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[personal profile] rosiedoes posting in [community profile] damagereport
 Author alfirin_kirinki 
Beta ashe_frost 
Rating: PG-13 at most
Pairing: Bobby/John
Archived the_aa, dry_ice, xmmf, x_slash  - various fic sites.
Summary: Post X2, Bobby is the first to celebrate his birthday.
Disclaimer: Characters property of Marvel; title and quote property of Funeral for a Friend.
Author Notes: For the  dry_ice  First Birthday Challenge – many happy returns, DI!

Moments Forever Faded
“Timing is everything…” Funeral for a Friend

The students at the Xavier Institute for Gifted Youngsters had a tradition that dated back to long before any of the school’s current pupils had been there. It centred around the multiplex in town, which had once been little more than a reparatory cinema, but had grown, over time, into an extensive complex of entertainments – from arcades to restaurants, a bowling alley, ice rink, shopping mall and cinema – it had developed into the sort of place that could keep almost anyone happy and cater to virtually any taste. Which is probably why, even many years on, the older students of Mutant High converged, en mass, upon the complex several times a year to celebrate each other’s birthdays.

The last time they had been there was for Piotr’s nineteenth birthday in January, when they had had to forcibly drag him out of the mansion and into the minibus; long before Alkali Lake. Long before everything had changed. Bobby’s eighteenth birthday provided the opportunity everyone wanted to forget about it all, he knew that. But Bobby wasn’t sure he was ready to forget everything, just yet. It was only five weeks and two days since it had happened, most of them were still getting headaches and a lot of the younger students weren’t sleeping. Summers and Logan were wandering around as if they were looking for something but couldn’t remember what it was, both irritable and clearly unhappy. Professor Munroe, on the other hand, was trying real hard to seem just the opposite, offering everyone neat, supportive, surface-only smiles. When even the adults were low the kids didn’t have much to aspire to.

They had all been to the cinema already, and Bobby sat through the film numbly staring at the huge screen. By the time they went to the Mexican restaurant for the meal he couldn’t have explained a single scene if someone had asked him. He smiled when people spoke to him, running on an autopilot set to ‘content’ and trying to avoid Rogue’s eyes from where she sat almost directly across the table. It was seventeen days, now. He hadn’t been able to stand things the way they were after what happened; somehow, he almost felt like he was tying loose ends. So he’d suggested they call it a day, stay friends and move on to the next chapter in their lives, because they were on the verge of becoming part of the X-Men themselves and it just wasn’t practical.

Bobby was a good liar.

He never mentioned that he wished he had gone after John, because no one wanted to hear that. John had abandoned them and people didn’t want a faceless old hick with a fucked up son to be angry with, they wanted something they could identify with and focus their feelings on. Someone they could say had always showed signs of disloyalty to the cause, someone who was a trouble maker and acted like a badass which really should have been a huge hint. And sometimes Bobby wanted to tell them all to shut the fuck up and not pretend John was never Mutie High’s Fonz, and that they hadn’t thought his sharp comments in class were funny. Other times, he despised himself for never having the balls to say it.

And he realised, right before they left for the multiplex, that all the people sitting in the vehicle, waiting for him to provide some distraction – some entertainment – didn’t have a clue about some of the most important things about him. And there wasn’t one of them he truly felt he could tell.

Even as Jubilee and Kitty pulled him by the arms and dragged him onto the ice rink opposite the restaurant, he wondered what he was doing there. Why he was smiling placidly and helping the girls keep from falling. All he wanted to do was leave and be by himself some place; because the only other thing that would have made him happy was beyond reasonable expectation anyway. And sometimes that made him as angry as the others, but mainly it just made him lonely. Surrounded by friends and yet so very alone.

He made his excuses quickly, blaming a non-existent Danger Room injury and making his way back towards their table. He stopped to switch back to his trainers, his paces feeling strange and static after the glide of the ice, and then slumped back into his chair. This had to be the most depressing birthday of his life. 

He was too preoccupied, at first, to notice the small, blue box that had been left at his place at the table. It was just a couple of inches square, and plain blue with the faintest of light blue shimmers. He glanced around, wondering who may have left it there, not entirely certain that it belonged to him. It wasn’t wrapped in any paper or ribbons, though, so what harm would opening it to check, do? It was probably just a present from one of the others. Maybe something romantic from one of the girls who was too shy to hand it to him in person.

Carefully, he eased off the lid, and looked for the contents. It took a moment to notice the small square of card laying face-down on the bottom, but he pulled it out and stared at it. It was the stub of a cinema ticket, dated August – nearly a year before. Across the front was a single word in plain, block-capitals. It said ‘REMEMBER’.

It took Bobby a long time to figure out what exactly he was supposed to remember. He turned the stub over in his hands a few times, before settling back to stare at the movie information. The date was only partially legible, but he idly thought to himself that John’s birthday was in August, and then something clicked. He was on his feet, his jacket in one hand and the ticket in the other, and he was running towards the escalators, pushing past people to get to the cinema.

Ten months ago, John had complained that he didn’t want in on his own birthday celebrations. He hated crowds and he hated being made to do things that were suggested by anyone but him. If you could bend your own ideas to sound as though they were his he might go along with it, but it was an acquired skill. And that day, John had sulked and complained until Bobby had ‘reminded’ him he’d suggested seeing a movie, so that was always an option. The moment they were inside the mall, they split, ditching the rest of the group to amuse themselves, and sprinting to the cinema so that they would be hidden away in their seats before their absence was even noted.

It had been fun, the running and the excitement from the risk of the others catching them, even if there was nothing they could have done about it. It had been more fun when Bobby had grabbed John’s hand to stop him throwing handfuls of popcorn across the auditorium, and John had refused to let go. When the credits rolled and people began to leave, John leaned across him to pick up his jacket from the spare seat and Bobby had done the stupidest thing of his life – he pulled him down and kissed him. And there was a horrible moment when John just stared back at him, his face just a couple of inches away, and Bobby was certain that he had ruined everything and that he must have screwed up so bad to have got things so wrong – but then John was wrenching him out of his seat and dragging him out of the cinema before Bobby even had a chance to pick up the rest of his Pepsi.

And for months they had teetered so precariously on the brink of the ‘What Does This Mean?’ talk that by Christmas Bobby was going insane from the questions in his head and from having to sit quietly and not so much as brush John’s hand as he leaned for things or passed him objects, while behind closed doors Bobby had never known anything as intense. So he had taken the initiative to ask. It was probably the second greatest mistake he’d ever made.

Weeks passed and John was cold, and then there was a convenient girl he couldn’t touch and it had only ever been meant to make John jealous. But all it had done was drive him further away and eventually… eventually there was no John at all. But if he ran fast enough Bobby might reach the cinema and maybe that promise they’d made when nothing was this complicated, about never wasting birthdays on other people wouldn’t get broken. If he was just fast enough…

He almost fell over in his rush to stop in the foyer of the cinema, twirling around like a graceless ballerina to scan the faces around him. He had to be there somewhere – or else who would have left the ticket? If Bobby could just spot him before he did something stupid, like leave, then maybe this time he’d have that chance to get it right, because he’d figured out, after John had left, that the reason Christmas had turned things cold was not that John expected the matter to remain unspoken, but that he had simply expected Bobby to know.

His heart felt as though each beat was an explosion against his ribcage, the running and the panic and the desperate need to find John pushing it to its limit. He couldn’t see him anywhere and he was starting to wonder if this was a mistake, if the tiny ticket in his hand had not meant this at all, when he looked down and saw all he needed to know – L3, sc.3. He rushed to the vendor, pushing his way past queuing couples, and shoving his money at him. A minute later, he was running again, bursting through the doors at the bottom of screen three, the sounds of movie trailers blaring around him, but not permeating his focus. 

This was the only idea he had left and if it was wrong…

He collapsed into the third seat of row L and stared, breathless and panting at the person in the chair beside him.

“I – I remembered,” he said, between gasps, and John smirked and scooped up a handful of toffee popcorn, weighing it ominously in his hand, giving him a wry, side-long glance.

“You took your time.”

“I made a mistake…”

“Then I guess you’d better catch up."

Bobby stared at him for a moment, before scooping up a handful of popcorn and heaving it across the audience. He held out his hand.

Popcorn cascaded to the floor as John leaned over and ignored the hand in favour of crushing his lips to Bobby’s.

“Anything you wanna change?” he said, pulling away just enough that their lips were still touching.

Bobby’s face spread into his first genuine smile in months and he cupped the side of John’s face with a hand still sticky from a fistful of confectionary, and said, “Next year, I get to choose the movie.”


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