A New Hope
by Min

You do not know the power of the Dark Side. Obi-Wan never told you what happened to your father...

He told me enough! He told me you killed him!

"Dart Vadar! He's Dart Vadar!" Vicky jabbered excitedly at the television screen even though she had seen the movie for the umpteenth time. In retrospect, Bobby decided that introducing his six-year old daughter to Star Wars wasn't a very good idea after all. Vicky was tugging at his shirt, trying to draw an acknowledgement for her astute observation. "His Daddy's Dart Vadar, right? Bobby?"

"Yep, he is, he is. See -," the movie moved to the startling revelation, "you've got it right again." Vicky subsided and Bobby managed to coax her to sit quietly in his lap once more.

Emma walked into the room, a slight crease between her brows. She glanced at the screen to see what the commotion was all about.

"Haven't you watched that movie to death? It's ridiculous - the way both of you get so excited over something you've seen hundreds of time."

She turned her back to retrieve a coaster from the table. Father and daughter took one look and began to make gagging motions like the ones Darth Vader's victims make when they had their throats crushed out of them. Vicky giggled and Emma turned around.

"C'mon, Em," Bobby came to his daughter's rescue, "it's a great show. Come over here and join us."

Emma was on the verge of refusing when she hesitated. Finally, she went over to join them on the couch. She felt Bobby's arm slip familiarly around her shoulder as she settled down beside him. Bending down, Bobby whispered to Vicky, "That's one you owe me, kid." Vicky placed both hands on his head and messed up his already unruly hair.

Vicky was tired. She didn't perk up during the last battle between the Millennium Falcon and the Star Destroyers. She didn't even spend much energy cajoling Emma for a little bit of hot chocolate, a request denied because she had brushed her teeth. When the credits began to roll, the six-year old was yawning uncontrollably.

"Better tuck her in, Bobby. It's long pass her bedtime already."

"Can't I stay up a 'lil longer?"

Vicky protested sleepily as Bobby hoisted her up and planted her on his shoulders. "Sorry. No can do, kiddo. Now give your mommy a goodnight kiss before we deactivate you."

"Deactivate," Vicky repeated, chortling. "I want to be deactivated!"

She bent down from Bobby's shoulders to hug Emma.

" 'Night, Mommy."

"Goodnight." Emma received the gesture of affection with a smile. Inwardly, she was uncomfortable with it, a mother who rarely saw her daughter except during the holidays. It was Thanksgiving's Eve and Bobby had brought Vicky down to Massachusetts for a visit. The both of them tried the best they could to give the girl the semblance of a family life but Emma knew she was not doing her part.

She remained behind, clearing the coffee table as Bobby tried to run up the stairs two steps at a time with Vicky shouting encouragement from his shoulders. The woodwork shook with the movement. God, they're like a pair of elephants! She thought in amused exasperation as she tidied up the copies of the Time magazine.

Silence reigned. Then she heard the faint stirring of guitar notes. Putting down a magazine, Emma felt herself led to the source of the playing. Quietly, she stopped outside the door, hearing every word that went on.

"C'mon, Vicky. I mean, I promised we'd go swimming in the biosphere tomorrow. Be a good girl and close your eyes - I've counted your toes, they're all there - no monster's going to get them. Just sleep tight -"

"But why can't you sing me that song? I just want that song."

"Not here, okay? Think of something else?"

A breath of silence. And then Bobby's sigh, "Oh, alright, alright. Just that one, promise?"

"Uh huh!"

Emma wondered how Vicky managed to get what she wanted. She smiled to herself, thinking about the ease at which the little girl could slip into her father's heart. But at the same time, she felt a sense of sadness as well. Many times, she found that she could not understand what they were talking about. She was a stranger to their special code of language, to their world, comprised of things they both knew and loved.

The guitar notes stirred, a soft brush of melody that played on the heartstrings.

When I asked your mother for you,
She told me you were too young.
Now I wished I'd never even seen your face,
Or heard your lyin' tongue.

It was a delightful little piece. Emma covered her eyes with her hand, amused that her daughter would want Bobby to sing a love song. Trust children to have the most incongruous of tastes.

So Saturday night I got married,
Me and my wife settled down.
Now me and my wife are parted,
I'm gonna take another stroll downtown.

She frowned. She was more than a little irritated over the fact that Bobby would teach such a song to Vicky. What was he trying to do? There was no need to drag the child into something that was between the both of them. It had been resolved so long ago. It had been, she insisted. She was thinking about all this that it took her some time to realise Bobby had stopped playing.

"Can we just sing this part the way it is?" He asked, not expecting to get any compliance to his wishes. Emma could imagine Vicky shaking her head empathetically. As much as she was disturbed by the song, she wanted to hear more about it, wanted to know why Bobby was so hesitant about singing the next part. Another brief silence and Bobby began to sing again, this time very softly, so softly Emma had to strain her ears to listen.

Emma goodnight, Emma goodnight,
Goodnight Emma, goodnight Emma,
I'll see you in my dreams.

His voice trailed off with the last words. The strings stirred and stopped.

"Thank you, Bobby."

"G'night, Sunshine."

Emma heard the click of the switch and the lights went off. Bobby came out of the room and saw her standing there. He looked away. Closing the door softly, he stepped aside to keep the instrument in its bag. Anything rather than talk to her. Slinging the strap on his shoulder, he walked in the direction of his room - the guestroom.

"I heard everything," she called out softly after him. Not wanting to disturb Vicky.

Bobby stopped. He half-turned around and shrugged, staring at the ground. It was a gesture that Emma had learnt to read in so many ways. But for some reason, she chose to read it different from the way Bobby intended it to be. She chose to become angry.

"Is that what you have doing it all this while? Telling Vicky about us?" Bobby looked at her for a while before turning back to go to his room. But Emma was not ready to let him go so soon.

"So the whole thing boils down emotional blackmail? When the time comes for you to tally the score, when you finally press down on that lever, am I suppose to change my mind about all this? Is that the kind of edge you want to have over me? Don't you understand, Bobby Drake? There can be nothing else between us; harping over what we had doesn't make it any easier!"

That last part came out as a shout. She couldn't help it. She ran a hand through her hair, an uncharacteristic gesture that revealed how unsettled she was.

Bobby was expressionless. Then he strode quickly into the room to put down the guitar before reappearing again. Walking forward, he ushered Emma back to the living room. She complied. But she refused to sit down when he did. She walked to and fro, refusing to meet his eyes.

"Tell me what you want, Bobby. I can't be playing games with you all the time."

"Who's the one playing games?" His voice was soft.

Her eyes flashed on him. "Are you implying that I am? Because if you are - I've never given you cause to believe that there was going to be anything more between us. There had been, I'll admit but it was gone a long time ago. Be realistic, Robert. We've been divorced for a few years now; I have my life to lead and so do you. Stop inventing the emotional excuses and get on with yours."

"Then why haven't you let go?"

Emma drew a deep breath.

"Do you want things to go to that state? What about Vicky? It's hard enough that I don't see her as often as I should be. She doesn't need to know that her parents are so estranged as not to provide her with a normal family life."

Bobby sighed, his quiet voice a far cry from her agitated one.

"You know what I mean, and you're not answering the question."

"What's answering the question then? You and I have agreed, back when we separated that we were going to hide the issue from Vicky - that it's simply our busy schedules which makes us live apart. I've kept my side of the bargain. Is this masquerade too taxing for you? Well, if it is, I'd be more than glad to hear you say it."

Bobby looked up at her, a sombre expression on his face.

"Do you know that you've never given me an explanation as to why you think our marriage never worked out?"

Their eyes met for a long time before Emma pulled away.

"You said you needed time, and I gave you that time. You said you were never comfortable with being married, of being a wife and a mother. I accepted that - I had to, I don't want to see you cage yourself in something you couldn't get used to, I don't want to see you pine and die because of the fact that we had to marry when Vicky came along - I don't want all that because I love you. And so I wait - but whenever I try to bring up the issue, you get all defensive and skirt away from it. Fine, I say - maybe you need more time and so I waited some more. But it's been four goddamn years, Emma - what the hell are you running away from?"

Vicky couldn't sleep. Her room was nice, it had beautiful wallpaper with the Death Star and X-Wings on it. But it was too big and too empty. And it didn't feel right. She could count with all her fingers the number of times she stayed in this room every year.

Back in the mansion, she shared Bobby's room. The mansion was huge but with the number of people staying in it now, there wasn't much space to go around. Which was fine by her because she loved being near Bobby. There was talk that when she grew bigger, she could have a room with one of the older kids like herself, someone like Rachel. She didn't want that day to come.

Sure, she liked Rachel and Aunt Jean treated her like she was her own kid but Vicky knew she would miss Bobby badly. Even though she'd see him everyday but it still wouldn't be right. After all, Bobby made sure that the monster under her bed wasn't going to run away with any of her toes because he was simply there; he was the one sang for her and taught her to sing all those songs to chased away the nightmares.

Visiting Mom taught Vicky how it felt when those days are to come and she didn't like it one bit. And Mom was scary - she was so different from Aunt Jean or Aunt Rogue. She was so far away that she didn't feel like a mom at all. And Vicky didn't like Bobby leaving her to sleep in this room alone when they came here. She'd feel scared in the middle of the night and she'd run to his room to find him but she never found him there. She'd know where he was - in Mom's room. And she dare not go there to find him because Mom might get angry.

Grabbing hold to Bobster Bear, she slipped out of bed softly. It sounded quiet outside, their voices were gone but she had to make sure. She couched down by the door and decided to wait until it was really safe. The kitchen was a nice place; there was orange juice in the fridge. She'd remember to brush her teeth again before she went back to sleep. Nobody would know.

They sat apart from each other. The room was steeped in silence except for the crackling of the fire. Nothing more was said after Bobby's outburst of questions. From his vantage, he saw Emma chew her lower lip surreptitiously, lost in thought. The mahogany clock in the foyer chimed eleven times.

He rose finally, tired of waiting.

"Goodnight." He bade her quietly, preparing to go to his room.

"There's no need to make our meetings a chore, you know." Her voice fell like a pin in the room.

He didn't turn around but he stopped walking.

"Why can't we just go on like this, the way we are?" She resumed softly. "Why must you force every issue to its logical conclusion? I'm quite content with things as they are. There isn't anybody in my life - I doubt there will be. Unless - " here she looked up at him, "unless you have plans that the current arrangement threatens?"

He glanced at her eyes and saw the tinge of anxiety in them. It was the same old question again, just phrased differently. Every time he visited, she'd put him through the routine. It veiled thinly what she could never pluck the courage to ask outright - had he found another he loved?

"No." A tremulous sigh.

"But," he continued, refusing to simply give in just like that, "I've had new responsibilities. Vicky demands most of my time - and you wouldn't believe it, but raising a kid is more than a handful. And I've got to explain to her why her own mother is not around to take care of her when she's sick and things like that. Do you know how hard it is to do that? Sometimes, I tread the line so thinly, telling her you're busy, that you'd visit soon. So much that there are times I even believe it myself."

He turn around to face her outright. "How long do I have to go on telling her those lies? Because she's bound to know, sooner or later. She's going to ask herself why doesn't she have a mother like other normal kids and why her daddy doesn't have a wife."

She won every round of the game they played. He had never dared to force the issue to its logical conclusion. But for once, he was tired of the dance she forced them to enact. One step forward, two steps back. Their tête-à-tête had to stop, it was going nowhere, this secretive relationship with his technically divorced wife. But in the end, it wasn't fair to the kid.

Emma refuse to meet his eyes. He back sat down on his seat after a while, not willing to accept the defeat or was it victory? - that her silence awarded. The determination remained, to wrangle out some sort of explanation from her tonight. To say "it can wait; leave it for another day" was suicidal. He died a little every day; a bout of questioning by Vicky always left him feeling so lonely and absurd as he laid in bed at night, unable to sleep.

Her voice brought him out of his reverie. She must have been talking for a while, so softly she spoke that her pensive tone did little to penetrate the silence between them. But even as his ears pricked at her words, it didn't seem as if she was talking to him at all.

" - it's like peering over a cliff that sudden looms ahead of you. Along the way, you took a wrong turn and now you have to take that fatal step. Once, maybe twice in my life, I took that leap of faith. I closed my eyes and hurtled off the edge. The wind was rushing pass my ears - it was exhilarating. I've never felt so alive. But the last few seconds - thoughts of mortality began to intrude - was I going to die? Would I crash into the rocks below? Retrospectively speaking, I keep thinking that I've shattered my entire life on those rocks and," she swallowed to clear her voice, "I've wilfully invited along several people for the ride - consequences I must now address. But there are times when I believe that the fall isn't over yet. I'm still falling - only I've forgotten how it was to feel the wind rushing pass me."

She rested her head against her hand, her blonde hair falling over her face so that he could not see her expression.

He walked forward and couched down before her. Reaching out, he tucked her hair behind her ear. The other hand, he interlaced with her limp one. "It isn't over if you think it isn't. If it was in my command, the fall will never end. We'll never have to worry about those rocks below. If you promise that you'll help me make it happen."

She smiled a bittersweet smile. Flecks of yellow light from the fireplace danced quietly in her wistful eyes. The light touch of her fingers trailing over his arm made him draw a deep breath.

"So tell me, " her voice lapped against his consciousness like a wave. "Has Theseus found his way out of the labyrinth yet?"

He smiled, despite himself. "He's going to try and get out of there as soon as possible. Can't wait to see Ariadne again."

He remembered the times when they use to read a book together. She'd lie against him like he was her backrest while they thumb through the pages, one protesting when the other went too fast. While going through Ovid's Metamorphoses, they had tried to match friends and acquaintances with the various characters inside. The thread sparked off as Emma teasingly likened him to the Minotaur - a bull in a china shop, she said. But Bobby preferred to be Theseus, the man who killed the beast. When there's a will, there's a way, he'd always believed in that.

"He abandoned her soon after that," she murmured and left his side.

It was weird, Vicky thought as she sat there in the darkness. Why did Bobby tell her he was sleeping in his own room when he wasn't? Dads and moms always slept together - so why did he have to lie? She knew what he would say if she asked him, "When you grow older, everything will make sense." Well, Vicky decided that she wasn't going to grow up. It was too complicated.

Just now, she had felt a tingling sensation at the back of her head telling her that Mom was just behind the door. She was getting these tingles very often lately. And she thought it'd be fun if she could just get Bobby to sing that song. She was sure that was what they were talking about when he left the room. Because something just didn't feel right about the both of them.

If everything was fine, Aunts Jean and Rogue won't try so hard to get Bobby to meet other girls. Uncles Scott and Remy didn't meet other girls - the last time Uncle Remy did, Aunt Rogue kicked such a big fuss and almost left the mansion. Vicky wondered why Mom didn't do anything. Maybe she didn't know. But Vicky knew how much Bobby hated those meetings. There were many times when he wanted to bring her along but Aunt Jean and Rogue would stop him. Then when he came home, he'd say his Vickster was the best. But somehow - that wasn't the truth either.

Han and Leia didn't do things this way. All they said were, "I love you." "I know." Even for a six year-old, it made a lot more sense.

Emma walked over to the bar to pour a drink for herself and disposed half a glass of bourbon with several quick swallows. She felt him follow behind, his voice murmuring softly next to her ear.

"You shouldn't be drinking so much, you know." He reached out to remove the glass from her grasp. His other hand came down gently on her shoulder and began squeezing it. She allowed herself to relax under his gentle administration.

"How's things at the academy lately?"

"Fine. Jubilee has finally left to pursue a college degree - the last of the original Gen-X." Suddenly, she felt inexpressibly tired and she knew the slump in her shoulders told him what she felt. "Time really flies. Before you know it, what you've taken for certainties are left behind. People become absolute strangers and it seems like you're who hasn't changed, the one who's been left behind."

He didn't say anything to counteract that because to a certain extent, they both knew it was true.

On her part, she wished so much to submerge herself into the depths of his unending nature. The years must have blinded her. This was a man whom she had once thought shallow and inadequate even as the sense of loss and emptiness in her life gravitated her towards him. And now he was showing new aspects of his personality - so much that she didn't know him anymore.

Wordlessly, he poured for himself a glass of the same liquor, downing it with a gulp. Gently, he turned her around and surveyed her face carefully. She knew there were new wrinkles around her eyes, she was after all, thirty-nine.

His voice held a note of beseeching. "Doesn't it make you want to do some things different? Or at least -"

She put a finger to his lips and shook her head. Not tonight. Her fears and longings intruded more pressingly every time they meet. One of these days - one of these days she would face them, one day she would find the means to conquer the demons from her past, but not tonight. She opened the telepathic link they still shared, telling him in thoughts what words couldn't say.

Emma caught movement in the darken balcony above and saw a small figure creep noiselessly towards the railing. And couldn't help but smile to herself.

Time wasn't running out for them. There are still the years ahead. But the dream never died - when Bobby woke up in the morning, he wanted to see that face beside him, everyday, year reiterating year, decade after decade.

His hand went to the back of her neck, massaging the muscles there - it felt so right. A solemn half-smile played on her lips, gentle and inviting. Bending forward, he covered her mouth with his. The interplay of their tongues, a rite of passage that sealed an unspoken promise.

As he drew her over to the couch, he knew he might wake up in the morning, wondering where all this was going. But there was her pledge tonight and he held on to it as tightly as he held her now.

Vicky hugged the banisters, Bobster Bear propped against her knees as she watched the spectacle unfold below her. They were kissing. Just like in the movies. It was beautiful.

She knew Bobby was happy. She could feel it. And she knew somehow that everything will turn out right. Movies always end that way.

She remembered how Bobby would cover her eyes up when two people in a show were kissing like their lives depended on it. He'd say, "When you grow older, everything will make sense." She remembered she didn't want to grow up so she covered her eyes. Along the way back to her room, she walked into a wall and had to stifle her yelp. But she knew what she wanted - she wasn't going to be another 3-PO. That orange juice could always wait until tomorrow.

The End

Disclaimer: The adults belong to Marvel. Vicky's mine. Star Wars and all related indicia belong to George Lucas.

This takes place after White, before Vicky's Diary. The events here were mentioned briefly in Vicky's Diary, Part 2. This piece is for DuAnn Cowart whose enthusiastic support never fails to drive away those writer's blocks. Also infinite thanks to Mirage for her reminder, "Stop making Bobby so $%(*)&# passive all the time!" I might have gone overboard with the Star Wars references here but I figure that many people in the group are SF fans as well. Finally, feedback please?

-(main) - (biography) - (discussion) - (stories) - (pictures) - (links) - (updates)-