Disclaimer: I don't own any of these characters, Gambit, Rogue, and all the other X-men and related subjects belong to Marvel.
AN: Okay, this is a one-shot sometime after Antarctica, couple months maybe. I switched some things around but I think the story explains most of it.
The night started out innocently enough, just the X-gang hanging out in the rec room watching a movie together. Rogue and Gambit were entwined slightly, careful of skin on skin contact upon the lavender loveseat. Jean sat in the lap of Cyclops who appeared to be watching the movie, but to those who knew the couple well were sure that they were not in fact watching it, but enjoying a telepathic conversation that was causing Scott to blush slightly.
Iceman and Beast were on the couch the only ones who were actually watching the comedy flick, intermittently trying to flinch each other's Twinkie stash under the other's watchful eye. Wolverine sat dourly in a chair behind the couch downing a beer, not unusual for him to be a part of the group, but still retain his independence.
Remy was watching the two men's pathetic attempts at thievery, and he gave an eloquent snort, "You two be disgracing de profession," he told them pointedly as the movie rolled to a close.
"Well monsieur Gambit, not all of us were fortuitous enough to have the forefront of the thieving industry present in our formative years," rambled the Beast swinging a Twinkie through the air to emphasize his speech.
Bobby started from his position on the couch, "That movie was so cool, that kid was only ten, and his nickname was Riot. Why can't I have a neat nickname like that? All I get from Wolverine is Icecube or Iceboy or Icicle-Lad, or how bout an original one like Drake!" He rolled his head over in Wolverine's direction, "You are aware I'm over eighteen right? Officially an adult. The name's Ice-Man," he stressed.
Wolverine looked over with a grunt and half smile that he quickly concealed, "I've been running around a hell of alot longer than you've been alive, you're always gonna be a boy to me Icecube."
"Gee thanks," was Bobby's comment.
"Don't take it so bad Bobby," said Cyclops who had been drawn into the conversation, "It's better than Cyke, Fearless…Slim."
Beast looked up cheerfully, "Ah childhood, remembered well."
Iceman looked over to Gambit who had been trying to ignore their conversation, "Hey Gambit, you ever have any nicknames as a kid?"
The tension level in the room immediately sky-rocketed and Bobby began to wish he hadn't said anything. Gambit was never one to share anything remotely personal, but Cyclops had made it clear after Antarctica that while he wasn't asking for a bloodletting, he wanted him to answer any direct questions put forth by an X-man. Bobby looked back to Cyclops surely something as simple as this could be let past.
Gambit's gaze was focused towards the floor, eyes darker than they usually appeared a forgotten expression on his face as his gloved hand continued it slow intertwining with Rogue's. The look on Cyclops' face convinced Bobby that Scott was indeed taking this seriously. He wanted to know if he could trust the Cajun with more sensitive information and was going to use this instance as a proving ground.
Iceman looked around, he wasn't the only one nervous about this. Rogue's expression was tight between the eyes, shoulders tense but she didn't remove her hand from Gambit's as she might have done previously. The Antarctica debacle had convinced her how much she cared for him, when she thought she might have lost him. She had never forgiven herself for what happened with Ms. Marvel and it made it harder for her to forgive others as well. But she had, and she wasn't about to lose Remy LeBeau to her own fears.
Bobby's second glance showed Wolverine's posture nearly singing with tension, probably from the scents coming off everyone Bobby reasoned. Oppositely Remy and Scott's postures belied casualness, though Bobby knew how well the two could act. Beast was trying to pretend he wasn't in the room while at the same time slightly eager, anything learned about the elusive Cajun was a treasure for the house gossip. It was amazing how much he was in the loop considering he spent most of his time with generally non-talkative objects like test tubes and sample slides. Jean was sitting back doing the best impression of a casual bystander Bobby had ever seen.
Gambit finally broke the strained silence his normally silky voice undeniably tense, he knew it was a test too. "Oui," he responded in a purposely level but low tone, "when I was a chile I had plenty o' nick names…" as he spoke and felt them flash past his mind's eye, 'demon, freak, mutant trash, thief, gutter-rat, whore…none of those were appropriate to tell present company. His time on the streets was over, but the memories remained strong, the nightmares did too. He didn't want to relive his past, especially not with the X-men.
Scott spoke then, "Why don't you just give one that you were most know by?"
Gambit reclined lightly, eyebrows drawn in thought he paused a moment before uttering his selection. He would be truthful, lies had a way of exacting payment in the long run. He breathed a shallow sigh before responding. "Le diable blanc" simple, there he said it, he congratulated himself. Meanwhile the secretive part of his mind, the thief, the loner berated him for giving away information and was worrying where their next set of questions might lead.
"That's not English is it?" stated Bobby.
"No kid, that's frog," remarked Wolverine.
"Well," said Gambit with a faint smirk, "Remy did grow up in N'awlins."
"So it's French," said Bobby "It doesn't mean what it sounds like does it? I took German for the lot of good it did me."
"Bobby," chastised Hank, "the professor would cringe to hear you say that. The lessons at the Institute were quite proficient if one would endeavor enough to try. I took French, it translates to the white devil?" Hank continued looking for an approving nod from Remy which he got.
"Kinda strange nickname for a kid wouldn't ya say Gumbo?" said Wolverine questioning apparent on his face. Bobby leaned slightly trying to get Cyclops and Wolverine in view at the same time. It appeared for now that Cyclops was going to let Wolverine take over. The names and an admission of truth was all Scott was after. Cyclops didn't need the stories, but he wasn't going to prevent anyone else from finding out for him.
"Strange childhood non? Grew up in de streets, me, tol' y' dat before," Remy said meeting the Canadians blue eyes with his own red on black, barely visible behind a veil of red bangs. The light was low enough in the rec room that Gambit hadn't bothered with sunglasses.
"You got that nickname because of your eyes?" Bobby ventured.
"Born wit dem, non change wit' Gambit's powers," he replied. Hank was trying hard not to appear as if he was making mental scribble notes but wasn't succeeding very well.
"Is that why you hide your eyes all the time, I mean I know they're sensitive but you always wear sunglasses or have your bangs in your face…" started Bobby but dropped off at the sudden angry look that flashed across the Cajun's countenance eyes igniting briefly.
Another silence held the room this time Rogue broke it, "Sugah Ah need some more lemonade why don't cha come with me," her words totally at odds with the situation, though that had been her point. She stood on graceful limbs and pulled Gambit to his feet in one smooth motion. He stood still for a moment and met Scott's stare through the visor the challenge evident. It had only begun and they both knew it.
Gambit had taken the first step to revealing his entire past life to these people, these X-men who had left him to die. It didn't matter that they had come back; there had been a span of time in vicious cold when he had been sure of his death. But they were both giving second chances, the X-men didn't forget their mistakes, keeping them as reminders for the future, but sometimes they forgave them.
Gambit's instincts told him to escape silently into the night and disappear as he had been trained. He met the Canadians eyes and knew Wolverine saw the want to run in his eyes. Logan didn't speak but his answer was clear. Run and you're leaving the X-men, run and you'll never come back, run and you're leaving your redemption behind, run… and you'll lose your girl. All this took place in a single flash of blue eyes before Wolverine slipped quietly out of the room.
Gambit's own red orbs wandered back to Cyclops' figure moving unworriedly over Beast, Iceman and even Jean. His hand tightened on Rogue's which he still had clasped. They had gone through too much together to throw it away now he couldn't lose another love by walking away.
What hurt was that he wasn't sure she could love him unconditionally, they'd have to rebuild much of the relationship that they'd shattered. What if one of those secrets he hoarded was released and she spurned his touch, his love? If he couldn't trust her, how could he trust the X-men, a bunch of do-gooders who would probably faint and trip over themselves offering either pity or condemnation for the multitude of secrets and sins that comprised his past?
His lips tightened with the thought, he didn't want everyone to know his past, he could deal with it on his own. But by not telling anyone the past he clung to would never go away, it would always trail behind him like a specter. Maybe he could find release, maybe he could sleep again without nightmares…maybe he could learn to trust them as teammates as well as friends.
In his life he had only ever trusted one person inexplicitly, Jean Luc, and found that even that trust could be broken. He had mostly forgiven his father for his banishment, peace for the Guilds had to be preserved. But stealing him from the hospital, and bringing him into the arms of the Antiquary, he wasn't sure he could forgive that yet.
The mind is a quicksilver thing, so Gambit's trials had lasted few empty seconds for the others while his mind was caught up within its turbulent thoughts. Gambit seemed to relax and tighten at the same time, imperceptibly expelling a deep breath forcing himself to stand taller. His gaze was level with the leaders and he made a quick nod that had a flavor of old-fashioned gentry attached to it, they would talk...another time.
Arms gently wrapped around each other's waist Gambit and Rogue strolled out of the room leaving her glass of lemonade behind, half full.