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Author: 437411 [ Hentai Foundry | Patreon ]

Chapter 3: Fascination

“You’re drooling again,” Jubilee said in a sing-song tone.

Laura jumped, a hand brushing over her mouth, but coming away dry. Jubilee shook her head and sighed dramatically.

“You know he was ogling you right up until you started looking in his direction, right? You’d be on each other like Cyclops on a nutty telepath, so when are you going to stop staring and go over there?”

Laura stared down at her untouched food. They were in the cafeteria, and she was eating – or supposed to be eating – lunch, while Jubilee was sipping out of a straw from what looked like a juice box with a label that said “blood orange”, which was at least partly right.

“I am not used to…” There was that, and also her other problem. Talking was hard enough, but that other problem could also get hard – very hard indeed. “It would be awkward,” she finished, which also sounded awkward.

Jubilee sighed again. Since she didn’t actually have to breathe any more, it was obviously on purpose.

“Ugh, fine. Just sit there and pine, then. God. Gotta suck getting all Wolvie’s dumb genes, too. You know, he really is the best at what he does when it comes to ineffectively lusting after people and never actually acting on it.”

Laura did not comment, preferring instead to attack her meal with more vigour than it probably deserved, and Jubilee didn’t say more on the subject either. With that, Laura thought the subject dropped.

She would soon come to realize that Jubilee disagreed on that point.

—–

Laura attended history class after lunch, while Jubilee went and did whatever it was Jubilee did when she was on her own. She was used to Jubilee ribbing her for any number of things, and the conversation at lunchtime did not stick out in her mind. By the time the lesson ended, it had more or less faded from her memory.

The next thing on her schedule was Danger Room training. Somewhat to her surprise, she found Jubilee present among the assembled students – which was rare, since she had technically passed all her training already back when she was a mutant and rarely showed up for any kind of work she could avoid. She waved lazily, but didn’t approach, so Laura focused on the assignment. It would be a team-based hunt and capture in a jungle environment, with the students divided into two teams. The goal would be to approach members on the opposite team and fit them with a bracelet, either by stealth or after subduing them. The game would end once half the participants had been caught, at which point the results would be tallied.

It was something she expected to excel at, which felt rather satisfying. Her immediate assumption had been that she and Jubilee would be on the same team, but the teams had been decided beforehand to even the playing field and Laura was assigned to the blue team while Jubilee went to the gold team. They crossed gazes as the teams parted and headed into the holographic terrain, each in their own direction, and Jubilee shrugged before disappearing between the trees.

Laura put it from her mind and split away from her main group as soon as they were out of sight from the starting point and circled around towards the opposing team, passing through the vegetation with barely a rustle. She was in her element here, and victory was all but assured.

—–

It was no coincidence that today’s exercise involved teams capturing each other, nor was it a coincidence that the object of Laura’s desire found himself paired up with a certain vampire during it. Jubilee had pulled a few strings to arrange things to her liking – it had actually been easier than expected, much to her delight.

The exercise was a perfect excuse. A nice secluded area, a little hand-to-hand to get the blood flowing, a little push here, a little prod there, and it had to be enough to set things in motion. It would be the kind of thing you saw in the movies, one of them pinning the other on the ground, then leaning down closer and closer, and the next thing you knew…

She doubted it would be quite that easy. But at least they’d have to interact, which was something they seemed to be avoiding like the plague, even as they kept checking each other out when they thought the other wasn’t looking.

She glanced up at her companion, who seemed to have been content with letting her take the lead. While he was wearing the trademark trainee X-jammies, he called himself Wingbat, which was decent as callsigns went – she ranked it somewhere in the middle between “Wolverine” (actually pretty cool) and “Marvel Girl” (what were you thinking?) on the Lame-O-Meter. His actual name was Chris… something or other, she didn’t remember what it was short for. It was probably something embarrassing, she thought – it usually was.

She supposed he wasn’t bad looking – he was tall, with nice eyes and a cute butt – but she couldn’t put her finger on just why Laura seemed to like him so much. Maybe the serious, studious types just attracted each other, but as far as Jubilee was concerned, Laura would have been better off going for someone a little less like her. If these two ended up getting together, she figured, they would end up combining into some kind of singularity of Serious Business and she would have to work twice as hard to get them to do anything fun. Oh, the sacrifices she was prepared to make in the name of friendship.

“Up there,” she said, pointing up at a ledge. “My sharp vampire senses have detected someone approaching on this path.”

Whether he bought the line about sharp vampire senses or not, Chris nodded and, with minor effort, dragged himself up the ledge. He even extended a hand to help her up, which she ignored, making her way up in a single bound. No matter how sharp her senses may or may not be, being a vampire did still have some advantages.

She was, of course, cheating. Not only was she not officially part of the exercise, not registered as a member of either team, but she was accessing the Danger Room’s computers on a device that could very easily have been a wrist watch, giving her a most unfair advantage. She had tuned it to Laura’s signature and this was a form of tracking even she could not match.

Jubilee just hoped she would appreciate the length she’d gone through for this.

While they waited, she made a few adjustments on her ‘watch’, making sure what little wind there was blew towards the ledge. Properly positioned, they would be hard to see from below, but it was all for nothing if Laura’s nose picked them up before that.

After a couple of minutes, Laura emerged from the forest, slowly walking through the tall grass, hardly making a sound. Jubilee smiled as she waited. It wasn’t hard to see why he was so interested in her.

Chris had stiffened at the sight of the newcomer. Jubilee had a hand at the back of his shoulder, pushing him down against the ground. If he spazzed out now, it would ruin everything! But to her relief, he quickly relaxed once the surprise faded, and it was only another few moments…

When Laura was close enough, Jubilee sat up and waved.

“Sup, X?”

Laura froze and squinted. She was used to Jubilee popping up out of nowhere, but circumstances were different when they were on different teams.

“You are planning something,” she concluded, eyes quickly scanning the area. Jubilee shrugged.

“Nothing fancy,” she said. “Just thought I’d have my minions take care of you. Here, catch!”

With strength that seemed impossible for such a small woman, she pulled Chris up and shoved him off the ledge.

It was not a very high ledge and he could certainly have managed the landing just fine on his own – but just as she had expected, Laura’s first impulse was not to get out of the way but to try and stop him from busting his head on the ground. She grabbed him instinctively and he latched on to her as well as she pulled them into a roll to absorb the fall.

They came to a stop with Laura on the bottom, almost hidden from view, arms wrapped around Chris’ chest while he had one around her waist, the other on the ground, as if he was trying to push himself off – but it was taking a suspiciously long time. And Laura was certainly not helping either.

Jubilee pumped her fist in the air in a private little moment of celebration. She couldn’t have planned it better – that practically counted as making out already!

They remained in that position for several seconds, and Jubilee couldn’t help but laugh to herself when Chris finally rolled off Laura and they both scrambled back and sat up on the grass, legs pulled up in what she thought rather obvious attempts to conceal just how much they had appreciated that little encounter.

Laura, meanwhile, was not quite as amused. She could still feel the arm around her waist, the warmth and weight on top of her. She had never felt that before – she had even avoided sparring with him previously, knowing that her body might react just as it had now from that sort of close contact. Part of her already regretted letting go, but holding on would – that would have been bad, for many reasons.

“Sorry,” he said as he sat up, quickly pulling his knees up in front of him.

“I concede,” she said at the same time, mirroring the position. Her cock strained against the tight fabric of her pants. If she straightened her legs, it would be clearly visible as it extended down her right thigh, reaching almost down to the knee. “You had me pinned.”

“I, uh,” Chris mumbled, and looked away, looking a little flushed around the ears. “Sorry,” he repeated. “You’re not hurt, are you?”

Laura shook her head. “Nothing worth mentioning. Please.” She held out her left hand for the bracelet. But rather than approach and affix it, he threw the band to her. It was black, a thin strip of rubber with metal at the ends; when wrapped around her wrist, strong magnets in the metal parts kept it closed, and a small yellow LED lit up, signalling a point for the gold team – more for the participants than anything else; the central computer was keeping track of everything even without them.

Chris watched the way she moved as she strapped the bracelet around her wrist, lean muscles rippling under smooth skin. He had no idea why Jubilee had done what she did, and no idea if he should be angry with her. It had been awkward and rather embarrassing, but on the other hand…

He could still feel Laura’s body pressed against his, small and strong, her breasts soft against his chest. Her thigh between his as they rolled. Her hands holding on to him, her arms trying to shield him. His arms around her. She had been warm. She had even smelled nice.

Damn, he should say something. Something that would make her smile, about how stupid this situation was, or about how she must be used to guys throwing themselves at her – but all he could think about was the ghostly memory of her body against his.

That, and the fact that she had pushed him away – well, no, that wasn’t it exactly. They had both pushed away, but she didn’t have the same problem he did. Usually he could keep it reined around her, but feeling her entire body pressed against his had been far too much for his libido and his erection strained painfully inside his boxers.

He sighed. She was as unapproachable as always. Maybe he should just excuse himself and slink off to adjust his pants instead. That sounded safer. Less likely to make him put his foot in his mouth, too.

In the middle of his reverie, he heard the snap of a bracelet closing before he noticed that it was his arm it closed around. It lit up blue, marking a point for the other team.

He looked up at the grinning Jubilee, the culprit responsible. “Sorry,” she said, neither looking nor sounding very sorry at all. “But to tell the truth, I was working for Magneto all along. Now be good and stay right there while I go capture the rest of the X-Men, will ya? Adios!”

She waved as she sprinted off, quickly disappearing between the trees.

Leaving him captured. That meant he was supposed to stay in his current location until the exercise ended.

That meant his plan of running away so he could adjust his underwear was not going to happen.

That meant he was alone with Laura, who wasn’t supposed to go anywhere either.

That was a good thing, wasn’t it?

He looked up at her. She seemed to have been looking in his direction, but quickly turned her head away, brow furrowing in an unreadable expression.

He sighed and pressed his legs tighter together, wincing at the ache in his groin.

He should probably be mad at Jubilee after all.

The match took almost half an hour to finish. Laura and Chris spent most of it in uncomfortable silence. Each tried once or twice to break it, but neither of them could come up with a good topic, and none of the attempts proved very successful. In the end, they simply pulled out their phones and sat there each reading their own thing, only glancing up occasionally.

—–

After leaving the Danger Room, Laura sullenly ignored Jubilee and locked herself in the bathroom to take a very cold shower, and then took another even colder one for good measure. Her erection had shrunk down during those thirty minutes, but her arousal had left her more sensitive than usual and not even the showers helped. She winced as she put her clothes on. It would have been nice to take care of it, but her swift recovery would make such a session take much longer than she cared to spend. It would have to wait.

Jubilee had been sitting on her bed, sulking, as Laura went into the shower. When she came back, Jubilee did not seem to have moved at all.

“You didn’t even talk,” she accused after a few moments.

“No,” Laura admitted. “We did not.”

Jubilee groaned. “So blaming your dumb Wolvie genes.”

Laura sat on her bed and started combing out her hair, still wet from the shower. “My genes do not throw people–”

But she couldn’t muster any real anger. She should scold Jubilee, but at the same time she could still remember how it had felt. Warm and… warm. Being held. And then being thrown back. No, not quite – they had both pushed back at the same time, but at least she had a good reason.

Jubilee sighed. Laura had stopped combing in mid-stroke and sat holding the comb over her shoulder, frowning, obviously thinking way too hard about all the wrong things.

“I set it up so nicely,” she complained. “All alone in the jungle with a perfect topic to break the ice. ‘Man, that Jubilee, what a dick, am I right?’ ‘But she’s way too cute to work for Magneto.’ ‘Not as cute as you.’ ‘We should make out.’ ‘Totally.'”

Jubilee’s attempts at imitating voices were inept at best, and under normal circumstances Laura might have found it amusing. Right now she was too preoccupied to enjoy it. “I do not believe that will happen,” she said, and tugged at the comb as it stuck against a tangle.

Jubilee punched her mattress hard enough to bounce her entire body. “Not if you keep that attitude! Look, take it from a former thief with maybe a tiny little occasional relapse don’t look at me like that what I’m getting at is if you see something you like, you better get your hands on it before someone else comes along and does.”

Laura gave her a blank look, fingers slowly working on the stubborn tangle. Jubilee threw her hands in the air and let herself fall backwards on the bed, staring up at the ceiling.

“You can like each other as much as you like, but if you’re both too dumb to act on it, someone else’ll show up and get in the way. I mean, you’re hot stuff and all, but have you looked around lately? Place is packed with cute mutant chicks. So while you’re waffling about, one day one of ’em’s gonna be like, ‘hey, wanna hang out?’ And he’ll be like ‘sure, what could possibly go wrong?’ And then they’ll be watchin’ the sunset together and she’ll put her hand on his knee and the next thing you know they’re like-”

Jubilee sat up again and picked up the pillow from her bed, then pressed her face into it, making exaggerated kissing noises. Normally that would make Laura sigh and shake her head, but for some reason she found it exceedingly annoying.

“Stop! Stop. I understand. But…”

Jubilee peered at her over the pillow, pink sunglasses askew on her head. “But you still need a hand.”

She dropped the pillow and wiggled her fingers in the air.

“Lucky for you? I’ve still got two.”

After the last bit of ‘help’ out of Jubilee, Laura felt she should be more apprehensive. But she remembered the weight on top of her, the arm around her waist, remembered the warmth and scent, and even if all Jubilee did was keep literally throwing them at each other, it was still making more progress than she had managed on her own the past several months.

Perhaps she had to take the chance, after all.

—–

The encounter in the Danger Room had left Chris undecided as to whether he was more sexually frustrated, angry with Jubilee, or mad at himself, but upon closer examination it was clear that it was primarily the third option.

He had a perfect opportunity, and he let it slip away from him. Even if Laura did turn him down, it must be better to know that she wasn’t interested, so he could stop thinking to himself every time he saw her that one day he would work up the courage to ask her out.

It wasn’t as if he couldn’t talk to girls. Jubilee had been right there, for crying out loud, and he’d been perfectly fine with that. It wasn’t even as if it was her looks throwing him off, Jubilee was hot, but… she still wasn’t Laura.

Although sitting around waiting for the exercise to end had allowed him to cool down enough to walk around without too much of a tent in his pants, he had still taken a long, cold shower after the session, which had had the desired effect, at least physically. But it didn’t wash away the memory of lying on top of Laura, her body pinned under him, and he was starting to wonder if the shower had been cold enough.

It was a shame he didn’t have any more classes that day. He could have used the distraction. The library was the next best thing, so he had headed over there as soon as he dried off, hoping to bury his raging hormones under a mountain of books.

Most of the information was digitalized these days, but the school still ha a sizeable library of older, print on paper books, which saw a slow but steady stream of visitors. Most of them might be more interested in the peace and quiet than the books, but he liked the solid feeling of words he could put his fingers on.

He groaned. Thinking about things he could put his fingers on was not helping.

For some twenty minutes, he sat reading up on the history of mutantkind. The book was outdated, more than a decade old, but the historical aspect was interesting as well. He was in the middle of a chapter about Genosha when someone suddenly plopped down next to him.

“Hey, Batman.”

Chris, whose codename was very much not Batman, jumped and dropped his book and whirled to face the intruder, who smiled sunnily at him, which seemed contradictory for a vampire. He glared back in return.

“Last time you called me that in public,” he noted, “they sent in lawyers by parachute.”

“Sorry, sorry,” said Jubilee, in a tone that suggested she was not only not sorry at all but seriously considering a repeat performance. “But we seriously have to talk. You know Laura, right? Short, black hair, butt almost as cute as mine? Kind of like Isaac Newton in a way, except it’s not so much apples and more people falling off of ledges?”

“Newton did not get hit by– Look, I’m not in the mood. I’m just going to walk out before you start throwing people at me. Again.”

Jubilee put a hand on his shoulder, pressing him down in his chair. She was still smiling, but it was a very determined, serious grip.

“Sorry, but if I have to watch you idiots go at it for one more day I’m going to start tearing my hair out, and I’m not sure it would grow back. So I’m going to have to get serious. So. Laura. You like her, right?”

He looked back blankly. It would be a lie to claim otherwise, but he wasn’t sure if he ought to admit it, least of all to Jubilee. But she didn’t really wait for an answer.

“I know you two keep checking each other out. Blind people are picking up on this. One of you’s gonna blow a gasket unless someone does something about this.”

He didn’t have an answer to that. Jubilee seemed not to care and continued to rant.

“So here’s the deal. You two are going on a date. Officially. Movie, dinner, the works. And you’re going to work shit out before I lock you in a bunker together and throw away the key. I can take care of everything, except this one thing.”

He winced. “The fact that she’d turn me down?”

Jubilee looked shocked. “What?” she sputtered. “No! Have you been listening to a word outta my mouth? She’d hit that like the goddamn Juggernaut! But you know, she’s kinda, uh, complicated. Former assassin? More used to killing people than making out with them? ” She turned away, looking a bit pensive, but seemed to regain her determination just a moment later.

“And she’s a little different. You didn’t happen to pick up on it when I, y’know, smushed you two together before?”

He gave her another blank look. Jubilee looked about furtively, as if expecting someone to listen in. There was no one else around, but she lowered her voice anyway when she spoke. “Look, if this comes out she’ll never forgive me, and I will kick your ass so hard you’ll be wearing it as a hat. If you want to stand a snowball’s chance in hell to get somewhere, tell me you actually like her. Not just as in she has a nice ass, but like, like. You wanna be friends, not just hit it and quit it. All right?”

Her expression was serious. He nodded.

“Yeah,” he admitted. Jubilee’s smile returned.

“Then I’m gonna let you in on a secret. You know how she’s not like a lot of other chicks? Well, she’s not like them in a lot of ways. So, uh. Oh man. Look, she’s got both parts, all right? Down there?”

He frowned, but the image swiftly became clear.

“A hermaphrodite?”

Jubilee frowned in turn. “Izzat what it’s called? Well anyway, she’s, you know, a girl. Except also penis. Thing is. She’s a bit… sensitive about it. So before we do anything, I need to know you won’t freak out and refuse to touch her or anything. Cause that would make her sad, and trust me, she is more than mopey enough as it is. I’m not sayin’ you gotta let her stick it in on the first date or anything, just… Just I gotta know you won’t treat her like she’s disgusting or something.”

She gave him a sympathetic look. “You don’t have to answer right now, just… think about it, okay?”

She started to pull back the hand she kept on his shoulder. He hesitated for a moment, then lunged and grabbed her wrist.

“No.”

She tilted her head.

“I won’t freak out. I mean, I don’t know if we’ll get that far to begin with, but… It’s Laura’s body, right?” He remembered it clearly, how she had felt underneath him, and he knew he wanted to feel that again.

“I want her to be happy,” he finished, feeling his cheeks heat. What a cheesy fucking line! But he actually meant it, and Jubilee whooped and, to his surprise, threw her arms around his neck and pecked him on the cheek.

“I’m startin’ to see what she sees in you,” she said when she pulled back. “Okay, so just leave everything to me. This weekend. I’ll be getting everything ready, so just wait for instructions and be there.”

He smiled back. “I will,” he promised.

—–

Jubilee had to keep herself from skipping and jumping as she ran from the library. It was really the only thing she had been worried about. Some guys just seemed to be born with that obnoxious no homo, bro reflex. She didn’t see why they were so afraid of dicks when they presumably all had one. But that was a huge weight off her shoulders, and now, all that was left was the setup.

She already had something in mind, and felt her lips pull back in a toothy grin. This time, she was bringing heavy artillery.

First she needed to make a few calls. Tickets, reservations – those were the easy bits. Then came the polish. Laura would be simple enough – Jubilee had taken her shopping more than once, so making her presentable for a date wouldn’t take too much work. Chris was another issue – but fortunately, she had favours to call in.

It was never difficult for her to find Wolverine these days. It had become almost instinctive. She put on a hat, pulled her sleeves down over her hands, and went out onto the grounds, where she found him hanging out in the shade behind a shed in the park, sitting on a bench with his legs stretched out, a cigar in one hand and a bottle of beer in the other, looking about as content as he ever did.

“Hey Wolvie,” she said as she shuffled in under the shade as well. “Wanna help get a girl laid?”

Logan, to his credit, did not bat an eye. He simply took a drag from his cigar and blew the smoke skyward.

“I’m flattered, darlin’, but…”

Jubilee flailed her hands as she interrupted. “First of all, ew, and second of all, ew! Look, my mission is to get the awkwardest couple of mutants in the whole wide world to bump uglies, and to do that I need a firetruck, an accordion, and a live deer. So I thought…”

Logan sighed and patted the bench to his right. “Talk,” he said, and crammed the butt of his cigar in an empty bottle, only to fish another out of his pocket.

Jubilee smiled and sat down as he lit it up and took the first pull.

“Actually, I need to have nice suit made so this guy can look presentable on his date. I’m not authorized to handle the replicator after the, you know, spaghetti incident.”

Logan hummed, which sounded noncommittal but probably meant yes, Jubilee figured from experience.

“This one,” she continued, and held out her phone, showing an image. Logan grunted. He did not need to ask who the other half of the “awkwardest couple of mutants in the whole wide world” was.

“About bleedin’ time,” he said, and stuffed his new cigar in the bottle as well.

—–

Jubilee found Laura in their room, lying on her bed with her nose buried in a book, and plopped down next to her, making them both bounce.

“So about your dress,” she said. “Blue or red?”

Laura looked up with a questioning expression.

“For your date,” Jubilee continued.

Laura’s jaw dropped.

“Cause you look great in both,” Jubilee went on, not wanting to give her a chance to object. “The red one’s longer, so it might be nicer to wear to the cinema. Those seats can get a bit ugh. But the blue goes well with your eyes. What do you think?”

Laura seemed to either not think at all, or think far too much, because her expression was blank. “Date?” she asked finally. Jubilee nodded.

“Uh huh. You’re going to watch a movie and visit a nice little restaurant I know about. I know you’re bad at the whole small talk thing, but that’s why you’re watching the movie, to have something harmless to talk about while you wait for the food. So–”

“The black one,” Laura said. Jubilee blinked. “I like that one the best.”

Jubilee whistled. “Bold,” she said, and grinned.

She dug it out of the closet and helped Laura put it on. It was the first dress Laura had felt comfortable in, and Jubilee had to agree that it looked great on her. It covered the front entirely, but was open in the back, held together with crisscrossing straps. The sleeves ended just above the elbows, and the skirt just above the knees. It wasn’t anything special, but the way it showed off her physique it made it smoking hot.

Grinning, Jubilee spun a smiling Laura around in front of the mirror a few times, before they sat down on the bed again. But there, her smile faded and was replaced by a familiar worried frown.

“I appreciate the effort,” she said, looking down at her thighs. “But what of my… body?”

Jubilee shook her head. “It’s fine. Your body’s great, and if he’s worth it, he’ll think so too. And if not, at least you can move on and stop getting all googly-eyed every time one of you sees the other bend over.”

It wasn’t the right thing to say. Laura winced. Jubilee shook her head again, harder this time.

“Look, I don’t think you have anything to worry about. I mean, you two make each other really dumb, so you’ll probably have to fumble a bit, but trust me, he wants to get fumbling at least as much as you do. It’ll be fine.”

“I…”

“Laura.” Jubilee grabbed her by the shoulders, suddenly looking very serious. “Please. You’re driving yourself crazy, and you’re driving me crazier. For everyone’s sake, tell me you’re not backing out now.”

Laura did not tell her that.

—–

Saturday arrived.

Chris had found a parcel sitting outside his door the previous day, containing a neatly folded grey two-piece suit and pristine white shirt. The school had all students on file, and the machinery could produce perfectly fitting garments for any occasion – though usually for more important matters than this. But Jubilee had connections, and he wasn’t going to ask too many questions. She had ordered him to visit her room at seven, and so he did. Laura was nowhere to be found, and Jubilee told him she was already in town and would be waiting at the bus stop. Then she started circling him, squinting as she inspected his outfit – which was a bit stiff, but reasonably comfortable. She made him unbutton the jacket and the top buttons on the shirt before she was satisfied, and ruffled the collar a bit.

“Classy but casual,” she said when she was finished, and made a double thumbs-up.

He looked at his watch. Thirty minutes left.

Jubilee took him by the arm and walked him down to the bus stop outside the school, keeping a slow, steady pace. “Nice and easy,” she said as they headed for the gates. “Keep it up like this, and it’ll be fine.

They didn’t speak much as they waited for the bus. Just as it came into view, Jubilee brought two tickets out of a pocket and handed them over as the bus stopped.

“I think you’re gonna dig this,” she said. “It’s supposed to be very romantic.”

That was all he got before the doors closed behind him, leaving him somewhat apprehensive. Laura would be meeting him – maybe it was Jubilee’s way of making sure he didn’t chicken out. But he had made up his mind, and was not going to turn back.

—–

Laura was waiting at the bus stop, a few minutes’ walk from the cinema. He hardly recognized her at first – almost looked past the small woman in the black dress before he realized what he was looking at.

She looked amazing. The dress showed just enough to hint at her strength, and hid just enough to be alluring. Her hair was done up in a bun pierced with a silver pin, set with a bead that matched her eyes. The effect was not only stunning, but utterly unlike anything he had seen her wear before, and he simply gaped as she came towards him.

“Do I look strange?” was the first thing she said. He shook his head.

“You look great,” he managed, and sounded only a little choked. The corners of her mouth twitched up, just briefly. “Jubilee gave me the tickets,” he continued, so he wouldn’t stand there staring like an idiot. “Shall we?”

She nodded. They walked together in silence, a silence which seemed less awkward, but more tense than it usually did.

When they reached the cinema complex, they found it busy, almost packed. Most of the audience were teenaged girls, several years younger than Chris and Laura – but perhaps that was the kind of showing you got for “very romantic” stuff.

They got seats near the middle of the room, with a good view of the screen. Jubilee, it seemed, had arranged everything perfectly.

At least that was what they thought until the film actually started. After that, it did not take them long to start doubting her again. Not only was it not romantic in the slightest, but utterly awful in just about every way imaginable. It was insipid and uninspired. Vampires were involved, but it soon became apparent that they were nothing like any vampire either Chris or Laura had ever heard of, or wanted to hear of ever again.

They lasted barely half an hour before Laura turned her head and grasped Chris by the wrist.

“This is physically painful,” she said in a harsh whisper. “I want to leave.”

He could only nod, and to the cursing of teenage girls, showered in popcorn, the two of them got out of their seats and fled the building.

“Next time I see Jubilee,” he said once they were outside, and brushed pieces of popcorn from his hair, “I am going to kick her square in the butt.”

Laura nodded. “I will help,” she said, stern-faced.

“I think this is the most we’ve ever spoken outside assignments.”

She tilted her head a little. “Possibly. Jubilee did say the purpose of the movie was to facilitate communication.”

He chuckled. “Do you want to try the restaurant, or have you had enough of her help for one day?”

Laura shook her head. “I promised I would try. I… want to try.”

He nodded.

—–

They kept talking as they walked. Airing their grievances over the terrible crimes against cinematography they had just witnessed was a surprisingly effective way to break the ice. Several times, Laura had actually smiled, and it made her even lovelier than usual.

Before they knew it, they were standing outside the restaurant, which despite their initial misgivings looked rather nice and probably expensive. A waiter gave them a look as they walked in, and bowed lightly as they approached.

Chris tugged at his collar. The place was lit almost entirely by candles. It looked largely unoccupied, but the shadowy booths might have held more people than they seemed and he couldn’t help but feel like people were watching. “We have a reservation under Lee, but I think we may be a bit early. You think you can squeeze us in?”

The waiter smiled the kind of smile service personnel make when they hope to God the customer isn’t going to throw a fit upon being contradicted, even to their benefit.

“Actually, sir, Miss Lee said you should be coming in around now. If you will follow me…”

He made a sweeping gesture, indicating something further within. Chris and Laura looked at each other. He shrugged.

“You think Jubilee…?”

“She expected us to leave early,” Laura said with a slight nod.

“She’s more clever than I give her credit for.”

“She is,” Laura agreed, and stepped in, following the waiter.

They ended up in a small booth with a view over the darkened street outside. Small might not be the right word – cramped was more like it, and as they sat facing each other over a round wrought-iron table, it seemed impossible not to let their legs brush against each other.

While they fidgeted in their chairs, the waiter produced two menus and disappeared.

“She… planned this as well,” Chris said after a while. Laura nodded.

“Almost certainly.”

He would have said something, made a dry remark about getting payback, but it was becoming obvious that there was no comfortable way to avoid contact under the table the way its legs were spaced and the chairs located. The less they moved, the less awkward it seemed… but it left them each with their left leg stuck between the other’s knees.

He certainly didn’t mind. And Laura… It was hard to tell, but she didn’t seem upset either.

Eventually they turned to the menus and allowed their legs to remain still, pressed against each other as they were.

—–

Complaints about the awful movie could not last them forever, but the food arrived before they ran dry, and it was very good. Small movements made their legs rub together under the table, but by then it seemed almost natural.

They ended up staying for dessert as well, then sat next to each other on the bus back, knees and elbows touching, almost as if by accident.

The school was less busy than in the day, but it was still inhabited by teenagers, and there was light and noise as they headed towards Laura and Jubilee’s room, treading lightly.

Taped to the door was a note with the words Now KISS scribbled on it in pink marker and what Laura recognized as Jubilee’s handwriting.

Underneath was another note, which said, in much neater letters No making out in the corridors. It was signed Logan. Underneath that, Jubilee had scrawled So use our room. Duh.

Laura tore down both notes and crumpled them in her fist. Fortunately, she thought, there would not be too many people passing by this time of the night – but she would need to have words with Jubilee.

But that would be something for later. She turned the handle; the door was unlocked. She looked inside and back out again, at her escort who was trying to look as if he hadn’t read a word of those notes.

“Come,” she said, holding out a hand.

He did, and she closed the door behind them.