The Trouble with Triangles: Part 3
For years, Dr. Cecilia Reyes has viewed her hands as precision instruments. They've removed appendices, preformed difficult surgical procedures and spent countless hours in triage sewing sutures. This evening, however, they are engaged in a different, yet no less precise ordeal...applying mascara to her eye-lashes.
As she leans toward a mirror in the women's dormitory bathroom and opens her mouth wide, a gesture all women seem to find themselves making as they apply mascara, though none of them can explain exactly why, she curses to herself, "I hate this! Why did I say yes? I can't stand dressing up!"
After finally applying the mascara and smudging a faint hint of lipstick across her lips, she stands back to view herself in the full-length mirror. She turns slightly and examines her image from over her shoulder, happy that the black sarong she borrowed from the much taller Ororo doesn't drag the ground and that she found a nice shirt of her own to wear with it. Again facing the mirror, she grabs a clip from a nearby counter pulls her hair up as she asks herself, Why am I doing this?
Before she can answer her own question, she hears a cat-call whistle from the bathroom door. Startled, she turns around and sees Rogue leaning lazily against the door jamb.
Cecilia grins and shakes her head in amusement as Rogue makes her way into the washroom area of the bathroom. Still dressed in her pajamas, though she's been awake for hours, she gives Cecilia one more appraising look and says, "My, my. Don't we look all special tonight? That Hank sure is one lucky fella."
Folding her arms across her chest, Cecilia says, "I have a date with Drake."
Grabbing a towel and heading for the shower, Rogue says, "So you ain't going out with Hank? Funny, Ah thought will all the sparks flying between ya, ya'll would be together in no time. Guess a girl misses a lot when she sleeps all day. Have fun."
Rogue then closes the door and turns on the water for her shower, and Cecilia is left alone with her thoughts. And what was that supposed to mean? Sparks between me and Hank? Yeah, right. There's no way he could ever be interested in me... or could he?
Cecilia groans in frustration as she walks back to her room in order to retrieve her purse before heading down to meet Bobby in the mansion's foyer. She picks up the small, beaded satchel from her makeshift dresser and then sits on her bed for a moment to compose herself and think over the realization Rogue's comment has made her come to. She starts to remember the last few months she's spent with Hank, how their bond has developed beyond common scientific fascination, how they spend hours together even if there isn't pressing work to be done in the med-lab. And then she thinks back to this afternoon and remembers how his demeanor changed the minute he found out about her date with Bobby. At first, she thought he was just lonely because of his recent break-up, but now she is beginning to think otherwise.
As she sits on her bed she sighs heavily, propping her head in her hands and thinking to herself, And here I am making it even more difficult. I try to spend as much time with him as possible...it's like I'm just drawn to him and I don't know why. It's like this place is infectious and everyone in it eventually gets bitten with the 'romance with a teammate' bug. And now I've been sucked in, too! But he is the only person I've felt really felt comfortable around in this house since I've been here, and now I've got to ruin it by going out with his best friend! I probably just lost any chance I had with him. Lord, I have been brought into this house's madness...hook, line, and sinker!
She throws down her purse, walks to the room's large window and presses her forehead against its cool glass as she looks out at the green, rolling hills of the estate's grounds. Why do I do this to myself? He probably doesn't see me as any more than a friend. And I can accept that. But if... if he saw me as more, then well, this chica's in quite a mess.
Turning away from the window, she catches a glimpse of the analog clock sitting on the floor next to a large pile of medical books. Its red numbers read 6:28 and she knows it's time to face up to her evening's obligations.
As she picks her purse off the floor and heads for the door, she thinks, And what about Bobby? I did say yes to him for a reason. Sure, we got off on the wrong foot...but he is a lot of fun and pretty cute in his own way. He's not the kind of person I would imagine myself with...but I think if I gave him half a chance we could really hit it off...and he can kiss. I'll give him that! Dios, he's been so patient with me. I never knew how he felt until today. The poor guy must have thought I hated him, the way I treated him. I had no idea. And there I was thinking he just saw me as another mutant to add to the collection they've got here. It's funny, I kind of like the idea that I've been driving him nuts since I've been here. I never knew I had it in me.
She grins to herself as she descends the mansions large, elaborate staircase, genuinely looking forward to seeing Bobby at the foot of it. Instead she finds the foyer empty. She looks down at her watch, which reads six-thirty...the exact time Bobby asked her to meet him. She sighs to herself as her heels click noisily across the hardwood floor and hopes Bobby won't keep her waiting long.
As she paces slowly near the heavy, wooden front door, she hears someone getting off the elevator that services the mansions lower levels. She expects it to be Bobby but instead finds herself making eye-contact with none other than Hank McCoy. As soon as her brain processes who it is, she looks awkwardly down at her feet. All the feelings she had been mulling over in her mind only moments before come rushing back to her, and she finds that she is at a loss for words. Luckily, Beast fills her silence with a chivalrous, "My, you look perfectly exquisite this evening, Cecilia."
Cecilia smiles demurely and looks up at him, somewhat embarrassed as she says, "Why thank you. Thank you very much."
She watches Hank as he opens his mouth to say something else, but closes it instead. For a moment, he looks around the room as if he has forgotten something important and then says distractedly, "So I gather you are waiting for the young, errant Robert Drake?"
"Yes I am."
"Do you have any idea where he might be?"
"No. I haven't seen him since this morning."
"Neither has anyone else. I gather that he went into the city for the day."
Cecilia twists the string of her satchel around her index finger as she says, "Well, I hope he gets here soon. You know, considering how I interrupted my busy schedule for this."
Chuckling softly, Hank says, "Oh yes. A tough day of drinking coffee, reading the paper, sorting medical supplies and generally annoying the stuffing out of Marrow. Such a difficult life you lead, gentle doctor."
Enjoying the game her and Hank have started, Cecilia continues, "Not to mention fighting off the hormonally-crazed Maggott."
Hank rolls his eyes in amusement at the mention of Maggott and says, "Marrow and Maggott. I swear, the newer the X-Men, the more disgusting the codenames. Perhaps you should top them both and invent one twice as disgusting? Though your power doesn't lend itself to as graphic monikers as theirs."
Smiling to herself as she traces a grain on the hardwood floor with the toe of her shoe, Cecilia says, "I dunno. I'm sure we could come up with something. But I don't think I'm the type for codenames, much less super heroing. I'm not the masked avenger type."
Grinning coyly, Hank says, "Oh, I think all you need is a stupendous war cry. If you find yourself a worthy war cry, I think we would have you in a suit of unstable molecules in no time. We wouldn't be able to restrain you from the action."
Cecilia shakes her head as she retorts, "Oh, you just keep talking, McCoy. You just want to see me make a fool of myself. That's it isn't it?"
Suddenly serious, Beast says softly, "No, that's not it, Cecilia. That's not it at all."
As she holds his gaze for a moment and notices the somber look in his eyes, her heart skips a beat and she finds herself wondering if her hypothesis about Hank could be true, if he really could have feelings for her. She fights the urge to soothe away his melancholy, to hold him tight and tell him that whatever it is, it will be okay, and instead shifts uneasily on her sandaled feet while turning her eyes away from him.
After a few awkward seconds, Hank offers, "So how delinquent is he?"
Cecilia glances at her watch and says quietly, "Ten minutes."
"That's not too unforgivable. I'm sure the traffic coming in from New York is atrocious."
"I'm sure, I just hope I'm not left dateless. It'd be a shame to waste this outfit on a night of television and self-pity." As the words leave her lips, she realizes that taken the wrong way they could sound like a suggestion. Anxiously, she hopes Beast does not take her words as an invite. Though she would hardly mind the company if she were indeed stood up, Cecilia's sure the move would be lacking in decorum. And while she's never cared much for adhering to society's unwritten codes, she knows that a tryst with Hank would hardly be appropriate or healthy for any party involved.
As she weighs these thoughts, she hears Hank say in a quite gallant manner, "Dear me! We could never have such a striking beauty as yourself spend the evening pitying herself while watching mindless infomercials. No, no. I wouldn't settle for that at all."
Though uneasy because of his reaction to her words, Cecilia is nonetheless charmed by his delivery and retorts without thinking, "My, that sounds promising."
Hank smiles his most charming smile as he says, "Oh 'twould be a grand time."
Taking her hand playfully into his own, Hank says, "Ah. It would. It sincerely would." Though Cecilia tries to convince herself that their tete-a-tete is just another one of their silly games, she finds herself sharing a rather meaningful look with Hank...a glance that makes her realize her instincts about his feelings had been correct.
She lets her hand linger in his, squeezing it gently in return. Then she suddenly hears behind her, "Son of a bitch!"
Startled, Hank drops Cecilia's hand and falters, "Bobby? How long have you been there?"
Bobby stands under one of the large archways leading into the foyer as he clutches a bouquet of wild flowers in his left hand, their petals trembling from his unsteady grip. He seethes, "Long enough."
Trying her best to take the tension out of the situation she's found herself in, Cecilia says, "It was nothing, Bobby. We were just kidding around. There's no need to overreact."
Still holding tightly onto the flowers, Bobby walks closer to Hank and Cecilia as he says, "I'll overreact if I want to. And I'd hardly say it was nothing. I know him better than anyone and I saw the way he was looking at you."
Backing away from Cecilia and trying his hardest to make his large frame appear as unassuming as possible, Hank says, "Honestly, Bobby. It wasn't anything."
"Jesus! Don't lie to me, Hank! I'm not the idiot everyone thinks I am. Over the last few months I suspected that there was something going on between you two, but I thought I was just being paranoid. Seeing the two of you together just now made me realize I should have trusted my gut feelings."
Cecilia shakes her head as she says, "Bobby, I..."
He ignores Cecilia as he continues, "So when were you guys going to tell me about this?"
As Hank stands silently, avoiding eye contact with either of them, Cecilia volunteers, "It just happened, Bobby. It was completely innocent."
Planting her hands firmly on her hips, Cecilia fumes, "What is your problem!? It's not like I'm married to you...it's not like Hank and I even did anything! What right do you have to come in here and act like this? Why I ought to..."
Hank puts a hand on Cecilia's shoulder as her interrupts her, saying, "He's right, Cecilia. I do owe him an explanation."
Looking at him in both confusion and amazement, Cecilia asks, "What?"
Releasing his light grip on her shoulder, Hank says to Bobby, "I wanted to discuss this with you, actually. It's just that... circumstances began to get out of hand... it all happened so quickly between the two of you... I had no idea that..."
"How long have you been interested in her, Hank?"
"I didn't want to..."
"We can converse about this subject later."
Bobby tightens his fists and a few flower petals fall to the floor as he bellows, "How the hell long, Hank?!"
Holding one of his large hands up to his face, Hank says, "Apparently for almost as long as I've known her."
Cecilia stands with her mouth agape in the center of the room as Bobby groans in frustration and collapses into a chair and Hank closes his eyes in an attempt to deal with his obvious mortification. She can't believe that she's found herself hip- deep in the middle of a love triangle, much less a triangle of X-Men proportions. A part of her is just as embarrassed as Hank, while another part of her is as frustrated Bobby, yet the rest of her is oddly flattered. That last third of her is thrilled at being the object of affection between these two quite desirable men.
She glaces over at Hank, delighted that he has actually verbalized his romantic feelings for her. The fact that he's obviously feeling guilty over his confession and how it's effected his friend only serves to make him all the more endearing to her. She finds herself wondering what it would be like to hold him close to her at this moment, to run her fingers through his soft fur, to let him know how important he's been to her. Stopping those thoughts short, Cecilia then looks to Bobby slumped in his chair, and even though she's irritated with his dramatic behavior, she finds herself curiously excited by it. She can't help but dwell on how handsome he looks in the suit he's wearing, how the late afternoon sun picks up the tiniest glint of gold in his brown hair, how she can read all of his hurt and disappointment in his eyes, how much fun they could have if only...
Cecilia fights off the conflicting emotions within her mind, afraid that she might actually enjoy playing the flirtatious coquette, and assumes the aggressive, no-nonsense persona she is most comfortable with. She then thinks to herself, Now if I can only figure out what the Hell to say...
Hank breaks the eerie silence with an awkward, "So what happens now?"
From his chair, Bobby says, "Damned if I know."
Hank then volunteers amicably, "Why don't you and Cecilia go ahead out and we'll deal with this later? I really didn't intend to ruin your evening."
Sinking deeper in the chair, Bobby sulks, "Well, I've already damaged it plenty myself. I'm such a loser. She's going to choose you anyway..."
"Now, she did say yes to you, my friend. And I'm sure that she sees many redeeming qualities in you. Plus, I'm hardly a decent night on the town with no image-inducers in the house."
Finally, Cecilia finds the voice to speak and says, "Would you two please stop talking about me like I'm not in the room?"
They both look at her apologetically and say in unison, "Sorry."
"Thank you. Okay... First off. Bobby, sure you act like an ass plenty of the time, tonight is even a darned good example of that, but you are hardly a loser. Hank's right. I did say yes to you for a reason. Actually, for quite a few. Second. Hank, you're not the embarrassment you seem to think you are. I happen to find blue fur rather attractive in a man."
Bobby opens his mouth to speak and is cut off by Cecilia, who says, "I'm not finished! And third. Well, third, I'm going to borrow one of the cars from the garage and go for a long drive. Alone. I can't believe I got dragged into your silly little soap opera, I don't understand how this situation got out of control, and I am not about to choose between two best friends who may or may not be on speaking terms once the whole nasty ordeal is over! I don't want it. I don't need it. I can live with the what-ifs, but I can't live with that."
Cecilia then walks to the front door and says bluntly as she opens it and glares at the two men, "Dios. If I wasn't so fond of the two of you, I'd really hate you right now."
As the door slams loudly, Hank and Bobby both stare dejectedly after Cecilia. Bobby gets to his feet in an attempt to follow her and Hank gently restrains him, saying, "I think you'd best let her go, Bobby."
Cursing under his breath, Bobby throws the flowers to the floor and then says, in a surprisingly calm tone of voice, "Yeah. You're right."
Outside, they hear a car engine turn over and roar to life. Then through of one of the foyer's large-paned windows, they glimpse Cecilia's car speeding down the driveway, kicking up dust and crunching gravel loudly.
As the car turns onto the access with a squeal, Hank asks absently, "Why didn't you acquaint me with your feelings for her?"
Bobby closes his eyes and sighs deeply as he says, "Because I was afraid this might happen. And guess what?"
Hank groans before he says quietly, "It did anyway."