook had been up since six o'clock in the morning, preparing the menu for that day. However, unlike the previous years, she decided to recruit assistants from the instructors and students, sending them to the various shops and markets in town to pick up last minute items.

Bobby Drake pushed open the kitchen door with his shoulder, carrying in the rest of the groceries from his car. He found himself as an unwilling recruit after he was caught eating strawberries for the tart she was going to make. He flashed a busy Cook a grin, who seemed engrossed in boiling her rice. As he unloaded the groceries onto the counter, he saw Kurt sitting at the kitchen table cutting asparagus.

"Hey, Kurt," he greeted, sauntering over to him. "Where are Warren and Scott?" During his repeated trips from the garage to the kitchen, he had run into almost everyone with the exception of Cyclops and Archangel.

Kurt's yellow eyes looked amused, tossing a few spears into a large bowl. "They vent to the cellar to get some vine."

"But I bought some already." Bobby frowned, crossing his arms.

The other man shrugged. "Vell, they took one look at vat you brought home, and decided to get something else."

"What? It's a perfectly good box!" Bobby threw his hands in the air, exasperated.

"Sugah, good wine don't come in boxes," Rogue drawled, walking into the kitchen. She carried a bouquet of white roses, freshly cut from Storm's greenhouse, and a crystal vase. Nodding hello to Cook, she went to the sink and promptly filled the vase with water before placing the flowers inside.

Both men greeted the young woman, noticing that she was very dressed than usual. She wore a black pull-on dress with a deep V-neck and an all-over, retro-inspired floral print that had a bias-cut georgette frame through hip with diagonally seamed overlap. Long, opera-style black gloves stopped just above her elbows. Her hair was loose, but swept to the side, which complemented her lightly made-up features. However, her bare feet offset her formal dress.

"I think there's something missing from your outfit," Bobby observed, stealing an asparagus spear and popping it into his mouth.

She turned off the sink. "Ah know," she replied, rearranging the flowers. "Ah like my bare feet. Makes this ol' gal feel free, ya know."

Bobby turned to Kurt, chewing thoughtfully. "Maybe I should use that line when I want to walk around in my boxers," he mused, slipping off his purple- tinted sunglasses.

"That's not wantin' to be free, Bobby. That's just bein' disgustin'." Rogue chided, exchanging a sly look with Kurt. "Can't have the whole mansion gougin' their eyes out."

Bobby feigned a hurt look, clutching his heart. "You really know how to hurt a guy."

"Only if they're lucky," Rogue laughed, winking.

Kurt's golden eyes widened in disbelief as he tried to shake the pictures of his foster sister doing very carnal things out of his head. He was quickly trying to tell himself she meant that statement in another way. Embarrassed, he continued to silently cut up the asparagus and tried to avoid looking at her.

"Rogue," Jean said, entering the kitchen in a black, sleeveless dress. Her thick, Titian hair was swept up in a bun, exposing her graceful, swan-like neck. She flashed a smile to everyone before turning to the curvy young woman. "We're out of plates."

"Already?" Rogue could have sworn she and Logan had brought down at least three crates from the attic.

Jean nodded, sighing. "Well, kind of. Ororo and I were setting the table up when Artie and Leech knocked over a stack of four plates. By the time I saw what happened, it was too late. Do you think you could go to the attic and bring down another crate while I clean up?"

"Sure, hon," Rogue handed Bobby the vase and began to head out of the kitchen. Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed that many of the students were gathered around the staircase, talking and laughing excitedly. She decided to forego squeezing through the masses and take the elevator to the attic floor.

The steel doors were about to close when she arrived. Quickly, she slid her arm between them and slipped inside. She punched the '4' button for the attic level. As the doors closed, her nose detected a familiar scent--- pine and cigarettes. Slowly, she turned around to face the source.

"Remy," she greeted, feeling her insides jump. Her green eyes took in the tall, lean man from the Bayou. He was leaning against the back wall of the elevator, shuffling a deck of cards. It appeared that he had just had a Danger Room session since he was still in his trademark body armor and his brown leather duster.

"Chère," he responded. His red-on-black eyes roving over her clingy dress and the curves it hugged, leaving very little left to his imagination. It was taking all his self-restraint not to reach out and touch her arm, her hair. "You look très belle."

She blushed. The intense, smoldering quality to his stare made her feel self-conscious all of a sudden. She hoped that the rid to the attic would be a swift one. "Thank you, swamp rat."

"So, everyt'in' ready for de party?" Remy asked, trying to act casual and nonchalant.

Rogue nodded, nervously tucking a lock of hair behind her ear. "Yeah, Ah just gotta get some more plates for the party." There was a brief pause before she suddenly inquired, "Ya comin'?"

He stuffed the cards into the pocket of his leather duster. "Non, Gambit not interested."

"Why not?"

"Gambit not in de mood to party dis year, chère."

"Oh..Ya know, ya should go."

Before she could answer, the lights in the elevator suddenly flickered overhead. Suddenly, the car jerked to a completed stop. Rogue was flung backwards. Fortunately, Remy was quick to reach out and catch her in his arms as he was thrown against the back wall. He held her tightly for a moment, relishing the softness and warmth of her body against his. What seemed like an eternity was more like seconds as he hoped that this would never end. It was almost like those days he longed for, before he was in Antarctica. Unfortunately, he knew that all good things had to end when he felt Rogue gently pull away.

She stumbled to her feet, her hands on her hips. "What in the world?"

Remy stood up. He pressed a series of buttons. No movement. "Looks like we stuck, chère," he observed huskily.

Rogue frowned and opened the telephone box to call to the control room. She hit the speaker button. "Hello? Anyone there?"

The kindly, deep voice of Hank McCoy answered back through the speakers in the elevator. "Hi, Rogue. What can I do for you?"

"Remy and Ah are stuck in the elevator," she explained, tossing Remy an amused look.

"Oh, dear. Let's see.." She could picture him fumbling at his computer from the sounds in the background. "Oh, yes, you are."

"How soon can ya get us out?"

"In about fifteen minutes. There's a faulty connection in the computer, which I'll have to attend to."

"Would it help if Ah went up to check things out? Maybe there's somethin' Ah can do."

"No, no. Actually, that would hinder the situation. Is anyone hurt?"

Rogue turned to Remy, who shook his head. "We're fine."

"That's good to hear," Hank replied, sounding relieved. "Just sit tight and I will have you two out as soon as possible."

Rogue nodded, pressing her lips together. "OK. Oh, Beast?"

"Yes, Rogue?" The sound of his fingers tapping against the keys of his computer could be heard in the background.

"Could ya tell Jean Ah'm in here. Ah was supposed to get some stuff from the attic." Rogue credited herself for remembering her task. Lately, her memory seemed to be all over the place.

"Will do." Click. Beast was gone.

Rogue heaved a sigh, shoulders sinking. She gave her former lover a rueful smile. "Ah guess it's just us for now," she said.

Remy crossed his arms over his chest. "Dere are worse people to be stuck wit, non?"

Her green eyes fluttered. "No, Ah didn't mean that Ah.. Ah mean.." Then she scowled at him. "Ya just tryin' to put words in my mouth, Cajun."

"No, chère. Gambit would never do dat." His eyes twinkled merrily, which seemed to irritate her even more.

She rolled her eyes at him. "Same old swamp rat," she mused, her expression softening. "Always tryin' to start somethin'."

"Dat's what you liked about Gambit, chère." He flashed her a mischievous smile, seating himself back on the floor. When he saw that she was still slightly peeved, he said, "Come sit wit' Gambit. You heard Beast. We not leavin' for a while." He patted a spot nearby.

Rogue stared at him warily for a moment. She wasn't sure if it was the logic he laid out or his charm, but she reluctantly sank down to the floor. She made sure there was some distance between them. Despite the friendly banter they engaged in before the elevator stopped, she still felt some discomfort and anxiety whenever she was around him. Even when she first stepped in the elevator with him, Rogue could feel his eyes roaming possessively over her. The expression on his face, though determinedly detached, still conveyed some tension. She was tempted to ask him about it, but realized she was better off knowing.

Because I'm with someone else, she told herself.

Gambit pulled out the deck of cards and began to shuffle them absent- mindedly. He could tell something was troubling her from her lapse into silence. "Somet'in' you want to share?"

Startled, she shook her head. Then she glanced down at his hands, which were dealing the cards out. "Solitaire?"

He nodded. "Oui. Gambit would ask you to play a game, but we both know how you hate cards." He chuckled softly, flipping a card over.

The corners of her bow mouth curled into a sheepish grin. "Ya remember?" she asked softly, watching him intently flip over another card in the deck.

His auburn hair flopped over his brow as he nodded. "Oui. Dis ol' t'ief remembers lots of t'ings."

"Like what?" She was genuinely curious.

"Like de time you bought dat nice red sportscar. Gambit went wit' you to de dealership. Gambit t'ought he was goin' have to step in and break up dat fight wit' you and dat other femme." He looked amused as the memory replayed in his head.

Rogue threw her head back and laughed. "Well, Ah saw that car first. She was the one who tried to hit me first. That gal didn't know who she was messin' with."

"Well, if dat's what you want to call it," he said, shrugging his shoulders.

After her laughter died down, she was quiet for a moment. Then she asked, "What else do ya remember, Cajun?"

"Gambit remember de first we met, chère."

"Oh, gawd. That was a long time ago."

"Gambit remembers everyt'in' about it. Let's see, you started flirtin' wit' me.."

"Ah did not. You started it!"

"Whatever. You were très belle.. Gambit knew you were somet'in' special."

Suddenly, undulating warmth crept from her neck to her cheeks. "Swamp rat." she murmured, her green eyes lowered shyly.

His fingers brushed against her soft hair, his eyes solemn. "Gambit never been more honest," he whispered.

She beamed up at him, placing a gloved hand over his. Hearing him just say that seemed to spread the warmth from her skin inside. This was the first time in a long time she truly smiled and meant it. This sense happiness and contentment soon expanded when she saw that he was smiling broadly as well.

Suddenly, the elevator car jerked upwards. It traveled slowly, but finally stopped on the second floor. Startled, both rose to their feet as the doors slid open.

Joseph stood there, holding a crate in his arms. His blue eyes coolly traveled to Gambit's face, then flicked to that of Rogue's. "Everything all right?" he asked, his voice very controlled and tight.

Rogue nodded emphatically, wringing her hands nervously. "Sure, sugah. We've been stuck.. Do you need help?"

He shook his head, clearly not pleased with finding her in an enclosed space with her former lover. However, he forced a smile and said, "No, dear. Let's go downstairs and finish the preparations for the brunch."

"OK." Rogue's green eyes turned to meet Gambit's red-on-black ones. She gave him a small smile. "Ah'll see ya, Cajun."

Gambit nodded, his mouth forming a taut line. He watched the Southern bell depart with the man she was happy with. Cursing fate, he tried not to think about how close he had been to the one thing he wanted for so long. It would be all too much.

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