Caffeine and Saccharine
A/N: This is the fic Questions ought to have been. The tone is going to be much more even (walking that wobbly line between angst and fluff) and I know where it's going and what's going to happen when, which is incredibly important. I don't know how long it's going to be, but the boys are going to take things slow.
Warnings: slash, fluff, angst, language
Disclaimers: The X-men belong to marvel, not me, and I am making no money from this (though if people would like to just randomly send me money, unrelated to this or any other piece of fanfiction, feel free!)
The day had started out better. When Jean Paul had brought up the idea of going for dinner, reminding him that he'd agreed before and ditched him for the empath, Bobby had agreed again. Jean Paul wasn't too bad, and it was just something to eat. Plus, he was rich, always something to look for in people suggesting dinner.
But Alex had overheard. Made some comment about Bobby's taste in women. So Bobby had made some comment about Alex copying him. And they'd descended into sniping for at least half an hour, back and forth, sometimes sarcastic and sometimes simply snarky, on and on until now, hours later, Bobby was still fuming. He didn't want to duck out on Jean Paul twice - the guy could be irritating and arrogant but Bobby didn't want him to think he was actively disliked – but in this mood he'd probably say something he'd regret.
And then the nerves hit. Jean Paul was rich. Jean Paul was used to the best. Jean Paul was going to take them somewhere with thirteen forks and a French menu. Bobby was going to have more in common with the Champagne bucket than with Jean Paul to start with.
"Bobby Drake?" the knock on his door was calm and measured.
"Hey, Jean Paul." Bobby forced himself to sit upright on the bed. "Come in?"
Jean Paul stepped around the door and smiled. To Bobby's infinite relief he wasn't wearing a tux or a top hat and tails. Bobby offered a weak smile in return.
"I don't want to bail on you again, but I'm not feeling up to going out tonight," Bobby told him immediately. "I'm sorry."
"Is this because of Alex?" Jean Paul guessed, leaning on the door frame and folding his arms.
"Yeah, partly," Bobby shrugged. "Look, I'm really sorry, but-"
Jean Paul cut him off with the wave of his hand. "I understand entirely," he said softly. Bobby winced at the barely disguised disappointment on his face. "We can do this some other time, perhaps?"
"Definitely," Bobby nodded firmly. "I don't want you to think I don't want to, Jean Paul. I mean, it would be a great chance to get to know each other. I feel like I don't know anyone around here any more, you know? Bunch of kids and strangers."
"Oui," Jean Paul smiled, but it was still slightly wobbly. Bobby looked away. If this kept up he was going to do a one-eighty and agree out of guilt. The guy didn't have many friends here, Bobby knew, and he'd been pretty put out and being pushed off the active roster in favour of more established X-men. Really, all he had was Annie, and she was taken up with Alex Summers most of the time.
"Look," Bobby said awkwardly, "how about not dinner? I'm not particularly hungry."
Jean Paul turned back to him, having been beginning to make his exit. "Coffee?" he raised an eyebrow.
Bobby had been thinking about going for a beer, but hey, caffeine and saccharine would do just as well. "Sure," he grinned. "I'm just in the mood for an iced something." Jean Paul laughed slightly, obviously unsure if the joke was intended. Bobby forced a grin.
"Jean Paul," he began as he scrambled off the bed and retrieved a coat from over a chair, "I really can't promise to be the best of company. I'm in a really shitty mood."
"You can vent," Jean Paul offered as they made their way down the corridor. "I'm happy to listen."
"I'll bring you down," Bobby warned.
"I am not brought down easily," Jean Paul told him. "I have a somewhat unique sense of perspective to stand on."
Bobby snorted. "True, but don't we all 'round here?"
Jean Paul didn't reply, but the silence wasn't awkward.
Jean Paul drove and Bobby didn't object. The man had a nice car. Bobby ran his fingers down the sides of the leather seats appreciatively. At times like this he was surprised Jean Paul was single. Attractive, rich, heroic and currently driving at 120 mph with no apparent concern. If Bobby had swung that way he'd have been all over the guy. Hell, if it meant more trips in this thing he'd happily sacrifice his heterosexuality.
"Where are we headed?" Bobby asked as they passed another coffee shop.
"Place I know," Jean Paul said straight faced, then he smirked.
"Duh," Bobby rolled his eyes. "Do I know it?"
"It's a book store," Jean Paul said. "I get free coffee in return for book signings."
"You rich guys are all such misers," Bobby grinned. He frowned. "Why do they want you to sign books?"
"I sign copies of my book," Jean Paul said, sounding slightly bemused. "They can sell them for more."
"You wrote a book?" Bobby blinked. "What's it about?"
"It's an autobiography." Jean Paul shot him a look. "You did not know?"
"No." Bobby shook his head and ran a hand through his tousled hair. "Oh god, what an idiot," he laughed at himself. "This would be why everyone knows you're gay, isn't it? Because you published a damn book about it."
"You didn't know?" The Canadian had gone from bemused to simply confused.
"Not until Annie told me, night before Alex and Lorna's non-wedding." Bobby laughed and sat back in his seat. "I guess this is a hint I should read more, huh?"
"You didn't realise anyway?" Jean Paul shot him another glance.
"It's not as though we've exactly hung out, is it?" Bobby shrugged, a little defensively. "How was I meant to know? You don't exactly have it painted on your forehead. I was under the impression that there was something going on between you and Annie for a while there."
Jean Paul laughed. Internally he was bubbling with questions, all too forward to ask out loud. He'd have to quiz Annie later on how Bobby had reacted. It couldn't have been too bad, if Bobby was willing to get in a car and go out with him. Not a date, he reminded himself sternly. It felt like it, slightly. He was certainly working as hard to impress Bobby as he would have an actual date.
He suddenly realised that he was about to shoot past the turning. Bobby jerked forwards in his seat and Jean Paul slammed the breaks on and skidding into the correct lane. There was an angry beep from somewhere behind them, but Jean Paul ignored it. He could see Bobby out of the corner of his eye, and he was grinning manically.
There was parking on the street near the store. As Jean Paul pulled up he asked casually, "You like the car?"
"I love it," Bobby enthused. "I think I'm sexually attracted to it. Is there a word for that?"
"Male, I think," Jean Paul chuckled.
"How much she cost you?" Bobby ran a finger along the dark wood dashboard.
"Too much," Jean Paul told him, "and worth every penny."
"I'll say," Bobby whistled softly. "How fast can she go?"
They climbed out slowly, allowing Bobby to continue in his adoration of the car. Jean Paul was amused to see that he was physically petting it.
"I've got her up to one fifty," Jean Paul smiled. "Crossing Canada."
"Can we forget the coffee and stay with the car?" Bobby asked, eyebrows raised in innocent pleading.
"Come on," Jean Paul pressed the button on the key and Bobby jumped as the locks clicked down. With a final sigh and a small wave, Bobby followed Jean Paul along the sidewalk.
"What kind of bookshop is open at this time?" he asked, trotting slightly to keep up with the speedster, who was entirely unaware that he was walking at what most people would deem a swift jog. Nerves did that to him.
"Oh, it is more than half coffee shop these days," Jean Paul smiled. "They quite often have live music, or readings. Very... bohemian."
"Do you have to do that finger clicking thing instead of clapping?" Bobby asked. "I've always had trouble snapping my fingers."
"It is not quite that bohemian," Jean Paul reassured him.
"Pity," Bobby grinned. "Always wanted to try that thing."
Jean Paul pushed open an unassuming door and led the way up an airy fight of stairs. The walls were covered with posters advertising literary events, and Bobby could see rows of books behind smoked glass. Apparently they closed the bookshop entirely in the evenings. It was a shame; he'd been hoping to pick up a copy of Jean Paul's book while he was here.
The coffee shop covered half of the upper storey, a thin glass barrier between the shop and the space over the book shop. The walls and ceiling, even the carpet, had quotes in elegant scripts scrawling across them, while the tables and chairs where covered with lacquered newspapers. Bobby let out a delighted squeak when he spotted a paper from the day he was born, and blushed when Jean Paul shot him an odd look.
So maybe now he was glad he'd come. Already his mood had improved. There was that beautiful car, and then there was this place. Sophisticated, but not intimidating. It reminded him of his time as a student. In one corner a girl with a guitar was singing classic ballads in an amazingly husky voice. She caught his eye as he followed Jean Paul towards the counter, and winked.
Yes, this had definitely been a good idea.
Jean Paul was already chatting to the girl behind the counter when Bobby caught up. He ordered a frappacino and looked about for a table. Then the other counter caught his eye.
"You know how I said I wasn't hungry," Bobby sighed.
"Yes," Jean Paul smirked.
"Well, do you get the cream buns free too?"
"Help yourself," Jean Paul laughed.
Bobby grabbed a light pastry bun, sliced neatly in half and filled with cream. "You're mine now," he told it.
"Talking to your food?" Jean Paul raised an amused eyebrow.
"It talks back!" Bobby objected, holding up the bun in one hand, thumb underneath and fingers on top. With a bit of careful manipulation he had it opening and closing like the mouth of a puppet in time with his words: "Help meeeee!"
Jean Paul laughed hard enough to make him lean on the counter, wondering inside when this kind of childish play-with-food behaviour had become remotely amusing to him. As Bobby wandered off to find a table he wiped his eyes and turned back to the girl behind the counter.
"You've struck gold with that one," she commented.
"Oh, we're not together," Jean Paul said hastily.
She looked up at him coyly through her fringe. "Then boy but you got it bad."
Jean Paul sighed. "When did I start wearing my heart on my sleeve?" He took the coffee she handed him. "Put this on my tab, oui?"
"Only you could get a tab at a coffee shop," she grinned.
"Only I would want one," he smiled back.
He found Bobby at a table next to the barrier, with a good view of the singer. He wasn't, surprisingly enough, looking at her though. He grinned as Jean Paul sat down.
"See, this is why I never spotted you were gay. You were completely flirting with that girl," he teased.
"I was not," Jean Paul told him. "I was upholding your sexuality." Bobby looked blank. "She thought we were a couple."
"I should be so lucky," Bobby snorted. It was Jean Paul's turn to look blank. "I haven't had a date in god knows how long," Bobby explained, "and I'm giving up on ever having another one. Who wants a man made of ice?" His bitterness shocked Jean Paul, and it seemed to shock himself as well, as he frowned and shook his head. "Never mind, eh? What about you, got anyone special?"
"Me? No," Jean Paul laughed, used to the bitterness in his own voice. "I have probably a worse track record than you when it concerns my love life."
"Ever date someone who changed sex unexpectedly?" Bobby asked, confident he had the trump card.
"Yes, actually. Sasquatch died a man, returned as a woman." Jean Paul paused. "Though we never actually dated. I seem to have a knack for falling for straight men."
"Ouch," Bobby offered. He seemed to think for a moment. "The Xavier Institute's full of straight men," he said slowly.
Jean Paul held up a hand. "Do not go there, mon ami."
"So you do have your eye on someone!" Bobby laughed. "Oh, please let it be Warren."
"Warren? Pull the other one!" Jean Paul scoffed. "My taste may be unfortunate, but it's not bad."
"Hey!" Bobby sat up. "He is one of my best friends."
"Sorry, desolee," Jean Paul waved a hand. "But I was so ready to believe the stories in the papers were untrue, and he proved every tabloid right."
"He does worry about his business," Bobby said awkwardly. "It's just huge. He would have to quit the X-men entirely just to make some sort of dent on the surface."
"I know more about his business than he does, and I have a very busy life," Jean Paul said dismissively. "Though now I have to sell my stocks – I can't keep them in Worthington Industries now I know where my money is going. They were doing well too."
Bobby shook his head. "It's too stable. You won't make much with Worthington Industries. It's reliable, but..." he shrugged. "Maybe you're right, maybe Warren ought to spend more time running the whole thing. There are some areas where the profit margins could be increased exponentially."
"How do you know this?" Jean Paul cocked an eyebrow.
"I'm an accountant. Over the years I've ended up doing almost everyone's accounts at some point or another. There's some money in Warren's business that's just disappearing."
"Yes, on anti-mutant organisations," Jean Paul snorted. In an attempt to change the subject, he went on, "so, does Xavier have you doing the X-corporations accounts?"
"When it was smaller, sometimes," Bobby scowled at his iced coffee. "He always had another two or three accountants doing it as well, at ten times what he'd pay me. Never hid it – it was right there in the accounts. Doesn't trust me with it any more, and when I suggested Scott let me take over the school's accounts he actually laughed in my face. I did a degree in this. I spent time and money learning and training to be an accountant. I wanted to, which none of them ever get. Why don't they take me seriously?"
And in half a cup of coffee, they'd found the root of nearly all Bobby's frustrations.