saga/title/fandom: Two of Us chapter 22 (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-Two: All Mixed Up

The passing of the Thanksgiving holiday paved the way for the onslaught of reminders that Christmas was soon approaching. Late winter saw more snowstorms and chillier temperatures. Blankets of white snow appeared to be a familiar accessory on the ground and on surrounding structures. The marketing campaign was now in overdrive. Potential customers were lured with the promises of incredible sales and bargains never seen before. Television programming now centered on themes related to Christmas, Hanukah, or Kwanzaa. Spicy scents of cinnamon and pine hung in the air, evoking warm memories of seasons past. Holiday music, classical or contemporary versions of well-known songs, seemed to blare from every direction.

Similar changes could be noted in people traversing from place to place in Westchester. The strident pace their steps slowed down. Many stopped to admire various displays of holiday décor. It was not uncommon to observe the eyes of children widen in fascination and excitement during these moments, especially while in toy sections of the department store. Squeals from the young echoed throughout the town as they caught glimpses of men dressed as Santa and his celebrated elves.

Despite his adult status in the world, Bobby Drake was equally charmed by the wonder brought about by this time of the year. There was a levity he always experienced ever since he was a small child. While some men his age were more reserved about Christmas, he was unabashed about his bliss. He found himself enjoying the many delights he associated with the holidays, such as singing carols with the students at the top of his lungs in order to annoy Scott, imbibing copious amounts of Cook’s eggnog, pretending to chase Rogue and Kitty with his mistletoe cap, and helping Hank and Kurt assemble snow forts for harsh winter battles against the older students. The fact that the air was consistently cold was an added bonus as well.

This late afternoon found him in downtown Westchester. Specifically, he was in a gourmet grocery store with Jean, who was perusing goods for the annual holiday party for the students and instructors. Normally, Ororo would have assisted her in the preparations. However, the weather goddess was away from the mansion on mission with Logan and Gambit. Being the chivalrous lad that he was, Bobby volunteered to help. But his motives were not all that altruistic. The young man’s stipulation to the woman he considered his older sister was that he be designated as her official taste-tester.

Standing behind Jean in the cutlery aisle, he sighed. The low rumbling from his empty belly reminded him that she had yet to keep her end of the bargain. He began to wander away from her, towards the confectionary section. Pausing in front of a small pedestal, the young man with the boyish face scooped up a handful of chocolate-dipped nuts and caramel marshmallows. He popped the samples into his mouth greedily. Then he peered over his shoulder, looking for any reprimanding employees before stealing another round of candies.

The sugary-sweet taste in his mouth reminded him of his mother and the treats she would make around this time of year. His usually cheery mouth formed a grim line. It had been two weeks since the excursion to Long Island home of the Drake family. While the rest of the visit was low-keyed and rather uneventful, he felt as if the damage had already been done. He remained upset, but for the sake of his mother and Jubilee, did not confront his father. Instead, he was curt with him, just as the elder Drake had often been with him. He made efforts to lessen the likelihood of engaging in a conversation with his father. Even that had proved to be rather difficult. The strained tension between them was uncomfortable, making him regret his decision not to leave immediately.

Bobby’s gray eyes narrowed bitterly. Clearly, his father was in the wrong. The not so subtle cues Bobby and his mother provided should have made him cognizant of this. As forgiving as Maddy often was, this time, she could not quite bring herself around to be her husband’s steady support. She, too, shared her son’s outrage as to how her husband treated their guest and ruined their gathering. Throughout the remainder of the visit, she slept in the other guestroom. Yet, she kept her sunny façade while she was with him and Jubilee. When faced with attempts on Bobby’s part to discuss the fallout from dinner, she quickly dismissed them and changed the subject in that serene manner she was known for. During these moments, she wore her genteel smile that lit up her beautiful face. Had he not seen the pain in her cornflower blue eyes, Bobby would have bought her act. Sensing his mother’s response to the situation made him all the angrier.

So, Bobby stayed at the house for the remainder of his visit as promised. Not to sound egotistical or arrogant, he was aware that his presence was the only thing salvaging her holiday. Like Jubilee, she was an innocent soul in all of this, but a victim of his father’s indiscriminant behavior nonetheless. The only thing she was guilty of was trying to host a wonderful dinner in her home. It pained him to think that she was hurting inside because of that ungrateful bastard she called a husband.

What really provoked Bobby’s ire was the fact that his father was rather unrepentant over the whole thing. There were no approaches towards the family or Jubilee regarding his behavior. Bill Drake went about his business the day after, acting like his usual surly and laconic self. He even had the audacity to close himself off, spending long hours in his study alone. It was as if he honestly believed that his behavior was not at all inappropriate and was waiting on the rest of the world to see that. For Bobby, it was simply embarrassing that someone in this day and age still clung to outdated ideas like his father did. One often associated such ignorance with individuals who were rather provincial. The fact that Bill seemed to espouse these beliefs so freely was even more mortifying.

At the same time, it was rather baffling. Unlike the caricature of ignorance portrayed by Archie Bunker, Bill was a reasonably intelligent man. He was the first Drake to graduate from college. In his spare time, the elder Drake devoured crossword puzzles from the newspaper and indulged in his tastes for classical music. Prior to the assault that battered his body, he often made trips with Maddy to vineyards in the northern part of the state. For all this refinement, it was strange that such a man held such crude and flawed convictions.

Growing up, Bobby learned to live with his father and these unsound beliefs, as did Maddy. Back then, it was something the family dealt with behind closed doors. Dealing with something in the Drake household meant not directly discussing it. At least, that was what his parents implicitly told him. To Bobby, his father’s hatred for people deemed different was something he increasingly resented. The way he saw it, his father’s strict notions of what was normal was beginning to impinge upon Bobby’s development as a person. As a young boy in elementary school through high school, it kept him from bringing friends over to the house for fear that they might be offended.

After the onset of his abilities, Bobby secretly hoped that his father had altered his belief system. Given that his own son was now considered different, surely Bill would not be able to justify his attitudes and values. Unfortunately, Bobby was quickly proven wrong. His father viewed Bobby’s mutation as a wedge, driving the two of them farther and farther apart. The shame that radiated from Bill’s steely gaze was all too palpable to miss. Yet, Bobby adapted to the situation, brushing it off as another one of his father’s episodes. In the end, Bobby was the only one being hurt here and he was more than capable in defending himself. He simply chose not to for his mother’s peace of mind.

The younger Drake shuddered as he stood in the cookbook aisle of the store, recalling memories of having his parents meet girlfriends or friends who were female before dating Jubilee. Most of these meetings ultimately ended up in disaster. This primarily stemmed from his father’s inability to hide his displeasure of Bobby’s choice in company. Observing his father’s hostile conduct, Bobby could not help but find himself in a state of shock and disbelief. It was one thing for Bill’s ignorance and insensitivity to take stage within the family, but it was another thing to expose unsuspecting, blameless individuals to his father. Bobby’s sense of loyalty to his mother and his rage made him feel impotent. He wanted to act on his own convictions that Bill was erroneous in his beliefs and should be told accordingly. However, his mother’s pleas not to rock the proverbial boat got the better of him.

In spite of his verbal skepticism, there was a small part of Bobby that hoped his father had indeed changed his ways prior to this visit. Given his experience at the hands of those who claimed to share similar beliefs, a change in attitude would have been expected. The logic he used so stubbornly in the face of more compelling arguments for the other side was now shattered. There was no way Bill could defend his position after the hell he had been through. Could he?

In the end, he was saddened to find his father unwavering in his beliefs. He also cursed himself for even having faith in his father. After all this time, Bobby felt he should have known better.

There were many reasons for this yearning, but the most paramount to him was due to the new person in his life. In the past, Bobby did care for his previous girlfriends and genuinely took offense when Bill carried out his vitriolic attacks on them. For some reason, it was different with Jubilee. She elicited feelings from him never experienced before with other women—not even Lorna. It was not only the seemingly nonstop euphoria he felt when he was with her, but the inclination that it was his duty to protect her from anything that might pose harm. Overwhelming sensations of fierce protectiveness surged throughout him when he thought about the potential for any harm coming towards her. He often found himself much more vigilant and on edge about such threats.

His mind drifted, recalling the time she had been attacked by Creed. He was at a loss as to when the last time he felt such concern for someone else’s well being. The experience was rather intense. It was as if he had been assaulted by the other man personally. This concern then turned into feelings of rage. He likened it to what Logan felt during one of his crazed rampages in the Danger Room. Any semblance of rational thought was quickly replaced by a singular commitment to exacting the means necessary to make sure Jubilee was safe and secure, including violence. It was then that he realized how strong his feelings were for her.

Prior to their romantic involvement, he considered himself one of her closest friends. As such, he was privy to the information surrounding her lost childhood. The death of her parents, getting lost in the foster care system, living on the streets, and the losses of her friends culminated to make her familiar with misfortune and heartbreak. Added to this were her own traumatic experiences at the hands of people who seemed to share his father’s stance that all mutants should be eradicated. Most people, understandably, would be forever haunted by these events—even to the point of developing some kind of maladaptive pattern behavior to deal with the pain, such as substance abuse or other forms of self-harm. It was amazing to find her as well adjusted, as she seemed.

Throughout their friendship, Bobby watched Jubilee further hone coping mechanisms to deal with these sad and scarring episodes. However, the quick wit and cheerful smiles she often used did not truly mask her vulnerability. There were times when he could detect glimpses of fragility she fought so hard to hide. During these rare moments, her innocence washed away the street-smart credibility she sometimes flaunted. Being one of the few people who actually witnessed this facet to her personality, Bobby had the feeling that this was the true Jubilee.

Deep down, there was also a part of her that was eager to please other people, ranging from Logan to the Professor. It was these aspects of Jubilee that made Bobby so wary of having his father meet her. In spite of her cheerful and seemingly relaxed attitude, the young girl was entering the situation, hoping to make a good impression on the elder Drake. Granted, she could have defended herself in a more demonstrative manner, but she was in an impossible situation. Immediately, Bobby feared she was setting herself up for failure, especially given his father’s previous responses.

When their meeting did not go smoothly, there was a part of Bobby that felt responsible for the disappointment he saw in her eyes. He was the one who brought her to his home, like a lamb to the slaughter. Furthermore, it was I his /I father who insulted her, made her feel like less than a person. In a way, Bobby believed there was more he could have done to prevent what happened. He was supposed to be looking out for her, and he had failed—miserably. Even now, he could still hear the sadness in her voice from dinner reverberating in his head.

In the days following the dinner incident, he tried to talk with her about what happened. He apologized profusely in order placate the disappointment in her lovely face. While Jubilee was no Opal, he could see his father’s demeanor genuinely affected her. There were no threats to break things off. Instead, she was devastatingly understanding about what happened. She dismissed his attempts at atonement. She told him that there was nothing for Bobby to apologize for. She held him close to her as they slept in the guest room in that embrace he knew was only reserved for him.

All of this only served to exacerbate his guilt and increased his sense of inadequacy.

You should have been safe from him. I should have protected you...

Yet, despite Jubilee’s forgiving front, something had changed. He could pick up on it almost instantly. While subtle, the shift was unnerving nonetheless. He supposed he was anxious due to the fact that he could not place his finger as to what it was, but was able to cite the available evidence at hand.

First, there was an awkward tension that drifted in the room whenever Jubilee and Bill were present at the same time. Not even Maddy’s attempts to dissipate things were effective. The two of them acted as if they were embarrassed to speak with or cast a glance at one another. Under the circumstances, this was understandable. As Bobby observed them, he was wracked with the suspicion that the strain was not from the Thanksgiving dinner conversation.

Second, his tries to get her to talk to him about what happened between her and his father found her uncharacteristically shying away from. Yes, she did dismiss Bobby’s earlier attempts at fervent apologies. However, this was different. Jubilee would immediately change the subject. If he were holding her, she would pull away from his arms and quickly come up with an excuse to leave him. The apparent skittishness on her part was similar to her behavior during when she and Alex had their misunderstanding. There was something she definitely wanted to confide in him, but for some reason, she was holding herself back. He could not help but be somewhat upset by this since he believed that they had made strides in their communication.

Frustrated and confused, Bobby came to the conclusion that these two pieces of information were related in some way. He was at a loss as to where this idea came from, but was convinced that it was not totally unfounded. Unfortunately for him, neither party involved was divulging much.

“Penny candy for your thoughts?” Jean’s soothing voice inquired. She grinned at him, waving crystal-cut candy in the palm of her hand.

Startled, Bobby nearly jumped. Had he been in a more carefree mood, he would have cracked a joke about Jean being able to read them for free. Deciding against that option, he put on a nervous grin. “Depends how good they are,” he commented, eyeing the cellophane-wrapped treats with mock caution. His gray eyes twinkled as he took one from her.

The statuesque redhead gave him a wary smile, noticing something seemed to be amiss with her friend. “Supposedly the best on the East coast,” she replied.

He unwrapped the piece of candy, stuffing the wrapper in his coat pocket and popping the sugary treat into his mouth. The cool flavor of spearmint flooded his mouth immediately. Nodding his approval, he asked, “Stocking stuffers for the kids and teachers?”

“Maybe for the dishes in the front hall,” she replied, fiery ponytail swinging behind her head. A wrinkle creased her ivory forehead as she continued to watch him.

Like the Professor, she was not one to delve into people’s minds unless she was explicitly invited to do so. But there was something about Bobby that did not quite sit right with her. He seemed unusually distracted in spite of the fact that he was about to engage in his second favorite pastime, eating (first being playing pranks). While she wanted to confront him as to what was troubling him, Jean was also aware of her good friend’s use of humor to deflect the focus on himself. If she was going to discover what was vexing him, she knew she would have to approach things rather delicately. He would have to offer the information on his own accord, without any cajoling from her.

Idly, she pulled at the sash of her mahogany suede wrap coat, which made her eyes appear especially green that day. Her brain raced with ideas as to how to initiate the conversation. “So...” she began in a nonchalant tone.

Unfortunately for him, the weekend of Thanksgiving replayed in his mind over and over again. As he peered into the concerned countenance of his friend, he realized that if anyone had any insight, it would be her. Ever since Jubilee arrived at the mansion as a young waif, Jean took it upon herself to act as an adoptive mother. The two of them were close, which was clearly evident in their interactions with one another. Jubilee genuinely respected and admired Jean, and the same could be said for the redhead.

He stared deeply into Jean’s doe-like eyes. Here was the woman he considered the closest thing he had to an older sister. She was the embodiment of wisdom, kindness, and most of all, honesty. Because of these tremendous qualities, it was no surprise that others would seek out her friendship. Despite the time that had passed and the changes experienced since then, their bond remained one source of consistency. As one of her oldest and closest friends, he felt privileged. Yet, it was hard for him to broach certain things with her at times. It was not that he did not trust her, quite the contrary. He could still recall the many conversations they would have about their unique stations in life and how they were dealing with the challenges. While others on the team expressed their doubts about his development, she was one of his most vocal and staunch supporters. When they were on field missions together, the two of them made it a point to watch out for one another in the heat of conflict.

For Bobby, it was something else that went beyond Jean and his friendship with her. The resident light-hearted humorist of the group, he vehemently disliked dealing with situations or feelings that provoked some kind of anxiety. Part of it he attributed to being a person, given that many strive away from unpleasant sensations. The other reason could be traced back to his mother’s example. While he tended to handle things somewhat differently from Maddy (cracking jokes versus baking a pie), the notion involved some sort of repression. By not directly discussing the vexing issue at hand, he believed that he would be able to forget and maybe, return to some semblance of normalcy. Sometimes, the approach worked; sometimes, it did not.

In an unexpected move, Bobby decided to forego his comfort in favor of seeking out the truth. “Did Jubes say anything about Thanksgiving with my parents?” he suddenly inquired, trying his best to avert her green-eyed gaze.

Jean’s copper eyebrows shot up in surprise. Never in all the years she knew Bobby had it proved to be this easy to elicit information from him. But here he was, sharing his mind with her so freely. His gray eyes were searching her face for some sort of sign. It was as if he were desperate for some information.

Suddenly, the picture became clear. Although Jean had been away with Professor Xavier overseeing an operation in Istanbul, she remembered hearing from Hank via email about Bobby taking Jubilee to meet his parents. Like the rest of Bobby’s friends, she was aware of the elder Drake’s views and how they had caused a rift between father and son. She felt an immediate sense of apprehension, fearing that old wounds from the last confrontation would resurface. Given what she knew of Bill Drake through various conversations with Bobby, it was quite apparent that he would not approve of his son’s latest romantic interest, who happened to personify everything he was against. Tried as she did to be optimistic, there was a part of her that knew better.

Her heart also went out to the young girl involved. While she was confident that Jubilee could fend for herself, Jean was uncertain as to how her charge would respond in this kind of scenario. In most situations, the individuals who expressed their prejudice against her were strangers, people who were not connected to her life in any way. Here, it would be easier to walk away or offer a sarcastic remark. Despite the fact that Jubilee had grown up, there were times when she freely indulged her less mature side. However, this was quite different. The persecutor was related to someone she was involved with, complicating things further. She was not in the position to talk back to this individual without feeling the consequences. There were other people to consider now. Suddenly, the world was not about Jubilee and how she would deal with this situation or that with her snap judgment.

Having returned just yesterday from her trip, she had very little opportunity to process the visit. As someone fairly close to her, Jean knew that this was the girl’s first relationship with anyone and this experience was new territory. She wished she had been home to offer her advice and support to the young couple, particularly Jubilee. Originally, she had planned to ask Jubilee to accompany her shopping. Spending the day with the young girl would have presented a perfect opportunity to discuss what happened. The two of them seemed to miss each other around the Summers’ home.

Her green eyes swept over Bobby once again. The usually laid-back young man with the boyish face and twinkling gray eyes was now subdued. His handsome features were arranged in a rather perplexed and concerned expression. He did not have to say anything else, nor did his mind need to be scanned to relay what had happened. His somber presentation spoke volumes.

Jean tossed the remaining candy in a nearby sample bowl. Then she placed her hand on his shoulder. While it was a simple gesture, it conveyed so much—her empathy, compassion, and steadfast support no matter what. “No,” she replied candidly, leaning against an empty wall, “she hasn’t.”

Bobby pressed his lips firmly together, hunching his shoulders slightly. “Oh.” Then he shook his head quickly and waved his hand dismissively. “Forget I asked, Jeannie. It’s not important.”

“Apparently, it is,” she pointed out. Her forehead creased when he pulled away from her touch. She sighed. “Bobby...”

“Jean, it’s OK,” he cut her off, looking rather sheepish. Inwardly, he cursed himself for dredging the subject at all. His first instinct was to brush things off and try to put on his typical front. Allowing her to know that something was bothering him in the first place made him all the more uncomfortable.

The redhead instantly picked up on his shift in behavior. It was a defense mechanism her friend always resorted to when things were less light-hearted and focused upon him. Like the humor he employed, the purpose of this was to deflect the attention from reflecting upon the situation. It pained her to watch Bobby suppress whatever it was he was thinking or feeling. If she wanted to be overly analytical without using her abilities, she would have surmised that his parents and their personalities might have been influences. While it might have been adaptive in that environment, it was clearly affecting him to this day—and not necessarily in the best way. As she watched him struggle, waves of empathy and compassion washed over her. Thoughts of wanting to assist him in alleviating his worries raced through her mind.

But standing there with him in the store, Jean found herself in an unexpected stupor as to what to do or say without pushing him into further isolation. It was surreal to her. Prior to this moment, she considered herself rather adept at figuring out the delicate nuances. After several minutes of silence that descended upon the two of them, she finally cleared her throat.

“She’s crazy about you, you know,” Jean began, smoothing out a tendril of fiery hair. The solitaire diamond from her engagement ring sparkled under the track lighting.

Bobby turned his back to his friend. For some reason, he could not quite look her in the eye. “I know,” he said.

She did not need to delve into his head to know that he was sincere. He was confident in his current relationship with Jubilee. However, she noted something was amiss from the way he sounded.

“Then why the long face?” she asked, trying not to sound too light for fear of coming off as condescending.

He exhaled loudly. His trepidation of disclosing what weighed on his mind was slowly waning. Subtle as Jean was being in her method, he knew she would not relent. “Let’s say that the holidays weren’t so jolly in Long Island,” he told her.

“Oh.” She sounded just as disappointed as he did, but was aware that there was no way she could match in comprehending his sober outlook. “I’m very sorry to hear that.”

“Me, too.”

“Nothing that happened... You know that’s not your fault.”

“You think so?”

“Of course not, Bobby. Why? Don’t you?”

“I’m not as confident about my innocence as you are, Jeannie. Fact is, I’m just as culpable, if not more so.”

“Really? How do you figure?”

“I...I brought her there, knowing what he was going to do.”

“Bobby... You were hoping he had changed. There were some indicators that this hope was not unfounded—”

“Yeah, that was a dumbass move on my part.”


“It doesn’t change anything. I took her there.”

“And that’s all you’ve done. Now, what? You’re going to take responsibility for another person’s actions? That’s what it sounds like to me, Bobby. Both assertions are equally ridiculous. You know that and Jubilee knows that.”

Bobby turned around to face her. “That might be true,” he replied, gray eyes casting a steady gaze on the statuesque redhead in front of him. “But she still got hurt. No matter how you spin it, I can’t help but feel responsible. And, Jubes... She says she not upset with me. I want to believe her, Jeannie. I really do. The thing is, she’s pulling away from me.”

Jean’s green eyes widened in disbelief. That certainly did not sound like Jubilee. The girl she observed was starry-eyed, often wearing a dreamy smile even at the mention of Bobby’s name. “That can’t be right,” she protested. “Maybe she’s stressed out because of school or other things...” She chewed on her lower lip, feeling guilty herself. It was no secret she and Scott were having problems. No doubt Jubilee was conscious of the tension present in their once harmonious home.

“I wish I was wrong about this whole thing,” he told her, eyeing some ribbon candy on one of the shelves. “Ever since we got back, Jubes has been...distant. She tells me things are fine and that nothing has changed. I want to believe her so badly—more than anything in the world. But something has changed and I’m scared because I know I’m to blame.”

Mid-day found Jubilee seeking refuge from the wintry winds that blew across town. She found warm refuge inside the Silver Platter, a 1950s-style diner in the heart of the shopping district. Known for its chrome fixtures, red vinyl-upholstered furniture, energetic vibe, and thick milkshakes, the diner attracted younger crowds than the surrounding establishments. Waitresses in salmon-pink, shirtdress uniforms with white canvas shoes took orders with chipper and bright smiles, adding to the environment. In the background, the jukebox blared classic Elvis.

Normally, Jubilee would be tapping her foot or bobbing her head to the infectious beats of the music. Perhaps she would have ordered the diner’s special peanut butter brownies to go along with her drink. The combination of the stimulating ambiance and the array of sweet treats would have captivated her attention, raising her spirits. While she had grown up, in some ways she continued to hold on to her childhood ways.

However, this day was different. The young girl stirred her straw idly in her Snickers milkshake as she sat in her booth seat. Her sapphire eyes stared out the window with a vacant gaze. Despite the din that enveloped her surroundings, she managed to block it all out. There was only one thing that reverberated in her mind.

“I love him.”

She cringed slightly, shaking her head. The admission was so spontaneous and so candid. On one hand, it was refreshing to actually hear herself make the truth known. Over the past couple of months, she had known nothing but happiness when she was with Bobby. The young man with the boyishly handsome looks and wry sense of humor came to mean a great deal to her. He was the one who lifted her spirits. He was the one who caused the flurry of butterflies in her stomach. He was...her everything.

“I love him.”

Yet, on the other hand, it was frightening. The confession left her feeling vulnerable and very much off-balanced. Confiding in Bobby’s father did not help her sense of anxiety. In retrospect, it was difficult for her to fathom that he was the person she disclosed this information to. Bill had been cold and hostile—the epitome of a curmudgeon. Having any semblance of a conversation with the old man was painful to say the least. His behavior was indicative of the disdain he held for her and her relationship with Bobby.

This was quite clear as they sat on the porch that morning, tension and discomfort hanging thickly in the air. Jubilee fought the urge to walk out on him many times during their conversation. His assertions that he was not a monster were hard to swallow. Bill’s tenacious insistence that his son could never know bliss while he was with her was quite painful. In spite of evidence that pointed to the contrary, he was convinced there was some merit to his argument.

It would have been easier for her to write him off as another racist. In her young life, she had encountered many like him before. Lumping Bill Drake with the rest of them would have been so simple to do. In addition, she could be more detached about the situation. Thoughts like, “It’s his loss that he doesn’t want to get to know me” or “Just another stupid jerk” would have helped her to deal with things. They did before.

However, she found that she could not do any of those things. She knew that Bill sincerely cared about his son and what was in Bobby’s best interests. She certainly could not discount that. To her amazement, it was something they both shared. Granted, there were differences, but the core sentiment was the same.

Despite her conclusion that was reached as they spoke, there was still a palpable unease that existed. Bill was bound and determined to inform Jubilee of his views and how strongly he felt about them. When confronted with such antagonistic circumstances where any hope of an understanding was slim, most individuals would have given up. Those with less patience would have avoided additional headache by walking away. But against her better judgment and rational thought, Jubilee found herself affixed to the spot. For some reason, it was important for him to know that he was wrong.

“I love him.”

As soon as she uttered those words, she soon realized that they did not have her intended effect upon him. Instead of swaying him in any way, she noticed that he was surprised and very uncomfortable. His steely gray eyes bore into her face. The gaze pierced past her flesh and into the depths of her very being. It was as if he were searching for something else in that simple sentence. Apparently, the elder Drake seemed unconvinced of the sentiment presented. He was the one to depart the porch first, speechless and pondering the events that had unfolded early that day. She could still hear the front door closing sharply in her ears days after with a resounding and deafening THWACK!

“I love him.”

Following that encounter, Jubilee mentally admonished herself for her faux pas. To say that it was awkward to face Bill Drake was the understatement of the century. She found simply being in the same room with him rather difficult. All she could think about were her startling admission and the undesired reaction it received. Exacerbating the tension was the fact that Bill was doing his best not to address the situation. He avoided her when it was possible. The elder Drake took things even further by refusing to speak to her or even look her in the eye when he was unable to leave gracefully. By not acknowledging what happened, he appeared as if he were refusing to believe her. Maybe it made it harder for him to cling to his position if he was persuaded.

She was not sure if she was fortunate in this regard.

For her part, she followed his lead and conducted herself in very much the same way. When Bobby and Maddy were nearby, she turned to them for conversation. Her time was spent plastering cheery smiles on her face and engaging in discussions about what a wonderful time of year the holidays were. She fought valiantly to conceal her anxiety during these moments. It was all she could do to keep up this front.

Unfortunately, this task grew more and more difficult in the days that passed since she talked with Bill. She found herself counting the days until she and Bobby could return home to the mansion. Only then could she put the situation and Bill Drake behind her.

Complicating things even further was Bobby. Like the caring and concerned soul that he was, he immediately picked up on her mood. It was eerie as to how easily he could read her. Next to Logan and Jean, Bobby was able to discern her state of mind so readily. She supposed years of friendship and months of dating were responsible for that.

She remembered Bobby’s boyish face, the features arranged in a worried expression. His usually playful voice sounded uncharacteristically tense as he questioned her. It hurt her to see him like that. She was aware that he blamed himself for his father’s behavior in spite of the reassurances provided. Now, he was filled with angst over how she was acting. She knew she was responsible for this concern.

Jubilee tried to dismiss his probes. She lied to him, hating herself all the while. Telling him that nothing was wrong was her way of trying to assuage his troubled mind. She hoped that he would buy it.

He did not.

Instead, Bobby persisted in his queries. He cajoled, almost to the point of begging her to tell him what was going on. His gray eyes lost their mischievous twinkle as they pleaded with her. Being the recipient of his caring but worried attention, she wanted to tell him everything. After the misunderstanding about the clinic visit, the two of them made an implicit agreement to be open with one another no matter what. There would be no fear of scorn or ridicule, but only acceptance. In line with this value in their relationship, she should have disclosed what was going on. But she could not.

Because that would mean doing something she was not ready to do.

For Jubilee, it was one thing to feel the way she did about Bobby. She could have extended the logic to include making the disclosure to another person, not involved in the relationship. Those things were easy to deal with in her mind.

Actually verbalizing it to Bobby was another thing altogether.

“I love him.”

She plucked a piece of fuzz from the green cardigan she wore over her oxford shirt and blue-gray corduroy pants. Simply mulling over the prospect provoked a jittery response. She struggled to keep her hands still, but found that they had a will of their own. When she was at the Drake home with Bobby, the young girl resorted to shoving them deeply into the pockets of her jeans. Had the circumstances been different, she would have been amused with the funny picture she might have made. So what was so daunting about confessing her feelings to Bobby? Jubilee racked her brain furtively. She was at a loss initially. However, after much soul-searching, she was able to discover the elusive answer. By telling Bobby, it would mark the first time she told anyone other than her parents that she loved them.

Even Logan, the man she considered the closest thing she had now to a father, had not heard those words from her. He had shown her such love, caring for her as he would his own child. There were times when she tried to tell him; she wanted to let him know. Yet, there was always something that held her back. The sentence was constantly trapped in her throat, unwilling to be pushed out. Her mouth failed to form the words she wanted to express. This inability to do this simple thing was a constant source of frustration for her.

In the end, it was not an issue for the two of them. Logan, perceptive being that he was, simply knew. The warmth that radiated in his normally cold, stony eyes relayed this knowledge. Using words to communicate her feelings to him would have been futile.

I love you.

For Jubilee, the prospect of saying those simple words to another person had implications of astronomical proportions. After years of being in the mind frame that she was alone in this world, she was coming to the realization that this was not true anymore. No longer would she have to be wary of letting her guard down. Following the death of her parents, the young girl found it rather difficult to truly let other people in. In response to the pain from the loss, she developed a front, which allowed her to keep people at arm’s length. With the exception of Logan, it was rare for others to see past the cheerful smiles and sarcastic comments.

But things had changed.

She was with someone now, someone who was worthy of these new intense feelings.

Upon further reflection, being open with Bobby about her feelings would have meant that the relationship was going to change. The two of them were going to move beyond “just dating” to something more serious. There were hints that both were aware of this shift. Bobby had taken her to meet his parents while she had taken steps to prepare for that moment when she would be ready to consummate their relationship. Yet, neither one of them had moved from implicit to the explicit.

Another source of anxiety was the possible reaction that was in store once she told Bobby. What if he turned in a similar reaction to his father—simply walking away and being completely dumbfounded? Worse yet, what if Bobby did not feel the same way? Immediately, flashbacks of Everett flooded her brain. His soft voice echoed as he told her that he could return the sentiment. Granted, her relationship with Bobby was miles apart from her crush on Everett, but the deep-rooted fear was as strong as ever.

Like other women, she was aware of ‘The Rules’ and how they dictated against such an act. Of course, a woman should not show her hand immediately to the interested party. This piece of advice was drilled into her head not only by casual knowledge of the book, but by other women as well. She remembered overhearing Paige’s anguished cries mixed with Rogue’s repeated moans of “Why did I tell him?” Their negative experiences definitely clouded her decision.

“So, what’s it gonna be, hon?”

Startled, Jubilee blinked as she proceeded to stare up at a middle-aged waitress with frosted, short blond hair and sunken-in green eyes. She chewed a large wad of gum as she tapped her pen against the pad of paper she held in her hand. After serving Jubilee her shake, the waitress had informed her that she would check in on her to see if she wanted anything else.

Finally, Jubilee sighed and shook her head. “Could you come back later?” she asked quietly. “I’m not ready.”

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