A Special Kinda Birthday
by J.B. McDonald

Part 2

Remy peered into the bedroom, relieved to see Bobby there. The man had been gone that morning when Remy awoke, and had come home only to race to the Danger Room and from there upstairs. Remy wasn't even sure Bobby'd taken the time to eat.

Something Remy planned to rectify now. He came slowly around the corner, loaded dinner plate in hand. "Bobby?"

Bobby didn't answer, intent on the computer screen and tax forms laid out around him.

"Bobby? What're you doin'?"

"Taxes," Bobby answered, glancing up. "I'm a CPA, remember?" There was a smile in those blue eyes. Eyes that sported dark circles from no sleep.

"Hm. I brought you some food. You missed dinner." And breakfast and lunch, most likely. Remy didn't add that, though.

That got the young man's attention. Bobby's head snapped around, eyes wild. "What time is it?"

Remy glanced down at his watch. "Seven t'irty."

"I'm gonna be late!" Bobby yelped, shutting down the computer in a rush.

"Late f'r what?" Remy asked, setting the plate down carefully.

"Late for a very important date," Bobby answered, grinning as he grabbed his jacket off the chair. "No time to say goodbye, hello!, I'm late I'm late I'm late!" and he disappeared out the door.

Remy waited for the count of five, then followed quietly. By the time he'd reached his Harley, Bobby was already in his light blue Honda and out the drive, speeding down the road.

Remy took his time, settling his helmet firmly in place before starting the Harley up and turning down the road the same way Bobby had gone. It didn't take long to catch up to the man, and Remy stayed low against his bike and far enough back that he didn't think Bobby would notice.

They drove, Bobby leading and Remy following at a distance, until they reached Westchester proper. Bobby stopped at a gas station and ran into the restroom, and Remy parked at the restaurant across the street. After a moment Bobby emerged wearing a new button-down shirt -- a gaudy button-down shirt -- and got back in his car.

Remy started his motorcycle up and followed Bobby farther, always staying several cars behind and in a different lane. If Bobby realized he was being followed, he didn't show it.

Fifteen minutes later they arrived at a Hawaiian restaurant, Aloha Joe's, and Bobby parked and hurried in. Remy waited for a long while, then casually got off his bike and wandered over to a teenager sitting on a brick wall nearby.

"I'll give you ten bucks if y'll go in dere and tell me what dis man is doin'," Remy said, handing the boy a photo of Bobby.

The teenager glanced down, considered the offer, then nodded and took the picture. He disappeared within the building, then emerged a moment later. "He's bussing tables," the young man answered, taking the folded bill from Remy and handing the picture back.

"T'anks," Remy murmured, and looked at the restaurant thoughtfully. What was going on? Suddenly, Bobby was running himself ragged, doing taxes, bussing tables, disappearing in the morning to go -- where? Come here? All without any explanation.

Remy leaned back against the brick wall, folding his arms across his lean chest. Obviously Bobby needed money. Remy didn't know why his supposedly quick brain hadn't picked it up sooner.

Now the question remained, why would Bobby need money so suddenly? He had some of his own, Remy knew. Xavier dealt with all their food and bills, and various tax jobs Bobby had done over the years had all paid him decently. The money went toward whatever Bobby felt like buying, and Remy knew that the man didn't buy very much. Xavier hired Bobby to do the accounts at the mansion, along with the accounts for the other school.

And it wasn't enough money.

Remy crossed his legs at the ankles and considered the building before him.

So Bobby needed a lot of money, fast, and didn't want him to know. Remy ran long fingers through his auburn hair, pulling a tangle out absently. Maybe Bobby was in some sort of trouble. Trouble that he didn't want other people to know about -- which could range anywhere, if Bobby was embarrassed about it. Remy's eyebrows rose and he sauntered back to his Harley. He'd have to check that out. And corner the man, see if he couldn't get Bobby to confess. Whatever it was, they'd deal with it together.

Remy swung onto his Harley and shook his head to himself. Leave it to Bobby to worry about confiding in the people he loved.

"Why would I need a loan?" Bobby asked through a mouthful of toasted waffle. He opened the refrigerator door, reaching in to get butter. His hand hovered over the syrup for a moment, then left it alone and closed the door.

"Dat's not what I asked," Remy answered slowly, frowning. He peered into the depths of his coffee as though it held some great secret, swirling the mug and watching the liquid flow in small circles and slosh up onto the sides.

"Sure it is." Bobby set his waffle down on his plate, then pulled a knife out of the drawer and proceeded to butter his breakfast. That done, he picked the waffle back up and munched on it like toast. "I mean, yeah, you said it more diplomatically. But that is what you said."

Remy frowned at his coffee. It was what he'd said, but he'd thought he'd phrased it well enough that Bobby wouldn't get offended. Not that Bobby really seemed offended ... really, he seemed almost curious. Remy glanced up into guileless blue eyes, then sat his coffee mug down and leaned forward. "Bobby--"

"Is that java I smell?" Hank called, bursting in through the door. "Surely a fragrance as daintily luscious as that which is reaching my olfactory senses could only mean one thing!"

Bobby plopped into a chair across the table from Remy, grinning up at Hank as he bounded toward the coffee pot.

"Coffee! Java! Mocha! Caffeine extract! Legal narcotic! Whatever you call it, it's coffee!"

Bobby was laughing openly, shaking his head.

Remy leaned back in his chair, watching the other two men silently. This was no time to talk about Bobby's "moonlighting." He didn't know if the younger man had even told Hank.

"You know, Bobby," Hank said, pouring an alarming amount of sugar into his coffee, "I was checking my records recently--"

"As a matter of fact, I didn't know that," Bobby deadpanned.

"Hmmm. Well, I was," Hank answered just as seriously. "And I noted a peculiar anomaly in my normally complete and well-ordered files."



"And what was that, Hank?" Bobby asked, leaning on one hand.

Hank's big eyes looked down at Bobby solemnly. "You, my hypothermically inclined friend, haven't made a sojourn to my offices lately." Both eyebrows climbed, in wait of an explanation.

"Oh." Bobby took a sudden interest in his plate, carefully cleaning up the crumbs. "Well, that's explainable."

"Indubitably. Why don't you come with me and explain it whilst I run a diagnostics of your personal organic functioning facility?"

Bobby sighed heavily and looked with great sadness at Hank. "I just can't do that, Hankster. Remy would be left all alone, and he's afraid of kitchens."

Remy's eyebrows both shot up.

"It's a little known fact," Bobby continued.

"Ah. You're in quite a quandry." Hank nodded solemnly. "But I have found the solution for just such an unusual occurrence. Remy should stay in the kitchen alone for a few moments, while you travel with me to my laboratory. I'm sure the knowledge that you'll come back to him, safe and sound, will keep Remy from being overcome by his kitchenophobia!"

Bobby's eyes twitched around the kitchen. "I'm allergic to check-ups," he finally admitted in a solemn whisper.

"Ah," Hank said again, nodding. "I happen to have an anti-allergenic pill for that!" He smiled and, with a flourish, pulled a red lollipop out of his lab coat.

Bobby considered, then shook his head. "Can't do. Remy was talking to me."

Hank pulled a yellow lollipop out of his other pocket, and waved it temptingly in front of Bobby's face.

Remy chuckled. "Better go, cher," he said quietly. He wasn't going to be able to ask Bobby about the job with Hank there, and Hank wasn't leaving until Bobby went with him.

Bobby gave Remy a forlorn look. "But what about your kitchen-o-phobia?"

"I'll work at gettin' over it," Remy answered.

Bobby shot him a traitorous look.

"Roooooberrrrrt..." Hank sang softly, pulling a green lollipop out of his inner coat pocket and adding it to the lollipop bouquet, waving the whole thing before Bobby's face.

Bobby tried to smother his grin. "I suppose I have no other choice..." he sighed after a moment. "Gimme those," he muttered, snatching the three lollipops and following Hank out of the kitchen.

Remy had looked through all of Bobby's documents (his conscience eased when he remembered it was for the good of his lover), checked the room thoroughly for anything hidden, and surreptitiously asked around to find out if anyone knew anything.

He couldn't find a single thing to tell him why Bobby could possibly need money. And that made him worry even more. In his experience, if it was something that well hidden then it was probably also something illegal and dangerous.

Fighting spandex-clad bad guys was one thing, but fighting the New York underworld was another. Bobby was good at the former, but, as far as Remy knew, had no idea how to go about doing the latter.

So Remy decided to find out what was going on the old-fashioned way.

He'd ask.

Remy glanced around the den for the umpteenth time, drumming slender fingers on the coffee table. Bobby was still with Hank. Remy knew because the doorway of the den gave him a perfect view of anyone coming down the hall.

And Bobby was still with Hank.

Merde. Maybe he needs money 'cause he's sick or somet'in'. Remy's stomach twisted at the thought, Bobby's of-late pale face hovering in his mind's eye. Maybe Bobby wasn't sleeping much not because of a job, but because he was sick. And he was leaving early in the morning for ... what? Treatments? What if Bobby had some strange and rare disease that wasn't covered by insurance? Den why wouldn't he jus' go to Hank? the logical part of Remy's brain argued reasonably.

The emotional side of Remy's brain ignored that point completely, instead coming up with all sorts of strange diseases that could have infected Bobby.

And how would he get those? the logical side asked sarcastically.

"Bobby!" Remy called with relief, seeing the young man walking down the hall. "Is ever't'in' okay?"

Bobby stopped, smiled, and leaned against the doorframe, obviously tired. "Yeah. Why wouldn't it be?" he asked, smothering a yawn.

Remy watched him closely, still not completely able to chase away the unreasonable idea that Bobby might be infected with some horrible disease. "You were dere f'r a really long time."

Bobby rolled his baby blues and nodded. "Tell me about it. I swear, if Hank ever sweeps you away into his lab? Don't argue about anything. He can come up with all sorts of tests to make you take."

Remy smiled, raising an eyebrow.

"He can! Weird tests that I've never even heard of! Like, testing for the X'inax virus. I think it's a Shi'ar thing."

Remy chuckled, and shook his head. "Right." He stood, lithe body moving gracefully. "Bobby, c'n I talk to you? Privately?"

Bobby tensed slightly, eyes widening, and Remy found himself reviewing his words to figure out just what had Bobby suddenly worried. Oh. Right. Private talks weren't generally considered good for relationships. Remy started to say something, then decided not to. Bobby'd figure it out in a minute, and the man wasn't completely panicking.

They went back upstairs to their room, and Remy closed the door.

Bobby stood by the foot of the bed, one hand rubbing his arm unconsciously.

"I know y' workin' at Aloha Joe's," Remy started, sitting down in the chair by the desk and leaning on his knees. "An' I'm worried. What do you need money for?"

Bobby smiled slightly, relieved, and plopped gracelessly down on the bed. Then the relief left his face, and he frowned. "Uh ... it's ... it's for, um ... a ... a new ... computer." He smiled hopefully, normally bright eyes tired.

"Uh huh." Remy kept his gaze on the younger man, knowing eventually Bobby would break.

"Yeah. An expensive one. That ... uh..." The intercom buzzed, and Bobby leapt for it like a suffocating man would for air. "YeahI'mhere!"

"Bobby?" Scott's voice called. "Telephone for you."

"Thanks!" Bobby said, then shot Remy a smile and almost ran from the room.

Remy sighed in irritation and scrubbed his hands through his hair.

Two days. Bobby had dodged him for two days.

Remy leaned against the bedroom doorway, watching Bobby work at the desk. Tax papers were laid out before him, pens and pencils near to hand. Brown hair fell in the young man's face, disturbed only by Bobby's breath as it whispered past. The circles had darkened beneath his eyes, and he'd been stumbling through his life on auto-pilot. This couldn't go on much longer.

Remy stepped into the room, easing himself down on the bed behind the other man. "Bobby? Cher? Can we talk?"

Bobby leaned back in his chair, rubbing his neck with one hand. "Oh man. Not right now, okay Remy?" Bobby swiveled around, tired blue eyes pleading silently. "I have to get this done, and I'm almost there."

He looked so pitiful, brown hair falling in blue eyes, pale skin only accenting the dark circles. Barely visible beneath the skin was blond stubble where Bobby had forgone shaving that morning, sleeping for ten extra minutes instead.

"Please, Remy? Not right now? Later, okay?"

Remy knew he shouldn't agree. He knew that if he came back later Bobby would be gone. Knew that, even though Bobby was looking at him with those heartbreaking blue eyes, and that look was too weary to be contrived, he should press his advantage and get some answers now.

"Get some sleep, 'kay cher?" he asked instead, standing up.

Bobby smiled slightly, obviously relieved, and turned back to his papers.

Remy paused beside the desk. "You can' keep drivin' y'self like dis," he murmured quietly.

"I know," Bobby answered, and smiled in what was supposed to be a comforting way. Remy frowned deeper. Bobby looked too tired to give comforting looks.

Remy watched him for a moment, then turned and left the room.

continued >>

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