saga/title/fandom: Two of Us chapter 28 (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-Eight: Things Get in the Way

Winter continued its seasonal dance with Westchester several weeks later. Barren branches, which were warped and black from the bitterly cold air, swayed in the unrelenting wind. The white of fresh snow became a familiar sight recently. It was almost as if people had forgotten what was beneath the ice, what grass looked like, or what it felt like underneath their feet.

Despite the chill that seemed to dominate these days, there was also an opposing feeling that counteracted the weather outside. The sentiment associated with this force lifted some people’s spirits. It made them smile, act giddy. The fragrance of fresh roses and chocolates mingled, creating sweetness that added to the ambiance. Songs expressing romantic inclinations played on the radio in a never-ending loop. There was only one explanation for these recent phenomena.

Valentine’s Day.

It was the holiday associated with red, paper hearts. It was the holiday that breathed new life into businesses that marketed themselves around the event, like florists, restaurants, and jewelers. It was the holiday associated that gave people an excuse to indulge themselves in passionate behavior. It was the holiday that represented togetherness, being a part of something bigger and more complete.

It was a holiday Bobby Drake had, at one point in his life, come to loathe.

But not anymore.

As he made his way to one of the recreation room, the boyishly handsome man with the playful, gray eyes wore a grin that stretched from ear to ear. The feelings of bitterness and the mindset of perpetual loneliness that plagued him last year were a distant memory. Even the way he had spent the previous Valentine’s Day—watching movies with Jubilee and her “date”, Carter—had faded from consciousness. All his thoughts centered on the fact that he now had someone, whom he really cared about, and who made this usually dreaded event something to look forward to.

While he had dated Jubilee for almost ten months, Bobby still found it wrap his mind around this piece of happiness he had. Given that most of his previous relationships had not lasted as long, he was reeling from the fact that things continued to go well. He and Jubilee had had their first fight. Unlike past altercations with other women he dated, the disagreement did not allude to the beginning of the end; nor did it suggest that Bobby was destined to spend an indefinite amount of time in the proverbial doghouse. Instead, the reconciliation that took place involved both of them admitting their missteps in the matter. Not only did it lessen Bobby’s guilt about his perceived responsibility, but it also served to bring the two of them to an understanding regarding the issues behind the argument.

The couple’s shared confessions of their feelings for one another was an aspect that continued to elevate Bobby’s mood. It was one thing to know about it from someone else was one thing, but hearing Jubilee herself say she loved him was especially sweet. Her whispery voice was still fresh in his mind. To know that she meant every word of it made the moment even more poignant.

His own admission was very meaningful to him as well. Before Jubilee, love did not enter into the picture during his previous relationships. Sure, he was crazy about these girlfriends, but the conditions needed to facilitate such a bond were not there. In short, it was an idea he strove towards when he was with them, but never attained. Now that he had it with someone he truly cared for, Bobby finally understood why these romances did not work out. For the first time, he was able to transcend beyond his guilt, hurt feelings, and insecurities to realize that there was a reason why things had not worked out. Most importantly, he was fine with all of that.

Since that night, the two of them had grown even closer. Whether it was the exchange of “I love yous” or the ring on Jubilee’s finger, there was a shift in the dynamics between Bobby and Jubilee. There was a new, stronger sense of commitment to the relationship. Trust and faith had been strengthened. No longer was there any fear or doubt about the other person’s emotions or intentions. This left the couple free to communicate more openly, much more so than before.

It was not long before others around the mansion started noticing Jubilee’s hand and the piece of jewelry that adorned her finger. Many of the women, including Jean and Rogue, stopped to admire the Claddaugh ring, complimenting Bobby’s romantic gesture. Paige looked at her friend’s hand and wistfully sighed her wish for Warren to follow suit. Upon noticing the ring, Tabitha tore it off of Jubilee’s finger and tried it on. Then she waved her hand in front of Kurt’s face, commenting as to how she would love to receive something like this. Flustered underneath his blue exterior, Kurt immediately teleported away.

As for reactions from the males, there were variations. Hank, tired from pulling an eight-hour shift in the med-lab, initially mistook the band as an engagement ring. He congratulated his best friend and Jubilee. Then he questioned them with great concern as to how soon it was to be thinking of marriage. Gambit nonchalantly gave the ring an once-over before pulling Bobby aside to inform him that he knew people who knew people who could get him a deal on a nice diamond solitaire. When Scott saw Jubilee’s hand, he wore a grimace. Clearly, he was struggling to contain his wariness for the young girl’s sake. At the same time, there was no denying that he was not all that pleased. To his credit, he only commented that it looked beautiful on Jubilee. Meanwhile, Logan gruffly told Jubilee the ring was a nice fit on her small hand. Then he nodded at Bobby briefly, indirectly relaying what could be construed as approval.

Strolling into one of the rec rooms, Bobby decided that life was very good. Not only was he in love with an incredible girl who returned his feelings, but also he had made plans to make their first Valentine’s Day as a couple unforgettable. His gray eyes scanned the area for the two individuals whom he considered his closest confidants. He pushed past a group of students who were crowded around the venerable, British dartboard Jono had brought back from his trip to London. Then he passed by Roberto, Amara, Kurt, and Sam, where they were engaged in a serious game of pool. As he nodded his greeting at a group of identical blond girls with glassy eyes and vacant-looking expressions, he soon found just the people he was searching for. His pace quickened as he made his way over to them.

Warren pushed a lock of gold hair from his blue eyes. The tall, blond stood over the room’s foosball table, which was complete with solid chromed-steel poles and sturdy legs. A fierce competitor, Warren made it clear from his stance and facial expression that he was taking this game seriously. Rubbing his hands together, he smugly remarked to Hank, who standing on the other side of the table, “Your butt’s mine, McCoy.”

Hank peered down at the turned-wood handles, gripping them firmly. While he was less aggressive when it came to such things, he was aware that Warren did not own the market in trash talking. “Your fly’s down, Worthington,” he shot back, without looking up at his friend’s face.

“What?” Warren peered down, checking the zipper to his slacks. When he discovered his friend was merely joking, he rolled his eyes and shook his head. “Real mature, Hank. I think Bobby’s rubbing off on you more and more every day.”

“You say that like it’s a bad thing,” Bobby remarked, pushing up the sleeves to his green, half-zip sweater, which was worn over a pair of soft chinos. He stood on one side of the table, but between his two friends.

Hank grinned at his friend in greeting, sharp teeth shining underneath the lighting from the ceiling fixtures. “Good to see you, Bobby.” His blue eyes studied the younger man’s boyish features closely. “You seem to be in high spirits today.”

Warren followed the hulking man’s gaze, adjusting the collar to his black polo shirt. “Yes, you do,” he agreed thoughtfully, noting a sparkle in Bobby’s gray eyes he had not seen in quite some time. Not that his friend was a perpetually depressed person. After all, this was Bobby Drake, the cheery prankster, who was quick with a line guaranteed make you either laugh or groan with disbelief. Yet, there was always something that indicated the young man held himself from being completely open. “What gives?”

Bobby flashed him a mysterious smile. “Does there have to be a specific reason? The sun is shining, the kids are being reasonably behaved...” He nodded his head in the direction of a group of students from the Hellion squad, who were watching an exhibition soccer match on the big-screen television. Then he added in a conspiratorial whisper, “Oh, I’ve made some special plans for me and Jubes.”

Hank raised his thick brows, intrigued. “Really?”

“When you say special,” Warren began, leaning against the foosball table, “you’re not talking Chuckie Cheese’s, are you?”

Bobby snorted. “Give me some credit.” After a brief pause, he muttered, “Hank and I aren’t allowed back in there after that run-in with Chuckie.”

Warren smirked, suppressing the urge to laugh outright. “Why? What happened?” he inquired.

“Let’s just say we were trying to right the injustice of us being cheated out of tokens,” Hank replied in a voice that implied the subject should be dropped. He still had a hard time getting the image of Bobby going toe-to-toe with the mascot out of his head. Taking a deep breath, he turned to his young friend and said, “So, what are these big plans that have got you so excited?”

Bobby gave him a grateful look before speaking. “I just booked a weekend getaway for us at Lake Placid Lodge,” he announced proudly. “Pretty impressive Valentine’s Day, huh?”

Hank was impressed. Located in the Adirondacks, the lodge was a welcome retreat for those looking for a serene getaway. Each of the seventeen guestrooms and seventeen cabins were named for the region’s high peaks and lakes. Filled with rustic twig and birch bark furniture, richly hued and textured fabrics, Adirondack antiques, oriental carpets, and artwork created by local artisans, it was just as much of a treat to remain indoors. Given all of this, the waiting list for reservations was lengthy. Jean had to beg and plead with the manager on the phone in order to book a room for her and Scott on the weekend of their anniversary. For Bobby to make arrangements as he did so last minute was a feat indeed.

“Wow,” Hank finally said, smiling broadly and patting Bobby’s shoulder. “How did you ever do it?”

“I did the lodge’s tax paperwork one year,” Bobby answered, referring to the period when he was a practicing accountant. “The manager remembered me and let me cash in a favor.”

Bobby had been so consumed by his pride over securing reservations and thoughts of sitting out on the porch of his room with Jubilee, staring out at the silver water and silent mountains that he did not notice the troubled expression on Warren’s face. The other man rubbed his hand over his mouth, blue eyes doleful. Then he shook his head reluctantly.

Finally, Warren sighed wearily. “You booked it for Valentine’s Day?” he asked. “Valentine’s Day as in tomorrow?”

“Yeah.” Bobby exchanged a quizzical look with Hank. “I mean that’s what I just told you...Why?”

Why do I have to do this? Why do I have to look like a jerk with the bad news? Warren asked himself, raking a tanned hand through his golden hair. “I’m sorry,” he said quietly, “but you can’t go.”

“What?” Bobby instantly felt the wind taken out of his sails. For a moment, he thought his friend was pulling some kind of joke. When it became increasingly evident that he was not, a surge of panic coursed through his veins. “Why not? What are you talking about?”

Hank peered over at Warren, watching the blond Adonis shift uncomfortably. After several seconds, he immediately remembered what his friend was referring to. He also knew what he was about to inform their young friend. “Oh dear,” he muttered, finding himself averting Bobby’s stare as well.

Bobby became impatient as he noticed his closest friends being more and more evasive with him. “Will one of you tell me what the hell is going on?” he demanded.

Warren racked his brain, desperately searching for some diplomatic, gentle way to break the news. Usual one to operate well under pressure, he was surprised to find himself drawing blanks in this situation. Inwardly, he cursed at himself. Eons seemed to pass before he gave Bobby a sympathetic glance and began to speak again.

“Listen,” he said, rubbing the back of his neck with his hand. There was a sharp, stinging sensation that started to build up as he talked. It was not very painful, but annoying nonetheless. He could have read more into the feeling, but decided against it. “Scott put out the on-call list for this week. While we’re looking at a lighter load at the mansion because most of the students are going to some dance at the community center in town, he’s still insisting that someone be here.”

Bobby groaned. “And that someone’s me, right?” He shook his head in disbelief. “I was here for Valentine’s Day last year.”

“But you weren’t on call,” Hank pointed out, shrinking back when he received a stony glare from his young friend. He forced a jovial smile on his lips and said, “Well, you can look at the bright side. You’ll be looking after only ten students. That’s pretty manageable.”

“That’s supposed to console me?” Bobby crossed his arms over his chest. Suddenly, his face brightened as he became inspired. “Guys... How would you like to be responsible for making your pal here eternally grateful for your friendship?”

Warren’s ears picked up on the tone. Hearing it before, he knew where his friend was going. He pressed his lips together in a firm line, feeling immensely guilty over the response he was about to give. “I’m flying out to Geneva to meet up with some shareholders tomorrow,” he informed Bobby, genuinely apologetic. “Otherwise, I would do switch with you in a heartbeat.”

Bobby peered over at Hank, who was shaking his head with a great deal of remorse. “I’m chaperoning the dance in town with Emma and Alex,” the hulking man explained as he nervously picked a piece of fuzz from his black, V-neck sweater. “If I was not, then I would have no hesitation in helping you out.”

“Well, do you know anyone who’d be willing to trade? I’m dying here, guys.” Bobby’s gray eyes were pleading as his brain raced to discover a solution. “What about Kurt?”

“He was on-call last year and the year before,” Warren pointed out, still rubbing his neck. “Scott’s not allowing him to sub in anymore in order to be fair.”

“Fair?” Bobby was incredulous. He was tempted to engage in soliloquy as to how Scott Summers’ version fair bit as much as a rabid monkey. Drawing on self-restraint that had been deeply embedded somewhere, he held his tongue. Then he sighed, trying to come up with other candidates. “What about Rogue?”

“She, Gambit, Bishop, and Sage left this morning with Storm and Logan to check out some mutant activities in Germany.”

“I assume Scott and Jean are going to be away, too?”

“You are correct, sir.”

“Fine. Kitty?”

“She’s still irked with you over that inflatable sheep you gave her for Christmas. What did you mean by doing that, by the way?”

“Nothing. Um, I guess I could talk to Dani and those guys...” Bobby was rather hesitant about this option since he did not know them all that well. He had not seen much of Dani and her former classmates since they moved on to be instructors at the school. While the teaching staff was not all that big, there seemed to be a degree of separation between the instructors.

Warren shook his blond head again. “No can do. Apparently, she and her friends are going out that night.” He had heard this piece of information from Paige, who informed him that she would be joining this group’s celebration while he was away.

Hank nodded. “Hell hath no fury like a woman forced to give up her plans,” he mused.

“Sorry, Bobby.” Warren patted his friend’s arm in an attempt to comfort and ease his disappointment. Then he and Hank exchanged rather helpless looks, both realizing that there was little either one could do at this point in time.

Deflated and defeated, Bobby’s shoulders sank. He was slowly coming to grips with reality, as he now knew it. There would be no weekend getaway to the mountains. The anticipation of spending time with his girlfriend alone faded. The romantic ideals he initially envisioned for their time together disappeared. Thoughts of enjoying a picturesque view from their room, sharing cozy meals together, and their bodies snuggling in front of a stone fireplace soon faded from his mind.

Yet, for all these things he was certain were not going to happen, there was one thing he was confident in knowing.

He hated Valentine’s Day.

“Remind me to order something warm the next time we go out and not a salad,” Paige said, closing the mansion’s front door behind her. The two friends had just returned from outing into town for lunch at one of the small cafes. In spite of the limited amount of time they spent outdoors, the younger Guthrie could still feel the chilly air reverberate in her bones.

Jubilee pulled down the hood of her yellow, puffer jacket. Her sapphire eyes sparkled as she shrugged her shoulders. “Hey, you were the one more concerned about calories,” she replied breezily, feeling quite content with her meal of corn chowder. Unlike her friend and former roommate, she did not seem all that concerned about the latest diet fads.

“I don’t know why I bother,” Paige sighed. Her red, mittened hand attempted to smooth down her straw-colored hair, which had been rumpled by the late afternoon breeze outside. Unbeknownst to her, there were several cowlicks she could not quite account for. “It’s not like anyone’s going to pay attention to what I look like, you know.”

Jubilee leaned against the banister of the staircase and unbuttoned her jacket. “What do you mean?” she inquired, perplexed. It had been quite some time since they had discussed how Paige’s relationship with Warren. With the exception of the passing comment about Jubilee’s ring, the younger girl believed everything was fine.

Paige peered around, surprised to notice how still the main floor was. She assumed some of the students had gone into town with a few of the instructors to shop for the Valentine’s Day dance the following evening. Satisfied that no one was within earshot, she said, “Warren’s going away on business tomorrow morning. So much for a romantic Valentine’s Day.”

“I’m sorry.” Jubilee gave her despondent friend a sympathetic smile. Used to being the shoulder to cry on, she had grown accustomed to Paige’s stormy relationships. It always pained her to observe her friend in such turmoil. While she was loyal to her friend, she wondered lately if her friend was not repeating some kind of pattern when it came to her personal life.

Paige shook her head, unbuttoning her red peacoat. “It’s not your fault,” she told Jubilee, smiling bitterly. Then she quickly brightened. “Well, at least I won’t be alone.”

Feeling apprehensive and curious, Jubilee raised her sable brows. Her mind raced with possibilities as to what that statement meant exactly. “Um, OK... You’ve made plans with someone else?”

“You could say that.” Paige rolled her eyes when she saw the concerned expression on the young girl’s face. “Oh come on, Jubes. It’s not what you think. I’m getting together with The Lonely Hearts’ Club.”

“Is that a band?” Jubilee found herself growing even more confused by the second.

Paige laughed, pulling off her mittens. “No,” she answered, “it’s this thing Kitty and Dani made up. Apparently, it’s a yearly thing with all the single people.”

“You’re not single.”

“I am for Valentine’s Day.”

“OK, fine. Who else is in the club?”

“Beside me, Kitty, and Dani, there’s Amara, Kurt, Rahne, Xi’an, and my brother...”

“So, what does this club do?”

“We’re going to hang out at this bar and drink Heineken. I guess we’ll also talk about how being alone sucks. Maybe we’ll get Kurt to do some karaoke. He does a really cool rendition of ‘Freebird’.”

“Sounds like fun, although I can’t really see him in doing that. Are you sure you’re talking about Kurt? I mean this is the guy who was totally mortified when Rogue entered him into the annual talent show with her.”

“You’ve never seen him drunk, Jubes.”

“Point taken.”

Paige pushed her hair from her eyes. Over the last year, she had been trying to grow out her bangs. Unfortunately, they were currently in that in-between stage—too long to wear against her forehead, but too short to tuck behind her ears. After giving up on them, she asked, “So, what are your plans? Are you and Bobby going on some romantic dinner? I bet he’s doing something special.”

This elicited a dreamy smile from Jubilee. Her cheeks were flushed pink, contrasting against the blue in her lovely eyes. The source of her bright coloring could be attributed to the cold from outside. Yet, she knew this was not entirely true.

To be perfectly honest, she did not know what their plans were. Bobby had been rather mysterious as to what he had up his sleeve. No wide-eyed, pleading stares could etch away at his resolve. In the end, she resigned herself to settle in for whatever adventure her boyfriend had in store. It would be guaranteed to be amazing.

As she mulled over what might lie ahead, she soon realized that this marked another first with Bobby. This time last year, she was spending another Valentine’s Day on the sidelines, watching other people go off on their romantic dalliances. Not that she was completely bitter about the state of affairs at the point, but she was not convinced that she would ever have the opportunity to experience what they did. Some might say she had become complacent about being perceived as the eternal child, permanently fixed in that stage.

Being with Bobby now, she would be able to see what all the fuss was about. She would be able to understand what made the women she knew coo and sigh over whatever plans their significant others had. At the same time, she knew no bauble, fancy dinner, or other gesture could match what he had done already. He had declared his commitment to her, through his earnest words and through the ring he had given her.

“I love you... I love you, Jubes.”

Her sapphire gaze flicked to the band around her finger. In her young life, she had come to terms with losses and ordeals that made her question her faith in almost everything. People seemed to be fleeting when it came to their presence in her life. First, there were her parents, and then there were her friends. Even with her beloved Wolverine, she often braced herself for what became regular sabbaticals for the troubled loner. Depending on herself had come to be a fact of life. To rely on someone else had been perceived as something dangerous, taboo.

But now things were different. It was truly an incredible thing, knowing that someone loved and cared about you even knowing your flaws and fears. To be certain that this person would be there for you no matter the circumstances instilled a sense of comfort. Possibly the best part was that she did not feel ambivalent to the point she needed to question or test him. For her, it was safe to trust in Bobby. Period.

At first, she tried to figure out as to why this was the case. It was not only the fact that he always brought her napkins for her when they got popcorn at the movies so that she did not have to wipe her hands on her jeans. It was not only the fact that he made sure to order extra cheese fries so she could nibble once she finished hers. It was not only the fact that he had given her his grandmother’s ring as a symbol of his love. It was not only the fact that he was willing to wait for her despite the want and yearning that was reflected in his eyes.

In the end, there was no single piece of evidence that was especially telling. She simply knew this piece of happiness she had with Bobby was right. That was good enough for her.

Paige watched as her friend turned her head in the direction of the staircase. The Kentucky native smiled as she observed a twinkling of excitement in the younger girl’s eyes. “Go,” she said, nudging Jubilee gently in the shoulder. “I bet he’s already up there, waiting.”

Jubilee’s smooth forehead creased slightly. The other girl’s grin was wavering at best, nearly revealing the dejectedness in her overall presentation. Much to her own dismay, Jubilee had seen her friend in a similar state. However, this time had a different connotation, which she could not put her finger on. Given this, she was hesitant to leave Paige.

“No,” she replied, shoving her hands into the pockets of her jacket. “I’d rather hang with you, Hayseed. Besides, Bobby’s probably sick of seeing me this week.” She hoped the latter part was not true. Quickly, she admonished herself. Of course, that was not true.

“Don’t be stupid,” Paige retorted, waving her hand dismissively. “I don’t need you to baby sit me.”

Jubilee opened her mouth to protest. “I’m not trying to—”

The younger Guthrie did not want to hear anymore of it. Shoving the other girl towards the first few steps, she whispered, “One of us deserves to be happy this Valentine’s. You go up there right now, Jubes, or so help me...”

Bobby was sitting on his bed, propped by several pillows against the headboard. His boyish face was marred by a scowl as he read over the memorandum Scott had left in his mailbox. Even when he writes, he sounds uptight, Bobby mused, rolling his eyes. He wondered if Scott had intentionally designated him as chaperone for the weekend. Part of Bobby would not put it past the other man to make such an indirect, but manipulative maneuver. Briefly, he contemplated confronting Scott about his suspicions, but restrained himself. With a muffled groan, he tossed the piece of paper, outlining the house rules to be followed and emergency numbers, on the floor beside him.

There was a myriad of emotions that flooded every fiber of his being when reality began to sink in. Anger and resentment topped the list as he phoned the lodge manager to cancel. Never had he seen his knuckles turn so white as he clenched his fists during his conversation. It took a great deal of self-control not to scream through his teeth when the man on the other line stated that he (Bobby) would be missing out on an incredible weekend getaway.

These feelings were soon replaced by ones of disappointment. Yet again, he failed. All of his well-placed intentions and careful planning fell by the wayside. He had wanted to do something special for Jubilee. After all, it was their first Valentine’s Day together as a couple. The weekend he had arranged was going to demonstrate how much he loved her. He was going to show her how special she was because that was she had come to mean to him.

Instead, he was going to play babysitter to a group of adolescents and children.

A soft rapping at the door interrupted his brooding. Instantly, he recognized the knock. While he was pleased, he could not help but feel somewhat guilty at the same time. Jumping off of his bed, he strode towards the door and yanked it open.

Jubilee grinned up at him, beautiful face radiant. “Hey,” she greeted, wearing a green, V-neck sweater of a pair of faded jeans that rode low on her slim hips. Her puffer jacket was tucked under her arm as she slung her messenger bag over her shoulder. “Can I come in?”

Bobby smiled. “What do you think?” he asked, kissing her forehead and opening the door wider to allow her inside. He closed the door behind her quietly.

She placed her coat and bag on one of his black, beanbag chairs, as she always did when she came over. “So,” she began, staring around the bedroom, which seemed unusually neat that day. “Scott and Jean have already gone to that bed and breakfast. They won’t be back until Sunday night. I guess this means that while the Summerses are away, Jubes can play.”

He chuckled, amused with her cute rhyme. He stretched out on his king-sized bed. “Did you just make that up?” he asked.

“It’s a talent,” she replied wryly, making her way to him. She settled next to him, lying on her side and propping herself on her elbow. “Seriously, I’m yours from tonight until then. Anything you want to do...”

He pressed his lips together. It was clear where she was going. For the past week and a half, she had been begging him to disclose their activities for Valentine’s Day. With delight, he kept her waiting but found her eagerness so endearing and infectious. As he stared into those hypnotic, sapphire depths, he was immediately reminded of how he was letting her down. “I wish that were really so,” he muttered under his breath.

Jubilee frowned. “What does that mean?” she inquired.

Bobby shook his head, grimacing. “I’m afraid we’re not going to spend Valentine’s Day together,” he explained. “I’m on-call this weekend.”

“Oh.” She tried not to sound crestfallen, but the inflection in her voice betrayed her. The young girl had been looking forward to this weekend to being alone with him. During the past week, there was such a build-up of anticipation from what was in store for them. Yet, as she peered over at her boyfriend, she could see he was more upset about the prospect than she was. Then she placed her hand on his arm comfortingly. “I’m sorry.”

Raking a hand through his sandy hair, he sighed wearily. “No, I’m sorry,” he corrected quietly. “Jubes, I had this great weekend planned for us.”

“Really?” She was intrigued, her curious piqued. “Like what?”

He looked at her lovely face quizzically. “Why?”

She shrugged her slim shoulders. “I’d like to know what you had in mind for us, even if we’re not going.”

“I don’t know... I would find it kind of depressing.”

“Well, that’s where we differ. Now, spill, Drake.”

“Fine. I had reservations at the Lake Placid Lodge for this weekend. It’s up in the Adirondacks.”

“Sounds great.”

“It was going to be.”

“So, what were we going to do?”

“The place had an incredible restaurant, so we’d gorge ourselves there. The rest of the time I guess we’d watch the stars, sit by the fireplace in our room, and ice-skate...”

Bobby did not want to look directly at her. He knew she was listening to him empathically, her hand rubbing his arm gently. For some reason, her being so understanding seemed to make him feel much worse. It only served to reflect his failure. As he thought more about why he was reacting this way, he traced it back to his past relationships with other women. He was used to being berated by the likes of Opal. In the absence of this, there was a strange voice inside his head that took on this function. Apparently, this was something he had grown used to in spite of how functional and comfortable things were with Jubilee.

Sensing his inner turmoil, she pulled herself into his lap. Her crystalline eyes mirrored the concern she felt for him. “It sounded nice,” she said softly. Then she added, “That wouldn’t have made the weekend.”

His brows knitted together in confusion. “What does that mean? The place was perfect.” He tried not to sound defensive as he responded to her remark.

“I’m sure it was,” she assured him, staring into his troubled gray eyes. “But a nice room in a fancy lodge wouldn’t have made things special for Valentine’s Day. Or a dinner at a four-star restaurant, for that matter.”

He continued to be befuddled by her vagueness. “I’m not following you, Jubes. What do you want?”

“Why are all the pretty ones so dumb?” she pretended to sigh, rolling her eyes. The corners of her small mouth lifted in a smile. “If it hasn’t been so utterly obvious over the last nine and a half months we’ve been dating, then you’re really dense. I want you. I don’t care where we are or what we’re doing. As long as we’re together, nothing else matters.”

“Really?” He could feel his guilt begin to dissipate with her words. His shoulders suddenly felt lighter. It was as if she were lifting an imaginary burden through her reassurances. While he should have not been surprised, it was still something he was adjusting to.

“Really,” she replied earnestly, pleased to see him relax slightly. “Besides, it won’t be so bad sticking around here for the weekend.”

This time, Bobby rolled his eyes. “Speak for yourself,” he commented flatly. “You’re not going to be stuck, looking after a bunch of kids. Trust me, I’m going to get Scott back for this one. Big time.”

“I could help,” Jubilee volunteered, fascinated by the possibility. “Some of those kids are around my age. Maybe I could relate to them better than stuffy, old Mr. Drake.” She giggled.

He grimaced. “Great, that’s all I need. My girlfriend cavorting with the students I have to look after. I can picture all of you, plotting some practical joke.”

“Now, that’s an idea!” Her laughter increased, which soon ceased when she saw the flash of annoyance across his boyish face. Still smiling, she lowered her thick, black lashes. “You’re not going to be looking after the kids for all hours of the night. I’m sure you’ll be relieved at some point. Besides, I think there are things we can do here in between you confiscating firecrackers and the like. Do you have any thoughts?”

He instinctively deciphered the sparkle in her brilliant eyes and grinned. “I have something in mind,” he said huskily, staring at her beautiful face. “Can I try?”

Captivated by the warmth that radiated from his gaze, she nodded silently. Her smile became less broad, less self-assured. She could feel her heart thumping wildly inside her chest with anticipation, not nerves.

His fingers was soon tangled in her raven locks, pulling her face towards his. With closed eyes, she sought his lips. He drew her lithe body into a straddling position over him. They continued kissing, their mouths teasing one another’s gently. Then Bobby’s tongue pressed against her lips and parted them. He tasted her sweetness and tracing the outline of her perfect white teeth.

Jubilee shuddered against him from the intensity of his embrace. The act sent a tingle that radiated through her entire body. She felt one of his arms slide behind her back, holding her close against him as he kissed her. He then lowered her to a supine position on the bed so that he was on top of her.

Gasping, she drew back for a moment. Recollections of that night in his bedroom flooded her brain. A great deal of what they were doing was familiar. However, the fear and insecurity she experienced then were replaced by other emotions. Staring up at his face, she felt overwhelmed. There was such longing, such genuine love in that gaze that met hers. It was enough to make her tremble in his arms.

“Are you OK?” Bobby asked thickly, resting his forehead against hers. As much as he wanted to take things further, he did not want to scare her again. He was vigilant when it came to ensuring that he was not pressuring her to bend in any way.

She nodded and cut him off with a kiss before he could make any other inquiries. This time, things were different. This time, she not frightened.

Her fingers swept through his sandy hair and over his ears as she continued to kiss him. As taken as Jubilee was with his mouth, she needed to feel more of him. Feeling increasingly brave, she slid her fingers over his chest. She smiled as he took her wrist and guided her hand underneath his sweater and T-shirt. Her nails grazed lightly over his taut abdomen. Gently, she traced every muscle with her fingertips, relishing the firmness that met her touch.

Bobby groaned against her mouth in response. Watching her intently, he lifted up his arms as she pulled his sweater completely off. Her sapphire eyes were wide and her lips were bruised from their kissing. The young girl’s creamy skin was now flushed pink. Dark hair spilled behind her head like a halo, making her resemble some kind of ethereal angel. Never had she looked more beautiful than she did at that moment.

His mouth moved away from hers, trailing kisses along her jaw. He buried his nose in her hair and inhaled her fragrance of bubblegum and cinnamon. Then he nipped at her ear, stroking her silky hair with his hands. Slowly, his tongue began a languorous trek southbound. In response, she turned her head to expose more of her slender neck to him. He traced her the smooth line of her collarbone with his lips and paused in the soft hollow between, savoring her exquisite skin.

Bobby smiled at her blearily, running his fingers along her neck. As he traced a line from her jaw to the supple skin of her throat, he felt himself become more intoxicated with the feel of her. Thoughts he felt he needed to suppress while he was with her now pulsed through his brain. Looking into her cerulean eyes, he soon realized that he did not have to do this anymore.

He was about to whisper something to her about turning up the stereo when there was a light, but insistent knock at his door. Startled, he jumped, clasping her tightly against him. Knowing his luck, it was probably Scott. The guy might have want to go over each house rule line by line, as if Bobby was too incompetent or careless to pay them any heed.

To his surprise and then his chagrin, the person on the other side was not Scott Summers. “Mr. Drake,” a girlish voice with a slight accent called out from the other side of the door. “Mr. Drake, it’s Sofia. Are you in there, Mr. Drake?”

He thought if he did not answer her right away, she would give up and leave a message on the board he had posted on his door.

No such luck. Knock, knock, knock. “Mr. Drake, I really need to tell you something.”

His boyish features fixed themselves into an expression of annoyance. “I’ll be with you, Sofia,” he replied. He scowled at Jubilee, who had her face buried in his shoulder to hide chortles of laughter. When he pulled away, he made a point to give her a silencing look, to which he received a smirk from his girlfriend. Then he slid off of the bed, smoothing out his T-shirt and his hair before opening the door just enough to poke his head through.

“What can I do for you?” Bobby asked, using the most pleasant and relaxed voice he could muster.

The dark-haired girl’s coffee-colored eyes widened as she took in the Bobby Drake across from her. For a moment, she could have sworn he had just been engaging in some kind of vigorous exercise—breathing heavily, cheeks somewhat flushed. Of course, there was another possibility.


“Sofia?” Bobby voice shattered her musings. “Sofia, what is it?”

Flustered, she pushed up the sleeves to her white, crewneck sweater, which she wore over a gray, plaid skirt and loafers. “Um, Cook wanted me to tell you that she’s off tomorrow afternoon,” she replied, trying to mask her discomfort and purge her suspicions from her mind. “So, I guess you’re in charge of getting dinner...”

Great, Bobby groused to himself, finding another reason to curse his luck. Images of him taking a group of students to the local pizzeria and arcade on Valentine’s Day seemed all too real. Somehow, he could not envision Jubilee enjoying herself then. That was as far from romantic as one could possibly get. Quickly, he suppressed the urge to frown and said evenly, “Well, thanks for letting me know, Sofia. I’ll see what I can work out for you guys.”

She nodded. “Maybe we can do sushi. I’m so tired of pizza these days.”

He forced a smile, which appeared more like a grimace. “I’ll see what I can do, OK?” He then closed the door and pressed his back against it. An uncharacteristic growl, a sign of his ever increasing frustration, escaped from his lips.

“Poor Bobby.” Jubilee was already off of the bed and by his side. She reached for his hand and led him away from the door.

He shook his head, his shoulders sinking in defeat. “That’s it, Jubes. Save yourself.”

She circled her slender arms around his waist. “Oh, that’s just crazy talk.”

“Seriously,” he insisted, cupping her delicate face in his cool, dry hands. “If you really want to make me happy, just go out tomorrow night and try to have a good time. At least, I won’t feel like a total tool for ruining things.”

She was about to dismiss his concerns again. However, she stopped herself when she noticed the pleading quality to his tone and his facial expression. He desperately bought into what he was saying. Taking that away from him would leave nothing in its wake.

Sighing, she relented and said, “Well, there is the Lonely Hearts Club...”

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