The Iceman Cometh: A Pyromaniac's Love Story
by zahra

The lemon popsicles began melting the moment Bobby set foot outside the mansion, but for the first hundred yards he made a point of keeping them frozen solid. For the second hundred yards, he was too busy looking for St. John to pay them any mind. By the time Bobby actually came across Johnny, setting tiny fires with dry wood on the edge of the lawn, the frozen treats had degenerated into wobbly, melting towers of ice.

When Bobby went to hand Johnny his popsicle, it fell off the stick and landed in the grass, a clump of melting sugar water. But it was the thought that counted.

So when Johnny looked back at Bobby, slightly annoyed and perhaps a bit disconsolate, Bobby did the first thing he could think off: he licked at the remaining popsicle in his hand. Using his tongue, he pushed the popsicle back into some semblance of order, blowing slightly along the column to keep it in place. Then he handed it to St. John before licking his fingers clean.

Bobby stood there long enough to watch Johnny fellate the frozen treat once, twice, and then he turned around and walked away.

St. John hadn't had a lot to say since he'd returned, but that didn't mean that Bobby didn't understand.

Words didn't necessarily convey everything. Sometimes actions were better.

 

One month after St. John's return, Bobby brought him ice cream in bed. Mint Chocolate Chip with the crunchy kind of chocolate pieces it in because there really was a difference, and once, Johnny had spent an inordinate amount of time explaining that to Bobby. He'd probably thought that Bobby wasn't listening, but Bobby always listened, even when people thought he wasn't. Bobby hadn't always been so attentive, but he'd learned to pay attention. It was the kind of lesson that came with a steep learning curve.

As for the ice cream, Bobby hadn't said much when he'd gone down to the kitchen to get it. A nod to Piotr and a smile for Kitty. He'd made sure to ice down Logan's beers, and then he'd gathered the ice cream and a spoon and padded back to his room, bare feet echoing down the hall.

If someone had asked him why, he wouldn't have been able to explain the reasoning behind his actions. They were just things that needed to be done. He'd never given St. John gifts before, but that was before, and Bobby had been a different person then. This was after, and Bobby had discovered that there was a very large difference between before and after.

'Before,' Bobby had thought he'd had what he wanted, but Alkali Lake had shown him differently. He still cared for Marie, and he wanted her to be happy, but the space between then and now had proven that, for Bobby, St. John's happiness was more important to him that anybody else's.

Even his own.

 

St. John came back on a Wednesday, burdened only by the clothing on his back and a brand new Zippo lighter with a strange flag on the face of it. Bobby had been full of questions, and it wasn't just that Johnny didn't answer them: he didn't say more than two words together to Bobby, period.

That night Johnny locked himself in the bathroom, and Bobby found the Zippo in the trashcan. The following morning, St. John had shown up at breakfast with a cheap Bic lighter that was bright blue. Bobby had watched, and waited.

 

At night Bobby let St. John shower first, unconcerned with the short supply of hot water. He would wait until Johnny had slipped into bed before he began changing himself, and Bobby always kept the door slightly cracked during his shower, just in case. When his shower ended, Bobby would dry himself off, brush his teeth, and slip into bed to wait for something to happen.

Bobby had learned that sleeping was a luxury, not a necessity, and he closed his eyes only to make his hearing sharper. Every creak was Johnny's foot on the floorboards before he disappeared again, and every snuffled noise was St. John not saying goodbye.

In the morning, Bobby awoke first, opening his eyes only to make sure that St. John was still in his bed and hadn't left in the middle of the night. He ignored the circles under his eyes and the worried looks of people who didn't understand.

This was Bobby's second chance. He wasn't expecting a third.

 

On a morning like any other, Bobby brought St. John a new disposable razor when he was already in the process of shaving in the bathroom. Johnny hadn't asked for it, but Bobby had felt compelled. It was just this thing he needed to do. Everything he did for Johnny was just something he needed to do. It wasn't as though he had been the one to leave. It wasn't as though Bobby had been the one to walk away, and yet, somewhere inside he felt as though it was his fault. He thought that because he hadn't paid Johnny enough attention, because he hadn't told St. John that he was first in Bobby's life, it made him guilty of having seriously fucked up priorities.

Waiting for two years can make a person think about a lot of things.

So, Bobby lowered the lid on the toilet and sat down before placing the razor on the counter. He looked up at the shaving cream on Johnny's neck, and he looked down at Johnny's bare feet resting on the dirty tiling, and with the sound of blades sliding over stubble resounding in his ears, Bobby waited.

"I'll be done in a minute," Johnny said, cocking his head to one side and sliding his razor upwards with sure strokes.

"No hurry." Bobby pushed the new razor a little bit closer. "I'm not doing anything this morning."

"Right."

Bobby couldn't explain what it was about the bathroom that made him feel secure, but he could recall some rather good times being had there. Or it could have just been his imagination. Perhaps it was simply the size of it, that the eight by ten space forced them into proximity with each other. In a room that small there was no place to hide.

Bobby looked up at St. John expectantly, watching the white cream give way to tan skin. Johnny had been tan when he'd returned; he never told Bobby where he'd been. "Behind every exquisite thing that existed, there was something tragic," St. John quoted.

Bobby blinked.

"Oscar Wilde." Johnny's razor made swishing sounds as he cleaned it in the sink.

Bobby blinked again. "I didn't know you read Oscar Wilde."

"I don't. It was just this thing thatů once. I did once." St. John turned back to the mirror and tilted his head to the side to shave under his chin. "I think nineteen is old enough to shave on my own, Drake, you don't have to baby-sit me."

"I know. I didn't --" Bobby stopped. The words weren't coming, and Johnny's hand was hovering at his adam's apple. There were all these things Bobby wanted to say. "I missed you."

The words came tumbling out, and once there were out there, they seemed very naked.

St. John drew the razor along his jaw. "I'll bet you did."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"Just what I said."

"Why are you being like this?" If Bobby had asked that question twenty-seven months ago, they might not have been in this position now, but playing 'what if' was pointless. Besides, if Bobby's words were naked and his face half as pained as he felt, there was no reason not to make a complete idiot if himself. "You've been back almost three months, and you won't talk to me. You left, and I fucking missed you. You didn't call; I didn't even fucking know if you were all right. What the hell did I do to deserve that!"

Bobby didn't even realize he was yelling until he stopped. The silence was awful, the echo made him sound petulant, and he could feel his heart trying to choke him into silence.

Johnny considered him briefly before going back to the mirror to continue his shaving. "One, I don't talk to anybody, so don't take it so personally. Two, treat you like what? The way you treated me when you decided that Marie was the new best thing? Just because you've found out otherwise is no reason to give me shit. At least I didn't make a big mess of it for you. Three, do you honestly think that you can make everything better by stalking me? You know this is illegal in this state, right?"

"I didn't mean --"

"Shut up, I'm talking." Johnny drew one last stripe along his chin before tossing the razor in the trash and unstopping the sink. "I don't want to talk about where I was or what I did. Bad enough I have to talk it over with the Professor, I don't need a shrink or you playing Rikki Lake."

The water going down the drain reminded Bobby of a drowning man crying for help, and he watched helplessly as St. John wet a washcloth and wiped off the missed patches of shaving foam.

"You missed me when I was gone, but you didn't even pay attention when I was around," St. John said. "I didn't come back just so I could be your dirty little secret again."

Bobby flinched when Johnny turned and gazed at him. "And you don't have to keep giving me things, you know. If you're sorry, just say you're sorry."

The words nearly choked Bobby. "I'm sorry."

"You should be."

"I know."

The blood pounded in Bobby's head, and he could feel the little beads of ice forming on the tips of his fingers and his forehead. All he'd wanted was for St. John to talk to him, and now he couldn't even carry on a conversation without sounding like a whining little kid. He'd run this dialogue in his mind a thousand times and never had he thought he'd fail so miserably.

The toilet lid clattered as he scrambled to his feet, and he could feel the sweat he hadn't acknowledged turning to ice along his spine. St. John seemed so fucking far away, again, when in reality he was less than two feet away, indolent of minty shaving gel.

Bobby's mouth opened and closed, and all his excuses evaporated. All he had wanted was St. John, and he'd never even realized it. Now he had him all to himself, and all Bobby had to do was reach out and touch him. Show him how sorry he was, except that the razor really wasn't a good gift and the lump in Bobby's throat somehow inhibited his movement, too.

"C'mon, Drake, where's your spine?" St. John tossed his towel in the sink and stepped forward, his proximity forcing Bobby to sit back down on the closed toilet. "Don't let me treat you like this, tell me you're better, that you deserve better. Are you really that worried that I'm gonna leave again? Wouldn't that make things right in your perfect little world? I'm sure Marie --"

"I don't fucking want Marie, I want you! But you won't fucking listen, and you won't talk to me either. If you want me to fucking bleed, I suppose it's a good thing I brought my own razor!" The shouting brought the reality home. Bobby really didn't want Marie. He had wanted St. John. All that time. All those stupid gifts of foodstuffs, and years of keeping Johnny's side of the room clean and dust-free. All those comic books he had bought in anticipation. All that fucking waiting and regretting.

"Jesus, no need to shout."

"I want you," Bobby said, shrugging his shoulders and tilting his head back to meet Johnny's eye. "I've always wanted you."

St. John just shook his head. "Well, you've got a funny way of showing it. Razors and ice cream and dating Marie? I thought I had issues," Johnny said with a laugh.

"You do have issues," Bobby shot back. "I was young, what the hell did you want? You didn't even given me a chance. You couldn't have stuck around long enough for me to get my shit together?"

"I'm not your parents, it wasn't my responsibility to stick around and get treated like shit."

"I never --"

"Oh really? You sure about that?"

"But I didn't mean --"

"Right."

"I didn't know then," Bobby admitted.

"But you've been enlightened now?" The sarcasm was palpable and fresh, like just shaven skin.

"I said I was fucking sorry. I'm sorry I wasn't fucking perfect enough for you. I'm sorry I didn't realize, but I'm not the one who left." Bobby's head fell into his hands, and peering at the ground, he noticed a scar on St. John's right foot. It looked pink and angry and very new. "I didn't know what I wanted, but I've never claimed to be perfect."

Bobby's self-pitying episode was interrupted by Johnny's fingers under his chin, lifting his head up to meet St. John's eyes. "I never wanted you to be perfect," St. John said. "I just wanted you to be yourself. To want me."

It was like someone had moved Christmas forward four months. Bobby's knees wobbled as he clambered to his feet. "You couldn't have just said so?" he said, his words tainted with desperation.

"You weren't fucking listening," Johnny said.

"You weren't fucking talking," Bobby amended.

Bobby's hands reached out for St. John's waist, tentatively, when Johnny didn't pull away, Bobby allowed his hands to reacquaint themselves with skin they'd forgotten. It wasn't an embrace as much as an exploration as they moved closer. Their feet seemed overlap and they knocked knees. St. John had grown taller by an inch, and his hair was slightly longer. It curled around behind his ears in wisps, and there was a small scar above his left eye that looked old.

"I am now," Bobby said, his fingers smoothing the skin in the small of Johnny's back. "Listening, I mean."

St. John's left arm came up and his fingers combed through Bobby's sleep-tangled curls. "Took you long enough."

"Johnny, I --"

"If you say what I think you're about to say, I'll set you on fire."

"You don't have your lighter," Bobby said, before leaning in for a kiss he'd begun to despair was never going to happen. He didn't close his eyes until after Johnny did, and St. John's lips were softer than Bobby remembered. Johnny's mouth was hot and wet and a million things that Bobby had forgotten or never known to begin with, and his hands wrapped around Bobby's waist, aligning erections that Bobby had been doing his damnedest not to think about.

His fingers hooked into the waistband of Johnny's pajama bottoms just to hold on, and he groaned appreciatively when St. John's hands slid down to grope his ass.

Eventually, he had to pull away for air. "I was probably going to say I was hungry," he admitted with a grin when St. John leaned forward and nipped at his earlobe.

St. John's breath was hot in his ear. "Good. "

"Good," Bobby echoed, his fingers seeking the skin along St. John's hipbones to rub. "I was probably gonna say that other thing, too," he admitted.

Johnny pulled back slightly, and stared at him before nipping at his bottom lip. "I'll pretend otherwise."

"Whatever. I'm just glad you're home."

 

That afternoon they practiced together in the Danger Room, and that evening Bobby ate the last bite of chocolate cake off of St. John's dinner tray without apology. At bedtime, Bobby took his shower first, using up all the hot water, and afterwards he dripped water all over the hardwood floors of the bedroom they shared. It wasn't a return to normalcy as much as his attempt to create something new.

He stopped shy of waiting naked in St. John's bed.

Instead Bobby sat down on Johnny bed in his damp towel, rearranged himself against the headboard and waited. Being with Johnny seemed to require a lot of waiting, but after two years Bobby could handle fifteen minutes, and he spent an inordinate amount of time staring at his toes and wondering what the hollow at the base of St. John's neck tasted like.

"That's not how you're supposed to get a wet spot in the bed," St. John said when he emerged from the bathroom with damp hair and wearing gray boxers.

Bobby just laughed. And after a second, so did Johnny.

It had been a long time coming, but at last Bobby could stop waiting.

 

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