The three boys of Generation X were hunched around the TV in a spirit of male bonding this night just before Valentine's Day.
Upstairs, the girls were getting into the Valentine's Day spirit and watching romantic movies - Penance, too if you could believe it! They'd been parked in front of the upstairs TV all day. So far, they'd gone through Casablanca, Gone with the Wind, and were currently watching While You Were Sleeping.
As the boys had crept past the rec room after dinner had been served, there were giggles from the lounge - Jubilee's gurgle of amusement and Paige's liquid laugh as Sandra Bullock dug herself deeper into the plotline's murky twists.
"I don't understand why she doesn't tell them that she's not engaged to him," Gaia said plaintively.
That drew howls from Jubilee and Paige, and a throaty snort of amusement from Monet as they all proceeded to try to explain to Gaia the complexities of human relationships.
As they made their way down the hall, Gaia's voice drifted after them, "I still don't get it."
Angelo grinned as he and Ev descended the steps down to Jono's lair. "Sounds like Gaia could do with an introduction into relationships, Ev. LURVE 101…"
Everett glanced sideways at his teasing friend, "You're offering to take the course?"
"Hey, amigos, you seem to like her - I thought that maybe you might be thinking of asking her out. Tomorrow is Valentine's Day after all!"
His friend shot him an almost-resentful look, but didn't deign to asnwer him, so Angelo shrugged and kept walking. They reached the bottom and wandered casually into the darkness of their team-mate's haven.
"Hey," Ev greeted the young man slouched out before the TV.
::Hey:: Jono replied without looking up. ::Have yerself a seat.::
The basement area had once been Jono's quarters - his bedroom, den, and hangout room. Since the drama of Operation: Zero Tolerance, Sean and Emma had insisted on all the team's bedrooms being upstairs in one wing of the Academy Building.
So Jono had moved upstairs. He'd left the counches and the television down here though, confiding to Angelo, ::It's quieter downstairs. And you don't have to worry about Jubilee barging in to watch her favorite cartoons.:: Angelo could respect that. Jubilee had a major case of attitude.
"What's watching, amigos?" Angelo inquired as he plonked himself down on the grubby old beanbag. A small puff of the foam 'beans' ejected from it and scattered across the floor.
The leather-clad shadow on the couch shrugged, ::Whatever's on. Not much on a Saturday night.:: Picking up the remote control, he started channel-surfing. ::Some reruns of Family Ties, world wrestling, there's a weird international movie on one channel, and boring ones on the others...::
'Turn it off,"Angelo told him, reaching out for the remote with his extraneous epidermis, and deftly snagging it from the leather-clad boy's fingers. "I've got an idea."
The TV went off, leaving the room washed in the dull light of the lamp near the door, and the other two boys turned to face him.
"Since it's the night before Valentine's Day," Angelo said slyly, "You're required to come clean about your love life." And he had nothing to come clean about either! Well, he thought with a momentary falter, almost nothing. But they'd never believe it of him anyway - nobody would ever believe that of him! "The others can ask whatever questions have been on their mind about you, your loves, and your love life!"
"What love life?" scorned Everett.
"Elaboration on your feelings for certain female members of the team," Angelo qualified ruthlessly. Here was a chance to get the background stories from his close-mouthed friends about what was going on with them and their fellow-teammates. "No cop-outs or hiding stuff! You tell it straight, and you tell it good, mi amigos!"
::OK then, Ange, since y'started this topic up,:: Jono drawled of his friend, ::What was goin' between you and Tores?:: Facial expressions were no longer Jono's strong point anymore, but his voice had the distinct tones of what would probably have been something like a sly grin.
Angelo didn't make a sound, but he mentally sighed, his great plan for pumping information from his friends backfiring on him. "Nothing," he said calmly.
Everett's dark eyes gleamed sinister in the lowered lighting, "Oh, yeah. I've heard that one before. C'mon Ange, we're your amigos - you can tell us!"
::Y'got Howard and m'self all the way in to L.A., made us run inteference on her gang there. She leaves flowers on your grave, and refers to 'good times' from before - sounds like pretty 'friendly' stuff from a gangster gel... Don't be a plonker, Ange. Give us the news!::
"You remember exactly how glad she was to see me in L.A.!" Angelo protested uselessly. "She even informed the Sentinels of us there!" Even as he said it, he knew that the other two were pre-forming their ideas about him.
And, to be honest, there had been something between him and Tores once - until she started wanting to kill him. But he'd be damned if he'd tell them that!
::Love and hate,:: Jono informed him loftily, ::Are opposite sides of the same coin.::
"Oh yeah?" demanded Angelo, nettled by the attention, and deciding to turn the tables. "So give us the low down on how often you find yourself hating Miss Paige Guthrie, Starsmore!"
::I don't,:: Jono replied, a little darkly. His relationship or lack thereof with Paige was a matter that never sat entirely well on his shoulders. If it wasn't one thing about how he was treating Paige, then it was another thing about how Paige was treating him.
"Nah, you hate yourself instead," Angelo snapped back. Not a little irritated about how often the relationship between Jono and Paige bounced up, then fell down again. "Stupidest thing I ever came across. You've got it bad for her, she's pretty interested in you..."
::Yeah? Well, she seems pretty interested in you, too!:: Jono said heatedly.
Without having to be psychic, Angelo had known that the conversation was going to turn that way. He'd seen it in his friend's eyes before. "Hey, we're just friends. It wasn't me she invited to go home to Kentucky with her for Thanksgiving, was it?"
::It wasn't you neither that she was givin' the cold shoulder when she got back from seein' her mother a week ago!:: growled his friend. ::She spent half the night telling you all about absolutely everything that happened there!::
"But only because when she tried to tell you earlier when she got back, you completely froze her out because you were so chickened of what you'd said to her before she left that the instant she smiled, you backed off!" countered Angelo, not a little angrily. Paige had moped for the next day after Jono had dumped her cold. "And then a few days later when Gaia does her a haircut and Maggott and you start admiring her, you're wondering why she drops your compliment cold!"
"Whoa!" Everett held up both hands, "Back off, you guys! In a moment, you're going to go rounds against each other! Let it sit! Let it sit!" His delaying tactics worked - the pair of them stopped going for each others throats, but they promptly turned to new material.
"At least we ain't being torn between two girls at the school!" Angelo gibed, gleefully. "Ev here has to contend with both before and after the Universal Amalgamator - Jubilee and Gaia!" He turned triumphant eyes on Everett who had the grace to blush.
::Lessee, we got the Tank Girl-style attitude adjuster vs intergalactic what's-this? babe...::
"Jubes is a good kid," Ev said tolerantly. "I really like her, and if it wasn't for Gaia and everything..."
"Oh yeah," Angelo added with a flash of dark eyes, "And lets not forget that kiss he shared with Monet when we were in the car warehouse! Whoa Momma!"
"That," Ev said with great dignity, although his cheeks were flaming with embarrassment, "Was with the Nicole and Claudette merge, not Monet!"
::So it wasn't you I saw offering Monet a hug when you were talking with her out where the biosphere used to be other other week?:: Jono inquired. :: 'Don't you wish!' was her reply.::
"She was upset that nobody had asked how she was after the psi-blackout!" Everett defended himself, slouching further into the cushions on the lounge. "We're so used to thinking of Monet as invincible - but we forget that she's still human!"
"Sometimes you forget that she's human, too!" Angelo snorted.
::She isn't human,:: Jono said dryly, ::None of us are. But she's both more and less human than most.::
A silence followed while they digested this: "I didn't understand that," Ev complained.
::She's more human-looking than mutants like myself and Ange,:: Jono explained, ::But less human in mutant powers - invulnerability, flight, extraordinary intelligence, quick-thinking...the list goes on and on.:: He made a noise that sounded like a cross between a snort and a sniff, ::I can see why Jubes mockingly calls her 'Perfect Miss M'.::
"She is very beautiful," Ev said levelly as a sickening hole began to grow in Angelo's stomach, "And very talented..."
It solidified into an abyss as Jono let forth a sudden bark of laughter, ::You're in love with Monet!::
"So what?" Everett snapped back, the usually easy-going boy changing into a cornered creature. "So're you!"
That stopped the conversation entirely. Angelo stared at the two of them like he could not believe what he had just heard. Jono neither attacked, nor denied; Ev was smug with the instinctive knowledge that had just jumped out at him. The two of them stared at each other for a long, stunned moment, before they looked away sheepishly towards Angelo.
"She's just so...so regal!" Ev tried to explain to him. "Like a queen - even a dispossessed queen. You just watch her and it's, like, whoa..."
::She's fascinating,:: Jono added, ::Sixteen going on forty-six... Mysterious, beautiful...::
"Style, looks, brains...you couldn't ask for an awful lot more..."
::Do you remember her singing Elton John at Gil's place in L.A.?:: Jono was in something near seventh heaven, ::Like an angel...::
"Hey, hey, hey!" protested their third team-mate, holding his hands up, trying to stop the direction of the conversation. "Are we talking about the Penance-Monet, or Nicole-Claudette-Monet? They're..umm...well, three different people we're talking about here!"
"Well, most of our time has been spent with the Nicole-Claudette Monet," Ev said mildly. "But there's something about the real Monet, too, that just..."
"Enough!" Angelo held up his hands, "I don't want to hear any more!"
And he didn't. Bad enough that he himself was in love with Monet - the 'real' Monet. Worse to discover that it was a shared thing with his team-mates. They were preaching to the converted...
There was a moment of silence as they considered the recent revelations, Ev closing in on his own thoughts, Jono staring closely at his friend. Then, into the silence, Jono sniggered - it was a damn snigger from the Brit! ::Ange's got it bad, too!::
Ev stared at the grey-skinned mutant who held up his hands, "No way, amigos, I don't go for the chica most likely to win the 'snob of the century'."
::'Methinks the gentleman doth protest too much',:: Jono misquoted slyly. Angelo was minded to hit him - if there was anywhere left to hit. He didn't much fancy burying his arm elbow-deep in Jono's bionuclear furnace of a chest, and he didn't think it would hurt the other boy very much. But he couldn't say anything - him! The great Angelino-Angelo as Monet herself had dubbed him in LA...
It was Ev who finally broke the silence asking bluntly, "So what do we do now?"
"Now," Angelo said sourly, "It's open day on Monet's affections."
Silence as they digested this thought. ::Or keep it quiet.:: Jono said at last, on a heave of a sigh.
More silence as they considered their options. "Okay then," Ev said at length. "We don't discuss this with anyone else - especially not the girls. Monet might be clever, but she's not a telepath or even psychic. The only person we have to worry about on that score is Miz Frost. We each act as we see fit - but no going and telling Monet - she'd only laugh. Deal?"
Angelo and Jono looked at each other, hesitated another moment, then nodded.
"Deal," said the grey-skinned mutant.
::Deal,:: echoed the British boy.