saga/title/fandom: Two of Us chapter 23 (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-Three: Where Is The Love?

For some reason, as the holidays neared, an infectious sense of pressure hung in the air like the scent of pinecones and evergreen trees. Despite the advanced notice of sales and other associated activities, an abundance of procrastinators still flocked to stores in the hopes of finding gifts for loved ones and themselves. The bustle provided by these individuals made those in the business community eager to watch additional profits roll in. The steady rate of snow that fell to the ground, accompanied by icy and swirling winds also assisted in this pursuit as well. Both wintry elements worked together to encourage these procrastinators and other people desiring to soak in the holiday atmosphere to seek shelter in the warmth of the many establishments in town. All the while, seasonal music continued to blare from speakers that lined the streets.

This day, which left less than a week before Christmas, was no exception. The semester at the Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters had wrapped only two days earlier. The mental toll of focusing on academic commitments caused some to forget what time of year it was. As a result, many of the students and instructors scrambled not only to arrange plans for the upcoming holidays, but also to complete some much needed shopping as well. In a gesture of good will (not to mention getting some of their own purchasing out of the way), Kitty, Ororo, and Kurt led a group of students into town’s shopping district.

Meanwhile, Jean, Cook, and the Professor were in the midst of putting in motion the preparations for the annual school party, which was to be held the day after tomorrow. Since the students’ parents were to attend the event, the Professor seemed especially involved in the planning. His intention was to make the atmosphere was to be lighthearted. However, at the same time, he wanted to convey the message that his school was a safe haven for the children.

Given that the party was a school-related activity, most of the instructors were recruited to assist in the effort. Scott, Alex, and Cain were carrying various boxes of decorations from the storage room in the basement to the main floor. Rogue and Gambit had the task of decorating the mansion's many walls, staircases and doorways. They seemed to take great care and delight in hanging the mistletoe. Emma was in the living room, barking orders at Dani, Amara, Xi’an, and Rahne as they struggled to decorate the large, fragrant Frasier fir tree. Warren was seated in the dining room with Roberto, sampling various bottles of wine from the mansion’s cellar to assign to the party’s menu. Meanwhile, Logan, Bishop, and Sam carried in the fresh wreaths and garlands Jean had mail-ordered, as well as groceries Cook requested from town. A not-so-somber Jono was battling with Tabitha over the music selection in one of the rec rooms. The moody Englishman was advocating for a play list of jazz standards while the self-professed wild child argued that more modern versions of holiday tunes was very much needed.

In the midst of all of this, Bobby found himself walking inside the foyer with Hank following close behind. The two friends had been assigned to shoveling duty. While most would bemoan the prospect of clearing various paths to the mansion in the icy air, both men rather enjoyed the task. Hank had been feeling a bout of cabin fever setting as one of the busier instructors. The opportunity to get some fresh air for an extended period of time was welcomed. As for Bobby, he never argued against the chance to roam around in the cold. Plus, pelting Hank with a couple of snowballs were added perks.

Hank was still brushing the flakes of snow from his rear as he and his friend sauntered towards the kitchen. “Made my brown eye blue with that last one,” he noted with a hint of amusement in his twinkling blue eyes. His smile broadened when the scent of Cook’s chocolate mint tumbles, gingersnaps, and sugar cookies reached his nostrils. The hulking man quickened his pace.

“You really think I’m going to let you sneak by me that easily?” Bobby snorted, giving Hank a playful shove against the wall. Like his friend, he shared a notoriously bottomless stomach and fierce penchant for anything Cook produced. With a cheeky wink, he quickly darted past the doorway and slipped inside the warm, glowing kitchen.

Warren had just finished sampling wines. He was rinsing out a series of wine glasses to load into the dishwasher. Dressed in a royal-blue polo sweater over a pink shirt, pressed trousers, and tan penny loafers, he appeared the archetype of refinement. His blue eyes were amused as he watched his friends enter the kitchen. “Whatever it is you two think you’re going to get in here, forget it,” he told them.

“What are you talking about?” Bobby demanded, feeling rather pedestrian next to Warren in his heavily lined, suede car coat, white T-shirt, baby-blue V-neck sweater, and jeans. When it came to style, he and the rest of the men around the mansion accepted the truth they could not compete with Warren’s tastes and unlimited bank account.

The blond Adonis smiled as he turned off the sink and closed the dishwasher door. “Cook’s put almost everything edible under lock and key when she’s not around,” he informed a crestfallen Bobby and Hank. His blue eyes crinkled at the corners as he wiped his hands dry with a nearby dishcloth.

“Are you serious?” Bobby gawked. His cheeks suddenly turned pink when he realized how squeaky his voice just then.

Hank rolled his eyes, pulling off his red ski cap and unzipping his black, quilted down jacket. “It’s Warren,” he whispered loudly, “the man has no idea how to tell a decent joke.”

Warren opened his mouth to protest, but snapped it closed. It was true. His sense of comedic timing was rather lacking. There was no sense in arguing against that fact. Shrugging his shoulders, he said nonchalantly, “It’s true, guys. You’re going to have to either order out or beg Cook when she gets back to whip up something.”

Bobby walked over to the kitchen table and seated himself in a vacant chair, followed by Hank. He peered over at his feline-faced compatriot. “I’m not sure if I’m the one who should do the sweet talking,” he declared glumly, raking a hand through his sandy hair. “Cook caught me sneaking a piece of her fruitcake this morning. I still have the welts on my arm. Do you want to see?”

“That’s all right,” Hank told him, waving his hands quickly as Warren pulled up a chair next to him. “I’ll take your word for it, Bobby. Perhaps I can be more persuasive.” He wagged his furry eyebrows slyly.

Warren grinned, confident that Hank McCoy would be able to formulate a convincing argument tinged with trademark charm. “So, gentlemen,” he began, “it’s the last week here at school with the students... I think after this little party, we’re free.”

“Don’t sound too depressed about not seeing the kids for a while,” Bobby smirked, cupping his chin in the palm of his hand. While teaching came naturally to Xavier’s former students, Warren found himself struggling with his occasional impatience and problems relating to the children. The fact that Warren was an only child was a possible factor. Over the past few months, Bobby watched with pride as his friend improved his skills in the classroom.

Warren shook his blond head and laughed—an act that was occurring with greater frequency much to the relief of those who knew him best. “It’s not that,” he said casually. “I’m just looking forward to spending some time away from the school. For the next two and a half weeks, I’ll be skiing and lounging around my Swiss lodge.”

“We should all be so lucky,” Hank observed, grinning enviously. He folded his hands together and smiled humbly. “Unlike you, milder temperatures are in my future. It’s not necessarily the best thing for someone with my features.”

Bobby gave him a quizzical look. “Where are you going to be?” he inquired. The last time he checked, Hank was not in touch with his Wisconsin family. It was not that the McCoys had turned their respective backs on him. Rather, the decision was rooted in Hank’s desire to keep them safe from possible persecution they might face.

“I’ll be flying to Zaire to meet with some colleagues from Doctors Without Borders,” Hank explained, slipping off his black-rimmed spectacles. “There’s this village that’s desperately in need...”

Warren clapped a broad hand on his friend’s shoulder. “That’s great, Hank,” he commented warmly. An active financial supporter of the organization, he was pleased to know there were genuinely committed doctors providing their services.

If it was possible to see beneath the thick, blue fur that covered Hank’s face, one could instantly tell he was blushing bright pink with embarrassment. A grounded person who preferred to stay out of the limelight, he preferred to avoid accolades when it was possible. He volunteered his time for the people, not for the glory and admiration.

Quickly, he changed the subject in the hopes of throwing the attention on someone else. He turned to Bobby. “So, what are your plans for next week? Another pilgrimage to Long Island for your mom’s plum pudding?” Just talking about the dessert filled with English ale made his mouth water.

Bobby nodded. “Why break with tradition?”

“Is Jubilee going with you?” Warren asked. While he and Bobby never directly discussed how Thanksgiving went, he was able to pick up on the fact that the visit did not go as well as Bobby might have hoped. If Jubilee was not going to accompany him, it was no surprise.

Bobby shook his head, his gray eyes peering down at his folded hands. “No,” he said quietly, “she’s going to be with Logan for the holidays. I guess he has a cabin up in Alberta he’s taking her to.”

He did not bother hiding the disappointment in his voice. Even if he could, he simply did not feel up to it. While the explanation for the couple spending Christmas apart was reasonable, Bobby could not help but feel somewhat slighted. Yes, Logan was the closest thing she had to a father, and the two of them had not seen much of each other because of his mission schedule. The old man should be able to have Jubilee’s time and attention for the holidays.

But Bobby wanted Jubilee for himself.

Not that he was a particularly clingy person, but it was Bobby’s view that he had not seen much of his girlfriend. Both of them were occupied with school. While he spent much of his time in his room grading assignments and exams, she seemed to make a home at the university library. If she was not there, Jubilee was holed up in her room, studying or passed out from lack of sleep or caffeine. The moments he was able to have with her often had been in her bedroom, sleeping in each other’s arms. Any substantive attempts at conversations were left behind.

It would have been easy to chalk up Jubilee’s distant behavior to holiday stress. This was her first year of college, an academic and social experience that was disparate from Xavier’s. If she was feeling the pressure, it was totally understandable. After all, such sentiments were common with young people in her position.

But Bobby knew that accepting such a proposition would be like lying.

Though weary physically and psychologically, Bobby was aware there were outstanding issues still lingering between them. The visit and Jubilee’s strange behavior had yet to be addressed. In addition to her continued dismissive façade, there was also the lack of time they were able to spend together. Neither of these things facilitated much discussion. Since things failed to be resolved, he felt as if he were languishing. It was as if he were not allowed to move forward. Adding to this was his apprehension that the piece of happiness he had longed for was now in trouble.

As her boyfriend, it was up to him to care for her and keep her safe. Perceiving himself as Jubilee’s protector was not some grandiose conclusion Bobby came up with on his own. He found that when she was around, there was a surge of feelings that she could only elicit. Her presence, which filled him with such euphoria, also instilled a sense of strength and intensity he had never known before. It was as if he could immediately to Logan—doing almost everything in his power to keep any harm from coming to Jubilee.

He let her down so badly.

Guilt seemed to be a constant companion to Bobby nowadays. The disastrous nature of the weekend in Long Island plagued him like nothing else. He could see the pain in Jubilee’s eyes every time he closed his eyes at night. Each time he relived that dreadful dinner, he was only reminded of his failure. He should have done more to protect Jubilee from his father. Hell, he should have prevented the entire fiasco by not bringing her home in the first place.

In the end, he viewed himself as culpable as his father. His gray eyes narrowed as this deduction reverberated in his head. As much as it pained him to consider the validity, he knew it would be difficult to counter. With his shoulders slumped, he slowly rose from his seat and began to make his way out of the kitchen. There had to be some way to make things right again.

“What do you think?”

“I don’t know... Are you trying to look forty?”


“I’m sorry. I thought you wanted me to be honest. Can I have a do-over?”

“No, you can’t a have a do-over!”

Paige Guthrie placed her hands over her hips, grimacing. The Kentucky native and Jubilee were in the fitting room area of Halliwells, the major department store in Westchester. In addition to shopping for gifts, the younger Guthrie found herself concerned with selecting a holiday wardrobe. This Christmas, Warren had invited her to fly out to his winter home in Switzerland. The promise of skiing, long nights by a large hearth, and socializing with the cultural elite in Europe should have made her quake with excitement.

Instead, she was filled with a sense of dread. While her accent had been shed after she left home, she felt provincial in so many other ways. Until only recently, she had thought that Versace was a city in Rome. Simply ruminating about what was held in store for her those next two weeks was anxiety provoking. She imagined herself at Warren’s side, listening to his friends go on and on about the stock market, the latest gallery openings, and other various topics that normally failed to pique her interest. Given the intimidating factors involved in this situation, Paige only prayed that she did not embarrass herself too badly, or her new boyfriend for that matter.

Not one to shrink back from a challenge, Paige decided to tackle the elements that she could control. She caught up on the latest business news by watching CNBC between classes. Her cultural knowledge was expanded thanks to some brief tutoring sessions from Hank McCoy. Jean and Ororo lent her copies of their fashion magazines so that she could catch up on the latest styles that season. Kurt, who had spent some time in Switzerland, taught her some key phrases in order to get around.

All of this much-appreciated assistance bolstered her wavering confidence. However, she realized that she needed to make some more tangible alterations. Most notably, her wardrobe was, in her eyes, in desperate need of an update. Paige was aware that she could not get away with her normal attire, which was composed of snug, flared jeans, hooded sweatshirts, and baby T-shirts. Following the conclusion of the semester, the younger Guthrie set out to correct things by conducting a shopping excursion.

Knowing that Jubilee had finished with her finals, she cajoled her best friend into accompanying her. It had been ages since the two of them spent any significant time together. Plus, Jubilee was unflinchingly honest when it came to clothing. As she watched a familiar, impish grin descend over the other girl’s delicate features, Paige began to regret her decision. There was a part of her that wanted to be indignant and hurt. She was trying.

Her pale blue eyes focused on her reflection in the mirror. Under the track lighting of the store, she scrutinized herself in a violet evening gown with a low-cut, halter-top covered in sequins and floor-length skirt. What met her eyes was almost comical. The beginnings of a sheepish smile curled her pink, glossy mouth. Jubilee was right; the dress added twenty years.

When she noticed Jubilee suddenly smirking behind her in the mirror, the younger Guthrie immediately whipped around and pasted a mock stern expression across her features. “This isn’t funny,” she tried to scold, fighting the urge to giggle. She pretended to cough. “Listen, I’m really trying here...”

“Yeah, you’re trying,” Jubilee acknowledged, fiddling with her blue-and-light-green, striped scarf. Her tan pea coat was draped over her chino-clad legs as she nodded vigorously in agreement with her friend. Then she added, “You’re trying to be the cover girl for ‘Trophy Girlfriend Weekly’.”

Paige shook her head, straw-colored hair spilling over her shoulders. “That bad, huh?” she asked, blushing.

Jubilee pushed up the sleeves to her long-sleeved, aqua T-shirt, which she wore over another long-sleeved T-shirt with multi-colored stripes. “Did Warren say anything?”

“No, but I—”

“So then what’s the big deal? Just look at this whole thing as some insanely luxurious vacation a lot of people dream about. Driving yourself crazy over who’s going to notice your non-designer clothes is going to be counterproductive, you know. Warren wouldn’t want that... I mean, at least I hope he wouldn’t.”

“No, he doesn’t. It’s just that I want to make things right. I don’t want him to think he’s made some kind of mistake. Things have just I’m not going to chance anything, Jubes.”

“That’s great and all, but don’t let yourself walk on eggshells because of what he might or might not be thinking.”

Paige bit her lower lip, shaking her head. “You’re right, Jubes,” she finally said and turned away from the mirror to face her friend. It still amazed her as to how insightful the younger girl was. There were so much wisdom and life experiences permeated from that brilliant sapphire gaze. She supposed Jubilee’s early entrance into the adult world had a great deal to do with that.

Then she sighed resignedly and stared down at her hands. “You know you’re really lucky, right?” she asked, disgusted with her uneven nails and torn cuticles. No matter how many times she shed her skin, her new layer never brought well-groomed hands.

Jubilee looked perplexed. “What do you mean?” she countered.

“You don’t have to worry about this kind of stuff,” Paige replied, feeling the price tag attach to the gown scratch at her skin.

“I don’t?” Jubilee tried to hide her continued confusion. What did she know about anything? she wondered.

“No,” Paige went on, “Bobby’s an easy-going guy. The two of you have been really happy together. It seems like there’s none of this anxiety or angst. It’s like you guys can share whatever’s going on in your respective heads and not be afraid. Do you know how blessed you are to have something like that?”

Jubilee could not quite meet her friend’s wistful eyes. She wrung her hands with guilt, as if she had somehow deceived Paige. Not that she had lied to the other girl by telling her that things were well, especially after the visit to the Drake home. In fact, she had disclosed absolutely nothing to anyone, not even Logan. She simply answered inquiries about the weekend by telling people that the entire endeavor was “an adventure”. Hoping to duck any further questions from other people and in particular, Bobby, Jubilee decided to immerse herself in school. It was a valid front. No one would dare to call her out or fault her. Plus, studying allowed her time alone to think about many things.

Deep down, Jubilee was cognizant of the lack of quality of time with Bobby. Half-coherent mumblings between moments of slumber hardly constituted the healthy communication Paige gushed about. If Jubilee were pressed to recall the content of these conversations, she could only guess that they involved asking him to roll over or to give her more blankets. At least, that’s what was she vaguely remembered.

Jubilee was also increasingly aware of Bobby’s desire to air things out in spite of her repeated assurances that all was well. While he was hesitant when approached her, his intentions were clear. He wanted to get to the bottom of whatever it was that seemed to be bothering her. Confronted with his determination, she responded the only way she could—avoiding.

In a way, she felt as if she were cheating Bobby, denying him some sort of peace of mind. Simply thinking about this filled her with tremendous amounts of guilt. At the same time, Jubilee wasn’t quite sure how comfortable she would have been with the alternative. The idea of hashing things out made her stomach somersault inside. She wanted to believe that she had been doing the right thing, avoiding all this talking. There were brief moments during the past few weeks that she came close to doing so. She was not prepared to talk about what happened between her and Bill Drake.

If she were ready, that would mean she could tell him. She could say those three words to him. They were simple but meaningful words that rendered her paralyzed with apprehension.

“I love you.”

It was not that she did not want to tell him. In fact, she did and even often contemplated the prospect. She thought about the moment: where would they be, what were the circumstances, and when. Knowing her lack of romantic graces, she knew that there would be no classical orchestra playing sweet music in the air, nor would they be sitting in some lavish garden. Perhaps they would be at some fast food restaurant, eating greasy burgers and fries with some awful easy music in the background.

As much as she considered the possibility of telling Bobby, Jubilee could not place his reaction. She always drew a blank. As fearful as she was of him turning away from her, she could not quite see it. Such a response would be out of character of the Bobby Drake she had come to know. He had shown a tender, romantic side few knew existed. It was one that continued to make her weak in the knees every time he was around. Surely, spurning her confession would contradict all that he had come to mean to her.

Yet, she was unable to picture him jumping up and down for joy, though she wanted to believe that was what he would do. Bobby had dated many women before her, who probably expressed similar sentiments to him. During the course of his dating career, Bobby had been hurt many times. Would he even believe her? Would he be mentally comparing her to the women who preceded her? Would he automatically take her words as a harbinger of a bad omen as he did in other relationships?

In the end, she decided it was Paige who was the lucky one.

Pulling her coat on, Jubilee cleared her throat. She had to get some air. Mulling was instilling a fear that pushed her close to talking to her friend about her lone burden. “Listen, Hayseed,” she said, invoking a nickname she knew her friend desperately despised. “I’m going to run next door and grab a mocha latte before I pass out.”

The Java Hut was the last coffee establishment in Westchester that had not been converted to a Starbucks. The owner/manager, a stodgy-looking man with multiple facial piercings and green, spiky hair was a staunch opponent of the company. He made a point of informing each customer of the evils the corporation possessed as he took orders at the counter. Many people, including Jubilee, opted to avoid such confrontations by seating themselves at the tables outside of the stand. Taking that approach, they could have their orders taken by less openly political servers.

Jubilee had found a small table tucked right outside of the counter. As she waited for her server to approach her for an order, she took in the atmosphere. Her nostrils were filled with the aroma of coffee beans of various flavors mixed with the sweetness of creams and pastries that were added to some orders. The whirring sound of the coffee grinders was soft background noise, which was countered by the chattering of the staff interacting with customers. In contrast to the stores that surrounded the Java Hut, the music playing was strictly folksy-rock with no signs of any Christmas or holiday music. The owner was heard to make a comment as to how the holidays were invented by corporations to squeeze money from unsuspecting saps.

She drummed her fingertips against the plastic tabletop. Fortunately, Paige was too involved in shopping to notice anything was amiss with her. In a way, this filled Jubilee with dismay. Not that she was fishing for her friend to talk to her, but it seemed to represent a growing rift between them. There was a definitely a noticeable change since Paige started dating Warren. Unlike previous relationships, this one appeared to consume the younger Guthrie, dominating her every waking thought or comment. Slowly, she was becoming a different person; someone Jubilee was finding less and less in common with. Gone was the ambitious and driven girl she knew from their formative years. This person was replaced with an individual who was needy and dependent on someone else’s whims and emotions. Warren seemed like a nice enough person, but there were times when Jubilee questioned whether or not he knew what kind of effect he was having on Paige.

Sighing, she began to engage in one of her favorite hobbies, people watching. For her, it did not matter who they were or what they were doing. The fact that they were simply there in the first place was what mattered to her. While Logan and Scott likened the activity to a form of spying, Jubilee considered it to be something less intrusive than that. It was like her way of informally studying human interaction without writing up any data.

This day found her interested gaze falling upon one of the servers at a nearby table. The girl, who could not be older than sixteen, was clearing up a vacant table of the used cups, saucers, and napkins. The girl’s hair, brassy and unruly, spilled down her round shoulders. She tried to disguise her overweight figure by wearing an all-black uniform. The black seemed to bring out the pink in her face, which was the result of acne and scarring. Her head was bent low and she was breathing rather heavily. It was as if she were terrified of being noticed by anyone, hoping to retreat to a place where she would be less noticed.

The girl seemed oblivious to the fact that she was being watched. Instead, she was absorbed with busing her table as quickly as she could. After gathering the dishes and napkins into a large bin placed on one of the chairs, she began to straighten up the shakers and other condiment containers. When she picked up a sugar dispenser, the cap suddenly popped off. Sparkling, fine white crystals sprayed onto her arms, her shirt, and across the table.

Jubilee frowned with concern as she continued to watch. She immediately felt sympathetic when the girl simply stood there, shocked and despondent. However, she soon found herself distracted when her ears picked up on snickering and guffaws. She turned her head in the direction of the increasingly loud laughter.

Her sapphire eyes narrowed when she located the source. Across from the Java Hut stood a group of four boys. All of them were dressed identically in camel-colored, hooded, toggle coats over navy blazers, blue dress shirts, red-and-navy striped ties, khakis, and loafers. Their clothes and pearly white smiles were indicative of students from St. Albans, a Catholic school for the upper class in Westchester. Jubilee had heard stories about the children who attended the school, most of them not very flattering. According to Amara, who knew several acquaintances from the school, the students and their parents thought they were the crème-de-crème of the town and felt they should be treated as such.

Apparently, Mommy and Daddy aren’t keeping them busy, Jubilee mused, her mouth forming a firm line. While she had come from a prosperous family herself, she never recalled her parents instilling such attitudes. As a result, it confused her to no end as to how people could develop an inflated sense of self-worth because they had money.

“Look at the stupid cow,” one of the boys hooted, pointing at the server. “She doesn’t know if she should clean up or eat it!”

A taller boy with lank, shaggy hair and sunken-in, dark eyes snickered. “Yeah,” he echoed in a squeaky voice, “I bet she’s one of those goddamn muties. She’s gotta be. Look at how fat and ugly she is! God wouldn’t create such a beast!”

Next to him, a blond-haired boy with smattering of freckles and bright green eyes slapped his shoulder. “I bet she’s never had a real date before,” he commented loudly. He whistled at the girl, who was still standing over her table. “Hey, baby! Why don’t you give my friend here a chance? You’re everything he wants...and more!”

“Shut the hell up!” The taller boy snapped, but was still snorting with laughter. Then he called over his shoulder, “Why don’t you do the rest of humanity a favor and kill yourself? You’re just another worthless mutie!”

Jubilee cast her gaze upon the girl, wondering if she was aware of the boys. The girl looked as if she were fighting tears, blinking furiously. Her lower lip was trapped by her crooked, stained teeth. She continued to stare down at the table, appearing unable to move. The caustic, hurtful words the heckling group tossed trapped her in place.

Furious, Jubilee wondered who the hell these boys thought they were, terrorizing an innocent person. Their smirking, sneering faces represented the twisted and ugly countenances she had come to know over the years. While the features were different, the emotions behind these expressions were the same. As one of Xavier’s students, she learned about the fear and hatred behind such behaviors. During her time with the X-Men, she knew enough that something like this was wrong and should not be tolerated any longer. Under Logan’s tutelage, she developed the mental fortitude to deal with the hurtful actions and remarks.

Hopping out of her chair, she marched towards the group. A harsh scowl marred her lovely features. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?” she demanded.

The blond boy’s green eyes widened with surprise, as did those of his friends. Then his expression softened when he noticed how pretty this girl was. Her dazzling looks put the other girls he went to school with to shame. “Why do you care?” he asked coyly, flashing her what he thought to be a flirtatious smile. “She’s just another dumb mutie. No one cares about trash like her.”

“The world would be better off without people like her,” another boy added, his full mouth forming a sneer.

Jubilee crossed her arms over her chest, raising a brow at the smug-faced boy. “And who appointed you losers to judge?”

The group stopped their sniggering, a hush falling over them. It was Jubilee’s turn to smirk. Obviously, they were not used to being spoken to in such a way. It’s about damn time someone did, she thought, unaware of passer byers whispering.

The blond boy suddenly glared at her, his ire overcoming his fascination. “What’s it to you?” he asked crossly.

Jubilee shook her head, dark hair rippling down her graceful shoulders. “I’m not too crazy about a bunch of spoiled little punks ganging up on someone for no reason,” she replied nonchalantly. “It’s like you guys have nothing going on in your pathetic lives than to boost your sorry egos by pulling bullshit like this. That’s okay... I understand. I guess it’s hard day in and day out having Mommy make sure you can do important things, like wiping your own ass.”

The boy with full mouth snorted. “I would only expect to hear something like that from a mutie,” he spat out. Then he added with a scowl, “Or a mutie lover.”

She pursed her lips at him and the rest of the boys. “Think what you want,” she told him, not bothering to answer him. “The fact is, that stunt you pulled was really shitty and if any you were real men, you’d give that girl an apology.”

“Why should we?” the blond boy demanded, leering at her. “Like all muties, that girl is a mistake. It’s in the Bible, you know. Oh, wait... You don’t know. You’re probably one of those damn muties, too.”

Up until that remark, Jubilee thought she was going to be able to shame these boys into doing the right thing. It was becoming quite clear that their contempt for the girl and those they considered different ran too deeply. The frustration that pulsed through her veins was almost too much. “God, please save me from your followers,” she groaned, rolling her eyes.

The taller boy edged closer to her, brushing his shaggy, lank hair out of his sunken-in eyes. “What was that?” he demanded.

She smiled sweetly up at him. “I’m sorry,” she drawled in the most girlish voice she could muster. “I don’t speak moron.”

He leaned towards her, his breath warm and smoky against her forehead. “I wouldn’t be so high on myself if I were you,” he warned. “Pretty little thing like you wouldn’t want to get on our bad side.”

“Oh, that’s where you’re wrong,” she replied, staring him straight in the eye. If he thought getting in her face was going to intimidate her, then was sorely mistaken. Having confronted the likes of Omega Red, this kid was like nothing. “From what I’ve been able to gather about you and your lady friends here, there’s no other place I’d rather be.”

The blond boy stepped from behind his taller friend. “You’re going to regret that decision,” he hissed at her. “We could make someone like you disappear right now and no one would care.”

Sizing up her would-be attackers, she found this assertion highly suspect. None of them looked as if they saw any kind of serious exercise other than making the walk to the yacht club to watch the springtime regatta. “I’d like to see you do that,” she countered, blue eyes flashing. “But you were just stupid enough to threaten me in a public place. If your tactics are this brilliant, then you’ve got me shaking in my boots.”

The taller boy’s sunken-in eyes widened as he peered around him. There did not seem to be anyone closely monitoring things, so he felt less apprehensive. Given his lack of experience of verbally sparring with people outside of high school, he decided to resort to taunting. Pretty or not, she had a mouth on her and that needed to be dealt with.

“So, are you going to use your freak mutie powers on us?” he asked sarcastically, feigning fear as his friends laughed. “Don’t tell me. You can hurl lame insults at people who are better than you.” He joined in, his own laughter resembling a barking of an angry dog.

She shrugged, raising her brows as he towered over her. “If that delusion helps you sleep at night, then go right ahead,” she said flatly, shoving him away from her finally. He was a little close for her liking.

He stared at her, astonished that she dared to touch him. “Who do you think you are, putting your hands on me like that?”

“Oh, please,” she retorted, her crystalline eyes narrowing into razor-thin slits. “That’s the most action you’re going to see... Well, until you get home and when your mommy gives you your nightly sponge bath.”

There was a muffled laugh from one of the other boys, which was quickly silenced from a glowering look from the taller boy. His scowl deepened as he took a step towards her, grasping for her arm. “Let’s see how you like being touched.”

Jubilee ducked out of his reach. For a brief moment, she considered summoning a spark from her hand—just to see what would happen. Granted, it would go against everything the Professor taught her over the years. The discipline she worked so hard to have over her abilities and her less mature ways would disappear for that instance. All of this would be lost so that she could show this brat some manners. Before she could respond, someone intervened. It was the last person she expected to see that day.


Jumping between her and the boys, he wore an expression that communicated calm mixed with playful ease. “What’s going on?” he inquired, gray eyes mirroring his confusion.

Jubilee recovered from her shock to explain. Her apprehension over Bobby and the surrounding issues in their relationship were placed on the backburner. There were other fish to fry. “Dickless and his crew of idiots here—” she began.

The blond boy with the freckles flared his nostrils, not quite believing that someone was talking about him and the rest of friends in such a way. “You little...” Then he stopped himself, taking the time to collect himself. “It seems our friend here misunderstood something we were talking about. She got emotional and started barking at us irrationally. You just walked in on our attempts to straighten things out.”

Bobby flicked his gaze to his girlfriend, who appeared quite indignant and even angrier over the fact that the boy referred to her as a friend. Then he peered over at the boys, who were wearing angelic expressions of innocence. Upon closer inspection, he could see the hint of smirks on each face. More importantly, he was able to recognize them as students from the prestigious school in town. He was mindful of who their parents might be and what kind of power they were likely to wield.

While he was not the savvy politician that Xavier was, he quickly surmised that it was not worth making things worse by joining Jubilee. The school was already under heavy scrutiny since the Professor outed himself to the world. Parents and activists were closely watching the activities of the school thanks to increasing media coverage. Everything that Xavier and his institution represented were part of what was being perceived as a growing threat to society. People were frightened, quick to judge any possible misstep and lash in any way they could.

His boyishly handsome face clouded with concern as he assessed the present situation. As someone who stood on the front lines often torn between defending himself from such individuals and protecting them, what was playing out was becoming all too familiar. The young girl, possibly justified in her verbal assails, had placed herself in quite the predicament. She was alone, facing off against a group of boys who could have easily overpowered her in spite of her abilities and training given how many of them were around. While he wanted to have faith in her, there was a part of him that was fearful for her safety. Who knew what could have happened had he not shown up?

Bobby clenched his jaw. He had let her down before by not being there for her, protecting her. It was not going to happen again. Quickly, he regained his relaxed composure, lines of worry disappearing from his forehead.

“Well, I’m glad you guys settled things,” he began, slipping an arm around Jubilee’s slender shoulders. “People kind of get emotional when the holidays roll around, if you know what I mean.” He raised his sandy brows expectantly at the group.

The blond boy with the freckles and his taller friend exchanged knowing glances before elbowing their other compatriots. To their credit, the group did not snicker outright. However, they did not bother hiding their smirks. The satisfaction of watching the good-looking girl with the caustic tongue being cut down to size was too delicious.

Bobby nodded sharply at them, his own impatience with them threatening to boil over. “Happy holidays then,” he said woodenly. It did not bother him that the words sounded hollow to his own ears. He simply wanted to end this whole thing as fast as he could. Anticipating for any kind of confrontation was the last thing on his mind.

Then he turned on his heel to head towards Halliwells, taking Jubilee with him. As he marched on, he managed to block out the stares of people who happened to witness the encounter. The chortles of laughter from the little hooligans mixed with the holiday music from the speakers that echoed behind them were pushed out of his consciousness. Their leering and taunting expressions, which usually would have been a source of irritation for Bobby, dissipated in intensity. Even his ruminating thoughts about the awkwardness between himself and Jubilee, which dominated his waking moments, were brushed aside.

He had more important things to focus on.

Keeping his Jubilee safe.

When they were several yards away from where the boys were standing, Bobby was surprised to feel Jubilee jerk away from him. As she faced him, he noticed something was amiss. Her radiant face was now flushed pink. Those old-soul blue eyes that often looked upon him with such kindness and understanding were flashing with an undeniable rage. She was breathing heavily now, as if it trying to contain whatever it was that was vexing her at that moment.

Perplexed, he reached for her arm but was quickly rebuffed when she stepped away from him. His gray eyes filled with concerned, eyeing his girlfriend with a great deal of trepidation. “Jubes?”

“What the hell was that?” she asked slowly, the coolness in her tone very apparent.

He shook his head, still confused. “What?” he asked earnestly. His heartbeat began to speed up as it thudded in his ears. She had never spoken to him like that in all the years of friendship. Most of the time, she was playful and flirty with him, but never The change put him off balance, filling him with apprehension and dread. Unfortunately for him, he was in an oh-so-familiar position. However, he was hoping he would not be making a return in this relationship.

It was her turn to shake her head. For Jubilee, it was in disbelief. Though her anger was very apparent, her sense of astonishment seemed to be more overwhelming. “You’re not that dense, so don’t even try it,” she said, edgy. “You know damn well what you did. I mean, how could you humiliate me like that?”

He frowned at her. At first, he continued to find himself thoroughly lost in what seemed to be riddles in her statements. He honestly had no clue. Reading her expression and mulling over her words, he quickly recovered and realized where she was going. His frown deepened in response. Obviously, she did not know how wrong I she /I was.

“Humiliate you?” he countered, taking on a harsh tone of his own. “You’re interpreting my saving you face humiliating you? Come on, Jubes. What are you thinking?”

Crossing her arms over her slim chest, she continued to regard him with a mixture of scorn and shock. “You were trying to save me? I don’t know if you’ve noticed, Bobby, but I’m not some insipid, little damsel in distress type. I can take care of myself. Hell, I’ve been doing it all my life, before I came to Westchester. I don’t need someone to look out for me.”

“Maybe you do,” Bobby snapped, his annoyance more than apparent. Why was she so persistent in being so off? Didn’t she realize what kind of trouble she could have gotten herself into? From her response, it would appear that Jubilee did not. Instead, she was more concerned with taking care of business by herself.

Unconsciously, her small hands balled into tiny fists. “What was that?” Her voice was hoarse even though she had not raised it. It was as if her emotions were making it cumbersome to communicate.

He shook his head with incredulity. “I can’t believe you sometimes,” he told her, annoyed and frustrated. “You think you can run around and pick fights with anyone—”

Her face turned a deeper shade of pink. She could feel her chest tightening with anger. “I didn’t start it,” she protested sharply, scowling. “You know I would never do something like that.” Her stomach twisted inside, creating a wave of nausea that threatened to overwhelm her.

“So, what was it then, Jubes?”

“I... You know what? It’s not important. You’re already determined to harangue me anyway. What good is it going to do, justifying things?”

“I’m not haranguing you... Just tell me what compelled you to act the way you did in the first place.”

“I don’t owe you a goddamn explanation. Not after what you did.”

“After what I did? You know what, that’s OK if you want to keep things to yourself, but you should be thanking me.”

“Are you kidding me? You made me look like some out-of-control, irrational girl who didn’t know her place. I’m supposed to be grateful for that? Forget it.”

“Oh, I beg to differ. I come here to do some last minute shopping and end up having to diffuse some kind of showdown between you and those kids, who happen to be the offspring of some influential people in the community. Do you have to be reminded of the times we’re living in? With the Professor and the school?”

“No, I—”

“God, Jubes, I don’t even want to think about what might have happened if I hadn’t been around to step in.”

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?”

“Didn’t you realize where things were going? There were four of them and only one of you. Despite what you might think, the potential for something bad happening to you was staggering—powers or no powers.”

“Give me some credit, Bobby. You really think I would let things get to that point?”

“That’s what it was starting to look like. Jubes, you have no idea what those guys were capable of. They could have really hurt you.”

“Really, Bobby, do tell. Because I don’t know what it’s like to be hurt or worse. It’s not like I’ve been tortured before. You know, that’s something I’ve never gone through, so go ahead and enlighten me.”

“You can be such a child sometimes. Would it kill you to think about the bigger picture and how your actions affect other people? You should do that instead of being so self-involved.”

Her eyes widened, resembling brilliant blue saucers. For a moment, she did not believe her ears. Bobby had been the first to befriend her when she first arrived at the mansion. He was her partner-in-crime when it came to playing pranks on the other residents, fostering a close friendship. Their motto had been “Us against the world”, the world being the rest of the X-Men. During their friendship and their ensuing romance, never did Bobby give the impression that he believed Jubilee was less capable due to her age or her temperament. He had always treated her like an equal, someone able and ready to care for herself. It was refreshing, especially when her self-appointed protectors (Logan and Scott) tended to be overbearing at times.

But his assertion undercut all of that. The trust and faith he supposedly had in her was apparently some lie. He was like the others. To him, she was helpless and in constant need of his saving. In his eyes, she was a spoiled child to be dealt with. The worst thing of all was his deception, making her think he was different by not acting like another authority figure.

She took a deep and shaky breath. Her sapphire eyes were blank with that sort of emotional catatonia people got when they were upset, but found it nearly impossible to explain to others why. What was in reality seconds, felt like eons, as she struggled to compose herself. So many thoughts and emotions flooded her while she stared at Bobby in utter disbelief.

After a brief lapse into an awkward silence, the young girl managed, “You’re a bastard.”

Bobby winced slightly, her declaration cutting into him painfully. He never thought he would be on the receiving end of such a remark from her. The way she uttered those words was so unsettling, as if she honestly believed them. Her expression, a mixture of fury and sadness, punctuated the sentiment in her statement. It hurt him to see her so upset. What pained him even more was the knowledge that he was responsible for it.

Yet, he was not prepared to concede to her. It was quite obvious that she did not understand where he was coming from. Granted, some of his underlying frustration with her over their lack of communication spilled into his part of the argument. But it was his fear for her safety, over what might have happened that really inspired him. He only wanted to keep her out of harm’s way like he should have done Thanksgiving weekend. Contrary to what Jubilee was thinking, Bobby had no intention of embarrassing her. He was simply determined to do whatever was needed to protect her.

As convinced as he was on the validity of his position, Bobby continued to be troubled by persistent questions that raced through his mind. Why was she so bent on fighting him on this? Couldn’t she see that he was only looking out for her? Why was he suddenly the antagonist here? What happened?

He needed to make her see his side of things. Then she would be able to understand. Extending a hand to touch her arm, he sighed. “Listen, Jubes...”

She shrugged out of his grasp. “Are you going to tell me again how childish I’m being?” she asked warily, backing away from him.

A flash of exasperation flickered in his gray eyes. His lips formed a tight, thin line, which made his boyish face take on a grim look. Crossing his arms over his chest, he could only exhale loudly. For that brief moment, he resembled his father as he stood there in front of her. It was quite chilling how the younger Drake evoked memories of the laconic, surly patriarch.

Finally, Bobby shook his head wearily. “You don’t understand...” he began, a hint of what sounded to like superciliousness creeping into his voice.

Her lower lip trembled while trapped under her white teeth. She could feel her heart drop sharply inside her body. So painful was it that it almost hindered her ability to breathe. Somehow, she managed, facing the person she both loved and hated with a steady, unwavering stare.

“Happy holidays then,” she said, invoking the words he had used earlier with the group of boys. Her tone was equally hollow and empty as Bobby’s had been. However, this belied the stinging tears in her eyes. She had to leave. It was uncertain as to how much longer she could look at him without breaking down.

Quickly, she turned away from him and was swallowed into a crowd of people exiting Halliwells. Bobby was momentarily stunned and reeling from the events that had just transpired. He then began to weave in between people in an attempt to search for his Jubilee. His sense of desperation surged as he frantically shoved other holiday shoppers aside. When he was unable to find her, he realized he had lost her in more ways than one.

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