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X Universe - Book 3

I Promise Forever - Chapter 5

Jeff and Bryan had gone off for a long run at about ten in the morning. It was past eleven and there was no sign of the boys yet. Justin and I had decided to sit on the terrace of the hotel's restaurant and sip bottled water while we waited. Justin looked out at the beach for the twelfth time in less than five minutes. It wasn't a casual glance, or to admire the view. His eyes were searching, longingly, for someone. I knew that someone was Bryan. What I didn't know was why.

"What's wrong, Just? And don't tell me 'nothing'... I'm a living lie detector."

He looked at me for a moment, as if weighing his decision. Finally, he sighed and looked out at the beach. "We're flying home tomorrow."

I nodded. "Yeah, I know."

"I'm ready to go home, actually." He looked back at me, and he seemed a little lost. "Then Bryan's leaving."

I could feel the weight in his voice, and I was shocked. "What? Why?"

Justin blinked at my surprise. "Oh, not like that. We aren't on the outs or anything. It's just that Bryan got the opportunity of a lifetime, and that means we'll be apart."

I frowned. "So you're holding onto every moment, I bet."

He nodded, and his eyes a little moist as he looked down. "I know I'm being selfish, but there's a part of me that doesn't want him to go."

I let my awareness expand. I knew where Jeff was in a heartbeat. I smiled reassuringly at Justin. "If it's any consolation, you only have about five minutes more to wait."

Justin blinked. "How do you know that?"

I smiled. "I can tell where Jeff is for miles. They're about five minutes up the beach and on their way here at a good jog."

He smiled. "That would be so cool."

Nodding, I sipped at my water. "It has its advantages." I signaled the waiter and asked for two bottles of water. He looked at our mostly unfinished bottles, and I knew he thought I was nuts.

We didn't say much until our guys jogged their hot, sweaty, beautiful selves up the steps and over to our table. Jeff saw the recently delivered bottles and snatched one. "You're the best, Dan."

"I know," I said confidently and pointed at the other bottle. "Drink up, Bryan."

He raised an eyebrow and smirked before taking his bottle. "What? Do you two have a telepathic link or something?"

"Nah, I love the guy, but I don't want to see what goes on in Jeff's head."

Jeff leaned over the table and captured my lips. After a few, warm, lip chewing moments, he pulled back and grinned. "As long as he keeps getting head, he's happy to stay out of mine."

"Horn dog."

"You wouldn't want me any other way." Damn his dimples and perfect smile. I was blushing.

I smiled at my man lovingly before looking at my bottle and mumbling, "I'd want you any way I could have you... asshole."

Justin grinned at me. "You two are so cute."

Ok, now I was blushing furiously. I looked over at Bryan and tried to take the attention off me. "Justin tells me you have been offered the opportunity of a lifetime."

Bryan looked torn between being enthusiastic about sharing and not wanting to cover a difficult topic for Justin. Justin smiled and solved the problem for him.

"My man is such a talented actor that he's been recognized with an internship with the Royal Shakespeare Company." Though he wasn't thrilled about the prospect of Bryan and he being apart, Justin was obviously quite proud of his man.

"I'll learn more about how the world of theater works in the season being with them than I've learned in 3 years of school." He sat down beside Justin and draped his arm over Just's shoulders. "I arranged for someone to keep an eye on this guy so that I won't have to worry about his being stolen away while I'm in London."

"Tina and I will be roomies this year," Justin explained as he leaned into Bryan.

"Where will you be staying?" Jeff asked Bryan as he took his seat beside me.

Bryan shrugged. "I haven't got a clue. I get some money to help cover the expenses with my scholarships, since this classifies as part of my theater education, and I get paid as an intern, but I think I'm going to have to find someplace pretty cheap."

I looked at Jeff significantly, and he grinned before looking back at the guys. "When do you get to England?"

"Two weeks."

"I don't know if we'll have found a place by then, but you can crash with us till you find something." I shrugged. "The rail system is really good, and lots of people commute to school or work daily from a lot of places outside of London."

I could feel Justin's relief. I think he was worried about Bryan being stuck with no place to go and having to face some harsh realities of the acting world while being in a foreign country and away from his friends. I grinned at him.

"Don't worry, Just. We'll keep an eye on your guy for you."

Bryan laughed, but I could tell he was relieved too.

It felt kind of weird to be wandering the town without the guys with us. We'd seen them to the airport and then had the bus drop us off so we could wander. Alone, again, with nothing to do but be in love, we wove our way about aimlessly until we ended up in a little clothing store near the water.

Jeff smiled at me as he came out of the dressing room. The black, cotton shirt with the Mediterranean style and geometric key embroidery was very flattering on him. It wasn't his usual "second skin" style which I found made him even sexier. Sometimes not seeing ever curve and bulge left enough mystery for the imagination to run wild. He put his hands on his hips and looked in the mirror.

"What do you think?"

"Honestly?" I raised an eyebrow and gripped my chin thoughtfully.

His enthusiasm dimmed a little as he saw my expression. "Yeah..."

"I think you should get two or three more in that style. I think you're sexier when we're left imagining what's under all that beautifully draped cloth."

He grinned. "You're such a shit."

"Yeah, but you love me anyway."

Jeff, of course, took me seriously about the clothes and started hunting for more to buy. I rolled my eyes but grinned at my shopping fool. He was as bad as Janet, but I had to love him. He stopped and looked at a pair of pants and shirt he would never be able to squeeze into.

I laughed. "There is no way you're getting your ass into those."

He grinned, and tossed the pants and shirt at me, making me juggle not to drop them. "Of course not; you are."

I frowned at him as I got the clothes draped over my arm. "I don't need any clothing."

Laughing, he turned me around and pushed me for the dressing room. "Who ever said your needs were important? I need you in new clothes."

Grumbling, I pulled the curtain and changed. I had to admit that the material was nice, and cool, and felt like it hung well. I'd convinced Jeff that my legs could take a day out of the braces, as long as I didn't have to spend an hour with him in my lap, riding his way to nirvana. Admittedly, just the thought had me plumping up. Gods I loved being with him; bottom, top, it didn't matter at all to me. I was a Jeff-a-holic.

Stepping out of the dressing closet, I waited as Jeff looked over my ensemble. The smile on his face was warm, appreciative and a touch lustful. I looked in the mirror. The clothes did hang well and I had to admit I wasn't the skinny rail I'd been last year. Two months of intensive physical training and rehab had done a lot to improve how clothes hung. I still wasn't anything close to a "hunk", but Jeff was hunk enough for both of us.

"The green looks good on you."

I sighed. "If you like it..."

Jeff wrapped his arms around from behind me and rested his chin on my shoulder as we looked in the mirror. "Yeah, I like it."

"Then I guess we'll get it."

He grinned as he let me go. "Good, we'll have them bag your jeans and tee."

Rolling my eyes, I resigned myself to the fact that my wardrobe had just been expanded. "Sure, saves me having to get changed again."

Five outfits later, we left the shop ladened with bags of clothing. As usual, Jeff took it upon himself to look like a pack mule. I just smiled and let him. There was no point in arguing; it wasn't like he'd break a sweat.

As we turned the corner toward the main road, the sinful smells of the bakery enraptured me. I grinned at my over-ladened husband, and patted his arm. "I'll be right back."

Jeff's head swiveled to look at me around the packages. "Coffee?"

Laughing, I shook my head. "And how the hell are you going to hold and drink it, Mr. Pack Mule?" "Straw?" He called back in vain, knowing full well this wasn't the States, and I wasn't going into Seven-eleven.

I chuckled to myself as I stepped into the "den of dietary sin", and let my senses be inundated by the delights. I don't think there is anything more child-like-joy inspiring than the smells of a real bakery. The man behind the counter smiled at me while handing a bag of fresh baked rolls to a little grandmother. She smiled at me as well, and left with an affectionate grin on her face. I looked at my clothes for a moment, shrugged, and moved to the counter.

"You found Stella's," the baker observed as he wiped off his hands.

I grinned. "My husband likes to shop." It took me a moment to realize what I'd said, and I looked at the man apologetically. He didn't even blink.

"You're young to be married."

I shrugged. "Meet the right person and there's no sense it waiting."

He grinned, glancing out the window at my package-loaded man, and nodded in recognition. "He came in the other day for breakfast."

I smiled. People usually remembered meeting Jeff. "Yep, that would be him."

"Would you like some more rolls?"

I shook my head, eyeing the more confectionary creations. "No, he's the health nut. I want something sweet."

I didn't really hear his answer. I felt a sudden tingling that had me snapping my defenses in place. I looked about, trying to figure out where it was coming from. My gaze settled on a boy, maybe nine years old, with dark hair, worn clothes that didn't fit, and looking a bit under nourished.

He didn't seem to notice that I was watching him. He was concentrating, moving slowly, and edging his way around the counter. The telepathic energy was definitely coming from him.

The baker had continued his conversation without any concern to the child reaching into his case and pulling out a loaf of bread. I looked back at him as he asked me a question for a second time.

"Would you just like a sampling of our traditional sweets?"

I nodded, my eyes darting from him to the boy and back as I talked. "That'd be great, two of each."

While he wrapped the sweets in wax paper and put them into a bag, I turned my attention back to the boy. The kid suddenly realized I was watching him, and he froze. His eyes going wide as I lifted an eyebrow. His concentration shattered, and I felt the psychic power dissipate like smoke on the breeze.

"Paulo!" The baker eyed the little thief in surprise. I'm certain it was a shock to see a child appear suddenly in the middle of his shop, apparently materializing out of nowhere.

Before I could say anything, the trembling child dropped his bread and ran. I suppose I could have stopped him, but that would have probably scared him and the baker. I knelt down and picked up the discarded bread.

"Who was that?"

The baker shrugged, looking a little sad. "Pauloni Mykos. His father died last year in a fishing accident. He lives with his aunt, his father's sister. I've heard that he hasn't spoken a word since his father's death. Very sad."

I set the bread on the counter. "I'll take this too."

The baker frowned. "I will get you a fresh loaf."

I shook my head. "I'll take this one; just put it in a separate bag."

I let my senses expand as I paid for our stuff. Paulo was scurrying away up an alley.

Jeff eyed me as I came out with two bags. "That's a lot of stuff."

Reaching into the sweets bag, I shoved one into Jeff's mouth before he could object, and turned up the road in the direction Paulo had gone.

"Live with it, stud-boy. I think we have a date." As Paulo got further away, I began having a harder time tracking him. I picked up the pace.

Jeff was none too pleased with my turning down the alley and walking more briskly than I should have. I must admit, he was adorable trying to grumble, chew and curse at me about the evils of my dietary habits. Honestly, I think I could have lived with him being a couple pounds less muscle and a couple pounds more fluff. Living with physical perfection was intimidating, not to mention, solid muscle doesn't make the most comfortable pillow. It is fun to feel, look at and incredible when in the throws of sex... but for cuddling, maybe a touch more softness would have been nice. I had to admit, the few times I'd cuddled with Kate while watching a movie, and though there was no sexual interest, she had just the right kind of padding.

Jeff finally got his confectionary diet-killer chewed and swallowed. "Dan, where the hell are we going?"

"After a kid I think needs help."

Jeff paused. "What?"

I didn't pause with him. "Little boy, about nine, looks neglected, and is definitely a telepath."

All pretense of carrying the packages normally fled as Jeff shifted his load and jogged to catch up with me. "No shit?"

"No shit."

We came around the corner to see Paulo looking miserable while a woman, I assumed to be his aunt, chastised him in Greek. I couldn't understand the words, but I understood the gist of her words. Paulo had been sent to get food, or something she wanted, and he'd come back empty handed.

He tried to tell her something with expressions and gestures, probably that someone saw him or stopped him, and she slapped him. My hackles rose. It wasn't his fault I wasn't easily fooled by telepaths. Not to mention, he was just a kid.

I pushed in, calling out to them as I approached. "Paulo?"

The woman looked caught between guilty and fearful. Paulo's eyes went wide. They were terrified and cagey. I all but ignored the flighty bitch as I knelt down and held up the bread. "You dropped your bread."

Paulo's eyes fell to the loaf, and then back at me. I smiled, trying not to look threatening. "Can you speak English?"

"No," the woman answered for him, grabbing his arm.

Paulo flinched at her touch, and my eyes narrowed. I looked up at her, locking gazes. "I think he can answer for himself."

For a moment, she actually tried to meet my gaze. The woman had nerve, and she was apparently used to people backing down from the force of her will. I'll admit she had a fairly impressive glare and a presence that would command a lesser man without difficulty. I wasn't impressed. I'd held gazes with Magneto, Xavier and even death itself. She wasn't anything more than an annoyance. I pushed away the light from the area, darkening the doorstep, the air, and the earth while keeping myself almost glowing.

"Let. Him. Go."

Her gaze wavered, and she released Paulo's arm.

I shoved my will at her, causing her to step back to keep from falling. "Leave."

She stepped back into her house, a small building connected to others in a row of small homes, and I heard the door lock.

Paulo looked at me, his eyes probing mine, but he didn't seem afraid. I smiled at him reassuringly. "I won't hurt you. Do you understand English?"

He nodded but said nothing. I stuck out my hand.

"My name's, Dan."

He took my hand and didn't say anything.

"You're Paulo, right?"

He nodded again, smiling a bit.

I rolled my eyes up to Jeff. "This is Jeff."

Jeff set the packages down and knelt as well, smiling at the kid in front of us. "Hi, Paulo." He put out his hand, and Paulo shook it. His smile brightened as he touched Jeff. Jeff blinked for a moment. I felt the subtle telepathic read, and it seemed that's all Paulo needed. He just stepped in and wrapped his arms around Jeff's neck and held on as Jeff stood up and hugged him.

Jeff looked at me. "He doesn't want to live here any more."

I grinned. "You just know it, huh?"

Jeff nodded, not letting Paulo go. "Yeah. It isn't so much words, it's more like a compulsive need."

"He probably can't force people to do things, at least not yet." I stood up, bringing my hand gently to the back of Paulo's head. "Do you want to go somewhere you'll be safe, Paulo?"

He looked at me, and I let my defenses down so he could sense I was telling the truth. It took him a moment to realize he could read me, and then he smiled. I could feel his response. After a moment of just "feeling each other", I snapped my attention from Paulo and raised an eyebrow at Jeff.

"I guess we need to call Xavier."

Jeff grinned, and then looked from his packages to Paulo. The boy slid from his arms and started picking up the stuff Jeff had set down. Jeff laughed, grabbing up most of the bags. "Thank's, Paulo."

Paulo beamed, apparently unused to having someone thank him. I suspected he was actually a very complying kid. That would have made his having to use his powers to "force" other people even more difficult for him. I laughed as we started back toward the hotel. "And we were worried we'd be bored with Justin and Bryan gone."

Jeff grinned. "You know me and lost puppies."

"I found this one, Uncle Jeff."

Jeff wiggled his eyebrows. "Yeah, but he hugged me first."

I rolled my eyes, but a little part of me was a jealous about that.

I looked out from the balcony and smiled at the scene. Paulo and Xavier were sitting out by the pool, "talking." You would have thought they were playing chess by their concentration and focus. Ororo smiled as I ran my fingers through my hair and turned from the scene.

"You just stumbled across him?"

I nodded. "Yep."

She looked stunning in the white blouse, black pinstripe slacks and her hair pulled neatly back. Jeff handed her a glass of water before taking his spot beside me against the railing. She eyed our hands with a grin. "I am still getting used to your rings. Scott tells me they're adamantium."

I nodded, lifting mine to look at the near silver sheen of the metal. "Yeah. Indestructible rings for an indestructible love."

Jeff leaned over and nuzzled my neck. "You're a goof."

Ororo smiled. "He's a romantic." Stepping in she kissed me on the cheek. "I think it's adorable." Her fingers traced through my hair. Her eyes held mine in her compassionate gaze. She may have been half a foot shorter than me, but she felt like a giant. The power that she kept contained sang with her every touch. "You were a blessing to us, Dan. Don't ever forget how special you are."

Gods I hated emotional scenes. I blinked back my tears and tried to keep my smile from wavering. "Thanks for being my family."

Ororo laughed, pulling me down to give me a firm hug. "You boys are all the same. Just cry and get it over with."

I clung to her, letting her power flow through me. Ororo was the closest thing to a pagan priestess I had in my extended family. Other than Scott and Xavier, I think I respected her more than anyone. "I'm going to miss you."

She pulled back, kissed my forehead and cocked her head. "Going somewhere? Between the blackbirds and the two of you combining powers, we're never more than a couple hours away."

Jeff laughed. "I can see we're going to be practicing that combined flight thing we did back in December."

I wiped my eyes, feeling like an emotional idiot but also feeling a bit lighter and well loved. "Hell, we could visit over extended weekends."

Ororo grinned. "You'd better. I think there's a little boy down there who will want to see his -saviors- every so often." I felt Xavier's call, and Ororo tipped her head. "Time for me to get the car ready."

"I guess we should go down and say good-bye." I took Jeff's hand and we followed Ororo to the pool area.

Xavier smiled at us as we got to the table. "I think I'll have to set you to the task of keeping an eye out for more people like Paulo. You have a knack for meeting the most remarkable people."

Paulo smiled, blushing, and then got out of his chair to hug us. I felt a little bit like a protective older brother as we watched him walk away, holding onto the armrest of Xavier's chair. I knew he'd be safe, and well loved, but in only twenty-four hours, I realized the kid had wormed his way into my heart. I was becoming such a ninny.

Jeff hugged me from behind as I wiped away a tear or two. "Once we're settled, we'll make sure to take a practice flight over to the school."

I squeezed his arm, feeling secure and loved. "Yeah. We have family to take care of."

He nodded, resting his chin on my shoulder. "Yep, family first."

I sighed, still sensing Paulo, Ororo and Xavier from the other side of the building. "Always."