"I'm freezing," Jamie laughed as they ran into the hotel, then up
the stairs and down the hall.
"Shh!" Bobby laughed, swiping the key-card and opening the door.
"Hank's back by now, and probably asleep!"
"Tip toe, tip toe, tip toe," Jamie squeaked.
Bobby covered his mouth, trying to suppress the laughter that threatened
to burst forth. "Shhh!" he hissed again, waving a hand back at Jamie.
"Be vewy vewy quwiet. I'm hunting wabbits!" Jamie whispered in a
perfect mimic of Elmer Fudd.
Bobby stumbled and collapsed on the couch, hiccuping as he tried
furiously not to laugh. "Ja-amie!"
"Shhh!" Jamie chastened. "Hank's sleeping!"
Bobby reached out and slapped at Jamie, laughing too hard to do anything
else. Jamie was grinning smugly, as if he was incredibly proud of
making Bobby crack up. Bobby's blue eyes looked up into Jamie's eyes,
noted suddenly his arms clenched around his chest, shivering in the
"Freezing!" Jamie laughed. He continued, solemnly, in a nasal voice,
"I t'ink de snot in by dose is froze."
Bobby started laughing again, trying to stop it, stumbling up and
to the kitchenette where he flicked on the light and turned back to
Jamie's hand came to his face quickly, fingers dropping away bloody.
"Just a little."
Bobby had already grabbed a rag and ice, and he walked swiftly to
Jamie. "First I freeze you to death and almost give you pneumonia,
then I get your face bloody ... Forge is never going to let me visit."
He pushed Jamie back until the man plopped down on the arm of the
chair, then slapped Jamie's hands away and inspected the bloody area.
"I think you split your lip."
"Yeah. I'll remember not to run into someone's fists next time,"
Jamie said, chuckling.
Bobby grinned. "Good idea." He dabbed away at the blood, fingers
gentle against the bruising lip. Jamie flinched, and Bobby apologized
quietly. "That looks painful," Bobby murmured, taking Jamie's chin
in his fingers and turning the other man's head into the light.
Heat. There was heat in Jamie's skin, like a blaze set against Bobby's
fingers, but somehow less than painful. More heat whispered by, Jamie's
breath still coming in small hiccups and pants from the run to the
room. Bobby looked up, saw Jamie looking at him closely. Brown eyes
looked warm, and uncertain, and somehow frightened.
Bobby let go of Jamie reluctantly, settling the ice pack against
his chin. "Here," he said, holding it carefully against the split
"Thanks," Jamie murmured, and took it, pulling away before those
fingers could linger any longer.
Bobby cleared his throat. Then cleared it again. "So. How's Lorna?"
Relieved brown eyes flickered up, and dimples flashed breifly in
a grateful smile. "Oh, she's fine. Last time I saw her she was throwing
all her exercise tapes out the window."
"Really?" Bobby laughed, then cringed and remembered to keep his
"Yeah. She was mad because Alex could do them better than she could."
"You're making that up," Bobby said, grinning.
"Yeah," Jamie agreed. His eyes sparkled behind the rag. "But have
you ever seen those tapes?"
Bobby shook his head briefly, then took the icepack when Jamie thrust
it toward him.
"They're like this," Jamie said, and leapt over the coffee table
to stand on the other side, where there was more room. "And one, and
two, and one, and two, and feel that burn!" Jamie mimicked in a high
voice, gesticulating wildly and swiveling his hips.
Bobby laughed, eyes devouring the lithe, graceful form dancing like
a nutcase before him. Silk caressed against a lean chest, taunting
Jamie grinned when Bobby laughed, and danced some more, still chanting
his 'feel that burn' routine as he segued into the Macarena. "This
is in those tapes, I swear," he said over his shoulder as Bobby fell
over, gripping his sides and laughing, knowing it really wasn't that
funny, but so tired it seemed hilarious. He lay on his back and kept
"What is going on out here?" a deep, rumbling bass
voice almost ... well, whined.
Bobby rolled his head to look up at Hank, standing in all his blue
furriness, wearing only white boxers covered in tiny little rainbow
hearts. Jamie had stopped moving altogether, and instead was blushing
"Hi, Fuzzball," Bobby said, somewhere between a chuckle and a giggle.
"Bobby. I have to wake up early in the morning, and it's almost
Bobby rolled his head to look at Jamie. "He's tired. You can tell,
because none of those words were over two syllables."
"Actually," Hank said, rubbing his eyes with two blue fingers, "one
of them was three."
Bobby frowned and started mouthing the words to himself, only to
notice half way through that Hank was grinning with that special "gotcha"
look. "Very funny," Bobby said, mock-glaring.
"It is late, Robert."
Bobby sighed sat up. "Sorry, Hankster. We didn't mean to wake you.
A google apologies." That got a twist of the mouth, a tired smile
"I should be going anyway," Jamie said quietly, fiddling with the
edge of his silk shirt. All night he had been fingering the fabric,
running it through his hands. "Forge'll be worried."
Bobby sighed and looked from Jamie to Hank, who was already turning
and heading back into his room. "'Night, Grover," Bobby called.
"Good night, Frosty," Hank returned before the door closed firmly.
Bobby looked back at Jamie. "You don't have to go yet."
Jamie smiled slightly. "Um, yeah, I probably should. But I'll see
Bobby nodded, seeing that he wasn't going to win this battle. "Don't
forget to ice your lip."
Jamie nodded and opened the door, and Bobby rolled to his feet and
walked Jamie to the hall.
Bobby leaned against the doorframe, watching Jamie lope down the
hall with that long, easy stride, blue fabric shimmering against his
back, slacks hugging his hips and legs. Jamie reached the elevator
and pressed the button, and Bobby waited silently until the elevator
"See you tomorrow, Sexy," Bobby called, and then laughed riotously
when Jamie turned and looked at him in exasperation, face brighter
than the sunrise. Bobby retreated back into his room.
"You wanna who what when where and how?"
Bobby laughed at the rapid-fired words, then shoved open the door
to the large building. Cold air hit him first, a vent blasting out
the pale warmth of the day. "Ice skate. Haven't you ever ice-skated?"
"No," Jamie answered, following Bobby through the door and looking
"It's fun. I'll teach you." Blue eyes flickered happily to Jamie,
noting that there was only the tiniest of bruises along the man's
lower lip, and just a small scab where the lip itself had split clean
"I'm gonna fall on my ass and look like an idiot," Jamie murmured.
"Even more than I normally do."
"You don't look like an idiot," Bobby stated firmly, frowning. "Now,
what size shoes do you wear?"
Jamie wiggled uncomfortably, looking at the ice rink. After a moment
he gave Bobby his shoe size, and Bobby rented the skates.
"Put these on," Bobby said, setting the skates down next to the bench
where Jamie stood.
Jamie ignored him.
Blush. "Would you stop doing that?"
Bobby sat down on the bench, looking up at Jamie's profile. "Why?"
he asked at last.
"Because," Jamie answered, shifting from foot to foot. He plopped
down on the bench, eyes never leaving the ice. "People might think
Bobby cocked his head, bracing himself inwardly. Wordlessly, he prayed
Jamie wouldn't tell him being gay or bisexual was wrong. "So?"
Jamie blinked, and brown eyes flickered to Bobby. Those eyes looked
utterly confused, and the shadows that had been lurking the day before
had sprung up more powerfully. "You don't care?"
"Why should I?" Bobby asked. His hands were still, resting on his
thighs as he gave Jamie his full attention.
"Because ... I don't know."
"It's wrong?" Bobby asked, shielding his face from the panic-induced
sickness he felt.
Jamie shifted again, frowning and shuffling his feet on the ground.
Bobby didn't let his relief show, either. "Does it make you uncomfortable
to be called 'cute' by a guy?"
Jamie shifted some more, fidgeting. "I dunno."
"You don't know if you're uncomfortable or not," Bobby repeated dryly.
Jamie looked like he was about to say something, then shook his head
and started unlacing his shoes. "You sure I'm not going to fall on
Bobby bit his lip, considering chasing the other subject down ...
then let it drop. "I'm sure. If I have to hold you up with an ice
wave, I will."
Jamie chuckled weakly. "I need a pillow."
"Yeah. To tie to my butt."
Jamie clung to the side of the rink with both hands, pulling himself
along without moving his feet as other kids raced by on the ice.
Bobby laughed and skated up, facing backwards to see Jamie. "Here,
give me your hands so I can pull you," he offered, slowing down and
holding out his arms.
"No way," Jamie answered, eyes locked firmly on the ice. "I am not
"Ja-amie! I won't let you fall!" Bobby wheedled.
Slowly, one hand at a time, Jamie reached over and grasped Bobby's
forearms. "OhGoddon'tletmefall," he blurted as Bobby moved away from
the wall, still skating backwards and now pulling Jamie's weight.
"I'm not going to let you fall!" Bobby laughed in exasperation.
"Know what happened the last time someone said that?" Jamie asked,
eyes glued on their feet.
"I was five, learning to ice skate on a pond, and I fell.
Into the water."
"There's no water here," Bobby pointed out.
"What do you call ice?"
"Frozen," Bobby chuckled.
"Right. So the water is really, really hard."
Bobby laughed and tightened his grip on Jamie, turning them slowly.
He could feel the tenseness in Jamie's muscles as they bunched and
spasmed beneath Bobby's fingers. Bobby projected as much calm as he
could, smiling at Jamie even though Jamie wasn't looking. "You're
fine," he murmured soothingly. "Watch my feet, and do what I do,"
Bobby watched Jamie nod spastically, and then the other man's feet
moved, sliding in jerks and stops across the ice. It took half a circle
around the large rink before Jamie was moving his feet regularly,
though he wasn't helping to push his body at all.
"I'm skating!" he laughed, head never moving as he still stared down
at their feet.
"Sure are," Bobby agreed, not having the heart to tell Jamie that
he really wasn't propelling himself anywhere yet.
Jamie's skate caught on something and he tripped, feet skittering
all over as he tried, frantically, to keep from falling. Bobby tightened
his grip, Jamie's hands clenching painfully on his arms, and bodily
pulled the other man back to his feet.
Jamie launched himself at Bobby, wrapping both arms around his neck.
Bobby could feel Jamie's heart thundering through the light cotton
of their shirts, and Jamie's breath puffed raggedly against Bobby's
"It's okay," Bobby soothed, having come to a full stop. Jamie's legs
and skates still weren't underneath him. "Just hang on for a minute,"
Bobby murmured, wrapping his own arms around Jamie's waist and holding
on to him. Bobby leaned a bit, peering down and smiling slightly at
the sight of the toe of one blade caught in the space between blade
and boot of the other skate. "You're probably the first person I've
ever seen who's able to get their skates tangled," he muttered, a
laugh in his voice.
"You said you wouldn't let me fall!" Jamie managed to squeak next
to Bobby's ear.
"And did you? No," Bobby answered. "Okay, take this leg--" he reached
down and tapped Jamie's right hip, "--and pull it outward."
Slowly, the skates slid apart. Jamie moved too quickly, panicking
again and stuttering for the ground.
"Easy," Bobby murmured, stifling his laugh. "Slowly."
Jamie took the advice. Bobby held him tightly, balancing the man
until he once more had his skates firmly underneath him and could
"I hate ice skating," Jamie murmured as he pulled away from Bobby.
The Blush was back.
"Don't hate it just because you're all discombobulated," Bobby laughed.
He took Jamie by the elbows, feeling strong hands grasp his in return.
"Now, follow me. You were doing really good."
"I tripped," Jamie muttered unhappily.
"Then don't do that again," Bobby answered. He stared at Jamie until
the other man looked up and returned his smile. "Copy my feet."
Jamie nodded seriously and focused on Bobby's feet. A circle and
a half passed before Jamie loosened up a bit more, and was actually
pushing himself along.
"I'm skating, aren't I?" he asked, a very slow grin spreading across
"Yup." Bobby loosened his grip, then tightened it when Jamie looked
about ready to panic. "You want to try it by yourself?"
Bobby chuckled. "Okay, then. We'll just keep skating like this."
Ten minutes later, Jamie pulled away and continued on, arms stretched
outward precariously. "Look, Bobby! I'm skating by myself!" he called,
grinning like a maniac.
"Wahoo!" Bobby answered, laughing. He skated forward faster, then
spun and twisted around Jamie's form.
"Don't bump me," Jamie ordered seriously.
"I'm not," Bobby answered.
"I mean it."
"Me too." Bobby grinned and spun again, racing down the rink before
twisting, leaping through the air and racing back to where Jamie was.
"Want to go faster?"
Bobby sighed and skated backward, hands linked behind him. "Lookin'
Blush. Red as an apple. "I'm gonna go faster."
"I might run into you."
Bobby grinned. "I don't think so."
"Just make me feel better," Jamie muttered.
Bobby slid smoothly out of the way, and then watched Jamie struggle
to speed up. Bobby pushed off after him, keeping up with an easy slide
across the ice.
"How do I slow down?" Jamie yelped.
Bobby grinned and sped up slightly, until he was ahead of Jamie.
"Twist your body to stop -- like this," he said, and swiveled his
hips. The skates slid sidewards, and ice slivers went up in a small
"It's easy," Bobby said, starting up after Jamie as the man passed
"Okay," Bobby said. He smothered his laughter and skated up behind
Jamie, putting a hand on either side of the man's waist.
"What are you doing?" Jamie yelped, hands racing to cover Bobby's.
Bobby could feel the muscles beneath him tense as if they'd been
burned. "Relax. I'm gonna help you swivel your waist, without falling.
I promise you won't fall."
Jamie's fingers tightened on Bobby's, and the man stayed stiff.
"Gonna turn," Bobby said, acting as though he couldn't tell the body
before him was practically trembling with pent-up energy. "Turn your
hips," and he pushed slightly -- and then harder -- with his hands,
twisting Jamie in the right direction. "We're gonna go straight to
Jamie nodded and slowly the two of them turned. Bobby dragged a skate
behind him, slowing them both. By the time they reached the wall they
were barely moving, and Jamie put out a hand and stopped them easily.
"I skated!" Jamie laughed.
"Very well," Bobby said, nodding.
"Oooh," a falsely high voice squealed in obvious mockery behind them.
"I skated while my boyfriend felt me up!"
Bobby went pale as he watched Jamie's eyes fly wide, his face first
turning red and then draining of all color. Bobby twisted on his skates,
ice flying beneath them as cold blue eyes searched out the owner of
Two teenage boys stood in the middle of the rink, laughing. "Get
a room, fag," one of the boys shouted, flipping Bobby off.
"You little shits," Bobby snarled. The ice around the boys suddenly
turned rough, and both of them tumbled to the ground. The Cold had
come at Bobby's call, and air puffing out of warm lungs turned white
and frosty. "You both are friends," Bobby snapped. Dimly, he felt
his hands clench into fists at his sides. "Are you fags?" Bobby
was gliding forward on his skates, and he twisted violently, coming
to a stop just outside the rim of rough ice. "You know what? You nose-mining
snot eaters aren't worth it." He struck out at the ice with his skate,
shoving away and bulleting across the ice. Bobby glanced around, saw
Jamie sitting outside the rink, fingers moving rapidly as the laces
Bobby jumped from the ice to the rubber mats, feeling the jerk as
his momentum all but stopped. He hurried around the wall to where
Jamie sat, and the temperature in the building dropped several more
degrees when he saw Jamie wipe furiously at his face before hurling
the skate toward a bin filled with them.
"Jamie, wait," Bobby said, stripping off his own skates rapidly and
tossing them with the other rentals. He didn't bother putting his
shoes on, just grabbing them and running out the doors, after Jamie.
Jamie stopped at the curb and stood, body tense.
Bobby reached out, fingers barely brushing against Jamie's shoulder
before the man turned.
"How can they do that? We weren't even -- we weren't -- I'm not--"
"I know," Bobby said softly, hand still hovering near Jamie's shoulder.
There were wet marks down the other man's face, and his eyes were
"I'm not a fag," Jamie snapped vehemently. "I'm not,
because I couldn't possibly be, because -- because -- because
Bobby nodded wordlessly, reading the terror and hurt and confusion
that warred so obviously in Jamie's eyes. "I am," he said softly.
Jamie's head snapped up, hurt brown eyes meeting wary blue ones.
Bobby's anger had drained off, worry replacing it, now joined by
a clenching in his gut he was certain was fear. Oh, please let
Jamie not be homophobic. "I am. A--" he caught himself, continued,
"--gay. I'm gay. Well, technically, I'm bi, but--"
"You are?" Jamie's eyes shone wetly, and he trembled.
Bobby stopped rambling. "...Yeah." He glanced around the empty street,
then back toward the building. "But this is no place to talk about
it. Let's go get a drink, okay?"
"I can't," Jamie muttered wretchedly, shaking his head.
Bobby blinked. "You are?"
"I won't be twenty-one for eight months," Jamie said, his words almost
"Oh." Bobby shook his head to clear it. Between the facts that he
knew Jamie had been in X-Factor for what seemed like a long
while, and then that Jamie didn't act young, and the eighteen
and over club they'd been in the night before ... Bobby shook his
head again. He'd thought Jamie was older. "Then we won't go to a bar.
Jamie, we need to talk."
Jamie nodded numbly, drained of all the passion he had a moment ago.
They took a cab back to Bobby's hotel, rode the elevator in silence.
"You're ... bi?" Jamie asked quietly, closing the door behind him.
"Yeah," Bobby answered.
Jamie stood by the door, oddly subdued.
"You wanna sit down?"
Jamie nodded and moved to a chair. He folded his legs up, wrapping
his arms around them and putting his head on his knees. The trenchcoat
spilled around him, hiding most of his body and pooling on the floor.
"Your friends don't care?"
Bobby shrugged. "They wouldn't be very good friends if it mattered,
Jamie blinked at nothing, and nodded. He stared at some unknown spot,
fascinated. "And your parents?"
"Love it when I bring home girlfriends. Like to pretend I don't have
boyfriends." Bobby sat down slowly on the corner of the bed, elbows
braced on his knees. "There's nothing wrong with being gay or bi,
"I know," Jamie responded, and a moment later, "I do." His hands
rubbed up and down his arms.
Bobby leaned down a bit, trying to catch Jamie's gaze. He didn't
manage it. "Has anyone ever told you that it did matter? Mattered
more than that it creates prejudice?"
Jamie hesitated for a long time. "No," he finally murmured.
Bobby frowned, aware he was missing something important, but unable
to figure out what. The silence stretched. "Did anyone ever tell you
it was all right?" he asked finally, voice quiet.
Jamie looked up then, and his eyes seemed far deeper then they ever
had before. They flickered toward a nondescript landscape painting
above the fold-out couch. "My parents ... we never talked about it.
I never heard about it." He looked down at his hands, fingers twisting
together. "I was thirteen when they died. I never really had another
family after that. I lived at Muir Island, but..." he shook his head
slowly. "It wasn't really a family. It was more like a boarding school.
Moira had a kid -- Rahne -- and Ranhey needed a lot of help and attention.
I just stayed out of trouble, and people pretty much ignored me. No
one really took me aside and told me much of anything, you know?"
Bobby nodded wordlessly.
"But I know that it's not bad to be gay or anything," Jamie said,
eyes flicking toward Bobby. "I'm just ... it's just that I'm
not gay or anything."
Bobby nodded again, though he couldn't believe it. Jamie looked almost
pleading, as if he were praying Bobby would believe him, wouldn't
question it, wouldn't disturb the precarious balance Jamie seemed
to have reached. Bobby nodded again, more to himself than to Jamie.
"Because I'm not gay or anything," Jamie said again, then looked
away nervously. "I'm just not."
Bobby nodded. "Okay." Silence stretched, filling the air with nothingness.
"But people still shouldn't call other people gay when they're not,"
Jamie murmured, voice almost a whisper. His head was dipped, intent
on his fingers as they plucked at little hairs on his arm.
"That's right," Bobby agreed.
"Because I'm certainly not," Jamie whispered again.
"I know," Bobby whispered back.
Jamie looked up, dark eyes haunted. "When did you know, Bobby?"
Bobby sat back on his hands, tilting his head. Light brown hair fell
away, tickling one ear. "I'm not entirely sure. I admitted it one
night with Hank."
Jamie's eyes widened. "Hank's gay -- or bi -- too?"
Bobby grinned warmly. "No. We were driving."
Jamie blushed. "Oh."
"We were on the way home late at night, after hanging Scott's underwear
on a flagpole--"
Jamie laughed, though it still sounded uncertain.
"--and there was a male couple kissing in a parking lot. It made
me nervous for some reason, and I said that was gross." Bobby looked
down, and smiled fondly. "Hank told me I was a 'doodie head.' He said
those two men were very brave for facing so much bias, and that he
hoped their love lasted. He said he wished he could find love that
strong." Bobby looked back up at Jamie, finding that brown gaze very
attentive. "It was the first time I'd heard someone say it was really
okay -- admirable, even. After we got back to the mansion, we sat
in the car and talked until three that morning. Just talked. I told
Hank that I liked men, but I liked women, too. He said that was bisexual,
and he thought it was more like loving the person then the package
they come in." Bobby grinned, slightly self-depreciating. "I'm not
sure that's true -- I mean, I'm as shallow as the next person, and
don't want to date someone ugly -- but it sure sounds nice. I kept
Jamie grinned in response, shoulders hitching in a silent laugh.
"That was ... God, I think it was almost seven years ago. Yeah. So
I was younger than you. I don't date men often, though. It is harder
-- you get a lot more flack for being gay then you do for being straight.
Only once or twice have I liked someone enough to face that type of
bigotry and go out with them. I admire the people who can go out with
their own sex on a regular basis, and face people like the kid in
the ice rink every day."
Jamie smiled dryly. "Right. Like you don't face it being a mutant
"But that I can hide. It's not obvious that I'm a mutant," Bobby
pointed out. "You can hide being gay, but then you don't get to date."
Jamie hesitated, then nodded. "Yeah. Good point." His eyes flashed
up again. "But I'm not gay."
Bobby smothered his smile viciously. "I know."
"If your parents died when you were thirteen," Bobby asked softly,
"then you were alone running your farm that young?"
Jamie nodded silently. "Yeah. For about a year."
"Jesus," Bobby muttered.
"No, it was okay. I did it," Jamie answered earnestly.
"Yeah, but just because you did it doesn't mean it's okay. That had
to have been really hard."
Jamie rolled his shoulders. "I guess," he said at last. "But I dealt."
Bobby nodded, and couldn't help wondering what sort of life that
had been. "Did you have a childhood?" Bobby asked softly.
Jamie picked at the sleeve of his trenchcoat. "Sure. I was pretty
old when they died."
"Thirteen is not old," Bobby corrected instantly.
Jamie blinked. "Okay."
Bobby hesitated. "I'm sorry," he said at last, realizing he'd snapped
at the younger man.
"You didn't hear about being gay," Bobby said after a moment, "or
mutants. You don't know how to ice skate."
"But I figured out the mutant thing," Jamie defended. "And now I
can ice skate. And ... and I'm not gay."
Bobby bit his tongue on protesting the last, still able to hear the
tremor that ran through Jamie's voice. "And you think you're ugly.
Yeah, you had a great childhood."
Jamie's head snapped up. "I didn't say I was ugly! And I did
have a fine childhood!"
"It was great," Bobby agreed tonelessly.
"You're making fun of me."
"No. I just don't believe you," Bobby replied.
Jamie opened his mouth to respond, then closed it again. "It's none
of your business," he finally snapped.
"Of course it's my business!" Bobby answered sharply. "You're
"I've only known you for two days," Jamie answered. He unfolded his
legs, standing. "It isn't your business. I don't need you to tell
me I had a rotten childhood because my parents died, and I don't need
you implying that someone screwed me up because they didn't tell me
I was 'pretty,' and I don't need you implying that I don't
even know which sex I prefer!"
Bobby opened his mouth to respond, but remained quiet as Jamie talked
"My parents loved me, and if they'd had a choice they wouldn't have
died. But they did, and everyone around me did the best they could.
So I'm not vain. And I get upset when someone calls me fag. So sue
me. It's not like you're the poster child for normalcy."
Bobby took a deep breath and nodded. "I know. I worry about you."
Jamie's jaw clenched, his muscle tensing. "Don't. I've been taking
care of myself since I was thirteen."
"I know," Bobby replied softly.
Jamie glanced down, then away. "I'm tired. I'm going back to my hotel."
Bobby wanted to protest. Instead, he nodded. "Okay."
Jamie tucked hair behind his ear and padded out the door.
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