"I'm hungry," Bobby complained.
Hank shook his head reprovingly. "Robert, we left your parent's house less than half an hour ago. How can you possibly be hungry?"
Bobby gave Hank a Look. "Think about that sentence, McCoy."
"Oh. Right." Hank grinned. "Where should I pull over?"
"My mom told me about this great little Greek cafe she found a while ago..." Bobby stuck his head out the car window and did his doggy-sniffing-the-wind impression. "It should be... uh.... the next left."
Hank covered his eyes with one hand. "Bobby, get your head back inside the car!"
"I will if you uncover your eyes and watch where we're driving!"
Matters successfully arranged, they found their way to a small, unobtrusive cafe in a quiet street. Bobby promptly leaped out of the car as soon as they stopped, and he'd gotten halfway to the door when he realized there was nobody behind him. He turned around and went back to the car, sticking his head *in* the window this time. "Hank, aren't you coming?"
Hank shook his head. "No, I don't think so... although if you see something that looks particularly good, you may procure me a serving."
Bobby looked at his massive, blue-furred friend, and nodded, drooping just a tiny bit. He couldn't blame Hank for not wanting to get out of the car. "I'll pick out something good for you."
Hank nodded, and Bobby headed into the cafe.
It was crowded, and just a little noisy, and full of wonderful smells. A pretty girl of about fourteen pushed past him, carrying a tray full of things that made his mouth water. He pushed his way over to the counter, where an older, slightly fairer version of the girl smiled at him. "Hi," she said cheerfully, presenting him with one of the sweetest smiles he'd ever seen. "How can I help you?"
Bobby smiled his own most charming smile. "I haven't really made up my mind yet... but while I'm deciding, can I get two coffees to go? Milk and two sugars in both of them."
She nodded, raising one eyebrow. "Thirsty man," she teased gently.
"Oh, no.... the other one's for my friend. He's waiting in the car."
She gave him a puzzled look. "Why?"
"Well... uh... he just didn't feel like coming in. He doesn't really like crowds."
"I see." She smiled that pretty smile again, and went to get his coffee.
A boy of about twelve popped up at Bobby's elbow. "Did you say your friend is waiting in the car?" he asked.
"Yeah," Bobby said a bit blankly.
"Is it 'cause he's blue?"
Bobby blinked a bit. "Uh..."
The boy leaned over the counter and yelled at the top of his lungs. "Nonna, there's a man who doesn't want to come in because he's blue!"
A small, plump woman with grey-streaked black hair stuck her head out of the kitchen and said something in what Bobby assumed was Greek. The boy nodded, spitting out a rapid volley of the same language and jerking his head at Bobby.
The elderly woman gave Bobby a deeply reproachful look. "What are you thinking, letting your friend wait outside in the cold?" she demanded. "You go get him, boy, this minute!"
"Go! Go!" the woman ordered. "We do not make mutants wait outside, not in my family's cafe! Go get him!"
Bobby opened his mouth. Then he closed it again, and went out to the car. "Hank? There's a little old lady in there who wants you to come in."
Hank looked up from his smart-person science magazine. "WHat?"
"This nosy little kid looked out and saw you sitting in the car and he told his grandmother and I have to bring you inside or I don't think they'll give me any food."
Hank blinked, his shoulders hunching ever so slightly. "But...."
"Hank, they *want* you to come inside. There's a whole damn family of them waiting to be nice to you," Bobby said firmly, pulling open the door. "Get out here, you."
"But..." Hank protested, as somehow Bobby defied all the laws of physics and dragged him out of the car. "But...."
The Nonna-woman was standing there, tapping her foot impatiently. "You do not wait in the car," she told Hank, from about the level of his sternum. She really was short. "Go. Order. Be comfortable. CON!"
"What, Nonna?" Another boy, this one about seventeen, put his tray down and ambled over.
"These men are going to stay and eat." Nonna directed firmly. "You make sure nobody steals their car."
"Yes, Nonna," the boy said, giving the two men a sympathetic grin. He slipped out of the door, and Nonna dragged them over to the counter.
The pretty young woman was there again, and she gave them both an apologetic look. "Sorry," she said, producing an even sweeter smile. "I wouldn't have asked if I'd known Leo was listening."
"That's okay," Bobby said.
"Guh," Hank said.
"So... coffee I have for you, and I'll bring it to your table." She smiled at them. "And since Nonna insists it's on the house, how about you guys sit down and order? I'll bring you a menu, too."
"Sure," Bobby said cheerfully.
"Wuh," Hank said weakly.
Bobby led him kindly to a small table in the corner, and got him to sit down. "Hank? You okay?"
To his utter shock, Hank's lip quivered the tiniest little bit. "Bobby... I just walked in here, and *nobody stared at me*. A little old lady talked to me, and she didn't look scared. A pretty girl talked to me, and she didn't look horrified."
Bobby blinked, and reached out to touch Hank's shoulder gently. "Is it that rare?"
"It's unheard of." Hank swallowed hard and looked down at the table. "I'm sitting in a cafe and there's nobody looking at me."
"And risk Nonna's wrath?" It was the pretty young woman from behind the counter, giving him a gently sympathetic smile. "Whenever anyone says anything about mutants, she always does this speech about the old country, and how hate is no good, no good at all." This time the smile was directed at Hank, and to Bobby's eyes it seemed a little warmer than the one he'd gotten.
"Really?" Hank managed a small smile. "How very enlightened an attitude."
"Yeah, well..." she smiled again. "I'm a mutant. So're Con and Mia. So it's a family thing."
"You are?" Hank said, his own smile widening. "My goodness. I would never have suspected."
"Nobody does." She tucked a strand of curly hair behind her ear. "Anyway... here's your coffee. Take a look at the menu, and let Mia know what you want." She gave Hank another warm smile, and left.
"I think she likes you, Hank," Bobby said brightly.
"Bobby, you are being unconscionably optimistic." Hank leaned back in his chair to watch her go. She was certainly very pretty... small and slender, with large hazel eyes and curly brown hair that fell almost to her waist in a thick braid.
"Why? I think she thinks you're cute. Look at the way she smiled at you."
"She smiled at you too." But it had been a very pretty smile, Hank thought wistfully. "Anyway, she was just being nice."
"Suuure she was." Bobby grinned. Bobby believed devoutly in love at first sight, and although this belief continually got him into trouble, anyone who had the good taste to be smitten with Hank at first sight was obviously worth cultivating. "So... shall we order?"
Two hours later, they were both nursing along a third cup of coffee. Bobby grinned as Hank picked up his cup, took the tiniest possible sip, then put it back down carefully. "You don't want to leave, do you?"
"Well..." Hank directed a wistful look at the pretty girl... whose name, they'd learned, was Sally.
"So ask for her number!"
"No!" Hank shook his head. "Bobby, I'm sure she has dozens of men importuning her for her telephone number on a regular basis. I've barely spoken two words to her! It would be inexcusably presumptuous on my part."
"But she's CUTE!" Bobby contradicted. "And she likes you, I can tell..."
"Forgive me, Bobby, but given your romantic track record, I don't think I'll be counting on your miraculous ability to read her mind."
"Hank... I'm serious. Sieze the day. Grab your chance. Ask her out."
"I.... can't." Hank said softly, fiddling with his coffeecup. "Bobby, she's a beautiful, charming young woman with a normal life."
"So what right do I have, even assuming that my advances would be welcome, to put her in the kind of danger that comes of association with an X-Man?"
Bobby sighed, taking a gulp of coffee. "Yeah.... I guess... but..."
"No buts." Hank said firmly. "I will *not* endanger Sally or her family."
"You're gonna die lonely if you keep thinking that way," Bobby said gloomily, standing up and dropping a handful of bills... including a more than generous tip... on the table.
Hank gave him an unreadable look. "I've always thought that that would be my fate, Bobby... no matter how I think." He turned, and slipped quietly out of the cafe before he could see Sally smile again, and lose his fragile resolve entirely.
* * *
"I'll close up, Nonna," Sally called, washing out the last few coffeecups. "You get home."
"All right. Mia, you stay and help your sister." Nonna didn't like to admit it, but it was getting harder for her to work a full day. More and more often, she was leaving Con and the two oldest girls to close up and tidy the place for the next day.
"Yes, Nonna." Mia slipped into the kitchen, giving her sister a sly smile. "So... that blue guy really liked you."
"Don't be silly," Sally said firmly, reaching for another cup. "He was just happy that nobody wanted to kill him."
"He was watching you all the time," Mia persisted. "Did he ask you out?"
"No, he didn't." Sally tried to smile, but it came out sort of funny. She'd really thought he would... and she'd have accepted, too. He'd seemed so... nice.
"Oh." Mia hugged her sister quickly, shifting from teasing to sympathetic immediately. "He tipped real good, though."
"Yeah." Sally smiled, shaking her head. He'd been nice, but he was gone, and thinking about him wouldn't help anyone. "If you'll wipe down the tables, I'll sweep."