Bodies of Water
by J.B. McDonald

Chapter 3

Bobby glanced at himself in the mirror. Hair brushed, body re-bathed to get the last traces of pond smell away, clothed in gray slacks and matching gray sports jacket. His shirt, raw white silk, flowed and clung alternately around his chest. Bobby grinned. He looked good, and he knew it. Who said he couldn't dress? Ha! Just because he usually chose not to care didn't mean he couldn't.

Whistling, Bobby put his shoes on -- they matched his slacks -- and headed out the hotel door to the cab waiting below.

It was a short drive to Jamie's hotel, and Bobby bounced up the stairs and rapped a short staccato on the door.

Jamie opened it, looking slightly uncomfortable in black slacks and a white, formal-looking shirt. His stockinged feet were shoeless, and his shirt was still half-unbuttoned.

"Am I gonna need a tie?" he asked plaintively.

Bobby smothered his smile, looking away from the bit of exposed chest. "You are if you wear that shirt."

Jamie looked utterly forlorn. "I don't have another one, though. Can I wear my trenchcoat?"

"Not with black slacks," Bobby answered. He moved forward, forcing Jamie to step back into the room. "Don't you have another shirt?"

"No," Jamie muttered.

Bobby glanced over the contents of the duffel bag, then peered into Forge's suitcase.

"We could stop somewhere and buy another shirt," Jamie suggested hopefully.

Bobby glanced back. "Yeah," he said. "But you're going to be spending a lot of money on dinner, and you bought new clothes this afternoon. I don't really want you going broke."

Jamie smiled and lifted a shoulder in a shrug. "I won't."

Bobby glanced over again, eyebrow raised. Jamie didn't make any movements of elaborating, though, and Bobby only nodded. "Then, if you really want to, we can stop and buy you another shirt." He pulled his silver pocket watch out of his pocket, glancing at it. "We have time."

Jamie nodded.

God help a man without fashion sense, Bobby thought to himself fifteen minutes later, and he forcefully took Jamie away from those God-awful cotton shirts and steered him toward a nicer section.

"What about this?" Jamie asked, picking up a silk, collar-less shirt much like Bobby's, only in yellow.

"No," Bobby said, cringing at the bright color against Jamie's black slacks and tan skin. "You have too much yellow in your skin for that. If you were blond, you could get away with it. But you're not, you're brunet, and like most brunettes you have yellow tones. That shirt makes you look sick."

"You lost me somewhere after 'No,'" Jamie muttered as he hung the shirt back on the rack.

"You like that style?"

Jamie nodded.

"Here," Bobby said, shoving a pale blue shirt into Jamie's chest. "And here," and there went a dark blue one, and then a deep green color. "Try those on. And let me see."

Jamie sighed, muttering something under his breath that sounded suspiciously like, "You're worse than Lorna," and stomped off to the dressing rooms.

Bobby slouched against the wall outside the stall, idly examining the collar of his jacket while waiting for Jamie to stop whining and try the shirts on.

"Is this good?" Jamie asked a moment later, opening the door. His feet were once more shoe-less, and he wore the light blue shirt tucked haphazardly into his pants.

"Eh," Bobby answered with a wrinkled nose and a shrug. "Try the green one."

The green one was okay, but not any better than that. Bobby grinned when he saw the dark blue one, though. It contrasted well with Jamie's hair and eyes, and shimmered just so in the light, showing off a slender waist, chest and shoulders. The sleeves were the perfect length for Jamie's long arms, and the white buttons were just enough to lighten the outfit.

"Perfect. You have a black jacket?" Bobby asked as Jamie gathered the other three shirts -- two from the store, and his old one -- and slid his feet into his shoes.

"Um," Jamie answered.

Bobby sighed heavily and rolled his eyes. "Good God, do you ever go anywhere nice?"

"No," Jamie answered, tossing an irrepressible smile back toward Bobby.

Bobby shook his head and helped hang the two shirts back up, then led Jamie to the jackets.

"Look!" Jamie said, happily, lost somewhere amid the racks. "A black trenchcoat!"

An image flashed into Bobby's mind; Jamie's long, slender body lost somewhere amid the folds of his brown trenchcoat. Bobby hadn't realized how much that jacket hid the other man until he'd seen him in just pants and a shirt in the dressing rooms. "No!" he answered to Jamie's unspoken question before the man could come out hidden in a trenchcoat.

"Why not?"

Bobby still couldn't see Jamie, but the phantom voice sounded plaintive.

"Because you don't wear trenchcoats to a place like Chez Adrienne's!" Bobby answered. It was only partly a lie. Jamie probably could have gotten away with it, but it was better if he wore a jacket.

"Here!" Bobby said at last, pulling out a black jacket. "Try this on!"

Jamie appeared and pulled the jacket on, adjusting it on his shoulders for a few moments before looking at Bobby expectantly.

"That'll do," Bobby said, nodding. It wasn't great, but for one night -- during which the jacket would be taken away anyway -- it would work.

"I feel so naked without my trenchcoat," Jamie muttered. Hair fell in his face, shielding his eyes from Bobby's view.

Bobby chuckled. "It's okay. It'll be waiting at home for you when you get back."

"Unless it realizes I've been cheating on it with this jacket," Jamie answered solemnly as he paid for the clothing.

"I'm sure it'll forgive you," Bobby answered. They walked outside to the waiting cab, sitting under the sky as it darkened toward night. Stars were winking into existence, peering down on the world as though eager to see what the people were up to.

"Chez Adrienne's," Bobby said to the driver as Jamie ducked into the cab. Bobby followed him in, pulling his seatbelt across his lap and buckling it.

The cab moved off into the traffic.

"You told Forge you were going out?" Bobby asked innocently.

Jamie slanted him a suspicious look from under brown hair. "Why?"

"I don't want your keeper coming after me." Bobby grinned wickedly as Jamie shot him a dirty look.

"You're thinking of Hank," Jamie answered smugly.

"Hank's your keeper?" Bobby questioned, purposefully missing Jamie's point. "Wow. You sure do have a lot of them."

Jamie laughed and shook his head, looking out the window. "So where is this place?" Jamie asked, head propped on his hand.

"About fifteen minutes from here," Bobby answered. Jamie's face was highlighted briefly by a passing car, eyes turning yellow in the glare. The gold light shined against his hair, making it shimmer copper, and was gone.

"You gonna make me pay out my ears for that pond stunt?"

Bobby chuckled, then sobered. "Jamie, I'm not doing this as a punishment. You know that, right?"

Jamie's head popped up, swiveling toward Bobby until surprised brown eyes met serious blue ones. "Of course." He smiled, teeth gleaming whitely. "I'm just teasing."

Bobby hesitated, searching those eyes, then nodded. "Okay. Just making sure."

Jamie grinned again.

True to Bobby's word, fifteen minutes later they were at Chez Adrienne's. Bobby paid the cab driver, and the two men headed inside.

"We have reservations. Two for Madrox?" Bobby asked as they reached the hostess desk.

"Madrox?" Jamie asked under his breath while the hostess looked over papers.

"Less common than 'Drake,'" Bobby answered just as quietly.

"'Drake' is common?" Jamie replied, voice laden with disbelief.

Bobby shot Jamie a glance before ignoring him soundly, watching the hostess instead.

"It'll be a ten minute wait," she answered, smiling.

Bobby nodded and steered Jamie toward an outside bench. The night wind was cool on their faces, stars gleaming brighter now that the sun had retreated. Only strips of red and light blue were still visible on the horizon; a promise the sun would come back in the morning.

"Pretty night," Jamie murmured, as if reading Bobby's thoughts.

"Yeah," Bobby agreed as quietly. A silence passed, touching each of them with peace.

"You still with the X-Men?" Jamie asked, dropping his voice, in deference to the team or the silence, Bobby couldn't tell.

"Sort of. I've actually been living at home for a while, now. My dad was beaten up pretty badly by the FoH, and I've been helping out."

Jamie nodded, a bob of shaggy brown hair. Bobby knew the man had combed it -- had seen it himself. Somehow, though, it still looked like Jamie had just gotten out of bed.

"He okay now?" Jamie asked, still looking out at the star-filled night.

"Yeah. Good enough to drive me nuts." Bobby caught a flash of dimples from Jamie's profile, and took the encouragement to continue. "You know. 'Son, you need to clean your room!' 'Son, I don't want you tracking dirt in the house.' 'Bobby--'"

"Not 'son'?" Jamie asked, grinning briefly.

"No, that's only when he's really irritated at me. If he's really mad at me, then he says 'You little--' only he never finishes the sentence." Jamie laughed, and it made Bobby grin and continue. "Until I was twelve I thought my name was You Little something, only my dad had forgotten what the rest of it was. I figured my mom just called me Bobby because she liked the way it sounded."

Jamie laughed again, twinkling eyes turning to look at Bobby. He moved back slightly, resting one leg up on the short wall around the patio area. "Tell me more about your family?"

Bobby shrugged slightly, nonplused. "What do you want to know?"

Jamie thought about it, obviously considering the question before answering. "Do they approve of what you do?"

"The X-Men?"

Jamie nodded and sat on the wall, looping long arms around his knee.

"I think so. I mean, we've never really talked about it, and my extended family doesn't know. I know my dad isn't thrilled, because his brother died in the war, but he deals with it." Bobby smiled fleetingly. "I think he's starting to be proud of what I do. But he won't say that."

"Then how do you know?" Jamie asked. He cocked his head to let a lock of hair fall to the side, his brown eyes almost black in the darkness.

"My mom," Bobby chuckled. "She tells me. She always told me when my dad was proud when I was little -- Dad couldn't ever tell me himself. Couldn't seem to find the words." Bobby hesitated, rubbing his lower lip. "There was one time he tried ... God, it was painful for both of us. After that, we made an unspoken agreement to just let Mom tell me."

Jamie laughed. "What about the rest of your family? Is there a lot of it?"

Bobby shrugged. "I have an aunt on my dad's side that I never see, and the uncle that died. I don't remember him, though. There are a couple of aunts and uncles on my mom's side. Two of them are married, and one has some kids ... and one of the kids has kids." He grinned lopsidedly. "I guess I have quite a bit of family. I just don't see them very often."

"But they're there if you need them," Jamie said softly. His arms tightened around his knee, and he tilted his head back, looking up at the stars. "I always wanted a big family," he said to the sky. "I mean, I know, I'm from New Mexico. Everyone there supposedly has a big family." He snorted. "Heck, everyone there's supposedly related to everyone else there."

Bobby choked back a laugh, crossing one arm over his chest and propping his chin on the other.

Jamie grinned, flashing dimples that caught the light from the restaurant and seemed even deeper. "But really," he continued as if Bobby hadn't made a sound, "I don't have much family."

"Why don't you go see the family you do have?" Bobby asked softly, hearing the want beneath the smile.

Jamie looked up, and hair fell into his eyes. He twitched his head, tossing it back, and gazed at Bobby thoughtfully. "Because X-Factor's it." He smiled painfully and looked down, playing with the edge of his shoe. "And now X-Factor's disbanded. Alex is ... gone, and Guido left to go with Lila Cheney ... and, really, he was the only one I was ever truly close to." He looked up, smiling again, wiggling his shoulders as if shaking something off. "But it's okay. I mean, hey, I always have more of myselves!"

Bobby laughed because Jamie was trying to make him, and wondered how much it really hurt the other man. That shadow was back in Jamie's eyes, a sorrowful shadow he didn't seem aware of.

"You could start a new X-Factor. I can see the headlines now. 'It's Jamie! And Jamie! And Jamie! And Jamie!'"

Jamie started to laugh, the shadows lurking away to hide. "Gives a whole new concept to the term 'one man army,'" he said, grinning.

Bobby laughed and nodded.

"Madrox, party for two," someone called over a loudspeaker.

"That's us," Bobby said, and held out a hand to help Jamie up.

Jamie hesitated a moment, then took Bobby's hand and pulled upward.

Bobby was aware of heat, first. Then callused hands -- old calluses, still there but softened by time. Long fingers curled around his palm, fingernails clipped or bitten short. Bobby shivered, as if he'd hit a live wire briefly.

Then Jamie's hand was gone, and Bobby glanced up to see a startled expression in the other's eyes. Good. Then maybe he'd felt it, too. Maybe Bobby had a chance.

Maybe he'd try for it.

He smiled his most playful, endearing smile and gestured toward the door. "Shall we?"

Jamie nodded, eyes casting about uncertainly, and headed into the restaurant.

continued >>

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