4926/Guess who's back

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Guess who's back
Date of Scene: 29 January 2021
Location: Julio's Room
Synopsis: Bobby returns to the school and has a fraught conversation with Julio.
Cast of Characters: Julio Richter, Bobby Drake

Julio Richter has posed:
It's been a nightmarish few days for Julio, and he's holed up in his room with his nerves on a ragged edge and his face buried in a book from the library downstairs. There's schoolwork scattered around in the form of textbooks, notes, and half-finished essays -- he's way behind on all of that -- but there's also a significant segment of literature on Mesoamerican mythology.

One of those currently occupies his attention, opened on his lap as he's perched sideways on his bed, back propped against the wall. His expression as he reads is a lot more tense and worried than one might expect, observing a student reading up on the stories of dead civilizations. His knee bounces up and down as his foot jackhammers out a compulsive tempo. The last thing he's expecting is a guest, but the door to his room is slightly ajar.

Bobby Drake has posed:
It hasn't exactly been a winter wonderland month for Bobby Drake, that's for sure. In the scale of popular memes he's gone from 'Let It Go' to 'Prepare Yourselves: Winter Is Coming,' which goes a great deal towards excusing his sudden absence, while explaining nothing much at all.

Long sterile hospital nights, nagging guilt and remorse haven't exactly aged him, but he does look to be on the edge of Not Having Slept Enough In A While. Coming back to the school always stirs up mixed feelings, always different, and Bobby finds himself wishing, for once, for a time where it could be a simple homecoming. But you really can't have simple things, when you have grown up. Especially when you're not careful about how you handle other people.

"Knock knock," Bobby Drake's voice comes from the door that is not a door, because it's ajar. He's never gone so far as to tell that joke, for fear of actual physical repercussions, but he thinks about it every single time. He briefly wonders what that says about him... Jean would probably have a theory.

Clear blue eyes peek through the opening, and his hand comes up to open the door further, unless told to go away. "Julio?" he says softly, not really leaving the requisite space between the verbal knocking and the follow-up to allow for a proper, timely response. He looks slightly washed out, in a pale grey turtleneck and jeans that at one point might have been blue, but which time and many careless washes have rendered into a nondescript gray as well.

Julio Richter has posed:
The moment Bobby's voice enters Julio's room, the younger man jerks upright from his study nest, dropping his current book to the floor with a dull thud. The returning X-man's first sight of Julio in months is not what the Latino mutant would have wanted, if he'd been able to plan it. Ric's dark eyes are rimmed with red and his hair, shaggy at the best of times, looks like he slept on it immediately after showering and hasn't touched it today. His outfit, picked for comfort rather than style, is a throwback to the ragamuffin days when he first showed up at the school.

Certainly, the pink tank top with its faded gradient sunset fits more snugly than it did back then, now that months of good food and intense training have helped him fill out. Still, his jeans are new only to him: secondhand and well worn, like most of his casual clothes, they feature tears at the cuffs and the knees. As it's not summer, he doesn't have his chanclas handy, but his brown, fuzzy slippers are no more formal, even if they are seasonally appropriate.

The soft footwear make a rapid but muffled shuffling noise as Julio rushes to the door and yanks it open, escalating Bobby's timid, partial entrance almost to the point of slamming the door against the adjoining wall. "What the shit, Bobby?!" he blurts out eloquently, glaring at the newcomer. His voice is loud, his expression intense, but it's hard to say with what: a riot of emotions scramble for dominion.

A simple homecoming this certainly won't be.

Bobby Drake has posed:
The intensity takes Bobby back. It's not that he's exactly unfamiliar with Julio's intense emotioins, but he has spent more than a month away from him, and awash in a much different, less direct emotional environment. It's the difference between swept away by a massive undertow and slowly sinking into the ocean from exhaustion.

"I'm so sorry, Julio, I-" he pauses, and then notices Julio's eyes, red-rimmed as they are, now that he is close enough. His brow creases in concern, "What happened?" no, he is not one so conceited as to think that the signs of distress are all due to him. He knew well enough from his own experiences that living within the walls of the school came with regular upheavals. As a friend once said to him, if something /wasn't/ going on, it was just the pause between shoes dropping.

Julio Richter has posed:
Julio grabs Bobby by the front of his sweater and yanks him bodily into the room behind him. Once his unexpected guest is over the threshold, the Latino leans out into the hallway, peering back and forth in case any passers-by heard his outburst and stopped to stare. Then he ducks back inside, too, slamming the heavy door shut so that they can talk with some privacy. Seems he can't help but rattle the floorboards, can he?

He whirls in the now-confined space. For a second, he looks so furious, and pulled Bobby into his room with such force, that Bobby could easily be forgiven if he briefly worries that his erstwhile boyfriend is about to punch him. But after just a second of staring into Bobby's eyes with a kind of appalled disbelief, Julio sags back into the wall next to the door and slides down it bonelessly, all of the anger that seemed to animate his initial response melting away. He doesn't stop until he's sitting on the floor, feet splayed out ahead of him, elbows on his knees, hands on his head.

"So... what? You're just back now?" he asks weakly. "You're gone, and then we're over, and now you're just here again, asking what happened?"

Julio reaches out with one hand, eyes flickering green as a whisper of verdant light shudders up his arm, and the polished geode that sits on his bedside table leaps across the room into his hand. A neat trick, and one he couldn't do, the last time Bobby saw him. He's also never been able to use his powers with a lightshow that minimal before. Julio lolls his head and rests his temple against the smoothed plane of the crystal, as if it's a cold compress, then looks up and asks, "I don't know, Bobby. What /did/ happen?"

Bobby Drake has posed:
Bobby slowly sinks down into a crouch to match Julio's eyes. The hollow feeling at the pit of his stomach makes him slightly queasy when he realizes that, against his hopes, Julio's state might indeed be singlehandedly his fault. Sitting on his haunches, Bobby lowers his eyes and seems to find the floor absolutely fascinating. Julio's increased finesse with his powers doesn't go unnoticed, but it's not something he's going to mention right now. It's filed away in the multi-drawered file cabinet of his mind for later reference.

"Day I left... I went out to do errands when mom called on the way there..." Bobby's relationship with his mother wasn't exactly bad- Madeline often served as a buffer and peacekeeper between Bobby and his father. In many ways, she was proud of him. "And I put her on the speakerphone and we started, you know. Catching up."

The young man bites his lips and frowns more. "It was going well, so I thought..." he trails off for a moment and breathes a little deeper, as if looking for the calm necessary to organize events in his mind.

Julio Richter has posed:
As he listens, Julio shifts the stone from the side to the front of his head. It's there, resting against his forehead, hiding his face from Bobby, when he interrupts to say, quietly but clearly, "I'm sorry if I scared you. I shouldn't -- that's not right. Lo siento."

Bobby's first instinct was correct, of course: there's a lot more eating at Julio than just being dumped. It's just that, faced with the man whose absent voice has been preying on his thoughts for what feels like so long, it's hard to think about anything else.

Bobby Drake has posed:
"Hey, no, it's ok. I kinda deserve it." For a moment he seems uncertain of what to do, and then he reaches tentatively to touch Julio's shoulder, but will stop if there's any sign of recoiling.

"I decided I'd tell her. About us. Me in general. I'd never really... y'know. Mentioned it." There weren't that many opportunities to gather at the Drake household. Not with his father. Communication with his mother was often it, and there many things going on that were more important than who he was dating... because it didn't happen /that/ often, which is why he stopped going to coffee houses.

"I didn't realize she was on speakerphone too. And dad was in the room." He takes a slow breath before he proceeds. "And he didn't like that one bit. We got into an argument because of course we did," the Drake family tradition, one might say.

"Guess it got... pretty bad. He had a heart attack and..." he breathes and rubs his forehead. "I tried to catch the next flight out.I just didn't have time to come back and..."

He hangs his head, and then looks back up, several emotions crossing his face, "I'm sorry, Julio. I should've dealt better. I should've kept you up to date but..."

But what? How to explain that suddenly, in that hospital, in that situation, it was as if he had been slapped back into his single-digit years, awash in helplessness and guilt? "I failed at doing anything right."

Julio Richter has posed:
"You don't deserve it," Julio disagrees flatly. "I was already on edge and I saw you and I was so upset... But I shouldn't have pushed you." He doesn't recoil from the touch -- there's not really room to, with his back pressed against the wall, but he only reacts by lifting the geode away from his head and staring down at the hand on his shoulder, as if the gesture is beyond his comprehension.

What is well within his comprehension is Bobby's sense of guilt. If anyone can understand what it's like to feel that you could be to blame for your father's death, it's the man Bobby is talking to now. "You panicked. You were scared. Lo entiendo," he says. He pulls his lips back from his teeth for a moment, then slowly shakes his head. "I even feel bad for you. But you also hurt me a lot. I'm--"

Julio's head rocks back as he looks up at the ceiling, the geode dropping into the space between his knees. "I don't have family, Bobby. Not anymore. Not to yell at on the phone, not to fly out to the hospital." He drops his head again, making steady eye contact for the first time since the conversation really got going. "So I tried to make you my family. And then I found out that was a stupid, stupid thing to do."

Bobby Drake has posed:
"I'm so sorry..." Bobby says quietly. "It's...not right. You shouldn't feel like you shouldn't choose a family. I'm just..."

He rubs at his eyes, and he closes them for some time, while he rubs the bridge of his nose, "When I turn to ice, if It gets to the point that I get damaged, I can heal. Outside of it... I've been sort of crap at healing the other type of cracks. I fell through and brought you with me."

He glances up at Julio, eyes glistening slightly. "You're still part of this place. Even if... even if you would rather I never speak to you again. I can understand if you'd rather just pummel me right now." The hand remains on the shoulder, and he stays quiet for several moments. "God I hate to see-- I want to make it right but... I royally screwed the pooch."

There were no simple things. In the maelstrom that was caused by the upending of his childhood- a reality he hadn't lived for many years, he had done damage to his present life, and to this young man for whom he had come to develop feelings. In shutting down, he shut him out.

Julio Richter has posed:
"I'm not going to hit you," Julio says sharply, a little bit of steel coming back into his eyes. "I'm not my pinche padre." After a quick, heated breath, his expression slowly softens again, and he reaches up to lay his own hand over Bobby's against his shoulder. "It's not that I don't want to speak to you again. Verdad, I wish you had let me help you with your family. At least I could have been there when you were hurting."

There's a pause, which feels longer than it really is, because the world between these two men hesitates at a crossroads of possible futures. Then, haltingly, Julio chooses his path by voicing the syllable that was, perhaps, inevitable: "But..."

"I've been trying to figure out who I am without you, and it's not easy," he explains, eyes apologetic. "It's not even stuff I wasn't doing before. It's school trips and X-men missions and fighting gods, but it's all different when I'm not Bobby's boyfriend. I can't come home to talk to Bobby about it. I can't ask Bobby what he thinks I should do. I can't go out with Bobby to clear my head when I'm confused, and I can't fuck Bobby to feel like everything's alright again when I almost die."

He tips his head back against the wall as he continues, "I don't mean that you were just therapy to me. But when we were together, no matter how bad things got, I had us." He inhales sharply through his nose, and his eyes, still pointed at the ceiling, start to well up. "Now that I don't, I feel like I'm spinning out of control. And I shouldn't, should I? You might go away again. You might find someone better. We can't go back to what we were unless I am strong enough to make it without you."

Bobby Drake has posed:
Bobby frowns as he listens to Julio. "... I don't understand why you'd say I'd find someone better. Nobody I've ever dated has had that level of introspection," he says quietly, and then smiles a little. It's a sad smile, threatening to curb downward at the edges. "You're great, Julio. I really mean that. But maybe it's also on me. Maybe /I/ should also be strong enough to not hide away from someone I love when I'm in pain."

His hand reaches over to stroke Julio's hair, as he nods slowly, "But I ... know what you mean. Maybe I don't know myself enough to trust that you won't run away when you see me at my weakest..." he rubs at an eye, and then smiles again. "Maybe... it really wasn't the coffee after all?" some of that classic Bobby Drake self-deprecating humor that comes out in situations like these.

Julio Richter has posed:
Julio snorts, then sniffles, then swipes at his eyes with his free hand. The sensation of Bobby's fingers running through his hair again feels so right that part of him wants to throw away what he just said, leap into his arms, and kiss him like he never left. Another part wants to refuse the gesture, remove the hand, tell Bobby please not to touch him, all because it knows better than to trust the first part.

Torn between these two extremes, Julio just sits there, more comforted than he'd like to admit by the gentle contact, until a thought occurs to him. "You know, after all that's happened," he suggests tentatively, "we could just get some pinche coffee." He gives a quiet, sad laugh, little more than an especially fricative breath. "What's the curse going to do that we haven't already done to ourselves?"

Bobby Drake has posed:
Ella Winter once said to Thom Wolfe, 'Don't you know you can't go home again?' You can't because there are no simple things. The home you knew is not the place you know now- parents age, hurtful words stretch between you like barbed wire.

"I think we can do that," Bobby says, matching the soft tone. "But you've got to promise me you won't disappear after that." He pauses, "I know. I know. Look who's talking. But I came back."

The man you held in your arms is now someone who needs to stay at arm's lenght. The love you feel has to be expressed differently, because saying the things you said before, in the before time, will actually hurt him.

"And I promise... I won't go away forever. Even if I have to leave for... whatever reason. I'll let you know." He doesn't want to stop stroking Julio's hair, because he knows that if he does, it might just be the last time. He wants to hug this man and put things back together the way they were before. But you can't do that when things break, complex little shards from a fractured whole.

"Coffee's on me, okay?" He stands up and holds out his hand to Julio, to help him up.

But sometimes, you can make something better, or at least different, by combining the pieces into a new thing.