Comments: This was written for nepenth as a Christmas present.
Bobby plucked at the waistband of his boxer shorts dismally. This was what happened when you didn't do any laundry until you'd completely run out of clean underwear. On the bright side though, the laundry room was a good place to avoid people.
As his meagre collection of clothing spun around in the washing machine, Bobby began to pace. Life at the Xavier Institute had never been straightforward exactly, but it had never seemed as complicated as it did now. It seemed strange to have come across a problem that he couldn't laugh off, but there it was. Bobby Drake who had spent his life avoiding difficult situations, was now smack bang in the middle of one. And he couldn't see even a glimmer of a way to avoid it.
Northstar's death had brought up all sorts of feelings for Bobby. On the surface, he had been mourning for a team mate. As a member of the X-Men, he had lost, and continued to lose, too many people. Each death brought him closer to his own. Beneath that, however, there had been more. Bobby had never been asked to do a reading at someone's funeral before. He supposed that on the one hand, he hadn't been extremely close with any of his deceased team mates. On the other hand, there was a definite feeling that he was not to be trusted with something so important. Which had just made Jean-Paul's request all the more strange. Sure, they had been team mates, and yes, they had had things in common, but they were barely friends, much less close friends. So why had Jean-Paul, a sophisticated blow-in from Alpha Flight, trusted him? Why had Jean-Paul specifically asked for Bobby to read at his funeral?
Thinking back on it, Bobby realised that Jean-Paul had never spoken down to him, or made light of his opinions as some of the other X-Men were prone to do. In fact, Jean-Paul had seemed to believe that Bobby's opinion was worth hearing. He had even asked for Bobby's advice on the occasional business matter, seeming to be the only member of the team who remembered that Bobby was a chartered accountant. When he had died, something inside of Bobby had reacted.
He had moped around the place after Jean-Paul's death. Most of the inhabitants of the Institute had put it down to his secondary mutation, knowing well that he had spent months sulking about the transformation his body had been going through. But there were a few people - Dani, Shan, and bizarrely, Logan - who gave him a 'look.' He didn't know what they had been trying to say to him but he had started to avoid all three.
Things had not improved - though he supposed they should have - when his secondary mutation disappeared. Bobby knew he should have been happy. Thousands, maybe millions, of mutants had lost their powers entirely, but he had just lost the aspect that he hated. He was still a mutant, still the Iceman, but he was no longer trapped in his ice form. Considering the amount of time he had spent detesting his secondary mutation, it should have been a happy day. Yet, somehow, underneath it all, he just couldn't quite celebrate what had happened.
And then Jean-Paul had returned.
He was not, in true X-Men form, dead after all. They had had a memorial service. SHIELD had confirmed that his reanimated body had been destroyed. The entire Institute had mourned Jean-Paul twice, only for him to saunter unexpectedly through the front door a few days ago, calmly announcing his return in the condescending colloquial French he was so fond of.
Bobby supposed that he should have been used to unexpected resurrections. In his line of business, resurrections really weren't even unexpected anymore. The X-Men never died. Sure, every now and then, an unlucky member of a side-team died, but if you had made your mark as an X-Man, you could never really die. That wasn't life though. In real life, when someone died, you mourned them. Which is exactly what he had done for Jean-Paul. Only Jean-Paul had come back.
And so he found himself pacing the length of the laundry room, hoping that no one would find him. He should have known that he was wishing for the impossible.
“Ah, hello, Robert.” The door had swung open to admit the subject of Bobby’s disjointed thoughts, holding what appeared to be a basket of dirty laundry. An eyebrow arched elegantly. “Is there a reason why you are standing here in your underwear?”
“I - er - haven’t got any clean clothes left. Everything needed to be washed, you know?” Bobby tried to ignore the blush he could feel spreading across his face, and fixed his eyes on the wall behind Jean-Paul. He then tried to ignore the pause that followed this statement, even more than he was trying to ignore the blush.
“Well, it happens to us all every now and then,” came the very unexpected reply. Bobby found it difficult to find anything to say to that, but luckily Jean-Paul decided to continue the conversation without him. “I’m assuming that you don’t mind?”
Mutely, Bobby shook his head as Jean-Paul pulled his shirt over his head. It was soon followed into an empty washer by his pants. Although not the perfect time to tear his gaze away from the wall, Bobby couldn’t help but look at Jean-Paul. “Nice boxers,” he muttered weakly.
“Thank you, Robert.” There was silence for a minute as Jean-Paul sorted through his wash, dividing the whites and colours unlike Bobby who always shoved everything in together.
“So… have you -” Bobby stopped speaking abruptly as Jean-Paul pushed him back against one of the machines.
“I have missed you, Robert.”
“Wha - what?”
“Oh, really, there’s no need to act so coy.” Jean-Paul grinned as he pushed one of his knees between Bobby’s, forcing his legs apart.
“Coy? I… No… Wait… What are you doing?”
“Nothing.” Another grin, as Jean-Paul’s body filled the space between Bobby’s knees.
“You’re… You’re different, Jean-Paul.”
“Eh… yes. Different. More -” Bobby spluttered as Jean-Paul pressed in against him, “direct.”
“And you find this change a bad thing?”
“That’s what I thought.” Jean-Paul smiled. It was, he knew, the first genuine smile he had experienced since well before his experience with SHIELD. He leaned in further so that his nose was only inches away from Bobby’s, and then he stopped.
Slowly, Bobby smiled back.