saga/title/fandom: Two of Us chapter 14 (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 Fourteen: Outta mind (Outta sight)

Autumn finally made an exit, paving the way for winter to arrive in Westchester. Barren trees with rough, black bark lined the streets of the small town. Snow had yet to fall from the perpetually gray skies. However, the air was cold enough to produce frost, which graced the grass every morning. The cooler and cooler temperatures encouraged people to seek refuge, indulging in indoor-friendly activities.

At the mansion, this trend was being followed as well. Many of the students were preparing for end of semester exams and projects. Some were in the midst of planning return trips home for the holidays, which were coming up soon. As for the instructors, a few like Kurt and Logan were holding special sessions in the training areas downstairs in order to assist the students in alleviating stress during this busy time of the year.

Meanwhile, a serious card game was being played in one of the rec rooms. Involved were the usual suspects---Gambit, Sam Guthrie, Bishop, Roberto, and Jono. Joining them was a new member, Dr. Hank McCoy, who was quickly learning the nuances of cards. Given Scott's wariness of gambling in front of the students, the players made sure there were few of them in the room. The group also decided not to play a game that involved any serious exchanges of any kind. This was much to the chagrin of the Cajun thief, who liked both the challenge and the promise of any profit to be made.

The group sat around one of the available tables. Each individual was intently concentrating on his game. In addition to cards, there were opened bags of chips and bottles of soda and water littering the area around them. Swearing was kept to a minimum, although Jono would utter a psionic 'Bloody 'ell' here and there.

"Two threes," Sam announced, as he placed two cards facedown in the middle of the table.

"Bullshit," Bishop declared, eyeing the fresh-faced country boy smugly.

Sam flipped them over, and sure enough, there were two threes.

"Mothafa!" the time traveler snorted as he gathered up the pile of cards and added them to his hand. He cursed himself again for underestimating his teammate. The coal miner's son was shrewder than he initially thought.

"One four," Gambit drawled huskily. He placed a card in the middle of the table.

Hank pushed his glasses up his nose as he tossed his cards in the middle of the pile. "Three fives."

Two sixes, Jono intoned, brown eyes solemn.

Roberto threw in a couple of cards on the table. "Three sevens," he announced, dark eyes flicking over at the impatient and tattooed countenance of Bishop on his right. "Your turn, man."

"One eight," Bishop said, attempting to be casual in his tossing of his card.

Sam raised a brow at him. Having spent the last couple of months with the time traveler on various missions, he was able to discern when the man was lying. "Bullshit."

Bishop reluctantly flipped the card over, revealing that it was actually a two. "Mothafa!" he growled, gathering up the cards yet again. He added them to his ever-growing hand.

At that moment, the public phone outside of the foyer rang shrilly. After two rings, it became evident no one else was present to answer immediately. Sighing, Hank turned to peer over at his compatriots. None of them appeared especially inclined to rush out their seats in order to pick up the phone.

"I'm it then," he concluded, blue eyes amused behind his glasses. When it came to field missions or training, the same men would be ready to be on the front line. However, the situation seemed quite different for something more mundane. He rose out of his chair and began to saunter out of the rec room, towards the foyer.

"Hurry up," Roberto called after him. Then he added, "Swing by the kitchen on your way back. I'm running low on Diet Coke here."

Hank waved a hand at him cheerily. "Will do," he replied in his kindly voice, which deeply contrasted against his imposing stature. "My supply of Twinkies has been depleted as well."

When the large man disappeared, Roberto turned to the rest of the men at the table. "He still eats that junk? You'd think he'd know better and all. That stuff has a longer shelf-life than some forms of carbon."

"Why does Beast do any of de t'ings he does?" Gambit mused, crimson eyes locked on his cards.

"Beast is as Beast does," Sam added thoughtfully. "He's winning, by the way." He gestured at the two cards in front of Hank's vacant spot.

"Again?" Bishop rolled his eyes in disbelief. "I told you we should've played Euchre instead!"

Roberto raked his free hand through his glossy, black curls. "So what cards does he have left, Jono?" he asked with a sly grin. "C'mon, Mr. All- Knowing-Telepath."

I would never use my powers to cheat, Jono retorted, brown eyes widening in mock anguish.

Bishop looked him in the eye and smiled for the first time that afternoon. "Bullshit."

For someone who had to carry excess body weight, Hank McCoy moved with the speed and grace of lighter creatures. He managed to pick up the phone before the third ring. Clearing his throat, he answered, "Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters."

"Hank?" a familiar female voice inquired softly.

His furry, blue brows furrowed together. "Yes, speaking," he replied cautiously. In addition to the stressor of the school being exposed as an institution for mutants, there was his decision to take on the guise of an openly gay mutant. Needless to say, the number of unwanted and sometimes, harassing phone calls were on the rise from both strangers and former friends and colleagues.

Before he could investigate the intentions or pinpoint the identity of the caller, she said, "Hank, dear, it's Mrs. Drake."

Hank almost slapped himself on the forehead for not being able to recognize the voice immediately. A wave of relief washed over him as he grinned. "Of course... I'm sorry, Mrs. Drake. For a moment, I failed to identify your voice. How are you?"

"I'm fine, Hank. How are things with you? I've heard some...things. Is everything alright?" Her voice wavered slightly as she made her inquiry.

He frowned for a moment, puzzled at the strange tone in her voice. After a brief moment, he was able to figure out what was behind her wariness. Other than the Professor and a few select friends in the mansion, no one else knew that his statements about being a homosexual were made in order to challenge stereotypes society held. Given how traditional Mrs. Drake seemed to be, she might have a hard time accepting the news. After all, this was the woman who continued to be torn over her son's mutant status and his decision to fight for those like him.

For a moment, Hank considered explaining the situation. He liked and cared for Mrs. Drake. While his own family had turned their backs on him upon discovering his abilities, she embraced him as a second son. Deceiving her ate away at him. However, telling her the truth might be more complicated. In the end, he decided to allow the lie to live on.

Finally, Hank responded, "I'm fine. And you?"

"I'm alright, just a little busy. Then again, that's what the holidays are all about, aren't they?" She laughed nervously. It was possibly an attempt on her part to dissipate the tension.

He decided to placate her by playing along with the small talk. "Yes, I suppose it is," he echoed cheerily. Then his feline features drew themselves into a serious expression as he mulled over another question to pose. "How is Mr. Drake?"

Her laughter on the other line stopped, reflecting her contemplation regarding the topic. Compared to Bobby's father, Mrs. Drake was a liberal, freethinker. William Drake was more vociferous in his wariness of mutants and anyone else who did not fit into his definition of normal. During his limited interactions with his son and a few of his friends, Bobby's father demonstrated himself to be clearly intolerant. Hank had heard stories about the way the man would express his disdain towards he considered different. Bobby seemed to imply that his father was ashamed of who and what he was. After putting up with his father's prejudice for so many years, he finally stood up to him. Since then, the dysfunctional dynamic often played out between the two men. This often left his mother trapped in the middle, trying to play peacemaker.

However, his attitude and belief system appeared to have changed over time. While at a rally for presidential candidate Graydon Creed, Mr. Drake spoke out against the other man's message of intolerance towards mutants. As a result, he was attacked and severely injured at the hands of Creed's people. It was a surprise move, shocking Bobby and forcing him to reevaluate his feelings and his relationship with the elder Drake.

"He's good," Mrs. Drake finally said, exhaling quietly. The hesitancy in her voice gradually dissipated as she went on. "For the most part, he's recovered. Thank you for asking."

"I heard he an excellent physical therapist," Hank mused, referring to Bobby's leave of absence after the assault where he acted as a pseudo-nurse to his convalescing father.

Mrs. Drake chuckled. "Yes, he did. He has quite the bedside manner. He had Bill working out from morning to early evening every day."

This time, it was Hank's turn to laugh. It was a low, rumbling sound that emanated from deep within his massive chest. "I'm not sure if I can even imagine that, but I will certainly take your word for it."

After the laughter on both ends of the phone line subsided, Mrs. Drake cleared her throat. "Hank," she began quietly, "I'm calling because I've been having some problems getting in touch with Bobby."

"Oh?" Hank was confused. Despite the friction Bobby experienced with his father, Hank never knew his friend to be upset with his mother. Granted, he did complain every once in a while about her smothering. However, it did not necessarily mean that Bobby had a reason to avoid her.

"Yes," Mrs. Drake affirmed. The tone of voice she used was permeated with worry and concern. "I wanted to talk to him about plans for Thanksgiving. I've been calling his private line at the mansion and his cell phone. Is anything wrong?"

"No, not that I'm aware of."

"Oh. Are you sure, dear?"


"I've been trying to call him all day."

"Have you tried leaving a message?"

"Yes, I have. Several. Why hasn't he gotten back to me? There must be something wrong."

"Mrs. Drake, I can assure all is well with Bobby. I am also sure that there must be a reasonable explanation for what's going on. The semester is almost over. Speaking for myself, I've become quite busy preparing for exams and projects for my students."

"I hope so..."

"Have you known me to be wrong before?"


"See then? All is right with the world."

"Still, Hank... I thought I would be able to catch him if I called the main line. Do you know if he's around? I'd really like to speak with him."

"I'm not sure." Hank frowned thoughtfully. He had been in the lab for the most of the day prior to his involvement in the card game. His isolation prevented him from knowing whether or not his friend was here. He supposed he could race upstairs in order to search for Bobby.

As he was about to ask Mrs. Drake to hold the line, he saw Rogue descending down the spiral staircase. Placing his thick fingers over the mouth piece, he called out, "Rogue, do you know if Bobby's home?"

The Southern Belle played with the zipper to her purple, hooded sweatshirt she wore over her black jeans and Doc Martens. She shook her head. "No, Ah haven't seen him since this mornin'."

"Do you think he would be with Jubilation? Perhaps at the house?" Hank ventured hopefully. He hated to be the one to let down Mrs. Drake.

Rogue sauntered towards him, tucking a streak of white hair behind her ear. "The lovebirds are probably together, but not over at Jean and Scott's. Scott has a cold. Ya know how grumpy he gets when he's sick."

Hank nodded. As one of the resident medical experts at the mansion, he was aware of certain patients' dispositions. Scott Summers, a fearless leader on and off the field, proved to be quite different when he fell ill. Bad- tempered and cantankerous were a few words that immediately came to mind. Anyone who was of sound mind knew better than to be near him when he was not healthy.

"Oh well," he sighed, returning to the phone call. "Mrs. Drake, I'm afraid Bobby's not home right now."

Tried as she did, Mrs. Drake could not hide her disappointment. "I see."

"I could leave him a message to give you call back." Hank proposed, taking out a pen from the pocket of his white lab coat. "I will mark it as urgent so that he knows to get in touch with you quickly."

She sighed. "I suppose so." Then she paused. "Hank?"

He was searching for a pad of paper or a blank of post-it notes by the telephone. "Yes, Mrs. Drake?"

A confused tone colored her voice as she inquired, "Who is Jubilation?" <P> Without thinking, he promptly answered, "His girlfriend."

Rogue's green eyes widened in disbelief. Then she glared at him fiercely. Is he crazy? she wondered inwardly. Then she reached over and slapped him on the shoulder, shaking her head vigorously.

Initially confused, Hank wanted to demand why he was being physically accosted. When he noted the reproving expression across her face, he surmised he had erred in some way. It took him a matter of seconds to realize his faux pas. At that moment, he could feel his stomach begin to sink. He then wondered about joining the witness protection program.

Oh dear.

"Hank?" Mrs. Drake's genteel voice shattered his ruminations. "Hank?"

He shut his eyes tightly, wishing he had some psychic manipulation abilities. It was either that, or a time machine to transport him to ten minutes earlier. When it was evident that none of these options were available, he forced himself to return to reality. "Yes, Mrs. Drake?" he said rather meekly, avoiding Rogue's pointed gaze.

"You said girlfriend?" she inquired.

Hank was quite close to pulling some blue fur out. "Well, I meant... She's a female and she's a friend." He frowned at Rogue, who was now standing next to him and rolling her eyes.

"Hank, are you sure you don't mean a girlfriend?" Mrs. Drake asked reproachfully.

He desperately racked his brain to search for a way out. "I guess..."

She cut him off, her excitement over the conclusion building as she spoke. "I think that's what I heard. Why, this would explain Bobby not immediately calling me back. He was probably spending time with her, doing something romantic. Not that that excuses things, but it does puts things into perspective. Is she a nice girl?"

"Well, Mrs. Drake, I have to say---"

"Of course, she is. Bobby wouldn't be with someone who wasn't nice. What is she like? What does she do?"


"I'm sure she's a wonderful, special girl. Anything less wouldn't do for my son."

"I suppose you're right---"

"Of course, I'm right. A mother knows these things. How long have they been dating?"

"I'm not at liberty to comment."

"Do you think it's serious?"

"Well, I don't know."


"I really don't know."

"But it's been awhile hasn't it? Why didn't he tell me in the first place?"

Hank rubbed his temples with his fingers wearily. Out of the corner of his eye, he watched Rogue make frantic motions for him to get off the phone. There had to be a way to quickly, but politely end the conversation before he got himself into any further trouble. Alas, his brilliant, keen neurons were firing blanks. He could feel the skin beneath his thick, blue coat begin to burn with embarrassment. Turning to Rogue, he gave her a helpless look, imploring her to bail him out.

Her green eyes narrowed. Part of her was tempted to leave him twisting in the wind for blabbing. By spilling the beans about Jubilee, Hank had actually left Bobby in an unenviable predicament. Yes, Hank had a hard time being secretive, but he really should have known better. That was simply a recipe for disaster. The woman had been on his case about settling down with a nice girl for quite some time. It was often a source of angst and irritation for Bobby whenever he was faced with the prospect of visiting his family.

Instead, she allowed her sympathy for her good friend and teammate win out. She mouthed to him, "Tell her you have an emergency in the lab to take care of."

Hank nodded, grateful. "Mrs. Drake, I'm afraid I'm going to have to cut this call short. There's an issue in the laboratory I must attend to. Immediately."

"But, Hank, you didn't answer my question---" Bobby's mother began, indicating there was no way she was going to drop the subject.

It was his turn to interrupt her. "Perhaps Bobby can relay that information to you once he gets in touch with you. I really must be going now. It was good talking with you again."

"Yes, Hank. I hope we can speak again." Mrs. Drake said sweetly.

He grimaced; relieved she could not see his discomfort with the idea. While he was no betting man, he was almost certain Bobby was going to see to it that he would never be able to speak again. "Perhaps," he managed through gritted teeth. "Good-bye, Mrs. Drake."

"Good-bye, Hank." Click.

Hank's hulking shoulders were hunched over as he hung up the phone. He could feel Rogue's gaze sear a hole into his back. By not facing her immediately, he almost hoped he could avoid the confrontation that awaited him. Taking a deep breath, he realized there was no use delaying the inevitable. He only hoped that she had calmed down since she overheard him leaking the news.

A gloved hand quickly grasped his arm with a death-like grip.

No such luck.

"What in the hell is wrong with ya?" she hissed, making sure her voice was low enough so that others would not hear. Since the admission of some younger students, the Southern Belle became more conscious of the way she expressed her anger and dissatisfaction. During her time away from the team, she and Remy had settled in a small town in California, where many of the residents were bikers who talked rather freely about everything and anything.

He winced. Gingerly, he took his hand and removed hers from his arm. Then he motioned for her to follow him to the kitchen, away from the other rooms. With a weary shake of his head, he flicked the lights on. Cook would usually be in a flurry of activity to prepare for the evening meal. The kitchen was quiet and empty, much to their surprises. The Englishwoman was probably in town, still searching for ingredients for dinner that night.

Hank made his way to the kitchen counter and leaned against it, sighing. "I'm sorry."

Rogue shook her head ruefully. "Ah ain't the one ya owe an apology to. What are on earth were ya thinkin', Beast?"

"I don't believe I was," he admitted grimly. He rubbed his large hands over his stunned face. "Before I could stop myself, the words seemed to leap from my tongue. By the time I realized what I did, it was too late."

She nodded empathically. "Ah know," she replied, crossing her arms over her chest.

"Bobby is going to be furious," Hank surmised, exhaling loudly. "I don't blame him."

"Why? Was his momma real upset about not knowin'?" Rogue asked, frowning. Having met Bobby's overprotective and anxious mother, she could actually picture that scenario. Hell, any mother would be disconcerted upon finding out her son had deceived her after some time.

The larger man shook his head. "No, she didn't seem angry, although I am sure she will ask him about that."

The Southern Belle's wide, green eyes were quizzical. "Then what?" she inquired, not sure why Bobby would harbor any animosity.

"It's just that..." he began, his voice wavering slightly. Pressing his lips together, he summoned his available and functioning brain cells to work collectively so that he could finish the rest of his sentence. He stared down at the countertop. "It's just that she's going to be excited."

"Ah'd be kinda disappointed otherwise." From what Rogue remembered from her visit to the Drake home, Mrs. Drake was a loving mother who wanted nothing more than her son to find his happiness. That, and grant her a longstanding wish of becoming a grandmother.

"She sounded thrilled about Bobby dating someone new," he continued, implicitly reminding Rogue of their friend's romantic problems in the past. The two of them had spent many times consoling Bobby about his failed relationships. "I could detect nothing but optimism in her voice. She has not met our young firecracker and she is already pleased."

"Then what's the problem?" Rogue demanded. She was fiddling with one of the silver hoops dangling from her earlobe. "If ya say his momma is happy about Bobby bein' with Sweet Pea, then Ah don't get why yer still upset. Yeah, it's gonna be uncomfortable for Bobby to tell her about everything, but it ain't gonna be the end of the world."

"Depends on your view," Hank mumbled, blue eyes wary.

She sighed impatiently. "OK, tell me. Can't be that bad."

"As I told you before, Mrs. Drake is quite excited over the prospect of Bobby dating."


"This means she will have a great deal of questions to ask about Jubilee and the relationship in general."

"Ah still ain't followin' ya. What are ya tryin' to get at, Beast?"

His cat-like features were grave as he faced her again. "What I'm trying to say is that she will want more," he said quietly. "More meaning actually meeting Jubilee. While I believe Mrs. Drake would be embracing of the girl, I do not think I can necessarily say the same for her husband."

Rogue's mauve-colored lips formed an O, the words sinking in. His neurotic reaction to the situation was suddenly making sense. In addition to hearing stories from Bobby, she had witnessed first-hand Mr. Drake's intolerance. During their visit to Bobby's home, his father had mistaken her for another girlfriend. It was then that he lashed out, raving about his son's failure to find anyone "normal". She learned that his bigotry was not solely focused on mutants but anyone who was not of Northern European descent. He fumed about an Italian girl Bobby had brought home (Zelda) and the Japanese one (Opal) for minutes on end. Finally, Bobby had had enough, standing up to his father for the first time.

Unfortunately, from this knowledge, she had the feeling that the joy over Bobby's new girlfriend would not be universally shared. Looking back upon the experience, Rogue theorized Jubilee did not stand a chance in hell with Mr. Drake. Who knew how this situation was going to affect the already strained relations between father and son.

She placed a soothing, gloved hand over Hank's fur-covered one. "Ya got any friends ya can visit overseas for the next year or so?"

Bobby's Volkswagen Jetta slowly pulled into the mansion's garage, where many of the instructors' vehicles were housed. He found a vacant spot next to Logan's Harley-Davidson. As he parked his car, he took special precautions to keep enough space between their vehicles. The loner was intensely protective of his prized motorcycle. Even breathing on the handlebars earned one a fierce glare from the man known as the Wolverine.

He took the key out of the ignition and turned to the passenger's side. His brows furrowed with concern as he stole a glance at the young girl sitting next to him. He couldn't help but notice something very off about her behavior as they shopped for Hank's birthday present. Throughout the excursion, she had been uncharacteristically withdrawn and quiet. This was in spite of his jokes and plans for ambitious future pranks---both guaranteed to elicit some sort of response from her. Instead, she seemed rather preoccupied, easily distracted and occasionally jumpy. Her delicate features, usually cheery and bright, were constantly arranged in an anxious expression. The entire presentation was the complete antithesis of the image Jubilee projected to the world.

Needless to say, Bobby was quite concerned. It was unnerving and strange to see her act this way. He racked his brain for some possible explanations. Perhaps it was school that was getting to her, causing some stress. That idea was quickly struck down. Jubilee was on top of her academic commitments at school, having gotten into a routine with her classes.

Then he mulled over the possibility of residual anxieties from the other night. However, this lead was brushed aside when he remembered her repeated assurances that she was fine. There was also the fact that she had spent another night in his room that same week with no problems. In fact, her odd behavior did not start until they left that day.

One last reason was left: she was mad at him. Bobby racked his brain for any possible disagreements or slights that might have been made. Perhaps his teasing had gone too far at one point. After careful consideration, he was unable to come up with anything from that end as well.

His gray eyes flicked over at her, studying her exquisite profile. He had tried asking her directly while they were browsing through the various stores they visited. He had also tried being subtle in his approach. However, both attempts were met with gentle, but distant dismissals from Jubilee. While some people might have been more persistent to the point of badgering, Bobby Drake was not comfortable with that style. He decided to back off for a while in order to give her some space.

Unbuckling his seatbelt, Bobby leaned over and brushed her silky hair from her face. "We're home," he said quietly.

She didn't respond right away. Instead, she continued to stare out the window blankly. Her brilliant sapphire eyes had a far away look that clouded their typical sparkle. It was as if she were mulling over something to say to him, but furiously holding herself back.

Confused, he tried getting her attention once again. "Jubes?" He squeezed her shoulder slightly. "Earth to Jubilee. Come in, Jubilee."

Startled, she flinched. Then she turned to face him with an apologetic smile as she unbuckled her seatbelt. "Sorry, Bobby. Guess I've spaced out."

"Yeah, it's OK," he told her, still concerned. After a brief pause, he said, "You've been kind of out of it all day."

Jubilee sighed, pulling at the sleeves of her camel pea coat. "I know. I'm really sorry."

"I didn't point it out to make you feel bad or anything," he said, stroking her hair gently. "Besides, you don't have to apologize. It's just that I'm worried about you."

She shook her head. "You don't have to be."

"I want to," he replied softly, his face filled with unease for her. "If the tables were turned, you would be for me."

"Yeah," she admitted with a small smile. He was certainly right about that one. "I guess that's true."

Bobby raised his brows at her. "You've been distracted ever since we left the mansion. I mean something's definitely wrong when Jubilee is not focused on one of her favorite pastimes. I couldn't even get you to make a committed answer when it came to picking out the present."

"I know."

"So what gives?"



"Yeah, nothing. I'm fine, really."

"Nice try. That's not going to work this time."

"Even if it's the truth?"

"We both know it's not. You're also aware that I'm not going to let this drop. I'm not that much of a pushover."

"I never thought you were."

"Then you don't mind telling me what's been bugging you for these last few hours."


Before she could attempt to brush him off again, he took her head between his hands. He stared deeply into those shining, bright eyes he had come to associate with such warmth and tenderness. All he wanted to do was to return those feelings by taking away whatever worries were plaguing her mind then. Seeing anything her but content ate away at him inside. He had to do something.

"You can say anything when you're with me," Bobby told her gently. "No matter what."

He watched Jubilee bite her lower lip. This was not new information to her. She learned this over the course of many afternoons and nights in his company. The exchange of confessions of fears and personally held secrets between them were also testaments to this. It was one of the aspects of their relationship both of them cherished dearly. The ability to be comfortable in one's own skin in front of another person was a rare find for many, but seemed to come so easily to the young couple. As her crystalline gaze studied his boyish face, he could tell she was thinking about his words and finding the truth and sincerity in them. It was at that point her resistance began to melt.

"I want to," she finally whispered, her cheeks flushing pink. Her expression became more and more self-conscious as she continued to speak. "It's kind of hard... I mean it's kind of embarrassing. I just don't want you to think I'm weird or some kind of baby."

His fingertips were cool as they brushed against her soft skin. "Whatever it is," he said, "you know you can tell me. I would never hold anything against you or make you feel awkward. I would never think you were weird or childish, either. You're safe with me. Always."

She nodded, placing her small hands over his. "I know," she replied, giving him a sheepish smile. "Sometimes, I need for you to remind me every now and then."

Bobby pulled her to his chest, placing his chin on the top of her head. "As long as you'll have me, I'll keep doing it," he murmured against her fragrant locks. There was no way he could be any more sincere.

Part of him was relieved she had opened up this much so far, but he knew there was more. His hand rubbed soothing circles on her back while he held her close. Waiting for her to completely confide in him was the only option now. A couple of years ago, Bobby would have questioned her to no end, which would have ultimately driven her away. Fortunately, he became a more patient man with age.

After several minutes, Jubilee lifted her head and met his tender gaze with one of her own. She took a shaky breath as if in preparation for her statement. Then she swallowed hard. "Bobby?"

"Yeah?" His gray eyes swept over her lovely face affectionately.

She sighed, tucking a lock of dark hair behind a delicate ear. "I... I was wondering---" she began.

Her sentence was quickly cut short as the garage door slid open with a low groan from the motor that operated it. The glare of car headlights shone in the dimness. Both Bobby and Jubilee were startled, squinting in order to figure out who was pulling inside. As the vehicle ventured further and turned a corner, they were able to identify it as a beat-up, red Jeep Cherokee with mud-caked tires. On the car's bumper were worn stickers for the Sierra Club and Greenpeace.

There was only one person who owned such a car.

Alex Summers.

It was at that point, Jubilee felt her face drain of all color.

Two days had passed since she accidentally ran into Alex outside of the clinic. Since then, she had done her best to avoid him around the mansion. His attempts to communicate via phone calls and emails with her were ignored. Her continued anxiety and embarrassment---the same things that held her back from confiding initially in Bobby---stopped her from reciprocating Alex's efforts.

She watched with wide eyes as the jeep parked into a space on the other side of the garage. Sinking slightly in her seat, she hoped that he did not see her. The young girl was dismayed when the blond Summers brother hopped out of his car, his aqua eyes locked onto hers. Her stomach quaking with fear, Jubilee pulled away from Bobby's embrace. She felt her chest tighten as Alex quickly walked towards the car.

Surprised, Bobby stared at her. "What's wrong?" he asked, reaching to touch her shoulder. Her sudden shift into hypervigilance was disconcerting. The only other times he had seen her in such a mode was when she was facing off against other students in the Danger Room. Watching her tense up in front of him took him by surprise since he had no idea where this change stemmed from.

She shook her head, black hair with midnight blue streaks spilling down her slim shoulders. "I'm not feeling so great," she replied weakly, noticing that Alex was edging closer and closer. Gripping the door handle, she pulled the passenger's side door open.

Bobby followed her gaze, a frown wrinkling his smooth forehead. He grimaced upon seeing Alex Summers. His brain racked for an explanation as to why Jubilee would be so uncomfortable now. The two of them were not all that close, having no connection or reason to interact. Even when Alex was staying at the Summers' home, there was little indication that they had anything to do with another.

Yet, here was Jubilee, visibly upset and Alex, striding towards the car with intentions to confront her.

Before he could ask her what was going on, she was already out of the car. Bobby quickly followed suit. "Jubes?" he called out to her.

She did not respond. Instead, she simply stared ahead at Alex. Her lower lip trembled as she inwardly prayed for the ability to teleport at that moment. Unfortunately, no one was listening.

"Jubilee," Alex drawled, shoving his hands into the pockets of his brown suede jacket. He was already in front of Bobby's Jetta. His face was serious as he motioned for her to remain where she was. "We need to talk... I've been trying---"

"I can't," she said hoarsely, cutting him off. Slowly, she sauntered backwards towards the far door that connected the garage with the laundry room. There was no way she could stay here any longer. It was simply too uncomfortable. Anything else would have to wait. "I've got to go."

"Wait," Alex cried, lunging towards her. It was clear that he, too, had been thinking about their run-in outside of the clinic. "Don't go. I want to talk to you."

"I can't," she repeated. Frightened, Jubilee turned on her heel and raced to the door.

Alex tried to pursue her, but he was thwarted when Bobby grabbed his arm and held him back. He watched Jubilee disappear into the main building of the mansion. He groaned with disappointment and heaved a sigh. Then he turned to Bobby, who was scowling furiously at him. For more than obvious reasons, Alex wished he were in a different place at that moment.

"What the hell is going on?" Bobby demanded hotly, gray eyes steely. Given the evidence in front of him, he surmised that Jubilee's strange behavior involved some dealing with Alex Summers. A flood of possibilities washed through his brain, most of them not very pleasant. "What did you do to her?"

Alex jerked his arm away when he felt a sudden chill. No doubt Drake had something to do with that. He backed away from the other man, blue-green eyes narrowing. "I should be asking you the same thing," he snapped, rubbing his arm.

Bobby's scowl deepened across his boyish face. "What are you talking about?"

"Don't play innocent with me," Alex spat out, running a hand through his wavy, blond hair.

Unfamiliar feelings of protectiveness pulsed through his veins. The image of a nervous Jubilee with the prophylactic samples was deeply ingrained into his memory. Her eyes, so brilliant in their sparkle and color, had been colored with fear that day. It seemed as if she did not want to be there in the first place. The conclusions he immediately came to instilled a sense of rage on her behalf towards Bobby. He might have been able to placate his brother and Logan, but Alex wasn't about to give him the benefit of the doubt. At least, not anymore.

Jaw clenched, Alex continued. "I know what you're up to. You should be ashamed of yourself. What are you thinking? For God's sakes, Bobby, she's so young---"

"If you think I'm going to listen to a lecture from you, you're sorely mistaken." Bobby barked indignantly. The fact that Alex was attempting to pontificate about his personal life was almost too much. This was the same guy who had no qualms stealing away Lorna and Annie. He was going to tell Bobby how to act like a gentleman? A smirk touched his lips as he considered the situation.

As he faced off against his former romantic rival, he could not help but be somewhat confused. Scott had come to terms with and accepted the relationship. Why would Alex care either way? What right did he think he had, especially since it was apparent that he was the one upsetting Jubilee? Bobby's nostrils flared with anger as he recalled the terrified expression on her face upon seeing Alex. The thought of Alex posing any kind of harm towards her made Bobby's blood boil.

Finally, he drawled, "Besides, I should be the one taking you to task. You scared the crap out of her. Did you see the way she ran out of here? It's like she couldn't get away from you fast enough."

"What?" Alex's breath swirled from his lips in the cool air. "Are you saying that I---"

"Listen, she's been acting nervous and jumpy all day. It only worsened when you showed up. I can't really help but notice the correlation between the two events."

"So you're implying I'm responsible?"

"I'm not implying, Alex."

"Oh no?"

"No. I'm telling you that you are responsible."

"You've got a lot of nerve..."

"I have that and more. If you don't want to find out what I mean by 'more', and I suggest you don't, you'd best tell me what the hell you did to my girlfriend."

"Are you kidding? Seriously, are you kidding me? I did something to Jubilee?"

"Looks that way to me."

"Oh come on, Bobby. If anyone's responsible, you should start with yourself." <P> "What are you talking about?"

Just as Alex was about to respond, the garage door opened. A worried Hank McCoy burst into the garage. He was dressed in his standard uniform, which was composed of black leather pants, boots, and a black leather jacket with gold lining and gold Xs stitched on the shoulders. His movements were quick and purposeful as he made his way towards Bobby. Wringing his hands nervously, he reached his friend's side by the car.

"Bobby," he said, voice trembling slightly. "Bobby, we need to talk."

The younger man held his hand up. "Not right now, Hank. I'm in the middle of something." His gray eyes flashed as they peered over at a frowning Alex. He wasn't going anywhere until he got the answers he wanted. Obviously, the other man sincerely believed Bobby had done something traumatic to Jubilee. While Alex was a lot of things, he was not a person who tended to overreact easily.

Hank adjusted his glasses. "It's important."

"So is this," Bobby countered flatly, nodding in Alex's direction. His gray eyes narrowed. All he could think about was figuring out what exactly was going on between Alex and Jubilee.

Hank pressed his lips together, frustrated. Then he said, "I mean it, Bobby."

"Can't it wait?" Bobby asked impatiently, his gaze still locked on Alex. He noticed that the other man's hands had formed into two fists. In the dimness of the garage, they glowed with a radiating intensity. Bobby held up his own fist, which was already covered with a thin layer of ice. He raised a brow at Alex, almost daring him to strike him first.

"No, it can't," Hank replied quietly, placing a hand on Bobby's shoulder. Having known Bobby as long as he did, the former biochemist was aware when his friend was close to losing his temper. He also knew of Bobby's continuing resentment towards Alex Summers. Combining the two was a guaranteed way of bringing about an unnecessary commotion.

Besides, he told himself inwardly, there are other things that are a little more pressing, such as the possible ending to our friendship after you find out what I did....

"We have to talk now, Bobby." His voice was more forceful this time.

Bobby turned to his good friend. The unusually grave face that met his stare forced him to lower his fist. He could tell from Hank's tone and his expression that whatever the issue was, it could not wait. There was no way he was going to relent unless Bobby complied with his demands to talk. As much as he hated to, Bobby decided to reorganize his priorities. Finding out what was vexing Jubilee would simply have to wait on the backburner.

He sighed. "Fine. Let's go." Before he turned towards the door to follow the hulking figure of Hank McCoy, he threw Alex a withering glare. It communicated his determination to investigate what caused this situation to come about in the first place.

In response, Alex crossed his arms over his chest and defiantly stared back.

"Say something."


"Say something."

"What should I say?"

"Say anything. I'm not sure I can take all this quiet air, especially when you're involved. It's not natural." Hank's feline features were imploring as he attempted to gauge his best friend's reaction.

Bobby's gray eyes were wide with disbelief as he leaned back in his black swivel chair. The two of them were in his bedroom. He tried to stop his head from spinning. Unfortunately, it was not willing to cooperate. Instead, his mind chose to focus on Hank's confession and the gory details.

"...I told your mother about Jubilee. I told your mother that Jubilee was your girlfriend..."

At first, he thought Hank was trying to play some kind of sadistic joke on him. Hank had a big mouth, but there was no way he would ever disclose something like this to his mother. As Bobby's closest friend, he should have known better. He should have thought about what he was saying to her and what the consequences were. After all these years, this should have been automatic information in Hank's brain.

Bobby found himself snickering as the older man glumly described the phone conversation. However, as soon as he noticed how his laughter was one- sided, Bobby realized this was no joke. A pall drifted into his bedroom while he listened with mortified ears to his friend. When the larger, but poised man finished admitting his faux pas, Bobby was left reeling. Usually, he would have some kind of wisecrack to make. It was one of those few occasions where he was left speechless and at a loss.

Suddenly, he said, "I guess it was going to have to come out eventually. No sense putting off the inevitable."

Hank frowned at him quizzically, playing with the zipper to his jacket and revealing a white, V-neck T-shirt underneath. "That's it?"

"Why? What else do you want me to say?" Bobby inquired. He rubbed his temples gingerly in order to combat the impending stress that threatened to overwhelm him. At this point, he was simply mentally exhausted from the events of the evening.

"Not that I was looking for it, but I expected you to be upset," Hank pointed out. He leaned against the wall next to Bobby's entertainment unit. "I mean given the implications..."

Bobby shrugged nonchalantly. "I could be," he admitted quietly, watching his friend eye his copy of 'Spies Like Us' warily. "But at the end of the day, what's that going to accomplish? Nothing's going to change. My mother will still know and I'll be expected to bring Jubes by for parental inspection. It's just not worth the trouble and ultimate headache."

His friend was taken aback. This was most certainly a pleasant surprise. While Bobby had earned a reputation for being the resident prankster, the young man was also known to be somewhat of a hothead, who lost his temper quite easily. This new rational version of Bobby Drake was refreshing. Hank almost considered throwing in the adjective mature into this description, but thought better of it when he saw a whoopee cushion lying on Bobby's bureau.

Like Hank, Bobby was also quite amazed with this newfound sense of composure. The prospect of fielding questions about his relationship from his mother would have instilled feelings of panic. At least, that was what used to happen with previous girlfriends. Constant, intrusive queries delivered in that saccharine-sweet, refined voice were already ringing in his ears. He knew that he would be expected to detail everything about his new girlfriend. He was also aware that he would be asked to parade Jubilee at the home for inspection. As irritating as these things were, they would be quite easy for the young couple to deal with.

There was another obstacle to worry about.

"Well, I have to say that I'm relieved," Hank commented, grinning nervously.

Bobby smirked. "You should be," he told him wryly. "For a moment there, I was thinking about freezing your lips shut."

Unconsciously, thick, fur-covered fingers grazed Hank's lips. He cleared his throat and asked, "So, what are you going to do? Are you going to call your mother back?"

"You basically left me no choice with that one," Bobby said, slipping off his purple-tinted sunglasses. "After all, you told her you were going to leave me a message about her call. Now, I can't really blow her off now. It's one thing to claim that her calls went to voicemail, which they did. But this, I can't really get out of."

Hank hung his head, blue eyes staring at the hardwood floors beneath his mammoth feet. "I am sorry."

"You've said that a million times already," Bobby pointed out, swinging back and forth in his chair. "It's not going to change anything, either."

"I know," Hank admitted, raising his head back up. His guilt seemed to be magnified given the younger man's calm response to the situation. "I just don't know what else to say, Bobby."

His friend nodded empathically. "I understand. I know you didn't knowingly let the cat out of the bag."

"That's a given," Hank agreed. Furrowing his brows together, he asked, "Out of curiosity, when were you planning on telling your mother about you and Jubilee?"

Bobby sat still in chair. He looked thoughtful as he formulated his response. "Soon," he finally replied, "it was just that it was never the right time."

His friend gave him a quizzical look. "What do you mean?"

"I was trying to see where things were going," Bobby answered, stretching out his legs. "I didn't want to inflict any unnecessary trauma on the poor girl."

Hank raised a brow at him. "Bobby..."

"Seriously, things are going really well," the younger man said, shaking his head. "The last time I brought a girl to meet the folks, it ended in disaster. I see it as the point where things went downhill between me and Opal."

Hank groaned. "It was Opal. Things were bound to go downhill. She wasn't exactly the best thing for you. What happened after she met your parents had nothing to do with the way things turned out. Surely, you know that."

"I do, but it's hard not to make the association," Bobby said in a low voice. "After she met my dad, she was ticked with me. She told me I didn't do a sufficient job of defending her against some of the comments he made. According to her, I should have stopped him sooner. I just don't want Jubes to be hurt the way Opal was. I don't think I could put up with even the possibility of that happening."

"Things are different now," Hank pointed out gently, rubbing his chin thoughtfully. "First of all, you're a stronger person now. I'm certain you would intervene as soon as possible should something like that happen again. You're also with someone who would never hold the actions of other people against you. Unlike Opal, Jubilee is open-minded enough to see beyond remarks your father might make. I doubt she would ever hold you accountable for him."

"She's a good egg like that." Bobby smiled fondly at the thought of his girlfriend. He had to admit that Hank had a point. Jubilee was not the type to displace her anger at other people. She would directly deal with the source itself.

His good friend peered at him with kind eyes. "Sounds like there's nothing to angst about from that end."

Bobby pressed his lips together firmly. "Still," he said, "my father---"

"Has changed more than you might give him credit for." His friend's shoulders sank slightly, not quite believing that he was about to provide the following argument. "I'm more than aware of his prejudices against those who are different. However, you have to admit that he has made some efforts to modify those beliefs. Why, look at what he said at the rally..."

Bobby sighed. "Yeah, I hear you. It's just hard to believe that someone with life-long attitudes could change overnight. I can't help but think it was an isolated incident. I didn't know what to think since we never really talked about it."

"Have you tried?" Hank inquired, settling into one of the beanbag chairs in the room. He grunted as he adjusted his rear. "You might be surprised."

"It's hard to talk to him in general," Bobby replied, boyish face clouded with worry. "I don't know how I would broach this subject. 'Hey, Dad, are you still a racist? I'd like to know because I'm bringing my new girlfriend by. Here's the thing, she's an ethnic minority and a mutant.' Call me a pessimistic, Hank, but I'd bet my John Belushi video collection that I'd get a familiar reaction."

Hank folded his hands together, his blue eyes perplexed. "It's hard to argue against that, I suppose. You won't know for sure until they meet."

Bobby made a deadpan face. "That's something my mom would say. Just how long were you guys talking?"

Hank waved his broad hand dismissively. "That's not relevant. All you need to concern yourself with is getting through the interrogation."

Bobby took a long, hard look at the phone on his desk. The red light, indicating recorded messages, was blinking furiously. He sighed. As much as he dreaded the eventual meeting, he could not help but feel some glimmer of hope from Hank's comforting words.

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