Reading Time: 154 Minutes
Title: Only Miss the Sun When It Starts to Snow
Fandom: X-Men Movies (Original Trilogy)
Genre: Action Adventure, First Time, Romance, Science Fiction, Slash
Relationship(s): Bobby Drake/John Allerdyce
Content Rating: R
Warnings: Hate Crimes/Hate Speech, Mention of previous violence against a character when they were a child, homophobic language, death of a minor character, Infidelity, Violence – Canon-level, brief references to underage sex. Rogue-bashing
Author Notes: Bobby, John and Rogue are all eighteen and over the age of consent. I have made a few changes from canon – the main one being that, rather than Phoenix being Jean’s split personality, I’ve made it a separate entity using her form. Also, although this story is based in the original trilogy, I’ve used the prequels’ idea of Charles and Raven growing up together because I really like it. A massive virtual hug to my beta, lazydazy, because she talked me into signing up for this, talked me out of dropping out when my original story stalled, and then beta-ed this for me too. And all the thank yous to my lovely artist, Ringspells, for her help and the absolutely amazing art she’s created; I absolutely love it.
Word Count: 54,060
Summary: When Bobby chased his girlfriend, Rogue, to New York City, he ran into his former best friend and suddenly realised why he never could get over John leaving the way he had and why things with Rogue were definitely not working out. But can two people on opposite sides ever make it work? Especially when having to contend with the government’s new mutant ‘cure’, an energy-sucking monster masquerading as a dead loved one, and the years of hurt and confusion which lay between them.
Adrenaline rushed through Bobby as he jumped and slid across the bonnet of an almost entirely destroyed car and chased after Kitty, towards a large piece of rubble that they could use to shelter behind. Before they could reach it though, he heard the familiar high-pitched sound of something fast and heavy headed their way. He quickly spun on his heel and, spotting the projectile that had been launched towards them, used his powers to cool and slow it down until it landed harmlessly on the ground before them. He resisted the urge to give a fist pump but couldn’t suppress the grin that spread across his face when he turned back to Kitty because that had been awesome. He’d been totally and utterly in control of his powers and they did exactly what he wanted them to instead of randomly freezing a load of other items as well. She grinned back for a second then her eyes widened in surprise and Bobby knew, even before she shouted, that he’d turned away from the flying debris too soon.
Luckily, Kitty was on it and she quickly grabbed hold of him before activating her ability and allowing the rock to phase right through them both. It was such a weird feeling and Bobby wondered if that’s what it was like all the time for her. He felt even more pleased with his own ice powers because that was just cold, and Bobby loved the cold. It took a moment for him to get his equilibrium back when he and Kitty became solid again, and Kitty was obviously expecting that because she kept her hands on him as support while he tried to regain his balance. Even as he thanked her, the back of Bobby’s neck prickled with that feeling of being watched.
Out of the corner of his eye he could see Rogue staring at the pair of them and he suddenly knew exactly what it looked like; he and Kitty still had their arms around each other and were grinning stupidly with the adrenaline of their narrow escapes. He knew that he should let go of Kitty; step back and make it clear that he had just been caught off balance and that there was nothing more to the embrace than Kitty helping a teammate out. But the echoes of his and Rogue’s argument that morning floated through his head and he found himself taking a step closer to Kitty before he even registered what he was doing. Kitty frowned in confusion for a moment before she obviously caught the movement of Rogue storming off; then she rolled her eyes in exasperation.
“You need to stop using me to make your girlfriend jealous, Drake,” she said, stepping back from him.
He was obviously in trouble if she was using his surname.
“I’m not…” he tried but Kitty just raised an unimpressed eyebrow at him, and he sighed instead. “Sorry, I couldn’t help it. She just gets under my skin sometimes.”
Kitty thankfully chose not to comment on the fact that Rogue couldn’t even get near Bobby’s skin let alone beneath it and instead said, “Talking to her might help. It would be better than this because, I have to tell you, being the supposed other woman is beginning to suck.”
Bobby winced because he hadn’t even considered that it would affect Kitty too. “Are people talking?”
“Not to me.” Kitty shrugged. “But, what with Rogue sending me death glares every time she sees me and you suddenly getting all touchy feely when we’re together, there’s probably more than one rumour flying around the school.”
“I’m so sorry, Kitty Kat,” Bobby told her as they picked their way over the rubble in order to get back to the main group of trainees. “Want me to ice them all to their chairs next class?”
She snorted. “Tempting but I don’t particularly care what most of them think about me.”
Bobby caught the slight emphasis on ‘most’ and followed her line of sight to the person who, anyone who paid actual attention to Kitty would realise, was the only one whose opinion did matter to her.
“I’ll set him straight,” Bobby told her and at her suddenly panicky look, held his hands up. “Hey, I’m not going to tell Piotr about your mahoosive crush on him I’ll just, you know, start a conversation complaining about the completely untrue rumours flying around about me and you. All casual-like.”
Kitty looked as though she was going to protest but they’d reached the rest of the team which put an end to the conversation. Then Wolverine decided that he needed to be thrown at the giant killer robot and the sight of Piotr fulfilling that particular action in full Colossus glory suitably distracted her. Bobby couldn’t help but be amused; how the hell could anyone think that Kitty had a thing for him when she practically drooled over Piotr every chance she got?
His amusement lasted for as long as it took for the simulation to be over and Rogue to stomp her way out of the Danger Room. Bobby decided to leave her be for now and headed to the showers in order to give her time to calm down. It clearly didn’t work because when he walked out the boys’ locker room at the same time as she exited the girls’ locker room opposite, she swept into the elevator without even acknowledging his presence. He decided to bite the bullet and jumped into the elevator as well, before the doors closed, ready to maybe finally have that talk that Kitty kept recommending. But as usual, the sight of Rogue’s face, tight with anger at him as it always seemed to be these days, brought his infamous stubborn streak to the fore. Instead of acknowledging that he knew what was wrong and starting an actual conversation about the way their relationship seemed to be going lately, he pretended to be oblivious to it all and simply asked her how she was. And Rogue, just as stubborn as he was, gritted her teeth and claimed to be ‘fine’.
“You don’t seem fine; you seem like you’re avoiding me.” It was like poking a bruise, Bobby knew it would cause more hurt but once he started, he couldn’t seem to stop. “I mean, obviously something’s wrong.”
The doors to the elevator opened onto the main floor while they were talking and Rogue rushed out of there, walking quickly as if she could lose Bobby somehow.
“What’s wrong is that I can’t touch my boyfriend without killing him,” she threw back over her shoulder. “Other than that, I’m wonderful.”
That was the opening. Bobby should’ve used it, acknowledged that the fact they couldn’t touch was becoming more of an issue these days and started the conversation that he unfortunately knew could only end one way. But there was that tone in her voice again, the one that suggested that the not touching thing was his issue when the truth was that it had always been hers. It was obviously understandable given the fact that extended contact with another person ended with them dead or in a coma and with a piece of them floating around in her head like a split personality. She already had three extra personalities in there and Bobby had never wanted to add to her pain like that so he had never pressed the issue. In fact, he’d always kind of enjoyed figuring out creative ways to get around the touch issue; it was Rogue who got overly frustrated that they couldn’t take it any further than they already had.
He grabbed her by the arm and pulled her to a halt. “Hey, I don’t think that’s fair. Have I ever put any pressure on you?”
She just scoffed. “You’re a guy, Bobby. Your mind’s only on one thing.”
That time when Rogue walked away, he let her go and headed to the rec room to try and take his mind off her. Kitty was already situated on the sofas and Bobby automatically started to walk over to her when he noticed the less than subtle looks they were garnering from their classmates. So instead he sighed, blindly grabbed a book from one of the bookcases near where Kitty was sitting and then headed to his room.
He fell back onto his bed with a huff and said aloud to the empty room, “How did it get to be this hard?”
But if Bobby was being honest with himself then he already knew the answer to that.
He and Rogue were over and they had been for months. Whatever they had once felt for each other was gone but neither one of them was ready to admit it out loud; Rogue, because she clearly didn’t want to let go of the only person besides Logan who wasn’t scared to spend time with her and Bobby because he knew that he’d feel guilty for leaving her when the very nature of her gifts meant that she was already lonely. So, he kept pushing and sniping with Rogue and flirting with Kitty because deep down he hoped that Rogue would finally snap and be the one to break off the relationship, thereby alleviating at least some of that waiting guilt. It was childish and cowardly and if John were still around, he’d slap Bobby upside the head and tell him to grow a pair.
Bobby looked across the room at the stripped bed that had once belonged to St John Allerdyce; pain in the ass wannabe rebel and the best friend Bobby had ever had. Up until he left them all and joined Magneto’s Brotherhood of Mutants. That hadn’t helped matters with Rogue either. She never understood why Bobby had mourned the loss of John just as much as he’d mourned for Jean, and Bobby had never really dealt with the fact that a small part of him blamed Rogue for the fact that the two of them had just let John leave the jet that day. But it was only a small part, mostly he blamed himself.
He’d lost count of the number of times that he’d wondered how he could have missed the changes in John, how he could have missed the fact that his carefully cultivated bad boy act was becoming less of an act. He’d replayed that day over and over; remembering the look of pure elation that was on John’s face as he attacked those cops and trying to reconcile that with the guy who he’d once seen talk down a skittish Jubilee from running away from the school after her powers went a little haywire. Bobby had spent hours wondering if he could have persuaded John to stay if he’d ran after him that day instead of letting him walk out into the snowy landscape all by himself, even though John had clearly made up his mind to join Magneto at that point.
A month or so after John left, Ororo had come to clean out John’s side of the room. Bobby had tried to talk her out of it in case John ever decided to come back but the best he could do was convince her to put the stuff in storage rather than out with the trash. He did manage to grab the pile of John’s notebooks from underneath his bed whilst Storm wasn’t looking.
Not many people, outside of the Professor and Bobby, knew about John’s dream of one day becoming a published author or that he was talented enough to do it. During the course of their friendship, Bobby had watched John fill these notebooks with his ideas, random dialogues and everyday thoughts. He’d never attempted to try and read them without permission, not after that first week they’d been roommates and he’d wound up with singed eyebrows for daring to pick up John’s notebook. Occasionally, John would let him read a short story but mostly the notebooks were off limits. Now that John was gone, Bobby read them voraciously. He supposed it was a way of keeping his friend here but they were a poor replacement. They couldn’t crawl into his bed and silently comfort him after a nightmare or distract him from doing his homework by singing some ridiculous song, entirely off key, until Bobby agreed to try and steal some cookies from the kitchen or whatever scheme John had cooked up that day. They couldn’t methodically use their power to defrost everything in the room before the teachers could find out that Bobby had lost control and frozen it all again and they definitely didn’t hold a single clue for when John had changed, no matter how many times Bobby read them. He’d at least expected to find a ‘maybe Magneto’s right’ scribbled in a border but there was nothing like that.
As he lay there, Bobby idly wondered if he should get a new roommate. Maybe once the space, the untouched half of the room was filled and less of a reminder, then he’d stop obsessing over his last roommate. But he knew that he’d never actually do it, just like he couldn’t let Ororo throw away John’s things. If he did that then it was admitting that John was never coming back and Bobby couldn’t do that.
Eventually, Bobby made himself get up and do the homework that still wasn’t due for another week; it gave him something to do other than dwelling on regrets. Of course, with the way that his day was going so far, that didn’t really work either because he soon hit a problem that he just couldn’t solve. That’s what happened when he’d been too distracted by his fight with Rogue to pay attention in class. After an hour of trying to figure it out, he threw his pen onto the desk in frustration and raked his hands through his hair. Clearly, he wasn’t going to manage it by himself. Bobby drummed his fingers on the edge of the keyboard as he thought. He had been meaning to try and talk to Scott and this would give him a good excuse to do that, seeing as Scott was never available for a casual chat these days.
Bobby had been the youngest kid ever admitted to the school and because of that he’d developed a close relationship with the teachers who had all automatically taken on the roles of his big brothers and sisters; something he’d appreciated even more when his actual brother betrayed him. It was why he took Jean’s death so hard because she hadn’t just been a teacher to him. It was also why he’d been very worried about Scott ever since Jean had died.
Decision made, he grabbed his books and headed to Scott’s room. There was a long wait after Bobby knocked on the door, long enough that Bobby was about to go and check his classroom instead, but Scott eventually answered.
“Bobby.” He nodded when he saw who it was. “What do you want?”
Bobby frowned, not only at the brusque greeting, but by his teacher’s beaten down posture. Everyone in the mansion knew that Scott had been grieving hard for Jean and had trouble sleeping since her death but he always maintained his professionalism while teaching classes. Bobby had no idea how just a sharp posture and a suit could hide so much but now, outside of the classroom, he could see how drawn and sallow Scott’s face looked and the way his clothes had begun to hang from his frame.
“Scott…” Bobby instantly revised his original plan. “Wanna sneak out to Ruby’s?”
It was a tradition that Bobby and Scott had had since Bobby was small. Any time anything was bothering him, Scott would sneak him out of the school and take him for ice cream at the 24 hour diner in the nearby town. Inevitably, the ice cream would loosen Bobby’s tongue and he and Scott would talk through his problems until he felt better. They hadn’t taken a trip to Ruby’s in years but Scott definitely looked as though he needed the chance to eat ice cream and talk to a friend. Bobby had plenty of time to figure out his homework, this was more important.
Scott studied Bobby for a moment but then shook his head with a sigh. “I’m busy, Bobby. Leave me alone.”
Then he retreated back into his room and closed the door in Bobby’s face.
Bobby stayed where he was for a moment; Scott had never treated him like just another student and he’d definitely never turned down a trip to Ruby’s. Bobby was now officially, capital letter Worried about him. He turned to leave but noticed Logan standing in the doorway to his own room, a little further down the hall, watching him and the now closed door.
“How long has he been that bad?” Bobby asked as he walked over to him.
“It’s been getting worse over the past couple of weeks,” Logan said. “Slim’s barely leaving his room outside of lessons. He’s not eating and I can hear him having nightmares most nights and pacing the floor on the other ones.”
Bobby blinked. He hadn’t really expected Logan to answer, yet alone say more than Bobby thought he’d ever heard him say in one go.
Then he frowned as he took in what Logan was telling him. “Why hasn’t the Professor stepped in to help him?”
Logan shrugged. “He said that he wants to give Scott some space to grieve; he thinks that he will come to him when he’s ready.”
“You don’t think that he will,” Bobby said.
“I think that it’s time that someone stepped in and did something,” Logan said, almost to himself as he stared at Scott’s closed door, before turning back into his own room and for the second time in as many minutes, Bobby found himself facing a closed door.
“Well, that was weird,” he muttered to himself, lowly enough that Logan hopefully wouldn’t catch it.
The next few days continued in pretty much the same manner as they had for the past few months. He and Rogue continued to sit together in class and at lunch but they were just going through the motions. All their conversation was stilted, about inane things and it was always a relief when someone else joined them. The biggest difference was that the morning after Bobby had tried to talk to Scott, he’d entered the main entrance hall to see Scott rushing out of the door with a backpack as if he was going away for a while, with Logan hot on his heels. Later that morning Ororo informed the senior class that Danger Room sessions and a few of their less essential classes had been put on hold due to both Logan and Scott taking a few days absence.
Bobby had immediately gone to see the Professor to tell him what had happened the night before and to explain his concerns but the Professor put his mind at rest. Apparently, Scott had asked to use his vacation days so that he could see where Jean had died one last time and that Logan had refused to let him go alone in that state ‘in case he drove himself into a goddamn tree’. Bobby had told the Professor once that when he quoted people during a telepathic conversation, he actually projected their voice instead of merely quoting them. The fact that the Professor had exaggerated Logan’s voice for comic effect had done more to settle Bobby’s concerns than the words themselves; if Charles saw fit to make jokes then it meant that he really wasn’t concerned about Scott’s sudden absence. It didn’t mean that Bobby completely stopped worrying about Scott over the next few days but he reasoned that maybe it would be a good thing for Scott to go to Alkali Lake and put Jean to rest once and for all.
Ever since their conversation in the Danger Room, Bobby had been going out of his way to avoid Kitty. He made sure to smile and wave at her when they passed in the corridors so that she knew he wasn’t mad at her or anything like that but he no longer sought her out during their downtime or enlisted her as his homework buddy. He felt bad that he’d already made her a part of the rumours swirling about his relationship with Rogue and he didn’t want to make that any worse.
Kitty, it seemed, had other ideas. After a few days of avoiding her, he emerged from History, his last class of the day, to find her waiting outside with her arms crossed and a determined look on her face. Her English class must’ve finished early.
“You know, for such a smart guy, you’re a real idiot sometimes,” she said when he came to a stop beside her.
“Hello to you too,” he replied and tried not to wince when she punched his arm.
For such a little thing, she was surprisingly strong. Which she proved for a second time by grabbing hold of his wrist and dragging him down the hall.
“I told you about the gossiping so that you’d finally talk to Rogue not so that you stop talking to me!” Kitty huffed as she pushed her way out of the doors and out into the gardens. “I swear, Bobby Drake, that you just enjoy doing things the hard way. I’m so glad that I don’t have a thing for you because I think that you’d drive me crazy inside of a month!”
“Hey, that’s a little unfair,” Bobby protested. “I was just trying to stop putting you in the middle of the situation.”
Kitty gave him an exasperated look. “Then get rid of the situation. Talk. To. Rogue. What the hell is so difficult about that?”
“You talk to Piotr and see how difficult it is,” Bobby muttered and this time didn’t even bother to hide the wince when Kitty hit him again.
“Stop trying to dodge the issue,” she said. “Why won’t you talk to her?”
“Because if I do then we’re going to break up and I’ll become the asshole who abandoned her,” Bobby snapped. “I’m the only one, besides Logan, who’s even willing to get close to her for more than a few seconds and you know that Logan doesn’t actually count because he’s like her weird surrogate dad. If I leave her then she’ll become even more isolated than she already is and I don’t know if I can do that to her.”
Kitty scoffed. “You’re thinking about this way too much. Talking to each other doesn’t automatically mean that you’re going to break up.”
“No, but everything that we’re not talking about does.” Bobby sighed and dropped down onto the bench they’d just arrived at.
Kitty studied his face before understanding dawned. “Oh! Geez, Bobby, I didn’t know that things had got that bad.”
He shrugged and then shifted to make room for her when she joined him on the bench. “It’s been getting worse for a while.”
“Are you sure that it’s over though?” Kitty asked. “You might just be hitting a bad patch and you’ll get past it if you just keep trying.”
“It’s not a bad patch,” Bobby told her. “It’s…I used to be so infatuated with Rogue that I could barely see straight, you know? And now whenever we’re together all we do is snipe and argue to the point that on one hand it would actually be a relief for it to be over…”
“But on the other hand, you’d suffer crushing guilt over being the schmuck who bailed out on her,” Kitty supplied and Bobby nodded.
They sat quietly for a while, looking out over the perfectly manicured gardens. For some reason just admitting everything to Kitty, saying it all out loud, had made him feel a little better. He’d been keeping his true feelings to himself for months and he hadn’t realised quite how much it had been weighing him down.
“You can’t keep avoiding the issue forever, you know,” Kitty broke the companionable silence. “You’ll have to man up sometime.”
“I know,” Bobby said because the longer this stand-off went on, the more he could see that Rogue wasn’t going to be the one to break it off first.
There was a sudden shout from the house and Bobby stood up to see a group of kids just outside of the French doors waving them back.
“I think that something’s going on,” he told Kitty and they both jogged back to the house and into the rec room where everyone was huddled around the TV.
“What’s happened?” Kitty asked Siryn.
Siryn dragged her eyes away from the TV long enough to say, “They’re saying that they’ve found a cure.”
“A cure?” Bobby frowned. “A cure for what?”
“Us,” Doug replied from behind them. “A mutant antidote.”
“What?” Kitty looked as appalled as Bobby felt. “You can’t cure us; it’s not an illness, it’s a gift.”
Knowing at least one person who’d disagree with Kitty, Bobby quickly scanned the room. “Where’s Rogue?”
“She said she was going to see the Professor,” Siryn replied absently as she kept watching the news report. “She wanted to find out if it’s really true.”
Bobby was out of the room before Syrin had even finished speaking. He immediately headed for the Professor’s office where he could see Rogue frowning at Ororo. Stepping into the room, Bobby blinked in surprise at Hank’s presence but he dismissed that for now and stepped closer to Rogue.
“Are you okay?” he asked her.
“It’s true. It’s a cure, Bobby,” she replied excitedly and then held a gloved hand up when Ororo opened her mouth to speak. “No! You can tell me this isn’t a disease when you can’t touch the people you love.”
“Rogue…” Ororo’s voice was full of sympathy and Bobby grimaced because being pitied was something that Rogue hated.
Sure enough, Rogue shot Ororo a dirty look and swept out of the room.
Bobby hurried after her. “You really want to take this ‘cure’?”
Rogue had begun to climb the stairs to the dorms but stopped to look back at him. “I just want to stop feeling like this, Bobby.”
He climbed up until he was just one step below her. “We don’t know anything about it yet. It could all be some big trap.”
“Maybe.” She nodded, then reached out to stroke a glove covered hand down the side of his face. “But maybe it works and, if it does, then it could fix us. We could go back to the way we used to be, but better.”
It was the first time that either of them had acknowledged that things weren’t working.
Bobby covered Rogue’s hand with his own, squeezing for a moment before he pulled it away from his face. “I’m not sure that we could.”
Rogue didn’t answer but she got that determined look on her face and Bobby suppressed a groan because more stubbornness was the exact opposite of the reaction that he wanted. Stubbornness over this could lead Rogue to taking the cure for ‘them’ when there was no ‘them’ left. It could lead to her being left powerless with a whole boatload of regrets.
“Don’t do anything yet,” Bobby tried. “Let Hank and the Professor look into this cure to see if it is what it claims to be. Give them time.”
“Bobby…” she had already begun to shake her head so Bobby took a tighter grip of the hand he still had hold of.
“At least wait until we’ve had a talk. A proper one. About us.” There he’d made the first step. “Promise me that, at least.”
Rogue was quiet for a long moment before she finally nodded. “Okay, Bobby. But we’d better…”
She was interrupted by a commotion at the door. Bobby’s stomach turned to lead when he saw that Logan was back, looking a little worse for wear, and that he had Scott slung over his shoulder. Bobby automatically ran back down the stairs, intent on checking that Scott was okay, but then the Professor, Ororo and Hank appeared and effectively blocked his path.
“Robert, I need you to help Ororo keep all the children occupied,” the Professor said, his voice tight and his face carefully blank.
Bobby felt the instinctual need to protest and could see that Ororo felt the same way but the Professor gave him a soft nudge of ‘Please, Bobby’ in his mind so he nodded and began to make his way back to the rec room. He’d expected Rogue to follow behind him but she was nowhere to be seen by the time he and Ororo had organised a Fall Guys tournament on the large screen TV. From the looks that Kitty, Doug and even Piotr sent him, Bobby was sure they all thought the tournament was to distract them from the news of the cure and not whatever the hell was happening downstairs with Scott. A few times Bobby caught Ororo’s eye and tried to ask her what was going on using just his eyebrows and unsubtle nods in the direction of the elevator but she always shook her head and quickly looked away again.
It wasn’t until the tournament was over, with Archie’s team overall winners and declaring themselves the new Kings and Queens of the mansion, and the rest of the students had gone to bed that Bobby had the chance to really ask Ororo what she knew.
“What makes you think that I know anything, Bobby? I’ve been here with you,” she said a little sharply as they both moved around the room, clearing away the debris and leftover snacks that the tournament had created.
Bobby didn’t take her tone to heart, Ororo always tended to wear her heart on her sleeve and just because she was annoyed, didn’t necessarily mean that she was annoyed with you.
“You didn’t even see Scott? See if he looked okay?” Bobby lobbed an empty Doritos bag into one of the trash bags. “I didn’t get the chance before the rest of you blocked me.”
“Only long enough to see that he was unconscious,” she replied. “He was definitely still breathing but beyond that I don’t know what’s wrong with him. I will say that whatever it is, it really had Charles on edge.”
“On edge? So, it’s serious?” Bobby asked. “It’s not just that he passed out from not sleeping for the past few months?”
Ororo sighed. “Bobby…”
“Right; you don’t know. Sorry, ‘Ro.” Bobby sent her an apologetic look before continuing with the clean-up.
“It’s okay,” Ororo said, her face softening and showing just how tired she was. “It’s just been a long day, Bobby. When the Professor wants us to know what’s happening, he’ll tell us.”
Bobby nodded and they finished tidying the room in a silence that felt far less angry than before.
Ororo was proved correct when they were walking back into the mansion from dumping the trash bags out back and the Professor’s voice sounded in Bobby’s mind.
Thank you for your assistance this evening, Robert. If you would like to accompany Ororo to the medical labs, there is something that we should all discuss.
Bobby and Ororo exchanged a puzzled glance and headed to the elevators. Bobby’s stomach began to tie itself up in knots because while he was very close to the teachers and in some ways considered part of the core group that kept the school going, he was never included in the staff meetings. The only reason he could think of as to why he would be included this time was because the meeting wasn’t about the school or the X-Men; it was a family meeting and Bobby couldn’t help but brace himself for some bad news.
Charles was waiting outside the lab. Over his shoulder he could see Hank leaning over Scott as he lay, unmoving, on the bed while Logan paced angrily around the room
“Scott and Logan discovered something entirely unexpected during their trip to Alkali Lake,” the Professor began. “They found Jean. She’s alive.”
“What?” Ororo stared at the Professor. “How is that possible? And what’s happened to Scott?”
“It shouldn’t be possible,” the Professor replied. “I can only hypothesize that her powers kept her cocooned in some kind of psychic bubble which prevented her from being crushed beneath that immense water pressure.”
Bobby wanted to ask about where Jean was now but then his eyes flicked between the Professor’s worried expression, Logan’s angry pacing and Hank, who seemed to be wavering between both of those emotions.
“She hurt Scott.” It seemed unbelievable but it was the conclusion that Bobby came to.
“Yes, she did,” the Professor said in a sorrowful tone. “It appears that she’s no longer the Jean Grey that we knew.”
He launched into an explanation about Jean’s powers and her split personality called Phoenix which was crazy but not as crazy as Jean deliberately hurting Scott. That fact, Bobby couldn’t get his mind around because they were Scott and Jean; they’d been together since they were younger than Bobby and were clearly made for each other. The idea that one of them could harm the other was unthinkable.
The Professor led the way into the lab and Bobby rushed past him to stand over Scott. His skin looked almost ashen with small veins prominent beneath.
“What exactly did she do?” Ororo asked from beside Bobby; he noticed her reluctance to use Jean’s name.
“She kissed him,” Logan ground out. “I was too far away to stop her. I saw her come out of the water and I knew that it was wrong. She was all wrong.”
Bobby dragged his eyes away from Scott long enough to see the anguish on Logan’s face; after all, he’d loved Jean too.
“I yelled at Cyke to get away from her but he either didn’t hear me or he just ignored me,” Logan continued. “She kissed him and then everything started to float; rocks, the sand, even the goddamn water was rising up out of the lake, like it was raining upwards. Scott began to scream just as I reached them so I pulled him away from her and she…her eyes were black and there were these waves of energy coming off her that sent me and Cyke crashing back into the rocks. By the time I regained my senses, Jean was gone and he was like that.”
“Will he wake up?” Bobby asked Hank.
“I believe so,” Hank assured him and gestured that it was okay for Bobby to take hold of Scott’s hand. “It may take a little while though, his body needs time to heal and regain the energy that was leeched from him.”
“She took his energy?” Storm asked. “I don’t understand. Was she trying to steal his gift?”
“It’s a possibility,” the Professor acknowledged. “I’m afraid that even after all our therapy sessions, I still do not know the full extent of Jean’s power.”
“No, I don’t believe that she was trying to steal Scott’s optic blast. Not in the way that you’re thinking; not to use herself,” Hank broke in. “There has to be a reason why Jean hasn’t reappeared before now. I think it’s because she needed to heal and healing takes energy. Something which Scott and his power have in abundance.”
“Are you saying that she was using Slim to recharge?” Logan asked incredulously.
Hank nodded. “Essentially. And I think that she probably would have drained him dry if you hadn’t interrupted her. After this long, she wouldn’t have been able to help herself.”
“But she was interrupted,” Bobby pointed out. “So, does this mean that she’s going to…drain someone else?”
Bobby could barely believe what he was saying and especially that it was about Jean. It made her sound like some kind of evil energy vampire rather than his soft spoken and always kind surrogate sister. But with everything that he’d just learned, Bobby had to believe the Professor; she wasn’t their Jean anymore.
“That’s a very good question, Robert.” Charles looked grim at that particular prospect. “Ororo, will you assist me? I think that I need to use Cerebro to ascertain where Jean has gone.”
“Phoenix,” Logan growled. “She’s not Jean, she’s this Phoenix now.”
Everyone stared at Logan for a moment until the Professor nodded his agreement.
“Very well,” he said. “Robert, it’s past lights out. Why don’t you go to bed and you can come down to visit Scott in the morning before breakfast if you wish?”
“No.” Bobby shook his head. “I want to stay.”
“I understand that you want to be here in case he wakes up,” the Professor told him. “But it is unlikely that he will wake tonight.”
“It’s okay, Charles,” Hank said before Bobby could protest again. “I was planning on running some more tests on Scott throughout the night and I could use the company. Besides, it is a Saturday tomorrow so Bobby can sleep in the day.”
The Professor simply nodded once more and left the lab with Ororo.
“Thanks, Hank. I owe you one.” Bobby gave Hank a grateful look.
“I’ll add it to your tab, shall I?” Hank smiled and ruffled Bobby’s hair a little before he turned to draw some blood from Scott. “Grab a stool and drag it over here. You don’t want to stand on your feet all night.”
Bobby turned away from Scott to do just that and then blinked in surprise when Logan brought a stool over to him.
“I never realised that you and Cyke were so close,” Logan commented.
Bobby shrugged, sitting on the stool and taking hold of Scott’s hand again. “He’s always been there for me. Helped me get control over my powers when I was freezing everything around me.”
“It wasn’t that bad, Bobby,” Hank commented.
“Oh yeah?” Bobby raised an eyebrow at him. “Do you remember when Scott had to blast his way into my room after I had that one nightmare?”
Hank paused. “I admit that I had forgotten all about that.”
“I haven’t,” Bobby replied. “And neither has Scott. That’s why he pushes me to train harder and make sure I always have control.”
“And here I thought he was just a hard-ass,” Logan drawled and Bobby smiled.
“There’s that too.”
“Bobby’s been with us since he was five years old,” Hank told Logan while he continued to run his tests on Scott. “He’s the youngest student to be admitted to the school so we all became…”
“Possessive,” Bobby said.
“Protective.” Hank shook his head at Bobby’s mischievous smile. “And rather attached; even when he’s being a brat.”
Logan frowned at Bobby. “You’ve been here since you were five and your parents didn’t know that you’re a mutant?”
Bobby’s smile faded as it always did when he was reminded of that disastrous day at his parent’s house with Logan, Rogue and John.
“The Professor made me promise not to. He said that they wouldn’t understand and that I should wait until I was older before telling them.” Bobby shrugged. “At the time I thought that the Professor wanted me to wait until I was really good at making ice shapes before I showed them. It wasn’t until I was eight and one of my uncles got drunk at the family barbeque one summer that I really realised why. Uncle Don started ranting about how ‘the mutant freaks should be put down before they infected all us normal people’ and my parents were just smiling and laughing and were fully in agreement with him. That’s when I knew what the Professor had read from them the day that he came to the house to offer me the scholarship to the school. And the real reason that he didn’t think I should tell them.”
“Shit! No wonder you didn’t want to go there that day,” Logan said.
“S’alright. They had to find out sometime,” Bobby replied. “At least now I know where I stand. And where I really belong.”
“Have you spoken to them since?” Hank asked.
Bobby shrugged again and tried to look nonchalant. “I phoned them about a week after Alkali Lake. They made it clear that I wasn’t to call again.”
“Oh, Bobby, I am sorry,” Hank said at the same time that Logan declared;
“Fuck ’em, kid!”
Bobby had to give a small smile at that because he knew that’s just what John would’ve said to him if he’d been around after that particular phone call. That had been one of the days when he’d missed John the most; especially when the call had been followed up by an emergency restraining order sent from his dad’s lawyer.
To Bobby’s surprise, Logan pulled up another stool alongside his and settled in. Bobby had half expected him to leave, duty done, and go outside to howl at the moon or whatever it was that Logan did when he spent full nights camping in the woods behind the mansion. Instead, it looked as though he really had made Scott his responsibility since their conversation a few days earlier.
“I never realised that you and Scott were so close.” Bobby parroted Logan’s previous words back at him as he watched Logan sprawl easily on the stool as if it wasn’t an extremely uncomfortable piece of furniture.
Hank sent Bobby a reproachful look at that but Logan just smirked the same almost impressed smile he’d given Bobby that night in the kitchen for not backing down from the scary Wolverine’s glares and grumpy attitude.
“We’re not,” Logan admitted. “But since Jean…well, I know how much I miss her and I’d only loved her for a fraction of the time he had. I figured that she’d want me to look out for him. But then I went and let him get hurt anyway…from some…thing wearing her face.”
“No one was prepared for Phoenix,” Hank told him. “I’m sure that Jean wouldn’t blame you for that. And you did manage to stop her before she actually killed Scott. Just imagine what could have happened if you’d let Scott go up there alone.”
Bobby looked down at Scott and reflexively squeezed his hand a little tighter. He didn’t think that he could stand to lose anyone else he cared about any time soon; he’d already lost Jean, John and his entire family.
The three men stayed in the lab for the rest of the night; chatting quietly, exchanging stories and waiting for Scott to wake up. The Professor and Ororo checked in regularly and thankfully neither of them tried to make Bobby to go bed again. Finally, a few hours after the sounds of a lazy Saturday morning in the school had filtered down to them, Bobby jumped in surprise when Logan suddenly clamped a hand on his shoulder. Blinking, he realised that he’d fallen asleep right there on the stool and Logan had grabbed him to stop him from sliding off the stool onto the floor.
“Time for you to get some sleep, bub,” Logan told him and Bobby dazedly wondered when he’d moved from ‘kid’ to ‘bub’; probably at some point during the night as they all got to know each other better.
He shook his head, as much to try and shake the sleep away as to disagree with Logan. “I’ll be fine. I’ll go and grab a quick coffee and come back.”
“Actually, I think it’s time for all of you to get some sleep.” Ororo stood in the doorway watching the exchange. “Me and Charles will take turns watching him while you all rest. You’re going to be no good to Scott if you’re all asleep on your feet and definitely no good to the rest of us when we finally track Phoenix down.”
The Professor and Ororo had spent hours in Cerebro trying to find where Phoenix had gone but she seemed to be shielding herself somehow.
Ororo held up a hand, obviously able to read the protest on their faces. “I’ll wake you all up if there is any change in Scott’s condition. You have my word.”
Bobby and Logan exchanged a look before standing, neither one of them in the mood to tangle with Ororo in Storm mode. Hank was still making half-hearted arguments about the tests he was still running as Bobby left the lab and practically sleep walked to the elevator.
“How long until she zaps him with a little lightening?” Logan asked, leaning against the elevator wall and looking as tired as Bobby felt.
“Nah, she’s got no access to the weather down here,” Bobby said. “She’ll just punch him.”
They were still chuckling when the doors opened onto the ground floor of the mansion and revealed Rogue pacing back and fore. She stopped and stared in shock at the sight of Bobby and Logan laughing together like friends.
“Where’ve you been?” She asked Bobby. “Is Scott okay? What happened? Why doesn’t anyone else know that you brought him back?”
That last one was directed at Logan who held his hands up in front of him as if to ward off the quickfire barrage of questions.
“Easy, Marie,” he drawled. “Give us the chance to actually get off the elevator, will ya?”
She rolled her eyes at him and turned back to Bobby. “I waited in your room last night but you didn’t show. Have you been downstairs all…”
“You waited in his room?” Logan interrupted, looking between the couple with narrowed eyes and Bobby could feel all the progress he’d made that night in getting to know Logan backslide with each passing second. “Do you do that a lot? Spend time in his bedroom?”
Rogue huffed impatiently. “You do remember that we can’t touch, don’t you, sugar? So, whatever it is that you think we get up to in Bobby’s room, you’re wrong.”
Logan raised an unimpressed eyebrow at her. “I seem to recall that you kids can get pretty creative when you want to.”
“Even if we could figure out a way around it, we’re both eighteen and it’s none of your business,” Rogue shot back.
Bobby was way too tired to want to stand by while Logan and Rogue had one of their notorious makeshift father/daughter fights but he was pretty much trapped on the elevator until they were finished. He leaned against the wall to wait it out, fighting to keep his eyes open the entire time.
“It is my business, Marie,” Logan growled at her. “You’re my responsibility and you know it.”
“If that was really true then I’d see you more often than when you ‘just pass through’ a couple of times a year,” Rogue told him, tartly.
“You’re the reason I do pass through,” Logan replied. “Or do you think that I want to spend my free time hanging around a school?”
“Could’ve fooled me, Logan. I always thought that you were here to pine after Jean.”
Bobby stared at Rogue, stunned that she’d said that. Rogue looked as if she couldn’t quite believe it herself.
“Logan, I’m sorry,” she immediately started to apologise. “I didn’t mean that, I just…”
“Forget it,” Logan broke in despite looking as though she’d slapped him. He pointed at Bobby. “You go find a horizontal surface to sleep on before you fall over and you…well, we’ll talk later, about whatever it is that has you in such a bad mood, Marie.”
Rogue nodded, looking a little guilty, and stepped aside so that Bobby could pass her.
“I’ll speak to you later?” he asked quietly. “We still need to have that talk.”
“You just get some sleep, sugar,” she replied, back to the normal caring Rogue now that her temper had itself burned out. “Don’t worry about me and I’ll speak to the Professor about what happened to Scott.”
Bobby gave her a relieved smile. In all honesty, he didn’t even know how much he could tell her about Scott, Phoenix and that whole mess. He’d let the Professor decide and then follow his lead.
He made it back to his room, although he couldn’t tell you how he got there, and collapsed onto his bed. He was asleep almost before his head hit the pillow.
A loud banging on his door woke him up and, judging from the light drifting in through his still-open curtains, it was now early-afternoon.
“Bobby?” Ororo shouted through the door and Bobby was immediately on his feet, flinging open the door. Relief flooded through him when he saw her smile. “He’s awake.”
He grinned at her and went to leave the room, intent on going back down to the lab, when Ororo put her hand on his chest and gently pushed him back into the room.
“You can’t see him yet, Hank’s checking him over. Maybe you could use this time to…I don’t know, shower and put on a new change of clothes?” She pointedly eyed the clothes he’d been wearing the day before and then slept in.
“Right. Good plan,” he told her and she chuckled before heading down the corridor away from his room.
“I’ll make you a couple of sandwiches while you do that,” she called back over her shoulder. “But don’t expect this treatment every day.”
Half an hour and a quick shower later, Bobby was wolfing down his last sandwich even as he got onto the elevator downstairs. He’d hoped to run into Rogue but there hadn’t been any sign of her so he’d have to catch her later.
“Heard you kept watch over me all night,” was the first thing that Scott said when Bobby stepped into the lab and Bobby couldn’t stop his smile at the sight of Scott sitting up in the bed, looking a thousand times better than he had the night before. Actually, he was looking better than he had in weeks.
“Well, you did decide to play Sleeping Beauty,” Bobby shot back.
Scott lifted a hand and placed it over his heart. “Bobby Drake, my hero.”
“Funny, I thought that was me.”
Bobby looked over his shoulder as Logan walked into the room. He gave Bobby a slight smile as he walked past him to stand on the opposite side of the bed, so Bobby hoped that there hadn’t been any lasting damage done by Rogue’s tantrum because Logan had looked ready to tear Bobby’s arm off and beat him with it then.
The small smirk that Scott had been giving Bobby faded at Logan’s words. “You’re probably right. Thank you.”
Logan shrugged. “You’d have done it for me.”
Scott nodded slowly. “It wasn’t her.”
It wasn’t a question, because the Professor had most likely talked to him about what happened already, but Logan shook his head anyway.
“I think I knew that,” Scott said. “I wanted it to be Jean so badly that I ignored everything that was telling me it wasn’t. I even convinced myself that the voices I kept hearing and the dreams I was having were her trying to find her way back to me but deep down, I knew it wasn’t actually her. It all felt…wrong. Rotten, somehow.”
Bobby guessed that the nightmares that Logan had mentioned were about Jean; they had to be, really. But he hadn’t known about the voices. No wonder Scott had looked like he was coming apart at the seams before the trip back to Alkali Lake.
“You didn’t go to the lake to say goodbye, did you?” Logan was frowning at Scott who gave him a regretful look. “Phoenix called you there. Son of a bitch, Scott; you walked us both into a trap!”
“I did,” Scott admitted and Logan growled at him.
“Hey!” Bobby interjected. “You knew that he wasn’t thinking straight when he left here, Logan. No one could with that level of sleep deprivation; you told the Professor yourself that you were worried he’d fall asleep and drive right off the road.”
“I don’t think I used the word ‘worried’,” Logan muttered but he’d stopped growling.
“Put yourself in Scott’s shoes,” Bobby told him. “You’d have done the exact same thing.”
Logan glared at Bobby for a long moment before finally saying, “I wouldn’t have invited anyone else along for the ride.”
“I didn’t invite you,” Scott pointed out. “You followed me; bitching and moaning the entire time.”
“Bitching? You confusing me with yourself there, Slim?”
And just like that, the tense moment passed and Bobby internally breathed a sigh of relief. Scott and Logan sniping at each other, he could deal with.
“So…what did I miss?” Scott asked in an obvious and slightly awkward attempt to lighten the mood.
“Well, apparently Rogue and the popsicle aren’t fucking like rabbits,” Logan replied without missing a beat and Bobby choked on thin air which caused Scott to give the first genuine laugh anyone had heard from him since Jean died.
Logan leaned over the bed to ‘helpfully’ slap the hell out of Bobby’s back while continuing, “Yeah, me and Marie had that little talk, bub. I don’t know if I’m impressed or a little concerned about your restraint. I swear, I don’t know what’s wrong with you teenagers today.”
Scott raised an eyebrow. “Are you complaining that he isn’t having sex with Rogue?”
Logan paused. “When you put it that way…”
Bobby dropped his head into his hands. “This is the most mortifying conversation ever.”
“Nah, that would be the one that I had with Marie this morning,” Logan assured him. “Southern girls are supposed to be demure and definitely not go into that much detail.”
“Demure?” Bobby couldn’t help but raise his head at that. “Rogue is definitely not that; she’s as shameless as they come, when she wants to be.”
“Which is great in all other subjects than the one we were discussing this morning,” Logan told him and the expression of pure discomfort in his face certainly seemed to amuse Scott.
Bobby couldn’t help but be pleased. Scott clearly wasn’t back to normal but he was showing signs of getting there at last. He’d probably never get over losing Jean but now that he knew that whatever had been, quite literally, haunting him wasn’t her then he could maybe put her to rest; at least Bobby hoped that he could.
The day passed relatively quickly. Hank joined them after a while, as did Ororo, and, with everyone carefully avoiding the subject of Phoenix for the time being, it occasionally almost felt like old times but with far more snarking now that Logan had joined the little group. It was late afternoon by the time Bobby’s stomach protested enough to send him back up into the mansion. He grabbed a plateful of dinner and, once he’d sated his appetite, decided that it was time to bite the bullet. He needed to find Rogue and finally put an end to things before they did irreparable damage to their friendship and ended up hating each other.
There was no sign of her in the rec room or any of the normal hangouts on the ground floor, so Bobby made his way up to the dorms. His door was still open from his mad rush earlier and showed that it was empty so he continued on to Rogue and Alison’s room, which was similarly devoid of occupants. He began to frown and looked up and down the corridor, wondering where to start looking.
“Have you seen Rogue?” he asked, Piotr as he walked past.
“She is gone,” Piotr replied; his attitude seemingly unconcerned but Bobby knew him too well and could see that he was worried about how Bobby would react.
Bobby’s stomach was tying itself up in knots as he found himself back in the elevator again. The doors had barely opened before he was sprinting to the lab.
“Rogue’s left!” He practically shouted as he burst through the door.
“What?” Ororo stood up. “What do you mean?”
“I mean that she’s gone,” Bobby said. “She’s gone to get the cure.”
Ororo closed her eyes and sighed, sinking back down onto her stool. “I hoped that she’d see sense before making her decision.”
“According to the others, she’s only been gone a few hours,” Bobby told them. “It’ll take longer than that to make it to the nearest clinic; we can still catch her.”
Hank frowned. “Do you really want to do that? If she’s made her choice then we should respect it, no matter how much we disagree.”
“She’s made her choice with the wrong information…or not all the information.” Bobby shook his head; he knew that he wasn’t making much sense. “She promised that she’d wait until we talked, really talked, before she decided and we haven’t done that yet. She’s going to get the cure because she thinks it’ll fix all our problems if we can touch each other but it won’t and she’s too stubborn to see it. I can’t let her take it for me, I can’t.”
“Okay,” Scott said; Bobby wasn’t sure if he understood what he was babbling about but he could clearly see how upset Bobby was. “Go grab Logan and get him to go with you; if anyone can make her stop and listen to you then it’s him. And I’ll feel better if you’ve got back-up; it’s beginning to look pretty rough out there.”
He nodded towards the TV in the corner which was showing the protesters outside various clinics around the country. Bobby quickly left to find Logan and all it took was ‘Rogue’s gone’ before they were in Scott’s car and heading into New York.
It was still light when they arrived. Bobby left Logan with the job of parking, in order to jump out and try to find Rogue a bit quicker. When he reached the clinic, the police were patrolling in the middle of the road to separate the queue of mutants waiting to get into the building on one side of the street from the protesters on the other side. Bobby couldn’t get close the clinic’s queue unless he filled out the forms to get the cure himself so he instead pushed his way through the crowd of protesters, his eyes trained on the mutants across the street, trying to find the familiar dark hair with pure white streaks. He was so caught up in his search that he didn’t register someone coming to stand beside him until a familiar voice spoke.
“Gettin’ the cure so that you can go back home to Mommy and Daddy?”
Bobby’s head twisted to the side so fast that he felt his neck protest the movement. But sure enough, there stood John Allerdyce, smirking at him. Just seeing him again, Bobby felt some of the tightness that had been in his chest ever since John had left, relax. John was saying something else but Bobby wasn’t listening, instead he was drinking in the sight of his best friend. John looked good; a bit leaner than he’d been and his hair…
“What did you do to your hair?” The words were out of Bobby’s mouth before he registered speaking.
It stopped John mid-flow and he stared at Bobby with a bemused expression. “That’s the first thing you say to me?”
“John…” Bobby started but John cut him off.
Right, of course. Bobby had heard Magneto call it John’s ‘real name’. He guessed that no one used the names they were born with in the Brotherhood of Mutants.
John was apparently waiting for Bobby to make a comment on that but when he didn’t John just stared at him again; confusion written all over his face. Bobby didn’t know what to do. He’d wanted this moment for months; a chance to talk to John and maybe persuade him to come home or to find out why John left or even figure out why Bobby missed him so much. But now that the moment was here, he couldn’t think of what to say or ask first.
He grabbed John’s wrist, holding his breath for a moment in anticipation of John lighting those fancy new wrist lighters, which he’d only just noticed, and trying to burn Bobby to a crisp. John gave a sharp intake of breath and his fingers twitched but he didn’t light up; instead, he seemed intrigued to find out what Bobby was doing. Bobby wished that he could tell him because he had no idea; between the stressful night, too little sleep, months of missing his best friend and now seeing John standing next to him, something in Bobby had given way and he was now just acting on instinct.
With his grip still firmly around John’s wrist, Bobby pulled him through the crowd and down the street a little way until they reached an alley. Bobby ducked into the alley, not stopping even when John stumbled a little from the abrupt change of direction.
“Man, what are you doing?” John asked but Bobby didn’t answer; he didn’t have an answer.
He kept dragging John down the alley until they were relatively out of view of the people on the street. Then he let go of John’s wrist and spun on his heel to face him. Understanding dawned on John’s face and he automatically fell into a fighting stance.
“If you wanted to go a couple of rounds, Iceman, you could’ve just said so,” John drawled and the sound of it was so familiar and so longed for that Bobby felt that thing inside give again.
He felt a momentary flare of triumph when he easily bypassed John’s fists with only a glancing blow to his cheek that Bobby barely felt and he shoved John up against the wall. But he didn’t know who was more shocked when, after a moment of struggling with each other against the rough brickwork, Bobby leaned forward and kissed him.
All the pieces suddenly slotted into place for Bobby. This was why he’d missed John so much and why he’d been obsessing over him since he left. This was why things weren’t working out with Rogue; she wasn’t who he wanted, not anymore. The person he wanted had left. But now they’d found themselves here at the same time and it had to be some kind of sign.
Bobby pushed in closer, one of his hands threading their way into that ridiculous hair while the other dropped to John’s hip. Then through the fog of want that had descended over him, Bobby suddenly registered the fact that John wasn’t kissing him back and he flushed with shame. He immediately stepped back, an apology on his lips, only for John to grab him by the front of his hoodie and spin them around until Bobby was the one against the wall.
This time it was John kissing Bobby and it felt incredible. Bobby’s lips parted on a groan and John took full advantage, sweeping his tongue into Bobby’s mouth and exploring it with a thoroughness that had Bobby shuddering against him.
“Jesus, Bobby,” John gasped when the need to breathe finally broke them apart.
They stayed pressed together, hands gripping clothing and neither willing to let go.
“I’ve missed you so fucking much!” Bobby whispered.
“Language, Drake,” John admonished but his voice hitched, belying his nonchalant tone.
It caused Bobby to smile and kiss him again.
“I really hate to disturb you boys…” A voice sounded from beside them. Bobby started in surprise when Logan sauntered up to them and then blinked as he slowly transformed into a smirking Mystique. “But the room’s cleared. You’re up, Pyro.”
“Shit! Right.” John ran a slightly shaking hand through his hair.
He took a deep breath as if to psych himself up for something and then nodded at Mystique. He looked back at Bobby and leaned forward to press another bruising kiss against his lips.
“Your timing really sucks, Bobby. Just…don’t follow me, okay?”
With that John turned and walked out of the alley with purpose in his steps. Bobby moved as if to chase after him but Mystique stopped him with a hand to his chest.
“He asked you not to do that,” she admonished him. “Besides, I think that you have other problems to deal with, right now.”
Bobby frowned and then turned his head to see what she was looking at. At the other end of the alley, Rogue was standing stock still and staring at him in horror with the real Logan standing behind her. Clearly, Logan had found her and then they had tracked Bobby down to let him know.
“Rogue…” Bobby turned and stumbled towards her which seemed to break her frozen state and she glared at him.
“Don’t you dare, Bobby Drake!” She snarled. “Don’t you dare try and talk to me right now! How could you do this to me?”
Bobby shook his head. “I’m sorry. I didn’t…”
Whatever he was about to say was interrupted by the sound of a large explosion coming from the direction of clinic. Their personal drama was momentarily forgotten as they all ran out of the alley and emerged into utter chaos. It was easy to see where the explosion had come from due to the flames licking up the side of the clinic from one particular set of windows on the ground floor. The separate baying lines of earlier were gone as people began running in all directions, most of them screaming in fear. And in the middle of all the chaos was John, hands out in front of him as he shot more flames towards the building. That look of joy that Bobby had first seen in his face during the stand-off at his house was firmly in place as he set human-mutant relations back by a couple of decades.
“John…” Bobby whispered as he watched his friend in disbelief.
“That’s who you decided to cheat on me with? That murderer?” Rogue spat in a disgusted tone of voice and Bobby couldn’t blame her.
He hadn’t given a single consideration to the fact that he’d technically still had a girlfriend when he’d kissed John and he certainly hadn’t thought about just who John was these days. A terrorist and, yes, a killer; he’d killed that cop at Bobby’s house and now he’d killed god knows how many in the busy clinic. Bobby ran back to the mouth of the alley and threw up until he had nothing left in his stomach.
A bottle of water was shoved in front of his face and Bobby gratefully took it before swallowing half the contents. He’d expected Logan to punch him in the face for hurting Rogue the way he just had, not help him but the other man had no condemnation in his face. Instead, he looked strangely sympathetic.
“It’s time to go home, bub. It’s not a good idea for any mutants to still be here by the time police reinforcements arrive.” he said. “Pull yourself together, eat a mint and if you’re not back at the car in ten minutes, I’m leaving without you, understand?”
Bobby didn’t actually believe that Logan would leave without him but he gave him a shaky nod anyway, grateful for the chance to collect himself in private before being stuck in a car with a furious Rogue for the next hour. She had been standing in a doorway further down the street, where Logan had clearly ordered her to wait for him while he helped Bobby, and she fell into step with him as soon he reached her with one last furious glare back at Bobby. Yeah, that car journey looked like it was going to be hell.
John was gone by the time that Bobby forced himself to look at the spot where he’d previously been. He hadn’t really expected him to still be there but he felt disappointed nonetheless and kind of hated himself for that. What kind of person watched another do what John had just done and still want him? The next thing you know, Bobby would be one of those nutjobs who married serial killers in jail. He pressed his forehead against the blissfully cool stone of the building he was standing in front of, closed his eyes and just breathed for a few moments. Then he let out a yelp as he was unceremoniously pushed firmly into the wall. Bobby struggled against the strong grip but froze at the unmistakable sound of Mystique’s voice. He’d lost track of her as soon as he’d seen the look on Rogue’s face but it appeared that she’d been watching him.
“Weren’t you listening to anything I said earlier, Bobby Drake?” She was pressed against his back so closely that her breath tickled his ear as she spoke. Then her fingers trailed a path across the back of his neck before she spoke into his other ear. “The room was clear. No matter what you might hear from their news; there was no-one in that room, I saw to it myself.”
Then, between one breath and the next, she was gone. Bobby spun around to try and catch her because he had so many questions but she’d clearly shifted and disappeared into the thinning crowd. Just like Bobby should do before got caught up in all of this; even more than he had already. He pulled up his hood and quickly headed towards the parking structure he’d originally left Logan in. Scott’s borrowed car was idling outside and Bobby climbed into the back with a small nod at Logan’s questioning glance; he wasn’t likely to break down again. Rogue had taken the passenger seat and refused to acknowledge Bobby’s presence, she instead fiddled with the radio until she found a station full of angry music and turned it up before glaring out of her window. Bobby couldn’t help but be grateful that she wasn’t going to shout at him all the way back to the mansion; he was surprised by it, and could only credit Logan’s interference, but he was definitely grateful. He settled in and stared blindly out of his own window; all the while, his mind spun in circles.
Why should he believe what Mystique had said? She’d never exactly proven herself to be trust-worthy. But he did remember her telling John that the room had been cleared. And if she was telling the truth then John hadn’t killed anyone. Not that day, at least. Bobby wanted so badly to believe her, to believe in John, but that damned joyful look that had been on the other man’s face was so reminiscent of Boston and it was a definite stumbling block.
Bobby was so lost in his thoughts that it was a surprise when they pulled into the garage at the mansion. Rogue slammed her way out of the car and all but ran into the mansion. Bobby sighed and rubbed his hands over his face.
“I’d give her a day or two before trying to talk to her,” Logan advised. “She’s not going to listen to a word you say right now.”
Bobby nodded tiredly, because he was probably right, and then studied Logan thoughtfully. “Why aren’t you going all protective dad and tearing me a new one?”
“After the 48 hours you’ve had, I figured you deserved a break.” Logan shrugged. “But if you hurt her again I’ll rip your spine out through your mouth. Better?”
Logan gave Bobby a long look that assured him he wasn’t joking and then got out of the car.
“Yeah, I brought that one on myself,” Bobby muttered as he slumped back against the leather seat.
Unsurprisingly, Bobby didn’t get much sleep that night. He tried but he kept finding himself staring at John’s old bed while the images of John using his power at his parent’s house, them kissing in that alley and John using his power again at the clinic circled around and around in his head on a loop. He began to consider that maybe that joyous smile that had so struck Bobby on both occasions had been different at the clinic, more strained and less genuine. But that could just be Mystique’s word’s affecting him and making him look for something that wasn’t there.
Kitty was waiting for him outside the dining room when he dragged himself downstairs for breakfast.
“What the hell happened in New York?” she demanded to know, tugging him into a nearby empty room. “Because the story doing the rounds at the moment is that Rogue caught you with a hooker and dumped your ass.”
Bobby stared at her. “What? Where did that come from?”
“Well, everyone saw her running up to her room in tears when you all got back and then the Cuckoos announced that she’d caught you cheating on her but they wouldn’t tell anyone who it was with, just got all smug in that way they do,” Kitty said and Bobby groaned because the baby telepath triplets never obeyed the ‘stay out of everyone’s head’ rule. “Then Doug pointed out that you don’t know anyone in New York to cheat with which is where the hooker theory came from. Because, you know, you can’t touch Rogue and needed to ‘get it’ elsewhere. So. What. The hell. Really. Happened?”
With a shake of his head, Bobby said, “I don’t even know where to begin.”
“How about ‘I didn’t sleep with a hooker, Kitty’?”
Bobby gave a half-hearted smile at that. “I didn’t sleep with a hooker, Kitty.”
“Good start,” Kitty said, her body language relaxing a bit. “Now why don’t we go with ‘I didn’t cheat on Rogue’?”
“Yeah…umm…” Bobby rubbed the back of his neck awkwardly and Kitty gasped in shock.
“What? Bobby Drake!” She punched his arm really hard and Bobby grimaced.
“Ow! It’s not like it was planned,” he protested. “It just kind of happened.”
Kitty was incredulous. “How? Did you fall dick first onto some random person off the street? Oh my god! Was this another hare-brained scheme to get her to break up with you?”
“No!” Bobby exclaimed. “It wasn’t anything like that, I swear. Things just got a bit out of hand.”
Bobby was about to explain about running into John but Ororo stalked into the room looking particularly grave.
“Here you are,” she said a little impatiently; she must have been looking for him for a while. “Bobby, you need to come to the Professor’s office. We have to debrief you after your encounter with Mystique and Pyro yesterday.”
Bobby could watch the penny drop for Kitty in real time as she first frowned, and then her eyes widened and her mouth made an ‘oh’ shape.
“Now, Bobby.” Ororo stood by the door expectantly. “They’re waiting for us.”
With an apologetic look at Kitty, Bobby followed Ororo. “They?”
“The X-Men,” Ororo said, giving Bobby a look as though he was being particularly slow which he supposed was fair enough because who else would be debriefing him?
In his defence, he’d never had to have a debriefing before and it was a little nerve-wracking, especially because he wasn’t sure what Logan had already told them.
“Robert, please have a seat,” the Professor said when they entered his office. “There’s no need to be nervous, we would just like to hear about what happened in New York. In your own words.”
Bobby nodded as he slid into the empty chair and looked around at the Professor, Ororo, Logan, Hank and Scott. He was pleased to see Scott up and about but they were all looking so serious that Bobby couldn’t help but think that he was in trouble.
“Start at the beginning. Why did you feel the sudden need to go to New York yesterday?” the Professor asked kindly, clearly trying to put Bobby at ease.
“Okay. Umm… after visiting with Scott in the morning, I went to look for Rogue and Piotr told me that she had left to go and get the cure. She promised me that she wouldn’t go until after we talked and I had to stop her because she was working on the wrong information. Or the wrong idea, I guess.”
“What idea?” Hank had turned in his seat to listen to Bobby.
“The idea that if she got the cure then it would stop us from fighting all the time,” Bobby admitted, more than a little uncomfortable with talking about his teenage relationship drama to a room of superheroes. “Rogue thought that if we could touch then it would fix everything but that’s not why we weren’t working out anymore.”
“No kidding,” Logan drawled from his place leaning against the wall, making Bobby flush with embarrassment.
Charles gave Logan a warning glance before turning back to Bobby. “Okay, when you first got to New York, when did you run into Mystique and John?”
“I was trying to walk down the street opposite the clinic to see if I could spot Rogue in the queue but it was hard going because so many protesters were pushing and shoving,” Bobby explained. “Then John just appeared next to me.”
“Just like that? Out of nowhere?” Hank asked.
“Well…yeah. I mean, I guess that he spotted me in the crowd and then snuck up on me,” Bobby told him with a frown and the Professor motioned for him to continue. “I wanted to talk to him and maybe get him to come back to school but…”
An image of what had actually happened suddenly popped into his head, unbidden, and he didn’t have to see the flash of surprise on the Professor’s face to know that he’d accidentally projected it. Bobby’s already flushed face burned even hotter and he looked down to avoid anyone’s eyes.
“It turned into a scuffle. There’s no need to be embarrassed by that, Bobby,” the Professor smoothly covered for him; the bruise on Bobby’s cheek probably helped.
“It’s really not,” Scott echoed, obviously trying to make Bobby feel better for supposedly losing his temper – which made Bobby feel worse. “St. John Allerdyce is enough to try anyone’s temper.”
Bobby nodded but didn’t raise his head even as he continued with the story as quickly as he could, because the faster he got through it, the faster he could leave.
“Then Mystique walked up to us and told John that the room was clear and he was up. After that John…”
“Wait!” Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Hank hold his hand up. “She said that the room was clear? Are you sure?”
This time Bobby did raise his head and looked at him. “I’m positive. After that, John told me not to follow him and he left.”
“Interesting,” Hank muttered thoughtfully.
“Are we really buying that?” Ororo demanded and at Bobby’s affronted expression, she clarified. “Not you, Bobby. I mean Mystique; that woman’s never met a lie that she didn’t like.”
“No,” Scott agreed. “But why would she lie to John? They’re working together.”
“I doubt that she was. She probably said it in front of Bobby because she knew that he would report it back to us.” Ororo leaned forward in her seat as she spoke. “In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if they both cooked the whole thing up when they first saw Bobby on the street.”
“There is the possibility that she was telling the truth,” Hank pointed out, looking a little uncomfortable. “Mystique has always been unpredictable and works within her own, indecipherable, moral structure. Telling the truth when no-one expects her to is definitely something that she’d enjoy.”
Ororo shook her head. “We already know it was a lie, Hank. The media reported that six people were killed in that explosion so the room can’t have been cleared. Either she didn’t check it and said that she did or she knew that there were people in there and didn’t care.”
‘No matter what their news tells you, the room was empty’. Mystique’s words replayed in Bobby’s head and the Professor spun to look at him so quickly that everyone startled a little.
“You spoke to Mystique a second time?”
Bobby shifted uncomfortably as everyone turned in his direction again. “Sort of? I mean, it wasn’t exactly a conversation; just her being weird and touching me a lot.”
“When the hell did that happen?” Logan demanded to know.
“After you and Rogue went to get the car,” Bobby admitted.
Logan growled a little. “And you didn’t think to mention this earlier? Mystique is dangerous, kid!”
“It’s not as though she said anything new. She just repeated that the room had been cleared; I think that she saw that I…” Bobby paused because he wasn’t sure that he wanted the X-Men to know that he’d thrown up in response to the idea that John had killed a load of people. “…She saw my reaction to what happened.”
“And she got all maternal suddenly and wanted to comfort you?” Logan scoffed.
“Not like any mother I’ve ever met,” Bobby said and felt his cheeks heat up again at the memory of her borderline-inappropriate touching. “It seemed more like she didn’t want me to think badly of John.”
“So she was manipulating you,” Storm nodded and Bobby frowned because he still wasn’t sure that Mystique hadn’t been telling the truth.
“But why is what’s worrying me,” Scott said, staring at Bobby with a concerned expression. “Is it to pass bad information to us? Or because they’re trying to get Bobby to join them?”
“Icicle? He’s not exactly Brotherhood material,” Logan rolled his eyes but then stopped and glared when Scott and Hank exchanged a look. “What?”
“Bobby is what’s known as an omega level mutant,” the Professor explained while Bobby squirmed in his seat; he really hated people knowing this about him. “It means that he has the potential to be one of the most powerful and most dangerous mutants in the world. It’s one of the reasons it was so imperative to bring him to the school and teach him control while he was so young.”
Logan studied Bobby with a surprised expression. “So definitely not a mutant we want hanging out with Buckethead and his cronies, then.”
“Magneto doesn’t know about me, though,” Bobby pointed out. “Only you guys know.”
“I’m sure that John would have told him by…” Scott started but Bobby shook his head.
“I never told John. I’ve never told anyone.”
Bobby still remembered the day that the Professor, Hank and Scott had sat him down to explain what it meant to be an omega level mutant. How, if he lost control at the wrong moment or if he let his powers control him, then he could create a world-ending catastrophe. He could basically cause a new ice age, single-handedly. It had given him nightmares for months; one of which had been the cause of Scott having to laser his way into Bobby’s room, as he’d reminded Hank about just the other morning. If it affected him that much then he just knew that it would make others look at him differently; if not be outright scared of him.
Scott frowned at him but nodded his understanding.
“If that’s true then we’re back to Mystique using Bobby to mess with us,” Ororo said. “I just don’t understand what she hopes to achieve.”
The meeting went on for a while longer, with ideas being bandied around about what Mystique could possibly be up to but Bobby stayed quiet. He wasn’t so sure that they were right about her but he didn’t know if that was just because he wanted to believe her. Then, finally, his first ever debrief with the X-Men was over.
“Robert, stay a moment, please,” Professor Xavier said and Bobby waited as the others all trailed out of the office. The Professor then gave Bobby a kind smile. “I know that this is a…difficult time for you. Your worldview is changing drastically with regards to your personal relationships so if you ever need to talk about anything…”
“I’ll talk to Kitty,” Bobby interrupted because he couldn’t imagine how uncomfortable a conversation with the Professor about his newly discovered bisexual feelings would be.
The Professor’s eyes twinkled with amusement. “And I’m sure that Scott would also be more than happy to listen; he feels very bad for the way he’s treated you lately. But know that I’m always here for you too, Bobby; only as a last resort obviously.”
Bobby snorted at the smirk that Charles gave him, pleased that the other man hadn’t taken offense.
“I am serious, though,” the Professor continued. “Unlikely as it may seem to you, I do have some experience in falling for someone I shouldn’t have. So, if you need a willing ear for that aspect of things then my door is always open for you.”
Bobby nodded slowly even though they both knew that he probably wouldn’t take the Professor up on that offer. “I should probably get to class but, thank you.”
Then he got out of there as fast as he could without it seeming really insulting.
The debriefing had gone on long enough that he’d completely missed his first class but considering that it was Scott’s class and he obviously hadn’t been there either then Bobby didn’t feel too bad about it. The next class was English Literature and one of his poorer subjects so he had to concentrate, which was a pretty good distraction from the looks being sent his way but once the class was over, it was lunchtime which gave him no buffer. He tried his best to ignore the whispers as he grabbed a sandwich from the lunchroom and then fled to his room to escape them.
He’d half expected to find Kitty waiting outside his room for him, she did know him pretty well, after all, but the corridor was mercifully empty. The sigh of relief he gave at that got caught in his throat when he opened his bedroom door to find Rogue sitting on his bed. Her eyes were red and puffy as if she’d been crying a lot earlier but there were no tears in her eyes when she raised her head as Bobby entered the room and closed the door behind him.
“Rogue, I’m so…” he started but she stopped his apology dead with a sharp shake of her head.
“I don’t want to hear it,” she said. “I just need to know…has this been going on all along? You and John. When he was here, were you and he..?”
“No!” Bobby dumped his lunch on his desk and quickly came to sit beside her. He tried not to flinch when she very deliberately moved further down the bed, away from him. “We never…not until yesterday. I…I didn’t know, I swear it.”
“You didn’t know…” Rogue frowned as she muttered, almost to herself. “So, it was him. He’s the one who started it. He kissed you…I knew it!”
She was clearly trying to build excuses for what she’d seen, trying to fool herself that Bobby had no part of it so that she could forgive him. Then they could go back to the way they were before. But he couldn’t let her do that and not just because the way that they’d been before had become so unhealthy for both of them.
He moved closer and took her gloved hands in his own. “It wasn’t John, it was me. I kissed him first.”
She shook her head. “No, it can’t have been. John’s always been able to trick you into doing stupid stuff; it had to have been him. I know what he’s really like; he’s corrupt.”
“Rogue…Marie…” he said gently and she looked at him in shock because only Logan ever called her by her birth name. “I will always be your friend, I promise you that. And I will never be scared to be around you. But I can’t be your boyfriend anymore.”
She jerked her hands back but Bobby kept hold of them because he had to get through this and he had to make her understand. “I really wish that I had told you before yesterday and that you didn’t have to see me and John like that but you already knew that we, that me and you, haven’t been working for a while now. You said as much yesterday morning.”
“Because we can’t touch. So, it is the touching thing,” Rogue snapped and this time she managed to wrench her hands away from his. “And you kept denying it!”
“It’s not the touching thing!” Bobby said wearily and for what felt like the hundredth time but Rogue wasn’t listening, as usual.
Instead, she had started to pace up and down the space between the two beds, angrily ranting about how Bobby had lied and he had just got tired of not being able to have sex with her. She even threw in a few choice words about Kitty, who was apparently waiting to swoop in and steal Bobby from Rogue. Bobby sighed, waiting for her to finish so he could get a few words in edgewise but, when there was no sign of her stopping, he stood up and deliberately moved into her way. She pulled up short to avoid crashing into him and, before she had the chance to react, he reached out to wrap one arm around her waist and then cupped her face with his free hand.
For a moment, nothing happened and then Bobby could feel that weird pull that moved through his skin and tugged at something deep within him. Rogue gasped and tried to step away but Bobby’s arm stopped her. As the pull got stronger, it began to ache inside him but he ignored it and concentrated on looking Rogue in the eye as she deliberately lifted her hand and used it to remove his hand from her bare skin.
“It’s not the touching thing,” he repeated. “Because I trust you not to hurt me and to stop any touching before it gets too far, exactly like you just did. I have always trusted you to do that.”
She nodded shakily. “But…we can’t have sex.”
“I know,” he said. “But that’s fine. I just enjoyed being with you.”
She looked confused and studied him for a moment before her breath caught and a strange look crossed her face. “Because you’re gay.”
Bobby frowned. “I’m not gay. I mean, I guess that I’m bisexual?”
“No,” she shook her head. “You’re gay, Bobby. You don’t mind us not having sex because you don’t want sex with me. Because I’m not…I’m not a guy.”
“That’s not…” Bobby trailed off as he really thought about it.
With a huff, Rogue grabbed one of Bobby’s hands and put it on her breast. “Well? Anything?”
Bobby stared, wide-eyed, at his hand on her breast and then met her eyes. He clearly didn’t need to say anything because she made a small sob and knocked his hand away before quickly backing up a few steps from him.
“You never wanted me at all. It was all a lie,” she whispered and then she spun around and ran out of the room, leaving his door wide open.
He dropped down onto his bed and stared unseeing at the floor. It couldn’t be true. He remembered wanting Rogue so badly it hurt that he couldn’t touch her the way they both wanted. He remembered nights where the thoughts of her got to be so much that he had to head to the showers in the dark to take care of the problem, even though he knew that he’d be forced to deal with John’s knowing smirk when he got back. Then there were the nights when he couldn’t even make it to the showers and had to deal with it right there, desperately trying to suppress any sounds for fear of waking his roommate.
Of course, now that he was really thinking about it, those later incidents had become more and more common and he’d spent a lot of that time staring at John, ostensibly to make sure that he was still asleep but in hindsight maybe because he was thinking more about John than he was about Rogue.
There was a knock on his doorframe and Bobby lifted his head to see Kitty standing in the doorway and watching him with concern.
“I think I’m gay,” he told her and she blinked.
“Okay. You think or you know?” she asked.
“I…” he shook his head. “I don’t know. I just…”
Kitty closed the door and came to sit on the bed beside him. She took hold of one of his hands and squeezed it supportively. “It’s alright; just work through it. You don’t have to come up with an answer right away. Or ever, really.”
Bobby eyed her. “You don’t seem very surprised.”
“Well, based on our conversation and Storm’s interruption earlier, you spontaneously either made out with John or Mystique while you were in New York yesterday. And you’re scared of Mystique,” Kitty pointed out.
“I’m not scared of her,” Bobby protested and, due to the look Kitty sent him, quickly added, “Anymore. Now, I just find her a bit creepy and…a little handsy.”
“Handsy?” She squinted at him. “Seriously, what the hell happened in New York?”
He quickly gave her the highlights, ending with the X-Men debrief – leaving out that part about whether or not Magneto was trying to sway him to the dark side.
She gave a low whistle. “You really managed to fit a lot into 24 hours, didn’t you? I mean, that’s a lot to unpack, Bobby.” She drummed the fingers of her free hand against her thigh. “You really think that Mystique was telling the truth about the explosion?”
“Yeah,” Bobby admitted. “It might be just me wanting it to be true but I just can’t imagine John ever setting out to deliberately kill anyone.”
“What about the woman that he killed at your…in Boston?” Kitty stumbled a little over the question, knowing that Bobby hated any mention of his parents these days.
“What if he didn’t intend to do it?” Bobby asked her, finally giving voice to the only thing that he could think of to explain that. “You know what John was like; any time he was backed into a corner, he’d lash out.”
Kitty nodded slowly. “Like that time with Julian.”
Years earlier, when John had not long arrived at the school, he attracted the attention of one of the older boys; a wealthy and pretentious bully who went by the name of Hellion. He’d apparently taken immediate offence at John’s hand-me-down clothes and that dislike had only grown once John refused to cower when Julian had tried to push him around. Then one day Julian tried to frighten and humiliate John by using his telekinetic powers to dangle John upside down and float him around the playing field in front of everyone. John had retaliated by sending a fireball at Julian which burned half his face off. Julian had just been lucky that his friend, Josh, had been on hand to heal the damage.
“Exactly like that,” Bobby said.
“I mean, it’s possible,” Kitty conceded. “But it’s hardly the story that Rogue told everyone after Alkali Lake.”
Bobby sighed. “I know.”
He had tried to make her stop but she was just so mad that John had betrayed her by siding with the one person that she probably hated most in the world and Bobby was still reeling from everything that had happened in such a short space of time so he hadn’t tried as hard as he should have. In hindsight, he sort of expected people to realise that it was mostly Rogue’s infamous temper exaggerating some things however John’s generally prickly attitude hadn’t helped his case with the rest of the school, who were only too happy to believe that he would turn out to be a bad apple. There was only a small handful of people who were upset at John’s defection and they were the select bunch that he let get close enough to be his friend. Jubilee had been particularly hurt and blamed Bobby; she hadn’t spoken to him since it happened and he couldn’t blame her for that.
Rogue was missing from classes for the rest of the day which didn’t exactly help with the whispering and giggling around Bobby wherever he went. Knowing that things worked like Chinese whispers at this school, he hated to think what the rumours had become by the time he could escape back to his room.
There was a knock on his door about 8pm, just when he was about ready to throw his English Lit reading assignment across the room. Between the fact that he genuinely hated the book and the fact that his attention kept wandering from John to Rogue and back again, he’d read the same chapter three times and still didn’t understand what the hell was going on.
At Bobby’s call to enter, Scott stuck his head in the door. “You got a minute?”
“I don’t know, could you write me a note to explain that I didn’t read this stupid book because of a student/teacher conference?” Bobby tried even as he waved Scott in.
“Wuthering Heights, huh?” Scott eyed the book in Bobby’s hand. “Yeah, not one of my favourites either. You should hit Hank up for some help while he’s still here; he loves all that kind of stuff.”
It wasn’t a bad idea; Bobby would see if he could get some time with Hank the next day.
Scott sat on John’s old bed and leaned forward with his arms on his knees. “I know that I haven’t been available lately and that I’ve let our friendship slide…”
“To be fair, you had a good reason,” Bobby pointed out. “Even before I found out about the voices you were hearing.”
“Not a good enough reason to act the way I acted; not towards family. Jean would’ve kicked my ass if she could have seen me.” Scott smiled wryly. “But my head’s back on straight now and I hope that you know you can come and talk to me. About anything.”
Bobby rolled his eyes. “I didn’t sleep with a hooker in New York!”
Scott snorted. “I know that. I also know that you weren’t telling us the whole truth about what happened when you were there.”
Bobby hesitated. “I don’t think that I’m ready to talk about it yet.”
He’d told Kitty and that had felt like a weight off his mind, but he wasn’t ready to start waving that rainbow flag yet; not until he got a handle on how he actually felt. He had to tell Scott sooner rather than later because Kitty, Logan, Rogue and the Professor already knew but he’d only actually said the words to one of those people and he’d just kind of blurted that out. He had always thought of Scott as his big brother and coming out to him was a big deal that he needed time to psych himself up for. He knew that, deep down, his reluctance probably had a lot to do with how his actual family had reacted when he came out as a mutant and even though he didn’t actually believe that Scott would hate him for being gay or bisexual, there was still that kernel of doubt.
“Okay; I’m here when you are ready. Anytime,” Scott told him, seriously, and then sighed. “You should also know that Rogue has left to get the cure again. Ororo’s taken her so she’s not out there by herself this time.”
Bobby wasn’t surprised that she’d still want to go through with it. He had thought that she’d wait a few days but she’d never been the most patient of people. He was surprised at who had taken her though.
“I know but she wanted to gauge the temperature out there for herself and see how the mutant community are really reacting to this ‘cure’,” Scott told him. “Although she did have to promise Rogue three times that she wouldn’t lecture her during the drive.”
Bobby frowned as he thought about that and then shook his head. “She thinks that Mystique is going to be there again, doesn’t she?”
“It’s a possibility. The clinic has just reopened in the next building so it’s not inconceivable that Magneto’s followers would attack it again.” Bobby gave him a look and Scott chuckled a little. “Okay, it’s unlikely but Ororo feels like she owes Mystique a fight after Alkali Lake. She’s also going to try and get into the original clinic to gather more evidence from the explosion.”
“Why do you need evidence?” Bobby asked quickly. “Do you think that Mystique was telling the truth after all?”
“Hank has some reservations,” Scott admitted. “He’s always had a bit of a blind spot when it comes to Mystique. But you know that she was probably lying, right?”
“I have some reservations,” Bobby told him and Scott shook his head.
“Smartass!” He studied Bobby for a long moment and frowned. “You aren’t joking.”
Scott sighed. “You’ve always had a blind spot when it comes to John.”
“You don’t know him like I do,” Bobby told him. “I know you just get to see the troublemaker but, even you have to admit, that it’s a leap from smoking in the woods out back to killing a bunch of people.”
“Magneto gets in people’s heads, Bobby,” Scott said. “He’s probably not the same John as he was when he was here. Look, I know that you always like to see the best in people but sometimes you have to…”
“Give up on them?” Bobby demanded to know.
“Let them go,” Scott corrected with a pointed look around the empty side of the room.
Bobby frowned and stared at the floor. “I don’t know if I can.”
“Then they’re always going to be able to play you,” Scott said, not unkindly. “You said that you know him then don’t forget that he knows you too and he knows just what to say to get you on his side. That is what happened, right? You and John fought and then talked and he persuaded you that he’s still your friend.”
“Actually, no; not even close,” Bobby told him.
They fell into an uncomfortable silence and Bobby could feel the concern bleeding off Scott as he studied him.
“Alright, I’ll let you get back to your homework,” he eventually said, standing from the bed. “But don’t forget, if you need to talk…”
“I know. Thanks, Scott,” Bobby said and forced a small smile as Scott left.
He picked up the book again with a sigh, read the chapter for the fourth time and then gave into his earlier urge and threw it across the room.
When Bobby finally managed to find time to go to Hank for help with Wuthering Heights – which turned out to be one of his all-time favourite books and he bombarded Bobby with enough information that he could have written three essays – he informed Bobby that Ororo had called to say that Rogue had been put on a waiting list for the ‘cure’. Apparently, that was a new measure to prevent the protests and any further attacks on the clinic by making people book appointments rather than queuing up outside. As Ororo was still trying to find a way to see the evidence of the attack, she and Rogue had decided to stay in New York for a few days of girl-time while they waited for Rogue’s appointment.
“She’s thinks that some bonding time will help her talk Rogue out of the cure, doesn’t she?” Bobby asked with a shake of his head because he knew Ororo and how she thought.
“She promised that she wouldn’t do that,” Hank replied but the expression on his face told Bobby just how much he believed that she would stick to that promise now that they had days to spend together. “I do think that our Ororo will come home with some new outfits though; never let it be said that she’d pass up a chance for a shopping trip in the big city. Do you remember how she and Jean would occasionally take those shopping weeks?”
Bobby smiled at the memory. “Yeah, I think that Scott used to spend the entire time weeping over the hit that their credit card was going to get.”
Hank laughed. “Like he didn’t spend just as much on his own wardrobe.”
“Or products for his hair,” Bobby added.
“I can hear you, you know,” Scott griped as he appeared in the doorway.
“We know,” Hank and Bobby chorused.
“You’ve been pacing outside for the past fifteen minutes,” Hank pointed out and Bobby nodded because Scott hadn’t exactly been subtle. “Do you need help with an essay too?”
Scott breathed out heavily and shook his head. “I need you to check me over, Hank.”
Hank immediately dropped his teasing expression. “What’s wrong?”
“I’m hearing her again,” Scott admitted, rubbing his forehead.
Hank stood and dragged Scott into the seat he’d vacated. “Phoenix? For how long?”
“It started this morning,” Scott said. “It’s faint but it’s definitely there.”
“Alright, I’ll run some scans, see what parts of your brain she’s affecting and then we can work on a way to block her,” Hank told him. “Bobby, go and find Logan. He’s had contact with Phoenix too; see if she’s trying to lure him as well.”
Bobby nodded and turned back to Scott. “Are you okay?”
“I’ll be fine. I know that it’s not Jean, this time,” Scott assured him, even though Bobby could see the lines of tension on his face. “And, for the record, she spent more on shoes than I ever have on hair products.”
“Keep telling yourself that,” Bobby snarked just to make him chuckle and then headed out to find the Wolverine.
A quick check of the class roster told him that Logan was teaching a meditation class in the gym. It would probably be a bad idea to go bursting in on that particular class so Bobby sat on the floor outside, pulled out his tablet and wrote down some of the things Hank had told him about the book until the class was over.
“What’s wrong? Is it Marie?”
The class hadn’t even begun to leave the gym before Logan was outside and looming over Bobby.
“It’s Scott, actually,” Bobby told him as he climbed to his feet. “Rogue and Ororo are still in New York.”
“I should’ve gone with her,” Logan grumbled as he crossed his arms. “I can break into places stealthily. I’ve been alive a long time, you know?”
“Yeah? How long?” Bobby asked, curiously; he didn’t know all that much about Logan, really.
Logan shrugged. “Don’t know. But it’s not like I can die and sometimes things I read in history books seem sort of familiar, like I was there. The Professor thinks that I probably was.”
“Wow.” Bobby was impressed.
Logan shifted as if he was uncomfortable sharing information about himself. “What’s up with Cyke?”
“Right.” Bobby shook himself because it wasn’t like his errand wasn’t important or anything. “He’s hearing Phoenix again. Don’t worry, Hank’s checking him over but he wants to know if she’s trying to draw you to her too.”
“Me?” Logan looked confused.
Bobby nodded. “I guess because you touched her when you got Scott away from her?”
“Nah, I didn’t touch her, I just yanked him free,” Logan said. “Is he alright? Because I don’t want to go through that shit again.”
“He says that he’s fine but you know Scott,” Bobby replied. “You should let Hank check you over, just in case.”
“Yeah,” Logan agreed before looking Bobby over. “How are you doing?”
“Me?” Bobby blinked at him. “I don’t think that Phoenix would try to contact me.”
Logan rolled his eyes. “Not Phoenix, ya moron. I meant with the whole Pyro thing.”
“Oh! Umm…you know,” Bobby answered dumbly.
“I know that you broke it off with Marie,” Logan continued. “It was a good thing even if it’ll take her a while to admit it. She’s very stubborn.”
“Oh, I know.” Bobby agreed.
“Cut yourself some slack about the Pyro thing, okay? You weren’t to know what he had planned,” Logan said. “I was surprised, myself. Didn’t think the kid actually had it in him, pegged him as all mouth.”
“Yeah.” Bobby nodded, unwilling to go another round of John’s evil vs. John’s not evil with another teacher.
Logan nodded. “Alright, I’d better go and see Beast.”
With that he left, his responsible teacher bit clearly over. Bobby was tempted to follow him back down to the lab but it was already late and he really had to get this essay started. He was sure that, this time, Scott would let him know if there was a problem.
Even with the help that Hank had given him, writing up his essay was still like pulling teeth and at some point Bobby must’ve fallen asleep right there at his desk. He woke up with a start and had to blink a few times before he believed that John was actually sitting beside him and that it wasn’t just some dream he was having.
“I hated this book,” John murmured as he flipped the page and carried on reading.
“I didn’t know that you’d read it,” Bobby told him, drinking in the sight of him. “Doesn’t seem your type of thing.”
“Oh, yeah? And what’s my type of thing, exactly?” John sent him an amused look.
John had always had a book hidden under his pillow because, god forbid, anyone actually knew that he loved reading. He’d swap it out for a new one every few days but Bobby remembered a couple of recurring authors in there.
“Chandler, Hammett…that type of thing,” he replied.
John shook his head. “I’ve always had a soft spot for Plath. The detective stuff is more Pyro’s thing.”
Bobby frowned because that made no sense but then John’s eyes flashed yellow and Bobby jumped out of his chair with a cry.
“Calm down, Bobby Drake,” Mystique purred in John’s voice. “If I was going to hurt you, I could’ve done it when you were asleep. I’m just here to talk.”
“To me?” Bobby squeaked and then cleared his throat to be able to speak in a more normal tone. “What about?”
“Pyro, obviously.” Mystique swept her hand to indicate the body she was currently wearing. “He’s in trouble.”
“Trouble? What trouble?” Bobby demanded; all nervousness suddenly evaporated.
“He’s out of his depth,” Mystique replied. “You and I both know that he doesn’t belong in The Brotherhood. He doesn’t have the stomach for it.”
“You said that there was no one in that room in the clinic when John…did what he did but the TV said that there were six people in there; that seems like he has the stomach for it,” Bobby shot back and then shook his head at himself because he didn’t mean that. “Did you lie to me about the room?”
“No, I didn’t lie,” she replied. “I created a chemical spill. It ensured that the room would be locked up for 48 hours. I told you not to believe their news.”
“You did but I don’t know you,” Bobby pointed out. “What I do know is that you’ve tried to kill my ex-girlfriend and most of my teachers. You’re not exactly trustworthy. And can you stop looking like John? Just look like you. Please.”
She gave him a sharp smile which he couldn’t quite decipher but he got the strange feeling was somewhat approving, before she shifted to look like herself. “Fair. But you don’t have to believe me, the question is: do you believe in Pyro?”
Bobby dropped down to sit on the edge of his bed to keep some distance between them. “I want to.”
She hummed. “You didn’t believe in him after Boston.”
“I know. But I’m beginning to think that I should have,” Bobby admitted with a sigh. “Have you ever rerun something in your head so many times that you can’t tell what’s real anymore? That you aren’t sure if you actually saw what you think you saw?”
She was silent for a moment. “Yes.”
He nodded but didn’t say anything more.
“Magneto’s going to kill him,” Mystique told him suddenly. “He probably won’t do it himself; he’ll order one of the other mutants or he’ll just set Pyro up somehow, but it will happen sooner or later.”
“Because he doesn’t have the stomach for it.” Bobby parroted her earlier words back at her.
She nodded. “As things stand right now, at any of our raids, the human politicians are going to claim that ‘Magneto’s band of terrorists’ have killed people even when we haven’t, because they want to sow more hatred towards mutants. But it’s only going to work for so long because, sometimes, they do tell the truth. It’ll only take another couple of places where the targets ‘must’ve left while we weren’t looking’ before he’s going to figure out that Pyro’s been disobeying his orders this whole time.”
“And then he’ll kill him?” Bobby asked.
“I think so,” she replied. “I think that he’ll want to make an example of him and show that even his favoured mutants will be punished for disobeying him.”
“And punish you too, for covering for John?”
Mystique shot him an amused look. “I can handle Magneto. Pyro can’t.”
Bobby nodded. “Okay, so what do we do?”
“And, here I thought you were smart, Bobby Drake,” she huffed. “You have to persuade him to leave The Brotherhood and come home.”
“Are you kidding?” Bobby stared at her. “That’s not going to work. I’ve never been able to talk John Allerdyce into anything!”
She gave him a strangely fond smile. “I think that you’re underestimating how much you mean to him.”
“I think that you’re underestimating how pigheaded he is,” Bobby retorted but there wasn’t any heat in it, instead he felt inexplicably pleased at what she’d said. “He wouldn’t come back to the school, anyway.”
“Sometimes home isn’t a place,” she told him with a graceful shrug and Bobby frowned.
“How am I even going to talk to him? I don’t know where he is.”
She snorted and then unwound herself from the chair. Bobby was caught by how silky her movements were, she moved like a gymnast; completely elegant but with so much power clearly lurking just below the surface.
She silently padded across the room and then patted the side of his face. “Check your emails.”
Then she headed to the door.
“Wait!” Bobby exclaimed. “I need to help you sneak out before someone realises that you’re here.”
“Don’t worry about me, Bobby Drake.” She grinned at him. “I know my way around this mansion better than you ever will.”
With one last gesture towards Bobby’s laptop, she slipped out of the door and into the darkness. He jumped up and looked out into the corridor but she was already nowhere to be seen. He closed the door and then practically ran to boot up his laptop. In amongst the usual conversation chains, requests for class notes and just general spam, there was an email from hotstuffissmokin’@gmail.com. Bobby rolled his eyes but couldn’t stop the smile from stealing over his face as he clicked on it. It was addressed to Princess Popsicle and contained just one line: Ruby’s; 1am, Saturday.
By the time Friday rolled around, Bobby was nearly jumping out of his skin and he had a feeling that John had made him wait on purpose. And there he went, thinking about John again when he should have been concentrating on the pop quiz that Scott had just sprung on them. Apparently, the class had got too used to Scott’s distraction while he’d been grieving so he decided to give them a short, sharp kick up the ass to show them that he was back to his old self.
Bobby glanced up at the clock again and almost groaned when he saw that the hands had barely moved since the last time he’d looked. He turned back to his test paper and settled in to work on the problem. Luckily maths came easily to Bobby so he was relatively sure that he could pass, distracted or not. He just didn’t think that he’d get his usual high marks on this one. He finished the problem and, before moving on to the next one, he looked up at the clock again. He caught Scott watching him and winced internally, the last thing he needed was Scott in concerned older brother mode, keeping a closer eye on him today of all days. He was about to turn back to the quiz when he saw Scott quickly glance out of the window and raise a hand to his temple. Phoenix was at it again.
Throughout the week, her call had been getting stronger. Hank was still working on a way of blocking her but hadn’t quite figured it out yet. The Professor was acting as a buffer as much as he could once Scott alerted him to the fact that he was hearing the voice again but it would usually take a minute or so before the Professor could snap the mental shield in place. Scott had told Bobby that in those moments when he could hear her, it sounded like she was getting louder every time. Cerebro was still unable to pinpoint her location but the Professor tried every day anyway. Hank’s working theory was that, because Logan had stopped her from fully draining Scott, she wasn’t fully healed. What she had managed to get from Scott had probably sustained her for a few days but now she needed more and was trying to summon him to wherever she was.
Scott being Scott, he’d offered to use that call to track her down but, surprisingly, Logan had shut that down immediately and refused to even consider using Scott as bait. Bobby remembered what he’d said about trying to look out for Scott in Jean’s memory and figured that he was taking that even more seriously since Scott had been hurt once already.
Bobby frowned as he watched Scott rub vigorously at his forehead, as if he could push Phoenix out of there somehow but the tension in his face began to ease as the Professor’s buffer clearly dropped into place. This was definitely happening more often and even though Scott knew that it wasn’t Jean calling him and said that he wouldn’t fall for it again, surely it would only be so long before it was a constant barrage as Phoenix got more desperate. Bobby doubted that even the Professor could keep a shield on Scott 24 hours a day.
“Are you alright?” Bobby asked in a quiet voice, stopping by Scott’s desk once class had finally finished. “You looked in pain for a little while there.”
“I’m okay.” Scott waited until the last of the stragglers had left the room before continuing. “It’s not like it was before; then the voice was softer and more…alluring…”
“Like a siren song?” Bobby guessed and Scott nodded.
“Yes, exactly like that. And when I first started to hear Phoenix again it was the same; all enticing and trying to tempt me to find her but now…” He sighed and rubbed his head again, seeming not to realise that he was doing it. “Now it’s more like she’s screaming.”
“Screaming like she’s angry or is it more like she’s in pain?”
Scott frowned. “It’s hard to tell before Charles blocks her. I think it might be anger but I’m not sure.”
Bobby shook his head because none of this was good. “Have you told Hank that it’s getting worse?”
“Yeah, but it’s not as though he can speed up science.” Scott sighed. “Sorry, Bobby. I didn’t mean to dump all of this on you.”
“I’m glad that you’re telling me,” Bobby told him, and he really was.
Scott had never treated him like a kid; he’d always told him the bad things even when Jean, Hank or even the Professor had thought that he was too young for that. He was the one who’d persuaded the Professor to tell Bobby about the whole omega mutant thing and, even though it freaked him out something terrible, he was glad that he knew because it meant that he never stopped working on his control. Bobby hadn’t realised just how much he needed that candour until Scott had stopped talking to him. He also thought that it helped Scott to talk to Bobby about things; Hank always looked at things from a medical perspective, he knew that the Professor and Scott had more of a father/son relationship and god only knew what the antagonistic yet protective thing that he had going with Logan was so Bobby was probably the only person he could have a normal, frank conversation about it all with. At least until Ororo got back.
“Thanks.” Scott shot him a grateful smile. “Now, what’s had you on edge for the past few days? It’s not like you to be so distracted in class, especially not when your grades are on the line.”
“My grades were on the line?” Bobby gaped at him. “You said the quiz was just to get us alert again!”
“The look on your face.” Scott started to laugh and Bobby sent him a glare. “Don’t worry, your grades are fine. But, seriously, what’s up? Is it Rogue?”
Rogue and Ororo were due back at the school on Monday and Bobby was worried about it. He was pretty sure that Ororo wouldn’t be able to talk Rogue out of getting the cure so there was going to be that whole thing. She was likely still furious with him – and hurt, which was worse than the furious part. Most of the school were already sympathising with her because of, first, the Kitty and then the New York hooker rumours and it wasn’t as though Bobby could protest that because the truth was almost worse.
Obviously it hadn’t been the main reason why he’d been distracted but it had definitely contributed so he jumped on the excuse because he couldn’t exactly explain about his secret meeting with John. Not yet.
He shrugged and said, “I just need to ride it out and hope that we can salvage some sort of friendship.”
“You will,” Scott assured him. “Sometimes couples just drift apart, I’m sure that Rogue will realise that soon enough.”
Bobby winced inwardly. He really needed to have that talk with Scott to tell him exactly why he and Rogue really hadn’t worked out. Especially because, now that he was thinking of it, if Rogue and Ororo really did bond during their week away then Rogue would have told Ororo what had happened. That would mean that five people would know Bobby was bi or possibly gay before the person whose opinion meant the most to him.
“Are you busy tomorrow night?” he asked. “Maybe we could hang out or something.”
Scott smiled. “I’d like that. Ruby’s, perhaps?”
“No!” Bobby blurted because one of the waitresses might mention that he’d also been in there in the early hours of the morning. “Umm…I mean, I was thinking more…pizza and some GTA?”
Scott had looked a little startled at first but then some kind of understanding dawned on his face. “You want a little bit more privacy. Okay, I’ll order in a couple of pizzas but don’t expect me to take it easy in GTA.”
Bobby chuckled. “You never do. And yet I regularly kick your ass anyway.”
“Keep telling yourself that, Iceman,” Scott countered. “I think you need to look up the definition of ‘regularly’.”
“I was just trying to be nice because I should have said ‘always’,” Bobby told him with a shit-eating grin as he shot Scott a sloppy salute and then headed to grab some lunch, leaving the other man laughing behind him.
Bobby had never known a day to move as slowly as this one and if he thought being in class was bad, it was nothing compared to that evening when he had nothing to distract him from clock-watching. He tried gaming with Piotr, watching a movie with Kitty, even tried to take a nap but he was so worried that he’d sleep through the alarm he’d set on his phone that he couldn’t even relax.
Eventually, it reached half past 11 and he slipped out of his room. The main lights were off in the corridor; he could see light spilling out from beneath quite a few doors – it was Friday night, after all – but most people tended to stay in their own rooms after the rec room was shut down for the night. The only students that Bobby might run into were probably also sneaking about so he didn’t worry about any of them confronting him. The problem was downstairs where the teachers were still up and about, tidying up or just relaxing after the kids had gone to bed. Bobby had hoped that maybe, they had all retired to their own part of the mansion but had to hold in a groan when he reached the top of the stairs to hear voices coming from the dining room. Previous experience in sneaking out of the mansion had taught Bobby to carry his shoes until he was outside, the wooden floors looked great but did nothing to hide footsteps or the occasional squeak of sneaker against the polished surface. He was able to sneak, almost silently in his stocking feet, to the dining room door to peek in. He blinked in surprise at the sight of Scott and Logan sitting at a table, chatting quietly. The detritus of, what had clearly been, their late-night snack was pushed to one side and they were both engrossed in what was probably the most amiable interaction Bobby had ever witnessed between them.
He didn’t fool himself that they would be so absorbed that both highly trained men would miss him sneaking past the door so he resigned himself to going out the back way which meant that he’d have to circle the entire mansion to get out onto the road. At least he’d given himself plenty of time to get into town. In fact, he’d given himself so much time that he was still ten minutes early by the time he reached the diner. He debated going inside to wait but he didn’t want to be that pathetic loser who’d clearly just been stood up if John didn’t show after all. Instead, he ducked into the doorway of the shop next door to wait anxiously.
His watch was showing twenty past one and Bobby was fighting with himself about whether he should just go or wait a little longer, when there was quick flare of someone flicking on a lighter in another doorway further down the street. He hesitated a moment because it might not be John but who else would be loitering at this time of night? And if it wasn’t him then Bobby wasn’t exactly helpless. He took a deep breath and headed to where he thought the light had come from. Apparently, he overshot because as he walked past a shop, John’s hand reached out from the doorway and pulled him in.
John pushed him up against the door and immediately started kissing him. It was desperate and messy and perfect. When Bobby opened his mouth on a moan John wasted no time in deepening the kiss, his hands burying themselves in Bobby’s hair as possessively as Bobby’s hands were gripping John’s hips.
“You’re late,” Bobby pointed out when the need to breathe finally broke them apart, although they stayed pressed together.
“I had to make sure that you were alone,” John replied.
Bobby frowned. “I wouldn’t do that to you.”
“I couldn’t be sure. I am a killer, after all.” John shrugged and Bobby could almost physically see the hurt that his inaction at Alkali Lake had caused, as John began to pull away.
Bobby stopped him by cupping his face and forcing John to look him in the eye. “I wouldn’t do that to you. Even if I had believed what they said on the news.”
“You didn’t believe the news?” John look confused. “Why?”
“Because I know you,” Bobby replied and at John’s cynical look he added. “Plus, Mystique told me.”
John blinked at him. “Wait, what? I don’t…Mystique? When? In New York?”
“And last night, in our room,” Bobby told him, wryly. “She snuck in and it scared the shit out me when I woke I up. You probably would have found it hilarious.”
“Mystique was at the school, last night?” John stepped back and this time Bobby let him. “Goddamn mother-henning!”
“She likes you,” Bobby said. “And I didn’t think that the all-powerful Mystique liked anyone apart from Magneto.”
“Why wouldn’t she? I’m a fucking delight,” John snarked and Bobby laughed. “I can’t believe that she came to see you. What did she say?”
“She’s worried about you,” Bobby told him.
John huffed and started to walk away. Bobby didn’t take it personally and just followed him; he knew that John liked to move when he was upset.
“Things not going well in The Brotherhood?” Bobby asked and John glared at him so he backtracked a little. “I’m not judging, I just…if Mystique is worried then…”
“I don’t want to talk about that tonight,” John interrupted with a glower and Bobby nodded, he wasn’t going to push John right now because he’d just dig his heels in; hopefully he could bring it up again later.
“So, what do you want to talk about tonight?” Bobby asked.
John eyed him. “How’s your girlfriend?”
“She’s my ex-girlfriend,” Bobby told him. “And she’s pretty pissed at me.”
John stopped walking and stared at him. “You broke up with her?”
“I think, technically, she broke up with me after she saw me making out with some guy in New York,” Bobby said.
“She saw us?”
Bobby shook his head. “No, she saw me with this other guy. One with better hair.”
“You’re an asshole, Drake.” John rolled his eyes. “You’re just jealous of my hair.”
“Right.” Bobby snorted. “The nineties called and they want that dye job back.”
John shoved him and Bobby stumbled back a few steps, laughing.
“Asshole,” John repeated. “I don’t know why anyone thinks you’re the nice one.”
“Not too many people are thinking that, right now,” Bobby said and explained about the rumours flying around the school about him.
John laughed so hard that he had to sit down on the curb. “A hooker? You?”
Bobby glared at him but he was enjoying himself too much to maintain the pretence and so sat beside John with a chuckle. He really had missed this; no-one else got Bobby in quite the same way. It was such a cliché; ice and fire, opposites attract and all that stuff but they just worked. Even when they fought. He was helpless to stop himself from leaning in to kiss him again and John instantly responded.
“Why the hell didn’t you figure this out sooner, Bobby?” John groaned when they stopped, leaning his forehead against Bobby’s.
“Like you knew back then.” Bobby chuckled but his amusement began to fade when John just stared at him without saying anything. “John? Did you know back then?”
John looked away and didn’t answer the question which was an answer in itself.
Bobby sat back. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“When? When you were mooning over Rogue or when she started mooning back?” John snapped and pushed himself up to start walking again. “How about when she started crashing everything that we did together?”
Bobby didn’t know what to say because John was right; he did start bringing Rogue along to the things that were normally just for him and John; sneaking out to the diner, playing on the basketball court, even revising in the library.
“I’m sorry,” he said, catching up with John and grabbing his arm. “I didn’t…well, clearly I didn’t think about it beyond how much fun it would be to hang out with my best friend and my girlfriend.”
“Clearly,” John muttered. “It doesn’t matter. I mean, what the fuck are we doing, Drake? Acting like we could be something when we’re on opposite sides of a war.”
“We’re not at war,” Bobby pointed out and John scoffed.
“Of course, we are. They want to get rid of us, what the fuck do you think this whole cure bullshit is about?”
Bobby rolled his eyes. “Obviously the cure thing is bullshit.”
“And what are your X-Men doing about it?” John asked.
“They don’t exactly let me in on their meetings, John…”
“I tell you what they’re doing,” John ranted, getting on a roll. “They’re protecting the people who want to exterminate us.”
“They’re protecting the people that Magneto wants to kill,” Bobby corrected because he did know that much. “What he’s doing is just playing into the hands of the anti-mutant lot; he’s proving that their lies about us all being monsters are actually correct.”
“Oh, so you just want to step back and let people like Stryker keep hurting us and hunting us?” John shouted. “Because that’s what the X-Men are doing. They’re protecting them and not us. Fuck, they weren’t even there to protect the school that night. They’re supposed to be our teachers, first and foremost, and they were all so busy with their missions that they left us with Wolverine.”
Bobby opened his mouth to reply but before he could a familiar voice floated over to them.
“Now, boys. I’ve told you before not to fight in public.”
“What the fuck?” John breathed; his eyes wide as he stared at Jean who was standing a little way down the street.
Not Jean. Phoenix.
Bobby grabbed John’s hand. “That’s not her! Run!”
It was testament to their friendship that even while they were in the middle of an argument, John didn’t hesitate to follow Bobby’s instructions. As they ran down the street, deliberately away from the diner, just in case Phoenix decided not to stick to just mutants, Bobby glanced back over his shoulder to see Phoenix following them at a sedate pace as though she wasn’t really concerned about the fact that they were running. It was unnerving to say the least.
“Down here!” John said, pulling Bobby down a side street. “Ice up, Iceman!”
Bobby was way ahead of him; he had already planted his feet and pulled his power to the surface as soon as they were out of Phoenix’s line of sight. He quickly made a thick wall of ice to block the street and, hopefully, slow Phoenix down.
“Alright, let’s go!” he said and took off after John.
The was a groaning noise from behind them and they turned to see the ice wall shatter several seconds before Phoenix walked through the ice rubble with the same unhurried attitude. The wall hadn’t posed any kind of obstacle for her.
“Shit!” Bobby muttered.
John grabbed his arm and urged him to keep running. “Come on. This way.”
John pulled him down another street and then shoved him towards a car while he ran to the driver’s side. They both quickly climbed in and, for a split second, Bobby thought that John was going to hotwire it but he pulled some keys from his pocket.
“This is yours?” Bobby asked and John shot him an exasperated look because, yes, there were more important things to concentrate on right now.
Looking in the mirror, Bobby could see Phoenix still walking towards them as John struggled to the engine to kick into gear.
“Come on! Don’t die on me now!” he muttered as the engine just spluttered out for a third time.
“Shit, shit, shit,” Bobby chanted, his eyes fixed on Phoenix who was now only half a street away. “John…”
The car suddenly burst into life and John whooped, patting the steering wheel, but when he put it into gear, nothing happened.
“What…?” John pressed harder on the gas which resulted in the car jerking forward a little but that was all.
“It’s her,” Bobby gasped, turning completely around in his seat to look out of the back.
Phoenix had stopped walking and held her hand out in front of her in a way that Bobby remembered Jean doing when she used her telekinesis. Phoenix was stopping the car from moving and, judging from the cursing and John’s frantic tugs on the gear stick, she was trying to drag them back towards her.
“Just floor it!” Bobby shouted.
“What the fuck do you think I’m doing, Bobby?” John yelled back. “Hang on…let me just…”
Bobby didn’t know what John did but the car abruptly shot forward. There was a loud squealing noise as the wheels spun in place for a moment then they broke free of the hold Phoenix had on them and roared down the street far too fast. John struggled to wrangle back control and they almost careened into a couple of parked cars but, finally, they were speeding out of the town and away from Phoenix.
Once they were out of the town and clearly safe, John abruptly pulled into a rest stop on a country road. “Something you forgot to tell me, Drake?”
Bobby sighed and turned to face him. “I did plan on telling you, I swear. I just got caught up in the kissing and then the arguing. We hadn’t reached a point where I could bring it up yet.”
He’d debated with himself a lot over the previous week over whether he should tell John about Phoenix because he knew that as soon as Magneto found out about her then he’d try to recruit her to The Brotherhood. If that happened, the shit would, most assuredly, hit the fan. But, in the end, it boiled down to the fact that not telling John would leave him and a lot of other mutants in danger from her without them even knowing it, so Bobby had to tell him, really.
John tilted his head in acknowledgment. “I guess there is no lead in to ‘Dr Grey’s back from the dead and acting like a psychopath’.”
“It’s not Jean,” Bobby said. “At least, we don’t think it is. The Professor did at first; the theory was that her powers had protected her in the water but caused a split personality.”
“Really?” John’s sceptical look at that echoed exactly what Bobby thought when he’d first heard that.
“Yeah, I know; it doesn’t make much sense.” Bobby shook his head. “But Hank thinks that it’s something else that’s taken Jean’s form. Which also doesn’t make much sense but makes more sense than Jean trying to kill Scott.”
“Wait!” John also shifted around in his seat. “She tried to kill Cyclops?”
Bobby nodded. “Apparently, she…it…whatever it is, needs energy and Scott has loads of it because of the plasma blasts. She tried to drain him before Logan stopped her.”
“Like a vampire?”
“Exactly like a vampire!” Bobby exclaimed, probably inappropriately excited at that because everyone else had looked disapproving when Bobby described her that way.
John stared out of the window behind Bobby for a long moment. “She was going to try and drain us, wasn’t she? That’s why she was coming after us.”
“I think so,” Bobby agreed and sank back against the door at the realisation that they had almost died. “Christ!”
“This is not how I imagined tonight going,” John said. “I thought that I was going to talk you into finding a motel, not running for our lives.”
“You wanted to go to a motel?” Bobby asked, his blood suddenly rushing south despite everything. “You planned that?”
John raised an eyebrow at him. “Bobby…”
“I know, I know; not the time. But I’m 18, John; you can’t say something like that to me and not expect me to focus on it! I’ve already spent all week fantasising about what we might do if we got the chance and I…”
Before Bobby had even finished talking, he found himself yanked forward into a messy kiss.
“Now, who’s getting easily distracted?” Bobby murmured.
“You said that you’d been fantasising about me; that was too hot to resist,” John replied. “God, I really want to drag you to that motel.”
Bobby’s stomach jumped again at the thought. “But we can’t right now.”
“But we can’t right now,” John agreed. “I’ve got to warn The Brotherhood about Dr Grey.”
“Phoenix,” Bobby corrected. “That’s what we’ve been calling her. Warn them that she has the power to get into their heads, she’s been trying to lure Scott to her telepathically.”
“Well, that’s just great,” John drawled then he hesitated. “You know how Magneto’s going to react, right?”
“I think that I can guess,” Bobby said. “Scott’s going to kill me.”
“Cyclops won’t kill you, you’re his favourite. Storm on the other hand…” John replied, very unhelpfully.
“Luckily, Ororo’s not here right now,” Bobby replied. “I can only stand one of them yelling at me at a time.”
“Not to make things worse but…” John frowned and looked away. “I’m going to have to tell Magneto how I found out about Dr…umm…about Phoenix.”
Bobby grabbed his hand. “No, John. You can’t, he’ll hurt you; Mystique said…”
“I can if I tell him that I’m trying to get you on our side or something,” John interrupted, tilting his head as if the thought had just occurred to him.
“Or that you’re doing it to get information out of me,” Bobby suggested thoughtfully and John looked at him in surprise. “It’s more believable. Anyone who knows me knows that I wouldn’t turn on the Professor.”
“I’m not…” John took a big breath. “I didn’t turn on the Professor. That’s not why I left.”
“And that’s not what I meant,” Bobby said quickly. That was a conversation for another day. “I just think that Magneto wouldn’t believe that I’d even consider joining The Brotherhood.”
“But would you? If I asked you?” John asked quietly.
“I…” Bobby frowned and trailed off.
Of course, he wouldn’t join The Brotherhood under his own steam but to save John? He didn’t know the answer to that.
John snorted after a moment. “They’d eat you alive but thank you for considering it.”
Bobby could see the genuine appreciation beneath the sarcasm and rolled his eyes at John’s inability to show his true emotions. “Any time.”
It wasn‘t lost on Bobby that he’d started out the night with the intention of talking John into leaving The Brotherhood and was now considering if he would ever join them. If Scott and Ororo didn’t kill him then Mystique probably would.
“I need you to promise me something,” he said, waiting until John was looking at him and could see how serious he was. “If ever you feel in danger in the Brotherhood or one of your attacks goes wrong and Magneto finds out that you and Mystique are deliberately not carrying out orders…”
“We’re not going against…” John started to protest but Bobby held up his hand.
“Mystique already told me what you’ve been up to and why. Was she lying?” Bobby asked and John shook his head with a scowl. “So, if Magneto ever finds out, promise that you’ll come to the school and find me.”
“I’m not slinking back to Xavier’s with my tail between my legs,” John said.
“You don’t have to,” Bobby replied. “You don’t have to stay there just come and find me and let me help you. Please, John.”
“Fuck!” he swore under his breath and Bobby was vaguely pleased that his puppy dog eyes still worked on John. “Fine. I promise; are you happy?”
“Yes,” Bobby told him with a soft smile before he gave a big sigh. “Now, I guess that it’s time to face the music.”
They’d already spent too long sitting in that car when he should have been alerting the X-Men to Phoenix’s proximity. John nodded and started the car again, shaking his head when it started first time. Of course it did. All too soon, they were pulling up outside the school gates.
“Keep checking your emails,” John told him. “I’ll try to get away again as soon as I can.”
“Because we’ve got the promise of a motel to act on?” Bobby tried to lighten the mood and the sense of foreboding he felt, letting John go back and also him having to pass on this news to Magneto.
John seemed to appreciate the attempt even if it had fallen a little flat. “If I don’t just drag you into the backseat first.”
Bobby smiled and leaned across the seat to kiss him. “Remember your promise.”
“Yeah,” John replied without even a roll of his eyes, clearly feeling the same apprehension. “I’ll see you soon.”
Bobby climbed out of the car and watched John drive away until he couldn’t see the car anymore. He looked at the dark mansion; this was not going to be fun.
He went straight to Scott’s room and knocked on the door. There was the sound of something being knocked to the floor and some low cursing before Scott opened it, looking half asleep, and in just a pair of pyjama pants.
“Bobby? What’s wrong? Are you sick?” he asked before he paused and studied him. “Why are you dressed?”
“I went into Westchester,” Bobby replied and, before Scott could start to berate him for that, he added. “Phoenix was there.”
The colour drained out of Scott’s face. “Are you okay? Did she touch you?”
Bobby shook his head. “We got away.”
“We?” Scott questioned but before Bobby could answer, Logan’s door opened too.
“What the f…hell is going on out here? Some of us are trying to sleep.”
“Phoenix is here. In Westchester,” Scott told him and Logan immediately straightened from his slouch against the doorframe. “She tried to attack Bobby.”
“She tried…?” Logan gave Bobby a onceover, also taking in his fully dressed state. “I take it, not on school property. How did you get away?”
“In a car,” Bobby told him. “But she almost stopped it; we had it going full throttle and she was pulling it back towards her with her telekinesis. And she tore through one of my ice walls like it was tissue paper.”
“In whose car, Bobby?” Scott asked and then shook his head. “No, you can answer that later and explain what the hell you were doing out of the mansion at night. We need to get the rest of the X-Men into town, as soon as we can; we need to find her and stop her.”
He turned to go back into his bedroom and Bobby paused a second before following him in, closing the door behind them.
Scott turned from his wardrobe with a frown. “Bobby, I said that we’ll talk about this later.”
“I’m gay!” Bobby blurted out and it felt good to say it, better than it had with Kitty because he’d still been in shock then. Also ‘gay’ definitely felt right, rather than ‘bi’. “I was planning on telling you tonight; that’s why I wanted to hang out. But it’s also the reason why I snuck into town so it’s going to come out before then and I needed to tell you myself. Now. I couldn’t have you find out in front of other people.”
“Oh, Bobby.” Scott crossed the room and pulled him into a bearhug. “Thank you for telling me and we will talk about this over pizza tonight, I promise. But I really have to go, so the only thing that I can tell you right now is that I’m proud of you, kiddo.”
Bobby’s stomach clenched, both from the easy acceptance and from the fact that he was about to majorly let Scott down. “You won’t be saying that later.”
Scott pulled back and studied him in concern. “I’ll always say that; no matter what else you think you did.”
Bobby held onto that thought as he left Scott’s room and then watched from the window as Cyclops, Wolverine and Beast headed out. He knew that they’d want to talk to him when they got back and he wouldn’t be able to sleep until he knew if they’d caught Phoenix so he spent the next couple of hours pacing the hall anxiously. He waited for either the X-Men to return or the Professor to finish trying to locate Phoenix with Cerebro. Finally, the X-Men came back empty-handed.
“No sign of her,” Hank told him, when he came to fetch Bobby for his second X-Men debrief. “Although, we did find the remains of your ice-wall. It looked impressive; you’ve clearly been practising.”
Normally, Bobby would have preened at the compliment but his stomach was tied up in knots and so he just trudged after Hank towards the Professor’s office. He took the same seat as he had before and stared at the ground.
“What happened, Bobby?” The professor asked.
Even though he had played this over in his head countless times over the past two hours, Bobby hesitated; unsure where to start.
“Let’s begin with who you snuck out with,” Scott said. “I know that you want to cover for them but they could be traumatised by what they saw and need to talk to someone about it.”
“I didn’t sneak out with anyone. I snuck out to meet someone.” Bobby took a deep breath, unwilling to look at any of them. “To meet John.”
There was a moment’s shocked silence before Logan growled. “For fuck’s sake, bub! You really can’t find anyone else’s pants to get in? You’re not that bad looking!”
“I’m sorry, what?” Hank sounded shocked and Bobby lifted his head to see him staring at Logan.
Scott was looking at Logan too, with a frown. “You knew? About Bobby?”
“I didn’t tell him!” Bobby burst out and then bit his lips because that wasn’t really the point.
“I caught them with their tongues down each other’s throats in some stinking back alley in New York,” Logan drawled and Bobby flushed.
“I think that we’re straying away from the point here,” the Professor interjected.
“I think this is exactly the fucking point. Your golden boy, here, is literally sleeping with the enemy. With Magneto’s next favourite after Mystique.” Logan spun to look at Bobby directly. “With a guy that you watched kill innocent people.”
“The room was empty,” Bobby said tiredly and Logan snorted.
“Right, are you still falling for that?”
“Bobby we’ve talked about this,” Scott started but Bobby shook his head.
“And I told you that I didn’t believe he’d killed those people. Hank, do you think that Mystique lied to me?”
Hank sighed. “I don’t know. Maybe not.”
“Let’s stick to what happened tonight, shall we?” the Professor said, firmly, before Logan could start on the rant that everyone could see was coming. “Bobby?”
Bobby nodded and quickly explained everything that happened from the time he met John; leaving out the kissing and the chat in the car about the Brotherhood.
“Has she been in Westchester for a while and was waiting for a mutant to show up at a time she could approach them?” Hank wondered. “Or was she attracted to the presence of Bobby and John?”
“She had to have been in Westchester either way,” Scott pointed out. “She can’t teleport, as far as we know, so if she was attracted to the presence of mutants, she had to already be in the area.”
“Probably attracted to the school and all of the mutants here.” Hank nodded.
“We need to boost the security on the school,” Logan said. “She’s hiding somewhere nearby. Probably went back to ground as soon as the car got away from her.”
“I agree.” The Professor drummed his fingers on the arm of his chair as he thought. “I’ll contact Ororo. Scott, call back Kurt and let’s see if Gambit will help us as well.”
Logan groaned but Scott nodded.
“What about Magneto?” Hank asked. “We need to warn the mutants that he’s gathered to him.”
“John’s going to tell him,” Bobby said and tried not to wince at the glare Logan gave him.
“I bet he is and everything else that he managed to get out of you,” he growled.
“Hey! Back off, Logan,” Scott snapped. “He could have hidden the fact that he snuck out and we’d probably have never known. Instead, he reported the Phoenix sighting to us even knowing how much trouble he’d get in…”
“And I should also tell you that Mystique came to see me,” Bobby interjected quietly.
“What?” Scott stopped mid-flow stared at him.
“Explain,” Logan snarled, his temper flaring as it always did when Mystique was mentioned.
Bobby swallowed hard. “She snuck into my room on Tuesday night to talk about John.”
“What the fuck, kid? Why didn’t you raise the alarm? Do you have any idea how much of a security risk that is? She could have found out all sort of crap that we don’t want The Brotherhood to know!” Logan loomed over Bobby furiously.
Bobby shrank back in his seat and stared at the other man with wide-eyes because he really hadn’t thought about that. He’d been too wrapped up in worry over John.
“Calm yourself, Logan,” the Professor said, “I was fully aware that Mystique was here.”
“You knew?” Hank asked, looking upset.
The Professor sent him an almost apologetic look. “She visits every few years; I guess out of some sense of nostalgia. She usually visits her old haunts and leaves, I had no idea that she spoke to you while she was here this time, Bobby.”
“You just let her wander about a school full of kids? Just like that?” Logan glared.
“She poses no danger to the children,” the Professor assured him.
Logan shook his head. “And what about the rest of us?”
The Professor turned back to Bobby. “What did she say?”
“She’s worried about John,” Bobby told him. “She wanted me to try and talk him into leaving The Brotherhood because she thinks that Magneto will kill him when he finds out that they’ve been faking the attacks. Well…not faking the attacks but not actually killing people in the attacks.”
“We already know that’s a lie,” Scott pointed out but Bobby shook his head.
“She said that she created a chemical spill or something like that. One which meant people couldn’t go into the room for a couple of days until it was cleaned up.”
Scott gave him a sad look. “Bobby…she was playing you. To make you more sympathetic to John.”
“I’m afraid that Scott is probably right,” the Professor told him gently. “I think that you need to consider the possibility that Mystique and John are using you to gather information for Magneto.”
Bobby looked at the floor for a moment and took a breath. “With all due respect, Professor, I have considered that; it’s pretty much all that I’ve thought about since New York, and I don’t believe that they are.”
Charles frowned. “I have to warn you, Robert, that if you insist on staying in contact with John Allerdyce then you will have to be removed from the X-Men training programme. We can’t take that sort of risk.”
Bobby should have expected that but it hadn’t even occurred to him that he was risking his place as an X-Man. It hit like a sucker punch but he stayed firm. “I understand. Do what you have to do, sir, but I’m still going to see John.”
“Bobby, no!” Scott looked dismayed. “You’ve wanted to be an X-Man since you were a little kid.”
“I know,” Bobby told him. “And I still want to but I’m not giving John up.”
Logan rolled his eyes. “Christ! Stop thinking with your dick, kid.”
“Why don’t you take a day to think it over,” Hank tried. “I know that teenage romances seem like such a big deal at the time but you may look back and regret it. You’ve worked so hard for this.”
“Look, it’s not about any relationship we might have,” Bobby said, just about managing to refrain from rolling his eyes at the patronisation because he knew that Hank genuinely had his best interests at heart. “It’s about our friendship. He’s my best friend and I let him down. I’m not doing that again.”
“John made his own decision to leave us and join The Brotherhood,” the Professor said. “He chose this path. You shouldn’t feel any guilt for that.”
Bobby shook his head in frustration because he wasn’t getting through to any of them. “I let him leave. I was so caught up in my own drama over my parents that I didn’t even consider what he must have been going through.”
“It’s not like his pet dog died.” Logan said, plainly. “He killed a cop; burned her to a crisp.”
“Because they shot you in the head!” Bobby yelled, his patience finally snapping. “Do you have any idea how terrifying that was? We’d just been attacked in the middle of the night by people who looked like soldiers, we didn’t know where anyone from the school was – if they were alive or dead – and then a cop shot you in the head! John didn’t know that you’d heal from that; I definitely didn’t know! And we didn’t know if the cops were going to shoot the rest of us next!”
“Bobby…” Scott looked taken aback, as if he hadn’t even considered how scared they all must have been and he probably hadn’t because Jean had died before he even found out about the stand-off in Boston.
“He just…he just reacted and he must’ve felt…” Bobby angrily swiped at the tears he could feel starting to fall at the thought of it. “I shouldn’t have let him just go off on his own like that.”
An uncomfortable silence fell over the room until Charles broke it. “It’s been an eventful night and, obviously, emotions are running high. Let’s adjourn for now. Bobby, get some sleep; I think that you need it.”
Bobby quickly stood and left without looking at any of them.
He spent the next two days holed up in his room, keeping his door locked and ignoring any knocks from Kitty and Piotr. He snuck down to the kitchen Saturday evening and grabbed a whole load of snacks, took them back to his room to tide him over and then refused to leave. He just couldn’t face anyone.
Before he went to bed Saturday morning, he’d set up a new email account and sent a message to John, asking if he was okay and telling him to use that address rather than the school one, just in case. He then spent the rest of the two days obsessively checking the account for a reply but he didn’t get one.
Sunday night, Scott knocked on his door. “Come on, kiddo. Let me in; I’m getting worried about you.”
Bobby hesitated, unsure if he could handle a disappointed lecture but then the smell of pizza floated under the door and his stomach growled loudly. Scott looked amused when Bobby threw open the door and then he sauntered into the room, dropping some cans of soda on the table and wrinkling his nose at all the chip packets strewn around the place.
“Eat first, then talk,” Scott said, handing Bobby one of the boxes.
Bobby was fully in agreement with that and immediately grabbed a slice, almost inhaling the entire pizza.
“Did you even taste that?” Scott asked with a chuckle when Bobby pushed the empty box to one side with a satisfied sigh.
“Yes, I did and it was delicious,” Bobby replied, giving Scott a tentative smile.
He was a little thrown by Scott’s friendly attitude; he’d expected Scott to be unhappy with him for a while longer.
“Okay. First things first.” Scott leaned forward from his previous sprawl over John’s stripped bed. “Ororo and Rogue are back. They arrived a few hours ago.”
Bobby nodded. “Did she do it?”
“She took the cure. And it seems to be working; I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone so happy to shake my hand,” Scott told him with a quiet chuckle, although he was studying Bobby closely as if trying to gauge his reaction.
“Good; I’m happy for her,” Bobby said. “She hated her mutation and I can’t really blame her.”
“No,” Scott agreed. “You should go and see her, Bobby. I’m guessing that there’s a lot of hurt between you right now but you were always the person who she could turn to. I’m sure that she’ll want to share this with you.”
“I don’t know about that. She was with Logan when he caught me and John,” Bobby confessed and Scott winced. “I didn’t know, I swear I didn’t. Not until I saw him and something just clicked. Now she thinks that I was only with her because I couldn’t have sex with her and I could pretend to be straight.”
“Were you?” Scott asked. There was no condemnation in his voice, just genuine curiosity.
“Not that I was aware of,” Bobby said. “But, subconsciously? Yeah; I think, maybe I was. You know what my parents are like; I had to listen to so much anti-mutant bullshit over the years and, I guess, in this one area I could be normal.”
Scott was quiet for a moment, as if weighing something up. “I never told you this and I’m not sure that I ever planned to but…when you first got here, me and Jean talked about trying to adopt you.”
Bobby’s mouth fell open. “What?”
“I know,” Scott snickered. “Can you imagine what a disaster that would have been? We weren’t even old enough to drink yet. But you were so young and adorable and Charles had told us about the anti-mutant stuff he’d got from your parents. Jean hatched this crazy plan to have them deemed unfit so that we could keep you but we’d have had to expose you as a mutant and we ultimately didn’t feel that we could force that on you. Plus, Charles had a real rant at us when he found out, told us that we couldn’t just keep every mutant child that we liked as if they were some kind of puppy.”
Scott’s expression was equal parts amused and fond as he thought back to a young Scott and Jean and Bobby was pleased that he could finally think back on her without pain. But most of him was reeling from that revelation.
“Seriously?” he asked.
“You were a cute kid. And we had no idea what a pain in the ass you would grow up to be,” Scott snarked before he blew out a breath. “Jean adored you; you know that, right? And the idea that Phoenix went after you the other night…”
“Made you realise that it’s truly not Jean?” Bobby asked and Scott nodded. “Yeah, I felt the same way after she attacked you.”
They both fell quiet as they thought about how this monster had stolen the face of someone they loved and still grieved for.
“I can’t believe that you guys genuinely wanted to adopt me though. Imagine how different everything would have been.”
Bobby’s attempt to lighten the suddenly heavy atmosphere a little worked and Scott snorted. “We probably would have scarred you for life.”
“Probably.” Bobby smirked. “I think that I prefer you as my big brother, anyway.”
Scott gave a genuine, pleased smile at that before sobering slightly. “As your big brother, I owe you an apology.”
“What?” Bobby frowned. “Why are you apologising to me? I’m the one who messed up by not telling you that Mystique had been here and I know that you’re disappointed in me for giving up the X-Men training.”
“Because I should have listened to you. I should have remembered that you never do anything lightly and always over-think every single thing,” Scott told him, the corner of his mouth quirking wryly for a moment. “You were right.”
“Right about what?”
“Ororo managed to do quite a thorough investigation in New York and I understand that Rogue helped a lot too,” Scott said. “They found traces of a toxic chemical in the burned room and Ororo managed to speak to a worker in the new clinic while Rogue was having her appointment to get the cure; he said that there had been a chemical spill before the explosion happened. All the staff had been evacuated into a different part of the building before there was any fire.”
“There was no-one in the room,” Bobby breathed.
“The nurse said that he doesn’t know where the media got their information from, that there must have been a crossed wire somewhere because people couldn’t have been in that room; it was cordoned off,” Scott confirmed.
Even though Bobby had chosen to believe John and Mystique, there had still been that teeny tiny tendril of doubt. Knowing now that they had been telling the truth, and that Bobby had been right to put his faith in them, left him a little breathless.
“He really didn’t do it.” He looked at Scott with an awestruck expression on his face. “I knew it!”
“You did. You said that you knew him better than the rest of us and, well, we knew that you did; we just focussed on the teenage hormones running wild part of the story,” Scott said. “I’m really sorry, Bobby.”
“I guess that it was a lot of information to throw at you at once.” Bobby shrugged. “And I believed that John had done it too for a moment. Just after it first happened, I believed it enough that I threw up. Logan was surprisingly nice about it, considering.”
Scott frowned a little. “He catches you out like that, sometimes. I wonder if it’s because of stuff in his past that he can’t remember.”
“What’s up with you two anyway?” Bobby asked. “It’s almost like you’re becoming friends.”
“Almost like,” Scott agreed. “As much as I hated his feelings for her, we were both in love with Jean and we both miss her. I guess we each know what the other one’s going through and it seems cruel to keep bitching at each other by this point.”
“Makes sense.” Bobby nodded. “So what do we do now?”
Scott was used to the way Bobby’s mind bounced about and could follow his train of thought. “Ideally, we’d counteract the bad press against mutants by leaking the fact that there were actually no deaths during the New York terrorist attack…”
“No! You can’t do that!” Bobby immediately protested. “Magneto will kill John!”
“Is there any way that you can warn John? Get him out of there before the story breaks?” Scott asked.
“I can email him but he still hasn’t answered my last email so I don’t know how often he gets to read them,” Bobby told him.
Scott nodded. “Okay, email him and well hold off until we get an answer from him. We’re not going to purposefully put him in danger, Bobby.”
Bobby breathed a sigh of relief and fell back against his bed as if all his strings had been cut. “Okay.”
“Now, I believe that I owe you an ass-kicking in GTA,” Scott continued, standing up and gathering the pizza boxes. “Email Pyro, clean yourself up and I’ll meet you back at my room in twenty.”
“You’re going down, Summers,” Bobby taunted, walking across the room to grab his phone as Scott left the room.
“Keep telling yourself that, kiddo,” Scott shot back and then was gone.
As soon as the door was closed, Bobby immediately opened the phone and shot John an email to warn him about Ororo’s evidence and what the X-Men wanted to do with it. He stared at his empty in-box for a few minutes, hoping that he was okay, and then went to grab a shower.
Five days passed with no contact from John and Bobby was getting more worried with each passing day. Scott was pretty good at distracting him with videogames, movies and even a couple of sessions in the gym during the evenings. Even Logan, who seemed to have grudgingly accepted the evidence from Ororo, picked up on Bobby’s mood and offered to teach him a couple of meditation techniques. Ororo told him that it was his way of apologising without having to actually apologise so Bobby did take him up on a couple of classes before they both agreed that it wasn’t for him; probably around the fourth time that Bobby fell asleep instead of being ‘at one with his thoughts’.
Kitty and Piotr had been flabbergasted by Bobby leaving the X-Men training programme, although only Kitty knew the real reason why. Their surprise had turned into dismay when they realised that Rogue had left the programme too now that she no longer had any powers. Bobby didn’t worry too much, the hand-chosen members from Jubilee and Doug’s class would be joining them at the start of the next school year so they only had to put up with a couple of months’ worth of training where it was just the two of them and the teachers. Plus he had high hopes that this would allow Piotr to finally see Kitty as more than a just classmate.
The news of Rogue taking the cure had spread through the school like wildfire and the rumour mill turned to whether she’d be allowed to stay now that she wasn’t a mutant. Of course, the Professor wouldn’t throw her out, even if he didn’t realise that Logan would probably leave with her. It had definitely been a surprise to see the sudden emergence of strappy summer dresses instead of her usual all skin covered in dark layers look and it had made him smile; something that got a small smile in return. So maybe Scott had been right about her being able to forgive him. Bobby wasn’t going to push it though; he’d let her come to him if she wanted to.
Hank had been called back to Washington for more discussions about the cure but he’d promised to keep working on a way to block Phoenix from Scott’s mind. Although, she’d apparently stopped all attempts to call Scott to her after the night that she’d chased John and Bobby. He couldn’t help but think that wasn’t a good sign. He was grateful that Scott didn’t have to deal with that any more but why had she stopped? Had she found someone else to drain? Bobby knew that Scott was worried about that too.
All day, in classes, Bobby was almost as distracted as he’d been a week earlier. But then it had been excitement and the anticipation of seeing John; this Friday it was concern and a heavy feeling in his stomach because he hadn’t heard from him, even after all the emails that he’d sent. At least, he didn’t have to do a pointless pop quiz this week.
“Still nothing?” Scott asked in a low voice, just as he had every day, and Bobby shook his head. “I’m sure we’d have heard if something happened to him.”
Scott was right; he was pretty sure that Mystique would’ve let him know, in no uncertain terms, if John was hurt.
“I’m going to have to take a rain-check on tonight,” Scott told him. “Charles has called a meeting.”
Kurt had come back to the school Monday, to the delight of most of the students who adored the teleporter and his grand tales of his time in the Munich circus. Gambit had arrived just the day before. Bobby had only met him once, years earlier, and he was exactly the same as he remembered with his warm accent and easy flirting with everyone, even the Professor. The two arrivals had quickly joined the teachers in patrolling the school and taking regular trips into Westchester, looking for any sign of Phoenix.
“I’m sure he has and that it’s not you punking out,” Bobby snarked and Scott glared at him. “Don’t worry about me. I have friends that I can hang out with.”
But, in truth, he didn’t have as many as he once did. He had no interest in spending time with anyone who had believed that ridiculous rumour about him; which ruled out a lot of people. Plus, he’d been a relationship for almost two years and he now realised that if you spent the majority of your time with just one other person, it pushed other people away.
“Fancy doing something, Kittycat?” he asked as he sat down next to Kitty.
She narrowed her eyes at him. “I don’t know. Are you going to be moping and checking your phone every ten seconds?”
“Probably to the second part,” he admitted. “But I won’t mope. Much.”
“Ooh, tempting,” she said, sarcastically. “I tell you what; I’ll hang out with you if you do the thing.”
He tilted his head, thoughtfully. “Deal.”
“Yes!” She jumped up. “I’ll get my skates!”
Bobby chuckled as she ran out of the room and then quickly checked his emails on his phone. Nothing. As he raised his head, he spotted Rogue standing by herself in the doorway and looking a little uncertain. She caught his eye and he gave her a smile. There was a moment’s hesitation before she wandered over to him.
“Hi,” she said.
“Hey,” he replied.
Then they just looked at each other awkwardly.
“I like your dress,” Bobby tried and she blushed a little, which was also a new look on Rogue.
“Ororo bought me some new clothes.”
Bobby chuckled. “Hank said that she’d find time to shop while you were in New York.”
Rogue smiled. “I think the moment she realised that I could have a whole new wardrobe was the moment she stopped lecturing me on getting the cure.”
They were still chuckling when Kitty came back.
She looked between them curiously and then asked Rogue. “Do you want to come ice skating with us?”
“I don’t know how.” Rogue said, looking shocked that Kitty had asked.
“We’ll teach you,” Kitty assured her. “You may want to put some jeans on though. As great as the legs are looking and, believe me, all the guys are transfixed by them; you’re going to get cold.”
Rogue barked a surprised laugh. “Okay. I’ll meet you by the fountain.”
“Thanks, Kitty,” Bobby murmured as he and Kitty headed outside.
“I didn’t do it for you,” she replied. “You’re going to be fine. Rogue needs to learn how to be a person again.”
“When did you get to be so wise?” Bobby asked her.
“I’ve always been wise,” she told him, archly. “I just don’t get the respect that I deserve.”
He snorted and then turned his attention to freezing the water in the fountain. By the time Rogue joined them, Kitty was already gliding around on the ice.
“Okay, how does this work?” Rogue asked.
“Sit on the edge and give me your feet,” Bobby instructed.
He pulled her foot up so that he could see the sole and then covered the bottom in a layer of ice which he shaped like an ice skate blade. Once he’d repeated it with the second shoe, he and Kitty helped Rogue up until she was standing, unsteadily, on the ice. He quickly iced up his own shoes and jumped up to join them. Kitty stood behind Rogue, with her hands on her waist, while Bobby stood in front, facing her. He took hold of her hands and there was a moment of utter amazement as he realised she wasn’t wearing gloves.
“I know,” she whispered, giving him a shaky smile. “It’s a little overwhelming.”
“In a good way,” he reassured her. “Alright, let’s skate!”
Bobby slowly skated backwards, pulling Rogue along with him. Meanwhile, Kitty pushed her from behind and used her feet to position Rogue’s feet correctly.
“Oh my god! I’m ice skating!” Rogue squealed excitedly, as only a southerner could.
The evening passed quickly, the three of them having fun on the makeshift ice rink. Piotr joined them at one point, feeling nostalgic for a Russian winter, and Bobby quickly dropped off the fountain in order to reinforce the ice for him. It was after he was finished doing that, that his cell started to ring. He pulled it out of his pocket and stared at it with a frown. Ever since his parents had cut him out of their lives, the only thing he ever used his phone for was texting or going online; no one ever called him on it. The number was withheld so he answered it with a touch of apprehension and worry, just in case it was someone from his family.
“Drake, you better have meant it when you said I could come to you for help!”
“John?” Bobby asked incredulously, sensing that all activity had suddenly stopped behind him at his exclamation. “Of course, I meant it. Are you..?”
“We’re on our way to you,” John interrupted. “I’m about twenty minutes out from the school. Warn whoever you need to so that they stand down.”
“I’m on it!” Bobby told him, already removing the ice from his shoes and heading back into the mansion. He vaguely heard someone call his name but he ignored it in favour of finding out what was wrong. “Are you hurt?”
“Not me,” John answered in a tight voice. “Mystique needs help.”
Bobby remembered Mystique’s blasé proclamation that she could handle Magneto and swore under his breath, breaking into a run. He skidded to a stop outside the Professor’s office and banged on the door. Ororo opened it with a look of surprise.
“Bobby, can it wait? We’re having a meeting?”
“No, it really can’t,” he assured her and entered the room when she waved him in. “John’s on his way here. He has Mystique with him, I think she’s hurt.”
“No fucking way!” Logan snarled. “We’re not helping that bitch.”
“Tell Wolverine to go fuck himself!” John yelled down the line and, from the way Logan’s eyes cut Bobby’s way, he heard that. “You said that we could come to you for help, Bobby.”
“You can,” Bobby promised him just as the Professor spoke.
“Tell St. John to drive around to the back entrance of the mansion. We will be waiting to escort him and Mystique to the lab.”
“Did you get that?” Bobby asked and John answered in the affirmative before he rang off.
“Chuck, you can’t be serious,” Logan protested. “Sheltering the firebug is one thing but Mystique is something else entirely.”
“He’s right, Charles,” Ororo agreed. “She can’t be trusted; not downstairs.”
The professor looked as tense as Bobby had ever seen him. “I appreciate your input but this is my decision. If Mystique needs help then I will give it. Scott, please join me. Robert, if you would wait outside the front of the mansion it will probably do much to help the anxiety that St. John is doubtless feeling right now. Then you can join us downstairs.”
“Right.” Bobby nodded and ducked out of the room as more arguments started behind him.
His mind was spinning. What could possibly have happened to Mystique that would prompt John to bring her here?
He looked up to see Kitty and Rogue running towards him, both barefoot after having abandoned their skates.
“What’s going on? Is everything okay?” Kitty asked.
“Why was he calling you?” Rogue spat and both Bobby and Kitty looked at her in surprise at the venom dripping from her voice. “He’s no good, Bobby. Don’t get caught up in any of his bullshit!”
“It’s none of your business why John was calling me,” Bobby told her because he didn’t have time to deal with Rogue’s attitude right now. “But I need to go.”
He started to walk towards the main entrance again but Rogue moved to stand in his way.
“Where? We were still skating, Piotr’s waiting for us.”
Bobby could see that Piotr was in the rec room behind her, he never did have much patience for waiting around and was already deep in conversation with James. He exchanged a look with Kitty and then stepped around Rogue.
“Skating’s done for the night, I’ve got other things to do,” he told her.
She grabbed his arm. “Like what? Like chasing after John like a pathetic little puppy? Newsflash, Bobby, he’s the enemy!”
“You have no idea what he is,” Bobby shot back, coolly. “You never liked him at all, did you?”
“Of course I never liked him,” she snapped. “Anyone with eyes could see what he wanted from you. It was disgusting!”
“Hey! That’s enough. Come on, Rogue; let’s head back to the fountain, the ice will be thick enough to skate on for another hour at least,” Kitty said, obviously trying to get Rogue away from him before she dug herself even deeper in this hole she’d just created.
“Get off me!” Rogue violently shook off the hand that Kitty had laid on her arm. “Just go, Bobby. Get taken in like the sucker that you are and don’t come crying to me when John uses you up and spits you out!”
With that she spun around and ran up the stairs, leaving Bobby and Kitty staring after her.
“You know, I always thought that her odd behaviour was down to her fear of her own power. But I think she might actually have a screw loose,” Kitty mused.
“John’s on his way here,” Bobby confided quietly and she turned to look at him with wide eyes. “It might be an idea to keep Rogue the hell away from him.”
“You think?” Kitty drawled. “I’ll try to head her off where I can; I’m sure that Jubilee will help once she knows that it’s for John. But you’re giving me all the gossip as soon as you have the time.”
“Thanks, Kittycat. You’re a star.” Bobby gave her a quick hug and then ran towards the entrance again.
“And don’t you forget it!” She called after him.