saga/title/fandom: Two of Us chapter 25 (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-Five: Out of My Head
Unlike neighboring houses, the Drake family did not put up bright and colorful lights or seasonal lawn ornaments to shepherd in the holidays. No lopsided snowmen or snow forts had been constructed in the front yard. Instead, a simple wreath of juniper berries and spruce pinecones interwoven with bay laurel and silver dollar eucalyptus hung from the front door. The décor, with its minimalism, evoked images of a winter forest scene from times not too long ago.
Yet, the somewhat austere exterior (compared to that of nearby houses) did not imply the family was not partaking in Christmas celebrations. The Long Island residence of the Drake family glowed from within, resembling a luminous flame in the midst of the pristine, winter wonderland that surrounded it. Inside, the home was filled with the scent of pine needles mixed with cedar, cinnamon, and thyme. A compilation album of holiday songs performed by various artists like Dean Martin and Nat King Cole was playing faintly in the background. The music mixed with the crackling sounds of the fire burning in the hearth.
While the family was not religious, they did make an effort to observe the spiritual side of the season. Bill had managed to find his late mother’s nativity scene figurines, which he set up in front of the evergreen tree with uncharacteristic care. During quieter moments, he curled in his favorite chair in the study, reading passages in the Bible that referred to the coming of Christ. At his gruff insistence, he and the family attended Christmas Eve mass, marking the only time in a year they stepped inside of a church. Maddy, having recently discovering her Jewish roots, became immersed in reading the Torah in her spare time. When she had afternoons to herself, she made trips to the local synagogue. She had even introduced elements of Jewish cuisine to the table. Much to her surprise and delight, Bill and Bobby were instant fans of her matzo ball soup.
This year, Bill and Maddy found themselves entertaining a larger crowd than usual. Bobby’s cousins, Mary and Joel, along with Joel’s wife, Grace, had made the pilgrimage to Long Island for Christmas. Their mother, Bill’s sister, was on a cruise that was sailing in the Caribbean in the hopes of meeting other singles. While his sister’s free-spirited antics often irked the conservative Bill, he did not hold them against her children. The two of them were remarkably well adjusted despite having a mother who represented the extreme side of flighty. Joel was tax attorney in Manhattan, who married a fellow attorney at his firm. Mary, with a butterfly tattoo on the inside of her wrist and eyebrow ring, was a second-year doctoral student in economics.
For Maddy, having a full house was a great blessing. As a middle child in a family of six, she often yearned to recreate the boisterousness of the holidays from her childhood. There was also the fact that she loved to entertain and often found it difficult to limit her meals to servings for three people. With three more young people under her roof, she was presented with an opportunity to indulge her nurturing side a bit more. She considered Joel and Mary as her own children given how close they were to Bobby growing up.
Bill also shared his wife’s sense of contentment. However, the rationale behind his feelings was somewhat different. He was more jaded and hardened when it came to the sentimentality of the holidays. Granted, he was pleased to see members of his extended family, saccharine-sweet images of togetherness seemed quite distant in his mind. No, he had other reasons for the relief that washed over him with the arrival of his niece, nephew, and new in-law. With other people around, there would be a convenient buffer between him and his immediate family.
He stood in the doorway that connected the foyer to the living room, which was cast in an amber light from a combination of the fire burning merrily in the hearth and the light fixtures. His gray eyes narrowed at the scene being played out in front of him. Bobby sitting on the chino-upholstered, firmly cushioned sofa with Mary. The younger Drake was animatedly talking with her and Joel and his wife, who were seated in overstuffed armchairs across from them.
As the group talked over their post-dinner coffee and treats, it was clear that Bobby was not concerned about the fact that his father was not included in the conversation despite knowing his father was practically in the room. Maddy, meanwhile, was in the kitchen, clearing dishes from the evening’s feast. Otherwise, Bill concluded, she would have been in the invited in their gathering. Feeling like an outside observer in his own home, he clutched the handle of his aluminum cane tightly. It was as if he were attempting to combat the bitterness that threatened to overwhelm him.
The Drake patriarch smoothed imaginary wrinkles from his plaid, chambray shirt and chinos with his free hand. He had hoped that the act would aid in distracting him from his current familial problems. Perhaps, he could be free of any rumination involving his fractured relationship with his son. Maybe he would be lucky enough to forget the strained tension between himself and Maddy.
Unfortunately, it only served to remind him how truly uncomfortable he was.
In the days that followed the disastrous Thanksgiving weekend, Bill continued to experience reverberations. He had anticipated that all aspects of the visit would be water under the bridge once Bobby and his friend were leaving. It was what occurred following previous encounters. Why should he expect anything different?
Much to his surprise, this was not the case. There was no awkward goodbye that was a staple of every departure from the Drake home. In fact, there had been no goodbye. Instead, Bobby threw him a withering look as he and the girl began their departure. It was one of countless glares his son had given him in the aftermath of dinner. From the scowl that etched across Bobby’s boyish face, it was apparent that the younger Drake wanted to confront his father verbally. Bill assumed that Maddy (and possibly, Jubilee) pleaded for Bobby to demonstrate some self-restraint.
Maddy. Bill’s mouth formed its usual grim line. The unconditional, loving demeanor he always associated with his genteel wife had changed. Her immediate response to his behavior was uncharacteristically cold and distant. However, by the time Bobby and his girlfriend had left, she was more receptive to him. She began speaking to him again. Granted, the topics of conversation were rather superficial, but it marked an entry point towards deliverance for Bill. Within a couple of days after that, she started sleeping in the same bed with him. Never did she ever bring up the subject of Jubilee or how she was treated during her stay with them. It was as if she were struggling to purge all memories of what transpired.
Yet, there was something off about her. The change, while subtle, frightened Bill like nothing else. Usually expressive, she chose to be less open with him in almost every aspect. She began to venture outside of the house for long periods of time—without him. For the first time in their marriage, he felt as if he were desperately trying to hold on to her. Thoughts of her suddenly picking up and leaving him were never too far from his mind.
At the same time, it was rather baffling to him. Bill had treated the other women Bobby had introduced them to with much more contempt. At least with this one, he felt as if he were trying. What was it about this incident that commanded her simmering ire? Why was she so upset this time?
Because, as a good parent, she was empathic to her son’s pain.
And Bill was not.
Or so it seemed.
Bill licked his chapped lips nervously. It was not that he was impervious to his son’s feelings. He was quite aware of Bobby’s contempt for him during Thanksgiving dinner and the days afterward. The younger Drake perceived him as some kind of bully, attacking Jubilee with his arrogant assumptions and ignorance. Her hurt automatically became his, which was reflected in the way he treated Bill. Evidently, Bobby perceived himself and his girlfriend as the parties who were unjustly wronged.
It was this postulation that Bill was some kind of monster who was indiscriminant in his treatment that ate away at him. There was his long-standing history of wanting to protect his son. It pained him to think that his son believed he was out to inflict some kind of suffering upon him. His intentions were quite the opposite. But once again, Bill’s lack of polish in operationalizing things resulted in friction.
Then there was the girl, Jubilee. Part of him wanted to blame her for the tension in his house. Given that the conflict primarily centered on her, it would be easy to do so. Who the hell was she, turning his son against him?
She was someone who shared a common, core truth with him.
She loved Bobby.
It was unnerving to hear her make her confession that cold morning. Her soft, but dignified voice rang clear in his ears. He supposed much of his discomfort stemmed from their initial bad footing with one another. In retrospect, Bill had not given her much incentive for being candid. He had touched upon sources of great sorrow for her, unknowingly. Still, he felt a great sense of guilt. When he saw her in the foyer, he was hoping she would be hostile towards him. In a way, it would have made things easier. His culpability and shame would be lessened. Disliking her would have come more readily to him, as it should have. In spite of everything, she was still different, still dangerous for his son.
To his amazement, she did not retaliate in any way. Though she was ill at ease around him, the young girl was patient and even kind. He recalled as she helped him into his coat and later on, with the front door. She was the one who approached on the porch. Her lovely countenance was thoughtful as she listened to him, as if she were considering his position with great care. Not exactly the behavior from someone who should have held a grudge against him.
Then she told him. She was in love with his son. Bill remembered staring at her. For a moment, he thought she was merely testing him. There were other women who preceded her, attaching themselves to Bobby’s side under the guise of caring for him. In the end, they found some reason to leave him. None of them had even come to close to expressing anything serious when it came to Bobby. Bill had expected the same of this girl. She was young. Her involvement with Bobby would be transient at best.
“I love him. I don’t know what else to say. I just hope that’s good enough for you because it’s the truth.”
Obviously, he was very wrong. The sincerity that was exuded from the depths of those sapphire eyes added to her words. The knowledge of Jubilee’s feelings for Bobby was a complicating factor for Bill to deal with. Faced with her admission, he found it challenging to view her as another girl Bobby was going to parade around. There was now an element of significance not observed with previous girlfriends. This one was declaring some kind of commitment to Bobby by opening herself up. She made herself clear that she wanted nothing more than to make him happy. It was a common goal he discovered he shared with the girl.
It also made it harder for Bill to be dismissive any longer.
He studied his son as he leaned towards Mary, whispering something in her ear as Joel was relaying stories of summer jobs the trio held when they were younger. Bill wondered if Bobby was aware of the conversation. Not that the elder Drake was especially privy to the intricacies of his son’s romantic life, but he assumed that this was the first time anyone had expressed serious intentions. Given Bobby’s reaction to the way he felt his girlfriend had been treated, the feelings were probably reciprocated. The fury that flickered in his son’s usually playful gray eyes was like nothing Bill had seen before. Unlike previous disputes between them, Bobby’s anger did not dissipate with time. Instead, it remained quite fresh and in the forefront of all his dealings with Bill.
The nostrils of his crooked nose flared slightly as he exhaled. There was so much he thought he understood. With a sinking sensation that dropped to the pit of his stomach, he realized that this was not the case at all.
Meanwhile, the younger Drake was chiming in on his first summer employment experience. “I learned a lot,” he piped up, finishing the last of his iced cappuccino. “I mean working as a dance instructor up at this resort in the Adirondacks was an eye-opening experience. I got to put together a production and fell for this rich girl...”
“That wasn’t you,” Joel cut in, rolling up the sleeves to his cream, cable-knit sweater that he wore over a pair of creased khakis and loafers. “That was Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing. Your first job was working at the local Burger King.”
Mary was playing with a lock of her recently dyed tresses, which were now black and provided a striking contrast to her alabaster skin and gray eyes. Turning to her sister-in-law, Grace, she said, “Joel was the manager. He totally hooked Bobby up with the job.”
“Well, that’s something we have in common,” Grace told Bobby. She was a leggy woman of Nordic descent with striking bone structure and light hair. The young woman appeared especially dazzling that night in a periwinkle sweater set and a wool wrap skirt. What she was doing with a pudgy, bald tax attorney with a Type A personality was a great mystery to the rest of the Drake family.
He thought he would enlighten Grace as to what it was like to work for her husband. “Maybe so,” he said, unconvinced. “But I bet you never had to deal with an oppressor like Joel here.”
“Bobby...” Joel began, using the most cautionary tone he could manage. It was a rather difficult feat given the copious amounts of eggnog he consumed. His Aunt Maddy’s homemade recipe was addictive and intoxicating. He could feel his tongue buzzing as he uttered Bobby’s name.
Bobby ignored him and went on without missing a beat. “You’d think Joel would be cool because we’re family, right?” he asked, pausing for a dramatic effect. “But guess what? He was a jerk.”
Grace peered at him quizzically, wrapping an arm around her husband’s husky shoulders. “What do you mean?” she inquired as she raked a manicured hand through her short, platinum blond hair.
“I mean he thought he was the Burger King, if you know what I’m saying.” Bobby raised his brows at Joel, who shook his head in fervent denial. Then he leaned over the coffee table to snatch up a chocolate brioche his mother had set out after dinner.
Mary laughed. “Oh yeah, I remember that summer... Didn’t you stick poor Bobby in driver thru every Friday night?” Her gray eyes twinkled at her older brother.
Grace played with the strand of pearls around her neck. “Joel, did you really?” she asked, feigning great shock. For some reason, the image of her husband as an overbearing supervisor did not strike her as all that surprising. She seemed to recall an incident where she caught him screaming at one of his paralegals, much to her dismay.
“Yes, he did,” Bobby declared, nodding vigorously. “Oh, Grace, it was terrible. He made me wear this ridiculous uniform...”
“We all had to wear that uniform!” Joel’s irritation with the tinkling laughter from his sister and now his wife was beginning to show. A series of wrinkles etched into his fleshy forehead. Granted, there were times when he took advantage of the fact that he was Bobby’s manager at the time. However, he felt as if his cousin was stretching the truth for the benefit of some chuckles. He narrowed his gray eyes at Bobby. It was time to get even.
“Bobby liked taking orders,” he explained, trying his best to sound nonchalant. “Besides, it was the only way he could get dates. In fact, here’s how one of the orders went. I clearly remember it.” He cleared his throat and began to speak in an exaggerated whispery and high-pitched voice. “I’ll have some pickles and chicken tenders... With some sweet sauce all over my body.”
Mary began to screech with laughter as Grace began to double over in her seat. Joel snorted, trying not to smirk at Bobby. To his credit, Bobby did not seem all that embarrassed. On contrary, he appeared quite calm and collected as he continued to wolf down the sweet, chocolaty pastry.
“What can I say?” Bobby mused, licking the corners of his mouth slyly. “The customer wanted it her way.” He grinned when that comment earned a series of disgusted grimaces and laughter from the others.
As he became lost in the sound of the merry laughter, Bobby could not help but note the cliché quality of the situation. Outwardly, he provided his usual comedy relief as the family jokester. It was his role, something he cultivated over the course of many Drake family gatherings. Anything less would attract much unneeded attention. The thought of his mother or Mary coddling him, attempting to cajole him into spill his feelings was almost too much to bear. Discussing his innermost thoughts was not something he was accustomed to. The stirrings of discomfort that pulsed through his entire being associated with the prospect of doing such a thing was overwhelming. Therefore, he worked that much harder to put on façade of normalcy, and of the Bobby they knew and loved.
Yet, the boyishly handsome man was in turmoil. He was consumed by a plethora of charged emotions. First and foremost, there was a sense of gloom and desolation. Both imprinted a deep kind of pain he had never known before. They haunted him at all times, never allowing him a moment’s peace. Try as he might to refrain himself from not allowing his anguish to intrude upon the gatherings with his family, he was hopelessly failing at this task.
Not that he deserved any kind of reprieve.
It was Christmas, a time of togetherness and peace. He normally associated the holiday with an unwavering sense of happiness. There were so many wondrous memories that automatically came to mind: the sound of his mother’s comforting, gravelly voice singing along with her piano playing, the succulent meal she prepared, and most importantly, the promise of presents. He should have been content, relaxed, and at peace.
But he was not.
While he was pleased to see his family to the fold, Bobby longed for some semblance of solitude. These past few days were filled with familial mingling and engaging in the yuletide traditions from Christmases past, such as watching all the cartoon specials with Mary and helping his mother find ornaments for the tree. They provided welcomed distractions from other things that weighed on his mind. He temporarily lost himself in making fun of Joel’s off-key singing of various carols, or stealing sugar cookies from his mother’s kitchen. It was not that he forgot about his troubles. Rather, it was that he was occupied with other things, other people.
His gray eyes clouded over as the familiar feelings of despondency, tinged with guilt, set in. He remembered fielding questions about Jubilee and her absence from the Drake Christmas celebrations. His mouth always dried out, making his words taste bitter and harsh. What made things even more distressing his mother’s continuous gushing about Jubilee to Joel, Grace, and Mary. According to her, Bobby’s new girlfriend was so lovely, so intelligent, and so pleasant. He was hard-pressed to remember the last time he had seen her so enthusiastic. It pained him to consider the possibility that he might have done something to rain on her parade.
Because he had hurt Jubilee.
After she fled from the garage in order to get away from him, he tried to follow her. While he was unsure as to what he was going to say, he knew he had to talk to her. Bobby felt consumed by this need. Consequently, he proceeded to search for her all around the mansion. When he was able to find her, he tried to enlist the assistance of Sam Guthrie since he presumed the Southern gentleman to be the last person to see her. Sam, earnest and solemn as ever, informed Bobby he honestly had no idea where Jubilee was. His pale blue eyes expressed concern as he spoke, revealing his knowledge of how some sort of problem between her and Bobby. It was then that Bobby heard the familiar rumblings. Instinctively, he raced to the garage only to see Logan’s pick-up truck speeding away from the mansion, along the winding road.
While he wanted to lay a great deal of the blame squarely upon his father’s shoulders, Bobby knew better. Bill had nothing to do with the series of confrontations that took place prior to the holidays. His ignorance was not a reason as to how things between the couple were open and stinging, like wounds that were freshly inflicted. The fact that they did not exchange presents could not be traced back to anything Bill might have done. Hell, for the first time in several weeks, the younger Drake was unable to find any fault with his father in this situation. Bobby, in his more cynical moments, mused that this was truly a Christmas miracle.
The day of the annual Christmas party was possibly the worst day in recent memory. The anguish that hung in the air between them as they exchanged another series of heated words made the first argument pale in comparison. That second encounter was filled with much more charged emotions. It left Bobby completely paralyzed with a myriad of things that frightened him. He was quickly reminded of his past missteps in other relationships. Again, he found himself in the role of the romantic klutz in spite of the great care he had taken this time, and the promises he made to himself and to her that he would be a better man for both of them. In the end, none of his good intentions mattered.
When he was alone at night, he often ruminated about what happened during the second argument. He mulled over the details obsessively, unable to find solace given how things had been left very badly between them. Soon, he found himself solely focusing on Jubilee, and in particular, her lovely eyes. His greatest fears were mirrored in them, which were crushed and heartbroken in his recollections. The intriguing and hypnotic depths communicated more than the words she used. They spoke of the monster she perceived him to be at that moment. Her gaze, which was usually filled with such affection, reflected pain he had never seen before and never wanted to again. The apprehension that followed was vast in intensity, stemming from one ultimate concern that was remained.
Losing the one thing he cared for the most in this world.
Maddy sauntered into the hallway from the kitchen, the fragrance of butter, sugar, and other assorted ingredients used in tonight’s meal swirling about her. Despite the work entailed in entertaining a large group, she thought the effort put in was all worth it. Hearing the compliments and seeing the satiated smiles from her loved ones was enough for her. She was in the midst of rubbing some of her favorite lavender-scented cream on her hands, which were dry from the wintry weather and washing the dishes. Her footsteps were light as she ventured towards the living room.
When she reached the doorway, she found her husband hunched by the frame with his hand clutching the handle of his aluminum cane. His craggy features were twisted in a grimace. It was an expression that seemed to be always present on his face these days. Those who did not know him very well could have easily attributed it to residual physical pain. After all, he had suffered a great deal following his attack.
However, Maddy was aware of the truth behind her husband’s sour face. As one of the few people who had the opportunity to see past the detached façade that Bill had cultivated, Maddy was all too aware of what motivated some of the things he did or said. She did not agree with a great deal of it, but she understood where he was coming from. Thirty years of marriage afforded such knowledge. Bill’s Stoic nature made him a stranger to dealing with complex emotional issues. Coupled with his insistence that he be the rock of the family, relating to people was not an easy feat. He was often perceived as reserved and standoffish. On any given day, Bill would have rather tackled something more tangible than someone else’s feelings.
Perhaps it was this aspect of his personality that made it difficult for him to connect with Bobby. It was not that he was a bad father who was abusive or neglectful. On the contrary, Bill was a good father. Granted, he was not one of those fathers who took their sons on special outings or acted as the kindly patriarch filled with great wisdom. But, he always did what he could to make sure Bobby was never left wanting. The elder Drake worked diligently at his job so that Maddy could be a stay-at-home mother. In short, Bill wanted to do what was best for their son.
Given this, it was difficult for Maddy to fault him for his past transgressions over the years. He was looking out for Bobby, like any good father would. Underneath the scolding, harsh glares, and disapproving tones, there was that fundamental truth. Much as she disagreed with his position on many things pertaining to their son, Maddy went along. Deep down, she hoped that Bill was right on whatever he was cautioning Bobby against.
However, her loyal stance soon changed. This past Thanksgiving, Maddy decided she could no longer be complicit with him any longer. There was a new element in the situation. It was something she had not seen in a while, not since her son was a small child. It was something that brought her back to a time that she believed was lost when he became older, saddling adult concerns upon his shoulders.
Pure, unadulterated joy.
Her insides softened at the memory of that first night as she observed him with this new girlfriend. There was so much that made her stand out from the others, but in a positive fashion. Most notable was the young girl’s effect on her son. Bobby was lighter, carefree, and earnest when he was in Jubilee’s company. His gray eyes took on a playful twinkle Maddy missed from his childhood days. It was so refreshing to witness. Much to her dismay, this relaxed state did not last very long.
In spite of what she was cognizant of when it came to Bill, Maddy was upset. It was devastating to watch Bill crush that small bit of hope and contentment in one evening. Part of her knew that he was being guarded for Bobby’s sake. Jubilee was a mutant and consequently, someone who would bring the wrong kind of attention to their son. He had enough as it was. Clearly, as Bill saw it, Bobby did not need more.
Meanwhile, another part of her was aware that there was a bit of Bill’s fear attached to some aspects of his behavior. As long as she had known him, he always had this irrational phobia of what he did not know. Things that were vague and uncertain were usually avoided. Jubilee, as the new girl in Bobby’s life, was a living, breathing embodiment of these reservations. Her status in this world probably kept him off balance. Throughout the weekend, Maddy could almost see her husband studying the girl, unable as to what to make of her and her intentions toward their son.
These past few weeks were trying for Maddy. She missed being close to Bill. There were many times she felt guilty for distancing herself from him. It hurt to be isolated from one’s soul mate, especially when he was in the same house. Over the years, she was possibly the only person who truly understood him. The ability to see past the various booby traps to keep others at arm’s length was no match for her tenacity and devotion. Now, he seemed to be alone in the world.
Yet, she fought her urges to break her resolve. In her mind, that would be letting him off too easy, and she was not about to do that. This time, he had gone too far. The hurt in their child’s eyes spoke volumes. No, if she were going to welcome him back, Bill would need to atone for what he had done. He would have to come to the realization that his beliefs were straining his relationship with Bobby.
But he would need some help in getting to that stage.
She stood next to him, pulling the turtleneck part of her brown, cable-knit sweater over her chin. Her blue eyes stared into the living room. She watched as Mary inquire if anyone needed a refill of coffee, while Joel and his wife were helping themselves to some additional desserts from the pastry tray. Bobby sat back, smiling absently but appearing like a lost little boy.
“He’s unhappy,” she mused casually, making sure Bill was the sole person who could hear her. With a steady hand, she brushed an errant lock of blond-silvery hair from her cheek.
Bill nearly jumped at the sound of her throaty voice, her scent of lavender, and the warmth that always emanated from her. It felt like ages since the last time she had been this near. He began to fear that he was losing her. For him, this was a prospect that shook him to his core. Imagining any part of his life without her was unthinkable. However, in trademark Bill Drake fashion, he restrained his expression of his surprise and happiness. The waters had to be tested first.
“How do you know?” he inquired, stealing a quick glance at her. She was so lovely that night—her hair flowed around her face like a golden-silvery halo and her blue eyes were ever so kind in that genteel face. Looking at her now, he felt so at home.
Maddy stopped playing with her collar and crossed her arms over her chest. “He has that expression on his face,” she informed Bill, her voice husky. “You know, preoccupation fused with something else.”
Bill was incredulous. “You can tell by just looking at him from the doorway?”
“I am his mother, after all.” Maddy’s mouth formed a wry smile.
Her husband sighed wearily, gripping the handle of his aluminum cane with disdain. “Maybe you’re also a better parent then.” His voice, while quiet was also bitter.
“Talk to him.”
“He doesn’t want me to.”
“Yes, really. He’s made that all too clear since... It wouldn’t be a good idea, Maddy.”
“You know this for a fact?”
“Sure. The boy’s dropped all kinds of signs, letting me know that he wants nothing to do with me while he’s here. Let’s face it, Maddy. Bobby’s only here for you.”
“That’s a great deal of information you’ve gathered on your own. Given that the two of you have tried to avoid one another since he came home, it’s awfully shocking to me.”
“Bill, please. Has it ever occurred to you that he might want to air things out?”
“Air what out? I’m already aware of what he thinks of me. According to him, I’m the worst person in the world. He’s ashamed that we’re related in the first place. Before you tell me otherwise, I can tell. He implies it every time he looks at me, in his words...” Bill grimaced again.
Maddy watched as Joel raced to the kitchen to gather some napkins for Grace, who had chocolate smeared across her mouth. “Even if you were right,” she began thoughtfully, “don’t you think he has reasonable grounds to be upset?”
Bill shrugged his slightly crooked shoulders. He was silent for several seconds, mulling his wife’s question. The elder Drake wanted to pretend that he was not affected by what she was saying. As much as he wanted to defend himself by utilizing the argument of looking out for Bobby’s interests, he had the suspicion that it would not work this time around. Astonishingly, he did not need his wife to enlighten him. Deep down inside, there was something that recognized this fact.
Before he could respond, Maddy continued speaking softly in her throaty voice. “He tries so hard to show people that he’s happy and that he’s normal because that’s what he’s been told he should do; not only by you, but by me as well. We were selfish, Bill. We asked him to do that so that we could have our peace of mind. It made it easier to sleep at night, knowing that our child was fine.”
“It’s not like that anymore,” Bill protested, licking his chapped lips nervously. He was beginning to believe he was not going to like where Maddy was going with this discussion.
She raised her brows skeptically as she observed Bobby offer his shirttail to Grace as a napkin. “Maybe not completely. Like most children, our son has gotten to be more assertive as he’s gotten older, and I’ve learned to give him his space.”
The Drake patriarch sucked in his breath. He felt as if he were being backed into a corner. Hunching his shoulders in a defensive stance, he asked, “So does that make me in arrears?”
Maddy finally turned to him. Her eyes were earnest and empathic as she peered into his grim features. It never ceased to amaze him as to how such a look could combine compassion with steadfast determination. Then again, she was always remarkable that way.
“For the first time, our son was genuinely happy,” she whispered. “There was no pretending for us this time. All I know is that he’s not anymore, and it’s breaking my heart because there’s nothing I can do.”
Later that night, Bobby found himself sitting alone in the family room. Clad in his favorite navy, T-shirt from the Salty Dog Tavern and plaid, flannel pajama pants, he relished the silence that enveloped him. The bustling and din that dominated the past few days began to fade from memory. He had forgotten how clearly he could think when it was quiet.
Everyone else had retired for the evening hours ago, catching up on some well-deserved rest that eluded them while preparing for the holidays. His mother, who had been up early both Christmas Eve and Christmas day, looked weary but ecstatic as she ascended the stairs. It was a rare, but precious thing for her to entertain this many people. Joel and his wife were planning on flying out to Munich to visit her family for Boxing Day. Meanwhile, Mary was simply grateful for a chance to avoid thinking about graduate work for the next week and a half. As for his father, Bobby assumed the elder Drake had drifted off to sleep thanks to his cocktail of painkillers.
He sat back in the recliner, running his hands over its’ wide, arched arms. The thick, leather-clad cushions cradled his body. Normally, he was comfortable in this room. There was a relaxed quality to the décor in this space, which reflected his mother’s laid-back perspective. The red oak furnishings with their hand-applied finishes were characterized by strong lines and meticulous craftsmanship, but were gently worn by time and use.
For Bobby, there were good memories from his younger days that were forever encased in these golden walls and the hardwood floor. This was especially true of previous Christmases. As much as he bemoaned his parents’ less spectacular qualities, he had to admit they ensured he had everything he could ever want then. He was never left wishing he received something else, with the exception of the gifts from his Aunt Kathy, who seemed to be under the impression that he was twelve years old from the packages of white briefs she always gave him. All that he could possibly desire could be located in his yearly booty.
He remembered tearing into the colorful, festive wrapping paper covering his gifts in a mechanical fashion. Half-heartedly listening to the exchanges of thank-yous and other assorted comments, Bobby’s mind was elsewhere. The young man with the boyish features and the sandy hair desperately wanted something that was not present in the piles of present he received. He was thinking about hypnotic sapphire blue eyes, hair and skin that smelled of bubblegum and cinnamon, and lingering kisses that tasted like sugar on his lips. Brief flashes of holding his beautiful angel in his arms flooded every fiber of his being. At times, he swore he could feel her next to him.
There were times when he contemplated calling Jean and asking her if she had any contact information for Logan in Canada. Bobby was unsure as to what he would say. He was doubtful he would be able to formulate anything eloquent. Just hearing Jubilee’s voice, though far away, would be soothing to his frayed nerves. He craved that reassurance and unconditional acceptance that seemed to radiate from her.
It was as if he were truly at home when he was with her.
Yet, in the end, he suppressed the urge to phone the Summers’ home. Bobby cursed his inability to act. It was similar to when he was sorting out his feelings for the young girl. There was the fear component that manifested itself in his impotence. But in this situation, he felt he had more at stake.
“What are you doing up at this hour?”
Startled, Bobby turned his head in the direction of the doorway, which connected the dining room to the family room. The gleam from his father’s aluminum cane identified the elder Drake. In the glow of the art nouveau-inspired light fixtures, his father looked haggard. His sharp gray eyes were lined with fatigue. Pulling his red plaid robe closely to him with his free hand, Bill slowly made his way inside the room. Clearly, he was doing so with great effort. The breaths he was taking were quick and raspy as he ventured closer.
Bobby turned his eyes away quickly. “Couldn’t sleep,” he replied brusquely. He glanced at the clock on top of the nearby bookcase. What are the odds that he would be up, too? He jumped to his feet and proceeded to make his way out of the room. His father was the last person he wanted to see tonight. There was no way he was about to force himself to be civil.
With a surge of uncharacteristic energy, Bill guided himself in front of Bobby so that he blocked his son’s path. “Wait...”
“I don’t think so,” Bobby told him curtly. He could feel his teeth grinding together already. Frustrated, he raked a cold hand through his sandy hair and shook his head. There was so much bottled up inside from Thanksgiving. While he wanted to verbalize it all, he held back. He had promised his mother to keep the peace. After letting down Jubilee, there was no way he was going to disappoint his mother. He did not need to have that weighing on his conscience as well.
Bill grasped the handle of his cane tightly to the point where his knuckles turned white. He could tell Bobby was determined to leave. His son’s playful eyes were brimming with unspoken resentment, which he was struggling to keep contained. It appeared to be quite difficult for the younger Drake to be in the room with him any longer.
However, Bill was not prepared for his son to depart.
Before Bobby could take another step, he blurted out, “She said she loves you.” For a moment, he wondered if he really said what he said.
Bobby spun around, his gray eyes widening in disbelief. He was not quite he heard his father right. “She said what?” he asked nervously.
Bill looked embarrassed. He was reluctant to repeat himself. However, the look of astonishment mixed with desperation in his only child’s eyes made him reconsider. It brought him back to when Bobby was a little boy and would stumble and skin his knees, seeking reassurance that he would be fine.
The Drake patriarch exhaled loudly, allowing his steely eyes to soak the floor for some time. Evidently, he was very wrong in inferring that Bobby was aware of the girl’s feelings. “The girl... Jubilee said she loved you,” he finally said, eyeing his son warily.
“When?” Bobby’s bewilderment was increasing with each passing second.
Bill’s mouth formed a firm, impassive line in an attempt to hide his ambivalence about disclosing this information. Emotions, particularly that of other people, was not an area he was well versed in. “That weekend you came to visit,” he replied quietly, “the morning after... She just told me.”
Bobby refrained from gaping and gawking at this piece of news. He was still reeling from all of it. “She did?” was all he could manage at the moment.
“She sounded like she meant it, too.” Bill winced, inwardly scolding himself for his lack of forethought. He was feeling entirely out of his element from the way this conversation was going.
For his part, Bobby continued to experience an overwhelming sense of shock. Never mind the fact that Jubilee decided to confide in an unlikely candidate as his father, but it was the nature of her feelings and the adjective she used to describe them. Love. It was a powerful word with connotations that pointed to intense emotions. He usually associated it with familial relationships. He loved his parents. He loved his extended family.
As far as his long-term romances were concerned, the word love really never entered the picture. It was not that he did not care about these women. Simply put, these relationships never evoked such intense feelings, just attachment. But with Jubilee, things were different... Things felt different, in a way that never truly affected him before. With her, it was more than the attachment. It was...
And what did Bobby do? He attacked her. He questioned her feelings.
“If you really cared about me, you would understand...”
Hearing his voice echo in his head, the young man winced. “Jubes was right,” he sighed glumly, raking a hand through his sandy hair. “I am a bastard.”
Bill frowned at his son. “What do you mean?” he demanded.
“I...” the younger Drake paused, clearing his throat awkwardly. He averted his father’s curious stare and shook his head. “You wouldn’t understand.”
Steely gray eyes studied him in response. Instead of impatience or scorn, they were filled with curiosity. “What won’t I understand?” Bill asked slowly.
The younger Drake shook his head, as if to dismiss the question. “Dad, it’s not... It’s complicated. Besides, I know you’re not comfortable talking about this aspect of my life. Also, it’s no secret how you feel about Jubes. Why don’t we just drop it, OK?”
“Because that would make you feel better.”
“I’m talking about you. You’re the one who’s clearly uncomfortable here. Listen, I’m just doing you a favor. Just take this free pass and go back to your nice bed.”
“Is that what you think of me?”
“Oh come on, Dad. You’re only interested in me if I do something to embarrass you and Mom. Then I get your attention when you pick me apart.”
“If it’s not my place at the Institute or what I am, it’s the women I date. Since none of them have met your lofty and intangible standards as to what’s right, then I guess I’m constantly in the hot seat. Well, do you know what? I’m tired of trying to figure out what you think is appropriate for the family and me.”
“So, what are you saying, Bobby? Are you saying that you’re serious about this girl?”
“What do you care?”
“I... If you knew what I’ve done to build for you...”
“What you’ve built for me? If you’re talking about deconstructing any shred of happiness I manage to attain, then you’ve done a bang-up job, Dad.”
Bill flinched, stung from what Bobby said. His body was almost wracked with the shock he was experiencing. He was aware of the resentment his son carried from previous disagreements over the years. Still, he never dreamed that Bobby perceived him to be such a monster. It was an impression he did not strive for. As a father, he was supposed to be seen as a protector, a guardian of knowledge and good things, and a man to look up to. Not the dark character Bobby was referring to in his tirade.
Finally, he spoke up. “It’s not like that,” he said candidly, licking his chapped lips. “I’m not saying I’m a perfect father, but I tried to do right by you. In this world, you’re all your mother and I have, and I’ll be damned if I’m not going to ensure you and this family were going to be safe. Everything I did served that purpose. This might not have crossed your mind over the years or even now, but it’s the truth.”
He sighed and turned his face away, his crooked profile illuminated by the light from the lamps in the room. “I won’t waste time, arguing that everything I’ve done was executed perfectly. I’ll admit that there have been some missteps. I just didn’t know what else to do. All I know is that I love you and your mother, and I would do anything to keep you two protected—even if it means both of you despising me for my actions. At least, I’ll know I’ve given my all in ensuring the safety of my family.”
Bobby blinked, aghast with the speech his usually laconic father gave just now. This was the first time he had ever heard his father rationalize his behavior. It was a great deal of information to process. Not that he entirely agreed with what was said, but it certainly shed some light as to what was going on in the elder Drake’s head. Apparently, his father was not the irrational ogre he thought he was. The man was more complex than he first suspected. There were layers to his motives.
He also realized they now shared something in common.
Bobby was so lost in his analysis of the situation that he did not hear the shuffling of slippered feet across the hardwood floor. His gray eyes caught his father guiding himself out of the room, using his hated cane. Bobby realized that he was not ready to stop talking with his father. The younger Drake racked his brain to devise a way to stop him from leaving.
“I love her, Dad,” he admitted finally, his voice cracking. He could feel his heart racing wildly in his chest. It was a frightening and exhilarating confession to make. “I love her. She’s the best thing that’s happened to me in a long time.”
Bill turned around, his lips forming a grim line. He inhaled sharply and stole a glance at his son. “I figured as much,” he sighed. Then he gripped his cane tightly to steady his gait. He could already feel the throbbing in his leg coming on. “So, this means things are pretty serious.”
“Yeah,” Bobby replied, still disoriented from the events that transpired. He still could not believe he was talking to his father like this. “I guess they are. I mean I hope they still are.” His gray eyes were suddenly somber at the thought of his current dilemma with Jubilee.
Bill’s brows knitted themselves together. “What does that mean?”
Bobby held out his arm for his father to use as extra support in addition to his cane. When the Drake patriarch accepted, he answered, “We had a fight.”
“A big one?” Bill inquired, holding onto Bobby’s arm firmly. He was taken aback when he felt the cool skin underneath his hand.
Bobby grimaced, nodding wordlessly. He was not completely comfortable spilling the gory details. Informing him that it happened in the first place was hard enough. Almost immediately, he wanted to take it back.
“That’s why you’ve been sulking?” His father inquired, the lines around his steely gray eyes softening slightly.
The younger Drake looked indignant. “I don’t sulk, Dad.”
“Of course not,” Bill said quickly, bemused by his son’s facial expression. For a moment, Bobby looked like he was a little boy again, petulant and insistent that he could do things a certain way. It was hard for Bill not to melt just a bit inside, something he was not accustomed to doing. He left that kind of thing to Maddy.
Bobby sighed, feeling his father’s grasp on his arm tighten. Concerned, he turned to him and asked, “Do you need to sit down?”
The elder Drake shook his head. “No,” he replied, the nostrils of his crooked nose flaring slightly as he inhaled. “I’m fine.”
“Good.” Bobby pressed his lips together, forming a firm line with his mouth. Then he cleared his throat and said, “I’m fine, too, Dad. You... You don’t have to worry about me anymore. I know you think my life is kind of crazy and maybe it is, but I can take care of myself now. I know what’s in my best interests. As for Jubes, she’s good for me. She makes my life better, not worse. I... I just needed for you to hear that.”
Bill narrowed his steely, gray eyes. After a few minutes of silence, he tugged on his son’s arm and mustered his most authoritative voice. “Take me to the attic,” he commanded.
Bobby raised a brow at him, confused. “Why?”
“I have something to show you.”
“What is it?”
“Never mind your questions. Just come with me.”
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