SUMMARY: Beast, Iceman. Strong language, disturbing
situation. When Bobby needs help, he seeks out his best friend in his own way.
But can the prankster find a way to ask his friend for what he really needs?
This is an attempt at the Blow Kaylee Away challenge.
You don't know what it's like. If you did, I wouldn't have to explain. If you did, then maybe someone would be able to hear me screaming.
Do you know? Could you possibly know what it's like when the pain of every movement, every breath drives you further into insanity? What the pain of crying is like when no one can hear you, and even if maybe, maybe perhaps they were to hear you, no one would care? And the gulping sobs hurt and the tears hurt, but most of all it hurts that you're crying and there's no one to hear and it doesn't matter it never mattered never will matter...you don't matter never matter never will matter. And then it's simple, it's easy to think about dying. To think about actions, simple actions, that will lead to the consciousness that is you -- not being. So simple.
Use the cold on your brain. Deliberately freeze some cells, cells that only you could bring down to the necessary temperature to outdo your mutant physiology. And then, not be.
"Robert? Can you hear me?"
Damn. "Yes, Hank. I hear you just fine. I can also tell you've been snacking a bit hard on the jelly doughnuts." Bobby Drake tried to sit up and was restrained by a furry blue paw.
"Is everything all right, Bobby?"
It was a loaded question. Bobby remembered. Remembered everything. His eyes grew hot, but he did not cry, could not cry. "Everything seems to be working properly." Not that I care. Not that I could do anything with my body and my powers on my very best day. Can't even kill myself properly.
"I'm overjoyed to hear that," Hank replied in grave tones. His paw moved from Bobby's chest.
Bobby promptly sat up, just to see if he could. He felt nothing out of the ordinary, no headache, no dizzy spell. Had he managed to do anything to himself other than fall unconscious? He turned to the side, and swung his feet over the edge of the table. Hank had apparently not had the time to strip him naked and stuff him into a revealing little hospital gown, yet another sign that his condition was not all that serious.
It was time to go. Depart the MedLab. Leave Hank to his own extremely important job -- finding a cure to the Legacy virus. Time and past time for the useless and immature member of the team to leave the hard-working and overworked scientist to go back to something important. "So sorry to have troubled you, Hank," Bobby burbled, suddenly half-hysterical in his own manic morbid dementia. "Didn't mean to take up your time with having to care ab-- for someone like me."
"It was no trouble."
Of course not. Not for someone as capable, competent and downright decent like Dr. Henry McCoy. Of course not. "Thank you anyway, then. I'll just show myself out. I know the way. I think."
He wavered for a moment, not yet jumping down from the table. Could he? Could he possibly ask Hank for the favor, for the thing he wanted most of all right now?
The truth of the matter is, he thought, while it's hard to ask someone for a favor -- hard to expose your vulnerability to them, thus giving them the chance, nay, begging for them to hurt you -- it's even harder to refuse someone who asks you for a favor. Ask, and you shall receive. Not just a phrase, but frequently, fact. If Bobby asked Hank, Hank would say 'yes'. Only a hard-hearted bastard would say no, or possibly someone completely clueless, immature and thoughtless. Like Bobby himself.
But comfort was something that didn't come easily. You'd think it should. When your life included routinely getting your butt kicked, near-death and death experiences, and the constant threat of losing everything and everyone you held dear to the Psychotic Madman of the Week, you'd think that comfort would not only be essential but easy to obtain.
Nope, nope, nope. Not like that. Not like that at all.
Because no one understands. No one stands in the middle of the pain, hears the howling that is your self's own voice crying out, telling you everything you've done wrong, everything you will ever do wrong and how nothing and nobody can ever change how wrong you are and have been and will be.
Nothing and no one. If it were an injury, then people would understand. If someone had died, and you had to cry, then people would understand.
But who could understand a perfectly healthy person with no reason for grief and every reason for happiness, or at the very least, contentment, crying? I don't understand. I don't understand why it isn't enough that I have my friends here, and they're alive, and I'm alive. In our circumstances, that should be plenty to be happy about. I don't understand why it seems to matter so much that I have no useful job, no profession other than X-Man Second Class, when I live in a beautiful place and never have to worry about money. I don't understand why it should matter so much that I feel alone when I'm constantly surrounded by people, why I should feel so unloved when I am constantly surrounded by friends.
But if I am surrounded by friends, then why does no one see?
Maybe laughter and humor and jokes look like truth, instead of the shield that they are to cover the emptiness underneath, to keep the lack of a net from distracting me from the tightrope I have to walk. Hank understands that much, at least, and I understand his own humor in return. Who said that -- we laugh so that we might not cry? It sounds familiar. Probably something Hank said once. If anyone could understand, maybe he could.*
"Do you feel well?" Hank asked.
Bobby startled, pulled out of his thoughts, then returned to reflex responses to keep himself going, to keep the hotness at the back of his eyes from spilling out and thickening his voice. "Don't I have feelings just the same as anyone else? 'If you prick him, doth he not scream like a weenie?'"
Hank's eyebrow raised. "I think you're butchering the quotation."
"Whatever. It'd be more out of character for me to get it right. To admit to having paid attention in English Literature at college. To admit to the sin of actually possessing a brain." The lightness came easily to him. It slathered black grease over the exposed parts of himself, concealing and congealing.
"I didn't realize it was a sin," Hank remarked mildly.
"Well, for you, it's not, of course. I mean, you've actually got one, so you don't have to admit to it. Besides, it's only a sin if I have a brain. You're supposed to have a brain. I'm supposed to have had mine surgically removed in junior high."
"What does that have to do with your feelings?"
Bobby cringed. Hank was smart enough to see through his diversions. "Ouch. Direct and to the point I'm trying so hard to wander away from. See? You've got a brain. You've just used it."
"I never doubted that, Robert."
"Ah, so now he's calling me Robert," Bobby said to no one in particular. "I'm in trouble. Better belly up to the bar and confess. Of course, I'm doing an admirable job of not confessing, which is more my style anyway. To say outright that I'm scared to death of Rogue, am the only male in this place who doesn't have designs on Jean, and by the way, Hank, I'm depressed and I want you to give a damn about me -- it's just not me, y'know? Can you see me saying something like that? Can you see anyone taking me seriously if I did?" Truth came out of his mouth even when he was doing his best to stop it. He needed to leave, needed to change the subject, needed to turn into an ornamental plant. At least then he'd be useful.
Beast raised an eyebrow behind his glasses. "Your lighthearted tone does work against you. Also, your propensity for sarcasm, and enjoyment of low humor."
Bobby put a hand to his chest, and staggered back, miming a mortal wound. "I thought you liked my sense of humor! Now I suppose you're going to tell me that you don't find my accent cute and charming."
"Bobby, you don't have an accent."
"There you go again. My moral certainty has been wounded. I can't continue living any longer. Time to go get some marshmallows and sit in front of the fire with a pointed stick until the Iceman melts into a puddle."
"I'd be pleased to join you if you mean that."
"Ah," Bobby said, making a pushing motion, as if to dismiss Hank's offer, "You just want to see me burning my marshmallows so that you can give me that lecture on Carthaginians again."
"Same thing. Anything to get my mind off of my completely kick-butt performance with the Marauders. I keep up that kind of performance, and I'm going to get a swelled ego." His mouth was running away from him. More of the terrible truth spilling out. He tried to stop it, but his mouth seemed to be on automatic. "Think about it -- I got iced by Prism. Somebody shoot me. Oh, wait. Scalphunter already did that."
"But not for making that terrible pun."
Hank rolled his eyes. "You were 'iced' by Prism, remember?"
"That wasn't a pun. That was a perfectly good off-hand remark that my messed-up brain twisted into something else. If it'd been a pun, I would have said it on purpose."
"Ha-ha," Bobby said without humor. "I'm an idiot, my own fame is for cracking jokes, and even my jokes are cracking." He let his hand freeze over, then cracked the light skin of ice away by closing his fist. The pieces fell, shattering on the floor. "Gone, all gone. It's all tears and sorrow anyway." His face wrinkled. "Did I just use the word 'sorrow' in a sentence? I think I did. God, I'm an idiot."
"I believe you already said that."
"Well, if I hadn't, I should have. It's obviously true." Bobby had jumped up from the bed and was pacing now, unable to hold still.
Beast leaned back against the wall, worried eyes watching his friend. "Are you all right?"
"Am I all right? All right?!" Bobby looked up at the ceiling, and then down to Hank. "No. Yes. No more wrong than always. How could anyone possibly be all right anyway? Except for Scott, and he's probably faking it. No, I'm not. I'm completely fucked up, I hate myself, I wish that the Earth would open up and swallow me and that hitting something repeatedly could possibly make me feel any better. 'Cause if it could, I'd just go pick a fight with Logan. He wouldn't mind. I probably would, after he got done with me," Bobby mused, "but he wouldn't mind." He stopped his frantic pacing, gaze level with Hank's. "I feel terrible, and short of hitting things, I want to crawl up against someone who gives a damn about me, and cry, and have them make me feel that it's okay to be me and that someone really does care that I'm here tomorrow. 'Cause right now, all I really want to do, beside the hitting things business, is to get really drunk and forget who I am."
There was a long moment of silence as Hank assimilated what Bobby had said.
He'd said too much. Far too much. Bobby didn't want Hank to pretend to care because he felt obligated, and sure as hell being a heated desert with random pools of lava, Bobby had just done that. He shouldn't have stayed here so long. He should have retreated to his room immediately. Stopped the flow of words, the pretense that there could ever be intimacy, be some understanding for him, of him. If there were anything of him worth understanding. Okay. Time to correct that now. He spun on his heel, heading for the door. "Look, just forget I said anything, okay?"
Hank cocked his head. "I don't think I will easily forget."
"Well, do it anyway. I was stupid to even think of talking to you about this. I never should have come here. I should have just kept my big mouth shut, and then everything would be all right. Okay, no, it wouldn't. I'd still be miserable. But at least I wouldn't be miserable and humiliated."
"Bobby, we are friends, are we not?"
Bobby paused in the doorway. "I guess. You let me live when I put fleas in your bed, and I tell you whenever Rogue's taking a shower and doesn't remember to pull the shade over the window. I suppose that means we're friends."
Hank grimaced. "I'd forgotten about the flea incident."
A grin, delivered in smoothly automatic reply. "I haven't."
"Apparently. Remind me to do something equally nice for you one day. The infestation was relatively simple to clear from the room, but the flea powder smelled terrible."
A larger grin, making his face ache. "You looked like someone had turned your hair white."
"I know," Hank said, with monumental patience. "And we are still friends."
"For what it's worth." Bobby shook his head. He was still there, babbling. Wanting to stay, wanting something from Hank even though his head knew he wouldn't get it, even though his heart was screaming that he wanted it. "Look, I'm going to go find Gambit, or Logan, or somebody. Get really drunk, or maybe do a session in the Danger Room. Something to wear me out so I'm not going nutso for the rest of the night. It's not like I'm going to be able to sleep."
"Is that what you really want?"
Bobby shook his head. God, he could almost imagine... almost believe... No. He spoke quietly. "It's what I can have. That's going to have to be enough."
"It doesn't have to be." Hank stood up and walked over to where Bobby stood. "I can still hear the obvious when it's said to me."
Bobby looked up at Hank, and held out his hands. "Whoa, big guy. Let's not get too hasty here. I didn't mean what you think I thought I was th... um... well, just don't jump to conclusions, okay?"
A large blue paw was placed on his shoulder. "It's all right, Bobby. I'm your friend, and I do care about you. It's not wrong to need other people."
His eyes teared up for a moment, hotness overflowing, and he wanted to let it go. To cry, and hope that Hank could hear him, would hear him and respond. And not being able to bear what it would be like if Hank, if the only friend he thought he might still be able to count on, didn't hear. Bobby stepped back, further into the hall outside the door. "Okay, okay, tender bonding moment over. The noble hero is reassured of the rightness of his quest, and will go off to fight another day, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera."
"My lord, Bobby, do you really think it wouldn't matter to me if you killed yourself?"
He froze. "Why would you say that? I'm fine, really. I only schemed to get brought down here because I have a secret fetish for blue teddy bears. Honest."
"Why are you pretending so hard?" Hank asked. "I know what you tried to do. I can smell the tears you're trying not to shed. I can hear the catch in your breathing. I've listened to you all but tell me that you are desperately depressed and need help. Do you think I don't care?"
Oh God. His heart hammered in his throat, the pulse pounding loudly there. He was being listened to. He didn't know what to do. Honestly, he replied, "Yes. I don't see why you should. Why anyone should."
Saying it and meaning it made the tears real, and they washed down his face, blurring his vision, not that he needed his vision in order to turn and head for the stairs, for any escape.
But there was no escape. Hank reached out, snaring him and wrapped him in a close embrace.
It was too much. Bobby cried openly now, the slow, single tears interfering with his concentration. "Hank, please. I can't stand it. You can't care. Nobody can care, because there's nothing to care about."
But Hank didn't let go. He squeezed harder, hard enough to hurt, and as Bobby exhaled, the sobs started. Hank wasn't letting go. He'd heard, and he wasn't going to abandon him.
Please, God. Let him mean this. Let him be doing this because he really does care about me. His fingers dug into Hank's fur, clutching tightly to his only source of comfort. Please let this be real.
He was scooped up and carried until abruptly he was sitting on Hank's lap on the room's only couch, still crying. Embarrassment brought the tears to a halt, and Bobby wiped his face on his sleeve. "Sorry. Don't know what came over me." He moved to get off of Beast's lap, but Hank only let him get so far.
"Bobby, I am not about to allow you to leave at this juncture."
"Hey, I'm fine. Just fine."
"Just about as fine as a stockbroker about to jump out a window," Hank said dryly.
"Yeah. Except here, somebody would probably catch me before I hit the ground. Even if the house wasn't only three stories at the highest part." He'd thought about it. He'd thought about a lot of things.
"That's what I surmised. How much objection will you raise to taking medication?"
"Why? You think I need like sedatives or something? Maybe some anti-rabies shots?"
Hank rolled his eyes, then studied Bobby solemnly. "How many times have you tried to commit suicide, Robert?"
"Um... counting today?"
"Yes, counting today," Hank said patiently.
"Three, I think. I'm pretty sure I let Prism catch me, with the Marauders. Stupid, I know. If I'd been thinking straight, I'd have let Riptide get me. That'd've been more practical. Bet Scott would have thought of that one."
"Have you considered that you might be depressed?"
"Is Wolverine hairy? It's not news. There's nothing that can be done. If pep talks helped, Scott would have made me better years ago. If bright thinking and cheeriness helped, Jubilee would have made me feel better. If self-discipline helped, then we go back to Scott. Although I think, more properly, the blame is on me for that one, because, well, we all know I'm a failure in the willpower department. Cheer up, campers. Bright sunshiny days ahead, ahoy on the starboard bow." He smiled at Hank, a wide, sad smile. "Gee, I think I'm cured now, Dr. McCoy. I promise I'll never be unhappy again. I hope you're looking forward to more fleas in your bedspread because Bobby the prankster is back, back, back."
"It's all right," Hank said, taking Bobby's hand and folding it into one broad blue paw. Bobby felt desperately angry at how much that deliberate contact meant to him. "Please don't feel you have to pretend for me. I know that this is not your fault. You are, I believe, clinically depressed. It is not something you could cure by attempting to be happy, and not a failure on your part that you are unhappy. Or even a failure of our talented telepaths whom, I suspect should have and would have tried to counsel you on this."
"Nothing to counsel me about. I don't have dark feelings. Remember me, bright-and-cheery Bobby?"
Hank regarded him with a long stare.
There never is any use in pretending with Hank. He lets me often enough, but he never believes it. Sometimes I really like the big guy. "Jean tried to talk to me. And the Professor. Jean gave me the 'buck up, little camper' speech, and I promised to do my best to be a happy bunny, and Xavier..." he frowned. "He...He talked to me. With me. There isn't anything wrong with me, y'know? There isn't any reason for me to feel bad. Not that he'd say it right out like that, but hell, I know truth when I think it -- I'm just being depressed because I'm too stupid and...and whatever-it-is to feel all happy-happy-joy-joy like I should be feeling. Like everyone else gets to feel. Otherwise dredging up all that stuff about my dad, and being the youngest X-Man, and my unimportant powers and jealousy of Emma and everything else -- otherwise that'd've done some good, y'know? But it didn't. You can't help someone like me. I just gotta do better on my own. Gotta learn how to be like everyone else."
"Bobby." Hank sighed deeply, then hugged him hard.
"Oof. What's that for?"
"Stay right there." Hank hopped off of the couch and went to his computer, beginning to type rapidly, screens scrolling by under his touch.
Bobby studied him. He actually did feel better. Better than he had in days. And Hank had done nothing, just listened. He didn't know why he felt better, but it felt good to be temporarily free of the dark misery that came swelling up from inside him like an insidious cancer eating him alive. It would come back, he was sure of that. It always came back.
"Ah, yes. I think this would be the most auspicious choice. Bobby, my friend, how do you feel about ingesting a regular dose of Paroxetine?"
"Why, thanks, but I already had a Twinkie today."
"No, no. Paroxetine is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor." Bobby looked blank. "An anti-depressant." Bobby continued to look blank. "A little pill which may make you feel less unhappy."
"Uh, Hank -- I hate to tell you this, but there are no little magic happy pills. If there were, we'd all be taking them."
"I still believe Prozac in the public water supply would be a very good idea, but no, that is not what I'm trying to tell you. You may have a chemical imbalance in your brain that causes you to feel the way you do. If so, this medication will help to readjust that chemical imbalance over the course of some time, allowing your emotional and mental state to stabilize to something approximating the current definition of normal." Bobby stared blankly at him. Hank sighed. "It's a magic happy pill."
"And you want me to take it?"
Bobby began to feel the smallest beginnings of hope. Hank was the medical genius. If he said there was a cure for something, then there was. The hollowness was receding. Hope. So that was what it felt like. He'd forgotten. He closed his eyes, thanking all the gods and goddesses he knew of for that. "Uh, can I ask you a favor?"
I don't want to be alone, and please, don't leave me alone now that I can finally almost believe that someone cares. Don't break my illusion now. Bobby cleared his throat, thinking fast. "I... I've got 'Buffy, the Vampire Slayer' on tape -- six episodes from the first season -- missed them before. Wanna watch the tapes with me? If you're not too busy. Because I know, I mean, your research is important, and I don't want you to think that I'm asking you to ignore it... oh, hell. Never mind. I know you wouldn't want to. I just..."
"Bobby, I would be delighted to watch 'Buffy' with you."
He smiled, a small, real smile. "Thanks, Hank."
It was late when they started watching the episodes -- it had already been evening, and their talk had taken some time. Later still before they were even halfway through the videos.
Bobby looked over at his friend, occupying most of the couch, and yawned. He wanted nothing more than to stay right there. To have Hank there...for some reason, he found he suddenly couldn't bear the idea of leaving, or of Hank leaving. Of being abandoned by the one true friend he had. But he was tired. Very tired. "Hey, Hank?"
"Mind if I go to sleep right here?"
"Not in the slightest."
Bobby curled up on the small part of the couch belonging to him, then, on impulse, laid his head against Hank's arm. Without a word, Hank wrapped his arm around him, and Bobby's head was pillowed against his friend's chest.
"Please..." his voice caught on the tears that never seemed too far away today. "Please don't leave."
"I won't. Good night, Bobby."
"Good night, Hank."
It was going to be all right. Or at least better. Bobby fell asleep like that, head cushioned against Beast, feeling safe in the no longer threatening darkness.
Hank just kept watching the television.