saga/title/fandom: Two of Us chapter 20 (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 Twenty: Father of Mine

A wintry chill descended upon Long Island the following day, bringing with it brisk winds that rattled street signs and made traffic lights sway as if they were weightless. The roads that linked various neighborhoods with businesses and other places of interest were nearly empty. Construction crews that were usually accompanied with heavy and noisy machinery were nowhere to be found, abandoning their sites temporarily. However, side streets in many neighborhoods were beginning to fill up with vehicles, indicating the arrival of family members and friends for the holiday.

That morning found Bill Drake lying awake in his king-sized bed. He rested one of his hands against the headboard of the bed frame, which was crafted from Chilean cherry wood with a tobacco finish. The exquisite grain was smooth and cool under his skin. Shivering slightly, he pulled the white, down comforter to his chin in order to keep the warmth close to his body. He closed his eyes again, trying to ignore the white sunlight that was streaming through the nearly-transparent curtains draped over the large windows.

Unlike most people, Bill found it difficult to be excited about Thanksgiving. To him, it was simply another day, filled with passé predictability. Given that most of the extended family lived in close proximity to him, the prospect of seeing them did not pique any interest. There was the ubiquitous meal, where people engaged in sanctioned acts of gluttony for several hours. Following this, many would be filled with regret as to what and how much they consumed. Then there was the special programming on the television, where stations broadcasted syrupy-sweet, overly sentimental programs about the meaning of the holiday. If it wasn’t that, then one could easily find a plethora of college football games or NFL games that were either badly played or badly covered. Overall, it was another day, another opportunity for Maddy to cook up a storm.

Yet, he was all too aware that this day was different. There was some new element in this seemingly trite situation. He would not be able to get away with going through the motions when it came to this day.

As much as he scoffed at the predictability of things associated with Thanksgiving, it pained him to think that his behavior was just as easy to forecast. After overhearing the conversation between Maddy and Bobby last night, he wondered how he had come to this. He had become this character that was disdained or mildly understood by those around him. In the eyes of those closest to him, his responses were reliable like the sun rising over the land each morning. Everything about him was set---his likes, his dislikes, and his actions.

When Maddy first told him about the girl, he could not help but bristle in response. All he could focus on were the words “mutant” and “Chinese”. It almost surprised him as to how quickly the tunnel vision set in. The rest of the information being relayed to him fell by the wayside. None of it was going to matter in the end anyway. Immediately, he thought of that last one he met. Not the one with the skunk-like coif, but the Japanese one. He couldn’t recall her name off-hand, but he distinctly remembered that he did not care for her at all. In addition to her ineptitude when it came to fashion, there had been something about her that elicited feelings of mistrust and contempt within him. She seemed to embody everything he perceived as ill in society. This woman came off as secretive with the potential to cause some serious harm. Worst of all, Bobby had been too blind to see it.

Bill Drake never considered himself to be a bigot, as his son did. Instead, he would have used the term ‘cautious’. If one wanted to do an in- depth psychological analysis of Bill Drake and his intentions, he or she would ultimately see that he automatically linked normalcy with safety. What was considered normal kept one protected and most importantly, accepted. Therefore, one should do everything in his or her power to strive for this, no matter what. According to him, in this day and age, there were still certain things one associated with specific groups of people. Given this, he came to the conclusion that one should always be vigilant of these factors, particular those that tend attract both attention and trouble. In general, it was always in one’s best interest to steer clear of such individuals altogether.

Bill took this philosophy to heart, practicing it when he could. He had to. He had to protect and keep safe what he prized the most. He always did.

So in making sure his family was considered normal, he decided to take several measures. He and the family moved to a predominantly white neighborhood. The majority of their friends were white, upper-middle class people. When he was still working full-time at the insurance company, Bill ensured that he strictly socialized with colleagues who fit into this image of normalcy.

He even asked his family to make some sacrifices as well. Maddy, after just discovering her religion and learning about the customs related to the faith, was asked to abandon them. He feared that by engaging in them, she would be attracting some unneeded attention. When Bobby was younger, he steered the boy towards children who were considered, again, normal. During visits now, he made it clear that he did not want his son using his abilities at all. It was for the good of the family, after all.

Upon meeting this Japanese woman Bobby was dating, he couldn’t help but feel somewhat slighted, betrayed even. After everything he had done to keep his son away from the wrong element, here was Bobby carelessly and willfully flaunting his disregard. Bill remembered wanting to retch at the table, his hands shaking with such fury. While he and the boy had their disagreements over the years, this was different. It was the first act of wanton disrespect his son had demonstrated ever. There was no other way of interpreting it.

What was even more disturbing was Bobby’s naiveté. Apparently, he did not see a problem with dating this woman. He seemed, at the time, blissfully unaware of the trouble that could follow her with each step. During the meal, there were times when Bill wanted to grab his son and shake some sense into him. <I>Can’t you tell?</I> he had wanted scream at him. <I>Don’t you see that she’s not for you?</I> When trouble did arrive in the form of various members of the Japanese mafia attacking the restaurant they were dining at, he knew his position was validated. Still, he was not smug, only furious with Bobby for not knowing better.

Then there was that other one Bobby brought home during a road trip. Oh, she was almost up there with the Japanese woman in terms of drawing out a negative reaction. Bill took one look at that piece of white trash with that hideous white stripe in her brown hair and her too-tight clothes, and knew what she was. It didn’t take a detective to see past it all to instantly discover she was a freak mutant. While Bobby claimed the two were simply friends, his father viewed that fact as irrelevant. Friend or girlfriend, it didn’t matter to him. She was not good enough to be associated with his son. She would never be. No amount of sweet-talking from her in that nauseating accent could change his mind.

The fact that Bobby even brought her to the house in the first place further exacerbated things. Bill remembered scolding his son when he first arrived. Wasn’t he aware that people would see them? That they would come to the same conclusion he did about that girl? Didn’t he understand that he placed the social standing of his family in jeopardy? What was he thinking? Was he even thinking?

Fortunately, in spite of his misgivings, none of his qualms ever came to fruition during the time of that visit. Instead, all was calm and well. There was no angry mob, no Southern boys chasing after the girl---not even a nasty, threatening phone call. For all intents and purposes, Bill should have been relieved. He should have been happy. He had his normalcy.

Bill exhaled heavily, his skin scratchy under the red plaid pajamas his wife had bought for him recently. He knew that he was not happy that day or the days that followed. In exchange for this sense of comfort, he lost his son. Heated words that were exchanged between the two of them provided damning evidence. He could remember how deeply hurt Bobby was as told him off. The younger Drake spat out acidic statements, indicating that he was aware that he was not the picture of what Bill considered right and that in the end, he felt sorry for Bill. It was a side of Bobby that Bill never knew existed. He feared that he would never see his son again.

With the few occasions where he was cajoled into complying out of duress, Bobby made sure that that fear ultimately became a reality. The periods between visits lengthened in duration. Various excuses were made as to why regular visits were simply not feasible any longer. When Bobby was around, he was reserved and spoke to Bill quite gingerly. It was as if the pain he experienced that day was still fresh, still wracking him mind and body.

Faced with this, Bill was at a loss. Of course, he was hurt. What father wouldn’t be? His own child, his only child was slowly turning his back on him by distancing himself. Yet, he did not make the first move to extend the olive branch. His own father, a formidable man who worked the railroads that traversed the city, taught him that one did not apologize to their children no matter what. The parent was always right. Not wanting to stray from such ingrained advice, Bill kept to himself and watched his son drift further away.

Looking back, he wished he had not been so damn stubborn. As the months passed, he came to the realization that he was not the only person who was affected by this rift. Maddy, who had always prided herself in being close to Bobby, was forced to endure his lukewarm treatment. Being the person she was in wanting everything to be smoothed out sans conflict, she did not confront him about it. She dutifully stuck by his side. There were times when Bill wondered if she knew, if she blamed him for all this bitterness. His brain pulsed as he saw images of his wife with that look of perpetual sadness in her eyes when Bobby was not around. In all their years of marriage, Bill could not recall a time when she looked so lost. Maddy was beginning to drift away from him as well.

It was that look alone that ate away at his heart, compelled him to do something different. The thought of Bobby believing that his own father did not love him also tore Bill apart inside. Although he was reluctant to talk to Bobby about the situation, Bill knew that he had to do something to bring his son home. It was up to him to protect family, to make sure nothing harmful was going to ever come near it. So far, he assessed himself as doing a lousy job given that his previous actions were the harmful element tearing apart the family.

Rolling over on his side in bed, he grimaced. Looking back on that day, he had never intended to speak out at that rally. Hell, he was hesitant about attending in the first place. He was simply sitting in the living room of his comfortable home with his beautiful and loving wife, watching television. The local stations were covering a political rally for a candidate named Graydon Creed, a community activist known for his anti- mutant stance. Bill remembered was not paying all that much attention to what was going on until a photograph of an ice-covered Bobby was flashed on the screen as Creed shouted out for the extermination of all mutants.

Horrified and without thinking, Bill found himself leaving his safety and traveling to where the rally was taking place. His mind seemed disconnected from his body as he weaved through the crowd. When he reached the front, near the stage and where Mr. Creed stood, Bill felt his skin crawl. He was not going to be complicit anymore; he was going to stand up for his son. Fortunately, much of what transpired following his outcry was blurred from his memory.

Despite the time that had passed since he was attacked, Bill continued to recover from the injuries he received. He had to accept that he was not the same and could never be. His nose was still slightly crooked from being severely broken. He had lost two molars, leaving an empty gap that no one but him noticed. Walking for him called for a little more effort and assistance thanks to compound fractures to his right leg. In order to move around, he now relied on an aluminum cane, which he clearly detested every time he had to use it.

While the physical pain did not plague him as much as it did in the days that followed the assault, it was still a constant companion. There were aches and cramps that radiated throughout his body. Dull, thudding headaches seemed to sideline him constantly. As a result, he was forced to leave his job and relegated himself to a consultant position, where he worked during more flexible hours and could telecommute. Most people he discussed the change with were happy for him. They thought he was on the way to easy street with a lighter load. Bill only felt like his company had given up on him.

Apparently, his son had also given up on him as well.

Bill never considered himself an overly sensitive person. He had been raised during a time where men were supposed to be Stoic pillars of the family. Throughout the years, he prided himself in being the rock for his wife and son. He had to be because that was his role. However, when he wandered downstairs and paused outside of the kitchen to listen in on the conversation, he experienced the same pang of guilt he did when Bobby first pulled away from him. Part of him wanted to march inside and demand what other hoops he had to jump through in order to appease Bobby, while the other part of him wanted to resign himself to upstairs to consider what was being said.

In the end, his less indignant side won out. He spent the rest of the night, trying in vain to find slumber. Even when Maddy settled by his side, he found himself restless and ruminating. His son’s words echoed inside his head.

“...I guess I’m afraid Dad is going to be himself...”

Bill sucked in his breath sharply, gray eyes narrowing. Why couldn’t his son understand? There was nothing malicious or hurtful behind his intentions. He was simply looking out for his best interests in order to keep him safe. It was the job of any good father to feel the way he did, to think the way he did, and to do the things he did.

What was he getting for his trouble? A frown wrinkled his brow as he answered his internal question. Having his son mock him and accuse of him being something that he was not.

Turning his head towards Maddy’s side of the bed, he noticed that it was vacant. The lingering scent of the lavender soap and shampoo she used was the only thing that remained in the room. He sighed, inferring that she had probably rose earlier than usual to prepare for the day ahead. His nose pressed against the pillow. With his eyes shut tightly, he found wishing she were by his side again. The bed seemed so empty and frightening without her. He needed her there to convince him that he was not the bad father Bobby accused him of being for all this time. But this day was different. Bill knew that he was the one who had to do the convincing.

After a fitful night of sleep, Jubilee found herself awake and ready for the day ahead. The shower she took this morning invigorated her, giving her skin a healthy glow. Her long, dark streamed down her shoulders as it air-dried. Not one to usually wear make-up, she decided to at least put some lip-gloss on since the air had been quite arid overnight.

As she proceeded to get dressed, her mind drifted to last night’s meeting with Maddy Drake. While she heard her share of stories about the Drake matriarch, she never had a solid picture as to what she was like. Hank, Rogue, and Jean always talked about her in the most glowing terms. The woman evoked comparisons to the all-American housewife and mother that were slowly fading from today’s culture. She represented a generation of women who had given up her own career aspirations in order to care for her family. Instead of being bitter about potential dreams that were lost as a result, she appeared to invest that energy into caring and loving her family. At the same time, the three said that Mrs. Drake was somewhat anxious and overly placating at times. When it came to her son’s personal life, it was hinted that she did not know her boundaries. The word meddling initially came to mind, but was not directly uttered by Bobby or his closest friends.

Jubilee found that Maddy was, overall, a pleasant person. Her genteel manners and soothing, throaty voice combined to put anyone around her at ease. It shone through her interactions with Bobby, whom she still doted on as if he were a young boy once again. Even Jubilee, who considered herself somewhat jaded with regards to non-mutants, found that she was slowly releasing the bundle of nerves that gathered inside in her chest and stomach. The sincere smiles and the kindly tone used by Mrs. Drake immediately pushed past any anxieties or unconscious barriers the young girl had put up.

Yet, Jubilee felt as if she were the subject of a close evaluation. Maddy’s eyes were not intrusive or judgmental, but carefully studied Jubilee as a whole---her appearance, her mannerisms, the way she was around her son. Instead of the prying questions Bobby braced her for (‘What do you think of children?), Jubilee observed Maddy listening very closely. The young girl could almost see the wheels in the older woman’s head spinning as she analyzed every word present in the conversation. Had Jubilee been more oblivious to the situation, she would not have noticed anything at all. That was how subtle Maddy had been.

While Jubilee understood the intentions behind these behaviors, it was still unnerving to have everything part of her scrutinized and dissected. She felt her self-consciousness return with a vengeance. Her brain reeled from questions she posed to herself, wondering how she should sit, what she should say. It was nothing she had ever experienced before, which made things even more intimidating to the young girl. She wondered if her other friends had to submit to a similar process as part of the dating process. Would someone who exuded confidence like Rogue, Jean, or Paige feel the same she was? Or, was it her own inexperience that left her off-balanced? Jubilee was uncertain.

Despite Bobby being the stalwart boyfriend by her side, Jubilee continued to be wracked with doubts. They left her pondering as to whether or not she was everything Maddy wanted for her son. Following Bobby’s advice, Jubilee was herself---bright and funny. She was able to elicit some smiles and laughs from his mother, and engaged her in the conversation. For her part, Maddy continued to be friendly and warm towards her, but shielded what she was really thinking behind those kind blue eyes.

Jubilee frowned, her smooth, dark brows furrowing in thought. Being one of the younger members of the team, she often welcomed the attention of others. She didn’t mind being evaluated. She was secure in her own abilities, her intelligence, and sense of self outside of this situation. All of her training under Emma and the Professor had instilled this self- assurance.

But this was very different.

She was about to pull on a blue, wide V-neck sweater over her white camisole and chinos when she heard a knock at the door. Curious, she sauntered towards it and opened it with some hesitation. When she saw who it was, she instantly smiled.

“Hey,” she greeted, opening the door wider to allow Bobby to enter. She waited for him to walk inside before closing the door behind him.

Wearing a pair of cargo pants, a black polo shirt over a white, long- sleeved T-shirt, Bobby appeared refreshed. His fingers raked themselves through his tousled, sandy hair. “Hey, yourself,” he replied, grinning. “How did you sleep?”

She played with the sleeves of the sweater instead of slipping it over her head. “Pretty good,” she answered candidly. “What about you?”

“OK, I guess.” He shrugged nonchalantly, the grin fading from his face. The way Bobby saw things, there was no pressing need to inform her about his brief bout with insomnia the night before. Shortly after he and his mother talked, he was able to fall blissfully asleep.

Pretending to clutch his back, he said wryly, “Sleeping on a twin mattress isn’t all that great, especially if it’s the one you’ve had since you were fourteen.”

She tilted her head to the side in sympathy. “I’m sorry,” she said, placing her small hand on his back and rubbing his imaginary sore spot. “I guess we’ll have to tell your mother about it and---”

Immediately, he took his hand away and shook his head at her. “Hilarious,” he snorted. He circled his arms around her waist, drawing his girlfriend’s body close to his. “Have I told you lately how incredible you are?”

Jubilee smiled hesitantly up at him. “Um... I don’t know,” she finally said, waiting for a teasing comment or the request for some favor. “Why? What do you want?”

“Now that hurts,” Bobby sighed, his gray eyes filled with mock pain. “I profess my deep appreciation for you and throw it back in my face. I don’t need this kind of abuse. I can get it from Warren or Hank in from the convenience of the mansion, you know.”

She laughed, delighting in these moments when she and Bobby exchanged playful remarks. It was when she felt most like herself and so comfortable. There was nothing wrong in the world as long as they could spend time together like this. At least, that was she had come to believe after several months of dating Bobby Drake.

“Well, I guess I have to say that you’re pretty incredible, too,” she told him softly as she stroked the back of his neck with her fingertips. The corners of her eyes crinkled when she noticed him grinning again.

“Thanks.” He pressed his lips against her forehead and inhaled the fragrances he associated with her, bubblegum and cinnamon. “Listen, I had a reason for telling you that.”

Loud alarm bells went off in Jubilee’s head. She felt her limbs begin to stiffen as she anticipated the worst. Did Maddy take him aside and tell him that she did not approve? Were they being asked to leave? Maybe that was why Bobby was saying those things---to soften the crushing blow of disapproval? The possible scenarios were limitless in her mind, but all involved her being the cause of the bad news. Finally, she asked in a steady voice, “What is it?”

Concerned, Bobby peered down at her. “Hey,” he whispered, brushing tendrils of black hair from her creamy cheeks, “it’s okay, Jubes. There’s nothing to get upset about... It’s just that you got the official Madeleine Beatrice Drake seal of approval.”


“It’s true. My mom thinks you’re great. I always knew she was smart...”

“Wait, when did you... How do you know this?”

“She and I talked last night after you went to bed.”

“So you just asked her?”

“No, she pretty well offered it up.”

“No fooling?”

“No fooling.”

“Wow. I mean I’m happy, but still surprised, you know. She watched me like a hawk. I felt it last night.”

“I know. I’m sorry it made you uncomfortable. It’s just something she does when she meets any of my friends, particularly girlfriends. I think it’s her way of checking you out. I want to say you’ll get used to it, but that’s entirely up to you.”

“No, I understand.”

“Still weirded you out, huh?”

“Yeah, totally. I haven’t been brought over to meet someone’s mom before.”

Bobby placed his fingers under her chin and tilted her head so that she was looking up at him. “How about I show you my appreciation for being so amazing?” he asked, leaning towards her to steal a kiss.

Much to his surprise and disappointment, Jubilee drew back and shook her head. “We can’t,” she whispered, eyeing the door. “Your parents are, like, right down the hall. I don’t know your mom that well, but I think she’s the type to just open the door whenever.”

He looked perplexed, mulling over her words. Amusement crept into his gray eyes, which lit up his boyish face. “My mom isn’t like that,” he assured her. “Anyway, she’s downstairs throwing herself into Thanksgiving dinner. My dad’s probably in La-La Land thanks to the meds he took last night.”

Then he paused for a moment before he drawled, “But there are other things we can do instead.”

Jubilee stared up at him, sapphire eyes sparkling with curiosity at the mysterious tone he used. “Like what?” she asked, lowering her thick, dark lashes coyly. Already, she could feel her knees begin to buckle and her stomach fluttering just from him being so close.

With a Cheshire cat smile, he pulled away and circled behind her. “Stand still,” he commanded in a tone she had never heard before. It was authoritative and strong; not at all like the playful and flirtatious one he used earlier.

She chewed on her lower lip nervous as she waited. If he tickles me, he’s going to get his, she mused, racking her brain for possible routes for retaliation. She felt herself growing impatient, as eons seemed to pass by before Bobby made his move.

Suddenly, the weight of her hair was lifted, cool air caressing her skin. She realized her hands, still holding the sweater, were trembling. Shivers of anticipation raced up and down her back. She was startled when she felt the press of warm flesh against the nape of her neck.

His mouth.

She bit her lower lip to keep from crying out in surprise, in pleasure at the sensation. He kissed his way down the sensitive nape and down the length of her spine. His lips stopped only at the edge of her camisole in the middle of her back.

Then he licked his way back up.

His lips lingered over her shoulder and her graceful neck, planting kisses against the skin. He continued to hold her hair back as he asked gently, “How’s that?”

She exhaled shakily, feeling her hair cascaded down her shoulders and back when he released it. “Bobby...” Sheepishly, she smiled and felt his arms circle her waist once again.

He noticed that unlike that night in his bed, she did not seem frightened. Instead, she was relaxed and only tensed when he kissed the nape of her neck. Her breaths were rapid as he held her against him and he could feel the heat radiating from her skin. “I take it you liked it?”

Silently, she nodded before melting against him. Words seemed to escape her at the moment. The rush of pleasant emotions, centering on Bobby and what he did to her that moment, began to burst forth from inside of her. In addition to her racing heartbeat, she could feel her mouth curl into a wide, smile, and every inch of her was warm. There was no apprehension or self-consciousness regarding her inexperience. No, all of that was replaced with a sense of being wanted, which left her reeling.

Resting his chin against her head, Bobby tightened his around her. “I missed this last night,” he murmured, stroking her hair tenderly. He found himself once again surprised to feel how silky it was under his hands. “I wanted to hold you really badly. Sorry my mom’s kind of old-fashioned.”

She turned to face him, smiling ruefully. “Maybe we can catch up on it when we get back to the mansion.” Her sapphire eyes sparkled, punctuating the hopefulness in her voice.

“I would like that,” he agreed and planted a kiss on her forehead. Then he took a deep breath, staring deeply into those old-soul eyes. “I guess we should head downstairs to help my mom... Listen, if something happens with my dad... I mean I’m hoping that it doesn’t, but if it does then I want you to know that you’ve got me. I’m not going anywhere. You got it?”

She pressed her lips together firmly and nodded. “Got it.”

They wandered downstairs shortly afterwards. Following the complicated aromas that wafted from the kitchen, the young couple immediately sensed that Maddy was in her element as she began to craft a hearty feast. The whizzing noise of the range’s fan added to the growing din from the opening of various cabinets and the refrigerator. Her graceful footsteps across the pine floor were almost muffled by the other sounds.

When they reached the spacious and bright kitchen, they found a bright- eyed, but focused Maddy standing over the island, chopping carrots. She paused in her brisk cutting to greet them. In her soothing, froggy voice, she then informed them that she had some fresh chocolate brioche on the kitchen table if they wanted breakfast. Eagerly, Bobby and Jubilee helped themselves to the delicate pastries.

An amused smile tugged at the corners of Maddy’s glossy lips as she sliced another carrot. “Well, since you two are going to have lots of energy now, I guess you wouldn’t mind helping me with a few things.”

Bobby paused in his chewing and swallowed hard. He turned to Jubilee, who was already nodding her assent. “Nothing around here is free,” he whispered loudly. His brows were raised in a rather conspirator-like way.

“Don’t pay attention to him,” Maddy said wryly to Jubilee, tossing the carrot slices in a white bowl. “I’m not that bad of a slave driver, dear.”

Jubilee grinned, pouring herself a glass of milk from the bottle on the table. “That’s reassuring. What can I do to help you?”

“It’s a little chilly for my liking,” Maddy began, turning her attention to several stalks of celery.

Bobby put on a wide-eyed, innocent look. “Hey, don’t look at me.”

She winked at him and laughed. “I was wondering if you could throw two cherry logs into the fireplace and start a fire? They’re already inside the living room along with the lighter.”

Jubilee finished her milk in one gulp. She walked over to the sink, rinsed it out, and placed it in the near empty dishwasher. “No problem,” she replied cheerfully, beginning to saunter out of the kitchen. “I’m on it.”

Her pace was slow and relaxed towards the living room. She could already feel her stomach filling up from the sweet breakfast. Dropping to her haunches, she effortlessly placed the thick pieces of wood into the fireplace. The aromatic scent of the aged bark filled the air with a fragrant scent.

Then she rose to her feet to grab the long-stemmed lighter from the mantle, but paused to gaze at the framed photographs. Most of them were of Bobby during his younger years. It was amazing to see how little he changed. Sure, the hairstyles and taste in clothing evolved over the years. Particularly intriguing was what appeared to be a picture from high school. Bobby appeared to be sporting a pair of very long sideburns and bouffant bangs. Apparently, in his younger years, he was quite the fan of 90210. It was either that or Vanilla Ice. She found herself smiling fondly, her fingers tracing over his boyish face.

It’s almost disgusting that I’m not laughing hysterically at this photo and that I want to just lie in his arms instead, she mused to herself, shivering slightly. Despite the fact that she was wearing one of her thicker sweaters, she could still feel the cool air. It was then that she was quickly reminded of the task she promised to take care of for Maddy.

Jubilee knelt in front of the hearth with lighter in hand. Her thumb pushed up the switch, which clicked rather loudly. To her surprise, no flame was produced. Confused, she shook the lighter slightly in order to stir the fluid inside. She was disappointed to notice that there was little liquid swishing.

“How’s it going?” Bobby drawled as he wandered to the fireplace, dropping to his knees. He watched her heave a frustrated sigh as she played with the lighter. “What’s wrong?”

She chewed on her lower lip. “The lighter doesn’t work,” she replied. “Do you know if your mom has another one of these or at least a box of matches?”

He shook his head. “I don’t think so. That might be the only thing we have around the house. Some of the convenience stores should be open. Maybe I can stop over to one and pick up another lighter.”

“No, you shouldn’t have to do that,” she said slowly, racking her brain to come up with an alternative. Her crystalline eyes widened when she finally discovered her solution. She was a little peeved with herself for not coming up with it sooner.

Leaning towards the fireplace, she extended the palm of her hand over the logs and summoned a bright spark. Immediately, the beginnings of a flame flickered as a result. She absorbed the spark back into her hand with ease. The young girl was about to beam proudly up at Bobby, but she hesitated when she heard heavy footfalls, which were accompanied by the clanging of something metal against the hardwood floor.

Startled, both she and Bobby whipped around. Standing in the doorway, which connected the foyer to the living room stood a solid-looking man in his mid-fifties. His salt-and-pepper hair was neatly combed back from his pinkish face, freshly scrubbed from a hot shower. He looked as if he was once a great outdoorsman who would have probably enjoyed fishing and hiking in the prime of his life from his broad hands. The maroon cardigan he wore over his pressed slacks and chambray shirt seemed to accentuate his eyes. They were gray, like Bobby’s, but were steelier in quality. As he placed his weight slightly on the aluminum cane he was using, the nostrils of his crooked nose flared. In contrast to the perpetually smiling mouth of Maddy Drake, the man’s lips appeared as if they were constantly drawn in a grim and austere line. While he said nothing, it was abundantly clear that he saw what just happened. The beginnings of a scowl communicated his disapproval.

“Dad,” Bobby managed finally. He rose to his feet and made his way to the stern-faced Bill, followed by his girlfriend. Never one to sweat, he could feel the palm of his hands suddenly damp with anxiety. “It’s good to see you up. Sorry to miss you last night.”

Bill’s chin quivered slightly before he responded. “Did you?” The knuckles of the hand holding onto the handle of the cane were white from his tightening grip.

Perplexed, Bobby frowned at him. “Yeah, I did,” he said slowly, as if trying to decipher his father like a complicated jigsaw puzzle. Perhaps, the elder Drake wasn’t feeling well. “Is everything all right? Do you want me to get Mom?”

“No,” Bill replied curtly, licking his dry, chapped lips. Lately, the air was much drier than usual, which caused his skin to lose its moisture. He hated the idea of wearing lip balm as Maddy often went after him to do. Men simply did not wear such things.

Bobby continued to peer at his father with the same confused expression. He racked his brain to figure out what was eating at the old man, hoping it was not the obvious. Then his gazed flickered over to Jubilee, who was now standing next to him. Suddenly, he straightened. Remembering the common pleasantries in social situations, he turned to his father and said, “Dad, I’d like for you to meet my new girlfriend, Jubilation Lee...Jubilee for short. Jubilee, this is my father William Drake.”

Jubilee extended her hand towards Bill, the same hand that helped to set the fire burning behind them. “It’s nice to meet you,” she drawled politely with her most disarming smile. She only hoped this was enough to mask the nervousness inside.

Bill stared at the proffered hand long and hard. He drew in a deep breath. Then he nodded stiffly. He gingerly turned himself around to make his departure. “I’ll be in my study until dinner,” he told Bobby, but eyeing Jubilee warily. With his cane guiding him, he shuffled down the hall.

In his younger years, Bobby was often quick to lose his temper. When he was upset, everyone knew it. His years at the school, working with Professor Xavier and the other members of the team, aided him in mellowing out. He was less prone to fly off the handle when things did not go his way. Frustration was something to be analyzed and dealt with, not a cause for losing control. Yet, for all that training, he could feel himself reverting to his less mature ways.

“That son of a bitch,” he hissed through gritted teeth, annunciating each word with bitterness. His fists were clenched at his sides. He could feel the ice already forming over. Still scowling, he began to follow his father. “That was totally inappropriate. You shouldn’t have been treated like that. What the hell did he think he was doing? Goddamn him.”

He didn’t make it farther from the doorway when he felt a hand grasp his upper arm firmly. His eyes fell upon Jubilee’s lovely, delicate face, which was clouded with a concerned expression. He shook his head and tried to placate her with a smile. “I’m just going to talk to him.”


“Why not?”

She sighed. “I’m fine,” she told him, sapphire eyes roving over his boyish face. “You can see that I haven’t fallen apart or anything. I’m still with you. Besides, he probably saw me setting the fire. He looked kind of freaked out. Not that I can blame him, really.” She paused and took one of his cold hands, squeezing it. “Just give him time to deal with all of this, okay?”

The study inside the Drake home was more masculine in its décor than the rest of the house. The walls were painted a stark white, which set off the hardwood floor and leather-upholstered, sable chairs and ash-and-veneer pieces with their coffee-bean finish. A mobile with four historic planes, the Spirit of St. Louis, the Winnie Mae, a Fokker and a Spad, circled over the stately desk. Nearby, a replica of a Curtiss Jenny plane was perched on top of the sturdy file cabinet.

Bill leaned back in his desk chair, the plush leather firm against him. He folded his hands together. His gray eyes stared outside the window. With faint fascination, he watched his neighbors greeting various members of their families with warm graciousness. He fought to quell the envious feelings that stirred inside of him as he observed fathers and sons, who possessed a close relationship that was sadly foreign to him.

“Just give him time to deal with all of this, okay?”

He heard the young girl shell out this piece of advice just as he was closing the door. Upon hearing her soft voice echo in his head, he flinched involuntarily. There was a part of him that wanted Bobby to follow him. He did not want time to ‘deal with all of this’. For a moment, Bill braced himself for a confrontation.

But Bobby never came.

Bill rubbed his temples with his fingertips. It was just as well. He wasn’t certain as to how he was about to explain what happened. Looking back on the whole encounter, he was left searching for any semblance of reason. He was simply immobilized.

He had to admit that this one was much prettier than the last one Bobby brought around. Hell, she was beautiful. For starters, she had striking coloring---black hair, creamy skin, and those eyes. They were an amazing shade of blue, like sapphires. Her features were delicate and finely shaped, which immediately evoked comparisons to porcelain dolls his mother used to collect. However, she seemed to exude an aura of strength and determination that went beyond her years.

She had looked so expectant as she held out her small hand to him. It was hard not to notice the hopeful glimmer in her sparkling eyes. When he did not take it, he did not see the anger or indignation mirrored in the eyes of Bobby’s last girlfriend. Instead, this girl was genuinely disappointed and hurt. A quizzical wrinkle furrowed her sable brow as if she were trying to figure out why he was not more receptive to her.

As if she didn’t bloody know.

He saw her.

He saw it all.

After Bill showered and dressed, he decided to make his way downstairs to check on Maddy. While her tradition was creating a large, sumptuous feast, part of his routine was to make sure she wasn’t going overboard. It was their way of sharing a special piece of the holiday. As Bill wandered down the stairs, he could hear his son’s voice. Initially, he was reluctant to speak with Bobby right away given what he overheard the night before. When he neared the bottom of the stairs, his ambivalence was quickly pushed aside. This was his house and the last he checked, he was the one who headed this family.

He remembered walking---no, limping---towards the living room. Bobby was kneeling down in front of the fireplace next to the girl. Bill missed out on what they were talking about, but watched her reach into the fireplace. His eyes nearly popped out of his head as a white, glittering light burst forth from her outstretched hand, creating a brilliant fire.

A myriad of thoughts raced through his head. He was aware that the girl was a mutant, but witnessing her abilities was an entirely different thing altogether. He wondered what the hell she was thinking. He wondered if she was going to lose control and burn his house down. He wondered if there was any way the neighbors could have seen what just transpired. He wondered if there was a group of people who wanted to terrorize mutants, waiting outside to attack them.

Most importantly, he wondered why, for the umpteenth time, his son persisted on being so...different.

His eyes fell upon the Curtiss Jenny model plane. It was the standard fare for Allied pilots during World War I and daredevils thereafter. The reproduction was resplendent in silver; its wings made of star-emblazoned silk canvas and stretched tight over a wooden frame. Bill had taken great care of this model since his older brother, Robert, transferred it to his care many years ago.

Robert. His son’s namesake, his father’s favorite, his older brother whom he could never equal in any measure. Handsome, intelligent, and charming, Robert Drake was the family’s pride and joy. He was the first one to attend college and to realize a life outside of their working-class family. He was going to fight in the last Great War. He was going to come back a hero.

He never did. Instead, he died during one of the smaller battles in Austria. At the time, Bill was very young but he knew that things suddenly changed once his family discovered the tragic news. Without his brother, he would have no one to look up to, no one to take him out to the park to improve his weak pitching arm, no one to compete with for his parents’ time. Suddenly, Bill was the focus of the Drake household. His parents’ attention was now turned onto him.

He hated every minute of it.

Having never resolved his grief, Bill’s strong-willed father saw another opportunity to mold another Robert in Bill. He pushed young Bill into activities Robert had already mastered, such as hockey and football. When Bill did not meet expectations, the elder Drake put it upon himself to motivate his younger son through tough love. His definition of the term tended to emphasize the tough more than the love. It was not uncommon for young Bill to listen to tirades from his father. The criticism often centered around Bill’s inability to be real man that his father could proud of since he couldn’t do this right or that right.

Bill turned away from the model airplane. He wanted to say that he felt pained every time his father attacked him. But that was not the case at all. Instead, he found himself agreeing with him, acting as an accomplice in re-creating a memory of his brother through himself. He shared his father’s disappointments when he was unable to achieve the same milestones Robert did. Many nights, he cursed himself for not meeting those lofty standards set by a young boy buried deep in the ground. Bill ingrained the implicit message that was communicated during these years.

To be normal and accepted was to be safe and most importantly, loved.

As he found his eyelids becoming increasingly heavy, he found himself wondering where he had gone wrong with Bobby. Bill had tried the best he could to emulate his father’s rearing techniques. However, Maddy, a voracious reader of Dr. Spock’s work, would not hear of any of it. It was one of those rare times she firmly stood her ground to him.

He found that his attempts were more covert and involved steering Bobby towards certain things as well as away from other things. He tried to guide the boy in the direction of what he considered normal. In his younger years, his son’s will was a little malleable back then. Yet, he was always questioning Bill as to what was the underlying reason for keeping him away from the black family who just moved around the corner, why eccentric Cousin Frank was no longer welcome in their home, and why he wasn’t allowed to take art lessons at the community center after Mom said yes. However, once Bobby came under the tutelage of that shyster Xavier, Bill found his son a different person to the point where he rejected everything Bill worked so hard to instill in Bobby.

Upon meeting this new girlfriend, she was everything Bill did not want for his son. When she set the fire with her hand, Bill found that he was upset. It was as if she were telling Bobby that it was fine to call attention to yourself. This contradicted what Bill tried to convey to his son all these years: Keep a low profile. Don’t tell people you’re a...mutant. Everything will be just fine if you don’t.

Even worse, was her recklessness in using her powers so easily. If she were more cognizant of the climate in society, then she would have shown more brains than to do what she did. Was she so naïve and stupid not to realize that there were people out there who would be ready to hurt for revealing her true status? By freely throwing a freak show with her as the main attraction, she was placing not only herself at risk, but Bobby as well. Just being seen with someone known as a mutant by the wrong group might put him at the mercy of irrational people.

Touching his nose briefly, Bill knew he could rely on first-hand experience. Unbeknownst to his family, he definitely changed that day. His views of the world shifted in a way that left him reeling even now. Before, he had been embarrassed and ashamed of the idea of being different. Following his violent encounter, fear dominated his outlook. It was fear for his son; fear that Bobby would soon meet an early death and would not have the rich future he deserved.

He opened his eyes again when he felt his shoulder being shaken gently. Maddy stood over him, her expression tender and affectionate as she stroked his hair. He could smell the spices that wafted from her hair and skin as a result of her work in the kitchen.

“Dinner’s ready,” she told him in her comfortingly throaty voice. “I hope you’ve got enough energy to carve the turkey. I don’t know how you wouldn’t with seven hours of sleep.”

Bill looked up at her quizzically. “Seven hours?” he asked, eyebrows knitting themselves together. He sat up quickly and felt the blood rush to his head. “I just stepped here and...”

“And fell sound asleep,” his wife finished for him. She was wearing a sky- blue, mock-turtleneck sweater over her khaki skirt, which set off her golden hair and soft, blue eyes.

He cleared his throat abruptly, which left a raw sensation. “I’m sorry, Maddy.” In his advanced years, Bill was finding himself having to atone for a lot more. Whether or not he actually apologized or not, the feeling of guilt still weighed him down.

She nodded in understanding, as she always did. Their marriage made her Bill’s most loyal supporter in the face of evidence that might have convinced her to turn away. Waving a dismissive hand, she said, “It’s fine, really. I made sure the kids picked up the slack to make up for your absence. The two of them learned how to make my apple pie this afternoon. Of course, Bobby kept trying to sneak some apples...”

He bristled and his face twisted itself into a grimace. Apparently, his wife failed to notice what he did. She talked about Bobby and his new friend so casually, as if it were normal for their son. Why couldn’t she see that this was not the case? Nothing about this came close to being remotely normal or accepted. Their son was going to be even more of an outcast in the world than he was already.

Maddy reached for his cane and handed it to him. She held her arm so that he could steady himself as he struggled to his feet. When he was standing, she drew away from him. “I’ve worked so hard today,” she told him quietly as she made strides towards the door. “Please do your part to help.”

When she left the room, Bill suddenly felt like he was the outcast.

The dining room played a welcoming host to this year’s dinner. The walls were an airy shade of cream with white trim, which contrasted against the ebony stain of the generous-sized dining table, sideboard, and hutch crafted from American ash. The chairs were upholstered in a black-and- cream awning stripe, supported by firm, maple legs. A chandelier with an antiqued-nickel finish and pleated fabric shades bathed the room in a convivial light.

Despite the many dinners Maddy had prepared over the years, she felt as if she had outdone herself this year. There was a 16-pound, roasted turkey with herbs and port gravy that was the focal point of the meal. Accompanying it, was a cornbread dressing with chestnuts, cheddar-bacon biscuits, homemade cranberry sauce, buttery mashed potatoes, and honeyed carrots. Sparkling apple cider and the chardonnay Bobby and Jubilee brought over were the featured beverages. Still waiting in the kitchen was the piece de resistance, apple pie and homemade vanilla ice cream.

The four of them started the dinner by toasting to family and new opportunities, which obviously pained both Bill and Bobby. Neither one of them appeared as if they were going to be sincere in their efforts to celebrate either. However, at Maddy’s insistence, both gray-eyed men obliged. As Bill was carving the mammoth bird, he and the others doled out their unabashed compliments to Maddy and her culinary skills. With good grace and modesty, she accepted the comments. Any semblance of conversation soon faded as they proceeded to delight in the meal. Mouths became full with various samplings of what was served.

After several minutes of consuming, Bill was the first one to break the silence. He felt the warmed gravy slide down his throat as he swallowed. His steely gray eyes flicked over to Jubilee, who was sitting next to Bobby and across from Maddy. “So,” he drawled, spearing a piece of white meat. “Jubilee. What kind of name is that?”

Bobby was about to lift a forkful of cornbread dressing into his mouth. He paused to frown darkly at his father. “Dad...”

Before he could finish whatever he was going to say, Jubilee intervened. “My parents had been trying for a long time to have a child,” she began earnestly. “When I was born, they said they saw it as a cause for celebration. Like a jubilation.” Her cheeks burned with embarrassment as she recounted the explanation her father passed on to her when she was young. Sharing it with other people, it was hard for her to believe how corny it sounded.

Maddy rested her chin in the palm of her hand. She smiled in a way that relayed her understanding of the emotions experienced by the young girl’s parents. It was similar to the way she felt when Bobby was born. “That’s a wonderful story,” she told Jubilee.

Jubilee managed a nervous smile. Her sapphire eyes glanced over at Bill. Unlike his wife, he did not seem to think it was all that nice of a story. He looked rather confused, as if he was still unsure as to why any parent would give their child such a name. His mouth formed an expressionless, grim line, making it harder for her to decipher what exactly he thought of her at the moment.

Before she could mull the situation any further, he fired off another question in his abrupt voice. “How old are you?”

“Eighteen,” she replied a little quickly, taking her knife and buttering her biscuit. She knew already she felt off-balanced when he spoke. Hell, she felt off-balanced around him, period.

His brows were raised. “Eighteen?” With those steely gray eyes, he peered over at his son. Immediately, trite scenarios began to play out in his head regarding how the couple met. “She one of your students?”

Bobby almost spat out his chardonnay. Fortunately, he managed to catch himself and swallowed hard. He was tempted to provide a sardonic reply to the question, not liking where his father was running with this. A warning, but pleading look from his mother stopped him from taking the plunge. “No,” he said slowly through gritted teeth, “she’s not.”

The elder Drake showed no indication of what he thought of his son’s answer. He chose to continue his line of question, instead. Not looking directly at Jubilee as he scooped some cranberry sauce onto his fork, he said, “I assume you’ve graduated from Xavier’s school?”

She nodded. “Yes, Mr. Drake,” she answered, wiping the corners of her mouth with a starched napkin. “I’m actually finishing my first semester at college.”

Maddy poured herself a second glass of chardonnay. “How exciting,” she commented. “What are you studying, dear?”

The young girl dropped the napkin back in her lap, trying not to peer over at Bobby. She could instantly tell that he was beginning to become irritated. With a good-natured smile, she replied, “I’m not exactly sure, but I think I’m leaning towards psychology with maybe a minor in fine arts.”

“That sounds wonderful,” Maddy bubbled, sipping her wine. She turned to her husband, who was chewing furtively. “Bill, doesn’t sound wonderful? It certainly makes you think of your college days.”

Bill stared at the Asian girl with the brilliant eyes and pretty face. Swallowing, he licked his lips of the excess gravy that remained. “Psychology?” he inquired flatly. “That’s the study of getting into people’s heads, right?”

“More or less. I’m sure there are more detailed definitions of the field.” Jubilee ate a piece of turkey, hoping that Bill Drake’s focused attention on her would soon start to wane.

Unfortunately, her internal pleas went unanswered. Bill pressed on relentlessly over his mashed potatoes. “So, that’s not something you can already do, is it? Find out what’s going on in people’s minds?”

Bobby’s fork met the plate with a loud clang. His face was turning a shocking shade of pink as his shoulders heaved. What the hell? Glaring at his father, he felt every part of his body tense. There was no way his mother was going to consider this as something that should be ignored. He briefly turned his gaze to her. The younger Drake noticed his mother staring at her husband in disbelief. She looked as if she wanted to admonish him, but seemed dumbfounded as to what to say exactly.

Just as he was about to take care of the job for his mother, he felt a soft hand on his thigh. Startled, he looked down and discovered it belonged to Jubilee. The simple gesture, her touch seemed to communicate so much at that moment. It reflected her disappointment as to how things were going so far. There was also her empathy regarding the feelings of anger and hurt he was experiencing. Trumping both was her insistence that he not lose his composure and that he allow her to fight her own battle.

Difficult as it was, Bobby relented. He resigned himself to only scowling at his father for the moment. Under the table, he placed his hand over Jubilee’s.

Suddenly, she found herself drawing some solace from his words he offered the night before. They echoed in her mind as if he had just uttered them. “...As long as we’re together, I have to believe that nothing could be ever as bad as we’ve both imagined.”

“No, I can’t do that,” she told him quietly, feeling Bobby squeeze her hand. “What you saw... I mean that’s what I do.” Almost immediately, she saw Bill in the living room again after she had set the fire. The look of abject disapproval was still fresh and vivid in her memory. Now, it seemed very awkward simply talking about it.

Bill helped himself to a second serving of dressing after another lapse into silence. Well, that was one less thing to worry about. There was no reason to be preoccupied about someone snooping around in his brain. It was a complicated place to begin with. Plus, he was still trying to figure this girl out.

In a further effort of this pursuit, he made another inquiry. It was an innocuous one, really. Not even Bobby, who seemed to be searching for an altercation of sorts, would not be able to find something offensive about it. “So, Jubilee,” he began, pouring his gravy over his dressing. “Are you from New York originally.” He tempted to beam triumphantly at his son, his way of saying, “Hah. I’ve shown you.” However, he refrained himself.

“I’m not, actually,” Jubilee said, slightly stunned with the neutral question. She blinked as if it to convince herself that Bill really posed it. “I’m from California.”

“Los Angeles?” That was the only city that came to mind. Having lived on the East coast for most of his life, he did not know much about the West.

She shook her head, finishing her sparkling cider. “No, I’ve lived there, though. I was born and spent my childhood in Beverly Hills.”

He looked pensive as he ate his turkey, which he mixed with his potatoes and dressing. In between bites, he contemplated his words. “Your parents... Are they still in the area?”

Bobby ran his thumb over the inside of her wrist. While he had told his mother about Jubilee’s parents, the subject never came up with his father. From the guilelessness that exuded from Bill’s face, it was apparent that he was genuinely ignorant. Bobby studied his girlfriend’s profile, searching for any reaction.

To her credit, she was calm and collected. She never found herself close to tears when the subject of her parents. Long ago, Jubilee learned to deal with their deaths in terms of facts. Things were simply easier that way. She hurt less. “No, they’re no longer in the area,” she began, but found herself being interrupted by Bill.

“And what do they do?”

“They were cardiologists.”

“Were? Retired, I suppose. And how do they feel about you? About what you...what you can do?”

Jubilee pressed her lips firmly together for a moment. Honestly, it was nothing she truly considered. Even more disturbing was the interrogation- room style technique he had adopted. She was left feeling even more off- balance. “I wouldn’t know,” she said softly, feeling Bobby clasp her hand tightly. “They died when I was thirteen, before I discovered what I can do.”

Bill’s face with its’ crooked nose and steely eyes lost the usual grim expression. His mouth suddenly dried out in spite of the gulp of cider he had just downed. The stares radiating from the eyes of his wife and son seared into his flesh. He could never recall a time when they had looked at him in such a way. It was as if they were embarrassed of and furious with him at the same time. His gaze focused on Jubilee, who did not appear angry. Instead, there was simply an expression of astonishment that clouded her stunning features.

As he searched for some tactful way out of his predicament, he was convinced that this entire situation was very far away from what he thought was normal. At first, he had wanted to blame her for the mess. How was he supposed to know that she was some goddamn orphan? She should have said something as they were talking about her background. As for his question, Bill did not see anything hurtful about it. No, he was going to compare notes regarding how other parents handled their child’s “special abilities”. While these rationalizations would have mollified his doubts and possibly, the ire of his loved ones, he was aware that he would not be able to hide behind such things.

There was a bitter taste in his mouth, which overpowered the succulence of the dinner he had just consumed. It was the bitter taste of the truth. He was not a concerned father anymore. Bill Drake was a bully, and no better than the Neanderthals who beat him to a pulp all those years ago. Even though he had not resorted to violence when dealing with Jubilee, he felt as if his words and his demeanor had done equal justice.

He followed up his faux pas the only way he could. Throwing his napkin on his plate and pulling himself to his feet, he steadied himself with his cane. “I’m not feeling well,” he said flatly as he made his way to the staircase. Adeptly, Bill managed to avoid the stares of the people at the dinner table. He was not sure as to how he would respond if he even peered over at their faces again. Grimly, he decided by doing so it would confirm what had been running through his mind for most of the day.

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