Café au lait and Jelly Doughnuts

(R, profanity) Bobby with Jubilee, Jean, and Scott

Bobby pushes his status on John's behalf, endures Mansion politics, and spends some time with his surrogate big brother sorting it all out.

"Ohmigawd! Bobby!"

Alison tackled him the moment he stepped into the Dining Hall, her arms around his neck and a rather sloppy kiss planted on his cheek. The only reason Alison had missed his lips was because he had turned his head away. Gasps of surprise exploded from the other students, which Bobby didn't like.

She sounded breathless, relieved, and all sorts of dramatic things better suited for a Made-For-TV movie than real life. "You're okay! We were so worried about you!" Alison hugged him harder. "You saved us!"

Perhaps Bobby should have been flattered. To walk into the Dining Hall after what had happened in the Kitchen and to be hailed a hero? It was stuff that stroked egos for months -- years even -- like Bruce Springsteen sang about in "Glory Days."

The problem was that the girl currently with her arms around Bobby and lips against his cheek wasn't who he needed it to be. Alison was not really his friend anymore, not his girlfriend (no matter what the current rumor was), and definitely not the girl he had sought out in the dining room.

It only took a few seconds to find Jubilee. She had her back pressed against the wall, her arms tightly crossed against her chest, and her eyes cast downward. She wasn't wearing her yellow jacket nor was she popping her gum. The other students had crowded near the teacher's table where Scott and the Professor were; Bobby spotted Tabby and Tracy among them. He figured that Ro must have Kitty in her office because neither one was in the dining hall.

Still, the message had been clear: the other students had cut Jubilee out. They had left her to fend by herself in the aftermath of a full-blown Mansion Crisis involving her best friends. He was surprised the Professor would allow it, Scott too for that matter, but Bobby reminded himself that they had thirty-plus other kids to worry about instead of just one.

Yet the other students had abandoned her... except for Dani and Neal. They sat close to Jubilee, as if shielding her from the curious stares of the others. Of course Dani would take care of Jubilee; Dani had the legitimate "I'm her roommate" excuse to encroach upon Jubilee's personal space. Her chair was only a few inches away from Jubilee's elbow. As for Neal, he tended to be wherever Dani was.

Still, Bobby felt horrifically guilty. He knew the first thing he should have done when Pete had taken John to the MedLab was to have tracked down Jubilee. He should have taken her into the sublevels with him when he had stood around for an hour until he had some information he could share with the other kids about John.

Jubilee deserved to have been there, waiting while Jean treated John, because she was John's best friend. She was the only one that John relaxed around and the only one who could get him to laugh.

Now, Alison was making Bobby out to be the hero. He wasn't.

"You should be thanking John, not me," Bobby told Alison as he pushed her aside. She squeak-gasped in protest and he could hear the murmurs running through the assembly. He didn't care how rude he sounded, even though he knew that Scott would probably pull him aside later and say something about it. He didn't care, because Jubilee had looked up at the sound of his voice and he met her gaze.

Was she surprised? Thankful even? Bobby wasn't sure. He was terrible at reading girl's emotions except for Kitty's, and that was because Kitty never hid how she felt.

Bobby could feel Alison try to wind her arm around his but he shook her off. That action set out another round of whispers from the peanut gallery. In a voice a little louder than necessary and not breaking eye-contact with Jubilee, he told Alison, "John's the one who kept the kitchen and the mansion from burning. Not me."

He took a few steps towards Jubilee and held out his hand. She pushed off the wall with her shoulder, uncrossed her arms, and closed the distance between them. She grabbed his hand and he pulled her close. She didn't resist. The murmurs were now louder.

Bobby met Alison's furious gaze and then glanced around at the other students. The whole thing made him angry, but he tried his best to hold his temper. He didn't want to freeze Jubilee or frost the dining area. Instead, he spat out, "By the way, Dr. Grey says he's gonna be okay." He returned his stare to Alison and tacked on, "In case you were wondering."

He spun on his heel, put his arm around Jubilee's shoulders, and together, they walked out of the Dining Hall.

Stay close to the Mansion, Robert, the Professor called out telepathically.

He didn't even hesitate sending, We'll be on the roof. He knew he wasn't being polite and he was breaking the rules by taking her up there, but at that point, he didn't care.

There was a pause before the Professor's voice gently echoed in his head, Be sure to bring an ashtray then. Boothby detests cigarette butts on the lawn.

*****

When it came to girls, street smarts and real life in general, Bobby was a clueless, sheltered, almost-sixteen year-old boy. After all, he had spent his early teenage years at the Mansion, buffered from the crueler realties of junior high. The lack of those crucial experiences left him blind to many things; it was why he relied heavily on his mutant family to help him out.

When it came to weird stuff happening at Mutant High, however, Bobby was the expert. He knew about how easily shattered an ego could be when the new kid suddenly realized that at the Mansion, his mutant power wasn't the greatest, most awesome and deadly force in the world. He understood the humiliation about losing control, about having a teacher blast through a foot of ice to free him from his bedroom after he had had a nightmare. He understood envy over another's powers, how most of the guys secretly wished they were like Peter Rasputin and how the girls wanted to be like Kitty.

Bobby understood that in a heightened, panicked state, a telepath's mental voice could be the most frightening thing in the world. Most of all, he understood the pure terror of thinking that his power had killed another person.

There, in the kitchen, holding John tightly, Bobby had listened to the one-sided conversation John had first with the Professor and then with Jean, something he had absolutely no right to bear witness to. It was intensely personal. Very private. Bobby would go to his grave before he would ever talk about it to anyone besides the Professor, Jean and John, the latter only if John asked.

It was why he made Kitty swear not to tell what she had overheard. She probably didn't understand. She didn't have powers like his or John's or Scott's - wholly destructive if uncontrolled with the ability to kill someone with such ease - but she promised all the same.

It was why he vowed to be there, to be John's friend.

It was why he was now sitting with Jubilee, watching her chain-smoke her way through a pack of Marlboros. On their way up to the roof, he had stopped by his room and picked up a jacket for her; being late October, the air wasn't really chilly enough to bother him, but he knew for Jubilee, the cold would be too much. Yet when they passed by Pete and John's room, she had yanked open their door, pawed through John's closet, and came up with John's scruffy jeans jacket. That was where she had found the cigarettes and lighter.

Once they had gotten to the roof and settled next to the gable, she had started smoking. Bobby hadn't said a word; actually, neither had really spoken after his declaration in the dining hall, even when she had handed him back his jacket after pulling John's on. He didn't mind. He understood the comfort and reassurance that something as simple as silence or a coat could bring.

Bobby just sat next to her, downwind from the smoke. She didn't inspire hugs like Kitty did; maybe it was because she was all sharp bones and angles or that she always projected such a confidence about herself. Yet now, sitting on the roof and powering through cigarettes, she seemed even more fragile and vulnerable than Kitty ever had been.

On her eleventh cigarette, she finally spoke. "What's gonna happen to them?"

She didn't have to elaborate; he knew she meant Lance and Freddy. He and Jubilee had run into Sam and Neal as they had left John and Pete's bedroom. Sam had told them that Lance and Freddy had taken off; their clothes and backpacks had been missing. Scott had apparently sent those two to investigate.

As to what was going to happen, Bobby had no clue as to how the Professor would handle the situation. He fiddled with his shirt cuff. "I don't know."

"You think they're gonna be allowed back?"

It was a question asked with a neutral tone, and coming from Jubilee, it didn't spark the immediate resentment that he sometimes felt because all the kids seemed to think he had the insider's track on things. He just guessed better than everyone else. Yet the question had been on his mind ever since Sam told them that Lance and Freddy were gone.

"It depends on if it was deliberate." He didn't explain further. They all knew the difference between "intentional" and "accidental." The Powers That Be, as Jubilee liked to call them, always made that distinction.

"Was it?" Again, it was asked with a neutral tone. She was far calmer than he expected her to be; the only thing betraying her nerves was her smoking and how she had wrapped herself up in John's grungy jacket.

He thought for a second, remembering how everything had happened. The Professor's voice in his mind had been almost overwhelming; he had demanded Bobby and Pete get to the kitchen ASAP.

He remembered running from the soccer field to the Mansion, somehow managing to keep pace with Pete, who was taller, stronger, and faster than Bobby ever could be.

He remembered the Professor's strict instructions: Colossus had to turn off the stove and extinguish the pilot light in the oven. Bobby had to keep John focused. The Professor had at first even prompted Bobby on what to say, right down to addressing John by a name that Bobby had never heard used at the Mansion: St. John. It was a name Bobby knew he could never really ask about.

Ever.

It was one of those private things.

Another tidbit information that he wasn't supposed to be privy to but ended up knowing anyway.

He understood.

It was the Way of the Mansion.

"Pete had to turn off the burners," he finally replied. That particular fact was damning enough.

"Shit." She ground out her spent cigarette and lit another.

He watched as she took two hard puffs. Other kids would have prompted him for more, badgering him with questions of exactly what had happened. She didn't. It was why he added quietly, "Something like this has never happened before."

There was a pause, long enough for her to exhale smoke through her nostrils. It reminded Bobby of a Chinese dragon. She tilted her head toward him. "No one has ever said 'fuck this shit' and taken off?"

"A few. None recently." He could feel her staring at him, as if surprised he'd answer the question as honestly as he did. "But that's not what I meant." He waited a few moments for the prompt that always came when he didn't finish his sentences completely.

"Seriously?"

He blinked, wanting to be surprised that she had made the logic leap so effortlessly, but found he wasn't. "Seriously. A few fist-fights between the guys, sure, and Girl Fights like the one Kat and Ali had, but not like this." He fell silent for a moment. "I don't know exactly what happened, but like I said, Pete had to turn off the burners." He kicked the shingles slightly. "It was like Freddy and Lance wanted John... well, you know, to do something."

She didn't respond right away, taking several long drags of the cigarette. Then, quietly with bitterness, she said, "They all think John did it on purpose."

"He didn't." His declaration must have surprised her, because he saw the slight spark from her fingertips against the shingles. He met her gaze and then shook his head. "Look, I don't know him like you do, okay? But... he's hurt pretty bad. That's why he's downstairs in the MedLab instead of the Infirmary. When it all happened, Freddy and Lance took off, right? John stayed. He held the fire until we could get Kitty out."

He thought about what John had choked out half-conscious on the kitchen tile: Alvers... That jackass... I tried. I swear I tried.

Bobby had known then that it hadn't been intentional at all. "John didn't do it on purpose. Just... just trust me. Please."

"Trust?" she echoed and then eyed him critically. "That's something you got, Bobby. Me and Johnny? We don't got that. We don't got that at all."

*****

"Jean, please!"

If Bobby's use of her first name in front of other students surprised her, she didn't let it show. Then again, Bobby supposed, Jean knew exactly what he was up to and precisely what his plea was going to be. Still, one thing he learned in his three years living with two telepaths was that they appreciated the verbal argument more than people realized. It was one thing to feel passionate about something, to think passionate thoughts about something; it was something else to say it aloud, especially for someone like Bobby.

He watched as Jean's gaze slid over his shoulder, locking onto the trio behind him. Kitty was still in tears, which didn't make Bobby angry or frustrated like someone else may have been. He understood Kitty, understood that she had probably convinced herself that the whole thing was her fault, understood that for the next few days/weeks/months, the four of them would have to convince her that it wasn't.

However, it was Jubilee's uncharacteristic sniffles that probably did more for their cause than Kitty's. She had started to crying the moment the elevator doors had slid closed on their way down here and Bobby had said, "John's gonna be okay," as he put his arms around the girls' shoulders. Bobby knew that it was totally unfair to think of her tears in that way, but it was the truth. They all knew Jubilee didn't cry, at least not in public. Bobby had never seen it and he doubted Kitty and Pete had as well.

Now, both girls were clutching Pete as if he was the only thing keeping them from falling to the floor. Bobby guessed Pete was meeting Jean's gaze straight on because Pete never fixed his stare on the floor. It was the four of them against Jean and Bobby knew it was unfair, but Ro had let him, Jubilee and Kitty back down into the MedLab.

Bobby rarely pushed his status with the adults of the Mansion. Other kids may have taken advantage of the unique relationship, but Bobby always felt uncomfortable about the whole thing, as if he was always walking the proverbial fine-line between the adults and his peers. He tried to not to rely upon his "special status" to earn quick forgiveness for stupid stunts.

Yet in less than six hours, Bobby had pushed the envelope with three of the four adults. He'd taken Jubilee up to the west gable rooftop without really asking the Professor's permission; he had badgered Ro to allow him to take Kitty and Jubilee to see John in the subbasement until she'd finally relented. Now, he was facing down Jean and insisting that John had to recover in the Mansion-proper.

"You were there, Jean," he continued. You heard what he said, he tacked on mentally because while Kitty and Pete had overheard what John had said, Jubilee hadn't.

Jean only raised an eyebrow, which in Jean/Scott-speak meant that Bobby was losing the argument.

"Pete and I passed your first aid course this past summer," he continued. "You gave us certificates and everything! We know how to change bandages."

"This is a little more severe than..."

"Second degree burns, right?" Bobby interrupted, which was a rare thing for him because he always tried to respect what adults said. He then tried desperately to remember that part of the treatment because he knew that if such information came from Pete, Jean wouldn't be impressed. Pete remembered freaking everything. Finally, it came back to him. "Cool water, never ice. No creams or ointments or oils because the skin has to breathe. Lots of fluids, right?"

"Bobby..."

"That's the treatment, right?"

Jean crossed her arms. "Initially, yes. But there are other things that have to be monitored."

"Then show us." He lifted his chin, which was about as defiant as he usually got. He knew that he if ever pulled that stunt with his dad, his dad would belt him hard across the face. "You told us that we needed to know how to take care of each other in case you were away. Well. Show us."

Her expression remained unchanged. She didn't respond, and he knew for Jean not to take an opportunity to teach them something medical-related meant that he had lost. But Bobby also knew he had one final plea before Jean kicked them out of the MedLab. He had promised John. Given what he'd overheard in the Kitchen and what Jubilee confessed on the rooftop just before they had left, he knew he had to do this.

"He's never been in a hospital before. When he wakes up... he'll freak out," he said quietly. He heard Kitty's abbreviated gasp and Pete murmuring for her to be quiet. Desperate, he dialed up a memory but before he could weigh the consequences of what he was about to say, he blurted out, "I mean, how did you feel when you woke up alone after your powers had whacked out?"

Jean's hard gaze was back on him, her nostrils flaring slightly. He gulped pretty loudly to his own ears and knew that he'd scored a low blow. It was also one of the things that he wasn't supposed to know about, but all the soundproofing and psychic-shielding in the world sometimes didn't dampen a telepathic scream. His phrasing wasn't lost on Jean, probably not on Pete or Jubilee either. Kitty was probably still getting over the revelation that John had never been in a hospital.

Jean's voice was even and cold. "I'll think about it, Robert."

The use of his formal name was the sure indication of how angry she was with him.

I promised him, Bobby thought to her. At least, he tried to. During his first few months at the Mansion, the Professor had spent time with him on how to send mental messages to be heard. He knew he could communicate with the Professor. Jean required more concentration. Then again, Bobby had just played a particularly nasty trump card.

There was a long pause, long enough for him to hear Pete shift slightly. The silence must have spooked them as much as it did him. Both girls squeaked softly, as if Pete's grip had tightened, and there was a definite hiccupped sob from Kitty. Bobby refused to turn around and look.

Jean was never going to forgive him, not for this. Not for bringing up something Bobby wasn't supposed to know and throwing it back in her face. She was extremely sensitive about that particular episode, as much as he was about any number of Icing Incidents, especially the one with Remy. Bobby felt sick to his stomach, bile creeping up his throat because he knew that he'd hurt her badly. He'd overstepped his boundaries big time.

I'm sorry, he tried thinking to her again, hoping this time it worked. Please... I'm sorry. I know you're mad at me and I hurt your feelings... but I... Bobby had no idea how to explain. He stared at the floor, ashamed because he'd hurt her. All he could send was, I promised him.

Maybe she would understand.

Bobby often wished Jean was his sister because she was smart and funny and beautiful. She was always nice to him, never making cruel fun of him or telling him he was a dork. Now, he had done the meanest thing in the world to her, just because he promised some guy who barely tolerated his presence that he'd be his friend. It was so phenomenally unfair. Bobby blinked back tears.

I know, Jean finally sent back. She didn't sound overly pissed, just... well... unsettled. That ate more at his gut than anything else. Aloud, Jean said, "I'll think about it."

That was better than nothing at all. Yet something else clicked. If there were "other factors" in John's recovery, John probably would have to stay in the MedLab for at least the evening. If they couldn't get him upstairs, perhaps he could try for a compromise. Maybe that was what she was waiting for. Maybe that's why she hadn't completely kicked them out yet or why she wasn't totally pissed at him.

Familiar surroundings... that was what he was aiming for.

Bobby tried not to sound too challenging, just pleading but not whiny. He dared to meet her gaze. "If John has to stay overnight," which was probably the only reason she wouldn't allow him back upstairs, "at least let me or Pete stay with him. Please."

She raised her eyebrow again. Bobby could hear Pete stepping forward and felt a strong hand settle on his shoulder. Maybe that was what they were waiting for, for him to figure it out on his own. He alone had the clout to pull the plea off, and they had probably realized that Jean would only consider it if Bobby made the case himself without help from them. He felt Kitty's fingers wrap around his left hand and Jubilee's around his right.

The Powers That Be, after all, often preached about how they should take care of one another. Scott was big on the whole "teamwork" thing, and if this was what he meant by being a team, maybe they had a shot at it.

"Piotr?" she asked. Jean tended to be more formal with their names, just like Ro and the Professor, when asking something serious.

"He is my friend," Pete answered simply. There was a bit of silence -- he was probably telepathically conversing with Jean -- then he added, "Of course I will stay. Frosty does not do well with medical equipment."

A flush of embarrassment hit Bobby, but he knew he deserved much worse than a light-hearted barb like that. Jean stared at him for a moment. "I know."

"Thank you, Dr. Grey," Jubilee whispered and broke from the group to give her a hug. Pete's hand tensed along his shoulder. He recognized the significance as well; Jubilee just didn't hug anyone. Kitty followed suit and Jean put her arms around both girls.

Thanks, Jean, Bobby added.

You owe me big time, mister, sounded in his head.

*******

Bobby had hoped the rest of the evening would have calmed down. With Pete staying overnight in the MedLab with John, he had believed the crisis was at least over for the evening, but at 11 p.m., the Mansion went into an uproar again. Scott returned with Sam and Jamie, and the two boys delivered the news: Lance and Freddy had refused to return to the Mansion. Bobby and the girls had heard the announcement just as they were about to walk into the rec room. Jubilee and Kitty halted abruptly, just outside the doorway, and Bobby almost stumbled into them.

"They said they ain't comin' back," Sam was telling the group although it was more in a mystified tone than an announcement. Bobby knew from Sam's tone of voice that Scott wasn't there. Scott probably had gone directly to the Professor's office. "Freddy an' Lance? They said they didn't care what happened to John or Kitty."

"That's not true!" Alison challenged.

"That's what they said," Sam insisted.

Jamie broke in, "Ali, we talked to them. We tried. We told them we all do stupid stuff. But they said... they said the school was stupid, the rules were stupid... all sorts of stuff. We told them that that they could come home, but Freddy said the mansion wasn't their home." He paused and then lowered his voice. "Freddy told Mister Summers to go to hell."

Murmurs erupted in the room. Jubilee grabbed Kitty's hand as she turned them towards Bobby and moved them away from the doorway. Quietly, she told him, "They're gonna dog you for the rest of the night."

Bobby grimaced and looked at the floor. He knew the questions the other kids were going to ask. He knew that Alison would insist that he push his status with the adults on Lance's and Freddy's behalf just like he had done for John. It was what they all expected him to do. If Bobby didn't fight equally as hard for Lance and Freddy as he had done for John... He felt his belly twinge and he scuffed the hardwood floor with the tip of his tennis shoe. Softly, he said, "I know."

There was another explosion of chatter from the rec room, this time in response to the fact that Freddy and Lance had no money and Alison's declaration that the two boys would have listened to Bobby. The group apparently agreed.

Kitty stepped toward him. The tears were gone, replaced by determination and indignation. The other kids were worried about Lance and Freddy, not about the guy who risked his life to save Kitty and the rest of them. "We'll cover for you."

If Jubilee was surprised by Kitty's sudden assertion, she didn't act like it. Instead, she asked, "Anyone else know how to get to the roof?"

"Just Pete," he said.

Kitty let go of Jubilee's hand to undo the clasp on her watch. It was a delicate piece of jewelry, a very expensive present from her last birthday, and she rarely took it off. She handed it to him. "The Professor will probably extend curfew to midnight."

"Kit-Kat's right," Jubilee said with a small grin. "Wait until about two. It should be safe."

He looked at Kitty. "Maybe you should stay with Jubilee tonight. I'm sure Dani won't mind."

****** End Part 1 *******

Bobby would later wonder why that the Professor never telepathically contacted him to find out where he had gone after he had departed the MedLab the second time. He would wonder why Ro or Scott had never made the effort to find him either. The Professor had to have known that he was lurking up there; Scott and Ro had to have known that Kitty and Jubilee had invented whatever lie to ensure that Alison and the other students didn't actively look for him.

Yet that night, he was grateful for the time alone, for the peace and serenity that the roof provided. No one was questioning why he hadn't been the one elected to bring Freddy and Lance back, no one was nagging him about what the Professor or Scott were going to do when Lance and Freddy got back, and no one was reminding him how presumptuous and cruel he had been with the adults.

He did that all by himself. He didn't like the conclusions he had drawn: coward and hypocrite.

Bobby knew he was a coward because a Real Man would have stayed and faced the questions and led the second charge for Freddy and Lance. Bobby knew he was a hypocrite because just a few hours after telling Jubilee that they were all supposed to be family, he hadn't made the effort to help out his "brothers" like he should have.

He glanced down at Kitty's watch and noted the time: 5:05 a.m. He hadn't meant to stay out as long as he had, but he had been too chicken to venture back inside. He was scared that they were waiting for him, that someone was camped outside of his bedroom or, even worse, sacked out on either his bed or the spare mattress.

Yet as he sat there, his ass going numb somewhere around 3:30 a.m., he remembered that it was now a Saturday morning. Saturdays were a little different around the Mansion, starting with Scott's morning ritual.

Among the things that he wasn't supposed to know, he knew that Scott had a thing for café au lait. During Remy's stay at the Mansion, the gourmet coffee had been one of the things that Remy had insisted on making every Saturday morning. Scott had given the then-resident Cajun grief about how no self-respecting coffee drinker would dare touch it. However, it was Scott who made the 6 a.m. trip so they would have fresh doughnuts to go with the coffee.

Of course, Remy had complained that raspberry jelly doughnuts were a poor substitute for fresh beignets, but he had eaten them anyway. Even after Remy had left, it was a quiet tradition Scott continued. It was the one time during the week when Bobby knew he could get uninterrupted "Scott Time", away from the pressures of the Mansion and away from the roles of Bobby the Student and Mister Summers, the Teacher.

It was the perfect opportunity to talk to Scott, to apologize profusely for hurting Jean's feelings, and to beg for pointers on how to make it up to her.

So Bobby made half a pot of the special coffee, set out the travel mug, and then went to Scott's car. At least Scott would have some warning that he was waiting for him and a time to come up with the lecture.

Yet, for all his brooding last night and knowing that a "Talking To" was pending, something as simple as making coffee and sitting in the car to wait for Scott had almost immediately calmed him. Instead of being nervous or uneasy, the exhaustion from the emotional upheaval finally caught up with him. He checked Kitty's watch again; it was 5:23 a.m. and Scott usually made his doughnut run at 6 a.m. He closed his eyes, slid the watch into his shirt pocket, and leaned his head against the window.

Bobby didn't realize he had drifted off to sleep until the sharp aroma of chicory-laden coffee registered and he felt the car being shifted into another gear. He blinked a few times and then scrubbed his eyes. He glanced at the dashboard clock, surprised at the time. It was 6:35 a.m. They should have been able to get to New Salem and be well on their way back to the Mansion. He shot a look to the backseat and noticed there were no doughnuts.

"Thought I'd make a Krispy Kreme run," Scott explained using that calm tone which let Bobby know that it was okay, that he understood, and that Bobby could talk about whatever he needed to talk about. Scott also didn't sound angry, which confused Bobby because by all rights Scott should have been pissed or something. "There's a store in Milford."

"You're going to drive all the way to Connecticut?" he asked, knowing he sounded stupid but it didn't make sense. He knew Scott had better things to do than to drive two hours round-trip just for doughnuts. Bobby then realized that the trip provided time for a two-hour lecture. He straightened in his seat, adjusting the seatbelt across his shoulder.

"Hey, you once said Krispy Kreme glazed doughnuts are the best, right?" Scott flashed that electric grin, the one that few of the Mansion residents ever saw.

"Well, yeah."

"Since you made the coffee," he held up the travel mug, "it's only fair we score some real doughnuts."

It made him nervous for Scott to be so casual about the whole situation. As if the Kitchen Incident hadn't just happened yesterday, as if Bobby hadn't defied the Professor's rules, as if Bobby hadn't demanded Ro allow him, Kitty and Jubilee back into the subbasement, and as if he hadn't hurt Jean's feelings. He concentrated for a few seconds, willing himself not to lose control because frost on the inside of the car was a Very Bad Thing. All he could get out was, "Um. Thanks."

"No problem."

They rode for a few minutes before he blurted, "I know Jean's really pissed at me but I'm really, really sorry. I didn't mean to hurt her feelings... it just... it just popped out."

Scott cocked his head to the side, as if surprised by the comment. "What 'popped out'?"

He brushed his thumb over the door handle, unable to look at Scott. "About when Jean's powers spiked that last time, before all the others were here. I know I'm not supposed to know about that but I do, okay? Kitty and Pete and Jubilee were there when I said it and I know that I embarrassed Jean. I don't think Kitty realized what I said but I know that Pete and Jubilee probably did. They won't say a thing about it, Scott. I know them. They won't betray Jean like that. Not like I did." Scott didn't respond right away, so he continued even more ashamed, "It was totally unfair, I know. I mean, totally unfair. So go ahead, chew me out about it because I totally deserve it, but I'm really, really sorry. Swear to God."

There was a very audible slurp of coffee, a clear sign that Scott was debating his next words. Bobby heard the mug being set back in its holder. To his surprise, Scott sounded puzzled not angry. "What exactly did you say?"

"In the kitchen... John..." Bobby hesitated. "John was freaked out. Later? Jubilee said that John had never been in a hospital before." He flipped the door-lock switch a few times but quickly stopped because he knew how much Scott hated it when people fidgeted. "We didn't want John waking up alone and Jean wasn't allowing us to take him back upstairs. So... So I asked Jean how she felt when she had woken up alone after her powers had whacked out." He wiped his nose with the back of his hand. "It was totally unfair, I know, but... you weren't there in the kitchen, Scott. You didn't see him. John wasn't some wannabe bad ass. He was just... He was just some guy who thought that he killed someone."

A few moments passed, then Scott said quietly, "Hey, I'm not going to chew you out, Bobby." He let out a long sigh. "Look, yesterday was tough on everyone. A lot of things happened that we're going to have to deal with."

"Yeah, I know."

"Jean didn't mention any of what you just told me," he continued. "I don't know if it means she doesn't consider it a big deal or if she wants to deal with it herself. We don't tell each other everything, Bobby, and she doesn't expect me to jump in and solve all her problems either." He let out a short laugh. "She'd kick my butt if I did."

It wasn't the reaction he was expecting at all. He dared to glance over. "So I'm probably making mountains out of molehills?"

"I can't say for sure, but probably."

"Then... I'm lucky I know a guy who can blast through mountains, huh?"

"There is that," Scott laughed, and it was genuine. Scott usually appreciated his attempts at humor. "But it wouldn't hurt to show up with chocolate-covered coffee beans or to wash her car."

****

The workers at Krispy Kreme had glared at them the entire time they were there. Bobby wasn't sure if it had been because of Scott's shades or that they had ordered seventeen dozen doughnuts, five of which, Scott had been very specific about the assortment.

They had loaded twelve of the boxes into the trunk of the Mazda. The other five were placed in the backseat. They had gone to a convenience store next, picking up two half-gallon cartons of milk and a roll of paper towels, and had ended up parking in a somewhat-deserted K-Mart lot.

Bobby knew that most of kids at the Mansion would never believe that Scott would sit on the hood of his car, eating jelly doughnuts right out of the box and drinking milk straight from the carton. They saw Scott so differently than he did that it was sometimes frustrating to hear how they referred to him as "Stick up the Ass" Summers and a rules-monger. Yet as torn as Bobby sometimes felt about his Kid Brother status, he coveted the times when Scott was just Scott, the cool guy with red shades who used to keep a stash of Double-Stuff Oreos in Bobby's room so Ro wouldn't eat them all, not Assistant Headmaster Summers or even X-Men Field Leader Cyclops.

"Been a while," Scott commented as he grabbed another jelly doughnut.

It was true. In the first few months after Remy had left, Bobby had joined him on the doughnut run, but once more students had begun to arrive, the trips had become less frequent. Nowadays, Bobby wasn't one for getting up early on Saturday mornings. But, "Yeah," he missed this quiet time when they were just Scott and Bobby, two guys eating doughnuts at 7 a.m. on a Saturday morning. "It gets kinda weird, you know."

"I know," said with a ghost of a grin.

"It's like, everyone asks me about stuff they think I know," Bobby said and then took a swig of milk. Jean and Ro would have chastised them both about drinking right from the carton. "I mean, that's why I..." He faltered for a second, embarrassed by what he was about to say, but he knew Scott wouldn't judge him on it. "That's why I spent the night on the roof. When you guys came back without Lance and Freddy, Alison told everyone it was because I didn't go with you to get them. She told everyone that if I had talked to them, they would have come back. Jubilee said they'd dog me the rest of the night and I knew they would have. So I hid. Like a coward."

"You're not a coward, Bobby."

"Yes, I am. My dad would have said a real man..."

"Bobby," Scott cut him off, his tone a little sharp. Bobby knew a criticism about his dad was coming, because Scott always did the same thing when Bobby started with the 'real man' analogies. Scott faced him. "Do you think I'm a 'real man'?"

"What? Of course you are, Scott! Everyone knows that."

"Well, if I could have gotten away with it, I would have been on the roof too."

The blunt honesty surprised Bobby. "Really?"

"Really."

He thought about what Scott said, and what Scott didn't say. There was no argument that if Bobby had been there, Lance and Freddy would have decided differently. Scott didn't say he agreed with Alison. Bobby concentrated for a second, applying just a little of his power to the carton to chill the milk again. "They're not coming back, are they?"

"I really don't know, Bobby." Scott scratched the back of his head. "We tried. Sometimes, that's the best you can do. Not every kid accepts our offer. Not every kid can handle it. We don't know why they did what they did..." He trailed off and then seemed to glance over to the intersection. Bobby could never tell because of the shades. Scott sounded kind of confused and disappointed, "If it was a prank that just got out of hand..."

"I don't think it was," Bobby told him. He remembered what Kitty had said last night, that Lance had said a lot of bad things to John but it had been Freddy who had messed with the stove. "Freddy's downright mean. When he plays football, he always tackles too hard. Last week, John actually joined in a game. I think Pete talked him into it. Anyway, Neal threw John a pass and Freddy tackled John. Hard. Really hard, you know? Pete metalled up, and for Pete to do that, you know he had to be really pissed. Freddy then called John a 'peach boy' and John got that look. He could've roasted him right there, man, 'cos you know he always has his Bics with him, but he didn't." He took a bite of a glazed doughnut. "Kitty said that Lance called him that to yesterday. I think she thinks John's from Georgia."

When he glanced over, he noticed how Scott's posture had changed. Gone was the easy-going stance. Bobby recognized the set of Headmaster Summers' shoulders, which meant he was angry about something and a lecture was on the horizon.

"What?" Bobby asked defensively as he set the carton of milk on the hood and scooted so he could stand up. "I though this was 'Scott and Bobby' not..."

"'Peach boy' doesn't' mean John is from Georgia," Scott said flatly. There was no mistaking the anger in his voice. "It's slang." The milk carton crunched in Scott's grip.

"Oh." The weird things that Bobby knew, the abbreviated things that he knew, made him realize that 'peach boy' was personal to Scott, and therefore, Bobby really didn't want to go there. He looked at the half-eaten doughnut in his hand. "She'll know what it means. She'll tell Kitty, I'm sure. She knows how to do that."

"Who?"

"Jubilee. She knows how to say things to Kitty without getting Kitty too upset. Kind of freaky in a way," he admitted because he really did admire Jubilee on that level. He glanced over. "So what kinda conversation is this? Scott and Bobby or..."

"Scott and Bobby," he cut in. "Although I wish you would have said something earlier about Freddy."

"I thought it was guys being guys, you know. I didn't know that..." he trailed off. "If we'd know that thing about... you know... Pete and me..."

"Pete and I," came the automatic correction.

"Pete and I," Bobby dragged out the pronoun, "well, we would have said something."

"I know you would have," softly from Scott, which meant he really did understand. "We didn't know."

The collective "we" wasn't lost on Bobby. He stared at the near-empty doughnut box. There were two jelly ones and one glazed one left. "We should try and look for them again. I could talk to them, I guess. Not that they'll listen."

"You've done enough already, Bobby."

"I haven't, Scott. Not to them, at least," he faced Scott, tossing the half-eaten doughnut into the box. "The other kids... They'll always wonder, okay? I'm the freaking mascot, man. If I don't try, then they all will think you didn't try and that's not right at all."

****

Tracking down Freddy and Lance had been easier than Bobby had expected. It had probably been easier than Scott had expected judging by raised eyebrow and the slight shake of his head as he had talked to the Professor. After he had snapped shut his cell phone, Scott had said, "Freddy and Lance are at the Bridgeport bus station. It's about 20 minutes away."

The trip there had been spent in silence. When they got out of the car, Scott popped the trunk and pulled out two boxes of the doughnuts, handing them to Bobby. That alone had told Bobby that the Lance and Freddy Retrieval Part II had been unplanned; if it had been, there would have been two boxes of doughnuts specifically for Lance and Freddy.

Scott also stopped at the ATM machine just outside of the station and withdrew cash. Although Bobby had no idea how much, he knew that the bills were all twenty's and Scott had split them into two stacks, one in each of Scott's pockets. It made Bobby nervous because of the seeming finality of the action. Scott had already judged the situation, and the chances of Lance and Freddy returning weren't good.

Bobby wasn't quite sure how he felt.

The two were camped out on the benches near the men's restroom. Scott had stayed near the main entrance while Bobby had approached the two boys.

"Well if it ain't the fucking Mascot," Freddy sneered.

"I don't wanna fight, man," Bobby said and held out a box of doughnuts. Freddy knocked it away. He tried his best not to flinch because Freddy really did scare him even though Scott was just a few feet away. "You guys got everyone really worried, okay? They kept asking about you. Just c'mon on home, okay?"

"That place ain't my damned home."

"Where you gonna go then, huh? Back to Texas?"

"I ain't telling you shit, asshole," Freddy spat and then took a swing. It was a slap instead of a punch, meant more as a warning than to really harm him. After all, Scott was right there and could easily knock Freddy back with an optic blast.

The blow landed hard on the side of Bobby's face. The second box of doughnuts went sailing across the floor as he dropped to his knees, a light frost shooting out from where he landed. He tried not to freak because Powers in a Public Place was a Bad Thing. There had been a police cruiser in the station parking lot and they couldn't afford the attention.

He heard Scott's warning, "That's enough, Freddy." There was a pause, and out of the corner of his eye, he could see Scott rapidly approaching. "What about you, Lance? You don't have to go with Freddy if you don't want to."

"Forget it, man," Lance told them, although there was less bravado in his voice than Bobby expected. "I'm not going back."

Bobby got to his feet, resisting the urge to touch the side of his face where he'd been hit. It hurt, like everything associated with Freddy did, but he didn't want to show it. "He's just a bully, Lance. You don't have to do what he says."

That was the wrong thing to say, because he immediately felt the ground tremor.

"We get the message, Lance," Scott cut in. Bobby watched as he pulled out two business cards and a pen then wrote on the back of the cards. The cash came out next, and Scott deliberately handed a card and cash to Lance and another set to Freddy. "My cell number is on the back and my phone is always on. Call if you want to talk or if you get into trouble. It doesn't matter what time it is or where you are. If you are in trouble, we'll try our best to help you out. That's a promise."

Bobby noticed that Lance pocketed both things quickly and kept his gaze averted. Freddy pocketed the cash but ripped the card up in front of their faces. He tossed the pieces at Scott. "Fuck you, Summers."

Scott didn't even flinch. "Like I said, you can always call." He then placed a hand on Bobby's shoulder and turned them toward the exit. "Come on, Bobby. Let's go."

*****

"They said they weren't coming back. We tried. I tried. Mister Summers had a trunk full of doughnuts and even that didn't work." Bobby paused, as he carefully applied his power to the cloth next to his face. The bruise was already an interesting shade of purple and Scott had told him that he'd have a black eye. "And you all know how Freddy is about doughnuts."

The crowd in front of Bobby whispered amongst themselves. He felt like he was a prince holding court, with Kitty sitting on one side of him and Jubilee on the other, as he told the story. He wondered if Scott felt the same way when flanked by Jean and Ro. Sam, Jamie, Dani and Neal had taken the seats closest to them, but had angled them so they weren't directly facing Bobby or the other students. They were kind of like a buffer, like the way Bobby, Pete and Kitty sometimes were when The Powers That Be gave a tough announcement.

They were in the Dining Hall, the students grazing through the doughnuts. Jubilee and Kitty had split the box of all-glazed ones between them; it had been one of the five Scott had specifically ordered. The Professor, Jean and Ro got one, the kitchen staff got one, and Bobby supposed the last box was reserved for Pete and John who were still in the subbasement.

"What about money?" Jimmy asked, repeating a question from last night.

"Mister Summers gave them some," Bobby answered.

"How much?"

"I don't know. It looked like a lot."

"But they got kicked out then," Tabby sniffled, "because Freddy hit you."

Bobby supposed that his injury gave some credence to his story, that they had indeed tried to talk to the two missing boys and he had earned a Freddy-sized bruise for his trouble. Yet he also knew it was another reason for them to believe Freddy and Lance wouldn't be allowed back.

"No... no..." He was careful not to sound too defensive. He knew they would think he was just parroting what The Powers That Be told him. Bobby looked directly at Tabby as he added, "Mister Summers even gave his cell number."

A collective "ooh" came from the audience. Most had seen Scott interrupted during class to take a call; he would walk out of the classroom and close the door for privacy.

"Yeah, but that was before Freddy whacked you," someone else snorted.

"It was after Freddy hit me," Bobby clarified. He felt the sharp sting along his leg and realized it was Jubilee losing her temper. He wondered if anyone else could see the arc running along his thigh. He then wondered what would have happened if he'd showed up with Lance and Freddy in tow with the bruise on his face. Jubilee would probably have sparked the hell out of the two jerks. Bobby shook his head to clear his thoughts. "Mister Summers told them they could call anytime. He said he always has his cell on."

"Bobby's right," came the unexpected support from Alison, who had scooted up to the front, but was blocked by the Dani/Neal/Jamie/Sam wall. Bobby watched as she scowled at the four, but she went on, undaunted, "Mister Summer's taken calls during class. He did it for Jimmy."

There were a few nods, but not many. Alison's words no longer carried the same weight as his or Kitty's, and Bobby had a feeling that Jubilee had more credibility now than Alison did. Two days ago, he would have expected Jubilee to take advantage of the potential humiliation of Alison. Now, he wasn't surprised when she let the whole thing slide. She knew how important this was, how he... how they couldn't screw this up.

"That's Mister Summers talking," Jimmy cut in again, but he didn't sound hostile or challenging. His tone was cautious yet curious, both with a splash of fear. "The Professor has the final say." This time, the nods around the room were vigorous.

They had to get past this, and Bobby knew he couldn't allow Freddy and Lance to ruin it. Mansion life was something special, a gift, a place where they shouldn't have to worry about the nastier parts of being a teenager.

Bobby owed it to the Professor. He remembered his first private conversation with him, when the Professor had told him that it was okay to be a mutant no matter what his parents had said about Jenny 'Glow in the Dark' Iams being the curse of God.

"I'll protect you, Bobby," the Professor had told him softly that afternoon in his parent's living room. Mom and Dad had left the room at the Professor's request 'to speak to young Master Robert alone, please'. It had been one of the few times Bobby had seen pure pride in his Dad's eyes. "The School is a place where you won't have to hide who or what you are. You'll be with others like you. We'll teach you how to use your powers. However," the Professor had smiled with amusement, "I'm afraid that indoor snowball fights will not be allowed. They will ruin the furniture."

Bobby owed it to Scott. He remembered that day when he had accidentally frozen Rocky Beasley in the snow and a guy in red shades with a hottie girlfriend had provided a means of escape from the attention. Just that morning, they had shared a box of doughnuts and had talked like real family.

He couldn't allow that family to be destroyed by two stupid bullies. He owed it to the Professor. He owed it to Scott. He owed it to Jean and Ro. He owed it to Kitty and Pete and Jubilee and...

He owed it to the guy who wasn't just another wannabe bad-ass of the Mansion. He owed it to the guy who had risked his life to save Kitty and the rest of them: John.

Bobby glanced around; he caught most of their gazes. His voice was soft, almost tinged with condescension. "Who do you think told us where to find them?"

The students all looked away, ashamed. He felt vindicated. Jubilee squeezed his thigh and Kitty squeezed his hand. They approved.

He had done right. The black eye may have been worth it after all.

Bobby caught the glint of ruby and the flash of silver passing by the doorway of the dining hall.

He could have sworn he heard the mental whisper, Thank you.


A/N: This has been an odd story, one I've been struggling with (and complaining about) for a while. It took several directions before finally taking this course. Writing a story like "Thirty-Three" with all its drama is relatively easy compared with figuring out just how Xavier and Crew would deal with the aftermath.

Thanks Nakki the beta and encouragement to include this in the "Fundamental..." arc. Thanks to mitchpell for patience, the crit, and for the reading the original Scott & Bobby concept and telling me it would be a shame to lose it.

To those following the "Fundamental..." arc, thanks for reading!



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