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-Seven: I've Been Waiting
She had offered to go with him.
He refused. He said something about how he needed to be on his own for a while. He told her that he had to find his own place in the world. But he never said when he was coming back.
She knew better. She knew why he had left. And yet, she did very little to stop him from leaving.
Then, as quickly as he came into her life, he was gone.
Rogue heaved a sigh, seating herself on the well-worn sofa in the recreation room. She wished she could have said she never saw this coming; that this was unexpected. However, to do so would be lying to herself. She had done enough of that lately.
She rested her chin against her knees, which she had drawn to her chest. What was worse was that she had lied to him. Not deliberately or with malice, but it was still deception nonetheless. And, he had seen through all of it apparently. At one point, she would have told anyone that she was happy with him. After all, this was the first relationship where she could have physical contact with another person without hurting them. Joseph had given her not only love and companionship, but also a sense of normalcy---something she had craved for many years. For that, she would always be grateful.
Despite this, there was always something missing from their relationship. Contrary to what many around the mansion thought, her misgivings started prior to Gambit's return. Initially, Rogue wasn't able to put her finger on what it was exactly. On the surface, things seemed fine. Joseph was kind and compassionate, exercising a great deal of patience around her insecurities with her powers and herself as a woman. He never looked at other women while they were together. Repeatedly, he would tell her that his heart only belonged to her. Taking his cue, she responded with the same sentiment. Looking back, she realized how empty her words and actions had been all this time.
What had been missing all this time was any sense of real connection. Yes, she did feel some affection towards him. And, yes, she felt close to him physically. But, there was a lack of any real passion in the relationship; that drive where you would do just about anything to be with the person you committed to. There was never that spark that lit inside her belly, making her heart race and skin flush warm with excitement---all the elements of a romantic high. There was never that twist inside whenever she was away from him for long periods of time.
In the beginning, Rogue would tell herself to wait and that it would come eventually. Other times, she would admonish herself, saying that she could never expect for her relationship with Joseph to be like previous ones. That simply wouldn't be fair to him. So, she continued investing herself in the relationship, in the hopes that something would happen.
It never did.
Instead, what evolved was a sense of safety and reliability to their relationship. Joseph fostered this image of him always being there for her, offering her his loyalty no matter what. She came to conclusion that safe was good. It was a hell of a lot better than being alone for the rest of her life.
But safe was not the same as love.
In the weeks following Gambit's return, Joseph was Stoic, and at times, indifferent. Rogue waited for him to say something beyond that one night where he expressed that he was aware of the history between her and the Cajun. He never did, choosing to remain distant and Stoic about the situation. She wasn't sure how she would feel if he did express some sort of jealousy or anger. Maybe she would be more willing to fight for their relationship. Maybe she would be tempted to end it right there and then. It was too late and too useless to speculate either way now.
She was hurting him by being duplicitous about her own feelings, which made her feel truly disgusted with herself. She hated every second of it, but found that she could not stop. He deserved better than that. He deserved a person who could truly reciprocate his feelings and did not think of other possibilities when they were together. He deserved to be happy.
Then there was the Cajun. Many nights she had spent trying to get over her feelings for him, trying to get over what she had done to him so long ago, trying to convince herself that she could be happy without him. In the end, she was lying to herself once again. She had done even more damage by trying to push him away and then trying to put up a façade that she could be friends with him. Rogue spent the past few weeks, trying to be friendly towards Gambit, but at the same time, reminding him that she was with someone else. Sometimes, she actually thought she could be nothing more than friends with him.
In spite of her best efforts, her thoughts were always about those red-on- black eyes and the voice that evoked images of whiskey and cigarettes. It was not that the attraction was based on Remy's looks alone, although they helped to make the case a great deal. Rather, it was a combination of things that continued to draw her to him. There was the Cajun charm he exuded from almost every pore like it was a pheromone.
There was also sly and devious air about him, which made people uncertain as to where they stood with him. He was like Logan in that he often threw caution to the wind when it came to restrictions, choosing to handle things his way instead of going through the proper channels. It was not uncommon to see either Scott or the Professor admonish him for some transgression. "Another loose cannon" as Bobby had put it during their cross-country road trip together. And, while Rogue would sometimes join in on the scolding, there was a part of her that was fascinated with his rebellious behavior.
But there was a different side to him; a side he rarely showed to anyone outside of herself, Storm, and Jubilee. It was a side that was devoid of the teasing, smug, devil-may-care attitude. Underneath all of that, was a gentle and reflective soul---something he desperately hid from others in the mansion.
Her mind drifted to last week when she passed by his room on her way to meet Jean and Ororo for coffee. His door was wide open and she could see him standing over his record player. Unlike the younger people in the mansion, Remy LeBeau was a purist when it came to his music. His position was that modern technology ruined the true nature of the pieces, especially his favorite genre jazz. He had selected a Billie Holiday record to play.
"Ya feelin' sad, Cajun?" she had asked in greeting from the doorway. She had tried to resist the urge to look him up and down as she had observed many of the other female residents do. However, it was hard to resist when he was in those jeans that seemed to cling to the right places.. She remembered blushing wildly at the thoughts racing through her head at that moment.
He had looked up, surprised. Then he shook his head, auburn locks flopping over one brow. "Non, chère," he had replied, a sly smile curling his sculpted lips. "Just appreciatin' de music. Dese kids around here don' know anyt'ing about music. Rock and roll. Hah. Give me Charlie Parker and Billie Holiday any day, eh?"
She had nodded in agreement, taking a few steps inside. Rogue wasn't sure if it was the music that had enticed or if it was the room's occupant. "You really like Billie, huh?" Her voice had suddenly sounded thick and foreign to her own ears.
"Oui, chère," he had answered huskily, approaching her very slowly with a catlike grace. "Her voice reminds dis ol' t'ief of the Bayou. Don' she remind you of home?"
Rogue found herself staring up at his perfectly chiseled features. His words at that moment seemed to drown out the lush, angst-ridden voice of the legendary blues singer. "Sometimes," she had managed to say. Then she inquired, "How does she remind you of home?"
He looked thoughtful. "She sounds hot, like de summers in de old neighborhood. Like she got a fire comin' from her belly to her heart and she got to let it out." His voice had gotten huskier and softer as he made his observation. Then he had paused for a moment before asking a question of his own. "You know what dat like, chère?"
Drifting back to where she was sitting in the recreation room, Rogue winced as she recalled her reaction. In retrospect, she likened it to that of a nervous schoolgirl---staring at him for what seemed like an eternity, and then mumbling something inaudible before scrambling off. She sighed and cursed her lack of grace; her lack of courage. Even now, she wasn't sure if she would ever be able to handle things any differently.
A pair of red-on-black eyes observed the Southern Belle from the hallway. The owner of those demon eyes stared longingly at her from where he stood. Then he clutched the metal collar taken from Hank McCoy's laboratory with a grip so intense, it nearly overwhelmed him.
Bobby was in the middle of packing for his cousin's wedding in Long Island. He was supposed to leave that night to help with the preparations. Who the hell gets married a week after his bachelor party? he wondered, feeling somewhat travel weary. It felt like he had just arrived back from the trip to Vegas and now he had to head out again for another week. He supposed this was what Bon Jovi was singing about in that song, "Dead or Alive".
Speaking of that trip, he spent the rest of it being known as Bobby, the best man who likes to do weird things with food. While it was humiliating, it was better than Bobby, the guy who got some from the stripper. He realized that latter would have afforded him some respect from his cousin and his friends, but Bobby really wasn't into that kind of thing. Fortunately, the teasing had not followed him to the mansion, although every time Warren saw him in the kitchen, the other man would give him wary looks and shake his head.
As he folded another Hawaiian shirt to pack into his travel bag, he began to think about what had pulled him from his alcoholic haze with the stripper. He really didn't process what happened at the time or the days following. The only thing he was aware of was that what he had found himself doing was wrong. Now, reflecting on the incident, Bobby began to realize why.
The time he had found himself in a compromising position with Emma, Jubilee was there. The look of surprise and disappointment had tugged at him for days after she left for Paris. It had kept him awake for many nights. He found himself anxious as to whether or not he had lost her friendship. Maybe it was this fear that compelled him to end things with the blonde before they went any further. Maybe their friendship alone was enough for him not to engage in something meaningless and that he would regret later on.
No, it was something else.
It was the thought of her those old-soul, blue eyes. It was the memory of the bubblegum and cinnamon that emanated from her soft skin. It was the silky hair he had threaded through his fingers when he held her that night. It was the rush and euphoria he experienced whenever he was with her. It was the overwhelming need to protect her from anything and everything. It was the way things seemed to be right in the world when he was near her.
I want you just the way you are.
Bobby paused in his packing. All of a sudden it hit him. Things suddenly made sense. Why hadn't he seen it before? His stomach suddenly turned as he seated himself on his bed. Nervously, he raked a hand through his sandy hair.
No, he couldn't be. They were friends. They had been for so long, from that moment she stepped into the mansion in that ridiculously loud yellow raincoat and neon-colored clothing. No, it wasn't that. Bobby was lonely and had been for so long--that was it. His loneliness was making him think about Jubilee in that way. Yes, that was it. She was the nearest sympathetic female who took the time to reach out to him and he was mistaking that for something else..
Stop it, Drake. You're in love with her.
He buried his face in his hands, shaking his head. This could ruin things. He couldn't allow that to happen. He wasn't sure what he would do if he lost her, as a friend or otherwise, like he did Lorna Dane and the others. It had been quite painful to lose these relationships, taking him a great of time to recover and deal with his loneliness. However, the prospect of losing Jubilee seemed all the more agonizing.
At the same time, Bobby didn't think he could live with himself if he kept denying the truth any longer.
He sighed wearily. He was relieved to have figured out the confusion behind what he had been feeling for the past several months. However, it was still unsettling. There was also the fact that he had no idea how she felt. He knew that she thought of him now. He was Fun Bobby, the guy she watched comedy movies with, the guy she played pranks with, the guy she told things to when she thought the other adults in the mansion, like Logan, Scott, or Jean, wouldn't understand.
Fun Bobby, the guy she didn't think could sweep a woman off of her feet. Would it be possible for her to think of him in another light? How would she react if he revealed his feelings to her?
Bobby's eyes flicked to the window. Out in the distance, he saw her window was alight from where he was sitting. He could stay in his room and continue to pack, speculating as to what she might do or say. He realized he wasn't going to get any piece of mind if he took that option.
Taking a deep breath, he tossed the shirt he was folding into the travel bag and quickly jogged out of his room. He then moved quickly down the spiral staircase and out the front door. In all his life, he couldn't remember the last time he moved so fast and with such a sense of purpose. It was as if his feet had a mind of their own at that moment.
Suddenly, he stopped a few yards shy of the Summers' home. Bobby realized he had no planned speech, no eloquent words to express his feelings. Panicking, he contemplated turning back and heading to the mansion. That would be the safer thing to do until he could compose himself.
I want you just the way you are.
His gray eyes were steely as her soft voice echoed his head. No, if he was going to do this, he was going to do it sans prepared statement. Otherwise, it wouldn't be him. I'm just going to be honest and tell her how I feel and hope that she feels the same way.. His heart raced as he thought about her reaction if she responding with the same feelings.
Bobby walked a few hesitant steps toward the house. Before he could ice up and form his usual slide to her bedroom window, he was tackled from behind, his chest slamming against the ground. As he struggled to turn around and defend himself from his mysterious attacker, he felt something cold and metal slide around his neck, closing with a crisp CLICK! Finding a surge of adrenaline pumping through his veins, he flipped over, throwing the attacker on the ground. Then he held his hands in front him, preparing to shoot ice at the other person.
Confused, Bobby stared down at his hands and tried again. Nothing. Then he stared into the darkness. When he discovered who his assailant was, he was furious.
Scrambling to his feet, he yelled, "Gambit, what the hell?" He then pulled at the metal collar around his neck. When he discovered it was not coming off, he thought he was going to explode. He knew what it was from Hank, who had been concerned about a missing collar his team had retrieved from Genosha. "This is really sick if this is your idea of a prank!"
Gambit's red-on-black eyes regarded him coolly. "No prank, homme. Just wanted your attention."
"Well, you got it," Bobby snapped, continuing to pull at the collar. "Now get this off me!"
The Cajun gave him a Cheshire cat smile. "Soon, Drake. But you need to listen first."
"Listen to what? How you're scheming to go after Rogue now that Joeneto's gone? Please, everyone's been waiting for that." Bobby rolled his eyes in disdain. This only served to cement his opinion what a jerk this guy was. What on earth could his friend possibly see in him?
"You be in a precarious position maintenant. Gambit advise you to shut your mouth and listen to what Gambit has to say, non?" When that rendered the younger man silent, he continued. "Gambit see what you been up to wit' de petite. Gambit t'inks it's not a bon idea."
"What the hell are you talking about?"
"Gambit not stupid, Drake. You can't handle femmes your age, so you go after de petite. Again, not a bon idea."
"It's not how you're making it sound."
"Oh? And where you goin' den?"
"To see de petite---I mean, Jubilee."
"To do what?"
"None of your business."
"I t'ought so."
"Whatever it is you're thinking, only guys like you do that kind of thing." Bobby felt some satisfaction when he saw the other man scowl and advance towards him.
Gambit thought about charging a card. He had one ready to go in his pocket. However, he decided against it. No sense creating a scene. He wanted to take care of Drake privately. "Gambit may be a lot t'ings, but not a child molester."
Bobby's gray eyes widened with disbelief. Of all the nerve.. "You're accusing me of being a child molester? You son of a.."
"You can call Gambit all de names you want, homme. Gambit cares about de petite and will do anyt'ing to protect her."
"You want to protect her from me? That's hilarious."
"Not'ing funny about it, homme."
"It is since I'm not the one she needs protecting from."
"You don' t'ink she be too young for you? Or, mebbe you like dat sort of t'ing."
"She's going to be eighteen soon. Besides, there's not that much of an age difference between us."
"So you worked out de math, eh? Not surprising."
"What? No! Listen, Warren's seeing a new girl, and there's a bigger age gap between those two. Why don't you go harass him with your lame attempts at being the morality police?"
"Gambit don' know Paige. Gambit cares for de petite and would do anyt'ing for her."
"So would I."
"Do you really?"
"Yeah, not that it's any of your business. I care about her. That's why I was going to see her. To tell her that."
"Gambit can't let you do dat."
"Listen, I don't need your approval for anything.."
"You say you care about de petite? Den let her be, homme. Let her be wit' someone closer to her age. Let her be wit' someone who don' carry baggage when it comes to de femmes. Let her be truly happy."
Bobby shrank back, grimacing. He couldn't help but feel some sting from the words that left the Cajun thief's mouth. He never really thought of any of that. Some around the mansion might frown on his 24 years to her 17 years, particularly Logan and Scott. Yes, she was going to be 18 in a couple of months, but then what? There would always be that gap between them, different life experiences between them. Perhaps being with someone closer to her own age, who shared similar experiences because of that age, would be a better idea.
There were also Bobby's own issues surrounding women and his failed romances. In his own mind, he had screwed up so many of those relationships. While he could do his best not to hurt her, it was still too risky. He couldn't let Jubilee down the way he had done the others. He was damaged goods. She deserved better than that. She deserved better than him.
"Maybe you're right," he finally said somberly, his face withdrawn. He cast a forlorn look at Jubilee's bedroom window. His mind continued to reel of thoughts of what could have been if the Cajun thief had not intervened. No, she was better off not knowing. He hoped she would be happier this way.
The Cajun thief silently removed the metal collar from Bobby's neck. He then watched the younger man make his way to the mansion. Moments later, Drake's Volkswagen Jetta pulled out of the garage. Red-on-black eyes glittered in the darkness of the spring night as the car sped down the winding drive before disappearing through the wrought-iron gates.
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