A/N: Sorry this took forever to finish, you guys! As usual, credit to the owners of each OC appearing in this fanfic is given in my artist's comments on this chapter on deviantArt. (If you don't know my deviantArt username to find my gallery, I'm on there as Yoruhoshi.) NOTE: This fanfiction is the sequel to my other X-Men: Evolution fanfiction, "Tempest Fury." I highly recommend you read that one in its entirety before you start reading this one! R&R please!
Chapter 7: Boomzerker Matchmaking Services
Tabitha "Boom-Boom" Smith wasn't necessarily what anybody would call a romantic, but she had the uncanny ability to predict how just about any relationship would end up like. She called it one of her many gifts, and the fleeting thought of opening a matchmaking service as an adult had crossed her mind at least more than once. She often boasted of this gift of hers to the Brotherhood boys, but none of them were ever interested in seeing her use this talent, much less believe it was even real. Thus she rarely had the opportunity to show it off to anyone outside of school, and became positive she would never be able to put it to work while at the boarding house. But when Arial had returned the previous evening in a chipper mood that persisted into the next morning, Tabitha could smell the sweet fragrance of opportunity at the door.
"Why so bouncy this morning, Goldilocks?" She asked when she walked into the kitchen and he offered to make her breakfast.
"Bouncy?" Arial said, puzzled. "I am not sure vhat you mean, Tabby. I am the same vay I am every morning."
She could give him that; he was very good at affecting his more neutral face when he needed to. But there were still telltale signs that gave him away. A spring to his step, the impeccably combed hair, the bright shine in his eyes, the ghost of a smile lurking at the corners of his mouth. All of those were uncharacteristic of him normally. In an instant, she knew what had happened: Arial had met a girl—a really, really cute girl—last night.
"Sooo…what's her name?" She asked.
Arial halted in mid-stride, blinking. "Vhat is whose name?" He asked, tone far too innocent to be legit. She chuckled, poking his ribs repeatedly, making him squirm and yelp.
"The girl you met last night, Ari!"
"Sshhh!" He hissed, eyes popping wide open as he clamped a hand over her mouth. "Don't say that so loud! I do not vant the other guys knowing!"
She struggled her way free of his grip, glaring. "Ugh, at least warn a girl next time before you do that! And why don't you want them finding out?"
"Two reasons," he answered dryly, "Und their names are Todd und Pietro."
"Fair enough," she said with a shrug, "But you could at least tell me anyway."
"Und vhy vould I vant to share a secret that big vith a gossip hound?"
"Well, if you don't tell me, I'll wind up finding out one way or another."
"Yes, really. I'm a woman, I've got my ways."
At this, Arial rolled his eyes and snorted, returning his attention to the breakfast he was preparing. Tabitha would have pursued the matter, had Fred not come into the kitchen a second later. Instead, she sat down at the table, chewing pensively at a doughnut she'd snuck behind their backs. She was going to find out who this girl was, no matter what she had to do, and once she did, she was going to give Arial some serious tips and advice about impressing young women.
They all loaded up shortly into Lance's Jeep, heading to school, and Arial still looked exceptionally bright and bouncy. The wheels in Tabitha's head spun, quickly formulating a plot, a plot she set in motion the second they arrived at school and started to head inside. She made a very loud display to the boys, pretending to whine about her platform shoes, saying the heels on them needed her attention because they weren't adjusted right. Predictably, they all rolled their eyes, muttered unsavory comments under their breath, and tried to get inside a little more quickly than before.
"Typical males." She declared with a sly smile. She waited for a moment, and then darted inside, looking around for Arial. There he was, just ahead, and heading down a different hallway than she was used to seeing him take. Oh, her guess was totally right! He was so going to see this girl! She trotted along behind him, careful to keep a good space between them so he wouldn't catch on. They didn't make more than two turns before Arial stopped near a classroom, where Kitty, Jubilee, Katy, and Chase were all discussing something.
"—still don't see why it's just Bea—I mean, Dr. McCoy going with Tiras on this mission! Come on, I mean, some of us might like to take a three-day weekend in Japan!" Kitty pouted loudly.
"I heard the Professor say there was a special reason for it." Katy replied.
"Yeah, there probably is." Chase added.
"Hey, like, why don't we ask him when we get back this afternoon? Maybe he'll tell us!" Kitty suggested. "I hate being in the dark!"
"Sounds like a plan to me!" Katy said happily.
"Alright! See you at lunch!" Kitty laughed, waving to the other three before taking off down the hall to catch up with a grumbling Rogue. Katy then started up a conversation with Chase, and in that moment, Jubilee looked over her shoulder, and her gaze fell on Arial, eyes going huge. Arial straightened at once, and Jubilee smiled, giving him a tiny wave and mouthing a silent greeting. He gave a sharp nod, saluted her with two fingers, then spun on his heel and walked back the way he had come. Tabitha ducked behind another girl's textbook until he had passed by, then emerged to head back to class, trying not to chuckle like a complete maniac.
So, Arial met Jubilee, did he? And it seemed there was already potential chemistry there! Now to just spark off that little powder keg the right way…
"Hey, sparky. Can I borrow a pen?"
Ray looked up as Tabitha sauntered over to him, a notepad with bright purple paper in hand, and frowned slightly. Tabitha Smith was confusing even at the best of times, and a lot of what she did—like up and leaving the Institute to go live with the Brotherhood—didn't always make sense.
"I don't have any gel pens," he said with a pointed grimace at the lavender notepad, "Will a regular black ballpoint pen work?"
"You're a lifesaver, Ray-Ray!" Tabitha exclaimed, snatching the pen out of his hand. He gave her a flat look before shrugging and shoving his hands into his pockets.
"Yeah, you're welcome." He muttered.
"Good, so would the words 'scenic' and 'rendezvous' be a bad combination to use in a sentence?" She asked with a clicking snap of her over-glossed nails. "Come on, work with me, here!"
"What are you even doing?" He demanded, peering over her shoulder to watch as she started writing.
"Making copies of a note to give to the lucky couple-to-be."
"…do I even want to know—"
"Ray, I realize this is hard to understand, but the Big Guys Upstairs have granted me with a totally envious and sweet god-like power."
"Tabs, I hate to break it to you, but if you hand 'em a detonator switch, a two-year-old can blow something up."
"I'm talking about my knack! You know, how I can make predictions about couples? I'm like Gwenyth Paltrow in that one movie based off some Jane Austen book!" Tabitha exclaimed, grinning like a fox. Ray groaned. Not this again! No matter how many times anyone argued that there had yet been no incontestable proof of her talent, she always boasted of it to any person with ears.
"So what exactly are—"
"Oh, I'm so glad you asked! See, here's the problem, Ray-Ray: Arial's been all perky and happy since he met Jubilee last night, and I'm willing to bet she's been the same way. Am I right?"
"Wait, what? How—"
"Of course I'm right!" She answered her own question, preening slightly. "Now, those two have a ton of potential chemistry, but there's not even a mild little flame or anything between them yet. So I am going to help them along a little."
"I know Kurt's already told you this once or twice, but you're crazy." Ray declared, folding his arms. Tabitha paused in her writing so as to stare him in the eye, the expression of someone who had just been given a challenge forming on her face.
"Oh, does Mr. Doubting Thomas want proof?"
"Tabitha, I never said—"
"Come here!" She huffed, grabbing him by an arm and pulling, and he allowed her to drag him closer to the bleachers, where she pointed out two figures talking. "See that?"
"What am I supposed to be seeing?" He asked with a huge sigh, humoring her.
"Them, right there! Chase Owens and Todd Tolansky!"
Ray glanced again at the bleachers. Sure enough, Chase Owens was seated on the lower bleachers, having been ousted in a round of dodgeball, and Todd Tolansky was hovering nearby, acting like he was trying to get her attention. Ray shrugged.
"There it is. Your proof."
"Owens and Tolansky?" He asked, scrunching up his nose in confusion.
"Oh, yeah. Those two are gonna take forever to fess up, but when they finally do, they're gonna be glued at the hip." She declared confidently. "See, Todd's trying to nose some sympathy out of Chase right now, because he got his butt handed to him when the guys were training last night."
"Training?" Ray repeated. Something about that set off a warning bell in his head, one he couldn't quite explain. He would have to remember that later. It sounded like the sort of thing Professor X would want to hear.
"And if that's not proof enough," Tabitha went on, hardly having registered that he spoke a word, "Just you watch and see. When the Sadie Hawkins dance rolls around, Tiras is totally gonna ask out Sam."
"How would you know that?" Ray asked in exasperation. "Tiras hardly talks to anyone, let alone the Cannonball."
"I'm a woman, I've got my ways."
"Hmm…I'm guessing I should withhold my comment."
"Darn right, you'd better! Now sit down and help me figure out what these notes should say. We've got a couple to set up!"
"Wait, 'we?' Since when was I—"
"Since I said so," she answered, swelling with pride, "You're my matchmaking partner-in-crime, sparky."
"I'm thrilled." He said dryly.
"We need a name for us for this venture. What about…Berzoom-Boom Dating Services?" She suggested, and when Ray made a sharp wince, she shrugged, smiling, and continued, "Ahh, you're right. It sounded lame, anyway. How about…hmm…"
"Boomzerker Matchmaking Services?" He said half-heartedly, wearily rubbing his forehead. If he had to take medicine for a headache by the end of the day, she was getting the blame.
"Perfect!" She exclaimed in a gasp. "Now, here! You write this note…"
The final bell rang, and the doors of Bayville High burst open like a floodgate, the students flocking to the sound of freedom. As usual there was a mad rush to get to the buses and the parking lot, but for once not everyone was racing toward their cars. Tabitha waited by one of the side entrances, watching a tree several yards ahead, a normal hangout place for some cliques in the school. In a few moments, a girl with long dark hair in a canary yellow jacket approached the tree, backpack dangling in one hand, a note clutched tightly in the other.
"G-got it to her." A voice panted behind Tabitha, slightly out of breath. She twisted to look at Ray, who was looking quite winded and trying to suck in lungfuls of air, and she grinned. Whether he had wanted to be part of her scheme in the first place or not, the boy had delivered, but well. Jubilee was waiting by the tree, looking around expectantly, her expression puzzled.
"Nice work, Ray-Ray!" Tabitha practically squealed. "Now all we've gotta do is wait for Arial to show up, and then when they see each other, the rest is history, baby!"
"Yeah, Tab? I don't think that's quite how it works." He said, throwing her a look.
"Yes it is." She answered, totally unfazed. "After all, WE are the matchmakers of LEGEND. We. Are. BOOMZERKER."
"Careful, that name might actually grow on me."
"Ooh, here comes Arial! Shh!"
Sure enough, Arial came around the far corner of the building, occasionally glancing down at a paper in his hand, brow furrowed and the corners of his mouth turned down. Tabitha grabbed Ray by the sleeve and the two slowly ducked down behind a low bush, just enough so they could still watch. Arial walked slowly toward the tree, freezing to a dead halt when he saw who was waiting for him there.
"This isn't going to wo-ork…" Ray muttered in a low singsong, and she glared without looking at him, making a half-hearted slap in his direction that didn't connect. They watched as Arial took a few more hesitant steps forward, and Jubilee, sensing his presence, slowly spun on her heel and faced him, eyes widening. Tabitha grinned in triumph; Her plan had been set in motion, and now it would go perfectly. She could barely hold still in her excitement as she watched her two friends walk up to one another, exchange a few soft words for a moment, then turn and start walking off together.
"Game, set and match, Ray-Ray!" She hissed with a grin.
"Tabitha, give it up. They're totally onto us." He groaned.
"Oh, you've got no faith, sparky! They're not onto us. Look, they're walking away together," she said firmly, pointing at them, "They are off to have a rockin' first date, all thanks to the Boomzerker Matchmaking duo!"
It came as something of a relief to Arial to see the confused look on Jubilee's face, mirroring his own bewilderment. He caught movement in his peripheral vision and glanced slightly to his left, immediately having to suppress a groan. Boom-Boom. He should have guessed. And to make matters worse, it seemed she had somehow roped once of the Institute's new boys into her little plot, the tall blonde guy who cold manipulate electricity. What was his name? Randy? Ray? Ray sounded right. But he didn't strike Arial as the pushover type; so why was he aiding and abetting Tabitha's little scheme?
He redirected his attention to Jubilee, who slowly started to approach him, lifting a hand that clutched a piece of paper. He picked up his stride to meet her halfway, grimacing.
"Did you also get—?"
"A note?" He finished. "Ja. Und don't look now but ve are being vatched."
"By who?" She asked, fidgeting as she resisted turning to see.
"I vill explain, but first, valk vith me? Let them think ve are being casual und falling for this…fake rendezvous."
"If you say so." She answered, shrugging and falling into place beside him as he started walking.
"Sehr gut, fraulein." He murmured.
"Ah, I'm not sure what you just said, but…thanks, I guess? So…what exactly is going on? And what's with the note to meet you by the tree? Doesn't even look like your handwriting." She remarked.
"Und I should hope you do not put little hearts somevhere in all your vords vhen you write." He added. "It vould seem Boom-Boom tried to get us to meet up."
"Boom-Boom?" Jubilee said. "Well, that explains the hearts, but there's no way she wrote this!" She held up the note, unfolded it briefly, and tapped at one of the sentences. "That is so a guy's handwriting."
"Ja," Arial said, nodding, "She had a guy vith her, vatching us. Tall und blonde vith orange highlights in his fringe?"
"Oh, Ray!" Jubilee hissed abruptly, making him jump. "I would have understood if it were Bobby, BUT RAY?! I'm beginning to think he can be too nice for his own good."
"I vould think Fraulein Tabitha can be hard to say n…n-no to, vhen she vants." Arial remarked, having difficulty in his attempts to speak more like an American. Jubilee looked up at him, blinking, and almost took a full step to the side, putting a good couple of feet between them. Arial stopped mid-stride, staring openly.
"Vas? Vas ist das?"
"N-nothing." She answered, looking away, the color draining from her face.
"Do I sound that bad when I try to use more English vords?" He asked weakly, rolling his shoulders.
"No, no, it's not that." She answered. "I'm just a little…well…it's…look, can we just get the whole Q-and-A bit over with?"
She started to walk ahead, but he stayed where he was, rooted to the spot by a horrifying realization.
"I make you nervous!" He blurted out in shock. She spun to look at him, dark eyes going huge, and he gave a weak, disheartened nod. "I scare you."
"No!" She said, just a bit too quickly, then amended, "Yes. I mean! Maybe a little! But can you blame me? Huh? All I ever hear about you is…well; it's not exactly good. Not all of it, anyway."
He was about to reply angrily, but stopped short, realizing that was his own fault. He had built that reputation for himself, both the vices and the virtues together. And at the Institute, he had a feeling the list of the former greatly outweighed the latter. Instead, he bit his lower lip, chewing slightly, and ducked his head to avoid her searching gaze.
"It would help, you know," Jubilee said testily, "If you'd talk. At least give me a reason to believe you're not totally everything that the stories I'm told say you are."
She had a point. She had a really good point. He let out a weary sigh and took a couple of small steps forward, waving a hand about helplessly.
"I suppose I have n-no ch-choice." He murmured. "Not if I vant to…to start making things right."
She relaxed, a telltale twitch in her cheek indicating one of those crooked smiles was about to break out on her face.
"You mean it?" She asked.
"You have mein honor as an admirer of Captain America." He answered.
"An admi—you're kidding, right?"
He gave another shrug and a sheepish grin, chuckling nervously. She tossed him an unreadable look and opened her mouth to speak. But whatever she had been planning to say never came out, as within the next second they were interrupted.
"Hey Jubilee, this guy bothering you?"
Arial looked over his shoulder, surprised to see two of the other new recruits from the Institute approaching them, and a quick glance at Jubilee said he wasn't the only one. The brunette boy was almost a full head shorter than him, and had one of those irritating expressions that was somewhere between annoyingly superior and extremely ticked off. His friend was slightly taller, a sandy blonde in cool colors and mostly denim, with a worried look on his face.
"Bobby, Sam, I'm fine!" Jubilee insisted, coming over to them, "Arial and I were just talking."
"Really?" Bobby said, not amused, "'Cause I think your conversation's over. What are you even doing, talking to him? He's bad news."
Arial frowned in annoyance. Who the heck was this kid? Put him through a two-week boot camp and throw some sunglasses on him, he could easily be Scott's miniature double. Lieutenant Jock-Strap Junior. He wanted to run that one past Ashton, then recalled with a sad pang that he no longer spoke to Ashton, thanks to the battle lines the Brotherhood drew in the sand.
"You're not the boss of me, Iceman!" She snapped.
"Look, look," Arial said in a tense sigh, pinching the bridge of his nose, "I vill just leave. Okay?"
"No, Arial," Jubilee said quickly, "You don't have—"
"Yeah," Bobby said, taking a threatening step forward, "You do that. You don't wanna get iced." Arial raised his eyebrows sharply at this threat, and Sam spoke up in a wavering voice.
"N-not like killed! He means the ice thing literally!" He clarified. To emphasize the point, Bobby held up a hand, frost rapidly forming over his fist.
"Guys, knock it off!" Jubilee protested sharply.
"You really vant to do this?" Arial demanded.
"Not really," Bobby admitted, "But the X-Men stick together. We protect each other!"
"What?" Jubilee squawked, surging toward him, only to be held back by Sam.
"Is that supposed to be a joke?" Arial scoffed with a mirthless laugh echoing in his words. "Or are you a bad liar? Or are you really just that naïve?"
"You wanna try me?" Bobby demanded, the ice beginning to encase his entire arm. Arial's posture tensed, he leaned forward, and his mouth opened to speak furiously, but in the next second, he vanished in a blur and a rush of air. The three were left standing, staring at the spot where he'd been, blinking in slight confusion. Finally, Bobby lowered his fist, arm returning to normal, and snorted, a smug smile forming on his face.
"What a chicken."
"Bobby, what the heck?!" Jubilee blurted out, grabbing him by the shoulder and spinning him around to face her. "He didn't do anything to me!"
"Yet." The brunette boy responded grimly. "But he might have."
"Yeah, and if he tried anything, I could have taken care of it!" She insisted.
"Oh, sure! You could've what?" Bobby giggled, prodding Sam, who tried to suppress a snicker. "Dazzled him with a light show?"
She reeled back as though she'd been slapped.
"Y-yeah, like those sparklepire romance novels!" Sam's own giggle punctuated his words like a high-pitched squeak.
"Do I dazzle you, Arial?" Bobby simpered, making an exaggerated flirty face.
"You guys are such jerks!" She snapped. "I can handle myself, especially against—"
"Aww, come on, Jubs." Bobby said, waving a dismissive hand. "It's what we do, protecting damsels and all that. Even Scott says so! Your fireworks may be pretty and all, but it's still—"
" 'Pretty?' My powers are 'pretty?!'" She gasped in outraged horror. "Oh, that tears it, Bobby Drake! You think I can't defend myself because I don't have some macho tough dude power? I'll show you! I'm not some little damsel in distress!"
"Jeez, Jubs, calm dow—"
"And I'm going to prove it to you and everyone else! With Sam as my witness—" she jabbed a finger in the taller boy's direction and he jumped in surprise, "—I'm going to make friends with Arial! I'll get him to come back to the Institute. Just watch."
And that being said, she spun on her heel and stomped away, pride still stinging.
As for Arial, he was as equally surprised as the others when he was whisked away. He had no idea what was going on, not even when he was deposited on his rear a couple miles away, out of breath and dizzy.
"You know, you really need to work on your people skills, Shirley Temple." A familiar voice said in false lecturing tones as he received a light smack on the top of his head.
"Pietro?" He sputtered in disbelief. Pietro had pulled him away from that kid?
"You looked like you needed a chill pill," he answered smoothly, "Not that I wouldn't have gotten a kick out of you wailing on that freshman goody-goody."
"But…vhy then?" Arial asked.
"Magneto's orders," came the cool reply, "You're late for your training session, Golden Boy. And he's not exactly happy about it."
"Scheiβe!" Arial hissed. Of course! His training session! How could he have forgotten?!
"Don't worry about it so much! Give the old man some more gray hair; he'll get over it. Now come on," Pietro changed tack abruptly, seizing Arial by the shirt and running faster than what the other boy could keep up with, "I wanna see your chewing-out! This is going to be hilarious!"
"Dummkopf! Slow! Down!" Arial yelped, stumbling as he was dragged along.
"What's that?" Pietro asked innocently. "Speed up? Well, if you insist!"
He threw himself into each long-legged stride, and the speed was too much for Arial to do anything more than stumble and flail along behind. Buildings and trees practically flew past them, and within less than a few minutes, they had arrived back at the boarding house, whereupon the Brotherhood's resident speed demon once again deposited his rival on the ground. Arial gave a violent, shuddering cough, gasping as he tried to catch his breath and get to his feet.
"Y-you…you son of—"
"You're welcome, Lederhosen," Pietro cut him off, voice honey-sweet. "He's gonna be here for ya in a sec."
Arial fell silent, unsure of what to say. Part of him was more than eager to start a fistfight, but another part of him—something that relied more on instinct and emotion than coherent thought—knew it was a bad idea and that he should simply await the arrival of his mentor. He wasn't used to getting that sort of hunch, and decided to go with it.
"By the way," Pietro added in a low voice, giving him a light smack on the arm, "You owe me now. Twice, actually, since I saved your butt and got you here before you were any later."
And before Arial could protest, he darted into the house with a laugh, leaving the blonde boy where he was, index finger in the air, to bite down on what wanted to say and simply puff out his cheeks, grumbling in anger.
A/N: Yes, Boomzerker is such an epic crackship that they can come up with their own shipping name. And a huge thanks here to my reader La Licorne for suggesting some useful ideas concerning character/plot development and consistency. I really appreciate it!