Clue-by-Four

(R, profanity) Bobby/John, Kitty, Jubilee & Pete

St. John ended up sitting at the Good Kids Table for dinner with the clue-by-four steadily whacking him on the head, all courtesy of Jubilee.

When he was seven years old, St. John Allerdyce had discovered that the best place to meet the most useful kids at a new school was outside the principal's office. It was never that initial meeting when the "Welcome to your new school" speech was given and the staff made sure the New Kid only interacted with the Good Students. It was usually the second or third trips, when the teachers had decided that the new kid who got into trouble and was unrepentant about it was a Troubled Child. St. John's record between initial and second visits was three hours and fourteen minutes, which he had set when he was thirteen at the third to last school he had been subjected to before he finally took off on his own.

It hadn't been his fault the janitor had ditched a smoldering cigarette butt in the wastebasket. Some jock had just shoulder-checked him and, dammit, it had pissed him off. Next thing he knew, there had been a fire.

Still, he had expected to break his record since it had taken precisely one hour and thirty seven minutes from his departure from Xavier's office to cause a problem. Sure, setting the boat dock on fire the first time had been an accident, but it was precisely the type of thing that usually earned automatic trips to the principal's office or a visit by the local police. Instead, Rasputin had jogged down to where he had stood with Drake and said in heavily accented English that Mister Summers wanted to see Drake and that he'd finish showing St. John around.

When St. John had entered the kitchen with the other guy, Dr. Grey had politely asked him to turn over his lighter. She didn't sound angry or disappointed, just slightly amused as she held out her hand. He turned over two of the three as a show of good faith; if she had known about the third Bic, she didn't challenge him on it, only thanked him and reminded them what time dinner was.

No lectures. No yelling. No condemnation for property damage. It had been weird.

Part of him had been wholly insulted; didn't the idiots here respect his power? He manipulated fire for Christsakes, a talent that sent people screaming for the fire hoses. Yet another part of him was worried; if torching the boat dock yesterday didn't spook the head honchos, then the hell what did? Granted, St. John didn't want to jeopardize his meal ticket right away. Xavier's was the first place in over a year that he'd been able to get three decent meals in a row, a real shower, and a bed that didn't smell like urine and bleach. He didn't even have to thank Jesus, the church, the parishioners, and the deacon who had brought him in to the shelter or embrace the goodness of God. Still, it had taken a second lighting of the boat dock, admittedly this time intentional to prove his flame sculpture was not a chicken dammit, to earn his second trip to the office.

St. John entered the small sitting room where he had been told to wait and flopped in the leather chair near the far left corner. He tried not to fidget, but the mental summons by Xavier had been too fucking creepy for words. He didn't want to pull out either of the Bics he had left because he didn't want them to be taken away; he still couldn't believe that Drake had frozen the other one or that he'd managed to do it without encasing St. John's hand in ice. Still, although he'd been asked the first time to surrender his lighters, he doubted this second time they would be so kind. Knowing his luck, he'd be patted down.

The sharp snap of bubble gum jolted him out of his contemplation. He looked up as an Asian girl wearing a bright yellow jacket strutted in, glanced at him, and then sprawled on the couch across from him. She looked anorexic and her hair was styled to a sharp chin-length bob. Her silver hoop earrings were impossibly large for her head. He remembered spotting her at dinner last night; how in the hell could he have missed that damned jacket? Although curious, he refused to stare at her or start a conversation. Eight years of waiting outside of principals' offices had taught him that indifference was his best ally and the quickest way to assess the other person.

She popped her gum again. "The new guy, huh? This your second or third?"

He looked over, almost impressed. Little Miss Yellow apparently knew principal's office lingo and the drill. "Second."

"Summers or the prof?"

"Summers. You?"

"Lost count."

"Notes?"

"No, asshole." She flipped him off with a bampf of bright light dancing off her middle finger, and then she smirked. "Sparking Alison because she was being a bitch."

He held back a grin, slouching in the chair. Obviously, not everyone here was perfect. What a relief. He began to wonder why she didn't ask him why he was here, but if she knew that he was the new guy, she probably knew about the boat dock. Both times. He wondered if he could use it to his advantage.

"You'll prolly get Number 7." She cracked her gum louder.

"Huh?"

"Constructive use of powers." She swung her feet up to rest on the couch.

St. John mentally blinked. She had the guy's speeches numbered? That was scary but reassuring. Scary that she'd made the trip enough times to number them; reassuring that despite getting in trouble a lot, she was still here. Then again, she could just be yanking his chain. "You?"

"One and two: Thou shall not use thy powers on someone else or in the Mansion. Prolly 7 as well. Maybe number 6 because we were in class." She inspected her nails. "New record by the way."

He raised an eyebrow and tried to sound nonchalant, "Really."

"You broke mine. Took me two days. You... only a day. Pretty cool. Or stupid." She popped the gum again. She took a breath as if to continue, mouth slightly open. She then shook her head and jumped to her feet. Tapping her temple, she made a face. "Imperial summons, dude." Was that code for a telepathic conversation? Probably. St. John hoped he didn't look that stupid when the professor contacted him. "Look, dude. Drake's the mascot. He's been here, like, forever. Kitty almost as long."

St. John wasn't sure if it was a warning or not, that Drake was the type to spill to the adults if someone messed with him. It certainly meant that Drake had lots of credibility because there was no other way to interpret being a "mascot." Teacher's Pet. Apple of their Eye. The guy who followed the rules. But who the hell was Kitty? The only people he knew outside of Drake were Rasputin and Madrox and that was because he had been assigned to share a room with Rasputin and Madrox apparently had gotten stuck with "Escort the New Guy to Meals" duty. Maybe she was one of the two girls sitting with Drake and Rasputin at dinner last night. He couldn't remember. He had been too busy trying not to act like he hadn't had decent food in months.

"Hey," he called as she took two steps to the door. Bad Kids at the Principal's Office etiquette kicked in because she had, after all, given him some valuable info. He gestured at himself. "John."

"Great, another one," she rolled her eyes but she did flash a smile at him. She tugged at the edge of her jacket. "Jubilee. See you at dinner, dude."

****

"Did you get the mashed potatoes?"

"And extra gravy. Rolls, too."

"Man, I missed the rolls!"

"Here. I picked up some for you. You never remember rolls."

"Thanks, Pete. Hey, are those beets?"

"Dah. Good for you, Frosty. Eat up."

"No way, man. They turn my teeth red."

"Ah... vain snowman."

"I work hard on my pearly whites, thank you very much."

"You spend too much time with Kitty and Alison."

"Other way around, man. They spend time with me. What can I say?"

"That they will dress you up if you give them a chance."

Bobby was about to make a flippant comment when he saw Alison taking a seat at one of the tables near the corner. He glanced over to the table in the middle that she usually sat at with Kitty, Pete, and him. Kitty was already there, her back to where Alison was. Then he remembered: the girls' had a spat right after lunch and it had left Kitty almost in tears. He had no idea what it had been about, just that Kitty had been upset enough to phase through Tracy and Jamie on her way out of class. Usually, the girls' fights only lasted a few hours. It was the first time since Alison arrived last year that she hadn't sat with them.

He sighed quietly, "Oh man, they're still at it."

Pete only grunted in acknowledgment and led the way to their customary table. As they sat down, they both noticed Kitty didn't look up. Instead, they heard a sniffle. Pete leaned forward. "Katya?"

Her words were low and strained. "I don't want to talk about it.... please?"

Both boys glanced at each other and then Bobby shrugged. He knew Kitty well enough to know that when she didn't want to talk, she wasn't going to. Not that he had any interest in what she and Alison were fighting over. Last time it had been because Alison proclaimed Kitty had a bubble butt. Still, he knew it was serious enough to warrant "sitting at another table" treatment.

Bobby played with his mashed potatoes, trying to figure out what next. Conversations at their table had never been that hard, even if someone was upset, so the silence that surrounded them made him nervous. He had to say something. For whatever reason he didn't want to understand now, he knew he had to make the offer. "Uh... you guys wanna study in my room tonight?"

Kitty and Alison shared the same room, and Kitty was trying not to cry at dinner over an argument that had happened hours ago. It bothered the heck out of him because while Kitty was prone to tears, she never stayed upset this long except the day her parents' divorce was finalized. Her distress made Pete so darn tense he'd bent two forks and a knife already.

"Thanks, Bobby," Kitty whispered, sneaking a hand up to wipe her eyes.

Bobby wanted to grin, happy that he had managed to at least make the situation somewhat better, but held back. Something in the corner of his eye caught his attention: Jubilee and her Yellow Jacket. She was walking towards them, carrying a tray and popping her gum, and Allerdyce was beside her.

"Oh great," he sighed and speared a piece of pot roast with his fork, "the two powers of evil have joined forces. The Mansion is doomed." That earned a sharp kick in the shin from Kitty. "Ow! Hey!" He reached down and rubbed where she'd hit him. Kitty was always one for accuracy. "Ow! Why you do that?"

Pete thumped his knee, the unspoken message to shut up. Bobby had enough sense to heed the warning, wondering why his supposed best friends insisted on giving him bruises. Instead, he stared at the pot roast on his plate.

"Hey, chica!" Jubilee called as she slid into Alison's chair and didn't even acknowledge the two guys at first. She nodded to the boy still standing. "You met John?"

"No," Kitty said, but didn't look up from her plate.

Bobby glanced at Pete. Pete raised an eyebrow. This was bad. Very bad. Kitty's manners were legendary at the Mansion. She never skimped on social protocol, even when Freddy had first arrived at the mansion and had made fun of her Star of David pendant or when Jubilee had bristled at the formal introduction.

Then Kitty quietly asked, "You're the new guy?"

"Yeah." Allerdyce had the skill to make one syllable into a challenge. Just like Lance. Just like Freddy. Just like Jubilee.

Why in the heck where they bothering them?

Bobby looked up at Jubilee and noted her pinched frown as she watched Kitty. Even she picked up on Kitty's odd behavior, and Jubilee didn't know them that well. This reaction wasn't what she was expecting, he could tell that much. Jubilee glanced back at where Alison was and then met Bobby's stare.

"Chill all," Jubilee said as she tapped the place next to her. Allerdyce sat, his tray clattering slightly as he set it down. Jubilee lanced him with a glare and he shrugged it off, unrepentant. Bobby didn't like this, didn't like this at all. Why in the world was Jubilee here and why had she dragged along Allerdyce? She jerked her head slightly back in Alison's direction. "Girl still not talking to you?"

Of all the things Bobby was expecting Jubilee to say, a statement that didn't include profanity wasn't one of them. Her curses even made Scott pause, and Scott knew some pretty interesting swear words. Kitty hated cursing; she wasn't used to hearing it and it embarrassed her to hear it. It was why Bobby and Pete didn't use profanity around her. How had Jubilee known that?

Kitty set her fork down. "Yes."

"Don't worry about her, chica," Jubilee said with a shrug. "She don't know nuthin."

"I'm sorry."

"No prob. Nuthin that hasn't said before." Jubilee removed her gum and set it on the edge of her plate. "It don't bother me."

"But Ms. Monroe sent you to the professor's office," she said, her voice raising just enough to indicate the true level of her distress.

A few things clicked for Bobby. While a majority of the kids at the Mansion were runaways who lived on the streets for a while, there were some like himself, Kitty and Alison whose parents actually enrolled them into the School. Alison came from similar social circles as Kitty (except Alison was Protestant) and it was one of the reasons why they got along so well. But Alison was a snob while Kitty wasn't; Alison had taken an immediate dislike to Jubilee. Jubilee and Alison traded insults often enough, but it was usually while Kitty wasn't around.

Bobby hadn't thought much of it at the time because Jubilee had no problems retaliating with her own insults and had even targeted Bobby because he just happened to be standing there. So whatever Alison had said, Kitty must have overheard and subsequently tried calm things down because that was what Kitty did. She was Miss Mayor to Bobby's Mister Mayor. They diffused situations before they got out of hand.

Being aware of what some of the kids said about Jubilee, Alison must have chosen the more vicious rumors about Jubilee's past.

Oh boy. No wonder Kitty had been upset. The only thing that made Kitty more jittery than profanity was any mention of sex.

"Yeah, and I got speeches one, two, six and seven. No biggie." She leaned over and stage-whispered to Kitty, "But I wonder which one she got. She got sent to Dr. Grey."

At the Mansion, being sent to Jean's office was a big deal because she was Doctor Grey and somehow, having "doctor" as a title instead of "Miss" intimidated kids. To Bobby, she was just Jean. Yet, there was something else... something that he wasn't quite getting. It took a few seconds, but finally he figured it out. Even though he'd only been in normal school until sixth grade, he knew that there was no forgiveness for one social princess causing another to be sent to the office.

"Oh, man."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Kitty snapped and stared at him through her bangs.

"Oh, well, uh..." he stuttered, because he didn't want to make her even more upset. The tip of her shoe was against his shin. "For gosh sakes, Kitty...." he heard the snort from Allerdyce but ignored it. Time to come up with something, anything, because for him to figure it out this quickly must mean Kitty had as had Pete.

Pete interrupted smoothly, "Neutral third party. Alison was in trouble with Ms. Monroe, so Ms. Monroe wanted to make sure it does not seem biased. This is why today Frosty sent to professor instead of Mister Summers."

Bobby felt the flush of embarrassment creep up his neck. He hadn't wanted anyone else to know about that and felt himself getting pissed off towards his friend. He understood why Pete had said that, to try and bail Bobby out and also to make Kitty feel better. They always tried to do that for Kitty because they were nice guys, but still.... He knew that Allerdyce was now staring at him. He grabbed a dinner roll and tore it in two.

"Get number seven?" Allerdyce asked, lip curving into a sneer.

Bobby didn't want to start a fight. Not here. Not with Kitty as upset as this. Not after the professor had gently emphasized the need for patience all the while complimenting him on his improved control. He opted for the one word answer and hoped that Pete would divert everyone's attention back to Kitty. "No."

"Which one then?" Allerdyce prodded.

Bobby felt his back stiffen, knowing he was cornered and clearly Pete wasn't going to bail him out it. What was he supposed to say? That he got different speeches than the rest of them? Always had. He was, after all, the one student with the longest tenure here. The one who knew all the rules and modeled himself after Scott because, well, Scott understood stuff. So when Bobby stepped out of line, the lectures tended to be of a more personal nature, always emphasizing "responsibility" and "respect" and "setting examples".

They were different than the speeches his dad used to give. His father never brought in the positives like the professor and Scott did, just focused on how badly he had messed up and emphasizing "disappointment" and "failure" and "not being a man about it." So while they were different, it was a lecture all the same. Two of them, two days in a row. It wasn't fair.

He hadn't done anything.

He pointedly looked down at his plate. "It doesn't matter."

Allerdyce snorted.

Jeez. He knew the guy for two days an already he could hear the viciousness in a snort. Anger welled up in him, because Bobby didn't want to discuss this and if it had been Pete, well, they wouldn't have challenged Pete. He felt a hand on his knee and the warning squeeze, which probably meant he was making the room cold.

Great. Just great. He could hear Allerdyce's taunts right now, sneering about no powers in the Mansion.

Jubilee tapped her glass of iced tea and got their attention. Then, she said casually, "You know, we all make nice and the powers that be back off."

"Huh?" That was from Pete.

"Prep school thing, dude," she sighed as she push a lock of hair behind her ear. "The whole 'resolving personal differences' thing, you know. They see us makin' an effort and they'll leave us alone so we can solve it by ourselves." She raised an eyebrow and looked at Bobby. "Wan jun! How long have you been here, Drake?"

He almost questioned how Jubilee knew about the social dynamics of prep school given some of the more vicious rumors about her past, but he felt the sharp tip of Kitty's shoe on his shin targeting the exact place she'd kicked him before and Pete's hand still on his knee. Both were clear warnings not to go down that particular path of reason. Still, the crack about him not knowing how things worked around the Mansion pricked his ego sharply.

"I've been here long enough to know there are three problems with your plan," he said and then paused, waiting for Kitty's and Pete's retaliation. When he felt the tip of her shoe move away from his shin and the hand lifted from his knee, he continued, "One, the professor's a telepath. Two, Dr. Grey's a telepath." That earned a surprised grunt from Allerdyce. Well, the New Kid didn't Know All now did he? Bobby continued, "Oh, and the third? Well the fact that they're both telepaths was important enough that I thought I'd mention it twice."

Jubilee shook her head, leaning forward and lowering her voice. "Don't matter. It's called an illusion, dude. They may know the score, but everybody else doesn't. All the others see is that you two," she discreetly pointed to Allerdyce and to Bobby, "and us," she motioned between Kitty and herself, "are making nice. Petey's our witness. It's that whole 'setting example' thing, 'kay?"

Bobby's mouth almost dropped open. Jubilee's logic kinda made sense and Pete wasn't saying jack about it, which usually meant he agreed. He glanced at Kitty. She was staring at him through her bangs. Whatever had actually been said between Alison, Kitty and Jubilee, Bobby knew that the rift between Alison and Kitty was pretty much permanent and Kitty had accepted Jubilee in her place.

"We're studying in Bobby's room tonight," Kitty said, so nonchalantly that it surprised Bobby. Panic started to set in because the direction she was headed was that darned obvious. Kitty forging new friendships was one thing, but Bobby sharing his personal space with Allerdyce was something completely different. He almost opened his mouth to protest, but Pete's hand was back on his knee. If he said anything, he'd get bruised again. "Wanna to join us?"

Although the last thing he wanted was more quality time with Allerdyce, even if it was important to Kitty, he was being maneuvered by the combined forces of Good and Evil and there was no way of getting out of it. Then again, wasn't there some famous guy who said something about keeping enemies closer to you than family?

Jeez, the things he'd do for Kitty.

Bobby decided that right now, his life sucked.

"Sounds rad," Jubilee grinned. "So, what's the deal with the pot roast, dude?"

*****

When he was twelve, St. John Allerdyce learned the value of having a girl as a friend. Not a girlfriend, because that involved things like emotion and commitment and ended up inevitability with a girl in tears because it was a relationship. St. John and relationships were generally like bleach and ammonia: two things that one did not mix. He didn't equate being a "friend" as a relationship because "relationship" meant a commitment, and thanks to his dad, St. John had given up on commitments when he was ten because he never was in one place long enough to develop any.

Still, when befriending a girl, there were certain things he had to put aside, his ego for instance, and the notion that hanging around girls made him weak. However, the value of association sometimes was worth the sacrifice. For some reason, girls seemed to be forgiven for a multitude of sins much easier than a guy would be, and since he had a habit of getting into trouble no matter if he had committed the offense in the first place, having a girl defend him always seemed to ease the severity of the punishment. Plus, the philosophy that girls were okay as friends went along with the thing he had learned when he was six years old: the necessity of strength in numbers, especially when he tended to be the smallest kid in class.

So when he had exited Summers' office and Jubilee had been waiting for him, his faith in "Bad Kids Stick Together not Matter What Kind of School" had been reaffirmed. It also meant that she probably needed him as much as he potentially needed her.

"You got Drake's tour," she had told him with a grin. "Now, it's time for the real one, dude."

That was how he had ended up sitting at the Good Kids Table for dinner and the clue-by-four steadily whacking him on the head, all courtesy of Jubilee.

The first clue-by-four descended upon St. John after he'd successfully scored two insults to Drake. Sitting between Jubilee and Rasputin, he'd felt the sudden drop in temperature around them and noticed how the conversations at the tables around them quieted down for a second before resuming. It wasn't the AC suddenly coming on; according to Jubilee, the mansion's original ballroom now served as the dining hall and the ventilation was piped in along the walls, not the ceiling. Plus, it was early September and the evenings were already quite chilly. They were also sitting in the middle of the damned room, and that could only mean one thing: the change in temperature was mutant-related.

Okay. That new experience was fucking creepy.

And while he may play the Indifferent Dumb Bad Kid, St. John had always been pretty good about putting things together.

The sudden drop in temperature. Drake's power being ice.

Got it.

Oh shit.

Rasputin and Kitty had tensed slightly and Jubilee changed the course of conversation. Right there, right then, St. John understood precisely what Summers had tried to explain to him earlier that afternoon: while St. John needed source of heat for his mutation to come into play, mutants like Jubilee and Drake didn't. What Summers had been politely saying was: "No matter how much of a bad-ass you'd like to think you are, there are others who are more effectively powerful." He hadn't fully understood that until dinner.

Of the five of them sitting at table, he was the only one dependent upon something else to trigger his mutation. Drake could create ice at will; no matter what he had actually said to Drake, the whole ice wall thing had been pretty damned amazing, and St. John considered himself pretty jaded. Jubilee had proven hers while they were waiting in that small office. According to Jubilee, Kitty could walk through walls at will. St. John had seen Rasputin's transformation into organic steel.

When it came to powers, he was the weakest by the sheer ability to employ it. Shit. No wonder Drake had been so pissed off when he'd been told his powers were lame.

The clue-by-four hit him again, just for good measure, when St. John entered into Drake's room. Months on the streets taught him to recognize exits at first glance which was why he was surprised that, unlike all the other rooms he'd seen, the door to Drake's room swung outward not inward as every bedroom door he'd encountered had.

The guy also had his own room, although it was smaller than the one St. John shared with Rasputin. That alone should have earned the automatic barb regarding special treatment, but as St. John glanced around, he noticed that the room was, well, spartan. Neat freak? Some wacky psychological tick? The night stand had only an alarm clock and lamp on it, and the desk was bare except for a pencil holder and a study lamp. A football was the lone item on top the chest of drawers; there was nothing else in the room. No posters on the wall, nothing to clutter the floor, and certainly nothing to give away any information about Drake except that he may like football.

The creep factor went up more than a few notches for St. John. Not only was the headmaster a telepath, the assistant headmaster could blast things to smithereens with his eyes, the literature teacher could strike them down with lightening, and the school doctor was a telepathic and telekinetic; there was a guy who lived by himself in room that screamed "institutionalized" to St. John. The only thing that almost convinced him that the room wasn't some kind of punishment was the placard hanging from the doorknob which read "Bobby Drake." Then again, the placard was portable.

Jesus H. Christ! What in the hell had Jubilee roped him into?

Still, St. John Allerdyce prided himself on his fearlessness; he'd lost count on how many times he'd set himself on fire while learning to control his ability. The only reason he didn't have serious scars was that he hadn't panicked. Well, he hadn't panicked while his clothing or fingertips or hair had burned. It had been only afterwards that he had curled up in his closet, allowed his nerves to take over, and cried himself to sleep. His father had never been around to witness any of it, so he'd had to become mentally and physically self-sufficient. If he had survived that, he reasoned to himself, he'd certainly survive an evening with a potentially psycho, ice-manipulating mutant.

Drake's bed was pushed up into a corner so that headboard was against one wall and the left side of the bed was along the other. Kitty had already staked out her spot at the foot of the bed and Drake was sitting with his back to the corner. Besides the chair at the desk (which was probably Rasputin's customary spot), there was really no place else to sit except on the bare floor. Drake wasn't making any effort to change the seating arrangement either, sending a clear message that while Kitty may have invited Jubilee and St. John, Drake didn't want them there.

Creepy, institutionalized room or not (he wouldn't be surprised if there was a straight-jacket under the bed), St. John would not be daunted. Neither, it seemed, would Jubilee.

She popped her gum and wandered around the room, her boots clomping against the smooth, almost glassy surface of the polished hardwood floor that looked as if it had too many coats of wood sealant.

"Don't worry," Rasputin said and aimed fist at his stomach.

Panic welled up and instinct took over. St. John pulled the Bic from his jeans pocket and slid a step back, thumb rolling hard on the wheel of the lighter. It didn't ignite on the first try. He cursed himself for letting his guard down. He was about to be taco-punched by a Russian to the amusement of the Mansion Mascot. Kitty's invitation must have been for Jubilee alone, but Jubilee had dragged him along. Strength in numbers. He had understood. He had gone along.

Big Mistake.

He knew this scenario: new kid lured some place to have the crap beaten out of him. He had been introduced to it when he was seven, but somehow between getting into the car with Summers two days ago and this evening, he'd completely forgotten. Nerves made him fumble the Bic on the second try.

But Rasputin immediately held his hands out his sides, palms up and fingers splayed. It was the universal sign of surrender. Rasputin retreated a few steps, allowing St. John a clear shot at the door if he chose to escape. The Russian then said quietly, "Sorry. No intend to hurt. Just play." He nodded towards the closet. "Mattress for the floor. We pull out and study comfy, dah?"

St. John swung his gaze over to Kitty, who was slack-jawed and had tears in her eyes, then to Drake who's expression was, well, interesting. There was a flicker of recognition in his eyes and then the hard set of his mouth softened slightly. It wasn't pity, but something akin to realization.

Drake jutted his chin slightly in Rasputin's direction, but he never broke eye contact with St. John. "He treats all the new guys like his little brother," Drake said, his tone weirdly even. "First time he did that to me, I accidentally froze him to the floor."

The clue-by-four scored another hit. Drake understood his reaction to the playful near-punch and offered up a little of his own ego (admitting he screwed up? What fifteen year old guy did that?) in order to smooth over the situation. It wasn't said with smug benevolence either, because St. John would have flipped them off and stormed out, Jubilee be damned. Yet there was something about the way Drake was staring at him, extending the hand of understanding; three days ago, St. John wouldn't have given a shit.

Three days ago he had been huddled against a dumpster, hoping that the strung-out druggie hadn't followed him down the alley. Three days ago, he had four days of grime in his hair, he hadn't eaten in two days, and his shirt had reeked of a week's worth of sweat. Three days ago, he had been working up the nerve to go to the Christian shelter six streets over because he really wasn't up to another "Jesus is My Lord and Savior" lecture. Three days ago, he didn't give a rat's ass about anyone because no one gave a rat's ass about him.

Three days ago, a dude in red shades and a chick with red hair offered him a sandwich.

Three days ago, he had been given a choice.

Just like right now.

He could leave; the path to the door was clear.

He could stay; Drake had offered a plausible excuse.

He glanced at Jubilee.

Strength in numbers.

He slid the Bic back in his pocket. He shrugged his shoulders. Jubilee draped skinny arm around him. He didn't even flinch.

She grinned. "So, dude, we in the same classes or what?"


A/N: Thanks to Nakki for her crit and comments on this story. Any mistakes you find are my own.



Part three: Drake's pants and Total Mansion Domination or Leave Feedback