saga/title/fandom: Two of Us chapter 29 (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-Nine: My Funny Valentine
The following afternoon found Sammy shuffling his English binder and textbook. He tucked them carefully under his arm, surprised as to how empty the nearby rec rooms seemed to be at this time. Usually, both would be filled to capacity with students and instructors. Then he began to make his way to his room, climbing the spiral staircase from the main floor. As he ascended, he passed by a trio of dazzling blond girls with glassy eyes, wearing pink dresses with A-line skirts under camelhair coats. With mild interest, he wondered where the party was. From what little he knew of them (seeing them on campus almost every day), he realized they seemed especially dressed up.
“The Valentine’s Day dance,” one of them said sharply. She paused in front of Sammy, face expressionless and blank, as were those of her two identical companions.
He was taken aback. Suddenly, he remembered who these girls were and what they were capable of doing. Shrinking back slightly, he asked, “Could you please not invade my head? I’d like to have my privacy.” He was feeling quite self-conscious about some of his memories from back at home. Like most survivors of physical abuse, disclosure was something to be wary of.
“We wanted to answer your question, Sammy,” the Stepford Cuckoos replied flatly in unison. “Don’t suppose you’re going, are you?”
His dark eyes averted their steady, even gaze. There was nothing taunting or malicious in their supposition. Yet, he could not help but feel embarrassed. It was as if he were being indirectly reminded as to displaced and different he was even in this school. Sighing, he shook his head.
“You won’t be missing much,” they informed him, beginning to traipse down the stairs once again. “We’re only going to watch that awful Miss Frost have a miserable time.”
Phoebe added, “I can still hear her moaning about how she doesn’t want to go, Mindee.”
“She is so fake.” Her sister agreed. Then she turned around, facing Sammy, who was now at the top of the stairs. “Would you like to come with us?”
He tried not to gape. While the girls professed their intense dislike for Emma, there were some similarities between them. Much like the blond instructor, the girls projected the image of being aloof and removed. The sisters often stuck together, acting as their own clique not to be bothered by the others. As they extended their offer to accompany them, he could not help but be completely astonished by the gesture.
However, in the end, he declined. “Sorry,” he apologized, composing himself rather quickly. “I promised Jay we’d hang out tonight with the other guys around here.”
The Stepford Cuckoos wrinkled their noses simultaneously. Apparently, they found the idea of associating with the male students utterly beneath them. In their collective mind, with the exception of a few, most boys were immature and disgusting. Without saying another word to Sammy, the three girls sauntered towards the front door and slipped quietly into the frigid air outside.
Heaving another sigh from his small frame, Sammy continued his journey to his room. Most of the boys would have buckled in the knees at the prospect of carrying out an actual conversation with the blond sisters. They were, after all, very attractive and smart. Yet, the encounter registered as somewhat surreal to the Canadian, leaving him quite confused.
He strode down the hallway, passing the quarters of the instructors and field team members. Along the way, he saw his neighbor, David, talking to Bobby Drake, the instructor who was on-call for that night. The two of them were standing outside of Bobby’s room, but Sammy stopped to say hello.
“Are we still on for our Tekken tournament?” David asked. He nodded at Bobby, who was slipping his purple-tinted sunglasses into the pocket of his Hawaiian shirt. “Drake here says he wants dibs on the champion. It seems he’s the one to beat out of all the teachers.”
Sammy paused in his steps, peering up at Bobby Drake. He was aware of the young instructor’s interests in video games. Whenever he bought a new game, he always made a point to share it with the students in one of the rec rooms. It was one of the things that made it easier to relate to him than some of the other faculty members.
“That sounds good,” Sammy replied. “I just have to dump these books and find Jay. Then we can get everyone else together.”
Bobby’s gray eyes roved over the thick paperback the boy carried. “Yikes,” he remarked, shaking his head. “American Literature with Mr. Worthington?”
“Actually Paige is teaching the class this semester,” Sammy pointed out, following his gaze. He looked sheepish. “She really likes John Steinbeck.”
David made a face. “I’m glad I don’t have to worry about the humanities,” he commented. While he was a student at Xavier’s, he was taking several math courses at the nearby university. He had expressed some interest in studying economics or engineering. “Well, we’ll wait here for you to come back with Guthrie.”
“OK. See ya later.” Sammy began to make his way to the room he shared with Jay Guthrie, which was located at the end of the hall. He turned the knob to open the door, stepping inside.
The walls of the room were covered with various posters of their favorite musicians and movies. Sammy’s side of the room was considerably neater. He tended to keep his clutter of books, CDs, clothes, and water bottles around his bed and desk. His bed, complete with the quilt his mother had sent over weeks ago, was always made. Meanwhile, his roommate’s housekeeping habits left much to be desired. Though it did not border on unhygienic, Jay’s side was disorganized. Jeans and tank tops were strewn across the floor along with papers and books. CD cases were tossed carelessly on an unmade bed. His desk contained piles of photographs, notepads, and sheet music. Propped up in front of his solid, oak dresser was a large, black leather guitar case. Adjacent to that piece of furniture was a small amplifier, surrounded by wires.
Sammy stared around him, wondering where his roommate was. Usually, Jay did not have class on Fridays and often spent the day, writing songs or listening to CDs. Upon their first meeting, Sammy was not sure if they would get along. While he was a talkative type of person who was generally friendly to everyone, his roommate was more introspective and preferred to close himself off to other people. It had taken some time (not to mention some extra effort from Sammy) for Jay to finally engage in a normal conversation. Then one night, he opened up, revealing the tragic circumstances that led to his despondent nature. The two of them had talked into all hours of the night, discovering they were sadly acquainted with pain and loss in their young lives. Since then, they had become close friends at the school, looking out for one another.
Frowning slightly, Sammy tossed his binder and book on his desk. He suddenly noticed a piece of paper with some familiar scribbling on it. Curious, he picked up the note and began to read:
I’m getting the PS2 hooked up. Will meet you in the rec room. Could you do me a favor and get my Pete Yorn CD from Josh? He’s had it for the last month and a half. Thanks, Jay
Shrugging, Sammy placed the note back down on the desk. His ears detected the sound of the television set blaring next door, signaling that Josh was probably in. In the past, he would have dreaded initiating any kind of contact with the older boy given his previously held views of the world. But since he started rooming with David, there was a considerable mellowing in his outlook. As a result, it became easier to interact with him.
The door to Josh and David’s room was ajar by the time Sammy arrived. He formed a small fist and knocked. “Josh?”
Josh was folding his clothes, using his bed as temporary space for the piles. He had just returned from the laundry room with two baskets, filled to the brim. “Come in,” he called over his shoulder, recognizing Sammy’s drawl.
The younger boy obliged, his large eyes observing Josh fold a series of long-sleeved T-shirts. “Hey, Josh. Jay sent me over to get that CD he lent you. Could I get it from you?”
Josh motioned towards the other side of the room. “It’s in that blue Adidas bag over there,” he informed him, slightly annoyed that Jay was not giving him a chance to at least copy the disc. Who knew that a guy with red wings and a guitar would be so possessive over his music?
Sammy ambled over to where Josh pointed. He found the bag on the floor and dropped to his knees. Quickly, he unzipped it and rifled through, searching for Jay’s CD. He found something else instead. "What's this?" he asked as he pulled out a magazine. "Assmast--"
Josh dropped the shirt he had pulled from the basket and sprinted to where Sammy was. Then he snatched the magazine from his hands. "I don't think you should be looking at that."
The younger boy shrugged his shoulders, but still curious nonetheless. “Are we even allowed to have stuff like that around here?”
Josh smirked. “You expect them to have a rule on everything?” He studied the expression on his neighbor’s face, sensing that he had probably never laid eyes on such a publication. Feeling especially generous that day, he decided to help enlighten Sammy. He yanked open one of his dresser drawers. "You should start with something gentler,” he suggested, handing him a copy of Maxim. "Is David in the washroom?"
Sammy shook his head. "No, he's talking to Drake."
"Good,” Josh said, pushing the younger boy towards the bathroom that connected their two rooms together. Outside of the door, he continued with his guidance. “Now, take that magazine into the washroom and don't come out till you're finished."
"But I don't have to...ohhh." Sammy’s eyes nearly bulged from his head as he caught up to speed to what the other boy was saying. With his glassy eyes locked on the magazine cover, he shuffled into the bathroom.
A few seconds later, David came running into the room, pretending to hold his crotch. He looked irritated when he found his roommate standing in front of the bathroom door with Sammy. "Out of the way! I gotta piss!"
"You can't use our washroom," Josh informed him, raking a golden hand through his dark-blond hair. He tried to hide his amusement from the desperate expression on his roommate’s face when he disclosed this piece of information.
His roommate looked at him quizzical with wide, onyx eyes. "Why the hell not?" he demanded.
"Because I'm giving a lesson,” Josh replied calmly, crossing his arms over his chest. “Sammy is going to get acquainted with himself."
David rolled his eyes and ran back out into the hallway.
“I don’t see what the big deal is,” Kitty huffed, narrowing her cat-like, brown eyes as she took a swig of her Heineken. “I was just being nice. Since when is that cause for criticism?”
“I’m not criticizing you,” Kurt protested. He found himself fiddling with his image inducer, which he used when he was appearing in public but not in a field-team capacity. “I’m just…shocked, that’s all, Katzchen.”
This Valentine’s Day found the members of the Lonely Hearts Club at Benton Park, an intimate, classic American bar and restaurant, where the forties reign through the selection of jazz standards and vintage posters decorating the walls. The building was originally a turn-of-the-century bank, but was converted some years ago. The relaxed, casual dining atmosphere along with the full service scotch and bourbon bar helped to make Benton Park a popular hangout for the twenty-something crowd in Westchester. If one did not want to settle for a sit-down dinner, there was the mezzanine level, which boasted a hand-carved billiard tables, a dance floor crafted from rich, mahogany, and a comfortable cigar lounge equipped with armchairs and sofas. As a result, it was a perfect place to hold their yearly gathering.
Kurt and Kitty had arrived first in order to reserve space for their group on the mezzanine level. Ten minutes later, Dani, Xi’an, and Rahne appeared, looking rather drained from a day’s worth of teaching hormone-driven students who were itching to go to the dance at the community center. Never one to pass up an opportunity to imbibe alcohol, Kurt ordered the first round of Heinekens and appetizers. Halfway through their drinks, the topic of staging some form of intervention for Kitty Pryde came up.
Dani nodded, black braids bobbing against the denim jacket she wore over a white T-shirt and green skirt with black mules. She thanked the spirits above for underground parking for allowing her to get away with not bundling up completely. “Maybe shocked is a strong word,” she said. “It’s more like…”
“Surprising.” Xi’an supplied, brown eyes filled with amusement. She grabbed a mozzarella stick and popped it into her mouth.
“What are we talking about?” Roberto inquired in greeting as he and Amara and Sam strolled to where the group was sitting. He smiled at Rahne, who had stood up and leapt into his arms for a hug. Chuckling, he gave her slight frame a squeeze before releasing her.
The Scotswoman’s green eyes flicked over to Kitty, who was sitting on the adjacent couch with Kurt. With her thick accent, she replied, “Juggernaut’s haien a real guid day ‘cause of Kitty.”
Roberto frowned thoughtfully, translating his friend’s response mentally. Juggernaut’s having a real good day because of Kitty. “Um, why?” he asked, his voice tinged with apprehension. Like some of his peers, he was not totally convinced Cain Marko had turned over a new leaf.
Rahne sat on the arm of the leather chair Dani was sitting on, plucking off a loose piece of thread from her brown, mesh top with a deep V-cut. “She gae him a hug.”
“Rahne!” Kitty shook her head, ponytail swinging behind her head vigorously.
“A dinnae know t’wis a secret.” Rahne brushed her orange bangs from her eyes.
Roberto made a face and gaped at an indignant Kitty Pryde. “Ugh, how could you?” he asked, shrugging out of his black topcoat and draping it over the side of the plush couch. “He’s like a big, dumb gorilla.”
Amara slapped his shoulder. “Ave, Roberto,” she scolded, flashing Kitty a sympathetic look with her velvety-brown eyes. She tried to mask her own disbelief at the image. “Don’t you think she feels bad enough?”
“No.” Roberto grinned when Kurt snorted with laughter.
Kitty glared at the two men, clinking down her now empty beer bottle on the table. “Listen, there was nothing lurid about what I did,” she explained. “I was just showing the guy a little kindness. It’s no secret that the he’s had trouble fitting in. So when no one wished him a Happy Valentine’s Day, I felt bad. I mean he looked really pathetic, standing alone and watching people exchange cards and presents. That’s when I decided to give him a hug. Like, I don’t see what the big deal is.”
Roberto settled down on the overstuffed, leather sofa with Amara and Xi’an. He nodded emphatically in agreement. “No, you’re right,” he told her. He leaned back and wrapped an arm around the back of the sofa. After a brief pause, he inquired, “So, does this mean we can start calling you Mrs. Marko?”
Kitty threw a cardboard coaster at his head in reply.
Usually, Sam Guthrie would have been thoroughly amused by the antics of his good friend. He always had been since they first met so many years ago. However, the Southern gentleman was preoccupied. He pretended to focus his attention on the menu in his hands. There was no way he was going to allow himself to ruminate about something that roused such extreme and conflicting emotions and caused sleepless nights.
Yet, his mind insisted on revisiting the subject like an intimate memory.
Initially, he attributed these feelings to a need to be with someone. After returning to the mansion with Ororo’s group from California, he and Lila had decided to cool things off. His newfound passion for pursuing the Professor’s dream did not sit too well with her anxieties about the changing the world and the dangers that lurked about. Both of them agreed it was simply too taxing to be involved in a relationship where they wanted different things from life. Fortunately, the dissolution was amicable. They communicated via email on a regular basis. Lila had even sent him a copy of her latest acoustic CD from her last tour for Christmas.
As the months passed following his return to the mansion, he realized that was not the source. He and Roberto had often gone out to the Robin, a club that catered to both humans and mutants. With his farm boy appeal and innocent good looks, Sam had no problems attracting attention from the opposite sex. Many of the women he met were pretty and nice enough. There were times when he was tempted to see where things would lead if he ventured further beyond drinks. But in the end, he found himself invalidating the possibility of anything constructive happening. All he was left with was a pocketful of cocktail napkins with scribbles of phone numbers and names belonging to women he would never call.
He wanted something else.
He wanted someone else.
These feelings, this infatuation struck him as rather perplexing. It was not as if he had been immediately drawn in. There was no light that went off in his head, telling him that this was it; that this was the person he wanted to be with. As far as he could remember, he never thought all that much of her upon their first meeting. In fact, she seemed rather unremarkable. She was, at the time, a child like his siblings and the students back at the mansion. Nothing particularly special about that at all.
At times, she stood out because she wanted to. During these instances, her need for attention was not manifested in the most productive ways. With her smart mouth and disregard for the rules, she earned the exasperated looks from the Professor, or long, tedious lectures from Emma. But beneath the layer of wanton rebelliousness was a zest for life rarely found in most people. It was like an infectious energy that beckoned to people. While her antics lessened over the years, one could still detect the presence of this energy. This aspect of her personality had not completely disappeared, but instead, was channeled elsewhere—through her strength and maturity.
Sensing this energy, Sam found himself needing to protect it fiercely—as he would his own siblings. He thought this desire stemmed from the fact that she reminded him of Paige and the younger Guthries back in Kentucky. Perhaps it was her troubled and tragic past that elicited these feelings. From what he had heard from Logan, Jubilee’s life was not a bed of roses. Part of him was able to relate to the sentiment of having to grow up before it was time. The circumstances were different, but there was still a connection. Being the oldest in a large family with a single parent, he knew what it was like to put one’s dreams and hopes on the backburner in favor of real life.
Their interactions altered somewhat following Sam’s discovery, but not by much. When she and Paige would talk about dates, he would feign concern and joke about tagging along with them. Other than that, he did not think that much about her. She was still so young.
As an active field member, Sam had opportunities to come back to the mansion in between missions. By then, the school in Massachusetts had closed down for good with the students and teachers following their own paths. He and Paige grew closer, allowing him to mentor her as she struggled to find her identity at the mansion. During this time, he became aware of Jubilee once again. He would catch glimpses of her and hear her voice carry down the hall, but did not invest a great deal of interest in catching up with her once again. The mental image he had carried with him of her remained fixed, forcing him to be unconvinced that not much had changed. He had expected to meet up with a skinny girl with short, spiky hair and loud clothes, incessantly popping gum like it was going out of style.
He quickly realized how wrong he was.
Following a debriefing with the Professor about the X-Corps’ latest activities, Sam had wandered outside for a stroll to clear his head. He was reeling from the events of the mission. He needed to concentrate on something not associated with hate and destruction. His steps moved him past Ororo’s palatial greenhouse outside of the rose garden. The serene weather goddess stood inside, attending to some new tulips Hank helped to cultivate. Next to her was another figure, unfamiliar to Sam. This individual placed her head against Ororo’s slim shoulder. Filled with curiosity, he brought himself closer. It was then he realized he indeed knew the other person.
Skinny awkwardness gave way to slender grace. Short, spiky hair had grown out into a cascade of black hair with midnight-blue streaks. Loud, neon-colored clothing was replaced by subtle choices in fashion; evident by a lilac T-shirt and light blue corduroy jeans with black loafers. Delicate facial features matured, showcasing those brilliant blue eyes that put the most rare sapphires to shame.
Sam could still feel his stomach slam low in his body. The experience had been unreal. It was as if Jubilee had somehow slipped into a chrysalis for a period of time only to emerge as this beautiful creature. He had to tell himself that this was the same girl who used to share a room with Paige. Part of him wanted to go inside, to call out to her, to talk to her. However, he overrode this urge with characteristic restraint he exercised to most areas of his life.
Still intrigued, he found himself thinking about her when he was not occupied with mission plans or taking care of affairs back home in Kentucky. They would engage in brief conversations upon seeing each other around the mansion. During these passing instances, he noticed how she had changed as well. No longer loud and demanding of attention, she accumulated thoughtfulness and wisdom in her newfound maturity. The way she carried herself conveyed confidence without any hint of an over inflated ego.
The change was refreshing, but at the same time, disconcerting. All these years, he had come to think of her as another little sister to watch over. It was a dynamic they were used to and became comfortable with. After all, this was Jubilee. Just because she had grown up since the last time he had seen her, that did not mean anything had to change, did it?
He quickly realized the answer to this question after one sleepless night.
Though he was not that much older than her, Sam contemplated the repercussions of introducing something that went beyond their platonic association. To change it would be huge. He imagined the unease that would hang in the air while attempting to navigate this new territory. Then there were the reactions that would be elicited. While he was no longer the naïve farm boy who was eager to please, he remained cognizant of the fact that other people would have their say in the matter. Sam was unable to forget Logan’s reaction to the hug he had given Jubilee last Christmas. The claws had immediately sprung from the back of his hands in record time. Since that incident, Sam had learned to be more wary of touching her in front of the loner. As for his sister, he had not been sure of how she would respond. Jubilee was her best friend. On one hand, she might have been thrilled to see them dating. On the other hand, the younger Guthrie might express her doubt with the relationship.
In the end, Sam decided to hold back and relegated himself to being a casual acquaintance with the hope of something more. Any aggressive maneuvering on his part would have surely been rebuffed. He was certain of this conclusion and had some evidence to justify this rationalization. Most notably, there was the fact that he could not quite feel at ease in his own skin when he was around her. His tongue and brain were not working in synch, leaving him at a loss for the right things to say. The uncontrollable instinct to become sheepish in her presence was another aspect that might have driven her away. The Southern gentleman wanted to believe that time, which would have provided them with a chance for him to sort things out, would eventually bring them together. After all, there was no need to press forward so quickly. It was not as if anyone else had noticed what he had.
To his disbelief and subsequent disappointment, this finding ended up being false. Sam felt like an impotent observer to the events that unfolded over the course of the months following Bobby Drake’s return to the mansion. Jealousy ate away at Sam bitterly as he watched his former roommate reach out to Jubilee, pursue her, and ultimately became involved with her. The envious feelings soon gave way to despondency. Privately mourning each time he saw the couple, he found himself wondering what could have been. Would he have been the one to give her first kiss? Would he have been the one to give her a ring to tell her how committed he was to her? Would he have been the one to let her know over and over again how special she was?
“Can I sit with you?” a familiar voice asked, shattering his internal musings.
Startled, Sam blinked and jerked slightly. Raising his eyes from the menu, he peered up to find Jubilee standing over him. She was dressed in a green, silk tube top with black-and-white stripes that revealed a bit of her midriff, a pair of jeans that slung over her slim hips, and black heels. Her long hair streamed down her bare shoulders and back.
As he stared at her, all he could think about how lovely she was.
So far, so good, Bobby told himself, checking the message board on his door. Since his shift began, things around the mansion had been fairly quiet. Some of the students would come by his room to stop in and chat. Nothing too earth shattering, but the topics often centered on school and the instructors. Every once in a while, the students would bring up their friends and what was going in their personal lives. As he listened to them, he could not help but be amazed as to how the issues they talked about resembled the ones he and his friends experienced when they were younger.
Other than that, there was no excitement—no parties to break up, no broken furniture to fix, no covert Danger Room sessions to check in on. Bobby had to admit he was having an easy time of things during his first night alone with the children. In the past, he would usually be paired up with Hank, Warren, or Rogue. Whenever a disciplinary issue arose, he relied on one of them to be the bad cop. That way, he could remain the all-around nice guy the kids could relate to.
Fortunately, there was no need to worry. The mansion was quiet with only a handful of students staying behind, who chose not to attend the dance being held at the community center. He had made his rounds earlier, walking up and down the hall every thirty minutes to check on his charges. Then he moved down to the rec areas. During those two passes, he found that many of the students had chosen to remain in their respective rooms. After checking the security system for the mansion, he was satisfied that everyone was safe.
Next, he checked his beeper for any pages. When he was satisfied there were none, his mind drifted. Although he was beginning not to mind being on-call this night, he knew there was somewhere else he wanted to be. There was someone else he should have been with.
He could not quite shake the guilt that sank to the pit of his stomach. Despite her reassurances and willing himself not to ruminate, Bobby continued to feel badly about not demonstrating some grand romantic gesture that evening. He had wanted their first Valentine’s to be one that she would remember. The reality of the present situation was quite far-off from that ideal. Here he was, watching over a group of kids, while she was out with Paige and the rest of their friends.
This is stupid, he admonished himself, leaning against the doorframe and closing his eyes. What’s happened has happened. There’s nothing I can do now to change things—no matter how much I angst over things. The only thing I can deal with is how I’m going to make things up to her.
His thoughts then traveled back to the day before when they were kissing in his bedroom. Even now, he could still feel the softness of her mouth on his, her fingers on his chest and stomach. Her sighs were still vivid in his ears, making his heart beat wildly. Excitement raced through his veins when she made it clear that she was fine with taking things a little further. He likened it to a wonderful dream. What made it even better was that she was not scared anymore, that she was closer to being ready to be with him, and that she wanted him.
Bobby also realized that had Sofia not stopped by his room, he might have taken Jubilee’s lead.
The subject of sleeping together had not come up directly in discussions before that afternoon. There had been an unspoken understanding that waiting would be best. Bobby felt especially conscious about this. He made a point of monitoring himself when they were close. Not that he would ever impose his will or do anything remotely forceful, but he needed to ensure that their decision to take things to the next level would be mutual. She had to want this, not feel like she was obligated to because of some subliminal signs he might be relaying. This was important for him.
Given that the nature of his previous involvements had been one-sided in many aspects, he wanted his experience with Jubilee to be different. Bobby was aware that their relationship had already set itself apart from ones he shared with other women. He was confident in her love for him. She conveyed it through her words, her smiles, and her kisses. There was no need to perform when he was with her. It was one of the fundamental truths that made things comfortable.
Bobby quickly reoriented himself to the present when he heard the thumping coming from the other end of the hallway. He raised his head to detect the source. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw David jogging towards him. As the oldest member of Dani’s team approached, Bobby noticed a rather distressed look crossing the boy’s usually relaxed face.
"I gotta use your washroom!" he announced.
"Why can't you use yours?" Bobby asked, afraid as to what the boy might reply. Part of him wanted to chew Scott out for even allowing the maintenance personnel the night off. He checked his Swiss Army watch and wondered if there was any plumbers open this late.
"Josh said he's giving Sammy a lesson on how to get acquainted with himself." There was a moment of silence. "Drake?"
Before David could say anything else, Bobby darted down the hall to their room. He got there just as Josh Foley was closing the washroom door. The golden-skinned boy looked up at him and smiled innocently. Unfortunately for him, Bobby Drake was the master of feigning such an act.
"No," Bobby scolded, using the most authoritative tone he could summon. Even to his own ears, it sounded rather odd and foreign.
"Make him come out of there. Now."
"I'm just trying to enlighten the poor guy. When Gambit was on call, he didn't mind when I did the same thing to Beak."
"Yeah, well, this is different,” Bobby pointed out, exasperated and not at all surprised the Cajun condoned such activities. “Gambit is Satan’s personal cabana boy. Now bring Sammy out."
Josh sighed resignedly, but glared at Bobby. "Fine." He knocked on the door emphatically with a golden fist. Rolling his eyes, he said loudly, "Sammy, Drake says you have to come out."
Quickly, the door swung open. The young boy sauntered outside. His glassy eyes were glued to the magazine in his trembling hands. It was amazing to see how much redder his face was now than it usually was.
"Sammy, I want to talk to you for a minute," Bobby began, raking his hand through his sandy hair. He cursed his horrible luck for being in this awkward position. Knowing his luck, Scott would find out and pin this on him. That was the last thing he needed given their relationship was already mildly strained. So much for no trouble… All I wanted a normal, romantic Valentine’s Day. What did I do to deserve this?
The younger boy licked his lips nervously. "‘Kay," he managed, still looking rather vacant.
Bobby sighed, rubbing his temples with his fingertips. "Don't let these guys make you do anything you don't want to do, okay? Sammy, look at me when I'm talking to you, please. These boys are probably a lot different than your old suitemates. Sammy, up here, please. They're older and—Sammy, are you listening, or are you looking at that magazine?"
"I'm listening." Sammy turned the magazine sideways and his jaw dropped. "Whoa! Look at the size of her—"
"Gimme that!" Bobby yanked the magazine from the boy’s hands. "I've had it!" He confiscated Josh’s magazine as well.
"What the hell?" Josh cried indignantly. "I didn't do anything! Seriously, Mr. Drake, you’ve got to be kidding!”
Bobby glared at him and then at the embarrassed Sammy, tucking the magazine under his arm. “I don’t care,” he snapped, gray eyes taking on a steely quality. “You guys can find some other fun reading. I’m pretty sure these would have been confiscated eventually. Trust me, stuff like this isn’t allowed here, especially with the younger students around.”
Josh began to protest, fighting the urge to stamp his foot in the face of this injustice. “But there’s no rule against—”
“Well, there will be by next week,” Bobby cut him off coolly. He peered down at the two magazines under his arm. “You’re just lucky I’m cool enough not to rat you guys out to Mr. Summers or Professor Xavier.” That, and I’m embarrassed as hell for being put in this position in the first place.
Sammy nodded mutely in agreement, while his suitemate folded his arms across his chest and grimaced.
Bobby sighed wearily. He was about to ask if this was the entire collection when he heard a loud crash from downstairs. His boyish face was suddenly filled with a growing sense of dread and trepidation. “What was that?”
“Sure,” Sam replied, trying his best to sound nonchalant. For a moment, he could have sworn he detected a crack in his voice.
Jubilee watched him scoot over to the other side. Casually, she draped her navy, double-breasted coat over the back of the sofa before sitting down. She waved at the others, who flashed her smiles mingled with greetings of hello. Then she turned to him and asked, “How’s it going?”
He smiled at her, a wave of unexplained euphoria washing over him. “Not too bad,” he answered. “What about yaself?”
“I’m good,” she told him, tucking a lock of hair behind a delicate ear. “How long have you been here?”
He glanced down at his Fossil watch. “Not too long. Coupla minutes, Ah think.” He peered over her shoulder, brows knitting themselves together. “Did ya come alone? Ah thought Paige was supposed ta come, too.”
Jubilee nodded in the direction of the bar, where her friend was talking to the bartender. “Your sister was raging hungry,” she explained with an amused expression. “She kept talking about getting a big thing of fries and chicken wings while we were driving over here. She’s probably ordering one of everything from the kitchen.”
“So, the diet ain’t workin’ out?” Sam laughed, running his calloused, coal-miner’s hand through his straw-colored hair. He had been growing it out ever since he had returned to the mansion. Wearing it so cropped to his head had been a part of his rougher, darker phase while he was working with Pete Wisdom. It was something he wanted to get some distance from as he felt he was starting a new chapter of his life now.
“Apparently not,” she mused in agreement. She eyed the beverage menu in front of him. “So, are you looking to get toasted tonight?”
He shook his head. “Nah, Ah’m not inta that. Besides, there are other people who pick up the slack there.” His pale blue eyes cast their gaze in the direction of Kitty, Kurt, and Roberto, who were in the midst of downing some stoplight shots.
“I see what you mean,” she noted, almost jumping when Amara and Rahne let out cheers of encouragement, much to the amusement of Dani and Xi’an. Her eyes widened as she looked over at the imbibing group. “Man, Wolvie said those two could drink, but I had to see it to believe it.”
Sam followed her stare and grinned. Instantly, he could see the night getting a little better. “That’s nothin’,” he told her, returning his pale-blue eyes to her lovely face. “Ya shoulda seen ‘em last year. Those two got so plastered that Kitty talked Kurt inta doin’ some karaoke.”
“Yeah, Paige told me about Kurt’s rendition of Freebird,” Jubilee said. Imagining the Lynyrd Skynyrd classic with a German accent was very difficult.
“He also did Copa Cabana.” The Southern gentleman added with a twinkle in his eye.
She playfully slapped his shoulder, giving him a wide-eyed stare. “Shut up!”
“Hand to God.” He gave her a mock serious look as he rolled up the sleeves to his worn, green-and-navy oxford shirt. Faded jeans and brown hiking boots completed the comfortable, casual look he favored.
Giggling, she commented, “Wow. I guess tonight should be fun after all.”
“Why wouldn’t it be?” he inquired, the levity in his eyes beginning to fade.
Taken aback, she wanted to retract her assertion when she realized how rude it sounded. She chewed on her lower lip, folding her hands self-consciously. “I-I didn’t mean it that way,” she stammered, her guilt increasing with each passing second.
“That ain’t true,” he remarked quietly, recognizing how palpable her discomfort was. It was easy to tell she was torn between being faithful to the truth and believing she had to spare his feelings. For some reason, the latter seemed to make his heart swell inside his chest. As he watched her struggle to regain some composure, a wave of sympathy washed over him. Over the years, he had experienced this sentiment upon sensing her pain. Back then, it was grounded in basic human compassion and the need to protect her. But sitting with her now, he became cognizant that his feelings stemmed from something else.
Sighing, he leaned towards her and took her chin between two fingers. He quickly found himself hypnotized by the sapphire depths that returned his steady gaze. “Ya know, ya ain’t gonna hurt me.”
She knew better than to attempt to search for any signs of duplicity on his part. Sam Guthrie was a shining embodiment of truth and honesty. He was known for his striving towards an ideal of integrity, earning the admiration of even the most hardest and jaded individuals. The values indigenous to his rural Kentucky remained solid in spite of the years he had spent away.
Her delicate features arranged themselves in an apologetic expression. “I’m sorry… It’s just that it’s Valentine’s Day, you know, and I’m here…” Her voice trailed off.
His lightening mood was threatening to disappear completely. He tampered the urge to wince when he figured out where she was going. It would only served to remind him how out of reach she was. At the same time, he did not want to bring attention to his growing sense of despondency. The last thing he wanted was to betray the conflict brewing inside.
She clicked her tongue on the roof of her mouth, looking rather impatient with herself. “I didn’t mean to bring you down,” she said. The grim expression on his face reflected his unease with the topic. Bringing up her loneliness without Bobby was not what she had in mind. Sure, she felt comfortable around Sam to talk to him, but they were not close enough to warrant this kind of discussion. Besides, talking to another man about her relationship struck her as rather odd.
Quickly, Jubilee pasted on a bright smile, a move she was accustomed to pulling when she did not want to stay on a topic that elicited distress. “Listen, tonight’s about saying to hell with the commercially fabricated idea of Valentine’ Day,” she began, shifting her weight on the cushions. “We should do just that, OK? Starting now.” She stuck out a small hand in front of him.
Instinctively, Sam found himself smiling. It was hard not to. The light and energy she was radiating was infectious. Adding to it was the sparkle in her cerulean eyes, ensnaring the Southern gentleman in their stare. For some unexplainable reason, he suddenly felt inspired to do something rather forward.
He caught her hand, pressed it to his chest. "Will you do me the honor of this dance?"
She looked stunned with the proposition, sapphire eyes sparkling with intrigue. "I didn’t know you could," she quipped.
“Took lessons when Ah was younger,” he informed her earnestly. “Ah was growin’ too fast for the rest of me to keep up. Momma signed me up for dancin’ lessons at the local church so Ah’d stop bein’ so clumsy.” He tried not to look sheepish as he continued with his admission.
Jubilee tossed her head back, silky hair rippling down her shoulders and back. “So, you’re saying my toes will be safe?” she teased.
Sam let out a low chuckle. “Ah guarantee it,” he declared gallantly.
He led her onto the dance floor where couples were dancing to an Ella Fitzgerald-Louis Armstrong duet. Guiding her into his arms with his palm pressed to the small of her back, he smiled broadly. She stared up at him, struck by his sheer size. It had been some time since she had last seen him. He seemed much taller from this close. The shoulder she rested her hand on was solid with muscle, but he moved with a lithe grace.
Sam peered down at her curiously. “Surprised?”
"Yeah," she replied, her face lighting up with a genuine smile.
At first, he seemed to content to hold her loosely, with no hint of possessiveness. It made it easier for him not to think about the euphoria that raced in his veins. Occasionally, their thighs would brush together, but he made sure to keep her at a discrete distance. They moved together as if they had been partnering for years. Jubilee was impressed.
"Your mother should be proud. You’re really good." She held herself a few inches from him, settling into the steps with ease. Her grip on his hand was gentle but firm.
He tried not to react when he felt her hair skim against his chin. Instead, he attempted to conceal what was brimming beneath his veneer of Southern gentility by introducing some conversation. “Ya not so bad, either,” he commented.
She blushed at the compliment, fully aware that he sincerely meant it. “When I used to do gymnastics, I had to take dance lessons. Part of the floor exercises in competition, you know.”
“And here Ah was, thinkin’ ya were a natural dancer.” He spun her around and guided her to him again.
Out of the corner of his eye, he could see the others on the other side of the room. Kitty was whispering something in Kurt’s ear, while Dani flashed him a thumbs-up sign. Meanwhile, Paige had stopped eating the plate of chicken tenders she had ordered. Her attention was now focused on the couple on the dance floor. The younger Guthrie’s face had an unreadable expression as she continued to watch.
Jubilee giggled softly, the sound bringing him back to her. “That, too.”
The mellow jazz number soon ended. Upon hearing the first few notes of the next song, Besame Mucho , Sam pulled her closer against his body and began leading her. Surprised by this sudden move of aggressiveness, Jubilee’s eyes widened.
"It’s a tango," he explained. Immediately, he wanted to kick himself for his awkwardness at that moment. Of course, she knows what a tango’s like. She’s used to be gymnast and a dancer, for Chrissakes.
"Okay." She could feel his tension, which was evident in the slight tightening of his body. “Everything alright?”
He tried to will his skin not to flush pink with his ever-increasing self-consciousness. “Just a little rusty at this,” he lied, his brow furrowing to feign concentration.
“You’re doing fine,” Jubilee told him reassuringly. She gave his shoulder a slight squeeze for encouragement.
Sam stepped back on the sixth beat, his heart racing with excitement. To his delight, Jubilee followed in perfect unison. He could feel the muscles of her torso working beneath his hand as they performed complicated turns and shines.
“How are ya doin’?” he asked several steps later.
"Pretty good," she said. "But..."
“Isn’t this kind of a provocative dance to learn from someone at your church?”
“Ah picked some moves outside of there. Ah’m not all square dancin’ and waltzes, ya know.”
“I see. There’s a lot I don’t know about you, Sam.”
She moved with him as he spun her around within the circle of his arms, his palms sliding down her sides before taking her hands again, turning her, and resuming the classic tango pose. Feeling bold, she pressed forward.
Sam leaned back automatically, his weight shifting until he bore most of it on his back leg, his front leg bent and poised. In an elegant move known to the dance, she slid over his thigh. Then she brought her right leg up and her knee against his hip.
His nostrils flared at the sweet scent of her. He wanted to bury his face in her hair. Her mouth was inches from his, her warm breath caressing his lips. He imagined kissing her; she'd taste like bubblegum and cinnamon.
Stop it. You can’t and you know it.
He could feel her pressing against the muscles of his thigh. Without much thought, he completed the dance maneuver she had initiated, sliding back. He could hear her shoe dragging lightly across the floor. It was as if all his senses were especially sharpened. With sudden shock, Sam realized he was somewhat aroused. The dance brought them close and he wondered if she could discern what was happening. He forced himself to concentrate on enjoying the intricacies of the movements. The Southern gentleman repeated inwardly that it was a natural reaction to the dance, and chose not to dwell on it further.
"Thank you for the dance," she said, stepping out of his arms with a gentle smile. "It was fun."
"Of course," he said sheepishly, hiding his disappointment that the moment ended. He led her from the floor. Glancing around the room, he noticed his sister looking their way. He took her hand in his and held it close to his chest, bending slightly over her. “How was that for about sayin’ to hell with the commercially fabricated idea of Valentine’ Day?”
Jubilee laughed, recognizing the words she had used earlier. “Excellent,” she replied, her tone falling a little flat. As they edged their way to where their group was sitting, all she could think about was Bobby. Here she was, dancing the night away while he was at the mansion, playing Mary Poppins to the students. In the grand scheme of the universe, it did not seem all that fair.
Sam paused in his steps, studying the pensive look etched across her flawless face. “Why don’t Ah believe ya?”
“That bad, huh?” It was her turn to be sheepish.
He nodded, releasing her hand. Had he been more confident and self-assured, he would have made a wry comment about their dancing. Somehow, he suspected that her shift in mood had nothing to do with their escapades on the dance floor. The ecstasy he experienced earlier swiftly faded.
Her shoulders heaved as if she were trying to expel the imaginary weight in that manner. “I guess I’m a fraud,” she muttered, crystalline eyes suddenly soaking up the floor.
“What do ya mean?”
“You know, talking big about forgetting Valentine’s Day. As much as I wanted to, I…I couldn’t. I’m sorry.”
“There’s nothin’ ta be sorry for, sweetie.”
“Yes, Sam, there is. I was supposed to focus on you and being here and having a good time.”
“What are ya sayin’? Ah ain’t really followin’ ya.”
“It’s like I’m this bad person. All I can think about is what a jerk I am for not being with him. I just want to do anything I can do to make him happy. Do you know what that’s like?”
“Yeah,” Sam finally said quietly. “Yeah, I do.”
Meanwhile, a disagreement as to who was going to use the video game system was quickly escalating. The two younger Guthrie brothers, new students to the school, found themselves facing off in one of the rec rooms. Their arguing attracted a gathering of other students. Among them were Julian and other members of his Hellions squad. The other boys’ attention was rapt as they watched the family feud unfold.
Jebediah shoved his brother hard in the chest. “Quit yelling at me!"
"Don't ya push me!" Jay snapped, returning the shove.
His younger brother’s cheeks were flushed red from anger. "Don't ya push me!"
The Guthries went from shoving to a full-blown wrestling match within minutes. Jay charged first. He knocked his younger into the wall, who retaliated by biting him in the shoulder. The winged Guthrie yelped, and then started clawing at the side of his brother’s head. Jebediah released him. Soon, they began clawing and snapping at each other.
"Let go of mah ear!" Jay screamed at his brother. "Ya fight like a girl, Jeb! Ya know, Ma sometimes wishes ya would've been a girl."
Jeb grabbed a handful of red hair and pulled. "Shut up! That's not true! Ya take that back!"
"Ow! Let go!" Jay reached up and grabbed his brother by the ears.
Jeb shrieked and punched Jay in the chest. The older Guthrie brother grunted and released his grip, but his younger brother continued punching him. "Ah do not fight like a girl! Ya take that back! Take it back, ya asshole!"
"Guthrie fight!" Kevin hollered, cupping his gloved hands around his mouth. He leaped several inches back when the brothers rolled by his feet.
By this time, Jebediah had Jay pinned on the ground. The bespectacled Guthrie clawed at his older brother’s chest. Jay struggled underneath and attempted to claw back with a free hand.
"Get him, Jeb!" Brian called out, shaking out his blond dreadlocks with fervor. "Go for the throat!"
Julian leaned over towards Kevin. "Ten bucks says the one with the wings kills the one with the glasses first."
Kevin raised a skeptical brow at the self-appointed leader of the Hellions. "Twenty says Jay rips his brother’s face off," he challenged.
"Twenty-five if Jeb tears Jay's throat out."
"You’ve got yourself a deal. C'mon, Jay!"
"Go for the jugular, Jebediah!"
Bobby bounded down the stairs with David, Josh, and Sammy following close behind. He could feel his face drain of color as he stumbled in on the source of the brouhaha. Squeezing between the students who had formed a circle around the dueling Guthries, he made a move to intervene.
"Hey, break it up you two!" he yelled, still pushing past some students. "Boys, knock it off!"
Julian placed his hand on Bobby’s arm when the instructor reached his side. "No, Mr. Drake,” he said, “it's best not to get in the middle of two fighting Guthries. Besides, it’s somewhat amusing."
"They'll tire out eventually," Brian added, black eyes thoughtful. "That, or one of them will bleed to death. Whichever comes first."
Bobby ignored the sarcastic and unneeded comments from the two boys. He finally reached the Guthrie brothers, who were still wrestling on the floor. "Come on, guys! Stop it before someone gets hurt!"
Unfortunately, this had no effect in defusing things. The siblings continued their brawl. Sighing, Bobby extended a hand over their bodies. Suddenly, frost streamed from his fingers, capturing them under a block of ice. When their bodies were completely encased, he stood over them and frowned.
“Would one of you like to tell what started all of this?” he asked, wondering if he had jinxed himself by musing what a quiet night this would have been.
Jay opened his mouth, vacillating between embarrassment and absolute fury. “Ah was tryin’ to get things ready for the video game tournament and this idiot barrels in…” he began.
His younger brother cut him off, dark-blue eyes flashing. “Ah only wanted to watch a movie and he decides he wants to be a moron. Then again, he was always the bossy one.”
Jay’s glared at his brother’s face, which was very close to his. “Why ya little…”
Instead of finishing his sentence, he contorted his face as if he were trying to focus on something. He fought to contract and flex his muscles under the vice-like grip of the ice that held him. With a loud grunt, he willed his limbs to break through. There was a loud cracking sound that met his ears as he pushed his arms through, freeing himself and consequently, his brother. The act also sent shards of ice flying. Bobby and the students jumped back, scurrying to avoid the sharp pieces. As the other children crouched down to protect themselves, the two brothers staggered to their feet. Panting from exhaustion and shivering from the cold, they proceeded to resume their fight. A disbelieving Bobby quickly dashed towards them again to separate them again.
Amidst the yelling, Sam Guthrie strolled into the rec room, unbuttoning his suede car coat. He had heard the commotion from the garage, but thought it was nothing more than an action movie on television. The Southern gentleman was floored when he discovered what was behind the din. Quickly, he made his way towards Jay and Jeb.
"Aw, fer chrissakes," he sighed. He grabbed his two younger brothers, each by the ear and they stopped fighting. Then he pointed to a chair in the corner. "Jay, sit!" He pointed to a chair in the opposite corner. "Jeb, ya too!"
They went to the respective corners and sulked. Sam crossed his arms and shook his head. Then he turned to Bobby, who wore a confused expression. "Honestly, Bobby, ya need to stop them when they get this rough."
Bobby said nothing and shot him a nasty look. Then he asked the students who were still in the room and pulling themselves to their feet, “Is everyone alright?”
There was a resounding chorus of yeses. A few of them, led by Julian, drifted out of the room. Bobby breathed a sigh of relief.
"Someone get me the first aid kit," the oldest Guthrie ordered, shaking his head at both of his younger brothers with exasperation. He rubbed his stubble-ridden chin as David darted out of the rec room. His blue eyes briefly glanced at Bobby. “Why don’t ya go upstairs? Ah can take of things here.”
Bobby’s brows knitted themselves to reflect his continued puzzlement. “What are you doing here?” he asked.
Sam turned away, brushing his straw-colored hair from his forehead. “Ah thought Ah’d call it a night,” he answered in a specious manner. He shrugged. “Ah wasn’t havin’ that much fun at the bar. Since Ah’m here now, Ah can take over.”
“Are you sure?” Bobby asked, not completely satisfied with the other man’s explanation. “I mean you’re not scheduled to be on-call. I don’t want to take away your night.”
The oldest Guthrie nodded dismissively, walking towards Jeb and kneeling down beside him. “It’s fine, really. Ah don’t mind.” He gave both his brother pointed looks. “Gives me a chance to straighten these guys out.”
“Um, OK.” Bobby wasn’t about to argue. The Southern gentleman sounded as if he was determined to stand his ground. Rather than attempt to talk him out of his decision, Bobby thought he would take him up on his offer. “Thanks, Sam.”
Sam watched him leave, clenching his jaw slightly. “Don’t mention it,” he muttered under his breath.
Bobby jogged upstairs, a surge of exhilaration moving his feet along. He was free. While he did not have a sweeping, romantic gesture up his sleeve, he knew seeing Jubilee would be enough to salvage the night. Reaching into the pocket of his chinos, he soon remembered that he had left his cell phone in his bedroom. When he reached his door, he could have sworn he heard music playing softly. He was perplexed as he placed his hand over the knob. The last time he checked, he had not turned on his stereo system. Slowly, he opened the door and edged his way inside.
Jubilee was in the process of lighting a jasmine-scented candle with her index finger. When she finished, she blew out the spark and raised her sapphire eyes to him. “You’re early,” she said softly in greeting, the corners of her mouth lifting into a lovely smile.
He stared at her, trying to keep his jaw from dropping in awe. It was as if she were some sort of vision he had seen over and over again in fleeting dreams. Her hair rippled down her graceful shoulders, cascading down her back in a tumble of black with midnight-blue highlights. The glow of the candlelight accentuated her delicate features, leaving him even more breathless.
“What… How…” Bobby shook his head, trying to express a cogent thought. It was growing increasingly difficult with how stunning she looked and the infectious melody of Bob Marley’s “Waiting in Vain”. Finally, he swallowed hard and said, “I thought you were going out with Kitty and the rest of them.”
She watched him close the door. “I did,” she told him softly. Her sapphire eyes shone as he walked over to her. “But I thought I’d have a better time if I was with you.”
He was still reeling, trying to piece together information into a coherent, mental picture. “You came back for me?”
Nodding, she took his hands in hers. “Well, me and Sam,” she confessed, chewing on her lower lip. “You see, I kind of asked him to relieve you for tonight. He even came with me when I picked up dinner.”
She waved her hand towards the coffee table, which was now surrounded by candles. The meal, served on paper plates, consisted of cheeseburgers and curly fries. Two brightly colored, paper cups were placed side by side next to a pile of napkins. The tempting aroma of the food mingled with the floral scent from the candles.
Bobby made a mental note to take Sam Guthrie out for a drink.
Jubilee tugged at his hand, leading him to the table. “I know it’s not like the lodge, but I think it’s somewhat close.” She stopped in her steps when they reached the food. Then she stood on her tiptoes and leaned towards him. “Happy Valentine’s Day, Bobby Drake.”
Echoing the words of one of his favorite comic heroes, Jackie Gleason, Bobby took Jubilee into his arms and told her affectionately, “Baby, you’re the greatest.”
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