Chapter 22: In flagrante delicto

Part 1: The Last Days of Fall

“Shh, quiet, quiet!” Bobby hissed, but was he saying it to St. John or to himself? After all, he was the one moaning as John licked his nipples. Bobby bit down on the t-shirt that had gotten stuck halfway through the process of being pulled violently off him.

“Oh, God, yeah…” he further opined. He was on his feet, but John’s weight was against him, pushing him back against a pile of crisp white sheets, stacked neatly in a shelving unit that was digging into his back. The second floor linen closet wasn’t the first spot Bobby would have chosen for a round of fast, hungry sex, but their dorm room wasn’t private anymore. Besides, how could Bobby complain; it was his idea that they try to get off four times that day.

John kicked Bobby’s feet further apart and, stepping between them, pressed their crotches together. He moved his mouth from Bobby’s nipple to his jaw, which he kissed and bit. “You taste like Thanksgiving pie and fresh mown lawns, suburb boy,” John said into his ear as he pulled the t-shirt right off him. “I want to kick over the warning sign and walk on the grass.” He pulled off his own shirt, their hot and cold torsos coming together electrically. “I want to cum on the first slice of pie.”

Bobby grabbed John’s head and brought their lips together. It felt like nitrogen meeting glycerin in dark alley. Suddenly, he had had enough of being the passive partner. He pushed John off him, just enough so he could drop to his knees. His nose got nicked by John’s belt buckle on the way down and then he was smelling denim, feeling the long hump of erection, pushed sideways under the material. Even the flare of the head was visible because the boy wore no underwear.

It took Bobby no time to free the penis and swallow it whole. It was true what John said: he was a cocksucking addict. Feeling John in his mouth, tasting him, the battle to keep the horny boy from choking him at the same time as he tried to swallow every inch — nothing made him feel more alive. Which was existentially disturbing. So he disengaged his conscious brain and became a creature of instinct and sensation.

Dick, heat, cold, his own penis free in the air, stroking it with a palmful of ice, John swearing and pulling out, pushing Bobby’s head aside and coming over his shoulder. Bobby hearing the flat “splat” behind him, the last of the ejaculation falling on his shoulder blade.

“What the fuck…?” Bobby said as John, panting and swearing still, pulled him up and spun him around to face the shelf. Bobby saw John’s spunk sprayed across a stack of clean sheets, pearl on white. “John, why did you…?” But John was on his knees behind him, pulling his ass cheeks apart, sticking his tongue between them to lick Bobby’s hole. Bobby’s conscious mind went AWOL again and he resumed his desperate, icy wank, gripping the shelf’s uprights for support with his free hand.

“Shoot it, Bobby,” John was saying in between assaults on his hole. “Same place. Cum on my cum, yeah, fucking do it. Fuck…” And Bobby shot forcefully, further corrupting the clean innocence of the fresh sheet. He looked at the splatter pattern: two insatiable serpents coiled together in Eden. He felt like he was going to faint. He squeezed the shelf hard until his breathing and heartbeat returned to normal. John slid up his back like a python and Bobby could feel the half-hard penis — unnaturally hot and still damp — slide between his spit-slick cheeks. John kissed his neck and Bobby got goose bumps. “Slut,” John said into his ear. He could hear the triumphant smile in the husky voice.

They stayed like that for a silent minute before John disengaged with a sticky pull. Bobby turned and watched him wipe himself with a fresh towel from another shelf.

“But that in the hamper when you’re done,” Bobby said and grabbed himself a fresh towel from the shelf as John disposed of his. Bobby wiped the cum from his penis, hands and shoulder and then bent to wipe the water stains on the floor where his ice had melted. He suddenly didn’t want to be there, in this claustrophobic space with John and the evidence of their lust.

“Hey, check this out,” John said above him, and Bobby stood up. John was looking at their handiwork on the sheet. “Let’s just cover it up with some more sheets and let someone find it!”

“That’s disgusting!” Bobby snapped and moved to pick up the soiled linen.

John stopped him. “No! It’s awesome; like we left our secret graffiti behind. The sign of our illicit love!”

“Yeah, I’m sure whoever has to clean it will be really impressed.” Bobby pushed him aside and peeled the sheet off the pile, checking to see if it had soaked through to the next. He wadded it tightly into a ball with the sticky stains buried in the core and shoved it deep into the hamper. He slammed the lid and sat on it, not looking John in the eye.

“Why are you always such a prick after we fuck?” John asked.

“We didn’t fuck.”

“You know what I mean,” John said and he was suddenly there, putting his arms around Bobby, kissing his forehead. “Listen, asshole, I really love having sex with you. It’s the best I’ve ever had.”

Bobby sighed and flattened his head against John’s chest. Why was he being such a fucktard? “You doing anything now? Want to come down to the pond with me and see how thick the ice is?”

“I’m going to study physics,” John replied and Bobby looked up at him.

“When did you become such a serious student?”

“Since Xavier said I could join you guys in the senior physics seminar.” Bobby was impressed and amazed at how well John was doing at school, but somehow even this didn’t cheer him up. John looked him in the eye. “Maybe today isn’t the day to go for the record. Four times… that’s a lot of fucking.”

“Maybe.”

“Of course, now that I mention fucking, I’m feeling this itch in my ass…”

“Stop it,” Bobby said, though his dick stirred again.

“It’s been a few weeks since we tried that…”

“Yeah.”

“But of course, we need a more romantic setting than the linen closet…”

“I might have an idea. But it’ll be late tonight, okay?”

John smiled. “That’s my Bobby! The engineer who makes his dick’s dreams come true!” He kissed Bobby quickly on the lips and moved to the door. “I’ll go out first and make sure the coast is clear.” John stuck his head into the hall, turned back to wink at Bobby and then slipped out, closing the door gingerly behind him.

Bobby sat there alone feeling both elated and defeated. Sometimes it seemed he had everything he wanted in life, except control of it. He stayed for a minute so they wouldn’t be seen leaving together. He noticed John’s physics textbook on one of the shelves. So much for the serious student, he thought. He tucked it under his arm, turned out the light and exited into the hallway.

Maybe he would go check the pond himself. The other students were excited about skating and Bobby had found he could “read” the ice, report on its structural integrity. He was only beginning to realize how beautiful ice was, how intricate and lovely in its crystalline perfection. This must be how John feels about fire, he thought.

He turned the corner and came face to face with Mike.

“Bobby!” his friend said. “I’ve been looking everywhere for you!”

Bobby still couldn’t help staring at Mike in surprise even though he had already been at the mansion for two days. His eye was covered in bandages and he was walking with a cane. Jubilee — who Bobby found kind of intimidating — had cut the spikes from Mike’s head, but he still had a Mohawk, if a short one. All of Bobby’s friends seemed to cut their hair when they got to Westchester.

“I was, um, just… around. Doing stuff.”

Mike was plainly uninterested in Bobby’s stammering. He looked towards the stairs nervously. “Well, my parents just got here like ten minutes ago.”

“Oh, man, are they angry? Freaking out?”

“I don’t know! I haven’t had the nerve to go down yet. You have to come with me!”

“What?! But what do I have to do with —”

Mike grabbed his arm and started moving them down the staircase. “Just be with me. Come into the meeting with Xavier.”

Bobby pulled them to a halt. “What are you talking about? I can’t come into a private family meeting! What am I supposed to say?!”

Mike stared desperately at him, his uncovered eye wild and frightened. “Nothing, I don’t know. But… If you’re not there, they’ll make me go back.”

Bobby’s heart felt the tug of his friend’s desperation. “But you have to go back, Mike. You’re not even a mutant. What would you do here at —?”

“Please, you have to help. My folks like you, and Xavier trusts you! Besides, I was the one who got you to New York, remember?”

Bobby realized he had no way out now. It was Mike who had helped Bobby get to the mutant youth meeting in New York the previous spring. There he’d met Scott and the Professor and his new life had begun. “Okay,” he said, putting a hand on his friend’s shoulder, putting on a confident smile. “Let’s go.”

They passed through the foyer and were heading towards Xavier’s office when Mike stopped short. He pulled Bobby over to the wall, hiding them ineffectively behind a potted palm. “Oh my God,” he whispered. “It’s Doctor Aziz!” Bobby looked down the hall. The Haddads were standing with Scott and Xavier, and beside them was a tall Arab man in a somber suit. He was in his late 50s, older than Mike’s parents, a corpulent and dignified man whose full head of hair and bristly moustache were studies in sharply contrasting blacks and whites. He seemed to be the focal point of the discussion, as if he were the one who had called this gathering together.

“Who is he?” Bobby asked.

“He’s our family doctor. But he’s more than that — he’s like my parents’ hero and my unofficial uncle. He’s this big deal in the Lebanese community. He knew my parents when they were kids, and they all came to America around the same time.” Mike looked even more intimidated by the man than he had been about seeing his parents. “My parents always got his advice on everything, including whether I should be in soccer league when I was seven. I can’t believe he came all the way here with them!”

At that moment, Mrs. Haddad turned and saw her son. “Michael!” she cried out and came running down the hall. She threw her arms around him and pulled back, looking at his bandaged face, tears in her eyes. “Oh, my darling boy, what did they do to you?”

Mike looked startled. “Hi, I’m okay.”

She dragged him down the hall and Bobby thought he might slip away, but Mike grabbed his arm and pulled him along. Bobby stood by uncomfortably as Mike was all but engulfed in his father’s embrace. “Oh, Michael,” Mr. Haddad said, shaking his head sadly. “What have you gotten yourself involved in?”

Dani and Terry came around the corner at that moment and stared. Bobby gave them a look and Dani turned her head away and pulled Terry — who was gawking at the scene like she was watching the smoking remains of a car accident — after her.

Doctor Aziz stepped forward to shake Mike’s hand and the Haddads backed away to give the man room. Mike wasn’t short, but he seemed somehow to shrink in the presence of the doctor. “Michael, it is good to see you. We were all terribly worried.”

“I know, sir, I didn’t mean to scare anyone. I-I just needed to get away quickly.”

“I spoke with the doctor here and she forwarded her report and the x-rays to me. I am satisfied she is taking good care of you.”

“Yes sir,” Mike said quietly.

The Professor had wheeled himself into the office while Scott remained in the hall, standing a few discreet paces away from the family reunion. After a minute, he said, “Perhaps we should all go talk in Professor Xavier’s office now.” He indicated the door.

Bobby was pretty sure Scott would tell him to stay out, and that suited him fine, but then Mike spoke up: “Doctor Aziz, this is my friend, Bobby. My parents know him from Boston.”

Bobby felt the penetrating light of the doctor’s gaze fall on him. “Ah yes. We were discussing you, Bobby. So, you are a mutant.”

Bobby looked over at Scott, but his teacher just shrugged. “Yes, sir. I am.”

“Mmm-hmm,” the doctor nodded, as if coming to a conclusion about Bobby’s place in the universe. “You will please join us in this meeting.”

Bobby cursed his fate as he and Mike followed the adults into the office. Just before they sat down, Bobby smacked Mike on the shoulder and pointed down. Mike’s rolled up sleeve was revealing the lower half of his tattoo. He quickly covered it and did up the cuff button.

The boys were soon seated between Scott and Mrs. Haddad, across from Mr. Haddad, Doctor Aziz and the Professor, behind his desk. Xavier laced his fingers together and smiled. He greeted his guests and they began to chat about all kinds of trivia like the route they had driven from Boston, as if they were afraid to get to the business at hand.

Bobby’s mind wandered off. Four times in one day. It was ambitious but totally doable. It had started that morning when he and John had gotten their room to themselves for ten minutes. Bobby wouldn’t have thought it would be so tense, losing his nightly access to John’s body for a couple of days, but it had been driving him insane.

It totally made sense for Mike to room in with them temporarily, and Bobby didn’t resent it at all. Mike had been having panic attacks since his assault, especially at night, and having an old friend there to talk him through the terrors helped. But Mike was stationed on a futon halfway between him and John and it might as well have been a Grand Canyon or a Berlin Wall that separated them.

Bobby wasn’t even sure whose idea it had been that morning. Mike left to take a shower (a “long, hot shower” he had said) and within seconds, John and Bobby had been naked on John’s bed (so it was probably Bobby’s idea), dicks rubbing together, lips tangled, hands flying over flesh like combines in a wheat field. They had wiped up only seconds before Mike returned.

“Yes, the weather can be very unpredictable at this time of year,” Mrs. Haddad was saying as Bobby picked up John’s physics book from the floor and placed it discreetly on his lap to cover his erection.

The second time had definitely been John’s idea. He and Bobby had been on cleanup crew for the regular Saturday morning pancake and crepe extravaganza. Margit had sent them to the storeroom for some more dishwasher soap as well as a new can of olive oil for her lunch prep. John had run ahead of Bobby and been naked in the storeroom by the time Bobby arrived. It was after that episode that Bobby had proposed going for the record.

Bobby snapped out of his reverie when he heard Xavier’s tone change. “We are, of course, very concerned not only with Michael’s health and well being, but with the horrendous events that took place in your city a few nights ago.”

Mrs. Haddad spoke up and, after her tearful appearance in the hall, Bobby was surprised by the amount of anger she displayed. “Professor, the ‘events’ — as you call them — were indeed horrendous. My son should have had no part in them! We have told him we do not condone his political activities on behalf of the mutants.”

The Professor nodded sympathetically. “I agree. No one Michael’s age should be exposed to that kind of danger. But I do not believe Michael would have involved himself if he had known the outcome, either for himself or for his friend, Ms. Lee.”

Aziz cleared his throat. “This girlfriend of yours, she is also a mutant, Michael?”

Scott said, “I’m sorry, sir, but anonymity is a mutant’s first line of defense. We really can’t discuss such matters without —”

“Yes, she’s a mutant.” Mike said flatly. “Why does that matter?”

Mr. Haddad clucked his tongue. “It matters greatly. Look how different you’ve become! These friends of yours have gotten you involved with very dangerous people. These friends — I’m sorry, Bobby — they are using you.”

“Mr. Haddad,” Scott said and Bobby recognized the anger just below the surface. “It does not help the situation if you go making accusations —”

“How do you know I’m not a mutant?” Mike interrupted and the room fell silent. Bobby watched the Haddads looking at each other in panic before they turned, as if for divine intervention, to Doctor Aziz who was staring inscrutably at their son. All eyes turned back to Mike. “I mean, maybe that’s what this is all about. Maybe that’s why I’ve been so different. But you didn’t even think about that possibility, did you?”

Mrs. Haddad’s face had paled. “Michael, you aren’t… You can’t be…”

Mike looked up at her defiantly and let the silence stretch.

“Michael…” Xavier prompted.

“No, I’m not,” Mike said and the three guests seemed to shrink in their seats as if a puppeteer had been holding them suspended. “But what if I was? Professor Xavier phoned Jubilee’s aunt yesterday and she disowned her. Same with her other relatives. Is that what you would do to me? Bobby’s scared to even tell his parents he’s a mutant!” He looked over at Bobby and mumbled, “Sorry.”

“S’okay,” Bobby answered quietly.

Mrs. Haddad sighed. She sounded tired of the whole affair. “That’s all very sad, Michael, but what more can you do for them? Mutants have dangerous enemies like those terrorists who attacked you. You have your own life to lead; you can’t take on their trouble as well.”

Mr. Haddad leaned across his wife and put a hand on his son’s knee. “Michael, you are big-hearted boy. You tried to help… and you did help! You brought Jubilee here to her kind. Now come home with us and we will put the sad story behind us.”

Michael shifted his knee away angrily. He wrapped his arms around himself and scowled at the floor.

Doctor Aziz cleared his throat again. “Michael, please look at me. What is it you want?”

Mike looked up at Aziz defiantly, his lip jutted forward. “I want to stay here. I want to go to school here and stay with Jubilee and Bobby. I want to help mutants fight for their rights.”

Another silence stretched across the room. Bobby looked at Xavier, wondering why he didn’t speak up. He must have thought the question more loudly than he realized because the Professor answered in his head:

*Sometimes you have to leave people time to listen to their feelings, Robert. If you interrupt right away, they may lose those insights. Ask St. John what I have taught him about silence.*

It was Scott who spoke first. “Mike, that’s really great that you like our school, but our enrollment is by invitation.”

“Or if the student’s in trouble because of anti-mutant hatred!” Mike answered him, and he reminded Bobby of a lawyer on TV. Mike’s open eye suddenly seemed to moisten, but his voice was strong. “Well, I was attacked by Friends of Humanity. They said they’d kill me and my parents if I cross them.”

Mr. Haddad sounded angry for the first time. “We will not let anyone kill us, Michael. You have to come home to Boston and get on with your life. You have to go back to school.” He turned to the Professor. “There is rule of law in this country. If we need protection, we will get it from the authorities.”

Mike jumped to his feet. His voice rose higher. “Didn’t you hear what I told you?! They said they’d kill us! The police don’t care what happens to mutants! And these are crazy people! They… they’re not scared to… do anything… They kicked me, beat me! They pointed a gun at me and…” his voice was engulfed as if by a wave. His hands dropped to his side and tears were suddenly pouring down his face. He stood frozen, shaking, while everyone looked on dumbstruck.

Xavier’s voice was calm. “Michael, we are all listening to you and we all want to find the best solution. Please sit down.” Xavier nodded to Bobby who was as shocked as the Haddads by the outburst. He got to his feet and put a careful hand on Mike’s shoulder.

“Hey, buddy, let’s sit down, okay?” he said quietly and Mike obeyed. He sat in the chair and covered his face with his hands.

Xavier turned to Aziz and the Haddads. “We are monitoring Michael for signs of post-traumatic stress. The effects of an attack such as he experienced can be unpredictable. Doctor Grey and I believe it would be advisable for him to stay here at least a few more days.”

Mrs. Haddad dabbed at her eyes with a handkerchief. “The police… they want to interview Michael about the events at the school, and about his earlier meeting with the villains who did this to him.”

Scott said, “With your permission, we can get in touch with the police and they can talk to Mike on the phone, or perhaps they would be willing to come here to interview him.”

Mr. Haddad had been shaking his head since Mike started crying. He seemed bewildered. “And what… Excuse me, Professor Xavier, but if Michael were able to become a student here… what would happen to his studies? He wishes to become a doctor.”

Mike raised a tear-stained face. “I don’t want to be a doctor! I want to fight for justice.” His voice was cracking as he cried and he stamped his foot in frustration.

Scott said, “Bobby, maybe you could take Mike back to your room to lie down.”

Mike looked at his parents. “Mom? Dad? I —”

“Go, Michael,” Mr. Haddad said with a tired smile. “We will talk to you before we leave. Go rest, son.”

Mike headed obediently for the door and Bobby hovered just behind him, giving him a kind of supervised independence. Bobby looked back at the Haddads and gave a little nod. Mrs. Haddad was watching him strangely. Did she blame him for all this? Or was she just seeing him in a new light? Not the same Bobby Drake she had served soda and snacks to when he came over to study after school. He was something different to her now that she knew he was a mutant. He turned quickly and followed Mike, closing the door behind him, relishing the cool of the hall after the stuffy room full of tensions and accusations.

It seemed odd, putting his friend to bed like a little kid, but Mike lay down more than willingly. It was as if the energy had drained out of him after his emotional meltdown, which must have been kind of humiliating in front of his parents and everyone. Bobby stayed until Mike fell asleep. He then got up quietly and slipped from the room, remembering to take John’s textbook.

He found his roommate in the library with Jubilee, Peter and Dani. The air was warm and sweet with the smell of the wood fire burning in the fireplace. Few students found any of the dusty tomes of the Xavier family library much use, but John was a bit obsessed with the room. When Bobby entered, he was walking along the rows of books, running a finger across the spines as he read the titles. Peter sat on a red leather couch, drawing in his sketchbook with charcoal while Jubilee and Dani, standing side-by-side on the worn Turkish rug, practicing Krav Maga kicks.

“Good, but keep the knee up,” Dani said.

“Yah!” Jubilee shouted as she tried again. “That feels so fucking good. Hey, Bobby, I’m learning self-defense! No one’s going to kick my ass ever again. Where’s Mike? Yah!”

She kicked an invisible opponent in the nuts and Bobby gave her a wide berth as he headed for the far end of Peter’s couch. “Mike’s lying down in our room.”

“Do you have my physics text?” John asked without turning. He pulled a dusty volume off the shelf, took a look inside and put it back in place.

“Yeah, I got it.

“I thought Mike’s parents had arrived,” Peter said.

Jubilee said, “They did. That’s why I’m hiding up here. I’m not their favorite person these days.” She turned to Bobby. “What’s happening with my guy? Why is he lying down?”

“He had another panic attack.”

“I’m not surprised after what happened to him,” Dani said. “To both of you.”

Jubilee seemed ready to leave. “Maybe I should —”

“Better let him sleep,” Bobby told her. “The Professor says it’s good for him.”

“He’s sleeping all the time,” she complained. “I want to be with him.”

John stretched out, ass up on the carpet and opened his physics text. “Yeah, he’s been napping like four times in one day,” he said, with the smallest wiggle of his ass. Bobby blushed at the secret message.

Jubilee crouched in front of Bobby. “So, are they going to let him stay a few days? That’s what Doctor Grey said she wanted. They’re not taking him home today, are they?”

“He asked if he could stay permanently,” Bobby said with quiet importance and everyone’s eyes filled with surprise.

Dani frowned. “The Professor wouldn’t allow that, would he? I mean, no offense or anything, Jubilee, but he’s not a mutant.”

“Yeah? Well you should see what he’s done for mutants! He totally deserves —” Her cell phone rang. “Hello? Rayen, where have you been?! I’ve been calling and calling! Really? They interviewed you at home or at the station?” She looked up at the curious faces. “That’s my friend; she’s a mutant at our school. The police questioned her about the dance. No, just say you don’t know where we went. Listen, I have to ask you something. Mike’s tattoo… it’s not fading. No, not even a little. Really? Shit. Honey, don’t freak, you’ll be fine without us. I’ll come and visit, I totally promise. I love you. Bye.”

Jubilee hung up and sank to the floor, her head hanging low. Dani came over and put a hand on her shoulder. “Are you okay?”

“Mike will be so pissed. Rayen’s never done a tattoo on a flatscan — I mean a non-mutant — before. She thinks maybe it won’t fade, after all.” She gave a sad laugh. “Whatever, I think it looks hot.” She regarded her phone in its yellow and black bumblebee skin. “I wonder how much longer this will work. Maybe Auntie Bao will forget until she gets the bill. Heh. Then that’s it. Gone, like all my stuff. My clothes, my mp3s, my diary and all my poems.” John nodded sympathetically at that.

Peter said, “You went shopping with Kitty this morning, didn’t you? The school bought you what you need?”

Jubilee looked a bit embarrassed. “Yeah, that was really nice. But it was weird; like I kept wanting to say it’s not necessary. Part of me still can’t believe I’m not going home, not going to school on Monday or anything. I mean, my Aunt was a bit of a bitch sometimes, but I guess I never really believed she’d… throw me away like I’m some fucking garbage.” Her eyes grew moist. “Hey, Dani, let’s practice. C’mon!” She wiped her eyes and got to her feet. Dani stood, too, straightening out her sweater and dropping into her defensive stance.

“Yah!” Jubilee shouted. She relaxed her posture again. “Hey, guys, how hard core are they about the curfew rules? Seriously, I can’t be with Mike after ten?”

John closed his text. “If you’re not too obvious, you can get away with it. Do you want us to give you an hour or two in our room? We could clear out.”

Jubilee sighed with relief. “Really? You’d do that?” She looked at Bobby. “Where will you guys go?”

Bobby felt the blush return and looked away.

John smiled. “Don’t worry, we’ll think of something to do.”


At 9:45, Bobby and John slipped out the back door of the mansion carrying their supplies. Having helped with their installation, Bobby knew how to reset the security monitors on the door so their records would show no one going in or out that night.

“So, as long as I don’t forget when we come back…”

“I feel safer already,” John said. “I wonder how cold it is.”

“Minus six, Celsius.” He grinned. “Impressive, huh? Jean figured out that I can feel the temperature, as long as it’s below freezing.”

“We should call you ‘Mr. Mercury’ instead of ‘Iceman.’ Wow, look at the stars, it’s a perfect night.” They stood side by side in the snow, taking in the spectacle. John leaned over and kissed Bobby on the cheek.

“Not here, John! Wait until we’re in the woods.”

“You’re an idiot. Take my hand at least.” Bobby did, smiling shyly.

“Come on!” Bobby led them down the path, running, holding hands. They wore winter boots but no coats, as the cold didn’t affect them, Bobby, wearing a blue t-shirt, balanced a big bundle on one shoulder. John, who wore an unbuttoned red flannel over his black t-shirt, carried a backpack. They veered off the shoveled path and the going was slower, the snowdrifts coming up to their knees in places.

The night was clear and still, the only sound the crunching of their feet. At the tree line, they peered into the darkness of the woods and John reached into his jeans for his lighter.

“Hold it,” Bobby whispered. “Look!”

Someone else was running away from the mansion as they had, intermittently visible in the garden lights. The boys hastily retreated into the trees, peering out from behind a large spruce.

“Shit,” John hissed, more annoyed than scared. “Did they see us leaving or what?”

“Whoever it is, they’re not following our trail. Maybe it’s not about us. Shhh.”

The moonlight hit the figure. She was in a winter jacket with the fur-trimmed hood over her head. Under it, she wore a dress that came down to her knees. Even before she pulled off the hood, Bobby knew it was Rahne. She was standing maybe 30 feet from them. Bobby thought she seemed more nervous than he was, looking back at the mansion, peering into the shadows. She took her rosary out of her pocket and kissed the crucifix.

“Holy shit,” John muttered as they watched her remove the jacket and then the dress, hanging them carefully from the branch of a tree. She stood naked, shivering in the moonlight, looking miserable. She was clearly in distress and Bobby was tempted to go to her, offer comfort. Oh, God, he thought. Is this suicide? Is she going to let herself freeze to death?

But then she transformed into a wolf. And not into one of her scary half-forms, like a horror movie werewolf, but completely. The alteration, unnerving as always, was complete in just a few seconds.

She snuffled and pawed at the snow, her bushy tail flicking with excitement. Then she froze. She raised her head and pricked up her ears in the direction of the boys. John, much to Bobby’s surprise, grabbed his upper arm painfully and whimpered. The wolf sniffed the air for several seconds and then yelped, jumping in the air and running away from them into the woods as fast as she could.

All was silent except for the sound of John’s panting breaths.

“Oh, man,” John said shakily. “That wasn’t half freaky. I thought she never changed anymore. No more devil beast for heaven girl.”

“You know how it is if you don’t use your powers. You start to feel sick after a while. I bet she does this all the time, secretly, where no one can see her. Poor Rahne.”

He heard John flick his lighter and then the trees around them were illuminated by a fireball that John suspended just in front of them as a torch. “Shall we?” he asked and together they walked into the forest along a path that was just discernable beneath the snow.

After about ten minutes, they came to a covered shelter, like a hut without walls, that was used by the groundskeeper to protect gear from the rain in the summer. It was empty now except for a neat pile of logs.

“There’s a fire pit under here somewhere,” John said, clearing the snow with his hands. “This is where I hung out the night I emailed my poem to everyone. Here it is.”

He grabbed two logs from under the shelter and put them in the pit. John gestured at the floating fire ball, and it crashed into the pit like a meteor, igniting the cold wood in seconds. Bobby, who had lit campfires slowly and carefully in Boy Scouts, was impressed.

Bobby untied the bundle he had carried in and soon had a tarp and blanket laid out on the ground in front of the roaring blaze. John reached into the bag and brought out two cans of soda.

“I hope they’re not frozen,” he said.

“They’re not,” Bobby answered without touching them.

“I’ve got chips, too,” John said. “Chocolate, condoms, lube. Let’s get comfortable.” He stood and began stripping. Bobby waited until John was naked before he did the same, enjoying the show. Evidently John liked to be watched because he was already erect as he eased his briefs down. Bobby watched the flickering flames draw moving patterns on his white skin.

“Now you,” John said and Bobby stood. He felt suddenly shy, undressing for his friend’s hungry eyes. With his boots off, one of his feet landed in the snow and the song of winter-freeze sang loudly inside him. He could feel the crystalline formations all around him, the way water solidified with the thrilling ease of Rahne’s transformation to wolf form.

He wasn’t shy anymore. He was naked in the woods with his lover and everything else in his life was far away. The stars were visible through the tops of the pine trees and the fire crackled as their lips met. The meeting of flesh was almost undeniably right, better than in their dorm room, even. Bobby realized that he held back some part of himself when they did it in the mansion. Was he scared they’d get caught? Maybe he just didn’t know how to be this sensuous boy in the place where he was supposed to be… something else. Someone named Bobby who was good.

“It’s good,” John moaned as Bobby fingered him and then Bobby was on his back, the cold earth beneath him, the flames cracking and roaring to his left as John straddled him, slowly taking him in, hands leaning heavily on his shoulders. They moved together, kissing, swearing, making the night their own.

John’s face was close to Bobby’s, staring into his eyes as Bobby came into the condom in the impossibly hot ass, almost sobbing with the intensity. John arched backwards as his own orgasm shook him, raising his face to the sky, his mouth a silent, ecstatic:

O.

In the distance, the wolf howled.


Bobby was quiet as they returned to the mansion. As they approached the door, he felt the weight of the place descend on him with its history, its unknown future, its plans for him. They slipped inside quietly and his shoulders tensed up. He was rehearsing their quiet ascent to their room, rehearsing what he would say if they were caught.

“Hey,” John whispered. “The security system.”

Bobby cursed himself. How had he forgotten? He hurried over to the wall and concentrated on the panel, holding a complex combination of buttons until the word “reset” appeared on the display.

They headed towards the back stairs. As they passed the office, the light suddenly snapped on. Bobby thought his heart would stop.

“Hey, guys,” said Jones who was sitting in front of a monitor in the room.

Jones again! Bobby found himself about to spill a lame string of excuses and was glad when John spoke up. “Hey, kid. Why aren’t you in the rec room watching TV?”

“I dunno, just felt like watching this instead.”

Bobby followed John in, squinting at the small screen. It showed the garage, three X vehicles visible in the half-light.

“Check it out,” Jones said and began blinking. With each blink, another view of school from another security camera, either inside the mansion or on the grounds. Empty classrooms, the Blackbird, the basketball court, the empty cafeteria. “Hello,” Jones said with pleasure and held on a view of the back field — Rahne sneaking back from the woods, mostly human, but with lupine legs. As she reached the garden, she became fully human and pulled her hood up.

Bobby bit his lower lip and stared intently at the owlish boy. “Jones, let’s respect her privacy, okay? No one needs to know she was out.”

Jones giggled and blinked. John tugged Bobby’s sleeve. Bobby turned and on the screen was the clearing in the woods, the shelter, the embers in the fire pit still smoldering. Bobby stared at the image, heart pounding, as Jones slid off the stool and headed for the door.

“I’m going to watch TV now,” he said. “Good night.”

“Jones!” Bobby yelled after him but the boy kept walking.

“Bobby, shut the fuck up,” John said, grabbing him by the shoulder before he could run down the hall after the kid. “You want to get us busted? And Mike and Jubilee, too?”

Bobby swallowed hard and gritted his teeth against the panic. “Right, right. And Rahne. Okay, let go, I’m fine! Let go.”

“He’s not going to say anything. He’s not supposed to be in the office messing with the security equipment, is he?”

Bobby turned and gawped at John like he was an idiot. “But he must have seen us! Doing… it!”

“Yeah, funny how you sometimes learn more from extra-curricular activities than you do in class.”

“Yeah, hilarious. Oh, man, what was I thinking?”

“Are you kidding? Four times in one day! You’re a genius, lover.”

If I’m such a genius, Bobby wondered, why do I feel like a criminal?



Part 2: Christmas Day

What’s he thinking? St. John wondered. He doesn’t like it. That’s why he’s doing that thing with his mouth. John started tapping a finger on the arm of the wingchair until Xavier cleared his throat in admonishment. John restrained himself, looking around the familiar room for new distractions.

He should have been used to this by now — Professor Xavier reading through a new poem while he sat like a prisoner in the dock, awaiting sentence on his sentences. Maybe he thinks it’s sentimental. Shit, it’s totally sentimental! But, no, no, I’m not saying that love fixes you. I practically call it a Bandaid. A strand of gauze in a rainstorm. Ooh, that’s good. I should add that.

Xavier put down the sheet of rose paper with its tracings of cerulean ink.

John couldn’t stop himself: “So, what do you think? Or are we going to do the silence thing again?”

He mentally kicked himself. He sounded pathetic, ungrateful. After all, it was Christmas day and yet the Professor had been willing to meet with him. Xavier had even told his visitors he had an “important meeting” to attend to as he ushered John into his office. John had liked that.

However, now that they had reached this ambiguous hour of judgment, John found himself writhing in annoyance. Xavier looked out the window at the perfect Christmas card landscape and sighed. John was suddenly sick of the lugubrious pace of their sessions, of the long, contemplative silences. He was definitely sick of the old man staring out the window and sighing, as if John’s writing career was a burden he had to bear.

“Look,” John said. “If you don’t like the poem, toss it in the trash and I’ll burn it up. At least it’ll look pretty for a few seconds.”

The Professor’s eyes flashed with irritation, a rare reaction. John was almost proud. “Don’t be childish, St. John. Are you seriously suggesting that this is the poem you prepared for the open night?” The planned open house in January was mainly an opportunity for the Professor to lean on donors who could help fund the expensive school as well as the more illicit, paramilitary extra-curriculars.

“You don’t think it’s good enough? It may not be my best, but it’s better than any of the obvious teenage whining you get from your English class.”

“Beware of arrogance,” Xavier said, his face stony. “It’s a dangerous emotion that blinds us to the contributions of others.”

“Sorry.”

“You are too smart to be appeased by such cheap thrills.”

“Sorry. So, why can’t I read the poem?”

“St. John, please! You are 16 years old and the content would not be understood or appreciated.”

John jumped to his feet. “You’re censoring me?! I can’t believe this! You’re acting like some kind of trailer-trash cretin who wants to stick a fig leaf on Michelangelo’s David! You’re the porn police! You’re —”

And now Xavier was angry. “John Allerdyce, sit down and control your outbursts!”

John remained standing for another five seconds, fists clenched, eyes smoldering, before he let out a loud breath through his nose and returned to his seat.

“I will thank you not to call me names again. I treat you with respect and I deserve your respect in return.”

John felt a stab of shame, but his wounded pride still longed for restitution. “You’re just worried about what your donors will say if they hear me talk about sex. But it’s not about sex; it’s about the way —”

“I know what the poem is about; I’m not an idiot.” John watched his teacher struggle to regain control of his emotions. On second thought, he wasn’t proud of upsetting the old man. “And for the record, I think it is the beginnings of an excellent poem, though you lose control of your main metaphor in the third stanza. However, that is not the problem.”

“So what is?”

“You have to think about what effect your poem will have on others. On one in particular.”

John felt like he’d been slapped; because he knew Xavier was right. He had known all along, even if he had fooled himself with a romantic vision of artistic freedom. “But, Professor, it’s what I feel!”

“Just because you feel it, it doesn’t mean you have the right to take his privacy from him.”

John responded so quietly, Xavier had to ask him to repeat himself. “I’m sick of his privacy. He’s a coward and he makes me feel like it’s all my fault.”

Silence. Did the old man really use it to teach? Maybe he just didn’t know what to say.

“Don’t throw away the poem, St. John. That would be a crime. Be grateful that you have the outlet of poetry for your feelings. Perhaps it is harder for him, alone in his doubt.”

“He’s not alone!” Another silence. “Fine! I’ll write something different. Something better. About puppy dogs and ice cream and the generosity of rich, wrinkled philanthropists.”

Xavier laughed. “Excellent! If you write convincingly on the importance of a new roof for this old house, I’ll give you a kickback from any significant donations.”

John snorted. “Thank you for this opportunity to sell out so young.” He got up and moved towards the door. Then he walked back to the desk and grabbed the poem. “I’ll work on this.”

“Good. I look forward to the next draft.”

John paused at the door. Again he couldn’t stop himself: “I don’t like being told what to do,” he said.

Xavier said nothing, simply held John’s gaze a moment before picking up a pen and lowering his eyes to review some paper on his desk. John closed the door behind him. He found himself wishing he had slammed it. Dammit, he thought. Why do you lose it around the old man? Because. He’s the only one who should understand.

He headed upstairs to change for dinner. He didn’t have much in the way of clothing, but he could at least go from homeless lunatic to careless slacker if he chose carefully.

Christmas dinner at the school was a strange affair. First of all, it was attended only by those students and teachers who didn’t have family anxiously awaiting their holiday visit. Being one of the “Christmas orphans” made John feel like a de facto loser and he was pretty sure the sentiment was shared by Jubilee, Fred, Terry and Roberto. It was all pretty depressing.

Just to add to the cheer, Neal Shaara missed no opportunity to remind people that, as a Hindu, this was not his celebration and that wishing him Merry Christmas was insulting. John wanted to tell him that dewy, Hallmark wishes were insulting to anyone with a brain, but wit was wasted on Shaara.

Much as he longed to play Scrooge (he got slapped by Terry when he said that every Santa was just a wannabe Walmart greeter), he had to admit that he was moved by the warmth of the evening. It sure beat his last Christmas. At the time, he had just begun to realize how bad things were going to get with his mom’s new boyfriend. John had spent the evening staring at his plate while she encouraged him to “just try calling him ‘Dad.’” In contrast, this year felt like he had something resembling family, people he could love and trust.

Scott and Jean were at her parents’ house, but Xavier and Ororo were working hard to give each student some attention and make them feel like they had a family at the mansion. In the kitchen, Margit had outdone herself with a three-course meal, and she positively beamed when everyone toasted her with glasses of eggnog. The sense of family was further enhanced by the presence of Hank McCoy with his mother and sister and, most of all by the mass onslaught that was the massive Guthrie family.

Two weeks earlier, Sam had run whooping through the dorm when he received news that his parents and his five younger siblings would all be driving up from Kentucky to spend the holidays at the School. The racket he produced single-handedly should have prepared them all for the sheer volume of the Guthries. Sam’s father was probably the only quiet one. Mrs. Guthrie was a force of nature, either laughing uproariously or screaming at one of her kids to climb down from the 20-foot Christmas tree.

The Guthrie kids trailed chaos with them wherever they went, and yet John had quickly found himself caught up in their madness. Before they went in for dinner, he had started weaving fantastical tales of mutant life at the mansion as they sat in a semi-circle around him, their eyes wide. His secret was out: he liked kids. He had actually made some money babysitting before he ran away from home. It’s true, he had occasionally raided the liquor cabinet or hunted for sex toys in nightstands after his charges were in bed, but he enjoyed being with the kids, playing monsters with the hyper ones and having serious discussions about the universe and life and death with the thoughtful ones.

So there were some definite high points to the evening. Still, he knew the dangers of sentiment, and not just in literature. More than once, he had to fight the temptation to phone his mother. But what good could have come from it? He knew what the conversation would be like:

“Hey, mom, it’s me,” he’d say with deceptive nonchalance.

Hysterical tears, prayers to the Virgin, begging for him to come home.

“Is he still there? Is he sober?” John would ask.

Of course he’s here, and he’s been worried about you, too.

And John would slam the phone down, hoping the noise hurt her ear.

Sentiment was dangerous. He got up from the table as the room sang “Away in a Manger” and wandered out, not looking back to see who noticed his exit. He felt saner in the isolation of his room. It was even tidy for once, with Slobby Drake away, skiing happily up and down the slopes of Vale like the other children of privilege. He downloaded email and found a note from the man himself:

Merry Xmas, J.

It’s fantastically beautiful in Colorado. Me and my powers are totally happy up here in the mountains. I swear I can smell the snow now! It smells like oranges and butter and your armpits. That’s a good thing, btw. >;-)

I was boarding yesterday and I realized I was going to wipe out on this sharp turn, and at the last minute, I made a little ice ramp and totally took the curve!! I can’t wait to tell Scott!

Are things okay at the mansion? Tell everyone I miss them. Except don’t tell it to anyone who would think that was wimpy, okay?

All that my ‘rents want to know about the school is if I’m meeting “well-connected” people who can help my future. lol

My brother Ronny’s not here.  :(

At the last minute he announced that his friend Jeremy’s family invited him to go to Florida with them. I think he doesn’t want to see me. I think he fucking hates me. Of course, Mom says, “No, no dear, he just needs some time.”

I’m like, “Time for what?!!!!” and she’s all “Lalala can’t hear you”.

G2G! We’re going to this Hawaiian-themed restaurant for dinner. That is so weird! We’re on a ski trip and we’re going to do this whole luau thing on a fake indoor beach. I’ll let you know how it goes. I love pineapples!

 

“You’re a dork,” John told the air and his heart suddenly felt like it was being squeezed in a vice. He looked around the empty room — empty not just of dirty socks, but of the earnest, horny sweetness of Bobby — and the feeling of impending tears was overwhelming.

What the fuck? he chided himself, but it was too late and the tears were flowing; he was sobbing and making the stupidest noises he’d ever heard. He dropped his face into his pillow to muffle the sounds and then just let it happen.

In a way, it was kind of cool... a wild ride on the roller coaster of emotion. His body was not under his control and that was interesting in an awful kind of way, so he just let it go and go and go, exhausting himself with the intensity of the purge. He was glad Bobby wasn’t there to see it, but at the same time he wished he was bawling in Drake’s arms, with his cool hand caressing the back of his neck.

He must have fallen asleep because a knock on the door woke him. There was a wet spot on the pillow and he had to grab a tissue and blow his nose. He looked at the clock and was surprised to see it was almost midnight.

He wiped his eyes and yelled “What?!” The door opened and Jubilee stuck her head in.

“Oh shit, were you already asleep? Sorry, but everyone under 15 and over 17 has passed out, and the rest of us are having our way with some spiked eggnog in the music room. Want to join us?”

He sat up and took stock of his inner world. He felt drained but also light. In fact, he hadn’t felt this happy and free in years. “Uh... Yeah, I could go for some Christmas cheer, why not?”

Jubilee squinted her eyes at him. “You been crying?”

“Heh, me? Just thinking that I didn’t get to see ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ this year.”

“You miss him, huh?”

John gave her a crooked smile. “I don’t know what you mean, gossip queen.”

“I miss Mike, too. You know, I still worry about him all the time. I keep thinking someone’s going to try and fuck him up, and I won’t be there to stop them.”

“He’ll be okay. The X-Men are keeping a close eye on the Friends of Humanity.”

“I know.”

“And besides, Drake and Mike’ll be back at school in a couple of days and then we’ll be bitching about how annoying they are.”

“Bobby’s not so cool with people knowing you guys are a couple, right? Don’t worry; I can keep my mouth shut.”

John sighed and realized he sounded like Xavier. Fuck. “Bobby wants to be whatever everyone wants him to be. Unfortunately, everyone wants different things.”

“Maybe you should tell Sam, though.”

“Why?”

“He thinks you’re after Terry.”

John cracked up. “Good. Maybe he’ll finally make a move. I swear, this love stuff is such a drain on precious energy.”

“So, what’s the solution, Solomon?”

“Spiked eggnog. Let’s go.”


Part 3: Winter

There was a shift in the mood at the mansion after the Christmas holidays were through. School was always more serious in the second half of the year, when it was clear you no longer had all the time in the world to get the grades you needed. As February drew to a close, Bobby found his brains maxing out on homework, papers and tests. But there was more to occupy everyone’s thoughts.

The mutant issue in America was moving from a background hum to an insistent roar. The protest after the broadcast of “The Betrayers” and the coincidental attack by Magneto on the Turcott Clinic had begun the rounds of acrimonious debate in the media. Local initiatives had emerged, both for and against mutant rights. In some cities, mutants were banned from schools; in others, temporary shelters were established to protect persecuted mutants.

Bobby found it totally weird that the next turning point after Halloween had involved his former high school and one of his best friends. Even more shocking was the way that the attack by the unnamed group (no one had been able to pin it on Friends of Humanity) had divided the country. You would think it was a no-brainer: lunatic vigilantes terrorize defenseless students at a high school Christmas dance, therefore innocent mutants are being threatened and need protection. But no! While millions felt that way, more than 67 percent of Americans polled felt that that the very existence of mutants posed a threat to the security of all. Most admitted they had never knowingly met a mutant.

One mother from Lincoln High had made it on CNN saying, “I don’t want them in our community anymore. My daughter, Erin, was almost killed because of those… things!”

Not because of Friends of Humanity.

Bobby felt disgusted. Or was the nausea from fear? Mike had warned him about Senator Robert Kelly as far back as last summer and now the man was making his move. The Mutant Registration Act was scheduled for debate in the Senate in just over six weeks and Xavier was getting ready for a political battle.

If the Act became law, every mutant would have to reveal themselves to the authorities, and possibly wear an identifying badge at all times or face imprisonment. The parallel should have occurred to him, but it was Kitty who pointed out the similarity to Jews and other “undesirables” in Nazi Germany. Surely, if that message were understood… if Americans could only get to know the mutants…

But nothing was simple. Magneto and his Brotherhood had been responsible for a number of high-profile attacks in recent months. Two of them had begun with earth tremors. Bobby knew who made the earth shake: Lance, his former roommate, his first… um, guy.

Bobby realized that the political changes meant something different to him than they did to Kitty or to Mike. They had a fire in them about changing things and, while Bobby could understand that, for him it mostly meant more worry and more work. Bobby was Scott Summer’s right hand man now.

As life became ever more complicated for his mentor as both assistant headmaster and field leader of the X-Men, he had been looking to Bobby to take off some of the load. At first, Bobby was excited to be the one double-checking order lists, or writing damage reports that were the inevitable result of powers training, but his days were getting really long.

“Tell him you can’t do it,” John would say as Bobby lay in his arms, pouring out his troubles with the last threads of consciousness at the end of each day. “Tell him to hire a paid assistant! You’re a student here; not slave labor.”

But every time Bobby thought of bringing his complaints up with the boss, Scott would do something to sweeten the pot. He would pay Bobby with the gift of his trust.

“What’s this?” Bobby had asked yesterday as Scott handed him a small black box, undecorated but for the brushed silver ‘X’ on the top.

“I’m giving you access to the sub-basement, Bobby,” Scott had said, smiling as Bobby’s mouth dropped open. “It’s a double security system. You have to put this box against the sensor and also key in the code on the touchpad. The code changes every week. You’re really helping me out here. You’re really doing something to help the cause.”

Bobby was so pleased by this honor, especially after having lost Scott’s trust at Halloween, that he was speechless as Scott outlined the maintenance duties that Bobby would now be responsible for below floors.

Bobby felt a headache coming on as he finished typing up the lists for team practices in the mock battles they were beginning to hold in powers class. It was 8 p.m. and he decided he’d finish the task later; he still had chemistry homework to complete. He was surprised to see a group of students in the cafeteria and wandered over to find out what was going on.

“Bobby, hey!” shouted Doug. “Let Clarice touch you.”

“Huh, why?” he said as he was herded through the group towards her. Clarice was the latest student/refugee, a runaway from a group home, rescued from a mob in Idaho. She was an albino with a huge head of frizzy red hair and small, spooky eyes. Clarice took hold of his arm and he felt his skin tingling. He pulled back the limb in shock and watched as she closed her eyes, almost like she was digesting something — some fact about him or a morsel of his soul.

“Okay,” she said in a high, feathery voice. “Give me one of those knives.” Rahne handed her the utensil, an ordinary dinner knife from a basket in the food station. The albino girl held it in against her cheek. “Everybody… Oh, wait. Everybody except Doug has touched this knife.

Fred started laughing. “It’s true! Doug never uses a knife; he just hacks at everything with the side of his fork. That is so awesome, Clarice!”

Bobby was more unnerved than impressed. Maybe it was just because he was so tired. He slipped away from the group and headed up to the dorms. He was walking down the hall towards their room, Peter’s door opened and the big guy stumbled out, almost bumping into Bobby.

“Sorry, sorry,” Peter said with some discomfort. Just then John emerged from the same door. Peter looked from him to Bobby, blushed bright red and then excused himself, hurrying down the corridor and around the corner.

“What the hell was that?” Bobby asked John.

John was on the verge of cracking up. “Shh, I’ll tell you in our room.” He grabbed Bobby by the arm and pulled him in, closing the door quickly. “Oh my God, you won’t believe it.”

Bobby sat down on his bed nervously, not sure he wanted to hear the story.

“So, I knock on Peter’s door because we’re supposed to work on a history presentation together. He’s sitting at his computer, but he’s acting really weird, like too smiley and loud for Pete, you know?”

Bobby did. It wasn’t that Peter didn’t have a sense of humor, or that he was trying to prove something by being serious; he just was. Seriously serious and possessed of legendary calm.

“I kind of had the sense that he didn’t want me to go near his desk, so I sat down on the bed, trying not to spook him. So we talk about the presentation for a while and then he has to go over to his schoolbag to find some notes. I guess I shouldn’t have, but I was so fucking curious and he had his back turned… I got up quietly and moved to his desk. His screen saver is some Impressionist landscape, right?”

Bobby wasn’t exactly sure what “Impressionist” was but he got the idea. He nodded.

“So I just casually jiggled the mouse and BOING!”

“What?!”

“Cheerleader porn.”

“No!”

“Like all these skinny girls with massive hooters in these little short, pleated skirts and pom-poms, doing high kicks with no panties on. Four, five images all open, like a fucking buffet table.”

Bobby fell over on his bed, covering his eyes, laughing, “No! No! Did you scream?”

“I didn’t, but Pete almost did. Fuck, he went white, like I had found him shooting up or something. So I tell him, ‘Sorry, sorry’ and ‘Don’t worry man, it’s cool!’”

“Did you run the hell out? I would’ve died and run the hell out.”

“Well, that was an option, but I figured there were possibilities. I mean, he’s a preacher’s son, right? You got guilt and repression there… those are angles you can work. Just ask a former whore.”

Bobby stopped laughing. “What did you do, John?”

John sat on the bed beside Bobby, their knees touching. “Well, I stayed cool, man. I sat down in his chair and started checking out the pics, like I was real interested. And saying, ‘Fuck, look at how wet she is, oh man!’ and ‘I would do that one, Pete. Which is your favorite?’

“And Pete gets up shyly; like he can’t speak but he wants to confess. Good for the soul, right? He points one of his big meaty fingers at this skinny brunette with curly hair who has this really dirty look on her face, like she’d do you right there in the locker room with the team all around. And you know who she looked like?”

“Who?” Bobby breathed.

“Kitty.” John howled. “I mean, she was probably more like 24 and her tits were bigger, but I swear… Anyway, I’m like ‘Oh yeah, she wants it, huh?’ and I know without seeing it — I can sense it like I’m psychic: he has a hard on that could drill through diamond.”

Bobby’s mouth hung open, he felt dizzy, hypnotized.

“It didn’t take much, you know. Just a few well-placed suggestions and then we’re both there, staring at his screen with our pants open, spankin’ them like there’s no tomorrow. Except of course, I’m watching him more than the screen, but he doesn’t need to know that.” John cackled in triumph.

Bobby got up without a word and walked to his desk. He sat in the chair, feeling sick, confused.

“What’s wrong, Drake?” John said behind him.

“I can’t believe you,” Bobby replied.

“What? What are you talking about?”

Bobby turned and the anger he felt was like a force of nature. “How could you do that to someone shy like Pete?! You totally tricked him into some kind of perverted scene for your own fucking amusement! You used him!”

John turned red. “The fuck! Pete got off with me because he wanted to! I didn’t force him! And let me tell you, there was nothing shy about that orgasm or what he was saying when he came! ‘Yeah, gonna fuck your pussy! Fuck it!’”

“Shut up! He didn’t say that!”

“What’s your problem? You know all about being a fucking horndog 24-7! Now you’re suddenly Sister Mary Virgintwat?!”

Bobby jumped to his feet. He wanted to run, to climb the walls, to tear something apart. He clenched his fists at his side. “You do this to people! You confuse them, make them think they want…That they want to do something that they… that they…”

John moved across the room in three angry strides until he was face to face with Bobby. “Yes?! Yes? C’mon, spit it out! This is about you, right? I’m the one who makes you suck my dick in the middle of the night. I’m the one who makes you grab me after class to get off in the stairwell, saying, ‘John, I need it, I gotta have your fucking DICK!’” He imitated Bobby’s voice as a high whine and Bobby drew back a fist and aimed it at his face.

John stood his ground. “Go ahead, you fucking hypocrite. Pop me, c’mon!”

Bobby pushed John aside and threw himself down on this bed, face to the wall, pounding on the mattress with his fist.

For a minute, he could only hear the sounds of their breathing, then he heard John sit down on his own bed across the room. “You got a lot of shit to figure out, Bobby. You have to find out who you are. Or are you jealous? Is that it?”

“No!” Bobby shouted and clamped his mouth shut. He was scared he’d cry if he started talking, but he had to take the risk. “I’m not like you, John.”

“Hell, that’s for sure. But you know what, Drake? You are. That’s why we’re together.”

Bobby spun around to face him. “No, you don’t understand. I mean, I know you think this is like… something, I dunno, something romantic… but-but I’m not… like that.”

“Bobby, are you seriously saying you’re not gay?”

It was like a slap. Bobby had never put that word under his picture in the dictionary. He had edited it from every draft of his biography. And in all the months he and John had been together, it was the first time the word had been spoken between them. His mind rebelled.

“No,” he said. “No, I’m not. I-I like girls.”

John was suddenly frighteningly calm. “Really. So, here at the mansion, which girl gets you hot?”

“You’re so vulgar.”

“No, seriously, you must fantasize about one, since you’re straight or bi or whatever label you got on your t-shirt.”

Bobby took a deep breath. He could handle this conversation. “Well, I think Dani’s really pretty.”

“Dani. Nice. What do you like about her?”

“I-I like the way her hair is. It’s so straight and shiny and flows around her like a stream; it’s really magic. And she moves with so much confidence, you know? Wearing those flat shoes… the ones that have those diagonal straps…”

“Oh my God, Drake. I asked you what you liked about a girl and you described her hair and her shoes. You couldn’t be a bigger fag if you blew sequins out your ass when you farted.”

Bobby started to cry. He wanted to leave but felt frozen in place, he looked down into his lap and the weight of the world bore down, crushing him. He felt St. John sit beside him, slip an arm around his back, and he hated it and needed it.

“Listen to me, moron,” John said. “I don’t care what you want to think about yourself. I mean, in my opinion you’ll be happier if you can be more honest, but that’s your business. You want me to keep your secrets? I always have, and I will as long as you want. You still want me in your bed tonight?”

Bobby nodded.

“Then I’ll be there. But you don’t get to build yourself up by tearing me down, is that clear?”

“Yes.”

“Good. And if you don’t want me to, I won’t fuck around with anyone else at the mansion; even if you’re not my official boyfriend. I don’t really care, frankly. You’re the only one around here that interests me.

“I don’t know what I want.”

“That much is obvious.” John kissed his wet cheek and whispered in his ear: “Want to know how big it is?”

“What?”

“Peter’s peter.”

Bobby hiccupped on his tears. Pathetic, so pathetic. He nodded again and looked up at his roommate.

John whistled, shaking his head. “Oh. My. Fucking. God.”


Part 4: Spring

“C’mon Terry, keep it moving. Your form is really good! Uh-oh, looks like Roberto is putting on some speed, don’t let him pass you!”

From behind the bushes in the grassy ditch beside the track, John could just see the top of Bobby’s head as he coached the class through their laps. John was no longer averse to a bit of exercise; in fact he was proud of how much of a jock he’d become over the winter, something he never thought he had in him. But today was just too glorious to get all sweaty. It was only the middle of April and yet the temperature was in the low 70s, the trees were full of flowers, the birds and squirrels were fucking a new generation into existence and life was sweet. Also, Xavier and Doctor Grey were down in Washington for the Senate hearings and Summers didn’t have time to wield the whistle, so it was Bobby at the helm.

John had something to celebrate that day, and having been given the chance to goof off, he was damned if he was going to pass it up. “Pass me the root beer,” he said, lying back in the warm grass.

Mike handed him the can and he sat up to take a hearty swig. “Really, it’s not fair, John. Just because we’re Bobby’s best friends, we shouldn’t take advantage like this.”

“Oh, I know. I feel just horrible,” John replied and wiped away an imaginary tear.

Up on the track, Fred was wheezing along in last place, looking miserable. “Hey, hey, way to go, Fred!” Bobby said brightly. He glanced at his clipboard. “You’re a whole minute ahead of last week’s time!”

“Thanks… Bobby,” Dukes replied breathlessly.

“Fred was so relieved when he found out Bobby was taking today’s class,” Mike told John. “He’s completely terrified of Summers.”

“He’s the only one here whose ever been blasted by those eye beams.”

“Yeah, but that was a battle. He was a bad guy then.”

John cracked up. “I still have trouble seeing your roommate as one of Magneto’s minions of evil.”

“No way! He’s totally evil. He leaves empty soda cans on my desk, and pretty soon we have ants everywhere.”

Suddenly, and despite the brilliant sunshine, it started to hail. They both covered their heads and looked up to see Bobby standing at the rim of the ditch, spewing ice chips from his fingers. “Do you think you guys could maybe not undermine my authority completely?”

“Jeez, Drake,” John said. “I got a lot on my mind today! I’m editing a poem to submit to the Harvest.”

Mike nodded. “And I’m stressing about the Senate hearings. I didn’t want to miss any news bulletins.”

“…in the ditch.” Bobby said through tight lips. “Never mind, class is over anyway. Just don’t be so obvious about it next time.” He walked off, going through notes on his clipboard.

“He’s so cute when he’s asserting himself,” John said and watched Mike look away. John was getting fed up with the situation. He knew that Mike knew about him and Bobby—after all, Jubilee was one of John’s only true confidants—but Mike also knew that Bobby didn’t know he knew and wouldn’t want him to know, which meant that Mike had to pretend not to hear if John happened to.... arrgggghhhhh! It was all ridiculous.

“You ready to head?” John asked. Mike got to his feet by way of answer, retrieving the soda can that John had tossed in the bushes. They turned to walk back to the mansion. “How do you think it’s going in Washington? Is Dr. Grey squashing Senator Kelly like a bug?”

“I doubt it,” Mike said. “It’s not as simple as who presents the best case; you have to get a read on where public opinion is. People are scared; they feel helpless and they want their government to do something. Sometimes it doesn’t matter if that something makes sense or not.”

John looked down at Mike’s tattoo. “So what happens to ‘you are the government’ then? If we can’t make the government see reason...”

“I guess it means we just have to try harder. Make more noise.”

“Magento makes noise.”

“That’s true. Well, then, if he makes noise, we should make music.”

Mike threw up a fist and chanted:

“No, I don't believe in what you say
You're just part of what I despise
Yes, you're part of the fucking system
I ain't blind, I can see your lies!”

John cringed. “Anyway, I’ll stick to poetry instead of politics. At least I can change a comma to semi-colon without a Senate hearing.”

Mike smiled and shook his head in mock disapproval. He waved and headed for the front door while John headed round to the door that led to the locker rooms. He didn’t need a shower, but he was hoping he’d catch Bobby in between moments of excessive seriousness.

He didn’t want to say anything about the significance of the day; he wanted to see if Mr. Clipboard remembered. Xavier probably would have if he wasn’t in D.C. On the other hand, maybe it was pure narcissism to think he was that big a blip on anyone’s radar.

He was in luck. The last of the class was just leaving as Bobby finished his paperwork. He smiled at John and began to undress for his shower. Things were looking up.

“Should I lock the door?” John asked with mounting excitement.

Bobby bit his lip and got that puppy-dog look which meant he felt guilty. “John, I can’t; I have to talk to Scott before lunch.”

“Well, maybe after we can grab something from the kitchen and do a picnic thing. I’m kind of in the mood to... celebrate.”

“No, you have to be there for announcements after we eat! Scott’s got things to tell us about schedule changes while Jean and the Professor are away. Listen, I’ll try to find some time to hang out with you later, okay? I promise. I promise to try, anyway.”

John scowled. He didn’t even stick around for the cheap thrill of watching the shower water jet off Bobby’s dick like he was taking a piss. He turned around and headed for their room where he grabbed the latest issue of The Harvest and looked at the submission rules again.

It was an important poetry journal and he knew the chances of being accepted were small; but somehow, he felt he would be. It was his time.

Scott’s announcements were predictably boring and John felt himself slipping deeper and deeper into a dark funk. Blah-blah-blah our thoughts are with Dr. Grey and the Professor as they fight for our rights. Andi Murakami will be teaching blah-blah-blah classes for the next three days. Blah-blah-blah cancelled, but homework still due.

Everyone was very serious about the Senate hearings. John wished he could share their optimism or whatever it was that drove them. He thought that it must be great for Mike to have something to strive for, but he just couldn’t convince himself that his efforts would make any difference. Except as a writer. Maybe as a friend.

All through the afternoon, he watched sourly as his fellow students studied and played in the unexpected sunshine. He could have put a stop to all his sulking by letting his secret “slip” to Jubilee or someone else who would spread it, but he wasn’t that desperate. Was he?

He parked himself in different locations, clicking his lighter until someone asked him to stop, at which point he would make a point of looking disgusted and walking out. Then he would find someone else and repeat the process. Real mature, he thought.

And throughout the day, Bobby appeared and disappeared, checking items off on his clipboard, helping people with homework, getting them to help him move some piece of equipment somewhere. He’d always be smiling, always patient. It was just sickening.

After dinner, John figured he had hidden himself well enough, lying with a dusty D. H. Lawrence in a dark corner of the library. But, no! Drake found him.

“Hey, John, is that you? I’ve been looking everywhere.”

“What’s wrong? I forget to punch a timecard somewhere? I’m fucking up your spreadsheet?”

Bobby’s face fell a bit and John felt some satisfaction in that. “No, I-I just wondered if you could give me a hand with something. Down in the subbasement. I can’t do it alone.”

Bobby was silhouetted in the door, the hall light falling on his curls, making the gold bits glisten. John hauled himself to his feet. “Yeah, okay.” He wanted to kick himself because he had no control when it came to Bobby Drake. He would just debase himself over and over, apparently.

Soon they were in front of the subbasement elevators and he watched as Bobby waved his magic security box and tapped the code with assurance of a woodpecker. John guessed he was supposed to be impressed, but he felt kind of exposed and wanted them to get underground before anyone saw.

The elevator moved smoothly into the world of cold chrome. John was never very comfortable down here; he was more at home in the old warm wood of the mansion above. It seemed like a dirty trick that all that tradition was being used to cover up this high-tech war fantasy. John wished he could just pretend it didn’t exist, that there was only a school here.

They walked the echoing corridors to one of the double wide doors with the big X. John didn’t think he’d been inside this one before. Despite the fact that it looked the same outside as the med lab or the hangar, something about it seemed especially forbidding. John was suddenly plagued by doubts. “What is this, Drake? What are we doing here?”

“I need your help with something important. Something a bit… dangerous.” He passed the security key over the sensor and keyed in another number. The big doors opened and a gush of pressurized air wheezed out.

Inside, it was dark and cold. St. John squinted into the gloom and reached for his lighter.

“No!” Bobby said. “Just wait here and I’ll get the lights.”

John watched him vanish into the shadows and he grew more nervous, as if Bobby was going to transform into some kind of monster and leap out at him. Then he heard the big double doors sliding shut behind him. He turned just as they came together with a resounding “boom.” The room seemed to exhale and there was light everywhere, warm wet breeze, the sound of waves. St. John turned with gave trepidation and found himself on a tropical beach.

Eyes wide, he wandered forward, staring up at palm trees and seagulls. Under his feet, he felt the slip-slide of sand. Bobby was there in front of him, grinning a huge grin. “Welcome to the Danger Room. It’s the new training area. This is a solid light hologram around us. Cool, huh?”

John could only nod dumbly.

“Happy birthday, St. John Allerdyce.” Bobby said. “Forge didn’t program too many environments yet, but I thought this one was pretty good for a private celebration.” He came up kissed John on the cheek.

John couldn’t stop himself grinning in return, though he did manage some snark. “You’re cheesy as always, Drake. How’d you know it was my birthday?”

“I have access to some of the records now. Nothing too personal, but the basics. You beat me to 17 by four months.” He grabbed John’s hand and began pulling him across the room, though the concept “room” seemed irrelevant with sailboats bobbing along the distant horizon. Bobby took them to a small stand of palms, and there stood a brass bed with a high mattress and fresh white linens, a headboard canopy flapped gently in the breeze.

“Is that a hologram, too, or can we really lie on it?”

“No, it’s real. I found it in the attic and snuck it down here in the middle of the night. It’s heavier than it looks.”

John choked up. He realized just how much it meant to him that there was someone for whom his birthday, his existence meant that much. “Damn it, Bobby, you’re getting me all emotional. Let’s fuck before I turn into a blubbering fool.”

But what he really wanted was what he got: long, slow, romantic. And the fact that Bobby wasn’t in a hurry meant that John was worth his precious time. They were already post-orgasmic and kissing gently when John noticed something sitting on a rock amid riotous red blossoms and tall grasses.

He got out of the bed and crossed to it, his half-hard dick bouncing for all the fake seagulls to see. “Holy shit, look what it is!” He held up Scott’s fancy battle visor. The only time they saw him in that was during the more hardcore powers classes or when the X-Men were heading out to save the mutant world. John turned it over in his hands, playing with the mechanism on the side, watching the long, ruby-red slit open and close.

“Hey, you better be careful with that,” Bobby said, kneeling on the bed, looking nervous. “If we damage it —”

“Relax, will you? It’s gotta be built pretty tough if he takes on Magneto’s people in it. Hey, check it out,” he said and put the thing on his head.

“John, don’t!”

The world turned dim, shapes barely visible in the a red-tinted night. “How does he see through this?”

“Well, don’t forget. His eyes are pumping out light all the time.”

John stiffened his spine and jutted his jaw. “Bobby, I’m going to require your assistance before class,” he intoned. “It’s an important mission.”

Bobby snickered at the impersonation. “John, I’m serious —”

John moved towards the bed, his back unnaturally erect, his stride halfway to a march. “I’m serious, too, Mr. Drake. Dead serious.” He stood beside the bed, naked except for the visor. “On your knees, butt facing me.” He wasn’t sure Bobby would do it, but he did; maybe the boy was that well trained! “Good work. Now spread your ass cheeks apart and show me how well you attend to your hygiene.” John was turning himself on with this stupid routine and Drake looked like he was ready for round two, himself.

“Good boy. Hygiene is one of the most important things for any mutant,” he declared, as if he could see anything through the scarlet wall. John climbed onto the bed and let his erection rub against Bobby’s pucker. Bobby moaned. John bent over him and reached around to grab Bobby’s cock. He brought his mouth close to Bobby’s ear and Scott’s visor bumped against the back of his head. He whispered, “I could fuck you know. I bet you brought lube and a condom.” He rubbed himself slowly up and down the crack and used Bobby’s own pre-cum to jack him.

Bobby’s voice was ragged, breathy. “Oh God… feels good. But, n-no, I can’t… I don’t want it…”

“I wont hurt you. It’ll feel so good,” John whispered. Bobby moved his knees farther apart as if inviting the invasion. “I’ll slide in so sweet, you’ll wonder why you never tried before… until you’re full of my hot cock, until it touches you places you only  —”

The breeze stopped; around him the dark shapes of the palm trees winked out of existence. The swish of the waves was replaced by the dull monotony of the subbasement’s mechanical hum. John looked towards the door and pulled off the visor. Scott Summers stood there in his black leather uniform, his arms crossed over his chest. The tropical beach was gone, replaced by the featureless grey walls and dull metal floor of the Danger Room. But the bed… The bed is real, he thought.

He almost fell as Bobby scuttled out from under him like a crab and pulled the sheets up to cover his nakedness. The situation was so shocking that John took a few seconds to react before he, too joined Bobby under the sheet. Scott walked up the bed and his face was as cold and emotionless as a robot’s. He reached out a hand. “Visor.” John handed it to him carefully and it was only in the way it was jerked from his fingers that John could read Scott’s anger.

Bobby was sitting up, his knees two mountains under the sheet, which he had pulled up so that only his eyes and the top of his head were visible. He was shaking. The moment stretched out unbearably before Scott turned and left the room, the great doors sliding shut with a definitive basso exclamation:

X.

John slid out the bed and pulled his clothes back on. Bobby didn’t move except to pull John’s side of the sheet tightly around him. John nodded. Fate was fate, he knew that. “Okay, Bobby, this is how it played out. I know the situation feels pretty shitty, but it’s not a bad thing. Now it’s not a secret anymore. Now you and I can be —”

“SCOTT!!” Bobby shouted and jumped out of bed, like he had only just awoken to the horror of the situation. He raced in circles, collecting his clothes, falling over as he tried to hop, one-legged into his pants. John moved to help him but he was on his feet again in a second, pulling on a sock, a shirt, running to the door without shoes, still in one bare foot.

“Shit,” John muttered and followed, scared of what his crazy friend was up to, and scared he’d be trapped in the room or the subbasement if Drake vanished with his magic keys. He jumped into the elevator with Bobby just before the door closed. Bobby was pounding on the wall of the elevator and screaming at it to go faster. “Bobby, you have to calm down! You’re losing it!”

His words didn’t have much effect; as soon as the doors open, Bobby was on the move, running and stopping, changing vectors, running again, looking everywhere for his teacher. “I have to explain… I have to make him understand that it wasn’t…. It wasn’t anything!” John stood where he was and stared at Bobby’s mania. He had a very bad feeling suddenly.

“Andi,” Bobby screamed as he saw the psychology student coming down the hall. He ran to her and grabbed her by the arms. “Where’s Scott?! I have to talk him right away!”

Andi was so startled, she almost jumped away. “Are you okay? What’s the matter?”

“Scott, where is he? Please!”

“He-he’s gone, Bobby. He and Ms. Monroe just left in the jet.”

Bobby made a horrible noise, like an animal in a trap. “But… but it’s important! Where did they go?!”

“Northern Alberta, they said. Bobby, they’ve gone to Canada.”

Note: Mike’s song in part 4 is “No” by Subhumans.

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