A/N: Rated T for language and mentions of sexual encounters.
This story tells five times Bobby could have spoken to Jean-Paul and the one time he did, from Jean-Paul's perspective.
The sun was shining in the blue sky, unhindered by any clouds or the slight breeze, but Jean-Paul Beaubier remained melancholy as he slouched against the black leather interior of the silver Lexus. He wished that the day had been gray and inclement to match his dismal mood.
The majestic, towering trees that lined the serpentine driveway of the Xavier Institute for Higher Learning reflected on the the tinted windows of the luxury car, until they came to end. As a replacement, neatly trimmed hedges resting behind teams of meticulously arranged flower beds bordered the smooth driveway. The break in the trees provided Jean-Paul with a glimpse of the extensive grounds, but he was wasn't inspirited by the sight of the beautiful estate.
"This school doesn't look half-bad, Jean-Paul. There's a lot of grass out here, so there's plenty of room for you and your friends to play a game of soccer or football," Raymond Belmonde said, glancing at him for a moment, before going back to steering the car.
"Pourquoi êtes-vous parler anglais ici?" Jean-Paul asked sullenly, not even looking at him while spoke. "Il n'y a aucune raison pour cela." (Why are you speaking English here? There is no reason for it.)
"You would do well to adjust to speaking English from this point on," Raymond warned him. "That's the language everyone at your school is going to know."
Jean-Paul slouched against the black leather seat at the mention of his new school. "I don't see the point in bothering to attend," he muttered.
Raymond opened his mouth as if to respond but then apparently had seconds thoughts and clamped his jaw closed.
Finally, they reached the school building. It was an enormous mansion modeled in an older English style, brick, with ivy climbing up the sides.
"There." Raymond said, nodding. "Picture perfect, isn't it?"
It was beautiful, but Jean-Paul was accustomed to seeing objects that were superficially appealing. He refused to be impressed.
Raymond pulled the car to a stop at the side of the driveway a few yards from the steps, and cut the engine. He turned to look at Jean-Paul seriously. "I've known you for six years, Jean-Paul, and you've always been stubborn. But listen to me when I say this: you must adapt to this school. Your parents are furious that you were asked to leave St. Thomas Aquinas's Academy for Young Men. They feel as if you've disgraced the family."
At various times when he was inclined to feel generous, Jean-Paul was sympathetic to Raymond. When the man had been promoted in the company to assistant of the owner of the popular designer clothing line Argent, he probably expected to be working with the actual clothing line, managing, marketing, or manufacturing, not supervising the owner's children and their school situation. Young and handsome, only in his mid-twenties, when Raymond should've been out dining at upscale restaurants and spending time with friends, he spent his time convincing the headmaster not to expel Jean-Paul or discussing Jeanne-Marie's departure with a police branch.
"I know you don't enjoy talking with your parents," Raymond continued. "But they are entitled to feel angry about this. It's the third week of September, and the headmaster already requested that you leave his school at the beginning of the second. That's not exactly a sterling record. And his reasons for asking you to leave . . . well, I'm disappointed that you didn't learn from your mistakes last time."
"I wouldn't have to do that if my parents would let me stop that f***ing modeling arrangement," Jean-Paul snapped. "I don't know why the hell they make me do that crap in the first place. Pulling my weight for the family, my ass- "
"Dammit, Jean-Paul!" Raymond pounded the side of the steering wheel in anger. "You slept with a teacher for a grade once during you eighth year and you were found out, and then you got caught doing the same thing not even a month into your ninth! There is no excuse for your behavior, none! The only reason the headmaster at St. Tom's didn't expel you was because you were a minor and legally a victim in that kind of situation! And due to your decisions, those two young women are never going to be able to teach again!"
"Those teacher women were the ones who accepted my offer in the first place and then provided me with liquor. And I only did that because I was failing subjects due to my constant rushing back and forth to model for my parents' clothing line!" Jean-Paul retorted. "I don't care what they say about having to 'learn responsibility,' and 'do my part for the family,' they only do this because they like controlling me and f***ing with my mind. They could pay for another model, hire someone legally, but they put me front and center because I'm marketable and they don't have to pay me wages. This school isn't going to be any different. This will just be another school of going back and forth to one of the Argent studios to shoot ads."
Raymond sighed wearily, and Jean-Paul suddenly felt guilty about his angry tone. "I realize that the past few months have been very difficult for you, Jean-Paul. First your sister's disappearance, and then the discovery of your mutation, two events that must have been very stressful."
He had "discovered" his mutation about a month after Jeanne-Marie had left, following an overheard conversation between one of the private investigators his parents hired. His father had been told there was little chance Jeanne-Marie would be found alive. When Jean-Paul had downed a bottle of sleeping pills, gone joyriding in his father's Lamborghini until it crashed into a tree, and completely recovered hours later, his parents had paid off a geneticist to keep quiet and test him for the mutant gene. Neither he nor Raymond mentioned this part; hell, Jean-Paul had never discussed the incident with anyone, and he did his best not to think about it.
"This school may be for mutants, but it's not going to help. It can't remake me into a different person, which is what my parents seem to want." He may have been mistaken, but Jean-Paul thought that he felt the beginnings of a headache.
Raymond sighed. "Jean-Paul, there's a prospect that I've been discussing with your parents. I think that you should see a therapist to- "
"No," Jean-Paul said flatly.
"Jean-Paul, you are fifteen years old. It is completely understandable if you have difficulty coping with this- "
"If someone found out that I a mutant- "
"You wouldn't have to discuss that," Raymond told him soothingly. "But Jeanne-Marie was your twin sister. It's obvious how much her disappearance upset you- "
"Stop calling it that," Jean-Paul commanded. "She didn't just 'disappear' one day. She left. When the police checked her room, they found clothes and money missing. She ran away because of what my parents did to her."
"Don't blame your parents for what happened to her," Raymond replied sharply. "They couldn't have known that a childhood modeling career would have resulted in Dissociative Identity Disorder. No one could have predicted that would happen. And the police found unopened bottles of medication in her room. She hadn't been taking anything, and that was why she behaved in such a volatile manner, and- left."
Guilt and worry twisted in Jean-Paul's stomach. He had known that Jeanne-Marie hadn't been taking her medication, but when she had told him that the medicine made her worse, not better, he had naively believed her. Though at fourteen, almost fifteen years old, he probably should have been much more perceptive than to think it was a good idea that Jeanne-Marie was going to try to cope on her own, without using pills.
And look where that had gotten her. No one knew, of course.
Raymond exhaled with a touch of exasperation. "Jean-Paul, your parents love you very deeply, and they loved Jeanne-Marie- "
"Like hell," Jean-Paul cut in. "They raised to be a model because they want to show me that its only my looks that matter. Their goal was to teach me that I'm worthless beyond outward appearances, and they've achieved that."
Raymond stared at him for a moment. "Jean-Paul, that's psychotic."
Jean-Paul didn't bother to deny this statement.
Raymond inhaled and exhaled very slowly for several moments, as if drawing upon the last remaining dregs of his patience, then spoke. "Just give this school a chance, all right, Jean-Paul?" Raymond asked him sincerely.
"I'm not making any promises," Jean-Paul responded stiffly.
Raymond removed his sunglasses, folded them, and placed them in the breast pocket of his gray Hugo Boss suit jacket. "Good enough. Let's go and meet your new administration."
They stepped out of the Lexus into the warm late September air. The sun was bright, and Jean-Paul narrowed his eyes in a futile attempt to block out the worst of the sun's rays.
A woman waited to greet them on the front steps. "Welcome," she said with a friendly smile that could have been in a toothpaste commercial. She was beautiful, refined and elegant with dark skin, brilliant light blue eyes, and long, sleek snow white hair. The navy blue suit she wore had been immaculately fitted to her slim and statuesque body, her entire demeanor professional. "I am Ororo Munroe, Deputy Headmistress of the Xavier Institute for Higher Learning. I am delighted to have you." She spoke in a regal yet calm tone.
"Raymond Belmonde, proxy guardian of Jean-Paul Martin." The two shook hands.
"I'm afraid that the headmaster himself, Professor Xavier, is away on a sabbatical at the moment, so he is not able to be here himself," Ms. Munroe said. "However, that will not impede the registration process at all."
A sabbatical? Jean-Paul's eyebrows rose, and Raymond sent him a warning look to quell any sarcastic comments.
"I expect there will be extensive paperwork," Raymond replied good-naturedly. "Shall we get started?"
"I'll show to my office," Ms. Munroe said. "We can go over the paperwork and the finer details there." She looked at Jean-Paul. "Why don't you explore the grounds, get a sense of where you'll be staying?"
"You should do that, Jean-Paul," Raymond agreed. "Take a walk around, get to know the place."
"Sure," Jean-Paul said unenthusiastically, turning to walk down the steps. As typical adults, they had already decided his actions for him, but then disguised it as a suggestion, as if it was still his choice. They were pretending to give power to him that they had already taken away. These facades were typical for him to encounter with authority figures, and he found that the more it occurred, the greater amount of exasperation he experienced each time.
Ms. Munroe and Raymond walked into the school, opening one of the immense oak doors and letting it shut behind them, already discussing one matter or another.
That was his cue to start walking. Jean-Paul smiled ironically as he strode to a set-stone walkway in a space between the hedges. When he started along the path, he was amused to see that it was again lined with neat rows of flowers, as if actively trying to combat his dark mood. He walked for several yards, seeing no one else, and hearing nothing but birdsong.
The path wound around a few clumps of trees, eventually taking him to an elaborately arranged flower garden, with a trail of stepping stones leading to a large pond in the center. Someone obviously cared for this place; there were no weeds to be found, and none of the plants had dead flowers or stalks.
Out of boredom more than anything else, Jean-Paul followed the stepping stones to the pond, which had a thin circle of gravel looping around it, obviously painstakingly measured to be kept even throughout the pond's perimeter. Absently, he grabbed one of the larger stones off the ground, tossing it up and down in the palm of his hand. The pond had been meticulously cleaned; there was no algae that he could see, and the surface was so reflective that he could see his own image.
A teenage boy dressed in all black, a pale complexion, and black hair. Athletically thin, with lean muscles. Good-looking. Something weird with his eyes, though. Alive and bright in a dead face.
Much too familiar.
Every time he looked into a mirror, at a photograph, or just saw himself in some way, he was looking at her.
Despite only being fraternal twins, they had the same face, and every day, when Jean-Paul saw himself, it was a unavoidable reminder that she was gone. Vanished, without a trace, the only evidence indicating that she had left on her own accord.
It got old really fast.
Sometimes, he hated her. He hated her for being able to break free of the modeling industry when they were eight years old, leaving him to work demanding hours throughout his childhood, barely ever catching a break. He hated that she had a mental disorder that robbed their parents' attention from him, focusing all of it on her, causing them to coddle and fawn over her, making her their favorite.
Jean-Baptiste and Melisande Beaubier loved playing power games with their children, showing one how much they were disliked by blatantly favoring the one of the others, sometimes Jean-Paul's older brother or sister, but mostly Jeanne-Marie. He himself had never been the one to be favored. He occasionally wondered if this twisted pastime merely amused his parents to watch their children go for each other's throats or if they were engineering some sort of contest with a definite reward at the end. Most of the time, though, he just accepted it for what it was: his parents' cruel form of entertainment, which they enjoyed because it meant they could control their children.
Jean-Paul glanced up at the clear blue sky, scowling. He had never hated Jeanne-Marie before she had left, but now that she was gone, it all he felt towards her, as if she was only an inconvenience now. He questioned if this feeling had been latent and only emerged after she had left, or if it had formed in the wake of her abrupt thoughtless departure.
When people were born into the world, they were alone. Ultimately, at the end their lives, they died alone.
But he hadn't been alone. He had been born alongside Jeanne-Marie.
What did it mean? Was he expected to die alongside her? Would they die together, spend the last few seconds of their lives with someone else who shared their fate?
He didn't know the answer, and that disturbed him.
Gazing down at his reflection in the pond, a bitter taste polluted his mouth, and he felt ill. Jean-Paul pitched the piece of gravel at the image of his face, turning and walking away before he could watch the water ripple. He was sick of carrying Jeanne-Marie's face with him wherever he went.
Continuing along the main path, he stopped for a moment to repose in the shade of a small grove trees, standing right next to the base of a massive, twisted cedar tree to evade any sunlight whatsoever, regretting his habit of wearing all black clothing nearly every day.
Laughter rang out suddenly, and Jean-Paul saw four figures, about thirty yards away from the apex of the slope on which he stood, running and tossing a pastel-colored frisbee about on the previously deserted grounds. Although the distance made it difficult to judge, Jean-Paul could tell they were teenagers, and presumed they were more or less his age. Because the surrounding area was so quiet, he was able clearly hear each word they spoke.
"Over here, Bobby!" Called one girl.
"Right at you, Kitty!" The boy who was evidently named "Bobby" spun the frisbee toward her.
The plastic disk was too high in the air for her to reach, and she fell backward when she tried to jump to catch it. This stunt looked so ridiculous that the other girl, with spiky black hair and a bright yellow shirt, let out a whoop of laughter, and even Jean-Paul suppressed a smile.
Brushing herself off, the girl named "Kitty" stood, and hurled the frisbee at the fourth member of their party, a towering muscular youth.
"Thank you, Kitty," he said, in a deep voice intoned with a Russian accent.
The sight of their laughter and games startled Jean-Paul. Only a week ago, he had been playing lacrosse for his school, as he always did in the fall, just like he swam on the school team in the summer, participated in water polo in the winter, and soccer in the spring. While he had played games of football and soccer for entertainment with his friends when they had spare time at their boarding school, after Jeanne-Marie had left and his car "accident", he had lost his competitive spark for sports. Watching the group of students now felt strange, almost foreign.
After a few minutes of spectating their fun, and seeing none of them so much as glance in his direction, Jean-Paul realized that he must have been all but invisible, dressed completely in black, standing in the deepest shadows of a giant tree upon a slope. A sudden feeling overwhelmed him, that he was a dismal intruder to the peaceful world of the happy youths.
It was then that Jean-Paul knew. Mutant or not, he wasn't one of them. He didn't belong here, at this school. The scene before him told him all he needed to know: he was different, changed from being a carefree teen like them into . . . something else, something he wasn't quite sure he liked.
And he couldn't go back to being the way he was before: the popular athlete who had been one of the most well-liked students at St. Tom's. That person was gone, just as much as Jeanne-Marie, and wouldn't return. No matter how much Jean-Paul wanted him to, no matter how much he wanted his life to return to normalcy, it wouldn't, and it was of little use to wish it could. The situation at hand was out of his control, beyond his reach.
So he was a mutant. A member of despised race for their abnormalities and potential to be dangerous.
But at last, there was something solid to differentiate himself from Jeanne-Marie. A trait that would separate them forever, if she hadn't already done that herself.
She had left, and burden of her departure rested upon Jean-Paul's shoulders, but now, maybe with this fresh start, he could let go of her.
After all, she had so readily let go of him.
She had left him to die alone.
Jean-Paul turned, and began walking away from the other teens with their laughter and fun, moving away from them like a dark grim shadow, gazing flatly around at his new school. He wandered for what seemed like an eternity to him, until he came across one of the students he had spotted earlier. The boy the girl named "Kitty" had referred to as "Bobby".
The other teen saw him as well, and his eyebrows rose in consternation. They were walking toward each other, and the distance between them was rapidly closing.
"Hey, you a new student here?" Bobby asked him, meeting his eyes; his gaze was a warm brown, surprisingly friendly.
Jean-Paul stopped in front of him, staunchly unimpressed by his demeanor, which was suggestive of a future frat boy, judging by his Abercrombie & Fitch-esque clothing and entitled attitude. "Is that significant in any way?" His tone emerged angrier than he had intended.
Bobby seemed offended by his response. "Well, yeah, I was just wondering- "
"Actually, ignore that," Jean-Paul said. The sun beat down on him mercilessly, and he was in no mood to deal with the paradigm of white male privilege. "I've just remembered: I don't care. Let's just both move along. I don't to waste my time with a second-class citizen." Good Lord, did he really just say that? He had never made a classist remark before in his life. Where had that come from?
"What the hell did you just call me?" Bobby was angry. Jean-Paul was all too aware that he had already sealed his fate for an unnecessarily difficult start at this school for mutants, but his pride refused to allow him to retract his remarks.
So he summoned all his negativity into an expression of the utmost derision, sending all of his contempt for this school, his parents, and his entire situation in Bobby's direction. He sauntered forward, moving closer to Bobby, planning to move around him.
"What's wrong with you?" Bobby sounded angry, and Jean-Paul was aware that he was at a disadvantage, but Bobby didn't know that. Taller and more robust than him, Bobby could possibly take him in a physical fight. Also, he didn't know what Bobby's mutant abilities entailed, but Bobby didn't know Jean-Paul's, either. Furthermore, the fact that Bobby hadn't yet whipped out claws or laser beams indicated that his mutation might not have been well-suited for combat.
In the end, nothing happened between the two of them. Though the tension hung in the air, Jean-Paul merely settled for feinting toward Bobby as if to strike a blow but pulled away at the last minute, letting the other mutant know he didn't think him worth the trouble. Still, as Bobby stood where he was and Jean-Paul moved past him, he could tell that the other was also aware of the unresolved chemistry between them.
But in Jean-Paul's mind, settling the chemistry wasn't worth his energy. His life had changed, and he was just going to have to accept that. He wasn't meant to be the big man on campus, laughing and partying with his friends. The encounter involving him and this "Bobby" wasn't destined to be resolved, either. Fate had decided for him. Jeanne-Marie's departure indicated all he needed to know: he was fated to die alone, without resolving his conflicts, without achieving a fulfilling life.
A/N: My God, J.P., develop a more defeatist attitude, why don't you? Oh, well, he'll improve. Eventually.
This story was a companion to "Speechless", which is one of my fics that details the various interactions between Bobby and J.P. For more stories about Jean-Paul, check out my fic "What Could Go Wrong?", where he is a main character.
I also plan to write more about J.P. and Bobby. Let me know if you have any ideas.
Raymond Belmonde was Jean-Paul's adoptive father from the comics, and here he's basically a substitute for Jean-Paul's parents.