Stare

PG-13 with allusions to m/m. Pre-X1, John vs. The Powers That Be.

St. John Allerdyce makes a formal protest on Bobby's behalf.

Notes: Another experiment in style, much like "Inverse" was.

"John?"

"Yeah, Mister Summers?"

"I realize it's a Monday morning, but is Bobby running late?"

"Nope."

"I didn't see him at breakfast."

"He's still in bed."

"Oh. Well, is he planning on making it to class?"

"Nope. He spent most of last night worshiping the porcelain god. You know how that goes."

"I see."

"I had Pete score some toast for him this morning. Got some water in him too."

"Okay. I'll stop by later then--"

"He ain't receiving visitors."

"What?"

"I said, no visitors."

Tentatively, "Did he tell you that directly?"

"Nope."

"Then it's not your call to make."

"I'm his roommate."

"I realize that but... well, maybe Dr. Grey--"

"Dude? If he wanted you guys to bear witness to his Technicolor yawn, he would have said something, dontcha think?"

"John--"

"Like I said, Mister Summers, Bobby's staying in bed, no visitors. Pass that along to the others for me, okay?"

"St. John--"

"You know the drill, Scott. Bobby comes back from Boston not feeling good. Always says he's got motion sickness. Guess this time, it's bit more serious. Guess this time, it didn't pass as quickly as it usually does."

"Look, I know--"

"It's not like you're gonna call his mommy about this one." A lifted chin. A defiant stare. "Like I said, Bobby's not coming to class today. Not to anyone's classes. No one's gonna hassle him about it either. Deal with it."

****((()))****

"John?"

"Yeah, Dr. Grey?"

"I'd like to speak to you before your next class... Please close the door."

"Okay. Door closed. What?"

"I didn't see your lab notebook in with the others."

"I know."

"Did you leave it upstairs?"

"Nope."

Cautiously, "Have you finished the assignment from yesterday?"

"Nope."

"John, you know that the lab is twenty-five percent of your grade."

"Yeah. And?"

An arched eyebrow.

A shrug in response.

Delicately, "I know that Bobby was not feeling well on Sunday and stayed in his room all day yesterday."

"Motion sickness, or that's what he says. Every time he comes back from Boston. Wonder why that is? You're the doctor and everything. Got any hints?"

Silence.

Coolly, "Thought so."

A sigh. "I'll grant you an extension until Friday."

"Yeah... Whatever."

****((()))****

"Has the trash in your office been emptied, Scott?"

"No, Ro, it hasn't."

"That means it's across the board. It's Wednesday and none of the garbage from the first floor offices or classrooms has been taken out yet this week."

"Really."

"You're awfully placid for a man whose... wow..." a snowy eyebrow arched, "wastebasket is overflowing with junk mail."

"I hadn't noticed."

She stared at him.

He didn't look up from his papers.

Slowly, "Who has trash detail this week?"

"Allerdyce."

"I see... You know, he hasn't turned in any of his homework assignments this week for my class or for Jean's. I don't know about his work for Charles, but I have a feeling that it is the same. Has he turned in anything for you?"

"No."

"But... I thought you gave a test on yesterday."

"Yes, I did. He turned it in blank, except for his name."

"Oh. Scott, don't you think this is getting a little out of hand?"

"It's his decision, Ro. He knows the consequences."

"That's not the point."

"Actually, I think it is."

"So, it's okay for John Allerdyce to basically go on strike. Scott, this is ridiculous. You know how the other children--"

"John is protesting, Ro, and we all know why. I much prefer him making a statement this way than us wandering around the Mansion with fire extinguishers."

"And what about his friends? What if they all get the bright idea to skip their chores and not turn in their homework?"

"They won't."

"You sound sure of it."

"If John wanted them to be in on it, they would have been. And Ro, you know Bobby. Do you think he wants anyone to know about that flyer?"

"No. But this... this..."

"We're encouraging the kids to use all of their gifts. John happens to be quite creative... Don't give me that look, Ro."

"You sound... proud of him."

"Hey. He's paying attention in my Political Science class."

****((()))****

The high-backed, burgundy leather chair was empty.

Charles Xavier pinched the bridge of his nose and let out a slow sigh.

Despite the wariness from those initial sessions or St. John Allerdyce's abject terror of believing he would be forced to leave the Mansion after the unfortunate incidents in the Kitchen. In spite of the palpable fear of being 'passed off' after his emotional breakdown. Beyond the unabashed gratitude in receiving the birthday gift, St. John had always been prompt for their weekly meetings.

The young man once had mentally declared that he would not give up his 'precious thirty minutes' unless he had been forced to. He had the attention of an authority figure who didn't ignore his plight. Here at the Mansion, he had never been simply ignored or placed in a corner or brushed off to be dealt with later. St. John valued that. He took pleasure in it. And regardless if St. John believed the whole exercise was fruitless, they were making progress. After all, the progress they had made was clearly (and unfortunately) reflected in his absence.

For the first time since his arrival, St. John Allerdyce had deliberately missed his weekly appointment.

Charles could, of course, mentally summon the boy. It was what St. John was expecting. He was also expecting a psychic 'talking to' about his actions against the faculty - collectively known as 'The Powers that Be', which was a nickname that Charles found quite amusing.

However, Charles had been prepared for a staring contest. It was precisely what the boy had planned since 9:57 p.m. on Sunday evening. During each of Charles' classes that St. John had attended for the past week, the boy had carefully plotted out how he would conduct himself during those thirty-minutes. Charles had not actively sought out the boy's thoughts nor had the boy intentionally projected them. However, they had been sharp, clear and full of emotion. It had been difficult to ignore.

Yet on the day on which to carry out the plan, St. John had changed his mind sometime between 2:55 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.

It wasn't difficult to psychically locate the boy; after all, St. John had been radiating anger and belligerence quite clearly for the past four and a half days. It was the fear overriding those two emotions that allowed him to pinpoint precisely where the boy was on the Mansion grounds.

Fear was such a pure emotion, a primal one like hatred, that it was quite easy to focus on. It was not convoluted, such as 'like' or 'curious' where there were so many other thoughts and emotions mixed in that it took years of experience to be able to understand. No, fear was akin to lust in some ways because of the striking clarity of the thought. After all, Charles had plenty of experience with 'lust' during those years his old friend resided at the Mansion. He also had plenty of experience with hatred during the daylight hours and fear in the darkness of night.

The fear from the boy was of a different flavor, of course, because it was of the 'anticipation of what was to happen' kind. Charles was more familiar with the 'it will happen again' variety.

It still came back to the fact that St. John had intentionally missed his appointment. The boy intentionally had done several other things over the past week, subtle yet deliberate in manner. This was simply the last in the young man's series of defiant acts. It also was the one perhaps that St. John believed had the most serious consequences.

Charles could, after all, cancel all future appointments with the boy, which was one of St. John's fears. A defiant act always had consequences. And as easy as it would have been to adjust a memory here and there simply for the sake of convenience and tidiness, Charles hadn't.

What had forced the boy to give up his 'precious thirty minutes' had not been because Charles had dismissed him or that he had broken some rule at the Mansion. The boy had been forced because of a sense of justice and loyalty towards Robert, justified by a pact, which had been made late night in the woods and had been sealed with contraband vodka.

He couldn't take that away from the young man. Developing relationships with people. Believing in their faith in him. Accepting their friendship. Finally being able to prove his own loyalty, if not to anyone else but to himself.

Erasing such an accomplishment was criminal, especially since St. John had fought so hard for it.

Charles couldn't be angry with the boy. After all, St. John had been quite clever in his protest. Sassing a faculty member. Failing to do homework. Refusing to do chores. On the surface, it seemed that St. John Allerdyce was rebelling against The Powers That Be. Testing his limits. Pushing his boundaries. It was, after all, what was expected of every teenager.

Yet Charles respected the calculated application of creativity. It reminded him of so much. Quiet. Understated. A protest that was missed by many but so obvious to so few. Crystal clear to those who needed to know.

The flare of pride from Scott's realization had been a hard emotional spike to ignore on Monday. The aching realization from Jean had been striking on Tuesday. Ororo's anger-turned-respect and approval had been so pure on Wednesday. St. John Allerdyce had reluctantly learned a lot from his father, but was far better at the application of 'high hand' stakes than Martin Allerdyce could ever be.

Charles stared the burgundy leather chair. He then glanced at the clock.

Chess, he told himself. Chess.

It would have been easy to access the boys' minds and altered their memories; it had been how Charles had accomplished the initial feat in whisking Robert away from the Drake residence to begin with. It would have been the easy solution. The simple solution.

Maybe the fact that St. John reminded him of another young man - did nationality really matter? - that made Charles so uncertain.

St. John cared enough to risk his grades (which didn't matter), his status (which mattered somewhat), and the respect he had earned from The Powers That Be (which mattered more than St. John was willing to admit) on Robert's behalf. St. John was willing to submit himself to a 'mental voice over' as he so cleverly called it, even though it terrified him to the point of calculating how long he could spend in the walk-in freezer before frostbite set it.

St. John had not told Robert of the sacrifices he was making on his behalf; he had not informed his friends either. And perhaps that was what had taken all of them aback, that St. John's skillful protest had been carried out without the groups' knowledge of the reasons why.

Charles rubbed the bridge of his nose again.

This is a game of chess, old boy. Surely, you can appreciate that, a voice that sounded hauntingly like his old friend's resonated in his mind.

Chess. Always at least three moves ahead of one's opponent.

St. John was waiting, frightened to the point of thanking Bast, Yahweh, Shiva, and even that 'piece of shit Christian' God, that the mental voice over hadn't happened yet. In the same breath, St. John angrily wondered why none of the Gods had shown up on Robert's behalf and protected the boy who didn't deserve 'that kind of shit' happening to him.

Charles sighed, the hurt heavy in his heart. They all thought such decisions came without a price.

The price was only Charles' conscience, after all. How much was that worth?

If only St. John had followed through with his initial plan of a staring contest. Charles could have endured that one better. At that moment, he believed he would have explained everything to St. John. After all, the boy had proven himself.

Instead, he closed his eyes.

He silenced the other thoughts around him.

Jean reached out to him and then backed away. He could feel her sadness.

Ororo's worry.

Scott's vindication.

Charles was not omnipotent. He was not omniscient. He paid a price just like everyone else. The only difference was that there were far too few witnesses to his payments.

St. John? he sent.

Bile-laced fear answered him. The words were muddled, but the intent was bravado.

What Charles wanted to say was, "You are absolutely justified in your anger. I had no idea that William Drake would ever physically assault his son in that manner. Yes, there were a few times before. I had no idea that the Drake's fear and distrust for mutants would lead to this kind of hatred. You didn't see the flyer, dear boy, did you? That was the reason Scott was blasting Frisbees on Sunday, not because William Drake physically accosted his son. The flyer, St. John, is what I am most concerned about."

Instead, he continued, You are late.

If only it had been a staring contest, Charles would have yielded.

The thoughts were clearer this time and the panic that twinged the words made his heart ache. St. John had chosen to project his thoughts but the only things that came clearly were: He believes... Trusts... Faith... Worship... Love...

"I realize that, dear boy," Charles said aloud to the empty chair. "Robert believes in our message, trusts us implicitly, has faith in us, worships us as elders and loves us more than, perhaps, his own family. We failed him. I know. I cannot tell you how much it pains me."

Telepathically, he sent, We should have this conversation in my office.

Another flurry of anger, the thoughts and words too tangled to decipher. Profanity served no purpose in a mental conversation.

"You must understand, St. John, that the game must be played this way," Charles spoke again. "Robert is an alpha-level mutant with abilities that we are just now discovering. You haven't seen his ice form yet, have you? It is most impressive. However, if we did not maintain this illusion, things would be much different."

Such language is unnecessary, St. John, he went on. The boy was very protective of his given name, the privilege of its use granted to only two. Charles used it out of necessity, without permission, as had Jean that one time. Of them, only Jubilation and Scott had been granted the right outright; Robert only used it because Charles had instructed him to do so.

How could you? The boy demanded, intending to sound angry. Instead, the emotions associated with it were desperation, as if his faith in something he dared to believe in had been shattered.

"Indeed, how can I?" he said aloud. "But I have encountered parents such as the Drake's and know precisely what they would do to their son. Are you aware that there are surgical procedures, St. John? Scientifically unfounded, but they exist nonetheless. My greatest fear is that they would subject their son to it."

This matter is between Robert and his family. Charles carefully modulated his tone. He has not asked you to intervene on his behalf. You simply made an assumption.

That, of course, earned a litany of mental profanity.

In his parental tone, he sent, I believe this discussion has ended.

Silence answered him.

I expect you to be here next week, St. John. He tried very hard to not be flattered by St. John's intense flush of relief that overrode the intended message of indifference. If you choose to disregard future appointments, please do the courtesy of informing me beforehand.

If only it had been a staring contest, it would have been much easier.

Thanks to...

mikhale for crits and comments, pushing me (as always) to make it better.

Any errors that are left are all mine.



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