Robert Francis Drake awoke to the sound of birdsong. He kept his eyes shut, though, and in the red tinged darkness behind them, got back to sleep, or at least, tried to get back to sleep. He tried to roll over into a more comfortable position only for his feet to hit something hard and unyielding at the end of the bed. He tried to resume his previous position, but suddenly the curtains were open and light flooded into the room and pooled on the light parquet flooring. This assault on his already half awake brain was too much, and the Iceman was jolted into consciousness.
He was just about to open his mouth to complain to his mother for waking him so early, when his eyes caught up with reality. He wasn’t home, he wasn’t due to go and visit his parents until tomorrow, and his mother had long since resigned herself to the fact that her son was not a morning person. There was also something else. Or more to the point, someone else. The light streaming through the window formed a halo around his head and the expression on his face was one of angelic concern. Northstar was sitting perfectly still on the end of his bed with a tray full of breakfast goodies at his side.
“I haven’t disturbed you, have I, Robert? I thought you were already awake when I opened the curtains. I really didn’t mean to wake you. You are so beautiful, when you’re asleep.”
The concern in Northstar’s face was, Bobby would admit, one not often seen by anyone else, who generally attached themselves to the popular notion that his boyfriend was an insensitive egotistical prick. This didn’t stop him from ribbing the Canadian speedster, “So I’m not beautiful when I’m awake?” and watching the usually calm and collected Jean-Paul fluster with great delight.
“No, you are always beau, always beautiful, it’s just when you’re asleep, it’s an innocent beauty untouched by the demands of our world.”
“Breakfast in bed? Why? Waitaminute, how did you get in here?” Bobby was more than a little baffled, sure his boyfriend did go in for big romantic gestures, the business with the flowers had shown that, but he really couldn’t figure why Jean-Paul thought breakfast in bed was a good idea. Sure, it would make sense if they slept in the same room, but their relationship hadn’t got that far yet, they were taking things slowly so that the more reactionary elements of the household could adjust and wouldn't try to castrate them with a very big sword, and his paramour was sitting on the end of the bed fully clothed. Well, that wasn’t how he had envisioned their first bedroom scene.
“I came in through the window. It’s relatively easy to lift the sash. The benefits of my misspent youth. Anyway, joyeux anniversaire!” Jean-Paul split into a wide grin, which narrowed somewhat when he realised that Bobby didn’t understand, “Happy birthday.”
“Oh” and for one moment Bobby’s mouth formed a perfect o, his face blank with shock, and Jean-Paul began to wonder if this was entirely a good idea, then his face was covered with his usual bright smile, “It’s wonderful.”
“Ca Plait? You’re Pleased? Good. Now eat your breakfast.”
“Jean-Paul, there’s way too much here, I don’t eat nearly as much as you do. Okay, nobody eats as much as you do. But I’ve got the opposite problem, my metabolism’s so slowed down by my mutation that this is enough food for days. You better be willing to help me. Stupid question, really.”
Jean-Paul looked pensive for a moment, then brightened, “d’accord, scratch breakfast,” and before Bobby knew it the tray was on the desk on the other side of the room, “now again, happy birthday!” and with a flourish placed a small black box tied with ribbon on the eiderdown.
Bobby picked up the box and shook it; it rattled. He used his powers to judge its, for want of a better word, dampness, as he felt the number of water atoms held within. He shook it again. None of this helped him work out what was inside. So, with Northstar watching him in rapt anticipation, he loosened the ribbon and opened the box.
Inside, on a velvet cushion, there was a single car key.
Bobby barely had time for this to sink in, when Northstar gathered him up in his arms and headed towards the window. “Hey, Vega, stop it! I’m only wearing my shorts!” protested Bobby but to no avail, as Jean-Paul leapt out of the window and glided down to the gravel below. There on the gravel was the most beautiful car Bobby had ever seen, then he recognised it; it was the same car he had stopped to admire on their first date, not just the same model but the same actual car.
“It’s beautiful,” gasped Bobby, it was all he could say.
“Yes, is it not the most wonderful birthday present?” said Jean-Paul.
“Yeah. But, Warren’ll think you just bought it to bribe me into having sex with you,” Bobby’s face betrayed his feelings at once ecstatically happy and touched and apprehensive at his friend’s likely reaction.
“Forget about Warren, for today at least. Today is for us alone. And tomorrow you’ll go to your parents, which will give the featherbrain plenty of time to calm down. You know, in ancient Greece, you had to give a young man a horse before he’d even consider sleeping with you.” Northstar smiled and laughed.
“So this is my gift horse, then” said Bobby, who then saw his boyfriend’s unease at the statement and added, “not that I was entirely adverse to the idea of sex with you before. Quite keen, really.” And with these words he leant in and kissed Jean-Paul, and used his best come-hither look as he stared into those blue-grey eyes. Jean-Paul froze for a moment and then kissed Bobby in return with his hands cradling the younger man’s spiky dust blonde hair as he pulled him closer. Bobby teased at his mouth with his lips until it was deliciously open and then ran his tongue against those perfect white teeth. Northstar rubbed at the small of Bobby’s back with his hands, and he responded with fiercer more passionate kisses and pushed himself closer still as he felt a warmness grow first in his shorts and then seep into the whole of his body like red hot ice.
Then Northstar stood back so suddenly that Bobby almost fell on top of him. “I think we’d better can it there, cher Robert, if you think Warren’s going to go postal about the car, god knows what he’ll do if he sees us virtually fucking on the lawn.”
Bobby, his cheeks red and his breath trembling, pouted, “I don’t care, Vega, take me now, please.”
There was a desperate pleading in the far from frigid X-man’s voice, but Northstar was not going to give in, not with Bobby’s future happiness at stake, “Robert, you don’t mean that. You think you do, but you don’t, not really, you’re too caring a person to think like that. That’s one of those things I like about you. You’ve been trying really hard to keep Warren’s friendship, because you know that he will adjust eventually, and you don’t want to wreck your friendship but pushing him away. Robert, we’ve got all the time in the world, and it’s only a matter of time until he comes round.”
Bobby’s shoulders began to hunch forward and he began to sob, “But Jean, she had all the time in the world, and it wasn’t enough. She died before she could even marry Scott and then she died again before she could make things better. And what about Peter? He was engaged to Kitty, when he... he...”
Northstar wrapped his arms around Bobby’s shoulders as those sobs turned to tears, “Bobby, I know, I’ve lost friends too, way too many of them, but we’ll make our own time. And I won’t let anything happen to you, you know that, don’t you?” and then he bought his mouth to his love’s ear and added, “if you want to, we will, just not within a five mile radius of a certain Warren Worthington the Third.”
At this Bobby giggled and a faint smile appeared on his face. “That’s better, can’t have you crying on what is very nearly your birthday, n’est pas?” said Northstar, dabbing away those tears with his handkerchief, “Now put your arms around my neck, and I’ll fly you back to your room, then we can find some clothes and test drive your present.”
Soon, with a brief delay for Northstar to explore Bobby’s underwear draw in minute detail and to find to his disappointment that it contained mostly boxers in various sensible colours, they were walking out of the front door of the mansion and heading towards the car. When they got to the secluded place behind the main building where Jean-Paul had parked the car, they found Kurt and Warren admiring the turquoise paintwork and the graceful silhouette of the classic automobile.
Hearing the crunch of their feet upon the gravel driveway they turned to meet our heroes. Northstar was silently thanking the northstar and any other star that might have even the slightest influence upon his luck, as they approached the mismatched admirers of automotive style. Warren asked, “This your car, Jean-Paul? I’ve never seen it before. I thought you flew everywhere.” He was making an especial effort to be polite, since firstly he didn’t fancy another impromptu swim courtesy of Nightcrawler and secondly Paige had told him rather firmly that it was none of his business who Bobby wanted to spend his time with. There was also the contributing factor that Northstar had behaved impeccably ever since he and Iceman had started dating and there was no sign of any particularly queer activity going on.
Jean-Paul smiled and said brightly, “Ah non, c’est á Robert. I do own a car though, it’s a rather aged Bentley, but it’s up in Montreal. Believe it or not I don’t fly everywhere, as I’m sure you know it’s trés difficile to fly in a business suit or get the creases out afterwards.”
“Bobby’s car?” said Warren, but got no further before being cut off by a pre-emptive bit of diplomacy on Bobby’s part, “erm... well... I saw it and really liked it, so J-P got it for me.” This statement was quite accurate although somewhat economical with the truth in that it pretty much implied that Bobby had pestered the munificent M. Beaubier into buying the car.
It was an economy that Warren was more than willing to embrace though, having too often, in his opinion at least, been gently coaxed by Bobby into parting with his cash. He smiled and commented on how it was a rather good choice. He then asked Jean-Paul how business was, as this was the one thing they had in common that didn’t involve Bobby in any way, shape or form.
Nightcrawler took it upon himself to break up this gathering before Warren’s limited repertoire of small talk exhausted itself by bamfing off to get his camera and insisting on taking polaroids of everyone and the new car. Polaroids, he explained, because he got fed up of odd looks whenever he took his photographs in to be developed. This seemed to satisfy Bobby and Warren, but Jean-Paul ended up wondering if Kurt’s photographic exploits were as innocent as the blue furred demon made them out to be, since the whole business about the facts of life and the cross dressing fiasco, he was pretty much willing to believe anything.
In no time at all, Jean-Paul and Bobby were sitting in the car with the top down, and driving along the gravel roadways around the mansion. Jean-Paul had thought of everything and had already insured the car in Bobby’s name, which he claimed involved a lot of talking on the phone trying to sound American. Bobby soon felt that he’d got the feel of the car and they headed out onto the winding country roads that covered Westchester county like a spider’s web. Bobby knew his way perfectly, having learnt to drive at Xavier’s and remembering the car-bound scavenger hunt the Professor had organised when he had passed his test and the fun he’d had with Beast as his navigator, particularly after he’d lost his glasses at a roadside café. Thinking back to that café stirred Bobby’s sluggish metabolism into something approaching life, and that he’d never eaten any of that breakfast made his hunger still keener.
Bobby turned to Jean-Paul, “How about a pit stop at Harry’s?” he asked.
Jean-Paul’s silver hair was streaming back in the wind and as he turned to whisper in Bobby’s ear it blew into his eyes, “No, I have everything planned. Pull over and I’ll tell you.”
Bobby decelerated and stopped the car in a lay-by, only for Northstar to vault out of the car, run round to Bobby’s side and seize his hand and drag him round to the back of the car. He popped the trunk. Inside were two perfectly folded tuxedos, “I said I had something planned.”
“Good golly! There’s more of this?” exclaimed Bobby, “You gotta help me, Vega, I think I am turning into my kindergarten teacher.” There was a desperate pleading look in his eyes.
“I don’t know, I think it is rather endearing, cher Robert. We can hardly keep on doing the good cop/ bad cop routine if we both swear like sailors, can we? Just think, at least you don’t have to worry about swearing at some deeply inappropriate moment. It’s wholesome, really, and you know how I like that,” said the Northern Star as his hand playfully teased Bobby’s ears and the nape of the neck, “Nice but naughty, who could ask for more?” He began to kiss and nibble at his neck, with Iceman’s laughter ringing in his ears. And then he stopped; he handed Bobby his suit, “Put this on: we need to get back on the road.”
Bobby would think back to this day and find it kind of funny, two men standing in a lay-by on a small country road, naked except for their underpants, what should have taken five minutes metamorphosed into half an hour of perfect memories. Bobby was gently mocking of Northstar’s almost pornographically tight trunks, a black second skin against his pale white flesh, and somehow he moved effortlessly from that to holding the Canadian speedster firmly in his arms and slowly trailing his hands down that slim muscled body again and again, each time barely touching where he desperately wanted to touch. It was Bobby’s turn to cut things short this time, hearing police sirens in the distance, he whispered sweetly into a delicately pointed ear, “Hey lover, we’d better stop here, two nearly naked men fondling in the middle of a state highway, that has to be a traffic violation, and I’d hate to get a ticket on our first day out.”
Sure enough, soon the two young men were driving towards the bright lights of New York, the wind ruffled their hair as they sat in the open topped car, and they looked for all the world like just another two of the beautiful people out to enjoy New York. Jean-Paul got Bobby to turn into the car park of a major bank’s headquarters and then promptly produced an executive parking permit as Bobby pulled the top up. The car ought to be safe enough off the streets and the guard’s booth overlooked the v.i.p parking area anyway. Jean-Paul smiled as he did this, one of the benefits of power, he claimed, was free parking.
Jean-Paul led Bobby through the streets of Manhattan, until they came to a small nondescript bottle green door, which led through to a dark narrow carpeted staircase. When they came to the top, they emerged into a room sparkling with light, it bounced off the crystal chandeliers, refracted off the white marble floors and walls. The maitre d’ escorted them to their table with an air of terrified politeness. Seated at the candle-lit table Jean-Paul confided to Bobby, “This place has always reminded me of an ice palace. It seemed appropriate to bring you here.”
Bobby was too absorbed in the cutlery to say anything; this wasn’t his world, he didn’t know what fork to use, or glancing at the menu, what to order, not helped by the fact that the damn thing was in French, was this, he asked himself, how Northstar felt around the X-men, small and terrified by impenetrable and arcane rituals.
Northstar picked up on Bobby’s ill-concealed panic, “Bobby, don’t worry. Each of the tables is a world looking inwards; nobody’s looking at you, waiting for you to make a mistake. This’ll be fine. I’ll order for both of us, and you just eat what you want, if you feel nervous about not clearing your plate just say you’re on a diet or something. The people at the other tables won’t notice and the staff are professional enough not to care. And if you don’t like it, we’ll stop in at Harry’s on the way home.” He put down his menu and at once the waiter was at his side, it seemed as if the Canadian wasn’t the only person blessed with super-speed. The order was a burst of short staccato French that Bobby couldn’t even hope to understand, and Jean-Paul knew this and leant across the table and squeezed his hand, “Be brave, mon brave” he said with a smile.
As the food arrived, Bobby’s anxieties began to ebb away, Jean-Paul was smart enough to have picked food that pretty much fitted the cool mutant’s tastes, though Bobby was less sure about the champagne. He nervously brought the slender flute to his lips, only to choke on the violently fizzing liquid, the force of his coughs throwing his body into the chair back. Some of the customers turned their heads briefly, but returned to their dinners as soon as they realised that no paramedics were to be called. Bobby’s coughing eventually came to a hacking stop but the sharp liquid still stung at his throat.
Jean-Paul looked rather concerned, and then relieved as the coughing stopped, “I’ll take that as you don’t like champagne. Do you know what this means, Robert?” he grinned, “more for me! It’s my fault for not asking, but let’s find something more palatable now.”
They continued with their dinner with a bottle of Budweiser at Bobby’s place and Jean-Paul endeavouring to drink as much of the champagne as mutantly possible. As their main course (steak, but sophisticated steak nonetheless) arrived, a man rather the worse for wear approached their table rather unsteadily in a blue pinstripe suit, “Hey Johnny,” he said swaying precariously close to the candelabra, “Johnny, Johnny, Johnny, I’m a bad boy, a bad bad boy, the baddest boy ever.”
Jean-Paul told the guy that he really should be going home and persuaded the maitre’d to book him a taxi to one of the more fashionable suburbs. When he was gone, Jean-Paul explained that the unbalanced man was a rather important investment banker, “I really should like Warren more,” he added, “he isn’t nearly as bad as most of my peers. I mean, the people I work with! Warren Worthington is one of the very few who hasn’t got a major addiction, or fucking his secretary.”
“So what’s he doing, then?” asked Bobby, wanting to pry deeper into the twilight world of high finance that his boyfriend inhabited.
“Serial secretary fucker,” said Jean-Paul laughing at Bobby’s reaction to his language, “Honestly, he’s got at least two pregnant and one’s suing for sex discrimination. I heard that his wife filed papers last week. Good luck to her. I don’t have particularly much sympathy for him. It’s a miracle the poor woman put up with him so long, she’s a lovely lady, a real class act, could have done much better.”
“So you’re anti secretary fucking?” giggled Bobby, “Are you now or have you ever been a secretary fucker?”
“Hell, no. Not that Sandy would go along with it anyway. I believe it is every businessman’s duty to employ a seriously unattractive secretary.” At this last statement they both started laughing again.
Eventually, the end of the dinner was in sight. Jean-Paul was tucking into an enormous plate of profiteroles, and being more than a little bit drunk, was licking the chocolate sauce off the round pastry balls in the most ludricously seductive manner. Bobby decided that two could play at that game, and slipped his foot out of his shoe and, under the ample cover of the ivory tablecloth, began to slip it up Jean-Paul’s leg. Struggling to keep a straight face and keep the rest of his body perfectly still, he rubbed his socked foot up and down the ravenous Canadian’s thigh. Northstar lost his unflappable composure somewhat, but tried to carry on eating his dessert, albeit in a more civilised manner. Any hopes that Bobby would have called it quits then, however, were totally dashed as that soft cool foot made it’s way further up the leg and settled gently on Jean-Paul’s groin. Bobby felt a warmth press against his foot and then began to slowly move it in small sensual circles, flexing and unflexing his toes. Jean-Paul sat up straighter and had abandoned his food entirely, his breathing was swift as he stared fixedly at the smiling x-man. He leant across the table as best as he was able, he body stiff and unwilling and whispered, “Bobby, please, please stop, or I’ll take you right now, and they’ll never let me in here again.”
“You say the nicest things. Perhaps we should be going.” And with this the foot withdrew and Northstar sagged in frustrated relief. Jean-Paul settled the bill, which he was very careful not to let Bobby see and then they walked out into the cool night.
“You can’t drive home, you’re drunk!” exclaimed Northstar floating above the sidewalk and glowing slightly.
“I’m drunk, what about you, Tinkerbell, you’ve drunk most of a bottle of champagne! No flying for you tonight!” Bobby was distinctly more sober, but then he had only drunk a few bottles of beer.
“Tinkerbell?!” Jean-Paul pouted with his hands on his hips.
“You look just like her. You fly, glow and are rather possessive. Plus you’re both fairies!” elucidated Bobby giggling somewhat, “So what do we do now? Get a cab?”
“Non! I have a little pied-á-terre just round the corner. Much nicer than a hotel.”
It took little encouragement to get Bobby to accompany Jean-Paul to what turned out to be a rather generously sized apartment, it was perfectly justifiable too, they were just going to stay overnight rather than look for a cab late at night and fall prey to a crazed serial killer. If Warren falls for that, thought Bobby, he’s even stupider than J-P thinks, but he didn’t care, not now.
They’d just got in the door when Jean-Paul whizzed across the lounge and removed his jacket and shoes and carefully fixed his bow tie onto the neck of a bust standing on the mantel. Then he launched himself at Bobby and carried him through an open door and knocked him onto the bed. Northstar was lying almost on top of Bobby, before he could even react, pulling at his lips with fierce and tender kisses as he ran his hands under Bobby’s shirt. Then he stopped still and sitting up asked, “You want this?” only to be pulled back down onto the bed by a pair of cool welcoming hands.
“Yeah,” said Bobby as he looked into the northern star’s eyes, “Or have you spent today with your eyes closed? Of course I want you. I’ve wanted you since the day the boy exploded. Since the day I saw you at once confident and strong yet also alive and feeling. Since the day I saw you melt in the fire of that kid’s powers and show your true feelings. Show that you aren’t an icy statue, that you aren’t cold inside, but a living breathing man trapped behind the mask of fame. Since I saw everything that makes you beautiful, the things inside your heart and soul, that make you something more than a statue.” Bobby reached out and placed a hand gently on the speedster’s hip, “a beautiful statue, perfect in form and feature, sure, but a statue nonetheless.” Iceman’s hand began to trail itself over the flesh of his lover’s thigh and towards the sweet but hidden spot that lay between his legs, “you said, on the lawn, that you love me because I care about people. I know, that behind the sarcasm, behind the pointed looks, behind the pained yet false pessimism, you do too. That you love, and love absolutely all that come close to you, and that nothing can break that love. Whatever, Aurora did, you still loved her more than any other man could, loved unconditionally, even when she did everything to break the bond between you. And you love those around you in the same way, without condition or favour, you didn’t have to fight Alpha when they came for Sammy, yet you did, you forced your two families apart before they could fight in earnest. And that’s what I love about you. Oh, and the sense of humour, the withering putdowns, the dangerous look that dances in your eyes, everything.” His other hand brushed the silver hair back from those dark, dark eyes, “did I forget to mention the incredibly hot body?” he grinned as that hand ran down that handsome body and ghosted over that slim yet muscled chest.
It was Northstar who broke the spell, who broke the gaze between their eyes, yet it was not the Northstar that the X-men knew the hauty arrogant warrior, but Jean-Paul, the lover of men, who lay behind the armour awaiting his lover, yet now felt strangely naked and afraid, afraid of the most terrible thing of all, that he might lose his lover through love’s own act. “But, but... what if...” he stuttered his trembling heart caught in his mouth and trapping his words. And yet he got no further, for a chill finger was placed over his lip and once again he found himself looking into eyes of cerulean blue, but this time he did not break the gaze, for in it he saw a mirror of himself at once alike but different, and he saw his own love and desires returned in them. And then once again he felt the warmth grow in the sweet and tender heart of his being, he heard the blood pump faster in his veins, he saw the world around him grow sharper yet everything moved far away. But this time he did not fight it, for he knew that this day was perfect, just as the one thing, the one person that remained in his world was perfect. This was a perfect day and the first of many more of them.