Disclaimer: The X-Men belong to Marvel. Any person in the fic that doesn't belong to Marvel is mine. I'm not making any money off this. This doesn't fit into X-Men continuity.

A Talent for Reality
by Kassia

Bobby was sprawled on the couch in front of the TV, eating Jujubes at a rate that would pull most people's teeth out, when he finally noticed the unusual calm that had fallen over the X-Mansion. Those who weren't out were either in their room or, in Storm's case, in the attic, and there was no sign they'd be coming out any time soon.

He turned off the television. It was the usual Saturday afternoon trash, anyway. He usually wouldn't watch it, except that he hadn't had enough strength to move off the couch since sitting down in front of the Saturday morning cartoons to eat breakfast.

Speaking of breakfast, his half-eaten bowl of cereal was still sitting there. He played with the idea of shocking everyone for a moment by taking it to the kitchen and rinsing it out, but the idea was only entertained for a nano-second. Finding himself still unable to rise, he oozed out of the couch onto the floor, and, taking a few more Jujubes for strength, he surged to his feet and quickly caught the arm of the couch to keep himself from collapsing again.

He began to wander aimlessly through the mansion, bored out of his mind. There were all sorts of pranks and foolishness he could perform, but what was the point when he didn't have an audience?

Bobby found himself wandering towards the Danger Room. Maybe he should train. Might as well. Nobody to be embarrassed in front of except the computer. Of course, he always told himself that, but he was always still embarrassed.

He began to punch in instructions, but then stopped and pressed in something else. A smile played on his lips as a little world sprang up around him.Including a gorgeous blonde seated on a bar stool across the room. Bobby cleared his throat and said experimentally, "What's a knockout like you doing in a computer-generated gin joint like this?"

The blonde snorted. "You have no idea how often I hear that one."

"Sorry, I can guess," Bobby replied meekly, and then did a double-take. "What the hell...?"

The blonde gave him a haughty glare. "You have a problem?"

"It's just that ... well ... You're so -- so real."

"Bite me," said the blonde, and then added, as an afterthought, "and if you dare say anything like 'I'd love to...'"

"I wasn't," said Bobby hastily. "Wasn't going to say anything. Not a thing..."

"Good." The blonde took a sip of whatever amber liquid was in her glass. "Well, aren't you going to ask me my name? My phone number? Offer me a drink?"

"I don't make a habit of asking holograms their phone numbers..." replied Bobby, dizzily.

The blonde snorted again. "You X-Men are such hypocrites. You go around trying to get people to treat you equally, even though you're different, but the moment you come across someone who's different, you treat them like dirt. Just because I'm not real doesn't mean you have any right to..."

This could go on forever. "Uh, it's been a pleasure talking to you, but I need to- to train. Yeah. I'd better go change the program."

"Men," snarled the blonde. "Cowards, all of you. As soon as it looks like something's gonna be difficult, you turn tail and run..." Bobby quickly pressed the controls that stopped the simulation and opened the Danger Room, and ran out as fast as possible.

He had reached the other side of the mansion before his curiosity got the better of him and went back to the Danger Room. It was probably just a program set up by some masochist or sadist or vengeful feminist or something. He'd punch some other program in, and it'd all be okay.

Bobby sighed relief as a psychotic mutant who looked something like a cross between a rabid aardvark and Jack Nicholson appeared. So far, so good. He pressed a few other controls, and the Nicholson aardvark disappeared, to be replaced by the brotherhood of evil mutants. No gorgeous blondes in sight. What a relief.

He watched for a moment as the holograms posed menacingly, and then, feeling not a little stupid, said tentatively, "Blond girl? From the bar?" His voice became louder, "Blond girl! Blo-ond girl?" Should've asked her her name. No, dammit, she wasn't real. "Blond chick with the ‘tude problem?" he asked.

"Please tell me that that was the title of a song, or some strange mantra, Bobby."

Bobby turned to see Hank standing in the doorway, poker-faced. Bobby smiled nervously. "Oh. Hi Hank. There's a blond chick in the Danger Room that I want to talk to. Do you think you could call her up?"

His friend stared at him like -- well, like Bobby had just asked him to summon up a blond chick in the Danger Room. What kind of a stupid request is that, anyway? He shifted his weight from foot to foot. Hank said at last, "Ah, which program was she on?"

"The bar. Y'know, where we get the broken glass and bar stools thrown at us, and we can't use our powers? Except this time there were no bad guys, just -- just a blonde."

Hank grinned. "Lonely, Bobby?"

"No, just -- look, I didn't design the blond chick! I just fooled around with the controls a bit! And she showed up and she- she was so real! She talked to me, and insulted me, and ... hey, laugh and you die, Hank," he added, as he saw his friend's lips press together, trying to suppress a smile.

"Robert," Hank said patiently, "the computer can't just invent yellow-haired damsels capable of witty repartee without someone doing some very complicated reprogramming. The holograms are just a backdrop, they're not interactive."

"Well, she was there! Maybe she's Scott's deep dark secret, or the Professor's fantasy woman, or maybe she's Gambit's or one of the girl's idea of a practical joke, but she was there!"

Hank, seeing that Bobby was in earnest, looked thoughful. "I'll look into it," he sighed.

Rogue paced back and forth, while Bobby sat still, chewing gum and following her movements with his eyes. He'd say something, except there was nothing left to say, and Bobby Drake wasn't exactly the best man to give advice on love, life, and the arguments that came with 'em.

However, he flattered himself, he was getting pretty good at translating Rogue's comments.

"God, Ah hate Remy! Of all the selfish little bastards..."

Bobby made some sort of noise of agreement. Translation: God, I love Remy so much. And what do I get from him? Not so much as a box of chocolates. He added another piece of gum to the huge wad in his mouth.

Rogue stopped pacing for a moment. "Wait. That's not fair. Ah mean, Ah know he tries, it's just so hard to understand what Ah go through..." She began pacing again. "Damn him! He could at try a lot harder than he is! It's not lahke Ah don't have enough to deal with, what with, well, y'know..."

Translation: I love Remy, and my life sucks majorly. Bobby made another attempt to blow a bubble, and failed.

Rogue put her hands on her hips, and looked at Bobby. "Y'know what? Ah'm gonna show him. He'll see he can't treat me lahke that, the damned frog!" With that, Rogue stormed out of the room.

Translation: I am going to go put on the shortest shorts and the tightest shirt I can find, and parade around in front of him. Bobby sighed, mentally wished Rogue luck, and wandered back to the Danger Room for just one last try at finding the blonde.

You knew you had sunk to new depths when your main goal in life was making a holographic blonde appear. Hank had had no luck, though, and neither had Bobby, so -- well, you knew you had sunk to even lower depths when not only did your goal in life involve holographic blondes, but you had actually failed at that goal. It was pathetic, really.

Bobby was about to go outside for a short evening walk and maybe grab something slimy to stuff in Hank's bed, when Storm burst through the front door. Her eyes alighted on Bobby, and she emitted an animal-like growl. "Robert," she said, her tone saccharine, "would you mind answering a question for me?"

Yes. Very much, actually. Ororo looked to be in a dangerous mood. "Not at all," he replied nervously.

"Tell me," she continued in the same syrupy tone, "do I look like a cheap prostitute to you?"

Involuntarily, Bobby's eyes wandered over her outfit. It was one of her smaller skin-tight dresses. Even the most modest of the X-Women seemed to wear them occasionally. It was inevitable that with Ororo's seemingly unnatural hair and eye color, coupled with skintight spandex, would result in someone assuming something of the sort. Bobby fervently wished he was somewhere else.

"Well?" she said impatiently.

"Um ... well, not really, I mean your natural dignity should balance ... uh..." Bobby was suddenly very aware that this was one of those times you just said 'No, not at all.' Too late.

Storm snorted and vented a humorless, "Ha." She started up the stairs, and Bobby could hear the weather goddess murmuring, "Cheap? Cheap?"

Bobby breathed a sigh of relief and escaped.

He had been in there too long. He didn't usually feel obliged to push himself that hard -- of course, that might be part of why he was so behind skill-wise. But today he had been hit by one of those floods of nostalgia and regret that just came, with no apparent reason, and made you miserable for a couple of days. He just needed something to take his mind off it all ... Bobby iced up a laser before it even had a chance to shoot him.

Suddenly he was aware of a slow, crunching sound. He spun around a couple of times, looking for the source.

"Up here," said a voice.

He looked up at one of the raised platforms in the room, and there sat, oh wonder of wonders, the Blond Chick, eating popcorn.

"You're back," he said brightly.

She rolled her eyes. "You don't say." She said her popcorn down beside her and got to her feet. "Iceguy, make me some steps, would ya?"


She tapped a foot impatiently. "Unlike some of you, I can't fly."

"Oh, of course ... But aren't you a hologram? Can't you just--" Her speaking glare cut him off, Bobby quickly formed some icesteps for the girl, and she descended regally, somehow managing not to slip.

She glanced around the room. "I don't see you practice that much, usually." Bobby shrugged. "Y'know, I just -- wait a minnit! Just how often to you watch me, lady?"

"Don't flatter yourself, Drake. Not just you -- everyone." She paused, and gave him a longing look that made his heart skip a beat, saying wistfully, "I don't suppose you have a cigarette?"

Bobby shook his head, and the blonde pursed her lips. "That womanizing cajun bastard would," she sighed. "But I wouldn't ask him the time of day."

"That seems to be a common sentiment around here," Bobby murmured.

"With good reason!" snapped the blonde. Then she added, in a very different tone, "If not a cigarette, then a pocket flask, maybe...?" He shook his head. "Good God, Drake, have you no hidden vices?"

"Well, it's not like you could exactly enjoy them. You are a hologram after all, lady."

"Hey, just 'cause I'm not real by your standards, doesn't make me a hologram, you material chauvinist jerk." Impulsively, Bobby tried to poke her to see if she actually had any solidity. She slapped him before she could, and that answered the question just as well.

"I don't understand," he said feebly, rubbing his stinging cheek.

"Well, that's obvious. Just keep your mouth closed before you look like even more of an idiot than you do already."

"If I'm such an idiot why are you here talking to me? Why not one of the others?" Because the others aren't insane enough to talk to figments of their imagination, Bobby... he thought, by way of answering his own question.

"I wouldn't even if I could," snapped the blonde. "Pigs, all of them. You just happen to be the lesser of many pigs."

"Um, thanks. I think."

"Even if you are a pathetic loser."

"Better than a super bitch with delusions of reality."

"Oh, that really hurt, Drake," she replied sarcastically.

An awkward silence fell. At last Bobby spoke, reluctantly, "I can't go around calling you 'lady' or 'blond chick'."

"Especially not 'chick,'" she growled. "What was with that, anyway?"

"Sorry," he said sheepishly. "So what is your name?"

She bit her lower lip, and her mouth twisted into a slight smile. "You are trainable. My name is Lydia Nicole Hawk."

"Pleased to meet you, Ms. Hawk," he extended a hand.

She shook it, the same strange half smile still on her face, "Oh, call me Lydia."

Bobby emerged from the Danger Room at last, feeling a lot better than he had when he had gone in. Admittedly, Lydia had still thrown in quite a few insults his way, but she had been pretty fun otherwise, with a wicked sense of humor and enough material from watching Danger Room sessions to blackmail the entire team. They had discussed more serious topics too, though. She also was very well-informed for someone who seemed to be stuck in the Danger Room. Of course, he couldn't becertain she was stuck. He knew so little of her, after all.

He went into the kitchen to grab a drink and maybe something to eat. Jean, Storm, and Warren were already in there.

Warren looked up at Bobby's entrance. "Hey, long time no see. We thought you'd never get out of the Danger Room. We were about to send in the hounds, actually."

"Huh? How long was I in there?"

Jean glanced at her watch. "Ah, over two hours."

"Wow, time flies when you're having fun," Bobby said cheerfully. "I'm famished." He opened the fridge door and stared in for a moment, before a reminder from Jean not to hang on the door made him hurry his decision. He pulled some bread and peanut butter out, and grabbed a jar of marshmallow fluff, as Storm and Warren continued their earlier conversation.

"Yeah, yeah," Warren was saying, "I know Betsy wears skimpier stuff than you, but she doesn't complain when people make assumptions like that. Sometimes I do, but that's a different matter." Bobby guessed that Storm had mentioned her little encounter. "If you dress like that, you have it coming."

Storm's brow darkened, and she opened her mouth to either argue, or command the forces of nature to strike Warren down. Bobby thought it best to intervene. "I dunno," he piped in. "Unless Storm was standing on a street corner, batting her eyelashes, and telling these guys to come on over, which I sincerely doubt, no one had a right to treat her rudely just because of the clothes she's wearing. The same goes if a male is dressed like that. You hear the 'they're asking for it' argument so much, for anything from mere harassment to rape, but it's just another excuse to take advantage of people." He took a sip of his drink. "Dressing how you want is a constitutional right. However, harassing people is not." Bobby glanced over at a slack-jawed Warren and a smug looking Ororo. "Huh? What'd I say?"

Jean laughed. "You just made some very valid points. Mr. Worthington, do you have anything to add?"

Warren just shook his head, and gave Bobby an odd look.

Bobby handed Lydia the pack of cigarettes and the bottle of whisky. She grinned. "Thanks, Drake."

He grinned back. "Y'know, maybe I should just build a little shrine to you in here, and give you weekly offerings of cigarettes and booze."

"More like daily," she said wryly, lighting a cigarette. There was some noise outside the door. "Uh oh, they're coming. I'd better go." She pocketed the box and began to retreat.

"I dunno whether I should feel grateful for the hidden audience or just be even more scared of embarrassing myself."

"Oh, don't worry Drake," she said with a sour smile, "you can't do anything more embarrassing than the things I've already seen you do."

"Thanks a lot," he said -- and she was gone.

The training session went well, after he got over his initial nervousness about the fact he was being Watched. Occasionally he thought he caught a glimpse of Lydia, but he could never be sure.

The session ended at last, Scott gave them the usual debriefing, and the all filed out except Bobby. Before Gambit left, though, he saw him patting his pockets and heard him mutter, "Where de hell are dose cigarettes?"

The door shut, and he turned to see Lydia standing behind him. "Y'know," she said, "I can't stand you X-Men, but occasionally you can't help but admire the women. I bet being a female superhero in a male dominated world is tough. And can you imagine having to fight crime during your period?"

Bobby blinked. "No, not really."

She glared at him. "Of course not. Men!" She sat down on a nearby platform, and took a swig from her bottle. "Speaking of men and their faults, Remy managed to get Rogue alone for awhile. And, y'know what? That girl is pathetic!"

"Hey, Rogue is my friend!"

"Whatever. God, she probably cries herself to sleep at nights, too, thinking about that idiot Cajun."

"Why do you say that?" asked Bobby. "What happened?"

"Oh, the usual," she replied, and launched into an explanation of just what 'the usual' was.

Bobby poked at his spaghetti and listened to his chattering teammates. Suddenly, in spite of himself, he asked the females in general, "Do you guys ever find it hard being female in the world of superherose?"

"Not really," said Betsy.

"Well," said Jean, considering, "sometimes people don't take you seriously -- but, when it's the enemy who isn't taking you seriously, that's an advantage."

"Though," said Betsy, "it does get a bit tiresome when every other acne-infested teenager in the world is madly besotted with you."

"Your male teammates, and even the females sometimes, do tend to discriminate," added Ororo. "In leadership, especially, but other things as well. If there's a difficult job to be done, a man is almost always chosen."

"To be honest," added Jean, "I think mutant powers equalize us in a way. I think there's a lot less discrimination against women in this field than most others."

"I think you're right, Jean," agreed Storm. "What makes you ask, Bobby?"

"Oh, I was talking with a female friend of mine..." He shrugged, and turned back to his spaghetti.

"Which female friend?" Jean asked interestedly.

"No one you know."

"C'mon," said Warren, "like you have any friends -- especially female -- that we don't know about."

Bobby shrugged again, by way of answer, and, fortunately, no one asked any more questions.

"I'm not an expert on the subject, but if you ask me, Drake, you've improved by leaps and bounds." She ruined the effect of the compliment by adding, "Not that that's saying much."

He rolled his eyes. "Thanks a lot."

"To tell you the truth, I don't think you're that much behind the rest of your teammates. Sure, you have a lot of unexplored potential, but you've got as good control over what you do know about your powers as anyone. I think most of your problems are in your head, you just need a bit more confidence."


"Like I'd say something nice if I didn't mean it, Drake."

He grinned at her, and she returned her strange half-smile. "So," she said, settling back down onto her platform, with her virtual popcorn in hand, "show me that melting thing you do again."

"Bobby, what are you doing?" said Jean, entering the kitchen.

"Hmmm?" Bobby dropped some Twinkies into the sack, and looked up from the fridge.

"And why," added Hank, "are you taking all the Twinkies?"

"Um -- stocking up in case of the Apocalypse?"

"Well," admitted Hank, "the Twinkies probably would survive it."

Jean sat down on the kitchen table. "We were just wondering, Bobby, if you were okay. You've been acting a little, ah, different lately, and you've been spending way too much time in the Danger Room."

"I thought you wanted me to train more," Bobby said sulkily.

"But it doesn't seem as if you're training in there," said Hank. "You seem to kind of, well, stand around. Bobby, does this have anything to do with that, ah, blond chick you spoke of?"

"Woman. Blond woman," Bobby corrected, before he could stop himself. "No, it doesn't. I've just been practicing. Melting and things, you know." In fact, I think I'll just melt right now and escape, if you don't mind...

Jean pursed her lips, Hank looked thoughtful, and Bobby, with a brief smile and farewell, left the room.

"What the hell is this?" Lydia asked, looking bemused.

Bobby shrugged. "I just thought you might like something that wasn't a leading cause of cancer or liver disease for once."

"So you brought me the leading causes of obesity?"

"You don't have to eat if you don't want. I just figured that if I was trapped in the Danger Room, I'd really like some Twinkies. Ah, chocolate cake?" He held a piece up.

After a beat, she accepted, and sat down beside him. "I don't have to eat, you know. I don't have to breathe, don't have to be tangible, even."

"That sounds..." he stopped for a moment, considering, "that sounds horrible."

She smiled sadly. "Yeah, well. Can't go outside, either. Can't even be seen by most people..."

"Then how come I can see you?"

She shrugged. "Well, since you were so thoughtful as to try to kill me with sugar poisoning, I'll tell you. I have no idea. I don't know any more than you do. I had a miserable childhood, and I can't even remember it. I just know it hurt. I've been here for a long time, since I was a teenager, I think, watching everyone. And then, one day, you called me up and could see me."

"So exactly what are you?"

She shrugged. "A ghost? Beats the hell out of me. I might be dead, I might be some sort of mutant, and I might be a figment of my imagination. I don't even know if I'm real."

"I feel like that sometimes." He pulled a thermos out of his bag. "Hot chocolate?"

Bobby noticed that a few people were watching him curiously as he sat down to the dinner table. "Bobby," said Storm, "I didn't get a chance to thank you for the earrings." She tilted her head so everyone could see the dangly silver flowers.

His ears turned bright pink. "Well, y'know, you always do so much for me and they made me think of you and..." Storm and Jean were looking amused, so he stopped. "Um, you're welcome."

Remy looked even more amused than the two women. "If you keep up like dis, Bobby, y'gonna be even more popular wit' de ladies dan I am." He then yelped as, Bobby guessed, Rogue gave him a sharp kick under the table.

Bobby caught Rogue after dinner. "You can't keep this up, you know."

"Keep what up?" she asked, surprised.

"Angsting away like this. Worrying, wondering, hating your life. Crying yourself to sleep."

She started in surprise, and glared at him. "'Crying myself to...' How did ya know about that?" she demanded.

"Just a guess," he said apologetically, "honest." He tucked her sleeved arm into his, and walked along with her. "Either Remy loves you, in which case you guys can work something out and stop playing these ridiculous games with each other, or he doesn't, and he's just playing with you, in which case you had better move on. You can do a lot better, Rogue."

Rogue caulked her head sideways, regarding Bobby. "Ya think Ah haven't thought of that, Bobby?"

"No, no. I just think you're a lot stronger than you let yourself be. In fact, I vaguely remember a time when you were really strong and independent. You don't need a man. Now, if you want one, that's a different thing."

Rogue chuckled, but it was a rather bitter sound. "G'Lord. Bobby Drake is givin' me advice on mah love lahfe."

"I'm trying to help!" he replied, stung.

"Ah know it Bobby, and it's very sweet of ya." She planted a kiss on the top of his head. "It's nahce to know you're thinking of me."

"Don't change the subject, Rogue. Look, I just want you to be happy. And, uh, a little less weak where certain Cajuns are concerned."

She smiled at him. "Yeah. Me too." She pulled away, looking thoughtful. "Ah think Ah'm gonna go talk to a certain Cajun."

He doubted his little pep talk with Rogue would have any lasting effects, but it was nice to be a help, if only for a few moments. Lydia seemed to agree, but she didn't seem very interested in Rogue's welfare. She just grabbed an icering that Bobby had blown into the air and began licking it as he talked.

At last she held the icering up towards the light and stared at it. "I never thought I'd say this, but I miss snow. And weather. For God's sake, I actually miss nature," she said scornfully. "And I barely remember it."

Bobby paused his all-about-Rogue speech. "That reminds me, I left something outside." He went out the door and returned in a few moments with a large bouquet. "Thought it was kinda bland in here," he explained, a little shyly. "I dunno if you can smell, but they do smell wonderful. Storm said I could take a few..." He trailed off, and looked at Lydia suspciously. "What? What is it?"

"You almost make me feel like I'm real." She covered her mouth. "Drake, you are too much." And with that she broke into the first honest-to-God, spontaneous laughter Bobby had ever heard escape her.

As luck would have it, Jean and Scott chose that moment to enter. Lydia disappeared, and Bobby found himself in the middle of the Danger Room, alone, holding a bouquet of flowers.

Scott's eyes widened. "Bobby, what the hell...?"

I found these flowers on the floor, and I have no idea how they got there; They're a gift for the Danger Room, I felt sorry for it; Look, Scott, I got you flowers! "Um -- uh -- they're for Jean?" Bobby offered.

Jean raised an eyebrow. "Thank you," she said drily. "And exactly how did you anticipate me coming to the Danger Room?"

"Uh..." Bobby's ingenuity failed him, and he said, desperately, "Scott, could I be alone with your wife for a minute?"


"Just a minute. I need to talk to her."

Jean nodded to Scott, and the leader of the X-Men reluctantly made his exit. Jean turned questioning eyes to Bobby. "What's been going on, Bobby?"

Bobby chewed his knuckles, and said, hopefully, "Jean, I need you to try -- can you sense any other presence in this room besides us?"

She looked surprised, but closed her eyes, and pursed her lips in thought. At last she shook her head. "Try harder," suggested Bobby. Jean complied reluctantly, and suddenly her eyes snapped open. "Yes. My God..."

"You can?" Bobby said excitedly. "Lydia!" he called.

Jean watched in fascination as a blond woman materialized in front of her. Lydia returned Jean's amazed stare with a contemptuous stare and said, "So you're the one stupid enough to marry Summers."

"Um, pardon?"

"Never mind."

"Who are you?" Jean asked, her tone awed. "What are you?"

"Are you going to ask my age next? Or if this is my natural hair color? You X-Men are the rudest people."

"I'm sorry," said Jean. "I think I can guess, anyway. An astral ghost, perhaps? Were you a telepath?"

"Well, if you can guess, that's more than I can do. Wait, you are a telepath, right?" Jean nodded. Lydia's eyes widened, and she said in a breathless rush, "Do you think you could get me out of here?"

"I ... maybe. But you don't have a body, do you? How do you materialize?"

"I manage," Lydia replied, with an arrogant toss of her head. "But the point is, I can't materialize outside of here. Could you help me?"

"Please, Jean," put in Bobby.

"I don't know," Jean said, still stunned from the discovery. "You'd need a body, and they aren't exactly lying around everywhere. You'd have to inhabit a still-living person..."

"I don't know. You have to be really tough to handle sharing a body," sighed Bobby. "I should know. Do you think you're mature enough to handle it?" He then grinned evilly as Lydia cast him an angry glance. Jean paid no attention to the interchange.

"Look," said Lydia, "maybe it sounds tacky, but I just want to be real, I just want to be able to get out a bit every now and then. I want to breathe in the pollution and eat hotdogs off the street and swim and dance. It doesn't have to be permanent, just a brief tour of New York's nightlife, a visit to Vegas and LA, maybe ... I might never get the chance to enjoy these things."

"I know," Jean said, suddenly sympathetic. "You don't get many chances to stop and smell the roses when you're an X-Man, either. Especially when you're married to the team's extremely conscientious leader."

Lydia smiled in her calculating way, and looked Jean up and down. "Perhaps you could be excused for a vacation if it was, ah, to do someone else a good deed?"

The X-Men crowded around to see Jean off. Scott was still trying to talk his wayward wife out of leaving.

"This is crazy, Jean..." Scott said futilely, as Jean walked towards the door, suitcase in hand. "What if we need you?"

"I'm sure you can handle things, Scott. That's what being a leader is about." She waved. "By all! See ya in a month or so."

Rogue handed Jean a twenty. "Place a bet for me if ya make it to Vegas," she said with a grin.

Jean opened the door and started outside. "Jean," Scott said, one last time, "are you sure this is wise?"

The redhead tossed her head and smiled a little half-smile. "Bite me," she said, and went down the porch steps and got into the car.

Before she had left, Bobby had commented to Lydia that they might never know what horrible things had happened in her childhood, or if she was actually a telepath who had been trapped on the astral plane, or anything to the effect, Lydia had merely shrugged and said she really didn't want to know. She was perfectly content drifting through life without any X-Men-type angst, thank you very much.

He sighed. He missed her. He even missed arguing with her, which was pretty much all they did, anyway. Yeah, so she was a rather acerbic and cynical companion, and not as pleasant and sympathetic as, say, Hank, it was nice to have a friend who, if not exactly a normal person, was at least not a team member. He didn't feel like he had to compare himself to her, like he did with a teammate, he didn't feel as inferior. She was critical of him, but she was even more critical of his teammates, so that was okay. He was so comfortable training around her, and occasionally with her help (as she had pointed out, you couldn't spend five years watching mutants train without getting a fairly good grasp on the principles), that his skills had improved so much that even Betsy had commented on it once.

Plus, Lydia was intelligent and fun, and, of course, gorgeous, but that was a side note. Well, almost a side note. He had to admit to himself that he was scared that the only reason she even talked to him was because she was the only one who could see him. She probably had forgotten about him already.

A call of "Mail!" brought Bobby out of his reflections. Rogue walked into the room, flipping through the letters. "Junk, junk ... Scott! Letter from Jean! Bobby," she tossed something to him, "postcard."

It was from Las Vegas. It was, he knew, written by Jean's hand, but the choppy writing wasn't hers.

Jean's more fun that I expected. Still can't understand what possessed her to marry Summers. Jean wants me to scribble that out. Anyway, hope to see you soon, but not too soon. Miss you.

Bobby grinned. It was hardly a letter that merited a supid grin, but he was a man of simple pleasures. At last, he set down the card and wandered off to see what Hank was doing.

continued in "Something Like Closure" >>

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