saga/title/fandom: Two of Us chapter 18 (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 Eighteen: Lean on Me

Weeks passed since the violent clash between Bobby and Alex. Other than the parties involved and those witnessed the altercation, no one around the mansion was aware that anything happened. While their respective physical wounds healed, there was a lasting friction that belied their interactions following the incident. It was subtler than the animosity that dominated the relationship between Scott and Logan. Both Bobby and Alex made active efforts to avoid each other around the mansion. The two had also signed up for different teams so that they would not travel on various field missions.

During those infrequent times when they were forced to be around each other, the tension that hung in the air could be sliced with a knife. There were the surreptitious glares that were exchanged every once in a while. Muttered insults or remarks were also a part of these limited interactions. These new acts of hostility went largely unnoticed by other team members. After all, it was no secret that the two of them were not each other’s biggest fans. What else was new?

Bobby had felt that he had made the effort to extend the proverbial olive branch. He had attempted to atone for his misreading only to have his apology thrown back in his face. It was as if the other man wanted to continue playing the victim. This only served to confirm the negative perception Bobby already held of him. Alex Summers was nothing more than an arrogant, egotistical slug who expected to have everyone fawn over him. He was angry because Bobby was the sole person to stand up to him. At least, that was what Bobby continued to believe.

Not that Bobby was losing sleep over not being able to get along with Alex. He had other pressing matters on his mind. The holidays were coming up. This time of year was often associated with festive decorations, gift giving, and heavy, comforting meals. As Bobby went through his mental list of things he needed to take care of during this hectic season, he remembered another aspect he left off. It was something he knew was unavoidable, but filled him with an overwhelming apprehension nonetheless.

Family gatherings.

Lying back in his bed, Bobby had spent the past several hours mulling over the proposition of returning to his family’s Long Island home. This year, he would not be making the trip alone. During a recent phone conversation with his mother, Mrs. Drake had extended an invitation for Jubilee to join the family for Thanksgiving weekend. According to the Drake matriarch, this would present a wonderful opportunity to get to know her son’s latest girlfriend and vice versa. As much as Bobby wanted to hesitate, he found himself relenting. Maddy Drake had a way of steamrolling over protestations without being quite so overt about it. It was an art form she refined well over the years.

The young man’s boyish features arranged themselves into a preoccupied expression. With much hesitation, he had informed Jubilee of the invitation to meet the Drake family. The two of them had spent some time discussing the visit. Bobby found that he did not have to talk about his family in great depth. As one of his friends, Jubilee was already aware of the Drake family background. She knew of Maddy Drake’s pleasant-mannered demeanor that belied a manipulative and prying nature. Her reputation was well known within the circle of friends Bobby kept at the mansion. The young girl was also cognizant of his cousins, Mary and Joel, and their protective inclinations when it came to Bobby. As witnesses to his unhappiness in relationships over the years, the two only wanted what was best for their cousin, whom they considered to be another brother.

Then there was William Drake. Depending on how one viewed it; there was no need to enlighten Jubilee about his father. She had accumulated most of her information over the years. Admittedly, her knowledge was based from conversations she had eavesdropped on when she was younger. In spite of this, much of what she already knew was quite accurate. She had provided Bobby with a blunt assessment. According to her, the elder Drake was social and political conservative, and proud of it. His responses to Bobby’s choice in company were a reflection of this. Jubilee had briefly heard about Mr. Drake’s bitter and caustic reaction to Opal and later, Rogue. As a result, she told him that she was bracing herself for a less- than-friendly welcome.

Bobby sighed wearily, sitting up in his bed. He desperately wished that she did not come to that conclusion. It was greatly unfair to her. He could tell she was somewhat anxious about the visit in general. Having never been in a relationship before, there was some pressure weighing heavily upon her shoulders. Knowing that Mr. Drake was not going to like her right off the bat seemed to exacerbate things.

Pushing up the sleeves to his navy, crewneck sweater he wore over his faded jeans, Bobby found himself ruminating. Opal had blamed him for not standing up to his father after his vitriolic verbal assault during their meeting. As irrational as she was at the time, Bobby could not help but consider the validity of the argument. He had felt caught in the middle, divided between his father and Opal. Not knowing what to do, he chose not to do anything and instead, focused his efforts on dealing with a more immediate danger posed then. Opal had claimed she experienced more traumas from Bobby’s father than from the thugs that attacked them at the restaurant.

Looking back, Bobby wondered if he really wanted to put his Jubilee through something similar. Granted, things were different now. His father had experienced some softening in his worldviews, particularly towards mutants. Perhaps he had mellowed in his advanced age and would not be as hostile towards Jubilee as he once was with Opal. However, Bobby knew that this time, he was prepared to demonstrate that he was a different man as well. Building upon his last visit to the home with Rogue, he knew he would be able to put his father in his place and defend Jubilee if necessary.

But he had to make sure this visit was a good idea.

There was only one person he could talk to. Not only would this person be able to empathize with his concerns and apprehension, but also possessed first-hand knowledge of the Drake family dynamics. Part of this knowledge came from many nights of consoling a distraught and anxious Bobby. However, the majority of this base was attributed to direct experience and observation of the household. Most importantly, he was guaranteed a candid discussion.

Bobby finally reached his destination. His boyish face was solemn as he formed a fist. Then he rapped it against the door. He was about to turn on his heel and saunter away from the door when it slowly swung open.

“What can Ah do for ya, Bobby?”

He flashed Rogue one of his trademark carefree grins. “Hey, Roguey,” he greeted as he leaned against the doorway. “I heard your Cajun Spice was out of town. Thought you’d might like a dose of White Chocolate instead.” He winked at her teasingly.

She rolled her green eyes at him, opening the door wider and motioning for him to come in. “Ah hope ya didn’t use a line like that with Sweet Pea,” she told him, invoking the nickname she had given Jubilee years ago. Despite the teasing tone in her voice, she was pleased her friend was now dating the young girl. The Southern Belle thought it had only been a matter of time until the two of them found each other.

Bobby obliged. He stared around the room, feeling a sense of familiarity. He remembered spending some time in here as he confided in Rogue and solicited romantic advice from a woman’s perspective. Over the years, she was much more approachable than Jean was when it came to those things. The room was composed of a palette of delicate pinks, soft greens, Gustavian blues, and champagne and gold. Painted, timeworn furniture complemented a patchwork of florals, aged damasks, glistening beadwork, and dressmaker details. The smell of fresh pears wafted in the air faint, but strong enough to detect. It was hard for Bobby to picture Gambit sharing such a feminine space.

He watched her shut the door quietly. “I’ll have you know she thinks my pick-up lines are a part of my sex appeal,” he informed her huffily, his gray eyes twinkling in an attempt to hide his deception. In fact, the lines often made him a frequent target of some playful swats from Jubilee.

Rogue knew better and saw right through him. “Hah. That’s almost as funny as the time Hank and ya tried to sign Logan up for ‘Queer Eye for the Straight Guy’.” She adjusted the black leather gloves she was wearing with her cropped jean jacket over a form-fitting, lime-green T-shirt, black cotton drawstring pants and black-and-white sneakers. “Sit a spell,” she told him; motioning to the king-sized, sleigh bed.

Bobby nodded as he sauntered towards the bed. He smoothed out the Odelette quilt before seating himself. “Thanks,” he told her.

She settled next to him, careful to leave some distance between them. Even though they were both completely covered and she was experiencing better control of her absorption powers, she did not want to take the chance. She supposed it was a part of the deeply ingrained fear of hurting others carried with her since childhood. The rational side of her would argue that there was no danger of accidentally draining someone now. After all, she and Remy had managed to establish a functioning relationship, where touching was now involved thanks to her newfound abilities to restrain the intensity of her powers.

However, there was still a part of her that was reluctant to completely embrace this sense of normality. There would always be a part of her that was looking for something to fall apart. While it was never brought up between them, she thought this mode of perceiving the world was one of the things that made she and Bobby close. That, and they both shared a penchant for fried catfish fingers.

Over the years, the two of them retained their friendship, which often bordered on a brother-sister dynamic. In the beginning, she had suspected that he had been attracted to her. He would flirt with her, throwing out those stale pick-up lines in such a way that she never knew when he was teasing and when he was being serious. She would provide retorts of her own, proving that she had a sense of humor that closely aligned with his. Yet, nothing ever came out of these encounters. Her insecurities and deep- rooted fears kept her from ever reciprocating. Meanwhile, Bobby often sought relationships outside of the mansion.

With the possibility of sexual tension out of the picture, they were able to develop a comfortable rapport over the years. When they thought Jean was dead, Bobby then turned to Rogue for relationship advice from the female perspective. She was just as easy to confide in and helped to expand his views on romance. For Rogue, Bobby was a source of strength and support. During the tumultuous period of her relationship with Gambit, she found Bobby to be a fiercely protective shoulder to cry on. He was the one who validated her feelings of vulnerability and hurt, something she discovered was quite comforting.

Since her return to the mansion from her extended vacation with Gambit, Rogue wanted to make an effort to spend more time with Bobby. She had missed their time together. While Remy was everything a woman could possible want in man, there were things she found in Bobby that she did not have with the Cajun thief. In addition to his sense of humor, Bobby brought a sensitivity most men tried to hide. When he came to her door just now, she could not help but be pleased. It was like a tribute to moments they shared years ago.

“What’s on your mind, sugah?” she finally asked, green eyes searching for an answer from his boyish face. “Ya look nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rockin' chairs. Are ya fishin’ for some advice?”

He shook his head in disbelief. “It’s that obvious? Here, I was thinking I was playing things cool. Man, I’m glad I never went into covert operations or anything like that. I’d be a goner.”

She smiled gently at him, brushing tendrils of white from her face. “Ah just know ya real well is all, hon,” she explained, crossing her ankles together.

Bobby nodded in understanding. “Yeah, I guess I’m lucky that way, huh?” Then he sighed deeply. “You’re right. I’m here to get some input from you about something.”

Her ivory forehead crinkled with a concerned frown. “What is it? Anythin’ wrong with Sweet Pea?” she inquired, hoping that he would say no. Like most of Bobby’s friends, Rogue thought he and Jubilee made quite a good couple.

“No, it’s nothing like that,” he replied in a reassuring voice. “Jubes and I are great. We’ve never been happier, really.” His gray eyes took on a warm, soft quality at the mention of his girlfriend. Even talking about her compelled his heart to swell inside his chest and the corners of lips lift in a smile.

Rogue breathed a sigh of relief. “That’s good to hear, hon. Ya had this ol’ gal worried for a second.” She paused, watching him press his lips together. “If things ain’t wrong with y’all, then what is it?”

He lifted his chin to look at her. The Southern Belle’s bow mouth formed a worried line. His stomach was wringing inside of him from guilt. He hated being the one responsible for her concerned mood. It was a role he had attributed to Gambit and during his less honest days. He thought he would never see the day when he would be causing her any kind of trouble.

Taking a deep breath, he said, “You know how my mother knows about me and Jubes?”

Rogue nodded, green eyes somewhat apologetic. Looking back, she desperately wished there was something she could have done to keep Hank’s lips from flapping. “Yeah...”

He pressed on, not noticing her atoning posture. “Well, my mom wants us to come spend Thanksgiving weekend in Long Island. It’s the weekend, Rogue, not just the dinner itself. Do you know what this means?”

She wanted to respond, “Breakin’ the fat pants from out of the closet?” However, she realized the gravity of the situation when she saw how preoccupied her friend seemed. Instead, she placed a gloved hand on his knee in a placating manner. The answer to his question was all too clear. She knew what was vexing him.

Rather, it was who.

“Sugah, Ah know yer dad ain’t the most open-minded of people,” she began, patting his knee gently. “But folks don’t stay the same forevah. Look what happened at that rally. Ah mean, that ol’ rascal was the last person Ah’d expect to speak out against Creed.”

Bobby nodded, raking a hand through his sandy hair. “You’re right, and I know that,” he admitted sheepishly. “It’s just that he’s a stubborn guy. I mean it took him a while to accept the fact that he can’t walk without his cane. That’s something that recently affected his life. These beliefs are ones he’s had for most of his life... They’re not like pants that you can change out of easily. I guess I’m not sure.”

“Ya not sure of what, hon?” she prodded, her brows furrowing together in confusion. “That he ain’t changed all that much? That’s he gonna treat Sweet Pea like me ‘cause she ain’t normal? Ah guess what Ah mean by normal is being a mutant and not some WASP princess.”

Stunned, he nodded with wide, gray eyes. “Very astute observation.” That made two women who were able to read him so easily. Well, no one really accused him of being some man of mystery anyway.

The Southern Belle rested her angular chin in the palm of a gloved hand. “Ah can see how ya think that,” she remarked thoughtfully as she played with a lock of chocolate-brown hair. “Aftah all, look at his track record. He ain’t the poster boy for tolerance, that’s for sure.”

“You see, that’s just it,” Bobby said quietly. “It’s one thing for me to come back home and listen to him pontificate about what he considers right and good in the world. He’s my dad, and I’ve lived with that stuff for the longest time. I didn’t like it, but I’ve lived with it. It’s not something I’m exactly proud of---being the son of a bigot. So, I’ve strived to eschew those attitudes and try to rise above that. I didn’t want to be like that ever.”

He smiled bitterly as he continued speaking. “You know what’s funny, Rogue? I’ve devoted a good part of my life fighting for a world that embraces tolerance. I risk my life for a dream where someday, we’ll all get along. The sad thing is that I can’t even find that in my own family.”

She raised her arched brows at him. “Sounds like ya don’t let him get to ya anymore, sugah,” she observed, giving him an encouraging smile. There was once a time when Bobby was eager to please at any cost. He would have sacrificed his own feelings rather than to rock the proverbial boat. She was quite pleased to watch her friend grow stronger in his convictions over the years.

“I don’t,” he admitted, glancing at her briefly and shrugging. “Now, I can tell him off. But with someone else---things are a little more complicated. They don’t come, expecting to be attacked for things that they can’t control, nor would they feel comfortable enough to really defend themselves.”

Rogue was silent for a moment, allowing his words to sink in and permeate the air in the room. Quickly, things began to crystallize. “Like me?” she asked softly. “Ah take it that’s why ya decided to pop in to see me and not Jeannie.”

He nodded. “Yeah,” he replied glumly, his shoulders slumping slightly. A bitter smile crossed his lips. “There’s a part of me that regrets bringing you there in the first place. You really didn’t need that---not on top of what you were going through already with Gambit.”

“Oh hush now,” Rogue admonished gently, drawing her knees to her chest. She rested her chin between her knees. When she did so, she suddenly looked quite innocent and young. “Ya ain’t responsible for things he says... Ah never held ya accountable.”

Bobby almost winced, detecting the hint of sadness in her voice. “But I brought you there. I was responsible for that.”

She hugged herself a little tighter. “Yeah, Ah guess that’s right, but how were ya to know he wasn’t gonna be on his best behavior?”

“But he hurt you,” he friend pointed out ruefully. “That’s something I don’t take lightly---then or now.”

She shook her head. “Sugah, hearin’ folks say bad things about what Ah am comes with the occupation,” she informed him with an air of quiet dignity. Her green roved over his youthful face affectionately. “Besides, Ah’ve heard much worse from mah own daddy. Tell ya the truth, his words hurt the most.”

“But it doesn’t mean you should accept it,” Bobby protested, shifting slightly on the bed. Rogue, with her temper and passion regarding what’s right and what’s wrong in the world, would have been the last person he thought would be forgiving of bigoted attitudes. For a moment, he contemplated asking if she had a lobotomy during her time away from the mansion.

She fiddled with the buttons on her jacket. “Ah didn’t say that, hon,” his friend corrected. “Ah just said Ah heard worse and took yer daddy’s words in stride. It’s somethin’ ya build up as a mutant. Ah’m sure Jubilee feels the same way. Lord only knows she’s learned a thing or two about mutant-human relations while bein’ here at the school.”

He grimaced, gray eyes soaking the hardwood floor. She probably had a valid point when it came to how tough Jubilee appeared. Before her time at the mansion, she had been living on the streets of Los Angeles in various malls. The young girl spent two years relying on her wits and abilities in order to survive. He was also more than aware of his girlfriend’s smart mouth since he had been the target of some of her remarks prior to their relationship. Based on this information, Jubilee should have a hardened exterior, able to laugh off anything Mr. Drake had in store for her. Adding to this picture of invincibility were her repeated assurances to Bobby that she would be fine.

Yet, Bobby was reluctant to totally buy into that. He knew that she was eager to please him. Her visit to the clinic, in his mind, was evident of that. Since they started dating, he was able to see more of the vulnerable side she had desperately fought to conceal. There was a delicate fragility that lay beneath the cheerful humor and dry comments. It was this aspect that elicited feelings of protectiveness, which compelled him to make a private oath to himself to do whatever he could to never see her hurt in any way.

He shrugged his shoulders. Finally, he said, “You’re right. But it’s just that she shouldn’t have to expect that. I mean meeting the family is intimidating as it is. My dad just adds another element of anxiety to the situation.”

“For her or for you?” Rogue inquired, folding her hands together. From the furrow she detected in his brow, she could tell the situation was weighing heavily upon him as well. <I> Same old Bobby, </I> she mused with affection dancing in her emerald eyes. <I> Trying to reach the unattainable of dealing with a happy, functional family. </I>

Bobby gave her a subdued smile. “Pick one.” For him, it was a combination of both.

The Southern Belle grabbed a pillow from the bed and placed it on her lap. She allowed her elbow to sink into the down pillow. “Maybe when they meet... Well, ya might be surprised, sugah.”

“Or it could end in total disaster.”

“Could be, though that ain’t the only possibility. Quit bein’ so pessimistic. Ya startin’ to sound like Wolverine.”

“It’s the most probable one, Rogue. Just a note, I’m sure the hairy and heavy one is going to be thrilled over the comparison.”

“Couldn’t resist.”

“Let’s get back to the original discussion. I’m living with the fact that I’m going to relive previous introductions to female friends with Jubilee. I’ve tried to put on a brave face for Jubes, but you know what? I’m afraid it’s going to blow up into some kind of knock-down, drag out fight, leaving horrible repercussions. Namely, people I care about getting really hurt.”

“Now, ya don’t know that for sure.”

“It’s hard to argue with what’s happened in the past, Rogue. He’s been pretty consistent in his discrimination. Even with the non-mutant girls he’s met, there was always something wrong. I don’t even need to tell you what he thinks of mutant women in general. Honestly, what chance does Jubes have at getting a fair shake? As wonderful as I know she is, will my father really see that?”

Rogue’s emerald green eyes were sympathetic as she peered over at his dismayed face. “Bobby, not wantin’ to see the one ya love hurt is perfectly natural,” she told him. “But yer family defines where ya came from, but not who ya are.”

“You can’t argue that I don’t have the right to dread this entire holiday get-together,” he replied, looking uncharacteristically glum. “I should be worrying about my mother bringing out embarrassing baby pictures and asking us where our relationship is going. You know, normal stuff that other people have to angst over.”

His friend smirked at him. “That’s normal to ya, sugah?” she asked, almost incredulous. If only she and Remy had such issues involved in their relationship. “That’s sad.”

Bobby grinned sheepishly, acknowledging his skewed perception. Then his smile disappeared as he asked the question he had been waiting to pose for some time now. “Are you sorry I brought you there?” he asked, suddenly bracing himself for whatever answer would come.

Rogue pressed her lips together in careful contemplation. What he had really meant to say was, “Do you think Jubilee is going to be sorry I brought her there?” He was seeking reassurance that he was not going to expose someone he cared about to a potentially hurtful situation. She could see the desperation in his eyes---the need to validate the idea that things would work out.

Finally, she shook her head emphatically. “No, Bobby, Ah’m not,” she informed him, green eyes shining. “’Cause in spite of what was said, Ah found out what an amazin’ guy ya are. No matter what happens, Jubilee’s gonna come to the same conclusion if she ain’t already.”

Early evening found a weary Logan and Sam making their way to the kitchen. The two had just finished an intense session in the Danger Room and were in dire need of some refreshment. Initially, the older man craved some alcoholic libation, but was quickly reminded by the miner’s son from Kentucky that Cook prohibited alcohol from her kitchen. This piece of news was quickly met with a glare.

“This is a school, y’know,” Sam pointed out cheerfully, still wearing his field uniform which consisted of black leather pants, a padded, black leather jacket with small, yellow x-symbols on the upper arms and a large x- symbol on the back over a white T-shirt. A pair of goggles held back his golden hair from his forehead.

Several years ago, he would felt uncomfortable engaging in playful ribbing with Logan. There had been times when he felt as if he were not truly accepted into the fold as a full-fledge member. However, the past year serving on Ororo’s team eradicated any remnants of his doubts and insecurities. In addition to learning about the potential leader he could be, the young man had the opportunity to get to know Logan beyond the snarl and adamantium claws. Sam came to befriend a man who was lonely and filled with as much self-doubt as he had been. That was a comforting thing to know.

Logan snorted. “You sound like I need reminding,” he told him flatly, his scowl deepening when he noticed the twinkle in the other man’s pale blue eyes. It was times like this when he swore Guthrie was getting as bad as Icicle.

The two men then ambled into the spacious kitchen. The room glowed with a warm, inviting light from the new fixtures installed last week. This contrasted sharply against the stark, gray cold outside of the mansion. It was almost like a welcoming reprieve from the bitter winter air.

As they wandered further inside and towards the stainless steel refrigerator, Logan’s nostrils picked up on a familiar scent. It was a mixture of bubblegum and cinnamon. The smell evoked memories of happier, peaceful days filled with affection and closeness only experienced with one person. A part of the self-professed loner suddenly became nostalgic. With a faint smile tugging at his mouth, he turned his head in an attempt to locate the source.

Jubilee was seated at the kitchen table nearby, curled up in one of the chairs. She appeared ethereal and untouchable, like in a classic painting, by simply sitting there. Wearing a yellow, open-knit sweater and a pair of khaki, drawstring pants with loafers, she appeared rather pensive over a steaming cup of green tea and scattered pieces of loose-leaf paper with pages of equations. Her long, silky hair was piled on the top of her head with two pencils. Sparkling sapphire eyes shone warmly at him as he crossed the room and approached the table.

“Hey, kid,” Logan greeted, drawing his hands from the pockets of his faded jeans. It had been some time since he had last seen her. The Professor and Scott had assigned him to missions that took him away from Westchester for several weeks at a time. While his absence was nothing like the one he had taken when she was much younger, Logan felt the same loneliness and stabs of guilt nonetheless. He had wanted to continue to make up for lost time by becoming more involved in her life. There was so much he felt he was missing with each passing day.

She smiled up at him, seeming oblivious to the internal conflict that bubbled within him. “Hey yourself.” She watched Sam emerge from the refrigerator with two cold bottles of Coke. “Hi, Sam.”

The tall, wiry Southern gentleman handed one of the bottles to Logan, who nodded his gratitude. “Hi, Jubilee,” he replied. His pale blue eyes lingered upon her face for an instant before casting a solemn gaze upon the plastic bottle in his hands. Then he cleared his throat, which produced a rough sound similar to sandpaper.

“What have you been up to? I feel like it’s been ages since I’ve seen either one of you.” She took a sip of her tea and motioned for both to sit down in the vacant chairs across from her.

Logan obliged, pulling wooden chair from the table and settling down. “We’ve been in the field until this morning,” he answered, the two trademark points formed in his hair shining under the kitchen lighting. He had showered prior to coming upstairs. “Guthrie and I thought we’d get some time in the Danger Room. You know, to work out some frustration from being away so long.”

Unlike Logan, the elder Guthrie did not seat himself at the table. Instead, he chose to remain standing. “Yeah,” he said, echoing Logan sentiment. “It’s really hard being gone from the people ya know for so long. Ya almost forget where ya head is for the most part.”

Jubilee watched him shift from foot to foot. “Sounds rough,” she mused. “But you’re both here now, and just in time for the holidays. Now, you two can look forward to relaxing. Hopefully, it’ll be enough for you to get your heads oriented again.” Her sapphire eyes glanced at Logan and then at Sam, punctuating the sincerity in her statement.

Sam smiled sheepishly as he stared back at her. “Ah hope so, too,” he replied quietly. Then he raked a hand, calloused from his time in the coalmines of Kentucky with his father, through his blond hair. “Well, Ah should get cleaned up for supper. Ah’ll see you around later.”

“See ya,” she said to his quickly retreating back. For a moment, she could have sworn he was scurrying away. It was almost as if he were desperate to get away. Had she had less pressing issues in the forefront of her mind, she would have speculated as to what was going on.

Logan found himself staring after Sam as well. In contrast to the young girl sitting across from him, he was able to pick up on the other man’s motives for abruptly leaving. His reliance on his senses for everyday survival could easily pick up smell and the subtle nuances in body language from the young man. Usually, Sam Guthrie was laid-back and easygoing, wearing his emotions easily on his sleeve. However, he was emanating something very, very different.

“You know,” he drawled in his gravelly voice and leaning towards his young protégée. “If you and Icicle weren’t together, I’m sure Guthrie would be gearin’ up for his chance.”

She looked at him hard. She was incredulous and tempted to burst out into peals of laughter. As Paige’s former roommate and best friend, Jubilee was privy to the protective treatment from the elder Guthrie during his visits. The older brother role was something he was keen on playing even away from the Guthrie home. Besides, there was nothing indicative in his behavior that conveyed any interest in her. To even consider any plausibility in what Logan was saying was...creepy.

“Are you kidding?” she finally asked. “I’ve known him since I was like fourteen. There’s no way he thinks of me like that. I’m like another little sister.”

“Kid, I can tell these things,” Logan told her, watching her eye him skeptically. When she did that, he was suddenly reminded of the younger Jubilee, forced to grow up quickly and as a result, became wary of the world around her. He hid his amusement with a Stoic façade.

She shook her head emphatically. “Maybe you need to get your radar checked, Wolvie,” she responded with a smirk. The gentle sparkle in her cerulean eyes took the edge from her expression. “He could have been acting weird because he’s not comfortable around us Yankees.”

A low growl emanated from Logan’s wiry chest in response to her cheeky hypothesis. In spite of her fast denials combined with her unassuming perspective, he was not comfortable with letting things go. He had come to know Sam well throughout the years. Shy, but extraordinarily candid for someone with his life experiences, the young man wore his thoughts and emotions very freely for the most part. Given what Logan had just witnessed in the kitchen, something was definitely afoot.

“Say what you want, kid,” he said in his most gruff tone belied by the gentle warmth in his gaze. There was a part of him that did not completely accept the fact that the former mall rat had grown up to be a stunning young woman who attracted male attention. He was still reeling from the fact that she was dating Drake.

Instead pursuing the issue any further and dredging up unresolved feelings, Logan decided to let things lie---at least for a little while. He raised a brow at her, glancing at the spread of papers in front of her. “So, homework in the kitchen?” he asked casually. “Thought you had a nice room back at the house to study. Well, unless you’re itchin’ to corner Cook for food.”

She stuck out her tongue at him, a response that was characteristic of a younger Jubilee. Then she shook her head, snorting. “If you really want to know,” she replied, “all’s not well over there.”

He popped the cap from the bottle. “What do you mean?” he asked, taking a swig. The sugary, bubbly liquid tickled his fiery, dry throat.

The young girl looked at him warily. She was not unsure if she could truly confide in him but unsure regarding the information she was going to disclose. “Scott and Jean have been fighting a lot lately,” she confessed after a brief consideration. An internal struggle to process what had been going for the past few weeks played out in those old-soul blue eyes. A deep, concerned frown mirrored and even accentuated this conflict.

Logan’s brows shot up with a mixture of surprise and interest. Trouble in paradise? It was something he could hardly fathom. The two were, irritatingly (perhaps only in his mind), the picture of a happy couple. Clasped hands and those sugary-sweet stares they often exchanged was enough to make him retch twice over. “What’s going on?” he finally inquired.

“It’s like World War III every freakin’ night,” she told him, appearing rather weighed down from simply thinking about it. “But they try to be kind of sly about it. You know, having it out in the living room or kitchen when I’m upstairs---that kind of thing. They don’t think I hear them or know what’s going on, but I do, Wolvie. I’m not the stupid, clueless kid they like to think I am... And, you know I have to thank for it? Frosty.”

Logan’s expression suddenly became quizzical. Emma? What would she have to do with Red and One-Eyed? He knew that the kid was not exactly fond of her former headmistress, but to hold the icy and distant blonde responsible was questionable. From the flash of resentment in Jubilee’s sapphire eyes, he could tell she honestly believed Emma was the antagonist in the situation. Her tone---filled with conviction---added to the presentation.

Before he could query the young girl he considered the closest thing he had to a daughter, she began to address his silent confusion. “Frosty’s made a point by being perfectly clear that the institution of marriage is not something she can appreciate,” she said bitterly with a grimace.

The lines in the loner’s face deepened as he mulled over her words. That was kind of a vague explanation. “What do you mean?” he inquired.

“For the last two months, she’s been making these visits to the house and like, throwing herself at Scott,” Jubilee explained glumly, making a face expressing her disgust with the situation. “Even when me or Jean’s around, she flaunts her feminine wiles like it’s going out of style. Her outfits are even skimpier than usual when she comes around. It’s like she doesn’t give a damn... Naturally, Jean gets upset and wants Scott to distance himself from Frosty.

“You would think that her husband would respect her feelings and try to accommodate even if her speculations are totally ungrounded,” the young girl continued, placing her chin in the palm of her small hand and looking very troubled and dismayed. “You would think he want to assuage her feelings or something. I mean it’s Scott and Jean, after all. I thought he would do anything for her. I guess I was wrong. Even though Scott swears up and down that nothing’s been going on, he and Emma still hang out. I’m no psychic and I don’t spy anymore, but I don’t like what’s going on.”

Logan was somewhat taken aback. It was all too improbable to accept. Apparently, the two were worried about their public image being tainted in some way. There was no indication of any kind of trouble between the golden couple---at least, none that he could decipher and he was adept at figuring these things out. While he had once carried an unrequited torch for the stunning redhead and yearned for the demise of her marriage to a man he considered the epitome of everything that irked him, Logan wanted to see Jean happier more than anything else in the world. Over the years, he learned to sacrifice his personal strivings for a happy ending on the backburner for her. He had grown to care for her that much.

Hearing this piece of news ate away at him inside. It was not only for Jean, his friend and the person who came the closest to understanding what made him tick, but also for Jubilee. Obviously, the recent upheaval in the once-happy and functional household was taking its toll on her. It was as if she was let down by the whole thing, realizing that happiness is not something to take for granted. She was forced to grow a little older and wiser from a life experience once again.

Feeling a surge of paternal protectiveness flow through sturdy adamantium body, Logan brushed his calloused fingers against her smooth cheek. “Kid,” he sighed. Granted, he was not much for talking things out or coddling her. That simply was not his style. He was a man who felt that his actions spoke volumes beyond any words he could manage. Yet, he wanted to show her that he would be her safe haven in spite of the fact that others had failed.

She tried to smile for him, an instinctive reaction from her younger days when she wanted to assure him that she was fine. “It’s not like I don’t have enough to worry about. I feel like the fighting is driving me out of the house for the holidays. But as I thought about it, this is nothing compared to this weekend.”

He noticed that the expression did not quite reach her eyes, which were filled with ambivalence. “Why? What’s going on?” he asked, confusion seeping into his husky voice. It was the week of Thanksgiving. By no means a sentimental soul who bought into the theme of sharing of the holiday or the commerciality associated with it, Logan had always associated the time with a sense of peacefulness. No missions to be concerned about and for students and teachers, the academic load lightening slightly. He had just assumed that the same was true for her. As he gazed down at the scattered papers on the table, he contemplated giving her a brief talk about submerging herself too fully in her work.

His initial conclusion was soon proven wrong. Jubilee took a deep breath and said, “I’m not going to be around this weekend. Bobby and I are visiting his parents for Thanksgiving.” She paused as she watched the beginnings of a smirk etch across Logan’s features. “What?”

He raised a brow at her, gulping down some more soda. “Icicle’s bringing you back to the ol’ igloo?” The image almost made him bark loudly with laughter.

Her sapphire eyes suddenly flashed with indignation. She had not been expecting that kind of remark. In fact, she had not been expecting any remarks from him at all. It was the kind of news she thought he would sit back and listen to, processing mentally the information. “What does that mean?” she demanded, cheeks flushing pink. She shook her head rather quickly and placed her hand in the air as if to stop him from explaining.

He took the hint and nodded his understanding. The daggers contained in her glare were enough to convey how serious she was. This was a situation that had been weighing heavily upon her mind for sometime. “OK,” he drawled, putting the bottle down firmly on the table. “So, what’s going on, kid? Why the long face?”

She was silent for a moment. Until Logan had made his observation, Jubilee thought she had done a fairly good job hiding her emotions. Yet, she was not completely shocked. This was the only man, besides Bobby, who knew her inside out. After being close friends for years, Logan was quite aware of what troubled her mind in spite of the cheerful front she put up at times. Of course, he would be able to discern what was going on.

Sitting back in her chair, Bobby’s voice echoed in her head. Her expression became glum as she was reminded of the conversation days earlier. His tense expression while he told her about the invitation to his family’s home in Long Island for the holidays was crisp in her mind. He had nervously joked about his mother embarrassing him by showing nude photographs of him as a baby. However, she was able to see beyond the comments to know something was wrong. There was this look of fear and anguish as he proceeded to bring up his father. It was almost as if he were preparing for being brought forth to the barracks. As they had continued to talk, it was becoming increasingly obvious how much he was truly dreading this trip to the Drake home.

“You know about my dad?” Bobby had asked, boyish face filled with concern as he sat by her bedside.

She had tried to make light of the situation. She hated seeing him so worried. “I know he’s about as open-minded as Rush Limbaugh.”

“Not funny, Jubes.”

“Sorry. Seriously, I know he’s not crazy about people who are...different.”

“That’s a gentle euphemism if I ever heard one. So, what exactly have you heard?”

“Bits and pieces.”

“What does that mean?”

“Before you try to argue or sugar coat things, I’m a mutant and Chinese. Let’s face it, Bobby, I’m everything your dad doesn’t like. I’m also aware of how he might react when we meet.”

“And that doesn’t bother you?”

“I want to say no, but it is kind of disappointing to think someone still holds those kinds of beliefs in this day and age. I know he might have changed his opinions since the thing with Creed, but I’m bracing myself for the worst.”

“Jubes, you---”

“I know. I shouldn’t have to think that way, but I do. It’s kind of impractical not to.”

“It’s also pretty pessimistic, too. I just wish this wasn’t going to be something you’re going to dread. The first time meeting your boyfriend’s parents shouldn’t be that way, Jubes.”

“I’m not dreading anything. I’m just trying to prepare myself for...whatever comes.”

“God, Jubes... You shouldn’t have to feel that way. If you get hurt or anything, I don’t know what I’d do...”

“I’m not going to get hurt, Bobby.”

A look of surprised had crossed his boyish face upon hearing her assertion. “You’re not?”

“No,” she had replied, sapphire eyes staring deeply into his earnest gray ones. She had reached over and cupped his handsome face in her small hands. “No, I won’t because I’ll have you with me. Nothing in this world could ever hurt me as long as you’re around.”

Jubilee was startled from her reverie when she heard Logan pose a question in that rumbling, gruff voice he used so often. Her sable brows furrowed together slightly. “What was that, Wolvie?” she asked, embarrassed over the fact she was so easily distracted.

He grunted at her---something he often did when he did not have something to say immediately. Seeing her so preoccupied was definitely something he wasn’t used to. The private training sessions he held with her when she was younger centered on not only her abilities, but also her mental faculties as well. Usually, she was so much sharper. Apparently, this impending visit to see Drake’s family was causing more angst than she initially let on.

Sighing heavily, he said, “You never answered my question, kid. What about this visit’s getting you down? It’s not like you’re facing off against Magneto.”

A faint trace of fear colored her eyes. “No,” she murmured thoughtfully. “No, it’s way scarier than that could ever be.”

“What does that mean, kid?” Logan asked, feeling more and more off-balance by the minute. It was a sensation he was not used to nor did he care for.

She lowered her gaze briefly to the papers in front of her before studying the concerned, but confused expression on his face. “This is a major milestone with me and Bobby,” she replied quietly, shrugging her slim shoulders. “Meeting the parents, one of whom might be guaranteed not to like me all that much. Let me give you a hint---I don’t have anything to worry about where his mom is concerned.”

The gold flecks in Logan’s green eyes suddenly flashed. He vaguely remembered hearing stories about Drake’s father from Jean and Hank. Not being overly invested in retaining the information for very long, he did not recall all the details. As he watched the young girl sitting across from him shift slightly in her seat, certain themes were returning to consciousness. His eyes narrowed with bitterness, recalling one of them.

“Listen, kid,” he said, after finishing the rest of his soda. “You know there are gonna be some people who believe that we’re less than human. Bigots are everywhere, even within the family.”

She frowned at him, puzzlement deepening the intensity of the expression. “No, Wolvie,” she replied rather frankly, “that’s not it. I’m not afraid of what Mr. Drake may or may not say about me. Believe or not, I’ve heard a lot worse coming from the likes of Bastion and the Church of Humanity. I’m stronger than that.”

He shoved the empty bottle away from himself. “Then what?” he asked with a hint of impatience. “I’m not gettin' what you’re tryin’ to dance around.”

Jubilee chewed on her lower lip before responding. “I don’t want to see Bobby disappointed,” she explained. “He’s expecting this horrible confrontation between his dad and me, but deep down inside, I know he wishes it would be different. Seeing him worry about me getting hurt tears me up inside. He doesn’t need that kind of crap.”

“I hope you’re not talkin’ about kissing the old man’s ass just to keep Drake happy. That ain’t gonna work, kid.”

“I know, but I’m not talking about doing that at all. Bobby would know that wouldn’t be me.”

“So, you’re gonna sit back and take whatever Drake’s old man has to say to you? That’s not the Jubilee I know, either.”

“I know, Wolvie. But I’ve grown up and I---”

“Just tell me one thing. Why? You could say no and stay here. Why are you torturing yourself, kid?”

Jubilee’s eyes widened upon hearing the question that was asked. She leaned back in her chair. “Because he’s my quiet hero,” she answered simply. “He steps in to save the day without asking for anything in return. I want this to be good for him.”

Logan narrowed his green eyes thoughtfully, the gold flecks glowing with a radiating intensity. Then he inhaled deeply as he proceeded to dispense his advice to his young protégée. “Make ‘em see what a great kid you are,” he said in his gravelly voice. “More important, give ‘em hell if they don’t.”

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