The Race
by Indigo

Chapter 5

Emma had made some concessions to the -- rugged terrain -- she found herself in. The jeans were white. The sweater was white cashmere, and the duster white leather; as were her boots. For her, it was as common as she dressed.

Bobby Drake actually turned up in a sport coat, slacks, shirt and tie. "Good evening, Emma."

Emma raised one brow, as she opened the door, surprised. "Good evening, Robert."

There was an awkward moment between the two of them, before Bobby broke it by extending his hand.

"Shall we go? It's not a quick drive to Oklahoma City and our reservations are for 8:45 at Saffron." He led her to his car; it was still only a Jeep, but he'd had it washed and waxed, and the top was on it. "Thanks, by the way, for accepting the invitation, Emma."

Emma merely regarded Bobby silently, waiting for the other shoe to drop.

"Okay, yeah, I was waiting for you to pull some sleaze like you did with Kitty Pryde. But you didn't. I ... I'm impressed."

"I would be a fool to have made the same mistake twice, would I not?" Emma asked reasonably.

Bobby winced. "Do I take that to mean, then, that you have some other sort of sleaze up your sleeve?"

"Not remotely, Robert." Emma shook her head slowly. "I didn't rescue those kids from Terrence Bedlam four months ago to brainwash them. Honestly, I'd be a fool if I hadn't learned anything from my time with Generation X ... and with you."

"Rescued?" Bobby blinked, and glanced sidelong at her as they sped up route 81. "I -- hadn't heard that. I'd heard only from Sean that you'd left Massachusetts and returned to the Hellfire Club."

"That also is true, Robert. Would you like to hear the whole story?"

"Actually?" Bobby nodded. "Yeah, Emma. I would."

The story of the new Hellions and King Bedlam took them the rest of the way into Oklahoma City, and well into the appetizers. Emma left out the tiny detail that had catalyzed her deciding to break from any affiliation with Xavier and his dream; she was certain that Bobby would not understand. And we're getting along so splendidly, it would be a shame to ruin it with that. His students are blindly loyal to him.

Dinner conversation lightened, going back to Aiko Carey. Both Iceman and the Queen found it refreshing and unusual that their prospective new student had taken so well to the revelation that he was a mutant.

"I suspect Sean's concession about Aiko visiting each of our campuses was your doing," Emma confided. "It was that you were willing to show me some trust that got past that stubborn Irish attitude."

Bobby just shrugged and grinned over the rim of his crystal wine glass (which contained sparkling grape juice; he was, after all, driving). "You haven't done anything yet that I should be suspicious of, Emma." He took a sip, paused thoughtfully, continued. "Relations between ... us ... have been cordial and they've been strained. I have to admit I much prefer cordial."

Emma nodded over her slice of coconut cream pie. "As do I. I didn't expect this, honestly. I expected -- misunderstanding, and battle. To be honest, Robert -- I expected to face Charles." And to blast his eyes for what he did to me. "I expected him to be here, doing as he does."

Bobby's eyes flashed for a moment in anger, then he shrugged. "The Professor thought I could handle it on my own." He chose to leave out that the Professor's confidence seemed to be wavering. "And I seem to be doing all right. The kid likes me, and I'm having a great meal with my ... opponent at the swankest restaurant I could find in Oklahoma City."

"It's not Sardi's or Wolfgang Puck's, but it will do in a pinch." Emma's smile indicated she was only being playful. "Seriously, though. I am rather enjoying our little chess game. It will be interesting to see what our Mr. Carey chooses when all is said and done."

Bobby nodded distractedly and gulped visibly at the sight of the bill. But he smiled bravely and put it on his card. To his relief, the card was accepted rather than declined and cut in half. "Agreed. To the game, then." He clinked his glass with hers. "Come on. I'll take you back to your hotel."

Back to the hotel had led to "come in for a nightcap?"

"Come in for a nightcap" had led to more conversation; Bobby had showed Emma that he had indeed learned more about his powers since she had mocked him.

Emma had, in turn, explained that she was not the heartless witch Sean and Charles would have the rest of the mutant community believe of her. She stared out the window at the dark skyline of the city, and told Bobby, "I may have considered those kids accessories then -- but they were people. I had a responsibility to them. When they were slain, I failed them. I taught them to jibe and to taunt. I taught them to manipulate. But I did not teach them to be a team."

She bowed her head, and when she spoke again, Emma had a catch in her voice. "I have learned that teamwork is important. It is vital to the survival of mutants in groups. Sean may not believe I wish only to see that no more children are harmed by the factionalization of mutantkind -- but it is true, Bobby. I swear to you." She turned to regard him, her mouth set in a taut line. She blinked twice, hard, then set her wine glass down. "No more of the chablis. It makes me maudlin."

"Why haven't you told anyone else this," Bobby asked, walking to stand at the window beside Emma. "Why have you permitted Sean, Charles and just about everyone to believe the worst of you?"

"I have my reasons, Robert, and they are personal. Leave it at that." The cold edge of ice was in Emma's voice again, and Robert nodded, backing off. "Suffice to say that it is a harsh world. And while Charles' dream is a beautiful fantasy -- that is all it is. Protecting these children is a matter of preparing them for the world, not sequestering them from it like hothouse flowers.

"It's a matter of training them to survive and prepare for war, not 'fighting for peace.'" Emma laughed. "Does Charles have the faintest notion of how idiotic that phrase is? Do any of you?"

Bobby sighed. "You know he doesn't want us to fight for peace. You know his goal is for us never to have to."

"He won't achieve it with his methods," Emma said, as though she were attempting to let Drake down gently.

"And you won't achieve it with the methods the Hellfire Club uses, White Queen," Bobby whispered.

"And that, my dear Iceman, is why I am remaking the club in my image. That is why I have Arete and Chamber at my side -- willingly. It is why DaCosta remains with me! And why I freed those children from Bedlam!"

Bobby found himself taking a step back from the passion of her convictions. "I ... don't know what to say."

"Then say nothing." Emma placed a finger to his lips.

Bobby closed his eyes against the warmth of her touch. He closed his own fingers around her hand, meaning to lift that delectable warmth off him before it melted someplace inside him.

But somehow, he succeeded only in drawing her into his arms.

To his astonishment, she didn't resist.

How in the world, Bobby Drake found himself wondering nonsensically as the onset of sleep began to envelop him, did Emma manage to get a hotel with an earth-tone color scheme to decorate her entire suite in white...?

He smiled down at the halo of white-blonde hair spread on his chest. Emma had fallen asleep listening to the sound of his heart. She had asked him, just before they had connected beyond the point of no return, to allow her to go en rapport. He had consented, and what he had found in her mind had been far less cold and lifeless and brusque than he had ever imagined.

The glow of her thoughts inside his head had dwindled to a soft ember of comfort in the back of his own psyche as she had finally drifted off in his arms. There had been a bond of trust forged along with the physical bond they had shared tonight.

God knows I may regret this come the morning, was Bobby's penultimate conscious thought. It was followed closely by I hope the Professor doesn't peek in on me toni...

concluded >>

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