saga/title/fandom: Two of Us chapter 4 (X-Men)

author: Alex L

rating/genre: (R) - Romance/Drama

warnings: het, language, adult situtations

summary: Set after the kiss in Homecomings, Bobby finds happiness with Jubilee. In progress. Please read and review!

comments/disclaimers: I forgot the disclaimer for this one---my apologies. All characters belong to Marvel. The story is mine.Feedback is always appreciated.

Chapter Four: Wonderful Tonight

Having never gone out on a date before, Jubilee was somewhat nervous. She kept telling herself that this was Bobby, someone she knew quite well. There was nothing to be nervous about. He made it clear that he wanted to be with her. She should not have to feel that she had to continue to impress him or anything.

Fat lot of good that did.

Bobby had gone out with some very attractive women before her. It was hard not to feel somewhat intimidated. Some she had met, others she had only heard of through Bobby or in passing conversation through his friends. All of them appeared to be a hard act to follow, much to her dismay.

Her stomach began to sink as she went through her mental list. There was Lorna. Beautiful, powerful, and razor-sharp smart, she had been Bobby’s first love. She broke his heart when she decided to leave him for Alex. It had taken Bobby years to get over the pain and finally let her go. Even at her recent wedding-that-was-not-to-be, he still expressed that he had some feelings for her.

Emma Frost, her former headmistress. A striking, icy-blonde, Emma had developed a slight soft spot in her heart for Bobby while he was substituting at the academy. The two had even gone out on a date during that time. In addition to being gorgeous, she had a penchant for wearing very skimpy clothing that showed off how well-endowed she was. It was no mystery why Bobby had been attracted to her, or any other male around the mansion for that matter.

Some of his more fleeting relationships often involved cosmic beings with strange powers. There was Darkstar, a Russian champion, who did not reciprocate his feelings because she thought of him as simply a friend. Then there was Marge Smith, who was otherwise known as Mirage. From what Jubilee had heard from Dr. McCoy, the young woman had been an attractive redhead who lived next door to the Drakes. She and Bobby had gone out until it was discovered she was not as human as he had initially thought. Another cosmic being, she ultimately decided to leave Bobby to be with her father. Next came Lev, a fiery creature, who did harbor some feelings for Bobby, but was in no position to touch him because of her powers. Another individual was someone by the name of Cloud. Jubilee did not know much about her, but had heard that Bobby was very weirded out by her towards the end of the relationship. After that, there was someone named Jo or Josephine, but no one said much about her except that she did something very bad to Dr. McCoy.

Then there was someone named Opal. Having never met this person or seen any pictures of her, Jubilee had heard bits and pieces about this woman--- most of it not very good. Almost every other week, they had broken up and then gotten back together. Jubilee remembered overhearing Bobby pleading with her on the phone about one thing or another while she was visiting Logan. She had surmised that Opal must have been something special for Bobby to go through hell and back for her on a regular basis.

Finally, there was the new nurse, Annie. A young single mother, she was quite attractive in an exotic way. She and Bobby had attended the wedding together. It was unclear as to what exactly had gone on between them, but in the end, she chose to be Alex, leaving Bobby.

How can I compete with that? Jubilee shook her head, sighing wearily. Those women probably know what to do on a date, how to dress, what to talk about. I just hope I don’t do something stupid or childish, like accidentally call him dude or something.

She had spent most of the afternoon, trying to figure out what to wear. She would have asked Jean or Paige for some guidance. Both women had had their share of dates and probably had good tips for her. Unfortunately, Jean was tied up at the school, dealing with administrative issues while the Professor was traveling to Washington, DC with Hank. As for her good friend and ex-roommate, the younger Guthrie appeared preoccupied with something and was only half-listening with Jubilee confided in her about the date the night before.

With the latest Strokes CD playing from her stereo, she was forced to deal with getting ready on her own. Pursing her lips from frustration and indecisiveness, she stared at the final choices, which were hanging from the back of her closet door. Not one to dress up often in skirts or dresses, Jubilee usually attempted them like the plague. The only reason why she had these dresses in her closet was because Jean had goaded her into purchasing them during their recent shopping trip.

It was not that she did not have the body to wear such clothes---quite the contrary. She was slender and graceful with well-toned limbs thanks to regular Danger Room sessions. Rogue had even used her as a pseudo-dress maker’s dummy when she was taking design classes at the local college. Rather, it was the fact that she considered herself as a slight tomboy.

Dress number one: a green, sleeveless cotton dress with an A-line skirt and princess seams. The skirt fell just below the knee. After trying it on, Jubilee voted it down. The material was itchy against her skin. Knowing her luck, she predicted an outbreak of hives should she wear it.

Dress number two: a pink-flowered print dress with spaghetti straps and a bias-cut bodice. A pale pink ribbon accented the empire waist of the dress, where the skirt was slightly above the knee. She stared at herself critically in her floor-length mirror, smoothing the dress over her slim form. It was comfortable, complimenting her creamy skin tone. Possible.

Dress number three: a sky-blue, strapless seersucker dress. Falling just below the knee, the dress had an A-line skirt and a fitted bodice. The dress accentuated the soft curves of her body and the color accentuated the sapphire blue of her eyes. It was a little dressy, and Bobby seemed to hint at something nice, but not too nice.

In the end, Jubilee went with the pink floral dress. She managed to find a pair of sling backs in the same color, which were reasonably comfortable considering the fact that she often wore sandals or sneakers most of the time. After some additional rummaging through her closet, she discovered a small pink clutch Kitty had passed onto her several years ago. The essentials immediately went into the purse---gum, house keys, wallet, cell phone and lip-gloss.

Standing in front of her dresser mirror, she began to fiddle with her hair. At first, she attempted to pile her long tresses in a bun on the top of her head. Shaking her head, Jubilee brushed out her locks, wishing she had some of Jean or Storm’s flair for style. After trying other arrangements, she decided to leave her hair loose. It rippled down her shoulders in soft waves, which made her neck appear longer. As for make-up, she usually did not wear much, but for tonight she decided on a deeper shade of lip-gloss, mascara, and some blush to make her features stand out a little more.

Studying herself in front of the floor-length mirror, she gave herself a critical once-over. Usually, she would have made a crack about how she cleaned up good. However, the butterflies in her stomach and the creeping blush across her skin would not allow it.

“Are you sure you don’t need my help?” Warren asked, as he and Bobby made their way up the spiral staircase to the second floor. “I know a lot of places in the city where I could get you guys reservations at the last minute.”

Bobby pretended to be insulted, but felt grateful for his friend’s concern. “You don’t think I can plan a date by myself?” he huffed, gray eyes twinkling behind his purple-tinted sunglasses.

“I’m not saying that at all,” Warren scoffed, following Bobby to his room. He closed the door behind them firmly. “All I’m doing is offering my help. I know that this is your first date and usually, you get really nervous about wanting to make a good impression. And, that’s OK, Bobby. But I want you to know that I can help if you want.”

Bobby grinned. As bossy as Warren sometimes came off, he had good intentions. Usually, most people had a hard time getting past the exterior that was used to telling people what to do and how to do it. It was quite easy to interpret the behavior as arrogant and domineering. However, those close to him knew better. Bobby felt lucky to be one of the few.

“Rest assured, there’s nothing to worry about,” he told him, motioning for the taller man to have a seat in one of the black beanbag chairs near his desk. He had recently purchased them while acting as a chauffeur to Kitty, whose used car had broken down once again. “I’ve got it covered.”

Warren eyed the floppy pieces with some mild disdain. “Uh, no thanks,” he replied, choosing to stand instead. “So, can I ask what you’ve got planned?”

Bobby was in his private bath, checking his reflection to see if he needed to shave again. “Well, I don’t know if it compares to your standard outings,” he said wryly, rubbing his cheek and jaw. A little stubble, but not enough to warrant another go with the razor. He wondered how Logan or Hank could stand having all that hair on their bodies. “Not all of us are into doing dinner at restaurants where the appetizers are as much as our salaries.”

Warren smirked, watching his friend stroll out of the bathroom and towards his closet. “You make it sound like a bad thing, Bobby.”

“To each his own, Moneybags,” Bobby quipped, examining the contents of his wardrobe. He found a nice pair of pressed chinos and held them out for Warren’s inspection. Besides being a wealthy playboy with a way with the ladies, Worthington was a notorious clotheshorse with impeccable taste.

His friend gave him a thumbs-up sign. “If the next thing you pull out of there is a Hawaiian shirt, I’m going to burn it,” he warned mockingly.

Bobby peered down at the one he was wearing over his khaki shorts, a black cotton shirt with palm leaves printed all over. “You’ve never complained about them in general before,” he pointed out.

“That’s OK for everyday,” Warren replied, waving a tanned hand at him. “But if you’re going out on a date, then I wouldn’t suggest it. Especially, if you’re planning to go somewhere nice, Bobby.”

Bobby snorted. “Please.... Give me some credit. I wouldn’t wear a Hawaiian shirt on the first date.” Then he added, “Maybe on the second one.”

Warren picked up the latest issue of Men’s Health from Bobby’s desk and began flipping through it. “You never told me what you have planned for tonight,” he said casually. Despite Bobby’s joking demeanor, he could tell his friend was anxious about tonight. He had seen it before. Given how calm Bobby was attempting to act, Warren immediately concluded that his younger friend was more nervous than he usually would be about other dates.

Bobby cleared his throat, finding a sudden lump in it. “I have reservations at Avalon,” he informed his friend, returning his gaze to his closet. “And, um, we’re going to see a movie after that.”

Suddenly, it began to hit him that this date was really happening. He had been so involved in planning the event last night and into today. None of the anxieties or excitement he usually experienced flooded him until that moment. The usually gregarious Bobby became very still and quiet, allowing it to all sink in. Relax. She knows you and wants to be with you. This is like getting together like you’ve been doing for the past week. Except you guys will be outside of the mansion. That’s the only difference.

“Oh right. I’ve heard good things about that place, too.” Warren nodded approvingly, flipping through the letters to the editor section. His ears prickled at the lack of conversation from the other end of the room. “Bobby?”

“What?” Bobby was startled out of his thoughts. He quickly selected a pressed blue cotton shirt and a pair of brown loafers to complete the outfit. Standing behind the open closet door, he began change. As he was doing so, he could not help but notice that his hands were uncharacteristically shaky. Like the kiss that first night had been something new and special, so was this date. He wanted so desperately for this night to be perfect, just as the other days and nights leading up to it had been.

“You OK?” Warren put the magazine down.

“Yeah. Why are you asking?” Bobby forced a light tone to his voice as he tucked his shirt into his slacks and cinched a brown belt around his waist. He tried to convince himself that if he kept himself busy preparing for the evening, his anxiety would be reduced.

Warren watched him saunter to his dresser, opening a bottle of cologne. “I don’t know,” he admitted, studying Bobby and wishing that he would calm down. He was tempted to tell him not to be jittery, but held his tongue. Instead, he decided upon a different approach. “It sounds like you’ve done a great job planning the whole thing. Jubilee’s going to have a great time.”

Bobby turned around, raking a hand through his sandy hair. “Yeah?”

“Sure. She’s a lucky girl. She’s going out with Bobby Drake.”

“Thanks, Warren. Listen, if you need some pointers, I’m here for ya.”

“Don’t flatter yourself.”

The house felt strangely quiet as Jubilee stood in the living room, waiting for Bobby. She had always pictured either Scott and Jean or even Logan--- the closest thing she had to parents---seeing her off for her first date, like in the movies. She understood their reasons for being away, but could not help wondering what their reactions would be to this. Jean being Jean was supportive, and continued to express this in the days that followed that morning. Reflecting upon their recent shopping excursion, the statuesque redhead had cajoled her into buying those dresses, as if she knew about the date.

As for Scott and Logan, she was not sure. While Logan was still adjusting to the fact that she had grown up without him, she was not sure how the realization that she was dating would impact him. Granted, he wanted to protect her and keep her safe from those who might harm her. Unfortunately, he tended to group monsters like Creed with young, unsuspecting males who happened to be friendly towards her. She shuddered, recalling Sam’s expression of fear when Logan had caught them hugging each other in welcome. With claws fully extended, he growled something in the young man’s ear, which instantly drained the color from his face.

At the same time, the Wolverine wanted her to be happy. He had done so much over the years (albeit some of his methods a little unorthodox and counterintuitive) to prove that. On more than one occasion, he had left her side under the guise that she would be better off with more stable influences than with someone who continued to struggle with his own inner demons. Despite her anguish over these decisions, she had come to understand his rationale and ultimately, saw his point. It would be interesting to see how he would find a resolution between the two extremes. In the end, she hoped that his desire to see her happy would outweigh any inclination he might have to inflict terror and psychological trauma.

Then there was Scott. Not as violently protective as Logan, Jubilee could sense that he was capable of some of the same feelings. However, unlike Logan, Scott was a little more trusting of her decisions. While he often played the authoritative (or authoritarian---depending on who was espousing) leader, he was often a guiding force. He allowed her to feedback ideas to him and then provided his own arguments, rarely outright telling her what to do and what to think. During a visit to one of the colleges she had gotten into, he helped her deliberate as to what were the things she was looking for in a school.

But Scott overtly shielding her? Jubilee was not sure about that. Having known Bobby since the early days of the school, Scott could either have a good reaction or one that was less-than-thrilled. He could certainly express himself, using the looks conveyed from behind his sunglasses or visors. The looks that said, “I don’t think that’s a good idea”. She had never seen him get into anyone face as she did Logan, telling the other person to back off. Even during the most antagonistic arguments with Logan or with Alex, Scott managed to keep his cool and often preferred to take their conflicts behind closed doors. The worst that could be expected was one of those trademark Summers looks, followed by something along the lines of “Are you sure?”

While she hoped for the two men to show some approval and not to physically harm Bobby, she knew that, in the end, it did not matter. Her mind was already made up. She wanted to be with Bobby Drake and that was the end of it.

Jubilee jumped when she heard a rapping at the front door. Her eyes went to the Fossil watch around her slender wrist. He’s on time. Hands shaking and sweating profusely, she darted to the mirror in the hall to check her reflection quickly. Then she took a deep breath and opened the door.

Bobby’s gray eyes widened as he stood on the doorstep. He was quiet, taking in the striking vision in front of him. His heartbeat thudded in his ears. He didn’t think it was possible for her to look any more lovely than she did. It was almost too perfect. There were so many things he wanted to say to her at that moment, but his tongue was paralyzed. Instead, he continued to stare.

Jubilee was equally intrigued with her boyishly handsome date. If she were less jittery, she would have given him a wolf-whistle. Then a blush stained her cheeks when she noticed him intensely staring at her. “What?” she asked, as she nervously tucked a lock of hair behind an ear. “Is something wrong? Should I change?”

He shook his head, smiling sheepishly. “No... I’m sorry. It’s just that you look.... You look gorgeous.”

She continued to flush pink, not from the discomfort she experienced earlier but from Bobby’s sentiment. No one had ever said anything like that to her before. Coming from Bobby, it seemed all the more special. “Thanks,” she replied softly, stepping out onto the doorstep with him and closing the door behind her. “You do, too.”

“This is for you,” Bobby said, handing her a cream-colored rose. The thorns had been stripped from the stem.

She grinned up at him, placing the fragrant flower under her delicate nose. “Thank you. This must have been hard to find. I thought roses were out of season.”

“Not if you raid Storm’s greenhouse,” he told her, draping an arm around her slim shoulders. The weather goddess, with some help from Hank, had recently cultivated a new breed of roses that could thrive all-year-round. His gray eyes twinkled with mischief.

She began to walk with him across the lawn, towards the garage where his car was parked. “She’s going to kill you when she gets back and finds out,” she warned him. “You might have a little rain cloud that’ll follow you for weeks and weeks.”

He pressed his lips against her forehead. “I can deal,” he remarked, watching the early evening sun begin to disappear behind a group of maple trees.

“So,” she drawled, playing the beads to her necklace. “Are you ready to ‘wine and dine me’?” Her sapphire-blue eyes sparkled as she finished her sentence, recalling the phrase he had used the day before.

Initially, he did not answer her, but merely smiled. As they neared the garage, he could feel his heart race once again. It had been quite some time since the last time he had gone out with someone he really cared about. That aspect seemed to add more pressure to his already tense shoulders. He inwardly told himself that this was going to be a good night for both of them. Peering over at the radiant Jubilee who was still grinning up at him, he was convinced how right everything was in the world at that moment.

“Yeah, Jubes. Yeah, I am.”

They drove into town with the windows rolled down to his Jetta, the warm summer breeze rumpling their hair. Bobby popped in one of his Nick Drake (no relation) discs into the car CD player. The soft, haunting voice of the late pop singer made the drive a little more intimate. During one of his favorite tracks, ‘Northern Sky’, Jubilee placed one of her small hands over his on the steering wheel. As he pulled in front of the restaurant, he lifted her hand and pressed his lips gently against the back of it, grinning.

The exterior of Avalon consisted of a mammoth brownstone, where the architectural detailing traced its original building date to sometime in the early 1900s. Inside, the walls were lined with gold, linen paper. Along these walls were sepia-colored photographs of landscapes around town. Customers were seated at broad, maple tables, placed in various spots of the main dining area. Most of them appeared quite comfortable as they laughed and talked over their dishes. While not a chain restaurant, the atmosphere was casual enough to imply that one should not put on airs while dining. Vintage jazz music played softly from the many speakers in the restaurant.

“Good evening,” a blond hostess greeted them, brown eyes like liquid chocolate behind her wire-framed glasses. She was dressed in a sleeveless, gray cotton dress with an A-line skirt with matching sandals. Her glossy lips curled into a broad smile. “Welcome to Avalon. Will you be dining with us tonight?”

Bobby nodded, flashing a grin of his own. “Yes, we will. There should be a reservation under the name Drake.”

She flipped through the book on the wooden stand in front of her. “Ah, yes... Drake party of two for six-ten?”

“That’s it,” he replied, sliding an arm around Jubilee’s slender waist.

The hostess gathered two menus and stepped aside from the stand. “Great. Follow me, please.”

She led them a table several yards from the bar. As soon as they were seated, she handed each a menu. “Here you go. Your waitress should be with you shortly to take your drink orders. Have a good night.” She soon walked back to her perch by the front door.

“Thanks.” Bobby turned to Jubilee who had already opened her menu. “What do you think?”

She gave him a cheerful smile, tossing her thick hair over her shoulder. “I’m glad I don’t have to wear a bib,” she quipped.

He gave her a wry look, flipping to the appetizers section. “Hilarious, Jubes. Maybe I’ll have our waitress bring one out, just in case.”

Her mouth formed a slight smirk. “Good one,” she commented dryly, feeling very relaxed for the first time. Bobby always had that effect for her, much to her relief. “So, what do you suggest?”

“I’m not sure,” he answered, still studying the menu. “I haven’t been here before. From what I’ve heard, everything is good, so I don’t think you can go wrong with anything you get.”

Jubilee pressed her lips together in concentration. She was about to wonder aloud about the mozzarella strips marinated in olive oil, basil, and sun dried tomatoes when she heard a familiar voice drawl, “Jubes?”

Her head snapped up, following the source of the voice. Standing in front of her was a rueful-looking Paige Guthrie. The blonde did not appear as if she was there for a sit-down dinner, wearing a faded green, long-sleeved shirt untucked over a cargo skirt with sandals. She looked very pale, wearing no make-up at all, which was somewhat strange since the younger Guthrie made it a point to be a presentable figure during all times.

Concerned, Jubilee asked, “Guthrie, are you OK?”

Her friend nodded stiffly, chewing on her lower lip. “Yeah, I’m just here to pick up dinner,” she responded, nodding at Bobby in greeting. “I’m waiting for them to bring it out to me.”

Jubilee frowned, sensing something was definitely amiss. She recognized that tone---depressed and on the verge of tears and confusion. It was the one Paige often used while she was dating Jono. She then inferred her friend was in angst over her current boyfriend otherwise known as Warren Worthington. The usually calm and reserved Paige was shaky and obviously distressed as she stood by their table. Not wanting her friend to be any more uncomfortable, Jubilee peered over at Bobby, who instantly read her intentions and nodded his approval.

“Do you want to sit with us while you wait?” Jubilee asked, not catching Bobby’s wary expression from behind his menu.

Paige shook her head. “Oh no, I couldn’t. You guys are on your date.”

“No, it’s OK,” the younger girl replied, motioning for her to pull a chair from the adjacent table. “We haven’t ordered yet.”

Paige gripped the back of the chair. “Are you sure? I’m not imposing?” she inquired.

“No, Paige, it’s cool.” Jubilee turned to Bobby. “Isn’t it?”

Bobby struggled to hide his disappointment, lowering the menu from his face. It was not that he did not like Paige. In fact, he barely knew her in spite of the fact she was dating one of his good friends (Warren liked to keep his personal life private). He had originally thought he was going to spend a night out with Jubilee alone. “Not a problem,” he managed, reassuring himself that the night was still young and dinner had yet to start.

“Thank you,” Paige said gratefully, drawing a chair next to Jubilee and sitting down. She forced a smile, which was a sharp contrast to her doleful eyes. “So.... This is your first time here?”

The couple nodded in unison. “What about you?” Bobby asked politely.

She folded her hands together, studying the votive candle burning in the center of the table. “No,” she answered, sighing. “When I miss dinner at the mansion, I usually do take-out here. The prices are pretty reasonable. I’ve been trying to get Warren to come out with me here....”

Her voice cracked at the end of that sentence. Bobby exchanged a curious glance with Jubilee. She leaned towards her friend, frowning with concern.

“Um, what’s going on with you guys?” Jubilee asked quietly.

The other girl shook her head glumly. “It’s nothing really,” she began, and then she rolled her eyes. “Well, that’s not completely true. Warren’s been kind of distant lately. He’s been spending an awful lot of time either at the office or in his private quarters at the mansion.”

Bobby nodded. “How is this different than any other time?” he asked lightly, noting what she had just described was typical Worthington behavior. Similar to Logan, Warren often played the role of the brooding figure. To him and other friends, Warren was simply being Warren.

“It’s different when he’s with me,” Paige protested, fiddling with a piece of silverware.

Bobby wasn’t sure if he wanted to hear in what way Warren was different with her, seeing that he was about to eat. He cleared his throat. “Uh, well, maybe he’s dealing with some stuff that---”

“That he doesn’t want me to know about?” Paige smirked, shaking her head. “I thought we had moved beyond that. Idiot.”

No, this isn’t incredibly awkward or anything, he commented to himself inwardly. I’m listening to one of my friends’ girlfriends complain about him while I’m on a date. So far, the night’s going really well. He peered over at Jubilee, who was wearing an expression of concern mixed with some discomfort and uncertainty.

Paige continued, oblivious to the couple’s reaction. “I mean it’s like he wants me when it’s convenient for him. Then he keeps me away when he needs ‘space’. Space. What the hell is that? Isn’t the point of being together mean that you handle whatever comes at you as a team? Ever since we started dating, it’s been one weird roller coaster ride. I don’t even know where I stand with him sometimes.”

Jubilee looked at her friend sympathetically as a guilty expression crept into her eyes. She did not want to look at Bobby at that moment. She felt responsible for throwing a wrench into his romantic dinner. Obviously, this was something he definitely could have done without.

Paige turned to Bobby, smoothing out the linen napkin by Jubilee’s glass. “What do you think? Is he always like this or is it just me?”

He paled, trying not to keep his jaw from dropping. This was definitely territory he did not want to venture into. Loyalties to Warren aside, Bobby was not prepared for this kind of conversation tonight. He had counted on talking to Jubilee and Jubilee alone, not speculating about his friend’s intentions towards his current relationship. “Um, Paige, you see....”

“Bobby? Bobby Drake?”

He looked up upon hearing his name being called out. A young woman, presumably their waitress from the black tuxedo shirt and black miniskirt she was wearing, stood behind Paige, smiling at him. She was rather attractive with a sunny face surrounded by light brown waves, styled in a shaggy bob. As he stared at her twinkling brown eyes, he immediately recognized who she was.

“Zelda?” he asked incredulously.

She nodded, laughing cheerily. “Yeah. Wow, it’s been ages, huh?”

“Yeah, it seems that way. You look great.”

“Thanks. So do you. And, who are you here with?”

He turned to Jubilee and Paige, both appearing expectant and confused. “Um, guys, this is Zelda. Zelda, this is Jubilee and Paige.”

“We used to go out,” Zelda added. “You know, double date with my friend, Vera, and Hank McCoy.”

“Oh.” Jubilee forced a smile, instantly intimidated once again. All the feelings of comfort and relaxation disappeared completely as she was reminded of early competition. Like the others, Zelda was very pretty and seemed quite right for Bobby. In the short time span, it was clear they had gotten along well.

“So, how’s Hank doing?” Zelda quizzed, pouring iced water in the glasses. “Vera was asking about him at the wedding.”

Bobby’s gray eyes widened at the mention of Hank’s ex-girlfriend from years ago. “She got married?”

Zelda nodded. “Yeah, about six months ago to this really nice guy from Toronto. They moved up there when he got this teaching job at one of the universities. The last thing I heard, she was pregnant and expecting twins. Twins. Can you imagine?”

“Wow, I’ll have to tell Hank about that one. He’s actually doing good.” He took a sip of his water. “So what are you up to? I see that you’ve moved beyond the coffeehouse?”

“Oh, yeah,” she replied, nodding. “This place is much better in terms of money. You know, rent around the downtown area is so expensive.... Plus, the hours are pretty flexible while I’m school.”

Bobby raised his brows. This was new. While they had been going out, Zelda had always eschewed the notions of having a traditional career. She was simply happy being a waitress, not being weighed down by the burdens and responsibilities that came with other types of work. “What are you in school for?”

She grinned proudly. “I’m getting my masters in counseling at the state college. I’ll be finishing up this year.”

“That sounds great,” he said warmly, sincerely meaning his words. Out of all the women he had dated, he had to admit that Zelda was one of the nicer ones. While he was not in love with her per se, he had felt quite comfortable around her when they were dating. She was bright and enthusiastic, not caring about the fact that he did not have a great deal of money to spend on her. During times when he was called away on missions, she often reacted with complete understanding and sometimes, with mock annoyance. Even things ended quite amicably, though they had lost contact over the years.

She nodded again. “But if you’re going to ask me if I’m going to get a real job and what I’ll be doing exactly, I’m not sure. Ah, no worries, right? There’s no one lighting a fire behind me, forcing me to get out there. If something happens, it happens. Otherwise, I’m pretty content here.” Her last sentence was punctuated by a merry laugh.

As much as Bobby was interested in catching up with Zelda, he could not help but feel very uncomfortable. Running into an ex-girlfriend during his first date with his current one was not exactly on the docket, either. He glanced over at Jubilee, whose face was rather unreadable. She simply sat back in her chair, observing the reunion playing out in front of her. While she did not seem upset or angry, it was clear that she was not having the time of her life.

“Enough about me,” Zelda said, her voice breaking into his guilty thoughts. “What’s going on with you?”

Bobby blushed, wishing that he could turn back time and start the evening all over again. “Nothing much, really.... I’m just have dinner out with Jubes here.”

Paige peered over at the bar, noticing the bartender waving at her and holding a paper bag, containing her dinner. “Oh, that’s me,” she said, hopping out of her chair and to her feet. She smiled over at them before making her way to the bar. “Thanks for letting me hang out and vent. It was nice meeting you, Zelda. Have a great night and I’ll see you when you get back. ” With that, she left the table and sauntered towards the other side of the room, where the bar was located.

Zelda placed the pitcher of water down and pulled out her pen and pad. “I’m so sorry about babbling on and on,” she apologized. “You guys must be starved. So, what can I get you?”

Bobby glanced over at Jubilee, who was shaking her head that she was not ready. “Um, actually, could you give us several more minutes? We haven’t had that much time to look at what’s on the menu.”

“Sure thing,” Zelda answered cheerily, picking up the pitcher. “I’ll sweep on by in a few. Let me know if you have any questions or need any recommendations.” Turning to Jubilee, she said, “It was nice meeting you. Bobby’s a nice guy. You be good to him.”

“Uh, sure.” Jubilee’s smile wavered slightly. She was willing herself not to turn pink at that moment. Things were too awkward already.

When Zelda disappeared into a crowd of customers, Bobby sighed. He peered over at his date across the table from him. “Listen, I’m sorry.”

“For what? She didn’t do anything. She seems really nice.” Her eyes were glued to the appetizer section of the menu in front of her.

“You know, if you wanted to go somewhere else, I wouldn’t blame you. We haven’t ordered or anything, so we could slip out quietly. No big deal.”

“Why would I want to go somewhere else? We’re here for dinner and that’s it.”

“This isn’t the only place in town.”

“I know. But it wouldn’t make sense to go somewhere else when we’re already here.”

“I didn’t know she worked here---”

“Bobby, it’s OK.”

“Seriously, if I knew, then I wouldn’t have made reservations here.”

“Bobby, it’s fine, really.”

“So, you’re not weirded out?”

“Well, the odds of running into your ex-girlfriend during dinner was something I never really thought about.”

“I know.”

“That’s not going to define what happens for the rest of the night. Now, I was thinking about the chicken satay to start. What about you?”

Dinner was rather uneventful after the interlude with Paige and Zelda. Bobby and Jubilee shared an order of braised chicken with preserved chicken with rice pilaf and steamed vegetables. For dessert, the two ordered pieces of molten chocolate cake, which was the restaurant’s specialty. Each bite combined velvety chocolate cake with a molten fudge center.

Bobby finished off his coffee as he went over the bill Zelda had left. He had noticed that Jubilee was uncharacteristically quiet throughout the meal. It was almost as if she were mulling what happened before, deciding what to think of it all. However, she gave no indication of being upset with him or with the situation at all. He was not sure if this was a good sign or not.

“How was your meal?” he finally asked, picked up a mint from the tray in front of him and popped it into his mouth.

She wiped the corners of her mouth with her napkin. “It was good. Thanks.” She reached over and took one of the mints from the same tray. “What did you think?”

He threw a couple of bills over the tab on the table. “The same,” he replied, gray eyes watching her carefully. He feigned peering down his watch and said, “Well, let’s head out. The movie’s supposed to start in about fifteen minutes. I was thinking we could walk to the theatre.”

“Sounds like a plan.” She followed his lead and rose from her chair. As they made their way out of the restaurant, she caught up with his brisk strides. Walking alongside him, her fingers threaded his, clasping his hand tightly.

They took their time walking to the movie theatre, which was not too far from Avalon. While the air was cooler than it was when they first left the mansion, it was still comfortable. The two observed other couples and families walk down the street, enjoying the seasonal summer weather that evening. Other than the fact that they were mutants, Bobby and Jubilee seemed to fit into this idyllic and peaceful scene among their human counterparts.

Bobby was lost in reflection. Not quite how things were supposed to go, but hopefully the rest of the night could be saved with the movie. Contrary to his statements yesterday, he was not going to take her to see an action flick. ‘The Sting’ was playing at the Uptown, the oldest movie theatre in town. Not too sappy and not too terribly violent, Bobby thought this selection was a nice compromise. Most importantly, it was something that was somewhat unexpected. Tonight was about showing Jubilee that he was capable of being someone other than Bobby the clown, the comic relief.

In this day of generic multiplexes, the Uptown theater carried one back to the era of the movie palaces. Adjacent to more modern buildings, the theatre retained its art deco style architecture. With only one screen installed in 1966, it was curved, 40-feet high and about 70-feet long. The second great attraction was a balcony with stadium seating. It almost felt like being at a drive-in without having to look over a dashboard. High- back velour seats with drink holders along with new wallpaper, flooring, carpet, drapes and a second concession stand were parts of a recent renovation.

Staring up at the elegant building, Jubilee turned to him. “What’s ‘The Sting’? Is that like a wrestling movie?”

“No, Jubes,” he pretended to feign exasperation, but his grin gave away his true feelings. “It’s a classic movie with Robert Redford and Paul Newman. Trust me. You’ll like it.”

“Oh.” Then she asked, “So, is it in black-and-white?”

“It’s in color. So you assume just because something’s old, it has to be in black-and-white?” Bobby wagged his brows at her teasingly.

“No,” she replied, shaking her head. “Wolvie’s old and he’s in complete color.”

He led her to the line that was outside of the ticket counter, grinning. “Do you get away with telling him that?” he asked, watching a soft breeze lift her dark hair from her slim shoulders.

Her sapphire-blue eyes sparkled as she turned to look at him. “What do you think?”

The wait for purchasing tickets was not all that long. While they waited, they speculated on the situation concerning Warren and Paige. Bobby knew his friend’s standoffish behavior could be viewed as cold and unfeeling, but Warren had his reasons. At the same time, Jubilee was aware that Paige could not help but feel hypervigilant about being pushed away. Given her history, who could really blame her? Neither one took a particular side, but attributed the problems to some miscommunication on both ends.

After Bobby purchased their tickets, they walked into the theatre. He briefly paused in front of one of the concession stands. “Want something to nibble on?”

Jubilee shook her head, holding a small hand over her stomach. “No, I’m stuffed. But don’t let me stop you.”

“I’m OK, too,” he told her, eyeing the doors that led up to the balcony seats. “Let’s find a place to sit before the movie starts.”

They managed to find seats next to one another in the front row of the balcony. Within minutes, the other seats around them began to fill up as well. Bobby noticed with relief how relaxed he was feeling again. The uneasiness that permeated between them while at the restaurant was gone. They were joking again, not forcing conversation or smiles. It was how it had been before they had gone out. Things were definitely looking up once again.

Jubilee played with the rose he had given her, watching the lights overhead dim. She studied his boyish features, the tingling in her stomach and extremities replacing the awkwardness she experienced at dinner. Her insecurities about not measuring up to his previous girlfriends had disappeared. The way he held her hand and the open and honest grins Bobby gave her erased all of that.

The credits began to roll on the screen. Members of the audience began to clap. The young couple joined them, smiling at each other. As soon as the opening scene played out, the clapping ceased. Jubilee then found her head resting on Bobby’s broad shoulder, her eyes darting straight ahead at Robert Redford. In response, he slipped his hand from hers and wrapped his arm around her, pulling her close to his chest. He rested his chin on the top of her head, inhaling the sweet perfume from her hair. Inside, he swore to himself that this was what heaven was like.

About an hour into the film, the edges of the screen became quite blurry and discolored. As the movie progressed, the scenes became faded and the voices of the actors became squeaky and high-pitched. The speed of the conversations increased as well. Murmurs among the audience members echoed curiosity as to what was wrong. Finally, the screen was blank and the theatre was pitch black.

Bobby peered around, staring up at where the projector was positioned. Pressing his lips together, he was praying that there was nothing wrong and that the film would resume in a couple of minutes. However, the cynic in him argued otherwise. That was all he needed. Just as the night had begun to look up, there was a wrench always thrown in to make sure he was not becoming complacent. When the manager made the announcement over the loud speakers that the film had tangled in the projector, he was not surprised. This was soon met with a collective groan from the other people sitting around them. To Bobby, it was simply another strike added to the growing disappointments over this date.

The overhead lights flickered on. He and Jubilee watched the other patrons rise from their seats and began to flood the exits in order to line up for refunds. Both came to the silent agreement that they would stay in their seats rather than immediately joining the fray. Jubilee had since straightened her position in her seat, pulling her head away from Bobby’s chest. Her small hands were folded in her lap, where she held the rose he had presented her earlier that evening. Bobby was drumming his fingers on the back of her chair to drown out the growing silence between them.

When the theatre was close to empty, he turned to her and asked, “You ready to leave?”

She nodded, taking his offered hand to pull her up. Wordlessly, she followed him towards the exit. Jubilee could tell he was disappointed with how things were going, but wasn’t sure what to say exactly. She wanted to be reassuring, telling him that everything was fine, and none of this really mattered to her. Yet, every time she opened her mouth to comment, there was something that held her back. The young man by her side was uncharacteristically quiet, almost Stoic. She could not help but feel anxious, speculating as to what he was thinking. Did he have more successful first dates before her? Was he now regretting his decision? Would he think this night be a harbinger of things to come?

The wait for refunds at the counter was a short one since they had gone after the initial rush. The conversation between Bobby and Jubilee was rather sparse, mostly consisting of how strange the theatre did not have another copy of the film ready. Awkward silences filled with tension that had plagued them before quickly returned. Tender displays of affection exchanged earlier had stopped. A large space now separated their bodies, which was a sharp contrast to earlier that evening. Neither one attempted to look at the other, the sense of discomfort all-too-apparent.

Bobby kept his gray eyes staring ahead. Silently, he gave his ticket stubs to the teenaged employee behind the counter. His ears failed to pick up on the stuttered apology on behalf of the theatre. Instead, he concentrated on his thoughts. Everything had been so planned, aiming for perfection. The inauspicious evening only reflected the type of luck he often had with his dates. He wanted to kick himself for believing that this would change.

After they left the theatre several minutes later, he checked his watch. If they were anywhere other than Westchester, he would have suggested trying doing something else. However, the small town did not lend itself to entertaining a late-night crowd. The best they could hope for was attempting to catch last-call cocktails at one of the bars---if Jubilee was of age.

Bobby turned to her, watching her nervously tuck a lock behind her ear. The guilt he was experiencing was almost too much. He had wanted this to be good for her. Her memory of her first date should have been a great experience, filled with things she would want to remember. What had transpired was exactly the opposite.

As he was about to sigh about returning to the mansion, a familiar voice called out, “Robert! Robert! Robert, get back here!”

At that moment, a little boy, no more than three, scampered past them, finally stopping in front of Jubilee. He wore a pair of denim coveralls over a colorful, striped T-shirt and white Keds. His cherubic face indicated he was of both Asian and Caucasian descent, which was reflected in his almond-shaped, dark eyes. Light-brown hair---almost sandy---framed his chubby face. He chuckled softly, holding his small hands over his tiny belly. Holding his arms up towards Jubilee, he jumped up and down, indicating he wanted to be picked up. The young girl obliged, staring at him curiously as she cradled him in her arms.

“That’s it, Bobby. Stay right there.”

Instinctively, Bobby’s head turned, following the direction of the voice. He could feel the color begin to drain from his face. He groaned inwardly. And God stared down and said, ‘I curse you, Bobby Drake.’

The mother of the child jogged over, a mixture of anger and concern washing over her Asian features. Given that Bobby knew the woman, this expression was one she often wore, reflecting her constant unhappiness in the world. After all the years of not being a couple, he observed her lack of fashion savvy was still a source of consistency. Her waist-length, black hair was pulled back in a bright blue banana clip, which matched the cotton T-shirt dress she wore. A white, rope belt was cinched around her small waist, coordinating with her canvas shoes. While there were some women who managed to pull of the look, the way this woman put together the outfit left much to be desired. There was only one person who could manage to accomplish such a feat.


Her narrow, onyx eyes widened with surprise as she stared at her ex- boyfriend. “Bobby Drake?”

His mouth suddenly became dry, the wide-eyed gaze from Jubilee searing a hole into him. “Hey, Opal.”

Jubilee peered over at the woman, oblivious to the little boy playing with the beads to her necklace. So, this is the famous Opal... Interesting.

The other woman’s magenta lips lifted into a tight smile, extending her arms out towards Jubilee, who was still holding the child. Reluctantly, the little boy jumped to her. “It’s been a while, hasn’t it?”

Bobby nodded stiffly. “Yeah.”

Opal held the child closely in her arms, her eyes sweeping over Jubilee. There was a sparkle of amusement that glittered in her eyes. Bobby was certainly hanging with a younger crowd these days.... “I’m Opal,” she finally said. “Bobby and I used to date. And you are?”

Feeling very insignificant about now, Jubilee was about to respond. Instead, she nodded and replied, “I’m Jubilee.”

The other woman raised her brows. “That’s an interesting name. Doesn’t sound Asian at all.”

“Neither does Opal,” Jubilee countered sweetly. Already, she could tell why Jean and Rogue used to bemoan this woman’s existence and constantly encouraged Bobby to break things off. She’s a real pip.

Bobby stared at the two women incredulously. If this were happening to anyone else other than him, he would have been amused. Hell, he would have thrown a couple cracks here and there. Unfortunately, this was his nightmare come to life. As if running into Zelda wasn’t enough....

He cleared his throat. “So, Opal,” he drawled, trying to mask the strain in his voice. “What are you doing back in the States? Last time I saw you, you were working in Europe.”

She shrugged. “We’re just here for a little while, visiting friends in the area. I wanted Bobby here to get to know some of them. You do remember Bobby, don’t you?”

Jubilee’s sapphire-blue eyes traveled to the child in Opal’s arms. The blended features of both Asian and Caucasian heritage, the similar shading of hair color to Bobby’s, and the mischievous, impish manner about him---it was all reminiscent of.... Then she stared up Bobby Drake, noticing the softening in his expression. Her stomach flipped inside.

Oh God.

Bobby Drake---a father? Suddenly, her knees began to buckle slightly from the shock. She grabbed onto a parking meter for support, relieved that no one noticed her---at least no one was saying anything. Things would probably be even more awkward than they already were.

“Sure, I do.” Unaware of Jubilee’s reaction, Bobby leaned over and gave the child a small smile. He held out his hand to him. “Although, I doubt he knows who I am. Hi-five?”

Shyly, the boy slapped his small palm against Bobby’s.

“Nonsense,” Opal scoffed, watching the younger woman shift uncomfortably. “I talk to him about you all the time. After all, he should know the man he’s named after. Don’t you think?”

“You do?” Bobby couldn’t help but be somewhat skeptical given the way things had ended the last time he had seen his former girlfriend and her son. “Sorry, Opal, that’s kind of hard to believe.”

She sniffed indignantly. “It’s true.”

He watched Robert rest his head against his mother’s shoulder. “Have you talked to his father?” he asked quietly, stirrings of warmth and affection tugging at his heart. While he was not in love with Opal and was aware that the child was not his, he had been willing to stay with her for the baby. A part of him wanted to be a father at the time. He was intrigued with the new role and the responsibilities that came with it. There was also the desire to demonstrate he could be a different father than his own, a more loving and accepting one. In the end, this was not to be.

Her face twitched slightly at the mention of the man who abandoned her upon finding out she was pregnant. “No. I have no interest in doing so.” Then she sighed. “I think we’re better off. I have a good job and my family overseas has been very supportive.”

“That sounds great.”

“I’m not saying it’s been easy. Being a parent is harder than I thought, not to mention a single one.”

“Yeah, but he seems like a good kid.”

“When he wants to be. He’s in this stage where he likes physical comedy. That, and practical jokes.”

“That’s not necessarily bad thing.”

“It is when you’re sleeping and Robert has found pots and pans to bang on in the kitchen.”

“He’s just expressing himself.”

“Call it what you want, but it’s still annoying. Reminds me of you.”

“Oh come on. That’s one thing I never did.”


“Other than that, he’s OK? I mean when I saw him last, he was pretty sick....”

“He’s fine. Thanks to you.”

“I did only what I could.”

“Which was more than anyone else at the time.... I never did thank you. I mean, properly.”

“Opal, you don’t have to... I already know.”

“But it makes me feel better that I tell you now, Bobby. Thanks.”

“It was no problem, really.”

“It was a big deal to me. You saved my baby.”

There was a long pause in the conversation as the two eyed each other ruefully. Little Robert had already fallen blissfully asleep in his mother’s arms. Suddenly, Opal began to shiver in spite of the seasonal summer air. Concerned, Bobby wondered if it was him, losing control of his abilities. Once in while, he would find himself slipping, particularly when he was overly nervous.

Opal instantly read the expression. “It’s not you,” she told him flatly. “I was just thinking.... Never mind.”

He frowned at her. “What?”

She scowled. “Nothing. It’s stupid and a moot point.”

“What is it, Opal?” Now, Bobby was really curious. It had to be something good if she was getting defensive. At least, that was he had learned when they were dating.

Her dark eyes lowered to the pavement below her feet. “It’s just that I.... I wish sometimes I hadn’t.... I think about us as a family.”

His gray eyes widened. This was something unexpected. The last time he had seen her; she was very determined not to have involved her life again unless she absolutely had to. She had said she only did so to save her child’s life. Now here she was, admitting that she had wanted something else all along.

While Bobby had wanted that as well, he knew that was all in the past. Too much time and too many things had transpired for him to consider otherwise. He sighed wearily. “That can’t happen. You know that, Opal. Not after--- ”

“I know,” she muttered, eyes narrowing. “If he was yours, would you have worked harder to look for us?”

He stared at her blankly. Then he replied, “I would, but.... If you had given me the chance at the time, I would have stuck around. Now things are different. I’m with someone else and...” He turned to face Jubilee, whom he assumed felt left out during this strange reunion. Again, guilt crept into him, realizing he was not making the night any better. He made a mental note to apologize once again.

Correction: she would have felt left out provided she was there.

“Well,” Opal drawled, cradling Robert against her. “Is she a mutant, too? Let me guess, her powers involve disappearing into thin air.”

Bobby turned to her, clenching his jaw. If the little boy weren’t around, he would have uttered some choice words for that unneeded comment. “Did you see which way she went?” he demanded.

Opal shrugged her shoulders, disinterested in her former boyfriend’s worried reaction. “Last time I checked, I wasn’t in charge of keeping an eye on your dates.” Then she smirked slightly. “You know, Bobby, this is primarily why things didn’t work between us. You got so distracted with other things.... Looks like history’s repeating itself.”

She then leaned over and patted his cheek before sauntering away. “Take care of yourself, Bobby,” she called over her shoulder, disappearing into the shadows of the summer evening.

Bobby racked his brain, trying to figure out where Jubilee could have gone. He thought about calling her on her cell phone, but realized he had not programmed the number into his phone yet. He strode quickly, calling out her name. By this time, many people were drifting to their cars to make their way back home. Given that Westchester was a small town, the public transit services had already stopped for the night. As for the possibility of catching a cab to get back to the mansion, which would have been unlikely as well; she would have had to call for one.

He decided to return to his car, which was parked close by. He needed to regroup, collect his thoughts, and figure out where his date gone. None of this had gone how he had planned it. But then again, why should he have been surprised? He simply hoped to have an enjoyable evening with some normalcy. Was that too much to ask? Shoving his hands into the pockets of his slacks, he surmised for some reason, it was.

Who the hell runs into two ex-girlfriends in the same night? he groused to himself, kicking a pebble in his path. The movie glitch certainly didn’t help things. And I don’t even want to think about those minutes Paige joined up before we ate... Maybe we were better off not doing this in first place. It would have been safer, more controlled, and the chances of us running into Zelda or Opal would have been zilch.

When he returned to his parked Jetta, he was relieved and shocked to find Jubilee sitting on the hood of the car. She was playing with the rose he had given her earlier that night. Looking deep in thought, it was almost as if she did not notice that he was standing in front of her. Bobby hurriedly darted towards her.


She peered up at him, sapphire-blue eyes solemn. “Hey.”

“I’m sorry,” he blurted out, raking a hand through his sandy hair. “I’m so sorry. I don’t know---”

A breeze rumpled her long, silky tresses. “I think you’ve said that enough tonight. At least, thinking it.”

Stunned, he was not sure to make of her ambiguous response. Then his mind began to race with possibilities as to what else could have possibly elicited this. His lips were pressed together in a grim line before he said anything. “Listen,” he began, trying to sound as calm and even as he could. “Robert.... The little boy.... He isn’t---”

“He isn’t yours, I know.” Jubilee sighed. “I heard that part of the conversation.” She paused, then went on, “I wasn’t mad, Bobby. I just felt kind of out of place. When you guys were talking, it was like I was intruding on something.”

“You weren’t---”

“Yes, I was. After all these years of being the annoying kid around the mansion, I know when I need to make an exit.”

“You also know that I don’t feel anything for her.”

“Yeah... Yeah, I gathered that, too.”

“And you also know that the only person I want to be with is you. I could see how you might come to another conclusion given what’s happened tonight. Believe me, I’m not crazy about having my exes come back from oblivion tonight.”

“I never thought that.”


“Really. I just got the sense you were disappointed...”

“With how the night ended up. Never with you. Never with us. I just wanted to make you happy.”

There was a brief pause in the conversation. Jubilee could feel a sense of relief wash over her. She wanted to smile up at him and throw her arms around his neck. However, again, there was something holding her back. Staring up at the boyish face of Bobby Drake and the glum expression that fell over it, she realized that would not be the answer. Instead, Jubilee decided to take a different approach.

She grasped his hand, climbing off the car. “Come on,” she said, tugging slightly. “I want to show you something.”

“What?” he inquired, perplexed. His feet were already moving as she began to lead him away from the car. “Jubes, where are we going?”

“Somewhere,” was her mysterious response. Then she added, “You’ll see.”

Well, at least she’s speaking to me, he thought, allowing her to take the lead. As for her surprise, he honestly had no idea what she had in mind. If he weren’t feeling quite so tense, he would have made a wisecrack about the malls not being open at this hour.

They walked several blocks, past the dark windows of various business on the main strip. Their way was alit by the street lamps that decked both sides of the street. By this time, many people had vacated the area, returning to their homes for the night. During the walk, Bobby kept asking where they were going only to receive equally cryptic and vague replies from Jubilee.

Finally, they stopped in front of Orchard Park. A public park with chess tables, bike paths, and a full playground; it was a popular spot during the warm months, particularly on Friday afternoons. Bobby remembered overhearing Annie talking about taking Carter and some of the other children for a mini-field trip here.

Before he could ask what exactly they were doing here, Jubilee said, “I used to come here a lot with Ilyana when she was alive. Here, we could be kids and be free to be happy and not think about other stuff that was going in the world.”

He nodded somberly, noticing the reference to the late sister of Piotr Rasputin. He remembered the two girls being quite close since they were remotely close in age, compared to the adults who inhabited the mansion. When the little girl died some time later, Jubilee seemed to take it as another loss to deal with, not letting on how she had lost a close companion. As they ventured towards the swing set nearby, he could tell she was still affected.

She sat on one of the swings. “Every time I walk by here, I still think about those times,” she confessed, her voice wistful. “It was like it was OK not to have the weight of the world on your shoulders. Just being here was enough to make you happy.”

He followed her, taking a seat on the swing next to hers. Instead, he chose to face the opposite direction so that he could have a view of her face. “Sounds like you have good memories here,” he observed quietly.

“Yeah,” she said, nodding. She began to push herself on the swing, rocking to and fro slowly. “When we were here, it was like our own paradise. No one knew or cared what we were. We could be ourselves---you know, just regular kids. There was no planning, no worries about what was going to happen next. It was like being around was enough.”

Bobby watched her swing back and forth, moving ever so slightly himself. He often found himself thinking about such days, wondering if he could ever have something like that. As he watched the young girl next to him swing, he came to realize why she had brought him here. Immediately, he wanted to kick himself for not knowing why initially.

“Jubes...” he began, his voice suddenly husky.

She continued to move back and forth, peering at him over her shoulder. “It doesn’t matter what happened tonight,” she said. “There were ups and downs, yeah. But, they don’t really change anything else.”

He raised an eyebrow at her skeptically. “You’re saying this whole night was fun for you?”

“I said there were ups and downs,” she reminded him gently, kicking her slim legs in the air. “But that’s what life is like, isn’t it? Besides, would it have been a little boring if everything went as planned? Come on, it’s us, we’re talking about.”

Bobby shook his head, unable to be assuaged by her words. “No, I don’t believe that,” he insisted, watching her gain some momentum. “I wanted tonight to be right. I wanted your first date with me to be romantic. And now, look. We meet up with your best friend who has a nervous breakdown while we were out, then with my two exes, and the movie idea was a bust. Let’s just call it a night, Jubes.”

“It’s not over yet,” Jubilee told him quietly, bringing her swing to a complete halt.

He looked at her perplexed, shoulders sinking. It was very late and time for him to take her home, lest he incur the wrath of a worried Jean Grey. Given how small Westchester was, it was quite doubtful that there was anywhere else for them to go in order to salvage their date. “What do you mean?”

“I mean, the date’s not over yet, Bobby.”

“I don’t get it. I---”

She cut him off by covering his mouth with hers, taking advantage of his open lips. Sliding her tongue against his, she could taste the coffee and mint he had after their dinner. His breath was cool in her mouth as she held on tightly to the chains that connected the swing to its metal frame. Bobby began to respond by leaning further towards her. Jubilee then moved her lips tenderly along his jaw line. The unshaven stubble was ticklish against her mouth, which elicited several soft sighs from her between kisses.

Her sapphire-blue eyes were wide as she drew back. “You said so yourself,” she whispered, smiling up at him. “First dates always end with a kiss goodnight.”

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