"Passengers from flight UA nine-five-two from Seoul, United Airlines welcomes you to New York. For connecting flight information and baggage claim, representatives will be at the gate to assist you," boomed a crisp female voice over the speakers at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport. After each passport had been carefully checked and stamped, travellers from all corners of the world rushed to beat the crowd in retrieving their baggage. The majority consisted of vacationing South Koreans who wished to view the Big Apple in a year of relative economic prosperity, followed closely by tired but contented local businessmen returning from their overseas trips.

A young, handsome Cajun man with long auburn hair that fell to his shoulders, wearing an olive green jacket and sunglasses exited the airport first, trailed not far behind by a stunning African woman with albino-like white hair. The lack of luggage to burden them made clear the reason for their early departure from the airport.

"Y' sure I should ret'rn t' de X-Mansion, Stormy?" the man asked for the umpteenth time. His face betrayed a hint of the sorrow and fear in his heart that his red upon black eyes were incapable of exhibiting.

Ororo Munroe sighed, patiently replying, "You are an X-Man, Remy. Your place belongs in the X-Mansion...and do not call me Stormy," she added, almost by force of habit.

I'm coming home, I've done my time

Remy remained silent as they trudged in the sweltering heat to the nearest bus stop. After having spent a good portion of time in Antarctica after Eric the Red's kangaroo trial, Buenos Aires and finally Seoul, where he had met Ororo and Kitty, he found himself thinking for the first time that it was too hot in New York.

"Wonder what it be like in N'Awlins, den..."

The X-Men had become used to hearing Remy wish for the New Orleans heat. It would certainly be a great source of amusement to see Remy having to eat his own words.

"Logan be tellin' me not t' be so cocky next time," he abruptly shook the thought away as soon as it surfaced. "Logan pr'b'bly hates de sight 'f me."

An old, un-air-conditioned bus slid to a smooth stop in front of Remy and Ororo, as though its gears had been newly lubricated. The number "36" shown tantalisingly in the glaring sunlight, seemingly proud to show off the fact that it passed by Graymalkin Lane. Ororo ascended the crowded bus full of homemakers on their way to the local mall, engaged in the latest gossip, and tired professionals who were nodding off due to the heat. Making eye contact with Remy, she signalled for him to board the bus.

The coins made a hearty cling-clang as Remy gingerly pulled out his ticket stub.

"You carry spare change with you?" Ororo asked, her eyes widening.

"A t'ief not be so out 'f touch wit' de world only t' carry ten-thousand dollar bills," came the smooth reply.

Ororo raised her eyes wider at the sight of the two notes in Remy's wallet. "Those has been out of circulation since the seventies! How did -" Her momentary gaze was torn away by a photograph in another compartment of the wallet. Remy and Rogue...in better times.

With a harsh grind of its engine, the bus moved on.

And I have to know what is or isn't mine

The wallet was abruptly shut as soon as Remy percived that Ororo had seen the photograph. it would do himself no good to dwell on vain hopes that Rogue would forgive him, after her newfound knowledge acquired when they had kissed. He had betrayed her trust all along. Considering that she had simply abandoned him in Antarctica, it was sheer foolishness to imagine that their relationship still had hopes of being salvaged. Yet, Ororo had hit the nail on its head when she said that he was staying away from the X-Men because of Rogue. Thus, he had made up his mind to return, to settle old doubts once and for all, to find out if Rogue's heart was still his to have.

"Fool!" he scolded himself. "Y' love her too much t' force her t' see y' if she doesn' want t'."

If you received my letter
Telling you I'll soon be free
Then you'll know just what to do
If you still want me
If you still want me

Back in Seoul, Remy, using his skills as a Master Thief, had snuck out of his room in the dark of the night to post a letter to the X-Mansion. it was simply addressed to Rogue, requesting her to leave a small but visible symbol if she had forgiven him and wished for him to return. Remy had taken every precaution to ensure that Ororo did not learn of it. He wanted Rogue's sincere response, not one affected by Ororo's pleas.

Oh tie a yellow ribbon
'Round the old oak tree
It's been three long years
Do you still want me

Yellow ribbons were a cheap commodity for the King of Thieves, but at that moment, all that Remy wished to see was a single yellow ribbon around the oak old tree near the gate of the enormous X-Mansion. A yellow ribbon, just the same colour as the bright, flashy custom-made Ferrari he owned, would open his heart and tell him that Rogue wanted him to return.

"Chère, y' once said dat y' couldn' imagine y'rself layin' hands on anyt'ing so yellow. D'you acc'pt me now, chère, wit' all my faults an' misdeeds?"

If I don't see a yellow ribbon
'Round the old oak tree
I'll stay on the bus, forget about us
Put the blame on me

As the bus inched closer to Graymalkin Lane, Remy braced himself to see a naked oak tree. It would be, he reflected, nothing out of the ordinary; the same old greeting that he had always received when he returned home from a mission. he could scarcely expect Rogue to place all that had happened between them away. After all, it had been his own mistaken in not confiding his past to the X-Men earlier on, but rather lying and hiding it repeatedly. Doubtless, the wounds would be much deeper, and he doubted if they would ever heal.

"Don' know wh're I'll go, chère...follow de bus, back t' N'Awlins? I can' pr'tend dat I never loved you, chère, it'll tear me apart for'ver. But you c'n try t' forget all 'bout me, find a better man whom y' c'n touch an' have children wit'...an' I'll always wish you all de best."

If I don't see a yellow ribbon
'Round the old oak tree

A saline tear dripped from Remy's hidden red upon black eyes.

Bus driver please, look for me
Cause I couldn't bear to see what I might see

Stepping away from Ororo, Remy turned to face a grandmother seated by the window, on the side of the bus that would be facing the X-Mansion.

"Granny, as we go 'long Graymalkin Lane, would y' please help me see if dere's...a yellow ribbon...'round an old oak tree?" he gently enquired.

"Oh, my poor boy. I'm so shortsighted that I can't see your face properly. I'll ask the lady in front to do so, okay?" She gently patted one of the gossiping women and passed the message down.

"Now even de bus dr'ver's goin' t' know!" thought Remy with a hint of unhappiness.

He began to jostle back to rejoin Ororo, who had taken an interest in his actions. She had moved right to the back of the bus as passenger after passenger alighted, and Remy was glad that it was as far away from the windshield as possible.

I'm really still in prison
And my love she holds the key
A simple yellow ribbon's all
I need to set me free

"Boy?" the grandmother asked. Remy instantly turned behind to face her. "You're crying. Why?"

As though it had all been too much to bear, Remy spilled out, "My love...I k'pt a deep, dark secret from her. Bigges' mistake 'f my life...and when she foun' out, we broke up. My heart feels like an impris'ned songb'rd longin' t' be set free, if only she'll brin' de key." Another tear trickled down his face.

"You got her to tie a yellow ribbon if she's forgiven you?" the guttural voice probed.

"Oui," Remy replied, unaware that he had switched back to his native French.

I wrote and told her please

"Remy?" Ororo had moved next to him. "You wrote to Rogue, and you never told me?" Her voice concealed a trace of hurt, but more importantly, trembled at the thought of whether or not it had been a mistake to bring Remy back. "Please, Rogue," she implored silently.

"Désolé, Stormy."

Oh tie a yellow ribbon
'Round the old oak tree
It's been three long years
Do you still want me

"See the boy over there in the olive green jacket?" an over-curious mother whispered to her daughter.

"Ooh! He's hot -" came the ardent reply, oblivious to the cautious tone of her mother's voice.

"Shhh! He let down his girlfriend, and he hopes that she will forgive him. Look out really hard for a yellow ribbon somewhere near that Gifted Kids school."

"If she doesn't want him, I do!"

"Mandy! A nice guy like him doesn't deserve to suffer such agony..."

"Sorry, mum..." At last, the girl understood that she was to behave herself on this journey.

If I don't see a yellow ribbon
'Round the old oak tree
I'll stay on the bus, forget about us
Put the blame on me

"Hey! Wake up." A commuter prodded the dozing man whose head had been leaning uncomfortably towards his shoulder.

"Uh...I missed my stop?!" came the panicky, misled reply.

"No, no, calm down. See that guy over there?" the commuter distinctly pointed out.

"The cool shades?"

"Yeah...let his girlfriend down, hopes she'll forgive him. If he doesn't see a yellow ribbon 'round that large oak tree we always pass by, he'll probably be heartbroken." A touch of emphathy entered the conversation as the commuter recalled his own unhappy experience breaking up with his first girlfriend.

"Poor guy...you think he'll just stay on the bus?"

If I don't see a yellow ribbon
'Round the old oak tree

"Mr bus driver, sir?" the passenger at the front nervously inquired of the burly man whom he had never spoken a word to all his life, despite taking that bus to work daily.

"Yes?" the response was unexpectedly soft-spoken.

"Could you please slow down along Graymalkin Lane?"

"Storm, I'm afraid," Remy murmured, gripping on tightly to Ororo's brown-tinted left arm, while staring blankly down at the tarnished and footprint-stained floorboard.

Now the whole damn bus is cheering

"Zut, what de...?" All the passengers on the bus had broken out into wild shouts and cheers as the bus made the turn into Graymalkin Lane in a slightly ungainly fashion, as though the driver had not been fully concentrating.

"Remy! Turn around!" Ororo shouted in a desperate bid to get her voice above the noise level. Without even waiting for him to do so, she had stretched out both her arms and forcefully manoeuvred him around, lifting his chin up.

"Mandy! She has! She has forgiven him...Mandy, this is such a fairy tale..." a voice trailed from the front.

"That's one lucky man!" said a voice that still sounded slightly sleepy.

And I can't believe I see
A hundred yellow ribbons
'Round the old, the old oak tree

Remy stared at the ribbon-covered oak tree. Every branch had a yellow ribbon tied to it, from the canopy to the trunk. They were yellow, matching the colour of his Ferrari, which had been prominently parked in the driveway, as though specially prepared for him to take a spin through the city. Long ribbons had been put up in the shape of hearts, which he recognised immediately to have in Rogue's distinctive Mississippi flavour.

"She's forgiven me!" The thought rushed to the front of his mind, wiping out the earlier doubts that he had had.

"Get off, boy, you don't want to keep your love waiting!" the bus driver called out from the front. The grinning, exuberant faces of all the passengers indicated that they shared similar thoughts.

"Boy, I can't see you, but I know you're happy," the grandmother chipped in.

"T'anks so much, gran'ma..." Remy gave her a peck on each of her cheeks, before getting off, followed by Ororo. His face was tear-stained now, but they were tears of joy.

I'm comin' home

The bus left to a loud commotion of people shouting, "All the best! Good luck!" Remy took a few uncertain, dream-like steps forward. It seemed so much like a dream, and he never wanted to wake up...

At the corner of his eye, Remy saw Warren routinely patrolling the compound. A jolt ran through Warren when he saw Remy returning, and for the slightest moment his downtrodden face seemed to light up, as he took two impatient steps forward - but it was merely for a split second. His expression returned to normal almost immediately, and Remy was certain that he had merely imagined it. Maybe it was he himself who was so happy and excited to see Warren. After all, Warren had never liked him much, but it did not matter to Remy.

"Remy!" A long awaited, melodious voice called out to him.

"Rogue! Rogue...y' forgave dis Cajun...y' still-" Remy was almost at a loss for words.

"- love you," she cut in. "When Ah received your letter, Ah was so happy, oh, Remy..."

Gently, with a gloved hand, Rogue wiped away the tears on Remy's face. "Don't cry, mon amant."

"She still has t' use gloves. But dat won' matter, as long as we're tog'ther."

Remy looked around and saw Professor Xavier smiling cordially at him. "Welcome back, Remy."

Bobby, however, who had been wheeling Professor Xavier, was standing stiffly, emotionless. The air still felt warm, but Remy tried in vain to elicit a response from him.

Jean Gray's lively smile removed Remy's worries that only Rogue and Professor Xavier had wanted him back. "It's good to see you back, brother."

Beside her, Scott, the de-facto leader of the X-Men said, "So you're back," with a slight nod of his head, as thought to reassure himself that it was a good thing. "I'm...sorry, on behalf of the X-Men. We treated you very badly in Antarctica." The apology sounded sincere, but with a tinge of an unwelcome tone, as though Scott had never wanted to actually say that apology aloud even though he meant it.

Remy merely nodded in return. "T'anks, mon ami." He understood that it would take time to regain their trust. It was good of the X-Men to at least welcome him back. It had certainly been more than he expected.

Jubilee, Hank, Warren, Kurt, Betsy: they were all there. Even Bishop, who was usually hostile to him, had the faintest trace of his lips twitching upwards into a smile which he looked to be trying desperately, albeit unsuccessfully, to hide.

No, someone was missing.

Logan jauntily sauntered down the steps outside the mansion. "Gumbo," he drawled, "if you ever dare play any of the X-Men for saps again, I'll personally make sure that you get what you deserve." A claw popped out of the joint between his index and middle fingers.

Remy's heart sank.

"Logan!" Rogue's shocked voice rang out.

"Logan! Why now...?" Hank's voice trailed off in a mixture of disappointment and anger.

"Don't say I didn't warn you, Gumbo," Logan broke in, before stomping back to the mansion.

"It's okay," Remy said to the flustered X-Men. "He's right. It's not his fault."

Deep down, Remy was thinking, "It's mine. An' I'm not forgiven, aft'r all."

As the X-Men departed, their moods turned awry by Logan's cutting remarks, Professor Xavier sent Remy a telepathic message. #Remy, can I see you in my room after this?#

"Remy, it's good to have you back with us."

"T'anks, Professor. If you say so..."

"Well, there is a Danger Room session in ten minutes' time. It will be conducted by Logan today. You may wish to avoid it by removing the yellow ribbons instead. The oak tree, after all, needs to grow without a burden on it." The Professor's words were carefully chosen and measured.

Remy raised his eyebrows. This was not a suggestion - it was a well-concealed, but none the less important, command.

"Aw, Professor, dey're so high! I don' 'ave Rogue's flyin' powers!" Remy playfully objected.

"In that case, would you have liked Rogue to put up fewer ribbons?" the Professor cunningly countered.

"No! 'Course not," Remy reponded immediately. "Not one single ribbon less from Rogue."

"And I doubt that you would like to face up against Logan in the Danger Room."

Remy marched off towards the garden.