saga/title/fandom: Two of Us chapter 16 (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 Sixteen: Trouble
Unaware that he was being watched from the mansion, Alex carefully draped the terrycloth towel over the half-sleeping girl in his arms. He knew he had to get her into the water soon. Already he could feel her heat and sweat start to permeate into his clothes and body. It was almost as if there was a series of flames that burned from inside of her, the warmth emanating through her skin. Despite this, she was surprisingly light as he held her in his arms.
His aqua eyes stared down at her fluttering eyelids set in that delicate face. Even though she was growing increasingly feverish, Jubilee appeared quite peaceful. It was quite remarkable how ethereal and angelic she was at that moment. No wonder Scott and Logan were so protective of her.
He caught himself and turned away, embarassed. Part of him want to rouse her to prepare for being submerged into the cool water, while the other part of him wanted to leave her alone. The latter would guarantee to lessen the awkwardness he was already experiencing. Perhaps, the existing tension between them would be abated. Alex shook his head, wanting to snicker at his attempts to delude himself.
Who the hell am I kidding? he scoffed at himself, carrying her to the private bathroom. It’s not going to get any more uncomfortable than this. First, there’s running into her outside of Planned Parenthood. Sure, I find out that she’s got enough condoms and birth control pills to hold her own health fair. Then there’s the fact I had to help her undress for a bath. Yeah, Alex, she’s really going to want to talk to you now. There’s absolutely nothing weird between you guys now. This kind of thing happens all the time...
Pushing on the light switch with his elbow, Alex was almost blinded by the brightness of the lemon-colored walls and the white trim and matching hardwood floor. At the far end of the bathroom was a gleaming, porcelain pedestal tub on cast iron. The fittings were made from fine solid brass with porcelain accents. The vintage bathtub was modernized with a chrome overhead shower converter. Sighing, he sauntered towards the tub, pushing back the white Oxford, nylon curtain.
Thankfully, Jubilee had been slightly dazed while he was helping her out of her clothes. She seemed almost oblivious to the fact that she was going to be naked in front of him. Instead, she appeared to be observing events independent of her own body. Even as the pile of clothes next to her was growing in size, she remained somewhat cooperative and compliant. Usually one to talk in even in the most tense of situations, she was uncharacteristically quiet. No scathing remarks, no threats to inform Scott, Logan, or Bobby, and no wisecracks.
She stirred slightly against him when he reached the tub. “Mmmph...” she mumbled, burying her face into his shoulder.
Alex brushed a sweat-soaked strand of hair from her cheek. He was about to pull the towel away and lower her into the tub when he heard a BAMF! The smell of brimstone and sulfur reached his nostrils. Turning to the bathroom doorway, he saw a cloud of gold smoke swirling. Quickly, the wisps dissipated, revealing two huddled figures. A relieved smile spread over his face when he recognized the individuals as Kurt and Annie.
Annie coughed, fanning her face. “That was interesting,” she commented. Having never teleported before, she was not quite sure as to what to think. She had been queasy after riding on the Ferris wheel with Carter at the fair last summer. The thought of riding on the X-Jet alone made her stomach flip. She didn’t know how Alex and Paige managed to do it on a regular basis.
Shaking her head, she turned to Kurt. Her deep-set eyes roved over his frightening, but intriguing features. No longer intimidated, she reached to touch his wrist gently. “Thank you.”
He nodded graciously, noticing that she did not seem to hold herself as tightly as she did before. The fear that clouded her eyes prior to their trip was still there, but not as intense. That’s a start, I suppose, he mused to himself.
An amateur student of human behavior, Kurt observed the young nurse’s wariness around many of the mansion’s residents. Initially, the wariness often bordered on fear. He was impressed with the fact that Annie was making an effort to understand and accept. It was a rare thing for Homo sapiens, who often treated mutants with revulsion, something to be afraid of and hated. He soon discovered her motivation stemmed not only from her relationship with Alex, but also with her son, Carter.
Annie strode towards the bathroom, gazing upon Alex and Jubilee. “How’s she doing?” Her eyes flicked from the face of her boyfriend to the half- awake and flushed girl in his arms.
“She’s kind of out of it,” he replied. He watched Annie place a hand against her forehead, then taking her pulse. “As you’ll probably find out, she’s really warm.”
As if on cue, Jubilee whimpered slightly.
Annie pressed her lips together. She did not like what she was feeling against the girl’s skin. There was no need for a thermometer to gauge the fact that her temperature was high. Then Annie began to remove the towel that blanketed the young girl’s body. “Let’s get her into the water,” she told Alex crisply, a tone she often used when she was in the Med-Lab. “Carefully. Jubilee, it’s Annie, can you hear me?”
“Mmmph...” Jubilee murmured, her sapphire eyes heavy-lidded. “I’m tired.”
Alex began lowering her lithe form into the lukewarm water in the tub. The young girl’s crystalline eyes widened when she was completely in the water. Instinctively, she began to yelp in protest and shock. Then her slender limbs began to move wildly as she attempted to jump out of the bathtub. Alex placed his hands on her shoulders, gently forcing her back down. In response, Jubilee jerked away from his grasp. Angrily, she splashed water at his face.
“Get the hell away from me!” Jubilee screeched, fury blazing from her sapphire eyes. She then turned her back to him, facing the wall.
Annie used her firmest tone as she spoke to the young girl. “Jubilee, you’ve got a high fever right now. We’ve put you in some water to lower your temperature. It’s going to be cold at first, but you’ve got to stay in for a little bit.” Detecting the indignation mixed with embarrassment in the girl’s eyes, she realized the source. Annie eyed Alex, giving him a silent command to leave. “I’ll be with you the whole time.”
Sighing, Alex nodded and backed away from the bathtub. He felt slighted, but understood. There was no reason to take things personally, just as with the biting comments the girl made earlier this evening. This was a medical situation and Jubilee was sick. The fact that he was standing over her while she was naked certainly did not help the matter. There was enough tension between them to last weeks and weeks. His hands calmly wiped the water from his face. The younger Summers brother turned on his heel. He then made his way to the door that connected the bathroom to Jubilee’s room, closing the door behind him.
Meanwhile, Kurt was staring at a framed photograph of Bobby sitting on Jubilee’s desk. “Is there anything I can do to help?” he inquired, studying the picture. The young man the German considered one of his good friends appeared quite thoughtful and introspective as he posed for the camera. It was a side to Drake he never considered existed before.
“Could you bring up a glass of cold water?” Annie called over her shoulder, taking a damp rag from the chrome tub valet and wiping it over Jubilee’s brow. Given how warm Jubilee was, Annie wanted to decrease the likelihood of dehydration. She was relieved to find that the young girl was now subdued and less belligerent.
Alex was just entering Jubilee’s bedroom when Kurt left. He flinched and coughed from the stench of the smoke left in the wake of Kurt’s departure. Waving his hand in the air, he tried to clear the air of the smell. No matter how many times Alex observed Kurt’s teleporting abilities, he could not become accustomed to the smell that wafted in the air as a result of an entrance or an exit.
Alex walked over to Jubilee’s canopy bed, pausing in front of her nightstand. His eyes glossed over the necklace he had removed from Jubilee’s neck. It was the only piece of jewelry she wore. He recalled Jubilee saying in passing that she had received it as a Christmas present last year from Bobby. Fascinated, Alex ran his fingers over the delicate pink beads that surrounded the single silver flower.
Maybe this was part of your campaign to reel her in, Bobby, Alex mused cynically. This passing inward remark only reminded him that he had some unfinished business with the other man. His blue-green eyes narrowed.
While he knew that he and Bobby could never be friends, Alex tried to put their acrimonious history behind them. He had wanted to believe that Bobby was the good guy Jean espoused him to be---the guy who was always there for the fight, the guy who was a kind soul under the juvenile humor. He willed himself to stomach the starry-eyed comments from Jubilee about Bobby being her knight in shining armor. The young girl seemed to gush about him for an extensive period of time. As Alex stood by her bedside, he could not help but picture that dreamy smile she wore.
Bobby Drake was none of those things.
The younger Summers brother clenched his jaw tightly. The idea of Bobby pushing Jubilee into sleeping with him made Alex’s scowl deeply. His mind was immediately filled with images of Bobby cajoling and chiding her. He probably threatened their relationship if she did not give in to him. The anxiety that exuded from her face and actions when he bumped into her was very clear. Going to Planned Parenthood was not her idea at all; she had been pressured to go. It was the only plausible explanation.
Contrary to what the feverish Jubilee thought, there was never a moment where Alex contemplated talking to either Scott or Logan about the situation. He knew exactly how both men would have reacted to the information. Their adjustments to the idea of the couple dating in the first place was bad enough. As disgusted as he was with Bobby, Alex did not see the need for the young man to lose parts of his appendages at the moment. No, he wanted to handle things in a more low-key, subtle manner--- without involving any violence.
At least, any violence inflicted by Scott or Logan.
Alex supposed what infuriated him the most was the fact that Bobby was a hypocrite. He remembered the tirades (in between the schemes hatched) he endured shortly after he and Lorna started dating. According to these unsolicited lectures, Alex was to blame for Lorna leaving him. Alex was responsible for the demise of the relationship. Alex stole her away from Bobby. Later on, Alex was the one who took Annie away, leaving Bobby alone once again. Again, Alex was the one who ruined and continued to ruin things in Bobby’s personal life.
And Bobby? Alex smirked as he recalled how the other man portrayed himself to anyone who would have listened at the time. Bobby was the victim. Bobby was someone who was hurt from Alex’s romantic, predatory ways. Using trite comparisons, Bobby once claimed he was the little man battling against a larger force in Alex, who flaunted the fact that he was a leader, and a Summers brother. How could he have a chance at any kind of happiness with someone as destructive as Alex constantly standing in his way?
With Jubilee, Bobby alone was accountable. This time, there was no competition from Alex for her affections. No, this time, Bobby was the bully, trying to impose his will upon her. Bobby was the one who be responsible for any unhappiness that would result.
In the darkness that fell across the mansion’s grounds, a large, shining structure could be seen jutting from one of the windows. The moon was now peeking from behind the hazy winter clouds. Its light illuminated the formation, which resembled a roller coaster ride with intricate curves and high peaks. Upon closer inspection, one could discern several other things about this structure as well. First, it was composed of ice. Second, the structure was growing, directed away from the mansion. Third, there was someone moving along the slide and facilitating its growth.
Bobby’s breaths were sharp and hurried as he made the trip to the Summers’ home. He cursed himself in the bitter, cold air. For some reason, the ice from his hands formed at a slower rate than usual. As a result, the travel time seemed to take eons rather than the usual minutes. He tried to will the speedier production of the frozen water molecules. Unfortunately, his body was not complying with his wishes.
His eyes narrowed, the brisk wind slapping his boyish face harshly. It was a soft caress compared to the stinging pain inside his chest. He fought the urge to release the strangled cry that was trapped in his throat. His mind continued to replay images over and over again. These were the same images that acted as a powerful force, sending a virtual blow to his midsection and knocking the wind and all rational thought out of him. They were now driving him to travel this night.
Bobby shuddered as he imagined the scene that played out in front of him only minutes before. It was so vivid and so tangible, almost as if it occurred right in front of him. The pain caused from recalling the images was entirely too much for him.
Alex Summers standing in Jubilee’s room, clasping her naked form against his body.
Years ago, Bobby would have ruminated as to why this was happening again. He would have speculated Alex still resented him for various things--- having a closer relationship with Scott or being on the team for a longer period of time. The list could go on forever and forever in Bobby’s mind. But tonight, none of this was important.
He closed his eyes tightly for a minute, continuing the trip to the Summers home. Bobby rarely cried. It was not that he viewed himself as overly masculine man who could not afford to. Rather, it stemmed from the fact that he was afraid to experience the emotions associated with crying. Sadness and grief were not exactly the most pleasant sensations. As the resident clown of the team, it was expected that Bobby put on a cheery front all the time. Anything that strayed from that expectation was a cause for concern.
This was not made explicit to him from others around him. He merely inferred from an early age that this was his part to play. Very soon, he bought into this notion of himself. So much so that he became wary of feelings that caused pain or anxiety. Gradually, psychological defense mechanisms were developed in order to assist his ego to cope. They were often manifested through avoidance measures via playing jokes or providing amusing fodder.
However, tonight was the first time that he felt the urge to break down.
There was a part of him that was enraged because it was Alex. While Bobby would have taken the time think before reacting with anyone else, his instincts were simply switched on when it came to Alex. Bobby likened it learning from previous mistakes. To him, it was hardly a coincidence that his last two love interests were ultimately lost to the other man. It was as if Alex was deliberately going out of his way to make Bobby’s life a lonely hell.
Looking back, he should have put the pieces together. Jubilee’s nervous and distracted behavior and Alex’s insistence to talk to her---signs that something indeed was going on between them. Perhaps Alex had made attempts towards Jubilee before... That had to be the answer. Jubilee would never willingly betray him.
Yet, it should not have been much of a shock to Bobby to witness what he had seen---Alex in the midst of forcing himself on another one of Bobby’s girlfriends. It was, after all, part of an oh-so-familiar pattern, right? He should have been used to it.
The thought of someone else touching her and holding her close was too much. Bobby found himself teetering over the line between the rational and the extreme. There was no other way to describe the pain and anguish he was experiencing.
He supposed it was because this time, he thought things were going to be different. With Lorna and other women that followed, Bobby realized that they only had a fleeting interest in him and what he could offer. Tried as he did to deny this was the case, deep down he knew this was true. Throughout these experiences, he felt he was the lucky one. He was the one who had the pressure on his shoulders to make things work.
But with Jubilee, things were not like that. Granted, Bobby still felt incredibly lucky. He saw himself as fortunate to be the one to hold her close, to tell her how crazy he was about her, and to kiss that wonderful mouth. However, unlike previous girlfriends, she never dangled the threat of leaving him to instill such feelings. Instead, she expressed that she was lucky to have him in her life. She wanted him as much as he wanted her. It was foreign and strange experience to him at first, but one that he embraced totally. For the first time, Bobby Drake was in a functional relationship, where affections were reciprocal between both parties.
Tonight, all of that was going to be taken away.
But not if he could help it.
Alex was startled from his thoughts by an insistent rapping at the windowpane. Curious, he sauntered to the window. He frowned when he realized who the person was. With some trepidation, he yanked open the window.
Bobby stood effortlessly on the ice-slide he constructed. He was still wearing his field uniform, which was composed of black leather pants, one of his Hawaiian shirts, boots, and a long, black leather coat. In the darkness of the winter night, his gray eyes flashed with a furious intensity Alex had never seen before. There was nothing petty or miniscule behind this glowering gaze. It was as if he were struggling to contain his outrage over something.
Before Alex could say anything, Bobby drew back a gloved fist and slammed into his jaw. “You son of a bitch!” he yelled, watching the other man stumble backwards. If he were less angry, he would have been smug. Catching Alex off guard by suppressing how truly angry he was a strategic triumph.
Alex fell on his back in front of Jubilee’s canopy bed. What is his problem? He stared up at Bobby with confused and angry eyes. He would have expected a hit like that from the likes of Logan or Bishop, but never from Drake. Bobby usually handled confrontation verbally or using his powers, which utilized less direct, physical contact. While he and Bobby had their share of disagreements, Alex could never recall a time when the conflicts called for violence. There was something definitely amiss with this situation.
Rubbing his sore and throbbing jaw, Alex attempted to push himself back up into a standing position. He quickly scurried to his feet, slightly leaning against one of the bedposts. “What the hell is wrong with you?” he demanded.
Quickly, Bobby hopped inside the room over and stormed over to Jubilee’s bed. Usually, he would have used his powers to subdue his opponent. However, he found actual physical contact more satisfying. All his rage was absorbed and released through his initial blow.
“Me?” he snapped, cornering Alex. It took all his self-restraint not to tear the other man apart---at least, not right away. The fact that the other man was acting innocent was sickening to Bobby. Then again, it was no surprise. Alex never took culpability for anything. “I saw you...”
“Saw me what?” Alex barked back, his gait unsteady. The entire side of his face was beginning to swell already. “I don’t know what... What are you talking about?”
Bobby did not answer him right away. He scanned the bedroom he came to associate with feelings of euphoria and affection. Jubilee was nowhere in sight. The thudding from his racing heart blocked out the sound of water splashing and murmured voices coming from the bathroom. At this point, he was operating under pure instinct. Any semblance of lucid thoughts was a distant memory. What remained were the images of Alex and Jubilee intermingled with frantic, desperate thoughts of finding his girlfriend.
“Where is she?” he shouted, giving Alex a hard shove onto Jubilee’s empty bed. He stood over him, chest heaving. “Where is she?”
Alex glared at Bobby, perplexed and frustrated. In all his confrontations with Drake, Alex had never seen him so crazed before. It was almost frightening the way Bobby stared at him with murderous daggers in his eyes. “What are you talking about?” he asked, noticing Bobby’s face turning a deep shade of red. “Who? Where is whom?”
“Jubilee. Where is she?”
“She’s here... Listen, she’s---”
“I saw you two together,” Bobby retorted sharply, grabbing Alex by his shirt. He pulled him up and shoved him against the wall. His face was inches from the other man’s as he hissed, “I saw you...”
Impatient with Bobby’s cryptic and vague ramblings, Alex pushed Bobby off of him. Obviously, Bobby had no idea what he was talking about either. “What did you think you saw?” he spat out. He slid himself along the wall until he was a safe distance away.
Bobby had enough of Alex’s innocent façade. Who the hell did he think he was acting like that? How dare he behave as if he did nothing wrong? Then again, why was it surprise? Alex Summers and an inflated sense of entitlement seemed to go hand in hand. Apparently, he saw no problems with manipulating poor Jubilee into doing whatever he wanted.
Disgusted, he lunged at Alex and grabbed him by his shirt collar. “Stop playing dumb with me,” he snapped, his head filled with possible scenarios as to what happened. None of them were good. “Where is she? What did you do to her?”
Alex was finally through with being Bobby’s rag doll. He struck the other man in the stomach, sending him backwards onto the floor. Gasping for air, he staggered to where Bobby landed. “I don’t know what you think you saw,” he managed through gritted teeth, “but I can assure you it’s not whatever you’re thinking... Jubilee’s...right here, Bobby. I was trying to...tell you that she’s...”
Bobby clutched his midsection. The blow knocked the wind out of him momentarily. He was now struggling to breathe, but managed to stumble to his feet. Alex’s pathetic attempts to spin the situation incited Bobby’s ever-growing fury. When the dull pain around his middle began to subside, he launched himself at Alex, tackling him to the floor. Stunned, Alex fell with a loud thump. Within seconds, he composed himself and brought his fist back to deliver another blow to Bobby, who was now sitting on top of him. This time, he aimed for the other man’s face to return the favor from earlier. Unfortunately, he missed only assailing air. Grunting fiercely, Bobby grabbed Alex’s wrist with an ice-covered hand.
The two men were so consumed and so occupied with their physical altercation, neither one noticed the BAMF sound nor the smell of brimstone and sulfur that suddenly filled the room.
Kurt stepped from the cloud of swirling smoke around him. “I’ve got the vater,” he announced, holding a pitcher and a cobalt-blue glass. Then his golden eyes widened in disbelief as he watched Alex and Bobby wrestling each other. “Mein Gott!”
Quickly, he placed the pitcher and glass on Jubilee’s desk. Then he hurried over to the two men on the floor. He knew things were tense between Bobby and Alex, but he never thought it would come to blows. At first, he tried to gently pry Bobby off of Alex. However, Bobby made it clear nonverbally that he was not going anywhere easily.
“Vhy are you fighting?” he asked, using his most placating tone of voice. He tugged at Bobby’s shoulder in an attempt to bring him back to reality. “Come now, Bobby. Do not do this...”
Instead, his friend firmly held onto his rage, swinging his fist towards Alex’s face. Alex was now coughing and gasping for air from Bobby’s weight on his chest. He could feel the other man’s knees begin to dig into his ribs. As a result, it was increasingly difficult for him to breathe. Desperately, he raised his own hand and tried to summon some plasma energy. A faint glowing red emanating from his fingertips was all he could manage at the moment.
“Bobby, please,” he croaked, blue-green eyes pleading.
Bobby hesitated for a moment. His gray eyes studied the beaten man who lay beneath him. As he stared into the tanned face of Alex Summers, he considered relenting. This change of heart soon faded. Flashes of the other man trying to manipulate Jubilee flooded his brain.
Just as Bobby was about to bring his fist down Kurt decided to intervene. He grabbed his arm imploringly. His demon-like features were fixed into a kindly expression. “Bobby, no...” he whispered.
Bobby choked on the pungent air that surrounded him. His gray eyes began to water as he discovered he was now standing. He soon became alarmed. Where was Alex? More importantly, where was he now? Fanning his hand in front of his face, he peered around. He continued to cough and wheeze. Then he blinked several times through the wisps of smoke to find himself in the Summers’ living room.
“What? How did...?” Bobby kept himself from completing his query when he saw the glowing warmth from Kurt’s golden eyes. A surge of annoyance pumped through his veins as he stared at his friend. He knew Kurt had a tendency to embrace his pacifist tendencies, but that gave him no right to impose his views on this situation. “What did you think you were doing?”
Kurt shook his head empathically. “Bobby, I only vanted to help. I did not vant you to do something you vould regret.” He patted Bobby’s shoulder.
Bobby frowned at him bitterly and pulled away from Kurt. “Do something I would regret?” he repeated. “You have no idea what was going on. You had no right to do what you did. It was strictly between me and Alex.”
“Perhaps, mein freund,” Kurt agreed quietly, folding his hands together. “But you had no right to attack Alex the vay you did, no matter the history between the two of you.”
Bobby scowled at the German standing next to the mantel. Usually, Kurt’s compassion and empathy for others was a refreshing outlook. He was the first one to provide perspectives of others who fought against the team. According to the former priest-in-training, differences on both sides should be understood, not feared or resented. Bobby often found himself humoring the somewhat idealistic Kurt, but tonight he was not in the mood.
“You weren’t there,” he informed him flatly. His eyes fell over a framed, black-and-white photograph of Jubilee sitting on the mantle. He picked up the picture, his fingers gently tracing her delicate, youthful features. His breathing became slower and less ragged. A strange calm drifted over his tensed body.
“You didn’t see what Alex was doing to Jubes,” Bobby continued, gazing at the stunning countenance in the picture. His voice was noticeably less edgy. Abruptly, he placed the photograph back on the mantle and turned away. He could feel his insides hardening as he remembered the scene he witnessed moments earlier. The thought of losing Jubilee now tore away at him mercilessly. He hunched his shoulders slightly in response.
Kurt gave him a quizzical look, tail swinging behind him. “Vat did you see him doing to the child?” he inquired gently.
Bobby shook his head, the clarity of the images still crisp in his mind. “I... I can’t even talk about it,” he spat out. His stomach churned with anger and disgust for Alex.
“Vat is it, mein freund?” Kurt prodded, still perplexed. He circled Bobby so that he would be facing the young man. “I know that Alex is no doctor, but he did the best he could.”
Horrified, Bobby stared at Kurt. He could not quite believe his own hearing. Kurt was empathic, but there was no way he could ever find what Alex was doing commendable. “What?” he asked, his mouth drying out. “What are you talking about?”
“Alex did vat he could, but he really needed Annie’s help in the end.” Kurt continued. As he observed his friend’s incredulous expression, he realized it was his turn to be confused. “Bobby? You did know Jubilee was sick, ja?”
Bobby’s steely gray eyes nearly bulged out of their sockets. Sick? Annie was there? His forehead wrinkled as his brain processed the information. “No...I didn’t know,” he mumbled, leaning against the wall.
“The child vas running a high fever,” Kurt explained, eyeing his friend carefully. From the way Bobby was grimacing, Kurt surmised this was news. Minding his friend’s reaction, he decided to proceed slowly. “Alex had to get her into a bath to cool her down. She vasn’t vell enough to get undressed, so he helped her.”
Bobby stared at Kurt, who was wearing a guileless expression. “Are you serious?” he finally asked, guilt and shame hovering over him. Interspersed with these emotions was a high concentration of embarrassment. Unfortunately, these feelings were old companions of his from what he thought was a lifetime ago. Immediately, he felt the color drain from his face.
“Annie told me vat vas going on before I teleported. That’s vhy she needed to talk to me. She vas coming here to take care of Jubilee.” Kurt placed a three-fingered hand on Bobby’s upper arm. He was concerned that his friend was about to pass out. “Bobby, vat’s vrong? Come, sit down.” He motioned to one of the overstuffed armchairs.
Bobby shook his head. He remembered Alex trying to tell him something about Jubilee, which probably involved the story Kurt just relayed. It all made sense. It was all very innocent, just as Alex implied during their confrontation. When Bobby saw the other man hold a naked Jubilee in his arms, he had probably caught them as they were heading to the bathroom. There was nothing duplicitous about Alex’s actions. He was not there to seduce Jubilee and take her away from Bobby. He was not there to ruin Bobby’s chance at happiness. He was simply there to care for an ailing Jubilee; he was simply there with good intentions. Nothing more.
Because he read something entirely different about the situation, Bobby tried to beat the hell out of Alex for it.
There was also the realization of how his inner demons played a role in what transpired. These fears and insecurities that welled up inside were unfounded. The negative sentiments, hidden to him deep beneath his consciousness, drove him into a crazed state of mind. The past was not going to repeat itself as he postulated earlier that night. Losing what he considered the best thing that ever happened to him was never a possibility. He was not going to be alone again. There was no threat to what he held most dear in this world.
Except for Bobby himself.
Finally, Bobby stirred from where he was standing. He raked his gloved hands through his sandy hair. “No, thanks. I... I’m...” His voice trailed off momentarily. “I’m an asshole.”
“Vhy vould you say that, Bobby?”
“Because, Kurt, I am. You can’t argue with that kind of logic.”
“I beg to differ. I have known you to be nothing to be a good, fair man. Although tonight, your actions might illustrate a different story.”
“Yeah, I know.”
“So, vhy, Bobby? Vat happened tonight? Vat made you act this vay? I have never seen you like this. I know that you and Alex are not the best of friends, but...”
“I don’t want to talk about now.”
“Fine, Bobby. But you’ll have to soon.”
“At any rate, it’s not important now.”
“It vill be important ven you apologize to Alex.”
“Yeah, I know.”
“You also should know that he’s going to ask vhy as well. He deserves the truth behind your actions.”
Bobby mulled over Kurt’s words briefly. As much of an asshole Alex truly was, Bobby had to admit he did owe him something. An explanation as to what compelled his behavior tonight would certainly be expected as part of the atonement process. He knew that he felt quite humiliated about the experience as it stood. He was also aware that he was going to be cross- examined by Alex about jumping to conclusions. Finally, he recognized the fact that the other man would be justified should he reject it all.
Then he exhaled loudly, a subtle act of frustration that was directed towards himself. Peering over at the blue-faced Kurt, he nodded in agreement. “You’re right,” he admitted reluctantly, wincing.
Kurt’s sharp teeth protruded from his mouth via a sympathetic smile. He inferred Bobby’s contorted features were from not only mental discomfort, but from physical pain as well. His golden eyes traveled to Bobby’s hands, which had been used to pummel Alex Summers moments earlier. He noticed that one of them was now swollen. The glove that encased it was nearly bursting at the seams.
“Ve should look at your hand first,” Kurt suggested gently, placing a hand on his friend’s shoulder. He hoped by treating Bobby’s wounds, the other man would be more open to talking about what drove him to attack Alex in the first place.
Bobby nodded reluctantly. “Sure, I’m game for that.” Then his brows furrowed together. “No offense, man, but isn’t Annie here? Maybe she can take a look at it.”
Kurt motioned him towards the kitchen. “I doubt she’d have the time for you given she already has two patients upstairs to take care of.”
“That and you tried to beat up my boyfriend,” a soft voice drawled wryly.
Bobby sheepishly peered over at the entrance to the living room. Looking beleaguered from the evening, Annie shook her head at him. The dark-haired nurse had a hand towel draped over a shoulder from wiping Jubilee’s fevered face earlier. Then she sauntered towards the two men. Her dark-blue eyes bore deeply into Bobby’s boyish face.
Bobby cradled his throbbing hand with care. From the way she was glaring at him, he thought she was contemplating hurting his other hand. “Hey,” he greeted weakly. Then after a brief moment of silence, he asked, “How’s the patient?”
She crossed her arms over her chest. “Which one?” she responded sarcastically, eyeing his hand. “The one with the fever or the one who has swollen jaw?”
He hung his head, pressing his lips together. He definitely deserved that one. “Both?”
“Jubilee is upstairs, resting. Her fever’s gone done a little bit. I have to go to check on her soon.”
“I should go---”
“No, Bobby. I’ll do it.”
“And the other one? I mean Alex.”
Annie sighed. “I’m not going to shriek bloody murder at you,” she told him quietly, ponytail swinging. “Because I’ve had a long night. Sure, I was scared when I heard what was going on. A fight breaking out while I’m trying to care for a patient isn’t my idea of great working conditions... And yes, I was ticked to find out what you did. However, I also know you well enough now to know that you wouldn’t act like you had your head up your ass without what you believe to be a valid reason. So, I’m just going to save my lecturing for another time. Until then, I’ll take a look at your hand.”
Surprised, Bobby slowly nodded. “That’s very big of you,” he remarked, his voice cracking slightly.
She wrinkled her pert nose at him. “Well, I need to get some ice for Alex’s jaw,” she informed him brusquely, heading towards the kitchen.
Bobby’s eyes soaked the floor in front of him as he and Kurt followed her. “Listen, I feel badly about that,” he began glumly.
She inhaled sharply, flicking on the lights to the spacious and bright kitchen. “I’m not the one you owe an apology to,” she replied as she stood over the sink. She motioned for him to join her. “From the way I see it, you’ve got two people to talk to.”
Bobby grimaced as she proceeded to gingerly remove his glove. “Two?” he asked, grinding his teeth. Besides Alex, Bobby wasn’t aware there was someone else who was owed an explanation.
Kurt opened the refrigerator. He was delighted to find a bottle of his favorite beer and some leftover steak with truffle butter. His stomach rumbled inside his wiry frame. Eagerly, he gathered the items from their respective shelves and closed the door with his tail. He gracefully glided along the hardwood floor and pulled up a chair from the kitchen table.
“Two,” Annie affirmed, taking his wrist and studying his hand. “There’s Alex, and then there’s Jubilee.”
Bobby frowned at her, perplexed. “Jubes?” He could not remember saying anything derogatory about her during the fight.
Kurt opened the bottle of Red Stripe. “She probably heard you two going at it,” he piped up, taking a swig. “I could from down here.” He jumped up from his chair to search for some silverware.
“Thanks, Wagner,” Bobby groused, scowling at his friend who gave him a cheeky grin in return. Then he yelped as Annie ran her fingers over his knuckles. “What happened to a nurse’s tender touch?”
She raised a brow at him. “Where did you hear that one?” Before he could respond with quip, she said, “Kurt’s right. Jubilee heard what was going on and started to react. The fact that she had a fever didn’t help any, either. All she wanted to do was to run out of the tub. I swear, I had to practically sit on her to keep her in. She’s a lot stronger than she looks.”
Unconsciously, Bobby smiled. He always liked that aspect of Jubilee. As protective as those around her were, she was fiercely determined to deal with any threat she came across. She was a far cry from the damsel in distress some men around the mansion seemed to go after.
Annie continued, turning his hand over and fanning out his fingers. “She’s nuts about you though,” she commented thoughtfully. “Given your behavior tonight, I can’t imagine why.”
“I feel badly about what I did,” Bobby pointed out through gritted teeth. He was slightly annoyed that the nurse was dredging up his actions after dismissing his apology. As for his pain, his hand felt like it was throbbing wildly. He couldn’t remember the last time he hit anyone with such intensity. Sighing, he stuck out his other hand and generated several cubes of ice into the kitchen sink. Silently, he watched the nurse collect them into a plastic bag to create a makeshift icepack.
Annie began to search for a dishrag to wrap the icepack in. She then stopped herself, remembering who her patient was. Placing the bag over Bobby’s injured hand, she said, “Nothing’s seems broken. Looks like you’ve gotten off easy. Just keep this on you for a little bit. That should take care of some of the swelling and discomfort.”
“Thanks, Annie.” He noticed that she was not looking directly at him, but merely focusing her gaze on his hand. Like Kurt, Bobby, too, was aware of the nurse’s wariness of mutants. His aggression towards someone she cared about did not help matters. Gently, he reached for her shoulder. “I’m sorry if I scared you tonight... I’m just... I...”
She stepped away from him and nodded. “Could you make some more ice? I need to take care of Alex, too.”
Upstairs, the two patients were sharing quarters following the aftermath of this evening’s altercation. Alex dimmed the light radiating from the bedside lamp in Jubilee’s room. He feared the glare would rouse her from slumber. When he saw that she was still asleep, he sank back into the chair he had pulled up alongside her bed.
His placed his tanned fingertips against his temples and massaged them tenderly. In addition to his wounded jaw, he found himself developing a headache as well. He inwardly prayed the Advil he ingested after rummaging through Jubilee’s medicine cabinet would begin to work soon. He wasn’t sure how much more pain he was willing to experience for one night.
His head pounded as he recalled the events that transpired. After Kurt had teleported himself and Bobby out of the room; Annie had poked her head between the doorframe and the door. Of course, she was upset, but she calmed down when she remembered she had someone else to care for. She had efficiently assisted Jubilee out of the bathtub, dried her off, and helped her into a pair of white, cotton pajamas with blue and green stripes. If Jubilee had been aware of the raucous outside of the bathroom, she did not demonstrate it. The young girl had been rather sleepy once she was dressed. Alex remembered her body being weightless in his arms as he and Annie helped her into bed.
Much to his relief, the lukewarm bath had done a great deal. Jubilee had seemed more comfortable than she was earlier that evening, which was evident from her immediate drift into sleep. Annie then took her temperature to discover it was near normal. After making sure Jubilee was settled in, she focused her attentions on him and his swollen jaw. Tired and simply hurting way too much, Alex had quickly dismissed her fussing, asking for an icepack for his aching mandible.
Alex’s tanned fingers gingerly brushed against the side of his face. This gesture was met with a cringe. The surrounding nerves emitted a sharp pain. It was similar to a fire that raged, but this sensation moved up and down his face. The only silver lining was that his jaw had not been fractured.
His blue-green eyes narrowed, the memory of how he received the injury seeping into his mind. For a moment, he contemplated storming out of the room in order to seek out his attacker. He vacillated between demanding an explanation and exacting retribution. Each option had their merits, but he was more inclined to indulge the latter. Unfortunately, his battered and sore body refused to cooperate. In the end, he found himself relegated to watching over Jubilee for the moment.
Alex decided to settle on pondering upon the possible reasons for the unprovoked assault. He racked his brain, tracing back events prior to tonight. Since his return to the mansion, he had done his best to extend the proverbial live branch to Bobby, only to have his attempts rejected. If they could not be courteous to one another, Alex figured they could simply exist in the same environment. There were no rules dictating that because they were teammates they automatically had to be friends. After all, his brother and Logan continued to have their differences, but managed to work together. Why couldn’t the same apply to this situation?
Initially, the approach worked. In fact, it worked so well that Alex forgot about Bobby and the feelings of awkwardness altogether. He honestly thought he could continue about his business without dealing extensively with Bobby. He honestly thought he could move past it all.
Then there was the run-in in the garage. Bobby seemed so confident that Alex had done something to Jubilee. He knew the other man had a lot of gall, but he never imagined that it would compel Bobby act so irrationally. The conviction he displayed then was just as strong tonight. He was hell- bent on operating under whatever theory he decided to apply to the situation. Despite Alex’s denials, Bobby was determined to hold him. Bobby’s insistent, fuming voice stating that he had actually seen Alex do something to Jubilee echoed in his head. But what exactly did Bobby think he saw?
Alex shook his head, somewhat incredulous by Bobby’s behavior. The way he perceived the situation; Bobby should have been the one to be pummeled. He was the one who possessed less than honorable intentions toward Jubilee. Alex had wanted to relay that during the mêlée. He had been waiting to confront Bobby over the issue. However, he remembered Jubilee was nearby. He decided there was no need to embarrass the young girl in his efforts to deal with Bobby. Looking back, he wondered if he had made the right decision.
He was roused from his musings by slight creaking of bedsprings. Leaning forward in his seat, he noticed Jubilee was lying on her side, facing him. The glow from the bedside lamp cast a soft light across her angelic features. Her long, thick lashes began to flutter to reveal her cerulean eyes. A slender hand absently brushed a lock of dark hair from her forehead.
“Hey,” he greeted, blue-green eyes uneasy. He wasn’t sure how she was going to react to seeing him upon waking. Anything would be better than the belligerent young woman he had to deal with earlier this evening. After a brief pause, he asked, “How are you feeling?”
She yawned. “Better,” she replied, still heavy-lidded. “Not as hot.”
“Good,” he said lightly. He noticed her face was not pink anymore and her eyes lost that glazed and lost look. “I’m glad you’re feeling better. You scared me for a little bit there.”
Jubilee chewed on her lower lip thoughtfully. “Listen,” she began, taking a deep breath. Her sapphire gaze fell across her lap. “Things are still kinda fuzzy to me, but I remember... I remember saying some things... Some terrible things that I didn’t mean...”
Alex shook his head. He winced, discovering the movement caused some pain. Despite the physical discomfort, there was a sense of relief he received from her words. However, he could discern how uncomfortable she was discussing it. “Don’t worry about it,” he sighed wearily. “It’s no big deal.”
She slowly scooted herself up into a sitting position. Propping the pillows behind her, she said, “No, it is. I know I mouth off every once in a while, and some of the stuff I say is kind of annoying and juvenile at times. Even I know. But those things I said... They were hurtful... I just want you to know that that’s not my style.”
“It’s okay, really.” He reached to pat her hand, but thought better of it and drew his hand back. There was still some unresolved tension between them. The simple gesture might exacerbate things even more.
Then raised her face to meet his. Her expression suddenly became more pensive, which was evident from her wide eyes. “Alex?”
He could see the wheels turning inside her skull. Immediately, he knew what was weighing her mind. Embarrassment soon washed over him, forcing him to turn away from her. A part of him was bargaining with God to wipe her memory clean of tonight’s events.
Regrettably, none of that was going to happen.
Jubilee cleared her throat to break the silence that blanketed the room. She placed a hand on her forehead, willing herself to keep a collected front. Granted, the pieces of the night she was beginning to remember were still sketchy at best, but they were there. She could vaguely remember his hands pulling off her shirt, unzipping her jeans, and unclasping her bra... Her stomach began to do somersaults and her lower lip quivered slightly.
“Um, I know I was kind of out of it,” she began, trying her best not to look at him. “It’s just that... I seem to recall...things. Like the nasty things I said and...” Her voice trailed off, showing her ambivalence to even complete her sentence or face what she already knew.
Alex was tempted to finish the thought for her since he often did so for other people. However, he realized that now was not the appropriate time. He simply sat in his seat and waited for her. His sense of dread kept him glued there.
“So you saw...everything?” she asked, a part of her hoping he would deny it all and tell her no. Deep down, she was aware that was not the case. It was hard enough for her just sitting across from him right now. Her embarrassment over their run-in the other day was still fresh in her mind. Now, there was this...incident that seemed to add to the pile of awkward tension. Her sapphire eyes focused on him, begging.
He looked away from her, blushing. He nodded silently. Then he moved away from her slightly. “I...” he began, then he stopped himself from finishing his sentence.
That was definitely not the response she wanted. Jubilee grabbed a pillow and buried her face deeply against it. “As if my life couldn’t get much worse,” she moaned. The first time she was nude in front of someone else did not occur under the circumstances she anticipated.
“Jubilee,” he drawled and edged closer to her side. He gently pried the pillow from her arms. Then he leaned towards her, his face close to hers. “It’s OK. I mean what happened tonight... Consider it all forgotten. I haven’t really thought about it. Why should you?”
She rolled her eyes at him. “Oh, please,” she answered with a twinge of sarcasm. “That’s so easy for you to say. You weren’t the one naked and delusional.”
“That’s true,” he replied, tossing the pillow on the other side of the bed. “But there’s nothing to be ashamed of, considering the circumstances and all. You were sick and you needed to get into the bath. Given the condition you were in, there was no way you could make it by yourself. So, you had some help...unless you wanted to stay feverish, which I wasn’t going to let happen.”
He sighed before continuing, “When I was in the hospital, this kind of thing happened all the time. Who knows how many people saw me in my birthday suit? And I wasn’t even awake for those times. Thinking about it is kind of embarrassing at first, but then you forget...”
She gave him a skeptical look. “Well, consider yourself luckier than me,” she muttered. “You don’t have to see those people on a daily basis---”
“Annie.” He smoothed a tendril of black hair from her cheek.
“Yeah, but that’s different. She wants to see you like that now...” Even thinking about the intimate activities of the person sitting across from her was quite disconcerting. She shook her head, avoiding his aqua eyes. “This is different and you know it. There’s no argument you can formulate to make me change my mind. Besides...”
When she did not finish her thought, Alex frowned at her. “Besides what?” he asked, prodding her to go on.
Jubilee tried to draw back from him, but found her back sliding against the pillows. She sighed. “Besides, this just adds to the other crap that we haven’t talked about yet. So much for being born under a lucky Chinese zodiac sign...” Then she cleared her throat. “Anyway, I know you want to. You’ve been stalking me and I’ve been avoiding you like the plague.”
“Well, I---” he began, and then he stopped himself. “Stalking you?”
She raised a finely arched brow at him. “What else would you call it?” she asked, folding her hands together. “I saw more of you this week than I have the first two years you were here.”
He pressed his lips together, not bothering to acknowledge how perceptive she was. Over the course of the past few days, he had attempted to stage ‘convenient’ run-ins so that they could talk. It sounded as if Jubilee completely saw through these transparent plans. Peering over at her sheepishly, he nodded.
She was about to quip about his strange covert tactics when she noticed the right side of his face was swollen. Her fingers hovered over his jaw as she inquired, “What happened to you?”
He pulled away from her and leaned back in his seat. “Bobby happened,” he replied flatly, irritated with the memory. He winced from the throbbing pain. “That’s what you probably heard while you were in the bathroom with Annie.”
She stared at him, dubious. Bobby? She had never known him to be violent ever. The idea of him striking someone else was so out of character for him. Here, was the guy who often relied on his humor and wits to defuse volatile situations. Bobby would never engage in such behavior. He tended to rely on his abilities, which involved more indirect, distant means. Typically, the pugilistic behavior was left to the likes of Logan. But Bobby? No, she could never imagine him doing something like that.
Just as she was about to scoff at Alex’s claim, she stared deeply into his blue-green eyes. Anger mixed with candor in his gaze, which relayed the conviction he had in his assertion. Either he was a damn good liar or Bobby truly decked him. Given Alex’s own reputation of being somewhat of a Boy Scout, the former would be highly unlikely. Yet, she was reluctant to ever believe that Bobby was capable of exacting such violence.
“Why?” she finally asked, her forehead wrinkling with a concerned and confused frown. “Why would he hit you?”
Alex snorted, rolling his eyes in disdain. “Does he ever need a reason?” he countered. “He just went after me.”
Her frown deepened. “But he wouldn’t... I know him. Bobby doesn’t fly off the handle like that.”
Apparently, you don’t know a damn thing about him then, the younger Summers brother observed inwardly. Instead of voicing his dissent, he decided to attend to the matter at hand. He cleared his throat, his level f discomfort rising with each passing second. “About the other day---”
“Before you say anything else, I’m asking for you to please don’t turn my life into some lame, mutant version of an after school special,” Jubilee said, turning her face towards the window. “The thought of receiving a lecture on the birds and bees from you or Scott leaves much to be desired. Then there’s the threat of Wolvie shredding Bobby into a million pieces.”
Alex shook his head and narrowed his blue-green eyes into razor thin slits. “As if he doesn’t deserve it,” he muttered bitterly.
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?”
“It means the guy you’re dating is a jerk.”
“Listen, I know you’re ticked about your fight, but I---”
“It’s not only about that, Jubilee, and you know it.”
“What? What else is there?”
“Come on, you can tell me. I kind of figured it out anyway.”
“Figured what out? I don’t get it.”
“Please. Obviously, you didn’t want to go to Planned Parenthood. It was written all over your face when I ran into you. Bobby forced you to go so he could get you into bed with him. That’s it, isn’t it? Listen, do not make the mistake of letting ---” Alex stopped in mid-sentence when he noticed her wide eyes were now as round as saucers. Her mouth was set into a grim, expressionless line. His eyes then traveled lower to her hands, which gripped the comforter so tightly her knuckles were turning white.
A deafening silence descended upon the room. The two of them simply sat across from one another, staring. Every muscle in both their bodies ached from the tension exerted. Each individual was bracing for that next move, the next words in their informal dialogue. Finally, after what seemed like a century, Jubilee broke the silence.
“You must have a pretty shitty picture of me in your mind,” she told him flatly, eyes flashing under stony brows. “Your words speak volumes of what you must think of me.”
He shook his head emphatically. “No, that’s not the case at all,” he protested. “I respect and care about you. I just don’t want you making a huge mistake.”
It was her turn to shake her head, raven locks rippling down her slim shoulders. “A mistake?” she repeated, her voice squeaking. “A mistake? You’re calling the best thing that’s happened to me a mistake?”
“You might think that now,” Alex informed her coolly, “but you have to think about this with your brain, not with your feelings. What Bobby is--- ”
Jubilee cut him off. “Is a total gentleman.” She scooted away from Alex, placing more distance between them before continuing to speak. A graceful hand brushed through her long, dark hair. “I can’t believe this. First, I’m a child who can’t make rational, competent decisions and now, I have severe neurological deficiencies. Gee, thanks, Alex. What other labels would you like to affix to my forehead?”
He frowned at her. “That’s not fair and you know it.”
“You’re not the one being fair.”
“I would have to argue with you on that one.”
“Who the hell do you think you are, trying to tell me what to do and think?”
“Someone who’s looking out for your best interests.”
“I think I’ve exercised a great deal of restraint here. Despite what you think, I would never run to Logan or Scott about something like this. There were times when I second-guessed myself, but I never did it. I wanted to talk to Bobby to work things out. You know, handle things like adults. Unfortunately, Romeo wouldn’t have any part of it. Surprise, surprise.”
“Listen, I’m not going to speak for what Bobby did. I have no idea what’s going on there. However, I can say that Bobby.... Bobby didn’t know.”
"He didn’t know about me going. He doesn’t know still. I haven’t told him.”
“Then you two...”
“Not yet,” she explained, her face burning with embarrassment. Then she threw her hands into the air. “Why the hell am I telling you this? It really is none of your business.”
Secretly, Alex was pleased, but he nodded to show his feigned agreement. He watched her grimace slightly. She appeared to be less irate than she was moments earlier. Perhaps she would be receptive to answer the question that was now eating away at him. “Why?”
Jubilee turned to him, her expression softened, but grave nonetheless. “Because I wanted to be ready,” she replied quietly. Her crystalline eyes were shining as she spoke, punctuating the sincerity in her words.
He sighed and pressed his lips together. The verbal and nonverbal cues--- the apprehensive mannerisms and the defensive stance---she provided implicitly told him that this would be her first time. In spite of the new information she relayed to him, he wanted to make sure that she was not being pressured into anything. Then he said, “It’s a serious decision.”
“I know,” she whispered, leaning back against the pillows. From the way she sounded, he assumed that the issue had been on her mind for a while. “I know it is. Believe me, after tonight, I’m going to talk to him about everything.” There was a part of her that wondered whether or not Bobby’s sudden burst of violence had something to do with this.
He studied her serious countenance carefully. “If you guys decide---” he began.
“When we decide,” the young girl corrected him, shifting in the bed. She almost laughed when she observed Alex’s stunned expression. Instead, she decided to execute a subtler, mature approach to dealing with him. “Oh, don’t look so shocked. It’s going to happen... Just not any time soon.”
Alex tried his best not to give her the reaction he knew she wanted. It took every ounce of mental strength to remain as neutral as possible. If he thought his sense of awkwardness was high prior to this conversation, it was practically off the charts at this moment. “Okay, then,” he said, beginning to rise from his chair. “I think I’m going to see where Annie is with my icepack.”
Jubilee maintained her own straight face. “Sounds like a plan.”
He pushed the swivel chair back to her desk and then headed towards the door. Then he paused in his footsteps to turn towards her again. “Listen, I’m sorry I just made all those assumptions... I didn’t mean to hurt you. I only wanted to make sure you were fine and not getting into something you weren’t ready for. You know that, right?”
She studied his swollen, earnest face thoughtfully from her bed. There was a part of her that desired to hold his wrongs against him after tonight. As much as she wanted to continue attributing negative aspects to him, hearing his apology made her consider otherwise. “I do,” she finally said, hiding her hesitancy.
He looked pleased---well, as pleased as a man with a puffy face could appear. “Goodnight, Jubilee,” he said quietly, striding to the door with his hand on the knob. “Get some rest.”
“’Kay.” She began to burrow beneath the modern floral prints and rosy solids of her comforter and blankets. Before her head hit the pillow, she drawled, “Alex?”
Nodding, Alex exited the bedroom. He realized that Jubilee did not specify as to why she was thanking him. There seemed to be an unspoken agreement that there was no need.
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