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-Three: This Moment
The early spring afternoon in upstate New York was unusually warm. Typically, one would have to still bundle up in a coat before venturing outside in Westchester. Instead, only gentle breezes and mild temperatures welcomed people outside, which was refreshing given the long and bitterly cold winter. Many of the students decided to extend their leisure time on the grounds. Even the more studious ones sprawled out on the manicured lawns, reading and catching up on the semester's work. Some of the instructors, like Kurt and Hank, were holding their classes outdoors in a veiled attempt to enjoy the good weather and the raised spirits associated with it.
Bobby was in high spirits as well, but not only because of the weather. He had just finished finalizing the plans for the bachelor party in Las Vegas for his cousin, Joel. Being the procrastinator that he was, he kept pushing the task off, finding excuses in his teaching work or being out on missions. When Joel called last week about the trip, Bobby frantically realized that he had to take care of it. Despite spending almost an hour and a half on the phone with the airlines and the hotel, he managed to get a decent deal on the trip for the group, which also included Hank and Warren.
He stuffed his cell phone into the pocket of his chinos as he wandered outside the French doors of the living room and onto the stone deck. He contemplated bragging about his accomplishment to Hank (Warren was away on business), but noticed he was busy teaching a group of students on the other side of the back lawn with his new teaching assistant and former Generation X member, Paige Guthrie. Shrugging, Bobby's eyes then traveled around the spacious grounds of the mansion to see who else was outside. Most of them were the younger students from his math classes. Upon seeing him, a couple gave him friendly grins and/or waves in greeting. He returned the gestures cheerfully, walking past them and their teacher. It was no secret he was one of the more popular instructors at the school. His youth, sense of humor, and stories of pulling pranks on Mr. Summers and Dr. McCoy helped to ensure that status.
Hank looked up briefly from his lecture notes on ecological systems in nature. Through his black-rimmed glasses, he gave Bobby a wink. Then he quickly returned to asking the children questions about the previous night's readings.
Bobby's smile faded slightly when he passed the group. His mind drifted to a peculiar conversation he had with Hank the day before. Hank was known for being long-winded and often used vocabulary that sometimes went over other people's heads. However, that was not the case during their talk after arriving home from a mission. Bobby had just showered when Hank approached him. His old friend seemed distracted, but at the same time, trying to beat around the bush to get to his point.
"What's up?" Bobby had asked, buttoning his black Hawaiian shirt with palm leaves printed all over.
Hank peered around the room nervously before responding, "I need to ask you something." His voice was lowered to almost a whisper. "It's very important."
"Sorry, Hank. You're my friend and all, but I just don't do blue fur." Bobby had laughed at his own joke before slipping on his purple-tinted sunglasses. When he noticed that his friend wasn't sharing his enthusiasm, his laughter quickly died down. "Is something wrong?"
Hank shook his head emphatically. Then he played with the hem of his black periodic table T-shirt, which fell over his baggy jeans. "No, no. It's just that.. You're a good guy, right?"
"Um, if I'm not, I'm on the wrong team." Bobby had given him a strange look. "Seriously, what is this all about?"
Hank frowned, acting as if he didn't hear the question. "I mean, you wouldn't deliberately hurt anyone, right?"
"What are you talking about?"
"Have you been talking to Opal?"
"No, I mean in general."
"Hank, I told you I'm not interested in that Dr. Eglinton friend of your. She's nice and all, but she's also got scary teeth."
"Just answer the question. I need to know."
"Please, Bobby. Just for.. My peace of mind."
"Your piece of mind rests on my answering that weird question? That's really sad, man."
"No, I wouldn't. You know me better than that. Hank, what's going on? What's with the Inquisition?" Bobby was beginning to get worried. He had contemplated contacting Jean to conduct a mind scan on their friend. Obviously, something seemed wrong at that moment.
Hank was already out the door, clearly relieved. "I knew it. No worries, Bobby. I will see you at dinner." His bare feet slapped against the cool steel floor of the basement as he briskly retreated to his laboratory.
Since then, Hank refused to explain the conversation---what he was talking about, why he approached Bobby in the first place. He was also noticeably jumpy whenever he, Bobby, and Logan were in the same vicinity. His nervous rambling and chuckles were clear indicators of that. Still, he continued to decline commenting on what was on his mind. Hank could be very irritating like that, Bobby found. Not the brooding rebel like Logan, but rather the talkative, nerdy scientist.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Jubilee a couple yards away. Despite the warm weather, she also had on a dark denim jacket over a white T-shirt and a pair of cropped, cargo pants with flip-flops. Her long, dark hair streamed behind her as she closed the door to the Summers' home. She slung a blue-and-white canvas bag over her shoulder as she began to walk away from the farm-style, white clapboard house. After a few steps, her head turned to his direction. A smile brightened her delicate features as she waved over to him. Bobby grinned back, making his way to where she was standing quickly.
"Hey," he greeted, stuffing his hands into the pockets of his chinos. He eyed her bag with curiosity. "Where are you off to?"
Her blue eyes followed his gaze before traveling to his face. "I'm going to the lake to work on my photography project," she replied. Then she asked, "Do you want to come with me?"
Starting in January, Jubilee started taking introductory photography classes at the nearby state college. She decided to pursue the idea after perusing through one of Jean's fashion magazines. Much to her surprise, she had a talent for it, specializing in black-and-white landscapes and other still life. Scott, Logan, and the Professor each had framed pieces hanging in their respective areas.
"Sure," Bobby said, nodding and adjusting his purple-tinted sunglasses. "Anything you want me to carry?"
She shook her head. "No, I'm OK. It's just my camera and other stuff. I was thinking about taking out one of the boats or a pontoon on the lake. You know, to get different angles of the lake."
"And I get to steer?"
"Sure. Just don't crash us into anything, or capsize.."
"Oh, please. Give me some credit. That only happened yesterday."
During their walk to the dock, there was the lively chatter that was always there whenever they were together. Bobby was telling her about the last mission he had been on with Hank, Rogue, Storm, and Scott recently. Since she was not an active member of the team, Jubilee often lived vicariously through others. Primarily, it was either Bobby or Paige, who had recently come to live at the mansion as a teaching assistant and a member of the team.
As Bobby was relaying the details of what happened, he stared at her. Her face was thoughtful and attentive, her sapphire blue eyes focused on his boyish features. He then realized this was the most comfortable he had been with someone for quite some time. Even with his closest friends like Hank, Warren, and Rogue, Bobby always felt compelled to be Mr. Entertainment with his quick comments, pranks, and impersonations. After all, that was his role in the group. While Jubilee appreciated his sense of humor, she didn't need for him to joke around and play the part of the clown to get her to listen. He could relax and being himself. That was good enough for her. The nightly conversations they would have in her room were a testament to that.
He couldn't say the same for other people in his life. To his parents, he was the dutiful son who joked his way out of serious conversations. To his teammates and students, he was also the jokester, who was guaranteed to provide laughs whenever he was around. To his ex-girlfriends, he was a passing interest, someone they could never commit to. Even Lorna Dane, who was now staying at the mansion, who was on speaking terms with him, still expressed her ambivalence about their previous relationship. He had overheard Jean confiding to Scott about the change in their old friend, saying that Lorna had commented that she didn't she slept with Bobby but rather she put up with him when they dated.
Bobby felt himself stiffen involuntarily as he recalled the incident in his mind. He wasn't sure what he had done wrong in that relationship. Or in any of the other ones that followed it, for that matter. All he knew was that he put all his effort into them, to try to be everything the other person wanted, only to be left alone in the end.
But he wasn't alone really. Bobby had his friends at the mansion, and his students. They were almost a second family to him. Then there was Jubilee. Grown-up, thoughtful Jubilee who made him feel at ease whenever he was around her and never judged him.
"Bobby?" Jubilee's soft voice interrupted his thoughts. They had reached the point where the stone path met the dock when she noticed his sudden silence after finishing his story and his tense facial expression and body language. Never having seen him like that, she became concerned. "Bobby, are you OK?"
He quickly forced a smile, nodding. "Sure.. I was just thinking."
"About what?" Obviously, it was something that was weighing him heavily from the way he had been acting. While she wasn't one to pry too much, she wanted to reaffirm to him that he could tell her anything. She placed a comforting hand on his arm and paused in her steps. Her blue eyes were round as they peered up at his boyish face, which still seemed troubled in spite of the smile he pasted on.
Bobby's gray eyes flicked to where her hand was. He could feel his the skin underneath tingle and become increasingly warm. At first, he thought she was exerting her powers. He then became conscious of the fact that she wasn't doing anything of the sort.
"Um, about whether or not we should take the pontoon or one of the boats," he lied. "My vote is with the pontoon. It's easier for me to steer and you can walk around to get different shots if you want. This time, I promise not to crash into anything." He could still remember her startled expression when he accidentally rammed the head of the boat they were riding in into a rock ashore. She had come very close to lurching over the side when he caught her.
"OK. Sounds good." Jubilee removed her hand, still unsure if he was really being honest with her. She turned her head in the direction of the boathouse nearby and nodded. Then she began to fumble around in her bag. "Oh, wait."
"What?" Bobby stopped in his footsteps. He was already ahead of her, wanting to put the awkward moment behind him.
Jubilee already had her camera out. It was a Canon SLR Logan had purchased for her a month ago. The camera came with a 28-90mm, zoom lens. "I want to take a photo of you," she explained, tucking a lock of black hair behind her ear.
He gave her a teasing look upon hearing her strange request. "But I haven't had my make-up and hair people pretty me up yet," he pretended whine.
"Very funny," she said, rolling her eyes. Then her face was serious once again. "Really, I want to take a picture of you."
"So you can blow it up into a poster for your room?"
"Ha ha. I'm thinking about moving into human subjects. And since you're the closest thing I'm going to get to a model.."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Uh, nothing. So, can I?"
"Sure, but no nude shots."
Her cheeks suddenly became flushed pink. She tried to compose herself and retorted, "I don't want my lens to crack."
He laughed and nodded. "Sure, sure. So, what do you want me to do? Ice up?"
She shook her head, ebony tresses spilling down her slim shoulders. "No, I want you just the way you are. Just stand there and be relaxed." Jubilee began focusing her lens, crouching over slightly to get a good angle.
As he posed for her by simply standing in place with a grin, he recalled the first part of her instructions, "I want you just the way you are." Modeling as her subject aside, Bobby knew she meant it in another way. It was the mantra for their friendship over the years. Suddenly, he found himself thinking about if she could have meant it in other ways as well. He admonished himself as soon as the idea emerged, wondering why it had entered into his mind in the first place.
After two shots, the two readied the pontoon to take around the lake. It was a gorgeous, idyllic day to take to the water. The sun shone brightly overhead and there was a slight, cool breeze that rustled the trees surrounding the lake and rippled the water. True to his word, Bobby was the careful driver. He steered the boat slowly around the waters before Jubilee asked him to stop so she could take some shots of the mansion in the distance. She snapped a couple of pictures, commenting about how the sunlight refracted off the water's surface.
Bobby locked the steering wheel in place and sauntered over to her side. "Anything good?" he asked after she had taken another picture.
"A couple shots look promising, but I won't know until I develop the film." Jubilee had been kneeling, but then straightened to her full height as she winded the film inside. Raising the camera to her face again, she was poised to take another picture. Then she lowered it, frowning and peering down at the camera.
"What's wrong, Jubes?" Bobby watched her turn the camera over, inspecting the various buttons and switches.
She shook her head, struggling to adjust the focusing ring. "I can't figure out what's going on," she said, brows furrowing together in frustration. "It's jammed or something." She raised the camera again and tried to move the ring again to no avail.
Bobby moved behind her. "Here, let me help." He circled his arms around her and tried moving the ring himself. When he heard a click, the ring shifted. "How's that?"
"Perfect. Don't move." She leaned against him slightly to set up the shot. The swaying trees played the perfect backdrop to the placid calm of the blue-green waters of the lake. This was going to be a great picture.
Bobby kept his arms around her, his hands on the camera. He willed himself to be motionless as she took the photograph. He tried to think of other things to keep himself still, like the picturesque day, being on the boat. Then his mind drifted to the way Jubilee smelled of bubblegum and cinnamon, the way he felt so comfortable with her. At that moment, there was no place he rather would have been.
Jubilee turned up to him, sapphire eyes sparkling after she had taken the picture. "Beautiful," she breathed.
Bobby smiled down at her. "You're right about that."
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