but I think they're happier with me. No money. Don't sue.
He Kinda Sorta Maybe Loves Him
"I want you to work with Gambit."
Bobby absorbed this bit of uncharacteristic idiocy from Scott with a blink. "You... huh?"
If Scott blinked in return, Bobby couldn't tell. "I want you to work with Gambit. He needs to get his wind back. His conditioning was blown to hell in Antarctica, and if he's going to pull his weight with the team he'll need to get fit again."
"I got that part. The part I didn't get was where you said--"
"Everyone else is busy," Scott told him blithely. "And at his current fitness level you're the only X-Man he can keep up with."
"...That's an insult, isn't it? I distinctly heard an insult in there..."
"You're imagining things." Not a hint of a smile, blast him. "I've scheduled a session for you both at seven AM tomorrow. Keep things simple -- basic exercise, no simulations. I'll be busy with--"
"This isn't fair!"
"--repairs on the Blackbird," Scott finished dryly. "So try not to get in any trouble."
"But Scott, he doesn't even like me!"
"Personal feelings don't need to be involved in this at all."
"Think of it as doing your part for the team."
Bobby was positive he saw a twitch of that rare humor in the leader's expression at that.
At seven-thirty in the morning Bobby, rubbing his eyes and yawning hugely, sauntered into the Danger Room in gray sweats. The Cajun, if he remembered right, was almost never on time, particularly to a morning training session. Scott often seemed to think Remy did that just to irk him, but Bobby's theory was that he just liked to have Rogue -- the one who could rouse him the fastest, so therefore the one always sent -- show up in his bedroom. Even when she was pissed.
That wasn't too likely today, he realized suddenly. Hadn't been for a few weeks now. Right after Remy had returned to the team he'd called it quits with Rogue. Permanently, or so he said.
So without a Rogue to wake him, Remy might not even show up this morning, sparing Bobby the effort of trying to outdo him while trying to make it look easy. I'm the only X-Man he can keep up with... hermph. No respect. None. And I'm almost even on time today, but still I don't get any ... any...
"Remy," he said in surprise. "What're you doing here?"
What he was doing was fairly obvious -- benching what looked to Bobby's eyes to be a fairly respectable set of weights -- but that didn't explain the fact that he was here when there was a perfectly comfortable bed that he probably hadn't even crawled into until after three in the morning.
Remy didn't look at him, his face a study of focused concentration. "What's it look like I'm doin'?"
"I mean ... you're on time..."
Level breaths, in-two-three-four, out-two-three-four. "Got a lotta catchin' up t' do, Bobby."
His voice at least wasn't unfriendly, so Bobby slowly walked over to the mat beside the weights and flopped down to start stretching. "Well, yeah. But it's early."
Wiry muscles on still-thin arms flexed regularly beneath those sweats. "Y' t'ink I got no discipline?"
"Um." What he fondly called his 'Iceman-sense' -- and what Hank affectionately called his 'all too rare common sense' -- warned him that it was safest not to answer that one. "So ... you glad to be back?"
No answer while Remy racked the barbell and sat up, rubbing a sweaty arm over a sweatier face. He caught his breath with an ease Bobby couldn't help but envy and then shrugged with casual elegance. "Sure. I guess." A glance at Bobby. The younger man almost shivered under those inhuman eyes. "Y're gon' pull somet'ing."
"How y' stretchin'. Y're gon' pull a muscle dat way."
Bobby was busy gradually lowering his torso to his knee with rhythmic little bounces, arms outstretched towards his toes. "This is how I've always done it," he said, a tad bit defensively. "And I haven't really strained anything ... often..."
He was surprised to see a slow half-grin spread over the Cajun face. Remy hadn't smiled much since his return. "Funny. I can show y' de best way t' stretch ... if y' wan'..."
Bobby tried to remember anyone else offering to show him how to stretch, but gave up when he had to reluctantly admit that he was usually running too late for anyone to warm up alongside him. He didn't think he'd ever actually asked for help, and despite his melodramatic horror when he was 'injured' he really didn't often show when the pain was real. That took all the fun out of it.
"Er. Sure. If you want."
That seemed to be close enough to an invitation to satisfy the Cajun, who stood and strode over with an enviously smooth stride. He'd noticed the way Remy moved before -- who could miss it? -- but the times when it was only the two of them were so rare that he never really had a chance to just observe.
And I don't have a chance now, he told himself, suddenly a little uneasy. He's not exactly gonna appreciate me ogling him.
Remy dropped to the mat with considerably more grace than Bobby had, legs stretching easily out into what was nearly a straight line already. Uncharacteristically, he was in sweats, too. Usually Remy liked shorts and close fitting tank-tops. Anything to show off his physique as he shot those smoldering sidelong glances at Rogue.
He really was too thin now, though. And the smoldering looks at Rogue seemed to be a thing of the past. Critically Bobby studied the other man's face as he got settled, noting the lingering dark hollows around those alien eyes, the pre-shaving shadow across his cheeks and upper lip that made his face look even more gaunt. He seemed ... twitchy. Uneasy. As if he kept expecting this safe rug of 'home' to be jerked out from under him without a moment's notice.
And then those eyes snapped up suddenly and caught his, and Bobby was frozen in place.
"What're y' lookin' at?" Remy asked quietly, a hint of something preparing to be anger under the tone.
He cleared his throat nervously and tore his gaze away. "You. You're gonna show me how to stretch, remember? Or did you forget somehow between here and the bench?"
A pause, then the Cajun wordlessly shifted on the mat, folding one leg against his thigh and extending the other away from his body. "Copy me," he said levelly. "No bouncin'."
For nearly half an hour Remy led him in stretches, body moving smoothly, flexing with surprising ease underneath those baggy sweats. Bobby did his best to copy the steady, unhurried motions, but he knew he couldn't match the grace his teammate seemed to take for granted. Nerves he tried to cover with quips and small talk, none of which earned him much of a reaction from the other man. Not even the hint of a smile that he sometimes teased from Scott showed, as if whatever humor inside of Remy had been exhausted by that tiny grin earlier.
"No," the Cajun said after a while. "Y' rollin' y' shoulders 'stead a flattenin' y' back. Dat ain' doin' a t'ing f' y' hamstrings."
Bobby tried again, working unsuccessfully on hollowing his back to keep from screwing up ... however he was screwing up.
"Non." Remy stood in one seamless motion and moved to stand behind him. "Don' bend y' knees. Good. Now reach wit' y' arms ... oui ... an' try t' keep y' back straight..."
Suddenly there were hands on his back, warm fingers splayed across fabric as palms gently pushed, helping him bend low over his thighs. Bobby almost jumped, then tensed automatically as all of his attention was suddenly taken with the slight contact.
"Relax," Remy said. "Can' stretch if y' muscles're all tight."
He tried to relax. And, well, failed miserably.
"Damn, Bobby ... what's de matter wit' y' alluva sudden?" And just like that those burning fingers were off of him and he was popping into an upright position, turning his shoulders and blinking up at Remy. A furrow appeared between the other man's brows and his mouth quirked towards a perplexed look. "I was jus' gon' help."
"I..." Bobby scrubbed a hand through his hair and looked away. "Guess I need some more practice stretching." His face felt strangely hot, as though he were blushing.
Remy didn't say anything for a minute. A long minute. Bobby busily counted threads on his sweatpants while trying to think of something to say. Talking to Remy had never been precisely easy, but with the man ignoring even small talk he had to think of something clever to chase away that moment of ... awkwardness.
Clever. Right. I never come up with clever stuff 'til hours after it's too late to do any good. This was one of those things Bobby considered a Cruel Fact of Life. Those brilliantly witty instant comebacks were reserved for people like Remy, who hardly ever seemed unsettled enough to need them.
Then Remy walked past him without a word and reached for the towel he'd left over a corner of the weight rack. Bobby carefully didn't watch him dry his face and ruffle the cloth through sweaty hair. He also pointedly didn't think about that momentary flash of ... whatever that was ... when Remy's hands had been on him.
"What about the workout?"
Remy glanced at him. "I'm jus' gon' grab a run." Again the faintest trace of a little grin. "I was here on time, 'member?"
Bobby smiled, a little uncertainly. "Rub it in. Now I'm outdoing the posterboy for Slackerdom."
"When I do it, it's called havin' style." A slightly broader smile took any sting from the words. "Not dat you ain' got y' own brand a dat..."
Immediately he felt his face heat again and dropped his eyes, cursing himself. That wasn't really a compliment. That was ... that was sarcasm disguised in a friendly voice, that's all. Nothing but sarcasm. "I suppose," was all he managed to mumble, this time absorbing his attention with retying his shoe.
Remy finally walked for the door, towel over his shoulder. He paused before opening it and glanced back over his shoulder, and Bobby reluctantly forced himself to meet the unreadable gaze.
"T'anks," the Cajun said, voice somehow soft.
Bobby blinked. "Um. You're welcome. For...?"
That flighty look was back on the too-thin face and it was Remy's turn to look away. "Y're de first person on de team I spent any time alone wit' who didn' ask about ... t'ings." Before Bobby could formulate an answer -- which probably would've been a question, actually -- Remy keyed in the code to open the door with quick thief hands. "So t'anks," he said again as he stepped through, voice carrying back over his shoulder. "I 'preciate it."
Then he was gone. The door slid shut with a 'shoop.'
Slowly Bobby drew his knees up and looped his arms over them, resting his chin where his forearms crossed. He drew in a long breath, sighed it out, and waited for clarity of thought to permeate his mind.
He was still waiting at nine when Scott showed up for his first workout of the day.
There was so much accusation in their silences.
Remy had faced many a cold shoulder before, though. He could handle it. He would. He'd earned their distrust, after all.
If he were a religious man he'd say that living here, facing the ponderous silences and perceived dark looks, was some sort of penance for his sins.
If he were a religious man.
Since he wasn't he simply assumed that he was a glutton for punishment, which wasn't really news.
Even Ororo -- his precious Stormy -- even she sometimes seemed uneasy around him, watching her wording, avoiding certain memories. As if he might flitter away the first time he was reminded of what he'd done and all that he deserved for it.
Then there was Warren. Openly hostile, like the avenging angel. Remy hadn't decided if the man's rage was righteous or selfish, but he couldn't really find words to argue with it either way. Some day they'd have to settle it. Distanced from the team or not, Warren would always be an X-Man... always have a place with this bizarre school/family. It was Remy who had no real right to be here.
But he stayed regardless, because he had a lot to make right. Maybe too much.
He stepped into the men's communal showers on the sublevel after his run, trying to force his sore body to relax under the steaming spray. He'd known he was out of shape, but only now that he'd really started pushing himself again was the extent obvious. Staying in shape was easy. Getting in shape was anything but. He felt almost ready to collapse after what should've barely winded him. Couldn't let himself stay this way if he expected to--
Trying not to show his exhaustion, he turned his head at the startled exclamation. Bobby stood just inside the shower, towel wrapped securely around his hips, face a study in, well, red. He seemed to be trying very hard to look anywhere but at Remy.
"I, uh, didn't hear the shower..."
The Cajun dipped his head under the showerhead and tried to summon alertness. Shook water from his hair and muttered, "If y' freeze de water I'll kill you."
"I wasn't gonna ... that would be just..." His words trailed off, then continued more hesitantly. "You really look like hell."
"T'anks f' noticing." He glanced at the other man again. This time the blush was fading as what looked like genuine concern flickered in Bobby's eyes. This was the first time anyone other than Hank had seen him without comfortably concealing clothes since he'd gotten back, actually, and Henri was an expert at hiding his reaction to his teammates' frequently abused forms. If Bobby was this surprised then he had to look as bad to the younger man as he did to himself. "I'll live, Bobby. Jus' gotta put some weight back on."
"Well." The blush came back. Bobby started to turn. "Sorry. I'll just, uh, use one of the showers upstairs."
"F' chrissake, Bobby, bein' too skinny ain' contagious!" He hadn't meant to let the words come so sharply ... but he was already being shunned for things that were his fault. It didn't seem fair for him to be avoided because of something he couldn't help.
Bobby froze. Looked back, expression conflicted. "That's not ... I just thought you'd wanna be ... alone."
Alone. Right. Like I ain' alone enough a'ready. He shrugged brusquely to hide the flash of hurt, looking away and reaching for the soap-on-a-rope, barely suppressing a wince as something in his back protested. "F'get it."
Hesitant steps; bare feet made quiet slapping noises against the tile floor. "Remy, it's just..."
T'ought dere was one person who wasn' gon' get all nervy or angry ... Well, one besides Logan, whose tolerance basically meant he generally had as little to do with Remy as he'd had before, which didn't really help the general feeling of alienation much.
On the other hand, he couldn't really recall seeing Bobby in the communal shower before, either. Ever, actually. As if he were uneasy about it for some reason, which seemed pretty odd if he'd gone to school here for years and trained with his teammates during that time, which of course he had...
Maybe he was uncomfortable about his physique...? Remy stole a surreptitious glance at the bared torso as he lathered his own chest and shoulders with false vigor. Bobby wasn't as muscled as X-Men tended to run, but his lightly toned body didn't look like anything to be ashamed of. He really was rather cute, in a clean-cut American way, and even at a lower level of fitness than most of his teammates his training still kept him in good enough shape to put average men to shame. In fact, with that earnest look in his eyes, the concern creasing his brow, he looked surprisingly sweet and...
Get a'hold a y'self, t'ief. Dis ain' de place or time, an' he ain' de person. Surprising that he'd even think in that direction, the way things had been going. He couldn't really want...
Maybe not so surprising, on reflection. He was used to being alone in spirit, yeah, but not in heart, and not in body. It could just be natural to feel a sudden ... attraction ... to the first person who hadn't offered any threat to his mental equilibrium. A person who'd tried in an admittedly bumbling yet still charming way to even make him smile.
Still trying to reconcile these thoughts, Remy blinked at the wall and barely heard what Bobby was saying.
"... and you just seem to want time alone, y'know? 'Roro said you like time to think. Well, Logan said you actually want time to 'brood,' but I think they both meant the same thing. So I really didn't mean to ... embarrass you or anything. I mean, really, you're not that skinny..."
The rambling words stopped instantly. "...yeah...?"
Remy looked at him. Tried to square what he was feeling with that slightly-cuter-than-average face. "Don' worry 'bout it. I know y' didn' mean anyt'ing." Abruptly he ducked under the spray and rinsed off the last of the soap, then reached out quickly to turn the water off. "Shower's yours, mon ami."
Remy almost paused at that bare hesitation in his teammate's voice. What was unsettling Bobby like this? Was it Remy's past or ... something a little closer at hand...?
When he realized how seriously he was considering the answer he hurriedly went for his towel and invited himself to leave, pretending with great effort that he didn't notice the eyes burning into his back.
"What's that one?"
"What's what one, Bobby?"
"The one saying 'Hot Showers Live.'"
"That, my inquisitorial friend, is why god invented the 'delete' key."
Bobby rolled his eyes melodramatically. "Geez, Blue, where's your sense of adventure? You should at least go look."
"Go and ogle insubstantial naked women for obscene sums of money? I think I'll leave that to you and your prurient friends."
"Is 'prurient' a compliment or a crack?"
A bob of the blue-furred head. "There's a dictionary on the bookshelf. Go look it up for yourself."
"I can't do that, Hank! What would it do to my reputation? It would never recover!" He settled back on the stool behind Hank's computer chair and looked again at the lengthy e-mail backlog. "Besides, this is more interesting. What's that one?"
"'Sexy Coeds in...' Oh, look. They're in the shower again."
"You know precisely what all of those are. If you desire to go exploring the more risqué Internet sites, you have your own personal computer to subject to the indignity."
Bobby waved vaguely at the door. "It's all the way back in my room."
"Two doors down."
"Yeah. Way too far." He pointed again. This time his face lacked the teasing leer. "Waitasec... don't delete that."
"That?" Hank opened the e-mail and glanced over it swiftly, reading far faster than Bobby could keep up. "It's a forward from a theological professor I've had some discourse with. There's a site up that received quite a bit of attention and censure some time ago, though it's largely been relegated to the position of 'forgotten outrage.'"
Bobby felt his jaw go tight, but barely registered the sensation. "'www.godhatesfags.com'?"
"I'm afraid that intolerance is not merely an obstacle for mutants, my friend."
"It's sickening," Bobby said in a voice choked with anger. "Who gave people the right to say things like that about, about other people?"
"Be careful, Robert," Hank cautioned mildly. "You're beginning to sound passionate. If you were concerned about harming your image before, think what would happen if you dared to display righteous indignation. We might find it difficult to believe that you're nothing but a prankster living only for the next joke."
"But using religion to teach people how to hate--"
"Is an old method," Hank cut on, deep voice soft, "and one that enrages as many individuals as it converts. Don't take it so personally, Bobby."
It took a moment for the words to sink in. When they did Bobby flinched and looked sharply at Hank. "I'm not taking it 'personally.' Why would I take it personally? It just ... it pisses me off, all right? Just because it's wrong, that's all." He edged off the stool and busied himself with moving it over to its assigned corner. "It's wrong, Hank."
The words, still quiet, reached him as he opened the door. "It's the product of frightened, hateful people. How could it be right?"
Bobby didn't try to answer.
"So," Bobby panted. "Do you think Scott is keeping us paired up for your benefit ... or mine?"
"Don' know. Both, maybe."
The tandem exercise actually was helping, Remy thought as he jogged. Discipline was something he'd had since a very young age -- no one learned to be a thief of his caliber without immense self-control -- but having some companionship during workouts made them go faster, made him look forward to them more. It didn't hurt that said companionship was willing to do pretty much all the talking, letting Remy save his precious breath for that final push back to the mansion after circling the huge spread of acreage.
It didn't hurt either that he found himself actually enjoying Bobby's company after a few days. There was something refreshing in the lively (if often aimless) chatter the younger man used to ward off discomfiture. There were times that Remy recalled an endless field of white and a terrible, echoing silence that was more oppressive than any noise. The memory usually came at night, late, when sleep was as elusive as it had been for months and the moon was a cold (frozen) eye in the sky.
And then one night as he tried to ignore the clawing, gnawing feeling the remembrance brought to his gut, he desperately thought of a ludicrous joke Bobby had slipped into a ramble about policemen earlier that day.
Then suddenly ... there hadn't been only silence in his mind.
Alone in his room he'd welcomed the remembered sound of the pleasantly light tenor voice as it skipped from topic to topic, filling the air with energetic noise even while Remy himself had been mostly laconic. He'd played the 'conversation' over in his mind that night, finding a tired grin in a few places, snorting once over the way Bobby had stumbled gracelessly around some politically incorrect topic or other.
Now ... he listened when Bobby talked. He tried to recover his reputed quick wit while wondering distantly if anyone had really noticed its absence. He found an honest smile or two and shared them when he could ... and shared them more often as he started noticing a certain lightening to Bobby's bearing and a certain gleam to his baby blues at those expressions of appreciation. He felt as if he were learning how to laugh, all over again, from the ground up.
He wondered if he'd ever manage a real chortle again.
Bobby's jog slowed and Remy dropped speed to match, following the other man's finger as he pointed up into a tree. "Look ... magnolia blossom. Spring's really here."
Remy's feet shuffled to a halt as he stared up at the thick white flower. It stood out brightly from the heavy leaves, almost glowing in the morning sun. Pale and warm, with a backdrop of green.
He thought that he'd never seen anything more beautiful in his life.
Bobby had gone another few steps before stopping and turning back. "Remy? Coming?"
"I..." A slow, inscrutable smile. "Jus' second..."
With a few jogged steps he ducked under the trimmed branches of the magnolia and sprang up to catch a low limb. Bobby said something else that sounded like a question, but Remy ignored him as he shimmied higher and finally reached the limb that held the branch the blossom graced. His balance wasn't quite what it had been, but still it was enough to let him work his way out, carefully attuned to the shivering of the limb beneath him, until he could reach through the foliage and pluck the hardy thing from its home. Once he would've tried for a dramatic dismount from the tree then, finding a flip and a perfectly motionless landing waiting for him. Wasn't up to that yet, though.
So he took the slower route down and then emerged from beneath the tree, hardly aware he was smiling. He held the blossom up and gazed at it. "Didn' know if I was ever gon' see one a dese again," he murmured. "Perfect, innit?"
"Remy..." Strange voice. Almost wary. What was on his face to make Bobby wary?
The Cajun rubbed a forearm across his eyes roughly, blinking against the sting of sweat. Cold and heavy silence in his mind, invading the pleasure of spring. Always a tradeoff. Find peace, remember war. "'S it chilly out here...?"
"I don't know," Bobby answered quietly. "Feels fine to me."
"Always feels chilly. Always." He breathed in and shivered. "Sometimes at night I start t'inkin ... 's so cold, y'know?" He shook his head and tried for rationality. "Y' wouldn' know, would you? Y' like it. Makes y' strong."
Remy's voice felt hoarse. "You an' me ... we startin' t' be ... friends, Bobby?"
"... I think ... yeah, I think so..."
"I'm friends wit' an icecube." A choked sound -- not quite a laugh. "Why y' put up wit' me, mon ami? I ain' 'xactly good comp'ny lately."
Bobby didn't move. Seemed almost afraid to move. "I ... I dunno..."
Remy's attention was still taken by the blossom. "Henri talked t' me las' night. I tell y' dat?"
"He did. He tol' me y're his best friend."
From the corner of his eye he saw the fair skin flush faintly. "Oh?"
"An' he said I had t' be real careful a y' feelin's. 'Cause bad stuff could happen if I hurt you." His words were dreamy, distant. So much felt distant now. "Why was he sayin' dat t' me, Bobby?"
"I don't ... I..."
Remy blinked twice. Made himself meet the panicking blue eyes, and his heart took a strange little hop inside his chest. "Don' ... don' worry. I'm not tryin' t' ..." He shook his head, frowning at himself. "Sayin' dis all wrong."
Looking torn between bolting and trying to hide in plain sight, Bobby shifted his feet ... but didn't drop his eyes. "Maybe ... maybe Hank's just ... he's always looking out for me, and sometimes he gets..." His throat bobbed in a hard swallow. "I don't ... I don't know."
Crimson and midnight eyes closed. He sounds so ... confused. Me too, Bobby. Dis used t' be so simple...
So what would he have done, back in the day when 'this' was simple for him? What should he...?
A breath shuddered into his lungs, still cold, too cold. Eyes opened. Somehow he kept his hand steady and his steps even as he strolled to Bobby, then made an almost-elegant bow while his mouth quirked to the side. "Dis," he proclaimed, handing over the magnolia blossom into a startled Bobby's hands, "should be yours. Y' noticed it first."
"I can't... this is..."
From somewhere deep inside he dredged up his old charming smile ... and his heart took another jump when he saw the reactionary twitch across Bobby's lips. "Y' can' turn down a gift, can y'? Dat would be rude."
That blush grew deeper. "Someone might get... the wrong idea." It was probably intended as a joke, but Remy didn't think either of them believed that. Not with that shock of electric chemistry he was feeling between them right then.
A steady look, to all appearances unflappable. Only Remy himself knew the lie behind the invulnerability. "What's de right idea, Bobby?"
"It's..." A step backwards. Another. "I ... it's time for, for breakfast. We've been out here so long, and ... breakfast..."
Remy regarded him for a moment. Then another. By the third moment Bobby was nearly sweating and he decided enough was enough.
So, "Breakfast," he said with a nod, not losing his smile. "Gotta finish de run first."
"But..." Bobby looked at the blossom in hand. "It'll get crushed."
A nonchalant shrug. "Let it. Gon' fade in a day anyway."
"But," he said again, and Remy surprised himself with a chuckle.
"Bobby ... don' worry 'bout it." He was reading him right ... he had to be reading him right... "See dat tree? She's gon' make more. Lots more."
Blue eyes glanced up at the tree, then to the blossom in hand. Bobby took a breath, chest rising and falling, then tucked the blossom into a pocket on his sweatshirt, carefully. He cleared his throat and looked at Remy uneasily. "Um. Thanks."
"Y' welcome." A nod at the path they'd been jogging. "Ready t' get back t' it?"
Remy was hard-pressed not to grin.
Bobby collapsed facedown on his bed and tried not to scream.
He gave me a flower. He gave me a flower.
How was he supposed to react to that? What did it mean? Was it just a friendly gesture or a sign of something ... more? Most of the time he wasn't even sure Remy liked him, and now...
He gave me a flower.
His hand slipped into the pocket and withdrew the much-crumpled magnolia blossom. It still had that fresh, thick scent to it. Wonderingly, he pressed it to his nose and inhaled.
This is Remy. This is the Cajun smoothie with all the women after him. He was after Rogue forever. He can't be ... that. Can he?
It'd taken plenty of soul-searching for Bobby to admit, even subconsciously, that he was 'that.' And now a teammate ... a friend ... might be 'that,' too?
A friend he'd been trying very hard not to think about during late nights when he couldn't sleep. That glimpse in the shower. The pang he'd felt when looking at that too-thin body, that startling surge of ... protectiveness? ... he'd felt at that moment. As if he wanted to shelter the man, keep him safe, chase that wounded look that he sometimes got far away.
Or maybe he wanted the freedom to explore that smooth chest, playing fingers across the too-bare musculature, feeling those elegant hands so warm against his skin as his lips found the other man's and ... and...
No, he thought painfully. Having these feelings was one thing, and maybe one thing he couldn't really help. But acting on them? Everything he'd been raised to believe told him that was wrong. 'You may not be able to help what you are,' his father had told him more than once, 'but you sure as hell can control the choices you make. A man is always accountable for his decisions. A man doesn't hide behind excuses.'
His throat feeling tight, his eyes stinging suspiciously, Bobby buried his head in his arms and squeezed the blossom tightly between tense fingers.
Whenever Generation X was in town Bobby inevitably ended up taking the livelier members of the younger team out. Jean put forth the suggestion that Bobby was perfect for this chore because he could identify with the kids more than the rest of them. Bobby didn't chose to enlighten her to the fact that he really honestly was an adult; admitting to that, of course, would not just ruin but would demolish his reputation.
And adults had to make adult decisions. He wasn't too sure he wanted to think about exactly what decisions might be waiting for him.
He took Jubilee, Everett, Angelo and Paige to the movies this time, and despite his distraction he managed to hoot in laughter along with the rest as the disasters piled atop the heads of the stars of 'Office Space.' True to form, he also led the way in the popcorn wars, challenged Angelo for who could irritate the usher the most, proved to Jubilee that she did not hold the patent on most obnoxious movie viewer, and thoroughly convinced Paige that she was the adult of the group by the time he finally got Everett to prop his feet on the seat in front of him.
He should've had a blast. Instead he just wanted to get home.
Getting home, however, didn't mean rest this time. It was after ten when they pulled up in front of the mansion, and all the lights were blazing. Jubilee was experienced in this sort of thing -- she looked at him worriedly while the others, unfamiliar with the habits of the older team, continued talking about the movie. Bobby kept his manner light and playful as he pulled the car into the huge garage and cut the engine, giving no sign that anything might be wrong. If the X-Men had to go out they wouldn't need the kids arguing about their fitness to accompany them.
From Jubilee's brief, sidelong glance at him, he knew she'd keep quiet ... and insist on coming along. At least she'd actually been an X-Man, faced the fires. She'd pull her own weight.
When the kids had headed to their guestrooms he and Jubilee made their way to the War Room. "Just like old times," she murmured, eyes dancing. "Know something, Ice? I missed this."
"That's because you," he told her seriously, "are crazy. Which is why you fit in here, isn't it?"
She only gave a dazzling smile -- a smile he couldn't really remember her knowing how to give, but she was a bit older now -- and then they were in the War Room. Scott nodded a brief greeting, looking marginally as if he'd expected someone else. As Jubes slipped over to Logan's side Bobby glanced to see who was missing. Hank, who wouldn't be pulled out of lab or bed without desperate reason, and Remy.
"All right, people," Scott started. "We've got a-- is Gambit out again?"
"I can't reach him," Jean said, hand falling from her temple. "But that's nothing new."
Before someone more inclined towards hostility went -- Logan, Bobby noticed, was already starting to stand -- Bobby headed for the door. "I'll check his room. Someone fill me in on the way." It wasn't exactly like he'd play a vital part in the planning for a mission, he figured. He didn't often venture to be so bold as to make suggestions, seeing as Scott only had a zillion more qualifications, Ororo much the same, and... well, everyone really seemed to feel more comfortable participating in a tactical discussion than he did. As if it never occurred to them that the wrong decision could mean lives. As if they never doubted themselves.
'A man is always accountable for his decisions. A man doesn't hide behind excuses.'
He knocked on Remy's door. No answer. Knocked again, wondering if the Cajun was out as used to be his wont. Remy's nightlife was, even today, something of a standing joke amongst the team. 'How can you tell if the Cajun's dead?' 'He's in bed by midnight.' 'What's the difference between the Cajun and the Energizer Bunny?' 'The Bunny needs batteries.' The jokes got considerably more raunchy, too, but Bobby decided firmly that he was in no frame of mind to think along those lines.
There was still no answer. Hesitantly he tried the door, expecting it to be locked. Did Remy usually lock his door? He couldn't remember, but somehow it seemed fitting. 'Trust' was only a five-letter word to Remy.
After Antarctica, Bobby couldn't blame him.
The door opened under his hand. He nearly jumped back in surprise, but swallowed hard and steeled himself. He was about to walk in the Cajun's room. Somehow that seemed akin to crossing a bridge that would crumble behind him, stripping illusions, leaving him no way back...
Now you're just being melodramatic, he told himself sourly, chattering mentally to keep from doing so aloud. Just see if he's here, that's all. If not, hurry back to the War Room and get set to go. No big deal.
"Remy?" It was dark in the room, the only light creeping in from the sliver of moon shining through the window. "You in here?"
There was no verbal answer, but he heard the slightest noise from the open door to the half-bath. Oh, geez, this could get embarrassing... He debated momentarily just turning and heading out, but ... What if he's in some sorta trouble? This is so much more a Hank-area than a Bobby-area...
Tentatively he stepped over to the bathroom, breathlessly praying with every second that Remy would come out before he got there, perfectly fine, and give him a perplexed look at his presence. No luck. He made it all the way to the door without any sign of that tall, lean form or those terrifyingly alluring eyes. He was going to have to go in there -- to look in there -- and if this was one of those horribly awkward moments he would absolutely die right there, he was sure he would, just like that, 'poof!' and no more Bobby Drake.
A tap on the open door. "Remy?"
He heard a groan that sounded pained, disoriented, and then a mumbled, "...Bobby...?"
Embarrassment abruptly forgotten at the oddly confused note in that rusty voice, Bobby reached to flick on the light as he stepped into the bathroom. Illumination flared, dashing down over a figure curled up on the floor, arms and head twined intimately around the shining ceramic bowl. Remy flinched sharply and buried his head in his arms on the thing as he hissed out, "Non! Not de light..."
Alarmed, he hit the switch again. Darkness closed comfortingly. He had moved instantly to the Cajun's side but now stood there helplessly, wanting to touch, to help, not knowing how. His hand hovered over the thin back. He settled the debate by crouching beside the man instead.
"Sick?" he asked, then cursed himself. Of course he was sick. People didn't talk to Mr. Toilet if they weren't sick, hung over, or on some really weird drugs; it was too early for the man to be hung over and he'd never seen any indication that Remy was a user. On the other hand the Cajun was really odd about medical exams, from what he'd picked up from Hank...
Remy groaned. Or might've chuckled. "Jus' a ... flu. Or somet'ing. D'I hear de buzzer...?"
"Yeah, there's a ... a thing." But no way was he letting Remy try to pretend he was fine. "Look, I'm sure they can handle it without us. Just ... hold on a sec." He closed his eyes to concentrate. Jean?
Her response was instant. ::What's going on?::
He's ... well, sick or something. Looks pretty bad.
An instant of mental silence, perhaps as she conversed with her husband, then, ::All right. We'll be fine without him.::
Jean, maybe I should, uh, stay with him? In case he's not--
::Fine,:: she returned, this time so quickly that he knew she hadn't even bothered to consult with Scott. Somehow that stung, that he might be considered so unnecessary. ::We're going for the Blackbird now. Keep an eye on Communications ... we'll be in touch.:: And then her presence vanished, dissipating smoke.
Remy, of course, had missed the telepathic conversation. "Non ... y' go on wit' 'em ... dey need you..."
I wish. "They're fine. Come on. You should go see Hank." He used the excuse to reach a hand out, to touch a wiry arm. Hot skin beneath his fingertips gave him a jolt. His first thought was, Shirtless, he's shirtless, oh god, followed almost immediately by, Fever. "Geezus, Remy, you're burning up!"
In the darkness, barely lit, his head shifted until those inhuman eyes glinted at Bobby over the slight curve of a forearm. Bobby jerked his fingers back from Remy's arm with a convulsive twitch, breath catching. Those eyes seared all the way to the soul when the object of their attention was unprepared.
Remy blinked uncertainly, dazedly. "Y' okay?" he asked, ridiculous under the circumstances. "Bobby...?"
"I'm not the one leaning over the john." Hesitant now, steeling nerves, he reached again and touched a shoulder. "Let's go see Hank, huh? You look like shit."
A gravelly chuckle. "No, please ... tell me what y' really t'ink..." Then the dark head shook once as he pushed himself up and reached a fumbling hand for the flusher. "Henri's asleep. Needs his sleep. Leave 'im be."
"How do you know he's...?" Dawning comprehension. "You went down to see him, didn't you?" And that was enough to make his throat tighten. Remy didn't seek help, not often, and only when he thought he really needed it. "Come on. He'll wake up for this. If he'll wake up for midnight Twinkie runs he'll wake up for this."
Remy reached for a washcloth hanging over the edge of the sink. Rubbed it over his mouth shakily. "Stop." With a great heave he gained feet, then braced a hand against a wall. Slowly he managed to lean over the sink, turn the faucet, rinse his mouth and splash his face. "I jus' need sleep."
Quiet warning: "Stop."
Unwilling to test that boundary Bobby followed him into the bedroom, discommoded by the situation, not certain he should leave his teammate like this. Remy sighed and collapsed with a grunt, head to the side, stomach down, arms spread in a great claiming way over the mattress.
Bobby cleared his throat. "Can I ... get you something, then? Water...?"
That sparked anger. "You were just puking your guts up, but now you're fine. Of course. How silly of me to be concerned."
He wasn't sure what he expected. Certainly not a raspy chuckle, muffled in tangled comforter. "Bobby, it's just a flu. Maybe somet'ing I ate. I ain' dyin', here."
"Since when have you been a medical expert?"
"Since when y' been a hen?"
Bobby blinked. Looked away, linking fingers behind his back to keep from fidgeting. "I'm not being a hen," he mumbled unconvincingly. Then, more strongly, "Well fine. If you wanna be an idiot, be an idiot. I'll leave you to it." And he started for the door, fully intending to get out of there before assorted embarrassments caught up and turned him flame-red.
But the lean form on the bed twisted, torso pushed up and impossible eyes staring after him. "Bobby, wait..."
It wasn't the words that stopped him -- though they would've been enough, on reflection -- but the tone, the hint of bare desperation, the trace of something like... fear? A scared man asked him to stay, asked without really asking, and for the life of him Bobby couldn't figure out why. Why Remy was so unsteady, deep inside. Why he wanted Bobby to remain here with him, Bobby, when there were other teammates he'd been making no effort to connect with since he'd come back.
He's just sick, he hissed to himself bluntly. Sick. And I'm here, and everyone else is gone or asleep or a kid, and he doesn't need to deal with what people would say if he had a kid in here at this hour.
What would they say about Bobby being here, though?
Remy gave a long blink, two, then shook his head, as if at himself. "Sorry. Don' know what's got into me. Go on, den."
Screw what 'they' said. As he'd already reminded himself, Remy didn't ask for help if he didn't need it. He was a teammate and a friend and ... and all that other stuff just didn't matter. It wasn't like there was something wrong with just sitting with him, was there?
His stomach was tying itself in lazy knots, but he actually thought he looked fairly steady as he moved to pull a chair over by the bed, tipping it back against the wall and settling in. Now he was thankful for the darkness that gave him an excuse not to look at those eyes. Anything to help him keep composure.
He could feel Remy looking at him. Hear the surprise in the voice. "Y '... y're stayin'?"
Trying for gruffness, he crossed arms over his chest in a very Logan-esque manner. "You told me to wait."
"Y' don' have t'..."
"I'm waiting." A quick, stolen glance at the sprawled body. His voice softened. "You're right. You need sleep."
Remy shifted, then half-rolled into blankets, ending up curled inside them with his head on a pillow and his hair spread over it, eyes meeting Bobby's. "I can'."
"Well close your eyes and try to get tired."
That line, coming from Remy, felt totally incongruous. A laugh surprised Bobby, bubbling up and tickling his chest. "You 'don' wanna'?"
Sensual lips quirked to the side. "Oui. Don' wanna. What's wrong wit' dat?"
"You sound like a baby."
A long sigh, offended dignity in every moment of it. "No respect. Here I am, lyin' desp'ately ill in bed, an' I still get no respect."
"Hey, you are the one who refused medical help."
"Hermph." The mattress sighed and squeaked irritably as Remy shuffled around and finally settled on lying on his back. A minute passed. Another. Bobby couldn't decide if the silence was awkward or comfortable, or some weird hybrid of both.
Remy tucked blankets higher around himself. "Can I ask y' question?"
Bobby's heart thumped louder. "Shoot," he said, and was proud of how casual his voice sounded. Like a guy in a movie, confident and unshakable. So utterly untrue.
An instant of hesitation. "Y' ... y' never ask. 'Bout ... what happened."
That was all. No real question. Only implication and unvoiced query. Why don't you ask, Bobby? Is it because you don't want to know? You don't think about it? Maybe you don't care...?
Bobby looked studiously at his fingers. "I didn't think ... you wanted to talk about it. And when you did you were so..." He nearly shivered remembering that moment out on the trail, the emptiness in that voice and the numb acceptance in the words, 'so cold.' Like cold was what he knew.
He didn't know cold. Bobby knew cold. What Remy knew was betrayal, and he didn't seem to have much idea of how to come to grips with that.
Or did he? "Was it hard? Breaking it off with Rogue?"
"I ... wish it had been."
"I wish it had been. But it was like ... like cuttin' a brown leaf. Like whatever used t' be dere had been dead a long time." Hollow words, more open now in concealing darkness than Bobby'd ever heard them. "Long time."
"You ... loved her. Right?"
"Oui. I t'ink I did."
"But not anymore?"
Remy's head turned, eyes looking toward the dark window and the moon-sliver beyond. "Y' mind talkin' 'bout somet'ing else?"
"Sure," he answered, too quickly. "Whadda you wanna talk about?"
The Cajun seemed to consider for a moment. Finally-- "You," he said decidedly, nodding once in the darkness as if he'd just found the perfect solution to a problem.
"M-me?" And there he went stuttering again. "What's to, uh, to talk about?"
"Anyt'ing. Tell me y' favorite color."
He grinned to himself, taking odd comfort in it. "It's the age everyone says I've been since I turned twelve."
A snort. "Y' ever get sick a dat? Ev'one expectin' y' t' be de clown?"
"Hey, I've worked hard on that reputation!"
"Uh huh. So y' get real sick of it, huh?"
"All the time." The grin faded, became a slight smile. "I'd rather be seen as the clown than the perpetual angst machine, though."
"Wha-- I didn't mean you!"
Remy had managed to struggle out of blankets and sit up, arms braced, body trembling with weakness or anger or laughter or all three. That sneaky moonlight was dancing over sharply planed flesh, setting it aglow, and Bobby caught his breath at the image.
Remy didn't seem to notice. "I don' 'angst.'" [Oh god ... sorry ... station break here as Kaylee must choke with laughter at his amazing level of denial ... I know how unprofessional this is, but I just couldn't help myself...] "Dere're reasons f' me t' feel what I feel."
"Of course there are. I said I didn't mean you."
"Den who did y' mean?"
Bobby waved an arm. "Pick an X-Man, any X-Man. Or woman. Angst begins with an 'X' in case you missed that. It's a silent 'X,' but we all know it's there."
"But y' said you don'--"
"I said my image doesn't. But yeah, sometimes I ... get worried about things. Dwell on everything too much. I'm only human." A considering pause. "Oh, you know what I mean."
That chuckle again finally as Remy dropped back with a 'whump.' "Ooph. So Drake's got problems too, eh? Merde. What is dis world comin' to?"
Bobby pulled a knee up and hooked his arms around it comfortably, grinning. Right at that moment, nerves slowly unwinding, he didn't think the world was coming to a bad place at all.
His stomach still felt vaguely queasy, his head was spinning in a strangely enticing way, and his body couldn't seem to decide whether it wanted to send him into shivering fits or reach that pinnacle of painful sensitivity that made the lightest touch akin to agony.
And yet he was smiling in the dark. His room hadn't felt so cozy since ... in a long time.
Bobby's words sometimes faltered, his jokes were nervous, his occasional fidgets were hell on fever-heightened hearing ... and Remy couldn't get enough. Somehow in between that first realization that they'd left him, that they weren't coming back, and this night, he'd closed off that something inside that lived off of human contact, starving it out. Guilt, self-disgust, and utter self-loathing were components of a more bitterly satisfying diet. They made it 'all right' that he would die out there, alone, a bit of frozen meat in a land so vast that he'd never be found.
But a man who would live couldn't survive off that sustenance, not alone, and the hungry piece of him that he'd shut away was reveling in this. The part of Remy that remembered the teachings in psychology that Jean Luc had insisted on wondered if there was something symbolic here -- nearly killed by ice, regain confidence by befriending it. Thinking that way just led him in circles, though, and he'd been doing that enough to himself over the past weeks.
He just wanted to enjoy this.
Some time into one of those frequent pauses Bobby happened to glance at the clock. "Oh, damn ... is that right?"
Remy looked. "Ten t' one. Oui."
Bobby stood with a headshake. "I can't believe I lost track of time like that. I need to check the comm. See if they've called in."
"De buzzer woulda--"
"It's not working all that great yet. Still got some bugs to work out." He was halfway to the door already. "It's not like they'll need me, but still..."
Remy sat up swiftly ... and regretted it as his head took the chance to whirl wildly. Whatever he was going to say was forgotten as he closed his eyes and struggled not to lose whatever was left in his stomach.
And before he realized it Bobby was back at his side, a hand lightly touching his bare shoulder in that tentative way. "Are you...?"
He sucked in a breath. Paused. Another. "Whew." Smiled tremulously as he forced his eyes to open. "Hokay. Y' can go. I t'ink I made enough of a fool a m'self."
"Aw, c'mon, you've barely even started..." But Bobby's eyes didn't match his light tone. "Look, are you sure you don't wanna see Hank? I swear, he won't be mad about being woken up. He's really good about the whole 'kind doctor not resenting patients' thing. He'd have to be, after some of what we've put him through..."
He tipped his head back against the wooden headboard. "Nah, 'm okay. Merci." Jutted his chin toward the door. "G'wan."
The lightest, almost imperceptible squeeze of the hand on his shoulder. "I'll come right back. If I don't have to go out and save everyone or anything."
He found a smile. "I'd like dat."
Bobby's smile was less certain. At least, Remy reminded himself, it was there. "Right. Well. Um. Be back in a few, then. Don't die before I get here."
"Would I do dat?"
A playful swat, very gentle, still enough to make fever-sensitized skin complain. "You might, just to be contrary." He stepped back, hand sliding slowly -- reluctantly? -- from Remy's shoulder. "I'll be back," he promised again.
Then he was gone. Remy tipped back against the headboard once more and closed his eyes.
I like him.
His mouth quirked.
I like him a lot.
Eyes opened. The half-smile vanished.
Merde. What'm I doin'? I can' be lookin' f' dis.
He'd always considered himself... open-minded, sexually. Willing to try almost anything once. Most of those things found their way to the rubbish heap as he figured out fairly quickly that 'sensual' and 'brutal' had no place in the same train of thought, at least in his mind. Other experiments just didn't appeal past that first thrill of excitement.
Gender, though, had come to be a lesser consideration in a potential companion's suitability. He was hardly as promiscuous as his reputation would have it, but he'd had some small experience with that dynamic explosion, the oddly compelling attraction of two biological aggressors finding balance between them. He knew the physical lure.
It hadn't matched up to an emotional one before. Not like this.
But he hadn't really been this ... worn ... emotionally before. Had he?
"LeBeau," he muttered. "Y're a fool."
LeBeau didn't seem to be in any hurry to argue with him.
"Should be smart an' cut it off now, 'fore t'ings go too far."
LeBeau didn't argue, but didn't agree either.
"He's a good guy. He don' need dis."
He hadn't appeared to be in any hurry to run from it, nervousness aside. Sometimes, caught up in a train of thought or relaxing into a moment of conversation, Bobby had even acted ... happy.
He heard the feet in the hall and shook his head at himself, running a hand through his mussed hair. Something told him he really didn't look the part of the suitor at that moment. Truth be told he didn't really feel it either, what with the way his stomach wanted to slosh and the sick dizziness everywhere else. Had t' be somet'ing I ate... He was feeling better after emptying his stomach, considerably better, but that 'I-want-to-die' feeling hadn't quite faded all the way yet.
He should tell Bobby to leave. Suggest that he was tired.
A knock on the door Bobby'd half-closed as he left.
"It's open," Remy said quietly instead of all the things he'd told himself he should say. "C'mon in."
And when Bobby opened the door the Cajun found that he couldn't quite restrain a welcoming smile.
That smile would melt him, he was sure of it.
There were worse ways to go, he decided firmly. He hadn't seen a smile like that turned on him in ... Had he ever seen a smile like that turned on him? Had any of the other smiles in a long history of smiles made him feel this way?
He held up one of the glasses he carried. "Brought you some juice. Hank always says you're supposed to drink lots of fluids when you're sick. Tylenol, too, for your fever."
"Y' didn' wake him, did you?" Remy asked suspiciously, one graceful hand, a bit unsteady, extending for the cool glass and the two white caplets Bobby held.
"Nope." It had occurred to him to do just that, but... that would mean giving up this moment-out-of-time, this private sphere of quiet aloneness they were sharing. The fact that Remy would almost certainly never trust him again if he did so didn't hinder his decision to leave well enough alone either. "I'm letting you be as pig-headed as you want."
"Pig-headed." He managed an almost smug look. "You have a gift for it."
Remy looked momentarily as if he would take offense... and then suddenly smiled again, that same too-rare smile that he'd been so free with tonight, and Bobby had to swallow a lump in his throat. "Y' right," the Cajun said, almost flippantly. "But dat ain' de only t'ing I got a gift for." He sipped his juice to wash down the pills, tangled hair falling around his face, smoldering eyes holding Bobby's trapped. "Cards. I seem t' remember dat y' ain' got much luck wit' 'em."
Cards. He just meant... just cards. He wasn't sure whether he was relieved or disappointed. "I'm not a natural-born shyster, no."
"No reason y' can' learn some a de tricks, mon ami." A wickedly inviting look, like the devil deigning to examine some smaller sin. "Have a nice s'prise next time we all sit down f' a game, neh?"
That was too appealing to turn down. He nodded, finding a little twist of mischief in his own smile, and Remy grinned broadly as he set his drink on a coaster on the bedside stand and opened a drawer to pull out a much-worn pack of cards. The pack looked ancient, dog-eared and soft. Long legs pulled up and folded beneath the blankets, then Remy made an absent gesture for Bobby to sit on the bed in front of him.
On the bed.
On the bed with him.
A dark eyebrow quirked. "Y' wan' learn?"
Just breathe, Bobby. "S-sure." Trying not to do something utterly embarrassing like falling over his own feet or tripping and landing sprawled in the Cajun's lap-- Oh dear god, don't think that way, don't... --he set his drink down and seated himself gingerly on the edge of the bed. The far edge of the bed. And smiled. "Show me."
Remy's eyebrow stayed up. "If I'm contagious, Bobby, den y' already got it."
An assessing look, then a sudden sharp, dismissive shrug. Those old cards started to find their way back into the pack. "Maybe dis is a bad idea..."
"What do you mean?" You know what he means, god, why are you dancing around this, Drake? Can't you make a damned decision? This isn't fair to him.
Sinewy fingers flipped the pack over once, twice, again. Red-black eyes flicked across his. Bobby tried very hard to project whatever sort of assurance Remy wanted, though he had no idea if he was successful at all. He didn't even know what he was doing here, really, surely this was some new brand of madness he hadn't tasted before, that had to be what it was...
"Make y' deal."
He cocked his head. "A deal?"
Remy nodded, solemnly. "Ev' played strip poker?"
All the blood in his body, from every recess possible, rushed right to his face. "I ... uh ... you ... s-strip p-poker..."
An impatient headshake. "Non, not what y' t'inking." Though his mouth tugged briefly sideways, as if maybe he wouldn't really mind what Bobby was thinking. "Look. In strip poker, ev' time someone loses dey drop a piece a clothin'. A cover. Und'stan'?"
"Dis is like ... mental strip poker. Loser answers a question, ev' time. Any question."
"When does it ... how does it end?"
A single-shoulder shrug. "When someone says chicken, usually."
"Sometimes it goes other ways ... but dat don' matter. Y' in or out?"
He glared. "I don't have a chance against you!"
A smile and a wink, one right after the other. "Here's de t'ing. Y' catch me cheatin' -- an' I promise t' cheat -- den y' win dat round by default. Whatcha say, Bobby? Y' got de stones f' it?"
"I ..." He was trying to think of a suitable way to refuse. He really was trying.
His heart hammered loud enough to hurt his ears, and suddenly he didn't want to refuse at all. "I'm in."
That smile, the devil in the angel, or the angel in the devil; who could tell anymore? Cards were flipped out with quick, expert fingers, then shuffled so rapidly Bobby couldn't follow the motions at all. Was the Cajun cheating? He'd said he would, but for the life of him Bobby couldn't see anything out of the ordinary. Cards flew neatly, one and one, two and two, on up to five apiece. The deck was set gently aside, long fingers tapping it twice. "Deuces wild. Keep it simple."
Bobby nodded and flipped his cards up. A pair of sixes and a single deuce. A stubborn three and unwelcome eight graced the rest of the hand. He pulled out those cards and slapped them facedown on the mattress. "Gimme two."
Two cards slipped into his hand smoothly, Cajun skin almost brushing his own.
Nothing of any use; a four and a queen. Bobby's eyes flicked to his opponent and he tried to read any disappointment or satisfaction there. Nothing, of course. Remy's poker face had stood up under fire and force and wasn't about to crack for a game. Unconsciously Bobby scooted more onto the bed, legs curled as he settled down to rest his weight on an elbow. If Remy had cheated he'd missed it utterly, which meant he had a single chance here to get out of a potentially humiliating situation. Unless his cards could beat the other's...
He wouldn't ask anything big off the bat, he consoled himself. And even if he does ... people can call chicken.
"Y' can see a'right?"
"Yeah, my eyes are adjusted. You?"
Another quick wink. "I see good in de dark. Ready t' lay 'em out?"
"Same time. Let's see 'em."
Together they lowered their cards, eyes on each other as if holding off the revelation. Cards spread with little hisses across the mattress, waiting.
Remy glanced down first, and when he smiled, lips drawing slowly apart, Bobby knew he was in trouble. "Full house," he said softly. "Tens high. Dis one goes t' me."
"You didn't cheat!"
"Sure I did."
A smirk. "Like I'm gon' tell y' dat ..." He straightened a little as Bobby drew up, thin shoulders going back just a bit. "Y' gon' face de music, Drake?"
It was the first time he'd called him 'Drake' in a while, and the more impersonal name came as a slap in the face. As was intended, Bobby decided when he realized that he'd abruptly become more serious. "Yeah," he answered on borderline anger. "Play it."
Remy nodded once. "Are you gay?"
I should have ... I should've known he'd ask this...
There was challenge still in Remy's elegant face. He waited silently, his hands motionless on the cards. Bobby thought his own heartbeat was the loudest sound in the room.
He opened his mouth. Closed it. Swallowed again.
Dad would... I... what would Hank...? Scott? God, I can't, can't say that. Saying it makes it true. I shouldn't, I can't say... say...
Quick, hoarse, shoved out of his chest like the dangerous thing it was, the word stood there. Hung there in neon letters, flashing and pointing an arrow right at him. At Bobby Drake, The Gay Man. The newest queer to shoot his mouth off. William Drake's faggot son. It was huge, that acknowledgment. Explosive. The world would stop spinning at any moment to scrutinize it. Life as he knew it would end. Nothing would ever be the same again, everyone would know, his father would disown him, his friends wouldn't know how to act, and--
"T'ought so," Remy said mildly, scooping cards back up and reshuffling. "Ready t' go 'gain?"
Bobby couldn't say anything for a minute. He'd just bared his soul. He'd just confessed his deepest and most terrifying secret. All of this, and now Remy just said, 'Ready t' go 'gain?'
He blinked dazedly. Worked his throat for a minute before any sound came out, and then it was merely a weak, "Sure."
A flash of Cajun grin, quickly gone, and then cards were flipping out once more. Bobby barely noticed, trapped as he was in this startling moment of naked truth. Remy had to clear his throat twice to get his attention when the dealing was done.
He picked up his cards without really seeing them. Laid down three with glazed eyes and barely even registered the Cajun's scowl.
"Y' sure y' wan' lay down dose cards, Bobby?"
"Sure," he said again, rational thought a ghost on the horizon. "Cards..."
Remy stared at him, then rolled his eyes to the side in a vastly exasperated gesture. A card dropped from his palm to lie face-up between them; deuce of clubs.
Bobby gazed blindly at his hand and didn't really notice.
Remy cleared his throat. "Merde, did dat card fall outta my hand?"
An irritated look. "Dat extra card. Dat extra wild card."
"I don't think I dropped it..."
He looked up sharply. "What? What?"
A long finger jabbed at the card. "I can' spell it out any clearer."
Bobby looked ... and immediately blushed deeply. "Oh. I was thinking..."
"Y' don' say." But the rich voice held amusement, warmth, and red-black eyes danced. "Blast, y' caught me. I guess dat means I lose."
"So I get to ask..."
"Anyt'ing." Lips curved upwards just a bit. "I don' call chicken."
"I don' call chicken," he told Bobby, confidence in every word. He meant it. His stomach was feeling better -- the juice? Time? -- and the lightness in his head was more like a buzz than illness at the moment. He felt like he was ready for anything.
Now if only Bobby would ask the right question.
The younger man dropped his cards and sat up. Sat back, kicking shoes off, bringing his knees up and resting elbows on them as he regarded Remy. Blue eyes burned with enough fear and turmoil to actually hit the Cajun with a small pang of guilt for making Bobby admit this about himself ... until he remembered the deeper, more insidious pain he'd occasionally glimpsed gracing those eyes before. It couldn't be simple and it wouldn't be easy. That didn't mean it could be ignored.
Remy's brow furrowed slightly at the question. "I don' get what y' mean."
Bobby crossed his arms over his knees and rested his chin on them. His eyes dominated his face just then, achingly vulnerable. "Why are you talking to me? Opening up to me? Before ... what happened ... we didn't exactly have much to do with each other."
Tight-jawed, Remy glanced away. It was a fair enough question, he supposed. "I don' know. You were here." That didn't mean he had a fair answer, however.
"Other people were here. 'Roro, for one. You were always close to her."
Personal ground was something Remy guarded jealously. He gave Bobby a sharp look and let his voice chill a few degrees. "Don' bring Stormy into dis."
And then immediately cursed himself at the flinch, the instant hurt in those eyes.
"Ah, shit ... Look, Bobby ... some t'ings jus'..."
Bobby came out of his recoil with a hint of injured anger. "You said you don't call chicken."
It gave him pause.
And then, ironically, made him grin. "Well. Y' don' much like bein' a doormat, do you?" Bobby didn't answer, and Remy shook his head and continued. "A'right. Truth is, Bobby, dat Stormy jus' can' quite f'give me. Wit' good reason, mind you. I hear t'rough de vine dat she 'bout lost it when ... I mean, she was leadin' de Morlocks, neh? Officially, anyway. An' now years later I'm askin' her t' f'give me f' playin' a part in dat." His walls were too low, revealing too much, he thought. But he couldn't seem to raise them. "Jury's still out, mon ami. I don' know if she'll ev' be able t' t'ink a me de way she did b'fore."
Bobby nodded slowly. "So that's why..."
A quick headshake. "Non. Dat ain' got a t'ing t' do wit' you." He flipped cards from hand to hand, letting his eyes drop to follow the motions. "You're y' own case."
"You didn't really answer my question," Bobby said softly, uncertainly.
Remy swept cards up again and shuffled. "Let's go 'gain."
"Could make it a li'l harder dis time if y'--"
A hand closed over his on the cards, not entirely steady, and Remy's hands went motionless instantly.
"Remy, please. I want ... I wanna talk."
Iceman or not, his hand felt hot.
"I don't ... have anyone I can talk to about this."
He turned his hands slowly. Bobby didn't draw his away. The cards were set to the right of his knee, then he let his fingers close in a gentle grasp on the other's hand. Met the blue eyes, thinking of ice, feeling heat.
"You can talk t' me," he finally murmured, balancing habitual reservation with honest warmth. "I'm here, ain' I?"
Bobby's breath hitched. He swallowed hard, visibly, and his hand was carefully still in Remy's. "I don't ... know what to say," he admitted. Tried to smile. "There should be like a Society for Gay Lunkheads. I'd be their poster-child." But the smile faded too quickly and he dropped his eyes at the word 'gay.'
Reflexively Remy started to reach for his face to turn his chin up. Stopped himself, jaw tightening just a little. Anything he did, every little touch, was an influence on Bobby that he wasn't entirely sure he had a right to give. While he himself was comfortable with his open-mindedness, it wasn't necessarily his place to decide for another.
But Bobby looked up sharply and leaned forward into that half-extended hand, greatly daring, closing his fingers over it and pressing the palm to his flushed cheek.
Remy tried not to show his surprise. Failed. "Wha--" Shook his head ever so slightly. "Bobby..."
"I don't wanna be ashamed of it," the other told him, quick words tumbling out in an uneven torrent as he held that hand against his face. "I'm so sick of pretending to feel things I don't feel and ignoring things I do. My dad sometimes ... he'd say these things that just ... And I keep remembering that, every time I, I look at someone. He said ... It doesn't matter what he said. I love him, I do, but sometimes I remember everything and just..." His head tipped down, eyes half-shuttering. Remy's chest tightened and he unconsciously traced his thumb along a cheekbone. "It felt so good to admit it," Bobby continued, almost brokenly. "But it hurt, too."
Remy looked for words to smooth over his pain. Found none. Just stroked the soft cheek over and over, surprised in some corner of his thoughts that Bobby wasn't in tears. He'd seen one other person at this moment of cathartic release on this subject, and that night had been downright tear-soaked.
For long minutes they were there in a slowly-moving tableau, Bobby's hand turning into his on the bed between them, fingers carefully twining. Remy's eyes closed as his heartbeat picked up. LeBeau, LeBeau, what're y' doin'? Y' can' do dis now. He's confused. He's scared. He's...
...moving towards him, raising eyes as he shifted cautiously, shyly up the bed. Remy met and held his gaze steadily, keeping his surface as calm as usual. Beneath it his blood was raging. His hand moved of its own volition to slide into the light brown hair, feeling the texture and all the while drawing him closer.
It was Remy who actually leaned in and initiated the kiss, after Bobby paused again a few inches away. A flash of blue eyes closing, then warm breath on his skin, lips opening under his hesitantly, the body so close trembling for any number of reasons. Bobby's hand caressed his back in a stutter-stroke, eventually pausing, fingers curving against heated Cajun skin.
Bobby caught his breath between softly exploring lip-brushes, lost it in the next instant. His mind reeled with this amazing new reality, this solid weight of Man against him, the surprisingly tender strength in those lips. He breathed in and tasted masculine musk rather than feminine perfume, and in the heady rush of it all he was only aware of that as a right thing.
Until that heat beneath his grasping fingers registered. Then the slight tremor running through the body pressed to his. Tremor? Remy?
He pulled back an inch, two, regretfully breaking the kiss before it became something deep enough to drown him. He knew two things: he was shaking and Remy was still warmer than normal.
And he was almost as aroused as he was terrified. Three things.
It seemed terribly, horribly wrong, somehow, to let Remy see the physical evidence of his attraction. Embarrassing beyond any measurable level of embarrassment. Like it wasn't natural... but wasn't it? Or could it be unnatural, but not wrong? How could it be unnatural at all when it felt so right, being this close to him, touching him, wanting him to--
"Bobby," Remy said, very quietly. "Whassa matter? Y' don' want...?"
He couldn't meet those burning eyes. "I..." That's it, Bobby. Just call chicken. To his horror his breath caught on a dry sob. He couldn't say anything intelligent-- Yeah, that's new, Drake... --and couldn't even find a quip. Some part of him wanted nothing more than to ice up and flee the room without looking back.
Remy shifted back, started to pull away, and Bobby knew suddenly that this was it, this was that moment where he could blush and grin and shake it all off. Tell Remy thanks, but he'd realized that this wasn't for him. Take the embarrassment with a modicum of grace and shrug. 'Oh yeah, this was a fun experiment, but I'm sorry, I've realized that I'm not gay. Let's share an awkward moment and then forget this ever happened, shall we?'
He forced himself to meet Remy's eyes again, to see if he thought the other man would let him get away with that. Red and black ... so hard to read. So disconcerting.
Softly-- "Y' scared...?"
He tried to swallow and couldn't. Barely managed to say hoarsely, "Maybe ... a little bit..."
Burning hands lightly traced along his arms, undemanding and yet hinting at desire. "I don' mean t' push..."
Bobby held his eyes. Somehow. "It's not that..."
"Den what is it?"
He shrugged helplessly. "Well. That. I guess. I don't know..."
Fingers trailed over his forearms, smooth and gentle, as if to accustom him to the touch. Bobby's skin shivered repeatedly at the motion and he thought his heartbeat got faster with every stroke. "Do y' wan' talk?" the Cajun asked.
He wanted to do a helluva lot more than talking. "You're not ... feeling good. You should rest," he said unconvincingly. "Hank would say--"
"Henri ain' here." The brush of knuckles against his cheek, making Bobby's eyes close. "You are. An' I am."
A breathless chuckle. "Believe me, Remy ... I'm really, really aware of that right now."
He felt the hands draw back and missed their warmth. "It's your call, Bobby."
He didn't want it to be his call. He wanted it to be like the other times he'd found intimacy, when he gave the other the right to decide yea or nay. It was easier that way with women. They assumed the guy 'always' wanted it, and he'd been considered sensitive and caring when he'd murmured, 'It's your choice.'
He didn't want the burden of 'It's your call' to be on him.
So he cracked an eye. "What if I say it's your call?"
Deep breath. "If you ... want ... y'know..."
"T' have sex wit' you?"
The bluntness made his knees feel curiously weak, even though he wasn't standing on them. "Oh," he said faintly. "Yeah. Um. Th-that." His face, he knew, would've made a tomato look pale. Oh god, he said it. He said it. 'Sex.' Just like that. 'Sex.' With me! In the same sentence! If Remy could say it, surely he could, too. "So if you want... s-sex... with... erm..." Okay, he couldn't. Absolutely, positively couldn't say that. "With... y'know..."
The Cajun's slow, slow smile started. He seemed to fight it for a minute, then finally gave in with a flash of teeth. Bobby had to struggle to keep from letting a nervous answering grin grace his own lips. "If y' can' say it, Bobby, it might not be de best idea t' actually do it." But his eyes didn't quite match the humor in his voice. They flickered uneasily across Bobby's own blues, as though he were searching for ... something...
Bobby's body shrieked for him to take up the unsubtle offer, leap across the space between them, and find whatever mysterious new magic awaited him in those wiry arms. Everything else, however, redefined 'confusion.' He'd been raised in a household where the word 'fag' was barely hidden in everyday conversation. No one had ever pulled him aside and told him that homosexuality was anything but an abomination.
At least not in so many words ... but a certain blue furry best friend had made it clear that he saw nothing wrong with the person Bobby was or might be.
He'd said he didn't know. But he did. Hank had a gift for explaining things clearly enough that even Bobby at his most obtuse couldn't pretend not to understand ... and he had the utmost respect for Hank and his opinions.
So if his best friend -- a man whose ethics he believed in unquestioningly -- didn't see this as 'wrong'...
"You're sick," he said softly, then hurried to qualify it at the sudden stiffening of the too-thin frame. "I mean ill! Ill. Not 'sick' as in disgusting or anything, but sick, y'know, like not healthy or--"
Remy waved a hand sharply, smiling again. "I t'ink I got it figured out, Bobby. An' I was sick. Ill." He straightened and patted his flat stomach with a palm, skin smacking skin audibly. Demon-eyes glinted above his smile. "But I'm feelin' pretty good right dis second..."
Against his will, Bobby lost his moment of solemnity to a nervous laugh. "Is this how you seduce women? 'Cause I think the method could use a little work. 'Hi there, you look lovely, hold that pose and I'll try really hard not to puke on you.'"
Another smile, not as easy as earlier ones. "Y' t'ink maybe I lost de gift? Haven' tried usin' it since ... I got back."
"Oh, I really wanted to know that you haven't used 'it' since then..."
Remy rolled his eyes. It was such a simply human gesture, and somehow it made the red irises and black sclera seem unimportant. "Y'know what I meant..."
But Bobby was in his element -- a welcome change from the past weeks -- and wasn't about to let his chance to 'shine' in true Bobby-esque form go. "Y'know, there're these pills you can take today for that little problem ... maybe the Prof knows something about them..."
"Or you might be able to ask Scott ... I personally think this whole 'perfect marriage' thing with Jean is a smoke-screen, really. I mean, how wonderful can one guy's life be? It's just not normal, I tell you! Or maybe Logan ... he's awfully grumpy lately, y'know ... not that he's ever not, but still..."
Remy's grin came back. "Logan on Viagra? Merde, now dere's a t'ought I didn' need t' have."
"How big of a Viagra pill do you think he'd have to take to get past the healing factor?" Bobby mused. "Maybe a Viagra-sandwich? No, no ... something bigger." He straightened unconsciously and tugged his T-shirt into order. "How do you take your Viagra?" he intoned in his best announcer's voice. "Now in new chocolate flavored capl--"
He was cut off, very effectively, by a long-fingered hand clamping firmly over his mouth. That meant, of course, that Remy had moved closer. That also meant that Remy was touching him again, and that he, in return, was touching Remy, and that meant that there was a whole lotta touching going on. It was all worth it, though, and almost not-awkward, when he saw the expression on the Cajun's face.
He smiled behind the fingers over his mouth. "You wanna laugh," he muffle-spoke through the hand. "Admit it. You so wanna laugh."
From the grin spreading over the other's lips, there was little doubt as to that. "Cut it out."
"Can't cut it out," he quipped automatically. "It grow right back!" At Remy's suddenly perplexed look he elaborated-- "Lion King. You can't tell me you missed The Lion King."
"Musta slipped m' mind." It was very easy, Remy thought, to have things slip his mind right then. He didn't think he'd smiled so much in years. "Since y' recommend it so highly, dat sounds like a good reason t' rent it."
Bobby's teeth glinted in the dim light as Remy let his hand slide away from the other man's mouth. "Remy LeBeau watching The Lion King? You're gonna upset the balance of the planet! Some poor little state like Alabama will be catapulted into the Pacific Ocean!"
Where does he get dis stuff? "A'right, Bobby. Y' got me grinnin'." No mean feat dese days, mon ami. "Dat mean y' gon' pretend not'ing else is goin' on here tonight?"
That adorable blush was back, pinking cheeks and neck. The baby blues dropped. Raised. Flickered left. Abruptly the jovial tone vanished, replaced by something quiet and scared and almost awed. "I ... kissed you."
Remy's heart picked up, thump-thump, at least twice as fast. "Oui," he murmured, trying to sound nonchalant. His stomach felt fluttery now rather than queasy and the dizziness in his head was almost a high. Just a few inches separated him from a thigh-brush. A quick arm-gesture could have his hands sliding along that T-shirt-clad torso, stretching his body against the other's and letting things happen as they would.
Control, he cautioned himself firmly. His choice. Not yours.
A strange smile found its way to Bobby's face. A sad smile. "My dad. He'd freak. Absolutely have a coronary. We're talking disowning, here."
He suppressed disappointment savagely. "D'accord." And now there would be that unease between them -- the acknowledgment of what could have been and wasn't, and those constant questions; what if...? "No prob, Bobby. I und'stan'."
Bobby's head shook as he raised his eyes again. "That wasn't ... I wasn't saying 'no.' I was just ... acknowledging."
Much more of this and Remy figured he could change his codename to 'YoYo.' "So ... whatcha wan' do, Bobby?"
Slowly, slowly, Bobby edged across those few bare inches between them. Light hair fell across his eyes and he brushed it back automatically. Remy made himself stay still, feeling the slightest bit of unfamiliar awkwardness. It ain' been dat long, LeBeau. But this was the first person he'd been interested in since Antarctica ... the first one who'd returned that interest. And he was having real trouble remembering how to find the distance between physical and emotional -- that balance he'd always maintained to keep from taking anyone too seriously. Rogue had shattered it, possibly irrevocably, in the weeks leading up to Antarctica, and she'd left behind cold emptiness and need.
Bobby's hand lifted. Touched his chest. Remy glanced down, then up beneath shadowing dark hair to look steadily into his eyes. "Dis a decision, mon ami?" he asked softly. "Or should I get de cards ready again?"
The younger man's face showed every emotion from desire to stark terror, but his voice was nearly steady. "No cards." He leaned in closer, body trembling a bit. "Just ... show me..."
And then arms and shadows, sheets and moonlight; banked coals stoked to cautious fires. Words taken to whispers in deference to this secret newness, and finally tingling, tired bodies and cooling sweat while dawn hinted its approach outside and the house sat in exhaustedly satisfied silence.
Remy blinked out of a doze as a bit of morning light tiptoed across his face. His arms were full, occupied, for the first time in months, sparking all sorts of thoughts of awed discovery. In his sleep, nerves forgotten, Bobby was a snuggler. He'd curled into the curve of Remy's length, head pillowed on an arm, mouth just barely open and slack with relaxation. It seemed a sin to wake him.
Remy had never tried to say he wasn't a sinner. "Bobby." Bobby'd told him that the team had called and left a message that they'd be returning sometime in the morning ... everything was under control. And here it was morning, and something told him Bobby wouldn't take too well to being found in such a ... compromising ... position.
The younger man squirmed closer in protest, grimacing just a bit at the noise and pressing his face against the chest so invitingly close. Remy smiled, then schooled it back.
"Bobby ... it's a'most seven..."
"You make the cookies," Bobby mumbled. "'Spiderman and his Amazing Friends' is coming on..."
Deciding on the path of least resistance, Remy leaned over and caught an earlobe between gentle teeth, nibbling lightly. "Cher, wake up."
Bobby tensed against him, lashes tickling his chest as eyes flicked open. "Wha..."
He trailed the kiss down from ear to neck, tasting dried sweat and the more personal flavor beneath that. "It's mornin'," he murmured. "Team'll be back 'fore long ... people'll be wakin' up..."
Bobby didn't move. "I guess ... I should go, then..."
"Hm," Remy said distractedly. "Merci..." Lips caressed along Bobby's shoulder, back along the ridge of collarbone towards the throat. "... f' stayin' up wit' me."
The voice was faint, unsteady. "Any ... anytime. Gotta take care of ... poor sick Cajuns..."
"Hm," Remy said again, drawing back slightly to devote attention more thoroughly to the arched neck. "An' merci f' bein' honest wit' me."
Blue eyes closed. "Honesty ... is a virtue..."
"Hm." He drew back again and looked at that face, finding another smile that broadened when Bobby's eyes opened. "An' merci f' de night, Bobby. F' bein' wit' me like dis."
Another fire-engine-red blush. "I ... You're thanking me? I mean..."
"It's just ... that seems sorta a reversal of the natural order of things..."
"Oh?" He arched a brow and sat up a bit, sheet pooling around his hips and baring his chest. "Y' t'ink I didn' enjoy myself?"
Bobby rolled to his back, head on the pillow, and seemed content to just gaze up at him with an almost frighteningly wondering expression. Remy wanted to shift under those eyes -- he wasn't worthy of the depth of feeling in that stare, and he knew it well. But his nature was to hide insecurities behind that comfortable wall of confidence. It wasn't about to change now.
He crossed his arms over his chest. "Well? Izzat whatcha t'ink?"
An unfettered smile. "Not if you're gonna make sure it's not what I think like that, no."
Remy spent a moment trying to add up the negatives used in that sentence, then gave up and decided to go with the obvious sentiment instead. "Good. 'Cause dat would be stupid, an' I know y' ain' dat." He thought he saw a flicker of something like doubt in the other's eyes. Was Bobby really so insecure as to think that?
But the glimpse was gone quickly, vanishing behind that smile again. It was a really adorable smile, Remy decided. Full of tentative security and excited revelation. "You're feeling better, still?" Bobby asked instead of answering Remy's comment. "Not queasy or anything?"
Long, elegant fingers found the light brown hair and ran through it over and over, flipping a lock down over his eyes, then away, as if Remy was fascinated by the motion. "Feel great," he half-lied, unwilling to admit that he was still just a bit under the weather. No telling what that might do to vulnerable confidence. "Dey're gon' t'ink I lied 'bout bein' sick t' get outta de mission."
"No, they'll think I lied about you being sick to get myself out of the mission. More in character." He started to sit up, then hesitantly moved a little closer, as if waiting for permission. Remy held out an arm and Bobby reclined back into it with an almost inaudible sigh. "You're right, you know. They'll be home soon. And Paige might even be up already -- Jubes told me she's weird about mornings. Gets up and goes running. Anal-retentive leader-in-the-making if you ask me..."
Remy glanced at the clock. "Yeah, well, like it or not, we're s'posed t' be runnin', too. I'm startin' t' get tired a people t'inkin' I'm about t' fall over in a stiff wind."
Bobby reached a hand over to lie flat against Remy's chest. "You've put on some weight."
With a wicked grin Remy touched the hand, then traced the arm back and forth, relishing the shiver he called from the other man. "Ain' you jus' touchy-feely dis mornin'?"
Bobby froze. Again. "I'm sorry." Going pale instead of blushing this time. "I didn't mean to--"
"Touch me?" Remy breathed into his ear, tracing the arm higher with clever fingers. "An' just why not?"
Bobby melted. Inside, though, where it didn't show. Thankfully. He felt as though he'd been waiting to be in this position for ages -- not just the intimacy they'd shared, but these words afterwards and the ease with which they came. The arm around him, the skin beneath his palm, the newborn familiarity with which they touched...
Now he only had to resign himself to the fact that it was just sex to the Cajun, and likely wouldn't happen again. The man could have just about anyone he wanted. Woman or man, it looks like, he pointed out wryly to himself, trying to ignore the giddy little voice in his mind that kept insistently shouting that Remy had wanted him, for whatever reason ... him! But since the proverbial 'they' were practically lined up at his door it was ridiculous to think that Remy might actually want ... well...
"I just thought you might've changed your mind," he said doubtfully, letting his hand slide very slightly over the smooth chest. His thoughts drifted to the way that chest had flexed beneath his touch earlier, the feel of sweat making the skin slick, and his body flushed with heat. "I mean, I'd understand..."
In answer Remy's arm shifted, fingers gently turning his chin as the Cajun twisted on the bed to meet his lips with a kiss. That first chaste exchange from hours before was a drop in the ocean next to the searing thing they shared now. Bobby had always considered himself a pretty good kisser. No Casanova, maybe, but 'naturally talented.' Even so, he'd had no idea that a simple meeting of lips and tongues could be so ... tantalizing. Arousing. Blood-boiling. It wasn't one-sided, either; the more experienced Remy almost dared him into boldness, drawing out a passion Bobby'd scarcely been aware was in him.
Remy made no bones about it: when he wanted to entice, he enticed. They started curled around each other against the headboard -- ended sprawled crosswise over the bed, bodies pressed close, hearts beating loud tattoos against the tightly meshed chests. Bobby was entirely breathless when the kiss ended, gasping like a beached fish, and Remy's normally steadfast composure seemed nearly as shaken.
Yet he still managed a sultry smile. "So," he said with an admirably casual tone. "Y' t'ink y' might consider comin' back?"
...He invited me back... Bobby waited a moment, letting his breathing settle, expecting the invitation to be revoked at any second. Okay, c'mon, Cajun ... take it back ... no fair teasing... The unique eyes gazed at him steadily, patiently. Ohmigod he's not taking it back he's not taking it back!
"Back?" he managed. "Here? For ... y'know..."
Something like a choked laugh came from the nearby (very near) chest. Lips -- and this time he could actually properly think of them as 'sensual' lips -- fought hard against a grin. "Here," the man intoned solemnly. "For 'y'know.'"
A simultaneous blush and grin. It was hard to pull off the naïve image with Remy -- a very nude Remy beneath those sheets -- pressed so snugly up against him, but he thought he almost made it convincing. "You'd want..." God, why did he have to sound so damned shy about it?? Remy didn't sound shy. Ever. "...that?"
Slower this time, the kiss. Deeper. Utterly convincing. And the words, murmured against his lips: "Whadda you t'ink, Bobby?"
Bobby didn't think he was thinking. He didn't trust thinking. If he did think, he'd have to confront this in his mind ... confront the fact that he wasn't just gay in thought, but now in action as well. He'd have to face the bridge he'd crossed and maybe realize that there was no way back, and then he'd be forced to turn and explore this new country he'd stumbled his way into.
He didn't want to think. Not yet.
He just wanted to do.
"...that'd be ... good. Coming back. Here. For 'y'know.'" A finger traced the stubbled jaw. Greatly daring, he let himself add softly, "With you."
Something other than a smile from the Cajun face. More serious. Wonderfully frightening.
"I'd like dat."
Notes from Kaylee: There you have it. My
version of how the mooks came to be ... the mooks. Marginally serious at best, but it sure
was fun to write. ;)