The X-Men were still recovering from Apocalypse. Students and staff alike were shaken by the experience, many of them not the same person they were before. They were more solemn, less care-free and joyful. It was as if someone had sucked the youth out of Xavier’s Institute and replaced it with fear.
The student who arguably took the biggest hit was Jamie Madrox. At 14 years old, he was the optimist the team needed. However, after Apocalypse, Jamie hadn’t smiled in God knows how long, and he rarely talked to anyone, least of all Storm, who just wanted to help him. He was eating less and less, preferring to just stay in his room and write. No one knew what he Jamie was writing, not even his roommate and best friend, Bobby Drake. He tried sneaking a peek at Jamie’s notebook once, but Jamie duplicated a few times and smacked him until he left him alone.
After months of begging and pleading, Bobby got Jamie out of their room. The team was going down to the beach in hopes of lightening the sombre mood. As much as Jamie didn’t want to, he knew they’d find a way to drag him anyway.
The ride to the beach was silent, save for Sam and Ray arguing over who got what towel. Jamie just tuned them out, trying to focus on something to think about that wasn’t memories of Apocalypse.
Once at the beach, the team was quick to get out of the van. Scott and Jean disappeared somewhere rather quickly, Kurt opted not to swim so his image inducer wouldn’t get wet, Ray and Sam raced for the water, and the rest just sort of scattered.
In an attempt to distract Jamie, Bobby grabbed his hand, tugging him towards the water. Once at the edge, he stripped off his white t-shirt, revealing a rather toned stomach and abs. Jamie tried not to stare, which he thought he did okay at. He took off his own t-shirt, after which Bobby pulled him into the water with a sharp tug.
Bobby immediately started swimming away, making sure to splash Jamie every so often as he tried to catch up. For the first time in almost a year, Jamie was smiling and laughing. The sound of Jamie’s laughter warmed Bobby’s (literally) cold heart, driving him to splash him more frequently.
Jamie started splashing back, dissolving into a fit of giggles when Bobby got water in his mouth and spit it back out like a fountain.
As Jamie was laughing, Bobby happened to spot something on the younger teen’s shoulder, quietly going over to investigate. From where Bobby was, it looked like an old scar. He hoped it wasn’t, for Jamie’s sake.
The thing Bobby saw was not, in fact, a scar. It was almost like a tattoo, etched onto Jamie’s skin in shades of white and silver. The centre of the image, about the size of Bobby’s fist, was a beautiful silver snowflake, surrounded by six penny-sized white snowflakes. He had to blink a few times to make sure that’s what he was seeing, because Jamie was too young to get tattoos.
A thought suddenly occurred to Bobby that made his body go rigid, mind racing a mile a minute. No, it can’t be. It’s just a fairy tale, something people tell their kids to make them feel better. It just can’t be.
Bobby must have made some kind of noise, because Jamie stopped laughing and turned to face his best friend with a frown. Bobby looked surprised and pensive, his eyes blinking rapidly. Jamie waved a hand in front of his face, attempting to snap him out of it.
When Bobby blinked back to reality, there was a light blush on his cheeks. “Oh, uh, sorry,” he mumbled. “I thought I felt seaweed on my foot,” he attempted to lie with an obviously fake laugh.
“Don’t lie, Bobby,” Jamie said softly. They were far enough from the other students that no one would hear them if this conversation came to flashbacks. Bobby hated talking about them, but Jamie helped him through it. “Is it Apocalypse? Did you have a flashback?”
Bobby shook his head slowly, trying to glance over Jamie’s shoulder again. “Did you get a tattoo?” he asked instead of answering properly, gesturing to Jamie’s shoulder.
“Huh? No,” Jamie shook his head with a frown, wondering what exactly Bobby was going on about. “I’m not old enough, remember? And the Professor would definitely not sign for me to get one. Why?”
“Your shoulder,” Bobby said, pointing. “There’s a bunch of snowflakes there. They look like a tattoo.”
“You’ve lost me, buddy,” Jamie frowned again. “I think I’d remember getting a tattoo.”
“I’m gonna get a camera,” Bobby decided, grabbing Jamie’s hand and dragging him back to shore. He borrowed a camera from Kitty, who was sunbathing and sleeping. Bobby took Jamie somewhere that no one would hear, just not in the water. He snapped a picture of the image on Jamie’s shoulder, turning the camera towards him so he could see.
“What the...?” Jamie muttered, eyebrows furrowing in confusion. Suddenly, a thought occurred the Jamie. The same thought that occurred to Bobby when he first saw it. “No...” he whispered suddenly, shaking his head rapidly. “No, it can’t be,” he added, seemingly talking to himself. He brought his knees up to his chest, resting his chin on top and looking over at Bobby almost hopefully.
“Can’t be what?” Bobby frowned, not immediately cluing in. As soon as he did, before Jamie could answer, it let out a small ‘oh’. “But then...” he trailed off, realization dawning on him.
“You might have one too,” Jamie finished, biting his lip. “Can I look at your back?” he asked softly, to which Bobby nodded and turned around. Jamie scanned his entire back, eyes settling on a familiar yellow design on his lower back. He couldn’t help but reach out and touch it, tracing the lines and circles gently. “Found it,” he muttered, happening to be very close to Bobby’s ear.
Bobby’s face burned red at how close Jamie was and the way he was touching him, but he tried to hide it. He turned back to Jamie, hoping he wouldn’t notice.
“So...” Bobby muttered.
“So...” Jamie muttered back.
“We’re...” Bobby trailed off.
“Soulmates,” Jamie finished in disbelief.
“Yeah,” Bobby nodded, running a hand through his wet brown hair. “It looks like we are.”
For a moment, Jamie felt hurt. Bobby sounded disappointed, as if being Jamie’s soulmate was a burden. That made his heartbeat speed up at the thought of rejection, and tears well in his eyes. He cried easily nowadays, especially when stressed.
“Hey, what’s wrong?” Bobby asked, immediately concerned for his friend. No, his soulmate. He placed a hand on Jamie’s shoulder, trying to get him to look up.
Jamie took a few breaths to calm himself down, a funny feeling rushing over him when Bobby touched his shoulder. “You... you sounded disappointed,” he told the older boy. “Am I that bad?” He sounded absolutely heartbroken, and Bobby immediately felt awful for the way he reacted.
“God no,” Bobby shook his head, hand moving to Jamie’s shoulder to his cheek. “No, I just... I’m bad at emotions. Especially the good kind.”
“Oh?” Jamie asked, instinctively nestling his face against Bobby’s hand. It was cold, a nice change from the blistering heat of the beach.
Bobby nodded. “I’m the worst at explaining my feelings too,” he began. “I’m the exact opposite of disappointed, Jamie,” he said firmly. “I couldn’t be happier, actually.”
“Really?” Jamie blinked in surprise.
“Yeah,” Bobby nodded. “How many people alive now can say they have a soulmate, and how many can say they were already head-over-heels before they found out?” He hadn’t meant to say that last part, but Hell. He’d find out eventually anyway.
Jamie’s eyes widened, his mouth hanging open slightly. Bobby thought it was absolutely adorable.
Jamie didn’t know how to say what he wanted to without sounded like a chick-flick, so he chose to act instead. Pulling himself together, he leaned forward to kiss Bobby, albeit awkwardly. Bobby kissed back, placing his other hand on Jamie’s other cheek to pull him closer.
It clearly wasn’t Bobby’s first kiss, though it was painfully obvious it was Jamie’s. He just followed what Bobby was doing, which made Bobby chuckle when they finally broke apart.
Jamie was smiling widely, the kind of smile that made Bobby smile back. God was it a beautiful smile, one that Bobby had missed.
“Well... What do we do now?” Jamie asked softly. He’d never been in a relationship before, let alone with another boy. He’d come to terms with his homosexuality at a very young age, but his parents sure hadn’t.
“The only logical thing,” Bobby reasoned. “We get together.” Bobby had been in a few relationships, mostly to convince himself he wasn’t gay. None of them worked out, because all of the girls realized he was definitely gay and hardcore pining for a certain duplicator.
“What will everyone else think?” Jamie asked suddenly, scared and unsure. He was young. He was already held to the impossibly high standards set by the older members of the team. He didn’t want him or Bobby to be subject to anything because of the way they felt.
“I don’t particularly care,” Bobby said, softly but firmly. “I only care what you think. I may not totally know what love is, but I’m pretty sure it involves defending yourself and your partner when people attack you.”
Jamie felt a fluttering in his chest at Bobby’s use of the word ‘love’. A small smile spread across his face, which made Bobby smile in return.
“Okay,” Jamie nodded, pulling Bobby into a tight hug and resting his chin on Bobby’s shoulder. Bobby hugged him back, smiling widely. Maybe the Universe didn’t hate him. He was finally given something good in his life, something he had wanted so badly, and he was determined to not screw it up like his previous relationships.
They stayed like that, just enjoying their closeness, for a good few hours before Kitty had been sent to find them. She cooed softly at the sight, especially since they had fallen asleep.
“Hey guys,” she called out, tapping them each with her foot. “Storm says it’s time to go. If you don’t want to be left here, I suggest getting yourselves in gear.”
Jamie groaned awake from his spot on Bobby’s lap, blinking a few times. “Oh, hi Kitty,” he yawned, slowly getting up and offering Bobby his hand. The two headed back with Kitty, having not dropped the other’s hand. The Professor happened to notice, smiling knowingly. Telepathy was a wonderful gift, as it allowed him to understand his students, even if he didn’t want to pry sometimes. He knew those two were going to slowly bring back their pre-Apocalypse selves, which would eventually bring back the cheer the Institute lacked.
The entire ride back, Jamie was leaning against Bobby as Bobby played with his hair, sighing softly in content.