saga/title/fandom: Two of Us chapter 15 (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 Fifteen: Harder to Breathe
Early winter snow drifted from the darkening sky onto the grounds of the mansion. Each flake cascaded down like a small parachute, blanketing the earth below in white. As the hours passed, the accumulation on the ground steadily grew by inches. The lake behind the mansion once used for swimming and sailing, was now frozen solid. Promises of ice-skating and impromptu hockey games beckoned the excited students to study the glassy surface from their windows. The more mischievous students and instructors were already planning where to build snow forts for the traditional winter battles.
Inside the mansion, the change in season was also being celebrated. Every available fireplace displayed a warm, glowing fire. The aroma of pine and spices hung in the air, reminding the residents of the upcoming holidays. Keeping in the tradition of previous winters, Cook prepared a menu that warmed a person inside and out. Such menus included her special tart apple and creamy pumpkin pies, meals of stews and roasts with robust red wines, and pots of her trademark chicken soup. The Englishwoman’s most beloved specialty was her hot chocolate. Her secret was blending powdered cocoa, whole milk, sugar and a bit of salt and vanilla while simmering it slowly. As a result, the precious, warm liquid seemed to disappear as soon as it was made.
Students and instructors were looking forward to the end of the school term and the prospect of returning home for the holidays. There was a subdued, but busy atmosphere that permeated throughout the halls of the mansion. It was a time to focus on the tasks at hand, whether it was looking up new sources for various papers or training vigorously in the Danger Room. Despite this unspoken pressure to become serious about the concluding term, many managed to keep things light. For example, Professor Xavier and Hank McCoy’s shared penchant for soft, classical standards was demonstrated through continuous loops playing from the speakers, much to the chagrin of most of the students and some of the younger instructors.
The early evening hours found Alex sitting in the living room of the mansion. He was accompanied by a few of the older students, but did not talk much with them. They were involved in an intensive study group session for Jean-Paul’s economic final exam. The young, but anxious souls were huddled on a well-worn leather sofa and corduroy chairs with pillows of shearing, mohair, and luxe touches of coyote.
Across the generous library table crowned with an abundant spray of pussy willows, was the blond Summers brother, seated on a clubby sofa in a tone- on-tone loden stripe mixes tweedy pillows with a glamorous coyote throw. The furniture complemented the palette of muted jewel tones–teal and amethyst, plum and garnet, loden and amber-colored mohair plaids and velvet paisleys, fringed tattersalls and Harris tweeds. Timeworn velvets, faded damasks and vintage leathers, which took their cues from the walls’ antique patina to create a well-worn setting, accented the room’s well-worn plank floors. The room was finished off by the curves of intimately scaled leather chairs, emphasized by nailhead trim.
For the last hour, Alex had been attempting to finish the novel he had been working on for a month. In spite of his best intentions, he kept scanning the same page of Joseph Heller’s work over and over again. Annoyed, he closed the paperback and placed it in his lap. Something was on his mind. It refused to leave him in peace. Instead, it gnawed away at him, forcing him to lie awake at night.
Something was actually someone.
He sighed, trying to collect his thoughts on the situation that was the source of his troubled musings. The awkward tension between the two of them was still quite palpable. Even passing each other in the hallway instilled a sense of apprehension from both ends. Initially, the interactions had gone largely unnoticed to other people. However, as the days passed, the other residents were beginning to notice things were awry. Late last night, Annie questioned him as to what was going on.
As uncomfortable as he was, Alex wanted to talk to Jubilee. By not discussing their run-in, it allowed the tension to grow even more. As a child who grew up in a household where important issues were always shelved, he witnessed what kind of dysfunction could result. He had an incentive to make sure this would not be repeated. However, his continued attempts to sort things out with her were repeatedly rebuffed. The young girl actively avoided him, refusing to reply to his emails and voicemail messages or ducking out whenever she saw that he was nearby. At the rate things were going, this lack of communication was probably going to go on forever.
Looking back on the day itself, things had started out innocently enough. Alex received a phone call from one of his professors, Dr. Alpern-Strauss. It turned out that Dr. Alpern-Strauss had relocated and was now teaching in the physics department at one of the local universities. She wanted Alex to come in order to talk about a vacant adjunct instructor position. The idea of teaching at the college-level always piqued Alex’s interest. Starting off at the most basic level would prove to be interesting.
As he drove towards the campus, he recognized it. However, he was not able to discern how he knew of it. After several minutes of trying to find a parking space, he was able to identify it. He had been here months ago with Jubilee for her freshman orientation. The association soon slipped his mind as he continued driving.
Noticing that he had some minutes to spare prior to his meeting, Alex decided to pick up a cup of coffee. On his way, he recalled seeing a Starbucks past campus. Eager for some caffeine stimulation, he steered his jeep towards that direction. The thought of a tall, white mocha almost made him start drooling on the spot. His strides were brisk across the cold, hard pavement. Edging closer to the coffeehouse, Alex could only think of seeking refuge from the bitter winds. He could already feel his ears and nose tingling.
He had been so involved in his own preoccupation of being cold at that moment. If his head had been focused on his surroundings, he would have seen where he was going. He would have observed who was coming his way. Maybe he would have avoided disaster.
Alex first thought he simply collided with just another co-ed from the nearby campus. The girl’s head was bent down as she dropped to a kneeling position to collect her things. A curtain of thick, dark hair further concealed her face. Consumed with guilt, he failed to make out features that would have alerted him to the identity of the girl. Features such as the cascading ebony tresses with midnight blue streaks, the faint scent of bubble-gum and cinnamon that emanated from her, or the familiar girlish voice.
Instead, he followed suit in order to collect her things. He suppressed a knowing grin and an accompanying comment when he noticed the items on the ground. Either the girl had just come from a health fair or was on her way to see her man du jour. Oh, to be a young adult in the world. It almost made him miss his college years. To decrease the likelihood of further embarrassment, Alex decided to keep his mouth shut. He quickly gathered the condoms scattered on the sidewalk. Then he handed them over to the co- ed. The younger Summers was satisfied that he had atoned for his clumsiness for that day.
Then she raised her face for the first time. Alex could still feel his jaw drop at the realization. The girl carrying all those prophylactics was Jubilee. Young Jubilee who was to him, still a child. When he noticed their surroundings, things suddenly fell into place.
“Just... Just be careful, OK?"
His own words from the summer regarding the relationship rang in his ears as he stared at her. Alex felt paralyzed with astonishment at that moment. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed the clinic nearby. There were a million thoughts acing through his head while he continued to gape at her. What are you doing here? Why do you have all...this? Are you...When he saw how frightened she was, he decided to refrain from interrogating her.
However, that did not keep him from formulating possible explanations in his mind. Almost instantly, he was able to paint a complete picture of what brought her to this point. His insides hardened when he narrowed down the details. There was only one plausible reason, one person ultimately responsible.
Bobby. He made her come here. He pressured her into doing something she clearly was not ready for. He wanted her to...
So much for being a good guy.
Rather than immediately fire a round of questions, Alex wanted to tell her whatever she was feeling now that she had a choice. There was no need to buckle under the pressure from someone else. Alex also wanted to let her know that if Bobby really did care about her, he would never coerce her into doing something like...this. Before he could communicate any of this to her, she ran away from him.
When it became evident that Jubilee did not want to discuss things any further, Alex was tempted to find Bobby and demand to know what he thought he was doing. However, he was unable to do so immediately. Two consecutive field missions away from the mansion had seen to that. That evening in the garage was the first time he had seen Bobby, let alone attempt to talk to him about Jubilee. The feelings of anger that flowed through his entire body as he squared off against Bobby were almost overwhelming. Yet, he managed to keep his composure.
Until Bobby accused him of harming Jubilee.
For Alex, that was the last straw. He was ready to blast the other man against the wall. How dare Bobby accuse him? It was quite evident who was responsible for the young girl’s distress. Then again, why should he have been surprised? Bobby always blamed others for his personal missteps. Specifically, others meaning Alex Summers. According to Bobby, it was Alex who had “stolen” Lorna away, and it was Alex who had “stolen” Annie. If something was wrong in Bobby Drake’s love life, then Alex Summers must be involved, right?
In spite of his irritation, Alex kept his angry outbursts on the verbal plane. He had every intention of haranguing Bobby over Jubilee. Had Hank McCoy not interrupted them, he would have accomplished that task. He wanted to chastise the other man for trying to take advantage of the young girl. The fact that Bobby was using her youth and inexperience, not to mention her self-consciousness, as means to get her to sleep with him was too much. The terrified expression on her face that day told him that her visit to the clinic was not her idea at all.
In the days that followed, Alex wanted to finish the conversation, or confrontation, with Bobby. Given that his brother and Logan decided to let down their collective guard, he felt it was up to him to deal with the situation. After all, there was no way the other man should get away with what he was doing. It just wasn’t right. Jubilee was too young, too naďve about these things.
As fate would have it, Bobby was sent on a field mission the following day with Logan and Warren. It was unknown when the trio would be returning to the mansion. Alex was left to plan his approach with Bobby, in terms of how to deal with the situation without wanting to strangle him. During the week that passed, he found that his mind was clouded. He wondered if Jubilee had really thought through her decision to sleep with Bobby. Or, did she blindly crumble under his persistent arguments? Alex never got the impression from the young girl that she would do something like that. However, when it came to emotions, no one in the history of mankind had ever acted rationally. He only hoped that she decided to hold out---at least until he got the chance to talk with her first.
From the way she’s been hiding from me, that’s not likely going to happen, Alex mused bitterly, playing with the collar of his blue-and- white microgingham shirt. His aqua eyes peered out the window. A strong, brisk wind moved the falling flakes and barren branches of the trees in several directions. Despite this activity, there was an eerie calm about the scene. The grounds were now covered in white, erasing any memory of color that once graced there. The wind soon died down and all on the other side of the windowpane was still.
However, Alex was able to make out a lone figure trudging in the deep snow. In spite of the bulky winter gear that obscured specific features, he was able to tell that the person was female. Her long hair streamed from the wool cap over her head. The legs that protruded from the heavy down coat were lean and slender. The hurried strides through the thickening carpet of snow on the ground were familiar. His eyes widened as he deducted the identity of the individual.
Jumping to his feet, Alex decided to seize this opportunity to pursue her. He raced to the coat closet in the front hall. Quickly, he grabbed his gray pea coat and his red-and-gray, striped scarf. As he pulled them on, adrenaline pulsed through his veins. This was his chance to talk with Jubilee about what happened without any distractions, without any interference from outside parties. Bobby was on mission, and Scott and Jean were presently involved in a meeting with the Professor. Alex narrowed his eyes in determination, strolling towards the front door. He had to do this.
Just as he was yanking the front door open, Kurt was lightly walking down the spiral staircase. His golden eyes were amused when he noticed the frantic movements of the younger Summers brother. The German stuffed his hands into the pockets of his faded, brown leather jacket. “Vell, someone seems to be in a hurry,” he observed.
Alex shrugged nonchalantly. “Hey, Kurt,” he said brusquely in greeting. Then he burst outside, the cold wind bitterly slapping him in the face. He called over his shoulder, “I’ll see ya later.”
With a curious and pensive gaze, Kurt watched him scurry away from the mansion.
Alex cursed under his breath for not having the presence of mind to grab a cap. His scalp was already going numb from the frosty temperatures and layer of snow on his head. Yet, he was undeterred. This might be his only chance to talk with Jubilee in private and clear the air between them. As he plowed on, he noticed that her figure was several yards ahead of him. She was edging closer to the house. His eyes strained as he continued to focus on her. The wind had picked up again, scattering the snow and cloaking the horizon in white.
He tried calling out to her in order to get her attention. Unfortunately, his voice was thin in the howling, winter wind. Sighing, he decided to press on. After all, the house wasn’t all that much farther.
Alex could feel his lungs nearly ready to burst when he finally reached his brother’s farm-style, white clapboard house. Had his mind been more distracted, he would have missed the building entirely. The snow was acting as some sort of camouflage that evening.
A frown creased his brow when he noticed that the front door was slightly ajar. He pushed it open. “Jubilee?” he called out, noting the lights in the foyer were on. Her black messenger bag was tossed next to the staircase, along with her cap and scarf. A small glove was lying on one of the steps.
When he did not receive a reply, Alex quietly closed the door behind him. He was silent as he attempted to listen for any activity. Quiet. Alarmed, he reconnoitered the rest of his surroundings. Given what happened within the past few months, he learned one could never be too careful. He scanned the rooms on the first floor. Nothing seemed out of place; no sign of any intruders. Satisfied, he climbed the staircase, searching and bracing himself for any surprises. As he wandered down the hallway, he noticed that Jubilee’s door was open. A soft glow from the lamps inside shone from the end of the hall. Edging closer and closer, Alex wondered why there was no music blaring from the stereo, no chatter from a telephone call, or the sound of tapping from typing on the computer. Instead, it was strangely quiet and still.
“Jubilee?” Alex drawled once again. He was about to rap on the door, but stopped himself. His aqua eyes widened in surprise. Instinctively, he darted from the doorway and inside the room.
Jubilee was slumped at the foot of her bed. She was still wearing her winter coat in spite of the warmth that radiated from the heater. Her second glove was carelessly tossed several inches from where she sat. The young girl’s creamy, porcelain complexion was now stained with a pink blush. Her head was resting back against the bed. Jubilee’s sapphire eyes were wide and dazed, pupils dilated. She sounded as if she were gasping for air, her shoulders and chest heaving. A light sheen of sweet glistened her skin. Tendrils of ebony hair clung to her forehead and cheeks as she balled her tiny hands into fists.
“Jubilee?” Alex dropped to his knees by her side. He pulled off his gloves and cupped face in his hands. Then he rested one of his hands against her forehead. Her skin was hot under his fingertips. “You’re burning up.”
In response, she tried to jerk away from him. “Tell me something I don’t know, Sherlock,” she breathed, trying to slap away his hands from her. She was already feeling lousy to begin with, now he had to show up. The day was just getting better and better. “Get off of me.”
Alex drew back slightly. While he had no medical training whatsoever, he certainly knew a fever when he saw one. He was relieved to see that she was not demonstrating any of the severe symptoms that would warrant emergency attention. However, he did not like the fact that she was warm and struggling for air.
“How long has this been going on?” he inquired, brushing her hair from her face. He had briefly seen her in passing the day before and she seemed to be healthy then.
She stared at him crossly. “Why do you want to know? Wait, I get it, so you can add that to your list of things to rat me out on to Scott and Jean?”
“I’m not...” Alex began impatiently, frowning. Then he stopped himself, realizing it would futile to have this kind of conversation with someone who was obviously not well. He sighed loudly and began to tug at her coat. “Let’s not talk about that right now. We need to get you out of this.”
Jubilee snorted, extracting her coat from his grasp. “You don’t want to talk about that?” she mocked, cheeks flushing a light shade of red. “Obviously, that’s what you want to talk about. I mean that’s why you followed me home, huh? You’re just dying to tell me give me some pompous speech about how I’m too young for sex. Or wait, are you going to badmouth Bobby and tell me how he’s trouble because he got pissed at you for being a sneaky, self-righteous jackass? I guess the other alternative is that you want to complete the pattern, Alex.”
He could feel his own face burning. However, this stemmed from his embarrassment and indignation, rather than from illness. “I didn’t---what do you mean complete the pattern?”
“Since I’m his new girlfriend, I suppose you going to try to seduce me next,” she snapped, eyelids fluttering. “Not that I even see the appeal in the first place, but if you think that I’m going to leave Bobby, you’ve got another thing coming. He’s a good, decent man and you are just...”
“That’s enough,” Alex cut her off, his lower lip quivering with rage. The acidic words she had just used against him were familiar. It should have been no surprise that Bobby was filling her head with such ideas. He shook his head firmly, trying to tell himself that Jubilee was feverish and that she did not mean what she said. There was no need to take things personally. Yet, for some reason, they hurt more coming from someone who was less involved in their history.
For her part, Jubilee fell silent. She blinked rapidly. Then she closed her eyes. Alarmed, Alex grabbed her shoulder, shaking her gently.
“Come on, Jubilee,” he urged firmly, his other hand brushing her hair from cheeks. “Wake up. Don’t fall asleep now.”
She attempted to swat his hand away from her face, but missed. “Go away,” she mumbled, eyelids fluttering. “I’m doing you a favor by not talking. Isn’t that what you want?”
“No,” he told her grimly, lifting her into his arms. “I want you out of this coat so we can take care of your fever. The other stuff can wait.”
This time, she did not fight him. She simply sighed against him. Her arms hung limply at her sides as he wrapped his arms around her waist and torso. It was either her guilt for hurting him or the fever that ravaged her body that held her back. To Alex, it didn’t matter the reasoning. He was glad to have a cooperative Jubilee with him now.
Quickly but gingerly, he began to remove her coat. He tossed it on her canopy bed. As he held her against him, he could feel her sweat-drenched clothing. Alex stared down at her, watching her eyelids continue to flutter. She was not quite passed out, but seemed to be on the verge. Her head bobbed up and down as she struggled to maintain consciousness.
He lowered her onto the bed, rubbing her cheek gently with his hand. For a moment, he thought he was hallucinating. She seemed much warmer than when he first touched her. “Jubilee?”
“You’re still here?”
“Why don’t you just leave? I can take care of myself. I was about to when you barged right in.”
“And that’s why you were almost passed out on the floor?”
“I was resting, you jerk.”
Sighing, Alex racked his brain. Besides trying to get her to stay awake and drink some fluids, he was unsure as to what to do. He certainly did not like how warm she was getting. There was no need for a thermometer to gauge her high temperature. She seemed to be progressively getting worse. As much as he wanted to take her to the mansion with him, he wasn’t sure if he really could afford to expose her to extreme conditions outside. All he knew was that he could sit around and do nothing.
His blue-green eyes brightened when he came up with an idea. He almost slapped himself on the forehead for not coming up with it sooner. Racing to the cordless phone on Jubilee’s desk, he quickly dialed a familiar extension. Inwardly, he prayed someone would pick up.
The phone was answered on the second ring. “Med lab, Annie speaking.”
He breathed a sigh of relief, sauntering to Jubilee’s bed and sitting next to her. “Hey, it’s Alex.”
The smile his girlfriend was probably wearing radiated through her voice. “Hi... How are you? I haven’t seen you all day.” Her voice became softer and more breathy.
Alex placed a hand over Jubilee’s forehead, concerned. “I’m OK... Listen, is Hank around?” he asked, shaking his head as he felt the heat from the young girl’s skin. He watched her grimace in discomfort.
“No, he isn’t. I think he’s away all this week at some convention.”
“Why? What’s wrong?”
“I’m over here at Scott and Jean’s. Jubilee’s come down with a fever. She’s really burning up here.”
“Oh no... What’s her temperature?”
“I don’t know, but she’s not doing so great. She’s sweating like a horse and right through her clothes.”
Jubilee frowned darkly at him, slapping his hand away from her face. “You’re worse, bub,” she snapped. “You smell like old meat after Danger Room sessions. Oh, and you can also stop talking about me like I’m six, too.”
Alex placed a finger to her lips, signaling for her to be quiet. Then he returned to the phone call. “Could you come over here? I don’t want to drag her outside...”
Annie sighed wearily. “I’m the only one here,” she told him apologetically, “I’m on call for three more hours.”
“Wait,” he said, not ready to completely give up. “Listen, Kurt’s around. See if you can ask him to teleport you right here. He could probably do it in no time. I just need your help to treat her and see what else needs to be done. I’ll stay with her for the rest of the night. I swear it won’t be long.”
“Well...” Annie sounded reluctant at first. Then she said, “Fine. We’ll get over there as soon as we can. From what you’re telling me she sounds really bad. Other than the fever, is there anything else? Vomiting? Coughing? Has she lost consciousness?”
Alex’s gaze fell upon Jubilee’s face. She appeared awake, but barely. “No,” he replied finally, “none of that.”
Annie sighed. “Well, that’s good. OK, in the meantime, what I want you to do is to draw a lukewarm bath. Not cold. Lukewarm. Get her in as soon as possible. The bath should lower her temperature a little bit and get her comfortable. I bet she’s really uncomfortable and angry about that.”
That’s an understatement if I ever heard one, he mused. “Yeah, OK,” he said slowly, not sure if he was entirely at ease with the idea of putting Jubilee in the bath. He could imagine her throwing a fit about being treated like a child once again.
“Good,” Annie said, not noticing his unease. “I’ll be over when I can. Bye, sweetie.”
“Goodbye.” Alex hit the OFF button to the phone and placed it on Jubilee’s nightstand. He turned to Jubilee, who was seemed to be on the verge of falling asleep. “Jubilee?”
She blinked as she peered up at him. “I’m so hot, Alex,” she whispered weakly. Her face was now a deeper shade of pink. “I’m so hot.”
He leaned over her, placing his hand on her forehead again. “I know. I’m going to run a bath for you, OK? I just need for you to get out of your clothes, so you’ll be all set to get in.”
Nodding, Jubilee began to push herself up on the bed into a sitting position. When she was unable to do this, Alex reached over to provide some assistance. “I’ll be OK,” she assured him, slurring her words somewhat. Her hands were already at the hem of her pink T-shirt, which she wore over an orange, long-sleeved shirt. If she had any reservations about being undressed in front of him, she certainly was not showing it. Come to think of it, it was becoming clear that she was not entirely conscious of much of anything.
Alex was hesitant to leave her, but knew he had to start running the water. “OK,” he said, sauntering towards the bathroom. “Just holler if you need me. I’ll be back with a towel for you.”
She nodded, pulling the T-shirt over her head with a sleepy look in those brilliant eyes.
Alex placed the drain stopper in the tub. Then he turned on the water, making sure it was lukewarm as Annie instructed. He shook his head and stripped out of his own coat and scarf, tossing them outside the door. Opening the towel closet in the bathroom, he began to search for a large towel.
This was definitely not the way he had planned for things to go.
Alex winced as he recalled her stinging words. They were like a shocking blow to the stomach. Granted, they had never been close. The only occasion he recalled spending any significant time with her was during that orientation. Still, the outburst from her was quite surprising. He never thought she was even capable of even being that cold. She was always the smiling, cheery girl who put on a pleasant face even in the most dire of times. To hear her utter such angry, bitter words was so out of character. There was no way she could have formulated such opinions on her own. She wasn’t privy to the history. Hell, she was a child when most of this started. And yet, from the way she was speaking, it was as if she had taken on Bobby’s feelings of being wronged and hurt as her own.
Finally, he grabbed a soft, blue terrycloth towel from the shelf. “Jubilee?” he drawled before entering the room. He held out the towel in offering. There was no need to create another awkward moment. “How far along are you?”
There was a brief pause before her muffled voice expressed, “Mmmph.”
The sound of the running water in the tub was palpable in the air. Cautiously, Alex entered the bedroom. He slung the towel over his shoulder, discovering that she was still on the bed and still clothed. Her T-shirt had been removed along with her boots and socks. This left her with her jeans and her long-sleeved, orange T-shirt.
“Hey,” he drawled, kneeling down in front of her. His hand pushed away the curtain of hair that hid her face. He could see her sapphire eyes were now heavy-lidded. “Wake up. Don’t fall asleep now.”
“I’m not,” she protested in a soft voice. Her shoulders were hunched as she exhaled. “I’m just resting. Give me a minute.”
When Jubilee did not immediately move, Alex sighed wearily. He was slowly coming to the realization that she was not going to be able to finish disrobing. He pressed his lips together. The bath would be ready soon and Annie stipulated Jubilee needed to go in as soon as possible. He could tell that the tub was filling up rather quickly. Already he could hear the water splashing.
There was another way.
He cupped her face and held a steady gaze. “We’ve got to get you into the water soon,” he told her quietly. “Look, I know you’re not going to like this...”
Kurt took a step back, crossing his arms over his wiry chest. He whistled. “Hank is one lucky freund,” he observed. “I have to say, you’ve outdone yourself, Bobby. Vell done.”
“Yeah, he’s definitely going to flip over this,” Bobby agreed proudly, placing the wrench on his desk. He stood next to Kurt with an admiring gaze.
“I take it you had help vit picking this out?” Kurt’s golden eyes were amused. His friend had a notorious reputation for choosing terrible presents. Last year, Kurt received season one of the Hercules DVD set from Bobby as a birthday present. This would have been a great present had Kurt even liked the show.
Bobby placed a hand over his heart. “That hurts me right here, man,” he pretended to gasp.
The two men were referring to the telescope Bobby had just assembled. It was a DS-2114 ATS, which had an aperture of 114mm (4.5 inches) with 1000mm focal length, and an optical tube 18" x 5.7" in diameter. He and Jubilee had specially ordered the piece during their excursion to the mall. Fortunately, the gift had arrived just as he and his team arrived from their latest mission. Aware that his best friend’s birthday was just two days away, he quickly hurried to his room to put together the instrument. Kurt was passing by his room during the process, and invited himself inside to watch.
Bobby originally wanted to have someone else here, taking in the stunning telescope.
He hadn’t been able to get a hold of her that day. It was quite comfortable for him to chalk it up to the insane schedule of a college student facing the end of the semester. At least that was he had done with various conversations they had while he was away. The usual cheerfulness and spirit in her voice was missing during their phone calls. Instead, she sounded distracted, preoccupied, and nervous. It was disconcerting to notice this striking change in Jubilee’s personality. If he were a paranoid person, he suspected she had some bad news she was hesitant to share with him.
Of course, he had tried to call her on it. Still concerned from that afternoon in the garage, Bobby cajoled her in an attempt to find out what was troubling her. He recalled she was on the verge of telling him something when they were so rudely interrupted. When she was confronted with this, Jubilee was dismissive again and repeatedly informed him that things were fine. She had simply told him that things were hectic. Then Jubilee had tried to change the subject by asking him when he would be returning. She had claimed that she was bored and missed his company terribly.
Did she really think he was going to fall for that?
Well, he hoped the last part was true.
Still, it was abundantly clear that she did not want to discuss it over the phone. The more he had tried to raise the issue, the more nervous and tense she sounded. Instead of continuing to press the issue, Bobby had used a different approach. He had told her he would relent for now. However, upon his return, he was expecting to talk about whatever it was--- in person. While showing that he was not going to bend on this issue, he was careful not to be forceful. The last thing he wanted to do was to bully her. Reluctantly, she agreed to his terms.
"You know I wouldn’t hound you if I wasn’t worried, you know,” he had told her.
Jubilee had sighed wearily. “You shouldn’t be.”
“Again, I want to be. You can’t tell me not to.”
“You are stubborn like that, Drake.”
“But that’s why you’re crazy about me.”
“I thought it was because of those silly Hawaiian shirts...”
He had failed to mention there were other items on the agenda.
Bobby almost cringed as memories of the conversation between himself and his mother flooded his brain. Even though several days had passed since then, it was still fresh in mind. Looking back on it, perhaps Bobby should have been the one reluctant to talk, not Jubilee. His mother had been naturally distraught about not being informed Jubilee’s existence. She had demanded to know when exactly he was going to tell her about his girlfriend. Bobby had tried to tell her that he wanted to wait to see where things were going first before introducing the family to his girlfriend. Unfortunately, this did nothing to placate the maternal scolding from the other end of the line. As a last resort, Bobby had suggested that he and Jubilee visit for a getting-to-know-you dinner---a move he would soon question his sanity over.
Next, Mrs. Drake had quizzed him. His head was still spinning from the firing of questions. What’s her name? What kind of name is Jubilation? Where did you two meet? How old is she? Where is she from originally? What does she look like? What does she do? What does she want to do after she graduates from school? Is she a nice girl? What’s her family like? Does she know about you? Bobby noticed that for all these queries, his mother did not ask one.
Is she a mutant?
Bobby had decided to take care of the unspoken question. After all, he provided upfront and candid answers to her other questions. Why skirt this issue? He then informed his mother that not only was Jubilee aware of his mutant status, but that she was one herself.
For the first time since they started their phone conversation, there was silence.
Then Mrs. Drake had managed a worried and distressed, “Oh.”
Individuals outside of the Drake household would find her reaction rather ambiguous. Some might even go as far as to read into it as a negative response. However, Bobby knew better. He was all too aware what was the source of his mother’s ambivalence.
He had to agree with Hank, who had managed to point out some positive aspects. Granted, the elder Drake had made some leaps and strides in terms of developing more tolerant attitudes towards mutants. His actions at the Creed rally all those years were evidence of this. Following the assault, he also stopped making disparaging remarks about the Costa Rican couple that moved down the street. The fact that he did not utter Professor Xavier’s name without wanting to spit was another sign of his softening views.
However, that did not imply Mr. Drake would be accepting of an ethnic minority who was also a mutant dating his son. That might be too much for the old man to understand. Sure, that kind of thing would be fine for some people---people who weren’t related. When it came to that sort of activity within the Drake household, the perception would be entirely different to say the least. The young man knew all too well his father’s response to the impending meeting.
Bobby bitterly remembered how boorish his father was toward previous girlfriends and friends, who happened to be considered minorities of some sort. That Italian girl Zelda wasn’t good for Bobby because she probably had ties with organized crime. She was going to drag his son into that environment and that was simply was not going to happen on his watch. Then there was Opal. Apparently, she was shifty and suspicious because she was Japanese. After all, he had lost some war buddies to “those kinds of people”. Mr. Drake again postulated that her family was affiliated with some mob or illegal activities (Who knew that he would be proven to be right later on?). Rogue, whom the elder Drake had mistaken for another of Bobby’s girlfriends, was simply one more mutant who was an embarrassment to humanity. Even kind Hank, a friend the family had known for years, was a convenient target for William Drake’s bigotry.
“Why do you persist on associating yourself with these freaks? Why do you want to bring any unnecessary attention to us? What you’re doing is embarrassing, Bobby...”
The young man’s gray eyes were steely as his father’s stony voice echoed in his head. Mr. Drake had uttered those words while Bobby and Rogue were staying over at the house during their road trip. That was years ago, but the malevolence that underlined the statements was still fresh. So were the hurt and shocked expressions on the faces of the recipients.
In spite of his mother’s innocuous assurances of his father’s changed outlook, Bobby decided he would never allow Jubilee to be subjected to that kind of treatment. He would rather die first than to see her hurt by his father’s ignorance. While he was bound to attend this staged meeting with his new girlfriend, he could always be hypervigilant for any potential threat.
“There you are,” a high voice chirped from the doorway, shattering his thoughts. “I’ve been looking all over for you.”
Bobby and Kurt turned around. Leaning against the doorframe was Annie. The young nurse was out of her standard white uniform. Instead, she wore a pair of brown cargo pants and a white utility jacket with brown hiking boots. Her thick, dark hair was pulled back in her usual ponytail with heavy bangs covering her forehead.
“Who are you looking for exactly?” Bobby asked, raising a brow at her. While he did not hold anything against Annie for turning to Alex, there was still a sense of awkwardness. They had shared a brief kiss and attended the wedding that never was, giving Bobby a glimmer of hope of a new relationship. However, he was soon let down once again. Since then, the two had done their best to avoid one another.
She blushed, eyes downcast. “I was actually looking for Kurt,” she confessed. She did not move from her spot in the doorway.
“Really?” Kurt was surprised. He was always under the impression that the young woman was rather afraid of him. His long tail, fang-like teeth, and piercing yellow eyes invoked comparisons to the devil or other demon-like creatures. Unlike most humans and other mutants, Kurt only had three fingers on each hand instead of the usual five. His hair was black and cropped, which seemed to blend in with his dark blue skin. Upon his face were tattoos, symbols derived from an ancient, angelic language. According to him, each marking was for every sin committed. With the exception of Logan and Bobby, no one ever commented regarding the number of markings.
Annie nodded emphatically. “Yes, I need your help with something,” she explained, shifting from foot to foot. “You see, Alex called and he...”
Even though Kurt was not looking directly at his friend and teammate, he could instantly detect the young man’s annoyance. While he was on good terms with both men, he was also sensitive to Bobby’s feelings. He knew of his continued resentment towards Alex. It was hardly a secret in spite of Bobby’s efforts to be civil. Sensing the growing tension that exuded from Bobby, he decided to diffuse things.
Finally, Kurt said, “Ja, I can help you. Ve can talk about it outside.”
Annie briefly glanced at Bobby, who was grimacing. “Uh, great. Thanks so much, Kurt.” Her voice almost cracked from her present discomfort. There was nothing more she wanted to do than to flee the situation immediately. A part of her still felt badly for Bobby.
The German nodded at Bobby before exiting the room. He motioned for Annie to follow him away from the door. Bobby turned his back to the door, tuning out the muffled whispers from the hallway.
That wasn’t incredibly weird or anything,he mused, turning to the telescope that stood in front of his window. While the instrument appeared well assembled, its ability to function was still questionable. He leaned over the eyepiece, placing his eye directly over it. Then he began to turn it in an effort to focus.
Bobby was surprised to find how clear and crisp the night sky was from the lens. He was able to see individual snowflake in brilliant detail. The stars that peeked from the wispy clouds overhead shone brightly. Raising his head from the telescope, he gave himself a pat on the back. His friend was definitely going to love this present.
Yet, there was one drawback to this moment. He only wished that Jubilee, the person who actually came up with the idea in the first place, was here to admire the craftsmanship of the piece. She would share Bobby’s awe and wonder of the telescope’s power. He could picture her lovely face and those sparkling, sapphire eyes. Just imagining her by his side made him yearn to be close to her now.
He wondered if she was home yet from classes. It was almost dinnertime, and she always made it a point to be home then. The trip from campus to the mansion was a headache due to the construction on the main roads. Curious, he turned the telescope in the direction of the Summers’ home across from the mansion.
Peering through the lens, Bobby almost fell backwards.
Jubilee’s bedroom was alight from the soft glow of various lamps. The flowing curtains were pulled back slightly. It was a familiar and welcoming picture for Bobby, who still paid evening visits to his girlfriend. He often associated it with the warmth and deep affection he felt for her.
This time, there was something in this scene that was very unfamiliar.
Or someone unfamiliar.
Standing in the middle of the room was a tall, tanned blond man with blue- green eyes and a distinctive scar over the right side of his face. Immediately, Bobby identified the individual as Alex Summers. Before Bobby could wonder why the hell Alex would be in Jubilee’s bedroom, he noticed something else. It was something that made him clench his ice-covered fists tightly at his sides.
Alex was holding a nude Jubilee.
Bobby couldn’t see her face since her back was turned towards him. Her head rested against Alex’s broad shoulder, dark hair spilling over her shoulders. He watched in disbelief as the other man scooped her up into his arms, carrying her away from the window and out of the telescope’s view.
Son of a bitch.
Furious, Bobby yanked open his bedroom window. He quickly climbed on the ledge, holding out his hands to create a slide. Millions of thoughts were racing through his head, most of them centering on harming Alex in some way. As the ice streamed from his hands, he realized that his suspicions regarding Alex being involved in the change in Jubilee’s mood were now correct. Overcome with murderous rage, Bobby was unable to piece things completely at the moment. The only rational thought that pulsed through his brain was stop the cycle of Alex Summers denying him the happiness he had longed for.
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