Homecomings: Chapters 19-21
Chapter Nineteen: The Name of the Game
Hank McCoy was in the middle of placing some specimens in the laboratory freezer when he heard the elevator doors open down the hall. While he did not have Logan's sensitive nose, he was certain he smelled cigarette smoke. A smile crept over his lips when he realized who it was.
"My Cajun friend," he drawled, closing the door to the freezer and walking to the stainless steel sink next to it to wash his large hands. "While I don't mind your habit, but I insist that you keep your cigarettes out of the lab. It's not good hygiene, you know."
Merde, Remy groaned inwardly before tossing the cigarette on the concrete floor outside of the lab doors and promptly stamping it out. He briskly walked inside and commented, "There's nowhere dis homme can go for a smoke."
"Perhaps it is a sign that you should give up."
"Hah. Now, you sound like Storm. Took me four tries to light one up outside. Ch・e kept blowing out de matches wit' de wind. Gambit saw her flying over him wit' dis big smile."
Hank smiled, adjusting his glasses and seating himself at his workbench. "She's very caring like that, isn't she?"
"Call it what you want. Still annoyin'." Evidently, he was still somewhat bitter. "And she not de only one. Ever since de petite got back from Paris, she be on some crusade to get me to stop. You'd t'ink she'd be used to it 'cause everyone in de city smokes."
"Ah, I'm not sure that's even the reason. You see, my colleague and Annie were special speakers in one of the health classes. They brought in pictures of cancer victims and damaged lung tissues for the children to look at. Apparently, the message was particularly salient to our little firecracker." Hank reached for a steel box at the corner of the workbench.
Remy leaned against the edge of the desk, snorting. "Why she bother dis homme and not Wolverine?"
Hank pulled out a screwdriver and peered up at his friend. "You want to tell Logan he can't smoke anymore?" he asked, skeptical. "Really?"
Remy frowned, taking some time to consider the proposal he had made. Logan followed orders (sometimes), but to mess with one of his beloved vices seemed to be crossing the line. "Suppose you're right," he finally admitted, immediately feeling some embarrassment for his words. "I should know better."
Hank chuckled, turning his eyes to a large, metal ring. "Well, that reminds me," he said, bending over the object and carefully manipulating it with the screwdriver. "I need to stop by and talk to Scott about something later."
"Don't t'ink you can do dat. Petite say he and de wife plannin' some romantic evening. Dey gave her permission to stay here at de mansion for de night." He resisted the urge to make the same face he had made when Jubilee told him, which earned him a light slap on the shoulder from her.
Remy was quiet for a moment, his red-on-black eyes observing the larger man's effort with the mysterious metal object. "Beast?"
"What you got dere, homme?"
"Oh, this? Do you remember our last trip to Genosha?"
"Well, Kurt found this collar on one of the mutant slaves outside one of the caves. It always struck as strange as to how the humans on the island were able to maintain control over the mutants, given the special abilities and strengths." Hank then pulled a screw from the ring, which cause the ring to split into two sections. "Apparently, the humans exerted their authority through collars like this one."
Remy gave his friend a quizzical look. "And what's so special about de collar?" he asked, noting there was an undisturbed version of the collar next to Hank's toolbox.
"It suppresses mutant abilities," Hank answered, extracting several chips from the collar.
"And what you doin' wit' it now?"
"All I want to do is understand how the technology works. It's quite fascinating since it doesn't discriminate. The collar simply neutralizes the mutant's powers."
"Yes, it is. And very dangerous as well, my friend. The possibilities are quite frightening. Imagine if these collars were to fall into the hands of the Friends of Humanity, and other mutant-hating groups?"
"Den we have all de collars?"
"No, just the two you see here. I am hoping to prepare in the event that the collars do fall in the wrong hands. There has to be a way to disable them.." Hank held the chip far away from his face. "Fascinating."
"Why dat be, Beast?" Remy asked.
Hank pursed his lips. "Something so advanced could be used to oppress and destroy. That's what's so fascinating."
Remy shook his head, reddish-brown hair flopping over one brow. "Beast, you have strange tastes," he commented, smiling gently to take the edge off of his words. Then he decided to change the subject. "I came here 'cause I want to talk to you about your ami."
Hank's furry brows shot up. "Bobby? Oh, dear. What has he done now? If it was that silly impression of you, trust me, no one thinks it's accurate." He bit the inside of his cheek, choking back the urge to laugh. On the contrary, Bobby did a brilliant imitation of the Cajun thief. He had done it while they were coming home on the Blackbird, receiving a chorus of laughs from Hank, Jean, Kurt, Warren, and even Ororo.
"He does an impression of me?"
"Um, no.. I mean, you want to talk about Bobby?"
Remy narrowed his eyes. He could tell when people were being deceptive and Hank was a notoriously lousy liar. "Yes," he finally said, feeling his annoyance dissipate. "I see he be hangin' round de petite a lot."
"Well, they're friends. They have been since she first came here. That, and they have a lot in common." Their shared sense of humor was legendary around the mansion.
"It's different dan dat."
It was Hank's turn to look confused. "I'm not sure I know what you mean," he said, pausing in his dissection of the collar.
"Oh, come on, Beast. Dis ol' t'ief seen what's been goin' on." Remy leaned towards Hank, eyeing him. "Has Drake said anyt'in' to you?"
Hank shook his head, but appeared somewhat uncertain. He did recall an incident where he had run into Bobby the day after Scott and Jubilee left for Paris. He seemed edgy and distraught, but was close-mouthed as to why. That mood seemed to continue even after the two arrived back from their trip several weeks ago. "No. I'm sorry, Gambit, but what are you trying to get at?"
Remy set his mouth into a grim line. "I'm talkin' 'bout Monsieur Drake's interest in de petite," he said, stepping back from the workbench. "Gambit sees de way de homme goin' after her. Den dere's de present he got her--- nicest t'ing he got for anyone at de mansion."
"You sound like you might disapprove."
"Listen, Gambit don' have a problem wit' de homme personally. He just needs to stay away from de petite."
"Why? I mean the age difference isn't all that much. Bobby's about seven or eight years older, but if you take into account his maturity, you can cut the difference by six years."
"Dis is serious. Gambit loves de petite and do anyt'in' for her. He also knows about Monsieur Drake's dealings wit' de femmes."
Hank's blue eyes widened incredulously. "Gambit, I don't know what you know, but I can certainly tell you that Bobby's problems were not attributable to him. He's dated a lot, but then again, who hasn't? It doesn't mean he's a bad person."
Remy shrugged indifferently, noting that the usually calm Hank McCoy was surprisingly defensive all of a sudden. "It takes two to tango, mon ami." He had actually received a lot the information from Rogue while they were dating, but she framed her friend's issues with women a little more sympathetically.
Hank sighed wearily. Being Bobby's best friend, he witnessed the young man's many romantic troubles. It was sad really since Bobby tried so hard to make many of these relationships work. Despite the humorous front he put on for his friends and colleagues to see, there was still something that was lost to him only Hank could sense. Peering over at Gambit, he knew he was going to have a hard time convincing him of that.
"I don't think you have anything to worry about," he finally said, exhaling sharply.
"Even so.. Gambit still don' t'ink it's a good idea." Remy still looked skeptical. He should have known better than to confide in Drake's best friend.
"Well, if Bobby was interested in our little firecracker, I am sure he would be careful not to hurt her. He's not like that." Hank was still trying to get accustomed to the idea of Bobby being romantically interested in Jubilee. He simply did not see it. He always saw them as being more brother and sister than anything else.
The Cajun thief crossed his arms over his well-toned chest. "You may t'ink dat, but dis ol' t'ief be keepin' an eye on de petite," Remy informed him, as if administering a warning. "Better me dan Wolverine, non?"
Hank watched him stalk out of the lab quietly. Shaking his head, he turned his attentions to the collar he was dissecting. As he was placed one of the chips on a glass slide, he noticed that the other collar he had on the tabletop was now gone.
Red-on-black eyes glittered in the dimness of the elevator that led back to the main floors of the mansion. Remy stared down at the metal collar in his hand before slipping it in the pocket of his brown leather duster. Maybe there are other uses for this thing, he thought, a sly smile crossing his chiseled features. His mind began to race with the possibilities.
The elevator stopped on the first floor. Greeting him with an amused expression was Ororo, who was carrying several shopping bags from a recent trip to the shopping mall with Betsy. She studied his expression and shook her long, white hair out over her shoulders.
"You look like you swallowed the proverbial canary, my friend," she observed as the doors slid close. She pressed the button for the button to her floor. "Anything you'd like to share?"
"Hah. Gambit still upset about dis mornin', Stormy." His smile told another story. She was one of those rare people whom he could never stay upset with for very long. Though she had returned to her adult state, he still thought of her as the adolescent girl he rescued so long ago.
She nodded, pretending to ignore his jovial face. "Just trying to look out for you. It really is a filthy habit. And, you're not setting the best example for the children, I'm afraid. They see you around the mansion, smoking after they learn effects in health class. What are they supposed to think?"
Remy smirked. "Kids have parents and Cyclops as role models. Not Gambit."
"Ah, yes." She pulled her long, double-breasted camel coat tightly around her slim form. "I almost forgot about you like to play the black sheep."
"Someone has to. Ot'erwise, life dull around here, non? Besides, you like it, Stormy. Gambit makes t'ings more fun around here. Dat's why you asked me to come back." He leaned towards her, red eyes dancing with fire.
She frowned at him, looking at him as if he had grown a second head. "That was not the reason why."
"No, Gambit. This is your home. You should be here with your friends and teammates. It was not right that you were so far away, thinking that no one cared about you."
"I never t'ought dat, ch・e. Gambit just takin' a long break from savin' de world is all. You should try it sometime."
Ororo bit her lower lip, realizing this part of the conversation was going nowhere because her friend would not allow it to. She hated it every time he tried to shut down like that. He was very much like Logan in that respect, except Gambit was more charming when he was being evasive about things he didn't want to talk about. While this would easily placate most people, she knew better. She knew him for too long and too well.
She finally managed, "Perhaps I will take your advice."
He noticed the restrained expression across her exotic features. She had wanted to press him, but did not do it. Her knowledge regarding other people's limits was one of the qualities he liked about her. Good old Storm, he mused, gazing at the weather goddess fondly. "Glad to hear dat, Stormy."
She made a face at him. Of all the nicknames he could have thought of, that one irked her the most. "I told you to stop calling me that."
"Force of habit, ch・e. Dis ol' t'ief forgets sometime." His grin became broader, which would be all the more infuriating to a woman he did not know very well. However, this was Ororo, the woman who rarely took him seriously.
The elevator doors slid open. As she made her way out, she turned around and stared at him for a moment. Her face was drawn in concern, looking as if she wanted to say something to him. She was aware of the torment he was going through during the past few weeks. Since she was a friend with both him and Rogue, it was impossible to say or do anything without appearing to take sides. Like many, she simply chose to stay neutral in the whole affair and hoped the two could settle their differences privately and quickly. Yet, at that moment, she felt the urge to leave him with some comforting words. Despite his carefree front, she could tell he needed them.
Instead, she picked up her many shopping bags and flashed him a smile. "Stay out trouble, Gambit."
He watched her breeze down the hall through the closing doors. "You, too, ch・e," he said softly. "You, too."
Chapter Twenty: Call and Answer
"If I have to listen to Scott go on and on about his romantic dinner with Jean, I'm going to freeze his lips together," Bobby Drake groused, shoving his hands into the pocket of his chinos.
Warren held up two suits while standing in front of the floor-length mirror in his room. "It's Valentine's Day, Bobby. He's just trying to do something romantic for his wife." He raised a brow as he scrutinized one of the suits. It was charcoal-colored, designed with side vents and a soft sloping shoulder that molds to the body for a comfortable and flattering fit. The lapel was rolled to the middle button, where the top button could be undone for a deeper gorge and a softer shape. The jacket was finished with flap pockets, pick stitching and a Bemberg lining while the trousers had double forward pleats and a seven-loop belted waist. "Does this say dashing, millionaire playboy or wannabe?"
Bobby rolled his eyes, ignoring his friend's solicitation for fashion advice. Instead, he cleared his throat and puffed his chest out. "You guys," he intoned in his best Scott voice. "I'm nervous because this is my first time really cooking for someone. I've got the whole menu planned out because I'm anal like that. First, we're going to have a zesty salad, then pan-seared scallops over linguini and a tomato cream sauce, and finally, chocolate chunk bread pudding. You think she'll like it? Oh, golly, I sure hope so. I've only been telling you guys about it for the last two hours because I am so whipped.
"If it's not that, then there was this going on." Then he paused before switching into another character, batting his eyes and swinging his hips. "Like, girls," he squeaked in his best Kitty voice. "Let's go out to the club and dance tonight. Let's set up a circle around our pocketbooks and dance around it. Screw guys. I just wanna dance!"
Warren's ice-blue eyes crinkled at the corners. He, too, had overheard Kitty lay out plans with some of the other female residents, including Tabitha, Sarah, Dani, Theresa, and Rahne, who was visiting from out of town. While she did not use that exact language, Bobby was pretty much on the money.
"And here's my personal favorite," Bobby said, setting up for his next impersonation. He placed the back of his hand over his forehead and sighed dramatically. "Oh, gawd.. What's a gal to do? Ah love ya, Remy, but Ah can't touch ya. Ah'm just gonna cry and have my way with Joeneto 'til Ah can decide what the hell to do." He then feigned loud sobbing.
"You know," Warren said, hanging the suit he had chosen for his date that evening on the closet door. "You're lucky they're at that bed and breakfast in Vermont. Otherwise, she'd kick your ass." Then he paused, his eyes widening in surprise. "Oh my God."
"It's finally happened."
"You've finally turned into that bitter, old man. Hank owes me money."
Bobby scowled at him. "I don't need to take your abuse," he told him huffily, heading to the door. "I can get abused somewhere else by someone who doesn't have bad taste in ties."
Warren laughed, waving for him to come back. "Oh come on. You're not the only one who can joke around." He watched his friend trudge back to where he had been standing before. "So I take it you don't have any plans for this evening?"
Bobby shrugged indifferently. "What's so special? It's like any other night. Maybe I can get Hank to come with me to shoot some pool and have some beers in town."
"Uh, he and Cecilia are going out to some foreign film in town." Warren pulled out his tie rack from the closet door. He picked out a blue-gray, silk tie and slipped it over the suit jacket hanging on the door. "Some French flick that's black-and-white.."
Bobby groaned. "That's it. I'm officially a loser."
Warren gave him a sympathetic smile, raking a hand through his wavy blond hair. "Well, there are other people staying in. Let's see there's the children.. No, wait. They're going out, too. But, there's.. No.. Well, I'm sure you can entertain yourself fine."
"You're officially on my s-list, Worthington."
"Sorry, I was trying to be helpful. Listen, I can call up Claire and see if she knows anyone.."
"No, thanks. A pity date is just as bad as having no date at all."
"I guess I could understand that."
"Why do I highly doubt that?"
"What does that mean?"
"Oh, come on, Warren. You of all people have no trouble with females. You've got the looks, money, and wings. Me, on the other hand.."
"Stop feeling sorry for yourself. You could have anyone you want if you put some effort into it. What about Emma? I see the way she looks at you."
"Yeah, like a cat going after a new scratch toy. That woman is scary. If we were dating, I'd be in desperate need of Logan's healing factor or a lifetime supply of Neosporin."
"Really? How would you know?"
"I did share a body with her in case you've forgotten."
"Right. Must have had the time of your life."
"If you call having your mind twisted around like silly putty loads of fun, then yes. Maybe you should ask her to do it to you. Then we'll see how you like it."
"Don't tell me you can't stand having her around now. You've always been a little ga-ga for Emma."
Bobby didn't answer him. He could still see Jubilee's face that day. There was bewilderment, confusion, and what he thought was sadness and disappointment. Though what she probably witnessed was brief, it seemed to be enough. For Bobby, it was difficult for him to look at her even after she arrived back from Paris. Every once in a while, they would pass each other in the hall. He would struggle to come up with the nerve to even utter two words to her, but found himself at a loss for words. Either that, or Gambit would "conveniently" be nearby to whisk her away.
Even the night visits to her room had stopped. He would pause in front of his bedroom window, which had the Summers' home in plain sight. Staring at her lit bedroom window, Bobby often ruminated about making a trip over to talk. He would rehearse breaking the ice (no pun intended), explaining why it was so difficult to approach her all those weeks, asking if they could be buddies again, and even throwing a joke in the mix. At the last minute, he would lose his nerve and turn away from the window for the rest of that evening. The rest of the night would be spent lying awake in bed, cursing his futility and willing himself to get over whatever it was inhibiting him. Then the ritual would start all over again the following night.
What was the most frustrating about the whole situation was that he felt he was blowing things out of proportion. He constantly questioned his reaction. Why was this bothering him so much? It wasn't as if he and Emma were in an especially compromising position. Also there was no way she could see what Emma was doing, he rationalized. Furthermore, it wasn't like he owed Jubilee an explanation. He was an adult, who could be in the company of anyone he chose. And, as Warren pointed out, he was also single, not accountable to anyone at the moment---certainly not to Jubilee.
"You look a million miles away," Warren observed, his voice breaking into Bobby's thoughts. He was in the midst of opening a mahogany box and searching for his Rolex watch. Then he added, "Not just now, but lately. Something you want to talk about?"
Bobby's gray eyes feigned puzzlement. "What are you talking about?" he asked, hoping that Warren would drop his investigation. He hadn't told anyone about what happened, nor was he intending to.
The taller man frowned at him, slipping on the watch. "It seems like something's weighing you down. You just seem like you've been preoccupied these past few weeks. Is there anything wrong?"
Bobby snorted. "You almost sound like Jean."
Warren shook his head at him. "I'm serious, Bobby. What's up?"
"Nothing.. I'm just.." Think of something or Warren's never going to drop it, he told himself. Suddenly, an idea raced through his head. "Um, Joel's bachelor party. You know, as the best man, I have to plan it and it's getting complicated. There are all these people to invite and make hotel accommodations for in Vegas. That, and it's only a month away."
Well, partially true, he said to himself. You still need to do that, by the way, Bobby.
Warren nodded, blue eyes not completely guileless. "I see," he said, hiding the suspicions in his voice. As one of Bobby's closest friends, he could always tell when his young friend was lying---the joking coupled with the lame excuses. He knew for a fact that Bobby had yet to make the arrangements for his cousin's bachelor party. No, there was definitely something going on, but Bobby seemed bound and determined not to talk about it.
Despite the light-hearted exterior, Warren, like Jean and Hank, was aware that there were a number of things that often haunted his young friend. There was the rocky relationship with his recuperating father, the failed romantic relationships, the self-blame for Madelyne Pryor's descent into madness. Yet, Bobby was insistent on stifling these things inside. Watching the young man struggle with whatever it was eating at him, Warren silently wished sometimes Bobby didn't feel the need to constantly "be on" all the time, acting as the team's source of comedy relief.
Bobby peered at Warren out of the corner of his eye and noticed a concerned look on his friend's face. Not wanting to be confronted again, he said, "Well, you should get ready for your date, Warren. Hell hath no fury like a woman kept waiting five minutes late---something I learned from Opal." He cracked a weak smile, which appeared more like a grimace than anything.
Before Warren could respond, Bobby was already out the door. The tall, blond mutant heaved a sigh and shook his head. Same old Bobby, he mused.
Bobby closed the door to his bedroom, sighing wearily. He walked over to his desk and flicked on the lamp. Staring up at him blankly were the Three Stooges bobble head dolls Jubilee had given him. He sat down in front of them, wrinkling his forehead.
"Well, guys, have any advice?" he asked pointedly.
The Stooges did not answer back.
"Larry? Curly? Moe? Come on. Give a guy a break."
Not even a nod.
"Just as well. Wouldn't be taking advice from you guys anyway." Then he rolled his eyes and groaned. "Great. Now, I'm trying to get advice from a bunch of dolls. I'm really losing it."
He leaned back in his chair and rubbed his temples gingerly, then raking his fingers through his sandy hair. His eyes darted around the room as he racked his brain of things he could do besides stare out his window at Scott and Jean's home, located across the lawn. He was determined not to put himself through that tonight.
There were the quizzes he had given out earlier this week---they needed to be graded. He gave himself a raspberry for coming up with that idea. TV? Nix that idea. Probably some sappy programming he didn't need to see anyway. His eyes briefly scanned his CDs, but soon realized there was nothing he really wanted to listen to anyway. The same line of thinking applied to the possibility of popping in a DVD.
After futile efforts of searching for other things to do, Bobby decided to wander downstairs to the kitchen. He knew that Cook had made an extra batch of gingersnaps before leaving for the night. Not exactly the best way to distract himself, but certainly a pleasant one. He immediately bounded down the stairs and made his way to the kitchen.
Along the way, he passed by one of the rec rooms and noticed that the lights were on and the plasma screen television and VCR were both on. It appeared as if whatever was currently playing had been stopped. The smell of buttered popcorn permeated through the air. Curious and somewhat hungry, he sauntered into the room. He approached the oversized, brown sofa and leaned over to greet the occupant. When he discovered who it was, Bobby was startled.
Jubilee looked up at him, blue eyes wide with surprise. "Hi," she greeted, a hint of wariness creeping into her voice. She was cradling a bowl of popcorn in her lap and a can of soda in her other hand.
"Hey," Bobby finally managed, straightening to his full height. It had been several weeks since he had even come this close to her, but she was still as pretty as ever. The purple roll neck sweater and faded jeans she was wearing seemed to deepen the blue in her eyes. Her long, silky hair with midnight blue streaks framed her delicate features gently.
After a brief silence, she nodded slowly and asked, "So, how's it going?"
Bobby pressed his lips together before responding. "OK," he replied, trying to hide his discomfort.
"You? I mean, how was Paris?"
She placed the bowl on the coffee table in front of her and then turned back to him. "It was great," she said softly, resting her cheek against the chino material of the sofa. "Someday, I'd like to go back.. It's an amazing city. I tried to talk Scott into a return trip for my birthday, but I think he pretended to fall asleep while I was asking."
Bobby smiled, realizing he was suddenly relaxed at that moment. There was something disarming about the young girl in front of him. Maybe this was the kind of effect she had Logan. It might explain why she was the only one in the mansion who could stand to spend long hours with the perpetual curmudgeon.
His gray eyes traveled to her slender neck, which was adorned with the necklace he had given her. He could feel his smile broaden, feeling quite pleased inside. She followed his gaze and fingered the pink beads, then the silver flower.
"I like it," she told him, almost as if to reassure him.
He nodded quickly, his eyes darting to the floor. Suddenly, he blurted out, "I'm sorry."
She frowned at him quizzically. "Bobby?"
"For.. For acting strange, Jubes. I guess for not talking to you for the last couple of weeks."
"I thought things were kind of weird since the last time we saw each other."
"Bobby, you don't have to.."
"No, Jubes. I don't want to lose a good friend because of some misunderstanding."
"Yeah.. I mean are we still friends?" He could feel his heart begin to race as he awaited her answer. This was not how he had envisioned things playing out.
Jubilee looked thoughtful, taking some time to carve out an answer. "I just always thought you saw me as that annoying kid you played pranks with. I never thought you saw me as anything else. To everyone, I'm still a child and nothing more."
It was Bobby's turn to be confused. "I don't think that," he said quietly, leaning over the sofa. "It's always been us against the rest of the mansion. You know, sticking together since we were the youngest. I've always thought of you as a friend, even when you were that whiny, skinny kid."
She rolled her eyes at him. "Gee, thanks."
His smile soon faded as he began to pick up where he had left off. "About that misunderstanding.."
"Bobby, you don't have to say anything. It's none of my business.." For some reason, she felt very uncomfortable. The idea of Bobby describing whatever he was doing with her former headmistress struck as kind of eerie and creepy.
He cut her off before she could say anything more. "I need to, Jubes. Just hear me out, OK?"
"OK," she said slowly.
His gray eyes flicked away from her face briefly, then returned to stare into her sapphire eyes. "Emma and I.. Nothing was going on. I want you to know that. It's important that you know that."
There was a pleading tone to his voice as he spoke, which was accentuated by the earnest quality in his gray eyes. Jubilee studied his boyish face carefully. There was nothing mocking or duplicitous, as she would first suspect of him (After all, here was the person who used to tease her constantly about how skinny she was). Just that it was essential for her to believe him at this moment. As she peered up at Bobby Drake, she realized that it was also important for her to believe as well. Looking up at him, she knew that she did.
Finally, she nodded. "It's OK, Bobby. I believe you."
He breathed a sigh of relief inside. Not able to express anything eloquently, he managed, "Thanks, Jubes." Then he peered down at the empty space on the sofa next to her and saw the opportunity to change the subject towards something less serious. "So what are you watching this fine Valentine's Day?"
"That's not really a romantic movie."
"I think that's the point."
"Ah, I see. Well, you mind if I join you?"
"I don't know if my date would like that."
"Your date?" Bobby tried not to express the shock he was experiencing at that moment in his voice. Granted, he had avoided her for several weeks, but he had not noticed her with anyone. Well, anyone except for Gambit and Logan. While Logan was more of a father to the young girl, the Cajun thief was kind of questionable. He was single and actively flirting with anyone female. However, he was pretty sure he had seen him leave the mansion for a hot date in the city.
Jubilee nodded, wondering what was eating at Bobby of all sudden. "Yes, my date," she repeated slowly, as if he had not heard her the first time.
Still reeling, he asked, "Anyone I know?" He immediately racked his brain for a list of other suspects. He had seen Sam Guthrie hanging around her the other day after one of the Danger Room sessions.
"Yeah. He's actually going to be back any minute." She tucked her feet underneath her. "He went to the kitchen to get some more sodas. That's why I have the movie on pause."
Bobby nodded stiffly. "Well, maybe I should.."
"Jubilee, there isn't any more Cherry Coke left," Carter announced, barreling into the rec room with two regular Cokes. The ten-year-old boy stared up at Bobby Drake in surprise. "Hello."
Bobby turned to Jubilee, resisting the urge to smirk. "Your date?"
Her sapphire blue eyes were guileless. "Yes, my date," she said, feigning defensiveness. "Carter and I are going to spend our night, gorging on junk food and watching movies. Isn't that right?"
Carter nodded, plopping down next to Jubilee. He handed her a soda and peered up at Bobby again. "Jubilee's my date," he informed him proudly. "She's my girlfriend."
Bobby grinned. "You're a lucky guy, Carter." He exchanged a sly look with Jubilee, who stuck her tongue out at him.
Jubilee turned to Carter, placing her soda on the coffee table. "Listen, would it be all right if Mr. Drake joins us for movie night?" she asked gently, the corners of her mouth curling into a smile.
The young boy's brows wrinkled together as he deliberated. Then he glanced at Bobby warily, showing how reluctant he was to go along with the idea. After a few moments, he drawled, "But I still get to pick the movies, right?"
"That was the plan."
Bobby seated himself next to Carter, still grinning. "Thanks, Carter. You won't regret it, kiddo." His gray eyes peered over at Jubilee, who flashed him a knowing smile.
Chapter Twenty-One: I've Been Delivered
For the past several weeks, Logan had been making rapid progress in his individual sessions with Professor Xavier. During these individual sessions, he found himself frustrated, particularly when they first started. Logan cursed what he thought was his own ineptitude. He had been convinced that "his problems" had stopped. He thought he had confronted all these demons while he was alone in Canada. To him, his latest episode was a reflection of his lack of self-control, inner mental strength. He had failed himself, and ran the risk of failing and possibly, hurting those around him. It was tempting to pack up his belongings and hit the road again. Yet, he managed to stop himself. Now, he was aware there were other people to consider in his decisions.
So, he worked furiously with Xavier. Logan committed himself to the task, working more feverishly than he did in previous attempts. The process was painful. Facing inner demons comprised of shame, guilt, anger, and fear was taxing. There were times when he doubted his sanity; unsure what was real and what had been fabricated. The memories that flooded him were vivid and almost tangible, as if the events had occurred yesterday. Still, he pushed his mind and his sometimes, his body, to confront these disturbing issues, realizing that a part of him would never completely get over what had happened to him and what he had done in the past.
Logan had not experienced those violent and vivid hallucinations since that day Storm had found him. After the long sessions with the Professor, Logan found that his mood had stabilized and that he was feeling less hyper vigilant. He knew he would always experience that tension. After all, it was that gnawing feeling of being prepared for fight or flight that helped him to survive these many years. However, it was not as severe or crippling as it had been.
This progress prompted the Professor into sending him on a field mission to Stockholm for several days with Storm, Beast, and Rogue---the first he had seen action outside of the state since their sessions started. After reading an article in the Guardian UK about a series of power outages that plagued the city for the last six months, he suspected the involvement of a mutant. Using Cerebro, Xavier confirmed his suspicions. While there was no hostility he could sense from the city's inhabitants, he stressed to the team that it was still paramount that they locate the individual before others did.
Prior to his life as a X-Man, Logan had done some extensive traveling. However, he had never been to Sweden in all his years. He found that he liked the icy city, which was a mix of stimulating urban life and pure nature simultaneously. Stockholm was a fantastic city, where Lake M・aren met the sea. It was a vibrant, modern city with historic charm, built on 14 islands. As a result, there was nearly always a view of the water. Magnificent buildings stood alongside green oases and the city pulsates with cutting-edge culture and life, despite the centuries-old alleys and historic squares around every corner. Because Stockholm was blessed with endless amounts of clear and clean water, he observed many people swimming or fishing in the middle of the city.
The team had been in the city for three days. While they had the opportunity to observe the power outages, they were unable to locate information regarding the source. According to the local news, the government was attributing the outages to possible viruses in the computer system. As field team commander, Storm felt it was important to rule out all possibilities. She and Rogue decided to contact one of Warren's friends in the power company in order to get his read of the situation. Meanwhile, Logan and Hank decided to explore the rest of the city, hoping to find something with one of Hank's tracers, which were linked with Cerebro.
The two friends decided to stop into Akkurat, one of Sweden's most famous specialist beer bars, located in the S・ermalm district, south of the Gamla Stan. The pub occupied the ground floor of a hideous modern concrete building, which probably needed of a few sticks of dynamite to improve its exterior. Inside was fairly spacious. There were some pleasant enough bits of leaded glass and the odd old wooden door. The casks of beer on stillage behind the bar were an even more beautiful sight. There were usually 3 or 4 cask-conditioned beers on sale at any given time, the precise beers changing constantly. There were also a wide range of Swedish draught beers, including examples from some of the better new micros. The bottled range was extensive with many American microbrews, which were rarely seen outside the States.
Given the frigid temperatures, no one seemed to give Hank's hulking figure under his green down jacket and baggy, cargo trousers a second thought. However, his blue-furred face and large, sharp incisors seemed to attract quite a bit of attention. The blond waitress could not stop staring, even when she was setting down the Herold Dark Lagers they had ordered. Logan merely raised a brow at her and exhaled a cloud of cigar smoke, dismissing her immediately. Following that, the two drank and began to map out their strategy for tracking down the unknown mutant.
They were undisturbed until a tall, thin Swede with platinum blond hair and a black leather snowsuit brushed by their table. He pursed his lips at Hank and gave him a shove to the shoulder with his elbow. Hank merely frowned at him, but made no move to retaliate---that just wasn't his style. In contrast, Logan immediately rose to his feet to confront the offender. He leaned towards the younger man, cigar smoke billowing around him.
"Mammaknullare," Logan snorted, suppressing the urge to unsheathe his adamantium claws.
Oh, dear, Hank thought, anticipating the worst.
The Swede narrowed his eyes. Still glaring, he briskly walked past the table. Satisfied, Logan returned to his seat in the booth.
Hank heaved a sigh of relief. Then he gave his friend a perplexed look. "I didn't know you spoke Swedish, Logan." He finished his lager in one last gulp.
"I only know that one word," Logan replied, chewing thoughtfully on his Cohiba. "See, part of my preparation for these overseas trips was to learn how to say 'mothaf***er' in different languages."
"How very diplomatic of you," Hank observed, rolling his eyes. Still, he was impressed that his old friend managed not to get into a physical altercation with the young man. Perhaps the Professor was truly making headway this time around. Hank was tempted to comment upon his friend's progress, but remembered that Logan did not want anyone else to know about his situation. Immediately, he refrained and popped a piece of bread into his mouth.
Logan nodded, smirking. "So you got anything on that tracer?" he asked.
Hank shook his head. "Not yet. The mutant has been within a 10-mile radius of where the tracer is in order to pick up on anything."
"Even when it's linked with Cerebro?" Logan was surprised.
The larger man nodded grimly. "Yes. The fact that we're overseas doesn't help out, either. I'm afraid we're relegated to playing the waiting game. At least, for now."
Logan rolled his eyes. "I'm tired of waiting." He took another gulp of his lager and chewed on his cigar. "Storm and Rogue are at least getting out and doin' something."
"Are you saying you would like to approach a corporate office?" Hank looked at him skeptically, blue eyes round as saucers behind his thick, black- framed glasses. "This is quite a change, Logan."
Logan shook his head. "No, I didn't say that."
Hank smiled mischievously. "I know. I meant it in jest."
"You've been hangin' around Icicle too much. You both think you're comedians." Logan frowned, taking the edge off of his words with a quirk of his brow. He genuinely liked Hank, although the other man could be a little long-winded at times. But his fairness and good-natured spirit made it easy for anyone to feel comfortable around him, in spite of his physical appearance.
Hank noticed the reference Logan made about his good friend. There was a part of him that wanted to bring up the conversation he had with Gambit the other day. Perhaps Logan, having known Jubilee for much longer than anyone in the mansion, would have a better idea as to what was going on. Or, he could take the information and use it as an excuse to harass poor Bobby. The image of Logan growling and chasing his good friend around the grounds of the mansion with extended claws was all too vivid for the scientist. Given the latter, Hank found himself suppressing the urge to share with his friend his thoughts.
"What's up with you?" Logan inquired, stubbing out his cigar in the glass ashtray.
Hank was startled. "Hmm? Oh, I was just thinking about the lesson plans I have to work on once we return." His eyes cast to the tabletop as he lied.
Logan, perceptive being that he was, did not take the bait. "Really?" he asked in an attempt to test the other man. Hank's reputation as a bad liar was known throughout the mansion. Even the students knew about it.
"Oh, yes. My work is never done." Hank nodded vigorously, stuffing more bread into his mouth. He was hoping that by doing so, Logan would drop the interrogation.
Unfortunately, Logan wasn't known for giving up easily. "I don't think you're talking about your work at the school," he observed, finishing his drink. He motioned for the waitress to come by their table to take his order. After he asked for another lager, he glanced at the other man expectantly.
Hank continued chewing, trying to act as oblivious as possible. After a few minutes of this act (or lack thereof), Logan had about enough. He exhaled loudly and drawled, "So what is it, Hank? You wouldn't get this keyed up over some class you're teaching."
Before Hank could formulate another lie, there was an almost deafening crash from outside. Both men craned their necks to peer out the window of the bar, along with the rest of the patrons. Two rather large men were laughing and shouting in Swedish as they stomped towards a smaller, frail- looking boy, who looked like he was about Jubilee's age. While their words were not immediately comprehendible, the men's hostile intent was strikingly clear. The boy appeared as if he had already been roughed up already---his hair was rumpled, clothes were torn and his lip was bloody. He had his arms in the air, as if to shield himself from any further blows. At the same time, he was crying, pleading with his aggressors in Swedish.
Logan growled, bolting from his seat in the booth. While he wasn't the epitome of altruism like perhaps Scott or the Professor (he was far too old and cynical for that), he did hate seeing an unfair situation. How is two against one fair? He began to head to the door, still growling.
"Logan!" Hank called after him, suddenly feeling quite apprehensive. "Logan, where are you going?"
"I'm just gonna help even things out," he responded, shoving open the front door and disappearing outside.
"Oh, dear," Hank mumbled, pulling out his wallet and extracting cash to pay for their drinks. "I am afraid of what you might do." With that, he followed his friend outside of the bar.
Logan had a couple of seconds on Hank. During that time, he pursued the two men and the younger man into a dark, wet alley between an apartment building and a pharmacy several feet from the bar. The two men were still jeering at the boy, who was now cowering behind a dumpster. In response, one of the men kicked the side of the dumpster and screamed something in Swedish.
Disgusted, Logan decided to make his presence known. "Hey!" he called out.
The two men were startled, turning towards him. One of them, a large, bald man with a black goatee and a snake tattoo on his neck sneered at him. "Get out of here," he told Logan coldly in a thick Swedish accent. "This is between us and the boy."
"Yeah," his friend agreed, still kicking the side of the dumpster as if he were trying to drown out the boy's cries. "We just have to work some things out."
"Like what?" Logan demanded warily.
The bald man scowled. "I said we're working things out."
Logan smirked. He doesn't even know why he's doing this. They are as dumb as they look, he mused to himself, walking towards the men at the other end of the alley. "That involves beatin' up on a kid?"
The bald man glared at him, placing his face close to Logan's. "I told you to get out of here," he hissed. "Unless you want to be hurt."
"I think he does!" his friend chirped, snickering loudly. "Why don't we help out in that department, Sven?"
Logan raised a brow at the other man, then peered over at the dumpster. The boy looked back him with terrified, tearful eyes. He then turned back to the bald man and said, "Listen, what about this? You two get the hell outta here, and we can forget about the whole thing. That way no one gets hurt."
The bald man exchanged a cynical look with his friend, who was now doubling over with laughter. "I say we don't have to listen to a stupid American who can't mind his own business," he sneered, taking a large hand and giving Logan a hard shove.
Control, Logan, the Professor's soft, gravelly voice echoed his mind at that moment. You must claim it. You are the only one who can do so. The urge to act on instinct might be strong, but consider other options..
Logan growled. Easy for you to say, Xavier, he wanted to tell him. Instead, he returned the man's glare. "I don't think you want to do that," he informed him in a steely voice.
The bald man spat at him, missing Logan by a couple of inches. "Know what? I've had enough of you and your lame words, hairy man. I'm gonna take care of you before messin' up this kid for good."
Rage is an emotion, Logan. It does not control you unless you allow it.
Logan narrowed his eyes, unsure if it was the Professor telepathically reminding him of the work they did during their sessions, or if it was his own memories. He eyed both men, who were storming menacingly towards him. Snarling at both, his muscles tensed up in anticipation of the altercation ahead.
He knew what he wanted to do. Take the easy way out. Extend his claws to scare these two losers out of the alley. Show them what an animal he could be.
Let it go, Logan.
The larger, bald man pulled back his fist to deliver a blow.
Let it all go, Logan.
Logan blocked the other's man fist with his own, filled with adamantium. The two met with a loud CLINK! Howling in pain, the bald man stumbled backwards, clutching his wounded hand. He began to scream a string of curses in Swedish, his eyes tearing up in pain. He turned to his friend and cried out to him, presumably to tell him to go after Logan. His friend, terrified, turned his eyes to Logan.
It was Logan's turn to sneer. "Go ahead. I have all day, bub."
The other man's lower lip began to tremble. He mumbled something incoherently before screaming out, "Monster!" Then he lunged at Logan, still yelling.
Logan caught him by his jacket and pinned him against the wall. He growled at him, while keeping another eye on his bald friend, who was still crouched over in pain. "Let's say I go easy on both you morons and you can run right on out, huh?"
Both nodded wordlessly. Smirking, Logan threw the other man down and watched them scramble out of the alley. When he knew they were completely gone, he sauntered to the dumpster, where the boy was still hiding. He knelt down and asked, "You OK, kid?"
The boy responded with only a wide-eyed stare.
Logan sighed. "I'm gonna take that as a yes."
"Logan?" After searching several places near the pub, Hank finally managed to find his friend. He slowly ventured into the alley, tracer in hand. "Everything OK?"
"Yeah," Logan replied grimly. "Kid here's kinda roughed up. But no one got hurt.. Badly."
Hank pulled his hood tightly over his head, not wanting to frighten the child. He approached the dumpster and looked at both Logan and the boy. His brows shot up as he peered down at his tracer. "Logan?"
"Yeah, Hank?" Logan was wrapping his leather jacket around the boy's shaking shoulders. He helped him to his feet, allowing the boy to lean on him to steady his gait.
The larger man's eyes widened, studying the tracer. "Congratulations," he finally said.
"What are you talking about?"
"I think you may have found our mutant. And you did it by waiting."