Changing Faces
by Poi Lass

Part Three: But if You're a Man

It had seemed like another good idea at the time.

A party. An X-party. Mutants unite and do silly dancing. That sort of thing.

But then again, it was Morph's idea, which should, in theory, have alerted someone to the fact that it probably wasn't such a very good one after all. Or, at least, not a very sane one.

Still, nothing had been blown up, no sentinels had dropped by, and everything was going well. Going perfectly.

Right up to the point where the blind date Warren had insisted on procuring for Bobby, turned into Sidney Drosselmier.

In the middle of a rather passionate kiss.

"Oh shit. Sid, you promised you weren't going to do that again!" Bobby wiped his mouth furiously and shoved the other man away from him, trying to suppress a brief, deep regret that the kiss hadn't lasted longer.

I am not feeling this. I am not... I can not believe he did that again...

The other X-men were trying not to laugh. Some of them, anyway. Others, Warren in particular, had already given up and were giggling hysterically.

"You DIE Worthington." Bobby growled.

"I told you I'd get you back for that ice wedgie. Besides," he dissolved into laughter again, "You two just look so cute together..."

Bobby felt heat rising to his cheeks and was glad, as he had been a number of times recently, that his mutant ability gave him control over his own body temperature.

"That is IT." He vowed. "I quit. I'm never dating again." Morph beamed in delight.

"You see? It worked. Now you'll never look at another woman. You're all mine! MINE!" He laughed manically, throwing out his arms.

"Sidney - SHUT UP!" Bobby was unsure whether to laugh at him or hit him, but he was finding it increasingly difficult to maintain his anger. Sid just grinned and casually threw an arm around his shoulders.

"Oh please - you knew it was me. The third time I do the switch on you and you try to tell me you weren't even suspicious? Besides, you know you enjoyed - "

"Wait a minute. Third time?" Bobby frowned as he pushed Sidney's arm away.

"Oops." Sid gulped melodramatically.

"Third?" Bobby repeated slowly.

"Did I say third? I meant second. You know me, can't even count, one, three, four, eight-"

"When was the other time, Morph?" Bobby's voice was suddenly low and dangerous. Sidney, for once, shut up, and hesitated awkwardly before taking a theatrical breath, and shifting his shape to that of an attractive young woman. Brunette, 5'6', a beautiful but nervous smile - and a very familiar face.

"Belinda..." Bobby breathed, going pale.

"Is that supposed to be a joke, Sid? Because it's not funny." He said tightly. Morph put his hand to the other man's cheek.

"Bobby, honey...." he said in her voice. But Bobby just backed away from him with a terrible hurt in his eyes, and fled the room without a word. Morph shifted back to his regular shape, looking down at the floor, and the room was silent for a long moment. Then Rogue spoke.

"Sidney - that was cruel. That was so - Ah can't even believe ya just did that." She shook her head disbelievingly. "You keep saying ya care about him - well all ah can say is ah'm glad ya don't care about me."

Bobby was throwing things into a bag as Morph slid shamefaced into his bedroom.

"Bobby? What're you -" Bobby ignored Morph's question, and asked his own, his voice still cold and hard.

"Did you mean you took her place just the once? Or that you were her the - the - whole time?" He didn't look up, just kept moving around the room getting the things he needed.

"The whole time." Morph said finally, quietly. "I didn't mean - I was just -... I'm sorry." Bobby stopped what he was doing, and closed his eyes.

"Tell me this a joke, Sid. Please. It's not funny." The quiet pain in his voice made Sidney feel even smaller.

"I'm sorry." He repeated helplessly. "I never meant it to go so far. I never meant - to hurt you. I just - I couldn't keep being her, and I couldn't tell you, so -"

"So you - dumped me. And you watched me walk around depressed, and you listened to me tell you how much I was in love with her, and you - you - " Bobby was almost crying, which only made him angrier. "You bastard. You unbelievable - " he couldn't go on. He looked away from Sidney and went back to packing his bag. "Get out. Just - get out."

Sidney opened his mouth to try and talk some sense in him, to explain, to make a joke, to beg him not to go... but for once in his life he could think of nothing at all to say.

Two mornings later, and breakfast at the Xavier Institute was not as wild an affair as usual. For one thing, Bobby wasn't there, freezing people's food to their plates, and making all the coffee and tea into iced coffee and tea.

For another Morph was ... quiet.

Nobody was quite sure how to deal with that. `Morph' and `quiet' were usually words that went together like `Bishop' and `trusting'. Or `Xavier' and `hairy'. `Cyclops' and `spontaneous'. `Magneto' and `tolerant, laid back, easygoing guy'.

But Morph just sat in his usual place, slowly eating his food. When he wanted the salt, or the jam, he simply reached over and got it. Even Bishop, who had attempted to turn Morph into a small puddle of metamorphic goo on more than one mealtime occasion, found himself unnerved by the change in Sidney.

As the shapeshifter silently passed the butter across the table, without making a song and dance about it, Rogue looked pleadingly at Storm. Something had to be done.

Ororo laid her knife and fork down next to her plate and studied Morph carefully. He did not even seem to notice. He could, she considered, simply be doing all this to get attention and sympathy. And she most certainly did not approve of what he had done to Bobby. But -- he did seem genuinely depressed. And she was not sure how much more of his abnormally normal behaviour that she could take...

She glanced at Scott, who shrugged. He didn't have a clue, and besides, Bobby was on her team. Ororo made her decision. As she picked up her utensils and began eating again, she said aloud to the table:

"He went to his parent's house in Long Island. You may take the Blackbird."

For a moment, Morph seemed not to hear. Then he looked up slowly. Ororo met his gaze steadily. He threw his arms around her and kissed her loudly on the cheek before morphing into Whitney Houston and rushing wildly out the door, singing "Iiiiii will always love yooooooou".

Jean managed to grab Ororo's plate telekinetically before it slid into her lap.

"Thank you Jean." She pushed her hair back into place and returned to her meal.

"Are you sure that was the right thing to do, 'Ro?" Jean asked, half amused at Sidney's reaction, half concerned at what Bobby's would be.

Ororo sighed.

"No, my friend, I am not. But they will have to sort things out sooner or later. It may as well be sooner. Before Sidney's moping drives us all insane."

Meanwhile, in a perfectly ordinary house in Long Island, another man had been doing some moping of his own.

Bobby Drake sat on the back steps of his parents' house, playing with an ice sculpture. Trying to think things through. Part of him was so angry every time he thought about the situation, he wanted to throw something. In fact he had, several times; the garden was littered with shattered, melting pieces of ice.

So why are you so angry, Drake? he asked himself. Because he lied to you? The love of your life, nothing but a lie. A -- a stupid joke.

He thought about it. That was most definitely part of it.

Part. So what's the rest? ... Because he made you look like an idiot? Because he humilated you. That's part of it too, isn't it. A big part. Petty of you, Drake. Verrrry petty. You know he wasn't trying to hurt you. He never means to hurt anybody. He just didn't think. And who else does that sound like? he scowled, and threw another ice sculpture at the clothes line.

So he wasn't trying to hurt me. So what. He screwed with my life and he screwed with my head and who the fuck does he think he is anyway... The ice in his hands changed and shifted with his fluctuating moods.

He thinks he's in love. That's what he thinks. And people in love do idiotic things. Look at you. He sat up.

"Now what the hell is that supposed to mean?" he asked himself aloud.

"What's what supposed to mean, dear?" His mother's voice inquired. She stood behind him at the back door, and smiled at him. His parents hadn't pushed him to confide in them, but he knew they'd been wondering why he'd come. He wondered if he should tell her. He could use some advice...

Hmm. Let's see. Well Mom, I met this woman. 'Belinda'. And I fell head over heels in love. Real, instant kinship. Never felt anything like it. We finished each others thoughts, and we made each other laugh, and when we made love it was....

And then, for no apparent reason -- she left me. And losing her hurt so much I wanted to die. And then - then I found out she'd really just been my pal the shapeshifter all along, trying to prove I could fall for him. Which he did. Because I did. I did. And so now what do I do? Huh, mom? What do I do now?

"Nothing mom. Just thinking aloud."

She went back into the kitchen. He went back to brooding.

He was pulled out of his reverie by the back door slamming shut and glanced around, expecting to see his mother again.

And froze.

"What are you doing here, Sidney?" Despite the long hours he'd spent trying to sort out how he felt about the other man, seeing him standing there, that stupid, nervous grin on his face, all Bobby felt was angry.

"I - I wanted to see you. I thought we should talk."

"I don't want to talk to you. Right now, all I want is to hit you. Repeatedly. So fuck off before I do." Bobby turned his back to him again but Sidney didn't leave. However when he spoke, his voice was feminine, achingly familiar.

"You said you loved me." The woman he'd known as Belinda said softly behind him. Bobby stiffened but didn't turn to looked at her.

Him. Not her, him. There's no such person as Belinda, there never was. So why does it hurt so much to have lost her..?

"Stop it Sidney. You lied to me all along, none if it was real --"

"Yes it was. This is part of who I am too, just a different face -- but that made all the difference, didn't it?"

"It was a lie -- if I'd known -- you --" Bobby stumbled to a halt. It wasn't right, it wasn't real, there had never been anything real between them, but somehow - somehow - he could find no words to say it that didn't sound false even to his ears. How could it have been nothing? He'd loved her - he had - but if she was - if she hadn't been - how could it have been --

His painfully tangled thoughts were interrupted again as Morph moved down the steps to stand in front of him, rare anger in 'her' eyes.

"If I'd had a different face you mean." She replied scornfully. "If I hadn't looked like a pretty woman, so you didn't have to feel so ashamed about caring for me."

That way of standing - it's so -- Sidney. How could I never have noticed? Or did I just not want to notice, so I wouldn't have to admit that I --

But Bobby was already speaking, his voice hard despite his confusion; as if he knew what he felt, as if he was certain he spoke the truth; as if he was trying to convince Sidney instead of himself.

"Stop it. I don't love you Sid, why can't you just accept that I don't -" Morph cut him off brutally.

"But you said you did. So was that a lie? Or was it just the face you loved, Bobby? All that time you moped and sulked over losing your precious Belinda, and any pretty face would've done." Belinda/Sidney's voice was cruel and bitter. Bobby stared back, shaken.

"Stop it." He whispered harshly. Morph shifted back to himself, but his expression did not change, and neither did his taunting, angry tone.

"You never loved 'her' at all." He continued mercilessly. "You never loved anyone. You don't know how. You don't even know what it means-"

"Stop it!" Bobby screamed, control breaking, and launched himself at Sidney. He caught the shape changer off guard, and landed a punch on his jaw as they rolled onto the grass. Neither of them used their powers, and surprise quickly gave Bobby victory.

He sat on top of Morph, holding his wrists painfully tight, trying to choke back the fury that made him want to beat his friend -- his lover? -- into a pulp. A half hysterical voice in the back of his mind asked how he thought he could hold a shapeshifter, but he ignored it.

"Why are you doing this to me?" he hissed. The wrists he was holding twisted and slid out of his grasp. Belinda again. She looked at Bobby in a way that hurt his chest, and put her arms around his neck.

"Don't -" he breathed. And then 'Belinda' kissed him, passionately and deeply, in a way that had always taken his breath away. He resisted at first, but then kissed her back, with a hunger that surprised them both.

Still love her, still want her - him - even though I know ... He pulled away and looked at Morph who still hadn't changed back to himself. Even though I know... Oh god. I didn't just love the face, oh god help me, I didn't --

Morph spoke softly, utterly serious for once.

"I can look like this. I can be her all the time. We'll just forget about Sidney, it'll just be Bobby and Belinda. You and me..." Bobby looked at him for a long time, and then shook his head slowly, all his anger gone. He got up and moved back to the steps to sit down again.

Morph simply changed back and tried not to cry.

"You still don't get it. You can't -- you can't keep pretending to be someone you're not. You are -- who you are, and that's all there is to it. Either I love -- who you are -- or I don't." He almost seemed to be talking to himself, looking past Morph into the distance. Or into himself.

Sidney opened his mouth, but then closed it again. Nothing left to say. Bobby was right. Either he loved him or he didn't -- and he didn't. So. He nodded sadly, and moved past Bobby to leave. He'd get over it. He'd be fine. He'd just go back to flirting with Remy or something --

"Sid." Sidney turned, to meet Bobby's thoughtful gaze. Bobby hesitantly held his hand out to him.

"Don't -- don't go. Please." Sidney froze, unsure what it meant. Unwilling to consider hope again.

Bobby reached up, took his hand, and pulled him gently down to sit next to him. He searched Sidney's eyes for a long moment. Took a deep breath.

And then leaned over to kiss, for the first time, the face of the man he loved.

continued >>

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