Thanks: To two people, actually. First, to Kaylee, who is a WONDERFUL person. We love Kaylee. :) Second, to PoiLass. Who is getting this as a birthday present! YAY! Everyone, now!
YAY! Poi, I hope you have a great birthday! And I hope you like all the presents you get! :D
Continuity: I'm changing things slightly. X-Factor has already broken up by the time Bobby left the X-Men to help his dad. This is where that takes place. :)
Not making any money. Not my characters (though I don't think Marvel will want these versions...)

Bodies of Water
by J.B. McDonald

Chapter 1

Bobby stuffed his hands in the pockets of his gray slacks and stepped out of the restaurant, into the cool Washington night. He smiled slightly at the doorman, nodded once, and then sauntered across the street and leaned against the rail of the pier.

Stood up by his best friend. Bah. Not that he'd really expected more. And, heck, he was more than grateful for this small reprieve.

Bobby still remembered the day Hank had arrived at his parent's house, where Bobby'd been staying while his dad recuperated from the beating FoH had given him. It had already been late afternoon when the Beast in all his blue fuzziness had arrived unexpectedly in his red sports car. They'd invited him in and he'd stayed for dinner -- explaining that he'd only come by because he was in the area (which had actually been true) and that he was more interested in home-cooked food than Bobby. But he'd had that Sparkle in his eye when he'd said that, and Bobby had known he was kidding.

Bobby wasn't sure how Hank had known he was going nuts living with his parents. Bobby'd needed a break for weeks, but didn't feel like he could just leave. And then Hank had said, oh so casually after dinner, "Robert, I'm traversing to a conference of one week's length in Washington and I would be most appreciative of a person other than my humble self with which to converse. I'm afraid that I won't often be available, departing early and not returning until, perhaps, the wee hours of the morn, but mayhap you'd like to traverse with me and keep me company whilst listening to my eloquent soliloquies?"

And Bobby had known, using his special Best Friend sense, that what Hank was really saying was "Bobby, I can see you're going nuts. Want to have a short vacation? I won't be around much, but if you want out of this house for a while here's your excuse."

Bobby had jumped at the excuse.

The drive to Washington had been fun, if tiring. In the three days they'd been here, Hank had been pretty good about getting lunches off and leaving to come do Friend-Stuff with Bobby afterward.

But he was here for a conference, and the conference was running late.

Ah, well. It could be worse. Bobby could have been home listening to his father tell Alex Trebek that the Jeopardy answers were wrong.

At that thought, Bobby grinned and mentally thanked Hank again for giving him this vacation.

Whistling, Bobby started down the sidewalk, hands still in his pockets, blue eyes taking in all the scenery. Ahead, someone was goofing off on one of the pier supports. A small crowd had gathered, laughing, and Bobby smiled. The police would come tell the man to get off the support in a moment, but in the meantime it looked like he was doing very fake, very slow tai chi.

Bobby's smile turned into a grin, and he sauntered closer, cocking his head to watch the figure in the brown trenchcoat. In fact, he realized, stopping, that figure looked awfully familiar. It looked like...

"Jamie Madrox?" Bobby called, pitching his voice to hover above the crowd.

The figure jerked and twisted around, trying to see who had called his name -- and then overbalanced.

Bobby made a dash for the edge, but much too late as a splash could be heard. Bobby, cringing, peered over the side of the rail. "Sorry," he called when Jamie (and another Jamie) emerged, sputtering.

The two Jamies became one, and that one swam for the shoreline nearby.

Bobby followed him down, meeting him on the rocky beach. "Sorry," he said again, smiling apologetically.

"It's freezing in that water!" Jamie yelped, his face pale in the moon and starlight.

"Here," Bobby said, pulling off his gray jacket, "wear this."

Jamie nodded and pulled off his soaking wet trenchcoat, shivering so hard he almost couldn't get Bobby's jacket on. It was slightly too big through the shoulders, but overall fit fairly well. Bobby took the trenchcoat, hesitating when Jamie reached into the pocket with fumbling hands and removed a now-wet cell phone.

Jamie punched some buttons, held it up to his ear, punched some more buttons, and, making a disgusted face, tossed it onto the rocks. "It's busted," he sighed.

"Sorry," Bobby said again. Then he grinned. "You know, that's probably government property."

Jamie smiled ruefully up at him. "Thanks for the tip. You have a phone on you? I need to call a cab to come get me before I freeze to death."

Bobby shook his head, regretting leaving his cell phone back at the hotel room -- then brightened. "Come on," he said, motioning with his head as he started up the rocks. "My hotel's just about a block from here. You can make a call and get a change of clothes -- you can probably wear mine. And we can dry yours -- it's the least I can do after making you fall in the water," Bobby said, laughing contritely.

"Thanks," Jamie chirped, pulling the dry gray jacket around his wet clothes. "I appreciate it!"

The walk back to the hotel room was quiet. Bobby knew little about this man, other than he was an X-cousin and had worked with X-Factor for a while.

And Bobby had been sure he'd died ... but, obviously not.

The silence wasn't comfortable, though it fell short of being uncomfortable. The dark night made the other man's features blur together slightly -- Bobby had never had very good night vision, unless he was iced up. That was more heat-based vision than anything, though.

They reached the hotel in a short time, walked through the door into the plushly carpeted and expensively decorated lobby.

"Nice," Jamie said, the words slurred slightly as he shivered.

Bobby nodded and glanced toward the slightly shorter man, eyes widening in worry as he saw the almost-blue lips and white face. "C'mon," he said, tugging Jamie faster to the elevator and up the stairs. "Why didn't you say you were freezing?"

Jamie lifted one shoulder in a shrug, stepping into the elevator and leaning in the corner. "It wouldn't have gotten us here any faster. What's the point?"

Bobby started to lecture the other man, then just shook his head and willed the elevator to go faster.

Jamie huddled in the corner, jaw clenched to keep his teeth from clacking together, shivering hard enough to make the material around his slender body shudder.

"We're here," Bobby said as the elevator stopped with a stomach-lightening lurch, the doors opening. Bobby hurried out into the hall, striding down swiftly to the door to his and Hank's suite--a suite the conference people had paid for. He swiped the electronic card, pushing against the door with his shoulder while twisting the handle. The door opened, revealing a couch rolled out into a bed, with a small table and two chairs in one corner, and a bar by the door. Another door lead to another room with Hank's bed.

Bobby went straight for his suitcase, pulling out the warmest clothes he had -- sweatpants for sleeping and a sweatshirt for cold mornings. "Get in the shower, thaw yourself out," he ordered, glancing over his shoulder to see Jamie already pulling off the gray jacket and black T-shirt beneath. Bobby tossed him the blue sweatshirt and black pants, watched the other man disappear into the bathroom.

"Toss me your clothes," Bobby shouted, picking up his jacket and the soaked-through shirt. He waited for a moment, then the door opened and he saw a flash of too-white skin stretched taut over a slender chest. Pants, shoes and various other sundry items came flying out the door, landing in a heap on the floor before the door closed, and the shower turned on.

Bobby frowned at the image of white skin and blue lips, picking up the rest of the clothes and heading down to the laundry room they had at this hotel.

Coulda been worse, his mind commented to himself. You could be at a cheap hotel with no laundry room.

Jamie was still in the shower when Bobby got back, and Bobby picked up the phone to order room service. That done, he looked in the small, stocked refrigerator, pulling out several miniature bottles of liquor and setting them on the little table in the corner.

Bobby dug through his belongings, pulling out a card deck and the raggedy paperback he'd found at a park several days before. Bobby settled himself in one of the hard wooden chairs that seemed to be made specially for hotels, propping his feet up on the other chair across from him and settling in to read.

Room service arrived and Jamie was still in the shower, so Bobby set the food on the table and went back to his novel. The smell of chicken and rice was tantalizing, though, and he couldn't keep his mind on his book.

Finally, the shower cut off. Bobby kept half an eye on the door, an entire eye on the covered platter of food, and another half an eye on his book.

The bathroom door opened, letting steam race into the room, billowing and shoving through.

"You warmer?" Bobby asked, watching as Jamie fumbled his way to the table.

Jamie nodded wordlessly, though he still looked awfully pale.

"I really didn't mean to make you fall in the water," Bobby said, smiling apologetically.

Jamie started to laugh. "Stop feeling bad! It wasn't entirely your fault -- I shouldn't've been up there anyway!"

Bobby lifted one shoulder in a shrug, then gestured to the food. He moved his feet off the other chair, pushing it back with his toe. "I got food -- figured it was the least I could do."

Jamie smiled gratefully and sat -- plopped, really -- into the chair, reaching for the nearest platter.

"You're not vegetarian, are you?" Bobby asked, suddenly frowning as he uncovered the other platter.

"Of course," Jamie said, not really even paying attention as he focused on the chicken and rice pilaf, "but only when there's no meat around."

Bobby grinned, nodding, biting into his own food. "Me, too," he said, mouth full.

Jamie grinned and set to eating with the fervor of a starving man. There was a comfortable silence for several minutes as both men ate as much as they could, then relaxed slowly as they weren't so hungry.

Bobby eyed the other man curiously, noting the very wet, dark brown hair that fell in unruly strands down his face. Every few minutes Jamie would brush at them, tucking them behind his ears or just brushing them back. They always fell right into his eyes again, eyes that were so dark they seemed almost black at times. Bushy eyebrows hovered above those large eyes, perpetually stuck in a humorous sort of tilt. He had what Bobby had termed a flippity nose -- one much like the type you would expect to see on a particularly mischievous pixie. Freckles smattered themselves across that nose and the high cheekbones around it, though the freckles were light enough as to be almost unnoticeable.

Another thick strand of hair fell into Jamie's face, letting a fat droplet of water plunk onto his nose and slide down into his lips. With one had Jamie pulled the strand away, tucking it firmly behind his ear, while with the other hand Jamie shoveled food into his mouth. His cheek puffed with a bite of chicken that really was too large, but he chewed it down swiftly and swallowed.

That hand that had supplied the chicken held a trembling fork back up, filled with rice.

Bobby set his own fork down, looking at Jamie overtly.

Jamie stopped eating and looked up, suddenly aware he was being scrutinized. "Whuph?" he asked, mouth full of rice.

Bobby swallowed, keen blue eyes searching for any other signs of shivering underneath the much too baggy shirt. There -- hair trembled at the collar, shaking away drops of moisture.

"You're shivering," Bobby said, watching the other man's Adam's apple bob as he swallowed.

"Oh." Jamie sat still for a moment, then took another bite.

"Hey, I'm kinda worried here," Bobby said, setting his fork down and leaning on the table. "You were in the shower for a long time, and you're still shivering?"

Jamie swallowed, glanced up. "Not hard," he said, shooting Bobby a bright smile that would have carried innocence and sincerity if Bobby didn't use it whenever he was trying to brush someone off.

"Hold your hand out," Bobby ordered, blue eyes narrowing as his own light brown hair tickled his ears.

Jamie hesitated, cheek puffing again as food was stuffed into it, then held up the hand that wasn't occupied by a fork. "Ish no' baf," Jamie said around his giant mouthful of food.

Bobby eyed the shuddering fingers, then reached out with his own hand to hold the other lightly, bringing it closer. "Your nails are blue, Jamie," Bobby said, a lecture in his eyes.

Jamie pulled his hand back. "I'm fine," he said, then flashed a reassuring grin. Dimples lay in his cheeks, falling into creases that were there for just that purpose.

"Humph," Bobby muttered. He leaned back, folded his arms across his chest and eyed the other man. Finally, he stood and got two small glasses, opening one of the tiny bottles of liquor and pouring it evenly into the cups. He handed one to Jamie and set one by his own plate.

"No thanks," Jamie said, not even glancing up. "I'm a real lightweight -- can't hold my liquor at all." He grinned then, warm brown eyes flickering upward, a self-depreciating smile on his lips. "Too bad," Bobby answered, smiling back, carrying just a hint of seriousness beneath the grin. "Drink. It'll at least get you warmer. Or more comfortable. One of the two."

Jamie looked uncertainly from the glass to Bobby and back again. "Nah," he said after a minute. And smiled, as if it were a joke.

Bobby recognized the tactic. He used it often himself. "Yeah," he countered, cocking his head. And smiling.

Jamie looked like he'd been caught off-guard. He took his time finishing his bite, running his tongue across his teeth, stalling for time. "I'm really okay," he said at last. He smiled.

Bobby recognized the believe - me - because - I'm - cute - and - so - innocent - and - wouldn't - lie - to - you - wouldn't - even - exaggerate look instantly.

"Just make me feel better," Bobby answered. He smiled. In his own way, using his I'll - sit - here - and - pretend - like - it's - funny - even - though - we're - serious - and - you'd - better - do - it - because - I - know - this - game, - pal, - and - I'll - win smile.

Jamie smiled. It was automatic, default mode as his eyes flickered again around the room. "You know," he said, as if the thought had just occurred to him, "I'd better call Forge. He'll be worried about me."

"Good idea," Bobby agreed, rolling with the subject change. "Tell him you're gonna stay for a while until I make sure you're okay. In fact, why don't you just stay until Hank gets back, and then he can check you since he's a doctor and all, and then I'll feel a lot better." Bobby smiled. Pitched his eyebrows Just So, manipulating Jamie shamelessly. Jamie might be good at the innocent jokester game, but Bobby was better. "I feel really bad about dropping you in the water. It'd make me feel a lot better." Bobby watched, triumphantly, as Jamie immediately tried to tell him it wasn't his fault.


"Just call Forge," Bobby said, reaching down to his suitcase and fishing out his cell phone. He turned it on, then handed it across the table to Jamie.

And smiled as he saw the look on Jamie's face -- the dammit, - I've - been - outsmarted look.

Jamie took the phone, called Forge, explained what had happened and where he was, then handed the phone to Bobby.

"Hullo?" Bobby asked, slightly surprised.

Forge's deep voice rolled across from the other end. "Hi, Bobby. Is Jamie okay?"

"I think so," Bobby answered. "Cold, though. I thought maybe I'd have Hank give him the once over when he got back."

Bobby could almost hear Forge nodding on the other end. "Good idea. Just don't let him blow you off, all right?"

Bobby grinned, noted the slightly frustrated look Jamie got at the sight of that smile. "Sure."

Forge and Bobby said goodbye and hung up, and Bobby tossed his phone back into his suitcase. "Drink up," Bobby said, nodding to the liquor. "It'll warm you."

He stood as Jamie reached for the glass, sighing heavily.

"It's really not nice to railroad people like that," Jamie said. Bobby grinned, carrying the plate to the miniature sink. Behind him he heard Jamie cough. Bobby glanced back, saw that the other man had taken much too big a swallow, and forced his laugh away.

When Bobby came back tot he table, most of the drink was gone and Jamie was shoving his food around his plate with his fork.

"So what are you and Forge doing here?" Bobby asked conversationally, sitting back in his chair, propping his foot up and resting an arm on his knee.

"Forge has government stuff to take care of," Jamie answered, leaning back himself. "And he's nervous about letting me out of his sight." Jamie grinned, laughing at a private joke.

"Why's that?"

Jamie lifted a shoulder in a shrug, face a study in innocence.

Bobby's eyebrows rose in mute disbelief, though he wasn't sure what he wasn't believing.

Jamie laughed. It was a cheerful sound, one Bobby hadn't heard often enough lately. "No, seriously. Since the Legacy Virus thing, he acts like I'm some strange animal that people are going to try to cart off and study."

Bobby nodded, though he wasn't really sure what Jamie was talking about. "Yeah," he said, frowning in remembrance, "I thought I'd heard that you had the Legacy Virus? And that you'd died?" He grinned sheepishly. "Guess I shouldn't believe all those rumors, huh?" But a haunted light had entered Jamie's brown eyes, and he looked away.

"Yeah. Something like that," the man muttered. His hands played with the edge of the table, slender fingers dancing back and forth. Quick eyes saw the pack of cards and he picked them up, smiling again. "Wanna play?"

"Sure," Bobby answered, dropping his leg and leaning forward. The haunted look had left again, and Bobby was more than willing to keep it away. "What do you want to play?"

"Poker?" Jamie asked, shuffling the cards with ease.

Bobby nodded. "I don't have any money, though, so we can't play for chips."

Jamie shrugged. "I don't have any money, either." Then a gleam entered his eyes, making the brown dance in merriment. "But I have an idea."

He stood, setting the cards on the table with a small thump, and walked with a long, loping stride to the kitchenette.

Bobby had to admire the grace Jamie seemed to have, though somehow Jamie still looked slightly gangly, as though he wasn't entirely used to his body. Jamie reached up to the cupboards, opening them all quickly. The sweatshirt pulled up, exposing a pale stomach with lightly defined muscles.

"Here!" Jamie said, eyes laughing as he walked back to the table with that same loping, gangly stride. Bobby tore his gaze away from Jamie's body, knowing that most people didn't appreciate being ogled, and shifted to what the man held.

A grin spread across Bobby's face as he saw the bag of potato chips -- just a small bag, but there nonetheless. "Perfect!" he declared as Jamie flopped into his chair and opened the bag. "I have to warn you, though," Bobby said pseudo-seriously, "I'm awful at poker."

"Me too," Jamie laughed. "We should play a special game."

Bobby eyebrows rose curiously.

Jamie was grinning hugely, setting aside his plate. "Whoever loses the most wins."

Bobby started to laugh. "But you have to try not to lose!" he added.

"Right! Because if you lose, you have to ... I dunno. If you win you get the bag of chips. And in the end, whoever's lost the most gets ... um..."

"Treated to lunch or dinner at a place of their choosing," Bobby announced, chuckling.

Jamie almost blushed -- red creeping up his neck -- then nodded, once, grinning. "All right," he said, his eyes fastened on the cards.

Bobby cocked his head, filing the blush away for later contemplation. If there was one thing he was, it was a good judge of people. And blushes always meant something.

Bobby reached for the tiny bottle of gin and re-filled Jamie's glass, then took a sip from his own. The cards were trembling as Jamie passed them out, a sure sign that the cold was still clinging to the other man's bones. Not good. Something Bobby planned on making sure went away. After all, he did feel bad about surprising Jamie into falling in the water.

"Don't we need four people to play poker?" Bobby asked after a moment.

Jamie looked up, eyebrows raised. "You want four people? I can do that."

Bobby blinked, then grinned. "That's right. That's cool. Never run out of people to talk to, huh?"

Jamie laughed. "Yeah well, it's no fun. I always know just what's going on, because we all think the same way! Besides," and he frowned slightly, "I tend to bicker with myself."

Bobby laughed. "Now that must be interesting."

Jamie snorted inelegantly. "You want two people or four?"

"Let's just play with just us -- the two of us," Bobby answered. Jamie nodded once and dealt the cards, picking his own up with long fingered hands. Bobby lifted his own cards and looked at them, glancing up and taking the moment to surreptitiously look Jamie over again.

Oh, sure, the man before him wasn't as built as some of the men on the X-teams. But, really, when a guy got so muscled that there were veins sticking out it just didn't look good anymore. And it was true that Jamie wasn't the handsomest guy in the X-teams -- he had a certain cuteness that precluded being handsome. But there was something about that smile, those eyes (those gorgeous dimples) that Bobby found more than a little endearing.

Bobby didn't realize he'd sighed until Jamie looked up, completely oblivious to the fact that Bobby was about to drool all over the table. "Something wrong?" Jamie asked, all earnestness.

"Nah," Bobby said, smiling his own boy-next-door smile and looking back down at his cards.

With his luck, Jamie was as straight as the pole Bobby used to hang Scott's underwear on.

Bobby looked back down at his cards. Two fours, an ace, a six of clubs and a nine of hearts. Bah. He threw everything but the fours on the table, and waited for Jamie to hand him more cards.

A queen, a seven, and a jack.

Jamie smiled and opened the bag of chips, munching on one after they'd revealed their cards. "So when's Hank due back?"

Bobby picked up his new cards for the new round. "Don't like my company?" he asked, grinning.

"Company's fine," Jamie answered innocently. "Or it would be if there was someone interesting here."

Bobby pretended to be horror-struck and kicked playfully at Jamie's legs under the table. "So that's how it's gonna be, huh?" Second draw, and he had a pair of kings. Jamie had nothing. Bobby grinned smugly and snatched up the bag of chips, carefully choosing which ones to eat.

"What are you doing in Washington?" Jamie asked, dealing.

"Hank came for a bunch of conferences. I tagged along to get out of the house."

Jamie laughed, and it made Bobby smile. Such an unfettered sound. The people at the X-mansion didn't often laugh like that. Bishop never laughed. Logan chortled. Remy did that sly I-know-something-you-don't-know laugh. Rogue often sounded forced. Scott was too busy to laugh, and Jean never around. Nope. No one had that free, unfettered, careless laugh.

It made Bobby grin to hear it.

"So you're just hanging around the hotel?"

"Pretty much," Bobby agreed with a bob of his head. Jamie won. Chips went to him.

"You know Lorna, right?" Jamie asked.

"Yeah," Bobby answered, grinning. "We dated."

Jamie glanced at Bobby, grinned, then looked back down at his cards. "You wouldn't believe it to look at her, but she's really good at poker."

"Lorna?" Bobby asked in disbelief.

Jamie nodded sagely. "She could always beat out Alex, and Guido, and me. Forge gave her a run for her money. Rahne didn't play."

Bobby nodded. From what he'd heard of Rahne, she wouldn't have. "So you're here because Forge is doing things, and I'm here because Hank is doing things," Bobby commented.

"Yup," Jamie said. He sighed, losing the game.

"I'm bored during the day. Are you?" Bobby asked, glancing at Jamie -- who was intent on the cards.

Jamie looked up, consideringly. "Yeah."

"We should hang out."

Jamie thought about that for a moment, then smiled slightly. "Yeah."

Bobby grinned. This week was starting to look up.

continued >>

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