Chapter 16: “Pumpkin Stew”

Bobby ran through the halls of the mansion like… Like a man with a mission? Like a maniac? Like a fool? He felt like all of these. As he hit the ground floor he could already hear the phone ringing in the main administrative office. He darted past the infinitely patient grandfather clock at high speed and noted that it was 2:45 a.m. He’d been up for 20 hours and the day wasn’t over yet.

He snapped on the light without breaking stride as he entered the office. He raced to the central desk and grabbed the phone.

“St. John?!” he managed between gasps.

“Oh fuck,” came the distant voice. “I thought you weren’t going to answer.”

“No, I’m here! Where the hell are you? What’s wrong?”

“I’m in Brooklyn somewhere, man. They drove me here from Manhattan.”

“Who? Did someone kidnap you or something?” Bobby was bending over the front of the desk, holding the phone in one hand and supporting himself with the other. The supporting hand was shaking. A wave of nausea and fatigue rolled over him and his stomach growled loudly. He moved around the desk and fell into the chair.

“No, not kidnapped, man. It’s Halloween!” St. John told him, as if that explained everything. He fell silent again and Bobby could hear him breathing in and out loudly before he spoke again. “It’s totally surreal hearing your voice, Bobby. It’s like I forgot what it sounded like until I heard it… And now it’s like I never forgot, you know?”

Bobby totally knew what he was saying. It was like talking to a ghost who had been haunting your house for months before it finally spoke. Like in Hamlet or something.

He focused his thoughts and spoke slowly and clearly. “St. John, you have to tell me where you are. We can come get you.”

“I’m scared.” St. John replied and there was something in his voice that scared Bobby, too.

“Just tell me what’s going on so we can —”

“They gave me something,” he whimpered. “It’s all coming at me! I’m so scared. Bobby, there’s fire everywhere. I can’t… I don’t want to…”

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?!”

Bobby’s head snapped up. Scott, wearing sweats, his hair disheveled was just entering the office. He was clearly furious.

No! Not now!

Bobby pleaded, “Scott, wait a second, please!” Into the phone, he said desperately, “St. John, hold on. Don’t hang up, please!”

“Put down the phone, Bobby,” Scott said in a quiet tone full of threat. “You were told to stay in your room and now here you are, playing some new stunt —”

“It’s not a stunt! I-I’ve got a mutant on the line; he’s in trouble!”

In his ear, he heard a terrified St. John: “Bobby, what’s wrong? Did they get you? Aren’t you gonna help me?”

“Then give me the phone, Bobby, and I’ll talk to him,” Scott responded tightly and stretched out a hand to grab the receiver out of his hand.

Bobby pulled away from him and dived for the floor behind the desk, clutching the receiver tightly. The telephone slid off the desk, bouncing off his back before crashing to the ground. He shouted into the receiver, “St. John, no! I’m fine. Just tell me where you are! What’s the address?!”

Jean entered the office just as Scott was about to jump the desk to grab his recalcitrant student. “What’s happening?!” she called out. “Bobby, who are you talking to?”

Bobby was wrapped in a ball, trying to protect the receiver. He heard St. John shout in fright, an utterly inhuman sound. “They’re coming! I gotta go! Shitshit!”

“NO!” Bobby screamed as the line went dead. He turned furious eyes up to Scott who, with Jean holding him back, was scowling down red-faced at him. “Godammit! I lost him! You made me lose him!!”

*Everybody will kindly calm down!* came the loud telepathic announcement. All eyes turned to the door as the Professor wheeled in followed by an astonished Ororo.

When Xavier spoke out loud, his voice sounded horribly weary. “Robert, please stand up. I can’t see you.” Bobby got shakily to his feet, putting the telephone back on the desk and facing the Headmaster uneasily. “Please tell us what’s going on. It’s been a very long night. We were forced to follow the mission with a difficult staff meeting and none of us is in the best frame of mind.”

“Sir, it’s St. John… Did I tell you about him? He came to the first mutant youth meeting. I-I think he’s a street kid. Well, no, he said he lived in some kind of squat or something—”

“Get to the point, Bobby,” Scott said, visibly working to regain his cool.

“He IM’d me… you know, Professor, like on the computer. And I gave him the office number to call. He says he’s in trouble. We have to go help him, please!”

“Where is he, Bobby?” Jean asked.

“Brooklyn. I-I don’t know the address. There’s something wrong with him. He said they gave him something. Maybe a drug? And he talked about fire.”

“Fire?” Scott asked.

“Yeah. He, um, controls fire, I think. That’s his power. But I don’t know why he’s so scared.”

Jean turned to Xavier, “If he’s been drugged, he might be having trouble controlling his pyrokinesis.”

Xavier rolled towards them. “Ororo, can you trace the phone call?”

“Yeah!” Bobby said excitedly. “We’ll just star-69 him!”

Ororo moved behind the desk and looked down at a high-tech interface attached to the phone. Its black keypad and randomly blinking lights stared up, mute and uninviting. “No, Bobby, that won’t work. It’s a phone system that was designed specially for us. I think to get the previous number, we just press the command key and 1-8. Or is it 1-9?”

They all watched as she tried various combinations.

She swore in frustration. “Damn! This system is unnecessarily complicated.”

“Didn’t Forge say he was writing us a manual?” Jean asked.

Scott shook his head angrily. “He kept promising but he never got around to it.”

Ororo sat on the desk heavily. “Oh, Goddess! What do we do now?”

Scott switched into his commander mode as if he had never lost his cool in the first place. “Bobby, did you get the sense that this rescue was urgent?”

“Yeah! He sounded like he was really in trouble. Like, now!”

Xavier sighed wearily. “I’ll go back down to Cerebro and see if I can’t pick up the boy’s signature.”

Jean said flatly, “You’ll do nothing of the kind, Charles. You are in no condition to put yourself through more psychic stress tonight. Get to bed. That’s a medical order.”

Xavier looked like he was going to object, but he finally nodded in compliance.

Scott checked his watch. “All right; Bobby, you’ll accompany Jean and me into Brooklyn. Ororo, try to remember how the phone works. In any case, you’ll be here if the boy calls back. We’ll stay in touch with you by X-mobile.”

Bobby felt oddly guilty, as if it were his fault they had to go out a second time that night. He himself felt weak and shaky and he realized he hadn’t eaten any dinner. He needed some fuel.

“Do I have a minute before we leave?” he asked cautiously.

“Yes, we have to change. Meet us in the garage in five.”

He went straight to the kitchen and tore open the freezer. It was strange to be the only student awake. It felt like it was still the summer before any of the other kids had arrived and he was the solitary student — unique, everybody’s favorite.

He nuked two frozen burritos and ran for the garage where Jean and Scott were already waiting in stylish dark clothes, Scott in a sharp leather jacket and black slacks, Jean in black denim pants and a dark maroon woolen coat.

Bobby wolfed down the second of the hot burritos before climbing into the sleek, black Mercedes. He burped extravagantly as he sunk into the soft leather of the back seat.

“Bobby!” A testy Jean admonished as she took the front passenger spot.

“Sorry,” he murmured and looked at Scott’s back as he eased into the driver’s seat. Had he smiled? A good belch usually cracked him up. Would they ever get their easy rapport back?

The smooth, hydraulic purr of the car was the only sound as they drove through the night. Bobby looked out at the sleeping world, his own eyelids heavy with fatigue. The phone call with St. John kept running through his head. It’s all coming apart, I’m so scared…

“Don’t worry, I’ve got it under control,” Bobby assured him but he felt anything but sure. St. John was on fire, his face swimming in red orange flame. Bobby was holding him tight in his arms, pumping out cold and ice, trying to keep the house from burning down around them.

“There’s nothing you can do!” St. John shouted.

“So, He’s a pyrokinetic?” Jean asked and Bobby jerked awake. They were on the highway now.

Bobby pulled himself up straight in his seat. “Yeah, I guess; he made this cigarette explode…”

Scott mused. “I doubt he’s had any training other than what he’s figured out for himself. Dangerous.”

“Where do we start looking?” Jean wondered, staring into the night. She and Scott began a discussion of Brooklyn geography and Bobby felt himself sinking again into the soft seat.

“Everyone thinks I’m this fucking Molotov cocktail,” John complained. “Like I’m going to explode or something.”

“Mmm-hmm,” Bobby muttered in reply, his head moving rhythmically, his tongue twisting like a snake.

St. John sounded pissed off. “I taught myself everything I need to know about my powers.”

Bobby didn’t reply, he was too busy swallowing the pyrokinetic’s cock. Bobby had most of it down his throat and he was running his hands over the smooth, pale skin and marveling at the brilliant red pubes. On closer inspection (which occurred every other second) they actually turned out to be  little flames!

“Control takes many years of dedication and discipline, St. John,” Scott told him sagely and Bobby choked.

“What are you saying, dickwad?” St. John barked at the teacher. “That I don’t have discipline?!”

Bobby wanted to die. He and St. John were stark naked on the floor of Scott’s office. Busted! Still, Bobby somehow knew that he’d be in even worse trouble if he bailed on the blowjob before his friend came.

“Anything, Storm? Has the boy called back?” Scott asked and Bobby awoke again, his heart pounding, his hard dick bent double in his pants. He quietly slipped a hand in to adjust himself.

From a sleekly-designed, ‘X’-branded communication module in the dashboard and through the car’s high-end sound system came Ororo’s surround-sound voice. “Nothing, Cyclops, but I’m going to have a thing or two to say to Forge tomorrow about his obtuse system. Wait a minute, I just checked the EMS bands. Police, Fire and Ambulance responded 20 minutes ago to a blaze in Park Slope.”

Jean said, “That’s not far from here. It could be our pyrokinetic. Look!”

Bobby followed the direction of her pointing finger to the billowing smoke and reddish light that rose above the buildings a few blocks to their left.

“Thanks, Storm,” Scott said and spun the wheel. “We’re on our way. Cyclops out.”

The car hummed like a cat. Bobby didn’t know much about cars, but he was starting to realize that everything associated with the teachers’ secret missions was astonishingly cutting edge. Not to mention ‘X’-branded.

“Who’s this Forge, anyway?” he asked, leaning forward between Scott and Jean.

“Never mind,” Scott snapped. “Why isn’t your seat belt on?”

“You’ll meet him tomorrow, Bobby,” Jean explained gently, again playing yin to Scott’s yang. “The Professor will be addressing the school about… about a lot of things.”

Bobby leaned back again and digested this fact in silence as he did up his seat belt. The missions to Christian Turcott’s clinic — both official and unofficial — seemed to have marked a change in their lives. What would tomorrow bring? Bobby shuddered as if he were cold, but he didn’t get cold anymore so it was just nerves and fatigue. He stared into the night, wishing St. John would magically appear on every corner they passed.

The streets weren’t completely deserted, but they had a sad post-party vibe to them. Halloween decorations could still be seen in some windows, though they had been unplugged, leaving shadowy ghost faces staring out wistfully into the night. From time to time they passed a smashed jack o’ lantern, pummeled into pumpkin stew by wise-guy youths who thought the holiday meant a license to vandalize.

“Wow,” exclaimed Scott as he turned a corner and pulled the car to a smooth, hydraulic stop at the curb. Down the block, a three-story brownstone was thickly spewing smoke and flames. Fire trucks were pouring on the water in what seemed an act of foolish optimism. Curious residents of the street stood on their stoops, warm jackets pulled on over pajamas, faces dancing in the swirling red lights of the rescue vehicles.

Jean looked worried. “Do you think the boy did this?”

Later on, Bobby couldn’t say how he had known — it was just a figure in the darkness, almost a silhouette in the mouth of the dark alley — but before he knew what he was doing, he was out of the car, running across the road until he stood in front of the St. John Allerdyce. It was and wasn’t the same cocky guy who had come to the group meeting that night in June. That kid had been full of dark humor and burning anger. Now the face was thinner and the clothes seemed to hang off his frame in a way that said he hadn’t eaten well in a long time. His hair was longer and there was something weird about his eyes, like they were swimming in a pot nothing, seeing somewhere else.

“Bobby,” St. John breathed, like he was identifying a picture in a book. His hand reached halfway across the distance between them but then he staggered back a step and just stared. He was wearing some kind of costume: floppy liver-spotted felt ears attached to a hair band, a black rubber bulb of a nose and a too-tight pink t-shirt that read ‘Run, Spot, Run!’

The absurdity of it, the relief at finding him made Bobby laugh. “Uh, nice outfit.”

St. John reached up and felt the ears, tugging them off awkwardly and letting them drop to the ground. “They made me wear this. They thought it was pretty funny. They made me take the stuff. Swallow it.” Bobby stopped smiling as John’s expression grew more troubled. “I told them not to; that it was dangerous. The fire! They had all these fireplaces and I told them not to give me the hit! The fire was talking to me and it had these faces!”

Bobby felt anger rising in him at these unnamed men who had scared St. John so badly. He reached over and pulled the rubber nose off the boy’s face. St. John looked at the black object in Bobby’s hand with evident horror and screamed.

Jean was suddenly there beside them. “St. John, my name is Jean. I’m a doctor. I’m also a mutant — a telepath. I’m going to touch you. You’ll hear my voice in your head; don’t be afraid.” John cringed but allowed her to put a hand on his face.

“What’s wrong with him?” Bobby said miserably. “He said they made him take something!”

“Quiet a minute, Bobby,” Jean said. She was concentrating, looking into St. John’s eyes, moving her fingers into different configurations on the side of his head.

St. John moaned and seemed to cycle through many emotions in the next minute. He was muttering and sometimes Bobby could just make out the words: “…fire… you can’t make me… shut up, you’re not real!

Then he took a deep, shuddering breath and seemed to calm down.

“Good,” Jean said. “Does that feel better, St. John?”

“Call me John,” he said in a groggy voice. “Yeah, better.”

Bobby became aware of Scott standing beside them. “What’s wrong with him?” his teacher asked Jean.

“It looks like they gave him LSD. I’m using his brain’s chemistry to help control some of cognitive effects and the panic but he needs to rest.”

“John,” said Scott and it seemed to take the boy a few seconds to focus on his face. “The men who hired you tonight, do you think they all got out of the house safely?”

Hired him? Bobby caught his breath, the implication of the words sinking in.

John answered in a voice so quiet, they had to lean in to hear him. “I don’t know; I think so. Someone grabbed me and pushed me out the door. I stayed for a minute and they were all... running out... but then I took off.”

From the street came the sound of a small explosion and shouts of surprise. John pushed forward to see but Scott stopped him with a hand on his shoulder. “Come on, let’s get out of here before any of them IDs you to the cops.”

John whirled around and stretched out an arm in Bobby’s direction. “Bobby! Is Bobby coming with us?!”

Bobby was frightened by the intensity of John’s need. He stared at the proffered hand without taking it. He forced a smile. “Of course I am, John. You’re coming home with us.”

“Home...” John whispered and let Scott hustle him off to the car.

Bobby couldn’t follow. He suddenly saw just how little he knew about St. John Allerdyce, how limited the parameters of his fantasy had been, how great a gap existed between his own safe, suburban upbringing and the life John had lived. He realized that Jean was still there with him, waiting. She put a hand on his shoulder. “Don’t be scared, Bobby. He’s been hurt; he needs our help.”

Bobby looked down, ashamed and noticed the battered leather portfolio. It was the same one John had pulled the poem from all those months before, the poem that Bobby still had in his room. He bent down and picked it up, holding it carefully shut to contain the loose scraps of paper that were all but exploding from within. John had almost forgotten it… and Bobby had saved it for him! He held it tightly to his chest as another wave of shaky fatigue passed over him.

“Ready?” Jean asked as Scott pulled the car up across from the alleyway and honked.

They drifted home to Westchester in a kind of trance, each boy in one corner of the back seat, both nodding off. Bobby would awaken for a moment to see John’s soft face responding to some dream, his lips parted as if to say something. Bobby found the face piercingly beautiful. And sometimes Bobby would awaken to find John’s eyes open, staring at him, something between desire and bottomless sorrow in those brown eyes and the boys would hold the gaze until they fell again into sleep.

In this daze they climbed the steps to the mansion and then the stairs up to the boys’ dorms. Some part of Bobby’s brain heard Scott tell him that classes were cancelled the next day and that they should come down by lunchtime. And then they were in Bobby’s room and they were awkward and swirling in a vertigo of fatigue. How strange it was that St. John Allerdyce should be standing there, right there on Bobby’s scrap of carpet by the stripped bed that had been occupied once upon a time... by who? Bobby couldn’t focus.

He and John seemed to stumble in a zombie’s dance, until their shoulders bumped and John began to fall. Bobby caught him, one hand on his back, one on his long, fine neck, the graceful tumble of brown hair grazing the back of his hand. And in that connection, an explosion: fire and ice calling to each other across the void of ephemeral flesh, cataracts opening in the glacier to reveal volcanoes, fiery snowstorms that could raze everything human to the ground, leaving only these two souls, floating in infinity. It was elemental telepathy; and in that moment, all things were known, past and future and it was beautiful and terrible and Bobby would have pulled away, run for cover if it weren’t for the urgent call of the flesh.

Entangled suddenly, painfully, they gripped each other hard, fighting to hang on as if there was no handhold but each other to keep them from falling into the void. John’s fingers were in Bobby’s mouth and his hand down Bobby’s pants and then the pants were open and they were on the floor, two erections that were mad with need and each one’s madness was answered by the other and the cries sounded like desperation and exultation, the orgasm a pure elemental shout — inevitable, obliterating:

I found you!



Chapter 17


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