Disclaimer: Bobby and Hank still don't belong to me. Neither do Bobby's parents, and thank goodness for that. They're all Marvel's, although Marvel hasn't been doing well by them lately. All the other characters do belong to me, so ask before you use them. This story is a sequel to 'The Road Not Travelled'.
Bobby leaned back in his seat, gazing at the bright, cheerful painting on the wall beside him. It was all white buildings and red flowers and brilliantly blue Mediterranian, and although it might be a little cliche, he decided that he really did like it. It was so ... cheerful.
Given that he'd been looking at it nearly every weekend for the last three months, he was actually getting quite fond of it.
Hank was nibbling some sticky, crumbly confection, alternating between reading another one of his egg-head magazines, and sneaking peeks at Sally when she wasn't looking. Bobby looked at him, and smiled resignedly. "Hank?"
"Hm?" Hank said absently, turning a page and getting crumbs all over it.
"Ask her out."
"Ask her out."
"Ask her out."
"PLEASE ask her out."
Hank gave him an exasperated look. "Why is it that you're so determinedly fascinated with my love life? Why does it matter so much to you?"
"Because I'm sick of visiting my parents!!" Bobby hissed. "I don't WANT to see my father every weekend! NOBODY wants to see my father every weekend! Not even my mother!!"
"Now, Robert, we've discussed this, and I believe it's very important for you to improve your relationship with your father--"
"It IS improved! It's better than it's ever been! But now it's getting worse again because he's sick of seeing me every weekend!" Bobby rested his elbows on the table, giving his friend an earnest look. "Hank, I know you like coming here and peeking at Sally's butt when she's not looking, but you're gonna have to either ask her out, or find another excuse to come to Long Island every weekend, because I SWEAR, Hank, I'm going to go with Warren to his Rich Egotistical Snobs Anonymous meeting before I visit my parents again this year!"
Hank gave him a wounded look. "But Bobby--"
"But nothing! I don't want to visit my parents any more, and I'm not going to let you wimp out any more!" Bobby decided that he was extremely annoyed at his friend, and scowled. "Big blue baby. Too chicken to ask a pretty girl who obviously LIKES you on one itty bitty date."
Hank frowned. "I am NOT too chicken! I just ... don't think it's a very good idea."
"I am not!"
"He's chicken." Leo, the nosy kid from last time, popped up beside their table and grinned.
"That's right." Bobby turned to his apparent ally and shook his head sadly. "I mean, look at him. He's a superhero--"
"We saw him on the news," Leo agreed.
"AND he's a genius--"
"Saw him doing a lecture on genetics on the Discovery Channel," Leo nodded.
"And, though I say it myself, he's reasonably good-looking, in a furry way." Bobby grinned, watching Hank trying to slide under the table in embarrassment.
"Sally thinks so." Leo grinned. "She watched the whole lecture, and she barely even passed high-school biology."
Hank straightened up so fast that he nearly knocked the table over. "She did?"
"Oh, yeah ... well, it was close, but she did really good on the protozoans, and that pulled her grade up enough." Leo and Bobby grinned at each other. Bobby decided he'd found a kindred spirit.
Hank gave them a pleading look.
"Oh, you meant the LECTURE," Leo said, smacking his forehead melodramatically. "Yeah, she watched that."
"See? I keep TELLING him she likes him, but he doesn't believe me." Bobby gave Leo a commiserative look. "They never listen to us, do they? Oh, they say, you're just Mr Funny, you don't know anything about serious stuff like girls."
Leo nodded in complete understanding. "As it happens, we know a lot about girls," he agreed. "'cause they think we're all cute and unthreatening, so they talk to us."
"All the time. We're Mr Approachable, when it comes to girls," Bobby said, nodding. "I mean, it'd be nice to be Mr Sexy once in a while, but since that's never going to happen, Mr Approachable is pretty good."
Leo nodded. "I'll take your word for it."
Hank made a small noise that was somewhere between sympathetic and annoyed. "Ahem..."
"I think he wants us to pay attention to his problem," Bobby said seriously.
"Well, unless you want to visit your parents again next weekend, we probably should," Leo agreed.
Hank buried his face in his hands. "I'm doomed," he whimpered.
"Oh, stop that," Bobby chided. "Leo ... think you could help out in some way?"
Leo nodded, and dug around in his pocket, pulling out a small square of paper. He offered it to Hank. "Here."
"What's this?" Hank said a bit blankly.
"Her number. Well, our number. I live there too. So do all our brothers and sisters. And Nonna. And mom."
Hank stared at the bit of paper.
"Thanks," Bobby said sincerely. "I mean, believe me, he'll be good to her. 'Cause he's a very nice guy, and a gentleman, and he never takes advantage. I've known him since I was fifteen, I can vouch for his character."
Leo nodded. "I figured. I've heard you guys talking, and he seems really nice. And Sally's picky, too, so if she likes him that much he's gotta be a good one."
Bobby nodded. "Sally seems very nice too," he observed. "Very honest, generous, good personal hygiene..."
Leo grinned. "AND she only takes ten minutes in the bathroom in the morning."
"See, the woman's a gem. Go get her, Hank."
"But..." Hank said weakly. He WANTED to go get her. He WANTED to just stroll up to her, and ask her out in so suavely charming a fashion that she swooned immediately into his arms. The problem was that it wouldn't happen that way. He'd try, but he'd get all nervous, and he'd stutter, and try to use big words and get all tangled up in them, and then she'd laugh.
He gazed with mingled annoyance and affection at Bobby, who was chattering away to Leo about certain Sure-Fire Woman-Luring tricks that he, Bobby, had seen other men use to great effect. Leo was grinning, dark eyes alight with mischief. They were so alike ... not physically, of course, but in almost every other way. He smiled. At least Bobby had a new friend ... and Leo, if he was any judge, was happy about it too. Bobby, Hank remembered, had always seemed to him to have been a rather lonely child.
He looked down at the piece of paper again. Could he ... dared he ... call her? He wanted to, oh, so much, but did he dare?
Hank picked up the phone. He stared at it. He put it down again. Damnit!
He'd waited until they got home, hoping that that would make him feel more at ease. He'd locked himself in his lab, surrounded himself with the evidence of his genius and the comfortable surroundings of the place he spent most of his time ... but to no avail.
He hadn't had this much trouble with Trish ... but Trish was a reporter, an adventurer, a woman more than capable of taking care of herself, both physically and emotionally. Sally was a sweet, gentle girl who, while she COULD take care of herself and of her family, still gave him a heartfelt urge to wrap her up in his arms and promise her that he'd never, ever let anything bad happen.
Dear lord, she was beautiful.
He could see her in his mind's eye ... Her slender, graceful figure with its perfect posture ... Her small, oval face, surrounded by a cloud of loose brown curls. Soft, flawless olive skin, tinted with pink over her cheekbones. Deep, soft hazel eyes fringed with thick, dark lashes. A long, straight grecian nose. Full lips in a perfect cupid's bow, and the sweetest smile he'd ever seen.
He picked up the phone again, and dialled the number ... then hung up before it could ring. What was he doing? How could he even think of putting her and her family in danger? He was an X-Man! He had no right to bring all that that entailed down on a quiet, innocent family in Long Island who were just living their lives as best they could...
But he'd felt something. When they'd looked at each other, when she'd smiled at him, he'd felt something. Not an electric thrill, not a tremor of the earth beneath his feet, just a moment of ... recognition. This, his mind had told him, is what I want. What we want. SHE is what we want. She's perfect.
He picked up the phone, and dialled again.
It rang. He clenched his empty fist so hard that his thick nails cut into his palm.
"Hello?" said a youthful female voice ... Mia, he guessed.
His throat closed in sheer, unadulterated panic.
"Hello?" she said again, sounding a bit impatient.
"Sorry," he said, his voice unusually gruff. "Wrong number."