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One cannot speak of ice

by shrift

[Story Headers]

He rehearses the stories he plans to tell his parents every time he goes home for a visit. Lying by omission is just easier than figuring out how to tell them the truth about Xavier's school, and this way, Bobby never has to watch his parents' faces turn ugly and afraid, like the faces of strangers whenever the professors take the students on a field trip.

This time maybe he'll tell them the story about Peter tripping over the startled cat (Kitty, who fell through the basketball court and landed on the Blackbird, and Kitty yowled ouch, crap, ouch but she was okay), and flinging the basketball in his hands, the shot going wild (while metal climbed ka-chunk, ka-chunk up Peter's body starting at his toes), but somehow he made the basket anyway and won the game, much to the dismay of Professor Summers.

Or three weeks ago when the new girl had been busted for setting off homemade fireworks (the fireworks came from her hands and Jubilee didn't know how to make them stop, she screamed and screamed make it stop) in the student dorm, and how that's the most excitement they've had all year.

He practices his stories and he never brings his school friends home, even though his mom and dad encourage it. "We'd like to meet them," his mom keeps saying on the phone. He'd bring John (because he looks normal), except John has a big mouth and an even bigger attitude, and he sneers every time Bobby packs his duffel bag.

"She calling you to heel again? Here, boy! C'mere, puppy! That's a good boy," John says when his mom calls to tell him it's time for a visit, and Bobby rolls his eyes, because he remembers the look on John's face the first time Bobby gave him a birthday present, like he'd never seen one before. He never asks about it, because John doesn't want him to know, and maybe there are too many telepaths around to risk thinking about bad secrets. John hates pity (hates it like he hates everything but fire), and Bobby is very careful not to show him any. John only talks about his life before the school late at night when they're alone and raiding the school refrigerator, and even then, he doesn't say very much beyond, "My dad's a total asshole."

Sometimes Bobby wants to show him what a real family is supposed to be like, but he knows better than to bring a pyromaniac to suburbia. He grew up there, and it's so boring (he'd been so afraid) that even he couldn't resist pulling pranks with his powers when he was thirteen.

He's still pretty proud of the ice sculpture thing he'd pulled with Mr. McCormick's lawn sprinklers, though.

It's morning and the kitchen is empty except for the cat. Mom named her "Amelie" but he and Ronny have been calling it "Monkey butt" for years, and of course, she answers to exactly the wrong name. The cat purrs and bumps at his shins when Bobby opens the refrigerator and pours himself a glass of orange juice. The floor creaks and Bobby turns just as his father reaches out to bop him on the head with the newspaper.

"Morning, sport," his dad says, sitting down at the kitchen table. The paper crackles as he opens it up. "How's school going?"

"Fine," Bobby says. He leans his elbows on the counter. The cat sits on his bare feet and her fur tickles his toes. "I seem to be doing pretty good at math." Professor Munroe has him studying ice crystals to better understand his powers, and he's been picking up the math along the way (crystallographic axes and basal planes, who the hell needs to know this crap?) out of necessity.

The coffeemaker gurgles, and his father gets up to pour himself a cup, going heavy on the creamer because mom isn't watching. "Well, businesses always need accountants, Bobby."

"Dad," Bobby groans.

His father waves his hand. "Death and taxes, kiddo. I'm just saying."

Bobby opens a cupboard and rummages for his favorite cereal. It isn't there. "So, are you going to tell Ronny to become a doctor, or a mortician?"

"Funny," Ronny scoffs and shoulders him out of the way, reaching for the Cocoa Puffs.

Bobby looks to his dad, who simply shrugs elaborately and buries his head in the newspaper.

"The Drama King has left the building," Bobby remembers his dad sighing last summer after the third time Ronny had slammed out of the house (Bobby had been talking about how snow worked the last time and he has to wonder if Ronny is smarter than he looks). "Your brother's just jealous. He's at that difficult age."

"I think I should be the one throwing the hissy fits around here," Bobby had replied. "When did the little twerp get taller than me?"

"About three months ago," his mom had said, tucking in the tag that had been poking out of his collar, "when I had to buy him a whole new wardrobe so he wouldn't look like a scarecrow. What would the neighbors say?"

Bobby had grinned. "That young Ronald Drake has such nice ankles?"

He remembers that his mom hadn't laughed.

It's been a year, and it still shocks Bobby that he can't see over the top of his brother's head. Ronny slops milk into a bowl, spilling it onto the counter and not bothering to clean it up. When Ronny sits at the table and hunches over his cereal, his dad puts the paper down and smiles at him. It's the big, pleased grin Bobby remembers receiving when he told them about getting accepted to Xavier's school for the (mutant freaks) gifted and talented. He hasn't seen that smile in a long time.

"Going running today, champ?"

Ronny nods around the spoon in his mouth.

"Ronny's doing track and field this year," his dad says. "He's their star sprinter."

"Oh, hey, that's cool," Bobby says, fiddling with his cereal at the counter. "We, uh, we really don't have... sometimes we play basketball, and stuff."

"Your nerd school is lame," Ronny sneers, his mouth full of Cocoa Puffs.

"Maybe that's why they don't make us pay tuition," his dad (never you're not smart enough for that big a scholarship, Bobby) says.

"Yeah, I bet you really miss the tax break," Bobby says.

He drops his spoon in the bowl and it clinks loudly in the silence. His dad taps Ronny with his newspaper and asks, "So, when's the next meet, champ?"

Bobby dumps his cereal into the garbage disposal and wipes up the spilled milk with a sponge.

He rehearses the stories he plans to tell his parents, but Bobby hasn't needed to watch what he says for at least six months. Unnoticed, he wanders out of the kitchen.

(At home the next night, John will take one look and say like a dog, and Bobby will tell him to shut up, shut the hell up.)

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Fandom:  X-Men
Title:  One cannot speak of ice
Author:  shrift   [email]   [website]
Details:  Standalone  |  PG  |  gen  |  6k  |  02/21/05
Characters:  Bobby Drake
Summary:  Death and taxes meet ice sculpture in suburbia.
Disclaimer/Other:  Written for Apathy. Quick and dirty beta by Te, who has my gratitude.

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