saga/title/fandom: Two of Us chapter 36 (X-Men)
author: Alex L
rating/genre: (NC-17) - 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 Thirty-Six: Everybody’s Changing
“You t’ink we be lucky today, Wolverine?” Gambit inquired, lighting a clove cigarette with a spark from his finger.
Logan shoved his hands into the pockets of his black leather jacket, his features rather grim. His _expression was in stark contrast to the mild, autumn day, where the sky was clear and blue and the sun shone brightly against it. “Not counting on luck to help, Cajun,” he replied stoically. “It gave up on us weeks ago.”
“We can’t do de same, mon ami,” Gambit noted, exhaling a cloud of sweet-smelling, bluish-gray smoke from his sculpted lips. He dropped a couple of steps behind Logan as he continued to smoke. “Beast be countin’ on us.”
It was exactly two weeks since Hank had suddenly gone through his new transformation, or as Bobby jokingly put it, his “extreme makeover”. In spite of devoting the available manpower towards to tracking down the person responsible, the results had been less than spectacular. Even with the new Cerebro link that connected the mansion’s resources to them, it was difficult. Because the culprit was a shape shifter who could change gender and facial and body features, the team was often at a loss as to who they were looking for. Logan’s sensitive nose, combined with the portable Cerebro device, were the key tools that consistently kept them on the trail. At this point, the only thing they were completely sure of was that the individual was still in Istanbul, but maintaining a lower profile. To date, there were no new attacks.
Unfortunately, this was little solace to Hank, who was now being called Hannah by Bobby and Warren. Known for being quite good at adjusting to the many physical changes, these set of alterations were not viewed the same way. The one constant about him, the one thing he could always be certain of in the face of the mutations that reframed his entire being, was his identity as a man. Now, that was gone. To have that taken away was rather devastating. It was as if he had lost his sense of what was real and tangible in the world.
In order to attempt to shake their friend’s somber mood and despondent outlook on his present condition, Warren decided to have the team start their days a little earlier. While there were rumblings of disappointment, particularly by the members who were still adjusting to the time difference, it was agreed that they owed their best efforts to their friend’s well being.
The team was walking through Gülhane Park as the minarets were making the calls for early morning prayers. The park was actually a public garden, which had been converted in 1913. As the merchants began to make their way to nearby mosques to pray, tourists stopped to admire the pond and the Atatürk Monument. The statue dedicated to the country’s late, beloved statesman was the only one not located in a main square.
In order to be less conspicuous, all of them donned their street clothes as opposed to their black leather uniforms. Appearing more approachable to the locals might make it easier to be somewhat more covert about their investigation. Meanwhile, Hank, in an attempt to deal with his new gender, was forced to wear more feminine articles of clothing since his old clothes did not fit anymore. He managed to duck into a shop off of *stiklâl Caddesi to purchase some simple, cotton pants and a colorful, silk blouse that he got for a steal. To complete the look and to blend in with other females on the streets, he pulled on a paisley headscarf.
Still self-conscious, Hank bowed his head as he walked alongside Bobby. He was a having a hard time adjusting to this new form and all the associated baggage that came with it. Exacerbating things was the fact that he was in a foreign land. For some reason, it only served to make him feel more out of sorts than he already was.
Suddenly, he bolted upright. Glaring at his best friend, he hissed, "Bobby, if you pinch my rear again, I will tear your testicles off and shove them down your throat!"
Bobby jumped, unsure if the threat was going to be followed through or not. He dashed away from his rather grumpy friend. "I think I like Hank better as a man," he groused to Warren when he was at a safe distance. "Man-Hank would never threaten to rip my nuts off. Hannah here can’t take a joke."
Warren, standing on Hank’s other side, rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "You know, he's more butch as a woman than he ever was as a man."
Furious, Hank punched him in the gut.
"Settle down," Logan growled, not quite believing the situation and the circumstances. For what seemed like the millionth time, he contemplated leaving the others behind and tracking the mutant himself. It was bad enough the mission had this extra layer of complexity, but the fact that he was among the Three Stooges pushed things too far for the self-proclaimed loner. "You're pissing me off."
"Sorry," Warren apologized, shooting a chuckling Bobby a dirty look from behind his black, aviator-style sunglasses.
There was a brief period of quiet and calm, which dissolved into a distant memory when Hank let out what sounded like a muffled shriek. "Gambit, what did I say about your eyes going below my neckline?" he demanded, giving the Cajun a hard shove.
Bobby suppressed a snicker, hoping to avoid Hank’s (or Hannah’s) ire for the morning. He slowed his pace as the rest of his group made their way ahead. The boyishly handsome man found his thoughts drifting elsewhere. His mind carried him away from the crowded, narrow streets of Istanbul. He did not even hear the car horns beeping or a nearby simit vendor calling out for customers. The historic buildings and structures of Istanbul were now in the periphery of his consciousness.
All he could focus on were twinkling, sapphire eyes and soft skin that smelled like bubblegum and cinnamon.
It had been some time since he had seen his Jubilee. Corresponding over email and talking on the phone did not possess the same impact as holding her close to him. He had become very acquainted with Warren’s new laptop with wireless, Internet access, monopolizing it in order to communicate with his girlfriend. As for his phone bill, he knew he was probably going to catch hell from Scott for the long distance charges. There was also the fact that the calls were often made at awkward hours, given the time difference.
Late at night, in his hotel room, Bobby would find sleep gradually only to dream that she was with him. The quality of the dreams was so real, to the point where he actually believed that she had been there. He could have sworn he had heard her voice, seen her beautiful face in all of its glory, and touched her skin. When he discovered his mind was merely playing out his longing for her, he instantly felt his heart become heavier with something he had never known before. It was as if he did not feel whole anymore, and was always preoccupied with the notion that something was missing.
He was cognizant of the fact that he missed her greatly. Yet, the intensity of it all seemed to take him by surprise. These feelings were not familiar to him—at least not from any of the relationships he had been involved in previously. As startling as they were, he embraced them quite readily. In a way, he felt a little closer to her because he knew she felt the same way.
It was difficult for both of them to hide their disappointment with the continued separation. Underneath the jokes and the wry teasing exchanged was their shared loneliness and desire to be reunited. But for some reason, the two of them seemed compelled by some unspoken understanding to keep things light. Perhaps it was to keep the other’s spirits up during this time away.
Last night, while he spoke to her on the phone, Jubilee did provide some indication of her true feelings. In true fashion, she finally sighed and simply summed the situation for what it was. “This sucks.”
At first, Bobby thought about saying something empathic, such as “I know”. Yet, he did not. For some reason, neither response seemed to be all that appropriate. He remembered mulling over other alternatives as to how could respond to her assertion.
Then he realized there was only way. “I love you,” he had told her.
To his surprise, she had laughed. It was such a sweet, light sound that seemed to lift his spirits. There was an infectious quality to it that soon he had found himself laughing.
As he continued walking, Bobby was still lost in the memory of that night. So consumed by his own thoughts, the boyishly handsome man failed to notice where his steps were taking him. If he had been paying any attention, he would have been alerted to the fact that he was heading straight into an old woman selling a myriad of scarves and other trinkets. Unfortunately, he did not realize this until it was too late.
Roused from his reverie, Bobby found himself swathed in many scarves in various colors. He resembled one of those Eastern Europe from the late nineteenth century, his limbs draped in flowing fabric. The remaining scarves and wares the woman was peddling were scattered on the ground, along with the milk crates she had used to place them upon.
A few feet away, Gambit made no effort to suppress his amusement. Immediately, he began to snicker. Classic Drake, he mused to himself, wishing that he had his digital camera on him. He was still thirsting for revenge after Bobby posted a video of him singing and dancing to “Bootylicious” (originally a private performance for Rogue) on his website.
“Shut up, Cajun.” Logan raised a brow, apparently not at all surprise that Drake was in this sort of predicament. There was a part of him that wanted to smirk and make some kind of comment, but this tampered by his focus with the task at hand. Shaking his head, he sighed. “Finish helping her out, Drake. We’ll meet you at the Aya Sofya,” he said, referring to the great dome in the city.
Bobby nodded, cheeks burning with embarrassment as the others began to saunter away. Quickly, he began to pull off the scarves and peered down at the old woman, who was now rearranging the milk crates she had been using as makeshift display tables. “Affedersiniz,” he told her sheepishly; making use of one of the Turkish phrases Hank taught him.
The old woman stared up at him with dark eyes, which seemed to stand out against her sunken-in features. Though her head was covered in a black scarf that was pinned under her chin, there were wisps of white that escaped from underneath and framed her wrinkled forehead. Her _expression was curious more than guarded, as if she had never seen anything quite like him before. Even though she was standing, the woman was rather diminutive next to him. Her loose-fitting coat and long, frayed skirt only served to make her appear even smaller than she really was.
Suddenly, she smiled and revealed a set of stained, crooked teeth. “It is all right,” she said in a soft voice.
He was taken aback, expecting to have an awkward, one-sided conversation as he placed the scarves on the crates. “You speak English?”
She nodded. “English is OK,” she told him, watching him drop to his knees to collect the items he had knocked over. “Better than your Turkish.”
Bobby grinned at the slight ribbing. Then he looked at her earnestly. “Again, I’m really sorry about this,” he said. “Lucky for you, I’m better at cleaning up than I am at speaking another language.”
The old woman nodded again. After a brief lapse into silence, she began to speak again. “You are in love, yes?” she asked, crouching over Bobby as if it to supervise him.
He tried to mask his surprise as he continued to gather the scarves from the ground. “What makes you say that?” he asked in response, laughing lightly.
The old woman’s lips stretched thin over her crooked teeth while she spoke. “I can tell,” she replied. “You have the bright eyes… You’re thinking about her, yes?”
Bobby shook out the scarves before folding them and placing them on top of the many milk crates around her. He smiled at her sheepishly. “You got all that from my eyes?”
She nodded. “Oh, yes,” she told him, watching him smooth out her wares with great care. “You love her very much. She is very beautiful, yes?”
He straightened to his full height, digging into the pocket of his khakis for his wallet. “I suppose you’re going to tell me she would be even more beautiful if I get her one of these scarves?” he inquired wryly, already retrieving some Turkish lira. It was the least he could do for being such a klutz.
Leathery, gnarled hands picked up a scarf, which was a mix of green and blue. “You were going to buy one anyway,” the old woman said knowingly as she held it up for him to inspect. “You like the blue because it is like her eyes, yes?”
“How—” Bobby began, but stopped himself short. He quickly hid his astonishment with one of his easy grins. Lucky guess, he told himself dismissively. “How much?”
“It is the color of her eyes,” the old woman said, her tone rather triumphant. “You were thinking about them when you bump here. She is in your head always because she is so far. To you, she is your true love.”
He felt a blush creep across his cheeks. Talking about his love life with a complete stranger was definitely something he was not accustomed to. What truly rattled him was the fact that this elderly lady was hitting the proverbial nail on the head. It was as if she read him easily like one of the cheap tiles she was selling. The more evasive he tried to be about things, the more perceptive she demonstrated herself to be.
Trying to keep his mouth from gaping, he swallowed hard. Before he could reflect upon how he should respond, he blurted out, “Yes.”
“Ah, I think she will like this one, then.” The old woman folded the scarf neatly, her smile smug. Then she peered into his boyish face once again. “Do not be surprised. You are not the first to feel this way about someone.”
He felt his mouth become parched as he struggled to collect himself. “You always make these kinds of observations with all the tourists?” he teased, holding his wallet rather tightly.
She smiled, her _expression not revealing any more than it had to. “How much do you want to pay?”
He grinned at the prospect of haggling. Unlike Western societies, the art of bargaining for a good deal was very much alive here in the east. Always one to look for a good deal, Bobby found himself eager for this challenge of wills. “I was thinking twelve lira,” he replied.
The old woman gasped. Then she placed a wrinkled hand over her chest and feigned further disbelief. “My child, you’re killing me,” she said dramatically. “I can get that for a small piece of cloth.” She demonstrated with her hands for emphasis.
He laughed easily, playing with the collar of his navy pea coat. “Fine… How about fifteen?” he proposed.
Her dark eyes flashed with excitement as she made a counter-offer. “I say twenty and you get one of these.” She held up a small watercolor of the old city.
“Deal.” He quickly pulled out twenty liras, satisfied that he had gotten a reasonably good deal. The old woman’s friendly charm was another aspect that made him agree so readily.
She took the cash from him and gathered the purchases into a blue, plastic bag. Then she handed him the bag, clasping his hand in her small, gnarled ones. The light-hearted smile she had been wearing throughout their encounter was now replaced by one that was more serious. “Before you go with your friends, there is one more thing I need to say to you.”
“Um, OK.” Bobby was perplexed by this sudden change in demeanor.
Staring deeply into his gray eyes, she said, “Love is not always so happy. There will be troubles ahead. It will be up to you to be strong when things look bad. Even when all hope seems lost.”
Scott Summers was crossing the expansive lawn that separated the mansion from his farm-style, white clapboard house. The fallen autumn leaves crunched underneath his brown loafers with each step he took. He could feel the coolness of a passing breeze tickle his cheeks. After spending most of the day indoors teaching classes and meeting with instructors, he was grateful for this moment of freedom.
With the Professor visiting Genosha, he and Jean were handling the hefty responsibilities of managing the school and various teams in the field. Both of them were experiencing the less glamorous side of their mentor’s dream. This hectic schedule left the couple with little time for one another. In an attempt to make compensate for lost time, Jean suggested that they have lunch together at home, away from the distractions of what was going at the school.
Scott managed to wrap up his meetings with Jean-Paul about prospective courses earlier than he anticipated. Given this, he decided to head home to have lunch ready for Jean. On his way out of the mansion, he stopped by the mailboxes to see if anything arrived. In addition to his wife’s many catalogues and fashion magazines, there was something for Jubilee.
As he edged closer to the house, his thoughts strayed from his statuesque wife to the young girl who was like a daughter. Like Jean, Scott felt he had seen very little of Jubilee these days. She was starting her second year of classes and balancing a peer mentor position at the Institute, which she had taken on at the request of Jean. When she was not devoting her time to either of those commitments, Jubilee was guaranteed to be with Bobby.
Scott’s jaw instinctively clenched. Despite the amount of time the couple had been together, he was still reeling. Much as he wanted to shake off the perception of being stodgy Scott Summers, he continued to have his reservations. Even fiercely protective Logan, who sometimes thought of her as “his little girl”, had learned to accept the reality of their relationship.
To his credit, Scott hid his wariness from Jubilee. Since their talk last year about trusting her judgment, he knew she was not going to tolerate any criticism from his end. However, that did not stop him from wanting to keep her safe. Again, it was not that he thought badly of Bobby Drake. Having known him for quite some time, Scott was aware that he was a good, decent man. From what he observed, Bobby was nothing but caring and devoted to Jubilee.
Yet, there was something else—something that prevented him from embracing the idea of them being together as others around him did.
One thing that stood out in his mind was the fact that Bobby had a great deal more of experience than Jubilee. His failed relationships with other women did not instill confidence. Granted, Scott was not privy to what transpired. At the same time, he wanted Jubilee to be spared of any possible heartbreak. There was also another issue related to Bobby’s romantic experience. Given that he was more of a veteran, there were things that he probably expected. As such, he could be enlightening her…
Scott shook his head vigorously as he always did when similar thoughts danced in his brain. It was his way to deal with the need to disavow any acknowledgement of troubling situations. The idea of Jubilee and Bobby together like that was enough to make his stomach do a series of flip-flops. He inwardly reassured himself that Jubilee was a mature, responsible young woman now and that she would not allow herself to be talked into something she did not want to do. Doing this made it easier for him to sleep at night.
When he reached the front door, he slipped his house keys from the pocket of his brown corduroy blazer. Unlocking the door and venturing inside, he contemplated confiding in Jean about his reservations. No doubt that she already knew given their link, but actually discussing it openly was entirely another matter. He knew that she was close to Bobby, doting on him like the little brother she never had. There was the potential for her to respond to her husband’s doubts with some level of defensiveness or dismiss them entirely. At the present, she seemed quite comfortable making the occasional comment about how Jubilee was now a grown woman.
Closing the door behind him, he decided to drop off the mail. He climbed the stairs. His ears picked up on music playing softly once he reached the second floor. It was then that he noticed Jubilee’s bedroom door ajar. Must be an early day for her, he thought, smiling fondly. Maybe she’d like to join us for lunch. It’s been ages since all of us have eaten together outside of the mess hall.
He paused outside, rapping his fist lightly against the door. “Jubilee? It’s Scott.”
“Come in,” she called out in her cheerful tone, her voice floating over the music playing.
He stepped inside. His features formed an amused _expression while he absorbed the sight of her room. The antithesis of a neat freak, Jubilee tended to call her style “comfortably messy”. Books, binders, and papers along with a shopping bag from Halliwells seemed to be piled in nondescript piles on her desk and on the floor. Magazines and more shopping bags flanked both sides of where her bed stood. The contents of her closet seemed to have exploded all over her bed, trailing onto the floor.
Jubilee peeked her head from behind a pile of sweaters on the corner of her bed. She laughed when she saw Scott’s face, tugging on the navy baseball cap she wore. “What? It’s like you’ve never seen my room before.”
“I’ve seen it, but I’m not sure how you live in it,” he remarked dryly.
She shrugged. “Kitty’s organizing a clothing drive,” she informed him as she stepped out from behind the pile and made her way towards him. “I’m looking for contributions.”
“So this mess is for an altruistic purpose?”
“You can say that.”
“I’m not sure Jean’s going to buy it.”
“Don’t worry. I plan on having all of this cleared up before she gets home.”
“Last time, I checked your ability didn’t include super speed.”
“Hilarious. So are you playing mail man today?”
Scott peered down at the envelope addressed to her before handing it over. “Here you go.”
“Thanks.” She immediately tore it open and pulled out a piece of paper. Suddenly, she grimaced. “Damn.”
He looked at her quizzically. “What is it?” he asked.
She sighed, placing a hand on one of her slim hips. “I ordered these tickets for this concert in the city ages ago,” she explained. “I was operating under the assumption that Bobby would be able to go. Last night, I find out he won’t be coming back for a while and the concert is this weekend. I don’t want to go by myself because that would be kind of weird… What am I going to do?”
“I’m sorry, kiddo,” Scott said sympathetically. He leaned against her desk, resting his hand on a pile of books, which was next to the Halliwells shopping bag. Just as he was about to suggest asking Paige or one of her other friends to accompany her, he suddenly felt his hand slide. This knocked the bag over, spilling the contents onto the chair.
Quickly, the comfortable banter that existed between them disappeared and was replaced with awkward silence.
His face turned red, almost matching his ruby-quartz sunglasses. He willed himself not to look at the piece of lingerie—at least that’s what he thought it was. To him, it was more of a small piece of black, satin fabric. It nearly made what Emma’s wardrobe appear demure. However, it was like a magnet, attracting his gaze, forcing him to look, to realize, and to accept.
Scott felt every muscle in his body seize as a plethora of images flooded his brain. As desperately as he tried to reject the idea of Jubilee being intimate with Bobby, there was no way he could do so now. It was quite obvious from this piece of evidence.
Jubilee tugged her baseball cap over her sapphire eyes as she grabbed the chemise and held it behind her back. “This isn’t totally awkward or anything,” she muttered, mortified beyond belief. This was not the way she had envisioned Scott finding out. Hell, she would have rather him operate under his “Don’t ask, don’t tell” state of mind at this point.
He cleared his throat, his cheeks still burning hotly. “So…” he began, not quite sure what to say afterwards.
She could have been defensive about the whole thing. It would have been easier to simply clam up and insist that she did not want to talk about it. They could pretend that nothing happened and that nothing changed.
But, for some reason, that avenue did not sit right with her. Not after their talk about having faith in her decisions, not after cultivating what they had now—a relationship based on respect, trust, and honesty. To abandon all of that, Jubilee sensed, seemed very wrong.
“I’m careful,” she finally said, her voice barely above a whisper. “We’re both careful.”
He watched her tug at the blue, boat-neck T-shirt she wore over a longer sleeved one in aqua. The need for him to believe her was palpable. As much as he wanted to shield her, he knew that she was telling him not to anymore. “You’re careful?” he asked, trying to mask his continued disbelief with what was being discussed.
She nodded, lowering her eyes for a moment before returning her gaze to his stunned face. “Yes,” she replied firmly, her confidence growing with each passing second, “we are. I’m not a kid anymore. I know about the real world and the problems that exist outside of this school, outside of this home.”
He sighed, tucking Jean’s mail under his arm and digging his hands into the pockets of his chinos. “I’m aware of that,” he said.
“Then you also know that I would never do something without carefully thinking it over. Yeah, that was how I lived when I was thirteen, but not now. Contrary to what people think, I’ve really learned a lot from you.” She stared into his eyes intensely to punctuate her words.
He pressed his lips together before speaking. “I hear what you’re saying and you’re right,” he said. “It’s just hard sometimes. Not speaking for Logan, but for me, I think I’ll always have this urge to wait up for you, to wonder where you are when you’re not here, to hope that Bobby is treating you the way you should be treated. That’s not going to go away just because you’re an adult now.”
“In a way, I kind of like it. I just need for you to know that I’m all right. As for Bobby, he’s been really good to me.” Her voice was lighter at the mention of her boyfriend’s name. “And before you ask, he didn’t ask me to do anything I wasn’t ready to do.”
Scott nodded, slowly tracking with her. He could only rely on time to allow the information to sink in. “OK,” he finally sighed wearily. Then he asked, “Can I ask you something?”
“Sure.” Jubilee braced herself for an onslaught of questions.
“In the future, do you think you can hide your…things a little better?”
“It’s like you’re reading my mind.”
The early evening hours found Sam on the patio, just outside of the French doors that led into the mansion. The Southern gentleman was sitting on one of the deck chairs, which was draped in a protective cover to shield it against the harsher elements. His countenance was thoughtful as he peered up at the darkening sky overhead. For a moment, he thought he could make out the twinkling of stars.
The past few weeks had been rather difficult for him. During a recent field mission, he had been seriously injured. Being nearly invincible, the wounds were not life threatening. However, they were enough to take him off of the active roster list for quite some time. Even though he was able to move around on his own without pain, he was still not at 100 percent. While conducting private training sessions in the Danger Room, he could sense his reflexes had slowed. For someone who relied on his quickness a great deal, Sam found himself frustrated.
Being confined to the mansion without accompanying a team on a mission was not something he was used to. He was beginning to feel restless and bored. There was a growing yearning inside him to leave, to be occupied with a field assignment. That way, he could distract himself from other things.
Rather, from thinking about someone else.
Sam grimaced as his mind replayed the events of that summer day. His heart ached inside his chest with the images flashing before his eyes. He covered his mouth with a calloused hand, willing himself not to cry out his pain. It had become that poignant for him.
He was not sure why he chosen to follow them that day. Common sense dictated that he should have sought shelter inside the mansion with the others. Yet, he found himself walking after Jubilee and Bobby. It was as if some outside force was compelling him to do so.
With a heavy heart, he remembered watching the object of his unrequited affections huddle close to Bobby Drake. For what seemed like the millionth time, he wished he were the one to hold her. He cursed himself for his ineptitude, his inability to take initiative to get what he wanted. Desperate envy flowed through every fiber of his being as he continued to follow them, remaining unseen through the sheets of rain that fell that day. When they ducked into the boathouse, he considered turning around and heading back to the mansion. It was what he should have done. Perhaps he could have saved himself some additional heartache that way.
But he did not.
Instead, Sam found himself standing outside. Any semblance of hope he might have soon vanished as he watched Bobby making love to Jubilee. As much as he wanted to flee, something was holding his feet in place. Acting as an unwilling voyeur, he could not help but see the bliss in her face, the want in her eyes for Bobby. All the while, his mind raced with thoughts that wondered why that couldn’t be him eliciting such responses from her.
“What’s eating you?” a familiar voice drawled, shattering his reflections.
Sam nearly jumped out of the chair, but relaxed when he attached the voice to his good friend, Roberto. The former New Mutant-turned-business executive was loosing his green-and-navy tie as he sauntered to where Sam was sitting. He flashed him a grin, revealing a set of perfectly straight, white teeth that contrasted against his deeply tanned skin. A well-groomed hand pulled up his charcoal slacks before he seated himself in the deck chair adjacent to Sam’s.
“Well, look at ya, Roberto.” Sam made a wolf whistle. “Rahne’s right. Ya sure do clean up nice.”
Roberto gave him a wry look, peering down at his navy blazer and classic, striped shirt. Ever since he was placed in charge of X-Corps in Los Angeles, playing the role of business executive was put at the forefront for the young man. “I can’t help if the business world has a dress code. Besides, if you think this is dressed up, you should have seen my investors.”
“That’s OK,” Sam replied, rolling up the sleeves to his green, corduroy shirt he wore over a pair of faded jeans. “They’re probably a bunch of stuffed shirts anyway.”
“It’s like you were there!” Roberto chuckled. Then he peered around them, noticing how quiet and still it was outside compared to the flurry of activity that transpired inside the mansion. Jean, Rogue, and Paige were conducting rehearsals for the talent show with their group of students. In the kitchen, Cook and her staff were making preparations for dinner that night. The remaining students and instructors were in the rec rooms, playing video games, watching television, or simply chattering away about the day’s events.
He turned to the coal miner’s son and asked, “Trying to get away from it all?”
Sam tried to smile, but it appeared rather weak since his eyes were dull. “You could say that.”
If he were more perceptive, Roberto might have been able to detect that something was amiss. However, he was not gifted with such ability. As a businessman he learned to be concerned about clear-cut facts, things that were tangible and evident. He simply took his friend’s answer at face value.
“You’re not the only one,” he said to Sam, completely oblivious. “Amara and Tabitha are looking for an apartment. Neither one’s too crazy about living with a bunch of kids now.”
Sam frowned, not sure if he could picture the two women living together. Amara was somewhat of a princess and as some bluntly put it, “high maintenance”. She was used to having things a certain way. At the other end of the spectrum was Tabitha, who prided herself on being able to live anywhere and under any conditions. Despite their obvious differences in attitudes and lifestyles, the two of them managed to be very close friends. But living together? That was something else entirely.
Roberto continued talking, leaning back in the chair and staring up at the clear night sky. “They were pretty bummed about the market downtown. Most of what they’ve seen has been those railroad apartments. Demand’s up, but supply is really lagging. Makes me glad I have a place of my own, you know.”
“I’m sure they’ll find somethin’,” Sam said absentmindedly as he stretched his arms over his head.
“That’s what I told them,” Roberto replied, crossing his ankles. “But I guess we’ll see. Speaking of gloomy faces, I just ran into Jubilee when I was coming out here. She seemed really upset. I mean she didn’t even bother to make fun of me in this get-up.”
Sam straightened in his chair. “Did she say what was botherin’ her?” he inquired, concern edging into his voice.
His friend shrugged. “I don’t talk to women when they’re emotional,” he told him. “They’re allowed to slap you.”
Sam rolled his eyes. “Ya know, Ah’m really glad Ah ain’t you sometimes.” The thought of her in some sort of distress did not sit too well with him. In spite of what he knew now about Jubilee’s relationship with Bobby, he still cared about her. There was a part of him that wanted to seek her out, to see what he could do to assuage her troubled mind.
Quickly, he rose to his feet. “Listen, Ah’m gonna head in,” he told Roberto, already sauntering towards the French doors. “Ya comin’?”
His friend shook his head. He was still taking in the serene beauty of the sky above him. “Not right now,” he replied, “but save me a seat at the dinner table with you, OK?”
“Ya got it, buddy.” Sam laughed, ducking inside and closing the doors behind him.
He strolled into the kitchen, nodding hello to Cook and her staff, who were in the throes of putting together tonight’s menu. From what he was able to tell, the students and instructors would be enjoying a hearty meal of roasted squash soup, chicken with garlic-balsamic sauce, garlic mashed potatoes, cheddar bacon biscuits, and Cook’s special apple pie with homemade vanilla ice cream. Only so many people should be lucky to enjoy the Englishwoman’s epicurean talents.
The Southern gentleman was mulling over where he could find Jubilee at this time when he suddenly noticed her out of the corner of his eye. It took him a moment to recognize her because her hair was pulled into a bun, topped off by a navy baseball cap. She was standing in the doorway that connected the kitchen to the corridor that led to the mess hall. One of the younger students, a little girl with wild, dark hair and green eyes with no pupils, had her arms circled around one of Jubilee’s legs. For her part, Jubilee was laughing and talking with the child, stroking her hair affectionately.
Sam smiled, reminded of another reason why he was infatuated with her. The goodness that seemed to radiate from her was all encompassing and easy to discern. It attracted anyone and everyone, including himself. Before he could reflect upon this, he soon found himself by her side.
“Hey there,” she greeted him. Then she tapped the little girl’s head and motioned to Sam. “Dylan, can you say hi to Mr. Guthrie?”
Dylan raised her head and stared up at the tall, blond man, who smiled at her gently. She beamed back, revealing two missing teeth. With an impish twinkle in her eyes, she then darted off into the mess hall.
“Looks like you have a way with the ladies,” Jubilee remarked wryly, crossing her arms over her chest.
Sam forced a low chuckle, inwardly commenting to himself that there was only one he was interested in. He raked a hand through his straw-colored hair nervously. “So, how’s it goin’?” he asked, wondering if she knew what kind of effect she had on him.
“Not too bad,” she answered, adjusting the brim of her cap. She had heard about his injuries through Paige. “What about you? Are you feeling better?”
He nodded. “Yeah, Ah’ve been gettin' around bettah,” he told her earnestly. “Can’t wait to get back out there, though. Bishop says Ah’ll be back to my normal self in a bit. Just gotta be patient is all.”
She smiled at him empathically. “I’m sure he’s right. You are practically invincible.”
In some ways, he thought. “Enough about me,” he drawled, “Let’s talk about somethin’ else. Ah’m borin’.”
Her sapphire eyes were solemn as she shook her head. “I don’t think so,” she objected quietly. “I don’t think you’re boring at all, Sam.”
For a moment, Sam thought his heart stopped. He knew she meant every word she said. The way she said what she did spoke volumes. But, he knew he could not afford to read any more into it. He just could not.
Clearing his throat, he attempted to deflect the attention from him. “So, what’s new with ya?”
She studied his face, noting how tense he was at that moment. There was a part of her that wanted to inquire as to what was wrong. She had meant to approach him since that summer day, but found that things suddenly coming up. His availability since then had been an issue as well. Now that he was here, she could ask him. Yet, as she stared into his kind, pale eyes, she saw something. It was as if he were pleading with her not to bring her concerns forward.
Against her better judgment, she decided to oblige him. There was no sense in pressuring him to talk when it was clear that he did not want to. Besides, he would probably open up once the time was right.
“Well, I’ve got a problem,” she confessed, chewing on her lower lip.
“See, there’s this concert I was interested in going to, and I ordered tickets to go like months ago.”
“They’re pretty good.”
“You’ve heard of them?”
“Sure. When Ah was workin’ in Paris, they were tourin’ with some other bands.”
“So the problem?”
“At the time, I thought Bobby would be able to go with me.”
“It’s not looking like it. He told me last night that he’d be away for a little while longer. That doesn’t help me now because the concert’s this weekend in the city.”
“Ya try askin’ someone else?”
“Yeah. Your sister’s tied up with this talent show, as is Rogue. Tabitha’s busy with apartment hunting. My friends at school already have tickets.”
“Sounds like ya really want ta go.”
“I do, but it’s not looking good.” Jubilee shook her head glumly as she contemplated putting the tickets up on eBay. She had been looking forward to attending the concert for so long. To give up was simply heartbreaking. Suddenly, her eyes brightened, lighting up her lovely face. “Do you think you’d want to go? I mean, I know it’s last minute and all, and that it would mean spending a night in the city… But don’t worry. I’ve taken care of everything.”
Sam was almost overwhelmed by this shift in mood. It was hard not to get caught up in it all. As he looked upon her sweet, smiling face, he knew his answer was all that stood between her and going to this concert. Finally, he grinned. “Sure. Count me in.”
She shrieked excitedly and threw her arms around his neck. Her voice revealed her gratitude. “Thankyouthankyouthankyou!” she cried, hugging him tightly. “Oh, Sam, you won’t regret this. You’re so awesome!”
While he realized that he would be spending time with her, he would do so as her second choice. Somehow, the latter did not matter. The prospect of being near her was what counted. It almost erased his memory of the heartache he suffered.
Author’s Note: Bobby says ‘Pardon me’ in Turkish.
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