Notes: This story will probably not have a sequel. I actually wrote it last Thanksgiving, and am just now getting it posted (yep, I know, that's pretty sad). I'm actually writing another, very long story, and it probably won't be finished for a while. If I can ever get it to a halfway decent point, I'll try to post some of that as well. This story is referred to a couple of times, but it's about something completely different.
Okay, I'm starting to confuse even myself, so I'm going to just shut up now.
Hope y'all enjoy it. This is my first fanfic, so please, please, please review! (-:
Italics stand for thoughts.
Cajun TurkeyWell, another Thanksgiving with me and my Swanson Turkey Pot Pie. This was Xavier's Thanksgiving tradition most years. His family consisted of the X-men, whom he had opened his home to in order to help them learn about and use their mutant powers. There had not been a mission for a couple of weeks now, and so everyone was making the most of this valuable free time to visit with long unseen family and friends. Many times he forgot that most of them had their own families where they belonged. Scott and Jean, now married, had gone to her parent's house. Hank had gone back home to visit his parents, as had Bobby. Warren and Betsy had gone to visit her brother in Britain. Rogue had gone to see Mystique and hopefully patch up their recently estranged relationship. Storm had gone to Africa to visit some friends for a couple of weeks. Even Wolverine had gone to visit his foster daughter in Japan. The house was so quiet it was almost unnerving.
He shook his head. I should be thankful. Everyone's alive. Our enemies are on a reprieve of sorts. For once things are running smoothly. But after everything that had happened in recent months, with Onslaught, OZT, and several other emergencies in-between, Xavier just couldn't shake the feeling that something was still wrong. Or at least different. He knew the team was still healing from the past year's disasters. But since he had come back, he couldn't shake the feeling that everyone was keeping something from him. And, he realized, that distrust upset him more than anything.
As Xavier drifted his chair out of his study, he caught a most unexpected smell drifting through the house. Turkey? It brought back a sudden splurge of memories from his childhood, most forgotten up to this point. He remembered the large, grand feasts his parents would present on Thanksgiving, inviting many friends and family he could never have remembered even meeting before. The memories were so old, so buried, and yet a single smell could bring back such an emotional and happy time for him. Now curious, he headed in a definite direction toward the kitchen.
When he arrived at the doorway, a most unexpected sight greeted him. Gambit? In...Jean's apron? This was certainly not the sight he had expected to see. He had completely forgotten about Remy. Xavier had noticed that he now holed up in the boathouse and rarely associated with them except for training and missions. He figured that the boisterous Cajun had been one of the first to head out, not as much to see family as to just be free of X-men duties for awhile.
Remy could sense the professor's approach; he could feel Xavier's confusion of actually finding him here at all. Remy was used to that. All the X-men seemed to feel that he was only here as an obligation to Storm. He would never let them see the truth, but it hurt him that they felt that way. The X-men are the only ones he could call his family. Everyone else had thrown him out. His real parents. His adoptive father. And true, after finding out about his past, he wasn't really welcome by all of them here either, but he was at least able to stay here, and he would gratefully accept anything they would give him, even if it were only tolerance. Others had given him much less.
Although he would never let it show, deep down, he was in an almost constant state of pain. Each time Angel, or Rogue, or one of the others walked by, he could feel their anger and disgust. It was why he had moved to the boathouse. He was becoming worried by the fact that everyone's emotions were starting to have an increased impact on him. He noticed it ever since he returned from...Antarctica. So if distance was the only way to keep it under control, then he would have to grit his teeth and bare it. He wasn't about to let on that these people he cared so much about were slowly killing him inside. Deep down, he was sure he deserved it, and it was better than freezing to death, in his opinion. He sighed, making sure to keep his emotions in check. The last thing he felt like dealing with right now was Xavier laying into him or trying to psychoanalyze him.
"Well, Remy, this is a surprise. I figured you had been one of the first to head out for this vacation reprieve."
Remy turned to look at the professor, giving him a goofy, lopsided grin that he had not shown in a long time.
"Non, Professor. Dis be de holidays and everyone is wit' dere families."
Xavier frowned. "If that is true, then why are you not home in New Orleans, visiting your family in the Thieves' Guild?"
Remy quickly turned back around and worked on cutting his vegetables again. "Dey ain' my family no more", he spoke in almost a whisper. "Dey kicked me out. I can't go back or dey kill me."
Xavier's eyes widened. He had heard bits and pieces from conversations with Storm and complaints from Scott. But he really knew very little about the young Cajun and his past life.
"I'm sorry Remy. I didn't mean to remind you of painful memories." He felt bad for reminding Gambit of more pain, but for some reason, he felt he needed to add more than just an apology. Remy seemed so depressed and distant since returning from Antarctica, and while he had never taken the time to really get to know him, Remy was still a part of this very blended family.
Xavier cleared his throat, suddenly feeling somewhat nervous and hesitant. "Remy?"
Remy stopped what he was doing and took a deep breath. Why did the Professor have to mention his family in New Orleans? He knew he had been disowned and could never go back, but he had been raised there, and Jean Luc was the only person who had ever really tried to love him unconditionally. Then he had to go and ruin everything by killing Belle's brother. It had been an accident, but he would never be able to forgive himself for the pain he had caused so many people he cared about. Dat's all I ever do. Hurt people. He took a deep breath and around slowly, hoping Xavier wouldn't notice anything was wrong.
Although he was trying to hide it, Xavier could see pain flash through Remy's eyes. A pang of guilt hit him as he realized how much it hurt Remy to talk about his past. This was something that should have been dealt with long ago.
"Remy, would you join me in the den for a few moments. There are some issues that I need to speak with you about."
Remy sighed and nodded. "Oui. Jus' give me a few minutes to check on evert'ing." He turned back around and finished some of the vegetables he was working on.
Charles retreated to the den, waiting for Remy to join him. He knew what he wanted to say, but wasn't sure how to go about it. He just felt that this discussion was long overdue, and he might never have this chance to speak to Remy alone without the others around. And while there were certain issues he wanted to discuss, there were also some suspicions he needed to look into as far as Remy's powers. He realized that something had changed since Remy had come back from Antarctica. He wasn't exactly sure what the change was, but something was definitely different.
When Remy entered the room, Xavier could tell that he had pushed any signs of emotion back and covered it up with his usual poker face. Charles sighed inwardly to himself. This would be a bit more difficult than he thought.
"Have a seat Remy." Charles motioned to the large armchair a few feet away.
Once Remy made himself comfortable, Xavier glided over to him and planted himself a directly in front of Remy. He wanted to make sure he had all of Remy's attention. Remy just stared at him, bracing himself inside to handle anything the professor might throw at him.
Xavier tried to fight back a grin. "Remy, calm down. I'm not going to fight you or anything. I just want to talk.
Remy willed himself to relax. Why was he acting so tense? This wasn't like him.
Xavier decided to go ahead and start, sensing the Cajun's growing wariness.
Charles sighed and took a deep breath. "First Remy, I want to apologize to you."
Remy lost any hope he had of hiding his emotions with that first statement. His mouth dropped open. That was probably the last thing he had ever expected to hear.
Charles held his hand up before Remy could say anything more.
"No Remy, let me finish before you say anything."
Remy nodded, and Xavier continued.
"Remy, I...regret that I have never spent much time getting to know you in the past. So many things have occurred one after the other since you joined the team, and most of the things I do know about you have been through the others. I know I have never told you this, and to my disappointment, most of the others have not ever shown it, but you are a part of this family. As much as anyone else is."
Remy let out a small sigh and nodded. "T'anks professor. But I..." He slowly drifted off, not sure how to explain to the professor that he was wrong.
"But what, Remy?"
Remy sighed and looked away. "Professor, dat might have been true in the beginning, but now, wit everyt'ing dat's happened, I'm just barely tolerated here. Rogue was right in Antarctica."
"And what exactly was she so right about?"
Remy cringed inside, hating himself instantly for bringing up this topic.
"She told me dat I ain' got a family here no more." He looked down, trying to control the tears that were threatening to spill from his eyes.
"I betrayed everyone's trust and I don't deserve to even live, let alone live here."
Xavier kept his outward appearance calm and collected, but inside he was completely aghast. He had heard nothing of this. All he knew was that Remy had been left in Antarctica and they had sent out a search party to look for him, unsuccessfully. He assumed it had all been an accident. This suddenly infuriated him. Rogue, of all people, had no right to do or say such things. She had killed many people in the past, and most of the time it was purposely. No one even gave it a second thought. It was in her past and she had asked forgiveness and changed her ways. Remy had done exactly the same, and yet he was to be punished by death for a mistake? He was going to have a few choice words for the others when they returned.
Xavier looked up at Remy, noticing the swimming eyes that were threatening to overflow. He knew it was not like the Cajun to make himself so emotionally vulnerable, and he was quite relieved in a way, because Gambit seemed to actually be opening up for him. It was a task that had been impossible in the past. Along with his recent depression, Remy had been emitting constant, low levels of emotional pain and distress. Xavier figured he was probably near a breaking point. Remy had so much hurt buried inside him, and Xavier knew that he had to be reaching a critical level if some of that pain was actually detectable. To his knowledge, Jean was the only other one who had noticed. All the others had either been avoiding Remy, or he had put on enough charm to hide the pain underneath.
"Remy, I also want you to know that I am furious. I..."
Something inside Remy just snapped. He knew it was happening and was angry with himself for letting his guard slip, but he was sick of everyone hounding him. This was about more than he could take. He leapt to his feet, his eyes and temper flaring.
"Listen professor! I know I deserve to have everyone furious wit' me! I'm furious wit' me! If it makes anyone feel better, I wish I were dead! I wish I could erase everyt'ing dat happened. But I can't and I'm sorry and I..."
"Remy! Shut up and sit down!"
Remy stopped in mid sentence and stood there, mouth agape, for a few seconds. Then he slowly lowered himself into the chair and sat there waiting, almost looking as though he were actually a bit frightened.
Charles squeezed the bridge of his nose and rubbed his eyes before continuing.
"Remy. If you would have let me finish, I was going to say that I am not furious with you. I am angry with everyone else."
It took Remy a few moments to comprehend that statement. That was definitely the last thing he had expected to hear.
"Remy, answer this one question: Did you go into the Morlock tunnels with the Marauders expecting to wipe them out?"
"Non!" Remy shuddered, hating to bring up these memories. Just thinking about it made him physically ill. "I...I was told by Sinister dat he wanted a select few Morlocks dat were genetically promising for him. He...he told me dat de Marauders were coming because de Morlocks would act out in force and he needed everyone alive and well. I could feel my instincts tellin' me somet'ing was wrong, but...I...I had no choice." A tear made a slow crawl down his cheek. He felt like he was about to explode. He didn't have the strength anymore to try and contain it.
"I swear, though, I never t'ought a single person would be hurt, let alone...killed." More tears were starting to flow down his face.
Xavier listened to what he had to say with a calm, emotionless expression. But inside, his heart ached for all the pain Remy had had to suffer. It was made even stronger by the pure, raw emotion that was now seeping out of Remy. He was finally letting go, and everything he had kept bottled up inside was now flowing out of him. Xavier had always assumed he was something of an empath, but never this strong. If Xavier did not have such strong walls, he would have collapsed from the pain a long time ago.
Xavier closed in the gap between them and took Remy into his strong arms. The young Cajun fought against it for about one second, then gave in and relaxed in the embrace. He was shaking with sobs, and while it felt a bit strange, he had to admit that it felt good to be held. He was so tired. Emotionally. Physically. And somehow, just being held seemed to give him some form of strength.
"It's O.K. Remy. Just let it go." Charles was quite surprised to hear his voice catch and feel a wetness in his own eyes. He continued to hold Remy in his arms and rock lightly back and forth. He smiled to himself as he remembered doing this with Scott when he first came to stay at the mansion. The boy yearned for attention and love that he had been denied for so long, and Xavier cherished being able to give it to him. It had formed the father/son bond that was still between them today. However, as Scott grew into adulthood and married Jean, Xavier found that the bond they had once shared was diminishing. He missed being able to hold Scott and comfort him, as though he were his own son. Now, he realized Scott was not the only one who needed such love and attention. Here was another young man, practically crying out for it. His embrace tightened around Remy, and he continued rocking and rubbing Remy's back while Remy cried out all the pain that had built up inside him.
"Listen Remy. There's something else I want you to know."
He took Remy's face in his hand, so that their eyes met. Tears began forming in his own eyes, but Charles didn't care. He wanted Remy to know he was speaking the truth.
"The X-men are my family. I think of every single one of you as my children. None of you are perfect. All of us have made mistakes. But if I went and judged each of you on what you had done wrong in your life, I would not have a family, and I would probably be the world's biggest hypocrite."
Tears began to flow down his own face as he made this revelation.
"As I told you earlier, I have never taken much time to really talk with you and get to know you. I have, however, been quite worried about you lately. I know there are a lot of things you have hidden, and do continue to hide. And that is fine. It is your choice and no one has the right to judge you on their own knowledge from gossip and hearsay. That is mostly why I am furious with the others. What Rogue told you before she left you in Antarctica, she had no right whatsoever to say. She has killed dozens of people and most of them on purpose. Yet we accept her completely and ignore her past because of the person she is now. The same goes with Warren, Logan, and even Sabertooth. Although I might have made a mistake in judgment on that part."
This brought a small grunt from the young X-man. "Oui, dat monster ain' never gonna be nothin' but a killer. He enjoys it too much."
"That's true. But we still had faith that there might have been the slightest chance to bring him around. And we accepted that chance. And now, here are the people who have come to be your family, telling you that since you made a mistake, an error in judgment, that you are not worthy enough to be a part of this family. That's a load of crap!"
Remy looked at him in stunned silence for a moment, before he broke into laughter.
"I don' t'ink I ever heard you speak like dat before! Maybe dere's still a chance to turn you around yet." Remy grinned evilly and then softened back.
"Or maybe I've just listened to one too many of Bobby's arguing statements. A lawyer he is not!"
They both laughed at this quip, enjoying the rare moment of companionship. Finally, blue eyes locked onto red-on-black ones.
Xavier stared into the ruby eyes, watching tears again run down Remy's face. These were not tears of pain, however. They were tears of relief, and perhaps even happiness.
Xavier shook his head and sighed, wiping some of the tears from Remy's cheeks while continuing.
"Remy, I have lost several students to death in the past. I have mourned each one of them, remembering how special each was to me and the others, on missions as well as in our everyday lives. When I heard about what had happened to you, it hurt me. But it hurt even more when I realized I had never taken much time to know you. When I heard you were alive, I realized that I needed to change that. Remy, I'm so sorry I haven't been there for you like I have with others in the past. I have become so caught up in my own affairs, that I have forgotten I still have kids here who need love and guidance as much or more than they need training and learning about their powers."
"Hey, who ya callin' a kid!" Remy gave him the most indignant look he could muster without breaking into a smile. Xavier just smiled and rolled his eyes.
"Sorry. How about regressively-aged young adults."
Xavier shook his head and smiled.
"Well, why don't we finish this conversation over dinner. It smells like you have a feast cooking in there and I'm starving." His stomach growled in agreement.
Remy broke into all smiles. "Oui! I made us an authentic Cajun turkey wit cornbread dressing, and we have cranberry sauce, candied yams, steamed veggies, rolls, and for dessert, my infamous bread pudding wit' wine sauce!"
Xavier began laughing at Remy's sudden enthusiasm as they made their way back to the kitchen. He pulled up to one of the table settings and his face looked on in astonishment at what adorned the table. And the counter. And the bar.
"Remy, you are aware there are only two of us," Xavier said as Remy set down a thirty-pound turkey in the middle of the table.
"Oui. But Logan said I had better leave plenty of leftovers for him, and Stormy say she gonna 'lectrocute me if I don't leave her a hefty share of bread pudding." He smiled, then looked around sheepishly at the vast quantities of food. "Sometimes I jus' get a little carried away I guess."
Xavier laughed at this. "Well, I don't think they will be too disappointed. Besides, we can always use leftovers."
"Oui. Dat way Scott don' have ta cook anyt'ing for a while."
Xavier chuckled before taking a bite of the juicy, flavorful turkey and the most incredible cornbread dressing he'd ever had. "Remy, this is fantastic!"
Remy smiled, and even blushed a little. "Merci."
After a few more savory bites, Charles decided to try a new topic.
"So Remy, is there anything you are thankful for this year?"
Remy looked off in deep thought for a moment, then looked back and smiled.
"And what would that be?" Xavier encouraged.
Remy took a breath and looked into Xavier's eyes. "For...second chances."
Xavier's face lit into a bright smile and he nodded in agreement. "Yes Remy, I think I will definitely second that."