Disclaimer: The X-Men characters, and all other recognizable characters are copyright to Marvel Entertainment Group. This work of FanFiction is not meant to impinge on that copyright or defame Marvel Comics or the X-Men and related characters in any way.
Copyright: This work of FanFiction and the original characters described within are the intellectual property of K-NICE and her IRL persona. No copying, distributing or editing of this material is permitted without the express permission of the creator, K-Nice, under United States copyright law.
NOTE: Continuity diverges after X-Men #71, Uncanny X-Men #350, and X-Men Unlimited #18.

Spring Thaw: Awakenings
by K-Nice

Bobby Drake was despondent. That was the only word to describe his mood. He sat, looking forlorn, on the back steps of his parents' Long Island home. As he examined his life in search of a reason for his unusual malaise, he realized that things weren't all that bad.

His father William's health had improved to the point that he spent his days puttering around the house getting under his mother's feet. William and Bobby were finally getting over their private war and were beginning to act like a father and son again.

Mrs. Drake was so happy to see her "boys" getting along together that she had managed to make it through dinner without weeping over her husband's near-death experience. She was more cheerful, looking to their future together.

Hey, even the sun is shining. Although it was still bitterly cold, spring was only a few weeks away. To be honest, Bobby liked the cold. He thrived in temperatures that sent everyone else into hibernation. I am the Iceman, after all.

Things were looking up for the Drakes.

It was Bobby's other family that worried him. The X-Men were in total chaos.

It had started with the Professor and gotten steadily worse since then. The mansion was in shambles and currently inhabited by complete strangers.

Marrow's a psychopath, pure and simple, and Maggott is just plain gross. And Celia ... she's cute and everything but that attitude is enough to make me cringe.

Even his friends had changed. Scott and Jean had left, and Warren was back in his dark brooding mode. Hank was so into the Legacy Virus that he had little time for his younger friend. And when blue boy's not in the lab, he's lip locking with Trish. Ewwwwww! Wolverine and Storm were turning the X-Men into boot camp and Bobby wasn't sure why. Then there was oh-so-spooky Psylocke, whacked-out-of-her-mind Rogue and amnesia-lad Joseph.

Rogue is my friend, but she's been acting so weird lately. Not that I can blame her after what Gambit did.

Gambit was a whole other topic. The Cajun was pure evil, and a traitor of the highest order. What I wouldn't give for five minutes with that loser! Bishop was strangely missing, and nobody seemed to care. Cannonball spent so much of his time angsting that he was turning into Jubilee. The X-Men had gone from a happy family to Jerry Springer-Wannabes.

In his short return to the team for a mid-winter holiday, Bobby had seen the changes himself clearly. It was depressing, Even Jubilee had gotten some good hits in on Sauron while he succumbed to mind control. After Zero Tolerance, he had felt pretty good about himself, but that slip-up was enough to bring him down a peg. Not only had the X-Men changed before his eyes, he had gone from an original X-Man to a second string liability.

All in all, Bobby Drake was setting up to enter a bright blue funk.

Looking into the backyard, Bobby began to take stock of himself: He was twenty-one, jobless, aimless, dateless and hopeless. Bobby began to stare at the treehouse perched in a large oak tree at the back of the property. He ran his hand through his light brown hair and rested his chin on his palm, which in turn was resting on his knee. The weathered boards of the treehouse were a reminder that he was no longer a child, a boy who could scamper up into a tree to play the afternoon away. No, he was a man trying to play his life away.

Bobby continued to stare at the treehouse, locked in a trance of revelation. His life after his powers manifested began to flash before his eyes: the training, the battles, the pranks, the fear. He began to feel the same despair that had overwhelmed him when he first saw his father's broken body in the woods. He had hated his father for so long that it took the sight of his crushed flesh, his blood on the ground, before Bobby could see his love.

I'm just a selfish kid, determined to crack jokes and goof off endlessly, always afraid that someone might force me to be a man.

Bobby reached out, angry at himself and at his tears, and froze the tree solid. He walked up the back steps, tears frozen on his cheeks. He slammed up to his room and punched his bedroom wall.

He was still angry.

He moved to his CD player and threw in his Bush CD. He pushed play and turned the volume way up on Razorblade Suitcase. As the boom box thumped out the heavy sounds, Bobby lay back on his bed and began to think.

I'm doing it AGAIN!!! My father is convalescing (now that's a Hank word) and I'm here breaking the noise ordinance right over his head. Bobby could have kicked himself for his selfish, thoughtless behavior. Instead he rolled off his bed and sloughed through piles of his dirty laundry to turn his box off. He sat on the edge of his unmade bed and tried to do more of that thinking that people were always gushing about.

He tried to think about what Scott would do, but this only served to frustrate him further. I'm not and never will be Scott "the Teacher's Pet" Summers. Heck, most of his teachers had thrown him out of class for one prank or another. All I can be is Bobby Drake, Jerk Extraordinaire. But maybe I can be a better Bobby Drake. Bobby yearned to live, to grow, to experience. He was tired of following in the footsteps of others, especially those of Cyclops. I've got this great power but I don't have the guts to use it right.

Maybe that's what I need. Bobby sprung up and stood before his mirror. It was covered with a dusty film, but he could still make out his face. He looked younger than his 21 years: His face still babyish, his eyes and innocent blue, his teeth TV white. His body was well muscled, though he was beginning to notice a loss of definition now that he spent his time wandering around his parents' house. He stopped admiring himself long enough to take off his shirt and do a few stretches. "That's why the ladies love me!" he said with a smirk, though it faded as he thought,/Yeah, love me enough that we never go out more than once.

He balled his shirt up and threw it in the general direction of his overflowing laundry hamper. Bobby faced the mirror again. He stuck his tongue at his alter-ego. I look like a collegiate poster boy, but in all reality I'm just a world class cop-out.

He began to talk to himself, a sure sign that his day could only get worse: "I'm an accountant for g'sake. With all the technology and education available at Xavier's, I chose accounting."

He could have spent hours berating himself but he was feeling bad enough already. So he stumbled back to his bed and sprawled out over the rumpled twist of sheets and covers. He faced the ceiling, racking up points on his "Why I hate Gambit" Scale (patent pending).

Remy Lebeau was scummy enough that Bobby could stretch his limits and let his imagination run wild listing the Cajun thief's crimes. Even this exercise, which usually left him feeling superior and satisfied, offered no real joy. He didn't feel right about the way Gambit had been left for dead in Antarctica. There was no question in his mind that Gambit was a traitor and deserved some form of punishment, but the X-Men were not supposed to kill -- ever. Why hadn't he objected or even mentioned his misgivings?

Wasting his time thinking about the traitor Lebeau didn't make him feel like a better man -- It made him feel like a flake. At least Gambit had the guts to make a decision, to live his life for good or evil, better or worse. Even if he seemed mostly evil and definitely worse, he had one up on Bobby. He had been and he had done. The places he had been and things he had done were beyond even Bobby's imagination. And that was the problem, he realized. Bobby had spent his life drifting along, going nowhere, slowly. The delicate ice lace he had carefully constructed on his windows was another reminder of his yet untapped potential.

Bobby was suddenly resolute. He had to do something, not just anything.

No more sulking, no more whining. It was time to act.

He grabbed a pair of semi-clean jeans from his desk chair, a fresh looking shirt from his lamp stand and some not-so-funky socks from his closet. He was digging under his bed for a decent pair of sneakers when he realized he was not going to the X-Men. As he snatched his painfully thin wallet from his dresser, he ran his other hand through his hair, wishing he had time for a cut. But he would have to hustle to get to Manhattan in time for happy hour.

He hurried out the house in a whirlwind, kissing his mom on the cheek and evading questions as to where he was going. He climbed into his parents' 1989 Chrysler LeBaron and headed for New York City, aching to prove that he was alive.

More than half a world away, another former X-Man was looking to prove that he was alive. Remy Lebeau lay curled on his side, facing a wall in what he thought was a hospital or infirmary. He ran his hands along his ribs, searching for the source of his pain as he took rasping shallow gasps of air. He slowly began to realize that the trouble with his breathing came not from broken ribs but from his lungs themselves.

He suppressed a groan and burrowed deeper into the piles of wool blankets that enveloped him. He wasn't sure whether the cold he felt was real or remembered, but either way he longed to be warm again. His eyes felt raw, sore. The dim light reflecting off the plain white wall was enough to make him squint. He worried that he was in the midst of another waking dream.

He heard a voice. It was indistinct and seemed muffled and far away. He tried to respond but the speaker leaned over his shoulder and tried to push him flat on the bed. If his hearing was that damaged, it did not speak well for the rest of him. The fuzzy voice from the fuzzier face spoke soothingly. Remy was desperate to stay awake and learn where he was and with whom but he was steadily drifting to sleep. At least it isn't Sinister. This don't feel like one a his bases. And dat . . . person?. . . didn't seem like on of Essex' 'assistants. I better find out . . . where . . . . . . . . i . . . . . . . . . . . .am . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

"This John Doe of yours is just a heap of trouble, Stan." The hardened scientist was not best pleased by the hypothermic young man who had commandeered his bed. He liked the solitude of his outpost and resented the intrusion. But Stan Howe was the only man who would bring supplies to this part of Antarctica and his wishes had to be humored for that reason.

Stan himself was not too worried about the 'heap of trouble'.

The previous morning he had found a half naked man in the snow. Good Samaritan that he was, Stan stopped in the middle of his daily deliveries to assist the corpse. The minute he had shone his pen light into those otherworldly eyes, he knew he was dealing with a mutant. Though he didn't even want to contemplate how one had gotten this far south with no apparent means of transport or destination, he had grabbed his laptop and gone to his favorite chat room for some advice on what to do with him. In the wake of Operation: Zero Tolerance, there was much debate about the "mutant menace." Someone was sure to know something useful -- at least more than Stan himself knew.

A Norwegian knew a Japanese who chatted with a Pole who slept with a Russian who worked for the Russian government's Mutant Affairs Department. Once online with the Russian, Stan sent a frantic e-mail detailing the John Doe's physical description and location. He mentioned the red iris in a black sclera a minimum of four times. The Russian promised to ask around but that wasn't enough for Stan. He had to know what to do about this situation before it got any worse. This ticked the Russian off royally, but he woke up a few friends, his lover included, and began zipping off the description to mutant-centered websites. In a matter of minutes they were flooded with anti-mutant spam that threatened to overload their respective servers. That was enough to get the Russian to call off his posse and send Stan the bad news.

Two hours after his initial quest, he had found more than he had hoped to get. Stan never read the Russian's message. He was too busy salivating as he spoke with a dusky voiced woman who had just e-mailed requesting his phone number. The woman claimed to have picked up the Russian's message, and she also asserted that she knew his foundling. She had a very startling request: Stan was to let no one examine the mutant, administer no treatment for any injuries, to treat the hypothermia with blankets and hot water bottles and keep the man asleep naturally, without sedatives.

Stan now pressed the young man's shoulders back, finally releasing him as he fell asleep again. The mystery woman ws supposed to arrive today, and he hoped his obedience would earn him a certain reward. He never responded o the doctor's taunt, just pushed him out of the room and into the main lab where they both slept. Stan said, "Watch him. I'll be back."

"When?" the doctor demanded. He didn't want to be stuck in this mess just because he happened to be the next stop on Stan's run after the trader got altruistic.

"Whenever. Just remember, I'll be back."

Stan exited on that cryptic note and drove his dogsled team to the large scientific complex 50 miles away. It was the closest thing to a town or city on the whole continent and there the mystery woman waited - for him. She must be pretty wealthy to get to the bottom of the world so quickly. It's not like there are any commercial flights come this far down and it's the wrong time of year for tour boats. Sexy voice, plenty of money - I bet she'll be very grateful.

Yet when Stan finally saw her, framed by in the doorway of the "terminal" at the makeshift "airport" on the outskirts of the facility, he was shocked to the point of rudeness. She was gorgeous.

continued >>

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