For Kael. Just because.
Hey, all! I started trying to match this story to continuity . . . but Continuity had a nervous breakdown. So now it's set between the Scott dead/Apocalypse thing and everything else, 'cept that I'm making up my own X-team to use. Heh. It goes like this: Wolverine, Scott, Jean, Storm, Rogue, Gambit, Iceman, Warren, Psylocke (who did NOT switch powers with Jean--that happened after Scott died), Beast, Cannonball, and now Jamie. Everyone that I just kicked off the team? Reyes and Marrow and Kitty,Kurt, all those guys? If they had a team before, figure they went back to it. If they didn't, figure they're on reserve. ;) It has also been brought to my attention that in X-Factor Jamie says he's from Kansas. Well, in FF (where Jamie first appeared) it says New Mex., and since that's what I used before that's what I'll stick with.
"Do you think they'll like me?"
Bobby didn't even try to suppress his smile. The question had been
asked--and asked, and *asked.* He'd never had someone worry so much. It
was really cute. "You've met them."
"No, I've fought with them occasionally. Heard about them from
Knew Scott's brother. But I haven't met *them.* What if they don't
Bobby looked up from his magazine. His started to stretch his
legs out, then
felt them bang against the seat in front of him. "I think they'll adore
"*Seriously!*" Jamie said, slanting Bobby a dirty look. Brown
hair fell in his face, obscuring one eye.
Bobby laughed and reached over, flipping the lock behind Jamie's
ear. "You weren't this worried about meeting my parents!"
"You didn't talk as much about your parents," Jamie muttered. He
sighed and slouched in his chair, legs seeming to nearly fold in half in
the small space. "Besides, you don't know how worried I was about
that. You weren't there."
Bobby smiled slightly, nodding an acknowledgment to that. He
wished he had
been there, and in silence he reached out and brushed the back of his hand
across Jamie's cheek. "You've met Hank. He likes you."
Jamie nodded, staring at his feet. "But that's different. Hank is
. . . he's my doctor."
"He wasn't your doctor until after you met him."
"But I met him before I got 'involved' with you, so it didn't
Bobby shrugged and settled more comfortably in his chair, propping
an ankle on the opposite knee. "The X-Men will love you, Jamie. Everyone
Jamie snorted at that and looked out the window while clouds
Bobby smiled slightly, turning back to his magazine. He could
have sworn it was the same magazine in all airplanes. Like the others, it
had nothing of interest.
The plane shuddered. Bobby dropped his magazine, grabbing the
armrests, his knuckles turning white as his stomach clenched. A memory
flashed through his mind so overpowering it seemed to dwarf the reality
around him. Screeching metal, sudden pain, panic, a frantic bid to save
lives as the smell of blood soaked the air--
Bobby pulled a ragged breath into his lungs, realizing that his
iced over. He flexed his fingers, shattering the thin layer, and watched
as Jamie's hand covered his own, squeezing comfortingly. He slowly
relaxed, purposefully reminding himself that this plane was safe, and not
about to crash.
Blue eyes flickered upward and saw brown ones watching him with
"Are you okay?" Jamie asked softly.
The turbulence passed, and Bobby let his breath out in a shudder,
smiling painfully. "Sorry. Just startled me, is all."
Jamie nodded, but didn't release Bobby's hand. Bobby smiled wanly
and turned his wrist, fingers interlocking with Jamie's.
"I'm impressed you even got back in a plane, after what happened
last one," Jamie murmured softly.
Bobby turned to look at him, trying to put on a brave
front. "Yeah, well. Most planes don't wreck, right?"
"Right," Jamie agreed firmly.
Bobby nodded, licking his lips. He sat for a moment, then glanced
Jamie, trying to divert his mind. He didn't want to remember the plane
crash a month and a half ago. It had been less than fun. "You remembered
your toothbrush, right?" he said in a falsely unconcerned tone. "'Cause
I'm not sharing mine. That's gross."
Jamie's mouth quirked upward. "You'll kiss me, but you won't share a
toothbrush? I don't see the logic there."
"It has nothing to do with logic," Bobby answered. "It has to do with
ickiness. There is a high ickiness factor in toothbrush sharing."
Jamie laughed. "Yes, I remembered my toothbrush," he answered.
Bobby grinned fondly and ran the knuckles of his other hand across
cheek. "I love you."
Jamie turned into the caress, kissing Bobby's fingers. "I love
he said, and was unable to even make an attempt at suppressing his silly
"You've been okay lately? No bad feelings?" Bobby asked softly,
"Mostly good," Jamie answered truthfully. "Hank's pills have
helped a lot.
And you've helped more."
Bobby smiled, sighed, leaned back to wait for the plane to get to New
York. "I'm glad." After Jamie's bout of severe depression, he'd been
watching the other man like a hawk. It frightened him to think that it could
happen again, and Bobby wondered if that was the shadow he saw on occasion
in Jamie's deep brown eyes.
"What if they don't like me, though?" Jamie asked very softly after a
moment, refusing to meet Bobby's gaze.
Bobby started to laugh. As plaintive and worried as Jamie
sounded, it was
still funny that he could worry so much. "Then I'll move to Washington
with you and get a government job," Bobby finally answered, grinning. "But
they'll like you."
Jamie looked forlorn. "If you say so," he sighed at last.
Bobby smiled, and squeezed Jamie's fingers in his, putting as much
assurance as possible into his eyes and voice. "I say so."
"Do you think they'll like me?"
Bobby didn't even try to suppress his smile. The question had been asked--and asked, and *asked.* He'd never had someone worry so much. It was really cute. "You've met them."
"No, I've fought with them occasionally. Heard about them from others. Knew Scott's brother. But I haven't met *them.* What if they don't like me?"
Bobby looked up from his magazine. His started to stretch his legs out, then felt them bang against the seat in front of him. "I think they'll adore you."
"*Seriously!*" Jamie said, slanting Bobby a dirty look. Brown hair fell in his face, obscuring one eye.
Bobby laughed and reached over, flipping the lock behind Jamie's ear. "You weren't this worried about meeting my parents!"
"You didn't talk as much about your parents," Jamie muttered. He sighed and slouched in his chair, legs seeming to nearly fold in half in the small space. "Besides, you don't know how worried I was about that. You weren't there."
Bobby smiled slightly, nodding an acknowledgment to that. He wished he had been there, and in silence he reached out and brushed the back of his hand across Jamie's cheek. "You've met Hank. He likes you."
Jamie nodded, staring at his feet. "But that's different. Hank is . . . he's my doctor."
"He wasn't your doctor until after you met him."
"But I met him before I got 'involved' with you, so it didn't worry me."
Bobby shrugged and settled more comfortably in his chair, propping an ankle on the opposite knee. "The X-Men will love you, Jamie. Everyone likes you."
Jamie snorted at that and looked out the window while clouds passed by.
Bobby smiled slightly, turning back to his magazine. He could have sworn it was the same magazine in all airplanes. Like the others, it had nothing of interest.
The plane shuddered. Bobby dropped his magazine, grabbing the armrests, his knuckles turning white as his stomach clenched. A memory flashed through his mind so overpowering it seemed to dwarf the reality around him. Screeching metal, sudden pain, panic, a frantic bid to save lives as the smell of blood soaked the air--
Bobby pulled a ragged breath into his lungs, realizing that his hands had iced over. He flexed his fingers, shattering the thin layer, and watched as Jamie's hand covered his own, squeezing comfortingly. He slowly relaxed, purposefully reminding himself that this plane was safe, and not about to crash.
Blue eyes flickered upward and saw brown ones watching him with concern.
"Are you okay?" Jamie asked softly.
The turbulence passed, and Bobby let his breath out in a shudder, smiling painfully. "Sorry. Just startled me, is all."
Jamie nodded, but didn't release Bobby's hand. Bobby smiled wanly and turned his wrist, fingers interlocking with Jamie's.
"I'm impressed you even got back in a plane, after what happened with the last one," Jamie murmured softly.
Bobby turned to look at him, trying to put on a brave front. "Yeah, well. Most planes don't wreck, right?"
"Right," Jamie agreed firmly.
Bobby nodded, licking his lips. He sat for a moment, then glanced back at Jamie, trying to divert his mind. He didn't want to remember the plane crash a month and a half ago. It had been less than fun. "You remembered your toothbrush, right?" he said in a falsely unconcerned tone. "'Cause I'm not sharing mine. That's gross."
Jamie's mouth quirked upward. "You'll kiss me, but you won't share a toothbrush? I don't see the logic there."
"It has nothing to do with logic," Bobby answered. "It has to do with ickiness. There is a high ickiness factor in toothbrush sharing."
Jamie laughed. "Yes, I remembered my toothbrush," he answered.
Bobby grinned fondly and ran the knuckles of his other hand across Jamie's cheek. "I love you."
Jamie turned into the caress, kissing Bobby's fingers. "I love you too," he said, and was unable to even make an attempt at suppressing his silly grin.
"You've been okay lately? No bad feelings?" Bobby asked softly, worried.
"Mostly good," Jamie answered truthfully. "Hank's pills have helped a lot. And you've helped more."
Bobby smiled, sighed, leaned back to wait for the plane to get to New York. "I'm glad." After Jamie's bout of severe depression, he'd been watching the other man like a hawk. It frightened him to think that it could happen again, and Bobby wondered if that was the shadow he saw on occasion in Jamie's deep brown eyes.
"What if they don't like me, though?" Jamie asked very softly after a moment, refusing to meet Bobby's gaze.
Bobby started to laugh. As plaintive and worried as Jamie sounded, it was still funny that he could worry so much. "Then I'll move to Washington with you and get a government job," Bobby finally answered, grinning. "But they'll like you."
Jamie looked forlorn. "If you say so," he sighed at last.
Bobby smiled, and squeezed Jamie's fingers in his, putting as much assurance as possible into his eyes and voice. "I say so."
"If we're lucky," Bobby said, hefting his backpack over his shoulder and pulling Jamie's duffel bag from the overhead compartment, "Hank will have been pulled out of his lab, and he'll pick us up. But that's not likely. It could be Remy, but I really hope not. Warren wouldn't come--he has a hard time driving with his wings. But maybe . . . Jean. Scott'll be busy, unless he wants to check you out personally first." He glanced back at Jamie, saw the way his face turned white at that. "But it won't happen," Bobby said quickly, smiling reassuringly. "Scott will be too busy."
Bobby started down the narrow plane corridor in a hurry, eager to get out of the cramped space, Jamie at his heels. They twisted back up the asle, which was congested with people and suitcases, then headed out of the plane and down the short, rattling ramp leading from the craft to the airport itself. Bobby hurried, unable to stop the relief that flooded his body as he got off the plane. Quickly, trying to ignore his anxiety, he started talking again.
"It might be Rogue, but . . . well, probably not," he said, deciding it was best not say she was still getting used to the whole gay-thing. "Maybe Ororo. Or Logan. Nah, not Logan." Bobby glanced over his shoulder, saw Jamie still looked ill, and continued in his idle ramble. "Probably won't be Betsy. She doesn't do things so mundane."
They rounded the last corner, and Bobby sighed inwardly as he saw Scott standing there, his normal nearly-unreadable expression on his face. Why had Bobby made that crack about Scott wanting to check Jamie out first? Now Jamie was going to be all tense and uptight.
"Hi, Scott," Bobby said with little enthusiasm.
"Hi, Bobby. Welcome home," Scott said, smiling. His eyes couldn't be seen beneath the bright red glasses, but his head turned slightly toward Jamie, who hovered just to the left of Bobby's shoulder. "And you're Jamie. It's nice to meet you. I'm Scott," Scott said, holding out a hand to shake. His leather jacket stretched taut across his broad shoulders, blue shirt tucked firmly into his pale, worn jeans.
"Hi," Jamie murmured, smiling slightly as he shook Scott's hand. "It's nice to meet you. Alex spoke highly of you."
Scott's mouth twitched upward, wryly. "No he didn't. But thanks."
Jamie blushed. "Well, he spoke of you. And some of it was good."
Scott grinned then, a flash of teeth in an otherwise serious face. "Right. Well, let's go home, shall we? I'm supposed to pick up Chinese for lunch--Jean says the cooks are all going on strike, and she doesn't trust those of us who aren't the cooks to make anything decent."
"I can cook," Jamie offered hesitantly, as they started down the wide halls.
"For this many people? How 'bout we just let you get settled, and then you can show us your talents, okay?" Scott said, the words gentled by a smile.
Bobby relaxed. He'd forgotten how good Scott was with people.
"Sure," Jamie answered. He glanced at Bobby, and Bobby smiled encouragingly.
"Hey, Scotty," Bobby chirped, earning a dirty look from Scott, "aren't those the jeans Jean keeps saying she's going to throw out? They've got paint on them."
Scott smiled slightly. "Yeah, these are them. She can't throw them out as long as they're on me, can she?"
Bobby chuckled. "Good point. Hey, let's go to Peony's for Chinese."
"I was thinking El Gorditos."
"That's Mexican," Bobby pointed out dryly, taking a hop-step to match Scott's longer stride.
Scott, without seeming to notice Bobby's hurrying, slowed down. "Yeah. I like Mexican."
Bobby sighed and rolled his eyes. "Jean should know better then to send you to get food!"
Scott grinned, teeth flashing, and blatantly changed the subject. "Shall we go get your bags?"
Bobby smiled, glancing over at Jamie. Jamie was grinning, though it was still a nervous sort of uncertain grin. At least he was smiling.
Bobby knocked gently on the door of the spare bedroom they'd assigned Jamie, then opened it without waiting for an answer and peered in. "How are you holding up?" he asked in a tone just above a whisper.
There was a monosyllabic answer from the figure that lay face-down across the paisley bedspread. The brown trenchcoat had been discarded and left in a heap at the foot of the bed. Somehow, both trenchcoat and man looked oddly similiar.
"Jean wants to throw you a 'welcome to the X-Men' dinner. You up to that?"
This time it was a two syllable answer.
"Was that a yes or a no?" Bobby asked, leaning farther into the room but not quite stepping inside.
The figure on the bed whimpered. The tiny noise was a pitiful, heart-bleeding sound.
Alarmed, Bobby stepped into the room and closed the door behind him. He walked quietly across the thick, rose-colored carpet of the guest room and sat down by Jamie's legs. "Are you okay?" he asked, putting a hand on Jamie's demin-clad calf. Bobby felt cold suddenly, and didn't like the way Jamie looked so small in the middle of the bed.
Another tiny little noise, muffled in the blankets.
Bobby's mind worked frantically. He wished he knew what Jamie was thinking and feeling, knew if he should try to give the man a hug or make him laugh. Finally, he opted for the laugh. "Do you want me to go beat them up for you?" he asked solemnly, leaning down on his elbow in order to get closer to Jamie's head.
Jamie's shoulders shook in tired laughter, and Bobby relaxed.
Jamie turned his head and looked up at Bobby. "No," he croaked.
"I'll do it," Bobby said gravely. "Just say the word." He watched as a slow, tired smile entered Jamie's eyes, barely touching his lips, and wondered what the man was thinking. There was so much love in those large brown eyes, it was almost painful. A slender hand reached out to Bobby, fingering the short locks of hair, letting them slide through graceful fingers.
"Would you really?" Jamie asked almost wistfully,his mind seeming to be farther away then their conversation.
"For you? Anything," Bobby answered with a warm smile, his heart still fluttering nervously for Jamie. The fluttering changed to a warmer, softer feeling as Jamie continued to play with his hair, as if transfixed by the movement of light over the blond hues.
"They all have so many *questions,*" Jamie sighed, his mind suddenly back from wherever it had gone. "And I haven't even met them all yet!" He withdrew his hand and crossed it under his head, turning away to face the window in front of him. "I think Sam hates me."
"Sam doesn't hate you," Bobby answered, using his elbows to pull himself up the bed until he was at the same level Jamie was at.
"Yes he does."
Bobby sighed. "What makes you say that?"
"He looked at me funny."
Bobby opened his mouth, closed it, opened it again, then shook his head and tried to keep from smiling. He remembered the look. Jamie walked in, Bobby introduced him, Sam smiled warmly, but distracted. He was helping Warren move furniture. "If anything, he was just admiring your darkly good looks."
Jamie's Blush crept stealthily up his neck.
"Stop," he murmured quietly.
Bobby complied, resting his cheek on his arm and looking at Jamie fondly.
"You want me to tell Jean to schedule dinner for some other day?"
Jamie sighed and rubbed his eyes, then shook his head. He appeared to feel better, if weary, and Bobby wasn't as concerned anymore. "No. Might as well get this over with, right?"
Bobby laughed. "That's the spirit!"
Jamie let his ribs expand and fall with another great gust of air, then he pushed himself up to his knees. "What time is dinner?"
Bobby closed his eyes briefly, calling loudly for Jean. She answered swiftly, and Bobby asked about dinner time before opening his eyes again to look at Jamie.
Jamie's head was cocked, hair falling in his deep brown eyes. He looked curious, almost as if he wasn't quite sure what to make of something.
"What?" Bobby asked self-consciously.
"What were you doing?"
"Talking to Jean. She's a telepath. It's good for that sort of stuff."
Jamie blinked, then nodded. "That's really cool. So what time is dinner?"
Bobby opened his mouth, grinning as he heard Jamie's stomach growl. He managed to keep from making a comment, and answered, "In an hour."
Jamie sighed and flopped back on the bed, arms outspread as he< landed on the pillows on his back. "I'm going to starve."
Bobby chuckled and tilted his head, eyeing the sprawled figure before him.
He was hungry too. But dinner wasn't going to solve it. ~God help me. Living with Jamie without pushing him faster than he wants to go is going to be hard. I think I need a shower.~
Jamie smiled painfully at the regal woman before him. He felt trapped.
Cornered. Like a wild animal caught between an ugly, gun-toting hick and an angry grizzly bear. He even knew what an ugly, gun-toting hick looked like close up.
"I lived on a farm," Jamie said, still managing to keep his smile. Bobby had left him in the kitchen *alone* with these sharks. Sure, he knew they were sweet, kind, caring, considerate women on the *outside,* but everyone knew that the more dangerous of the species was always the female. And sharks always smiled before they took a great big bite.
"Really? Sam grew up on a farm, also." She smiled. Chocolate skin split, revealing white teeth in perfect rows. Shark's teeth.
Jamie grinned back, though he could feel it was ringing false. His skin felt almost itchy with nervousness, like at any moment he would leap out of it and run through the halls, skin-less. That blackness inside himself, that hollow feeling that tried to swallow him reared up, whispering at him that he had to leave, and leave now because these people would be hurt if he stayed. He would kill them and they didn't care about him anyway.
"Piotr, in Excalibur, was on a farm in Russia," Jean commented.
Jamie smiled, fiercely trying to shove down the blackness. These people were nice people. He wasn't going to kill them just by being here. "Lots of farm-types here, then," Jamie said lightly, trying to engage himself in the conversation.
Where was Bobby?
"Hi, Jean," a male voice called. Footsteps, light by normal standards, entered the kitchen.
Jamie glanced up and saw Scott, dressed in baggy sweats and a wet T-shirt.
"How much longer until dinner?"
"You smell, Scott," Jean answered, looking at him warningly as he strode into the room. Jamie leaned forward slightly to keep from touching the tall, dark haired man as Scott passed. If Scott touched him, he'd have to supress the making of a dupe, and his head hurt too much for that. Better to dodge.
"Can I have a kiss?" Scott asked, grinning sweetly as he approached Jean and leaned closer.
"Scott!" Jean shouted, grabbing the towel hanging on the stove and flicking the end of it at his sunglassed face.
"Just a little kiss?" Scott pleaded, then jumped and yelped when the tip of the towel caught his hip.
Jamie grinned, the empty, sickening fear forced back by the easy love that filled the room.
"Jean! That wasn't nice! I think I really need a kiss to--"
"You're not getting anything until you go shower, buster," Jean answered in a dangerously low voice, though her green eyes were sparkling.
"I love you," Scott countered, smiling mischievously. His grin reminded Jamie vaguely of Alex, and Jamie wondered which parent they'd gotten that trait from.
"Out! Out of the kitchen--you're ruining the good smell of my pasta sauce!"
"Jamie said he could cook," Scott said, slightly serious now. He stepped back several steps and hovered behind Jamie's chair.
Jamie leaned forward and twisted slightly, keeping Scott in his line of vision so he could move if Scott tried to touch him.
"Really?" Jean asked, eager.
"Actually, I can only barbecue well," Jamie clarified, smiling.
"Good enough," Jean declared as Scott left the room.
Jamie turned his full attention to Jean, keeping his ears attuned to the hallway in case anyone else came up and he'd have to supress his powers.
"You'll be part of the cooking staff," Jean continued, gesturing with her ladle in an absent-minded way. Tomato sauce flew to land on the sink, and Jean ignored it as Ororo grabbed a rag and cleaned it up.
"Okay," Jamie agreed, nodding.
"There's not a lot of people on the cooking staff. You should know, by the way, that Bobby can't cook. In fact, he's not even allowed in the kitchen after that Rice-A-Roni fiasco." Jean rolled her eyes. They flickered upward, to a spot above Jamie's head, and she smiled again.
Jamie jumped as a hand clapped down on his shoulder, his heart thundering. For a moment he was so startled he forgot to breathe, and when he remembered it was in a painful rush. He hadn't even heard the man come up.
"You must be Drake's friend," Logan growled, then jumped back suddenly when someone landed on his foot.
"Hey! That wasn't nice!" Jamie shouted, glaring up at Logan from his spot on the floor.
Jamie cringed. He'd released his powers completely, not thinking anyone was there. "Jamie, get off the floor," he mumbled, feeling his face burning as his dupe looked indignantly at Logan.
"Jamie has a headache, you know," Jamie said, standing up as he rubbed his butt and glaring at the diminutive man.
Logan was unreadable, though his eyes kept flickering from Jamie to, well, Jamie.
"And you made me fall on the floor! There's only one chair there, and both of us can't fit in it! If you're gonna create a dupe--"
"Jamie," Jamie groaned, reaching out for the copy. He could *feel* the others' eyes on him. He was downright itchy with the knowledge.
Jamie stepped away. "No! I want to tell him a piece of my mind!"
"*Give* him a piece of your mind, and he's gonna make *you* into pieces if you don't--"
"And furthermore, you shouldn't go around triggering other people's mutant powers just for giggles sakes, you know," Jamie continued.
Logan crossed his arms over his chest, apparently bemused. "Really?"
"Jamie!" Jamie hissed. He lunged at himself, but the angle was wrong and he missed.
The duplicate gave him a dirty look and stepped farther away, putting a chair between them. "And for another thing, you people are terrifying poor Jamie, here!"
"That's it," Jamie growled, getting up out of his chair and bolting for the dupe. "The only person who's doing anything bad here is you!"
"I am not!" Jamie protested, dodging around the chair.
"This is very strange," Jean murmured quietly.
"You're embarrassing the heck out of us," Jamie hissed, trying to get his copy to come out from behind the chair.
"No I'm not!"
"Yes you are! Look at this! You're making it seem like I can't even control my powers!"
The copy Jamie stopped and braced his hands on his hips. "He's the one who dropped me on my butt," he said, glaring at Logan.
"You're the one acting like a child," Jamie snapped through clenched teeth.
The Jamie-copy folded his arms across his chest and pouted. "Humph. Fine. If you feel that way, I'll stop helping."
Jamie rolled his eyes. "Thank goodness," he said, then reached out and watched his duplicate dissolve at his fingertips. "I'm so sorry," he sighed, too horrified to turn around and face Ororo, Jean and Logan. The X-Men. The very good X-Men. They Who Had No Trouble Whatsoever Controlling Their Powers X-Men. Jamie felt sick. They were probably going to think he was some sort of amaturish idiot. And he wasn't even sure amaturish was a word.
"Do your duplicates disagree with you often?" Jean asked, and she didn't sound disapproving at all. She sounded . . . curious. Jamie turned slowly to look at her. She had her arms crossed, the ladle over the counter. Sauce dripped onto the white tile, and Ororo, standing nearby, wiped it up.
"Yeah," Jamie said at last, feeling his blush all the way down to his toes. "They usually do."
"Amazing," Jean said, and she truly looked interested. "They're like other people?"
"They didn't used to be," Jamie answered after a moment. "And the more I make at one time, the less personality they have. But . . . well, after I got Legacy they started acting more and more like different aspects of me, and it doesn't seem like that's gone away."
"Fascinating," Jean said, and Jamie thought she really meant it.
His blush started to fade, and he smiled hesitantly. He stuffed his hands into his pockets and smiled shyly. "You really think so?"
"Absolutely," Jean answered. She started to gesture with the ladle, and Ororo took it away. Jean didn't seem to notice. "If they're different people, then how do you know what to expect of them? Do they ever refuse to do what you say?"
Jamie slowly sat back down at the table, still slightly uncertain. Was this some sort of test? "Well," he answered slowly, finally deciding to respond honestly and hope it was the right answer, "there was this one time that a dupe was separated from me for a long time? He turned really evil. Started working with The Nasty Boys and Sinister--even re-absorbed me. I didn't know that was possible, but then I re-absorbed him from inside . . . it was weird. But, obviously, he refused to do what I said."
Jean was nodding, eyes wide. She moved away from the sink and sat down at the table. Ororo took her spot at the stove. "There's so much about your power we don't know. Well, I don't know. Maybe X-Factor does." She smiled impishly.
Jamie found himself grinning back. "None of us ever really thought about it, I guess."
Jean frowned for a moment, then nodded. "We'll have to figure some of these mysteries out," she said with a smile.
"Hey, Jean, are you moving in on my beau?" Bobby asked as he walked in the door.
Jamie felt suddenly warm all over, and he twisted to beam up at Bobby.
"Hi," he said, holding onto the back of his chair.
Bobby put his hands on Jamie's shoulders and bent to kiss him. "Hi yourselves," he said, eyes twinkling.
Jamie glanced back self-consciously, uncertain of how the others were going to take him and Bobby. Jean, however, was grinning at the kiss, while Logan still looked implacable, and Ororo had missed the whole thing, looking at the sauce.
"You two are cute together," Jean said, winking as she stood up. "Careful, Bobby. That one might get lured away."
Jamie blushed, and Bobby wrapped his arms around Jamie's shoulders. "You going anywhere?" Bobby growled into his boyfriend's ear.
"No," Jamie murmured back, still blushing.
"Good." Bobby kissed Jamie's cheek, then stood and walked to where Ororo was adding spices. "Smells good, 'Ro. Can I have a taste?"
Ororo smacked him with her hand, never looking away from the sauce.
Bobby made cutely mournful faces at her and sighed heavily, but Ororo only cocked an eyebrow at him and wordlessly threatened to spoon-slap him once more.
Bobby moved slowly away from the sink. "Guess that's a no," he sighed pitifully, looking once more at Ororo--who only eyed him silently--then hooking a chair with his foot and plopping down. He grinned at Jamie, winking.
Jamie smiled back and looked down at his hands where they lay on the table. Already his blush was creeping back up his neck. "So how many more people do I have to meet?" Jamie asked, settling himself more comfortably in his chair.
"There's Betsy," Jean said, pulling spices out of the cupboards telekinetically, "And Rogue."
"LeBeau," Logan said in a low voice.
"And the members who visit often, but don't live here," Bobby added, nodding as he eyed the sauce once more.
"Cecilia," Ororo volunteered.
"Kitty and Kurt," Jean added.
Jamie tried to smile, felt that it was pitiful. "Oh. Is that all?"
Logan chuckled. "Yup," he said, "that's all."
"And what about X-Factor?" Jean asked, grinning. "Do we need to worry about them storming in here? I know if Bobby had gone there most of us would have bombarded the place until we were sure he was being taken good care of."
Bobby rolled his eyes, but was unable to completely suppress his smile.
Jamie grinned, looking enviously at Bobby. "No. I mean, Lorna and I never really talked, and my friend Guido is in space, and I haven't really seen anyone else 'cept Forge. He might call, but he knows all of you pretty well, and he's a busy guy. We didn't get along great anyway. Mostly ignored each other."
"And what about your family?" Jean asked, hopping up to sit on the counter and hand Ororo spices. Jamie's face froze, and he felt suddenly cold. He glanced at Bobby, who was watching him intently out of big blue eyes.
"Not a concern," Bobby said quietly, after a silent moment.
Jean hesitated, looking from one man to the other. Jamie just looked at his hands, praying she wouldn't keep asking questions. Finally, Jean nodded. "Oh," she said. "Well. Why don't you boys go round up the others? Dinner'll be ready in five minutes." Bobby nodded and stood, moving away slightly to give Jamie room to do the same.
"Thanks," Jamie said, smiling. He edged around the chair and then out the door, waiting for Bobby. "You have a cool family here," Jamie said when the other man emerged.
Bobby grinned. "Yeah. They're good people. C'mon, let's get the others."
Bobby smiled up at Jean as she made the pasta bowl hover before him so he could get some. His blue eyes slid quickly to the empty seat beside him--where Jamie was *supposed* to be sitting. "I'll be right back," he'd said just before they were going into dinner, and then disappeared. That was ten minutes ago.
Bobby tried to make his shoulders relax, but discovered it was impossible. After finding Jamie so depressed just a few weeks ago, he'd been fighting the urge to try and protect the other man from everything.
Bobby looked toward the door again, craning his neck to see down the hall, ignoring the voices that talked merrily--and loudly--around him.
~You want me to see if I can locate him?~ a soft, yellow voice said into his mind.
*No,* Bobby thought back. *I'm just worrying needlessly, I'm sure.*
He felt the nod, and Jean's presence retreated.
"Ain't that right, Bobby?" someone asked to his right, nudging him.
Bobby nodded automatically, though his eyes didn't leave the door. A slender shape suddenly appeared in the hall, brown trenchcoat billowing out as he walked. Bobby smiled and stood, watching.
"Hey, Jamie," Bobby said as Jamie walked in, smiling in a self-depreciating way to the others in the room. Bobby grinned, feeling the anxiousness in his eyes and unable to erase it. "I was starting to think you weren't gonna make it," he said, the words only partially kidding.
Jamie looked up at Bobby then, warm brown eyes still filled with nervousness. "'Course I came," he murmured as he sat down at the table, Bobby sitting next to him and an empty chair on the other side. "These are your friends."
"Have some spaghetti, Jamie," Jean offered, floating the pot in front of him.
"Thanks," he said, smiling up at her where she sat near the head of the table, catty-corner to Scott, who sat at the very top. Bobby watched as Jamie blinked and glanced around, looking at each person. Bobby cocked his head, following Jamie's gaze, wondering what he was thinking. There was Jamie, then Bobby. Then Ororo and Jean, Scott sat next at the head of the table. Logan sat across from Jean, then Warren, Betsy, Sam across from Jamie, Remy, Rogue at the far end of the table, and the empty chair where Hank sat occasionally. Which brought him full circle, back around to Jamie. Jamie looked slightly daunted at the sheer number of people--though they were currently low on members.
"You okay?" Bobby asked softly as he watched Jamie spoon white noodles onto his plate. "You look a little pale."
"I'm fine," Jamie answered, smiling before scooping up the sauce Jean offered.
"Are you sure?"
"*Bobby,*" Jamie sighed, smiling to take the reprimand out of the word.
"Right. Sorry. I just worry," Bobby answered, turning back to his plate, though he was still focused on Jamie.
"Jamie, that's Betsy," Jean introduced, pitching her mind and voice to cut through the noise so everyone could hear. "And next to her is Remy."
Remy nodded, giving a small flourish with his fork, and continued eating.
"That's Rogue at the end of the table, there. Guys, this is Jamie Madrox."
"He whom Bobby talks about incessantly," Warren said dryly, a twinkle in his blue eyes.
Jamie blushed and looked at Bobby.
Bobby shrugged. "What can I say? You're a good topic," he murmured loud enough for Jamie to hear.
"Hey, Jamie, try the potato salad," Sam said from across the table, passing a ceramic bowl over.
Jamie took it with a smile--a smile that was half the voltage Bobby had *seen* Jamie use before--and spooned some onto his plate. "Looks . . . interesting," Jamie said after a moment.
"Ah know," Sam answered, "but it really is good."
"Provided you like eating mold cultures from outer space," Bobby murmured.
"Robert!" Jean called, and a spoon flew through the air and smacked him in the head. "Be nice!"
"I was! I was!" Bobby cried, rubbing his temple and making faces at Jean. More unused silverware flew from the kitchen into the dining room and pelted Bobby, though it seemed to carefully avoid hitting anyone else.
"Jean!" Bobby yelped, covering his head. "Uncle! Uncle!" The silverware flew itself back into the kitchen.
Bobby sighed and glanced over at Jamie. The flying silverware hadn't seemed to bother him in the slightest; in fact, he was still eating and talking to Sam. Bobby shook his head. Normally, people reacted at least a little to Jean's use of her telekinetics. Then Bobby smiled, as he remembered Jamie had been on a team with Polaris, Mistress of Magnetism. Of *course* flying silverware didn't phase Jamie.
"We grew mostly crops," Sam was saying, spearing potato chunks with his fork.
"That's cool. We had a few crops--not much. My dad was actually a scientist, so he did all that scientist-y sort of stuff. My mom had chickens and cows, and a garden. On occasion my dad would try and grow larger crops, but he always got involved in an experiment halfway through and let them all die."
Sam laughed ruefully and shook his head. "'Course, in New Mexico there ain't much to grow. It's too hot an' dry."
Jamie nodded his agreement. "Mostly, it's a lot of cows and rodeos."
Bobby cocked his head. "Did you go to rodeos, Jamie?" he asked curiously.
Jamie nodded and shrugged. "A few, before they died."
Bobby didn't bother asking who 'they' were. He knew Jamie wasn't referring to the rodeos dying, and made a mental note to talk to Jamie alone before they retired for the night. Bobby had discovered that when Jamie was stressed, he never referred to his parents as dying--it was always 'they.' Maybe he would ask Hank about that later. Speaking of which . . . "Anyone seen Hank?" Bobby asked, glancing around the table.
"In his lab," Jean answered swiftly. "I already called him, but he's busy. Ororo set aside food for him, if you'd like to take it down later."
Bobby nodded. "Provided he doesn't show up."
"He skips dinner a lot?" Jamie asked, looking at Bobby out of earnest brown eyes.
Bobby looked heavenward and nodded. "All the time. We just make it a point to feed him on occasion. It's become a running joke now--someone has to go into the basement and feed the Beast." Bobby grinned and winked.
Jamie collapsed on his bed, facedown, and moaned into the bedspread.
The bedspread, though it didn't say anything in return, sympathized.
Achingly, Jamie turned his head toward the clock. It was nine thirty. Really too early to go to bed yet. And he wasn't actually tired--especially since the jet lag made him feel more like it was about six thirty.
But the alternative was to go face more X-Men. Oh, they were nice enough. But just the stress of being around them made him tense. Feeling like at any moment they would condemn him because he couldn't control his powers (and since when had that happened? He didn't *have* the Legacy Virus anymore!), or because he was gay, or just because he loved Bobby but wasn't really good enough for Bobby and almost got Bobby killed on that plane.
Jamie turned his face back into the bedspread and groaned again. The bedspread understood him.
The door creaked. Jamie folded his hands and laced his fingers through his hair, feeling it whisper against his skin. Then he waited for whoever had entered to ask him something, and he would have to answer with some funny little response.
What are you doing? they would ask.
And he would say . . . Why, I'm sunbathing.
You're indoors, that person would respond, obviously confused.
And then he would jump up with a stunned expression and say, that's why it's not working! then laugh and follow that person out of the room.
Or maybe the person in the doorway would say, Jamie? Are you tired?
And then he could answer with a simple, Yeah, I think I'll go to bed soon. Jet lag. Never mind that it was actually three hours earlier for him. His answers prepared, Jamie waited.
The bed dipped with the weight of another body. A hand settled on his back, then rubbed up and down soothingly.
Jamie felt himself relaxing, and turned to look at Bobby. "Hi."
Bobby laid down on his side, one hand still rubbing up and down, the other bracing his head up. "Hi, yourself. Selves. Uh, how does that work?"
Jamie smiled tiredly. "Self. There's only one of me present."
Bobby grinned and nodded. "How are you holding up?"
Ulp. That was it. Now he had to jump up and smile and make a witty remark.
Jamie flashed a smile he hoped hid how weary he was, and answered, "I'm not holding up--the bed's holding me up. It's doing a good job of it, too, isn't it?"
Bobby smiled, but it was only softly, and there was reservation in those baby blue eyes. "It's okay to be tired."
"It's only six thirty my time!" Jamie laughed with forced cheerfulness. It was okay, he was good at that. Bobby wouldn't notice it was forced.
Bobby apparently noticed, because he didn't rise to the bait. The hand that was rubbing Jamie's back reached around and slid down the side of Jamie's face, then flicked a long finger across his nose. "I love you."
Jamie's smile faltered. He blinked rapidly, and breathed deeply, and reminded himself sternly that this wasn't something to be *sad* over, this was something to be *happy* over. He didn't need to feel bad, feel like everything was crashing down because it wasn't, dammit, and he was *fine.*
Jamie didn't say anything, trying to regain his composure before he broke down and started crying. It seemed like that was almost all he'd done for a week after Bobby had found him, and now that he stopped . . . nothing bad was going on. There was no reason to feel like crying.
Bobby's knuckles were slightly rough against his cheek, and those eyes looked concerned. Not entirely worried, yet, but watching closely. "Have you been sleeping okay?"
Jamie nodded. He had been. Okay. Not great, not even good, but okay.
Tears threatened suddenly to overwhelm him, and to hide that Jamie turned his head away again and re-buried it in the bedspread, as if he were tired. He breathed deeply and reminded himself that he was *happy,* now, not sad.
That hand returned to his back, stroking up and down his spine. "You feeling okay?"
How to answer that one truthfully? For years, he'd wrestled with that question. But he'd found the perfect answer, and it was both his safety and his cage. "I don't feel good," he murmured into the bedspread. He felt emotionally awful. Hopefully, it would be better in the morning. He wanted to curl up and cry again, and there was no reason. He wanted Bobby to ask the right questions, and then he would cry, and it would be okay because it was always okay when Bobby was there.
But Bobby wasn't a telepath, and he asked the question that was always asked.
"Why don't you feel good?"
Jamie sighed and answered truthfully, "I don't know." He hated those words.
Bobby frowned. "Does your head hurt?"
"No," Jamie said into the bed.
"Does your stomach hurt?"
"No," Jamie said, and let a touch of irritation into his voice. "I just don't feel good. I'll probably feel better in the morning." He turned his head to see if Bobby would take the hint.
Much to his sorrow, Bobby did. The older man sighed and stood up. "Okay. I hope you feel better."
Jamie grunted into his bedspread, and waited until he heard the door close.
At least he wouldn't have to deal with the others anymore tonight.
He didn't even think about waking up until ten. Then a brown eye cracked open and peered at the clock, and his mind cheerfully informed him that if it was ten New York time, it was seven Washington time.
Jamie muttered--what he muttered, even he wasn't sure--and stumbled out of bed. He pulled clothes from his suitcase--he had yet to unpack--then grabbed shampoo and wove his way down the hall toward the larger bathroom with the showers. Three showers at this end, and at the other end there was another bathroom with five more showers. Each bedroom had half-baths, but only the bigger bathrooms had showers. It didn't really matter--the showers were private.
Jamie, once in the shower, washed his hair and body, then leaned against the wall and let the water run over him. Slowly, he was starting to wake up. He took a step, slipped, caught himself on the wall only to slip on that, and crashed to the floor amid much swearing.
*Well,* Jamie thought glumly, trying to stand up again without slipping, *I'm awake.*
A foot caught him on the side of the head, and Jamie swore before looking up and seeing himself drying off swiftly.
"Hey!" Jamie said, and tried in earnest to clamber to his feet.
"Finish showering," the dupe said, with a large amount of disgust in his voice.
Jamie slipped again, bashed his knee against the side of the tub, then finally managed to push the water off and get to his feet.
The dupe was already dressed--in Jamie's clothes--and heading out the door.
"Where are you going?" Jamie snapped, snatching the towel up and swiftly drying off the worst of the water. "Those are my clothes!"
"I'm outta here," the dupe spat.
"You can't just *leave,*" Jamie argued, wrapping the towel around his waist as it became obvious the dupe was, in fact, leaving. The other Jamie had disappeared around the corner, and Jamie raced after him, wiping water from his eyes.
The dupe was bouncing down the stairs at the far end of the hall, brown head of hair dropping below the floor of the second story.
"Get back here!" Jamie shouted, and ran down the hall, one hand holding his towel in place around his waist.
"No!" the dupe shouted back, hitting the first floor and racing for the doorway.
"Stop that dupe!" Jamie shouted, pounding down the steps. Jean stood in the living room door, looking in confusion from one Jamie to the other.
Bobby appeared in the kitchen, glanced from Jamie to the dupe, and reached out to grab the doppleganger.
The dupe whipped around, furious. "You should be disgusted!" he snarled at Bobby, who let him go in surprise and backed up.
The dupe followed him into the kitchen, and Jamie finally reached the first floor and ran for the room his boyfriend and copy had disappeared into.
"You're too old for him--and you're too male! That is sick!" the dupe was yelling.
"Hey!" Jamie shouted, stopping in the door and almost sliding on the tile. "What are you doing?"
The dupe turned. "What am I doing? What are *you* doing? Jesus Christ, Jamie, you're not even gay!"
Jamie's eyebrows rose. "Excuse me? What, precisely, am I then?"
"Confused," the dupe answered instantly. "Remember Rhapsody? You *liked* her, Jamie."
Jamie scowled and shook his head. "Of course I liked her. Everyone liked her. That was her power."
"What about Lorna?"
"I never liked her!" Jamie said, tossing his head to get hair out of his face.
"*I* did!" the dupe yelled. "And I don't like him!" A finger stabbed toward Bobby, though the copy didn't even turn to look at him. "This is screwed up!"
"What?" Jamie shouted, indignant. "You're just a dupe--"
"I'm you," the dupe snarled. "I'm what you think, on some level, I have to be. And this . . . this gay thing is wrong. Your parents would hate you for it."
"I don't know that my parents were homophobic," Jamie snapped back, his entire body tensing. He felt more than heard Jean step up behind him. Across the room, Bobby was looking helpless.
"This is wrong, Jamie. You know this is wrong--you *know* it."
Jamie looked ill. Finally, he shook his head and reached out a hand. "I don't know what's wrong with you. Stop yelling in public and come back."
"No!" the dupe snarled, backing away. "I won't go with you and be gay! It's wrong! You don't even know how your parents would feel about this! How can you do this if you don't know?"
Jamie frowned and stepped forward. He flickered a glance over his shoulder, sensing Jean there, then glared at the dupe. "It's right, because it makes me happy, and that's what matters. Who cares if my parents wouldn't've liked it? They're *dead.* It won't matter to them now."
"Well it matters to me--it matters a lot!" The dupe turned, glaring at Bobby. "And you should be disgusted! You're gay, and you made us gay, and you're older than us by too much!"
"Not that much," Bobby responded, frowning. "Only six years."
"That's a lot," the dupe snarled.
Jamie took the moment while the dupe was distracted, and leapt forward. It dissolved back into him beneath his fingertips, not a sound marking the passing.
Jamie fidgeted and looked at Bobby, who was looking at him worriedly.
Jamie glanced back at Jean. She was standing in the doorway, looking concerned. She smiled hesitantly, then left. She had heard everything, and Jamie was almost embarrassed . . . then realized that as small as the X-Men were, everyone would hear it all sooner or later.
"Do you really feel that way? How the dupe said?" Bobby asked softly.
Jamie looked up at him, then down at his hands. He untied his towel from around his waist, now dressed in what the dupe had been wearing a moment ago. He turned and sat down on the kitchen table. "I don't know," Jamie murmured at last. "I mean, I don't think so. Not like that, at least. It worries me, I guess, not knowing about my parents . . . but I don't think I feel like that."
"Does the age thing bother you?" Bobby asked, still quiet.
Jamie shook his head. "Only that I'm not allowed to drink and you are," he said, grinning. But the grin faded. "I'm worried," he said at last. "Not about us--I mean, that does make me happy." He grinned and looked fondly up at Bobby. "You make me happy." The grin faltered, and disappeared. "But my dupes . . . they were never like this before. They never really had minds of their own, they always thought like I did. Since the Legacy Virus, they've been more like people. But I don't have Legacy anymore." Jamie dropped his gaze down to his feet. "Unless I got it again somehow," he whispered.
Bobby's hand rested on his shoulder, then pulled him closer into a hug. "We'll talk to Hank," he said, not releasing Jamie.
Jamie nodded against Bobby's shoulder. Even with this frightening thought, though, the hollowness didn't rear its head.
Mornings were always better times.
Hank withdrew the needle and carefully placed the blood sample in a tray. "I'll look, Jamie," he said quietly, "but it'll take a few days for the results. After that, it would be wise to check again in a week or two to make sure there really are no traces of Legacy."
Jamie nodded soberly, holding the cotton on the inside of his elbow as he stood up. "'Kay," he said after a moment.
Bobby put a hand on Jamie's shoulder, trying to offer support even in such a small way. "We should do something else. We could go to a park?"
Jamie smiled weakly and shook his head. "Nah, thanks."
Bobby bit his lip. Jamie liked parks, normally. "Wanna go see a movie?"
Jamie shook his head.
"Wanna sit around and mope?"
"Okay," Jamie responded, but he grinned and it was a real grin, not one of the ones he'd been forcing lately. Bobby made a face at him and followed him out of Hank's lab.
"Jamie--" he started to say, but saw Jamie turn and look back toward the medical center.
The younger man hesitated, and licked his lips. "Bobby?" he said after a moment, "If it's okay with you, I'd rather help Hank. I mean, if there is something wrong then I want to know about it, and if I help Hank with stuff he'll be able to do it faster."
Bobby hesitated, then finally nodded. That was reasonable, and what with all the things Jamie's dupe had said earlier, Bobby didn't want to push Jamie into anything.
Jamie smiled, then disappeared back into the lab.
Bobby sighed heavily and scuffed the floor with his toe, then headed toward the stairs.
"Have you considered getting counseling yet?" Hank asked, looking through a microscope. Jamie had been working with him for two days now, and Hank had stopped paying too much attention to the young man. Jamie seemed to know what he was doing.
"Bobby and I talked about it," Jamie answered. Out of the corner of his eye, Hank saw Jamie put something away, then carry something else to his workstation before sitting down. "If I were still in Washington, I could see Dr. Leonard. X-Factor all had to see him whenever we went on a mission the government deemed 'harmful.'"
Hank nodded, but never took his eyes off the moving strand of Legacy in the slide. "If you'd like, I'd be more than willing to help," he said.
Jamie sighed. "No. I have to live with you--I really don't want to do counseling with you, too. I mean, I like you and all but--"
Hank didn't move away from the microscope as he held up a hand, smiling. "I understand. I can recommend some other doctors, if you'd like. Several of them far better at psychology than I am."
Out of the corner of his eye, Hank saw Jamie shake his head. "I don't really want to start telling a complete stranger about my entire life," he muttered unhappily.
Hank blinked. Then he looked up, sitting back in his chair and gazing steadily at Jamie, who was scribbling something on a notepad as he flipped through files. After a moment Jamie paused and eyed Hank.
"You don't want to go to me," Hank said slowly, trying to make sure he said this correctly, "because you know me too well. You don't want to go to someone else, because you don't know them."
Jamie laughed, self-depreciating. "Yeah, well . . ."
Hank folded his arms across his chest. "Jamie, you obviously don't want counseling. Your stalling tactics are admirable. Why are you saying you'll get it if you aren't really going to?"
Jamie was squirming. "Bobby really, really wants me to," he muttered finally.
Hank nodded once, and looked back at his microscope. "It's not going to help you if you aren't willing. Are you willing?"
Jamie was quiet for a long while. Finally, he spoke in an undertone. "Not really."
Hank nodded once, still looking down. "I'll talk to Bobby, if you'd like. But I also think you might consider counseling."
Jamie sighed heavily. "But it's silly. I mean, I don't feel bad *now.*"
"And you won't until something else happens, and suddenly you're depressed again. Wouldn't it be better to keep that from happening?"
Jamie muttered something that Hank couldn't hear.
Hank sighed and shook his head. It was obvious Jamie wasn't convinced, and there wasn't anything he could do about it.
Instead, he stood and retrieved the results of the last test on Jamie. By this time they should know if the young man had Legacy or not.
Jean took one look at the forlorn figure slouched in the kitchen chair and headed wordlessly for the freezer. Out came the brown and white container of rocky road ice cream, and then a mug floated toward her from the cupboards. Silently, Jean scooped the ice cream into the mug, added a spoon, and sat down in the chair opposite from the man slouched there.
Jean pushed the mug across until Bobby's blue eyes had no choice but to see it. She rested her hand on the table, and her chin on that, and watched him.
A small smile flickered across Bobby's face, and he sat up slightly to pull the ice cream closer. "Thanks, Jean," he said.
"You're welcome," Jean answered. "What's wrong?"
Bobby ate some ice cream thoughtfully, carefully licking off the spoon before dipping it back in. "I haven't said more than three words to Jamie in the last three days," he sighed at last. "I'm on a mission, or he's busy with Hank, or one of us is sleeping. I thought I'd be able to see him more if he lived here, Jean, and it's not working out that way at all."
Jean frowned sympathetically. Bobby had never been one to take hardships easily, though he didn't tend to dwell on them once they were solved. Luckily, he was also willing to talk--as long as someone else made the first move. Obviously, though, in the Bobby/Jamie crisis, that wasn't going to be Jamie.
"Have you tried talking to him?" she asked.
Bobby nodded and continued to mush his ice cream. Slowly, he ate what was sticking to the spoon and then kept mushing. "He doesn't have Legacy. He and Hank are trying to figure out why his powers are going all funky." Bobby sighed and sat the ice cream down. "I'm worried about him. He tends to get depressed, and I think he was getting depressed, but . . . we don't talk anymore."
Jean smiled, but kept it small. She remembered her first tentative relationship with Scott, when three days where they were both too busy to do much seemed like an eternity. "Why don't you make it a point to go find him? You know where he is."
Bobby nodded glumly. "I don't want to interrupt anything important, though. I mean, even if Jamie's not doing anything important at the moment, Hank might be. I don't want to bug Hank."
Jean reached out and covered Bobby's hand with her own, catching his gaze. "When he was in Washington you made it a point to call him, and you kept in touch through e-mail. You even set aside time to fly up there. You set dates--you had dates. Now, though, you're both going all over the place. Neither of you is making time for the other. Even though you're living in the same house, it's easier if you keep treating this like a relationship where you have to court him."
Bobby looked away, his nod of agreement accompanied by a forlorn sigh.
"Who's courting who?" Warren asked, walking in and pulling a banana out of the fruit bowl on the sink. He returned to the table and swiveled a chair around, sitting down with his wings draped down the front while he leaned on the back.
"My love life sucks," Bobby muttered unhappily.
Jean smiled softly at Bobby, then filled Warren in telepathically.
"Oh," Warren said, frowning thoughtfully as he chewed. "Invite him out on a date. You have to keep treating it like you aren't living in the same house--like Jean said. When Betsy and I were dating, we had to keep treating each other specially. You don't just quit because you're in the same place."
Bobby sighed. "It's not just that," he said after a moment. "Jamie's dupes . . . they're supposed to be different aspects of him, and this one was saying how it's wrong to be gay, and I'm older than he is . . . What if he's avoiding me because he doesn't like me after all?"
Jean tightened her hand around Bobby's fingers, felt him let his fingers curl in response around hers.
"That's something you're only going to be able to find out if you talk to him, Bobby," Warren said softly.
Bobby nodded slightly, though he didn't otherwise answer.
"And as for this 'important stuff' Hank and Jamie might be doing," Jean said, standing, "I think it's about time I got those two out of that lab! I'll find out when there's not going to be 'important stuff' and arrange a mandatory picnic."
Bobby chuckled, sitting back in his chair. Warren grinned and aimed carefully before tossing his banana peel into the trash.
"Jamie said he can barbecue--that'll be his job, and then we know for sure he'll be there. And Hank's great at making salads, so we'll put him in charge of that so he shows up." Jean grinned impishly, glad to see Bobby smile in return. "Now all I have to do is figure out when they aren't doing 'important stuff' . . ."
Hank barely glanced up as Jean entered the room, a tray of food balanced telekinetically in the air.
"Have either of you boys eaten?" she asked, striding into the lab with an air of big-sister-authority.
"Thank you, Jeannie, I had forgotten," Hank murmured, then turned and smiled brilliantly at her before reaching for a sandwich.
"That's okay," Jean said, smiling back as she handed another sandwich to one of Jamie's dupes. "Anything important you guys found?"
Hank sighed and turned back to his reports. "Nothing, I'm afraid. Things are at a stand-still until Sunday, when Moira can get some results back to me from Muir."
"You can't do anything about it tomorrow?" Jean asked, leaning against the countertop.
Hank had already tuned her out, and had to blink several times before he realized she was still asking questions. Then he realized what questions she was asking. And realized she was probably about to tear him away from his precious lab. Just as he was about to make something up to do tomorrow, Jamie answered.
"No, there's not much we can do about anything tomorrow," the young man sighed. "Not even the--"
"But I'm sure I'll find something to do," Hank interrupted quickly. Already, he could tell from the gleam in Jean's eyes that it was too late.
"Nope!" she declared, smiling triumphantly. "Tomorrow we're having a picnic! Jamie, you're in charge of grilling. I'm buying hotdogs, steaks and burgers. Hank, you're in charge of salads. Betsy asked for something with a lot of fruit, but no pineapple, and Ororo requested something she could fill up on--maybe that salad with the fetta cheese you make so well?--and Scott begged for taco salad."
Hank couldn't bring himself to be irritated as Jean smiled becomingly at him. He sighed, instead. "As you wish, fair maiden! My youthful doppleganger-maker and I shall adjourn to the upper levels to create you a masterpiece for the palate!"
Jean laughed and kissed his forehead, then whisked herself away up the stairs.
Hank shook his head in amusement and went back to his work. Ambushed. By the fiery haired maiden.
"I need tongs," Jamie said to himself. The dupe raced off in search of tongs.
Bobby grinned and moved closer to where Jamie was standing by the open grill, a variety of hamburgers, hotdogs, steaks and ribs currently roasting. Another Jamie stood nearby, anxiously holding a plate to put the cooked meat on.
"Where'd you learn to grill?" Bobby asked, drinking soda. The breeze was cool, undoubtedly Ororo's doing. In the background, Bobby could hear Jean and Remy splashing around in the pool.
"After my parents died, the electricity was cut 'cause I didn't know I was supposed to pay the bills," Jamie said, grinning slightly. "So I learned to cook using the barbecue and normal ol' fire."
"Here is thy requested fruit salad, oh beauteous violet tressed damsel!" Hank cried, bursting through the back doors with two salad bowls--one in each arm. Betsy smiled and hurried to fetch one, putting it on the large picnic table. Hank went back inside to finish another salad.
"Are you flirting with my girlfriend, Hank?" Warren called, walking up in blue skin and Speedoes to where Betsy stood.
Jamie glanced up, then back down at his grill.
Bobby glanced at Warren, too. Tall, slender, graceful, at ease with his own body and those angel-wings, he was truly beautiful.
Bobby scowled and looked at himself, in green swim trunks. Shorter, stockier, not nearly as graceful. And no wings; a definite drawback. The best he could say about himself was that he was 'cute.'
Blue eyes looked back up at Jamie, wearing black swimming trunks and a blue tank top. "Want to go swimming when you're done here?" Bobby asked cheerfully.
Jamie glanced around, obviously looking at the other X-Men present, then smiled and shook his head. "Nah. I'd rather stay dressed."
Bobby chuckled and drank more soda. He glanced around until he saw Logan, who wore a black T-shirt instead of his flannel and had taken off his shoes, but still wore jeans. "I like you better not dressed," Bobby said slyly, watching Jamie blush. "You look waaaay better than Logan."
As if he'd heard--and who was to say he hadn't?--Logan glanced up and grinned.
"I don't know," Jamie said to the grill, "he's pretty--" Jamie looked up suddenly, face red, and his gaze shot toward where Logan was sitting next to the far end of the pool, talking to Jean, who was in the water.
"I think I need to go inside for a sec," Jamie muttered, obviously mortified, then handed his spatula to a nearby dupe and raced for the doorway.
Bobby hurried after him. "Hey! James!" he called, catching up just past the kitchen. He started laughing as Jamie slumped against the wall, face buried in his hands.
"I can't believe I'm looking at Logan," Jamie muttered between his fingers. "I can't believe I'm looking at any of these guys!"
Bobby's smile faltered. "Even me?" he asked oh-so-lightly.
Jamie looked up, surprise written on his face. "No, of course not. I can look at you--I'm dating you." He grinned impishly, and his eyes sparkled. "I'm living with you."
Bobby chuckled. "We should go swimming," he said again, smiling.
Jamie shook his head and looked embarrassed. "I don't think so."
"Why not?" Bobby argued. "It would be fun!"
Jamie chuckled slightly, and shook his head again. "Nah. I mean these guys, they--they all look--well, they're . . . but I don't look like that. I definitely haven't battled all my life, and I don't have those muscles."
Bobby frowned. Then smiled again, and put his hands on Jamie's waist. "Lemme check," he murmured in mock-concentration. "Um hm. Hmmmm. Ah! There," he said, hands smoothing over Jamie's torso in a mock-search for muscles.
Jamie was trying not to grin, biting his lip even as dimples formed in spite of his best efforts.
"I feel muscles beneath this shirt," Bobby murmured, stepping closer to Jamie and pinning him against the wall. His hands continued roaming. "Oh, yeah. There's a muscle. And there's one. Oh! Right there, I feel that one . . ."
Jamie drew in a shaky breath and grinned, eyes flickering around. "Bobby," he muttered. "There are people all over."
"They're all outside. And they wouldn't care anyway."
"Bobby!" Jamie laughed, and pushed.
Bobby sighed mournfully and stepped away, eyes gleaming. "Okay. But we should go swimming."
Jamie laughed and shook his head. "Probably not. I may have those little muscles you found, but I still don't hold a candle to Warren or Remy or even Sam!"
Bobby made himself look suspicious. "You've been checking them out, huh?"
Jamie laughed and blushed again.
"Besides, I don't hold a candle to them either!"
Jamie leveled a clearly disbelieving gaze at Bobby.
Bobby grinned with the implied compliment, then shook his head. "Really. But I go swimming anyway. The trick, you see, is to remember that they're all dating people who don't look half as good as the person you're dating."
"You think you look that good, huh?" Jamie said, a teasing twinkle in his brown eyes.
"I think you look that good," Bobby countered, and winked. "Now let's go back out before the food burns!"
"My dupe's got it!" Jamie laughed, and hurried out in front of Bobby.
Jamie took the barbecue sauce from himself, poured it on the ribs, then handed it back to himself. His dupe hurried to put it away for him.
Jamie closed the grill's lid with a clang, then looked up. Hank, done with the salads, was in the pool with Warren and Bobby. Warren was floating, laying on his stomach on a raft, while Bobby and Hank swam around him singing the "Jaws" theme song and holding their hands like fins over their heads. Warren was cursing at them, throwing all sort of interesting (and often anatomically impossible) threats at them if they dared to overturn his float.
There was a screech, and a splash, and then Bobby and Hank were both swimming as fast as they could for the edge of the pool while Warren emerged from the water, sputtering and furious, his wings flapping uselessly and spraying sheets of water all about.
To one side Jean and Logan sat at a table together, laughing over the pool escapades. Rogue and Remy sat nearby; Rogue in a lounge chair, Remy by her side and whispering something that was making her look at him, one eyebrow raised archly.
Betsy sunbathed, wearing a one-piece filled with cutouts. Sam and Scott were playing two-man volleyball in the grass nearby, without a net. They had decided it was too much of a pain to put it up after Ororo and Remy had managed to tangle it--and how two supposedly deft thieves had managed to tangle the net was still under debate. Ororo sat nearby in a lawn chair, reading.
Jamie smiled and wished he felt more a part of things. After several days here, he still didn't feel any closer to anyone except Hank. This wasn't his family, as much as he wished they were, and he felt like an outsider looking in.
Which, in turn, made him depressed.
Which isolated him.
Which made him feel like an outsider, looking in.
It was a vicious cycle.
"Almost done with those ribs?" Warren called, walking over with a beer in hand and smiling cheerfully, albeit wetly. Behind him, Bobby and Hank were threatening to splash Jean, even though she wasn't in the pool.
Jamie smiled brightly, even though it was fake, and nodded. "One more minute," he said, glancing down at his watch more out of habit than need.
"They smell great," Warren sighed wistfully, and Ororo chuckled at him.
"I'm not promising greatness," Jamie said with a grin, "but they ought to at least be decent."
A dupe hurried up with a plate, and Jamie opened the grill and put the ribs on the platter. The dupe raced over and put the platter on the table, and Warren walked over and got some food.
"Land shark!" Bobby shouted, and Jamie glanced up in time to see Bobby leaping out of the water and charging toward Jean.
Jean flicked her wrist at him, but otherwise ignored him completely. Bobby, however, was tossed through the air and back into the pool. He swam for a moment, then circled around to the side Jamie was nearest and resurfaced.
"All done, Jamie?" Bobby called, hanging onto the pool side.
"Yeah," Jamie called back, and smiled fondly at the wet man.
"Come in the water!" Bobby shouted back gleefully, clapping his hands on the tile and cement edge.
Jamie laughed and shook his head. "No!"
"Plleeeeaaaase?" Bobby hung on the side of the pool and looked pitiful.
Jamie smiled at him and shook his head. Twenty-six Bobby might be, but, Lord, he didn't act it. Which was a relief. It did seem like quite an age-gap, but as long as Bobby didn't seem to mind . . . but then, Jamie hadn't seen him very much in the past few days. Maybe he did mind. Maybe he was tired of dealing with someone six years younger. Maybe he'd come to his senses and realized that--
Droplets of water splashed his legs, pulling his mind out of those thoughts. Jamie looked over to see Bobby grinning wickedly.
"No!" Jamie laughed.
"C'mon, handsome," Bobby said, eyes twinkling.
Jamie felt himself blush, but couldn't stop it. He glanced at Jean, who had laughed, then glared at the grill.
"Logan! How do you say "handsome" in . . . um . . . any other language?" Bobby chirped.
"Joli," Logan suggested in a gruff voice.
Gambit snorted, and said the word again--with a better accent. "It's French," the Cajun said, giving Logan a dirty look, "an' y' manglin' it."
"Come in the water, joli," Bobby said, smiling happily and not caring that he mangled the word.
Jamie laughed and shook his head, eyeing the other figures relaxing around the pool. The women were gorgeous, and the men were . . . well, hell, they could all be Mr. Universe. Jamie wasn't anywhere near that toned. And he still had babyfat. And his arms and legs were still too long. And while it was one thing to go swimming in front of Guido and Lorna and Alex and the others--people he considered his family--it was quite something else to do it in front of the X-Men. It wasn't even really that they weren't nice to him, it was just that . . . that . . . he wasn't part of their family, and he felt it keenly.
Moreso, he realized suddenly, since he hadn't been around Bobby as much.
Bobby lurched out of the pool, wet feet slapping against sun-warmed concrete, then silencing as he entered the grass. He stopped a foot from Jamie, and glared at the grill. "You're done cooking," he said, almost accusingly.
"Wanna go swimming?"
Jamie shook his head.
Bobby sighed, then perked up. "Wanna play volleyball?"
Jamie grinned and shut the grill, setting down his spatula and tongs. "With or without a net?" he asked brightly.
"With. If we can get it untangled," Bobby grumbled, pinning Ororo--who ignored him--with a stern look. Somehow, since he was still half-smiling, it wasn't very fierce.
Bobby craned his head, trying to peer at his shoulders where Jean had pointed. Sure enough, his skin was flushed pink. "I wore sunscreen," he complained, returning to stacking the dishes in the sink.
"Did you replace it after you went swimming?" Jean asked in her best imperious-big-sister voice.
"No," Bobby mumbled. He looked up, searching for Jamie. The younger man was still sprawled in the grass, sleeping soundly under the shade of a tree. "He's nice, isn't he?" Bobby murmured softly, a smile playing around the edges of his mouth.
Jean followed his gaze, and smiled herself. "Yes," she said, "he is. Did you and he get to talk a little bit more today?"
Bobby nodded. "Things are mostly better again--almost like they were before. Just spending time together seemed to help."
"Told'j'so," Warren said, smugly, from where he was loading the dishes into the dishwasher.
Bobby stuck his tongue out at the winged man, who returned the very mature gesture. Jean mentally thunked them both.
"We're going out to the dinner and movie tomorrow night," Bobby said, smiling. "I'm gonna see if I can't convince him to spend less time with Hank and more time with me. He spends all day with Hank, and I don't ever see him." Bobby sighed and grinned slightly. "I never thought I'd be jealous of my best friend."
Jean laughed, and kissed the back of his head. "That's why we love you, Bobby."
"Because I never thought I'd be jealous of Hank?" he asked, befuddled.
Jean stopped, and frowned. "I think my meaning got confused," she said, and continued outside to pick up more trash. She came back in a moment later, dumping several more forks in the sink. "You'd better go wake him up," she said, motioning toward Jamie. "He's been asleep ever since you guys had that game of volleyball. He might get sunburned, and he might never be able to sleep tonight."
Bobby nodded and dried his hands off on a dishtowel, then padded out the back door and across the lawn, skirting the pool until he came to the large cottonwood tree Jamie was sleeping under. Bobby smiled softly, and knelt down next to the other man. He looked so calm, so peaceful. An ant tried to crawl across his cheek, and Bobby brushed it off softly.
He grinned, bent down further until he could reach Jamie easily, and then kissed the sleeping form.
Bobby frowned when Jamie kept sleeping. Fine. Then he would just have to apply himself more aggressively. He bent down again and kissed Jamie, touched the corners of the younger man's mouth with his tongue, and felt Jamie respond sleepily, murmuring something and kissing back.
Bobby smiled, but didn't move away, and slid his hand up under Jamie's black T-shirt, feeling the warm skin beneath.
That got more of a reaction. Jamie was definitely awake.
A hand slid up Bobby's arm to his shoulder, following that line down his neck and pulling him closer. Jamie nearly moaned.
Bobby grinned and pulled back slightly. "Wake up," he whispered.
Jamie's eyes instantly closed tighter and he removed his hand, letting it drop across his eyes to block out the sun. He mumbled something, trying to pretend like he was still sleeping.
Bobby laughed, a chuckle low in his throat. His hand, still under Jamie's shirt, moved softly, grazing against the heated skin. He felt Jamie shiver, and moved around to touch his ribs. "Wake uuuuuuup," Bobby crooned. He let his hand slip lower, noting the twitch of Jamie's lips. "C'mon. You know you want to be awake."
Jamie resolutely pretended to sleep.
Bobby let his hand drift across Jamie's stomach, feeling the small variations as muscles twitched. The skin there was warm, and mostly smooth--Jamie wasn't very hairy at all. There were slight ripples--stomach muscles, shivering in a clenching, spasmodic motion that would have been a flinch if it carried fear. Instead, it was more of an instinctive withdrawl from tickling fingers.
Bobby pounced, just as Jamie sat up already squirming.
"Tickletickle!" Bobby grinned, fingers dancing across that overly sensitive abdomen.
"Stopitstopitstopit!" Jamie laughed, slapping at Bobby and squirming in just such a way that drove Bobby mad. Even if Jamie didn't realize he was doing it. Dimples flashed, eyes sparkled and hair flew. Jamie's back arched as he fought to get away from those persistent fingers, and Bobby's mouth went dry.
He stopped, plastered a smile on his face, and watched as Jamie lay back against the tree, laughing and panting.
Dear Lord. It was going to be hard to move in a moment, if he watched much more of this. And yet he couldn't seem to take his gaze away. "You're beautiful," he said softly, smiling happily.
Jamie blushed and ducked his head. "Remy's way more beautiful than I am," he said after a moment.
"Yeah, but he's an asshole," Bobby countered easily. After all, Remy was an asshole. Just look at what he was doing to Rogue.
"Warren's more beautiful than I am, too," Jamie responded.
"Warren's moody. And he doesn't have dimples."
Jamie blushed and picked at grass blades. "Scott--"
"Isn't you." Bobby reached out, unable to resist, and brushed his knuckles across Jamie's jaw. "You've got these beautiful eyes . . . they tell me whatever you're feeling. I've never met anyone with eyes that show right down to their soul, but yours do. And you've got those freckles that are almost hidden beneath your tan, but manage to peek out. And God, don't even get me started on your dimples."
Jamie laughed and blushed harder, refusing to look up. Finally, skittish eyes darted upward, then away, then back to Bobby. " . . . Really?" he asked hesitantly.
Bobby grinned and leaned closer, kissing Jamie again, very softly. "Yeah," he murmured against the other man.
Jamie smiled and ducked away shyly.
Hank blinked and peered over Jamie's shoulder, at the notes he was making on a scrap of paper. They were supposed to be data notes, but mostly it consisted of eyes and smiles and cartoon Icemen. And the name "Bobby" written in different ways all over the paper.
Hank smothered his laugh and tapped Jamie on his shoulder.
"Hmmm?" the young man said, not really paying attention.
"Why don't you go get ready? I know you and Bobby have a date tonight, and I wouldn't want to make you late."
Jamie blinked. "If you're sure you don't need me," he said, looking around as if seeing the lab for the first time.
"I'm sure," Hank said, knowing that even if he did need Jamie, the young man was going to be pretty worthless. "Go."
Jamie nodded and stood up, leaving. He reappeared a moment later, took the lab coat off, hung it up with a sheepish grin and a dull blush, and left again.
Hank chuckled and turned back to his work.
Jamie perched on the pier rail and ate his ice cream, watching Bobby watch him.
The night had been wonderful. They'd gone to a hole-in-the-wall, completely casual little Italian restaurant. They'd talked about everything and nothing, all at once. Jamie hadn't been happier in days. Just being in Bobby's presence was like a balm, and he was able to forget the constant nagging and uncertainties in the back of his mind. He remembered why he had come with Bobby to the X-Men.
"Jamie," Bobby said, staring out over the water, "does it bother you that I'm six years older? I mean, that's not really a lot--but sometimes it seems like a lot." He looked up, his blue eyes questing.
Jamie froze, the question taking him by surprise. He licked his ice cream cone slowly, stalling for time. "What brought that subject about?" he asked after a moment, careful to sound casual.
Bobby frowned and lifted one shoulder in a shrug, looking back out over the ocean. "Your dupe. That whole thing this morning." He looked up again, blue eyes searching Jamie's face. "Does it bother you?"
Jamie hesitated. "No," he said finally, honestly. "It only bothers me if I think I'm bugging you or you think I'm too young or something."
Bobby grinned and turned around, leaning back against the rail. "It never bothers me. I never think you're too young," he said happily, sounding very relieved. "But after what happened ealier--"
Jamie frowned. He didn't like to think about that. He still didn't know why his dupes were acting so strangely. "Some part of me feels a little bit that way," he finally said, half frightened that Bobby would take his words the wrong way, "but it's a very little part. And I don't like that part."
Bobby stopped talking, and nodded slowly. "It's okay to be unsure, you know," he said. "I think everyone is about something."
Jamie smiled and looked at Bobby. The starlight dusted his hair, turning it the color of bleached seashells. "What are you uncertain about?"
Bobby laughed. "Oh, God," he sighed, smiling. "What *aren't* I uncertain about?" He stopped, and glanced up. "Well, that's easy. You. But as for things I'm uncertain about . . . every time we go into battle, I'm afraid that I'll do something wrong. I don't know what to do about my dad. I haven't spoken with him since the plane accident. I'm uncertain whenever I try and cook."
"Is it half a tablespoon, or one to two tablespoons?"
Jamie rolled his eyes and shook his head, though his cheeks were still creased with dimples. Bobby was smiling when Jamie looked back down at him, and his heart stuttered into his throat, picking up the beat and leaping around maniacally. There was so much *love* in those bottomless blue eyes.
"We're gonna be late for our movie," Jamie murmured after a moment.
"Yeah," Bobby said, and blinked, looking away.
Jamie tore his own gaze away, looking out at the storefronts across the street.
"How long have we been going out, Jamie?" Bobby asked as Jamie jumped off the rail and started walking down the sidewalk.
Jamie had to stop and think about it. "We met over a month ago," he said at last, nodding and starting forward again. "Like, a month and a half." He stopped and laughed, looking at Bobby with a grin. "Almost two months ago!"
Bobby grabbed Jamie around his waist, swinging him in a full circle before kissing him soundly and releasing him.
Jamie laughed. "What was that for?"
"I'm glad you live close to me," Bobby answered simply. "Think maybe we could start seeing each other more?"
Jamie smiled a little, aware of how busy they'd both been lately. Gathering his courage and then summoning it all up, he reached out and took Bobby's hand in his. "I'd like that," he said softly, and was brave enough to lace his fingers through the other man's.
Bobby smiled in the starlight and tightened his grip. Jamie moved closer, and they walked down the street toward the theater hand-in-hand.
The mansion was dark when they got back. Jamie flicked on the lights, while Bobby checked his pager. It hadn't gone off, but maybe it'd been turned on sleep or something . . .
No, there was no emergency page.
"Here's a note," Jamie called from the kitchen.
Bobby walked through the door, pausing for just a moment to see Jamie standing, his green trenchcoat swirling about his black slacks.
"It says that Warren, Jean, Scott and Betsy went out to dinner. Hank's in the lab. Logan took his Harley and went 'riding.' Remy had a family emergency, and grabbed a flight down to Louisiana, and Rogue, Sam and Storm went flying together. Be back later."
Bobby blinked. Then he smiled. Jean had cleared the house for him, that little sneak. "Want popcorn?" he chirped. "Watch a movie?"
"We just saw a movie," Jamie laughed.
Bobby shrugged. "We could play cards. I'm not tired."
Jamie paused, cocking his head to one side as he considered, then nodded.
Bobby made popcorn. When he was done he headed out to the den, where Jamie was already sitting barefoot on the couch, legs folded Indian style. "Poker?" Jamie asked, smiling.
Bobby grinned. "Mm," he murmured approvingly.
The light from the only lamp that was turned on was shining on Jamie's black silk shirt, sending sparkles dancing and sliding across his chest. Deft hands dealt cards swiftly, then Jamie scooped up his own and leaned back against the couch.
Bobby folded himself into a cross-legged position, facing Jamie on the sofa, the cards on the cushion between them. "Same rules as before?"
Jamie laughed. "Yeah. Loser wins."
The first round went to Jamie, and Bobby pouted. "I think I should get a consolation prize," he said on a sigh.
Jamie laughed and leaned forward to kiss him.
Bobby had a hunch that that kiss was a lot more than Jamie had meant to give, and when the younger man pulled back he was slightly breathless. He cleared his throat three times before he was finally able to speak. "No more prizes for the losers," Jamie said, and sat back.
Bobby blinked. Damn. What a kiss. He cleared his own throat and tried to concentrate on his cards.
The next round went to him. He almost offered to give Jamie a kiss, and then decided it was probably a bad idea, the way he was feeling.
They played three more rounds before Bobby realized Jamie had been squirming. He watched closer, noted the other man kept rubbing at his neck and upper shoulders. "You okay?" Bobby asked finally.
Jamie flashed a brief smile. "Just a little sore."
"From what?" Bobby asked, knowing full well Jamie hadn't been in the Danger Room.
Jamie cringed. "Looking down at a microscope. Kills my neck. Hank keeps saying he's going to make better ones and get rich off it, but he says a lot of things." Jamie grinned, rolling his eyes upward.
Bobby smiled and stood, unfolding his long legs and watching Jamie's brown eyes snap down to look at him.
"What are you doing?" Jamie asked, craning his neck curiously to look at Bobby over his shoulder when Bobby crouched on the sofa behind him.
"Fixing those muscles," Bobby answered. He reached up and put his hands on either side of Jamie's neck, then half-frowned and made Jamie look straight ahead. Once the younger man was staying put, Bobby let his hands travel back to the shoulders and neck before him, feeling the tenseness there even beneath the green trenchcoat. "Gimme this," Bobby muttered, pulling the coat away and tossing it on the floor. "Now relax."
He thought he heard Jamie muttter, "That's gonna happen," but he wasn't sure. Bobby ignored it and applied himself to making those muscles release, smiling ten minutes later when Jamie finally relaxed completely and sighed.
"That's so much better," the younger man said, letting his head roll with the motion of Bobby's hands.
Bobby rubbed at a spot that was still tight, then ran his hands up Jamie's neck and into his scalp, checking for tense muscles. None there, so he brushed his hands down over that silk, over shoulders and then arms, and down Jamie's back. Unfortunately, Jamie was relaxed and no other knots needed to be worked out.
Bobby sighed, then couldn't help himself and sat forward to kiss Jamie's neck. Goosebumps rose on the younger man's tan skin, and Bobby grinned and kissed him again.
Jamie wasn't protesting. In fact, he was still leaning back into Bobby's hands. So Bobby kissed him again, on his jaw, and then bit his ear.
He turned around, smiled swiftly, and kissed Bobby back.
Bobby let his hands slide up Jamie's chest, over that black silk, and felt the other man do the same over his back. And then--wonder of holy wonders--there were hands *inside* his shirt, running over bare skin, and his heart picked up triple time while other places on him got even more excited.
Breathless, Bobby pulled away slightly to better get at Jamie's throat, which the other man encouraged by tipping his head back, and to better get at Jamie's ears, and his jaw, and his collarbones just beneath that teasing black silk, leaving teeth and tongue marks on it all. And then Jamie groaned. Bobby felt those hands stutter and tighten against his shoulders, and he found he couldn't reach nearly enough of the younger man.
Bobby's muscles were nearly shivering, and his breath--much like Jamie's from what he could hear--was coming hard in his chest. He pushed Jamie back--
And yelped as they both fell right off the edge of the couch in a tangle of limbs.
Bobby, sprawled on top of Jamie, whose legs were still on the couch, groaned and rested his forehead against Jamie's chest. He could hear the younger man's heartbeat, staccato, against his ribs. Then Jamie inhaled deepy and squirmed, trying to untangle his legs. Bobby muttered beneath his breath, lifting himself up until Jamie could free himself, then propping his upper body on his elbows, one on either side of Jamie's flushed face, and looking down.
"Is your head okay?" Bobby asked after clearing his throat, and realized his voice was still a lot hoarser than usual.
Jamie nodded wordlessly, looking slightly frustrated.
Bobby nodded. He licked his lips--watched, fascinated, as Jamie did the same. Such nice lips, those . . . and such a wonderful tongue, that . . . "Maybe I should check it," he said, all consideration for his possibly-hurt boyfriend.
Jamie nodded again.
Bobby cleared his throat, reminding himself that Jamie might be having second thoughts (oh God please no) and he should probably give the man a chance to back out . . . "So we could either have Hank check it in the medlab, or you could come with me back to my room, and we could check it there."
Jamie licked his lips again--oh Lord what an unconscious tease!--and said solemnly, "I think you should check it. In your room."
"You're sure?" Bobby asked softly.
Bobby nodded in return and rolled off Jamie, then turned to help him to his feet. He kissed him again, and meant it to be fast, but somehow it didn't end up that way.
"Oh, Jesus," Bobby groaned into Jamie's mouth. "Upstairs. Up. Upupupupup."
Jamie nodded against him, chuckling, and the two men stumbled up the stairs--somehow managing to never quite break contact.
When Logan came home the mansion was still dark. There were lights on in the boathouse, and he could smell Warren, Scott, Jean and Betsy all within. Rogue, Sam and Ororo were still out, from the sound and smell of things.
Then Logan's eyebrows rose. Still from the smell of things, the boys had definitely come home.
He walked cautiously into the living room, able to smell the arousal in the air (and, dammit, what *that* did to his poor abused body!), then smiled grudgingly when he saw the trenchcoat on the floor, sitting guard with the popcorn, shoes, socks and scattered cards.
Logan sniffed the popcorn, found it unharmed, and ate a handful before glancing up the stairs.
There was a black silk shirt on the rail of the first landing. Up higher was a blue cotton shirt, piled on the floor. Logan didn't want to know what he'd find past that.
He picked up the popcorn, shoved the shoes, socks and trenchcoat to one side, swept the cards back into a neat pile, and flopped down on the sofa. With one hand he snatched up the remote from the floor, and with the other he cradled his appropriated snack. He flipped on the television, paused as his keen hearing caught a thump from upstairs, then sighed and turned the channel to something noisy. The boys weren't what his poor abused body needed to be listening to.
He woke up with the feeling of warmth, and love, and comfort. And slightly sore.
Jamie stretched, feeling soft flannel sheets slide over his body, and a soft feather pillow holding his head, and there was an arm slung over his ribs.
An arm slung over his ribs?
Oh. Yeah. Jamie smiled and curled back into the warmth against him, feeling legs tangle with his own sleepily. "You're awake?" he murmured, eyes still closed.
Jamie smiled. That was just how he felt, too. So he turned over, shoved his head up near Bobby's shoulder, wrapped his arms securely around that other form, and went back to sleep.
They slept most of the morning. It was eleven before Jamie felt Bobby get up. A moment later the bed sank, as if someone had just sat down on it.
"Jamie," Bobby whispered into his ear, warm breath stirring his hair. "Wanna shower?"
Jamie had to admit that it sounded tempting. But then, so did sleep. He decided the shower could wait, and kept his eyes closed.
"Wanna shower with me?" Bobby asked softly, and bit his ear.
Jamie shivered, and cracked one eye open. "Is there enough room?" he asked, his voice hoarse.
"Yeah," Bobby chuckled.
Jamie shivered again when those teeth kept nipping at his ear, and then there was a tongue, and hot breath, and--
Jamie turned over and wrapped his arms around Bobby, pulling him over.
Bobby laughed as they landed in a heap on the bed together. "Is that a yes?" he asked, hands wandering.
"Mmm," Jamie answered, grinning.
*Well,* his mind chattered as Bobby got back up and pulled Jamie to his feet, *now you can honestly say you're lovers.*
And whatta way to lose your virginity. Jamie blushed just remembering it, but followed Bobby happily into the shower.
The showering took a lot longer than it normally did for either one of them.
"I was beginning to think you'd died in your sleep," Scott noted dryly as Jamie walked--shuffled, really--into the kitchen.
Jamie smiled and blushed. Scott glanced at Jean, who was trying to keep from laughing. She covered her mouth and left the room, leaving only Scott, Jamie, and Sam.
Scott blinked behind his wraparound glasses. "Is there something I should know?"
Jamie blushed even brighter. "No," he said, his voice rough. Scott wondered, briefly, what might have caused it. There wasn't any reason for Jamie to lose his voice that Scott knew of. Bobby and Jamie had gone to a movie, not a concert.
Jamie walked, head ducked, to the cupboard with the cereal. He got out Cocoa Puffs and two bowls, then poured one bowl with cereal and milk, leaving the other bowl filled with just cereal. He carried his breakfast--though really, it was lunch--to the kitchen table and sat, eating.
Scott eyed him. There was something here he should be catching . . . "What do you have on your neck?"
Jamie glanced down, pulled the collar of his black button-down shirt away, and tried to glare at his neck.
"It's like a rash," Scott said, walking over and looking himself.
Jean, composed now, walked back into the room. She almost started laughing again when she saw what they were looking at, and Scott glared at her. He really didn't see what was so funny about a rash.
"Maybe you should get Hank to look at that," he was saying. "Maybe you're allergic to something around here?"
"I don't think that's it, sweetheart," Jean said, her voice trembling on a chuckle.
Scott glared up at her. She wasn't helping. And she wasn't sharing through their link, either. "Then what do you think it is?" he growled.
Jean, still trying not to smile, came over to inspect Jamie's shoulder and neck. She swallowed hard. Opened her mouth. Was obviously about to start laughing, and so closed it again. She swallowed. Took a deep breath, and finally said, "Scott, dear, doesn't that look like *my* neck when you haven't shaved recently?"
Scott blinked at her. He didn't see what that had to do with--oh. He blushed brightly. "Uh, sorry Jamie."
Jamie had nearly buried his head in his food, and was red from clear down his chest--what they could see of it--up into his hairline.
Sam's mouth twitched, but he continued resolutely reading the paper.
"Tell Bobby to shave," Jean advised Jamie, eyes twinkling.
Head still ducked as far as it would go, Jamie nodded.
*Why didn't you _tell_ me it was beard-rash, _before_ I embarrassed the both of us?!* Scott hissed mentally.
~I'm sorry, sweetheart! I didn't know for sure, though! And, well, I didn't want Sam embarrassing himself then, by asking.~
Scott grumbled mentally, but didn't say anything else.
Ororo walked in, as regal as always. She went to the refrigerator and pulled out orange juice, pouring it into a tall glass. "Hello, Jamie," she said warmly. "How was your date last night?"
Jamie blushed bright red. "It was . . . um . . . good," he muttered into his cereal.
From behind the paper, there was a tiny muffled noise.
"Hey, guys!" Bobby chirped, walking into the room and looking considerably more awake than Jamie. "What's up?"
Sam dropped the paper and started laughing. His forehead thumped to the table, his shoulders shaking, his breath coming in gasps as he fought to control himself at least a little--and failed miserably. "What--what's up!" he laughed, tears running down his face.
Jamie slid lower in his chair. He was almost purple, he was so red.
Ororo lifted an eyebrow at Sam, whose face was buried in his arms.
"Ya'll didn't *see* the boys' wing last night!" Sam laughed into the table. He turned his head until his pale blue eyes met Bobby's deep ones. "You guys left ya clothes all ovah the floor!"
Scott's lips twitched.
Jamie was sliding down in his chair, and Scott was certain that at any moment he'd slide right off and fall on the floor. Bobby stepped forward, grinning impishly, and put his hands on Jamie's shoulders. Scott nodded mentally. Good boy. Jamie needed some support.
"We were having too much fun to pay attention to clothes," Bobby grinned. "Figured whatever guy was home first would pick them up for us. Are they in your room, Sam?"
"The--the laundry," Sam said through hiccuping laughter.
Scott moved forward just as Jean telepathically asked him to do something before Jamie fainted from embarrassment.
"Hey, Sam, I need to ask you a question or two about that last training session," Scott said, walking quickly and grabbing Sam's arm. With a heave he hauled the younger man to his feet, pulling him out of the room tripping and stumbling. Behind them, Sam's chair clattered to the ground.
"What's up!" Sam cackled, nearly in hysterics as Scott dragged him from the room.
Scott eyed him, trying not to laugh as they rounded the corner and continued, away from the kitchen and Jamie's embarrassment.
Sam was still laughing when Scott left him in the den to compose himself.
"How bad is this?" Jamie shouted as he peered at his neck and shoulders in the bathroom mirror. He pulled his shirt down farther, twisting to see around his back.
Bobby walked in, stopping behind him and kissing the beard rash. "Not that bad."
Jamie sighed and let his shirt fall back into place.
"It could've been worse. It could've been a hickie," Bobby said with an impish grin before walking into the bedroom.
Jamie smiled slightly. At least a hickie would have been *normal.* "Jean and some of the others want to take me to town. Take me shopping. They think I need new clothes."
Bobby laughed, the bright sound bubbling around the corner. "You do!"
Jamie turned, frowning at him. "My clothes are comfortable."
Bobby stuck his head around the doorway, grinning. "They all look *exactly* the same."
"Everything matches!" And beside that, Jamie still wasn't at ease with the other X-Men.
Bobby wandered farther into the bathroom, hooking his thumbs in Jamie's pockets and pulling him closer. "Go. Have fun," Bobby said, then reached around and kissed Jamie.
Jamie smiled when Bobby finally pulled away. "I'd rather stay here with you," he said softly, hair falling into his eyes.
"Me too," Bobby sighed. "But I'd just keep you in bed all the time."
Jamie blushed, but smiled gamely. "Okay."
Bobby laughed, and kissed him again. "Now go," he said, pulling away. "Jean'll pamper you. So have fun."
Jamie sighed. Off to the lion's den it was, then. He picked his favorite green trenchcoat up off the counter and marched resolutely down the hall.
"I'll be right there!" Jean called, then turned back to her husband and kissed him quickly. "You going to talk to Rogue about Jamie?"
Scott sighed almost soundlessly and nodded. "Have a good time. If you're right about Jamie feeling alone, hopefully this'll help."
Jean smiled and kissed Scott once more, then picked up her purse and headed out the front door to the waiting station wagon.
It was a tight fit, what with Jean, Ororo, Betsy, Sam, Warren and Jamie all squeezing in--and Warren needed an extra seat for his wings. Jean drove, and they made it to the nearest mall in just under twenty minutes. Warren was grumbling about never letting Jean drive again as they got out, and Jean winked at him.
"We need to get Jamie a school jacket," Jean said, striding into the mall. She had always enjoyed dressing people--having her own giant doll. It was something she'd never outgrown.
"Oh, it's okay," Jamie said quickly. "I don't wear jackets. I have my trenchcoats."
Jean laughed. "You need one anyway. Everyone has one--even Ororo has one, and can you honestly see her wearing a brown leather jacket?"
Ororo looked bemused, and cocked one white eyebrow at Jean.
"No," Jamie answered with a sheepish smile. "I guess not."
Ororo chuckled dryly, and Jean winked at her, remembering the stories of the other woman's leather-wearing phase.
"Exactly. It doesn't matter that you wear it, only that you have it." Jean walked briskly to the little shop in the corner. They'd been going there ever since the original five X-Men had decided they needed school jackets, and had found out that this place--owned by an elderly man who took a liking to them--would alter his leather jackets for the school logo.
"Antonio!" Jean called cheerily as she walked in, Betsy right behind her.
"Here!" Antonio called back.
Jean smiled at Jamie and reached out to grab his hand, pulling him along. "We have a new student who needs a jacket."
"Get one and bring it up," Antonio answered, still hidden behind racks of clothing.
Jean pulled Jamie over to the bar of leather jackets, then started pulling some off to see if they'd fit him. "Try these on," she said when he just stood there, looking very uncomfortable.
Jamie hesitated, then took off his trenchcoat and laid it carefully over the rack before trying on the leather jacket.
"Nope," Jean declared instantly, seeing that it was almost too short in the arms.
After half an hour of making him try jackets, they finally decided to get one that was a little bit big around and fit on the arms. Hopefully, he'd fill out. And wouldn't grow anymore.
Jean carried the jacket up to Antonio, smiling when she saw the spry old man with his trembling, age-spotted hands.
"We need the school logo on this," she said, handing it to him over the counter.
Antonio smiled, nodded, and put it on a shelf. "Come back around three or four, or sometime tomorrow. I'll have it done."
"Thanks, An," Jean said, smiling brilliantly.
He chuckled and shook his head, continuing with his paperwork.
Jean walked back through the racks, spotting Betsy with Warren looking at women's dress jackets, and Sam idly sifting through bomber jackets. She walked up to the young blond and slung an arm over his shoulder. "You need a new one?" she asked, looking at the heavy wool-lined jacket he'd picked up.
"Not really," Sam sighed. "It's just nice to think about it."
Jean laughed and stepped away from him, glancing around for the rest of their party.
Ororo was fingering a shawl in the corner, more feeling than wanting to buy, though. It took Jean a moment more of walking around before she found Jamie, looking wistfully at--of all things--a black leather trenchcoat.
Jean smothered a grin and walked up to him, putting her arm around his shoulders the same way she'd done with Sam.
Jamie jumped, then blushed and dropped the jacket.
"You want that?" Jean asked.
"Nah, I don't need it," he sighed.
"I didn't *ask* if you needed it," Jean corrected with a teasing smile. "I asked if you *wanted* it."
Jamie's mouth twitched upward and he shook his head. "Not for four hundred dollars."
Jean whistled and picked up the price tag, cringing at the number. Then a thought occurred to her. "Jamie," she asked curiously, "you know you get paid for . . . um, *teaching* at the school, right?"
Jamie blinked. "But I'm not doing anything," he said after a moment.
"You've been working with Hank, in his lab. That's doing something."
Jamie gnawed on his lower lip. "Really?"
Jean laughed. "Really."
Jamie sighed, and looked at her sheepishly. "Oh, good. 'Cause I wasn't sure what I was gonna do."
Jean chuckled and hugged him, one-armed, then let him go and headed for the door. "Everyone ready?" she yelled, and soon the lot of them were emerging from the clothing, congregating at the front of the store.
"What else do we need?" Jean asked cheerfully.
"We need to get Jamie some shirts other than those black ones," Betsy answered instantly.
Jamie started to protest, and Jean saw Sam lean near him conspiratorially and whisper, "Don't try and get out of it. It'll only prolong everything."
Jamie laughed quietly and closed his mouth.
"Rogue?" Scott adjusted his glasses, itching where they touched the bridge of his nose, and stepped out into the sun. Rogue was lying on a lounge chair in nothing but her green and white bikini, sunglasses protecting her eyes from the sun. Flame red hair fell off the edge of the chair, pooling on the warm concrete.
"Yeah, Scotty?" she drawled.
"Can I talk to you for a moment?"
Her green eyes opened, eyeing him sideways before her black lashes fluttered closed. "Sure."
Scott pulled up a chair and sat down, crossing one ankle over his tan khaki-clad knee. "I don't think you've said word one to Jamie since he got here."
Rogue shrugged listlessly. "Izzat an offense?" she asked mildly.
"No," Scott answered, "except that the kid is really nervous and anxious to please. It'd be nice if he felt welcome."
"He's welcome," Rogue answered without moving. The hot sun beat down on them, slowly tanning the southerner's skin. "Bobby's made that more'n obvious."
Scott itched at the stubble on his chin and wondered how to continue.
"Look," Rogue sighed, sitting up and pulling her sunglasses off, "Ah know what you're gettin' at. An' Ah'm happy Bobby's found someone--Ah really am. Ah just didn't expect it ta be another man."
Scott nodded. "It's understandable to be surprised," he said quietly.
Rogue swung her legs over the edge of the chair, twirling her sunglasses in one hand. Carefully, she cocked her knees so there was no chance of her bare skin touching Scott's. "Ah know. And . . . Bobby's so happy. He's mah friend, y'know? It's just . . ." Rogue shrugged, seemingly in frustration, and looked out over the pool and volleyball net still erected from the barbecue. "Ah mean, growin' up all Ah ever heard was that gay people were 'queer' an' 'aberrations o' nature' and stuff like that." She sighed and bit her lip, scowling down at her feet. "Ah know it ain't true--no more'n mutants being evil is true. But it's what Ah was taught. An' reconcilin' that with Bobby . . . and Jamie, o' course . . ." She trailed off and shrugged again, slipping her sunglasses back on over her eyes.
Scott nodded, watching his refelection do the same on Rogue's silver lenses. "I figured as much," he said softly, quietly encouraging her to keep talking. If she needed help to puzzle this out, then so be it. Rogue was still young.
She smiled up at him, a slightly sheepish grin. "It's easier to accept Bobby. Ah mean, Ah know him. Ah'm just havin' a harder time with Jamie--he's like the proof Ah really didn't want to see, y'know?"
Scott smiled and nodded in return. He hadn't been overly surprised when Bobby had announced he had a boyfriend. Heck, Scott could remember many nights when it had just been the original five, the four boys up late at night in Warren's room eating crackers and whispering secrets, often times with Jean joining them telepathically. Scott still remembered Bobby's abortive crush on Hank, shortly after Hank had helped the younger man learn to control his powers. Not that Bobby had ever admitted to it.
The other X-Men, however, hadn't seen nearly as much of Bobby, and it had been something of a surprise. It wasn't until the young man had said that he was bringing Jamie home, though, that anyone had been really forced to deal with it.
"Jamie's nice," Scott said softly, when Rogue fell silent.
Rogue smiled. "Yeah. He seems right friendly."
Scott listened for a time to the birds sing, he and Rogue sitting in silence. "You think you can handle Bobby and Jamie okay?"
Rogue's green eyes sparkled mischievously. "Ya mean, am Ah goin' ta bite Jamie's head off? No. Ah jus' ain' gonna be his best friend for a bit--'least till Ah get used ta this. But Ah can be polite an' friendly-like, Scott."
Scott smiled and nodded. "Thanks, Rogue."
She smiled back, laying back down on the lounge.
"You know," Scott said as he put the beach chair back by the picnic table, "if you need to talk you can always come to Jean, Ororo or myself."
Rogue smiled softly. "Ah know. Thanks."
Scott stood, his hands in his pockets, eyeing the young woman. "You're not going to, though, are you?"
Rogue didn't answer, just smiled very slightly.
Scott frowned, nodded, and walked back inside.
"He's great, isn't he?" Bobby asked wistfully.
Hank smothered a chuckle and feigned ignorance. "Who?" He moved one vial of fluid to another spot, carefully marking it.
"Jamie. Even his name is nice. Ja-mie. Two syllables. Or James. One syllable. Such a versatile name."
Hank eyed Bobby, who was laying on his stomach on the examining table, hair dangling almost to the floor as he hung off the end. His feet were in the air, swinging back and forth at the knees like a love-sick schoolboy. "Yes. That was one of the first things I noticed about him," Hank answered pseudo-seriously. "His very versatile name."
"Yeah, me too," Bobby answered, missing the joking note in Hank's voice.
Hank smiled bemusedly and turned back to his work. "He knows his way around a lab, which I certainly appreciate."
"He knows his way around other things, too," Bobby murmured.
Hank turned and pinned Bobby with a Look, even though Bobby wasn't facing him. "My dear hypothermically inclined acquaintance, as our dear Jubilation Lee has said, TMI."
Bobby chuckled. "I meant with government stuff," he said, still laughing, "though whatever your twisted mind came up with is probably true, too."
Hank sighed. "Must you remain in my laboratory whilst I moil in this odious task I have set for myself?"
"Yup," Bobby answered, still hanging upside down. "You got any cure for beard-rash, Grover?"
"Shave," Hank answered dryly. "And use moisturizer."
"Any kind. Whatever smell you prefer, or non-scented if your olfactory senses find the order distasteful."
"Okay," Bobby replied. His legs swung. "Jamie's really cute, isn't he?"
Hank sighed. "Just as yummy as a sugar-filled Twinkie," he answered in a monotone.
"Yup. Just don't get any ideas," Bobby said, sounding almost proud.
Hank eyed the younger man, then returned to his work.
"Welcome to the X-Men, Jamie," Sam whispered. "Hope ya survive the experience."
Jamie kept from snickering. Barely.
Betsy loaded more clothes into his arms, then gave him a telepathic boost toward the changing rooms, her voice ringing into Sam's head as well. ~Try those on,~ she sent. ~And take Sam with you. He, at least, has an inkling of what looks decent.~
Jamie took one look at Sam and blushed. Sam started laughing.
"I'm not taking him in with me!" Jamie yelped.
"Then I'll go," Betsy answered, somehow managing to make it sound like a threat.
"C'mon, Sam," Jamie said quickly, hopping off toward the dressing rooms.
Sam followed, still laughing, hands comfortably resting in his pockets.
"Just wait out here and pretend like you saw the clothes," Jamie muttered.
~I heard that thought.~
"Aren't telepaths supposed to have more scruples that this?" Jamie said--and probably thought--loudly.
~Some do. I'm not one.~
Making faces, Jamie went into one of the closet-sized rooms. Sam sat outside, slouched in an uncomfortable chair with his legs sprawled.
~Sam had best be approving clothes,~ Betsy's British voice rang again through their heads.
*Bets,* Sam thought, *he's a big boy. I'm sure he can do it himself.*
~Approve, Samuel Guthrie,~ Betsy shot back.
"Fine, fine," Jamie muttered. "I like this outfit," he said, and opened the dressing room door.
Sam nodded amiably.
A man walked by on his own way to the changing rooms, raising a disapproving eyebrow at Sam and Jamie. Sam rolled his eyes.
Jamie grinned impishly.
The door closed and Jamie disappeared within, changing again. "What about this one?" Jamie asked as a gentleman in his forties walked past.
"Okay," Sam agreed.
"Oh, no," the new man said, horrified. "It clashes with your hair."
Jamie spoke. "It does?"
"Mm-hmm," the man said, nodding. "Try on that blue shirt hanging there with those black jeans."
Jamie closed the door, and opened it a moment later with the new clothes on.
"Much better," the man said, sighing happily. "Buy that." Then he turned and looked at Sam in a very considering way. "And you shouldn't wear yellow. Ever. Not with that hair."
Sam opened his mouth to respond, and couldn't think of what to say.
"God. Too bad you're both taken," the man sighed, turning to walk down the hall. "Why is it the handsome ones always find each other?" the man was murmuring to himself.
Sam looked up at Jamie.
Jamie looked down at Sam.
They both started laughing.
"He thought we were together!" Jamie cackled.
"James, ya just ain't that cute," Sam laughed back, doubled over in his chair.
"Coming!" Jamie shouted, still laughing, and grabbed the two outfits before racing out of the dressing room.
Hank frowned, trying to find a certain sheet in his stack of papers. He flipped through them again, putting several on top of the lab counter, getting them out of the way. He paused at a paper scrawled all over with names and numbers of good therapists in the area. It wasn't what he'd been looking for, but . . .
Hank looked up at Bobby, now sitting on the examining table Indian style, wearing a stethescope and making alien noises into the round end. "Robert," Hank asked, "can we talk?"
Bobby looked up, eyebrows raised, and tugged the earpieces loose. "What?"
"Jamie doesn't want counseling," Hank said softly, pulling out his lab chair and sitting down. "And if he's not willing to get it, then forcing him to won't help him at all."
Bobby scowled, pulling the stethescope off entirely and setting it in his lap. "But I'm worried," he murmured at last.
"I know," Hank answered.
Bobby shook his head, the light playing through light brown, almost blond hair. "Hank, you weren't there when he was talking about wanting to kill himself. It was really scary."
"I know," Hank repeated. "But if he doesn't want counseling then it's not going to help him until he does. Suggest it, if you like, but don't force him into it. All right?"
Bobby hesitated, then scowled and nodded. "Yeah."
"Bobby, with luck Jamie will realize that he needs it. Until then, you just have to be there for him."
Bobby sighed again and plucked at his pants absently. "Yeah. Okay."
Jamie grabbed the Giant Cup O' Fries, laughing, and followed Sam back to the table where the others were sitting with their food.
"Ah love food courts," Sam sighed contentedly.
"I can't believe I'm eating fries for lunch," Jamie chuckled, sitting down at a tiny table next to the tiny table Jean was at.
Sam plopped down across from him, grinning happily. "Ah loooove fries," he said, picking one out of his own Bucket O' Spicy Fries and biting in.
Jamie grinned, eyeing his own.
"I can't believe you boys," Jean sighed.
"Potatoes are vegetables," Sam answered back. "We're eating veggies for lunch."
Jean deigned him with a dirty look.
Jamie laughed and started munching his own fries. Ororo was sitting across from Jean, watching them with a bemused expression.
She didn't seem as scary as she first had. In fact, Jamie had even seen her laugh in one of the clothes stores, when Sam had arrived with a God-awful Hawaiian shirt and Betsy had thrown a fit.
He still wasn't completely comfortable with Betsy or Warren, though he was no long exactly *un*comfortable with them, either. Jean was like a big sister, and Sam was closest to his age--and rather fun to pal around with.
"Hey, Jean," Sam said, blue eyes glittering. "There's a Kay*Bee Toys over there. We should go."
Jean rolled her eyes and sighed. "Only if you eat all your lunch," she laughed after a moment.
"Yes, Mom," Sam answered.
Jamie chuckled, setting to work on his own fries. Yeah, he could be friends with Sam. These people weren't as scary as they seemed at all.
The first clue Bobby had that there was someone else in the room was when water splashed onto the back of his head.
He whipped around, eyes wide, to behold a cackling Jamie already turning and running away, water-gun clutched tightly. Bobby jumped up from the den couch--the ugly orange and brown one everyone thought was so comfortable--and raced after Jamie.
As soon as he went through the doorway he realized it was a mistake.
More water blasted him from the other side, and when he turned around he saw Sam holding a SuperSoaker and wearing a tiny toy headset. Bobby lunged for him first, freezing the man's sleeves before turning and running after Jamie.
"You guys are cheats!" he shouted, laughing, when he rounded the corner to see that Jamie had disappeared.
He was shot in the back, and whipped around in time to see Jamie running, cackling, out of the room.
"NOT IN THE HOUSE!" Jean shouted from the front door. "SAM! JAMES! TAKE THOSE OUTSIDE!"
Bobby grinned wickedly and raced through the kitchen, out the side door--taking a different path than the one Jamie had gone. If they expected him to follow and be ambushed again, they had another think coming.
"Gotcha!" Bobby shouted, icing Sam's shirt. The younger man yelped and took to the air with a roar, swooping down and picking Bobby up before he had a chance to run.
"Hey!" Bobby shouted, "No powers!"
"We never said that!" Sam laughed back before dropping Bobby into the pool.
Jamie was standing nearby, laughing so hard he couldn't even straighten up from his doubled over postition, arms clutching his sides.
Bobby surfaced a moment later, and saw Sam and Jamie standing nearby with their SuperSoakers and toy headsets, laughing.
"You guys are evil," Bobby said, swimming to the edge of the pool and hauling himself out. Then he turned and, with a wicked twinkle in his eye, froze Sam and Jamie's clothes. They both started yelping, and both of them were soon trying to twist out of their shirts.
"New clothes newclothesnewclothes!" Jamie shrieked, laughing as he ran inside.
Sam followed, taking to the air a moment later.
Bobby laughed and went inside himself, tracking in water--much to Jean's irritation--as he went upstairs to change.
~You're cleaning that up, buster,~ Jean sent.
*I know,* Bobby answered with a grin. After years of making ice in the house and then having it melt and soak things, he was used to mopping up.
Jamie arrived in the doorway of Bobby's room as the older man was buttoning his shirt.
"Sam and I found this great toy store," Jamie said with a grin. "It's in the mall."
"Kay*Bee's?" Bobby asked, smiling.
"Nah. We went there--Kay*Bee's sucked. It was this other place in the mall--this little mom and pop store. It's open almost *all night.*" Jamie grinned impishly and Sam arrived, running fingers through his blond hair.
Bobby grinned over at the two younger men, shaking his head.
"Wanna go back?" Jamie asked hopefully. "We thought you should have a SuperSoaker, too. And Hank. But we didn't know what kind you'd like, so we waited."
"Ah," Bobby laughed. "But I don't get a headset?"
Sam grinned widely and held one up. "We got an extra set foh you an' Hank. They're hilarious--barely work at all. We just didn't know what kinda SuperSoakers ya'll would want."
Bobby started laughing, and nodded quickly. "Jamie, go see if you can pull Hank away from his lab. I'll find my car keys."
The two younger men turned and raced down the hall.
"Echo one, this is echo two," Bobby whispered into the tiny toy headset.
"Echo two, this is echo one," Jamie chuckled back. "Go ahead."
"I'm in the park, and don't see our quarry anywhere," Bobby whispered.
"Me neither," Jamie answered. "And these headsets suck," he continued on a choked laugh.
Bobby smothered his own chuckle with some difficulty, and looked around the night-darkened park. Neither Hank nor Sam was anywhere to be seen. It made him worry. Sam could fly, and Hank was good at hiding--especially given his size.
"Fire!" came the cry from behind, and Bobby had only an instant in which to react. He didn't react fast enough, and Hank's voice-activated water-gun shot him in the back.
"You cheeser!" Bobby cried, whipping around and bringing his giant water bomb thrower to bear. He shot at Hank and missed, then had to pump up his gun again while Hank continued soaking him. "Echo two," Bobby laughed, "I need some help!"
Then Jamie was there suddenly, using his double-barreled SuperSoaker XP and shooting at Hank. Hank whipped around, his voice-activated "gun" unable to hold up against Jamie's more powerful weapon.
Bobby was finally able to pump up his bomber enough to shoot again, and as Sam blasted out of the sky and landed to shoot he managed to hit the young man square in the side.
Sam was soaked.
"*That's* why I got this," Bobby crowed, pumping his bomber up again. True, it didn't blast for long and you had to pump it forever, but it sure soaked when it did hit.
Hank cackled as he bounced away through the trees, Jamie hot on his heels.
Sam turned, blasting Bobby as Bobby did the only thing logical in his situation. He ran.
"Ya coward!" Sam shouted to his retreating back.
"Yeah!" Bobby agreed, stumbling and laughing as he vaulted over a low brick wall that separated the grassy area from the slide area. He landed with a thump, certainly bruising his tailbone, then got up and hid behind the wooden fort.
In the distance and over his headset, he could hear Jamie and Hank fighting it out. Sam was suspiciously quiet.
Bobby nearly jumped out of his skin, whipping around and pointing the barrel of his bomber right at Sam's chest. Sam had his own gun pointed at Bobby's forehead. Bobby grinned. Sam grinned back.
"Now what?" Sam asked in his Southern accent.
"Ya'll've been hangin' 'round mah boy a lot," Bobby responded in his best gun-slinger voice.
Sam put on a Fierce Western Movie Face and glared at Bobby, not quite managing to hide the upward twitch of his mouth. "Yeah? Ya'll wanna make somethin' outta it?"
Bobby noted that Sam's Western Movie Accent was much better than his, but that was because it was mostly authentic. "Mebbe. Ya'll got designs on him, pup?"
Sam smirked, then straightened his features. "Nah. He's not mah type, an' he's all gooey over you."
Bobby grinned, slightly relieved--slightly embarrassed of himself and the jealousy he'd felt when he'd seen Sam and Jamie standing together, grinning happily, in his doorway. "Good," he said. Then he shot at Sam, knowing even as he did it that he'd have to spend long minutes pumping his bomber up. Knowing also that Sam wouldn't give him those minutes, and would instead soak him. Bobby didn't care.
Sam yelped and jumped back, giving Bobby barely a moment in which to escape. Bobby made good use of it, pulling himself upward into the playground construct, hiding behind slats of wood and racing across the short, moving, slatted bridge to the next wooden "island." He heard Sam's blast field and slipped down between the bars, ducking under the "island" where Sam couldn't get him as easily, then started re-pumping his bomber.
The sound of a furious fight could be heard over his headset, though it was rather tinny and full of static. Bobby grinned and ran across the sand as Sam came after him again.
Jamie flopped down onto the couch happily, putting his head in Bobby's lap. "What a good night," he sighed contentedly. Sam lay on the floor not too far off, and Hank was sitting on the other couch, mostly dry but wrapped up in a giant terrycloth robe to soak up the rest of the water.
Jamie smiled as he felt Bobby's fingers comb softly through his hair, sliding it out of his face in soothing motions.
"Tired?" Bobby asked in a soft voice.
Jamie let his eyes flutter closed, nodding slightly.
"It's nearly one in the mornin'," Sam said. "And ya'll were . . . up . . . last night. No wonder."
Jamie felt himself grin widely. "You're just jealous 'cause you weren't . . . up . . . all night," he responded.
"If Ah wanted ta be . . . *up* . . . all night, then Ah'd just go find a . . . playmate . . . at Harry's."
Jamie felt more than heard Bobby chuckle.
"Well if I want to be . . . *up* . . . all night," Jamie answered, grinning with his eyes closed, "I'd just find Bobby." He felt Bobby's hand search out his own, wrapping it up in long fingers and squeezing slightly. Jamie squeezed back.
"Just so long as ya'll don't leave your clothes all over the floor for me t' trip on again," Sam said dryly.
Jamie felt himself blushing brightly, so he opened his eyes and turned to look at Sam. "Damn," he said, even though he knew he was crimson. "There go my plans for tonight!"
Sam started to cackle, apparently finding the comment hilarious. Jamie grinned in return, watching as Sam became near breathless with laughter.
Hank was smiling bemusedly, getting up and turning the radio on.
"One-oh-one point four!" Bobby said immediately, jarring Jamie as the older man nearly bounced in his seat.
Jamie looked at Bobby as if he'd lost it, and Bobby settled down quickly, smoothing a hand through Jamie's hair. He bent down and kissed Jamie, and Jamie felt himself relax. "Sorry," Bobby said softly, smiling.
Jamie smiled back.
"One-oh-five point three!" Sam had yelped, waving his hand to attract Hank's attention.
Hank was ignoring them both, tuning the radio to whatever he felt like, occasionally stopping at a station for a moment to listen to what they were playing.
Jamie heard a familiar tune, and sat up. "Wait! Stop! I love that song!" he said, looking at Hank's back hopefully.
Hank stopped and turned to look at Jamie, eyebrows raised. "This one?" he asked.
"Yeah!" Jamie answered with a grin.
"'All Star'!" Bobby crowed, and started dancing in his seat in time to the music. "Some*body* once told me the world was gonna owe me--"
"Roll me," Jamie laughed, listening to Bobby sing off-key.
"Roll me, I ain't the sharpest tool in the she-ed!"
Sam, laughing, stood up and pretended like he had a microphone, dancing and singing around the room. That was all it took for Bobby to leap out of his seat and take off, jumping around in his bad imitation of a dance.
"Wellll!" Both men sang, loudly. "The years start comin' and they don't stop comin', take to the somthing and then hit the ground runnin'!"
Jamie started laughing, and Bobby hurried over to pull him up. Before he knew it he was dancing too, the three of them jumping and bobbing and twisting all over the floor--and soon even Jamie found himself singing loudly.
"Hey now, you're an all-star, getcher game on, go - play! Hey now, you're a rock star getcher show on, get - paid!" Jamie broke down laughing when he heard Bobby's version--"getcher show on, get laid!"--and nearly fell over. Sam tripped over him, almost falling, but managed to get back up and keep dancing.
Jamie straightened again, feeling his trenchcoat sweeping against his legs with every move he made. He was sweating, and little hairs at the base of his neck were starting to stick to his skin, but he didn't care. Hair flopped in his face as he danced, and as the three of them kept playing he watched closely, picking up exactly how Bobby and Sam danced, and when, and to what. It didn't take long before he felt better about doing it himself--at least with only Bobby, Sam, and Hank to witness.
Just as Jamie became much too breathless to continue, the music cut out and Bobby shouted, "Doggie pile on Hank!"
Hank continued to look rather bemused as Bobby jumped on him, Sam following suit.
Jamie had a flash of disconnection, and wondered whether it was really appropriate for *him* to be dog-piling. Hank might not like that, and he wasn't quite one of the family, not really, and--
Hank held out an arm expectantly, and Jamie grinned as he leapt after the other two men. Sam had already rolled most of the way off, laughing, but Bobby was clinging happily to Hank's terrycloth robe. Jamie jumped into Hank's lap himself, laughing delightedly and burying his face in the thick blue fur.
"All my boys," Hank rumbled with a chuckle, and Jamie felt Sam move closer until they had all managed somehow to fit on Hank's lap.
"*Gentlemen,*" Ororo's regal voice came from the doorway.
Jamie twisted to look, but couldn't see much beyond the back of Sam's head.
"I can hear you all the way in the women's wing, in the *attic.* I can't imagine what Logan must be going through. Now I believe you each have chores tomorrow--"
"No I don't!" Bobby quipped.
"You do now," Ororo said in a dangerously low voice.
Jamie's stomach clenched, and he moved back until he was leaning against Bobby and still half-buried in Hank's fur.
"Yes, ma'am," Bobby said, sounding completely unrepentant.
"We'll go ta bed," Sam said in his rolling accent, and Jamie heard Ororo's footsteps as she left the room.
"Are we in trouble?" Jamie asked softly, unable to help himself.
Sam turned to look at him, smiling. "Nah. 'Ro's just irritated, that's all."
Jamie nodded, not entirely convinced.
"Come then, children," Hank said, pushing Jamie up and then Sam and Bobby. "I shall put you wee ones to bed!"
"Can I have a story, Daddy?" Bobby asked in a high-pitched voice, clinging to Hank's hand. "Carry me, Daddy!" Bobby jumped, nearly choking Hank as he scrambled up the larger man's back.
"Once upon a time," Hank said, carrying Bobby on his back and taking first Jamie's hand and then Sam's as they both laughed, "there were three little boys who didn't go to bed. Oh, no. First the two little boys got together and stayed up *all night,* and then the other little boy found a little girl and they stayed up *all night.*"
Sam was laughing, and Jamie was trying very hard not to because he didn't want to wake Ororo again.
"And their daddy got irritated and came in and caught them at the acts they were doing--the acts they shouldn't've have been doing because, really, it hurts the springs on the bed." Hank stopped and looked back when Bobby started laughing so hard he lost his grip and slipped off the furry blue back. Sam was nearly doubled over in laughter, and Jamie felt tears running down his face.
"I was talking about jumping on the bed. Those little boys and that girl were jumping on the beds," Hank said in an innocent voice. Then he smiled, kissed Sam's forehead, kissed Bobby's forehead, and kissed Jamie's forehead before turning to go up the stairs. "Goodnight, boys," he called softly.
Jamie smiled, feeling all warm and loved and downright wiggly with it. "Goodnight, Hank," he answered. Bobby and Sam were still laughing.
"Ah'm goin' ta bed," Sam said finally, still chuckling. "Good night."
Bobby waved, and Jamie responded with, "Night."
Bobby, sitting on the floor, looked up at Jamie and smiled. "This was fun."
Jamie grinned and nodded. "You have good friends."
"So do you," Bobby laughed. "I've never really talked to Sam much, before."
Jamie bit his lip, smiling. "Oh. Well, he's nice. I like these people."
Bobby nodded and held out a hand. Jamie took the offered seat and plopped down between Bobby's legs, leaning back against his chest. Strong arms wrapped around him, holding him securely. "We should go to bed," Bobby said softly.
"Yeah," Jamie sighed, leaning his head back to rest it on Bobby's shoulder. He kissed the spot under Bobby's ear, and felt those arms tighten.
"Go to bed and *sleep*," Bobby clarified with a laugh. "I have a feeling Ororo's going to have extra jobs for us tomorrow."
Jamie sighed. "Yeah. Then I need my own bed. Yours is lumpy."
Bobby laughed, the sound vibrating through his entire ribcage. "That's 'cause I was in it at the time."
Jamie chuckled, then finally disentangled himself and stood up. "Bedtime," he said with a smile, offering his hand to help Bobby up.
Bobby used it, then pulled Jamie close. "I love you," he said softly, running his fingers through Jamie's thick hair.
Jamie's stomach tightened, as it still did, and he responded, "I love you, too."
Bobby tugged him up the stairs, then stopped at Jamie's room. "See you in the morning," he sighed, leaning down slightly to kiss Jamie.
Jamie nearly wiggled--he *loved* Bobby's kisses--but kept himself from doing so. "Sure you don't want to come in?" he asked wistfully, not bothering to open his eyes when Bobby pulled back.
He heard Bobby chuckle, felt his warm breath on his face. Knuckles brushed softly across his jaw, and then Jamie heard footsteps retreating down the hall. He sighed and opened his eyes, watching Bobby leave, then opened his door and headed into his room.
He smiled as he closed the door, leaning back against it.
He loved Bobby.
Then Jamie choked back a laugh as he remembered Bobby jumping up on Hank, and Hank treating them all like children.
He liked Sam and Hank, too. And Jean was nice.
Jamie smiled, biting his lip. He liked it here.
For the first time he realized how late it was, and quick on that realization came another, far happier one.
It was late, he was tired, but he wasn't depressed. He didn't feel alone or scared, and he didn't want to sit and cry. He felt warm, and happy, and loved.
Humming quietly, Jamie stepped away from the door and started to put his pajamas on.
"Good morning, Jamie," Jean said, smiling.
Jamie smiled back at her sleepily. "'Morning, Jean," he answered, flopping down into a chair.
Jean hugged him, apparently for no reason, and Jamie returned it after a moment.
"James," Ororo said calmly from the kitchen sink, "I believe Bobby is out cleaning up water marks from the floor." She looked at him pointedly, and Jamie smiled sheepishly.
"I'll help him," he said.
Ororo nodded and looked away once more.
"'Morning, Jamie," Scott said, walking in. He sat down across from Jamie at the table, looking very business-like. "I have a question."
"Everyone here is on a team. The Gold Team is Ororo's, and she has Jean, Bobby, Warren, and Remy. The Blue Team is mine, and I have Logan, Betsy, Rogue, and Sam. The Reserve Team always includes Hank and Cecilia Reyes, along with whoever else we can conjure up. Now, the question is, if you really want to be a part of us, which team would you like to be on?"
Jamie opened his mouth to ask a question, but Scott held up his hand for silence.
"Know that you can live here without being a part of the X-Men. If you would rather be one of us, though, you'll have to train a bit. If you want to be on the reserve team then it's twice a week mandatory fight-training, but weight training and everything else is up to you. If you want to be on the Blue or Gold teams, then there's a lot more work involved."
Jamie nodded and thought only briefly about it before answering.
He wanted to be a part of them, he truly did. If only because he didn't want to be alone anymore, and even that small separation seemed like so much. But he wasn't a fighter--and he knew that. Despite his time with X-Factor, he had always preferred thinking and plotting instead of fighting.
"Could I be part of the reserve and still work with Hank?" he asked after a while.
Scott nodded wordlessly, his expression inscrutable behind his ruby quartz sunglasses.
"Then I'd like to do that."
Scott nodded. "Done." He stood and held out his hand, smiling. "Welcome to the X-Men, Jamie. I'll get you a list of rules and regs later."
Jamie smiled, nodded, and shook Scott's hand. When he would have let go Scott held on, attracting his attention.
"Whatever's happened before," Scott said quietly, very earnestly, "we are your family. Dysfunctional at times, but then what family isn't?"
"If you have a problem--of any sort--we're all here to help. Because, hey, you've just earned a whole bunch of brothers, sisters, cousins, in-laws and whatever else you can think of." Scott grinned, squeezed Jamie's hand omfortingly, and then left the room.
Jamie was smiling, and he felt really dopey about it, so he stared resolutely at the table. He felt Jean walk up, though, and put her arms around him.
~Welcome home, Jamie,~ she sent on a wave of caring and love.
Jamie reached back up around himself and hugged her back, bathing in that sudden telepathic wave of togetherness. He could feel echoes of the entire team in that.
Sam, like someone thrilled to have a new cousin to love.
Logan was there--a gruff and sometimes intimidating presence, but always caring in his own way.
Ororo, a calm feeling in the middle of emotional turbulence.
Bobby, nearly ready to explode with happiness.
Betsy, reserved and watching, but respectful.
Warren, not quite sure what he was supposed to do with this new person yet, but caring all the same.
Hank was like a giant hug lying in wait for the right moment, a countermand to Rogue, who felt uncertain. And yet, despite that, Jamie could *feel* the loyalty--the knowledge that if she had to, she'd go to the ends of the earth to help.
Remy, slightly aloof, giving a mental nod and considering look, but still willing to help if needed.
And there was Scott, bound so tightly with Jean that they were nearly inseparable. There was pride in them, and love, and loyalty and caring--along with a certain steel that was definite discipline. The glow that was JeanScott would love unconditionally, but wouldn't allow stupidity.
Behind all that, like the sound of the lapping tidepools under the crashing of the waves, were hints of Others. Everyone who had ever been an X-Man was there, welcoming him--sometimes politely and something enthusiastically.
Jamie took a shaky breath, blinking as his mind became fully rooted in his body once more. With amazment, he realized he was crying. He laughed, self-conscious, and tried to pull away from Jean's hug.
She hugged him tighter. "Welcome home," she murmured into his ear.
And then the telepathic wave faded entirely, and suddenly Bobby was there, laying across the table to get to Jamie and hugging him.
"Hi," Bobby chirped, nearly crushing Jamie in his hug. "Are these good tears or bad tears?"
"Good tears," Jamie laughed, wiping them off on Bobby's shoulder. "I love you."
Bobby clutched him tighter. "Me too. I mean--you know what I mean."
Jamie laughed and nodded.
"Robert!" Ororo's voice rang out. "Have you finished cleaning up those water marks?"
"Eep!" Bobby said, and scooted off the other side of the table.
Jamie started laughing, then hurried out of his seat when Ororo turned and threatened him with her spoon as well. But for the first time he saw the smile in her eyes, an indulgent sort of look that said she really wasn't that upset.
Jamie hurried after Bobby anyway, the telepathic love-wave fading and leaving him only with a memory. But he grinned at Warren as he passed in the hall, noting that the other man smiled back slightly and inclined his head in a nod.
"I'll help clean up, Bobby," Jamie said, racing into the family room.
"Dang right you will. I didn't make this mess myself!" Bobby laughed, grabbing him and twirling him around until they both fell.
Jamie was laughing as he shoved Bobby away, clambering to his feet.
~Breakfast will be ready in ten minutes, boys,~ Jean sent, and Jamie grinned.
*Thanks!* he thought back as loud as he could, and received a mental hug in return.
The roar of a blast field entered, and Sam landed next to Bobby. "We're gonna go play pool later tonight," Sam said, looking from Bobby to Jamie and back again. "Wanna go?"
"Who?" Bobby asked, while Jamie answered, "Yeah!"
"Okay," Sam said to Jamie, then responded to Bobby, "Me an' Remy an' Rogue."
"Sure," Bobby said, smiling, then bent back to cleaning up the water marks.
"Cool," Sam said, and ruffled Jamie's hair before racing out again.
Jamie rolled his eyes.
"Hey!" Bobby protested suddenly. "If you're gonna be an X-Man and be one of us, get down here and help me!"
Jamie laughed and did as he was told.
He smiled even as he worked. He felt . . . for the first time in months, he felt safe, and *wanted.*
"What are you grinning about?" Bobby asked softly.
Jamie looked up and met those baby blue eyes with his own dark brown ones. "I'm just happy," he answered. "And I love you."
Bobby's face split into a grin. "That's good," he said. "I love you too. Heck, everyone here does. But I do more."
Jamie nodded--he knew that now--and went to work.
"Hey. James," Bobby said in a near whisper. "Know how you can tell if you're a Summers?"
From the den Jamie heard Scott shout, "Bobby! You'd better not be telling Summers jokes in there again! Jamie, don't listen to him!"
Jamie started to laugh, and kept cleaning as Bobby held a shouted argument with Scott.
It was *just* like a family. And it was his.
[[Bodies of Water]]