Diversions & Digressions | fanfiction by mara

Ami, Pas Amoureux (Friend, Not Lover)

Ami, Pas Amoureux (Friend, Not Lover)

by Mara

Summary: Northstar and Iceman chat post-Uncanny 415

NOTES: I don’t generally write “between the lines” fics, but this issue so
desperately called for it, I found myself sitting in bed fiercely scribbling
away while my husband waited impatiently to turn out the light. There isn’t any
sexual content here, but if you’re squicked by the idea that one man could be
attracted to another…you probably shouldn’t be reading anything with Northstar
in it. Thanks once again for the beta to Captain Average, in whose debt I will
be for the rest of my life for all his editing help 🙂 Oh, I borrowed one line
from issue #415.

* * * * *

Against nurse’s orders, Jean-Paul was wandering the grounds of the mansion when
he saw Bobby.

The dark blond hair caught his attention–a stray shaft of mid-morning light
making it gleam–before Jean-Paul saw the rest of the other man leaning against
a tree, not far from the wrought iron pagoda that had been the site of a battle
several days before. He paused, taking this quiet moment to watch him.

Annie was very perceptive to notice his attraction to Bobby, Jean-Paul thought,
it was not the kind of fact he was accustomed to revealing. It was also true,
the X-Man known as Iceman was hardly his usual type, but something about the
insouciant attitude in the face of danger struck a chord. And the package it
came with was most certainly worth looking at, he thought, eyeing the muscles
that shifted under the uniform of the X-Man.

Mon Dieu, he thought, crossing his arms, Robert Drake is a man, yet nearly
everyone treats him like a boy. He was a boy when he came here, but no longer.
Of course, Jean-Paul had to admit that Bobby helped the illusion by always
playing the joker, the fool.

But in this moment–believing himself unobserved–Robert Drake was a man, one
weighed down by cares Jean-Paul wished he could smooth away. Bobby sat on the
ground, his back against the tree, elbows propped on his knees, chin resting in
his palms. For a moment, he buried his face in his hands, shoulders shaking as
if he were laughing…or crying. Jean-Paul took a step forward, but stopped as
Bobby leaned back and pounded his fists once against the tree trunk, staring at
the pagoda in front of him.

His eyes were dry, but his face was resigned and drawn; Jean-Paul felt a pain in
his heart to match Bobby’s, and he found himself walking down the brick-lined
pathway toward the other man.

It didn’t take Bobby long to hear him, and Jean-Paul’s heart sank further as he
watched the mask slip down. The grin that met him was oh-so-adorable, but he
knew it was false.

“Hey, Northstar, I didn’t know Annie was letting you off the leash again.”

“I’m not certain she knows yet,” he admitted, hovering a few feet away in
unaccustomed reticence. Since the explosion and his severe injuries, he’d been
second-guessing himself unusually often.

“Way to go!” Bobby’s grin grew wider. “I didn’t know you had it in you.”

“There’s a great deal you don’t know about me,” Jean-Paul found himself saying.
He paused and frowned. “That sounded a great deal less cliched in my mind.”

“Hey, ‘sokay, what’s the good of being a superhero if you can’t use a cliché now
and then?” Bobby’s grin was getting strained now. “So, there something I can do
for you?”

Jean-Paul ignored the obvious attempt to get rid of him, looking down at Bobby.
“Are you well?”

“I’m fine. Hey, Annie let me out of her clutches without too much of a fight, so
I’ve gotta be okay, right?”

Jean-Paul arched an eyebrow at the circular logic and, uninvited, sat down next
to Bobby. “What were you thinking about with such concentration?” he asked.

“Huh?” Bobby looked surprised, as if he’d never been asked that before.

“When I approached, you seemed to be thinking thoughts most serious.”

Bobby twitched a little, then tried for his previous grin. “Me? Oh, nothing
much.”

“Of course.” Suddenly annoyed by the whole situation, Jean-Paul gave his most
arrogantly Gallic shrug. “Of course, you Americans always go to the place where
someone has just beaten you into unconsciousness in order to think thoughts of
no consequence.”

Bobby shifted from friendly to angry in an instant, practically spitting out his
words. “What do you care, Mr. French Canadian waltz in here and tell us we’re
losers?”

Well, angry was probably better than indifferent. “I didn’t intend–”

“Bullshit. You loved that Xavier had to beg for your help, that the mighty X-Men
were in such shitty shape that we called you.”

“Again.” Jean-Paul winced as soon as he said it, annoyed to find his usual bad
habits rising to the forefront.

“What?”

“You had to call *again*,” he said, almost apologetically. “I came before when
Jean asked for my help.”

Bobby sneered. “Well, lah-di-fucking-dah, isn’t that special? Do I bow down or
what?”

Jean-Paul looked down at his hands, unsure what to say. He supposed he deserved
this, since he *had* come in with more than his usual boundless arrogance,
pleased in a small way that the X-Men needed his help. And he *had* been

extraordinarily snide and annoying, even for him. But to explain it, the long
history of Alpha Flight and the X-Men, his own feelings on the matter, this was
not possible.

A squirrel ran across the ground nearby, chittering madly, and the two men sat
in silence for a long moment watching it.

“Why are you here?”

The sneer was gone from Bobby’s voice and Jean-Paul looked up. “I am here
because Professor Xavier asked me and the X-Men needed help. Whatever you think
of me, in the end I could not refuse.”

“No.” Bobby shook his head. “I mean, why are you out here right now?”

“I was in need of some time and space to think, so I decided to walk.”

“Out here, where someone had just beaten me into unconsciousness?” Bobby
mimicked his accent.

“Yes.”

The flat reply left Bobby momentarily speechless, and they sat there for a
little while looking at the pagoda, lost in thought. Jean-Paul remembered his
first sight of Bobby being slammed into the ground as he raced toward the
confrontation; his super-speed reduced by injury to what felt like a crawl,
shaking with the fear that he might not get there in time, that someone else
might die on his watch.

“Josette,” Bobby said suddenly, his hands clenched and resting on his knees,
“she…she was using her empathy to control me, you know.”

“I heard her say it.”

“I mean, I don’t normally…and in the hallway…”

“Yes.”

They were silent again for a while, and Jean-Paul fought the urge to put his arm
around Bobby, lean against him, hold him. The other man would certainly not
allow it, not from a gay man, and not from someone he didn’t even seem to like
very much.

Looking out of the corner of his eyes, he saw Bobby staring at the pagoda with a
kind of loathing. Jean-Paul suspected he’d found the root of the problem. “To be
controlled, it is most abhorrent,” he said. “It may be the worst thing that
happens to those of us who join the team, who become a public mutant figure.”

Bobby didn’t say anything, he just continued to stare ahead, one hand straying
to rub the center of his chest. Jean-Paul frowned slightly, wondering at that,
but decided not to push his luck by asking.

“I’m afraid I do not have such an excuse for my behavior,” Jean-Paul said. When
Bobby looked at him in obvious surprise, Jean-Paul found himself flushing a
little–apologies were not something in which he often engaged. “I should not
have been so rude to everyone, when we met at the house in Fort Albany.”

“Yeah, well…we all have bad days.”

“True, but–”

“Look, forget about it. There’s been a good bit of water under the bridge since
then. You were rude, I’ve yelled at you. I’m over it.”

“Yes, water under the bridge.”

A bird twittered on a nearby branch, the same squirrel ran halfway across the
grass, stopping to look at them curiously, and they sat.

“So,” Bobby said diffidently, “I was sorry to hear about the kid you were
carrying back here.”

It was like a punch to the stomach, and it took all Jean-Paul’s returning
strength to say, with equal diffidence, “Peter. His name was Peter.”

“Yeah, Peter. It’s rough when you lose someone you were trying to save.” Bobby
didn’t look at him, just twiddled with a piece of grass next to his boot.

I see his face when I close my eyes, Jean-Paul thought. “Yes, it is.”

“You did your best.”

Not enough, it will never be enough. “The Professor could not stop the
explosions.”

“He told me you stayed with Peter at the end, instead of flying away.”

“Yes.” Peter’s face, bleeding, scared, begging for reassurance he could not
give. ‘I’m going to die this time–aren’t I?’ Jean-Paul closed his eyes
momentarily, then caught onto a distraction. “You spoke of me with the
Professor?”

“He really wants you to stay, and I think he’s worried I’ll annoy you outta
town.”

“I do not think that is likely.”

They sat a little longer, the silence now more companionable than uncomfortable;
in the distance, the sounds of the school started to drift toward them, the
laughing and shouting of the teenage mating dance, a basketball thudding on
pavement, even the unmistakable *bamf* of Kurt in a hurry to get somewhere.

Bobby started to fidget a little, and Jean-Paul sighed to himself at the
approaching end of this interlude. He would likely never get another chance to
speak with Bobby in such a forthright manner, and he was certain Annie would
urge him to tell the other man how he felt, but he knew she was wrong.

It was easy for a woman with a romantic heart to urge him to say something, but
what did she expect him to do? In his considerable experience, men who were
straight–and controlled by Josette or not, Bobby *was* straight–did not take
kindly to declarations of undying affection.

Jean-Paul ached bone-deep–in a place that medicine couldn’t touch–as Bobby
jumped up from the ground and took a few steps away.

“Hey,” Bobby said, pausing and turning to look back at him, “we never did get
that meal I promised, and it’s about lunchtime. You hungry?” The engaging grin
was back, a bit more genuine this time, if Jean-Paul was any judge–and he’d
become a veritable connoisseur of Bobby’s smiles in recent days.

“I do believe I *am* hungry,” Jean-Paul said as he carefully stood, glad he’d
regained an echo of his usual grace.

“C’mon then, or the only thing left’ll be the meatloaf.”

Take what you can get, Jean-Paul told himself as they walked back toward the
mansion. Just take what you can get.

–end–

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