Quiet Waters
by J.B. McDonald

Chapter Three

"Wake up, sleepy head," Bobby murmured softly, running fingers through soft brown hair.

"Go 'way," Jamie muttered, and curled up against Bobby's hip, burying his face there.

Bobby chuckled. "C'mon. We've been at this park for hours. Long enough for you to fall asleep, at least. I promised my mom we'd be home in time for dinner, remember?"

Jamie groaned. "I don't think I can make it. I think I need to go home."

"You told her you'd be there!" Bobby protested, bending until he was at Jamie's level. The setting sun cast orange and red lights through Jamie's hair, lighting it on visual fire.

"I don't want to be there." Jamie looked up, blinking at Bobby. "I don't think your dad likes me."

Bobby frowned. He'd felt the tension between the two, but was uncertain where it was coming from. At last Bobby smiled fondly, watching hair slide down into Jamie's face, and answered, "He'll get over it. C'mon."

Jamie sighed and got up. "Okay. But I still don't think your dad likes me."

"You've done plenty."

"You said this was your fault."

"You've ruined his life."

Jamie sat against the couch, knees pulled up, one arm hugging them while his chin rested on the other. William's words played over and over in his head.

"You think they'll be as likely to save his life if he's going to tarnish that mutant image they're working so hard for?"

He hadn't wanted to hurt anyone. Least of all Bobby.

Jamie swallowed hard, ignoring the tear that fell down his face. He was aware of it. He didn't care.

The air conditioner turned on. He shivered in his trenchcoat. Wrapped his arms tighter around his body. Wished they were someone else's arms. Anyone else's arms. He wished someone knew he was here, cared enough to find him....

But knew he was worthless, unliked, unloved. He killed all the people who tried to get close to him.

The hollowness ate at him, gnawing away until there was nothing left but an empty shell devoid of all light. It rose up from within, swallowing all impulse to do anything but sit.

And sit.

And sit.

Another tear fell down his face. Dropped, was absorbed into his coat.

His stomach growled. Jamie didn't care.


He ignored the voice; his voice.

"Jamie? It's okay," the voice whispered. A hand reached out -- his hand -- to comfort. Jamie pulled away. He shivered again.

"I know," he said at last. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the dupe reach out again. He didn't want that comfort. He didn't want even himselves to know how much he hurt, and he knew instinctively that if they touched him, if they so much as tried to hug him, he wouldn't be able to hold back at all.

The hollowness roared with a frozen silence within.

"I'm fine," Jamie murmured. He managed to stand. From somewhere deep within he summoned a smile to give the dupe. One foot in front of the other. Step. Step. Step. Step. Open the door. Close it.

It was nighttime. He should change into his pajamas and go to bed.

Maybe he just wouldn't wake up.

Jamie clicked the lock, hoped he wouldn't make any more dupes during the night. He needed to change his clothes.

He sat on the bed. The hollowness, emptiness screamed inside, shrieking noiseless laughter, mocking him, hurting him, whispering in a voice made of thunder that he wasn't good enough, he was cursed, he did something wrong and now everyone died and it was his fault.

Jamie laid down on the bed, unable to shut out that voice that grew smaller and more powerful with every word until it was only hissing whispers that shattered all hope.

He closed his eyes against tears (self pity, disgusting, you spineless little freak there are people with far more problems than you, stop crying) and pulled the blankets up around his still clothed form, unable to find the energy to change (you worthless, lazy creep, no wonder people die to get away from you, who would want to be near you?) and buried his face deeply into the pillow.

Maybe he wouldn't wake up. (It would be better for all involved; even Bobby's family hates you they want you dead and can you blame them? you killed him you jerkassholesonofabitch)

Maybe he would get so cold -- so cold it was so cold -- and fall unconscious and die and he wouldn't have to wake up to this hollow, empty pain inside, this pit that swallowed all hope and left only agony in return.

Jamie's chest heaved, spasming with great gusts of air that couldn't be sobs, couldn't be because they sounded too hopeless. Jamie had heard people cry. That couldn't be him; that was the sound of someone dying.

Dear God. Please let me die.

"Wake up."

Lips kicked upward, then quickly ordered themselves back into a perfectly straight line. Warm breath tickled his ear, moving his hair slightly.

"Wake up, Jamie."

Jamie remained resolutely clinging to sleep, even though he knew he was already awake. He treasured these moments, though. The feeling of sleepy contentment, knowing Bobby was nearby, breathing warmly over him. The knowledge that when he did finally open his eyes, he'd open them to see Bobby's smiling face.

"Jamie. Wake up, Jamie. C'mon. You know you want to."

Breath was coming nearer, and soft lips were moving right up against his ear. Jamie felt the blush start to creep up his neck, and turned his thoughts to sleep. They didn't stay there very long. It didn't help that Bobby was kissing his neck.

"Wake up."

There was a nip at his ear, and Jamie shivered.

"Wake up."

Teeth bit down gently on the tendons in his neck, and breath grazed over his collarbones. Jamie's breath caught in his throat, and he tried to quiet it, to make this moment last just a little bit longer ... His eyes fluttered open and his smile spread just as Bobby's fingers found his stomach. And tickled.

"Hey! No fair! Stop that!" Jamie laughed, trying to push Bobby away.

Bobby grinned and continued tickling Jamie mercilessly. "Ready to wake up?"

"Yes!" Jamie gasped, writhing on the guest bed in Bobby's parents' house. "Stop!"

Bobby stopped and sat back on his heels, smiling fondly. "Okay." He looked at Jamie for a moment, lazily, then blinked and looked away. He rolled off the bed, to his feet, turning again to grin down at Jamie. "Time to get up. I told Mom we'd run some errands for her today. And if you don't hurry up and get dressed," Bobby continued, eyes twinkling, "I'll have to come in there and rip your pajamas off and--" Bobby stopped, eyebrows raising. "Oooh. On second thought, don't get dressed..."

Jamie smiled and stood, blushing but flattered as he shoved Bobby out the door. "I'll be dressed in a minute, you lecherous old man!" he mock-grumbled, closing the door with a click. He leaned against it, stomach fluttering with ill-proportioned delight, grinning to hear Bobby laugh as he walked away down the hall.

Bobby thought he was sexy.

Smiling widely, Jamie went to find some clothes.

"Robert, I don't think this is a good idea," Hank said, frowning as he watched Bobby pull himself up from the hospital bed.

"Hank, I'm fine," Bobby responded hoarsely. "Or will be, in a minute. Would you bring me some clothes?"

Hank ignored the request. "Robert, you're still very weak."

"I'm fine," Bobby sighed, glaring over at Hank. "And lying here's only going to make me worse. I'm worrying too much to heal."

Hank frowned, but remained silent. He pulled his glasses off his face and twirled them, then put them back on.

"No one can find Jamie. None of you even know where to look!"

"I'm sure if you hadn't lost your address book..."

Bobby shot Hank a dirty look. Like he needed to be reminded of that fact. As if knowing that he'd inadvertently helped lose Jamie would make him get better faster.

He sat carefully on the edge of the bed and closed his eyes, focusing. Feeling the Cold.

There. There was air conditioning, bringing in chilled air. Bobby focused on it, drawing the Cold into himself, feeling his body pass over from being slightly chilled to ... nothing. His heart sped up, and then stopped altogether. There was a stab in his spine, as if someone had inserted an ice pick, and then it, too, was gone. Bobby opened his eyes to see the world in shades of blue and yellow, then turned to look at Hank, and saw his best friend in bright red. He looked down, saw nothing at all except the deepest of blues where his body should have been, now so frozen there was no heat at all.

Bobby breathed deeply and closed his eyes once more, slowly asking the Cold to recede, to leave his body. It had gone deeply, far deeper than he usually made it. Every nerve and blood vessel was ice, but as the Cold started to withdraw they all turned back to plasma and tissue.

And then the ice was gone.

Bobby collapsed, his head pounding furiously, his heart racing as if he'd just run twenty miles. He felt himself slipping off the edge of the bed, unable even to hold himself up that much, and felt the breeze from the air conditioning flutter across his skin, raising goosebumps and making him shiver.

The cold, white tile was rushing up to meet him when warm, heavy arms wrapped around his body and kept him from falling.

"Cold," he managed to stutter out between numb lips and clattering teeth.

"I know," Hank murmured next to him, pulling him up until they both sat on the hospital bed and then covering them both with a blanket.

"Hank, it's Cold," Bobby whispered again, his breath so frozen it hurt in his lungs.

"I told you you were too weak to do this," Hank muttered, pulling Bobby closer until Hank's own immense body heat stretched to warm Bobby, too.

Bobby buried his shaking hands in Hank's fur, curling into that warmth instinctively. "'M I better?" he asked, feeling his eyelids heavy and knowing he wouldn't be awake much longer.

"Yes," Hank said on a sigh. "You are better."

Bobby nodded and let himself curl into sleep, knowing that when he woke he would feel whole again.

"Wow. That's cool," Jamie said, eyes wide.

Bobby grinned, blue eyes flashing up toward Jamie. "I don't do it too often, because it's hard. It tires me out."

Jamie nodded. "But it's really cool." He reached out and took Bobby's hand in his own, turning it over to look at it from all directions. The cut that had been there a moment before was gone, first iced over and then replaced with whole, unblemished skin.

"Yeah, and you can't do it," Bobby said, turning his hand to hold onto Jamie's and pull him to his feet. "So let me clean up the glass, and you go elsewhere for a minute. I'll get our sandwiches and bring them out."

Jamie looked at the floor, obviously upset. "But I broke the glass. I could pay you for it!"

"No," Bobby said quickly, glancing up at Jamie through lowered eyebrows. He reached to pick up the larger glass shards, dumping them in the nearby trashcan.

"Then let me clean it up," Jamie insisted, and started to bend down.

"Jamie," Bobby growled, standing and pulling the other man up. "No."

Jamie stepped back, out of Bobby's reach. "I should at least help somehow--" he was cut off as his foot slipped from beneath him, sliding on a larger glass shard across the floor. Jamie cringed as he hit the ground, another dupe appearing on one side.

"James!" Bobby called, and Jamie felt himself lifted and set clear of the glass by ice. He reached out, head still spinning, and re-absorbed his dupe.

"Are you okay?" Bobby was asking, racing up and looking very worried.

Jamie nodded dazedly.

"Now you're bleeding," Bobby growled, taking one of Jamie's hands. He reached around and grabbed a paper towel, dabbing off the blood and eyeing the cut on Jamie's palm. "It's not deep," he muttered after a minute, "and doesn't have any glass in it." He snatched another paper towel off the roll and wrapped it around Jamie's hand, putting pressure there.

"Sorry," Jamie sighed after a moment.

Bobby glanced up, then smiled slightly when he saw how seriously Jamie was taking this. "Don't be." He reached up and grazed the back of his knuckles along Jamie's jaw. "Here. Go sit in the family room, okay? Let me clean this up, then we'll look at your hand again and eat lunch."

Jamie nodded wordlessly and stood, eyes still downcast. "Sorry," he said again.

Bobby smiled and kissed him. "Really. Don't worry about it."

Jamie nodded and walked into the family room. He sat gingerly on the end of the couch, trying not to disturb Bobby's father, who sat at the far end of the room.

"What is going on in that kitchen?" the older man asked.

Jamie smiled uncertainly. "I, ah, broke a glass. I'll pay for it, though," he offered quickly, in spite of the fact that Bobby had already said no.

"Damn straight," William answered, looking back at the television. "Those are my wife's favorite glasses."

"I'll get new ones," Jamie hurried to assure him.

"Good," William growled. Then, in a much quieter voice that still carried to Jamie, "Damn clumsy kid."

Jamie looked at his feet and tried to sink lower in his chair.

"Okay, all cleaned up," Bobby said, smiling as he entered the room. "Now let's see to that..." he petered off, glancing from his irritated father to an obviously upset Jamie and back again. "What's going on?" he asked finally, eyes settling on his father.

"Nothing," Jamie said quickly, and stood. "Do you have bandages for my hand?"

Bobby's eyes lingered on his father, who was refusing to acknowledge his presence. Finally, he turned to Jamie and nodded. "Yeah," he said slowly. "They're upstairs."

Jamie hurried up the stairs ahead of him, and Bobby continued looking at his father until the man turned, eyebrows raised.

"Your friend's waiting for you," William said quietly.

Bobby nodded wordlessly, eyeing the man, and then headed up the stairs.

"What did you say to him?" Bobby demanded, fists clenched at his sides. A week and a half since he had woken up. Just days after that, he'd turned into ice. That same day he'd started making phone calls to Jamie. Every day he called, often times more than once. Every day he left a message, asking Jamie to call him back. It had all been ignored. He was certain that something was wrong, but he couldn't have done it. He'd been unconscious, for Christssakes! And then his father, a moment ago...

"I didn't say anything to him!" William answered, obviously angry.

"You said something just now. You said maybe he'd realized he was ruining my life. Did you say that to him, Dad?" Bobby snapped. He realized his arms had iced up, and flexed his fingers to shatter it.

"What if I did?" William bit back. "Someone needed to show him that he wasn't just affecting himself."

"He wasn't affecting me!" Bobby shouted. "He made me happy!"

"You said yourself that people were giving you grief over being gay!"

"Yeah. You're right," Bobby snarled. "Remy teases me -- sometimes it's irritating. Warren keeps asking me if I'll let him set me up. Oooh, big hurtful things there."

"You said you got kicked out of a restaurant!" William pointed out. His jaw clenched, the muscle jumping.

"I did! And you know what was great? The other X-Men left, too! And Warren threatened to sue the guy! And we got free dinners after that! I can deal with this stuff on my own. I don't want to lose Jamie!"

"He's ruining your life!" William shouted, his brown eyes flashing in frustrated anger. "You're my son, and I don't want to see you hurt!"

"He is not ruining my life!" Bobby shouted back. "He makes me happy, Dad! Jamie is what keeps me 'not hurt!' Can't you understand that? I love Jamie. Yeah, it's a lot harder to date a man then it is to date a girl. I don't care. I love him. He makes me laugh."

William shook his head, looking away. After a moment, he looked back. "You're ruining your life -- for what? Laughter? It's not worth it."

"Says you. I happen to think I'm doing what's right. I'm sorry you don't like it that your son dates men. But so help me God, if you've driven Jamie away I will never forgive you," Bobby hissed. He threw a flashing look at his mother, who sat with her head bowed at the kitchen table, pretending that none of this was happening. Then Bobby turned and stormed out of the house.

continued >>

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