saga/title/fandom: Two of Us chapter 27 (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-Seven: We Belong

There always seemed to be a strange lull that was associated with the second week of January. It was the period following Christmas, Hanukah, and New Year’s. The frenzied activity that had come to be characteristic of the past few weeks was now replaced with a sense of tranquility. In spite of the snow and ice that continued to cover the ground and drape the branches of still-barren trees and shrubbery, there were signs that were consistent with this lull. Retail shops were now in the process of taking down seasonal décor meant to be conducive to holiday shopping, while ushering in new sales and markdowns to attract prospective customers. Radio stations returned their play lists to regular programming. Long vacations to visit loved ones were ending, as the reality of people’s normal schedules came back to the forefront of their minds.

The Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters in Westchester saw the return of students, faculty, and household and office staff. Throughout the halls, one could easily discern chatter regarding what gifts were received, what kinds of activities people were involved in, and where people had gone for the past two and a half weeks. Some of the faculty and field team members were jet-lagged and weary from their various travels (Rogue and Gambit, Warren and Paige); others found themselves rejuvenated and looking forward to a new, productive year (Hank, Kurt, and Ororo). While most of the children were disappointed over the prospect of homework, projects, and exams that lay ahead, this sentiment was quickly replaced with the excitement of seeing old friends and meeting new classmates.

Prior to the end of the fall semester, Professor Xavier had extended invitations to fifteen children to attend the school. Included in the newest incoming class were the two youngest Guthrie brothers, Jay (sometimes known as Joshua or Josh) and Jeb. In order to accommodate the increase in the student body, the Professor and Jean hired new instructors. Rahne, having overcome her personal turmoil stemming from her formerly dormant abilities, officially joined the teaching staff along with Amara.

Bobby Drake found himself wandering through the front foyer, appearing lost among a mass of students. The boyishly handsome young man had just arrived after driving back from his parents’ home in Long Island. His usually good-humored expression was replaced with one of preoccupation. Raking a hand through his sandy hair, he seemed oblivious to the boisterousness that surrounded him. The eager chatter from the students was lost on his ears. A few of the children were somewhat baffled as the instructor they knew as the “Fun One”, slipped by them in order to climb up the spiral staircase in an uncharacteristically subdued manner.

Still absorbed in his thoughts, Bobby reached his bedroom and sauntered inside. He then slipped his keys into the pocket of his navy peacoat, which was worn over a green, crewneck lambswool sweater, white shirt, and pair of khakis. Reconnoitering the familiar walls he called his haven from the responsibilities of teaching and fighting for the rights of others, he was amazed as to how everything was still exactly how he had left it. Textbooks and notebooks containing lesson plans were arranged in non-descript piles on his desk. Empty shopping bags were placed against the door, tissue paper strewn next to them. His bed, with its dark-blue, flannel sheets and blanket, was still half-made, reflecting his hurried exit from the mansion prior to Christmas break.

I’m back.. The young man heaved a weary sigh, tossing his travel bag on his bed. He listened as the mattress springs creaked underneath the weight. The many presents he had received over the holidays had made the bag quite heavy to carry. Normally, he would have sought out Hank or Warren to check in with the two of them and see how their respective vacations went. Perhaps he would have stopped by Rogue’s room, which she now shared with Remy, to chat for a while.

However, Bobby’s attentions were focused on someone else.

He turned his gaze to his bedroom window, sauntering towards it slowly. Across the snow-covered lawn, a farm-style, clapboard house stood serenely. An incandescent glow radiated from the home, lights shining from behind drawn curtains and shades. His stare then shifted to a window he was familiar with. It was one he had climbed through on what seemed to be many occasions. Over the past nine months, he came to associate the window with positive and wondrous memories and feelings. He had found a friend through it, and later on, someone to care about.

Yet, as he fixed his gray eyes upon that window, Bobby suddenly felt a wave of anxiety wash over himself.

During the hour drive between his parents’ home and the mansion, he ruminated over the current state of affairs with Jubilee. While armed with new information, he still felt lost. Why he felt that way baffled him. He should have been happy and overjoyed with the discoveries he had made over the holidays. For the first time in his life, he was in a relationship that involved intense emotions. Love. He was in love with this amazing, beautiful girl. Best of all, she loved him back. Given this, what was there to worry about?

Because, Bobby groaned inwardly, placing a hand against the cold glass pane. I screwed up. I invalidated her feelings. I did all of this right before Christmas, probably ruining her vacation. If she feels anything but love for me, I wouldn’t be surprised. Hell, I wouldn’t blame her.

He grimaced and shook his head. It was as if he were reliving previous mistakes made with other women in his life. Though he saw disastrous results in those relationships, Bobby was convinced that he had a lot more at stake now. He had his piece of happiness in the world to consider. Furthermore, he knew he would have to rely on more than his good intentions to atone for how he had hurt her.

His mind drifted to the conversation he had with his father several days ago. It seemed like hours the two of them had spent in the attic. Bobby could still remember sitting in the musty area with his father, talking quietly into the wee hours of the morning. It had been the longest amount time he had spent with the Drake patriarch in quite awhile.

To declare that the experience was a surreal one would be the understatement of the year. There were times when Bobby wondered if he was really asleep, dreaming in his bed. Simply put, he and his father were never known for their close father-son bond. This was not something that especially saddened Bobby, but it was something he viewed as a fact of life. Previously, even talking with the elder Drake for more than ten minutes was previously a stretch. Their conversations before were strained at best, and limited to seemingly neutral topics. The primary objective in these earlier interactions was to avoid a confrontation for Maddy’s sake.

Yet, Bobby was able to engage with his father in a way he never thought was possible. Gone was the tension he often experienced when he was around his father. Thoughts of how provincial the elder Drake could be faded from his consciousness. Feelings of anger directed at him also dissipated. Instead, he found himself listening and talking openly with the man he believed was so cold, so distant. While he would not go as far as to say that he could empathize with Bill Drake, Bobby thought he learned a great deal about how his father functioned and perceived the world. Yes, there was flawed logic to his rationalizations. At the same time, the motivation for holding these views could not immediately be discounted. One could almost say that they were motivated by some sense of altruism for his family, for their safety and well being.

Much to his surprise, Bobby had learned that this was not the only thing he and his father in common.

As the hours passed in the attic, the subject of their conversation turned to other areas. All the while, he pondered as to why his father decided to bring him up here in the first place. If the elder Drake was looking for privacy, there were other rooms in the house they could have gone. But his father was insistent that they come to the attic without explaining why. Finally, Bobby was unable to take the uncertainty and suspense. He had to find out what inspired his father in the first place.

At first, Bill had sighed. It was a familiar sound Bobby had heard over the years. Such sighs reflected and conveyed his impatience, his wariness, and his absolute exasperation. However, this exhalation had a different quality to it. There seemed to be some kind of pent-up emotion that might have been banished within the depths of mind for some time. After a brief lapse into silence, he spoke.

“Before your mother and I married, we had some obstacles to overcome. ” Bill had pulled himself to his feet and wandered towards a large chest nearby. He stooped over slightly as he fumbled with the lock before pulling it open with a muffled grunt. “There was a time when it looked like we weren’t going to be together at all.”

Bobby’s gray eyes had widened in disbelief. “What happened?”

His father had frowned thoughtfully at the organized contents in the trunk. “I didn’t know if I could be with someone like her,” he had said rather calmly, gesturing for Bobby to walk over to him.

Bobby had watched his father lean against the wall, sifting through the trunk. “Because Mom’s part Jewish?”

Bill’s weathered hands had shaken slightly. Then his head had snapped up abruptly, his haggard features arranging themselves into an embarrassed expression. “Yes.”

The younger Drake had been able to discern his father’s reluctance as he talked. The Drake patriarch’s voice had trembled slightly, revealing a vulnerability not known. Pressing on further as Bill had done was apparently difficult. Still, Bobby was intrigued.

“What happened exactly?” he had inquired.

“I... I had my doubts. Your mother, being the perceptive woman she is, picked up on them.”

“So, what did you do?”

Bill’s grim mouth had softened at the corners. “I did what I thought I had do,” he had said to his son, rubbing the side of his crooked nose with care. “I fought for her.”

Still unpacking, Bobby mulled over the conversation. Initially, he thought what had transpired had served only to create some kind of bridge. Granted, this did not completely erase the years of hurt and misunderstandings, but it was still a start. Reading anything more into it seemed to be out of the question.

“I fought for her.”

Bobby’s gray eyes widened as he inhaled sharply. Instantly, he began to mentally kick himself. He shook his head and raked his fingers through his sandy hair. Needless to say, there were many things that flooded his mind. Included was the sense of amazement over his father’s subtle manner of providing paternal guidance.


Startled, he whipped around to find Kurt standing in the doorway to his bedroom. The other man’s teeth were a blinding white against the dark-blue of his skin and the sable in his hair. His facial tattoos accentuated the curve in his lips as he continued to smile. Wearing a red, rollneck sweater and a pair of brown cargo pants with loafers, the German native appeared at-ease and well rested.

Bobby could not help but to envy him. He forced a grin in response. “Hey, Kurt,” he greeted. “How’s it going? How was your break?”

Kurt ambled inside the bedroom and towards Bobby, a mixture of interest and amusement etched across his demon-like face. Staring at the walls, he still could not quite comprehend his friend’s penchant for old John Belushi movies. He and Kitty had a marathon movie night, where they watched videos featuring the late actor/comedian. The appeal was still lost on Kurt.

“It’s going vell,” he finally replied, standing next to Bobby by the bedroom window. “I just got back from Munich last night. My body is still adjusting to the time difference.”

Bobby nodded empathically. “I hear you. So, is it like an eight-hour time difference?”

“Close to that, mein freund.” Kurt observed Bobby’s gray eyes peer outside the window. Instinctively, his own golden orbs followed the direction of the other man’s gaze towards the Summers’ house. “The child must be the only person home.”

The other man frowned quizzically at him. “Scott and Jean not back yet?”

“Nein,” Kurt informed him, shoving his hands into his pockets. “They von’t be back until tomorrow. Rogue says they are still in Alaska, visiting his grandparents.”

“Oh. So, I guess you were around when Jubes returned?”

“Ja. She and Herr Logan arrived an hour ago. Bobby?”


“I am surprised you are not over there vit her.”

There was a moment when Bobby briefly considered the possibility that Kurt was insinuating something. Yet, as he looked at the other man’s countenance, he noticed that the other man appeared ingenuous. He turned back to the window and sighed.

“I should be,” he finally said. He hoped that Kurt would not pick up on his somber tone. The fact that he already addressed the issue with his father still left him reeling.

To his relief, the other man was either oblivious to his turmoil or chose not to address it at this time. Instead, the former priest-in-training said in a low voice, “Then you should go to her, mein freund.”

Bobby stared longingly at the bedroom window that led to his girlfriend. Every fiber of his being agreed with the sage words expressed by the man standing next to him. Then his mind replayed that deceptively innocuous dialogue with his father. Together, the counsel relayed by these two disparate individuals began to challenge the anxieties and doubts Bobby had been experiencing over the course of the past two and a half weeks. The fears that plagued him gradually became tenuous as he realized what he had to do to resolve things.

He yanked pushed the window up and proceeded to straddle it. A cold wind rumpled his sandy hair, making him look like the young and carefree Bobby all were familiar with. “Thanks for the advice,” he told Kurt, who was already shivering from the chilly air.

Kurt watched as Bobby held out an outstretched hand, sending a stream of solid ice beneath him to form an ice-slide. “Are you sure you don’t vant me to teleport you over there?” he offered. “It vould be much faster.”

Bobby’s boyish face broke out into a grin. “No, thanks,” he told the other man, gray eyes twinkling as he stood upon the glass-like structure. “Getting to her is half the fun. Although, you could do me a favor.”

“Vat’s that, Bobby?”

“Close the window behind me. I don’t think I could sit through another lecture from Scott about the billowing costs of utilities to keep this place running. I’m not entirely sure it’s healthy that the color of his face matches his glasses when he does that.”

Kurt laughed. “You got it,” he replied, edging towards the window when Bobby was farther away from the window. He quickly shut it close with a brisk snap. Then he stood back thoughtfully. His golden eyes looked on as his friend proceeded to glide along the ice-slide. As the sky darkened above the mansion’s property, Kurt could not help but notice how determined Bobby Drake seemed at that moment.

A multitude of thoughts coursed through Bobby’s brain as he moved smoothly on the slick, icy ramp he constructed. He could feel his heart thumping wildly inside his chest, trying to grasp all of these runaway cognitions. Venturing closer to the Summers’ home, he was suddenly overcome how it resembled this beacon under the growing mass of clouds that hovered over him. Hope and something else he could not put his finger on seemed to radiate from the white clapboards and the organized stone path that led to the front door. The wind had grown much cooler since he first stepped outside. But he did not mind all that much. In fact, he embraced the brisk air. It helped him to focus, allowing him to settle down.

Traveling along the slide, he began to consider the significance of what he was about to do flooded his mind. He kind of saw it as a life-altering event, more so than the night he first admitted his feelings to Jubilee. Declaring his love for her and knowing she felt the same way meant a great deal to him. Granted, this was uncharted territory for the both of them. Intense emotions that were new to a relationship always guaranteed that. Yet, he was aware that it promised to be an incredible experience.

Because he would mean every word of it.

He could feel his mouth dry out as he rehearsed quietly during the journey. Briefly, he reflected upon the tone of voice he should use and how he was going to broach the topic in the first place. Should he simply take her into his arms and tell her, like in those films Jean, Ororo, and Rogue watched during their ‘Girls’ Night In’ gatherings? The possibilities seemed endless, but would involve more planning than he was willing to be committed to. As perfect as he wished for the moment to be, he was reluctant to engage in any preparations. Recollections of how their first date went with all his planning elicited a furrow to his anxious brow.

When he reached Jubilee’s window, he was surprised to find that it was slightly open already. It was almost as if she were already waiting for him to come. The curtains streamed back from the breeze, revealing the soft glow from her lamps that kept the room alit. Perched upon his ice-slide, he leaned forward and rapped at the windowpane. “Jubes?” he called out and waited.

No answer.

Curious, Bobby listened for any indication of his girlfriend. Then he poked his head inside, noticing that she was nowhere to be seen. His ears instantly picked up on the sound of running water from her private bathroom. He was about to call out to her again, but noticed that the door was partially ajar. Given the fact that he was already here, he decided to wait for her. Pushing up the window further, he quickly climbed inside and closed it shut.

His gray eyes peered around the familiar settings he came to associate with a strong rush of feelings that engulfed his heart and his head. Though somewhat tidier than his quarters, it was still indicative that she was not too concerned about being overly organized. Her suitcase lay open by her bed, the contents strewn in a collected pile on the floor. On her desk, binders of differing contents shared space with dog-eared paperbacks, pixie sticks, and a laptop with printer.

What captivated his attention was a framed photograph that sat on the corner of her desk. Gently, he picked it up and stared. It was a black-and-white picture of the two of them, which had been taken just before Thanksgiving. Her head was thrown back as she gave the camera one of those dazzling smiles that made him weak in the knees. Despite the monochromatic nature of the photo, one could still see the sparkling radiance of her eyes. He was next to her, grinning broadly with his arms wrapped around her. Their expressions, frozen in that specific moment in time, exuded pure, unadulterated happiness. Gazing upon it now, Bobby swore that he would do everything in his power to capture that sentiment once again.

His reverie was soon shattered when he heard the water stop running. He placed the photograph back down on the desk. Turning towards the bathroom, he could see billows of steam wafting by. Bobby really never understood the appeal of hot showers; he preferred the water to be ice-cold in his. Then he remembered that he had not made his presence known to Jubilee. While he did not mind the idea of catching a glimpse of his girlfriend naked, he saw no need to scare her or even worse, intensify possible residuals of anger from their fight over two weeks ago.

Bobby made quick strides to the bathroom door. Tapping it lightly with the back of his hand, he said, “Jubes? Jubes, it’s me. I just wanted to let you know I’m here.”

No reply.

Perhaps she had not heard him. Clearing his throat, he attempted to get her attention. “Jubes, it’s Bobby.”

This time, he thought he heard what he thought was a soft grunt in response.

Suddenly, he was concerned. Was something wrong? He had not perceived anything out of the ordinary to indicate that something was amiss. But then again, he was not known for his keen senses. His apprehension threatened to overwhelm him, which prompted him to decide to check on her. Bobby thought it would be better to have her upset with him again rather than not doing anything if she was hurt.

Pushing the door wider with his shoulder, he leaned his head in. He expected to see long, slender limbs, dark hair that cascaded down like a waterfall, and shining blue eyes set in a delicate face. Instead, something else met his gaze.

A pair of stony, green eyes peered at him from the rising steam.

Thick, dark hair framed haggard, sharpened facial features.

Sinewy muscles complimented a broad set of shoulders and chest, and...

Oh God.

Screaming, Bobby grabbed the doorknob and slammed the bathroom door closed. He backpedaled away from it, placing his hands over his eyes. A myriad of emotions consumed him at that moment with horror being the dominant one. Consumed by his shock, he did not even pick up on the fact that someone was calling his name. When he felt a hand on his shoulder, he jumped.

A pair of sapphire eyes reflected puzzlement as they stared at him. “Bobby?”

He closed his mouth and stopped his caterwauling. His breathing was still rapid as he found himself facing Jubilee. She was fully dressed and dry, wearing a long-sleeved, lavender shirt over a pair of dark jeans and white sneakers. Her black hair with midnight-blue streaks was piled on the top of her head in a careless topknot. She appeared fine, overall, and not in any kind of distress as he believed.

Jubilee drew back from him slightly. She had raced upstairs from the living room, where she was checking on messages on the answering machine when she heard shrieking. To her surprise, she discovered Bobby in her bedroom, yelling as if he had seen a ghost. As much as she wanted to talk to him regarding other things, she was curious as to what exactly was going on. Unlike most people, she and the rest of the residents of the mansion had reasons to keep their guard up. When individuals whose sole purpose in life was to terrorize had stormed your home, it was hard not to develop hypervigilant tendencies.

“Are you OK?” she inquired hesitantly, brushing a wisp of hair from her eyes.

He shook his head silently. It was as if the trauma rendered him temporarily mute. Words seemed to escape him at that moment.

She gave him a cursory once-over. Other than the expression of sheer terror that crossed his boyish features, Bobby was no worse for wear. Obviously, there did not seem to be any kind of eminent danger that posed a threat. No reason to call the mansion for back up. “Well, what happened?”

Bobby swallowed hard, forcing himself to form cogent words. “I... I came here to see you,” he finally said and rubbed his temples, hoping this was some kind of bad dream. When it was becoming more apparent that this was only a fruitless wish, he pressed on. “I thought you were in there.”

Jubilee followed the path of his wide-eyed stare to the bathroom door. Mentally, she put the pieces together in record time. It was then that she realized what roused Bobby’s reaction. She had to bite the inside of cheek to keep from laughing or smiling. This was too much.

“Wolvie was using my shower,” she explained, watching his face pale with a mixture of intrigue and amusement. “He’s staying with me while Scott and Jean are away.”

“I know,” he responded, shaking his head vigorously in an attempt to bore the image of a naked Logan out of his memories. Unfortunately, it was seared into his consciousness for the time being. “It was like watching ‘Gorillas in the Mist’.”

His heart skipped a beat when he saw the doorknob turn. Knowing the surly, laconic Logan, he would be none too pleased about the events that just occurred. Images of sharp, adamantium claws extended in his direction flashed through Bobby’s brain. He shuddered, cursing his lousy luck and timing.

“Well, that’s it,” Bobby declared nervously, raking a hand through his sandy hair. “I’m a dead man. It was nice knowing you, Jubes. We had fun, right?”

She smirked and shook her head. “He’s not going to kill you,” she told him, as Bobby eyed the window nearby. Then she added impishly, “But he might want to have some shaved ice for a drink later on.”

“Oh, ha ha.” He pursed his lips in frustration. Realizing he was running short on time before his impending doom, he clasped her small hand in his and studied it before raising his gray eyes to her lovely face. “Listen, I know we need to talk about a lot of things. First and foremost, I’m sorry for everything. I was a jerk. Those things I said—I didn’t mean them. Any of them. Hell, I didn’t know what I was talking about...”

Jubilee felt her heart skip a beat, hearing the words she longed for him to say since their fight. While she had not been as preoccupied about that as she was with her intensifying feelings for him, it was still a relief to clear the air. Shaking her head, she echoed his sentiment. “Me, too,” she whispered, squeezing his cool, dry hand gently.

“I never wanted to hurt or embarrass you. You’ve got to believe me.”

“I do, Bobby. I do.”

“You also have to know that while I might have been off-base, all I wanted to do was to keep you safe. I don’t know what I would do if anything happened to you, Jubes.”

“Yeah, I know that. Now, will you please shut up and hold me?”

He rested his forehead against hers. “You have no idea how much better I feel,” he sighed. “I missed you so much. All I could think about was you the whole time I was gone. That, and how much I couldn’t stand being away from you under the circumstances...”

“Me, too,” she said softly, brushing her mouth against his cheek. “I don’t want to ever go through that again. It was totally miserable.”

He wrapped his arms around her, holding her tightly against him. “I know.”

“I hated the fact that things weren’t right between us. It felt so wrong to be without you.” Jubilee drew back a fraction from him, studying his boyish features. The way he looked so earnest made him all the more endearing at that moment. His gaze was incredibly tender and kind, which seemed to reflect everything she was feeling. Suddenly, it became so obvious how it easy it was going to be to tell him. Never had she felt more confident about anything in her young life.

Her sapphire eyes were shining as she took a deep breath. “Listen, Bobby,” she began. “I—”

Just as she was about to complete the sentence that was going to bring about a pivotal moment in their relationship, the bathroom door swung open. Logan emerged, green eyes with gold flecks expressionless. The wiry loner was clad only in a pair of faded jeans. The military dog tags he always wore hung around his neck. His sleek torso with its firm muscles and healthy abundance of chest hair glistened with the moisture that settled from the steam. While his hair was still damp, those trademark points on the side of his head had already formed.

Oh crap. Bobby felt his limbs suddenly weaken. Briefly, he contemplated a life in the witness protection program. Perhaps he and Jubilee could start their lives over somewhere in Omaha. He had always wanted to see what the Midwest was like.

“Hi, Wolvie,” Jubilee greeted, flashing the notorious curmudgeon her sweetest smile. She was quick to situate her lithe frame in front of Bobby’s in order to act as interference. Given the low growl that was emanating from Logan’s lips, she concluded she had made the right decision.

Logan paused in his strides towards her and Drake. He raised a brow at the couple, watching the younger man step in front of Jubilee with a great deal of hesitation. His nostrils flared, taking in the unmistakable scent of trepidation radiating from Drake. Drained from the long drive to the mansion from his cabin in Canada, Logan had been looking forward to unwinding with a long, hot shower. He had been lost in his thoughts, most of them centering on resting his weary bones. When his sharp ears had picked up on noises coming from the kid’s bedroom, he quickly hopped out from underneath the stream of hot water, ready to canvass what was happening. As he was about to grab a towel, he had realized who rudely interrupted his shower. He recognized Drake’s smell of anxiety.

Before he could say anything, Bobby began to speak. “Listen, Logan, I’m really sorry. I didn’t mean to walk in on you like that.” He was about to add that he did not see much anyway, but decided to keep his mouth shut on that one. The other man was known as a living lie detector, and would probably be able to see through his fib easily.

“Is that so?” Logan inquired flatly, crossing his arms over his broad chest.

Bobby nodded emphatically, as Jubilee clasped his hand in support.

“So, you what really wanted to do is to see Jubes naked,” Logan concluded. His gaze took on a steelier, stern quality.

“What? No...”

“You came into her bathroom expecting to see her naked.”

Bobby felt his face drain of all color. Fortunately, he had the presence of mind not to blurt out that he would like to see her in that state someday. “I—I only wanted to talk to her. I came to the door to let her know that I was in her room so she wouldn’t be scared when she came out. When I didn’t hear anything, I thought something was wrong... So I went into check in on her. That’s it, Logan, I swear.”

Logan peered at the boyishly handsome man with great scrutiny, as if he were attempting to decipher a complicated riddle. His keen senses picked up on the fact that Drake was, in fact, telling the truth. Part of the laconic loner was disappointed as he was looking forward to exacting revenge for being intruded upon during his shower. Nothing too terribly feral, but something that would make Drake think twice about his actions.

Then he caught a glimpse of the Jubilee’s face out of the corner of his eye. She looked imploringly up at him. Her crystalline gaze, which would put any jeweler’s wares to shame, pleaded with him. There was a plethora of messages that seemed to be conveyed through just that one look: Please don’t say anything else. Don’t hurt him. I love him. Please. Stop.

Exhaling loudly, Logan found himself relenting to the young girl’s silent begging. He pursed his lips, slightly disgusted with how simple it was for him to be manipulated. He was the Wolverine, a man who prided himself in maintaining an emotion-free façade to the world. He was seething with complexities that stemmed from dark things out of his control. He endured physical and psychological torture, and fought against formidable opponents. But here he was, the man who preferred the shadows to light, brought down by a pair of angelic blue eyes and a pretty face.

In the end, he would not have it any other way. Summoning the gruffest voice he could muster, he said, “It’s been a long night, Drake. You and the kid can exchange niceties tomorrow.”

Jubilee began to protest. “But, Wolvie, he just got here. I haven’t seen him in weeks. Besides, I’m not tired.” She batted her thick, black lashes at Logan, a move usually guaranteed to transform him into pliable putty in her hands.

This time, the bare-chested loner was not having any part of it. “Save it, kid,” he told her and turned to Bobby, who was already making his way to the bedroom window with a disappointed expression on his face. As the younger man began to climb out onto the ice-slide constructed just outside of the ledge, Logan could not help but wonder why the younger man seemed particularly despondent just then.

The following day, the Professor announced that he was sending the teaching staff on a three-day retreat, a week before classes were set to start. All instructors and teaching assistants were scheduled to depart immediately. The group, headed by Jean, was sent into town for a series of workshops and team-building activities for the faculty. According to the statuesque redhead, the purpose of the retreat was to boost instructor morale and rejuvenate each person’s passion for teaching. Some of the more eager and dedicated members, such as Hank and Dani, easily bought into this. However, there were some who equally skeptical of the exercise; Emma and Warren, for example.

This left field team members who were not cross-appointed faculty to help hold down the fort. It allowed individuals like Rogue and Bishop, who did not usually interact with the students, to have an opportunity to meet the mansion’s young charges. The students, in turn, learned about people who were rarely around the mansion. They also had a chance to consider possible futures once they were finished with school, such as serving with various branches of the teams.

For Jubilee, she found these past few days particularly lonely. She had to fend for herself at the Summers’ house while both Scott and Jean were away. Usually, when the couple was gone, she could have asked Logan to keep her company. However, he, too, was at the retreat. In fact, it seemed as if everyone was particularly close to was involved with this faculty-bonding activity.

But there was one person she was particularly seeing again.


Filled with a mixture of frustration and loneliness, Jubilee was left to contemplate what could have been during his absence. In the course of her ruminations, her mind continued to replay that night they were reunited. She could feel her heart lighten as she heard Bobby’s earnest voice apologize, and then her own, echoing the sentiment. It was as if a massive, dark weight had been lifted. All the ugliness, pain, and wounded feelings quickly faded, as declarations of not wanting to fight again became prominent in the picture. The resulting exhilaration that permeated in the air between them helped to build her courage. At that moment, things began to fall into place. She needed to tell him those words she had not expressed in quite some time, words she once believed she was not capable of uttering until Bobby. Recalling how tenderly he looked at her that night, there was a part of her that suspected that his feelings might not be that far off from hers.

Part of her wanted to be upset with Logan. Another part of her believed she should have targeted her ire towards the fates that evening. In the end, it was not all that important as to who or what was responsible. The outcome still remained the same. She was unable to utter those simple, but meaningful words.

I love you.

Compounding things was the fact that she was denied an opportunity to have a second chance. She likened the experience to waiting to open a mysterious gift. There was a build-up of excitement and energy that threatened to consume her. It was pervasive, invading each passing thought over the course of the day. Even in the midst of doing the most mundane things, such as brushing her teeth, she found herself mulling over how she would approach him and how she would actually say it.

It was a strange experience, being this obsessed about anything. After all, she was the girl who was known for her carefree and breezy attitude towards life and its hurdles. Portraying this image to the rest of the world had aided in keeping her sane through the many tragedies and heartaches during her young life. Like most self-fulfilling prophecies, her thinking had been, “If everyone else thinks I’m fine, then I must be.” So many years ago, it would have been so easy to allow something like this to roll off of her shoulders.

Until now.

She supposed what made this situation so vastly different than anything she had experienced before stemmed from the anticipation of the moment. While there was an amount of anxiety that pounded away at her, there was also something else. It was the promise of elation from finally being open and honest about her feelings that was paramount. Furthermore, it was the feeling of liberation from the insecurities and fears that held her back.

Unfortunately, all of this would have to wait until Bobby returned.

In the meantime, Jubilee knew she had to deal with the nervous energy that pulsed through every fiber of her being. Classes for her did not start for another week. Not that she was especially looking forward to school again, but it was a potential outlet. As a result, she was left to pass her days at the mansion, mingling with some of the new students and catching up with some of the field team members.

This day, Rogue, Sam, and Bishop had taken a group of students into town for a day out at the movies and Mario’s Pizzeria and Arcade. Remy had left for New Orleans the night to visit under the auspices of urgent family business. Tessa and the Professor were in his study, debriefing over the latest mission information. Needless to say, the mansion conveyed a feeling of emptiness that was rather disconcerting to Jubilee.

Left to her own devices for the day, she decided to make use of the exercise facilities, which were located on the same floor as the Danger Room on Sub-Basement Level Two. Compared with most commercial fitness clubs, the mansion boasted the most advanced, state-of-the art equipment. Along with the standard treadmills and stationary bikes, there was a series of stair climbers and elliptical machines. Free weights and stationary weight machines were also present. At every corner of the room, was a water cooler in order to rehydrate after a vigorous workout.

Dressed in a soft blue, hooded sweatshirt and a pair of matching shorts with white-and-navy Nike sneakers, Jubilee hopped on a vacant treadmill. She programmed the machine for a thirty-minute jog, choosing the random hills option. Then she slipped on the headphones to her iPod. The latest Strokes CD she downloaded the night before began to play as her lean legs made brisk strides. Her long, dark ponytail bobbed behind her head to the music and the pace of the run.

She had been so consumed in the whiskey-soaked crooning of the lead singer that she did not notice her name being called out by a familiar voice. Most might have called her focus part of being “in the zone”. However, Jubilee was reluctant to make such a case. The music helped to distract from the sensation of her calves burning with increasing tension as she ran up the simulated elevations.

Suddenly, she found herself peering up at a pair of playful, gray eyes that twinkled brightly.

Her brain was not quite prepared for processing the presence of another person in the vicinity. She was left feeling very startled. The surprise forced her to jump back and cry out. As luck would have it, the treadmill was still running at full speed. The young girl lost her balance and fell over backwards, landing on her back with a resounding THUD.

“Jubes!” Bobby rushed to her side, an expression of concern etching across his boyish face. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you like that. Are you OK?”

Her face burned with intense embarrassment. For the umpteenth time, she wished for Kurt’s ability to teleport somewhere else at that moment. She inwardly bemoaned the lack of good graces she had just demonstrated. Which deity did she anger in order to have something like this happen in front of her boyfriend? Pulling herself up to a sitting position, she wondered if her nimble and agile reflexes as a former gymnast atrophied with her old age.

“Just mortified out of my mind,” she managed to joke, beginning to draw her legs toward her chest. A dull pain throbbed from her ankle when moved her right ankle. The sensation made her wince in discomfort. “Ow.”

He gingerly took her ankle into his hands, inspecting it with great care. Moving it side to side, he inquired, “Does this hurt?”

Frowning thoughtfully, Jubilee replied, “Not that much. It’s just kind of...tight.” As he moved her foot up and down, she told him, “Same when you do that. I guess when I move initially, it hurts.”

He ran his fingers over the ankle again. “Well, it doesn’t feel like it’s sprained or broken,” he said, relieved. “But, I’d feel better if we could get you somewhere else to put some ice on it, just in case. Can you get up?”

She placed her palms firmly on the floor and tried to push herself up into a standing position with some help from her other foot. However, the momentum was not there. With a frustrated sigh, she remained fixed in her place. “Give me a minute,” she said quietly.

While Bobby would have usually admired Jubilee’s determination, he was quite preoccupied. Specifically, his thoughts centered on any sort of additional harm that might have resulted from her injury. He did not want to sweep in and make presumptions about what was good for her now. No, he had learned his lesson.

“I’m afraid the longer you sit without any kind of attention, the more pain you’re going to experience,” he told her, stroking wisps of hair from her cheeks.

She grimaced, immediately seeing his point. Already, her ankle began to throb again. Living with pain when one did not necessarily have to was a truly foolish decision. Nodding, she sucked in her breath sharply. “OK... What do you suggest?”

“Can I make a chivalrous move?”

“Really chivalrous, or is it caveman-like?”

“Depends on how you want to interpret it.”

With that, Bobby scooped her slender frame into his arms. It almost astonished him as to how right her body felt against his. He felt her lithe upper limbs circle his neck. Her head rested comfortably against his shoulder. A small smile tugged at his lips upwardly, crinkling the corners of his gray eyes. Had the circumstances been different, he would have even thought of the moment as romantic in nature.

Jubilee’s crystalline eyes bore into his deeply. “Well, Nurse Bobby, administer your version of TLC before someone comes down here and sees us like this,” she teased.

He grinned, pressing his lips against her temple. “You don’t trust my first aid training?” he inquired as he walked towards the hallway.

“I’ve heard stories about you and Beast playing mummies with the ace bandages and gauze,” she quipped, pressing her cheek against the soft material of his Hawaiian shirt. Today, he was wearing a black one with palm leaves printed all over it.

Turning a corner, he snorted. “Who told you that? Kurt? If so, that guy was in on the action, too. You should have seen him running after Kitty. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone scream like that. And that was just the blue man.”

That comment elicited a laugh from the stunning girl in his arms. As they neared the women’s locker room, her laughter subsided. Then she asked, “When did you get back?”

“Just now,” Bobby replied, holding his girlfriend closer to his chest. “Jeannie had this optional activity, where we were supposed to pass this rain stick around the circle and discuss our goals for the coming term. So, Warren, Paige, and I split.”

He then paused at the entrance of the women’s locker room. Having once accidentally walked in on Rogue and Kitty, he had since learned to be cautious as to where he was going. This was thanks to being chased out of the basement by the two women. Quickly, he scanned for signs of anyone else in the area. When he was unable to locate other people, he was satisfied and sauntered inside. Finally, he lowered Jubilee onto one of the benches in front of a row of lockers.

“I’ll be right back,” he told her, kissing her forehead. A minute later, he returned with an orange, vinyl chair and a first-aid kit taken from the office at the front of the locker room. Seating himself in front of her, he set to work. He helped her remove her sneaker and sock. Then he created a thin layer of ice on his hand, placing it over her wounded ankle.

Jubilee gasped at the contact of the ice against her skin. Then she bit her lower lip, trying to hide her sheepish smile. “It’s really cold,” she told him.

“I need to keep it there for a little bit,” he said, stroking her calf with his other hand. “Trust me, this is going to help with the pain. Besides, this gives me a chance to touch you. Can’t really go wrong with that.”

“Aha. There’s the underlying motive.” She had to admit, the way he was brushing his hand up and down her leg was pretty nice. It sent these incredible shivers up and down her spine. Not from the cold that was being applied to her skin, but from something else she could not quite put her finger on. All she was sure of was that any cogent thought ceased in her mind.

After a few minutes, Bobby took his icy hand from her ankle. Then he began to wrap her ankle with an ace bandage to provide some extra support when she walked. “Is this too tight?” he asked.

She shook her head, amazed at how careful he was. This was the same person who had no qualms about staging snowball fights with the younger students. “No, it’s fine.”

“I’d say keep wearing this for a day or two. If it gets worse, then go see Hank or Annie.”




“Again, I’m really sorry. This is all my fault. If I hadn’t—”

“Bobby, it’s not your fault. I’m the one with poor motor coordination here. On top of that, I screamed. How childish is that?”

Bobby finished wrapping her ankle and set it down. With curious gray eyes, he studied her lovely, but self-conscious face. He detected a tone that went beyond self-effacing, which seemed to evoke ache inside him. Furtively, he searched his brain for something to reassuring to say. Seconds drifted by before he suddenly became inspired.

Leaning forward in his chair, he reached for her ankle again and set her right foot onto his knee. “I want to check something.”

She gave him a quizzical look. “Is something wrong?” she inquired, wondering if he was not completely candid in his assessment. Perhaps it was worse than they initially thought.

He smiled up at her, shaking his head. "Let’s see how this feels," he said, and ran his tongue up the inside of her thigh.

Jubilee kept herself from jumping away from him in surprise. Instead, she tried to process the sensation of his tongue as it traced circles on her flesh. “It’s good,” she managed, her breathing suddenly rapid.

He pushed the loose material of her shorts upwards to her hip. “Good, huh?” he asked, exposing more of her thigh. He gazed upon her supple flesh greedily. His hand moved along the softness languidly as he found himself addicted to the feel of her. Then he gently bit the tendon connecting the smooth muscles of her inner thigh to her groin.

She looked down involuntarily, breath catching at the sight of him between her legs, his tongue flicking out to smooth the small bite. Feelings never experienced before hit her, hard and fast, settling between her thighs. Her right leg trembled in his hand, under his mouth. “Bobby?” she finally whispered.

His gray eyes, now smoldering and intense with want, looked up. He noticed her expression, a mixture of bliss and confusion. Her cheeks were pink, which made her sapphire eyes sparkle. It was clear that she enjoyed what he had done, but was hesitant to engage in anything further at the moment. He had to draw on all his self-restraint to keep himself from making love to her right there and then.

Reluctantly, he pulled back. “I wouldn’t have done that to someone I thought was still a child,” he chided her huskily.

She exhaled shakily, the beginnings of a smile touching her mouth. Her trembling fingers swept through his sandy hair. Rational thought completely went out the window for her at that moment. The only thing she could concentrate on was him and how he had made her feel. “Bobby...”


The couple’s heads snapped up towards the entrance of the locker room to see a wide-eyed Rogue, leaning against the doorframe with a cordless phone in hand. The Southern Belle was wearing a black, aviator-inspired, flight suit with combat boots. Bold, white stripes contrasted against the darkness, which made her curves seem to melt away. Her chocolate-brown hair with white streaks framed her vibrant face. Red-violet painted lips brought out the sparkle in her emerald-green eyes. Finishing off the look was a pair of black, leather driving gloves.

Instinctively, Bobby removed Jubilee’s foot from his thigh and scooted his chair away from her. While he and Rogue were friends, he was aware that she, like most of the older residents of the mansion, was quite protective of Jubilee. It was highly unlikely she would do anything to him physically. However, given the wariness that emanated from her, he could tell she was not too thrilled about stumbling in on them.

Clearing his throat, he greeted his friend. “Hey, Rogue.”

“Hey, yaself,” she replied, venturing inside the locker room. “Ya hurt, Sweet Pea?”

Jubilee felt her face become increasing redder. “I just fell off of the treadmill,” she explained, blue eyes suddenly soaking up the tiled floor beneath them. “Bobby wanted to make sure my ankle doesn’t get any worse than it already is.”

He nodded emphatically in agreement. “Yeah, Jubes kind of banged up her ankle.”

A frown creased Rogue’s brow as she surveyed the scene. From the way the couple was acting, it seemed as if they committed some kind of horrible atrocity. Contrary to what Bobby believed, she was not overly concerned about his relationship with the girl she considered as a younger sister. She was confident of what kind of man he was, and how good he was for Jubilee. Rather, it was the possible ramifications from certain individuals she was more preoccupied with. She was thankful that she was the one who walked in on Bobby’s display of affection towards his girlfriend. The idea of her friend becoming Logan’s shredding dummy or Scott’s living laser target did not sit entirely well with her.

She stood next to where Bobby was sitting. “Well,” she began, playing with the small, black phone. “Next time, Ah’d be careful. Ya nevah know what might happen the next time.” Her green eyes flashed at Bobby knowingly.

He met her gaze, instantly reading the message. His anxiety suddenly lifted and he nodded. “Got it.”

The Southern Belle studied Jubilee’s ankle. “Sweet Pea, why don’t ya have Hank check ya ovah?” she suggested, raising her brows. “Ya know, just to make sure there ain’t anythin’ to worry about.”

Jubilee glanced over at Bobby, who seemed to share the combination of embarrassment and relief she was feeling. His gray eyes silently urged her to take Rogue up on her advice. There was no sense to draw any additional and unneeded attention at this time. Yet, she was still reluctant to leave him. There was so much that was racing through her mind. Most of it she wanted to process with him. However, she knew that Rogue would not relent until she was fully examined by Hank.

She peered up at the other woman. “OK,” she said finally.

Rogue leaned towards her, draping an arm around the young girl. “Here, let me help ya up. We’re gonna take the elevator up. That’s only a few feet away. Can ya make it?”

Jubilee nodded, thankful for Rogue’s steady support as she reached a somewhat standing position. “Yeah, that’s not too far,” she said cheerfully.

Bobby hopped to his feet, darting to his girlfriend’s other side. “Why don’t you lean on me, too, Jubes?” He began to take her arm to place around his shoulders.

Rogue shook her head, waving her hand dismissively at him and tossing him the cordless phone. “Ah can take Sweet Pea from here, Bobby,” she informed him. “Ya have a call on hold for ya. Ah think his name’s Kevin. Sounded real important.”

Jubilee watched Bobby eye the phone. “It’s OK,” she reassured him, as Rogue began to lead her out of the locker room. “I’ll see you after Beast is done with me.” With that, the two women disappeared from the room.

Bobby peered over his shoulder, attempting to confirm that no one was within earshot of him. He thought about his recent misfortune and decided it was best to take some additional precautions. Quickly, he dashed into the empty office in the locker room, closing the door and snapping off all of the lights. Then he hit the HOLD button on the phone.

“Hey, Kev,” he said, trying his best not to sound like he was desperately whispering. He ducked into the corner of the office, situating himself between a cart of soccer balls and a box of table tennis paddles. There, no one should know I’m in here now. “I’m sorry about the wait. What’s up?”

“Hi, Bobby. No problem. Just wanted to let you know that everything’s ready.”

“Wow, that’s great. Can I swing by today?”

“Sure. I’m here until eight tonight.”

“I’ll be there before then. It’s going to take me twenty minutes to get there. Is that cool?”

“Sounds good, Bobby. I’ll see you then.”

“Thanks, Kev.”

Several hours later, Bobby found himself in his bedroom. Specifically, he remained fixed to the same spot following his excursion into town. Never had he spent so much time in front of the full-length mirror that hung on his closet door. He was not usually one to primp and preen. However, there was significance and meaning immediately associated with tonight, with what he was about to do.

The three days and two nights he was away from his Jubilee had been rather torturous for him. Spending every waking minute on mulling over that first night nearly drove him insane. It was as if reliving a period in heaven and then in hell. The relief he experienced after they reconciled lifted a heavy weight from his heart, one that he had been carrying since they parted before Christmas. The feeling of abject delight over this development consumed him. At that moment, it did not matter that he had walked in on a naked Logan who potentially could have maimed him. The only thing he was concerned with was being with the woman he was in love with. Nothing else.

But the night left him with some regrets as well. He had built up his courage to confess his feelings for her. For a split second during the entire evening, he had been so close. The words were sitting on the tip of his tongue during the entire time they were together. It was a matter of waiting for the right moment.

Bobby raked a hand through his sandy hair. Eventually, he had learned to find solace in the fact that he was allowed more time to make things right. He was cognizant of the fact that previous attempts to plan the perfect anything with Jubilee had ended in utter disaster. However, he managed to convince himself that things would be different this time. They simply had to be.

His gray eyes studied his reflection thoughtfully. After scrutinizing the man in the mirror for what seemed like eons, he memorized every detail of his expression. It was almost as if he wanted to imprint each aspect of tonight into his brain. Here he was, prepared to declare his commitment to someone for the first time. As he continued to stare at himself, he could not recall a time when he appeared so sure, so confident. For a moment, he did not recognize the Bobby Drake in the mirror.

Bolstering his resolve and strength was the knowledge that she felt the same about him. It was comparable to guaranteed and unconditional acceptance many people sought out in life. However, this was on a much intense level. This was not just about acceptance. No, his admission promised to go beyond that.

I love you.

Bobby sauntered away from the mirror, taking deep breaths. Then he ambled towards his window. The Summers’ white, clapboard house stood, as always did, directly across from the mansion and in plain sight. Light radiated from Jubilee’s bedroom window. He could see a faint shadow, flitting about from behind the curtains. Unconsciously, he could feel his mouth form the beginnings of a smile at the thought of her. Already he could smell that wonderfully sweet scent of bubblegum and cinnamon that seemed to emanate from her skin and hair, lose himself in those old-soul blue eyes that knew him completely, and kiss that inviting mouth.

It was then that he realized that he had done enough waiting.

Jubilee was sitting on her canopy bed, her ankle propped on two pillows. After receiving a preliminary finding that she mildly sprained her ankle, she was informed by the friendly Dr. McCoy that she would be fine after 3 or 4 days. However, Scott, upon finding out about her condition, decided to be more conservative in his assessment. As a result, he insisted that she stay off of her wounded ankle for a week. Both he and Jean informed her that they would be helping her around the house, including bringing meals to her room.

Initially, the young girl could not believe her luck. Having her every whim catered to? Being the center of attention without pulling any kind of stunt? The prospect almost left her giddy with the possibilities.

Let the exploitation begin, she had thought merrily.

Unfortunately, the euphoria soon faded after finding out that multiple issues of the latest fashion magazines, cable television programming, and MADLIBS alone could not entertain her for very long. There was also the fact that Jean’s caretaker routine slightly bordered on smothering. The redhead would poke her head in, asking Jubilee if she needed anything almost every five minutes. She changed the ice pack on the young girl’s ankle rather obsessively. Scott finally intervened, assuring his wife that what Jubilee really needed at this time was rest. Jubilee mouthed her appreciation to him, to which he smiled knowingly.

Sighing, Jubilee pushed up the sleeves of her long-sleeved, teal T-shirt, which she wore over a pair of white boxer shorts. She thought about calling Bobby to ask him to come for a visit. However, she stopped herself when she overheard Scott mentioning that no one had seen or heard from Bobby since he left for town. That had been roughly an hour and a half ago.

Closing her eyes, she could feel herself drift back into her memories of what transpired that afternoon. Never in her wildest dreams did she ever think that she could feel that way. Even hours later, she continued to be at a loss as to how she would characterize the feelings elicited. Her heart began to race as she pictured Bobby in the locker room with her. The sensation of his mouth on her thigh made her skin tingle. She could still feel his teeth nip at her skin, which was then replaced with his tongue.

Then there was the way Bobby had gazed at her. His eyes had been so intense as they stared up at her. She had not seen that look in his eyes since that night in his bedroom. Unlike that evening, she was not afraid. Rather, she seemed intrigued and self-conscious at the same time. It was as if she could not quite come to grips with the idea that she was responsible for that.

But he did want me, she mused, rolling over on her side with sparkling, cerulean eyes. Bobby wanted me, clumsiness and all. He didn’t mind the fact that I acted like a complete idiot in the gym. Hell, he didn’t even laugh when I practically landed on my butt. He must really...

Love me?

Chewing pensively on her lower lip, she considered the inference she had just made. It was not totally out of the realm of possibility. She could cite the available evidence as she done many times in her head. While considerations surrounding how Bobby felt had been tentative in the past, she was suddenly filled with confidence that she was not alone in her sentiment.

An insistent rapping against the windowpane interrupted her processing. Instantly recognizing the knock, she smiled in anticipation and slid off of the bed. With great care, she hobbled towards the sound and pulled the gauze-like, cream-colored curtains aside. Then she opened the window.

“Hey,” she greeted, watching him shed his ice form before he climbed inside. “Where have you been? I heard you’ve been MIA for a little bit.”

Bobby nodded back in response. He appeared preoccupied as he pressed his lips together. “I had some things to take care of in town.”

Her sable brows furrowed slightly. That wasn’t really vague or anything...

“I wanted to give you your present,” he told her, watching her close the window. “First of all, I feel really lousy for not being able to give it to you sooner.”

She shook her head as she turned to him, silky hair rippling down her graceful shoulders. “Don’t worry about it,” she admonished him lightly. Smiling up at him, she circled her slender arms around his neck. “If I wanted to sound sappy and obnoxious, I could say that you being here is enough of a present.”

He rolled his eyes at her, snorting. “Don’t patronize me.” Then he kissed her forehead affectionately, remembering the belated Christmas gift she had left in his room while he was gone. “Thanks by the way for the Police box set. How did you know?”

“Warren told Paige you sing ‘Roxanne’ in the showers after you guys come back from missions,” Jubilee replied, grinning broadly. “He also says that Sting has nothing to worry about.”

Bobby smirked. “He’s just jealous that he can’t hit the high notes like I can. Do you want a demonstration?”

“No. Um, you’re proud of that?”

“Wouldn’t you be?”

“Never mind. I forgot who I was talking to.”

Bobby’s attention went to her ankle, which was still wrapped in the ace bandage. “How are you doing?” he asked, concerned.

Jubilee shrugged her shoulders. “I think I’ll be fine. I mean it doesn’t hurt as much as it did before, but people around here tend to worry and overreact too much. It seems to slip their minds that I’ve been much worse off.” A transient shadow crossed her delicate features when she said her last sentence.

He tilted his head empathically. It sometimes amazed him as to how much she had been through during her young lifetime. If only he could take her into his arms and force those experiences to forever disappear from her consciousness. Much to his dismay, he did not have such abilities. However, he knew could help her make new, less painful memories, starting tonight.

He eyed her bandaged ankle. “Well, maybe you shouldn’t be up right now,” he said quietly. Then he peered into those hypnotic, sapphire depths. “Can I be chivalrous again?”

Without any hesitation, she smiled and said, “Yes.”

Bobby gathered her lithe frame into his arms. As he carried her to the bed, he could not help but notice how especially beautiful she was. Her long, thick hair streamed down her back, falling in a cascade of black with midnight-blue streaks. Crystalline eyes gazed up at him, sparkling with that quality that was uniquely hers. Delicate facial features were fixed into a soft, tender expression that was reserved just for him.

Gently, he lowered her onto the bed. He then settled down next to her, his boyish face now grave. Before he said anything, he leaned over and kissed her on the mouth, lingering for several moments. Drawing back from her, he reached into one of the pockets of his chinos. “I was in town to get your present ready,” he began, removing a small box covered in black velvet. “I wanted to make sure it was perfect before I gave it to you.”

He opened the box. Inside was a slender, 14-karat gold band. What made the ring unique was the fact that it appeared to form two hands in the middle, holding a heart. Over the heart were three points, which made it resemble a crown. Jubilee had seen nothing like it before.

“This was my grandmother’s,” Bobby explained, following her gaze to the piece of jewelry his father had passed on to him that morning in the attic. He pointed to the center of the ring. “It’s actually called a Claddaugh ring. See, in Irish tradition, people gave these to one another to symbolize their commitment to one another. Do you know the message behind the ring?”

Wordlessly, she shook her head. Bobby and his words captivated her. It was as if nothing else in the world mattered at that moment. With her attention rapt, she patted his hand for him to press on.

Staring into her lovely face, he took a deep breath. He could feel his courage increase ten-fold with each second that passed. There was no fear of being laughed at, chided, or mocked. This time, things were different. There was Jubilee sitting across for him, ready and willing to listen to what he was about to say. Most importantly, he knew she shared his feelings.

He ran his fingertip along the top of the ring. “Basically,” he said quietly, “it means that with these two hands, I give you my heart and crown it with my love.”

Her sapphire eyes widened, peering into his earnest face. She was not sure if she heard him correctly. Could it be true? Did he really mean what he was indirectly saying at that moment? For her sanity, she had to know for sure. She needed to know that this was no dream or a situation that would be interpreted as meaning something else.

“What are you saying?” she asked hoarsely. Her throat unexpectedly felt constricted. The increasingly racing beat of her heart thudded loudly in her ears. Suddenly, her stomach fluttered wildly inside as her hands began to tremble.

He took her right hand and slipped the band around her ring finger, not answering her at first. The corners of gray eyes crinkled as he smiled. It was perfect how the piece fit, just as he had hoped. He had to give Kevin at the jewelry store a great deal of credit. The man knew his ring sizes.

Bobby squeezed her hand tightly before dropping it softly on her lap. “I love you,” he told her, tangling his fingers in her silky hair. Hearing himself make the declaration to her at that moment sounded so right. He almost wanted to kick himself for not saying it sooner. “I love you, Jubes.”

She smiled at him, tears streaming down her beautiful face. It was incredible that three words could have such a powerful effect. She had thought about what this moment would be like. But nothing she played out in her imagination compared to what was actually happening. This was ten times better. Feelings of ecstasy and elation quickly flooded her.

As she looked at his sweet face, she realized she had not made her own admission. She took a shaky breath as she proceeded to communicate what she had been holding in for so long. “I love you more,” she whispered.

He shook his head and brushed away the wetness from her cheeks with his thumbs. “Not possible,” he murmured, leaning over and kissing her deeply.

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