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John doesn’t click his lighter once during the jet ride to DC.  He just stands in the back of the plane, having given up his seat to the professor, and stares into the middle distance, body loose and eyes glazed over.

That’s what worries Bobby as Logan tosses them uniforms.  He doesn’t protest the uniform, doesn’t really notice its presence.  He just watches John.

Eventually, though, he turns away silently and zips into his own suit.  It’s uncomfortable, and he tugs gently at the collar.  It’s too warm, and he can hardly blame himself for sweating.

He looks over at Rogue, who seems more at ease in the X-Men uniform.  She’s hurting – they all are, with Dr. Grey gone – but she looks more like her grief is giving her a strength she hadn’t had before than anything else.  She stands tall as she meets his eyes with a wordless We’ll be okay.

Quietly, he wonders when they managed to build that kind of rapport.  It’s only been a few months, after all, since she arrived at the mansion.

His reverie is interrupted by the warmth at his shoulder that has always signified John’s presence.

Click.

There it is, and it’s a reassurance as warm breath brushes his ear on the whisper, “Hey, give the eyefucking a rest – looks like we’re X-Men now.”

It’s a dumb jab – not nearly one of John’s best, but the fact that he’s trying is just enough to relax Bobby a little.  He turns, knocking his shoulder against John’s and murmuring back, “Oh, shut up.”

He, John and Rogue clump together as everyone hangs on to Kurt.  Rogue grabs onto his hand, and he feels John’s hand on his shoulder just before the world shifts.  His stomach flips uncomfortably.  He sees Rogue’s eyes go wide after the fact and her hand tightens around his.  He tenses, remembering how she’d almost died and Kurt had saved her.

They stand silently as the professor speaks to the president, and then there’s the flight home.

This time, something in them seems to have fallen apart.  Bobby senses something breaking, and then realizes – it’s everyone giving in to grief.

Cyclops looks fragile, which is in itself a little terrifying, and Bobby finds he has to look away.  His eyes drift over to Logan, who is determinedly not looking at Cyclops or anyone else.  He looks tired.  Storm is flying the plane, but her hands are tight on the controls, and Kurt is leaning toward her as if to try and comfort her.  The professor says nothing, but his eyes are closed and his expression much too serene for comfort.

Even Rogue looks like she’s in pain, and Bobby finds himself reaching again for her hand.

John is no longer in the back of the plane, but rather is standing right behind Rogue and Bobby’s chairs, and his presence is warm and comforting.  Bobby knows he's going to need that.

But there's something strange in John's closeness, something that Bobby's never observed before -- and when it comes to John, there's very little that he has not observed.  It worries him like the trip to DC did.  

Finally, they touch down in the hangar, and there is the slow procession out into the mansion, every child, every mutant moving back into the familiar, if disheveled halls.  Piotr's already back with his group, and Bobby recognizes the instant that the Russian colossus notices that Dr. Grey hasn't come back with them.

He meets Piotr's eyes, and the looks they trade say it all as Bobby gestures subtly toward Cyclops with his head.

Piotr nods.

Kitty runs up to him upon seeing him, hugging him tightly.  They've always been close -- that shared love of chilly weather and art made sure of that.

Bobby turns away from that reunion to pull Rogue close.  He may not be able to touch her skin, but he holds her anyway, because he needs it right now, needs closeness almost as much as he needs air, and she is within reach -- she is safe.

John catches his eye over Rogue's shoulder, and there's a gentle sort of worry in John's expression.  He's only a few feet away, but suddenly, he looks terribly alone.

Bobby loosens his hold on Rogue by a fraction, and gestures to John to come closer.  John moves toward them hesitantly, quietly, not even the lighter making a sound.

There are people all around them, reunions going on all over the hallways and in the hangar, but Bobby's world has funneled down to the three of them, silent and sad in their own bubble.  He reaches out to John with one hand, squeezing his shoulder, as he tightens his hold again around Rogue's waist.

John places his hand over Bobby's on his shoulder, and Rogue nuzzles deeper into Bobby's other shoulder.  Bobby feels her shaking.

There is a long, hanging moment, and then Rogue pulls back and John lets go, and they proceed into the house in silence.  Other groups of two or three or four are doing the same, and it seems like it is the thing they’re supposed to be doing.

No one has been through this, or something like this, ever before.  Sure, a lot of the kids here were either runaways or their parents were scared of their powers, but no one has ever been attacked in their home and then returned to find the holes and ragged carpets and broken glass all exactly where they’d been before, when they were fleeing.

They walk Rogue to her room, and there is a brief moment between Bobby and her – the moment where, if it were any other couple, a kiss would be – before John and Bobby proceed to their dorm.

It isn’t overturned at all, aside from the blankets and sheets being torn from the beds and the wardrobe and closet doors flung open.  Bobby moves toward his sheets and begins to re-make his bed, because that seems to be the first thing that he can do, and he feels he must do something.

"Hey," John says, quiet.  "You're shaking."

Bobby hadn't noticed.  He looks down at his hands and the sheet he's holding and sees that John is right  -- he is shaking, and it looks like he's about to drop the sheet.  He looks up at John who seems a combination of fierce and anxious.  Bobby isn't sure why.

"Put down the sheet and breathe," John orders.  Bobby does, but his hands are still shaking, and, for the first time in a very, very long time, he feels cold.

John takes the two little steps it takes in that small room for his body-heat to wash over Bobby and warm him.  Bobby feels a rush of air escape his lungs, and, despite his chill, the puff of air comes out like steam from a grate.

John is still quiet, and Bobby suddenly wishes that the lighter would click, or that something would happen that would bring back the John he's used to seeing, all bravado and certainty with fire at his easy, casual command.  He isn't used to silence when it comes to John -- he is the quiet one out of the two of them.

Then, silently, softly, John winds an arm around Bobby's shoulders, crushing him into a hug that's just a hair too much manly bro-hug -- but that is comfortable, that kind of thing; it is familiar and it is real, and Bobby needs this touch right now, before he breaks apart and shatters so that he can't fuse himself back together again.  Everything has changed.  He has never seen the world like this before -- has never watched a beloved teacher die, and another one lose his cool in front of everyone.  He has never seen the Professor look so tired and almost weak.  He has never thought about death, about how hated mutation can be.

He's never going to be able to go back to what and who he was before.

So he buries his head into John's warm shoulder, and stands there and feels the tears hiss into nothing on the other boy's clothes and skin.

He mourns for the death of innocence, the death of Dr. Grey, and for everything else that is gone forever.

 

X

 

Rogue finds herself awake the night they return to the mansion.  She's long since peeled out of the leather X-Men uniform, the one a little too loose about the hips and tight around the bust and throat, but she can't bring herself to sleep.

Her bed seems like a dangerous place to be, and, though she's exhausted, she can't deal with this right now.

So she leaves her room and walks the halls of the mansion, remembering that night in flashes of fear and movement and the ever-present "Please, don't let them touch me" that runs like a mantra through her head.

She tucks the white lock of hair behind her ear as she takes notice of a light in the kitchen -- or, really, what was the kitchen.

She finds Bobby there, staring at a half-finished carton of ice-cream.

"So you were here when they came."  It's not a question.

"Right," Bobby whispers, too quiet.  "Talking to Logan about things.  And then...then everything happened."  He pauses.  "I can still hear the guns and the rotors."

When Rogue lets herself listen, so can she.

"Thank you," she whispers, realizing that she'd never managed it.  "For goin' back for Logan."

Bobby's lips -- lips she'd finally tasted only two days ago -- twist ruefully.  "You were right, though.  We would never have made it without him."  He looks back down at the ice cream, which is only partly frozen, some of it dripping onto the counter from the time it spent entirely melted.

She nods, a little, and joins him at the island.  It's silent in the house but for the remembered chaos, and, when Bobby is near, even that sort of falls away.

He looks like he wants to hold her again, but she's in her night-dress, her arms and shoulders bare, and he is in a tee-shirt and boxers.  They can't get any closer than they are, and she once again hates herself just a little bit more.

He seems to see the self-loathing in her eyes, because she sees his lips tinging blue.

He leans down to kiss her, gently, oh-so-gently, and she, scared and hopeful, kisses back.  It's beautiful and sad and far too short, but it's something at least, and they have learned to treasure the somethings whenever they came along.

When he pulls back, he’s breathless, and she wonders if it’s the kiss that did it or her mutation.

He smiles, and she wonders if it matters.

He lets her go without protest, and she continues to wander the halls, listening to the soft constant rush of many people’s sleeping breaths.  There are lights on in some rooms, but most are dark under the doors, and she thinks that that’s a good sign.

Eventually, her eyes grow heavy, and she finds her way back to her room.

The bed looks less dangerous now, and more inviting.  She slips into it and falls asleep quickly, exhaustion shielding her from nightmares.

 

X

 

John doesn’t fall asleep until long after Bobby does.

He has too much to think about, too many things that he’s suddenly not sure of.  He waits up for Bobby after he disappears downstairs – no doubt to the kitchen, because that’s where Bobby goes when he’s upset – and when he returns, he pretends to be sleeping.

But he’s really staring at the wall and thinking.  Every now and then he rolls over to make sure Bobby’s okay, but mostly, his eyes are on the wall in the thick silent dark, and he can’t help but wonder who really is in the right or the wrong.  What if his powers mean he is better than other people, and to hell with equality?  But then, why would the Professor, one of the strongest mutants on the planet, restrain himself to the degree that he taught coexistence rather than war?

Are they, by virtue of mutation, the better men?

John doesn’t know.  He has no idea who is right and who is wrong anymore.  Presently, he rolls over to look at Bobby, and he realizes something – there may not be a right side or a wrong side, but his best friend is on this one, and really John doesn’t have anything else but this life, and Bobby Drake.

And yeah, he’s maybe a little bit stupidly in love with his best friend.  Mostly he’s okay with it.

In fact, right now, he’s more than okay with it.

The things Magneto said to him on the jet matter a lot less when he thinks about leaving everyone here, and in particular leaving his best friend who he happens to be a little in love with.  Maybe he’s a god among insects, maybe he’s just being held back, but right now…

Right now, in the aftermath of the greatest disaster mutantkind has ever seen, he doesn’t care, because Bobby’s in the other bed, and they’re both safe and alive, and they’ll be okay.

They’ll be okay.