Title: The Strangest Things

Author: SmuttyKitty

Rating: M- adult themes, non-explicit casual sex, swearing

Disclaimer: Marvel owns all the character herein except for the random, clearly made up for this story ones.

Author's Notes: Okay, this is a pretty wacked out story and I am fully expecting to get panned for it. It isn't one of my linear A to B exercises, and it is truthfully only tangentially about Northstar. I just wrote it and now it is here. Since someone is going to say it, I know it, so I am going to point out the obvious which is that isn't a story about death/suicide. It's a story about getting over shit and moving on. And it isn't cannon in my universe or anything. Mostly it's here because its finished and I figure it should be seen at least once. Everything deserves its minute in the sun. Heh. So anyway, on with the show. You don't like it, go home. Oh yeah, and I really believe the twins smoke alot, and are promiscuous. Though that is my opinion. The fucking shitty formatting is the site's fault. It doesn't let me put in any bigger spaces so it is one massive block of fucking text. Piece of shit. I realize it is quite jarring but I don't know how to fix it.

1.

Kurt still couldn't get the image out of his mind. The red, everywhere. Even with the color thinned by the water it had still been vibrant. Red on pristine white tile. Shock. Coupled with shiny doll blue eyes staring at him from above the water line in the tub. The picture just was sticking with him, a bone caught in his proverbial maw.

He knew he wasn't the only one feeling this way. Bad things happened all the time around Xavier's but this one was different. Weren't the X-Men supposed to be watching out for each other? Clearly they weren't if this was what was going on behind closed doors. All of the faculty and the handful of students who had found out were a bit shell shocked, unable to put all the pieces together. All wondering what the unspoken narrative was.

Everyone had noticed Jean-Paul just wasn't quite the same since he had be de-programmed by S.H.I.E.L.D. He was... sharper, edgier. He had never been cuddly but now he was like a knife half drawn all the time. Waiting for a reason to react. But this violence turned inward seemed incongruous with his personality.

"It just goes to show," Kurt thought.

2.

Both teams were eating supper together in the big formal dining room on the ground level when the door bell rang. It was something they had taken to since then, as if grouping together could ward off any danger. Because maybe insanity was catching.

Logan stood up, taking the door duty. When he caught a whiff of who it was he picked up his pace. Even though it was seven pm, she was wearing sun glasses. Looking too cool in some demented designer denim coat with rabbit fur stitched in it, and her black hair spilling in gorgeous layers half way down her waist.

"Aurora, baby doll" Logan smirked and leaned in to kiss her cheek. She gave him a stony look that stopped him half way.

"Hello, dog man. Can I come in?" She purred from behind the lengthy cigarette propped in between her lips.

"Anytime, anytime." It had been years, but she always had a curious effect on him. A cross between fatherly concern, and a desire to have her sit and ride him like a pony. It tended to leave him a bit confused. "Do you want something to eat?"

"Yeah, I do. And something to drink. Think you can swing it, mon cher?" She said with not a little insouciance.

She was like a French Barbie come to life, when she sauntered in. Somehow looking dignified in stiletto heels. All conversation ground to a halt. In spite of her long hair and makeup, the similarity was unnerving. The same dark curls, sharp ski slope nose and high cheekbones. Her English lacked the more controlled lilt of her brother, but the intonation and cadence were familiar.

They finished their dinners after the preliminary small talk. When they hit the aperitif she got down to business.

"What exactly is going on around here? And where is my brother?"

3.

"Now, please try and stay calm, Jeanne-Marie." Alex said in his best leader tones.

"Shut the fuck up, blondie. Where'd you find this dipshit, Logan?" Aurora hissed dangerously. Perversely Logan was glad she picked his side over Summers' though.

She hadn't stopped smoking since she had come in, and was putting a healthy dent in bottle of Chivas Regal that had appeared.

"First things first, where is he?" She looked expectantly around at the handful of X-Men attempting to diffuse her. Hank, Bobby, Kurt, and Alex had all joined Logan. As if they were going to stop her if she got wound up.

Hank answered her quickly, " An excellent facility in New York, it isn't for meta-humans. It's private."

"You've gotten in touch with his lawyers?"

"Yes, immediately. They are keeping it out of the news. I have all of the pertinent papers." Hank explained.

"Good. Now, what happened?" She looked a little relieved somehow.

"What do you mean, what happened? You must know if you are here." Bobby exploded irritably. This sort of thing was not his strong suit.

"I know my brother is unwell from" she waved her hands vaguely in the air, " with his mind. However, since he is clearly... ill, I would like to know from someone else what happened." She said in clipped tones. The unspoken imperative to get on with it was pointed.

"He hurt himself, badly." Hank said, face down.

"I know that." She collected some thoughts, "I know this is hard for you, but I'm the fucking crazy one. I am not going to break from this discussion, so the sooner we get on with it, the better. D'accord?" A plume of smoke chased the words.

"I found him in his bathtub." Kurt stated.

4.

He had found him in the bathtub after some kids had complained that he had missed a tutoring appointment. In the time since he had come to the school, Jean-Paul had been unfailingly punctual.

As he approached the door he could hear music, not quite muffled by the solid oak door. He knocked.

"Jean-Paul. You missed an appointment."

No answer.

He knocked harder, then decided to crack the door to yell in.

"Hello?"

He stepped inside, cautiously sniffing at the cloud of cigarette smoke, and something else. A touch of moisture from the bathroom. He might have turned and walked away if he hadn't caught a glimpse of something in the full length mirror on the bathroom door. The door swung into the the bathroom, parallel to the old claw foot tub, a remainder from when the Xavier mansion was built.

The metal smell of blood carried on the steam. The water must have been so hot when Jean-Paul had gotten in. It was still steaming as he looked at it. He couldn't move, he certainly couldn't look away.

It didn't look like the movies, one or two cuts. It looked like a butcher gone awry. No poetic cuts vertically up the arms, or across the wrists. Instead there were big, hacking gashes up and down the arms and legs. Dark venous blood pooling with bright arterial blood next to the tub where one arm had fallen.

Oh.

They took him to infirmary. Incredibly he was alive, even though he had lost copious amounts of blood. Perhaps this wasn't unexpected to Jean-Paul. Toxicology showed that he had ingested approximately 500 pills of various kinds (Xanax, Percocet, Valium, Librium, Codeine, and more), followed by liberal amounts of alcohol.

5.

Aurora ran her hands over things, as if by touching them she could in some way close the mental space between her and her brother. She touched things and her lips would curl into a curious little smile.

Bobby was hypnotized by the swish in her hips. She undulated around the room in a way he had never seen a real live woman do before. It was like she was every teenage, erotic fantasy about foreign girls he had ever had rolled into one. He had taken her to Jean-Paul's room because she had asked. He wasn't sure if it was actually allowed.

He started to get nervous when she began digging in his drawers, his closet, his nightstand. He definitely wouldn't want his sister (if he had one) to do that.

"Hey, maybe you shouldn't do that." Bobby offered in half-hearted protest. He sorted of wondered what the mysterious Jean-Paul had in his room, but was half afraid too.

She looked at him over her shoulder, her arm disappearing up to her elbow in a nightstand drawer. It vaporized him.

It was sort of blur how he wound up between her thighs, licking her pussy as if it would save his life. She pushed against him, fingers digging into his scalp. They didn't even fuck, she just came in a gush on his lips and pathetically that made him come in his pants. She didn't seem to mind as she relaxed into the bed, and he scootched up next to her.

She made cute little satisfied breath noises, her neck arched up, exposed, as she tilted her head on the pillow. Then she turned and sniffed it.

"My brother is the best smelling man I've ever smelled." She pawed the tabletop for her cigarettes. " I've smelled a lot of guys." Aurora flashed him an earnest, if vulgar grin.

"Oh yeah?" What the fuck was he supposed to say? He had no idea what a sibling smelled like, and he was positive he didn't want to know. He couldn't imagine Alex and Scott smelling each other.

She rolled to look at him, the unlit cigarette held up like an afterthought.

"How old are you anyway?"

"Twenty-four." Was that all? He felt much older.

"No shit?" She lit up, then shimmied her panties back up and went back to creepily petting her brother's stuff.

6.

Aurora drove Jean-Paul's little Porsche coupe with questionable talent. And way too fast for Bobby's taste. They hadn't really spoke since he had gone down on her. She had set about reading legal papers, and pestering the shrink at the sanatorium, as she called it. He found it strangely endearing. Wasn't that a weird old lady word, or Japanese to English novel translation? Nobody said sanatorium.

Apparently Jean-Paul had to sign a release, and he wouldn't. He also wouldn't speak to her on the phone her which deeply upset her equilibrium. She stalked around the mansion, muttering furious sounding French to herself. Everywhere she went she left a waft of smoke and Chanel No. 5.

At last she must have gotten to speak with him, and the whole house was ricocheting with Joual as they came to some sort of agreement. Finally she eased down, and slinked off to bed at about 11. She was sleeping in Jean-Paul's room.

This morning she banged on his bedroom door and asked if he wanted to go with her.

"To where?" He'd asked stupidly.

"To see my brother."

He thought for a moment, cursed himself for being so weak when it came to girls, then agreed and now they were racing into the city.

Bobby had seen a lot of things with the X-Men but amazingly he had never seen a real, honest- to- God institution. He had seen special facilities, and Muir Island, but never screaming, shit- eating, straight jacket type places. It was hard to picture Jean-Paul in one. Even though he didn't know what the picture was.

The building was an unassuming brownstone, with a brick wall surrounding the property and a cute wrought iron gate at the front. Bobby caught green and flowers as they clipped up the path. Instead of a foyer, like in a normal house, there was a vestibule with a nurse-y looking creature behind glass. Bobby strained his ears, but didn't hear anything beyond gentle clock ticking.

Aurora and Nurse spoke in hushed hospital tones though, and that made his neck prickle. He didn't like hospitals, even visiting them. The whole dying thing unnerved him.

She grabbed his arm and started pulling him into a now opened door near the glass enclosure. Her grip was surprisingly tight, pinching the muscles in his bicep. Her breath tickled his ear when she began to talk.

"My brother knows you are here, but just don't say anything,okay? I need to have a meeting with one of the doctors too. So just relax." She cocked her head so she could look into his eyes. " Be cool." Then she let the death clamp go, and strode ahead of him.

The interior matched his expectations a bit more. Everything was white and yellow tiles that made him feel like he had been transported back in time to about 1950. There were doors off to each side every few feet, but he could see no indication of what was behind them. Finally they arrived at a nurse's station. A youngish looking woman, with a pleasingly wrinkly face and wild black hair came out.

"You must be Jeanne-Marie." She extended her hand. "I am Dr. Peregrin. Nice to meet you. Whose your friend?" She turned expectantly towards him, and he realized he needed to speak because that is what adults do.

"I'm Bobby. I used to work with Jean-Paul. Er, do, I guess. I work with him."

"Nice to meet you, too. I thought I would give you a brief tour of the facilities. I am sure you must be very curious." Dr. Peregrin made an inquiry with her eyes- are you curious? Because you should be.

"I've been here before, Doctor. I would prefer to just see my brother. Perhaps while I am speaking with him you could show Robert around." The way she said his name conjured up ghosts, and hammered home why they were there.

"Actually, I would like to see him, if I could." And he did. He really didn't understand. Not at all. How someone who seemed to have such a perfect life could do that. Bobby honestly thought Jean-Paul had a perfect life. Maybe he didn't want the gay part, but he wanted to be rich, competent, handsome. Even though Jean-Paul didn't flaunt it, Bobby had seen the ads he was in. A sportswear ad, another for a very expensive cologne. All of them showing off how beautiful and put together he was. That was why they picked him. And there were enough celebrity rags floating around the house that Bobby had idly flicked through to realize that Jean-Paul got more face time that Warren ever had. Usually they commented on his clothes, Jean-Paul attired in one of those uniquely French looking outfits- cashmere turtlenecks, those weird pencil slim pants no American would wear, Dior this, Lagerfeld that. Or Jean-Paul at some after party with other ridiculously coiffured people .

All of this conspiring to make him wonder even more, why?

Dr. Peregrin looked at both of them, and gave a twist of a smile. "If he will see you, then you are more than welcome. Right this way."

They walked down a long hallway, took a few turns, and went through some locked doorways. As they approached another doorway the doctor stopped.

"This is the level 2 facility. Currently, Jean-Paul is on 15 minute checks. Please don't give him any objects, as they will be confiscated. If you want to give him something you are welcome to give it to me, or one of the staff. Frankly, he hasn't been particularly talkative, and I am not under the impression he wants visitors, so please try not to get too upset if he doesn't respond how you hope he does." She gave them one of those patented doctor smiles. Bobby wondered if they taught you that in medical school.

She opened the door and pointed to yet another nurse's station.

"Please check in, and Jeanne-Marie, just let them know when you are ready to meet with me. I will be in my office." She gave a small wave and walked back the way they came.

The nurse inside made a freakishly cheerful face. "Hello, let me take you to the rec room." Her scrubs had happy little cartoon characters dancing on them, forever locked into an infinitely repeating pattern.

Happy nurse knocked on the door frame and announced, "Jean-Paul, your guests are here." She gestured and Bobby was certain she was walking away as quickly as she could.

"Jean-Paul. I'm glad to see you." Aurora walked further into the room, aiming for the person on the couch. Bobby would have been hard pressed to say it was his former teammate. This person seemed stripped of all their fight, and Bobby always thought of Jean-Paul as practically characterized by fight, ready to take on the world most days.

His dark shag had been cropped close to his head, with just a little more length in the front, so that a barely passable fringe curtained his eyes. It looked like someone had just grabbed some clippers and cut in a semblance of a real haircut. The sharp face looked even sharper, the planes accentuated by the evident weight loss. With his bandaged arms looped around his knees, feet on the couch, he looked like a collection of angles.

"Jean-Paul." Aurora reiterated. Jean-Paul seemed to be trying to make himself invisible, sitting statue still on the sofa, unlit cigarette clenched between pale lips.

"I brought Robert with me. He wanted to visit you, wasn't that nice of him? Everyone is wondering how you are? They have all been so nice." She seemed determined to talk to him. Bobby hung back towards the door, slightly wary of being trapped in a closed space with that creature.

The rest of the visit was pretty much the same, but eventually Aurora switched to French and someone came and lit that cigarette hanging out of Jean-Paul's mouth. Bobby thought it was weird that people could smoke in a hospital. Bobby thought he would ask Aurora when they left. She seemed pretty savvy about these kinds of places.

Other than smoking, ashing, and stubbing out said cigarette, Jean-Paul didn't move or say anything. When they left, Aurora wavered hesitantly near him, but in the end didn't embrace or kiss him.

Bobby was half expecting some kind of scene, but she just deposited him at the station while she met with Dr. Peregrin. He made labored small talk with a student nurse who seemed to be hitting on him. Aurora emerged looking a little wan, but gave him a genuine smile when she collected him.

As they walked back out through the myriad of halls, Bobby touched her arm and asked, "Are you alright?" He felt compelled.

Her pace relented a hair. "Yeah, thanks for asking."

"Do you want to talk about it?"

"I'm starving. How about you?" She said while studiously looking anywhere but him.

"No, actually I'm not." He felt unable to lie, though every bit of rational thought left in him said to.

"Well, how about you watch me eat then? Drink some coffee, tea, soda, beer." She lodged her fingers in her hair above her ear. The contrast of her pale ear against the dark of her hair was, as of that moment, the most fascinating thing he had ever seen.

"I suppose."

"Good. You can drive then. Some place with good food. Fuck if I know anything around here. I've never really been to New York. At least alone." She grabbed his hand and turned it palm up, then slapped the keys into it. It stung slightly.

She looked out the window while he drove, and fiddled with the stereo. There was an MP3 player hooked up to it, and she refused to leave it on one song for more than half way through. Normally it would have bothered him, but he was glad for the distraction. This way it seemed like she was doing something, and he didn't have to feel awkward.

They finally reached the city (the hospital was in the suburbs) when she spoke again.

"Do you like Roxy Music?"

"Huh?"

"The band, Roxy Music. Do you like them? You know, More Than This, Brian Ferry?"

"Uh, yeah. Why?" He knew them, he wasn't a huge fan or anything though.

"My brother and I wore a fucking groove in Avalon. It's completely their best album. When I first met him, he had a record player still. I don't know why. I guess maybe it was cool. But anyway we used to smoke a lot of pot or drink and listen to albums and just dance in his flat. Sometimes the neighbors complained and then we would use one of those, mmm... splitters? You know, so two people can listen out of one hole."

She made a V with her index and middle finger for emphasis. Bobby was starting to like the way she talked with her hands. He didn't ever remember seeing her brother do that, but he was beginning to think that perhaps he hadn't ever noticed much where he was concerned.

"Sounds pretty cool." Bobby said non-committally. He had never smoked much pot, and he really didn't like to dance so he wasn't sure how he felt about the idea.

"Yeah, it was. My brother was fun. But I think, maybe that was just how he acted, and that he wasn't fun or happy or anything. I don't know. I don't think I ever knew. I don't know if anyone else does either."

Bobby wished he could remember what she had been like the first time they had met. Had she spoken like this? For some reason he remembered always having a vague distrust of her, of everything about her. Of course that had been a long time ago. So long ago Bobby thought dust was coming off his brain just thinking about it. He seemed to remember her being pretty fucking out there, with the personality disorder and all that stuff.

She went back to the staring and the music switching until they got to a shitty all- you- can- eat Chinese restaurant that he and Hank used to go to. Back in the day.

They sat across from each other. Looking right in his eyes, she gave him one of those indescribable smiles. She packed and opened a new box of cigarettes, then lit up. He didn't remember the compulsive smoking either, but she looked indisputably attractive while she did it. Even though he had always hated smoking, and had only tried it once in the 8th grade. He got so dizzy he almost threw up.

"You are All-American. Has anyone ever told you that? They should put your face on brochures." Her head was cocked, and she seemed to be apprising him. Eyes narrowed, but good- naturedly.

"No."

"You aren't a big talker, eh?" Now a flash of teeth.

"I talk."

"So fucking talk then." Tap, tap, ash fell into the cheap metal container.

"About what?" He asked. He never had been the king of conversation, especially when he wasn't joking around. He didn't feel like making light at the moment.

"What are you thinking about?" She seemed serious.

"That hospital. You. If you were like this when I first met you? Or did I just never notice? Myself... How is that?" The best he could do, a disjointed list of barely coherent thought.

"Pretty deep for Chinese buffet."

"Are you a racist? A man can't think deeply over Chinese?" He grinned and sipped at his beer.

"Politically correct American."

"Yeah, Lord knows those Quebecois never think about that stuff."

This made made her laugh, a sharp little burst of a giggle, and something over the table lifted a little.

"So, thanks. For going with me. I am sure it wasn't how you had planned to spend your day." One long expensive, pink fingernail picked at an imaginary spot in the tabletop finish.

"I didn't have much else planned." He twitched his shoulders, something like a shrug.

"Mm."

"I didn't mean it like that."

"I am sure you didn't, but no one wants to visit a mental hospital, Bobby." Now, she was sucking on part of her bottom lip and twirling a piece of her hair.

"I did. Today, I mean. I wanted to see him. Because I don't get it. I don't understand. Do you?" It was the question he had been holding back. He wondered if there was an invisible line in the universe. People who had seriously contemplated or tried to die, and those who ran as fast as they could in the other direction. He was one of the later, he was sure. He briefly wondered why.

She inhaled sharply through her nose, the noise audible over the deranged Chinese style remix of "Oh, When the Saints."

"Yes and no. I am presuming that implicit in that question is "Have you tried to kill yourself?"

"Yeah, I guess it is."

"When I was very young I tried." She was looking somewhere past his shoulder, seeing into another time and place that he couldn't.

"What happened?" The idiocy escaped him. He couldn't watch it every second.

"I didn't die. Clearly."

"What changed, why didn't you try again?" He leaned forward over the table, closer to her, so he could hear her answer.

"I changed. The act of trying made me different. I wasn't the same person anymore. Maybe she died, and I lived."

"What did you do?"

"I tried to jump off a roof. A high one, in case you were curious. But it wasn't like I was fixed then. I just was better for awhile. Then things got bad and I did crazy shit, and then it would get better. This is a lie, what you're seeing." Aurora sighed and pushed back against her chair.

"Why is that part more truthful than this part, if it is equally unstable? Aren't they both the same?"

"Because underneath this I am fucked up, so I am always that part. But I am not always this part. Do you see?"

"No, I don't."

"You always so optimistic?"

He shrugged for an answer.

"I think this is why my brother is in love with you. Because you are such a fucking sweetie pie." A jet of smoke shot out her nose. "Ever see a French inhale?"

The double change of subject made him reel. He chose to respond to the easier of the two.

"Uh, no. I don't think I have."

Aurora blew a dense cloud of smoke out slowly, then sucked it in a stream up through her nostrils. Her hat trick was to blow a smoke ring.

He clapped a few times to show his approval. The propped his chin on his hand.

"You shouldn't have told me that about Jean-Paul. It wasn't right. I don't know him that well, but I sure don't think he would have wanted you to tell me that."

"I think I know him better." There was a little fire in her gaze now.

"I am not so sure. If you knew him so well why is he in the hospital? Why have you been, I don't know, hiding from him for so long?"

"That is our business. Shut up. New topic." She didn't say it as hard as she could have, but he could feel her trying to close it up.

"That doesn't explain why you think it is okay to tell me that. It's his private business, and now I know. And I am supposed to work with him, and see him and act like I never heard this. It's unfair to him."

"Why? Do you hate fags or something?" She said pointedly.

"No, but..." He faltered.

"You wouldn't have wanted to know," She finished for him. "So why are you here then? If you don't like him?"

"There is a big difference between caring about and dating. He is my teammate and I care that he did this. That it happened. And I don't want to pretend it didn't, and that is what everyone is doing."

"Of course it is. You never noticed the normal people are afraid of the crazy people before? Don't be so naïve." The look she gave him was reserved for stupid people, coupled with one of the bitterest chuckles he'd ever heard.

"We are all different. That is why we are X-Men."

"Oh, for fuck's sake. Chrisse, don't trot that bullshit out on me. Some people are more different than others. Period. My brother's crazy and gay. I am crazy and slutty. Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera."

"Jean-Paul isn't crazy." Bobby said, a little petulant.

"I know crazy, and he is fucking cuckoo. He just hides it better." Her disdain was making itself known.

"Don't say stuff like that. Okay?" He asked, with desperation. He didn't know why, it just felt important that she stop.

"Bobby, I don't think my brother's coming back this time." She stared at the table top so hard he thought it might break.

"What do you mean?"

"I just think this time is different."

He was going to open his mouth to say more, but she leaned in and kissed him instead.

"Let's get out of here."

All he could do was nod dumbly. The taste of her spit in his mouth blocking out the universe at large.

7.

This time they fucked. In the sleaziest motel Bobby had ever been in. Ever. Of course he had rarely been in hotels not on the X-Men's expense account. It might explain the lack of lousy hotels.

She left him there with the room paid, some money, and a note. The note said:

Sorry for fucking and running, but I just couldn't stay there any longer. Thanks again. It was nice. Try not to worry about the things I said. It isn't something you need to think about.

JMB

He took the money and got a cab. He was grateful, as he didn't carry nearly enough money to cover the cost of a taxi from the city to Greymalkin Lane, and he really didn't want to call and explain to anyone what happened. The cabbie let him out about a quarter mile from the mansion, so he could walk up. People would ask questions if he showed up in a cab. He put the note in his wallet.

Aurora came back to the mansion, but didn't act like they had spent anytime together. He thought it would drive him insane, but instead it felt like a secret. A good secret, one you wanted to keep. Even the part about Jean-Paul being in love with him. If he had let himself think about it, he might have been flattered. But he couldn't because that would turn his world inside out even more than his strange intermissions with Aurora. Right now his life was feeling like a pocket in the wash. It was more than a boy from Long Island could handle right now.

He went through his days with little noticeable difference. Everything the same, same, same. Except Aurora was at the mansion, living and breathing in the same space her brother used to occupy. It kind of hurt his head.

He wouldn't have thought it but there was a Jean-Paul shaped hole in the universe, that people were scrambling to fill. Bobby was shafted with 3 of his econ classes that were way out of his league. He was an accountant, not a macro prof. Staring at the indecipherable lesson plans just lead his mind back in to thinking about Jeanne-Marie and Jean-Paul.

About a week after their trip to the city, Bobby got tired of his mind living in solitary confinement. A jail created by the words Aurora had told him in that restaurant. A jail created by him having sex with her, no questions asked, in a slimy turn pike motel.

It was about midnight. He felt like he was creeping down the hall. Was everyone really asleep? Or maybe he was invisible? It seemed hard to distinguish anymore. Before he knocked he stared at the door of Jean-Paul's room. All of the same notices and things were tacked up, like he was on holiday. A little pie chart spinner that said in French and English a variety of places he could be (at the gym, in his office). A few political and world news stories, now a bit out of date. A few random other things that Bobby had never taken in before. A Roy Lichtenstein print. A MOMA postcard that said "you are trapped on the earth, so you will explode." An uber-Christian mini comic book extolling the evils of homosexuality and the dire results of failing to repent.

Really, the door showed more of the sly, acerbic humor Jean-Paul seemed to be known for but Bobby had rarely seen him display. It made Bobby wonder if he had just been utterly miserable living in microcosm of the X universe.

Hesitantly he recalled his function here, and rapped on the door.

Aurora opened the door a crack, her body half concealed by it. His eyes took in her semi-exposed body. She was wearing boy short panties, and a man's tank top. Jean-Paul's? There were a lot questions brewing in his head about the exact nature of their relationship. It seemed a lot more complicated than any he had ever been in before.

"Robert. What can I do for you?" She asked, but it didn't seem to be with any special attention.

"Can I come in?"

"I don't know, can you?" An amused light shown in her eyes.

"You know, one of is actually a native speaker of English here." He returned.

"I'll let the judges decided which." She stepped back and let the door swing open all the way.

"May I come in?" Bobby reiterated.

"You may." She sat on the bed cross legged. She grabbed the remote and muted the program on tv. Jean-Paul had one of those slim, plasma televisions mounted on the wall opposite the foot of the bed. It caught his attention for a moment before he sat on the bed too.

Absently she nibbled the end of one of her acrylics, and looked at him. Waiting for him to explain himself. The angle of her face made her eyes shadowed. The silence was stretching out.

"I can't stop thinking."

"Must be a new one." The mark hit the target. He clenched his jaw reactively.

She didn't say sorry, but he could feel the apology as she asked, "What can't you stop thinking about?"

"You. And him."

"Oh, Bobby. I shouldn't have brought you into this. You're a nice person, Bobby." It wasn't clear if she was talking to herself or to him.

He put his hand around her upper arm. It was so soft, didn't feel as strong as he knew it was. He let it slide just a little higher. "Talk to me. Tell me."

Suddenly, like a strong wind knocking dead leaves out of a tree, she started to tremble and sob. She threw her arms around his neck and pushed her face into his shoulder.

"You don't understand, it's all my fault. It's all my fault." Her tears felt unnaturally hot. It made him wonder if they could burn him, even through the shirt. Little dapples of boiling water landing on him.

"How can that be your fault?"

"Because..." He could feel some battle inside of her, speak or don't speak. It was making her shake even harder. She unwound from him and reclined on the bed.

"Do you really want to know?"

"Yes."

"But why?" Her gaze felt as hot as her tears. The importance of this question plainly on her face.

He moved his body over her, a foot gap between them, all his weight resting on his arms. He moved his mouth towards hers.

"No." She shoved him to the side, and propped herself on her elbows.

"Sorry." Bobby said sheepishly, though deeply confused.

"Don't be. I just want to know why, verbally. Are you in love with me?"

"I don't know. I can't stop thinking about you though." He smiled at her.

"Good. I don't want you to be in love with me." She returned the smile.

"Why's that?" He had never heard such a thing before. Not in this way. He had definitely been told the whole "can't ruin the friendship, let's just be friends" thing, but this didn't feel like that. More like we shouldn't let feelings get in the way of nice casual sex.

"I am bad news. That's why. Every question you have about me is answered in that one sentence." She pointed her index finger at him.

"Is your brother bad news too?" He grinned even wider. There was something humorous about the whole thing.

"Absolutely. He is worse news."

"Oh, really?" Bobby arched one of his brows.

"Really. Because he doesn't even try anymore." She rolled to one side, head in hand, most of the joke gone.

"Hmm?" He followed, sort of.

"He just thinks he's such damaged goods he doesn't try to be normal anymore. I try. I fall in love occasionally, try to do the right thing. He just lives like..." She twirled one hand upwards, "its all down hill from now on. His philosophy of life is, I don't know, we are all dying. But not in a good way, just in a shitty, fatalistic way. Or something."

Bobby didn't want to breath or speak, he wanted her to keep talking, unspool her interior for him.

"My brother and I are the same person, Bobby. That is what is so dangerous, and great. When we met, it was like falling in love, times a million. Every idea of finding that one special person came true. Without each other we are only half a person. He helps me, mentally. His mind is very strong, mine isn't. I am so weak sometimes. He holds me up. But now I am well, and he is so fucked up. I don't know how to do that. Do whatever he used to do for me, hold him together inside. I don't think I am strong enough."

Her eyes changed color while she talked. They looked like ocean waters, far from the shore.

"Aurora... I know everything feels bad, but what your saying isn't possible. There are so many telepaths here"

She held up her hand, and shook her head vigorously.

"You don't understand."

"I'm trying."

"Do you think people can always heal from things? That there is no such thing as a fatal wound?" So earnest, her English stilting up a little as she spoke in abstraction.

He shrugged.

She didn't answer and laid her head on the bed, and didn't say anymore. She looked away at some place until he got up and left.

8.

Kurt, Paige, and Kitty decided to visit Jean-Paul, and invited Bobby. He didn't bother to mention that he had already been there, or what it had been like. If they thought it was strange that he wanted to come, they didn't say anything. It had been about two weeks since he Jean-Paul had been admitted, and things had calmed considerably at the mansion. People forget, people move on.

The building looked the same, but Bobby wasn't as edgy this time. Paige and Kitty flanked Kurt, and Bobby trailed behind. He could see the tension, and again he thought of the invisible divide in the universe. But maybe it wasn't between those who want to die and those who don't, but between those who believed they were fundamentally flawed and those who didn't.

The whole check-in procedure seemed to go much quicker this time, but perhaps it was simply because he knew what to expect. Dr. Peregrin was no where to be seen, and this time Jean-Paul was in a different part of the building. Level 1, the most unrestricted. Bobby took it as a good sign.

A much less friendly looking nurse hollered for Jean-Paul.

He certainly seemed better than before. He moonwalked backwards down the hall and stopped in front of the nurses station. "Yes, Sharon? You called?"

"Your friends are here if you bothered to turn around." She answered with humor as she pointed behind him.

He pivoted on one heel to face his visitors.

"I think friends is a subjective term. Can I have my fag yet?" He dragged out the fag, clearly saying it just to rattle her.

"What does it say?" She pointed at a small, white kitchen timer.

He arched his eyebrow. The timer had 20 minutes left on it. "I take it that's a no."

"Correct! Rec 4 is open, just for you."

"Gee, thanks." He started walking backwards the way he had come. Then stopped short and came back up to the station.

"Did you bring money, Kurt?" The first time he spoke to his visitors, he still wasn't looking at them though.

"Yes." Kurt replied.

Jean-Paul nodded his satisfaction.

"Why don't you ask the Doc if we can go out for a bit. I will die if I don't some real fucking food soon."

Sharon looked exasperated, "Jean-Paul, first you need to give notice, and second I really doubt it will happen."

"Well, I am giving notice. By asking now, I am still requesting before said event happens, therefore it could be construed as notice. Secondly, ask her." He made a wide-eyed face at her. Then leaned with his back against the counter, his head against the glass part.

She sighed but got up and walked into one of the offices behind her. A moment later she reappeared with a some papers. "Okay, sign here, be back by 6. They got a cell phone number or something?"

Jean-Paul pushed the pen and form towards Kurt's direction expectantly. Bobby thought at least something was back to normal, Northstar acting like a dick. Kurt poorly tried to conceal his irritation, but filled in the parts of the form he needed to. After Jean-Paul put on some beat-up soccer style shoes and a Le Coq Sportif zip-up, they took off. When they hit the outdoors, he put on some very dark sunglasses even though the day was kind of overcast.

"Where do you want to eat?" Kitty asked, breaking the semi-awkward silence hanging around.

Jean-Paul cocked his head in deliberation, then announced "I really want a chocolate malt and fries with vinegar. I don't give a shit where."

Paige and Kitty had some ideas of where to go so they all piled into the car, the girls doing a lot of loud backseat driving. They wound up at a Denny's. Jean-Paul bummed 10 bucks off Kurt to buy some cigarettes at the truck stop next to it.

Everyone squished into the brown,vinyl booth, firmly ensconced in fake brown paneling. This Denny's had seen better days. Virtually the moment their asses hit the seats Jean-Paul whipped out his cigarettes.

"This must be the last smoking restaurant in New York." He said congenially.

Kitty helpfully offered, "It's because we aren't in the city."

"Springfield's answer to the question no one asked." He took a long drag, and appeared to be staring out the window, possibly at the variety of trucks. It wasn't even said spitefully really. Just said, like he felt obligated to do what he always did for their benefit.

Bobby felt a little pang for Kitty, and gave her a sympathetic look. She crimped her lips somewhere between anger and reticence.

"I didn't know you liked the Simpsons." Bobby threw out there.

"Yeah, well I got a lot of time on my hands these days." His English had lost some of its fracophone patina, it sounded rougher, more street than the last time they had spoken.

"What do you do there?" Paige asked the question on everyone's mind.

"Smoke, watch tv, talk to shrinks. Typical mental hospital shit." Bobby wondered if he would manage to stare out the window for the entire meal. It was on the verge of irritating him, but he decided to let it go. He doubted it would be useful to yell at him for being an asshole. Even when it took them the better part of 2 hours to get to the hospital.

The food arrived and they ate in reasonably companionable silence. Jean-Paul seemed to be really enjoying his fries and shake. Bobby thought the food was decent, though he wouldn't go out of his way to eat here. Kitty and Paige made inane small talk with Kurt, while Bobby sat quietly.

Bobby thought as they got back into the car it had actually gone quite well. Aside from the window watching, fidgeting, and refusal to initiate conversation, Jean-Paul seemed a different person from the person he saw a few weeks ago.

As they pulled out, Jean-Paul asked if he could get some newspapers to take back. Everyone agreed to the detour and they stopped at a mom and pop bookstore in the neighborhood.

Bobby stared dumbly at the magazine racks, not really interested in any of them. Jean-Paul rifled through the newspapers stacked on the floor, one or two tucked under his arm. Kitty and Paige burst into peals of laughter at something in a magazine. Both Bobby and Jean-Paul turned their head reactively, and then he noticed.

On the back cover of the magazine the girls were reading was a cologne ad starring one Jean-Paul Beaubier. It wasn't the sort of ad that wouldn't make one sorry to be in ads. It was a high fashion/art type ad. Jean-Paul looking utterly hedonistic reclined on a sofa, with his suit looking fashionably rumpled. Naturally it was black and white. Bobby was thinking it was pretty nice for that kind of thing. However that didn't seem to be what was going on in Jean-Paul's head. He looked like he had just dropped a penny down a well, and was following with his mind.

Slightly faster than appropriate he whipped the papers back on the floor and exited. Bobby followed him.

"Are you okay?"

Jean-Paul seemed unsettled, and was compulsively running his fingers over the square edges of the Camel Lights pack in his hand.

"Jean-Paul!" Bobby said sharper this time.

It caught his attention and he snapped back for a moment to the here and now.

"I think we should go." He climbed into the car. As Bobby turned to go back inside, he saw Jean-Paul press his face against the cool window glass, eyes closed.

The same awkwardness that characterized the outing came back with a vengeance. Bobby thought even the air felt strained. He sat in the back, between Jean-Paul and Paige. Everyone just listened to radio for the ride. When they pulled up Bobby dared to touch him. He put his hand on his shoulder and said softly, "We're here."

Jean-Paul's eyes looked cloudy and dull. He mechanically said thank you as he got out of the car, then walked away quickly, without looking back once.

9.

With her typically ghost like manner, Jeanne-Marie showed up in Bobby's room that night. She didn't ask if she could come in or anything. She just suddenly was there. Bobby had been laying in semi darkness on his bed, simply staring at the ceiling. Thinking. Thinking about why he was so fixated on those Beaubiers. He wasn't even sure he liked them, but they were taking over his brain.

She slithered up next to him, and propped her head in her hand, dark hair draping over her arm onto the bed. She didn't seem to have any makeup on, and was wearing only a camisole top and some workout pants.

"You went and saw my brother." It wasn't a question.

"Yeah."

"How was he?" She asked. Bobby was still looking at the ceiling. He didn't want to roll onto his side. It was too intimate for them to be face to face like that. He wasn't prepared to look in her eyes, and he definitely didn't want her looking in his.

"He was okay, and then he wasn't." He couldn't think of a better way to characterize it.

"Hmm."

She ran her middle finger over the nail on her forefinger. "I want to talk to him so badly. Maybe more than I have ever wanted anything in my life."

"So talk to him." Bobby wouldn't look.

"He won't talk to me. I can't feel his mind. Why do you think he would do that?"

"Why did he decide to jump in the bathtub and slice himself up, Jeanne-Marie? I think you are in a position to tell us a thing or two." Bobby pointed out, feeling a little cruel.

She shook her head vigorously in a no, hair swaying back and forth, a slight delay at the ends.

"I have to make him listen to me, I have to tell him...everything. He has to listen to me."

"Well, tough shit maybe."

She froze. He could feel the stillness in her body radiating through the space between them. "Why are you being so mean?"

"Why are you fucking up my life? Jumping in my bed, telling me that your fucking homo brother is in love with me, pouring your heart out. You tell me why? Miss Secrets. Both you and your goddamn brother both." He was sitting up now. He couldn't be vehement and lay down at the same time.

She sat there for a few minutes more then stormed out.

Bobby exhaled the breath he had been holding. He thought he should feel better, it was his right to ask. But instead he felt terrible, like he had trampled on something. He slumped back down and went back to staring at the ceiling for awhile.

10.

He woke up with a start at about 6:30 am. The time should have been hurting him, but instead he felt sharp. Still wearing yesterday's clothes he got up and half-heartedly looked for Jeanne-Marie. He didn't find her, and yet again found himself in front of Jean-Paul's door.

With hardly a thought he let himself in. Inexplicably he was beginning to feel he had a right to be in there too. Jeanne-Marie was opening doors in his brain that he couldn't shut again.

He looked over the bookshelf. Nothing too unusual. Some French language Econ and Business texts. Walt Whitman's "Leaves of Grass." A TOEIC study guide, and a few other ESL books. A few art books. The lower two shelves were DVD's and a few X-box games. He scanned the titles quicker than the books. A surprising amount of comedy, and some foreign films.

What was he looking for? Would he know it if he saw it?

Next he looked at photos. He was surprised by the number of photos Jean-Paul had placed around the room. He didn't strike Bobby as a photo kind of guy. One was an older picture of Alpha Flight, everyone looking relaxed wearing clothes half between their uniforms and civilian wear. Lots of smiles, even on the twins' faces. It clearly wasn't a publicity shot.

Stuck half behind that photo was another, of Jeanne-Marie, Walter Langkowski, and Jean-Paul. Walter in the middle, his big arms around Aurora's and Northstar's shoulders. Their dark heads leaned into the frame, maybe even against Walter. It was a strangely intimate photo, and had a strong air of spontaneity. The other few photos, some of an older guy with a beard who had a paternal air. His arm around a stickish looking boy in a tassled ski cap. His arm around the same twiggy Jean-Paul at some kind of holiday gathering. The last photo, this one turned picture side in, was in a frame next to the bed. It was a picture of Jean-Paul and Jeanne-Marie. It was old, their haircuts quite similar, short and face framing. Their arms were twined around each other, heads pressed together. Both were wearing black looking Halloween get-up, with eyeliner and red lips. But that wasn't what stood out. It was the look of happiness on their faces. Their smiles were sparkly and genuine.

Bobby blew his breath out. All this snooping made him tired. He knew it was presumptuous but he laid down on the big red duvet and fell asleep.

He awoke a few hours later. He looked at the big blue clock numbers on the nightstand. 11:30 a.m. It felt like he had just woken up from a 100 years sleep. All sticky and delicious. Well rested.

Bobby sat up. He was still on top of the duvet. He didn't feel the least surprised to see Aurora perched in the old-fashioned wooden desk chair across the room.

"I've been thinking. About what you said to me." She stated it factually. "I've spoken with Jean-Paul. I think he understands now. I did what you said. I just went and talked to him."

"What?" Bobby asked. Kinder than before. He didn't want a fight.

"I told him he needs to choose. Live or die. But pick one. Truly pick one. That was my secret. I picked. I picked life. I picked to live as flawed, imperfect, fucked-up me. I picked to live as best I can. We talked about some other stuff though, too." She laughed a little bit. Amused at herself for conveying the idea that a lifetime of personal issues could be fixed by one sentence.

"He also told me to tell you everything, as much as I can, because you are nice and you don't deserve to be fucked over. In case you were wondering, we are very good at fucking people over."

"Did you go to the hospital or what? I haven't been asleep that long." He raked a hand across his head, trying to dislodge the sleep in his brain.

"No. So I told you that Jean-Paul and I are the same person. But that doesn't mean we always think the same thing or know each others mind. So we meet. We meet in a place inside us. Where we can be our true selves, if there is such a thing. Or, correction, our truest self. Our intentions are the most honest. But its very hard. Because we lie, constantly. Do you follow?"

"Uh, mental meeting, you lie." Bobby found this difficult to summarize, and he was sincerely beginning to believe she was fucking crazy.

"Everybody lies, Bobby. You're lying right now. It's human nature. But when we are in this place we cannot lie. So it's very scary. I know Jean-Paul, and he knows me. He knows that you know about him, and to some extent us."

Ah, Bobby thought. This makes sense. Now, JP knows that his wacko sister spilled his secret.

"I'm telling you this because, now you are in it. I dragged you in. On accident. So I want you to understand."

"I think at this junction that may be impossible." Bobby said, trying to be gentle about it.

"Well, I am trying at least. Anyway, sometimes I feel things that aren't really my feelings. They're Jean-Paul's. And sometimes he feels things that aren't his feelings. See?"

"Are you trying to tell me you fucked me because your brother is in love with me?" Bobby blinked rapidly.

"Possibly."

"And so you waited until after you had sex with me because?" Bobby prompted.

"I told you before, at the restaurant."

"Hah. Yeah." Bobby gave one of those unique little laughs, borne of being constantly fucked over by women and being the "nice guy."

"Has this happened before?" Bobby just wanted to be as clear as possible. She nodded her head.

"Walter Langkowski."

He gestured for her to continue.

Jeanne-Marie pressed her fingers to her forehead, and closed her eyes.

"It's a long story but let's just say by the end of the relationship, no one knew who loved who, not even Walter I think. It became all fractured. I loved Walter, Jean-Paul loved Walter, Walter loved me, and in the end I think he loved Jean-Paul too. So you see, we felt full disclosure was required."

Now it was Bobby's turn to close his eyes. Forget about it. This was too complex. Suddenly, he had to get out of this.

"I think I am in love with Lorna. Still. I think she may love me back now that Alex is out of the way." He didn't even know if it was true, but he just wanted away from this insanity.

Jeanne-Marie smiled one of her beautiful, enigmatic smiles. Her eyes looked a little wet. "That's what I thought, Bobby."

She walked over and pressed her lips to his cheek. "Bonne chance, cher."

11.

Bobby didn't see Jeanne-Marie alone again. She wasn't avoiding him per se, but whatever she wanted to share with him she had. Or a small voice in him chided, she had seen right through him.

Jean-Paul came back. He was a different man. He seemed more tempered, some of the edge taken off. He didn't resume teaching his classes. Bobby saw the two of them once, head to head, watching some tv program late at night. Their faces looked carefree in the surreal blue light.

It was late at night when Bobby heard the knock. His heart jumped a little in memory of Aurora's midnight prowls. But then he remembered, she was never going to knock again. All the same he opened the door without hesitation. It surprised him to see Jean-Paul, an eerie echo of Jeanne-Marie's sharp smile on his face.

"Can I come in for a moment, Robert?"

"Uh, sure."

Jean-Paul just walked through the threshold and stopped.

"I just wanted to say good-bye." Blue eyes looked right into Bobby's. Were they the same shade as his sisters? He wanted to know.

"Where are you going?"

"On vacation, for awhile at least. Beyond that..." A little bouf. Jean-Paul hadn't gotten chattier while he was away.

"A couple of weeks in the bin wasn't enough vacation? I'm sick of teaching your fucking classes, man." Bobby tried for a light manner.

"Non, Robert. Being crazy is very taxing." There was a hint of humor in there, mixed with the serious.

"I suppose so. Where are you headed?"

"Somewhere with nice beaches, I want to surf. Jeanne-Marie wants to suntan."

"I didn't know you surfed." Bobby wondered why he was so perpetually stupid. There was something here, right in front of him and he didn't have any idea of how to even reach for it.

"Oui." Again there was a smile. And a sense of living Bobby never noticed before.

Jean-Paul stepped forward, right in front of Bobby. And before Bobby even knew what was happening he felt Jean-Paul's lips on his. Soft and open. It was electrifying. He couldn't even shut his eyes, only feel.

Then it was over, the other man was stepping back away, his gaze amazingly direct. "Good-bye, Bobby Drake." He was almost out the door before Bobby shook off his stupor.

"Why?" That same infernal question they had been asking for their whole lives.

Jean-Paul didn't bother to clarify which why he wanted to know. "Because I wanted to. For myself." For just a moment his face was open. Bobby knew that he was seeing something possibly few other ever had.

Then he was gone, and Bobby was left right where he started.