They’d called it hate at first sight, and Charles would have separated them long ago except he had felt that they needed to learn to work together. He was also fairly certain that none of the others would agree to room with either of them.
Remy LeBeau was seventeen and a self-proclaimed swamp rat, and he had a tendency to accidentally blow things up in his sleep, or if he was annoyed, or startled. How so many mutants had managed to stay hidden when so many had offensive capabilities that were uncontrolled was a mystery to Charles, but at least now they had somewhere they could come learn.
He had thought that since he'd managed to teach Alex control, Remy would be easy.
He was quickly disabused of that notion. There was one very important difference between the two; Alex had wanted to learn, Remy didn't. What Remy wanted, as far as Charles could determine, was to climb in through windows rather than use perfectly serviceable doors, perform heart attack inducing acrobatics on the roof and cheat at card games. The latter which had already caused three fights among the students.
There was no doubt that Remy was clever, it was just a question of finding some way of getting him to apply himself.
Sometimes Charles felt disconcertingly like a jaded, sixty-year-old school councilor. Possibly he needed to wear less tweed on a daily basis.
Jacob Gavin Junior, on the other hand, was sixteen and as passive as Remy was aggressive. Charles had feared that Jake would remind him of Raven, but besides from looking occasionally just as unimpressed by him as Raven could, Jake was nothing like her. If Jake didn't agree with what he was doing - which was most of the time - he would still do exactly what he'd been told to do, and nothing else. He had an infuriating way of following the letter rather than the spirit of any request.
That wasn't what made him unpopular though. That was, well, the whining. There was really no other word for it.
"It was his fault!" Jake said before Charles could even tell them to sit down.
"Hey!" Remy protested, shoving the other boy. Jake shoved him back.
Charles pinched the bridge of his nose and wished for those simpler times where all he had to worry about was Alex picking on Henry and, oh, stopping World War III. "Be quiet the both of you." And sit down, he added mentally.
They sat, glaring at each other.
"Ororo informs me that she found the two of you in her garden," Charles began, only to be interrupted.
"It was all Remy's idea! I didn't even want to do it," Jake said while perfecting a look of sullen teenager unfairly accused.
Remy replied something unflattering in impossibly quick Cajun English. Jake kicked him in the shin, apparently on sheer principle.
"How about we take it as written that it was the both of you and you're both in trouble?" Charles suggested dryly. He had a feeling they went through this every time he saw them. "Marijuana, really?" And on school property? he didn't add. No need to encourage them to think outside the box. They were already too good at that.
"'s a medicine," Remy said.
Right. "Which you would need because...?"
The boys looked at each other. Apparently they hadn't planned that far.
Charles nodded. "All right, here's what's going to happen. The two of you are going to spend the next five weekends helping Ororo with the garden."
"With the garden? But--!"
"I'm already doing the washing up on Wednesdays!" Jake protested. "I didn't come here to do chores!"
"What he said!" Remy agreed vehemently with Jake. That might have been a first. Charles wondered if he could call that progress. "Stormy doesn't like me, anyway, and that'd be like punishing her too."
Jake nodded. "She really doesn't. Because you keep calling her Stormy and you saw her naked that one time."
Charles raised an eyebrow at that.
Remy folded his arms over his chest, corners of his mouth pulling down. "That was a mistake. And all your fault."
Jake gaped. "How was it my fault? I wasn't even there! Professor, I want it on record that I had nothing to do with any ogling Remy did - or does - of any of the lovely ladies who are our fellow students. I have nothing but respect for all of them, and would never--" Remy kicked him, and Jake made a big show of rubbing the spot and looking wounded.
"So noted," Charles said solemnly, and in fact did write down a note to himself to ask Ororo what that was all about and whether perhaps he needed to talk to his students about the birds and the bees. Or possibly just the concept of personal space. "It doesn't get you out of your punishment, however. None of them," he added, since he'd just recalled that Remy was still assisting Henry in the lab in order to make up for a prank that Charles was thankful not to know the details of.
Jake looked sullen again. It was, for the most part, his default expression.
Remy, on the other hand, looked uncharacteristically worried.
"Remy?" Charles asked gently. "Is there anything you wish to speak to me about?"
Remy shook his head.
After throwing Remy a quick sideways glance, Jake got up. "If you don't need me anymore, I have to go fill in my calendar. I wouldn't want to forget to show up for manual labor or anything." Charles nodded, letting the sarcastic comment pass. If he got upset every time someone was sarcastic he'd never get anything done. He was surprised to see the quick squeeze Jake gave Remy's shoulder before he left.
"Well?" Charles said, once he was sure the door had closed behind Jake and he could sense Jake leaving.
"Stormy, she doesn't like me, I mean," Remy began, fumbling with his words. "I really didn't mean to surprise her, but she doesn't believe me. Says, well, then I shouldn't have looked, either, but how could I not when she was right there? Naked?" His voice rose on the last word and he flushed, which Charles had never seen Remy do before.
"I see," Charles said vaguely although he really didn't. "How exactly did you..?"
Remy glanced at Charles' paper weight. "There was a window..."
"Were you using the window as a door?" Charles had definitely had this conversation before.
"I might have," Remy allowed.
Charles sighed. "Remy, we've had this conversation."
"I know, I know, and I don't anymore," Remy said earnestly. "Well, not much. Just my room and the lab, but Henry, he don't care."
Deciding to take that as a win, Charles nodded. "All right. But before you stopped, you saw Ororo naked and now she's mad at you?" Sometimes he missed Erik so much it ached. Erik would never have stopped laughing at this.
Remy nodded miserably. "I gave her flowers to say sorry, but she threw them at me. I don't know what to do, and Jake just thinks it's funny." He frowned. "And I think Henry just blushes even though you can't really tell 'cause he's blue and furry."
All of that sounded very plausible to Charles. "You've tried apologizing without any props?"
Remy blinked. "No?"
"But she won't listen anyway," Remy protested, shaking his head. "She didn't like me even before that."
Charles sighed. "It's very important to you that she forgives you, isn't it?"
"I don't want her glaring at me five weekends in a row," Remy said. He'd stuffed his hands in his jacket pocket and was probably fingering a deck of cards. "And you didn't see her when she caught me and Jake, she was really mad."
"Ororo cares very much about the garden," Charles said delicately.
Remy looked down at the floor. "I know."
"I'll talk to Ororo," Charles decided. "But you will have to turn up and assist her, and you'll try to perhaps get to know her a little, so she'll believe you the next time you apologize."
Remy looked up, hope blooming on his face.
"And, perhaps, see if you can keep Jake from complaining too much," he added.
Remy gave him a dubious look. "I can try. Thank you, professor. It's... I appreciate it," he said awkwardly.
"You're welcome." Charles glanced towards the door. "You're free to go."
Remy jumped off the chair and was out of the door before Charles could even finish the sentence. Charles shook his head after him.
* * *
She had promised the professor to be civil and so she would be.
It was difficult, though, knowing that she needed to be in control all the time, and seeing Remy never be and Jake never needing to be. That had been what had first made her not want to know them, and then she'd learned that they never took anything seriously and kept pulling stupid juvenile pranks, and she decided that she didn't need to know anything more.
"Here we are," Jake said, giving her a mock salute. "Ready for duty and everything."
Ororo nodded back, quelling the look of dislike that wanted to force itself out. "Good morning. I thought you could begin by helping me dig out new flowerbeds. Some of the old ones are very overgrown, but if they're cleared, I'm sure I can do something with them."
Jake opened his mouth and Remy stomped down on his foot, making Jake yelp and jump out of the way. Remy ignored him, smiling charmingly at her. "Of course, chere, just point us to the shovels."
She had promised the professor... Ororo made her way to the small shed housing all her garden tools and got them both equipped. At least Remy looked as though he'd at least held a shovel before. Judging by Jake's expression as he gingerly handled his, she wasn't sure if he'd ever even seen one before. She got them started where they could do the least damage, and began weeding in a spot that was close enough that she could keep an eye on them, while not being close enough that she'd be forced to converse with them.
She could still hear them, though.
"Chere? I thought you wanted her to like you, not hit you with a lightning bolt," Jake said.
"Shhh," Remy said. She could feel them looking in her direction and pretended to be very busy and also ignoring them. It worked. "I do, I'm being charming, me."
Jake snorted. Ororo wanted to, as well, but that would certainly give her away.
"You're an idiot, LeBeau. But I already knew that."
They were silent for a while after that, and, when she glanced their way, they actually appeared to be doing what she'd asked.
* * *
Jumping off the roof and flying was still amazing.
Which was why Sean was on the roof, and which was why he was dismayed when he realized he wasn't alone. He stopped behind Remy, who seemed to be impersonating a gargoyle, and debated pushing him off. He reluctantly decided not to, even though all of his underwear was currently and mysteriously, pink, and sat down next to him instead, feet dangling over the edge.
Remy peered at him and sighed. "Is there nowhere a person can be alone in this place?"
They sat in relatively companionable silence for a while.
Remy tilted his head at him, making him look even more like a creepy gargoyle.
"Alex is running a book on when 'Ro will attempt to kill you. I've got weekend after next," Sean added.
Remy looked weirdly cheered by that. "Really? You think it'll take that long?"
"Well, no," Sean admitted. "But Jean got next week." And Jean was still creepy, so he wasn't going to fight her over it. Sometimes she was like a normal girl and other times she was... scary.
Remy looked glum again.
"Where's Jake?" Sean turned his head to look around the roof, in case he had missed the other boy somehow, even though Jake was chatty enough that that was hard to do. And by chatty, Sean meant whiny.
"In town." Remy leaned forwards and stared down at the bushes beneath them. "He's up to something."
"Aren't you usually?" Sean said dryly, pink underwear in mind.
Remy grinned before shaking his head. "Not like that. He's being quiet about it."
Sean could see how that would be worrying, and he wasn't even rooming with the guy. Actually, he wouldn't have roomed with either of them even if he got paid for it. They weren't so bad in small doses, but long term exposure would probably drive a man to jump off the roof and not fly.
* * *
"How’s it going?" Charles leaned back in his chair and gave Ororo a searching look. She could look like a queen when she wanted to, but she was still only seventeen and sometimes it showed.
Right now she looked thoughtful, curling a white lock absently around her finger. "It's... going much better than I would have predicted."
Charles raised both eyebrows at that. He had expected a list of complaints, despite Remy's apparent earnest wish to get Ororo to like him. "Really?"
"I didn't know they could be quiet," Ororo said. "Well, not quiet, perhaps, but not the way they usually are, arguing all the time. I..." she hesitated and Charles gave her an encouraging nod. "I did not realize they were friends," she admitted, looking a little sheepish.
Charles couldn't help grinning at that. "What did you think they were?"
"I don't know. Competitors? Enemies? Just egging each other on? They're boys," Ororo pointed out, sounding very seventeen.
"It can be difficult to tell," Charles agreed, amused. "But yes, I do believe they're friends. That makes a difference to you?"
"I don't know why, but it does." Ororo put her hands in her lap. "And they are doing what I tell them to do, even though they are really very bad at garden work. I do believe that they are trying. What I don't understand is why."
"I do believe Remy is sincere in wanting you to like him," Charles said.
* * *
"Oh god, it's you," Alex said. He walked over to the cabinets to find a snack.
"Go jump off a cliff," Jake said without any rancor. He was hunched over a carton of ice cream and eyeing Alex suspiciously in the apparent belief that everybody liked ice cream as much as he did.
"I'd rather shove you off one," Alex replied. "Is there any peanut butter?"
"Yeah, should be." Jake pointed his spoon in the direction of the correct cabinet.
Alex was just happy that Scott still liked peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches. He was at a loss for how to deal with his little brother otherwise. He loved him, of course he did, but they hadn't seen each other in years, and the professor kept telling him not to feel guilty, which, ha. Yeah, that was going to happen. He gathered up his ingredients and went to join Jake at the table.
"Is Hank always so... so..." Jake waved his spoon around, searching for the word. Ah, that explained the ice cream. Sessions with Hank going, "I wonder if your mutation can do this," at people frequently ended with raided kitchens.
"Yes," Alex said. Hank was always so... intense, passionate, obsessed, annoying. Alex could keep going and often had.
"What are you working on, anyway?"
Jake paused and eyed him for a moment. He shrugged. "Nothing big. Just. Seeing what I can do. How long it takes, that kind of thing."
"Come up with an offensive application yet?" Alex was genuinely curious about that.
Jake rolled his eyes at him. "I'm a shapeshifter. It's not really something we focus on."
Jake narrowed his eyes at him. His hair slowly streaked through with yellow. “I save a fortune in peroxide though.”
“I do not bleach my hair!” Alex yelped.
* * *
She was giving Remy a chance. One chance. Ororo knew she was being a little unreasonable, but she didn't see why she'd have to deal with annoying boys when she didn't have to. "Well?" she said after they'd stared at each other for a minute.
"Oh! Um, I wanted to apologize," Remy said. "For real. Without you throwing things at me."
She narrowed her eyes. "Do you blame me? You climbed into the girls' bathroom!"
"I didn't mean to! I was going for the storage room!" Remy insisted. He did sound convincing.
"Then you should've closed your eyes and left," she said, folding her arms across her chest. "Right away."
Remy looked at her.
Ororo refused to be moved. He might be a teenage boy, that didn't mean she was going to excuse his behavior. She'd been alone - or so she'd thought - and as vulnerable as she ever got, and then she'd glanced towards the window and he'd been there. He should be glad she hadn't hit him with lightning there and then. She'd been too surprised to react, though, and he'd had the time to stutter out a "sorry, I, sorry" and vault out the window.
Remy sighed. "I know, I know I should have, and I really am sorry I didn't, and I want to make it up to you." He paused. "I could strip? Would that help?"
"No!" Ororo stared at him. That would definitely not help. No.
"No, absolutely not," Ororo said firmly. She needed to shut down that line of thinking right away, otherwise she'd probably find him naked in her room one day. And then she would not be responsible for her actions.
Remy actually hung his head.
Ororo tried to think of something that might put them on even standing, or at least make her less angry with him. "All right. If you're really sorry," she said slowly. Remy looked up, hopeful. "You'll take the juniors out to town. On Saturday. For the whole day."
Remy stared at her in mute horror, and Ororo felt better already.
* * *
Remy entered his room in a flush of victory, and stopped dead at the sight of the strange girl sitting cross-legged on Jake's bed. This was his and Jake's room! There weren't supposed to be any strangers in it, girls or not! He made a sound and the girl looked up, smiling nervously. "Hi," she said.
"What are you doing here?" Remy asked abruptly. He didn't want her here. She needed to get off of Jake's bed and she needed to leave. Nobody ever entered their room unannounced. At the same time, there was something oddly familiar about those blue eyes... Especially when they narrowed like that. Remy's own eyes widened in shock. "Jake?"
The girl - Jake? - beamed. "I knew you'd see it!" She straightened her legs, and jumped off the bed to stand in front of him, looking excited. Remy stared at her, bewildered. "It took ages, but it was totally worth it, right?"
"I..." Remy said, completely lost. He was used to being surprised by Jake but he'd never been this blindsided before. He didn't like it. The longer Remy stayed silent, staring, the more the happy beam faded from her face.
"You don't like it?" Jake asked uncertainly.
"I'm not sure what I'm supposed to like," Remy said honestly. He suspected that the answer was no, though. Jake was beautiful, of course, but he always was, and he wasn't supposed to be a girl. Remy felt off balance.
"Well, me." Jake made a gesture covering all of her from the face down. She was looking hopeful again.
"You're very pretty?" Remy hadn't intended for it to be a question, but he really wasn't sure what Jake was looking for here. "Is this a power lesson thing?"
Jake frowned. "Obviously, but I got all of this," she gestured at herself again, and Remy realized that she was wearing girl's clothing. "because I thought you'd..." she trailed off. She was starting to turn red.
"You thought I'd like you like this?" Remy wasn't sure what his face showed, but it must have been bad, because Jake flushed and started blinking rapidly. "Don't-- I don't know what you want me to say!"
"Never mind, it was stupid," Jake mumbled. She started to turn away, Remy reached out to stop her, and she stilled, probably more by habit than anything else. Their room had always been a safe space. On occasion, there had been hugging, and no one said anything about any nightmares that might have preceded said hugging. This wasn't quite the same thing, but Remy glomped on anyway and tried hard to ignore the breasts and the long hair. It took a long, long moment for Jake to relax, and then she sighed and tilted her face into his shoulder. "I thought maybe you'd like me like this."
"I already like you," Remy pointed out. "You're the only one who can stand me, anyway." Which was true.
Jake huffed. "Not... Not like that. Like you like Ororo. Like that."
"What?" Remy pulled away slightly to attempt to meet Jake's eyes, but she was refusing to look at him. Remy had a feeling he was being really stupid, but he still wasn't over the shock of seeing Jake as a surprise girl. He couldn't be blamed for bit of stupidity. "I like you more than I like her, don't be stupid."
Jake finally looked at him again then, blue eyes searching his face for something. Remy had no idea what but he realized suddenly that he hoped that she found it. Seeing Jake sad and embarrassed because of him was just wrong. "Okay," Jake said finally. "But not like this, huh?" She still seemed a little sad, but mostly just resigned.
"I'm sorry," Remy said helplessly. "It's just. It's weird. Maybe if you'd given me some warning..."
Jake nodded. She jerked a thumb towards the bathroom. "I'll just, um, go change. I'll see you at dinner?"
"Sure." Remy stared after her, still bewildered, and feeling like he'd missed something important.
* * *
"You used to date a shapeshifter, right?" Remy asked.
Hank dropped the book he was holding, grateful that it hadn't been anything more fragile. "I... I suppose. She wasn't like Jake, though," he added, in case Remy was looking for some new power-based prank material.
"No, I know. She was blue, like you," Remy nodded. "But she could shift, and." He hesitated. "Did she ever turn into a man?"
Hank blinked. "Um."
"Because Jake did. I mean, not into... But he made himself into a girl, and I think he thought I'd like him better like that, or something, it was weird," Remy burst out. He seemed agitated.
Hank blinked again, then blushed as he realized the implications. "Oh."
"Oh? What do you mean, oh?" Remy demanded.
"I really don't..." Hank tried to inch away, which was tough when you were a big, furry, cat-type person.
Remy raised a finger warningly. "I will blow up something inconvenient," he threatened. "That oh sounded like you know something."
Hank paused. That was probably not an idle threat, he decided. Remy's threats usually weren't. He sighed and rubbed his nose. "It sounds to me... well, it sounds to me like Jake likes you." He continued hurriedly before Remy's annoyed look had a chance to turn into something else. "To be precise, like he wants to date you."
Remy blinked. "What?" He stared at Hank for a moment, then he spun around and ran.
"I could be wrong!" Hank yelled after him. Oh, he hoped Remy wasn't going to do anything stupid.
* * *
Jake was working on liking Ororo.
His success so far could best be described as so-so.
But here he was, planting bulbs that would probably somehow metamorphose into flowers, of his own free will and everything. Granted, they weren't really talking, but as Jake had no idea what to say to her, this was probably for the best.
They both looked up, startled, when Remy came running in, only pausing when he was right in front of them. "Jake, you..." he said, once he'd caught his breath.
"That's me," Jake said, bemused. "What is it?"
Remy glanced at Ororo, who raised her eyebrows back at him, and then grabbed Jake's hand and pulled him with him to a place out of earshot. Jake let himself be pulled, wondering what the hell was going on.
"You..." Remy said again. He appeared at a loss on how to continue. Jake stared at him. He'd start to worry, except Remy didn't look mad or annoyed. If anything he seemed tentatively happy about something, which was rare enough to make Jake keep his mouth shut. "I talked to Henry, and. Maybe I get it now? What you were trying to say, except you don't have to be a girl to do it, unless you really want to, I guess, and warn me first, because I'm used to you being you and it'd weird when you're not. But you can be a girl if you want! But I..." Remy actually blushed. "I'd be okay with just you, like you are."
Jake blinked slowly. He thought he understood most of that, but he wasn't sure he believed it. "You... want me? Like this?" He sounded skeptical, but he could still feel the burning humiliation from two days ago, when he genuinely had thought that Remy would be pleased. Or at least, less obviously dismissive.
He’d worked hard on that body. And, yeah, in retrospect he might have gotten a little carried away. But he’d wanted it to be a surprise, hopefully a good one, and. It hadn’t been. Remy had been kind about turning him down, but he definitely had.
What had changed his mind?
Did the shape Jake was in matter in wholly different manner than he’d expected it to?
Remy squeezed his hand, then pulled him closer, letting his hand go in favor of getting an arm around Jake's waist. Jake was still catching up on this turn of events when he was kissed. It was a soft, careful kiss to start with, with Remy pulling his head back to give him a searching look. Jake was absolutely down with kissing, though, so he put an arm around Remy’s neck and pulled him back.
* * *
Charles sat with his head in his hands. He now knew how he'd end up bald and that reason was called students. "And then what?"
They had been worried and defensive and protective of each other when they'd entered, but as soon as they'd realized that Charles wasn't about to throw them out of the school for being gay, they'd turned right back into themselves again. Charles wasn't sure if he wanted to admit it out loud, but he was proud of them.
"It was all Remy's fault," Jake insisted.
"No, it wasn't!" Remy protested.