Option E
by Lassiter

Then Bobby said something and John didn't catch all of it, but it had something to do with life's big words. Not big words like 'onomatopoeia' or 'adenosine.' Big ones like 'meaning' and 'forever.' Bobby was like that when he was drunk. So was Marie, now that John thought about it. And Kitty, and Piotr. The only decent drunk he knew, besides himself, was Jubilee, and she didn't drink as much as people thought she did.

John was pretty sure Bobby just said something about love. The phrase 'too much to drink' came to mind.

John considered putting his own bottle on the nightstand, but what if this was going where he suspected it was going? See, `cos John wasn't... wasn't like that. Wasn't like how Bobby was like. Unless this was just a phase Bobby was going through. The thing about phases, though, was that while they were there, you had to deal with them. With the bottle in hand, John could deal with it by holding it up and saying, "Hold on, man, wouldn't want to spill beer on the bed, right?"

"There are other ways to get a wet spot on the bed," he imagined Bobby replying. Except that Bobby would never say that to him. He couldn't even imagine Bobby saying it to Rogue.

John was able to last this long--couple of months now? Month and a half?--in the face of Bobby's identity issues without having to resort to spillage threats. He should be able to last a little more. He took a healthy swig and sat back against the headboard, meeting Bobby's eyes with a level gaze. The bottle stayed in his hand.

Bobby and John sat on opposite ends of the bed. A few minutes ago, Rogue had been there, curled up between them with her head on Bobby's lap and her feet in John's hands. He tickled her. She kicked. They laughed. At the moment, she was filching snacks from the kitchen, giving the boys some downtime in which to do some male-bonding. John morbidly wondered what kind.

"It feels like the fourth of July," said Bobby from where he sat cross-legged on the folded blanket.


"Or New Year's. It... I don't know."

"What do you mean?"

"This." Bobby gestured vaguely around. "'Cos things just feel good now, and safe. You, and me. And Rogue. And alcohol, and just the three of us." He checked himself: "Um, I mean... Marie..."

John tossed his head back and laughed. "It's like you don't even know what to call her."

"Dude, yeah. And when I ask her which one she likes, she says she doesn't mind either name, so I'm like--" Bobby pounds his chest emphatically "--what am I supposed to do?"

"Call her Rogue-Marie."



They snickered.

"But seriously?" Bobby scooted forward. John raised an eyebrow. "It's good."

"All good?" asked John, his smile just bordering on smirk.

"All good," Bobby confirmed, casually punching John's knee.

John drew his knees up to his chest. "Good."

Seconds passed, more than enough for an acceptable conversational pause.

Bobby leaned back on his arms. "So," he said.

John winced inwardly. 'So'? Lamest of lame forced conversation starters. He wondered how long he could last before he felt compelled to say anything back.

Two-point-five seconds.

"Fritos, Cheetos, and Cherry Garcia," said Rogue, entering the room. "I had to battle Artie for the Cheetos, so you better appreciate it."

"We do," said John, catching the bag of chips Rogue tossed at him. He tore open the bag and tossed a handful of chips in his mouth, chewing noisily as Bobby scooted backwards to make room for Rogue. "Very much."

"It's rude to chew with your mouth full," said Rogue in mock reprimand.

John only grinned, showing off the bits of food between his teeth.


Next time, there was no alcohol involved. It was mid-afternoon and Piotr was sitting at his desk with headphones on, trying to make headway on the biology homework. All the same, it was John who volunteered to get the snacks.

"You know, all this is putting wrinkles in an otherwise enjoyable friendship," John imagined himself saying to Bobby. "If we drive you to the city where you can have your way with a fine young boy for seventy bucks a pop, will you knock it off?"

"Why would I," Bobby would reply, "when you're right here?"

Bobby wouldn't say that at all.

John imagined himself saying, "Just this once."

Just to cover all the bases, of course. Just to think of all the possible scenarios, because you had to be prepared these days, for anything. You had to know what kinds of things were Just Not Done. Everything was possible but, John reminded himself, only some things were probable.

They had finished the Cherry Garcia last time, but there was still half a pint of One Sweet Whirled. He tossed the lid onto a counter and looked around the drawer for a spoon.

"You're not going to eat that straight out of the carton, are you?"

John looked up. Ms. Munroe was standing in the kitchen doorway, hands on her hips, eyebrow arched knowingly. "That's not very hygienic."

"Hey, Ms. Munroe."

"Hi, John," she said, stepping towards him. "Indulging in a little afternoon snack?"

John shrugged. "That's the plan. And don't worry, we'll finish the entire thing off, so you won't have to worry about our germs spreading to the rest of the school."

"Are you sure I can't interest you in some carrot sticks or muesli instead?" she asked, indulging in gentle sarcasm as teachers did.

"Maybe next time," said John.

Ms. Munroe picked up an apple from the fruit basket on the counter and took a bite.

"Alright," she said. "But next time I see you, I want to see a granola bar in your hand."

John exited the kitchen, One Sweet Whirled in one hand and a can of Pringles in the other. Halfway to his room, he remembered that he forgot the spoons.


Later in the week, John figured he'd had enough of covering bases. The question was where to go from here. How to tell Bobby that guys simply did not do what Bobby's hormones were implying they do. At least, not this guy. Not St. John Allerdyce.

The path was determined by Bobby himself, inadvertently, through a culmination of unfamiliar proximity and questionable touches. Once again, they were sitting on John's bed, except that instead of Rogue's body between them, it was a pile of textbooks. Like a barrier, he thought. John wasn't the one who wanted to study together anyway. It was his usual habit to do homework on his bed instead of his desk, but it was not usual for Bobby to plop himself down in front of him and start asking questions about B-cells and antigens in a tone too serious and focused to be believed.

"Antigens are what triggers the antibody production," answered John. "They don't actually make the antibodies themselves."

"So what makes the antibodies?"

"Lymphocyte cells."

"What are antigens?"

"I told you."

"Like..." Bobby vaguely waved his pencil in the air. "Examples."

"Bacteria," said John, eyes on his notebook as he scribbled down the different types of a feedback mechanism. "Toxins. Foreign blood cells."

Bobby nodded, looking back at his notes. "Right."

John wondered how much of this Bobby actually already knew.

This bastardization of a study session continued this way, the sound of pencil scratching on paper interspersed with forced Q&A and random commentary. The commentary was often amusing, because John wasn't so alienated from his friend that he couldn't laugh with him anymore. When it was especially amusing, they'd laugh out loud in that unafraid way they did. And when they did, John noticed the way Bobby inched forward, just the slightest, subtlest bit. Sometimes Bobby would tap John's leg with his pencil when he was making a point, and John would squirm back against the headboard. Bobby either didn't notice or was pretending not to.

John found himself checking the textbook barrier. He felt like a jackass doing it but he couldn't help himself. Something had to be concrete and represent sureness, if Bobby's sexuality wasn't. John almost wished Bobby would stop beating around the bush and just kiss him, just to get it out of the way, and John could finally tell him straight (no pun intended) that this wasn't the way the cookie crumbled.

Bobby leaned over the barrier, pointing to a diagram in John's textbook, steadying himself with one hand pressed into the mattress two inches away from John's foot. He babbled something about the pancreas when the words suddenly spilled out of John like a meal he couldn't stomach.

"Stop that," said John.


"I'm not gay."

It was easier than John had expected.

Bobby's expression didn't change, but there was a certain light behind it that suddenly went out. "Where the hell did that come from?"

"I just..." John shrugged. "Come on, man, it was... I mean, of course- -"

"Of course?" Bobby repeated, narrowing his eyes.

"Oh, don't act so surprised that you're not the subtlest person in America," John snapped. " It's just a teenage identity crisis, man, chill out." The vitriol in his voice surprised him. He hadn't expected to be this surly. But between being honestly flustered and defensively surly, the latter was preferable.

"I'm not..." Bobby began.

"Sure you're not," said John.

"Shut up, man. I... Fuck you."

"Funny you should say that," John muttered, looking away. "Imagine, you're going out with Rogue and you're hitting on me."

"I am not fucking hitting on you, for god's sake."

"Language, Drake," John smirked.

"Fuck you."

"That's what you said before but you keep breaking promises..."

Papers scattered and the textbooks fell to the floor as Bobby lunged forward. In a moment of consciousness, John tried to protect his homework and shove it away from the fight he knew was coming. The books fell to the floor with a heavy crash. Bobby slammed into John, knocking his head back against the wall, but though Bobby had the element of surprise, it was John who ultimately knew what he was doing. Bobby was face-down on the mattress with his arm twisted behind his back in no time at all.

"Dammit, John," Bobby spat out.

"You wanted to do that, didn't you?" said John, sounding a bit breathless, but cutting none the less. "You wanted me to do this."

Bobby cursed, resting his forehead against the mattress. "You're full of shit."

"Am I?"

"Are you going to let me go or what?"

"You're not even trying that hard to get up. You fucking like this, don't you?"

Bobby suddenly bucked and threw all his weight backwards. John yelled sharply when he suddenly found himself squeezed between Bobby and the wall. Bobby fell forward to the mattress, and John tumbled to the floor.

Fuck, John thought grumpily, feeling the back of his head for bumps. He was just speaking the truth, after all, and the truth shouldn't hurt anybody. Bobby was just being oversensitive. Bobby was just being horny. He looked up at the bed, where his roommate sat rubbing his shoulder, looking at John with a wary expression on his face.

As John pushed himself to his feet, Bobby said, "John."


A kiss. Maybe it was a kiss. Bobby put his hand on the back of John's neck, tugged him closer, and it was a hard, forceful press of lips on lips. Just for a second, maybe two, and it was over. There was a pause, a turning-into-statues, a dry-throated stillness.

And then.

"You... shithead," John finally managed. It didn't sound as venomous as he thought it would. He tried again: "What the fuck was... I told you I'm not... Fuck."

It didn't sound venomous at all.

Bobby meticulously studied his fingernails and said not a word.

Seconds passed, more than enough for an acceptable conversational pause.

John considered his options: a) stay in the room, yell his lungs the fuck out at Bobby, b) stay in the room, sort this out diplomatically with limited cursing and violence, c) stay in the room, beat the shit out of Bobby, d) stay in the room, kiss Bobby properly this time, none of that chaste, no-tongue bullshit.

Just covering bases, of course.

Everything was possible but only some things were probable.

There was always option E.

Bobby stared intensely at his fingernails as John's footsteps faded down the hall. He didn't look up until the footsteps completely disappeared, vanishing into the murmur of late afternoons. He didn't move until the sledgehammer thuds became regular heartbeats again. Didn't do a damned thing until his face was of the normal temperature and coloration. Then, being the conscientious boy he had always been raised to be, Bobby slid off the bed and began to pick up the fallen books.


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