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Chapter 1

A Time for Homecoming - REVIEW THIS STORY

Written by Elena Zovatto
Last updated: 01/02/2007 02:01:11 AM

Chapter 1

For most of his life, 'home' had been a word that held only conceptual meaning for Remy LeBeau. With the exception of his years with the Guild and the X-Men, his had been a vagabond's existence, knowing only safehouses, bolt-holes and hideouts, but never a home.

When Jean-Luc had adopted him, home had become a well-fortified antebellum estate -- and had so remained for almost ten years.

Now, home was a mansion in Westchester -- and it was there that he was headed at nearly two in the morning. His teammates would hardly have considered his late return to be unusual, were it not for the fact that he was coming home from church, and not a nightclub. Although he had strayed from the faith, he had been raised a good Catholic -- or at least as good a Catholic as could be found in the New Orleans Guild of Thieves -- and it was now Christmas morning.

Traditionally, this season was a time for family, for homecomings, but that hardly applied to an outcast like himself. He had known but two families in his life -- the Guild, and the X-Men -- and he was estranged from them both.

Since his return with Ororo and Kitty last year, his old teammates had slowly warmed up to him again, even making friendly overtures -- and the new ones were willing to accept him despite his past -- but he couldn't find it within himself to risk lowering his defenses just yet. There was still too much unresolved anger and guilt on his part and theirs, but at least they -- and he -- were trying to move on, and were making progress, however slow.

But the situation with his Guild and Clan remained unchanged -- and always would.

The pain he felt at that thought was no less sharp for its familiarity. At the time of his excommunication and exile at age seventeen, the pain had been largely tempered with anger and outrage. That he should be outcast for doing nothing more than defending himself and his honour -- for doing what any of his adoptive family would have expected him to do -- the injustice of it had burned on his tongue like poison. His rage at the sentence had taken up residence in his soul -- and been directly responsible for some of the worst judgements he had ever made in his life.

Remy had been a boy then -- in the years since, he had gotten over his anger and come to terms with his father's decision. Jean-Luc LeBeau had been forced to choose between forfeiting either the peace between the Guilds or the life of his son. He had managed to preserve both, but only at the cost of making Remy an outcast -- and Jean-Luc had known full well what that would do to his foundling child.

As Guildmaster, Jean-Luc was honour-bound to see to the welfare of his Guild's membership before all else -- and Jean-Luc had always been a scrupulously honourable man.

Remy had always known that -- just as he had always known deep within himself that if the situation had been reversed, he would have done the same.

At the time of his banishment, however, all Remy could see was that the one person that he had trusted completely -- that he had looked up to, that had promised him that he would always have a home -- was renouncing him forever.

Though his anger had faded over the years, his sense of betrayal never had. And it was his fear of being so wounded again that had determined how he had chosen to live his life from then on.

Once again, he had adopted the transient lifestyle of his childhood days with Fagan's mob -- except instead of flophouses and squats, he lived in apartments and hotels. As for relationships, romantic and otherwise, they too were transitory. He was careful never to allow himself to care too much for anyone, lest they hurt him again. With no ties to people or places, home was wherever he happened to be.

That had gradually changed after he had fallen in with the X-Men -- but even so, the mansion had never taken the place of his boyhood home in his heart. And as much as he loved Rogue and Ororo, as much as he cared about the teammates who had become his second family, they could not replace the first one which he had lost.

He remembered his late brother Henri, who had immediately and unquestioningly taken a suspicious street kid under his wing, and given a scared, lonely boy a sense of belonging. Henri, who had always referred to Remy as 'my little brother' and never 'my adopted brother' -- Henri had always made him feel like he was a LeBeau by birth, and not be happenstance.

Some nights, Remy still woke gasping, feeling the hot, sticky-slippery wetness of his brother's blood running between his fingers ...

He hadn't even been allowed to attend the funeral.

When Henri had died, he had left behind a wife and three children, whom Remy had never seen. His sister-in-law still sent letters, letting him know how they were doing -- especially the youngest, a boy who bore his uncle's name -- but it wasn't the same.

Then there was his cousin Lapin, who had been his partner in crime in virtually every childhood escapade he had ever had -- including the time they had stolen (and crashed) a fighter jet from a touring military air show. Their cousin Étienne Marceaux, two years their junior, had been in on the pinch, but had wisely chosen to remain on the ground. Et had gleefully used his knowledge to blackmail his elder cousins mercilessly for weeks, to the point where Remy and Lapin were actually relieved when Jean-Luc had discovered what they had done -- at least until their punishment was meted out.

His father had decided the three of them obviously needed an outlet for all that youthful energy -- and had run them ragged in dawn to dusk training sessions for a full month.

His father ... who had only recently admitted that his influence on Remy's life had started years before the day he had tried to pick Jean-Luc's pocket ...

It was one thing to feel as if you were being used as a pawn -- it was quite another to have it confirmed that a pawn was what you had been for your entire life. And knowing that, Remy couldn't help but wonder what his father hadn't told him. Could it have been Jean-Luc himself who had stolen Remy in his infancy for the Antiquary's collection ? Had his father known all along who his blood family was, and never told him ?

Remy wanted more answers as much as he feared them.

He had seen his father's tear as Jean-Luc had told him of their first meeting almost a century before -- but the chasm between them had widened with every word his father spoke. Remy had always hoped that he and his father would reconcile, but that hope had died with this fresh betrayal. During Mass however, he had seen something which had caused it to rekindle ...

He had spotted Rogue standing in one of the transept pews, hand-in-hand with another woman -- Mystique. The metamorph had made no serious attempt to disguise her appearance, settling for a normal flesh tone for her skin and green eyes to match her daughter's. Rogue's relationship with her mother was almost as strained as his own with Jean-Luc -- yet they had managed to bridge the gap between them this Christmas ...

It gave him hope that one day, he and the father of his heart would be able to do the same.

So when intentions were offered during the service, he prayed for his father, and for himself -- for reconciliation.

It was gently snowing as he made his way to where he had parked -- distracted with his thoughts, he never noticed the shadowy figure who followed from a safe distance.

It was nearly half past two on Christmas morning when Remy finally made it up to his room. Shrugging off his clothes, he neatly placed them on his valet before climbing into bed and promptly falling asleep.

It was just over an hour later when he awakened to the sensation of being watched.

Keeping his eyes closed, he fidgeted slightly, then rolled over with a quiet sigh. To all appearances he was sprawled out sound asleep, but his movement neatly hid the moment he palmed the throwing spikes he kept hidden within easy reach, and his other hand was on his blankets, ready to use them to blind and bind.

" Très bien, Remy, but I hope dat won' be necessary. "

Remy's eyes opened wide in shock as he recognized the voice, and he sat bolt upright.

" Father ?! "

" Oui -- Joyeux Noël, mon fils, " Jean-Luc said quietly as he turned on the bedside lamp, careful to put it on its lowest setting so as not to hurt Remy's sensitive eyes with the sudden brightness.

" Same t' you, Father -- an' don't misunderstand the question, mais qu' est-ce que vous faites ici ? " Remy asked warily.

" In New York -- business. In Westchester right now, seein' you, " Jean-Luc replied. " Y' said once dat there was too much t' say between us, an' too little said so far -- but you didn't want to talk then. Bien, I'm here t' talk now -- ça va ? "

" Why, Poppa -- why now ? "

" Because it needs to be done, an' there ain't ever goin' to be a good time or a better time to do it. Because whether I look it or not, mon fils, I'm an old man, and I hate the idea o' wastin' time when you don' know how much you got left. They say dat once you save someone's life, that person belongs t' you -- you saved me when I was a boy, son -- an' I did the same for you. Mebbe we ain' blood, but you're mine, an' I'm yours -- can't we try t' make it right between us ? "

" Oui -- we c'n try, " Remy said, inhaling deeply, " You wanted to talk, Poppa -- so talk. "

" Bien sûr -- what would you like t' hear ? "

" De truth. "

" I don't know if dere's ever been such a thing -- but I got some stories. Ça suffit ? "

Remy mustered a small smile.

" Oui, Poppa -- that'll do. It'll have to do ... "

The two of them spoke almost until dawn, the walls between them slowly coming down as the night wore on. The healing would take a long time -- but it had begun. Although they couldn't be certain of what the future held, or if Remy would ever be able to come home to New Orleans for Christmas -- this time he didn't have to.

This time, home had come to him.


This story is a companion piece to A Time for Family, though it isn't necessary to read it to 'get' this one. Mind you, ATFF explains what Mystique was doing in church :-)

The references to Remy's childhood are all from the Gambit comic books (especially issues 1, 6 and 12), though I may have embellished them a bit as needed. Henri's family is, so far as I know, my own invention -- but Étienne Marceaux, Fagan's mob, and the Antiquary belong to Fabian Nicienza and Marvel, not to me.

Special thanks to the long-suffering Faith Barnett, for her beta-reading what turned out to be an entirely different version of this story on extremely short notice. Faith, I owe you big-time :-)

Thanks also to the equally long-suffering Kielle, who put up with a frantic last-minute re-write.

Happy Holidays !

French vocabulary:

Oui -- Joyeux Noël, mon fils ................ Yes -- Merry Christmas, my son

mais qu' est-ce que vous faites ici ? ...... but what are you doing here ? (polite form)

ça va ? ................................................ okay, is that all right

Bien sûr ............................................... certainly, by all means

Ça suffit ? ............................................ does that suffice, is that good enough, will that do


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