A Cold Clear Night
by Brian Newberry
This story contains adult, real world issues. If it was on television it would be rated TV M 14 or some such. Serious comments are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org I will do my best to respond. Before I get started I would like to thank Luba Kmetyk. She has been a great help in the whole writing process.
As always everyone in here belongs to Marvel comics. I've just borrowed them for awhile. I'm not making anything at all off writing this. I hope you enjoy.
It was a cold clear night when I decided to take just about the biggest step in my life. I guess it's only appropriate though. If my life's got any theme to it at all, I'd say it's the cold. The cold I can create with just a thought. The chill in my dad's voice when he found out I was a mutant. I crave the cold. My body needs the cold. It's a need that flows through every single part of me. Heat and warmth bother me. They always have, even before I got my mutant powers. I guess it's a good thing that I turned out to be the Iceman. Now wherever I go, it's cold.
Like I said, it was cold and clear as I walked across the lawn of the mansion. I was headed for the boathouse across the campus grounds. It was late and I had a lot on my mind. When I say it was late, I'm talking two in the morning here, not ten. I'd spent the last few hours in bed tossing and turning, trying desperately to get to sleep. For about the past week I hadn't been able to sleep. I wouldn't fall asleep till early in the morning, four or so. Eventually I'd be so tired I'd just pass out. Every time I'd lie down to sleep my mind would start racing. Thoughts kept running through my head. I had tried every technique I knew to fall asleep, from working myself to exhaustion in the danger room before bed, to warm milk, to meditation. I even tried jerking off before bed, trying to relieve frustration. None of it worked. All day long I walked around in a daze, half-awake. Rogue asked me today what was wrong. I told her, "Nothing, just having trouble sleeping." I felt really bad, brushing her off like that. But I just didn't want to talk about it. I was a hair away from asking the professor to put me to sleep last night. But, if I did that, he would want to know why I hadn't been sleeping, and I just can't tell him what's on my mind just yet. The same with Hank. If I told him I wasn't sleeping he'd want to know what was wrong.
That's why I was going to the boathouse. To see Jean. Of all the people that live here, she's the only one I felt that I could go to with this. She once told me, "Bobby, if you ever need to talk, about anything at all, just come see me. I'll be there for you." That was years ago. But even then I think she said it because she knew about this. You can hide things from everyone, including yourself, but those telepaths will always know. Not a damn thing you can do to hide. In fact the more you want to keep something secret, the easier it is for them to spot it. I guess it's like a neon sign in your head that says, "Don't look at me! I'm a secret!" They may not want to know what it is, but your mind is screaming it at them. They have this ability to see you for who you really are. I think that Jean was just waiting for me to deal with this on my own, and then come and see her about it. The professor probably knows too, but he's more of a father figure, not a friend. And Hank well, he's my best friend, but Jean could handle this a little better, I think. That and I just don't think I can tell him yet.
To this day I'm certain that Jean knew what I had been wrestling with for the past week. I'd almost bet my life that she knew the second I decided to come and see her, even though it was two in the morning. Jean's got this bond with all of the X-Men, especially the original five. She's unusually sensitive to us. And, over the past week, my life had been an emotional rollercoster.
On the walk over I iced up my body. Well, iced up isn't really the right term, I've discovered. It's more like I turned myself into a walking, talking, breathing, thinking piece of ice. I love the way the world looks when I'm this way. I don't see the world like everyone else does. I see it in temperatures and moisture. Everything is in shades of blue with hints of red. On a cold night like this everything appeared to be crystalline blue in the moonlight. That is one thing that is unique to me and me alone. I've not heard of a single mutant that can see the world this way. Being iced up and seeing things like this relaxes me.
As I got closer to the house, the front porch light came on. This just proved that Jean knew I was coming. I just hoped that Scott wasn't up too. Slim was one person I really didn't want to deal with right now. But I was sure Jean would've told him to go back to sleep. She knew what this was about and how I was feeling. She knew she was the only one I felt like talking to right now.
I got to the door and was about to knock when it gently opened on its own. That's Jean's unique way of saying come on in. I braced myself for what was to come, and walked in. I've no idea why I was so nervous. Jean knew what I'd come to see her about and I knew it.
Jean projected her voice into my head while I was looking for her. I'm in the kitchen, Bobby. As I headed for the kitchen, I noticed that I was still iced up. I turned back to my human self, and I saw the world normally again. I could barely stand it. The only thing that'd gotten me this far was how calm I became when I was iced up. I could barely stand walking across the house. The weight of what I was doing started to come down on me. I wanted to turn and run. Once I did this there was no turning back, for good or bad. Nothing would ever be the same after this.
I guess Jean could sense my despair and she came to me. When our eyes connected, I broke down. I started bawling like a baby. It had taken everything I had to make it this far, and I couldn't do it anymore. Jean put her arms around me, and I cried on her shoulder. She hugged me and comforted me. While I cried, she rubbed my head and whispered in my ear, "SSSHHH, it'll be all right." But the thing that helped the most was just her being there for me. That was all the soothing that I needed.
After awhile, I calmed down. I've no idea how much time had passed. It could have been five minutes or two hours, for all I knew. Jean was with me for all of it, though. When I was done, she dried my tears and took me to the kitchen. I sat down at the table. "Do you want something to drink?" she asked me. For the first time, I noticed that she was in her nightclothes. She looked tired and run down. We'd had a long day.
I felt guilty for being there. I shouldn't have got her out of bed for this. It could have waited until morning at least, if not for a few more days. It had waited all these years; I didn't have to do this now. "Jean," I started to say as I stood up from the table, "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have got you up. This'll wait till morning. Go on back to bed."
She wouldn't hear of it, though. "Bobby Drake, you sit your butt back down in that chair right this minute. Now this may not be the greatest time in the world, but you need to talk. It's been a long time coming, and you're finally going to do it." I'd never seen her get like this before. She was adamant about doing this now. "We both know that, if you walk out of this house you'll, push this to the back of your mind and ignore it again. Well, Bobby, I'm not going to let you do it. I've waited for years for you to be ready for this and you're going to do it. You're finally at a point in your life where you can deal with it."
"But I'm not sure I can, Jean," I whined at her. "I don't want to. I've changed my mind."
Jean got a motherly look on her face. "Bobby, you can deal with this. Worse things have happened to you. It's time for you to do this." Suddenly she smiled. "If not for you, how about for me, the Professor, and Betsy at least. None of us have gotten more then a few minuets of sleep in the last week. You've kept every single one of us up." I felt horrified and guilty at the same time. They knew -- not just Jean, but every telepath in the mansion. Which meant that Scott and Warren knew too. "In fact, if you hadn't come to see one of us tonight, Betsy was going to set you down and do this herself in the morning. Believe me, it's not a good thing to have a telepathic ninja who can teleport through shadows cranky at you, Bobby." We both laughed a little at that. It cut the tension.
"Now," Jean said, "why don't you tell me what this is all about?"
I thought it was a little stupid. She knew what was going on as well, if not better, than I did. Why'd I have to tell her? I said as much to her too. "Why do I have to say it, Jean? You know. The Professor knows. Betsy knows." My anger started to build. It's kind of ironic too. I've got a hot temper, not a cold one. "For Christ sake, Scott and Warren know by now, too! Hell, I'll bet everyone in the whole fucking mansion knows by now! Emma probably told Sean, too. And, as nosy as Jubilee is, she's probably found out." I was just plain babbling at this point.
Jean stayed calm and quiet during the whole thing. She let me finish my little tantrum before she said anything. "Calm down Bobby. First of all, no one but us knows. I haven't told Scott, and Betsy hasn't told Warren. They know something is going on, but not what. We agreed to keep it to ourselves, until you decided what you wanted to do. It's your decision to make, not ours. We're just here to help you. And as for Emma, I doubt she's said a word. You know how she is. She'll hold it over you as long as she can." I got my temper back under control while Jean was talking and sat back down. "Secondly, you need to say it out loud. I know it's hard, but you're not going to believe it's real, until you do it. Until then, it's just something you've thought. If you ignore it, it'll keep festering inside of you. You'll also feel better once you do say it." The lecturing tone left her voice. "Bobby, honey, it's not that bad. Everyone that really matters in your life is not going to mind. We'll still love you. No matter what." The tears started running down my face again. I'm such a pansy. "Warren became Death and started killing people and we were there for him. When everyone thought I was the Dark Phoenix and destroyed a planet everyone fought for my life. Storm lost all her powers to control the weather and none of us turned our back on her. That's only some of the hardships we've been through."
I was openly weeping at that point. God, why couldn't I stop. I was crying like a little girl. Nothing I could do would make the tears stop flowing. "Yeah," I choked out through the tears, "but none of those things were something you chose. They were things that just happened. Those were things beyond your control!"
"Bobby, this isn't something you chose, either. It's just the way you are. I can't force you to do this. Not like when I made Warren see that he was responsible for the destruction his wings caused. He wasn't ready to face it at first, but I made him take responsibility." Jean laid her hand on my shoulder. "This is different. This is your whole lifestyle here, Bobby. No one can do this for you. You have to do it yourself. There's no other way. It's your life. No one else is going to tell you how to live it. But I can offer you my opinion on the situation."
My eyes met her through my tears. I knew she really cared about me. She cares about me more then anyone I have ever known. In that moment I knew she wouldn't do anything to hurt me. My tears stopped some, but it was still hard to talk. "What do you think about it?" I asked. I truly wanted to know. I needed to know. For years I'd been going over this in my head and nothing new had occurred to me. Jean would have deeper insight into this.
Jean smiled at me as she started. "Honestly, I think you'd be a lot happier. In the last few months you've become Robert Drake." I gave her a weird look when she said that. What the heck was she talking about? "Oh, you've always been Bobby Drake, the Iceman. But now you are letting everyone know who you really are. You're growing up. You're letting your real self out. Ever since I've known you, you've been a clown and a joker. That's the Bobby everyone knows and loves. And, granted, that's a part of you. But you've always had low self-esteem. You've put on a show for everyone, to keep them from seeing the real you. You've even done it to your girlfriends. You've never had a relationship that has truly lasted. In fact Opal broke up with you because you acted immature and didn't think about anyone else." My heart ached when she said Opal's name. The last thing in the world I had wanted to do was to hurt her. "But, over the last few months, you've learned more about yourself. You've seen how powerful you really are, and how powerful you can be. It only took the White Queen invading your body for you to understand that." That was another sore spot in my mind. Emma Frost used my powers more effectively in the few hours she was in my body then I had in ten years. I felt used. Almost like I had been raped, body and soul. She knew everything about me, more then I knew about myself. It was a turning point in my life. That event made me realize that I'd been a clown and a slacker for most of my life. A loser who didn't even know who he was. "While learning more about your powers you've managed to learn more about yourself. You've become confident in your abilities. During Zero Tolerance you managed to keep a team of mutants together and lead them." At this point I smiled. Everything she'd said was the truth. I'd felt more sure of myself then I ever had.
"Bobby, the only thing left for you is to face this. If you don't, you are going to stay just how you are now. You're not going to grow. You'll be bitter and angry. I don't think you'll ever break down this wall if you don't face it." Jean was right, but I just wasn't sure if I could do it. I kept my mouth shut and let her talk. "Like I said before, no one here is going to care. We're all your friends, Bobby. Actually, we're more then that. Everyone here is family. We accept each other no matter what. And you know it."
I had to say something. I'd been quiet too long. "You're right, Jean. It's just that this is about the hardest thing I've ever had to do. I don't know how to even begin to deal with this. No one I know has gone through this. In fact, everything I've ever been around calls this bad. It's as bad, if not worse, in the eyes of the world as being a mutant." Again I was crying. I just couldn't stop. My emotions were running high. This time, Jean was even crying. But I couldn't stop talking. "Now I'm not only a mutant, but I'm gay."
Oh my God, I actually said it. Nothing was going to take it back now. For the first time in my life, I'd said it out loud. I'd said it to another person. Why did I say it? How could I have said it? What am I going to do now?!?
I felt awful and relieved all at once. For the first time in my life, I felt like I could be myself with someone and not worry about what they thought. Jean was holding me tight and we cried on each other.
We cried into each other for a long time. Except this time it wasn't a panicked, scared, or worried cry. It turned into a cry of relief. It literally felt like a weight had been lifted from me. No one can understand the feeling until they have it themselves. I know how cliché it sounds. No earth-shattering event had occurred, but in that moment my life had changed.
Jean pulled her head back and looked at me. "Bobby, are you okay?" she asked.
I looked at her and smiled as the tears ran down my face. "Yeah, Jean. I really do think I am. For the first time, I really do think I am." A smile spread from ear to ear on my face. This was something I've known for as long as I could remember. It wasn't something I'd just woken up that night and decided. Acceptance of it felt good. I didn't have to hide anymore. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't going to go out and become a flaming queen or anything. I was just going to be Robert Drake, the Iceman. I am a mutant who just happens to be gay.
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